Month: November 2015

Vice and Virtue of Guns

“A weapon does not decide whether or not to kill. A weapon

is a manifestation of  a decision that has already been made.”

Steven Galloway, The Cellist of Sarajevo

 

Producing railgunsweapons that are capable of repetitively shooting destructive projectiles at more than 5000MPHsounded like an idea from a sci-fiction story just decades ago. Now, the US navy is planning to test its railgun in 2016 and repeat it in 2018; by 2020s, the navy will have decided how to use it, while several countries will hesitate on constructing their own railguns, which each require approximately 22 billion US dollars. Their uncertainty is understandable, as the opportunity cost is extremely high; they could spend 22 billion US dollars on other aspects, such as healthcare and public transportation. Yet, this fact does not seem very apparent to the US government, which is already globally unrivaled in terms of firearms.

 

Annually, US’s average expenditure on defense is equivalent to $610 Billion, rivalling that of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, France, UK, India and Germany combined. $610 Billion! This amount of money could have gone to several alternative uses, such as public health care, unemployment benefits or subsidies for education, yet the US government spends it on weapons production. This shows how the weapons industries are a prominent sector in US economy and explains why numerous US politicians are reluctant to ban guns, despite the occurrences of countless gun crimes.

 

A famous paradigm would be the tragedy at historic black church in Charleston S.C, where nine black individuals were shot to death by a white supremacist on June 18, 2015. Another paradigm is an 11 year-old boy used a shotgun to shoot his 8 year-old neighbor on Oct 7th, 2015 because she refused to let him see her dog. The previously mentioned two cases only depict a tiny shred of suffering that guns have caused. Indubitably, there were much more, more and more cases, in which people used guns to victimise other vulnerable citizens.

 

The detrimental effect of guns on US community is ,no doubt, substantial. According to the FBI, more preschoolers are killed in firearm cases than police officers who are killed in action. Moreover, as if this revelation is not appalling enough, statistics show that 1.45 million gun deaths have occurred since 1970, while there have been 1.4 million war deaths since 1775 in America. Yet, several politicians, such as Lindsey Graham and Ben Carson, still refuse to place bans on the sales of guns to civilians, claiming that the citizens have the right to own measures of self-protection.

 

Ironically, these ‘measures of self-protection’ have been used more for murders rather than for their intended purpose. However, these mavericks still insist that banning guns will not ameliorate the issue; instead, it will worsen the matter, just as how handgun ban in England in January 1997 drastically increased homicide cases. Although their arguments might seem resounding, their stance is not necessarily the best choice for the welfare of the Americans.

 

US politicians should utilise the system of Iceland, which is well-known for its low crime rate. In 2009, its homicide count was one, while it was 15,241 in US. What can possibly cause this stark contrast, when Icelanders also possess guns? Firstly, in Iceland, the consumers are required to undergo much more complex procedures, medical examinations and written tests to procure guns. Secondly, unlike US policemen, those in Iceland are unarmed; only a unit named ‘Viking Force’ is permitted to carry guns, and it is rarely summoned. Lastly, unlike in US, there are only few illegal drugs in Iceland; due to the government’s regulation, Iceland’s citizens do not seek illegal suppliers’ services and break laws to satisfy their demands as much as those in US. If the government genuinely wants to solve the gun crime issues, following the mentioned steps would be a prerequisite.

 

George Santayanathe Italian philosopheronce said, “Those who fail to learn from the mistakes of their predecessors are destined to repeat them.” As he claimed, the US government should learn from its tragedies and put its utmost efforts into prohibition of guns, regardless of the negative impact on the nation’s economy. Otherwise, the US will continue to indulge in its unsustainable economic growths through the blood of its own people.

 

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Round Square Conference: The Essence of Youth I had been seeking

Although UWCSEA school plaza’s tent fortunately protected me from scorching sunlight, it could not improve neither the hot weather nor the suffocating haze from Indonesia, as long as I was outside. The fact that I had to wear jeans for the conference did not improve the situation.

***

Round Square Conference is an annual conference that prepares students for the future. Every year, a different school is given the responsibility to ensure a successful and memorable conference, and numerous representatives from approximately 150 schools from different countries attend the conference. United World College South East Asia— the school I attend— was in charge of the 2015 Round Square Conference

Colors of Kattike, a student-led group that raises awareness and funding for non-profit organization in Nepal, was running a small hotdog stall during the Round square Conference, but did not have enough volunteers. As a member of both Round square’s leadership and sponsorship committees, I would have to be present at school for the conference during the weekend; so, I volunteered. It had been a long time since I interacted with middle schoolers, so I thought it would be interesting. After all, they would likely not talk about academics as seriously as those in my year. Moreover, I had zero experience with any cooking; sooner or later, I would have to learn how to cook for myself, so this interesting opportunity was “killing two birds with one stone”. But on Sunday, the event turned out to be slightly different from what I had expected.

