At Nights. The Random Thoughts I Have.

At nights, it is simply me, the darkness and the distant sounds of lives less alone than mine. I look through the window, down at the wedding procession that’s passing through the street below. I can imagine my neighbor grimacing at the sudden onslaught to our ears, and I prepare myself for the shrill cry of her infant, a child that could easily beat most of the world’s marching bands in her capacity to cause headaches. On cue, I hear her wail. Most people detest the disturbance to the peace, but I take my joy anyway I can get it, even if it is vicariously. I do not imagine I will ever be in the position of the bride in the street below, who has probably bought her groom at a very dear price. But it’s nice to see the color, the life, the vivacity of it all.

It starts to rain, and the wedding procession moves on quicker than I thought possible, leaving flower petals and discarded bits of colored paper as the only evidence of their passage. And I am alone again. I have a love-hate relationship with my state of being, my solitude. I wish I could be at peace, but it is too difficult to acknowledge my own friendless life, and it is not a feat I am capable of to bear peoples’ company for any extended period of time.

I check my phone again. It might as well be a wall decoration. No one is interested in me except my service provider. The baby has reduced its frantic cries to occasional whimpers, and I envy the child. It must be bliss to show what you feel, whenever you feel, without repercussions. It gets so much more complicated when you’re an adult. You are expected to hold everything within your own mind and body, from your misery to your hunger.

I cannot break down, because I suspect everyone else will be either too busy to put me back together, or have their hands full with their own lives. My soul is kept intact with sheer will and the childish hope that things will get better. Things do get better, I know that, but then they inevitably get worse too.

I don’t live in a thriving metropolis or a forward-minded haven for creative thinkers. I live in a country where people are hypocrites and sex is a taboo word. The expectations on women surpass the sky. It is expected that women should be able to be both sensual and sedate, both knowledgeable of the world and adherent to culture, both innocent and wise. Do you want a girl your mother approves of, or do you want one that can survive in this decade? I cannot break down in front of the people that will photograph the pieces and immortalize my failure. I cannot show my true self to people that do not know the meaning of self-awareness.

It’s not me that’s made myself this way. I want to jog in the mornings without wondering about what people will say or think. I want to say that I’m pro-choice without being labeled callous, because women are supposed to be nurturing. Yes, I’m female but I’m not soft. I like my hardness, I like that I’m thick-skinned and logical. And when I show weakness it is because I’m a person, not because I’m a girl. When I show strength, I am standing up for myself, not being a cold-hearted witch.

We spend all our lives trying to be complete. It’s harder when people try to take the things away you have worked so hard to call my own. My personality. My courage. My identity. Let me take my journey, uninterrupted.

People say women are complicated. As if belonging to the male gender makes you an open book. Yes, I am complicated and I am proud of that. I’m figuring out what I feel. That is something I can do on my own. I’m incomplete and I’m okay with that, because I’m gaining the pieces that I need to be whole, to be truly happy. People are complicated, all people, and when we bare our souls we’re all the same. Confusing, tangled, colorful messes in our minds that are beautiful none-the-less.

 

 

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The Consequences of the Blame Game

There’s been an immense amount of coverage regarding the Brock Turner case. The fact that the case ran on so long is quite honestly, baffling. Then  I realize, it’s not baffling. Society loves to analyze a crime like this from every angle. It’s happened before and it will happen again. They will dissect every aspect until there is nothing left there to pick at.

It’s curiosity, it’s a zeal for justice. But this dragging out of the process is also the worst thing possible for both parties. Brock Turner is quoted as saying that alcohol can destroy a life. His victim, and yes, I will call her a victim, responded that two lives were destroyed. That is true. And alcohol isn’t the cause of that. Everyone knows it. There’s a difference between being drunk and being a monster.

People want to think that everyone has motivations, everyone has shades of grey to their personality. This isn’t Game of Thrones, there are people who do cruel things because it brings them happiness. That’s messed up, but it occurs. If we want to analyze their childhood, say that they are attackers because they were victims in their childhood. Why are we justifying this crime, rationalizing it? The fact that Brock drank alcohol, or didn’t drink alcohol, does not change the fact that he did what he did. I want to write what he did, elaborate every chilling detail, but I can’t.

