Category: OpEd

From the Desk of the Managing Editor

By Troy Hudson

As my time at SMCC draws to a close this semester, I find myself marveling at how far I’ve come since my very first class in 2016, History of Mass Communication (a fitting beginning for a student destined to work so closely with the student newspaper). I came to SMCC fearing that, at 29, I would be unable to relate to my classmates and might struggle to fit in on campus. I quickly discovered that, on the contrary, I have never felt more a part of a community than I do at SMCC.

I have employed a few basic strategies since Day 1 of that first semester that have never let me down. These strategies have enabled me to get more out of my education than I ever thought possible. Rather than keeping my head down and just getting through college so I could begin enjoying my life in the future, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of my education right here, every day in the present moment. Life in the real world doesn’t begin after college — this is it!

I’ve tried to identify the reasons why I’ve had such a wonderful experience at SMCC. Was it a growth mindset? A fun major? Sitting in the first or second row in every class? Yes, it was all of these things, but there were also a couple of big ideas that I committed myself to from the beginning that I would recommend to every student, regardless of major. The following principles have contributed to my success at SMCC:

Say Yes Whenever Possible

The first time I went to college at the University of South Carolina in 2005, I was 18 years old and had no idea how to balance school, work and a social life. I didn’t join a single club or activity in my first two years, didn’t play sports and didn’t feel any deep connection to my community. It is perhaps not a coincidence that I also didn’t complete my education there.

At SMCC, I decided to try the opposite. I would say “yes” to every opportunity offered to me unless it threatened to negatively impact my studies. This is how I started acquiring freelance design jobs, a valuable experience as a marketing intern at Sodexo and the various roles I have played on The Beacon’s staff.

At first, I worried that I might be taking on too much. With multiple jobs and a full-time class load, it certainly seemed so sometimes. But remarkably, I found that when I poured my energy into something I found exciting, it generated more energy so I was always able to rise to the challenge. When we say “yes” to an opportunity, we become open and receptive to life’s surprises and we allow ourselves to freely grow. By refusing invitations out of fear or discomfort, we restrict our area of contact with the world, thus limiting our own growth. Saying “yes” is not always easy, but it gets easier with practice and is one of the bravest and most loving things we can do for ourselves.

Make Connections

This is almost so cliché I hesitate to mention it, except that it has made all the difference in my self-confidence and network of support. One of the greatest parts of working with The Beacon is the way it has forced me to contact people I don’t know on a weekly basis. Walking up to students and faculty, sending cold emails and interviewing strangers is something I never would have volunteered for in my first college run. This time, however, I have discovered that making these connections with others pays huge dividends in unexpected ways.

Everyone I have ever met knows things I don’t know, does something better than I can and perceives situations differently from me. Other people have the tremendous ability to change us, challenge us and inspire us to grow.

Ask any successful graduate what they gained most from college and they’ll tell you it is as much the people they met as the facts they learned. As students, many of us are currently surrounded by the most diverse population we’ve ever encountered. This is an invaluable resource! Likewise, the faculty and staff at SMCC are among the most admirable and caring people I have met anywhere. If you haven’t already, I encourage you to introduce yourselves to your professors and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you need hard evidence, the National Center for Education Statistics has identified frequent informal interactions between students and faculty as a top predictor for academic success.

The great thing about these strategies is that they apply just as much after graduation as on the way there. After all, what’s the point of getting a great education if not to go build an amazing life? I can personally vouch for these techniques, as they have enriched my life in many unexpected ways. Of course, you will discover your own key to success and that knowledge will be far more valuable than anything you’ll ever read in a book or newspaper. I wish you all the best on your journeys. I will always be proud to be a Seawolf, and I look forward to meeting many of you on the road ahead!

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A Case for Consequentialism

By Sarah Farrugia

They say if you buy your pregnancy test at a dollar store, you probably aren’t ready to have a baby. Not really, but they should. The dollar-store test was unlike any I had ever seen or used; instead of peeing on the stick, the dollar-store brand required one to urinate into a small cup and then simply dip the stick into the cup until the results appeared. It was simple enough, but the test didn’t actually include a vital component: the cup. I scanned the contents of my parents’ bathroom. What would be the least likely to piss them off if pissed in? Leaving the bathroom to search for a suitable pee cup would only bring further attention to the strange behavior I had exhibited since stopping over for an unannounced visit. My eyes landed on a small vase, hardly three inches tall, bursting with springtime pansies. I chucked the flowers out of the bathroom window and proceeded to pee in the vase. As destiny would have it, the dollar-store test was positive. I rinsed the contaminated vase and left it, now empty, to dry on the counter.

