Saturday, October 24, 2020

Wipe The Mirror

Wipe The Mirror 
By Vaishu Koduri

I couldn’t bring myself to wipe the mirror. What was waiting for me when I did? A confirmation of the truth I have always known? The truth that refuses to wipe itself from my skin, my bones, my soul. The truth that twists in agony when I ask it for its name, the truth that does not waver when my hand waves above. I could not shoo it away like the other lingering thoughts that sat in my head. It stayed, the elusive beast hurling itself between the folds of brain matter that pleaded it to reveal itself. It didn’t. It wouldn’t.

Against my better judgment, which screamed in glorious anticipation of a change, I dragged two of my fingers, the fickle instruments of torture, across the glass, slowly as to avoid any semblance of surprise. The long-awaited screech wasn’t much of a screech, it was a lowly cry of sympathy, it knew I would be disappointed. While the rest remained a blurry illusion, I saw my lips as clear as day. More puffy and red than I remembered, they contorted into an awkward smile, a means to tell me that perhaps this time, they were real. The smile continued its expansion across my face as I moved my hand towards it. 

I felt nothing. I could see them, they were visible in my line of sight, but my fingers lied to me. Their deceit had failed me again. The lips back, flipping again to their usual linear frame. I couldn’t comprehend why I saw nothing or felt nothing. It was blank, cool to the touch, but I could not feel the mouth that had given me so much to say.

I tried again, this time reaching for an understanding that the rest of me was somehow still there. I wiped the glass, slowly tracing the dark contour of my face, or at least where I thought it was. Turns out I had missed, aimed a little too high and to the right of where I had always been picturing it. It figures that I would be crooked. Again I lifted my hand from the glass and felt- rather tried to feel, my skin. I felt nothing. Each mile's deep crevasse and every breathtaking mountain I had seen from afar before had simply faded into nothingness when I touched my face. When the soft part of my fingers made an attempt to caress the face it had so thoroughly hated, that it had so fondly wanted to rid of every humanizing imperfection. I was out of touch. I felt bare, exposed, as though the very thing shielding me from insecurity had been stripped from my body. The layer that had heard and absorbed the verbal abuse I had received from those around me. It stored in the form of white pus, ready to explode and become a scar, a permanent reminder that I would never be able to escape the taunts that encircle my every thought and reaction. This layer was gone. Now it was my conscience they would hurt. It was me, beyond the surface, they could pick. The underneath, the hidden, the vulnerable, the protected, the sheltered could become the new shield. What if this shield had disappeared too? Who would I be then?

The last of the steam was beginning to clear. The only part of my face I had left to reveal stared directly at me, though I could not see it. It was a sense of divine irony that my eyes remained the object of my fearful fixation, yet they were not visible. I reached out again, the heel of my palm ready to drag itself anxiously across the glass. My fingers were no longer in control, they had cheated me out of myself, fooled me an experience the others had. What was this for them? They wiped the mirror, knowing damn well who would be staring back at them. They wouldn’t, couldn’t imagine that maybe it would be another face that greeted their action. They wouldn’t embed themselves in this puddle of misconstrued agony because they were certain.

I’m distracted. I knew the Goliath in front of me, and I was by no means a David. I was a combination of messily arranged flesh and bones, and it was a feat of precise engineering. My task was simple: wipe the mirror. Wipe the mirror and I got my face for the day. I received my momentary identity. Wipe the mirror. 

My hand approached the glass again, swifter than I imagined. Much swifter than I imagined. I had shattered the mirror. I was supposed to wipe the mirror. It’s funny that I missed my eyes. The crack in the mirror was closer to my ears than it was my eyes. They were still there, the last of the fog was fading. I rooted myself in immense worry, ready to confront those dreadful eyes. I wondered if they would cry when they saw themselves, they were quite fragile. More fragile than the glass, at least. When there was no more fog, no more steam, I still couldn’t see. I had been blinded. I moved my hand again towards where I guessed my eye sockets would be, this time, I felt them. They were there, every lash in its fine complexity, the hooded lid, and the little pools of tears collecting beneath them. Looking back at the mirror, something was now visible.
A crimson red outline of where my eyes ought to be.

