Category Archives: Controversial Topics

To Lead is to Follow–Wait, What?

This post is in response to The Daily Post’s Topic #222: do you prefer to lead or follow?

This last school year has been a lesson in leadership.

I like to think that I prefer to follow. I’m always following something–rules, teachers, parents, siblings, friends–sometimes to the point where it can cause problems with other people. But I’ve also always thought of myself as completely independent in some respects–my responsibilities to myself and other people.

Yes, I realize that having responsibilities to other people is a form of following. In fact, that’s exactly what I’ve always thought of it. I don’t see myself as a leader–I never have, and probably never will. But it’s my commitment to other people that has led others to see me as a leader, and–to my surprise–a good one at that.

In my opinion, helping somebody, whether it be because of a mutual desire or friendship–or both–is not a form of leadership, but a sort of partnership. While I might help a friend learn their music, I don’t see them as inferior; rather, they are my equal. Maybe they don’t read their music as quickly, or maybe they struggle with math or history in ways that I don’t. But chances are they have something I can also never have, something equally as important in their lives. Maybe they can draw, or sing, or dance. Maybe they’re better at math, or science, or history. It reminds me of something my mother always told me: “Whatever you do in life, there’s always someone that’s better.”

If my commitment to other people in helping them reach their goals has caused others to see me as a leader, then so be it. But I have to wonder–is that really what a leader is? Someone who will follow others, help them, not because they know they themselves will gain from it, but because they honestly care for the person being helped? Someone who prefers to follow or move on his or her own, but will lead in little ways if given the chance? A person who can’t stand the idea of ever being superior to someone else? That’s certainly far from being in the middle–but is that person a leader, or a follower?
And what of politics? Are these people really leaders, who see themselves as so far above the rest of the populace? Who do things for a commonality, rather than one person at a time? What’s the good of majority if everyone is supposed to have equal rights?

What good is any leader if they hold themselves so far above everyone else that the only opinion anyone can have of them is that they’ve decided to play god?

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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Contemplations, Controversial Topics


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Human Rights?

For some reason I find myself thinking about the Vietnam War.

I’ve read a total of three books on the subject: A Rumor of War by Philip Caputo, and Going After Cacciato and The Things They Carried, both by Tim O’Brien. I suppose I’ve probably read some other things, like parts of Kissinger’s Diplomacy and numerous other works by numerous other authors.

Even knowing what happened, I feel like there’s something missing. Some vital piece of the puzzle. Oh, yeah. The piece that was missing since the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution (aspects of which are very scarily turning up in current events): why it happened.

Who knows why people resort to war? Large public upheavals. Mob psychology. It all plays a part. I’m sure the definition might be a bit enlightening.

1. A conflict carried on by a force of arms, as between nations or parties within a nation.

2. A state or period of armed hostility or active military operations.

Never mind, then. There is no reason for war, other than the contention between ideas that some people believe must be solved by violence.

But that’s general war. What about Vietnam? Why did the United States interfere in what had previously amounted to a civil war? Was it communism? Honest fear of Soviet expansion? Or was it something else?

It certainly isn’t communism now.

Now, it’s “human rights.” Apparently, we have the obligation to make sure others’ rights are well-secured. So we send troops overseas, to Afghanistan, Syria, Libya. Because there are revolutions going on there, and human rights are being neglected. Or is it because we’re still fighting for allies in a Cold War fashion?

If we’re so concerned about human rights, then why is no one interfering in Rwanda?

If the Cold War is over, then why is this still happening?

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Posted by on June 17, 2011 in Contemplations, Controversial Topics


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The Ethics of Suicide

While looking for something to write about, I came upon this question: do people have the right to commit suicide?

Before I jump right into an extremely sensitive topic, let’s take a look at the definition of suicide:

The intentional taking of one’s own life.

This obviously discounts any accidental death at the hands of oneself, which has been mistakenly dubbed “accidental suicide.” By definition, no suicide is accidental, though it is possible to kill oneself without that intention. So all you people who argue “but he didn’t mean to kill himself” about every suicide are going to have to hear me out when I say that there are people who kill themselves with the intent of killing themselves. It isn’t just a myth, and the threat of suicide doesn’t always indicate a need for attention. Those who do argue this are just gearing themselves up for a lot of psychological disparity.

Culturally and historically, suicide has taken on additional definitions. In some nations it has been seen as patriotic, an act of courage in the face of defeat. In others, it has been condemned as the ultimate act of heresy. Current policy in the United States is against suicide, due to the belief that all suicides must be a cry for help.

I’m here to say that’s not quite right. The reality is always more complicated than the black-and-white world a lot of people like to live in.

Keep in mind that I’m not condoning suicide. By no means do I believe that suicide is always right, that it’s not sometimes a cry for help from somebody on the edge. But before we can look at whether or not the ability to commit suicide is deserved, we have to acknowledge that it exists. And because it exists, the question of justification is not as relevant as it was before.

In the Catholic sect of Christianity, suicide is considered heresy. A person who has committed suicide is denied the right to be buried on sacred ground. A few centuries ago, this denial would probably be accompanied by the fear of vampirism. Stakes might be driven through the heart, arms and legs, and the deceased might be placed face-down inside the coffin. It was believed that the soul could never achieve contentment and would be forced to wander aimlessly, perhaps in limbo. But these beliefs did not change the fact that suicide existed, that people still decided to end their own lives, regardless of belief in metaphysical consequences.

Perhaps the effect of suicide, then, is not the best way to determine the answer to this question. Instead, why don’t we look at the reasons behind the commitment of suicide? It won’t let us completely into the heads of those who commit suicide, but it is important to understand some of the causes.

Issues such as depression may be caused by genetic and environmental factors. Harassment and other forms of bullying can cause one to become depressed, but it takes a multitude of factors to drive a person so far off the edge. Drug use can be a factor, prescription or otherwise. Another problem in northeastern United States is a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This is a form of depression or anxiety that occurs with the changing of the seasons. Most depression occurs in the winter, supposedly due to a lack of Vitamin D, though the spring and autumn rains can be especially brutal. School grades, unemployment rates, and receiving a slew of bad news can all contribute greatly to the formation of a deep sense of hopelessness and loneliness.

Any form of trauma can also create these feelings. Rape, death of a loved one and post-traumatic stress disorder can be common causes; actually, one cause of PTSD is rape, though it is not the only cause. Victims of abuse or someone who is simply alienated from their community may be driven to depression. And let us not forget genetics, which may cause a predisposition all on its own.

This question is difficult to answer even with knowledge of some of the causes, isn’t it? There are so many survivors of each scenario, it can be difficult to see why anyone would commit suicide. And yet they do. There are also otherwise perfectly happy people who aren’t content with life any more. And there are those who believe in choosing their own death, for whatever reason. Are we right in attempting to judge them for their decisions? Can we really be so condescending of such people as to say that they didn’t deserve to die? What good would that do?

Rather than asking ourselves whether suicide is deserved, we should instead look at what we can do to help prevent what we can. Suicide exists, whether it is deserved or not. So the question now is: what are you going to do about it? Will you stand by, or will you at least listen and try to help?

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Posted by on June 4, 2011 in Controversial Topics


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