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Culture of fat

November 19, 2003 Articles, Princeton writings
On a flight from Tokyo to New York this past summer I read a very illuminating article about the world’s new epidemic: obesity. The commentary talked about how the fat culture is creeping in to poor countries, and how, in fact, the poor are even more susceptible to this problem. Mainly, the article articulated the point that the growing fast food culture has started producing an upsurge in unhealthy people. Even in places such as Ethiopia and Uganda, weight-loss clinics have begun to pop up in response to the changing waistlines of the populace. What caught my attention, however, were the figures for the United States and other developed countries. The U.S. has the highest incidence of obesity among all industrialised nations. In the U.S., over half of the adult population is said to be overweight, and a third are obese. The metric used for these numbers was the body mass index indicator, which is calculated as one’s weight in kilograms divided by one’s height in metres squared: BMI = kg/m2. A BMI in the range of (19, 25) is considered healthy, whereas a BMI over 30 is considered obese. (Women generally like the lower range and guys usually like…

Activism includes work for others

October 15, 2003 Articles, Princeton writings
Many people say that activism on campus is nonexistent. Without a doubt the Princeton climate does not provoke the kind of activism that is seen on other campuses like Harvard or Berkeley. Maybe we as ambitious Princeton students are so focused on "success" that we are too busy to care about other peoples' problems. Or maybe because we are smug in knowing that we attend an elite university and feel that the world should call on us. Nonetheless, every now and then you will see people demonstrating in front of Frist, or in the dining halls trying to collect signatures for a petition, etc. What little activism there is on campus, however, normally tends to be activism in one's own backyard. Now I certainly should not be criticizing anyone that takes time from his or her schedule to promote a good cause. But what bothers me is that there are not enough people who care about their fellow human beings, as a whole. Yes, the world is a messed up place and we need to focus our battles. But if we choose to ignore matters that do not directly affect us, then how are we any different from perpetrators of…

Acceptance of gay pride means more than passive toleration

October 14, 2003 Articles, Princeton writings
One of the highlights of my summer was attending the Pride Parade in Toronto, Canada. However, when I mention to Princetonians that I took part, I am often met with questions of why I would attend, given that I myself am heterosexual. My reply has always been, "Why not?" The parade is fun and is attended by over a million revelers, most of whom are, like myself, straight. Yet even as I explain this point I am also often met with silly comments, which are usually meant in jest but speak of the overall lack of comfort that many here at Princeton have with the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered community. Perhaps it is because I grew up in Toronto (the world's most multicultural city — yes, even more so than New York) and I grew up with very tolerant values, but for whatever reason going to Pride was something that I did not have to wrestle with: "Hey I'm back in Toronto; when and where is Pride?" In all honesty, however, I was not always very open to the LGBT community. Growing up in a Chinese household (which tended to be socially conservative) I never did embrace the LGBT…

Being a minority in the West

September 19, 2003 Articles, Princeton writings
I wish I were back in Japan. I went to the land of the rising sun this past summer to visit several friends and to explore a place that has always enchanted me. Although Murphy’s Law applied on the trip (let’s not go there), I hold no gripes against Japan; indeed, I really liked the place. Despite everything that went wrong on the trip, I gained a new perspective on being a minority in the West. Growing up as a minority in a Western society poses many challenges. Many people often remark that minorities growing up in the West face an identity crisis. Although true for some, in my case, I would certainly say that I had no such crisis. I grew up in Toronto, Canada, and I say very proudly that Toronto is the most tolerant and diverse city in the world. It is still far from perfect, but I miss the social acceptance of Toronto now that I am living in conservative, homogeneous Princeton. Even New York City seems to be lacking something. In any case, the overt racism of the United States is something I find unsettling, although it is still more progressive here than most other…

Travel outside your comfort zone

Summer is almost here. Many Princeton students will be using this time to travel. When students here speak of travelling they often mean to places like Florida or California. Or if they are going abroad, they typically mean to Mexico or (western) Europe, and these trips usually include stays in hotels, and time spent on the beach and other touristy areas. Not all Americans travel like this; however, for anyone who has ever backpacked — and especially outside of Europe — they can attest that Americans are in short supply. Indeed, in my encounters I have met many Germans, Britons, Australians, Israelis, New Zealanders, Japanese and Canadians, but few Americans. A traveller whom I befriended while hitchhiking through Atlantic Canada remarked that when he travelled he was usually able to distinguish between Americans and Canadians. "Americans," he said, confirming a stereotype amongst backpackers, "do not stray far from the beaten path and prefer the comfort of a hotel." There is an unfortunate consequence because of this phenomenon. It is much harder to appreciate the suffering of people when you have not had a chance to interact with them. I believe there would have been much greater protest to the war…




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