Driving home to the apartment I shared with my boyfriend, I felt the magnitude of my secret. My mind was racing. I wanted to share my news, but I wasn’t ready for the onslaught of reactions. I told my boyfriend. He was thrilled. He went to Target and brought back tiny onesies and the smallest socks I had ever seen. I told my mom. She was out of town at a conference. She cried and sighed and said we’d talk about it when she got back. We told my boyfriend’s parents. His dad laughed so hard he fell off the couch. His mother threw her bag of chips on the floor and walked out of the house without saying a word.

None of it felt right. I thought people were supposed to say “congratulations” and be happy for us. My grandmother was apprehensively delighted. She took me to Barnes & Noble and bought me books on pregnancy and parenting. She said she had always hoped there would be twins in the family. When I went to tell my father, he told me I was irresponsible, that I was throwing away my future, that I was reckless, that I was unfit. My mother said she would take me to get an abortion. I left my parents’ house in tears, screaming that they would never meet their grandchild.

In my head, everything spiraled from there. My morning sickness lasted all day, and I found myself hardly able to keep down water. My boyfriend and I fought and fought. He punched a hole in our living room wall one day. A few days later as we argued in the car, he hit the brakes so hard I slammed against the passenger-side dashboard. Nothing was right. Nothing was how I had imagined it. No one was happy.

One Saturday afternoon in late June I sat on the floor in my parents’ house. My mother sat at her desk nearby grading papers. I rambled off my doubts to the thin air wondering if she would bite. She offered to call Planned Parenthood with me: “We’ll just… make an appointment.” She smiled with a feigned sadness. Looking back, she reminds me of Effie Trinket from “The Hunger Games,” a rich socialite from the Capitol enthusiastically reading aloud the names of the children that will have to fight for their lives in this year’s Games.

They only did the procedure on Wednesdays and Saturdays. So, one week: Fourth of July, because who wouldn’t want to have a national holiday to remember her abortion?

In my head, as soon as that appointment was made, the decision was done. On the other hand, everyone I knew, including the father of the child I was carrying, thought we were having a baby. So I came up with a lie. With Effie Trinket as my sidekick, we told my boyfriend that we had planned a mother-daughter day trip for next weekend. We were going shopping at the outlet mall a few hours away. Lunch, shopping, I would be back before the fireworks show.

I called him from my childhood bedroom the afternoon of the fourth. It had all happened so fast, I was okay, I explained, but he needed to come over. Everyone was devastated. The idea had grown on them. They had accepted it. The news seeped through our circles of friends and families. People sent condolences: cards, flowers, prayers, meaningless words that tore at my guilt. Or lack of guilt.

That was nine years and many therapists ago. And everyone is happy now.

When I analyze it step-by-step, decision-by-decision, I can clearly see that my actions were driven by the motivation to make everyone happy. A force that ultimately led to good long-term consequences, in my opinion. It is not to say that people felt joy or happiness believing that I had lost the baby through miscarriage, but they were spared a greater pain. It is not to say that I felt happiness or pleasure ending my pregnancy, but I believe that the procedure allowed me to navigate a path to greater happiness. A path that has led me to the greatest happiness I have ever known, having children and being married to a man I love with all of my heart. I believe that the ends justified the means and that everyone’s happiness now is greater because of it.

Solutions for Global Wealth Inequality

By Zachary J. Guiod

In this article I would like to focus on ways to fix the egregious level of global wealth inequality. It would be impossible to do this without calling out the failures of our current unsustainable system: capitalism. While there has been undeniable positive progress in technology and medicine under our current economic system, it is quickly becoming outdated, and it is literally killing millions of people every year. Nine million people die every year from hunger and hunger-related diseases, but, according to the international charity Oxfam, there is enough food to make sure that no one on earth goes hungry. In the words of Oxfam, “many people in the world don’t have sufficient land to grow, or income to purchase, enough food.“

In 2017 the world’s 500 richest individuals earned a combined trillion dollars and nine million people couldn’t afford enough food to live. There is abundant evidence to show that our current economic system needs a radical transformation, but those changes often take too long. So what can we do to end global poverty by 2030, a goal shared by various international organizations?

