U.S. Values That Need to be Revamped

By Austin B. Hahn

Author’s note: Because the word American can pertain to those who are in Central, North, or South America, people in the United States are referred to as U.S. Americans.

Materialism Although life satisfaction and wealth are modestly correlated below an annual salary of $75,000, there’s little association between long-term happiness and wealth; yet, U.S. Americans own twice as many cars and eat out twice as much as they did 55 years ago (Lilienfeld et al. 430; Gregoire 1). These statistics may come as no surprise to those who shop during the holiday season. In 2012, shoppers spent $59.1 billion on Black Friday alone (Fox). This finding contradicts the long-held belief that the United States does not have the means to help all of its people. While having sufficient financial resources is not an issue, allocating them may be.

The United States has created a materialistic culture. U.S. Americans can’t celebrate holidays, such as Christmas, without purchasing and receiving gifts. On average, people will spend $700 on holiday shopping, which the National Retail Federation estimates to a total of $465 billion, and countless ads will air convincing parents to buy that one “special” gift for their kids (“Made in America”). Children are raised on commercialism. For example, in my experience, when parents ask them if they had a nice Christmas, they’re usually expected to base their answer off of how many presents they received. Parents will spend hundreds of dollars on Christmas. Oddly enough, when their kids get to college, they’ll have no money for them unless they were financially planning ahead which brings us to our next value: education.

Education On average, a college graduate with a 4-year degree owes $29,000 in student loan debt (Holland; White). From 2004-2014, student loan debt rose by 56 percent (Camera). This financial burden has affected economic and social life in the U.S. Data from the Centers for Disease Control indicate that “the birth rate among women aged 20 to 29 is now at a record low, and has been declining since at least 2008″ (Holland). A report from CNBC also revealed that the homeownership rate for U.S. Americans under the age of 35 dropped from 43.3% in 2005 to 34.6% in 2015 (Holland). According to the National Association of Realtors, 23 percent of first-time buyers said they were having difficulty saving for a down payment, and 57 percent within this group said student debt was preventing them from saving (Holland). While these statistics are alarming, the issue of debt education is not new.

In 2006, Jeffrey J. Williams, a professor at Carnegie Mellon University, noted in his article “Debt Education: Bad for the Young, Bad for America,” that student loan debt for undergraduates had more than doubled from 1992, when it was $9,200, to $18,900 in 2002. Political science professor at Queens College New York Andrew Hacker and New York Times columnist and associate professor at Columbia University Claudia Dreifus have cited several reasons for the skyrocketing cost of college in their 2010 publication Higher Education? One of them was presidential compensation. Between 1992 and 2008, presidential salaries more than doubled while “some rose closer to threefold” (Hacker and Dreifus 119). For example, Stanford’s president went from getting paid $256,111 to a whopping $731,614 while the pay of NYU’s president increased from $443,000 to $1,274,475 (Hacker and Dreifus 119).

Among other reasons for the rising cost of college listed by Dreifus and Hacker include: funding colleges’ legal expenses, paying for athletic departments, extravagant amenities and tenured professors’ salaries, and to attract applicants (Hacker and Dreifus). Dreifus and Hacker noted that “behavioral economics posits that when people feel what’s being asked is too low, they suspect something might be wrong with the product” (Hacker and Dreifus 116). In other words, people associate a higher price tag with a higher quality of education. Shortly after Pennsylvania’s Ursinus College increased its fees by 17 percent, enrollment had grown by a third four years later (Hacker and Dreifus 116). Perhaps we can conclude that soaring tuition rates are, in part, due to the public’s expectation that money equates with quality, or is this presumption because of how market capitalism socializes us to think and how colleges advertise themselves?