Analysis

This short story is about body dysmorphia, it is an emotional journey that takes place in a singular moment in time. Body Dysmorphia is characterized by a preoccupation with one or more perceived defects or flaws in one’s appearance, which is unnoticeable to others or only slightly noticeable. It is a condition that affects an estimated 2% of the general population and can lead to more serious consequences like depression, severe anxiety, and/or suicide. The story reflects the pain and uncertainty an individual faces as a result of their emotions. The repetition of “wipe the mirror” represents the solemn frequency of the character’s anger and confusion by showing the difficulty of doing a task that others might not even consider. The first person view of the story pulls each reader into the place of the character, allowing them to visualize the scene for themselves and trace the reflections of their own appearance. 


References:



Thursday, October 15, 2020

Budgeting and Compound Interest

Budgeting and Compound Interest 

By Hanson Feng

Senior Business and Economics Columnist

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is not provided by a certified financial advisor or financial planner. Returns expressed in this article are not guaranteed and The Written Revolutions takes zero responsibility for lost capital. Please speak with a certified financial advisor, investment planner, or financial planner regarding products best fit for you.


Let’s Explore Different Budget Options


Let’s talk about money! No matter how ‘taboo’ this discussion is, it is crucial to discuss this with people you’re close with.


You need to build a budget that suits your needs and long-term goals


We’re going to discuss a few popular ways people like to budget. But most financial advisories agree on the following things; 


  • Never spend more than 30% of your income on housing

  • Consumer debt like credit cards must be paid off in full at the end of each month

  • A budget needs to be written

  • Always have an Emergency Fund – as an adult, this should last you for at least six months of living expenses 

Pay Yourself First:

How do I budget? 100% of my income is disposable income, no bills, loan payments, or other financial obligations. I use the pay yourself first method – I know how much I’m being paid as I’m on a salaried payroll sequence, I know when and how much each paycheque will be. On a spreadsheet I set aside a certain amount of my paycheque that will be saved, the rest will fulfill my wants. When you become an adult, this works the same way, you put money into your savings before you pay any bills. Here’s an example of what that looks like (do this on excel, the formulas make it easier):


Pay Period

PayDay

Gross Pay

EI

Income Tax

Net Pay

Savings

Chequing

%

Comment

June 1 – 24

June 30

$3500

$57

$260

$3183

$2900

$283

91%

$1500 in ETF, $1400 in GIC

June 25 – July 24

July 31

$3750

$67

$310

$3337

$3000

$337

90%

$2000 in ETF, $1000 in Emergency Fund

July 25 – Aug 26

August 30

$2800

$39

$197

$2564

$2300

$264

90%

$1800 in ETF, $1000 in GIC

YTD

2020

$10,050

$163

$767

$9,084

$8200

$884

90%



*For illustrative purposes only, numbers are entered at random*


This spreadsheet should reflect your paystubs issued at work. This also comes in handy during income tax filing as all your information is written clearly. 


PROS: You make financial decisions when your brain is in a mode which isn’t impulsive, you can run your chequing account to zero on or after payday without fear as money has been set aside.


CONS: This doesn’t break down where your spending money is going – housing, bills, loan payments, etc. 


50/20/30 Method:


This method is very popular as it was created by Elizabeth Warren. The method details that 50% should be spent on needs, 30% on wants, and 20% on savings. There’re multiple ways to track this type of budget; via a spreadsheet by manually logging every transaction, via an app by tagging transactions, or by having three envelopes and only spending in cash. 


Example:


Your take-home pay is $6,500 a month. Remember your 50/20/30 is calculated on your net pay, not your gross pay. 


  • Needs: Maximum spent is $3250

    • Rent and utilities: $1700

    • Insurance: $200

    • Groceries and one meal out a week: $600

    • Student Loan Payments: $350

    • Connectivity: $200

    • Misc. Needs: $200

      • Remember needs aka no clothes, but laundry detergent and shower gel

  • Wants: $1950

  • Savings: $1300


PROS: It’s pre-calculated for you and there’s no reshaping the budget every month.


CONS: This strategy doesn’t take into account your income. For example, it doesn’t work if you make $18,000 on welfare with two kids but also doesn’t make financial sense if you’re a single millennial earning $540,000 a year after taxes. I also personally view 20% savings to be very low. 


This idea has been taken into different types of contexts as well, each with their own ratios; 70/30, 60/40, 80/20, etc.


Whatever your budget is, it should always reflect your long- and short-term goals financially while allowing you to enjoy your paycheque to a certain degree. 


