Week 12: Invisible Users

internet

In Jenna Burrell’s Invisible Users, Burrell relates the rise of the usage of internet cafes in Ghanaian youth to their cultural and non-elitist status. She describes, with much detail, the conditions of these “invisible users” both inside the internet cafes and outside in their impoverished towns. Burrell explains how their social and economic barriers make using the internet more difficult for them; their inequality offline affects their equality online. However, although this inequality can manifest itself online, through internet usage these young Ghanaians can pursue a sense of equality that before seemed so unattainable. Continue reading Week 12: Invisible Users

Hes Normal, I Swear..

There are those who go with the flow, and those who go away from the flow. People who go with the flow are usually considered conformists, and those who don’t show their individuality. We see this everywhere in society. Usually it is evident in the high school scene, where the “odd- ball out” is not the one to fit in. In class, we learned and read about John Stuart Mill. He argues that a person, once introduced to the world and society around them, should express their individuality in a way that is positive for a society. There are times where things can get out of hand but lets look at an example of people who do things “differently” but in the end show Mill’s argument.

Hunter Pence being, Hunter Pence

Lets take Hunter Pence as an example. He is an outfielder for the San Francisco Giants. Dude has absolutely the most unorthodox swing and throwing motion in the MLB and maybe even in MLB history. His style of play got him to where he is today. He plays extremely hard and aggressive and plays with a swagger most people do not have. He also just looks ridiculous. In a way it is awesome to see somebody go out there, looking like that, and playing without a care in the world. This relates to Mill. Pence goes out there, doing him, and does well, plays hard, brings positive energy to the park with him and gives the people hope. Sometimes people get bored of normality. Pence brings his individuality and provides a spark for San Fran. Mill wants this kind of player. He wants somebody who acts like they want, not how society wants them to and makes a positive impact while doing it. Now, lets look at somebody who Mill might have a problem with.

Brian Bosworth, also known as ‘The Boz”. Boz was a stud football player at the University of Oklahoma. He was the calling to bring the Oklahoma team back to its glory days. He did just that. He also had this alter ego, “The Boz”. “The Boz” expressed his individuality with his actions off the field, how he talked to the media, and his crazy hair. So far, Mill would be all for Bosworth, with all of these different things about him. Now Mill would start to argue that he is bad because his actions did not reflect in a positive manner. He was arrogant, cocky, and did steroids. Mill, again, would be ideally looking for someone who can express him/ herself that does not conform to society while giving a positive image.

Brian “The Boz” Bosworth

Mill does make a good point I believe. Expressing individuality is something most people should do. As long as it makes a good impression on who you are and can benefit your community, people should avoid conforming. It would make the community more unique and also, could change the world for the good.

LSA Theme Semester Events

Sports are a pretty big part of my life. I have been watching them for as long as I can remember and frankly I plan on continuing to watch them for as long as I live. This type of intense commitment which millions across the globe share with me has always been somewhat puzzling. I ask myself how is it that I have always been a Yankees, Giants and Knicks fan yet my food or TV and movie preferences are always changing. Why do sports somehow transcend other human behaviors where people are invariably changing their opinions, views and ‘likes’. After attending two LSA Theme Semester events I believe I had formulated a sort of crude and shaky answer, but an answer nonetheless. Continue reading LSA Theme Semester Events

Why Has Ferguson Ignited Public Protests?

Why has Ferguson sparked a national response? I believe it is because it has highlighted longstanding tensions within the country.

By now, most of us have probably heard about the Ferguson case and how the court ruled to not indict the police officer that shot and killed an unarmed teenager.

Numerous articles have been written in response to the protests, riots and social media attention. Some people agree with the protests but others are condemning the public display of outrage for reasons such as:

  • Rioting is only creating more violence
  •  Rioting is destroying local businesses, what is the point ?
  • This is 2014, we are equal there is no discrimination maybe we are better off separate but equal (yes this was actually written about)
  • Police officers have the right to react in that given way if they feel they are under threat
  • There’s even this interesting sentiment that the public pressure for the NFL to “do more” and take public stances is wrong because it is moving public justice to private justice.

I’ve also noticed a trend of many people saying, “the police officer was not indicted because according to the law he was not guilty” and thus invalidate all the negative sentiments of protesters.

I’d like to offer a response to this trend. Perhaps National outrage about Ferguson has resulted because if we remove the Ferguson case from the picture, there are still multiple nationwide racial tensions.