Many U.S. Americans still value education. A survey conducted by Discover Student Loans found that 95 percent of parents believe that “college is somewhat or very important to their child’s future” (Holland). However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that adults between the ages of forty-five and fifty-four with an average income of $81,884 “spend $3,244 on eating out,” yet, personal expenditures for education totaled $2,012 (Hacker and Dreifus 130). As Hacker and Dreifus point out, this “raises questions about how many parents are writing five-digit checks for their children” (130). In a 2009 College Board survey, twenty-five percent of respondents, who had the most savings, said their parents had put less than $20,000 aside (Hacker and Dreifus 130). Even more shocking, Hacker and Dreifus claim that Princeton parents who make $125,000-$150,000 now have to pay “only half of their full bill,” and while colleges state “that gifts support scholarships,” six-figure parents are often the recipients of such contributions (130).

Taking all of the aforementioned into consideration, our education system is creating an entire generation of indentured students. Many graduates will go on unable to pay off their student loans. Meanwhile, as the cost of higher education rises, individuals from less affluent backgrounds who possess artistic, executive, or scientific talent will turn away. The incoming generation is being financed by loan companies at the expense of what goods and services they could produce in the future. Despite numerous reports and statistics on the burden of student debt, the federal government doesn’t seem to care, or otherwise a bill making higher education more affordable would have been passed long ago.

Baby boomers and Generation X have been fed a poisonous cultural narrative by the media that millennials are lazy and carry a sense of “entitlement” as a way to pass down blame for the economic circumstances we are in today. Consequently, they’re angry, and they’ve become convinced that putting their tax dollars towards education for our young people wouldn’t be a worthwhile investment. As our leaders continue to find someone to blame, tuition rates are exponentially increasing and fewer people can afford to attend college. An entire generation is on the verge of financial collapse, and little to nothing is being done to mitigate the effects of debt education. When will policy makers pay attention? How about taking out a portion of the military budget and allocating it to education? We cannot expect to have productive citizens who will contribute to society when they’re solely focused on paying back their debt. An overhaul of the education system is long overdue.

Celebrity worship U.S. culture idolizes the rich and famous, and the media industry waists time reporting on their lives instead of focusing on actual news such as Supreme Court decisions, medical breakthroughs, or the latest advancements in technology. Celebrities are expected to stand in as role models for parents who don’t want to raise their kids. In addition, the famous are constantly put under scrutiny by social media. For example, in July of 2015, when Taylor Swift and Nicki Minaj got into a dispute on Twitter, it became a national news story. There were reports from various media outlets, including CNN and Time (Chan; Grossman).

While these stories may sell and generate profit for media conglomerates, what about the voice of the poor or lower middle class? I never heard about them as a child who frequently watched television, and I still don’t today as an adult. From my point of view, excessive media coverage on celebrities has prevented us from addressing real issues: poverty, racial injustice, rising college tuition rates, the cost of healthcare, and unemployment. Celebrity worship as a cultural plague must be transformed into admiration without becoming obsession so that we can direct our attention to finding the root causes of our domestic problems and work towards creating solutions.

Perfectionism When I went to school as a child, teachers often taught me only one way how to do something. If I did anything differently on an assignment, project, quiz, or a test, they would mark me as wrong. Sometimes I was completely incorrect, and, at other times, I was just experimenting with my creativity. Either way, I felt discouraged by my teachers. They would deduct points off my grade, marginalize me and other children by putting us in a “lower level” group, and reprimand me. Eventually, I became fearful of taking risks, which also reflects in my adulthood today, and I stifled my creativity.

I valued perfectionism at the expense of learning from failure. Unfortunately, I don’t believe my experience is unique. My generation was taught that everyone makes mistakes, and we suffer the consequences for them, but we were told that’s okay. In retrospect, how can a person feel permitted to make an error if they’re expecting to suffer a consequence for it? According to oxforddictionaries.com, the definition of consequence is “a result or effect of an action or condition.” For years, I associated this word with a punishment when, in actuality, it refers to the outcome of something. Because of the context that it was used in, I thought it implied something negative. As a result, I didn’t want to make a mistake because I thought enduring a consequence meant that I would be penalized and that I did something bad.

