The Mercator Needs No Defense

Globe

In last month’s issue of Frankly Speaking, I was disappointed to see a Mercator apologist being given platform to espouse tired rhetoric [1]. Mr. Kunimune’s article, while demonstrably erudite and well-researched, was and is totally unnecessary in a world dominated by the colonialist and abstractionist tyrannies of the Mercator projection.
The distortions inherent in the Mercator projection are by no means insignificant and should be reiterated: Greenland looks the same size as Africa, though Africa is in fact 14 times bigger; Alaska looks the same as Brazil, though Brazil is 5 times bigger, etc. In terms of teaching the size of countries, and, by extension, the relative positions of them, the Mercator is astoundingly bad.
This is not an unimportant issue when it comes to learning geography. The Western geography classroom has for decades been a site of colonialist indoctrination, and the Mercator projection’s continued use in this context serves as an aid to this end. Geography as an academic discipline in the US originated as an imperialist enterprise, and the practice of K-12 geography through the twentieth century emphasized learning about Western nations, colonies, and resources instead of people and places [2]. The use of the Mercator projection draws the eye to the global North: the US, UK, Spain, Germany, etc. while visually de-emphasizing all countries close to the equator (the global South, places historically colonised by the North).
Regardless of if these features of the map are mere “coincidence,” they likely helped it gain traction in geography education. Today, they make that education worse both in fact and in promoted ideology. Though the Mercator may have its redeeming qualities, i.e. for navigation, it should not see use as a general-purpose world map [3]. Surely, we can do better!
There’s one style of world map that can be pretty good, all things considered: a globe. For the unfamiliar, you can find a decent example of one by simply walking uphill from any place at Olin. In lieu of this, I’ve included a pseudo-globe (well, actually, a Dymaxion projection) that you can make yourself [4].
Finally, I’ll leave you with this: maps are mere abstractions (which is not to say that they’re pointless, but that they’re always wrong). As Korzybski once famously said, “The map is not the territory, but, if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness” [5]. As Mr. Kunimune pointed out, all map projections are wrong because it is impossible to flatten a sphere. I will here add: all maps are wrong because they are not themselves the world.

[1] Kunimune, J. (2017). Defense of the Mercator. Frankly Speaking 9(1), 6-9. http://franklyspeakingnews.com/2017/09/a-defense-of-the-mercator-projection/
[2] Barnes, T. J. (Eds.). (2000). Inventing Anglo-American economic geography, 1889-1960. In Sheppard E. & Barnes, T. J. (Eds.), A companion to economic geography (pp. 11-26). Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.
[3] Cartographic Notes. (1989). In American Cartographer 16(3), 222–223. http://dx.doi.org/10.
1559/152304089783814089
[4] Gaba, E. (2009). Blank map of the world in an unfolded Fuller projection. Retrieved from Wikimedia Commons https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AFuller_projection_rotated.svg.
[5] Map–territory relation. In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Accessed 2017-09-26. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Map%E2%80%93territory_relation

SERV Activity Updates

Jimmy Fund Walk: Justin Kunimune
The Jimmy Fund Walk happened this month. Two students, one faculty, and two staff members turned out for the quarter-marathon walk, raising over $3,000 for cancer research from the Olin community and beyond.

Charles River Center: Emma Price
The Charles River Center is a non-profit organization based in Needham that works to improve the lives of people with developmental disabilities and help support their families. They have a variety of different programs for people of all ages, all with really fun activities, like zumba and yoga!

MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals): Emma Price
MSCPA is a great organization that takes in animals all over the state, makes sure they’re healthy, and finds good homes for them. They take all variety of animals and have volunteer positions like cat adoption room monitor (that’s what I do), dog walker, small animal monitor, and a ton more!

Bikes Not Bombs: Maggie Jakus
Bikes Not Bombs is an organization that recycles old bicycles and sends bikes to economic development programs around the world as well as youth education programs in the nearby area. They have volunteer nights on Thursdays when volunteers prepare bikes for shipment. You also get to learn a lot about bikes!

