For the past year and a half, I have been on 3 continents and visited over 10+ countries in addition to engaging with individuals from 100+ countries throughout my masters program at Hult International Business School. The moment our courses got moved online, I booked a one way flight from Boston to California with several of my classmates booking similar flights globally.
What started in Wuhan has since spread infecting over 100+ countries and impacting the lives of millions. Most recently, the stock market collapsed dropping 20% and even with an injection of 1.5 Trillion Dollars by the Fed--it is still maintaining its downward course. We are facing a global recession. It is worth noting that the issues and problems that arise are not simply the result of COVID-19 or the Coronavirus. The problems, especially in the United States, are the result of severe disinvestment in the people and the very institutions that maintain and manage public health. This virus is merely exacerbating the problems you were already facing.
I want to use this opportunity to point of the failure of business and the utter lack of a social safety net for a vast majority of the population. Most Americans are one paycheck away from being on the streets. And the vast majority of student are burdened with debt and the limited job prospect make education an unattainable alternative. Our elderly lack the care they need. Hospitals, doctors, nurses, and caregivers are overburdened. But someone is profiting off of this and that is the problem I have. That 1.5 Trillion the Fed gave--who does that benefit?
This system is broken. I am bitter. I am angry.
But I am still hopeful.
The idea of borders being closed and social distancing being practiced means that we as society still care deeply about one another. I know that within this madness and what some may view as malarkey--people still care. And that is important to remember, because the reality is COVID-19 is just a baby test and how we react to this will have huge implications for future problems.
The real test is yet to come--climate change.
Recently, I had a chance to visit the Pygmy Forest in Mendocino. For my fellow geography buffs, it is about 2-3 hours north of San Francisco, close to the coastline along Highway 1, and just south of Fort Braggs.
The Pygmy Forest is over one hundred years old and filled with trees that are hardly taller than you and me. Just a stone’s throw away are these colossal redwood trees which in comparison clamber into the sky. As I scanned along this tree line and smelled the sea seasoned air surrounding both forests, I could not pinpoint anything that could conceivably cause such a drastic height different.
Intrigued I decided to dig a little deeper and read the signage at the trailhead pictured below:
This rare plant community occurs only in a few sites where sea-cut terraces and their soil surfaces have remained flat during a half million years of geological uplift. The soils here are 1,000 times more acidic than soil found in the redwood forest. Heavy winter rains have leached iron and other soil nutrients from the surface of the ground and washed them down to the subsoil. The iron, soluble under acidic conditions, combines with eroding bedrock (subsoil) to form an iron-concentrated hardpan 18 inches beneath your feet. Extremely acidic conditions and poor soil fertility, coupled with shallow hardpan formation, contribute to the stunted, spare growth of the pygmy forest.
For whatever reason, this unique landscape could not escape my mind and reminded me of a dichotomy seen elsewhere. A dichotomy I had seen walking the streets and neighborhoods of San Francisco. A dichotomy I had seen crossing under and overpasses in Silicon Valley. A dichotomy I had seen flying and roaming the heartland of the United States. This was not limited to differences in melanin, but rather differences in incomes with a growing inequity. A dubious dichotomy whose tentacles extend into classrooms, schools, and American Dreams. A difference that has manifested in the contrasting legacy of Nairobi College to that of Stanford University. A difference that I have a difficult time explaining.
Similar to geography, the inequities in education piqued my interest. At first, it was a simple reflection of my experience within education and comparing and contrasting it to that of my peers. But there were a few concerning patterns I noticed which I decided to explore it further after graduating from UC Berkeley. Like any good Berkeley graduate, I approached it with an academic rigor reading academic articles, books, and attending lectures. While I learned a lot, there was no way to succinctly describe the problems I saw and what I believe. Well that is, until now. After some reflection, I concluded that the pygmy forest is the perfect analogy for the American education system.
