As a society, we're pretty good at looking the other way when we feel unable or unwilling to help. Here, we try to get real about some of society's biggest "elephants in the room." If you want to help with any of these issues but don't know where to start, try reading more about it, bring it up as a discussion with a friend (or repost this article!), and look at related volunteer or donation opportunities that directly work against the negative impact. Thanks to everyone for contributing their elephants.
1. Much of the stuff we buy and use on a daily basis is made by modern day slaves, child workers, and/or in sweatshops.
The True Cost takes this issue on. It was very uncomfortable to watch - it feels like any clothing purchase will make me complicit in a horribly unfair labor system.
In particular, it opened my eyes to the poor conditions that led to tragedies like the savar building collapse, which killed over 1000 sweatshop workers.
2. How horrible the education system is, and how is hasn't changed at all in a very long time.
It's entrenched in its crappy ways, and it keeps getting worse. On top of that, special education! We just shove every student with a disability in a room together and tell them they're a "distraction" to everyone else, then give the assignments several grades lower than the one they're in. Don't forget that apparently all disabilities are the same, so the students with autism like me need to given someone to read their test to them out loud. It's a BS "hope the problem goes away" policy with no regard for the students it actually affects. That's not even mentioning that these students are almost always bullied simply for being in it. (Hurr durr, you ride a shorter bus etc.) Being told that being disabled means you can't use normal people classrooms feels a bit too similar to segregation for my tastes when you think about it.
3. Bacteria's growing resistance to antibiotics.
It really angers me that GPs are caving in to patients demands for antibiotics for things like the flu. The influenza virus is just that, a virus, antibiotics don't do anything to combat it. And yet the amount of people that say they are going to go get some antibiotics for their flu baffles me. I wish GPs had more guts to say "no, antibiotics are for bacterial infections, not viruses like your flu. Take some cough syrup, keep up with your fluids and rest up".
4. The ever-growing heroin addiction problem in the United States.
This personally, deeply affected my life. I've lost many friends to this problem. Even a partner. I still haven't recovered from that loss.
As you can imagine I've spent a great deal of time thinking of possible solutions, and without a doubt I truly believe the best option is to give it away for free in clinics across America.
Please let me explain.
There are 3 major problems revolving around this issue:
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1) People become addicted to opioids or opiates
2) People can get a cheap opiate off of the street
3) The addiction either destroys peoples livelihood, or it kills them
I want to preface this solution by clarifying, though the 12 step program works for some people, it actually very rarely sees success. Heroin addiction is a societal disease, not solely a personal one.
Part 1: Making Heroin Worthless
Giving Heroin away for free will de-incentivize dealers from pushing H, or other opiates. Dealers can not compete with free. This will get H off the streets and prevent dealers from offering "try before you buy" trials, which are a major cause of the outbreak on the street. Why would they put all that work into getting a kid hooked if he can just go pick it up for free at the local clinic? If you can't kill the snake by biting off its head, starve it out.
Part 2: Making Heroin Safe
There are several dangers involved with drug addiction. Sexual assault, violence, and theft can all stem from an attempt to get a fix. STDs can easily be transmitted by sexual favors (offered in return for drugs), or by dirty needles. Laced drugs can cause reactions unexpected and often times fatal. Overdose is often by accident when the user is misinformed about the potency of the drug, and they go into respiratory failure. By offering clean needles, pure drugs, and first aid on stand by, we can get people out of the dangerous element, administer non-lethal doses, prevent life-threatening STDs, and prevent death by overdose in the case that an overdose does occur.
Part 3: Making Heroin a facet, not an identity
There is term known as "functional addict". It means that, though the user is addicted to H, they do not allow their life to revolve around their addiction. Functional addicts have the lowest mortality rate because they are very clinical about the administration of the drug, and are less likely to go to extreme lengths to receive a fix. They also tend to have the best personal life. Holding jobs, going to school, and maintaining relationships. Unfortunately, this is a very small percentage of all addicts.
Beyond the chemical addiction of Herion, there is another reward system at play for those who allow their addiction to consume their lives. It's known as "The Hunt". It's a process in which someone (usually with little or no money) gets an urge to use, so they hunt down a dealer who has some available. Next they fight, work, or steal just enough money to pay for their fix. Then they wait for their dealer to arrive. Finally they administer their drug in a personal way known as "The Ritual". They do the same ritual every time they use. The next day they wake up, and do the same thing over again, and again, and again.
Heroin addiction is so much more than a chemical addiction. It's a lifestyle. The first thing any NA meeting will tell you when you're quitting is don't visit, talk to, or go to any of the places, people, or things associated with your hunt or ritual.
It has been shown in the lab that if provided with the proper stimuli, rats will not become addicted to Heroin if their lives are positive enough. However, under severe stress rats will become very addicted. You can watch the TED Talk here:
So how does this solution allow people to become functional addicts or even sober? The first thing it does is disassociate heroin with something personal or meaningful. It cures the urge, without creating a behavioral habit. This allows the user to distance themselves from the drug, and dampens the idea that the drug is an intimate friend. More importantly, it allows the user to spend the energy on school, work, or relationships that they would otherwise be spending on the hunt. This allows them to build a better life for themselves, decreasing their dependence on their drug for self-worth or meaning. Everyone may not become sober, but anyone can become a functioning addict.
