What Do We Do With It? — Solving The Plastic Problem

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Plastic.

The shape-shifting miracle product. It can take the form of nearly anything from a bag to a blow-up castle to a microchip implanted in a puppy. More than eight million tons of it are dumped into our oceans as a yearly regimen, and it is notoriously responsible for the one hundred thousand animals deaths year-round. Boasting a biodegradation period of four hundred years, it’s expected that it we start seeing plastic spurting out of gutters and washing up onto our beaches—tenfold. It’s something that can’t disappear overnight, or over centuries, for that matter.

So the question looms.

What do we do with it?

Plastic debris is seen as waste. Recycling certain plastics is one method to keep it from heading straight into the landfill. But the Plastic Bank, an environmental and people-oriented organization, takes the recycling one step further.

The Plastic Bank, founded by David Katz and Shaun Frankson, strengthens recycling, halts the flow of plastic into marine ecosystems, and provides aid to people who live in poverty. Their organization revolves around the idea of Social Plastic, which means giving plastic so much value that it is no longer considered waste—and monetizing it.

Converting plastic into a currency is an idea that has been toyed with, even before the emergence of the Plastic Bank. TerraCycle, an organization founded in 2001, collects plastic from individuals in exchange for ‘points,’ which are then put towards the individual’s charity of choice. There are also many recycling centers that pay individuals for the materials they bring (in Michigan, for example, a plastic bottle is worth ten cents).

The Plastic Bank’s aim is to make a direct impact on impoverished people through their recycling. Their system begins by encouraging locals to collect plastic debris and bring it to a Bank center nearby, where it is then exchanged for goods, or money. The Bank then sells the collected plastic to companies who want to use it. The money received from these companies is, in turn, the currency that is distributed to the people.

The Plastic Bank does not get rid of plastic. But by adding value to it, it acts as the moderator of a healthy recycling movement that connects both the community and outer enterprises.

But there’s a catch. As the Plastic Bank developed, they turned to something called Blockchain to keep track of their financial transactions, as well as a new method of paying their plastic collectors.

Blockchain is currently the most secure form of digital financial recording, and storage, available. Since many of the communities the Plastic Bank works with have access to mobile devices that are able to handle transactions, Blockchain became the safer option of exchange. Those who hold physical cash are likely to become targets. Blockchain currency is not physical, and so the money received is more secure, as is the recyclers’ safety. Blockchain is the irony of the Plastic Bank.

The combination of progressive technology with the venerable action of recycling is what makes the Bank’s approach to the plastic problem so unique. In caring for the environment, it is essential to empower people on an individual level, as well. Focusing on a balance is what makes the Bank’s process a true solution.

While the Plastic Bank has been a success for some communities, their process has not been expanded throughout any nationwide economy. No matter how much our financial systems progress, the plastic problem will remain. Recycling is the best solution we possess, and since it is already in practice, the future of world depends on its growth.

If the issue is to be solved, plastic production will have to come to an end. For Social Plastic to be expanded globally, it will be up to governments, if not individuals, to advocate for recycled plastic while discouraging further production. The Plastic Pollution Coalition states that every piece of plastic ever made exists today, and will be in existence for at least five hundred years, whether it’s in the form of toxins in the soil to being burned into the clouds. Ending plastic production does not mean the end of plastic. Rather, recycling offers plastic the opportunity to continue to be in existence, and to do so with meaning, and good use.

Plastic will never disappear. But its use is a double-edged sword, providing much good in our way of life while degrading life itself—and never something to take for granted. Before communities, or even nations, take the first step in establishing more plastic banks, individuals as well as corporations must learn to see, and experience, the great value that plastic has to offer. Purchasing recycled materials, recycling plastic, or repurposing it oneself are all impactful ways of breaking the notion that plastic is a one-time use, futile material.

Returning to the original question, what is the solution to the plastic problem? What do we do with it?

The Plastic Bank has taught us a few things. One is that recycling is the answer.