We are inhibiting the development of our children’s intellectual capacities by punishing their mistakes. We are striving for an unattainable image of greatness while killing innovation. Our culture needs to reassess how we handle mistakes and to see them as blessings in disguise that provide us with learning experiences rather than being ashamed of them. If our nation is to continue making progress in engineering, medicine, technology, and in other domains, then we must grant ourselves the freedom to make mistakes in order to create. The pursuit of perfection is squandering our opportunities for ingenuity.

Respect We tell our youth to respect authority figures, their elders, and even people who are considered “legends.” What does this mean, though? Everyone starts from the bottom somewhere and has to put in the work in order to gain authority in a specified field. Growing old is part of the life cycle that we go through if we’re lucky enough to experience it; it’s not an accomplishment. Furthermore, what makes someone a “legend”? Is it someone who’s constantly under the spotlight like Kim Kardashian? Is it a person who made remarkable humanitarian efforts like Mother Teresa? Is it somebody who has achieved incredible career heights such as Michael Jackson or Robert J. Oppenheimer? Regardless of whatever constitutes a “legend”, they all live and die like other people; they’re just portrayed in the media more.

Respect, as a U.S. American value, needs to be reformed. The status quo has been to treat someone with respect based on perceived superiority. Consequently, our children, who go on to become our future leaders, grow up thinking that once they achieve a certain status, treating their subordinates poorly is socially acceptable. While this approach may have worked in the days of “do as I say, not as I do” and for the hierarchical structure of the industrial era, it has outlived its purpose in the new age of global relations and social networking. We need to teach our young that respect is earned by how you treat people and not because of age, executive power, or occupation title.

Hard work U.S. Americans pride themselves on working hard, and, coming from the perspective of someone who was born and raised in the United Sates, they’re exhausted. They kill their health by working long hours, leaving little to no time for leisure activity, and resort to eating fast food since they’re too tired to cook for themselves. Furthermore, “the United States is the only developed country [in the world] that does not have a minimum number of paid vacation days and holidays for its workers” while countries such as Denmark, Norway, and Sweden have twenty-five (Croteau and Hoynes 238). The United States needs to come out of the dark ages when their ancestors had to work painstaking hard for survival; we don’t live in that time anymore.

U.S Americans also adhere to the notion that a person’s suffering or rise in status is a result of their work ethic. If someone is struggling, then they should “pull themselves up by their own bootstraps” or rely on themselves to better their life. However, they fail to acknowledge that circumstances that are beyond someone’s control can either enhance or undermine their opportunities to obtain emotional and financial security. Sociological context, comprising of economic, political, and social factors must be taken into consideration. For instance, growing up poor in a household plagued by domestic violence might interfere with a child’s ability to concentrate in school. Consequently, this situation may affect their overall academic performance, thus, limiting their chances to pursuit a higher education, resulting in constrained career options.

The value of hard work and its merits need to be reevaluated. What is it anyway, and why do we boast about it? What might be hard work to one person could be just work to another. What’s more, working hard to further one’s own interests is not admirable; it’s been done throughout the course of human history. If someone’s working diligently to achieve their aims at the expense of others’ well-being, then they’re not benefiting society. We need to examine personal motives before giving appraisal. On a sociocultural note, we must discard the belief that someone’s income equates with how hard they work. Firefighters, hotel cleaners, and teachers work hard, but they don’t get paid millions of dollars to dribble a ball or to sing into a microphone.

The idea of the hardworking self-made man or woman is no longer applicable in the twenty-first century. Unlike previous generations, millennials can’t pretend that their achievements are a result of their personal efforts while neglecting those who contributed to their success. With broad trends such as economic deterioration, outsourcing of jobs overseas, and student debt, working hard is not enough; making professional connections is paramount. We need to start working smarter, not harder.

Works Cited

“Consequence.” Oxford Dictionaries.com. Oxford Dictionaries, 2015. Web. 14 Nov. 2015.

“Made in America Christmas: Are You In?” ABC News. ABC New, n.d. Web. 22 Dec. 2015.

Camera, Lauren. “2014 Graduates Had Highest Student Loan Debt Ever.” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, 27 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Dec. 2015.

