Month: August 2010

PhillyNORML Open Meeting – Highlights of my Return to Affiliation


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Boston Common, Boston, MA (I love this unique tree!)

For most of my life I had been confused by the laws surrounding marijuana.  I couldn’t understand how a plant could get so much press!  I got the chance to take a great Psychology course,”Drugs and Human Behavior”, which taught me the truth behind marijuana and drug policy.  From then on, I knew sooner or later I would have to get involved in the cause to legalize marijuana.  I saw countless people use the substance and suffer no adverse effects, while others had positive medical benefits.  The range of experience for all substances is wide with many outliers, but I learned from an early age that weed was not the drug they claimed it to be.  I believed the universe was guiding me toward my mission, so I let it do it’s thing, as I tried to think of ways to be an advocate.  This started with me looking at all sides.  Through a series of random chance events, I found PhillyNORML, and my guidance was completed.

Tonight was my second time attending a meeting, and I was glad I did.  The group is a interesting mix of concerned citizens.  And those who come with connections help to spread more awareness about cannabis.  The meeting included much discussion on the HB1393 hearings of 8/19.  Videos and more information can be found here.  Fundraising and marijuana awareness ideas such as letters to the editor, phone banking, and tables at events were shared.  One of the cool events coming up is a table at the PW concert series in Rittenhouse Park.  The next one will be held 8/25 from 7-9 pm.  To find out more about the meeting, I highly recommend reading the minutes which can be found here.

Gathering with like minds about changing society in a positive way is so important.  Getting involved in a cause gives us a greater connection to our community, beliefs, and stimulates the mind.  The key to marijuana law reform is to get the third most popular recreational drug in the U.S. (after tobacco and alcohol) out of the darkness and into the public eye.  The supporters must speak.  The more we hide our beliefs from society, the harder we make it to be free.  For a drug that is enjoyed recreationally, used medicinally, and grows in dirt I wonder, is the fear in the power of nature?  Because we know the earth speaks louder than any corporate or political voice.  So join your local chapter of NORML, start one in your area, or begin discussions with others on this important topic.

I leave you with a poem that is from the perspective of an individual trying to make sense of the criminalization of marijuana.  It highlights the medicinal, creative, and recreational aspects of weed.  Please enjoy and share your experiences with the great green bud:)

Trust the Bud

They tell me not to trust the bud.

Blooms in forests, free in the sun.

Try to fight it, but I have seen.

The truth behind the shady screen.

Breaking up the dark green love.

Rolling it up, now my mind flies above.

Starry skies, atmosphere.

Now my mind feels so clear.

Inhalation of the calm.

Exhalation of the storm.

Light and airy, I float on words.

I float on sights.

I touch the sun.

No longer shall my body waste.

As my senses stimulate.

Finest tastes in my glands.

Not for any feast, I demand.

Happy to eat straight from the earth.

The farmer learns to worth of dirt.

Writing flows from fingertips.

Artistic visions conjure within.

Read I won’t have aptitude.

Read I’d lack the drive to move.

But I am flying past the rest.

My broken body can pass the test.

Facts as high as the Himalayas smeared.

For many the benefits, still unclear.

But I attest to the strength.

Of Bhagwan’s medicine.

From dusky dawn to setting sun,

I’ll blaze the truth until we’ve won.

8/16/10 —–Preeti Pathak

Dreams of Vagabonding and Thoughts on Materialism and Success


While researching my future dreams on the internet I came upon an amazing article: http://www.bravenewtraveler.com/2008/06/04/the-tao-of-vagabond-travel/

 

After reading the piece, I was inspired and the following are my thoughts on the material of the article.  The article is structured around the concept of vagabonding, and societal reactions toward those who choose this lifestyle.  There is a great video and very deep insights about the definition of success and what it means to choose a different viewpoint of success.