Welcome to The Shop

If you’ve wandered around the first floor of the AC lately, you may have noticed some changes to the rooms closest to the parking lot. What we once called the machine shop is now, formally, The Shop. This summer, a group of six students and three and a half faculty undertook the task of renovating the space achieve three things: making the The Shop inviting to everyone in our community, making Shop/class integration more accessible and fluid, and changing the space to more accurately reflect our culture of Stewardship. We made a lot of changes that we’re really excited about, and we’d like to share them with you.
First and foremost, we thought about how we want people to interact with The Shop. And this wasn’t us making a bunch of decisions about how we think you should act; we took the exemplary practices that we see students acting by everyday and simply put them in writing. The document can be found here. Go check it out. Nothing in there should be too shocking, but it’s a living document. If something feels wrong, come by The Shop so we can understand why.
Most people know about (or at least have heard of) the Stock Market, our supply of machinable stock for various academic projects. This stock is also available for clubs, passionate pursuits, and other non-personal projects that would benefit from access to the material. Just be honest when filling out the form and try not to take a lot of stock when you can go out and buy it yourself. The Scrap Rack got an upgrade in the form of better organization and guidelines for what to donate and what to throw away. Finally, we made additional guidelines for the Hardware Cabinet, something that very few people on campus previously knew about. The cabinet has standard sizes of lots of hardware: nuts/bolts/washers, screws, dowels, etc. We also have tape, super glue, caliper batteries, and miscellaneous hardware. As with the Stock Market, if you need 100 bolts for a project, you should buy them yourself. Be aware that this is a community resource that The Shop maintains and stocks as it sees fit.
The Mini Shop is no more! AC 109, affectionately nicknamed BOB over the summer, is now The Workshop. It isn’t a smaller version of the main shop; it is an independent space with its own unique functionality. The Bridgeport and lathe were sold, most of the sheet metal tools were brought in, and we acquired a Roland 4-axis CNC (thank you Lawrence). The walls were painted and the floor was newly waxed, and the space has a renewed purpose. We are excited to introduce this revamped work space, with different tools and capabilities, to the community.
If you step in The Workshop and look to your left, you’ll see the beginnings of a tool wall. The tool wall is highly visible so that anyone can see at a glance what tools there are and what’s missing. While these tools are completely capable of leaving the space, especially since everyone has after hours access, they are taped in neon orange for a reason. Make sure that if something leaves The Workshop, it finds its way back as soon as you’re done using it.
AC 104 (the welding/plasma/waterjet room) also saw a lot of space changes: we painted the walls in fresh white, grey, and a little bit of green; the ducting is now red; the welding curtains are fixed to the ceiling but still allow for plenty of space customization if, for example, an entire chassis needs to be brought into The Shop. Many of our larger tools and surfaces were put on casters (e.g. the vice table, the cold saws). And if you look up, you’ll notice that the electrical stalactites are no more, and in their place are retractable extension cables.
The MechE Stockroom is no more! What was once essentially a project graveyard was completely cleaned out over the summer and coming soon, will be an advanced woodworking space. The wood lathe and chop saw will live there, along with a table saw, router table, and lots of new hand tools. Stay tuned for how to get trained once we get the space up and running.
We are now displaying Green Machine training pieces. Anyone who gets trained this academic year will have their piece (with their name) displayed in The Shop. Even if you don’t really use The Shop all that much, you are still a part of The Shop community, and the display is a reminder that you have just as much right and access to The Shop as anyone else. We also have a kiosk with easy access to training sign up sheets complete with reading and quizzes, and a cubby system for storing safety goggles (a bit neater than the old bins, no?)
Already several training documents have been completely re-worked, making getting trained easier than ever. For example, mill and lathe training have been completely revamped to make those machines more accessible by not requiring a full work day to learn how to operate. More trainings will become available throughout the semester, so keep checking the training sign up sheet.
Stop by The Shop and come see the changes for yourself. Get trained on a machine that you’ve always been curious about. We’re excited to see what our community does with these news spaces.