How communities choose to recycle will be determined with time. But it is certain that the more recycling occurs, the better for the environment. Better for the environment means better for communities. Two is that all plastic, whether in use or as debris, must be given value. Without it being in demand, recycling becomes a fruitless endeavor. Three is that corporations and individuals must work together at ground level to ensure that recycling uplifts both ends, in mutual means. This may occur through systems like Blockchain, where individuals would be securely paid specifically for the recycling they do. Solving the plastic problem is about helping all, including our own species, from the individual level, to the state, to the corporate. While we created the problem, we are the only ones who can solve it. Saving the oceans saves us.

Fourth is that through working together—communities with companies, people with the planet—there is hope.

 

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“No Cars Go,” by Arcade Fire

 

This is a reminder.

“We know a place where no planes go / We know a place where no ships go . . . ”

Arcade Fire urges all of us, “Let’s go,” only to say, “Don’t know where we’re going.”

We all are given things, objects, that we do not necessarily desire, deserve, or need. The opposite is true for others, as well. But we all come face-to-face with problems brewing deep in our subconscious, sooner or later—and then sooner or later, we must all go on.

Imagination is where we free ourselves from the turmoil and confusion of reality, of physical things. Dreams are how we escape.

Destination is of little importance. Our dreams, in the end, are the only reasons why we are inexorable. And no object, plane, train, car, or submarine can take us to them.

Only us.

Gerrymandering — A Perspective On The Virus Of America’s Democracy

Gerrymandering: the manipulation of electoral boundaries so as to favor one political party or class. In other words, no matter where you live in the U.S., or who you vote for, it is likely that your opinion is not only unimportant, but predestined, when it comes to elections.

The term “gerrymander” is a practice that had been coined nearly two hundred years ago in the election of 1812, though redistricting has been in use since 1788. Governor Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts created a redistricting plan designed to benefit his political party. The result? A newly-drawn district in Essex county that resembled the shape of a salamander; hence, gerrymandering was born.

Gerrymandering, like the electoral college, is one example of how practices founded to benefit those centuries before our time continue to govern us today, but with far less success. What was put in place to prevent mob-rule is now politicians’ addictive cheat-tool, being used with the excuses that there are simply “no other alternatives,” and that, “it has been this way for centuries.”

The second claim is the problem, but is the first really true? To answer this, one must know the basics of districting, and how gerrymandering manipulates its functions.

A congressional district is an area of a country drawn based on the population. Each district elects one member to the U.S. House of Representatives. The intended purpose of districting is to ensure political parties an equal chance of being represented in the House; to attain this, each of these districts are supposed to be equal enough in terms of party population. Hypothetically, if there are six Republicans and six Democrats in one district, then there is predicted to be an equal chance for the preferred representative of either party to be elected. In terms of fairness, this would be quite the ideal districting situation.

Unfortunately, we do not live in the ideal world—so that situation is unlikely to occur. In reality, party populations would be more unbalanced. There may be six Republicans in a state to counter ten Democrats. Since the Democrats have a larger population, they have a better chance of their preferred candidate being elected.

Districting was put in place to prevent that sort of unbalance, providing each party a fair voting advantage during elections. If the district drawer sees uneven party populations, they can redraw the district lines to even them out.

For instance; say a curtain divides a room with five blue-shirted people on one side and five green-shirted people on the other. We can shift the curtain so that there is a mix of blue- and green-shirted people on both sides. While each side does not have an even mix of colored shirts, it is less concentrated than having all of one color on either side. This is how districting is meant to function.

Gerrymandering, on the other hand, is the manipulation of redistricting. If Democrats are in control of the government, they can use gerrymandering to draw more districts that contain mostly Democratic voters, instead of drawing districts with a more even mix of parties. This is essentially what Elbridge Gerry did to benefit his political party.

So, how did he do this?

A major idea of districting is that the more districts your party has, the more votes you have—as each district receives one vote. The more votes your party has, the more likely your candidates will win seats in the House. The more your candidates win seats, the more power your party has in Congress.

Power—an obvious incentive for politicians to exploit redistricting for their own benefit, instead of using it to preserve honest elections.

