Monthly Archives: April 2013

DEMOCRACY

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“By the people, of the people, and for the people.”- Abraham Lincoln

Democracy is a regime where the people determine rule. Usually, the rule of the people involves voting either directly on propositions, or indirectly through representatives. This is government made by YOU for YOU. You wont and cant have an affect if you don’t become involved. We designed this blog to help you take that step forward, and help you, as a student which direction to take in order to make your issues heard.

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Democracy values freedom, respect for human rights and the principle of holding periodic and genuine elections by universal suffrage are essential.  In turn, democracy provides the natural environment for the protection and effective realization of human rights. These values are embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and further developed in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which enshrines a host of political rights and civil liberties underpinning meaningful democracies.

“Democracy, I would repeat, is the noblest form of government we have yet evolved …”

—Norman Mailer

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GET INVOLVED NOW

  • Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms
  • Freedom of association
  • Freedom of expression and opinion
  • Access to power and its exercise in accordance with the rule of law
  • The holding of periodic free and fair elections by universal suffrage and by secret ballot as the expression of the will of the people
  • A pluralistic system of political parties and organizations
  • The separation of powers
  • The independence of the judiciary
  • Transparency and accountability in public administration
  • Free, independent and pluralistic media
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Bullying: How It’s Destroying Democracy

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As I have grown older within society I have become aware that there is a new generation that has emerged, younger than my peers and I, who live in a world that treats bullying as a social norm and accepts it for what it is.  With the apparent surge in social media usage within this younger demographic, it is easy to observe that bullying has become more prevalent because now those who are guilty of bullying can cause emotional strife within a person’s life just as easily through the web as they can in real life.  Lets face it, there is not a lot of courage involved when a kid starts a rumor about someone else through Facebook, Twitter or another social media portal.  Their main intention is to embarrass their peer, and if they can do it without a face to face interaction it is probably more likely to happen.

What is more important to pay attention to when investigating this bullying issue is not why kids are being so harsh and ruthless on others, but how these bullying victims are being mentally and emotionally damaged.  When I think of democracy, I think of everyone being able to learn and feel safe as well as be grounded on the same playing field.  Bullying causes certain youth to feel very damaged and disrespected and this is weakening their feeling of equality and their levels of opportunity.  When a student is unable to feel safe in classroom because they live in constant fear as to whether or not their classmates will make fun of them, they will not ask questions in class now will they be able to really explore in the realm of education.

Inspiration…is one way kids can cope through their difficult adolescent years if they are ever faced with a bully.  With so many kids online these days, they can definitely used the web to their advantage by visiting various anti-bullying blogs that contain hundreds of wise sayings that may be able to help empower our youth.  These blogs can be found on the national level, and their main purpose is to make the victim feel as though they are not alone.  These sites can also provide information on how to be an ally to those who are being picked on even if you do not find yourself to personally be a target.  Sometimes it is even more important to not maintain silence when an onlooker observes a bully in action, but to speak up for those who are clearly in pain and alone.

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.  The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. -Nelson Mandela stopbullying,gov

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The It Gets Better campaign, blog and video efforts have proven to have a tremendous impact on the youth lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender communities across the United States.  This project emerged when it became evident that there was an apparent suicide epidemic because youth who came out were bullied to the point that they felt life was no longer worth living.  At that point someone had to step in, and it made sense to build a community of people that could remind kids that life would eventually get better.  That at some point they would be able to move outside of the immaturity and inhumanity of their peers and finally reach a level of acceptance.  The videos that have been created on behalf of those suffering with being bullied have been issued by ordinary citizens who went through the same path in life, as well as famous personalities who are using their platform to inspire youth and make sure that they know that, it gets better.

The mission of youth should be to DELETE CYBER-BULLYING!  That’s where the Anti-Bully Blog comes in with creative and innovative ways to shed light on this disturbing issue.  This blog uses the same tactics we have seen before by including personalities that have been put on higher platforms due to their careers, and uses their voices to advise the bullies to stop in their tracks.  This blog also focuses on giving tips to different groups of people such as parents, principles and kids so that each of these groups can handle bully situations as they arise in their lives.

Some tactics to combat cyber-bullying that are mentioned include:

  • Keep communication open with your child or friend.
  • Set up online alerts with your child’s name if you are a parent.
  • File a complaint to a website host if there are inappropriate comments made about your child/friend. (via http://www.cbsnews.com)

DEMOCRACY is being undermined when our youth decides to maliciously bully and make their peers feel uncomfortable.  When I envision a democracy, I think of a social and political environment that is safe, a place where every member of the democracy feels comfortable enough to express themselves.  If we look at a school setting where a bully rules the halls, it can become possible that only that bully’s voice and opinion will be heard.  I envision a school system that work incessantly to promote equality of all opinions.  If a bully emerges, their tactics and operations to demean others should be squashed immediately.  Lets create a system that educates and enlightens kids on how to create a safe environment for one another.  Lets show them that being pleasant to one another can promote collaboration and the positive exchange of information.