Firstly, there were no juniors; instead, there were six teachers from the service department. None of the volunteers were able to be present for personal reasons. Therefore, the adults volunteered to help. Secondly, it wasn’t just a small hotdog stall that you would expect to see on Orchard street; it was actually pretty huge. It was the biggest hotdog stall I had ever seen in my life. Lastly, I realised that I was expected to serve a much larger amount of people than I had initially assumed. When I signed up, I thought I would be able to learn cooking little by little while serving about 100 people at most; now, I was told that I had to serve close to 1000 hungry delegates over three hours. The unexpected increase in workload was overwhelming, and I honestly felt rather nervous. It was almost as if my orchestra conductor suddenly nominated me to play an unfamiliar solo piece on the day of the performance. Yet, this was a great challenge. It was a rare chance to test my teamwork with adults. After all, not only were we so understaffed that I was selected as one of the main members of the cooking team, but we also had countless people to feed so we had to cook continuously.

By the time Ms.Jane finished informing me, my senior staff members and I had less than half an hour to start cooking the meat. Every delegate was listening to a keynote speaker in the sports hall; the presentation would not end for another 25 minutes. During the first 8 minutes, with the staffs’ guidance, I figured out the basic process of cooking garlic and onions; during the next 10 minutes, I attempted to perfect the art of grilling pork and chicken sausages as much as possible. Throughout the entire process, my eyes teared up three times because of the onions. Whenever this happened, I chuckled because the situation felt so surreal. I felt incredibly out of place because I was the only teenager. In addition, I was the only one with no cooking experience at all. Yet, I was now partly responsible for cooking for 1000 people, when I had only just learned how to properly cook a hotdog several minutes ago. I loved this sensation of absurdity and challenge; it was the essence of youth I had been seeking.

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Initially, although there was a hint of panic in the atmosphere, everyone’s movement was coordinated and efficient. I thought we could finish the preparation with no problems; but soon, things went haywire. In an attempt to clean up the surface of our grills, an elderly female teacher carefully placed a pile of tissue papers on them. As a result, we suddenly had massive clumps of burning paper next to our sausages.

By the time we had solved the issue, we only had 3 minutes to rest before facing a wave of starving delegates. Most of us were still trying to gather ourselves from the fire and were hardly prepared to begin calmly distributing food. Despite this, I felt a strong rapport between my fellow volunteers, regardless of our age gap. I already felt glad I chose not to stay at home. I would probably have spent my time either sleeping or just surfing the internet in my room alone.

As a student of economics, one of the first concepts that I learned was supply and demand. As the price of a good rises, the quantity demanded decreases and supplied increases; it is the basic rule. After all, economics focuses on the optimum allocation of resources, and nobody would be willing to give resources for free. However, my situation was an exception to that rule. We were planning to provide 6 boxes of free hotdogs to approximately 1000 delegates, when there are not many other rivalling food stalls. Now, imagine the quantity demanded…I literally could not see the end of the customer line.

If there had been no deafening EDM (Electronic Device music) from the speaker above me, I would not have lasted that long. In front of me were three connected tables, on which hotdogs were piled up like gargantuan meat pyramids. They were separated into three categories: pork, chicken and vegetarian. Behind me were two barbecue grills. I was so close to them that I could clearly hear the sizzling meat, occasionally tempting me to look away from my work station. However, the demands of the ravenous horde were much louder.

***

Unlike my time at Koi Cafe, there was no air-conditioning; instead, we were honoured with the presence of the Indonesian haze. Moreover, the customers did not come in regular intervals; they arrived in one large wave. Yet, I felt alive; I felt more alive than I had ever had in the last few months. I was excited from the frantic energy of the situation. I lost count of how many customers I had served. I was working at the same pace as the other staff and received equal respect from them. I was accepted. This sense of achievement acted as a powerful drive. I consistently greeted, served, and thanked the delegates as I served them their food. Similar to my time at Koi Cafe, I encountered an incredibly wide range of people from different countries. While some customers were very amiable and smiled at me, several people did not even look at my face. Moreover, the delegates from my own Bazara group, a group that consisted of delegates from other schools, did not even notice that I was there. Yet, the experience was refreshing, as I met countless new people. Certainly, there were moments when I almost felt overwhelmed; however, there were also plenty of moments that revitalized me, such as my meeting with a Japanese delegate’s daughter, who gave me the brightest smile I had seen in the last two years and reinvigorated my desire to become a teacher.

After three hours, there was no more food; yet, the line was as long as it was three hours ago. I chuckled. What an experience it was.

“Sorry, everyone. We are out of food now. I sincerely apologise for the inconvenience.”

After this announcement, the line dispersed as quickly as it had appeared; and in a few minutes, there was no trace of anyone. The BBQ event was finally over, but my heart instead felt hollow.

After thanking the other staff members, I called for a taxi. As we departed, I noticed the driver turning on the air-conditioning to maximum level. Noticing my stare, the driver laughed,

“You had a sport day, right? You deserve it.”

I was confused by his comment only for a moment. After seeing the condition of my jeans, I understood, without looking at myself through the phone camera, what a mess I was. I was literally covered in grease and sweat; I also smelled like a combination of three different sausage types; but I never felt so alive since I started IB. All I needed was just a cool shower.

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