There are two methods of redistricting; “packing” districts, and “cracking” districts. When packing, district lines are drawn so as to make more districts for one’s own party, and less for the opponent’s. This is done by surrounding a certain party’s district with those of the opposing political party. This is meant to concentrate those voters into a single district, thereby reducing their influence in the surrounding, different-party districts.

Cracking a district means exactly how it sounds. Cracking occurs when lines are drawn through a large district, filled with lots of people supporting the same party, to crack it into multiple districts; thus, increasing that party’s chance of gaining more votes.

These redistricting methods are supposed to help maintain even party populations. However, since Governor Elbridge’s endeavor to manipulate their uses for personal gain, we have since ended up with more salamander-esque districts than proportional ones.

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Some could argue that there is a justification to gerrymandering, in that it allows candidates who would not otherwise be elected, get elected. While this is great news for the candidate, the people end up with a ruler in office whom they did not vote for.

One example of extreme gerrymandering occurred after the 2000 census, in Pennsylvania. Democrat Frank Mascara was running for a seat in the House against Republican State Senator Tim Murphy. Mascara was running in Pennsylvania’s 18th district, along with Murphy, while Democrat John Murtha was running in Pennsylvania’s 12th district. Mascara had recalled that, before the election, his district has been “more or less the same for about a hundred years.” This is was not to be for much longer; during the election, the state legislature consisted of a Republican majority, which decided to play around with Mascara’s 18th district. What ended up happening was extreme gerrymandering; Mascara’s district was redrawn so that it was split between two different districts—the 12th and 18th. The line was so meticulously drawn so that on one side of Mascara’s street belonged to the 12th district, while his house, on the same street, belonged to the 18th. The purpose of doing this was to force Mascara into competition with Murtha in the 12th district. Both Democrats now running in the same district meant that Murphy was able to easily take over the 18th district without competition from the opposing party.

Could these sorts of incidents have been avoided? While some politicians claim that there are no alternatives to this centuries-old practice, it turns out that there have been fresh ideas in the wake towards making change. Following 2011, Virginia had held a line-drawing exercise once a survey voiced that a strong majority of Virginians wanted a nonpartisan district-drawing authority. Despite the effort in holding hearings and the writing of a report of this exercise, the idea had gained little interest, as lawmakers ignored those efforts. Iowa, on the other hand, is one of America’s rarities in terms of the redistricting process—to Iowa’s mapmakers, the process is not political. The three district drawers are not allowed to consider voter registration, past election results, or even the addresses of the current members of Congress. These restrictions help keep the redistricting process impartial to opposing party candidates. Unlike Frank Mascara’s gerrymandering incident, Iowa’s elections generally result in far more competitive races due to its strict regulations on redistricting.

Evidently, there are ways to curb gerrymandering, while not abolishing redistricting completely. Independent boards would be more effective as opposed to the state legislature having control over drawing the lines. Though, this is easier said than done; voters themselves must demand change if any is to be made. A first step forward is to question the motives of gerrymandering itself: Shall we let a decision made for an election centuries ago continue to cause turmoil during elections affecting us today? Or, shall we prepare to release ourselves from being ruled by the dead?

We Are Only Human, After All

A friend of mine asked me this:

“Do you think that people who deny climate change are happier than people who don’t?”

I thought about this for a moment, and responded with a very confident, “Yes.”

I didn’t think long enough. Of course, happiness does not discriminate based upon one’s environmental notions—at least, not wholly. Man-made climate change may sound like quite a reality to an individual struggling with happiness, just as it would for someone who couldn’t be living it any better.

I’ve mulled over my response, and decided that ‘happiness’ was not the right word for this question.

Granted, not all Creationists or hyper-conservatives are happy, but possessing the ability to disregard something that threatens the existence of life on Earth as we know it must alleviate some inherent distress.

I wonder if this is a possible reason for why one might be a denier; they are afraid of being responsible for the fate of the world.