Social Change Activism, Promoting Acceptance & Marijuana Reform

Being a student at the University of Massachusetts allows one to become immersed within a community that promotes differentiation when it comes to views, choices and lifestyles.  This is why I think it is particularly important to look at youth who are tackling social issues because they are concepts and ideas that will have a direct impact on large college campuses like our own.  Some hot topics that youth are either promoting awareness for or are taking a stand against include: The legalization of marijuana, controlling the horrible issues concerning hate and violence on our very own campus and last but certainly not least maintaining equality among all students.

The bottom line is not everyone wants to live their life in the same matter, so youth must take charge and understand how to be accepting so everyone can go through college and feel as though they are living in a safe manner.  Now lets dive into some of the most interesting issues that we came across in our journey through the blogosphere.

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The Cannabis Reform Coalition’s mission is to dispel the myths, lies and stigmas surrounding marijuana and to reform the unrighteous laws that surround it while keeping our name as the most active and the most chill RSO on campus. – Cannabis Reform Coalition

One movement that has been taking place on the UMASS Amherst campus for a few years now is the UMASS Cannabis Reform Coalition.  The students who are a part of this reform are working to shed light on the issue of legalizing marijuana in the state of Massachusetts.  This has long been both a social and health issue that has been debated by activist and those enforcing the law.  Those in the cannabis coalition continue to meet with speakers who have fought for the legalization of marijuana in other states across the United States.  Some of the major points that coalition members have brought up is the potential profits states could gain from legalizing marijuana and then taxing it for consumers upon purchase.  Another argument you may have heard of in the past is that marijuana is actually far less debilitating and mind-altering then alcohol, yet alcohol has been in the market for years and years proving to be one of the most profitable industries in the world.  Through blogging and activism the CRC is working to promote the legalization as well as sponsors events like “Extravaganja.”   This festival takes place on the Amherst town green and maintains as a day where smokers can freely and openly smoke marijuana as they fight for legalization.

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Extravaganja

Before doing my research on marijuana reformation groups, I was unaware of how many of these groups actually exist in the United States.  Upon reading countless interviews of graduates who have dedicated their life work to constructing marijuana reformation laws, the theme that one is not alone in their beliefs came to mind.  Blogs work to unite students who are on the forefront of these issues.  The Weed Blog in particular shows us how being a member in Students for Sensible Drug Policy can eventually have a positive impact on personal life choices and career decisions.  This blog introduces us to a man who now works to open best-practice model medical cannabis dispensaries around the country.

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This blog in particular helps those who may be close minded about this type of reform realize that legalization of marijuana in particular has the ability to aid millions of people who become ill with various diseases by allowing them to cope with the pain.  To aid you in making your very own personal decision as to whether or not marijuana should be legalized it can be helpful to look at a simple pros and cons list on the topic.  The most important idea to consider when taking a stance and deciding whether or not to become an activist on an issue is to be well informed!

Save the World! Environmental Activism

Now lets take a look at Environmental Activism!  Environmental Activism addresses the physical world and the actions we can take to rid it of harsh destructive practices and transform them into more sustainable practices to create a better place to live. With human collaboration, these youth environmentalist groups address both large and small scale problems that this world faces.

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One of the most important themes of these blogs that we look at is to think locally.  In the five college area there are many opportunities to take part in these initiatives and promote change! These blogs specifically are helpful because they work to identify methods of activism everyone can take part in and more importantly let us know how to organize events in a successful way.

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Examples of economic problems that are addressed in these blogs are the unsustainable and injustice of global economy; the discussion over the lack of materials such as minerals, fossil fuels and water as well as climate change.

( Part 1 of a 3 Part series)

Now let looks at some initiatives that are taking place close to home!  Our school, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has taken steps in the right direction in order to help the environmental movement.  We are working towards a better, more environmentally friendly economy. Outside of Franklin, one the dining halls on campus, students have created a Permaculture Garden to help address the problems associated with modern agriculture.

Is 50 miles local? Is 500 miles local? How about 15 feet?

The best part about the UMASS permaculture garden is that students like you can become involved if  you feel it necessary to promote change in this sector.  By reading this blog we learned that this initiative, and other ones like it, have the ability to produce up to 1,000 pounds of vegetable annually.  These veggies will be used to serve the UMASS community at dining facilities all around campus.  This environmental process will also feed the good health of the UMASS students as well.  When food establishments buy local they are also contributing to local economies instead of large food processing corporations.  An exciting point that readers of these blogs can come away with is the ability to understand that the environment and health go hand and hand.

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The Well Trained Activist, a blog based out of New England’s Antioch College, works to promote environmental sustainability especially in the realm of public transportation.  What is original about this blog is that it promotes spot-lighting young activist, specifically college students, who are making initiatives for some type of change.  Students who are featured are working to change the environmental discourse we know today, and make it relative to our world’s needs tomorrow.  One hot topic that is essential to speak about and make known is the need for public transportation.  There has been a widespread down-grade of easily accessible and affordable transportation.  Not only would an incline in this sector provide more opportunities to those who could gain tremendously with easy travel, but the decrease in emissions that we would see with a decline in automobile usage would benefit our planet in such an immense way.