 

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Photo of Bushkill Falls, PA

In the past several years I have been practicing the art of minimization, impacting the environment less, and discovering more about existence and life.  Such things bring up extreme emotions, from wanting everything in the world to nothing at all.  I have dreamt of winning lottery tickets, and living on the least amount possible.  As all humans, I am struggling to find myself and my purpose in this life: what will make me happy.  Looking back over my life thus far, it’s amazing to see my experiences with consumption and what materialism meant to me.  That’s something I will have to discuss in depth in a future post, but let’s just say “my stuff owned me, I didn’t own my stuff.”  That’s the same line that came out of a stranger’s mouth while I was hunting for an apartment two years ago.  When I said storage was an issue because I had a lot of stuff, the voice through the phone said those words and I was forever changed.  I reacted strongly and angrily, thinking this asshole has no idea!  I felt judged, materialistic, and foolish.  No one likes to feel that way so at first I stood to my belief that he was some clueless person.  But as I started to learn more in my day to day life, I realized that he was right.  And from then on I have been on a mission to reduce, reduce, reduce.  Now cutting things out is fun and exciting, because I am no longer attached to material possessions as I used to be.  I have much more to learn and do, but I am on the path which makes me grateful.  I have realized there are many routes to happiness in life, but only a few are sold as legitimate.  It’s not just the electronics or clothes in the stores, but the selling of lifestyles as well by advertisers that makes us believe there’s only “one way.”  I had believed that I could only be happy with a $50k annual salary, downtown apartment, and a budget for lots of entertainment.  I was geared on a path from day one (as we all are) to reach a specific notion of success.  But once I realized it was not for me, and started to explore the other ideas and concepts out there, I realized I have so much to learn.  I am now trying to live each day to the fullest, strive to work toward my goals of being good to the earth, and opening my mind to new schools of thought.  Instead of NYC as my marker for success, I now envision traveling the country, with a tent and sleeping bag in tow.  I dream of what it would be to live as a 21st century vagabond.  I was given a chance to live a life with many great choices, why not try a new and different one?  Please share any of your personal experiences with changing your goals, and how it effected your viewpoints in the comments section.  Maybe we’ll meet out on the open road!

Events to Attend: Annual PhillyNORML Picnic & BBQ 8/14/10


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This year the Annual PhillyNORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) Picnic & BBQ will be taking place on Saturday, August 14, 2010, from 12 – 4 pm, at Clark Park (43rd St. and Chester Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19104).  This yearly event brings together local NORML activists for some fun and intellectual conversation, food, and enjoying the great Clark Park.

 

I attended my first PhillyNORML meeting in March, where I met amazing people such as Chris Goldstein, Robert Dougherty, Casey Goldsmith, Derek Rosenzweig, and Timothy Graham.  Their passion and commitment to the reform of marijuana laws was nothing less than inspirational.  We hit the ground running, discussing the passing of legislation in NJ for the use of medicinal marijuana.  Next the group was updated on the status of legislation in PA.  The meeting consisted of brainstorming on issues of fundraising, local events, and rallies.  The small group of volunteers are making a big splash when it comes to reforming our laws.  Sadly this was the only meeting I was able to attend due to severe health issues. I hope to become a regular attender once my health recovers.  But for those who have some free time, and want to get involved, I highly recommend the meetings (or search for a chapter closer to you).

 

The matter of legalizing marijuana is one that hits close to home for me.  I suffer from several chronic health problems with symptoms that include sever weight loss, loss of appetite, nausea, pain, and fatigue to name a few.  I am on a slew of pharmaceuticals prescribed by my doctors, while they try to find a solution to my health problems.  Each medical professional I have seen has agreed that the use of marijuana for such symptoms is helpful, and that other patients do the same.  But with the legal system as it is, there is no way to receive this natural herbal remedy under a physician’s care in a legal manner.  It’s perplexing that a healing herb which has been used for thousands of years for a myriad of ailments is banned by the law.  One could watch a handful of documentaries to see the corruption that leads to this, and creates a dangerous underground market.  It begs the question, why do laws ban a natural herbal substance that can be easily grown and combat several ailments at once, and replace the need for so many pharmaceuticals?   I think we know the answer to that one unfortunately…just look to pills such as Marinol to see the irony of the whole situation.