Well, it is important to first recognize that the current American education system did not spring up overnight. It has developed over time, and the “achievement gaps” we see today are a result of lapsed time and frankly, bad policy. While some communities and areas were uplifted by the system, others were ignored. As a result of these decisions, positive feedback loops were created for both communities with very divergent outcomes. On one side, the soil is rich and fertile, allowing the redwood trees to reach great heights. On the other, the soil in the pygmy forest was systematically stripped of nutrients and resources, resulting in poor and inhospitable conditions which indiscriminately restricted the growth and thus height potential of each tree in that region.
Please note the pygmy tree adjacent to me and the redwood trees in the distance.
No scientist, or any sane and rational person really, would look at the trees in the pygmy forest and claim, “The reason that you, pygmy tree, are not growing as tall as the redwood tree is because you are not as smart, intelligent, driven, talented, or gifted as those redwood trees.” In this context, it is laughable. So why then is it deemed remotely reasonable when this same “logic” is applied to students? It is absurd. It does not consider students environment, context, and experiences and takes a singular approach to what is obviously an extremely complex multifaceted issue. Instead, what we ought to do is question everything and dare I say—dig a little deeper.
Some questions that come to mind are: Is height in fact a fair metric of comparison for pygmy and redwood trees? If not, what is? In schools, academic success and “intelligence” are measured by grades, test scores, IQ, SAT scores, etc.—are these fair metrics of comparison? If not, what are? Better yet, why do we even need metrics of comparison? What value do they add? Are they indicative of intrinsic characteristics? If not, what impact and or unintended consequences could stem from attributing a lack of growth to a supposed inherent flaw? Are we doing more harm than good by using metrics? Are we measuring what matters? What can we do to redefine success so that it is no longer based on your roots? If there is a problem, what can we do to reshape the environment? What policy level changes can we make to address the “achievement gaps”? Can we create an environment where all trees and students can reach their potential, whatever that may mean to them? What are our responsibilities and obligations as members of this ecosystem and society to these trees and students? More importantly, what can we do to fulfill them? This is just a brief window to my brain at 3:00 AM.
Furthermore, how can we encourage a positive learning environment for our students? Several plant studies have demonstrated that positive affirmations and encouragements boost plant growth while negative statements and condemnations stunt it. Humans are also living breathing beings who feel as well—can you imagine how negativity impacts us?
Fortunately, we have some answers to a few of those questions. Claude M. Steele is a well-renown social psychologist explores some of these issues in his book Whistling Vivaldi: How Stereotypes Affect Us and What We Can Do. While there is no denying that we live in a society filled with stereotypes, his analysis reveals that these biases can be internalized and result in real tangible impacts that can be both positive and negative. The language we use has an impact, but fortunately there are ways in which we can mitigate the impact. Another book that addresses some of the aforementioned questions is Ungifted: Intelligence Redefine by Scott Barry Kaufman which brings to question how we measure intelligence or success and explore the unintended consequences of creating false binaries. That being said, academic success, perceived intelligence and even wealth bode no relationship with whether or not a person is ethical, moral, or generally lives a happy life—I am sure you can find several examples within your own life or on the news to support this claim.
Last time I checked, you and me, we are not trees and therefore are not limited to and deeply rooted in the environment in which we were brought up. We have feet, we have hands, we have eyes, and hopefully, we have some ability to think (or some variation of the aforementioned). More importantly, we have the ability to change the environment around us. It might be a herculean task, and we may not be able to change things single-handedly. But if we cannot do it alone, we sure as hell can do it together. We can roll up our sleeves to reshape the environment and reshape our environment into one where everyone can thrive and be uplifted.
That vision is something my team and I care deeply about at Major Probs and are actively working to address. Call me naïve, but I truly believe that we can and need to change things, but before we do that we need to dig a little deeper.
This photo was not taken at the Pygmy Forest, but rather the Glass Beach in Fort Braggs. It is representative of the choices we have in life.