One solution slowly moving its way into the mainstream is the idea of a universal basic income (UBI). While there are valid criticisms of this idea — giving money to poor people won’t create roads, health clinics, or electricity grids, for instance — there is evidence that giving poor people money increases food consumption and childhood health. Economist John McArthur estimates it would cost $70 billion a year to implement a global universal basic income to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030.

This is my radical idea: The UN taxes the 500 wealthiest people $70 billion every year until no one lives in poverty. Instead of individual countries using public tax dollars, some of which come from working-class people, the world should put the responsibility on the individuals who were rewarded by our broken economic system.

Another option is to feed the world instead of bombing it. To quote the artist/activist Tupac Shakur, “They got money for wars but can’t feed the poor.” In 2016 the world spent a total of $1.57 trillion on “defense” spending. The U.S. outspent every country, with a military budget of $582.7 billion. In 2017 the U.S. spent $42.4 billion on foreign aid, less than 1 percent of the total budget. The United States, by themselves, could commit to ending extreme poverty and still spend half a trillion dollars on its bloated military budget.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “The rich nations must use their vast resources of wealth to develop the underdeveloped, school the unschooled, and feed the unfed. Ultimately a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the ‘least of these.’”

If wealthy countries, like America, want to call themselves “great nations,” they must live up to that title by doing what Dr. King says and use their resources to improve the lives of hundreds of millions of people.

#MeToo and Male Power

By Tina Teall

The #MeToo movement and revelations about sexual misconduct from several high-profile men have shown the country and the world how prevalent our culture of male power really is. I think some men are opening their eyes and realizing that this culture is more prevalent and damaging than they realized. I think there are probably many women out there who are taking a deep breath and realizing that it’s not just them. Not only is it not just them, but it is So. Many. Women. The #MeToo movement and revelations about sexual misconduct from several high-profile men have shown the country and the world how prevalent our culture of male power really is. I think some men are opening their eyes and realizing that this culture is more prevalent and damaging than they realized. I think there are probably many women out there who are taking a deep breath and realizing that it’s not just them. Not only is it not just them, but it is So. Many. Women.

I’m certainly not naïve enough to think that everybody is having a revelation, here. There are plenty who see nothing wrong with this behavior or deny the prevalence of it. “This is just boys being boys.” This is the mentality that has allowed and encouraged these behaviors to continue on long past their “time” (if there ever was one). It has created this culture where men feel justified in having power over women and feeling superior to them.

I have worked in manufacturing for 15-plus years. This is a culture I live in every day. I see every day how women are seen and treated as invaders in this very male-dominated industry. The plant I currently work in is more male-dominated than most. These are older, white, “conservative” men. One-third of our employees will be retiring in the next seven years.

I am a blonde, younger (than them) single mom. I’ve developed a thick skin over the years. I am pretty good at ignoring the inappropriate comments and small stuff. I am sort of known as someone who doesn’t take much crap, though. That has insulated me from the worst of “boys being boys.”

But still. I once had a stalker at work. The plant manager told me to quit flirting with the guys. It was turned into my fault that this guy was harassing, following and threatening me at work and at home.

I have been turned down for promotions in favor of much less qualified men who were drinking buddies with the boss.

When making a complaint about a male coworker who was bullying the entire department that I work in, I was literally yelled at and told that I was just “intimidated” by him. Several other females made complaints about this person as well. Instead of taking our complaints seriously, it was viewed as if we were a group of bitchy henpecking women trying to get someone in trouble. It wasn’t until males started complaining about this person too that the complaints were taken seriously. I just want to go into work and be treated like everyone else!

Many men see women as “other” and that is the beginning of justifying (in one’s conscience) poor treatment of another human being. I think these stories are evidence of free will. I would hate to think that there could be a “master plan” that would include the things all these women are speaking up about. It would even seem depressing to think that this is a “natural” consequence of previous events. I think it points to the “brutish” nature of life, as Thomas Hobbes put it

I think there is both a nature and nurture component going on here. I once listened to a podcast about a woman who was undergoing gender-reassignment treatments. The podcast was specifically about the effects of testosterone on her. She said she basically became that stereotypical catcalling dude on the street, checking out women all the time and being obsessed with sex. This points to there being actual biological differences that cause men to be more aggressive, on average, than women.

