A Lesson from Water: Polarization to Radicalization

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Water is ubiquitous and everywhere we look, even in the least expected places. In the desert or on Mars, we still find water.

Water is polarized. Its polarity stems from the fact that a water molecule carries both a partially positive and partially negative charge. Positivity and negativity, like yin and yang, result in its polarized nature. Its properties allows water to “shake hands” with the essential building blocks of life, like our genetic materials (DNA/RNA), proteins, and fats (lipids), thus sustaining life on earth. At important moments, it also willingly sacrifices itself for our metabolism.

However, at other times water molecules can become excited (charged), brandishing its long arms to grab one more negative charge, which turns itself into a radical. The water-derived radicals damage all building blocks of life, and are thus destructive to all life forms, producing effects ranging from the fishtail wrinkles to liver cirrhosis to cancer.

The radicalized transformation of the polarized water molecule exemplifies the violence in our society.

Polarization is the representation of two sides on the premise of a whole. Canada is a polarized country. We get rid of the Conservatives to elect the Liberals; we discuss the pros and cons of the legalization of marijuana and assisted suicide openly. On the passing of our former mayor, Rob Ford, we put aside of his distasteful past, and remember what he did well for the city of Toronto and her people. A polarized society is a sustainable society that balances the weights from both sides.

Radicalization differs from polarization by its gluttony. A person becomes a terrorist by gaining a bomb; a rancher become an armed militia when he put his own ends above the federal law; a presidential candidate arises from a narcissist offering to build a wall. Our body deals with free radicals in a two-pronged approach: on one hand, it eliminates them; on the other hand, if the cells became overwhelmed by radicals, the cells commit suicide. Either way, our body tries to get rid of the radicals and minimize the damage.

In regards to national and international security, we are trying to do the same to the violent terrorists; however, we are strained both ways. Currently, we are at a crossroad: on one side, we try to eliminate terrorism; on the other side, we try to prevent the heartless and amoral attacks. We cannot stop, because if we did, we would then lose both battles. Our inactivity shows our weakness and reluctance to collaborate, and that only means encouragement to the terrorists.

To root out the radicals, one needs to understand the root cause. Jealousy of our wealth, envy our democracy, or hate of the fact that we are happy and free are often touted as the reasons for terrorists attacks. However, such thinking only represents our ignorance of the past and arrogance to learn.

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Terrorists are created by no one but us, the West. Let’s use Taliban as an example. When the British realized that they could no longer sustain the Indian subcontinent, they drew lines on the map to separate the subcontinent based on religion: one country for the Muslims and one for the Hindus. For Muslims, there was the East and for West Pakistan, and later the East of Pakistan became Bangladesh. India was left for the Hindus. Since the separation, Pakistan and India have been fuming and fighting. The smaller state of Pakistan had no space to fall back on once India attacked, so they decided to butter up their backyard neighbours- Afghanistan. In the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, India supported Russia and thus Pakistan decided to work with US. Eventually, the Soviets pulled out from Afghanistan and Pakistan took over Afghanistan. This was the key moment in which Pakistan started to train local militias against their neighbour, groups which later became Taliban. A similar pattern is observed in almost all tumultuous places: Syria, Iraq, Egypt, Jordan, and Somalia. In every case, the West decided to destabilize a region for its own gains and created a void that could only be filled by something worse: radical terrorists.

When can we learn to keep our hands in our own pockets? I understand the urge to tell people how to be good, but this does not solve any problems. We need to let trapped people to find their own ways out. We should only assist from the outside. Our foreign policy is like a stud walking into a case of domestic violence. We beat up the husband and leave. Surely, he won’t torture his wife in for a while, but the violence will resume. It’s only when the wife wants to change that such violence can be quenched.

Life Lessons from a Cabbie

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The day before I would take the taxi ride that resulted in my learning the story below, I was in a fourth-year English seminar discussing The Arabian Nights’ Entertainments. The professor talked about how the Orient tale was often used in the eighteenth-century as a fantastical narrative form by Western writers concocting stories that commented on their own domestic circumstances. Orient tales like Nights were then often abridged into children’s books imbued with bourgeois morals designed to educate Western readers on how to be good, upstanding Britons.

I don’t drive, and living in Toronto I’ve been happy to take public transit wherever I go. Yet my family doctor is in Oakville, so when I need to see her I go home for the weekend and take a cab to my appointment on the days when my parents can’t give me a lift. So it was that the day after my class I found myself speaking with a middle-aged cab driver who told me that he was from Turkey.

After talking for a while about his family and kids, he then asked about me. I told him that I was about to graduate from U of T in June.

“You are entering your donkey years,” he said.

I thought that I had misheard him, but when I saw him looking at me through the rear-view mirror, eyes smiling, I realized I hadn’t. I asked him what he meant, and he told me this story.