In one of our classes we went over Martin Luther King Jr’s writing A Letter from Birmingham Jail. I will highlight some of these points and experiences that I feel are similar sentiments to those protesting in reaction to Ferguson.

  • “Why direct action? Why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn’t negotiation a better path?” To which he responds: “This is the very purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to crate such a crisis and foster such a tension that a community which has constantly refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored.
  • “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” To which he responds that there are two types of laws: “Just and Unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.

“Sometimes a law is just on its face and unjust in it’s application. For instance, I have been arrested on a charge of parading without a permit. Now, there is nothing wrong in having an ordinance…but such an ordinance becomes unjust when it is used to maintain segregation and to deny citizens the First Amendment privilege of peaceful assembly and protest. “

"Protesters push canisters of tear gas back at police officers in Ferguson, Missouri"
“Protesters push canisters of tear gas back at police officers in Ferguson, Missouri”

I recently read an article that outlined why, according to the law, the police officer was not indicted. I’d like to quote one of the article’s points:

“2. Reasonableness Standard: The Supreme Court has clearly stated that an officer’s actions are ‘objectively reasonable’ in light of the facts and circumstances confronting them at the time — without regard to their underlying intent or motivation.”

Perhaps he was rightfully under the law not indicted. Perhaps. So thus the uproar is illogical and ignorant right? Wrong. People are starting to speak up about the hostile unfair environment they feel created by racial. We cannot invalidate sentiments of the protestor because there is “no concrete evidence ” of racism.

Something I found interesting is that the law itself acknowledges that it is possible to have “underlying intent or motivation “ probably enough times to put that kind of safeguard in a law that can let an officer walk away with no indictment in a case like this and open the doors for people to quiet others voices by invalidating their sentiments.

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Consider this definition of ‘rule of law’ taken from Professor Mike LaVanque-Manty’s lecture:

“A state enjoys the rule of law when the use of coercive force is predictable, non-arbitrary, transparent, and consistent with publicly available laws and other rules, and the use of force is subject to review and open to appeals.” This is what MLKJ was advocating for and I believe this is the exact underlying topic behind the protests. Whether they can point to this definition or articulate it the ‘textbook’ way, I believe Ferguson has sparked a nationwide reaction because more people are speaking up about their sentiments that currently there is no consistent, non-arbitrary or transparent rule of law.

Consider some of these numbers surrounding the Ferguson debate:

  • At least 5: The number of unarmed black men killed by police in the past month alone.
  • 86%: The percentage of traffic stops in Ferguson that targeted African-Americans in 2013
  • 92.7% The percentage of total 2013 arrests in Ferguson that involved African Americans.
  • 1 in 3 vs 1 in 17: The number of black men versus white men nationwide who can expect to go to prison at some point in their lifetime. It is 1 in 6 for Latino males.

And if you might think racism is dead, watch this horrifying video of a couple on live TV mocking the chokehold that killed unarmed Eric Garner. He was killed by a policeman who was not indicted but the man who recorded the video was indeed sentenced.

And just in response to the negative responses to riots occurring, I agree that for the most part violent rioting is destroying businesses and hurting the community. But I do not think it is fair to make this an excuse to generalize condemning public protesting. Rioting is a part of change in an ironic way. It brings attention to the media about how some people are outraged. It is then up to the rest of the non-violent protestors to articulate that outrage and stand up for what they believe in.

Hall of Fame Men vs. The M Schoolboyz

The greats: Lebron James & Kevin Garnett
The greats: Lebron James & Kevin Garnett

Lebron James, Dwayne Wayne, Ray Allen, Kevin Garnett, and Paul Pierce are all almost guaranteed NBA Hall of Fame inductees. These professionals are considered some of the best in NBA history and I had the honor of watching them play on January 10th, 2014. The game was electric, and the level of intensity was truly like that of no other game I’ve seen. Miami was lead by Lebron James who is considered to be one of the Top 5 players of all-time. He had the all-time leading 3-point shooter at his side in Ray Allen. Battling these stars were Kevin Garnett (14-time all-star, one-time defensive player of the year, one-time MVP) and Paul Pierce (10 -time all star and NBA Finals MVP).