We read about the details, the newspapers give us the vivid picture of what happened behind that dumpster, before the two cyclists got there. But we don’t discuss it. It’s not polite tea-table conversation. We can talk about J. K. Rowling’s new book or the weather frequently, but the things affecting our everyday lives and the people around us do not matter.

I’m not speaking about online. Everyone’s a poet online, myself included. We say all the things we want to say, whether they are accepting good wishes or homophobic swears. Whether we want to stand by her side, or judge that she was asking for it by getting drunk.

Whatever our process, something that happened in January of 2015 is still being discussed now, with vivid detail. The girl behind the dumpster had to relive that night for longer than an entire year, had to hear how she was lying there. Had to be told that the sight of her made her rescuer sob. All this she endured, without at least the memory of it to console her. All she knew was what people told her. Then they painted her as things she was not, as wanton and alcoholic.

People blamed her alcohol consumption, his alcohol consumption. They asked her what she was wearing, as if that was relevant. She was wearing a cardigan. He was caught in the act and it took them over a year to come up with a conviction. The victim, during a letter she read to Brock, questioned what would have happened if the two cyclists had not intervened.

I wonder that, too. If she had been left there. Some person would have found her hours later, and she would have been hospitalized. She would’ve never known who had attacked her, and perhaps Brock Turner would have gotten away. On the other hand, she wouldn’t have had to relive her assault in a courtroom, over and over again. She wouldn’t have to experience the feeling of helplessness at having to defend herself when the court had all the proof they needed to convict him from the very beginning.

She would’ve, with difficulty, moved on with her life. Instead she devoted a year of her life to courthouses, spent hours answering the question of an attorney that insulted her, her lifestyle, her sister, and tried to find holes in everything she said.

Yes, Brock deserves punishment. But why not a swifter form of justice? Why is it so difficult to judge that the man is guilty, guilty, guilty? Because he’s a good swimmer? Because he’s got a great lawyer? Because he’s already been expelled, and let’s cut him some slack?

The truth is that this has gone on for too long, in too many cases. Whether it’s a woman who is the victim or a man, a swift ruling is the best way to ease their pain. Let them move with their lives, and let the newspapers write about something else.

For my part, I won’t search out stories on Brock Turner ever again. He has been punished, insufficiently, but punished nonetheless.

 

 

A Small Re-affirmation of My Aliveness (If that’s a word)

Yes, I do realize that I blog both sporadically and without any particular focus. Nonetheless, it should be evident that I like writing and everything associated with it. Except perhaps double-negatives, I don’t know how I feel about double negatives.

Anyway, I have a lot going on right now. Who doesn’t? I’ve recently come across something that I find distressing, so I will write about it. The truth is that we live in a capitalist world of materialistic people. There is no doubt about that. The other truth is that we live in a world of hypocrites, men and women who claim to love animals while eating chicken wings or bacon. That’s something that I’m not going to go near, because non-vegetarians have sensitive egos.

The whole point of the article I’m writing now is to state how strange it is how people are changing. We have all these movies and books about the frightening possibilities of AI, all the ways that advanced AI (artificial intelligence) could override humanity on Earth. All that thought about machines, and no one is realising that we are becoming the machines. The word ‘sentiment’ has gone from being an endearment to an insult.

What’s brought us to this phase of thought that almost borders on Darwinism? Survival of the fittest. We live in a world of amenities, where arts and literature thrive, where creative thought has often caused as much of a revolution as scientific discovery. Yet here we are all, giving importance to money over all else, time and time again.

I’m not going to elaborate why this is the issue I’m writing about today. It’s all around us, everyday. For those living in the west, they see it in horrible wastage of money and resources for frivolous reasons. We use water indiscriminately, knowing that less than 1% of the fresh water on the planet is potable. We squander electricity even with the knowledge that there are people who live in complete darkness after sunset.

Why is it that no one has recognized this phenomenon of decreasing empathy? People come up with the phrase ‘love yourself’, but we should add something to that. Love yourself, with moderation. It’s possible to sacrifice things even while loving yourself and taking care of yourself, a fact that many of our generation seem to not recognize.