That said, we are rational human beings, right? We can tell right from wrong and not act in this manner! Is it right to treat women the way I’ve previously discussed in the workplace? No! But these men are not all evil pigs either. Many of them are perfectly “nice” family men who act poorly at times. But why? This is where the nurture part comes in. They are (we are) part of a culture that allows and encourages this type of behavior. They don’t likely give it a second thought because it’s so prevalent. They see it all around them, sort of like a mob mentality. Good people do bad things because everyone else is doing it too.

To add to this problem, our culture teaches women to be subservient, pretty, polite and never “inconvenience” people. Until both sexes really look into themselves and decide to change their own individual behavior and point out the rotten behaviors of others and really listen to each other, I don’t think this is a problem that will significantly change.

What If?

By Lloyd Metcalf

What if you could do exactly what you loved?
For this round of “What If” I hope our readers will allow me to an opportunity to relate a bit of my own story as the semester comes to a close. When I came to SMCC for my first degree (Communications & New Media), I found myself inspired by the energy of being surrounded by people hurtling toward a hopeful future. It was nearly impossible to contain the inspiration to pursue the things I was studying outside the boundaries of the SMCC campus and classroom. I came back to pursue the arts, and the energy is still here.

If you are on campus to get a degree to just find another job, you might be missing the opportunity of chasing dreams. There is far more going on in a degree program than just getting another job at the end.

When I got my Communications degree, I landed a pretty good job in an office that was a regular 9-to-5 in web design. I really felt like I missed the mark. I felt like the brakes had been put on after my time at school where I was moving a hundred miles an hour. Within a year I started Fail Squad Games and quit the cubicle. All those classes came into play for my company. Writing, layout, design, illustration. I was creating Dungeons & Dragons adventures and getting my company seen by people in the industry.

Even during my time at SMCC I found myself inspired by the classes I took. I put in the amount of energy I wanted to get out of each class. I started a television show on public access that is still in circulation today. “Hanging Around the Fishin’ Hole” has found millions of households across the country. During biology, I was so inspired by microscopes that I took photos of what I found in slides I prepared, embellished them in photoshop, and had an art opening on First Friday in Portland. There were numerous endeavors and projects that sprang into existence because of my classes and time at SMCC. Every class is an opportunity with professors, students, and guests who are connected and offer opportunities.

Why doesn’t everyone do it?
Because it’s hard. It takes work, dedication, and a focus on a vision. Sometimes the vision is fluid and changes on the spot, but it is still in focus. I implore you to find your vision while being a student. Leap in with these new skills. If you say your passion is writing, write — every day — a couple thousand words. If your passion is auto repair, get inside a vehicle every day, rebuild an engine piece by piece. If your passion is culinary, do it every day. Don’t just make a “sammich” for lunch, make a grilled tomato, chèvre and thyme baguette.

Nothing is “natural talent” or “complete good luck.” It’s craft, practicing and perfecting our craft while working like a wild animal toward our visions. If we sleep through our higher education, we are checking out on life, opportunity, and possibility.

“It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared.”
— Whitney M. Young Jr.

I can tell you it is possible to wake up every day and do that “thing” that you dream of. You are learning the tools here to make that possible. The key factor to waking up every day to do your “thing”, is to actually wake up every day and do that thing.

“Someday,” “When I’m good enough,” “I don’t have everything I need,” “It needs to be perfect,” “What if someone steals my idea?” Do any of these sound familiar? These are the things we tell ourselves when we don’t want to do the thing we say we are passionate about. We might say things like this when we are afraid of change, failure or ridicule. I have discovered that not doing your thing is worse than failure. If you never try, it is certain there will be no success with it. If you never practice your craft, you can never master your craft.

What if you could do exactly what you love every day?
Start today — do what you love now. Master it, fail at it, try it again, do it better every single day. If you love it, it never feels like work. If you are passionate about it, a lifetime isn’t long enough. Find other masters of what you do and always be the worst at it in the room. Guarantee that you have nowhere to go but UP!