While I lament the choices they make in regards to this denial, I don’t blame them. No matter how many statistics bombard screens, books, and magazines, the fear remains. The confusion remains. And the comfort of choosing denial—not too far off—remains. Some will recede into this pocket of denial, because fear is all-consuming.

We are only human, after all. Fear and fate combined will daunt, twist, challenge our intuitions. The size of the catastrophe is irrelevant. There will always be deniers, because there will always be a flicker of happiness, of comfort, to retreat to—no matter how small.

“Savages,” by Marina and The Diamonds

 

Some people declare this as “humanity’s anthem,” as can be seen by scrolling through Youtube’s comment section for this song.

I somewhat agree.

Marina belts out cuttingly-honest lyrics that could describe today’s world down to a T. Of course, saying it is “humanity’s anthem” would be quite the pessimistic approach, but the truth can be ugly. One of her most compelling lyrics is, “Underneath it all, we’re just savages / Hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages.”

Savages, we are.

Marina has no intention towards euphemism, and so her message gets across quite clearly: Humanity sucks. Why?

“Were we born to abuse, shoot a gun and run
Or has something deep inside of us come undone?”

It seems as if Marina is still figuring that out.

In the meantime, let us chill out to the misanthropic vibes this song has to offer, and contemplate existence from a nihilistic standpoint—and maybe, just maybe, we’ll stumble across the answer.

Fun Fact #3: Poverty In 8’s

The place I live in is a bubble.

Meaning, you can walk down the street gazing upon verdurous lawns and red-painted shutters, instead of crumbling rooftops and lots filled with those scantily curled up onto weathered curbsides.

Though I am fortunate to be living in a place where my and my neighbors’ basic needs are sufficiently met, I realize that living in a bubble does make us disconnected with reality. Witnessing cruelty through the television screen can hurt our emotions, but it does nothing to prepare us for the actual conditions of the world.

We know that people are starving, that homes are collapsing, that our world harbors more deficiencies than we’d like to admit. But do we really know?

Let’s look at the facts.

First up, grain.

Did you know…

…if all the grain currently fed to livestock in the U.S. were consumed directly by people, the number of people being fed would be 800 million? Not advocating veganism, here—but grass-feeding our cows was always an option. (from Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma).

Not to mention; according to David Pimentel, professor in Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, if those grains were exported (to, say, a region where people are indeed suffering greatly from starvation), doing so would increase the U.S. trade balance by $80 billion a year.

Based on these statistics, I don’t see why our government hasn’t yet jumped at the chance to carry out this world-saving masterplan. I mean, it’s not like there’s anything stopping them besides their corn subsidies, the tendency to partner up with corporations relying on cheap labor, the rules of hypercapitalism, mega-military funding, the current hell-spitting party feuds enrapturing every American’s conscience, and—

I’ll go back to all that another day, perhaps.

Next up—nutrition!

Did you know…

In the year 2000, the U.N. reported that the number of people suffering from over-nutrition—a billion—had surpassed the number of people suffering from malnutrition—800 million.

Evidently, our system is flawed. But who’s to blame? Where did the crazed industrialized ethics escalate, when did the national greed spawn, where did calorie-obsession spike and our impoverished comrades die?

Whether your hourly pay is $24 or $2.50, it is crucial to wonder why. It is crucial to understand that the numbers are climbing. The 8’s will shift to 9’s, and the 9’s to 10’s. What we can do about this is spread awareness, and remain conscious of our own mindsets and actions.

Poverty is real. It is okay to step outside of our bubbles every once and a while to be disturbed, to be afraid, to recoil at the facts and wish to escape. But turn your sorrow into motivation, and speak up instead. The numbers are already there. Now, it is our turn to keep them in mind, to use them, with one word, one action, at a time.

 

Life Doesn’t Suck—How To Break Past Routine, And Live Spontaneously

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I’ve often wished that life was more exciting.

I wish it were more thrilling—like it is in the movies. In books. Especially these past few years. Growing older, I’ve realized how dull daily life has gotten to be. Heck—as an experiment, I’ve even started recording the hourly interactions I’ve made all throughout the course of the day, and at the end of the week I had planned to compare all seven daily recordings, hoping to spot some variance, or lack thereof. On day three, I trudged through half of the day, and tucked the notebook back into my bag. There was no point in continuing.