Once upon a time there lived a donkey, a dog, a monkey, and a human. The donkey, dog, and monkey each had a life expectancy of forty years while the Human’s was only twenty. Yet each animal had their unique grievances: the donkey was weary of a life spent working hard for others and being treated poorly for little compensation. The dog was weary of guarding his property and spending its days barking to protect it. The monkey was upset because all anyone ever did was make fun of how silly it was. Yet the human had no grievances  because it’s life was easy and pleasant; its only complaint was that it was so short.

Watching from above, God saw their grieving and transported them to Heaven. He listened the donkey, dog, and monkey’s complaints in turn before turning to the human.

“The other animals say that they wish their lives were shorter because their lives are so tedious and difficult, but your life is good,” God said. “What is then is your grievance?”

“Nothing; I only wish that my life were longer,” the human replied.

Thinking for a moment, God at last announced that he had a solution to all their grievances.

“The donkey, dog, and monkey are all weary of their lives and wish them to be shorter. So I will cut each of their lives in half, and give these extra years to the human,” he said.

The cabbie said that I was now, at twenty-one, one year out of my human years and into my donkey years. My human years were easy, carefree, and pleasant. Upon graduating, my donkey years would involve my taking jobs where I worked hard for long hours with little pay as I climbed my career ladder. When I turn forty, he said, I will enter my dog years, where I have made it to the top of my career and am now barking orders at people below me and guarding the success that I earned in my twenties and thirties. When I turn sixty, I will spend the rest of my life in my monkey years, when my grandchildren will make fun of me for being so silly.

“In all my life, I have never met anyone who was able to disprove my story. Can you?” He asked me. I said I couldn’t. He was exactly right.

When we arrived at the clinic I told him that I would share his story, and I did, with my family and friends. Now I am sharing it here, so you too can share the wisdom I learned from a cabbie.

UTSU Spring Elections 2016

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As the semester comes to an end and elections season has been intense in all of the faculties and colleges, the election that affects all students at UTSG and UTM has now begun: the UTSU Spring Elections. For the next few days, students can exercise their right to vote for a UTSU that they feel will make a difference for them and cater to the needs that they want. As the Architecture, Landscape, and Design Director running on the slate HelloUofT, I wanted to talk a bit about my experience and why I think that it is extremely important to vote in these elections.

As a first year, I did not involve myself in and around campus simply because I did not think that I had neither the personality nor the courage to speak up about the lack of representation and involvement of my faculty. It was only after my friends invited me to join their group that I took the steps to put myself out there. Working with the slate has definitely been a lot different than just listening to them talk to me at a public place on campus. I have seen the raw, intense emotions of individuals who truly want to make UofT a place where the students feel included and engaged. I have seen a group comprised of seven executives and over fifteen directors instantaneously care for each other as soon as we all met. The experiences from our leaders inspires us to push harder and fight for the things we believe in, and I can honestly say that if these group of people can care immensely for people they’ve only just met, I am confident that they can put this love and strive into a UTSU that will not only listen to their students, but give back and give more reasons as to why UofT is such a fantastic school.

I encourage everyone to vote these next few days. Online voting is open until 6:30pm on the 24th at www.utsu.simplyvoting.com .

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Exercise your right to vote and get ready to say hello to a UofT that says hello back!

An Extremely Short List of the Top Shows on Netflix Right Now

NOTE:  there is no specific way in which these TV shows are ordered; they are all amazing in their own way.

Master of None
This new Aziz Ansari comedy is undoubtedly the best new show on Netflix right now. So, you know, start off with bang right? What I like about it is that it’s fresh and unique. I can guarantee you will not find another show on TV (or rather Netflix) comparable to this. While most shows attempt to grasp every single tiny laugh from its audience, Master of None is confident enough to let the viewers decide on their own terms what’s funny and what’s not. And it works. This hilarious and thoughtful TV show about an actor navigating through the world of show biz and his personal life is a must watch for all.

House of Cards

When I talk to people, some of them still tell me they haven’t seen or heard of House of Cards. Others don’t say anything about House of Cards because, well, I don’t always talk about TV to other people. But that’s not the point. The point is that people still haven’t watched this show, and that’s a scandal (haha Netflix reference). House of Cards is Netflix’s Mona Lisa. It is, in all its essence, its masterpiece. Politically charged, this is a story about a man’s rise to power, and all the immoral, illegal paths he takes to get there. With Kevin Spacey as the lead, they can do no wrong. Please do yourself a favour and watch the first season. I promise, you will not regret it.

Chef’s Table

For those who enjoy learning about food and the chefs who make it, this is the show for you. Chef’s Table is a documentary-type show that explores the idea of beauty in food. The show brings you around the globe, each episode interviewing different world-renown chefs and showcasing their unique take on the food they create. It’s amazing, highly educational and you will finish watching it with a new sense of admiration towards food.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

While this show isn’t as intellectually stimulating as the previous two, I can assure you B99 is just as much of a joy to watch. Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows a team of detectives led by a newly-appointed captain in the 99th precinct of the NYPD. The nonstop goofy humour produced by the show’s cast, including Andy Samberg, never fails to make me laugh. If you’re in for a good time, this is the show to watch.