Drone Ethics

By Erik Squire

There are multiple ethical issues that arise with the United States’ use of drone warfare in the Middle East; two such issues which readily come to mind are extrajudicial killings and a lack of accountability. A study was conducted by Stanford University and New York University on America’s use of drone warfare, and the results show that drone strikes could be far more ambiguous than we might think. The report states that the U.S. conducts “personality strikes” which target supposedly high-ranking terror suspects, but that there are also “signature strikes” which target individuals who merely have the appearance of being terrorists — without even knowing their identities.

It is unclear what, if any, process is in place for decisions regarding the so-called “signature strikes,” which are particularly problematic and open to abuse and mistake. According to the report, these strikes target individuals or groups “who bear characteristics associated with terrorism but whose identities aren’t known.”

As part of these “signature strikes,” U.S. drones also target wedding parties, funerals, entire buildings, and first responders — something known as “double-tapping,” where people responding to the first strike are then also targeted.

As the researchers further note, these strikes are not even as precise as the U.S. government would have most believe. They state, “The blast radius from a Hellfire missile can extend anywhere from 15-20 meters; shrapnel may also be projected significant distances from the blast.” It is “precision” such as this, that leads to the deaths of innocent victims of all ages.

Furthermore, it is a known fact that countless innocent civilians have been mistakenly targeted as terrorists by the U.S. military or the CIA. In an intriguing GQ article about an American drone operator, Senior Airman Brandon Bryant, Bryant states that during his very first strike, he wasn’t certain that his targets were armed with weapons or shepherd’s staffs, but that he didn’t question the chain of command when they told him to strike.

Strikes such as these are unethical, even if they do hope to eliminate deadly targets, because these strikes are extrajudicial — the person calling the shots neglects universal human rights, and acts as judge, jury and executioner.

Lastly, with high-tech lethal drones being such a modern innovation, there has not been a universal set of rules of engagement established to set the standard for ethical practices when using them — and this gives the U.S. too much power, without serious global repercussions for abusing such power.

There has to be transparency in the U.S.’s decisions when using drones, and accountability for when there is misuse. Moreover, if other nations do eventually develop high-quality drone technology, universal guidelines might also protect the U.S. from other governments misemploying them.

Wealth Inequality: Part 2

By Zachary Guiod

The two regions with the most people living in extreme poverty are Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. In Southern Asia, 30 million children have no access to education to try to escape the poverty in which they are trapped. Sub-Saharan Africa is not faring much better, with 23 million school age children in Africa going to class hungry, according to the United Nations. As these children go to school undernourished, they will not be able to learn as well as students who are properly fed.

No area has been affected by wealth inequality more than Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). SSA is a region that includes 46 of Africa’s 54 sovereign countries, more than half of the continent.

Compared to their counterparts in the developing world, these countries are still lagging behind. Rising from 74 cents a day in 1981 to 87 cents in 2010, the developing world, as a whole, has seen a very slow increase in per capita income for those living in extreme poverty. Sub-Saharan Africa has actually declined! In 1981 the average daily income of the extreme poor in SSA was 72 cents. In 2010 it is only 71 cents.

This level of income for those in poverty is unacceptable in a world with so much wealth. With so much wealth in so few hands, the fact that the income of the extreme poor in SSA has declined is beyond reprehensible.

Not all the areas where extreme poverty is blatant are “poor countries.” Think about the size of South Asia. It includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The region has a growing middle class, but it still has the largest concentrated group of extremely poor people. According to the World Bank, 500 million people live in extreme poverty in Southern Asia. Women and children are affected the most. More than 250 million children are undernourished. The percentage of women in the workplace there is among the lowest in the world.

As citizens of the world, we need to ask ourselves if this unjust reality is inevitable. Forget countries and nationalities — we all occupy this world. We may be separated by oceans and continents, but these people are our brothers and sisters and we are letting them starve. Imaginary lines on maps, drawn by imperialist powers, should not make us think that their suffering does not affect us. What if the cure for cancer is inside the brain of a child in South Asia or SSA who has no access to education? Uplifting those at the bottom of society will uplift us all.

This article is the second part of a series on global wealth inequality. Part 1 was published in the Other World section of the March 27 Beacon issue.