Chan, Wilfred. “Twitter defends Nicki Minaj after Taylor Swift feud.” CNN. CNN, 22 Jul. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Croteau, David and William Haynes. Experience Sociology. n.p.: The McGraw-Hills Companies, 2013. Print.

Fox, Emily Jane. “Black Friday shopping hits a new record.” CNNMoney. CNN, 28 Nov. 2012. Web. 24 Nov. 2015.

Gregoire, Carolyn. “The Psychology of Materialism, And Why It’s Making You Unhappy.” The Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, 15 Dec. 2013. Web. 23 Nov. 2015.

Grossman, Samantha. “The Taylor Swift-Nicki Minaj Twitter Drama, Explained With Emoji.” Time. Time Inc., 24 Jul. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Hacker, Andrew, and Claudia Dreifus. Higher Education? How Colleges Are Wasting our Money and Failing our Kids–and What we Can Do About It. New York: Henry Hold and Company, 2010. Print.

Holland, Kelly. “The high economic and social cost of student loan debt.”CNBC. CNBC, 15 Jun. 2015. Web. 29 Dec. 2015.

Lilienfeld, Scott O., et al. Psychology: From Inquiry to Understanding. 2nd ed. Vol. 2. Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education, Inc., 2014. Print.

Williams, Jeffrey J. “Debt Education: Bad for the Young, Bad for America.” Dissent Magazine. Dissent Magazine, 2006. Web. 30 Dec. 2015.

White, Martha. “How Student Loans Can Ruin Your Life Decades After You Graduate.” Time. Time Inc., 21 Dec. 2015. Web. 21 Dec. 2015.

Tips for Gay Men

By Austin B. Hahn

Dating and hooking up online in the gay world can be … well, scary, (especially when you meet a guy in person, and then he tells you that his profile picture was taken back in 2005.) I’ve had some frightening experiences as a gay man myself, and, over the years, here’s what I have learned about the dos and don’ts when meeting a guy for the first time whether it’s date night or just a fling:


  • Get to know him. That’s right. Take your time to get to know him before jumping in his pants, or else you might just get to know his crabs instead.
  • If you hook up at his place, leave your wallet in your pocket. Keep your wallet in your coat or pant pocket, and don’t make it accessible by leaving it out on a coffee table or a night stand. He could steal from you when you’re using his shower after hooking up or leaving the bedroom to go get a glass of water. Be vigilant.
  • Meet over coffee before hooking up or spending $$$ on a date.This saves you from getting into an uncomfortable situation in case you’re disappointed that his physical appearance doesn’t match his picture(s) online (or Grindr.) I cannot begin to tell you how many bitches are friends with Photo Shop. She must have more gay friends than Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland had combined!
  • Tell a friend where you’re going. Make sure you get a face picture and the address where you’re meeting him, and text them to a friend. If he ends up being a total psycho, and you go missing, you can be sure that his picture will be popular with the police, and if he’s really lucky … it will land up on the six o’clock news. *If he does not look like his online picture at all, GET OUT OF THERE!
  • When the time comes, talk to him about sex. Find out what his stance is on safe sex. You would be surprised to learn how many gay men don’t discuss this, and then when they get to the bedroom, one ends up wanting to bareback, and the other wants to use protection.


  • Depend on him for condoms and lube. You do not want to be the victim of stealthing. Stealthing occurs when someone uses deceptive methods to engage in unsafe sex without the other party’s knowledge. This can be done numerous ways: poking a hole in the condom with a pin, switching a condom out in the middle of sex for one with a cut off tip, or tempering with a condom by exposing it to extreme temperatures so it breaks down during anal intercourse. Bring your own condoms and lube to ensure your safety.
  • Engage in unprotected sex with someone you don’t know. Some guys lie about their sexual health. They don’t care about you; they just want to get off. Other times, someone who may have been recently infected with an STI or an STD may not even know it. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Rely on him for transportation. Make sure that you have someone who can pick you up or that public transportation is still operating afteryour date or hookup is over. If he throws you out of his place or the date doesn’t go well, you won’t be stranded out in the middle of nowhere or walking for hours to get home.
  • Send him nudes. Unless you’re confident that you’ll never see him again, or he can’t ruin your career, don’t send him naked photos of yourself that he can use later to blackmail you.
  • Turn your face away from him during sex. If you’re not too familiar with the guy, stay in a position where you two can face each other. This way, you’re able to see what he’s doing, and he’ll be less likely to have a chance to take the condom off without you noticing.