Leafing through the last couple pages of the book, the truth was already evident—I was living the same day over, over, and over again. What was the point in recording the rest of the days’ ‘events’? I already knew what was ahead of me. That was certain.

I am an individual—valuable, cherished, loved. I am an individual, with my own erratic creativity. My own quirks. I gravitate towards my own esoteric quips, comrades, dreams. So, how is it that I practically live the same schedule as six-hundred million other human beings? How strange that we all complain about the weekly grind, then collapse into Sundays with a sigh and an apprehensive yearning for more?

Life was meant to be more than this. There, I said it. Otherwise, how could there be movies this stifling, novels this engaging—characters created from the real-life imaginings of people, just like us?

We should not stay confined. We should not stay conformed. Do not adhere to the hushed, unrelenting law of ‘living solely for the weekends’—at this rate, you’ll be wheezing on your deathbed before you can even process this article. We are spontaneous, free-spirited beings—organization is a necessity for survival, but when it comes to living and dreaming, it is true to say that some things are best left turbulent in possibility. Let not our feeble aspirations be sequestered behind some mental barricade. You want excitement? Freedom? A good story not only to tell, but to live?

How about we take a step back. Let’s look at this from a familiar, objective viewpoint, a shifted perspective.

Just like the character in your favorite television series, this is you: just your Average Joe. If you’re a student, you’re a student—you get loads of homework, you hate Mondays. Some of your teachers are cool, and you love seeing your friends. You work hard, sweat and bleed through it all. University awaits!

This description could apply to thousands. Most of you may realize that once upon a time, you fell into this generic five-sentence biography. Now, here is another.

You’re an adult (age is irrelevant). What matters is that if you don’t get that paycheck, you can kiss that roof over your head down to hell. Rent flashes crimson on a weekly basis. Your coworkers are friendly, for the most part. Perhaps you like your ‘job’, though the work can get tedious at times. Too tedious. Sometimes…all you want is to escape.

Here comes the part we all know best, but have little personal experience in. Something completely unexpected happens. The student witnesses a street-fight on their walk home from school, and attempts to break it up. Worker-Bee takes a sick day, and while walking along in the park, he stumbles across a mysterious package left on a bench, unattended. These characters lives are about to get a whole lot more interesting.

It doesn’t seem like a lot of drastic change occurring. Okay, the guy found a package. What if he decides not to find its rightful owner? Exactly—the story would end right there. But here is the choice that determines it all: Will he leave it sitting on the bench and go about his day, or will he try to chase down the stranger who left it there? A simple thing like this leads to a whole other chain of events, and while the first ‘event’ was hardly any change at all, if he never took that sick day and plucked his eyes from his laptop to go for a brisk stroll, he wouldn’t be helping some kid run away to Reykjavik after he’d gotten into trouble searching for his cousin’s squandered travel manuscript. Gradually, the choices build upon one another—and the change hits him like a meteor. This character is now officially deserving of an anime theme song.

My point. We weren’t put in this world to be thrust into a set schedule. We, human beings, have created time, for crying out loud. Monday is simply a word. Your checkerboard calendar could be torn to shreds in an instant. Life can be exciting—and it is. Unfortunately, when everyone fails to realize this, or fully acknowledge it, it is so hard to live on the edge. If everyone in the world is operating under this weekend-crash cycle, then who is there to put the package on the bench? (It’s a metaphor. Bear with me here).

So, how to bring that rarity of zest called “living” back into existence?

Be spontaneous.

I don’t mean you have to throw a party for no reason, or buy your girlfriend some chocolates when it’s not any commercialized holiday. Do not feel the need to force it. Simply let the spontaneity come to you.

When confronted with a choice, go with the option that is more unexpected, the one that is most unlike you.

Here is an example.