Want more budgeting advice? Check out The Financial Diet’s blog and YouTube channel on an adult look at finances. Here’s a great video about budgeting: How To Make Your First Budget (At Any Income)


Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Beirut Explosion

The Beirut Explosion And How The Government Is To Blame

By Badra Abbas and Mohamed Ahmed 


On August 4th, 2020, a massive explosion ripped through the Lebanese capital of Beirut. Over 200 people were killed and thousands of others were injured. Lebanese authorities have since stated that the blast was the result of the detonation of 2,700 tonnes of ammonium nitrate that was stored unsafely at the Port of Beirut. The explosion destroyed thousands of homes and buildings and has left the nation in shambles. It demolished at least 26 hospitals and clinics, 170 000 apartments, and 120 schools that are attended by   50 000 students. Apart from the devastating human cost, it destroyed the Port of Beirut which accounts for 80% of all imports into Lebanon. It is the main way that food, medicine, and goods get into the country. The port is also of extreme economic and logistic importance as it is connected to 300 other ports around the world and generates over 250 million dollars in fees alone. The port was also next to the Lebanese strategic grain reserve which held three months' worth of wheat for the country. The damage to infrastructure that the blast had, has devastated the already crumbling Lebanese economy while also having dire effects on the health and wellbeing of the Lebanese people. The United Nations warns that the situation could turn into a humanitarian crisis if food and medical equipment are not delivered immediately. In the aftermath of this devastating event, public outcry, and a massive loss of confidence country-wide has led to the resignation of the government. This is the second government to leave office this year after mass protests led to the removal of Saad Hariri’s government in January. 


Protests have erupted in the wake of the explosion, but the Lebanese people have been protesting since long before. They have been protesting for years against the corruption and negligence of the country’s leaders. This is just considered to be the latest in a long line of incidents that have resulted from the irresponsibility of the Lebanese government, shattering public faith in the future of their country and any reform. Within days of the blast, there were tens of thousands of people who took to the streets to show their frustration with the sectarian government of Lebanon. These people are not just calling for a new government, but a new government system. The country’s youth have also begun rebuilding their city, launching internet campaigns to raise funds and fix broken homes and infrastructure. As a result of the deep-rooted corruption, there has been massive inflation in the country’s economy, along with a blow from the Coronavirus pandemic, and now the explosion. This has effectively destroyed the lives of many as a large portion of the population is unable to afford food and basic necessities, and some are so severely injured that returning to work will take time. Corruption is the largest problem in the eyes of the people, it was the largest problem before the blast and is seen as an issue that led to the blast. Many of Lebanon’s political leaders knew that there were thousands of tonnes of ammonium nitrate stored unsafely in a civilian port in one of the most populated areas in the country, and nobody did anything about it. In addition, this is also not the first time that ammonium nitrate has exploded and cost lives, one example being a 1947 explosion in Texas which costed 500 lives. 


The main reason why corruption is so prevalent in Lebanon is the sectarian government system which was strengthened by the Taif Accords. These accords were an agreement made to reunite Lebanon and end the civil war in 1989. It divided up power between sect based political parties and this division created a system that was and still is fueled by fear and patronage. The people rely on their sectarian political party to provide them with basic services such as medical care, food donations, and financial donations. This has divided up the Lebanese people, infiltrating every aspect of their societies, even determining if some got jobs or not. Since the state is weakened, for a multitude of reasons, the people who are in need of these services rely even more on their sectarian leaders. This creates an environment in which the public is required in many cases to look past corruption and negligence by their leaders because their lives very much depend on them. It was widely known that these leaders were corrupt, but until around October of 2019 nobody was able to do anything to stop them. That was when taxes went up again, and many felt that their leaders had finally gone too far. The Lebanese bureaucracy wasn’t just massive, but also ineffective. To illustrate, consider a World Bank study from 2005 that discovered that Lebanon required 25 percent more in funds to achieve the same health results as countries that had the best practices. In 2018, Lebanon’s literacy rate was around 95%, further proving that the potential of this country has been strangled by the lack of open and focussed leadership. 


The country’s governments and political elite have been condemned for the deep-rooted corruption that has crippled the country. While outgoing Prime Minister Hassan Diab had run on promises to end the corruption, on August 10th he conceded his defeat. The Diab administration was marked with bribery, embezzlement, extortion, vote-buying, and nepotism. In 2019, the Lebanese government was ranked 137th of 180 nations on the Corruption Perceptions Index. Regardless of the political party, there is no regulation and transparency in Lebanon’s political system. While Lebanon has a sectarian government system, there are two major political alliances that are backed by rival foreign powers. There is the March 14 alliance which was formed by former Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s block and has the support of Saudi Arabia and the United States. The other alliance, March 8, includes the Maronite Christian President, Michel Aoun, and his political party as well as Hezbollah. Hezbollah is really just a proxy for Iran to manipulate and cripple Lebanon by draining the country of funds. The March 8 alliance is backed by Syria and Iran. These alliances are often viewed as a way for Saudi Arabia and Iran to grow their influence in the Middle East and a way for them to continue their rivalry and fight proxy wars. Many believe that this is the root of much of the corruption in Lebanon as many of the powerful political leaders use these alliances to grow their personal wealth. Much of the private property in Beirut is owned by either former politicians or people who are close to politicians, this keeps power and wealth within the upper echelons of Lebanese society. 