Tyagi. The word itself is a poem. I’m not saying that we all should donate all our wealth, wear saffron and embark on a one-way trip to the Himalayas, but think before you spend. Before you choose money over matter. Before you start loving objects more than people. I understand the allure. Objects don’t lie, they don’t cheat, they don’t betray and that is enticing. But objects never love you back either.

Weirdly philosophical or else just plain drivel. It’s upto you to choose.

I Feel Like Oliver Twist

You’re probably wondering about the title of this blog, and I promise you’ll get it by the time you finish reading this post. If you finish reading this post, because with Twitter and Insta why would people bother with entire paragraphs? In no way would I call my situation poor, or pitiable. I’m a student in a nice college, learning medicine and for the most, livin’ the dream. Excluding a few hiccups like the one that I’m about to write about.

First of all, I don’t always write about dragons, dystopian stories, or unicorns jumping over moonbeams. Recently I haven’t had much time for that glorious stuff. I write serious stuff too, and that doesn’t mean I’m going the John Grisham or Robin Cook, route. I mean non-fiction. Well, at least I’m trying to.

I like research. I like the idea of research. I like reading about the amazing things that people have discovered through it. It’s not civilization, buildings, clothing, or the ability to text and eat at the same time that separates us from the animals. It’s our desire for knowledge. It’s our desire to discover new things, even if it contradicts what we believed in the past.

Getting to the point, students in general don’t have money to burn. We spend enough on tuition, books, food, and phone bills that there is little left for anything else. But that doesn’t mean we don’t deserve to do research, right?

I agree, that for the average person, research papers aren’t something you read for fun. It’s much easier to pick up a novel, because the words are easier and everything is tied up in a neat little bow at the end.

But think about this. It’s not the fact that we want to read research papers, but that we have a right to have access to them. Public-funding is what powers research, over 130 billion dollars per year in the US, and about 4.5 billion pounds in the UK. That is taxpayer money.

Most articles that we have to pay for are written by authors that sometimes have to pay to include their articles in the journals, sometimes upwards $2,000. The authors get paid from public-funding, not by the journal.

Most of the articles that we have to pay for come from “peer-reviewed” journals. Peer-reviewed simply means that two qualified individuals review the article and check for authenticity, quality of the article, etc. These peers are also not paid by the journals. They review the articles for free. The journal is not losing any money here.

Then come the universities, who subscribe to these journals. Instead of offering subscriptions for individual journals, the academic publishers offer an all or nothing sort of deal. Either the universities pay exorbitant fees for subscription to a large number of journals (some of which they do not want), in order to access the journals they require, or they get nothing. It’s estimated that universities in the US have spend millions of dollars each on printed versions of journals every year, most of which will just gather dust on library shelves.

Academic publishers are receiving money from authors, and from subscribers. Yes, students are getting access to articles that they need. Not all students, some students.

Here’s the down-low. If you are not a student in a university, and you want to learn things…. Tough luck. You have the option of emailing authors directly and asking them for copies, trying your luck and seeing if they allow non-students to hold library cards at your nearby university library, or just try to find professors or students that will help you out.

So, who would be faced with that kind of situation? Students whose universities cannot pay the subscription fees of academic publishers. Laymen who want to learn. Professionals done with their schooling (although some universities offer journal access to their alumni).

Academic papers cost up to fifty dollars (US). That’s right, fifty dollars for one article. I could easily buy a great non-fiction book on the topic or five paperback novels for that price.

The thing is, I look for an article. I read the abstract, and ‘boom’ – this article requires you to pay through your nose to download the PDF. The reason why I feel like Oliver Twist in this scenario is because when I read that abstract, I feel like Oliver asking for more soup. A perfectly valid request, with a very high price. Perhaps that’s a bit dramatic, but when it’s two o’clock in the morning and you think you’ve found the perfect reference… only to find it’s not open-access. Yeah, it hurts like no extra soup.

I haven’t covered even a fraction of the things I wanted to say. The truth is, there are people that can say it better than me and have said it in a much better way. The following are some of the things that have been going on:

The Atlantic’s Article

This is the amazing Tim Gowers, a Professor of Mathematics from Cambridge, and his amazingly written blog post:

Tim Gowers and Elseview