The Great Social Experiment

I completed a social experiment this weekend, and I can’t decide whether to be proud of myself or not. I attended an on campus cohort for the English and Digital Humanities degree program, and I decided at the last second to test everyone without letting them know that they were being tested. I know that when worded this way it seems ominous and like I was being cruel, though I assure you this was not the case.

Going into this weekend I was all nerves. I am never sure how to act around people I don’t know, and I wasn’t quite sure what I was getting myself into. I don’t think that the 430 mile trip (one way) with twin two year-olds made things much better in that regard. The first day I got up and put on jeans and a kind of British looking gray sweater (that i love, but picked specifically for it’s arm covering capabilities). I spent the whole day with a great, seemingly open group of like-minded people, exchanging ideas and learning more about each other and about the program. The second day I felt more comfortable, and I wore a white sweater that covered my arms but was fairly sheer (picked because it covered my arms, but just barely). The second day was more in depth work, and I started to like and trust these new people more and more. Then on the third day, I wore a short-sleeved green shirt that completely showed my arms, revealing several very large pieces of artwork to these people that I was learning with.

I admit that I did these things partially for self preservation, but also because I am endlessly fascinated with the human psyche and why people behave the way that they do. I come from kind of a small town, so while I love my tattoos, (half sleeves of both The Lorax and Alice in Wonderland, among others, in case anyone is curious) I have had mixed reactions to them. I have had everything from my Grandmother crying, to dirty looks, to people stroking my arm and asking a million questions. I think that in general woman in our society are expected to have tiny butterflies on their shoulder or foot, if they have any tattoos at all. Despite some changes, there is still a bit of a stigma surrounding tattooed women.

So how did my experiment turn out, exactly? Much more beautifully than I could have imagined actually. Maybe it is a testament to their good manners, or perhaps it is because I am in Portland, (a city which seems to be a bit more laid back about such things) but it didn’t seem to change anything. I was still looked at and treated exactly the same. Maybe the real social experiment here was whether or not I could truly succeed at being myself with a group of people. Either way, I consider my experiment to be a success.

Boy Wonder’s Golden Parachute

Lance Armstrong was untouchable in the cycling world. His name is, in fact, the only cyclist’s that I am personally aware of. In the last few days, this “God” has become the next in a long line of poster boys for doping in professional sports. I could go on and on about the way our society clings to hero worship and almost begs for this kind of thing to happen. I could bring up the fact that the Livestrong foundation has publicly distanced themselves from Armstrong (a founding member). But these are not really what interest me about this story.

What does catch my attention is the very prominent sponsor that is now considering suing Armstrong for fraud. Defrauding a government agency to be exact, because the disgraced cyclist’s sugar daddy was none other than the US Postal Service. If the Postal service was a corporation that decided to give Armstrong’s cycling team close to $35 million dollars in sponsorship money, this would of course, never be an issue. So this clearly begs the question: Why is the federal government spending tax-payer money to pay professional athletes? Also, is this the same agency that is on the verge of bankruptcy and constantly asking for more money and to raise the cost of stamps?

I am not, by any means, naive to the fact that our government is full of scandal. I suppose the reason why I am most disturbed by this story is because our country is in trouble. Words like debt ceiling and recession and inflation are thrown around every day, and this is how our government agencies are conducting business? But please, let’s nitpick every cent spent on the needy and the elderly and our Veterans. Never mind the fact that the elderly have paid into Social Security (which has become little more than a Ponzi scheme) and that our Veterans pay with their mental health and their limbs (and even their lives) and that the poor have nothing to give. When are the people going to stand up for themselves and demand real change? Maybe I am too worked up to see this clearly…any thoughts?