A few weeks ago, I went on a walk in this lovely little park near my house. I was just nearing the end of the loop around the green, and spotted a man huddled in a dark coat on a bench by the path, immersed in a novel. Immediately, a dozen thoughts crossed my mind:

“He looks like a bookworm. Bookworms are cool people. I wonder what he’s reading. Should I stop to ask him? What if we got into a really good conversation about books? No—just keep walking. What if the man’s a rapist? What if he’s grumpy? What if he’s deaf, and I look like an idiot attempting to make conversation with him? I’m tired, anyways—there’s no point in stopping. I’ll make a fool of myself. People don’t just walk up to strangers and start talking to them.” On and on.

Somewhere amidst these thoughts, I made up my mind. It wasn’t easy. I repeat: It. Was. Not. Easy. I felt especially unlike myself. I was sweating madly, legs stiff, chest retracting a hundred times a minute. Still, I went up to him. In a meek voice, I asked if I could sit beside him. He let me. After a moment of (very) awkward silence, I inquired about his day. He inquired about mine. So led to the best two hour-long conversation I’ve had in months. We ended up discussing everything ranging from classical novelists to our pets, politics, climate change, writing, music, and random things that we noticed in our own strolls throughout the park.

Sure, the guy was at least forty years older than me—forty, or more, years worth of experience, of knowledge. But age did not matter. I’d made an actual friend. For me, it was a big deal. I’m shy. Awkward. Reserved. I was confronted with a choice. If I had sacrificed my comfortability in my own personal bubble for a moment of social incompetence, this day would’ve been just another chip in the grand drag that is my existence. By choosing differently, it didn’t.

The choices you face may not always be obvious. They will slink into your thoughts so unexpectedly, so capriciously at times. Opportunities will not always be presented to you from someone, or something, else.

Spontaneity is not some gift, not anything that one can perfect over time. Spontaneity goes hand in hand with the choices you make.

We are all capable of catching a thrill, even if that means just the thrill of meeting someone new—but it’s up to you, only you, to choose to act. You can’t wait for something extraordinary to happen to you without first taking the initiative in making it happen. Even a musing so small as, “Should I make plans with friends/Grandma/brother this week?” is a very significant choice for you to make.

Be the one to put the package on that bench. You put the possibility, the opportunity, out there for others to engage in, and soon, more will follow. Soon, more excitement will be in the air, more mysteries will be unearthed, and more friends will be made.

What’s Holding Us Back?

If you were to be living out your dreams, at this very moment—

Where would you be?

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In Louisa Alcott’s novel, “Little Women,” there is a very sentimental scene where the four sisters and their friend are describing their personal ‘castles.’ By ‘castles,’ they meant their greatest aspirations—where they hoped to be in the future, and what they most dreamed of doing. Most of them were far-fetched, seeing as they were ‘poor’ folk. Nonetheless, they dreamed of it, and…

I don’t know.

I just can’t help wondering, every day, what the world would be like if everybody were living in their castles? The world would be a better place, one would assume. Well—if I were living in my castle, I would be stopping to talk to anyone who feels unsatisfied or dejected, no matter their outward appearance. I would not let the sight of rags stop me, nor the flash of tear-shielding screens. I would be on the road, delivering letters anonymously in hopes of cheering strangers up. I would be cleaning streets, parks, and lawns of all trash, and spreading words of kindness, educating others—especially children—on how precious this Earth of ours is. I would be in so many places in this one castle of mine.

But now and again, I also wonder; what exactly is holding me back?

What is holding me back from living in my castle, this very moment? I know, many would say that the only thing keeping me from my castle is myself. Though, I really do wonder; if I didn’t have to worry about going to school every day in order to get into a good college, to get a good job, to earn money to ‘live,’ then I would be chasing my castle right now. I believe I really would. Or, at the very least, I’d be living some more alternative, hippie lifestyle. A freer lifestyle.

After analyzing these aspirations of mine, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I wish for with all my head, heart, and soul, is to be—that’s right.

Free.

It’s such a loose term, I know. So, I have crafted a personal working definition on what it means to be free:

“The ability to pursue one’s dreams without fear of consequence, or hindrance of self-despising spirit.”