Well there it is, my extremely short and indisputable list for the top shows on Netflix right now. Get watchin’.

Pulse 2016: All You Need to Know

“Mental health is tricky because its about really knowing who you are and being able to say that you need help in a surrounding where you think so many other people are stable.”-Sophia Shim

Needless to say, it takes a lot of courage to ask for help.

One of the most challenging parts of dealing with mental health is coming to terms with the fact that no one is invincible. On the outside, we may seem on top of everything, put together, ahead of the game and confident, but on the inside, no one knows how we truly are feeling. Coming to the realization that we must take care of our minds as much as we take care of our bodies is something that society has not come to terms with yet. We’ve seen the major changes that things like the introduction of the Health & Wellness centre at the University of Toronto, as well as the addition of Mental Health Awareness Month – and it’s about time. More and more students seem to catching on to the progress that the university has made. “On campus there are many options if you are in need of help, whether it be provided by your college or UofT as a whole”, says second year student, Sophia Shim.

One initiative, founded by Joanna Huang and Michael Bray of the University of Toronto aims to create a sense of community in the Toronto student population and encourage discussion about mental health in the GTA. Pulse, founded in 2013, has fundraised for three years to bring attention and create a positive space for discussing mental health in our community. “There is nothing I am more passionate about as I am mental health. It’s an issue that touches the lives of everybody, in one way or another.”, says Joanna, “The entire topic is muffled. It’s blanketed by a thick layer of societal stigma, and completely devalued. People don’t talk about it. I’ve struggled with my own mental health, and I find it very difficult to talk about. But I have no trouble talking about a sprained foot, so why should this be any different?”

Since it’s founding, Pulse has been partnered with Oolagen, a Toronto based organization who’s mission is to “listen, engage, assist, and empower young people to recognize their own strength and values”. Located on 65 Wellesley Street East, Oolagen provides counselling services for all ages and provide residential homes for people aged 14-18. Oolagen also provides on site school support in for three different Toronto high schools, giving students access to mental health services when they cannot otherwise. “[Ooolagen is] also planning to expand their services to cover university-aged youth”, says University of Toronto Pre-Medical co-president Alissa Mirochnitchenko. The Pre-Medical Society is partnered with Pulse as one of their main supporters on campus.

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Pulse is on the 18th – get your tickets at www.pulsetoronto.com

Both Oolagen and Pulse are promoting mental health and discussion to Toronto, and have been gaining momentum ever since their start. “Pulse 2015 has raised over $2000.00 for Oolagen… This year, we will strive to surpass our previous earnings and continue to further increase awareness for mental health!” says Pre-Medical Society Co-President Victoria Malysmiuk. On March 18, Pulse and Oolagen are partnering again to bring an amazing fundraiser to Orchid Nightclub. As the campaign’s slogan states, “Good music. Good company. Good cause”, it’s sure to be a fun evening for an important charity. “We hope that our annual fundraiser, Pulse, remains a reminder for individuals to critically think about their own mental health and seek help if they feel out of balance.” Says Victoria and Alissa.“I think that my biggest goal this year was to make the discourse around mental health positive- we are all students and we all understand that university can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining at times. In my eyes, events like PULSE are important because it brings students together to have positive, happy experiences.”

Additional information about Pulse, Oolagen, and this year’s charity fundraiser can be found at the following sites:

www.pulsetoronto.com

https://www.facebook.com/events/1537362533224023/

http://oolagen.org/

We hope to see you on the 18th!

UofT Science Rendezvous is BACK!

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Are you ready for another year of FUN science activities? We’re back with more fun, more experiments, and more science!

Never heard of Science Rendezvous? You sure are missing out! Science Rendezvous is a FREE, Canada-wide science street festival aimed at highlighting and promoting science in all its aspects. Meet with world-class researchers, participate in hands-on experiments and activities, watch amazing demonstrations of the integration of science, architecture, and human ingenuity, and most of all, have fun while experiencing science in a whole new way! Want to learn more about us? Head to our newly designed webpage by our talented graphic designer, Science Rendezvous!

Our exec team has been working very hard since December to put this event together. Want to know the most updated information about our event? Like our Facebook Page! You’ll be the first to know what we have in line for you this year (and maybe we’ll post some teasers just for you).

We are also on Twitter and Instagram! Definitely follow/like us, because you never know, we might post some cool stuff that’s exclusively for our fans. You don’t want to miss out!

I hope you are as excited for this event as we are! Hope to see you on May 7th! Join us and RSVP NOW!