 

To get more educated on the history of marijuana laws check out the following documentaries and site:

 

The Union: Business Behind Getting High

Grass

The War on Drugs: The Last White Hope

And of course check out http://www.phillynorml.org/ for answers to all your questions on loads of pertinent information!

 

As I anticipate the picnic as a chance to exchange thoughts with like minds, I also hope it’s a sign of future hope.  I imagine a world where marijuana is a regulated herb, such as what we see with alcohol.  This would allow the millions dealing with health issues and those who enjoy recreational use to stop hiding in fear or getting mixed up in illegal activities.  Let’s hope this is the decade where we will resolve this issue once and for all.  And at least for now, we can enjoy some good BBQ!

 

If you’re in the local Philadelphia area and plan to go, send me an email so we can meet up.  Would love to meet other supporters!

 

I’ll leave you with some poetic truth, Bob Marley style:

 

Rihanna’s Russian Roulette


 

Pop culture, especially music, is a major influence of fashion trends, with pop stars being the voice of what is in.  Of course a pop star is more of a figure head, exercising the wishes of corporations selling products.  The fashion industry is an interesting marketing machine, that must create fashion that is different, edgier, sexier, and more shocking than the last season.  Designers remind me of the 24-hour news networks – in an attempt to keep up with the competition they churn out garbage and call it “news” or in this case “fashion.”  I have to say I am disappointed with what I see happening in women’s fashion these days.  Particularly the fashion found in mainstream music.  Women are reduced to objects to be desired.  Nothing proves this more than the cover of Rihanna’s single “Russian Roulette.” It begs the question, just how much further can this really go?  This is fashion that is truly painful to look at.

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So many thoughts, feelings, and emotions come to my head when looking at this picture.  At first the picture is shocking, grotesque, and demeaning…like something out of pornography.  Yet another misogynistic concoction from the mind of a fellow human being.  I always wonder, when I see such images being advertised, who thinks of these things?  Who decided, that to sell this female artist’s music, it was best to show her body exposed, except the barbed wired wrapped around her flesh?  You imagine this “character” being locked in a dungeon being tortured by a psychopath – chains, knives, and blood all befitting of such a scene.

Then I listen to the song.  The words are powerful, deep, dark.  The song’s sound is like the same old pop beat, nothing too impressive, but at least it fits along with the lyrics for the most part.  I listened to the song over and over, until the sound grew on me.  But it was truly the lyrics alone that drew me in, and broke my heart.  I felt I could cry just thinking of the pain inside these words.  Rihanna, a survivor of domestic violence, was expected to send a message with her release after recovering from assault.  For anyone who has experienced trauma, it is a known fact that you have seen true evil in every sense.  When a person victimizes another, they go to the darkest place in their soul to do such a thing.  And that victim will forever carry that pain that was inflicted.  But thankfully through creative expression, one can release that pain.  Through creativity and art, we lose ourselves in true happiness and learn to love ourselves again.  I feel that when Rihanna came through her experience and decided to create a new song, she had to release and express all that she endured, and this is what probably led her to select these lyrics.  Artists always share their life experiences in their work; it is the essence of their art.  Rihanna is no exception.  Sadly, I think we try to ignore the pain that goes along with violence.  We want victims to be over it so we don’t have to feel uncomfortable.  Victims of so many crimes hide because there is an unspoken rule to not talk about your suffering.  And I think everything from the lyrics to the album art is very telling of the times we live in.  We are so desensitized that media keeps taking it one step further – hence the degrading image of Rihanna as tortured sex object.  And the lyrics, like poetry, can be interpreted in a million different ways.  What’s clear is that Rihanna felt they correctly expressed something about herself, her experience.

After reading the lyrics I hear the product of a personal experience against the backdrop of celebrity and over exposure.  We cannot forget that Rihanna’s rights were not only taken away when Chris Brown physically assaulted her, but also when the police failed to protect her identity and private images of the abuse she suffered.  The actual police photos of her victimization were illegally obtained and then posted on a slew of websites for the voyeuristic public to view.  Imagining what it must have felt like for her, to go through what she did, and on top of that under the magnifying glass of the media paparazzi is mind blowing.  It comes as no surprise that she would agree to do the cover above – exposed, vulnerable, in an air of brutality.  Her lyrics are soaked in raw trauma.