There is a lot of damage in Lebanon that needs to be rebuilt in the wake of the explosion: hospitals, schools, the port, etc. French President Emmanuel Macron was at the head of an international donor conference which raised a total of 252.7 million euros as aid (France has contributed 30 million euros). These are much-needed millions for the immense reconstruction that needs to be completed, especially due to the port's economic significance to Lebanon. However, there are some legitimate concerns about who the money will really benefit due to the country’s long history of corruption. The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, wants an audit of Lebanon’s national bank. She does this with the intention of ensuring that the money will not be diverted from the people who need it the most, the people who could be crushed by debts long into the future if reforms are not made. The purpose of this aid is to alleviate humanitarian issues and to help the people of Lebanon. Rebuilding trust in a future government, getting the people of Lebanon back on their feet, is the best possible use of this money, not blind charity. 


The blast at the Port of Beirut has devastated the nation. The general consensus on the matter is that the blast and its horrific human cost was a result of the negligence of the Lebanese government and the people are fed up. For once, the public needs leadership unburdened by the interests of others, to lift the country out of crisis. With the resignation of the parliament, Lebanon’s future is unclear, its economy has crumbled, its currency is worthless, and its resilient people are suffering. The people are feeling abandoned, but they haven’t given up, instead, they are rebuilding their communities together, creating hope together. Looking in from the outside, all anybody can do is help them rebuild, allow the people to choose the course their country must take for them. There are no simple solutions or easy fixes here, but for those who would like to help, we have provided links where you can choose to donate to help those in Lebanon who were affected by the blast and are struggling. Stay strong, Lebanon. 


How to help:


Donate - Help Us Save Lives

Islamic Relief Worldwide

United Nations World Food Programme

Crowdfunding for Lebanon


References:


{تعاشب شاي}(425) مين اللي فجر لبنان؟

عبدالله الشريف | حلقة 12 | تفجيرات بيروت | الموسم الرابع 

Lebanon

Lebanon parliament approves sweeping powers for the army

Analysis: Diab was meant to fail. He did it well

‘We need new blood’: Lebanese demand change after gov’t quits

Massive explosion rips through Beirut

How will Lebanon ever recover? | Start Here

Beirut explosion: Lebanon's government resigns as public anger mounts

Lebanon: Why the country is in crisis

The Corrupt Political Class That Broke Lebanon

Lebanon Must Root Out Corruption to Fix Its Economy

Lebanon profile - Timeline

Lebanon parliament approves sweeping powers for the army

Beirut port: irreplaceable importance in the middle of Lebanon's geography


Thursday, October 8, 2020

It Was Dinner Time

  It Was Dinner Time

By: Kishi Akinsunmade 


It was dinner time. 


I was eating my weight in despair,

At least what I thought it meant


It was not dinner time, 

It was celebration time


Apparently, it was time for fireworks

Or so it seemed


It was not celebration time,

It was laughter time 


Entertainment was scarce

Except for the grumbles of Nora


It was not laughter time,

It was dread


Maybe the sound of the rapture,

Have I missed God 

Have I seen God


It was not real

It was fake


What kind of animation

has my nation been able to procure?

Where is the camera

Am I to run with all my stamina?


It was not fake

It was …


Nora stopped,

Why did she stop?

My annoying sister 

Hello?

I miss you 

I just want to see you

Heaven is nothing without you.


It was not dinner time.


It was death.


Author’s Note


This poem addresses the Beirut Explosion. It delves into the perspective of a fictional character who lost their life because of this explosion. The explosion occurred on August 4th and began with little explosions like fireworks taking place before the biggest and most devastating blast went off. Many people died and others were left orphaned, homeless, and sick. This man-made explosion put things into perspective for most. Many have had to readjust the definition of their norm because things as basic as dinner becomes a privilege. This should not be from fear of death but the appreciation of life. I wrote this poem to remind us to be grateful.



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