*You can read the article here as well:
A few weeks ago, I had the honor and privilege of volunteering as a part of a Disaster Response Team aiding those impacted by the Orville Dam evacuations and the San Jose flooding. This experience opened my eyes and made me realize a few things—here are a few of my reflections and thoughts.
1. Humanity Transcends All Religions
I have always believed in this notion, but it is something that I have rarely seen in action. Here I am defining religion as a way of life. A way of life which may or may not conform to a set of certain set of principles, rules, regulations, guidelines, regions, and/or identities. While volunteering, I had the privilege of meeting people from different religious backgrounds and walks of life. People who, on a regular basis, I would not have the opportunity to associate with. This included former members of the military, congregants of the Southern Baptist Church, Hindus, Jews, Sikhs, Atheists, Muslims, and everything in between. The only thing that these folks appear to have in common is their desire to help others. A duty which was not taken lightly.
2. Not All Heroes Wear Tights and It Really Does Take a Village
The response to these disasters was truly a village coming together. Our team brought up donations from the South Bay and the surrounding regions. People flew in from all over the country, leaving the comfort of their family and homes to sacrifice their time and energy. Supplies brought in from all over the USA provided food and shelter. Each person who donated an item, resources, or their time is a hero. What I realized is this: people have good intentions and even if they cannot physically be there, their spirit and well wishes can. I just want to give a shout out to all the volunteers who worked 12 hours shifts. It is mentally and physically exhausting, and they all have my utmost respect and admiration for doing it day after day.
3. How Can We Prevent This?
While it is great seeing the community coming together like this, the real question is how can we prevent things like this from happening? Climate change will only worsen the impact of events like this and if we do not take precautionary measures, more people will be impacted in the future. From conversations I had with those who were impacted, I learned that there were very few alternatives. If we can come together to aid these people in disasters, what is preventing us from aiding them before these disasters occur? How can we work to provide alternatives?
These are not million dollar questions, these are the questions for over a million lives.
Cooped up, tied down
Shared sentiments severed
By miles and miles of dust and roads.
Those paths less traveled
Stranding each on opposite sides
So close yet so far
What can be done to fill this divide?
False promises, cheats, and lies
Triumphant losses suffered on both sides.
Could we, instead, throw out a line—?
Building bridges to help walk the line
The keystone being an open mind.
Have faith and pray, do not lose hope today
For tomorrow will be another difficult day.
The challenging task is yet to come:
Listen carefully before you are done;
Listen carefully to everyone;
Listen carefully for what is to come
Carefully listen as we may not see
Not zi, na see, Nazi…
Fear leads to anger.
Anger leads to hate.
Hate leads to suffering.
Here we are suffering.
Here we are in pain.
Hear, we all need change
Settling for pennies and dimes,
Poisoning us is part of an elaborate design.
Let us educate and not hate.
Start by addressing a rural urban divide:
Without both, our nation will not survive.
United we stand, divided we fall
Yet, we fear one another—like a cancer
Killing our nation from the inside out
Here we are on the cusp of collapse.
The only thing we have to fear is fear itself
Some fear for their livelihood—others fear for their life.
Their liberty and lives have been stripped, whipped…
Yet still they rise.
I am amazed by you and your resilient sides
America, vow to give faith a fighting chance
And join me in our healing dance.
We could rewrite our wrongs seeing
Our left and our right to find what was
Left behind, bringing it all into the light
Doing what is right.
What is right is not always popular and
What is popular is not always right.
So choose your battles wisely
Be prepared to reap what you sow
One never knows how the wind may blow
Hurt no one, so that no one hurts you and do not
Commit injustices against yourself.
It is in our hearts and in our hands,
Reckon awakening complacent heads?
I know somewhere in between a heart skipped a beat,
Shh, listen carefully, can’t you see? It’s not just black and blue--
If we just open old wounds, our hearts, and our minds, only then
Can we get to the heart of the matter
Break. these. mental. chains.