Now there may still be people out there who live only for the high, but remember that this will not be the case for everyone. Regardless of how many people this converts to sobriety, it's an opportunity to give people, and especially teenagers, their lives back.
On the issue of big-pharma's involvement. This solution unfortunately does not touch that. The only way to stop opiate addiction altogether is to stop pharma's monopoly on painkillers by investing in, and lobbying for alternative, non-addictive painkilling methods.
Every single day I wish this had been available for those I love. The Hunt is what destroys the person and their relationships. Not the addiction alone.
Thank you for reading.
5. The amount of college students that will never be able to pay off their student debt.
The sucky thing is, the subsidized government loans were supposed to help college be more accessible, but really they just (Continued)
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they just enabled universities to overcharge by hundreds of thousands. Stop subsidizing, and many people won't be able to attend university because of the massive prices. Then universities will be forced to lower their prices to have a "customer" base. People get upset because the government isn't helping the needy, but helping the needy is what created that problem in the first place. A rock an a hard place.
6. The lack of support for the individual living with mental illness is reprehensible.
In addition to poor mental health services, there is a huge the lack of support for parents of adult children who are non compliant or so ill that they do not recognize the absolute necessity for medication and therapy.
The legal hoops parents are required to jump through to protect their adult children from themselves is daunting, exhausting and in many cases destroys families.
The individuals that suffer from complex mental health problems, their loved ones and in many cases the general public suffer. It is a public health crisis that needs to be addressed.
And from another contributor...
I have bipolar and it's been a huge struggle the past few months and years with the depression aspect of it. Meds take weeks to work and switching them makes you ill. It's hard to get an appointment with a new psychiatrist or your psychiatrist. Friends don't want to deal with you so they ignore you. No one knows how to help. Mental illness has such a stigma that you don't know where to reach out. You go to doctors, school resources, support groups, everything but nothing helps so you feel hopeless and heartbroken. You feel worthless and unloved and broken.
I went to the ER a couple of months ago because I had such an urge to commit suicide, I needed help.
I didn't want to go there because I knew I wouldn't get help but there was nowhere else for me to go. I honestly felt like if I was alone I would have hurt myself. It was the weekend so I couldn't get into my psychiatrist. I was put in a back room with a clearly unlocked cabinet of needles and meds and other things. No one checked on me for two hours. I understand that there's not much to do but even just one nurse there to sit with me or reassure me that I did the right thing by coming in would have helped. The doctors didn't give me any medication to help at all. I tried to get committed and they wouldn't let me. They told me to just hold off until my next psychiatric appointment (6 weeks later) I was treated like I didn't matter and sent home to an empty house. It was an awful way to deal with my situation.
It's the most hopeless and lonely feeling in the world when the one group of professionals that are suppose to understand push you to the side like you're an inconvenience to them. I still can't fathom how those medical professionals could leave a suicidal patient alone when they tried to reach out for help.
Then I got home and begged a couple of "friends" to stay with me but all they wanted to to was go to parties and drink that night. Idk what it was that kept me going but I'm still trying. It hurts and I feel like no one would really care if I was gone besides my parents. I could never do that to them, that's the main reason I'm still trying despite such little help. No one cares until you kill yourself.
I'm sorry this ended up turning into a vent. This is something I hate about healthcare and I don't want anyone else to go through situations like this.
No one likes talking about it before it happens, no one likes talking about it while someone is on their death bed, and no one likes it after that person has died. It's funny because when someone does die we rarely say they died, we say passed on, moved on, etc. while I'm sure we say things like "My phone is dying" or "It's dead quiet in here" more often than we realize.
Some years ago, my friend Steve's sister-in-law was dying of cancer. Everyone knew about it, everyone walked on tiptoe around her. Steve went to visit them, and sat down with his SIL in private and said, "You should make plans right now for what you want to happen when you die." (Steve's job is in finances, he's very straightforward and to the point).
His SIL looked at him and said: (Continued)
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"Thank you so much. You're the only person who's said 'die' or 'death' to me. Everyone else pretends like it's not happening." In a weird sort of way, it was a relief to her to have someone not walk on eggshells around her and actually acknowledge the inevitable: that she was dying.
8. Drug addiction & sex work
Treating addicts like criminals could not be more counterintuitive. Same with sex work. It NEEDS to be decriminalized. Most sex workers are doing it out of desperation, and they effectively become incapable of contacting the police because they're the first ones to be arrested and jailed if they do. It's horrifying.