Perhaps that ‘freedom’ is roosted in the tallest tower of my castle, yet. Not because I am consciously holding myself back, or because ‘society’ is holding me back—but because it is ourselves who hold the world back.

Weird, right?

It is inevitable that the words and actions of one person affects another, and can ultimately contribute in dictating the outcome of that person’s life. The effects are not always direct, of course—but nothing can be undone. A choice is forever.

We all know that the students currently attending grade-school did not make the laws. I’m sure that half of them would opt for alternative learning methods, if going through the system was not ingrained in national policy. A policy that was created by politicians at least two centuries ago, a choice stamped into eternity.

Having an income. Acquiring a diploma, promotion, whatever it may be—these are only things we desire because it further secures us of ‘life’; of survival, comfortability. Laws, custom, society, mentality—they may interfere with our freedom, but they’re also an attempt to guarantee us security.

Legislations created by people of the past, prosperity for people of the future. For us. Monarchs, dictators, prime ministers, and popes—even the nicest leader of the bunch—will never be able to grant us freedom. Liberty is a humble synonym, and is available to us as long as we function within the realm of society’s rubric of legality. It is people who make our lives spin round, not any one individual. Whether it was that Massachusetts governor, or your boss’s twice-removed step-cousin, their existence is inevitably intertwined with not only yours, but everyone else’s, existence.

It does not matter if someone made a choice ten minutes ago, or ten centuries down the line. Everyone’s decisions impact the world we live in (and even beyond). Sure, I didn’t ask to attend school, and perhaps you didn’t especially desire that desk job with the expectations that it would make you happy, or free. But somehow, some way, each one of us has been ushered into a situation that we feel is holding us back from something more—and substituting that ‘something’ with a lesser reward.

Our castles are fleshed out in moats, soldiers, iron gates, the works—and with all our security, of course it is difficult to reach that very precious room on the top floor without being told to, “Please take a walk down this staircase, first.” Or, “If you want to reach that room, you’ll have to please go down this hallway.”

It is only in the name of your security, of course. The world wants us all to be content. So, it is only rational that we all follow the same customs. Customs which were created by—yes. By people, like you and me, as consequences of the choices they made.

Us. Society. The world.

We hold ourselves back for the sake of saving ourselves. Rules and custom are tactics of defense against uncertainty. There is no security in a world without custom. Chaos is the consequence of disregarding our constructions, so we tell each other. We are so daunted to climb up to that tallest tower, where our aspirations reside. Where our dreams, freedoms, risks, await.

Why?

We point each other in different directions; I choose to save you from uncertain expeditions, so I point towards the plasticine yard. You feel my aspired heights are outlandish—and beckon me to first landing, instead of the third.

We hold the world back. We do it all with our best intentions, but fear of failure has tugged us into a treacherous circle of dependence on those who know so little of our lives. Think about it—how many life choices have you made where you weren’t pressured from those who didn’t know you? Are you living with the choices you were forced to make, or choices you truly desired to make? If you had no fear of others’ opinions, or the societal consequences your dreams might entail, would you have chosen differently?

I’m Tired Of This

“Dear Friend,

You, yes, you—put it down.

Right. Now.

I don’t care how important that text message is. I don’t care how hilarious that photo-shopped picture of a demonized infant is. I don’t care if you need to check your grades right now. It’s not important.

As a matter of fact, I’m tired of coming to eat lunch with you every day. I’m tired of that look on your face when you scroll through trash on some website. I can leave right now, if I wanted to. You know, I think I will. I think I’ll just pack up my stuff and leave this table. It’s not like we were talking about anything, anyways.

No, you don’t look aloof. Yes, everyone can see right through that “I’m so preoccupied with my email that I can’t make eye-contact” expression. No matter what it is you’re doing on that screen, I can’t tell you how ridiculous you look to me. Please, just drop it. Look at me. Say something, anything, to me.

I miss you, so dearly much, my friend.

I’m tired of this.”