Here is a thought—why not use our brains.
We keep thinking that we are ahead of the game…
Eventually the curtain will close, it was just an act
And all for show, our prayers and players
Could simply be played.
So remember we
Are judged by the content of our character:
Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight,
This could be solved within a minute.
Within a heartbeat, if all would listen
Then maybe, just maybe a renascent could rise
A new birth of freedom
A government of the people
By the people for the people
Could be for all the people.
Disclaimer: This article is primarily written for myself any of the advice or solutions given are first and foremost things that I am working on implementing within my life. You can think of it as me talking in a mirror to myself reflecting on society.
Within our society we have a system established that literally abuses the vast majority of us. These systems lie all across the board ranging from racism, police abuse, education and access to education, insurance policies, resource distribution, pollution, climate change, water quality, water distribution, our tax system, our current government practices, and even our internal reactions to those around us. What I mentioned does not even begin to scratch the surface. When was the last time you walked through a "ghetto" neighborhood and felt at ease, when was the last time you saw a homeless person and acknowledged their existence as a fellow human being, when was the last time you empathized with those less fortunate rather than blaming them for their circumstances, when was the last time you thought about where your tax dollars go, and when was the last time you had time to think about these things rather than worry about your simply surviving and providing for your family, and...the list goes on and on.
In my opinion, the main issue here is that we do not care about one another. It is basically like we are all fighting over pennies, while others sit on their stacks of money passing a cigar around enjoying the spectacle. Finding amusement in our misery. One thing that they do better than us is look out for one another. There is constant lobbying and reform promoted by them to protect them and their vested interests. And part of what they do is work to turn the rest of us against ourselves.
While reading the Qur’an, verse 73 of Surah Al- Anfal (Chapter 8) stood out to me and highlights the problems that we are seeing.
And those who disbelieved are allies and protectors of one another. If you do not become allies and protectors of another—there will be oppression, persecution, confusion, and mischief on Earth.
Everything I mentioned above falls into the category of oppression, persecution, confusion, and mischief. This is what we are seeing and the solution is right there.
We need to start being allies of one another.
We need to start being protectors of one another.
We need to start caring about one another.
And in order to do that, we must start by asking ourselves difficult questions. Why we hold the opinions we do? Why we act in certain ways? Why is that we do not care about one another? After asking why, we move on to addressing what. What is wrong with us? What does it mean to be an ally? What does it mean to be a protector? What would we want in an ally or protector? And finally how.
How can we be one?
Religion is at its best when it makes us ask hard questions of ourselves. It is at its worst when it deludes us into thinking we have all the answers for everybody else.–Archibald Macleish
Thanks for the question. The short answer would be no. A more thorough answer would involve a deeper analysis of what morals mean and how one would define breaking or crossing morals. There are different perspectives that can be used to define morals, the definition I will use and that seems most applicable to the question defines morals as “a person's standards of behavior or beliefs concerning what is and is not acceptable for them to do.” Personally, I tend to view morals as a guideline by which one lives their life. As long as you understand where your personal boundaries are and what those limits are—you would not need to break or cross them. Also, as you go through life you learn more and your perception of things changes and consequently your morals and values may change or shift. My philosophy is to live with minimal to no regrets, if I do not feel comfortable doing anything I will not do it. Hope that answers your questions.
Recently, there have been protests in response to cases such as Ferguson, Mike Brown, Eric Garner and etc. regarding excessive police brutality and violence against minorities communities. There was one such protest last night in Berkeley.
My roommate and I arrived at the protest after 9pm. When we reached Telegraph and Durant, there was definitely tension between the police and the protesters. A group of police, who were fully masked and in riot gear, occupied the intersection splitting the group protestors and a crowd had gathered mainly to watch and observe what was happening.
