Weekend Thoughts - 10.24.15

Image  by  Benjamin Balázs , courtesy of  Creative Commons  licensing.

Image by Benjamin Balázs, courtesy of Creative Commons licensing.

Happy Saturday y'all! Below, I have rounded up some things for you to think about this weekend:

1. In a harrowing tale about the NSA and surveillance, Waltern Kirn at The Atlantic suggests that if you're not paranoid, you're crazy. The story is fairly lengthy, but definitely worth a read—it explores the surveillance techniques and technology that are currently used to sell us products as well as policies. A bit bone-chilling, to say the least, and a perfect fit for the Halloween month of October.

2. In another heartbreaking example of United State law enforcement's zero tolerance demand to receive 100% compliance from its citizens, an unarmed 17 year-old named Deven Guilford was fatally shot by a Michigan police officer for flashing his high-beams at the patrol SUV to let the driver know that the vehicle's high-beams were activated. In a dash of irony, Sergeant Jonathan Frost pulled him over for violating a state law that requires drivers to "use a distribution of light or composite beam so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver." In surveillance footage from Frost's body camera, Deven is shown to have been laying face-down on the ground shortly before being tased by a stun gun. Seconds later, the video goes black and gunshots and screams are heard from the teenager. Frost will not be reprimanded by the police department for his actions and was deemed to have acted within the limits of Michigan's self-defense law. However, Deven's family has initiated a lawsuit to sue him. In a statement from the boy's mother, she asks, "Whatever happened to protect and serve?" Whatever happened, indeed—this situation was utterly unconscionable and entirely avoidable.

3. There is an assumption being promoted by Fox News and others in the lamestream media that there is a "War on Cops" occurring simultaneously to the "War(s) on People" that the cops are waging against us. However, that point of view is entirely incorrect. In fact, violence against police officers has been steadily trending downward rather than upward, with 2013 being the lowest level of violence against United States police in recorded history. Although the number of police officer deaths caused by civilians is up since the all-time low in 2013, that doesn't take away the fact that being a police officer is safer than it ever has been before. Don't let the mainstream media distort the facts and mislead you into believing their fictive stories.

4. Caffeine and technology are often blamed for poor sleeping experiences, but is it possible that our judgment of sleep is tainted by the fact that we just don't know what an average night of sleep looked like for pre-technology humans? Some new scientific research has showed that pre-industrial peoples sleep an average 6.5 hours per night, and their bedtimes are regulated by temperature, rather than daylight.

5. A rigorous landmark government-funded study found that people who are diagnosed with schizophrenia are better off with less drugs and more therapy. Specifically, the article states that "patients who received increased drug counseling along with individual talk therapy, family training, and support for employment and education experienced a greater reduction in symptoms, were more likely to resume work and school, and reported a higher quality of life than those receiving current standard treatments". Current treatments require lifelong use of antipsychotic drugs, which have side effects so severe that three out of four patients stop taking their prescriptions after a year and a half. In the new treatment program (called NAVIGATE), doses are reduced by 20%-50%, the families are given "psychoeducation", and the patient participates in resilience-focused individual therapy before progressing to an employment and education program. This is excellent news because it means that our society now has the evidence that supports changing the approach to helping people diagnosed with schizophrenia, although it makes me wonder if psychedelic medicines could also play a role, as in the case of a schizophrenic drug addict who was able to reclaim his life with help from the root bark iboga. In fact, many other cultures treat the people who are now diagnosed with schizophrenia differently, by encouraging them to pursue practices like shamanism, rather than forcing them to think and behave more like the normal population.

6. The Nintendo Entertainment System (the first console I owned) turned 30 this week! I spent countless hours playing and learning with video games, which certainly helped shape the person I have become today. Happy Birthday NES!

That's all for this week's edition of Weekend Thoughts. Until next week, keep thinking wilder.