It’s a Marvelous Night for a Moondance

Falling on the 15th day of the 8th month of the Chinese lunar calendar, the Mid-Autumn Festival is the second most important festival in China – taking a back seat only to the Chinese New Year. The festival celebrates the harvest and always occurs in the middle of autumn (with a full moon) as the leaves are falling on Olin ’neath the cover of October skies. This year, the holiday falls on October 4th which happens to be within the National Day holiday (October 1-7) in China — a very popular time for traveling around to see friends and relatives.
The holiday is also referred to as the Moon Festival because it falls at the time of the year when the moon is at its roundest and brightest. It is observed in China, South Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and Malaysia; many similar festivals revolving around a full moon are celebrated in other parts of Asia.
Folklore tells us that the archer Houyi (pictured) was awarded an immortality elixir by shooting down nine of the ten suns that scorched the Earth; but he chose to hide it away at home since he didn’t want to be apart from his wife Chang’e. Unfortunately, Chang’e had no choice but to drink the elixir when another figure, named Fengmeng, came for it when Houyi was out hunting. After Chang’e ascended to the heavens and started to reside on the Moon, Houyi, to remember his wife, displayed the foods she liked and created mooncakes that would allow for temporary reunion of the couple.
The tradition continued. Nowadays, family and friends gather for reunions and outdoor barbecues, give thanks for the harvest and for family, and pray for many of the important things in life including love, fertility, beauty, good fortune and longevity to name a few. Mooncakes can be found in a wide variety of flavors – from lotus seeds to meat filled, and they are still made the way they were hundreds of years ago. Close to Mid-Autumn festival, we always crave mooncakes; it’s as if there’s a little clock inside us that screams for mooncakes once every fall.
In addition to the Chinese mooncakes which are widely known, there are other food that are common on this very special occasion. For example, in Korea, families come together and enjoy a traditional South Korean dish called Tteokguk, or rice cake soup. It consists of a rich broth and thin slices of rice cake with flavorful toppings that commonly include egg and beef. The rice cake used for the bowl is white and long representing a long and fresh new life. Other traditions in China include hiding puzzles in lanterns or flying Kongming lanterns, but they are less popular today.
My mom and dad (this is Jingyi) would visit me at my high school for the holiday and bring various kinds of mooncakes: egg mooncakes, flaky mooncakes, mochi mooncakes and even ice cream ones. My memories of Mid-Autumn Festival involve sharing the mooncakes with close friends and family.
You might say Mid-Autumn Festival is a little like Thanksgiving in America only the Chinese, the Korean, and the Vietnamese have celebrated the harvest during the autumn since the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 -1046 BCE), so thousands of years versus hundreds.
As in the past at Olin and around the globe, we will recognize this holiday by staring at the moon! It’s going to be an opportunity for culture sharing and in the words of Van Morrison, a fantabulous night to eat mooncakes (and dumplings) and listen to music and the sound of the breezes that blow. Come celebrate with us under the moon (and the lanterns) on October 4th.

In this article, we have borrowed some lyrics from Moondance, a song by Van Morrison.

The Real Enemy: Capitalism

When you look at a beauty ad and see an unrealistic depiction of how women should look, is that sexism at work? Or was it instead just someone who looked at the potential to foster insecurity in women and thought, “I can make money by exploiting that?” When you look at a beauty ad and see a disproportionate share of people with lighter skin, is that racism at work? Or was it instead just someone who looked at who had money in the world and realized that it was white people, so why market to people of color? When you see heteronormative television, is it homophobia? Or is it hollywood recognizing that they will sell less content if it challenges society’s perceptions of what relationships should be like too much? The enemy at the root is actually Capitalism much more often than the system would have you believe. Why? Because it wants to deflect blame towards something else. So very often when we have a conversation about racism, sexism, what have you, what we’re actually doing is talking more about more symptom-level phenomena than root causes, and missing an opportunity to talk about the real enemy. We reward unethical companies for implementing “green” or “inclusive” practices, thinking they’ve become good guys, instead of thinking that they’re just cashing in on a different phenomenon. And when we do this, we further and disproportionately empower the most sneaky companies. Capitalism works by playing on the darkest parts of humanity: our fears and insecurities–of not being as beautiful as the person next to us, of people who look different, even fear of being regarded as not humanitarian enough–whatever it can get its hands on.

Of course sexism, racism, and other discriminatory isms exist. Have they been dramatically magnified and perpetuated by capitalism? Absolutely. Should we continue to fight against non-economic forms of discrimination? Absolutely. But we should also be aware of when our efforts align with what the money-making system wants: to deflect blame, and capitalize on your well-intentioned efforts.

Written by a white, heterosexual, cisgender, male

Inspired by article “Who Bullies the Bullies?” on TheLastPsychiatrist.com: tinyurl.com/Capitalism_True_Enemy

Crossword Puzzle

Across
1 Farm home
5 That’s the ___!”
9 LSD
13 Black and white cookie
14 Pierre’s“worst”
15 Bouncy sticks
17 Successes
18 Frankenstein helper
19 Relating to sound
20 Tying together
22 Gives out
24 Listen to
25 Irritating sound
26 Tree with the most rings
29 Small fights
31 Clothes after losing weight
32 Cookie guy
33 Narc agency
36 Apple eater
37 Buddha blessing
40 Olive or corn
41 “___ the land of the free”
42 Tired of
43 Valve type
45 Facility
47 Points the finger at
48 Mixer paddle
51 Baby kangaroo
52 Florida mammal
54 In the past (2 words)
58 T & Vanilla
59 Of wide range
61 Snitched
62 RN Employer
64 A war was fought against these Australians
65 Like Hand-me-downs
66 Indefinite article
67 Healthy skin
68 Okay grades

Down
1 Chip holder
2 Diva’s song
3 Egypt “names”
4 Cause for refusal of service
5 Harpsicord cousin
6 Kermit’s love
7 Spanish gold
8 Trillion prefix
9 Mini Java program
10 City near Albany
11 “Look what ___ ___”
12 Put on
16 Castaway’s plea
21 Norwegian playwright
23 Of the smallest amount
26 Butter alternative
27 Cupid’s goal
28 Someone not idle
29 Clever
30 Fragrant flower
32 Rice type
33 Marvel doctor
34 Green Isle
35 Different ways, informally
38 Knows of
39 Degeneres or Page
44 Earnings paper (2words)
45 School fundraising team
46 Allow
47 Collins of Funk
48 Fat calculator
49 Every one
50 Lichen type
51 He walked on water
53 Happily ___ after
55 Morristown, NJ school
56 Show starring Chris Colfer
57 You try to beat them
60 “I love” in Spanish
63 It’s a go, it’s___

Horoscopes by Drunk Editors

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22): They say that two birds of a feather flock together. It’s a wonderful thing to find a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a place that no matter how hard you mess up someone will always be around to tell you “well, at least you tried.” A lot of people strive for that. No one should take it for granted. Birds also flock in trees. Too bad Olin doesn’t have any.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): Scorpions are pretty dangerous. If you see one, do not engage. It may try to lure you in. Be assured, it does not have tequila shots and will certainly not be giving any to you.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): When selling your next house remember: location, location, location.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): Let’s see…(rolls die) 2? It’s gonna be a rough week because (rolls again)…4? Your cat will be sick. (Rolls again)…1? He’ll be fine. He’s scrappy

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): You won’t be able to connect to the Olin network, no matter how hard you try.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20): You might be allergic to grapes, Kevin.

Aries (March 21 – April 19): Winter is coming…with highs of forty degrees and lows of around twenty. Make sure to wear a nice coat, the scarf your grandmother made you, and sacrifice to your local weather deities today. Remember: a goat a day keeps the chills away!

Taurus (April 20 – May 20): You might find yourself with a pen that you swear wasn’t yours.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20): Stay away from Pisces on Friday.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22): Call your mom, Jerry. For Pete’s sake!

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22): You know that thing you haven’t cleaned for a while? Yeah, now would be a good time.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22): The planets have aligned for you this month. You’ll find that the person you’ve been waiting to respond to you is…who am I kidding? I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for horoscopes just like I’m not cut out for taking care of basil plants. Every day it just sits there, dying, and I didn’t even notice, didn’t even care until it was dead. I was supposed to take care of it and it died. Here I am trying to tell you how to live your life, and I can’t even take care of a stupid basil plant.

Eat, Sleep, Blow Your Mind: ADE Ghana

The air on the tarmac was intensely hot and humid, made heavier by the sinking sun, but after three weeks I was used to the climate, barely sweating in long pants and a t-shirt. We loaded ourselves into the last shuttle, and as it rumbled slowly towards the airplane, I closed my eyes, savoring the last moments of my first experience of Ghana.

 

I’d never felt like such a foreigner in my life. Our team of eight from Olin and Babson consisted of the only light-skinned people around. For the first time ever I was the extreme racial minority, a humbling, indispensable experience for those who are used to being the majority. Everyone who saw us, on the street, in our hotel, at markets, at work, would stare, smile, and shout in a friendly tone, “Obroni!” the Akan word for foreigner. Ghanaians are extremely friendly and welcoming to foreigners. Many times a day I was asked my name, shaken hands with (bonus surprised smile if you knew the Ghanaian handshake), and jokingly teased by total strangers.

 

We weren’t exactly the only light-skinned people around. Billboards and storefront advertisements were full of white and light-skinned black people. Mannequins showing off Ghanaian clothing and busts wearing straight black wigs looked anything but African. Ben Linder, our trip leader, told me about the skin whitening creams sold at many Ghanaian drug stores. I can’t make any judgments or conclusions here based on these few observations, but I am compelled by them to do some serious thinking and research.

 

But what was I doing in Ghana, anyway? My team and I were working in Kumasi, Ghana, for QueenTech, a social venture that began in (and is still part of) Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship (ADE), a senior capstone and design depth course at Olin. QueenTech collaboratively designs and builds small, low-tech cassava processing machines for women entrepreneurs in Ghana (maybe other places in the future too!). I’ll tell you more about our work shortly, but it will really help to have a few contextual tidbits for you to chew on. Ghana is such a different place and culture than ours that to try and convey even my shallow and incomplete notion of the place in anything more than a list would require a novel, but even incomplete, bulleted context is better than none, so here you go.

 

Money: Ostensibly, $1 ≈ 4GHS (Ghanaian Cedi). However, costs can differ by orders of magnitude depending on where (and who) you are. You can buy the same meal for 40GHS ($10) at a restaurant in the Accra airport or 1GHS (25¢) at a chop bar (“chop” means “to eat” in pidgin English) in a village. As an obroni, you have to be wary of being charged an “obroni price,” a very real and arguably fair (because we are rich) phenomenon.

 

Aesthetics: Everything looks unique, hand-made, and full of vibrant colors and patterns. This was pretty refreshing and eye-opening coming from a place obsessed with matchy-matchy everything. If I thought the Olin campus looked sterile before…

 

Food: It appears to my naive self that the most common hot meals in Ghana consist of a large amount of starch and a small a portion of meat served with a sauce or soup. You eat with your hands, using pieces of the starchy food as a sort of utensil for the sauce. The starch is a form of either plantain, yam, rice, or cassava (a large, white, starchy tuber known as yucca in South America). The meat is either chicken (often slaughtered locally that very day–there are chickens everywhere), fish (bought covered in flies at the market), or goat (also everywhere, and only used for meat–the idea of drinking goats milk to Ghanaians is like drinking pigs milk to us). Hardboiled eggs, the vegetarian substitute for the piece of meat, are boiled for about thirty minutes and have a pale grey yolk. If you are a strict vegetarian, tough luck, as most of the soups and sauces come with small pieces of fish flaked into them no matter what you say or ask for. If you want a snack, there’s fresh fruit, plantain chips, and twenty different kinds of savory and sweet fried dough carried around on top of women’s heads everywhere you look.

 

Religion: I know little of the intricacies of religion in Ghana, but it is of so much importance to Ghanaian culture that it deserves some mentioning. Most Ghanaians are Christian. Many shop names consist of Christian sayings and blessings such as “God’s Glory Bakery” or “Jesus Saves Chainsaws,” and I’ve seen paintings of a bloody Christ overlaid with local food advertisements. Taxis and tro tros (minibuses) often have a blessing painted across the rear windshield. However, a few Ghanaians still practice their ancient traditional religion, Akom. Christianity and Akom practices are sometimes synthesized and coexist in interesting ways. For example, village chiefs, who are their community’s leader, represent the traditional Akom religion, although the community members are usually all Christian.

 

Funerals: Funerals are a big deal in Ghana. Invitations to large funerals are actually advertised on billboards with the age of the person, a portrait, a date, and a Christian blessing. Funerals are often very big, and people wear black and red. Sometimes, for reasons I don’t know, the hosts will hire professional mourners to attend. I remember seeing several funeral processions in Ghana where an ambulance, siren blaring, was used as the hearse.

 

Toilets: I used six different kinds of toilets in Ghana! There were US-style toilets, bidets, nice ceramic squatting toilets, squatting pit-toilets, elevated squatting pit-toilets, rooms with a hole in the wall, rooms with a hole in the floor, rooms with a channel along the wall and then a hole in the corner. My personal favorite is the nice ceramic squatting toilets, as squatting is much better for your health, and you don’t touch anything with your naked bum. I really wish we had those in the U.S.

 

Cars: Drivers in Ghana are pros, by a certain definition of pro. When you’re in a taxi or a tro tro, you see a hundred near-accidents around you per minute, and none of them actually happen. It’s like each vehicle is an extension of the driver’s body, and everyone is jostling and pushing against each other to get where they’re trying to go, but no one gets hurt. The only traffic rule that really works is stoplights. Honking is constantly used to communicate your presence and intentions to those around you. You rarely see a new-looking or sparsely occupied vehicle. Ancient, battered tro tros and taxis dominate the streets, most of them full to the brim with people and baggage. Most vehicles are European or Korean, all are diesel, and a Ghanaian acquaintance told me many are rejects from countries with smog control.

 

Pollution: In the cities we visited there was trash everywhere. There is no organized public waste system, so everyone collects their trash into piles and just burns it, any time of day, right there on the street with people all around to breathe it in. There is no smog control for vehicles either, and most vehicles produce very thick, stinky exhaust that is often dark grey or black. I sometimes wore a handkerchief over my mouth and nose while we were driving because the fumes made me nauseous.

 

Alright, back to QueenTech. We had ambitious plans for the trip: beginning the process of incorporating in Ghana, introducing a new machine design along with new tooling to build it, repairing four machines in four villages, building a relationship with Womentum (a non-profit that supports women entrepreneurs), beginning a rental agreement for a new workspace, holding a TIG welding workshop for our fabricators, creating and implementing new fabrication workflows, and a million other tasks of varying size and importance. We had eleven days.

 

Each day I would wake up at 6:45 a.m., throw on dirty work clothes and boots, knock on the doors of those who weren’t up yet (I was the Project Manager for the trip), and head to a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast with Lipton tea or instant coffee with evaporated milk. Around 7:40 we’d all cram into the tro tro for a hot, bumpy forty-five minute ride to Intermediate Technology Transfer Unit (our partners, headquarters, and fabrication shop). On the first day we arrived at ITTU, there was a lot of smiling and shaking hands. Most of us were meeting the people who build our machines for the first time, and we were all very excited. For Ben Linder and Michael Resnick (our other trip leader), this was a reunion full of big hugs and loud greetings. We got to work immediately, some of us heading into meetings or doing computer work in our workroom, others in the machine shop.

 

We accomplished a lot of things in those eleven days, each day packed with surprises and novel experiences. We would work our butts off from 8:30 to 5, sometimes later, then bump and honk our way back to the guest house for a cold shower, an interesting dinner of not-quite-at-all-what-we-ordered, and two to three more hours of work in a lounge with one light bulb and a ceiling fan that violently threatened to tear itself apart with every revolution. Thoroughly exhausted and satisfied in the way only hard work can bring about, we would all drag ourselves off to bed somewhere between 9 and 10.

 

In ADE, we don’t just travel to work in our little niche and ignore the rest. We travel to have the mind-opening, humbling, incredible experience of living in a culture and place that is not our own. One particularly memorable experience was a tour of Cape Coast Castle. When our work at ITTU was done, we packed up our gear and drove six hours to Cape Coast Castle, one of the many slave castles built and ruled by European occupiers. We learned that during the triangular trade of slaves and raw and manufactured goods between West Africa, the Americas, and Europe, Cape Coast Castle held thousands of slaves for up to six weeks in pitch-black dungeons directly underneath the castle’s Christian church. The slaves remained shackled at all times, and food was thrown in on them from above. Discoloration two feet high on the walls indicated the level of human feces when the dungeons were excavated in 1920. The governor of the castle would select young women slaves to rape, and if they were “lucky” enough to get pregnant and give birth, they were set free. There’s a pitch-black tunnel that led the slaves from the dungeons to the waiting ships, so they never saw the light of their homeland until being loaded onto the ships through “the door of no return.” Sharks learned to follow the ships, as many dead and living slaves were cast overboard to lighten them. A moment of confusion and shock for me was seeing the room connecting the dungeon to the tunnel, where apparently there had been a great rock shrine where Ghanaians came to worship their traditional God of fertility before the castle was built. Here we stood, in what had been an ancient holy site of worship that was destroyed and turned into a channel for dehumanized people to drag themselves through, for the cruel white men with their own church built right on top of it. I could scarcely believe the hypocrisy and irony of it all.

 

Now I’m home in Berkeley, California, sitting at the kitchen table, typing this article. I admit it’s really lovely to be back. But since coming home I’ve been appalled even more than usual by the luxuries that my friends, my family, and I take for granted I’ve actually been quite ill since returning from Ghana, and although I knew taking a hot bath would help me feel better, it took a couple days to convince myself it was ok to use the water and energy to do so. A friend of mine just bought a dress for a price that could feed some families for a year. How can I feel comfortable with things like that? I can’t.

 

More and more I see my future lies in both comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable. I want to stress that both are crucial to a just and sustainable world. While efforts to improve the wellbeing of the majority are widely accepted and supported, efforts to say, “Hey, why do all the rich people feel like it’s okay to endlessly consume and plunder this planet we all share?” are largely restricted to vague political discussions and failed mini-revolutions. And by “rich people” I don’t just mean the richest one percent in the US. I mean the richest one percent in the world, which are mostly people like you and me. Olin College’s average starting salary is in the world’s top 0.5 percent, and even the U.S. poverty line makes the richest twenty percent. I ask you to consider your life, look deep within and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to minimize your own impact and help those with none. I know I’m not, but I’m working at it every day. It’s hard, fun, satisfying, and possible, and it can start as soon as you are willing.

Horoscopes By Drunk Editors

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22): If you think you shouldn’t , you probably really shouldn’t. Or you could do it and see what happens.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22): Paranoia is a survival mechanism designed to keep you from being eaten, stabbed in the back, or poisoned.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Not that we endorse murder. Or suicide. Or even threats. We endorse nothing, nor are we endorsed by anyone. It’s a complicated legal thing.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): Curiosity did kill the cat.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): Sometimes having seven different contingency plans is a good thing.
Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): You are going to have a wonderful week. It will feel like you’re walking on clouds, like the birds are singing just for you. Think about buying a lottery ticket. Profess your love to your secret crush. Take up that hobby that you’ve always previously failed at. There is no losing for you. It’s like being King Midas, except that you won’t find yourself accidentally killing the ones that you love when they give you congratulatory high fives. Like being Achilles, except your mother knew that tongs existed and was able to thoroughly dunk you in the River Styx. Like being the Chicago Cubs making it to Game 7’s 10th inning to finally end a 108 year dry streak. In short, there is nothing that you cannot do this week. Play your cards right, and it could go down in the history books as one of the single greatest weeks in human history. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. You could solve world hunger. You could find the cure for cancer. And if you think this is all too good to be true…

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20): Put it back down. Walk away slowly.

Aries (March 21 – April 19): Foolhardy decisions are for fools. Not that you’re a fool…

Taurus (April 20 – May 20): Don’t do it.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20): You can never look over your shoulder too often.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22): Reevaluate your options.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22): Bulls shouldn’t play in China Shops.