It seemed as though each side was waiting for the other to do something, almost as though both sides were waiting to hear a pin drop. From the crowds people called "Hands up don't shoot" and "This was a peaceful protest". Shortly after, there was a loud bang from around the block which sounds as though a bomb had been dropped or shot. At that point my roommate and I left to go see what was happening around the block. Tear gas had been fired at the crowds and the officers were advancing towards the protestors pushing them back. We tried to catch up and join the main group to see what was going on, but when we would round the block we would see the police advancing towards the protestors.
From my understanding, the police came after rioters who destroyed windows and tagged buildings. There were quite a few police officers there (my guess is over 100) and they themselves were quite tense. Someone in the crowd mentioned that you could look into their eyes and see the ill intention in their eyes. It was almost like their eyes were cold and you could sense that they were not there to protect you. It seemed very militaristic. That being said the actions of the officers and their demeanor were off putting and quite unsettling; I can understand why the people in that moment were against the police. Plus, the riot gear and tear gas did not help much (tear gas sucks... it is a combination of cutting onions and inhaling red peppers just a thousand times worse than that though). The officers kept pushing the protest around and blocking off streets, which was quite inconvenient for individuals trying to get home. Many people lived in the areas that were blocked off and the police would not let them get to their homes.
From what I saw, it seemed like a fairly peaceful protest and few if any people were actually causing destruction. Out of the hundreds of individuals there, I only saw three individuals in ski masks causing destruction and in this case tagging the Bank of America with the phrase FTP. Another individual and myself questions them, asking them what the hell they were doing.
Their justification was ridiculous. They said it was their right and "form of protest." Which to me seems completely stupid since if you are fighting a system of injustice, what gives you the right to do injustice. Sure, Bank of America may not be a good or even moral corporation, but that does not justify damaging their property. Seeing these individuals and their absolute disregard made me more sympathetic to the police.
Given, what I saw and experience tonight. I would say our job is to stand up for justice both the little things and bigger things. It made me realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is worrisome, because when you ignore the little injustices it sets the precedence for more injustice. It is just as important to condemn the rioters and looters and bring them to justice as well as to stand with the protestors. After seeing the police in action it sheds light on what is going on and why these protests started it the first place. The police are being militarized and have forgotten what it means "to serve and protect."
This is obviously an issue that needs to be addressed and is in no way just. But we should also looks for any other ways to stand up for justice like protecting business from rioters during the protest. Many businesses closed early and had their windows boarded to avoid damage. What message does that send. After seeing those individuals tag that building and then asking them why, you realize that people do not really care about the little injustices and that is something that should not be neglected. Their justification was that Bank of America is horrible and ergo it is fine to do this. I beg to differ. They may very well be horrible, but it does not justify what you are doing. Injustice does not justify injustice. As a side note there were many instances when traffic was stopped and stalled by protestors, it would have be nice to have a system set that would allow people to continue about their business would have been helpful. It feel like letting people know what routes to avoid and helping people go on their way is the right thing to do and builds good will (it just seems like the neighborly thing to do).
I would say we should go show our support for the cause, but work to keep the peace and help out where ever possible.
Like I said before, support the cause and help prevent the little injustices. Also, there was quite a bit of damage and destruction so helping fix that. The streets are more dirty than usual so maybe helping to clean the streets. And trying to see if there is a way to help businesses that have been damaged, it would be cool if we could help cover the cost of repairs for them.
A bit long, thanks for reading. Those are just my two cents. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts below
Interesting related reads:
I hope you all are doing well. I have been meaning to start a blog for quite sometime, but could never find a topic that I could commit myself to. My solution to this problem is to start a blog called #iqrasolutions. This blog will be based on my solutions to various problems. I am not quite sure to whether this blog will offer satirical solutions or viable solutions seeing as I have yet to actually start it. If anything offends you or you dislike it, don't read the blog (that is my first solution). Hope you guys enjoy the blog, your feedback is welcomed and appreciated.
PS: Here is a shout out to Ksolutions for serving as an inspirations.