Blue Light Can Damage Your Eyes

Paraphrased by Austin B. Hahn

Source: Wallis Simons, Jake. “Is Your iPhone damaging your eyes?” DailyMail. Associated Newspapers, 6 Apr. 2015. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

With the rapid development of technology, electronic gadgets have become common household objects. According to Dr. Sanchez-Ramos, who’s based at Compultense University in Madrid, modern LED screens “emit up to five times as much blue light” as devices prior to 2007 (Wallis Simons). LED screens have been linked to numerous health effects such as cancer, headaches, macular degeneration, retinal damage, and sleep problems (Wallis Simons). Chicago’s Northwestern University also found that it can stimulate hunger, even after meals, leading to weight gain and obesity (Wallis Simons). Children and young adults are most at risk for retinal damage since “they lack the natural protection against blue light that the human eye naturally acquires” (Wallis Simons). Other groups susceptible to the aforementioned health effects include anyone who is sensitive to blue light, “digital workers,” and the elderly (Wallis Simons).

In an experiment conducted by Dr. Sanchez-Ramos, human retinal cells that were exposed to blue light resulted in apoptosis, or cell death (Wallis Simons). However, with a protective screen, “this was reduced by 83 percent” (Wallis Simons). The filter, known as Reticare, which was designed by Dr. Sanchez-Ramos, converts blue light to a frequency akin to sunlight (Wallis Simons). Prices vary according to size and cost between €12.95 ($14.77) and €49 ($55.87).

For more information, visit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-3024744/Is-iPhone-damaging-eyes-Experts-warn-devices-cause-partial-blindness-new-screen-cover-protect-against-damage.html

and http://www.reticare.com/buy/en/.

On a personal note, I do not specialize in vision care, but for those who are looking for more financially feasible alternatives, I use f.lux on my computer and Twilight on my iPhone. You can download them both for free.

If you found this post to be helpful, I would appreciate if you would reblog it or share this information with other people.

Thank you!

#All Lives Matter is Bullshit

By Austin B. Hahn

I find people funny who say, “All lives matter,” because they’re usually the same people who don’t do anything to help marginalized groups such as the disabled, the elderly, the exploited, the LGBT community, the poor, racial minorities, those who face pollution, or women. I’m sorry, but since when the fuck have you ever cared about all lives?

Don’t get me wrong. It would be one thing if you said, “All lives matter,” and you had a history of helping underprivileged people, but you don’t, so you should shut the fuck up.

“Saint Anthony once wrote about having gone into the desert on silent retreat and being assaulted by all manner of visions–devils and angels, both. He said, in his solitude, he sometimes encountered devils who looked like angels, and other times he found angels who looked like devils. When asked how he could tell the difference, the saint said that you can only tell which is which by the way you feel after the creature has left your company.”

–Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love pg. 189

I would like to think that this applies to people as well.

Dear Anti-Narcissists

By Austin B. Hahn

I don’t give a fuck. Period. If you don’t like me because you think I’m “narcissistic”, or because for once I actually think positively of myself, I couldn’t give a rat’s ass even if I had one.

I don’t care if you don’t like me. I don’t care if you want to like me. I don’t care if you would like me, but just as long as I conform to your idea of who I should be or how highly I should think of myself because the issue is not me. It’s you. You’re the one with the low self-esteem, and I am not going to try to remedy that for you by thinking less of myself.

As RuPaul once said, “What people think of you is none of your business, and if bitches ain’t payin’ your bills, you pay them no mind.”

At the end of the day, regardless of how low or how high you think I should hold myself, I’m the one who has to live with me forever, so if you don’t like my attitude, then you can FUCK OFF!