Michigan Star: Caris Levert
Michigan Star: Caris Levert

Much later on, almost a year later I attended my first basketball game at the University of Michigan. The team played against Syracuse University on December 3rd, 2014 and defeated them in a very close game. I saw some great and young talent in players such as Caris Levert and Zac Irvin. I saw some exciting basketball, but it was a very intense game. The game had a close final score, but I didn’t really see it as a nail-bitter or a game that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. Moreover, the crowd didn’t seem all that into it. Sure, there was the maize rage and some students in the stands but it certainly wasn’t packed by any means. Many seats on the floor were empty and it was relatively quiet for the most part. It wasn’t like the NBA game at all, and the differences between the professional and the amateur games couldn’t have been more evident.

Eric Dunning’s Dynamics of Modern Sport discusses the seriousness in professional sports in comparison to that in amateur sports. Dunning writes, “the success goal had come to take precedence in their hierarchy of sporting values over the goal of participating primarily for fun.” This was most applicable in the games that I saw. Granted, Dunning was talking about professional teams playing against amateur teams, the concept still applies. The professional game I saw was played with more seriousness and intensity than the Michigan game. It was a nail-bitter that was serious from the tip-off until the final seconds, while the Michigan game was more lackluster and lacked real intensity. The players in the Nets-Heat game that I saw were playing for everything. They were playing for their contracts, their pride and reputation as some of the greatest, their endorsement deals, the playoffs, their city, and their fans. One could argue that the Michigan and Syracuse players were playing for those things as well. In response I would say, they might have been, but not at the same level. And why? Because they’re just kids. Most haven’t even been in the conversation of being drafted to the NBA while some of the Heat and Nets players are being discussed as possible Hall of Fame players. The college basketball teams have a lot of room to mess up and still make the NCAA Tournament as over 65 teams compete in it. The players in the NBA have 8 spots to compete for. If the NBA players mess up what happens? They could lose future contracts and their jobs. What happens to the college players? They sit on the bench or are off the team but they still haven’t lost their occupation as their primary function in being at a university is still being a student. Furthermore, are players like Lebron and Kevin Garnett considered some of the greatest in the world? Yes. Are Caris Levert and Zach Irvin looked at in the same light? Not in the slightest. There is a such a discrepancy in talent that it is only natural for there to be differences in the seriousness that the game is played with. Additionally, there is much less room for error on the professional level. The laid back and lackluster nature of the college game was most evident by the Michigan basketball team giving up what at one point as a double-digit lead. The Nets vs. Heat game was back and forth the entire time and had almost every fan holding their breath. There is no question that there is a level of seriousness played with on the professional level that is naturally and inevitably lacking on the college level merely as a result of the different nature of the two different sporting levels and the difference in talent as well.

Barclays Center; Home Of the Brooklyn Nets
Barclays Center; Home Of the Brooklyn Nets
Crisler Arena: Home of Michigan Wolverines
Crisler Arena: Home of Michigan Wolverines

Dunning goes on to talk about the spectators and that when a large number of spectators attend a sporting event that it becomes a spectacle. The game is “played for the spectators and not the direct participants. Enjoyment from playing becomes subordinate to the production of crowd-pleasing moves.” This couldn’t be more applicable for the games that I witnessed this year. The Heat and the Nets played a nail-biting game with full intensity and one that when back and forth the entire time. You could see that there was such a high-level of intensity that the game was being played with and both teams seemed to want to win at all costs. That is what the crowd wants. They want the close game; they want the best basketball they’ve ever seen; they want the highest level of intensity possible. That is exactly what the two NBA teams gave them. On the other hand, the Michigan game didn’t draw as large of a crowd. The game went from one team having a decent size lead to the other having a decent size lead for most of the game. The kids were just having fun. They played with the fun and spontaneity that Dunning wrote about the professionals lacking. They made the cool dunks; they did the complex handshakes with one another; they smiled; they did things as they went. It was different for them and the crowd wasn’t nearly as big or as into the game as the NBA one. These guys played for fun and for themselves. They just went out and had some fun and won the game. They didn’t play with the same level of intensity that the Heat and Nets did and that’s because they’re amateurs. They are playing for fun; they are playing to be spontaneous; they’re playing with a lot less on the line.

Caris Levert and Zach Irvin are amateurs right? Yes. Lebron James and Kevin Garnett are professionals correct? Yes. That is the difference. There is no way to dispute that the games are simply different when the professionals are playing and when the amateurs are and I was able to witness it first hand. It wasn’t so evident to me at first, but after reading Dunning’s work on modern sports, the differences were most clear and most notable as well. The two are different, very different.