9. For profit prisons.
I got sent to county jail (not prison) a decade ago for thirty days. I was charged $75.00 a day and was required to pay it off before they would even consider letting me off probation. $2,250.00 for one month, on top of all other fines, fees, and "service/handling charges." Not to mention, the incentive to throw people in prison and keep them there is created when it's for profit. In America, we have a system that is so corrupt, its goal is to put more people in prison and keep them there for as long as possible in order to try and make as much money off them as possible. That means that people are treated horribly (we're people!) and the thought of trying to make it a place where people can get the help they need to reintegrate into the world and become a healthy, functioning member of society, is slim to none. Because they WANT you to reoffend.
lupinedisco & anonymous
10. The growing political divide in the U.S.
Neither side wants to humanize the other, everyone feels the growing tension, and nothing's being done about it.
11. Giving away/hoarding personal data.
Literally everyone and their grandma trusts an anonymous corporate behemoth with their most intimate thoughts and messages on a daily basis (google, hotmail, facebook, etc) as if it were a completely normal part of life, and nothing bad could ever come from it.
12. In Canada, we forget our Indigenous people
Specifically here in Canada, the government is busy patting themselves on the back for planning to put a Black woman on some of our money because she was a champion for civil rights here.
Meanwhile, we continue to screw Indigenous people over and several decades ago they even went as far as to strip Indigenous women here of their Indigenous rights if they married white men.
My point is, for all of Canada's greatness we still (Continued)
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treat the Indigenous peoples like crap. Especially up North where illiteracy, suicide rates, substance abuse and other problems are much worse than in the rest of the population of this country.
The government here will pat itself on the back for letting in over 20,000 Syrian refugees (which is great, they should be doing that!) but meanwhile there are Indigenous communities who don't even have proper or clean drinking water.
My great-great grandfather, Chief Dan George questioned all of this 50 years ago during his now famous speech, "Lament for Confederation."
14. The suicide epidemic.
Suicide has been slowly but surely climbing the "biggest cause of death" list, and is bolstered by the disproportionate number of veterans who take their own lives every day, as well as young adults who have lost a sense of social solidarity in their community. No one wants to breach the subject of mental health, especially considering the cultural stigma against admitting/treating mental health problems in the USA.
15. The way we treat pedophilia.
Pedophilia is seen as one of the most horrific crimes out there, but we're not helping anyone by perpetuating the stigma around this mental illness. Yes, pedophilia is a proven mental disorder. It has to do with a cross-wiring in the brain that makes it so that instead of triggering a nurturing part of your brain when you see youth, it triggers the sexual part. Most pedophiles don't act on these impulses, but in the same way adults sometimes mistake people's affection for interest, it can be difficult for people with pedophilic minds to not read into a child's affection as interest. But here's the real problem. We treat pedophilia as a huge crime not just a crime to act on it, but a crime to have the disorder. So if a person with pedophilic thoughts goes to a therapist and says, "please help me. I know what I'm thinking is wrong and I need to figure out ways to help myself not act on this." that therapist is legally obligated to report that person to the police, and next thing you know that person is seen as a criminal, just for trying to get help so he/she won't commit a crime. How messed up is that?!
We need to create a way to help people who have pedophilic thoughts to find help, otherwise we're just going to have more people who are too ashamed to get help, committing crimes they know are wrong.
16. Human rights violations in North Korea.
People treat it as a joke to distract themselves from the fact that their leaders, nations, and themselves are complicit in the suffering of millions.
17. Casual racism that isn't considered "wrong" yet.
Yes, I know racism is wrong in any context, but casual racism/antisemitism against Jewish and Asian people is pretty rampant and accepted.
18. We waste more food every year than is necessary to solve world hunger.
Every. Single. Year.
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19. We can't keep living like this
The American economy is predicated on a level of consumption that, if adopted globally, would deplete the world's resources in no time. No amount of humanitarian aid or neoliberal development will offset the exploitation of developing nations required to sustain our lifestyle, or this contradiction within 'western' values of universal human rights. If we want to save the environment and help the global poor, Americans need to severely reduce consumption. Most people seem convinced that we have an overpopulation problem, but we have an overconsumption problem.
20. The flint, Michigan water crisis. People know about it, but nothing is getting done.
21. Robots are coming for us
Most human labor will become obsolete in the next 30 years. Our society's values are not compatible with a world where robots and AI do most of the labor.
So many corporations/governments/movements latch onto LGBTQ rights as a marketing or political strategy to try to promote a product or an agenda and appeal to the "trendiness" of being queer-friendly, and progressive people. It's sad, really, that being accepting has to be a trend or a political strategy (ie: let's say we're gay-friendly and they'll never notice the horrible stuff we're doing!), rather than a given.
23. Racism in children's media
For example, did you know that most animated kids shows will have the "evil" character a shade darker than the good guys? Scar (The Lion King), Ursula (The Little Mermaid), Dr. Doom (Fantastic Four), and so many other shows will make a "bad" character a shade darker than the rest of the characters. Sure, this seems like a small thing, but studies have shown that when shown dolls of varying shades of skin and asked to choose "the bad one" most kids will pick the doll with the darkest skin. That's as young as 3 years old. Just imagine how ingrained it is in our heads by the time we reach adulthood, and we aren't even conscious of it.