This blog is particularly inspiring because these students have just as much on their plate as each of us do here at UMASS, but somehow they manage to find the time to change the world one little bit at a time.  We must then ask ourselves this question, “Can I make time to make change?”

Student Debt & the Economic Crisis: How to be an Activist!

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YOU ARE NOT A-LOAN!

Student debt has reached a record high of 3 trillion dollars, exhausting any other debt levels within this country, including credit card debt. The first step to comprehending one’s financial situation when it comes to student debt is to realize that, you are not alone. In fact there are millions of people in the world, just like you, that are curious and want to understand how to get a hold of and manage their post-graduate financial woes.  Or even better, begin change to the entire system so that the next generation may see the day where post-secondary education is either dramatically lower in cost or perhaps free.

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 To begin the end of college loan scams, we must all learn the fundamentals of this situation that have created this giant mess for our nation.  Only when we understand the truth about what is going on in this crazed financial scheme will youth be able to fight back against these unjust creditors and systems.  We should start by making the claim that education is a right.  This day in age I am positive that many students would even deem post-secondary education as a right.  We live in a country that claims it is the “land of opportunity.”  As time progresses everyone has begun to understand that education promotes opportunity.  One who graduates with a high school diploma will most likely not have the same opportunities as someone who graduates with a college degree.  Therefore many students possess the mentality that the only way to claim a good career for oneself is to attend college. This might explain why admission has increased dramatically over the years.  Unfortunately at the same time that median household incomes have decreased, tuition in both the private and public sectors of post-secondary education have increased exponentially.  Now we understand why there is such a gap and such disparity pertaining to who wants to attend college and who actually can.

Student Debt Emergency is the first outlet that we wanted to spotlight because this is a blog that emphasizes the student debt issue in a public manner.  This blog doesn’t try to make light of such a serious issue rather it hits its reader with the negative effects so that they can become informed and take action.  This blog does a great job at rallying the 99% so that they can come together and fight for economic justice.

Rearranging Deck Chairs on the Titanic!

This is a concept the author of Student Debt Emergency plays around with when speaking about the financial student debt crisis.  The author compares students to the poor passengers of the boat who were destined to sink, while corporate credit lenders and politicians are the rich passengers who manage to escape the sinking ship.  These lenders are making astronomical profits, and politicians aren’t taking a stand to defend the youth.

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Our school, the University of Massachusetts, is also taking a stand when it comes to the terrifying financial futures a great percentage of our students will face upon graduation.  The bottom line is that when UMASS students sign their lender forms upon entering their freshman year, what they do not recognize is that they are signing a significant portion of their lives away.  This time will be spent repaying their students loans.  This is why the UMASS Amherst community has began to form a coalition to work towards a new normal when it comes to financing one’s post-secondary education.  Does this future include higher state funding and lower tuition, loan forgiveness, or maybe even FREE higher education?  The bottom line, and what UMASS Students Against Debt have realized, is that no change will happen unless the youth formulate plans to initiate change and awareness.

UMass Student's posting their debt stories to the debt fence outside the Student Union.

UMass Student’s posting their debt stories to the debt fence outside the Student Union.

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This image can be found on the UMASS Students Against Debt Facebook page and shows the newly constructed “debt fence” that includes both posters and stories that reflect the trial, tribulations and sorrows local students will face as they try to manage their student debt.

Network news stations are also taking concern with the student debt crisis.  CBS news in particular has done a great job showcasing personal accounts of people in our nation who attended college and are having tremendous issues paying off their student loans, or having trouble finding a job post graduation.  This news-story focuses on the issue of students borrowing from private lenders.  Private loans cannot be claimed in bankruptcy and also stay with students for years and years because of their high interest rates.  These stories must be expressed more often throughout the media so that sufferers understand that so many others are affected as well.  The ability to relate and connect with one another will promote change.

Students from NYC schools, and universities rallied at Union Square in solidarity then marched to Wall Street to protest for the Student Debt Movement.

Youth Activism on a Broader Scale

Today, we live in a technology-based world that is landscaped with social media outlets that can provide help to all of us concerning youth activism issues. Blogs, or electronic journals, chronologically explore and examine specific issues. In our mission to provide you with relate-able and resourceful online materials, we will supply to you an abundance of youth activism orientated blogs that can service you and make you aware of different issues. In our media hub, we will spotlight different blogs and websites that provide easy access, bullet point information if you will, about issues that may seem overwhelming and tedious when trying to research on one’s own.  Thus far in our exploration of the blogosphere, our favorite quality of these sites is that they provide a simple yet youthful twist on topics that can become extremely complicated.

Another aspect of these blogs that touch on social issues is that they have the ability to “rally the troops” if you will. These pieces of writing obtain the ability to fill the reader with emotion.  These strong emotions then have the capacity to motivate the youth to come up with solutions that concern these issues. The bottom line is that it is time to take a stance on these social and economic issues that are effecting the youth each and every day.