Response to “Sports as a medium for Support?”

I was injured so bad in an accident on June 24, 2011 that I ‘fell’ into a coma for eight weeks. I had a traumatic brain injury, a punctured lung, broken ribs, and the list goes on. I know everyone reading this post is probably aware of that, but it provides a platform on which I will respond to the above post.

I believe that there is a profound difference between disability and inability. Disability is not being able to perform a given task for health related reasons. Inability is not being able to perform a task because you simply can’t. Once you have the ability to do something, you will never be unable to perform it because of inability. In example, I still have the Ability to play at Michigan, but I have been somewhat Disabled as a result of my injuries, The neurosurgeon who was in charge of me never had to perform any kind of surgery that required the removal of parts of my brain. I still know how to do everything I did before I go hurt, but my brain is still rewiring itself and relearning, so to speak, how to send the signal to my muscles.

I know that all of that is a bit unnecessary to share, but I hope that gives you a different perspective on this issue.

Now, to relate that back to the course, I am playing for Michigan but am still relearning how to play the game at an elite level. My teammates are extremely supportive of me and understand that I face a number of challenges, but they root for me in practice and when I got in the game a few weeks ago against Wayne State and hit a free throw, the reaction of my teammates proved that sports are a medium for support.’

In the eyes of my teammates and coaches, they could care less what kind of career I have here on the court, as it is not what is the most important. However, they expect me to work hard every day and do whatever I can to help us be a better team. Let me tell you, this is easy because when you have the support and love from your teammates and coaches, to me, there really is no other option than to work as hard as you can to make the the team the best it can be.

I am working hard to get my skills back and achieve my goal of being a contributing player here before my career is done and I have the support of many, which has led me to the conclusion that man is inherently good, but if your actions don’t line up with your dreams and goals, you either need to change your actions, or changes your dreams and goals.

Live Dying or Die Trying?

Congratulations! You have just turned 21!! With all that saved money from your summer jobs, you have decided to purchase a Harley Davidson. You’re cruising down the highway, maybe even speeding, when BOOM you crash. You are rushed into the intensive care unit and you have suffered massive brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen. You are in a coma for two months when you are then, diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state; however, some neurologists diagnose you as minimally conscious. Your nurses also report that you, with difficulty, say “help me” and “mom.” Unfortunately, you remain this way for the next fifteen years. Your husband argues that you would not want to live this way, and would rather have someone put a stop to your suffering. Your parents however, argue that you are a devout Roman Catholic and do not believe in euthanasia; therefore, you would want to be kept alive. However, no official records exist for either of their arguments. Now, what do you think—should euthanasia, assisted suicide, be allowed?

Terri Schiavo’s family’s argument

Does this case sound familiar? You are currently reading the case of Terri Schiavo; a high-profile case that captivated the nation in 2005. Terri Schiavo was 26 years old when, for undetermined reasons, she collapsed and suffered severe brain damage as a result of lack of oxygen. After two months in a coma, she was diagnosed as being in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, was appointed as her plenary guardian by the courts. Her husband testified that Terri would support euthanasia in the event of such a disability.   The court supported his testimony and ordered that Terri’s feeding tube be removed. Her family appealed the case, but they were ultimately denied. The case was heard over 20 times in Florida courts but on all occasions, it was ruled that Terri’s fate was in control of her husband, respecting the sanctity of their marriage. On March 18, 2005, Terri’s gastric feeding tube was removed and she died from severe dehydration on March 31st, 2005.

Michael Schiavo’s argument

Let’s say John Stuart Mill was the court-appointed judge for the case, how would he have ruled? He would have agreed to remove Terri’s gastric feeding tube for two reasons. Firstly, he would argue that the moral worth of any person’s action is determined by the pursuit of happiness. People should base their actions on what ultimately, will cause them the greatest amount of happiness. Thus if euthanasia will increase an individual’s happiness, then to allow for euthanasia would be the morally correct decision. Additionally, Mill’s harm principle would come into play. In his philosophical work On Liberty, Mill argued that, “”The only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others.” Therefore, decisions over one’s body are ought to be made by the individual himself, and not by any other authority. Thereby, if Terri wanted to be euthanized, the government should not interfere with her desire. Furthermore, since Terri’s husband was the plenary guardian over her body, if he testified that Terri would have want to be euthanized, then this decision must be respected.

Given the details of the case, if you were the judge, what decision would you have made?