[Verse 1:]
Take a breath, take it deep
Calm yourself, he says to me
If you play, you play for keeps
Take a gun, and count to three
I’m sweating now, moving slow
No time to think, my turn to go
[Chorus:]
And you can see my heart beating
You can see it through my chest
And I’m terrified but I’m not leaving
Know that I must pass this test
So just pull the trigger
[Verse 2:]
Say a prayer to yourself
He says, close you eyes
Sometimes it helps
And then I get a scary thought
That he’s here means he’s never lost
[Chorus:]
And you can see my heart beating
You can see it through my chest
And I’m terrified but I’m not leaving
Know that I must pass this test
So just pull the trigger
[Bridge:]
As my life flashes before my eyes
I’m wondering will I ever see another sunrise?
So many won’t get the chance to say goodbye
But it’s too late to think of the value of my life
[Chorus:]
And you can see my heart beating
You can see it through my chest
And I’m terrified but I’m not leaving
Know that I must pass this test x2
So just pull the trigger

I wonder how this woman must feel.  Like so many others with a dream, just trying to do what she loves.  She’s guided to sell herself through her sexuality, and all her outfits, her dances, her videos, her songs are cloaked in it.  Do you think as a young girl she imagined it would be this way?  That this would be the formula for female fame?  I wonder what such a self image does to one’s self worth?  But judging from the aftermath it’s clear that wrongs can be forgotten even with half ass apologies, and that victims aren’t really victims but instead the ones we blame

 

Though the video is disappointing, it does convey the dark and tortured emotions in her lyrics. But the fashion is a huge disappointment.  The gray hooded tanktop/ onsie can only be described as infantilized erotica for the ridiculous.  I could imagine Rihanna in a sharp black pin-stripe suit, white buttoned up shirt and tie, ready for business.  In the scenes where she seems to be locked up in a room with padded walls, one imagines the life of a prisoner locked in an institution.  I didn’t know it was possible to hyper sexualize suicide, but the creators of this video found a way.

In the end people will move on and forget about Rihanna’s and Chris Brown’s “story” as the devour the next personal tragedy.  But I hope that something is learned; that through the dialogue this has started, more people open their eyes to the epidemic of violence against women.  Because we all know a woman who has been in this same place, and she will hope that we have humanity instead of blame or complacency.  If we educate ourselves about the realities of violence, we can help end this suffering for good one day.

Hilton Hotel and Child Prostitution


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Hilton Hotel has been a big name in the hotel industry for years.  It is to my great surprise that this establishment was found to be running an underground brothel in one of it’s China locations.  More can be read about this story here.  Sadly this isn’t the first Hilton location with such issues.  A brothel was discovered in an Ireland Hilton, and the Washington D.C. Hilton has strong ties to prostitution.  But the issue of child prostitution can be taken on by the hotel chain by signing the ECPAT Code of Conduct.  By signing this act hotels agree to follow six simple steps to fight child prostitution:

 

THE SIX CRITERIA

Suppliers of tourism services adopting the code commit themselves to implement the following six criteria:

1. To establish an ethical policy regarding commercial sexual exploitation of children.

2. To train the personnel in the country of origin and travel destinations.

3. To introduce a clause in contracts with suppliers, stating a common repudiation of commercial sexual exploitation of children.

4. To provide information to travellers by means of catalogues, brochures, in-flight films, ticket-slips, home pages, etc.

5. To provide information to local "key persons" at the destinations.

6. To report annually

www.thecode.org

 

To get involved, please sign a petition to urge Hilton to sign the ECPAT Code of Conduct.  Click here to sign the petition.  Together we can end sex tourism and protect children.  This is also a reminder that we have our greatest power as consumers.  So next time you make a purchase for anything, from a hotel room to a house ware, check out the companies you are supporting.  Our money should go to corporations that are part of the solution, not the problem.

 

Please enjoy this great song and video by Mr. J. Medeiros on the realities of sex trafficking: