Tag Archives: social justice

Facing Alcoholism:

The Socioeconomic Survival of the Cheyenne River Sioux


  • Belinda Floyd
  • Monique Madison
  • Lisa Meador
  • Cheryl Nelson
  • April Oldenburg
  • Michael F. Schadone
  • Caprise Snyder
  • Melissa Torrey
  • Carlos Vargas


Alcoholism is an individual and social disease that affects people all over the world. It has varying degrees of severity based on the amount and length of consumption. There are risks associated with the use of alcohol that vary from social consequences to physical health risks (World Health Organization [WHO], 2010). Alcoholism has been linked to various acts of crime more often than illicit drugs (Lovekin, 2002). The causes of alcoholism vary, and include poverty, use as an escape mechanism, genetics, and societal pressure. Some people choose to use alcohol because of pressure from family and friends, and some just want to experiment. There are also some that just want to get away from painful emotions (Medicine.Net, Inc., 2010). Poverty is also often cited as a leading cause of alcoholism (Cedra, 2010).

Because of their ability to negatively impact those around them, those addicted to alcohol should not be ignored but rather, to be socially responsible, we must recognize the fact that their illness needs to be treated as a disease . World wide alcohol is related to the cause of 2.3 million pre-mature deaths, and is the 5th leading cause of premature disability and death. It is also the causative factor in over 4 percent of the worlds burden of disease (WHO, 2010).

Very few communities are immune to the problem of alcoholism and the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is no exception. Many tragedies have occurred from their alcohol addiction, including homicide, suicide, motor vehicle fatalities, and increased violence (Shepard, 2007). We will explore the causes and effects of alcoholism and its impact on the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. We will then make recommendations, and propose solutions to minimize the occurrence and negative effects of alcoholism in the community.

The Situation Today

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is a Native American tribe located in South Dakota. They have a history thousands of years old, and great pride in the traditions of the community. They honor Mother Nature and the land that they live on, which has been a part of their culture from its beginnings. Like most Native American tribes they have had their ways of life tested by the world around them, and have uncountable injustices thrust upon them (Milbrodt, 2002; Swenson, 1994; White, 1978). The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe has built a history and a homeland that they would like to preserve long into the future. While they fight to keep traditions alive and remain solid as a culture they also fight the modern difficulties that ensue (French & Hornbukle, 1980; Mizrach, 1999).

According to a report by the Department of Interior, Ziebach County, which is home to the Cheyenne River Indian Reservation, has a poverty rate of 54% (as cited in Ortman, 2010). The jobless rate among tribal members is 88% (Ortman, 2010). This tribe, like many others, is plagued by “alcoholism, suicide, crime and a sense of abandonment” (Ortman, 2010). This area was also hit by devastating storms during the past winter. The Chairman of the tribe, Joe Brings Plenty, questions why it must take a disaster of this magnitude to get the attention of a government that he feels has “broken its treaty obligations to care for Indians who gave up their land to make way for white settlers” (Ortman, 2010, para. 3) . It is our aim to investigate conditions and issues that surround this tribe. These very conditions and issues may well be at the root of the high rate of alcoholism among the members of this tribe. Alcoholism is a large social problem in the tribe, and finding ways to alleviate and educate members is an important need. Alcoholism is not a singular disease; it affects the culture and traditions as a whole (French & Hornbukle, 1980). It can compromise the future success of a person and the group they belong to (A.D.A.M. Inc, 2009).

It will be our goal to determine what conditions led to the alcoholism problem now experienced by the tribe, and what information, help, and programs are available, and to build upon that knowledge to provide whatever assistance we can with the disease of alcoholism in the tribe.


Poverty is both the cause and consequence of many of the problems that Native American communities face, like alcohol addiction. It is a vicious cycle which the current economic climate only makes worse. The standard response to poverty is economic development. However, poverty in Native American communities cannot be separated from its historical context. Native Americans live in places chosen for them by the American government, the result of an invasion designed to take over their lands. The Cheyenne Sioux Tribe website refers to the creation of the American West as we know it “after most Native American peoples were ‘safely confined’ on reservations” (Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, 2009, para. 1). In time that overt hostility has turned into neglect, while poverty has become severely entrenched. Contrary to popular belief, most tribes are not wealthy from gaming.

While history may be a root cause of poverty in Native American communities, we are powerless to change history. We can only address the present and future, while acknowledging the past. Therefore, the development solutions that we recommend acknowledge the unique traditions and history of the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. In Development as Freedom, economist Amartya Sen (2000) talks about freedom as an end and a way to create development. In this context, freedom is more than being free of negative circumstances, like freedom from oppression. Also critical to his notion of development, is the development of capabilities within individuals and communities – the freedom to do. In this case, our recommendation is based on economic development that permits the Sioux the freedom to live consistently within their beliefs and traditions.

Connection to the land is essential to Native American thought (Rodgers, n.d.). Creating economic development opportunities that are consistent with this connection allows the Sioux to live a holistic life, break out of the cycle of poverty and escape some of the pressures that lead to alcoholism. We recommend an initiative to support Sioux businesses that uphold traditional principles, such as the creation of a line of organic food products, the manufacture of biodegradable packaging or the marketing of solar energy. Also critical to the success of this effort would be encouraging education in relevant fields, and the establishment of high wage jobs that persuade young people to stay on the reservation.


When people talk about escaping from things that are going on in their lives, there’s only so far that they can get away from those things or problems. That is, people can physically remove themselves from a stressful area, like a home fraught with arguing family members, but they cannot physically remove the memories of those arguments from their mind. Many experiences make people want to escape or run away from or forget about those experiences, and there are a variety of ways that people attempt to do this. Those methods of escape can be both positive and negative; some people meditate to relieve stress, while others exercise. Unfortunately, one of the most common, yet severely negative escape routes involves the use and abuse of alcohol. Because of its effects on the person consuming the alcohol, such as lowered inhibitions and the euphoric effect which can seem to alleviate stress and worry, alcohol often succeeds in providing an escape that some people look for, but only temporarily. Afterwards, however, the stress and worry can return, propelling the user to consume more alcohol to prolong the escape, which often progresses alcohol use to alcohol abuse.

Native American communities are beset with a multitude of problems, which include poverty, racism and discrimination, high rates of unemployment, issues maintaining their ethnic identity in a country with a different dominant culture, depression, and suicide (Martins, Widoe, Porter, Chebon, & McNeil, 2006). While the aforementioned social problems do not constitute an exhaustive list of problems faced by many Native Americans, they certainly provide insight into the kinds of problems that some Native Americans may attempt to escape from when using or abusing alcohol. With poverty topping the list of social conditions that plague Native American communities, it is not surprising that between 2005 and 2008 36% of Native Americans aged 18 or older living in poverty binged on alcohol compared to the national average of 25% (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Office of Applied Studies, 2010). Unfortunately, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is not immune to these social problems.

Attempting to reduce the high rate of alcohol abuse as a means of escape within the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, requires one to tackle the problems that the members of this community are seemingly attempting to escape from. Poverty, unemployment, and discrimination seem like insurmountable obstacles to overcome when trying to eradicate those social conditions that tend to lead to alcohol abuse as a means of escape or relief from stress and worry. With the current U.S. economy being unstable, poverty and unemployment have stricken several U.S. communities, not just Native Americans. With that said, solutions like creating jobs and improving the economy will take years for the positive effects to be felt. While this is a long-term goal, which will prove to eradicate poverty, alternative means of combating this problem are available, and may produce good results that are not contingent upon something that is out of the individual’s control, such as the economy. Promoting Alcoholics Anonymous programs, psychological counseling, and group therapy are some options for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribes. The concern, however, is whether these solutions, typical of the dominant American culture, will be accepted or rejected by a community, which strives hard to maintain its separate and historical identity. Certainly, culture and tradition will have to play a role.


The disease of alcoholism can begin for many reasons (A.D.A.M. Inc., 2009). Factors range from genetics, poverty, familial and family patterns, and pressure from outside sources, such as peer pressure. In this section we will look at the link between outside pressure, and alcoholism in the Native American.

A person’s environment can have a dramatic link to the cause of alcoholism (A.D.A.M. Inc., 2009). A child may grow up with alcohol around them and see family members drinking and it may become familial (Milbrodt, 2002). A child may feel like it is a normal thing that adults do, and grow up emulating that family picture. It can make a child more prone to becoming an alcoholic later in life, because they have not been exposed to something different, and the peer pressure is harder to ignore. As a child growing up around the over- consumption of alcohol, it becomes harder to ignore peer pressure as they get older, even if it is something they have seen as a negative family pattern (Milbrodt, 2002). A article in the Journal of American Indian Education, linked peer pressure, alcoholism and family structure to illustrate the problem.

They are products of a society where alcohol abuse is not considered deviant behavior […] where poverty is the norm, where teenage pregnancy is sanctioned, where parents and relatives are often in trouble with the law, and where peer pressure takes the form of family pressures as well. (Bowker, 1992, “Results of the study” para. 5)

Although the causes of alcoholism are complex, there is a great deal of research determining how societal and peer pressure develop into such a damaging condition (A.D.A.M. Inc., 2009). Many of the factors that cause a dependence on alcohol include anger and dissatisfaction in life, unrelieved stress, and emotional difficulties, as well as social and peer pressure (A.D.A.M. Inc., 2009). Some people choose to use alcohol because of social factors such as pressure from their family, and others may feel peer pressure from their friends. Parents and family members may not realize the damage that alcohol can do, and how it can affect their family relations. Sometimes family has the power to make people feel the need for alcohol. Sometimes family members tend to criticize their own family members, which may lead the person to drinking. Sometimes consistent arguments, as well as influence from friends may lead to heavy drinking. The factors are numerous, but in the arena of stimulus from an outside source, the causes stem from pressure around the person deciding to drink.

Alcoholism is a serious problem. It is the leading cause of unintentional deaths (French & Hornbuckle, 1908). Children are affected by the alcoholic parent’s behavior. Sometimes this may lead to child abuse or child negligence (ChildAbuse.com, 2010). Family members of alcoholics often feel embarrassment, sadness and fear of their love one (Parsons, 2003). Children of alcoholic parents struggle with depression and confusion, often not knowing if their loved one is somewhere hurt (Parsons, 2003). There are times that family members become fearful of their love ones. Alcoholics may become violent to their family members. Children sometimes blame themselves for their parent’s drinking (Parsons, 2003).

Anxiety of Identity

In a historical overview of Native Americans it can be seen that loss of cultural identity, leading to low self esteem and identity anxiety, is a contributing factor in the high rates of alcoholism among this culture (French & Hornbuckle, 1980). Teresa Milbrodt (2002) writes that “Native Americans have been put at high risk for alcoholism due to a history that they cannot forget” (p. 7). She shows that the Lakota people have suffered a loss of culture through abuses of Native Americans by white settlers and governmental policies spanning hundreds of years. Current conditions are a result of past events that have created a breakdown of the traditional structure of the tribe. Changes such as federally run boarding schools that the children were required to attend, changes in the traditional gender roles, and shifts in family traditions have left the tribe culturally adrift.

Many of the students who were sent to these federal boarding schools returned to the reservations feeling ashamed of their cultural heritage. They then migrated to urban areas where they felt equally out of place. In their eyes they “had no place in any society” (Milbrodt, 2002, p. 8).

Gender roles also underwent severe changes when the Native Americans were forced onto reservations. Men were no longer able to hunt, and the government even tried to outlaw spiritual practices such as ceremonies, dances and warrior societies. Men felt unable to provide for their families. The hunt and the ceremonies also determined a man’s status within the tribe. Again, the changes in tribal structure left members feeling unsure of their place in society. Confined to the reservations, men “lost their status and cultural identity” (Milbrodt, 2002, p. 10).

Government policies also effected the family traditions. Policies were implemented to restrict travel and tribal members were unable to visit family and friends, which was an important way of keeping traditional stories and history alive, as well as reinforcing kinship identity. These family traditions provided an important support system. Tribal members note that when the family system is not strong enough, members do not get the support they need; “with the loss of family came the loss of the identity” (Milbrodt, 2002, p. 12).

History has, through the destruction of the social system, led to a lack of identity within the Lakota culture. It has been noted that “this loss of cultural identity is also one of the major contributions to the high rates of alcoholism on reservations” (Milbrodt, 2002, p. 14).

Underlying Issues

Alcoholism and related disorders are directly impacted by socioeconomic status, educational level and rates of unemployment (Shiraev & Levy, 2010). The Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation is an impoverished reservation in Zwiebach and Dewey Counties in South Dakota. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that Zwiebach’s poverty rate in 2008 was 54%, while the rate for Dewey was slightly lower at 38% (as cited in Ortman, 2010). The are many possible factors that contribute to this high rate of poverty.

The unemployment rate is extremely high at 88% (as cited in Ortman, 2010). Jobs are scarce in these counties, which are located some distance from urban areas. The infrastructure, the water and electrical systems, throughout the reservation are outdated and failing. This limits new growth, and therefore also limits new job opportunities. This infrastructure has been further impacted by the severe storms of the past winter, leaving the community even more distressed. Unlike many other reservations the reservation does not offer gambling, which provides many job opportunities for other reservations (Ortman, 2010).

According to Education Officials the extreme poverty of the reservations is impacting student success. The graduation rate among Indian students is only about 30%, as compared to the overall graduation rate throughout South Dakota of 75%. This is attributed to the poor physical condition of schools. Also of concern is the lack of qualified teachers, as well as outdated texts and limited supplies (Brokaw, 2010).

While all of these may be contributing factors in the issue of alcoholism, it is also important to look at the correlation aspect of this cycle. It is hard to determine which factor is causing which. Alcoholism is a vicious cycle that is hard to break. Does the poverty rate lead to alcoholism or does the alcohol rate contribute to the poverty level? Black Elk (2010), of the Oglala Lakota, describes the values of the Lakota nation as a circle:

You have always noticed that everything an Indian does is in a circle and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round…The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so is everything where power moves. (p. 6)

The cycle of poverty and alcoholism is one which we would like to help break.

Solution Proposal

According to Martins et al. (2006), “Native Americans have endured social, racial, and economic oppression but have persevered despite these struggles” (para. 39). Native Americans have experienced discrimination, oppression, disease, enslavement, and war, since the first European settlers arrived in North America. The negative treatment that Native Americans have been exposed to has created negative psychological effects that tend to be transmitted across generations, which creates a stronger cultural bond but promotes isolationist attitudes towards the majority culture, causing separation and marginalization. Co-opting the stresses of previous generations when they themselves are faced with oppression or marginalization, Native Americans, because of their unique cultural history, may suffer a form of intergenerational post-traumatic stress disorder. Some, however, are able to succeed in assimilation and integration, but this outcome requires effort and energy to maintain the acculturation. Native American youth who leave home to attend college tend to exhibit generalized anxiety, more so than those youths who attend college closer to home. This may be a manifestation of anxiety of identity when relating to the majority culture (Allen, 1973; Bowker, 1992; Martins et al., 2006, Milbrodt, 2002).

Native Americans are prone to certain health problems more than are other segments of the population. For example, there are high rates of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and alcoholism among Native Americans. The rate of type 2 diabetes is four times the national average for American Indian elders, affecting one in five. Consistent with the general population, however, heart disease is the leading cause of death for Native Americans. In comparison to that of other racial and ethnic groups, the life expectancy of Native Americans is appreciably lower. According to the work of Everett Rhoades, reasons for this discrepancy may include poverty, greater risk of interpersonal violence, increased abuse of substances, vehicular accidents, and greater rates of disease (e.g. diabetes). (Martins et al., 2006, para. 19)

Native Americans share several mental health risks due to common sociocultural factors, such as poverty, poor health care access, and the isolation and lack of opportunity felt living on some of the reservations (Han et al., 1994; Martins et al., 2006, Milbrodt, 2002). The most common mental disorder among both children and adult Native Americans is depression, raising the risk of suicide tremendously, especially with concomitant substance abuse (French & Hornbuckle, 1980; Martins et al., 2006; Milbrodt, 2002; Ogden, Specter, & Hill, 1970).

Although the strong cultural and ethnic identity shared by Native Americans may contribute to stress and depression, participation in cultural and ceremonial activities may prove to be protective against the same stress and depression (Martins et al., 2006). Additionally, Martins et al. (2006) describes how the strong family emphasis that many Native Americans value may prove protective against psychological distress.

Substance abuse may also be combated with traditional cultural treatments, such as sweat lodges, the Red Road, and the Recovery Medicine Wheel (a 16-step program that utilizes a culturally important facet of circular attribution rather than linear progression; Martins et al., 2006). However, it is important to note that the problem is not entirely socioeconomic. According to growing genetic research, Native Americans are known to posses certain genetic variations that raise their risk of alcohol dependency (Edenburg et al., 2006; Ehlers, 2010; Mulligan et al., 2003; Spillane & Smith, 2007; Wall, Carr, & Ehlers, 2003; Wall, Garcia-Andrade, Thomasson, Carr & Ehlers, 1997). This fact may be detrimental to any substance abuse counseling if neither the counselor nor the patient understand the ramifications.

Economically, Vinje (1996) finds that although, focusing on governmental and private employment rates and promoting natural resource management and manufacturing typically fall short of economic goals, education is a sustainable mainstay requirement for reducing poverty levels. Gaming is certainly a viable option (Feinstein, 1994; Pommersheim, 1984), but as Vinje points out, it frequently “falls short in its objective” (p.427). Expandinging the economy should certainly remain a high priority goal as it will not only create a more comfortable life for those living on the reservation, but it will also decrease the psychological burdens to allow more happiness in their lives (Pickering, 2000; Pommersheim, 1984; Vinje, 1996).


The Sioux are a great people with a rich culture and expansive history. Unfortunately, some of the reservations, specifically the Cheyenne River Sioux reservation, find themselves battling elevated incidences of alcoholism, interpersonal violence, depression, and suicide. We feel that there is no singularity in this problem, and the focus and solution need to be comprehensive in order to be effective.

The Sioux tend to be marginalized, which is a lasting symptom of the intolerances and mistreatment that have been thrust upon them since the European settlement of North America. As the Sioux have been relegated to reservations of land that the United States government felt were of little use to the nation, it is understandable that the Sioux had a difficult time finding economic value in the land that was kept separate from the majority European culture. This, in addition to the misguided attempts at forcing the Sioux into acculturation, has continued to marginalize the Native American tribe to a point where a negative psychology is so pervading as to be transmitted from generation to generation. Depression is now prevalent throughout the Sioux tribe.

In order to provide an escape from the daily strife of a poor economy and lower sense of self, some may feel the need to turn to mind-altering substances. This reliance on drugs and alcohol may provide the psychological relief sought, but it does nothing to better the community and increases the incidences of violence, whether aimed at others or self-directed. Additionally, recent findings have suggested that Native Americans have a predisposition, genetically, to alcoholism. The addiction of alcohol in the company of mental distress usually leads to a singular conclusion: suicide.

As stated, the Sioux have a rich cultural history, and should rely on their knowledge of nature and the traditional values to create comprehensive programs which address these issues holistically (i.e. involving the whole person and their community). These programs, however, should not focus on preventing negative issues so much as they should promote a reacceptance of the traditional values, leading to a maximal appreciation of the life skills required to reinvest themselves in their community. The Sioux concept of family is one that promotes health and stability by encouraging a reliance on not only the community but themselves as well.

With more of the community involved in creating a better life on the reservation, there is a better chance of individual members creating their own personal economies, which in turn will better the economy of the reservation and other reservations surrounding them.

The answer is circular.


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A Reevaluation of Social Responsibility

There are many facets to social responsibility, and it appears to me that many people confuse the social aspects and the responsibility aspects. Merely advocating for social programs without applying a sense of responsibility is dangerous to society however well-intentioned the program might be. After reading other’s thoughts on social responsibility, I find that my views have not changed much, if at all.

American society is guided by rights and responsibilities as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution and its Bill of Rights with the Declaration of independence setting the foundation. As we approach domestic national policies, we should always refer to these documents to guide our actions. In addition, when thinking or acting globally, we should also consider the rights and responsibilities that we enjoy as American citizens and apply them graciously to those abroad.

Domestically, race relations seems to be a continual problem (Banton, 2002). If the approach to this problem simply referred to the founding documents, we would not have furthered the social inequalities by introducing civil rights and affirmative action:

  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967;
  • Air Carriers Access Act of 1989;
  • Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990;
  • Architectural Barriers Act of 1968;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1866;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1964;
  • Civil Rights Act of 1991;
  • Equal Pay Act of 1963;
  • Exec. Order No. 11246, 1965;
  • Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988;
  • Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

It has been argued, according to Fullinwider (1980), that adoption of affirmative action through the legislation of civil rights creates reverse discrimination, or a propensity to overcompensate discriminating against one subset of people by discriminating against another – usually the subset that was perceived to have benefit from the original discrimination. I do admit that the legislation, the public opinion and practices, and the judicial review do not aim to promote inequalities, but as a mere accident, they do. The solution should have been very simple: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” (Declaration of Independence, 1776). By incorporating the virtues that this country was founded upon, there is only one reasonable and responsible expectation of the people within society, and that is to treat all people with respect and dignity. This is my view of how to be socially responsible. Walters (2002) echoes my position and writes:

What is personal social responsibility? Someone who is socially responsible, more often than not, recognizes that his behavior affects others, and holds himself accountable for his actions. The opposite may be someone who automatically blames an external source for his or her troubles, or whose behavior might consistently be perceived by others to be inconsiderate or rude. In a best-case scenario, a socially responsible person endeavors to have a positive effect on others, and enriches her environs. Such a person has the intention and takes action to ensure that his or her behavior makes a positive contribution, or at least is neutral and doesn’t “pollute” others or the social (or actual) atmosphere. (para. 2)

Additionally, there has been much discussion about our society’s role on the global level. What responsibilities do Americans have towards their global partners? No matter if we are discussing local issues, statewide or national issues, or international issues, my response remains the same: so long as you do not infringe on the rights of others, do as you will. This concept is what I believe to be the only logical conclusion when considering the sum of American societal values and responsibilities.

As mentioned, social responsibility can describe both active or passive roles. Civic engagement, on the other hand, is simply being socially active, though not necessarily responsible. Civic engagement, according to Michael Carpini (2010) of the Pew Charitable Trusts, is defined as “individual and collective actions designed to identify and address issues of public concern” (para. 2). These actions, typically honorable and ethical, may cause what I refer to as collateral damage. A good example of this is going green. Many of us appreciate the planet and want no harm to come to our environment, so some have advocated outlawing the use of Edison-type incandescent light bulbs, favoring compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs). In fact, as of 2014, all incandescent light bulbs will be outlawed in the United States (Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007). According to the EnergyStar website (“LightBulbs,” n.d.):

If every American home replaced just one light with a light that’s earned the ENERGY STAR[, or compact fluorescent light bulb], we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars. (para. 1)

Sounds great, but what of the mercury? CFLs rely on a mercury vapor (in addition to argon) within the fluorescent tube, so if the bulb were to break, which they often do, mercury would leak into our environment. Mercury is not poisonous, right? Wrong! The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (2001) recommends an 8-hour time-weighted limit of exposure maximum of 0.025 mg/m3 (or, 25,000 ng/m3). According to a study by the Maine Department of Environmental Protection (2008):

Mercury concentration in the study room air often exceeds the Maine Ambient Air Guideline (MAAG) of 300 nanograms per cubic meter (ng/m3) for some period of time, with short excursions over 25,000 ng/m3, sometimes over 50,000 ng/m3, and possibly over 100,000 ng/m3 from the breakage of a single compact fluorescent lamp. (p. 7)

Many lighting fixtures, including chandeliers, can hold three, four, or more of these bulbs at a time, multiplying the mercury vapor concentration for each bulb broken. This legislation creates a hazardous situation that needlessly endangers lives and restricts our freedom to choose.

In conclusion, we as a society must understand that there are consequences to our actions, and we must take responsibility for our actions. We can certainly have disdain for the status quo as well as envision a Utopian civilization where there is no bad and only good. Unfortunately, we are bound by our physicality and our geography. So long as we must obey the laws of physics, we must understand that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. What, then, are the consequences of civic engagement? Honestly, there may be no negative consequence of activism so long as the activist remains socially responsible. The socially responsible person will ensure that the positive of action will outweigh the negative of inaction so long as the negative of action does not contribute to the negative of inaction. More simply stated, if it will hurt society more to change, then change is not the answer.


Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, 42 U.S.C. § 1983 (West 1968)

Air Carriers Access Act of 1989, 49 U.S.C. § 1374 (c) (West 1986).

Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, 42 U.S.C.A. § 12101 et seq. (West 1993).

Architectural Barriers Act of 1968, 42 U.S.C. §§ 4151 et seq. (West 1968).

Banton, M. (2002). Race relations. In D. T. Goldberg & J. Solomos (Eds.), A companion to racial and ethnic studies (pp. 90-96). Malden, MA: Blackwell.

Carpini, M. D. (2010). Civic engagement. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/education/ undergrad/civic-engagement.aspx

Civil Rights Act of 1866, 42 U.S.C. § 1982 (a) (West 1998).

Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. § 2000 (a) et seq. (West 1998).

Civil Rights Act of 1991, 42 U.S.C. § 1981(a) (b) (3) (West Supp. 1992).

Declaration of Independence. (1776).

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. (2001). Documentation of the threshold limit values and biological exposure indices (7th ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Author.

Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, P.L. 110–140 § 321 (2007, December 19).

Equal Pay Act of 1963, 29 U.S.C. § 206 (West 2000).

Exec. Order No. 11246, 3 C.F.R. 339 (1964-1965), reprinted in 42 U.S.C.A. § 2000e app. at 28-31 (1982).

Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3619 (West Supp. 1989).

Fullinwider, R. K. (1980). The reverse discrimination controversy. A moral and legal analysis. Retrieved from http://eric.ed.gov/ERICWebPortal/contentdelivery/servlet/ERICServlet?accno=ED292213

Light bulbs (CFLs) for Consumers. (n.d.). Retrieved from the EnergyStar website: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?fuseaction=find_a_product.showProductGroup& pgw_code=LB

Rehabilitation Act of 1973, 29 U.S.C. § 794 (West 1998).

Walters, J. (2002, August). Taking social responsibility personally – Be the change you wish to see in the world. Retrieved from http://www.learningplaceonline.com/workplace/ethics/ personally.htm

Social Responsibility:

Socially Responsible Groups at Work

I have always considered myself socially responsible as well as individually responsible, but I hold views regarding responsibility that many might disagree with. While I focus on identifying groups that I feel exemplify the concept of social responsibility, I will also identify traits of each group that allow these groups to align with my view of social responsibility.

On the global stage, many people feel that it is the responsibility of our government to represent us in matters of philanthropy (citation needed). I disagree. I feel that it is our personal responsibility as individuals to take on charitable roles. There are organizations that provide direction and goals of charitable contributions, which allows simplification in giving. One of these groups, and the first group I wish to discuss, is the American National Red Cross (http://www.redcross.org). As stated in their corporate documents:

The purposes of the corporation are … to provide volunteer aid in time of war to the sick and wounded … to act in matters of voluntary relief … as a medium of communication between the people of the United States and the armed forces … and in mitigating the suffering caused by [peacetime disaster], and to devise and carry out measures for preventing those calamities. (Congressional Charter of The American National Red Cross, 2007, p. 2)

The American National Red Cross provides means for individuals to be charitable whether in service (as an employee) or financially (as a donation contributor). The Red Cross has created such an infrastructure to support their operations that no individual could ever outperform them logistically.

Focusing on the service aspect of giving, the second group I will discuss is Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF; http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org). Created in 1971 by doctors and journalists in France, MSF has provided a high level of allopathic and osteopathic care to destitute, war-torn, and disaster regions of the world. MSF was the recipient of a Nobel Peace Prize in 1999 for their work in almost 60 countries around the world. By providing a high level of medical care to areas of the world that have little to no availability of medicine, MSF works extrinsically to improve the health of the people. I feel that a more intrinsic approach would work better to reduce health disparities in these areas. For example, if MSF added an educational aspect of the aid that they deliver, they would allow the people to develop a more comprehensive medical education system and eventually care for themselves. Enterprising individuals within each society, however, could do this more effectively themselves as many other civilizations have done in the past.

Finally, I will present the group that I feel empowers my society the most by advocating freedom and Constitutional values: the Cato Institute (http://www.cato.org).

The mission of the Cato Institute is to increase the understanding of public policies based on the principles of limited government, free markets, individual liberty, and peace. The Institute will use the most effective means to originate, advocate, promote, and disseminate applicable policy proposals that create free, open, and civil societies in the United States and throughout the world. (About Cato, n.d., para. 1)

The Cato Institute is heavily engaged in preserving the American way of life and disavows any policy that is detrimental to the United States. Further, the Cato Institute presents libertarian ideas throughout the world, promoting peace, liberty, and a free society. Though some influential individuals might be able to promote the same ideas, the Cato Institute is able to rely on the expertise of a number of people in order to provide the most pointed policy reviews and recommendations.

Some of these groups serve ideologies that are at odds with my beliefs, but the work that they do is generous and honest. My only caution to these groups is that while they are providing services to people who, for whatever reason, cannot do for themselves, they should also concentrate on providing education and training so that the people may be able to serve themselves appropriately in the future. Self-reliance is lacking commodity around the globe.


About Cato. (n.d.). Cato Institute. Retrieved from http://www.cato.org/about-mission.html

Congressional Charter of The American National Red Cross. 36 U.S.C. §§300101-300113 recodified 2007. (2007, May).

Social Justice vs. Social Responsibility

Recently, I find myself reacting the most to the progressive social justice movement. Social justice, “often employed by the political left to describe a society with a greater degree of economic egalitarianism, which may be achieved through progressive taxation, income redistribution, or property redistribution” (Social justice, n.d., para. 2), is a political push towards socialism. I do not view this movement as socially responsible, and I will explain why.

I was a high school student during the Clinton presidency, and when he announced a national rebate based on the federal surplus of tax dollars. Though I believe the economic boon was due to comprehensive reforms under President Reagan, I will give President Clinton credit for maintaining it as long as he did. It was at this point that I decided that I needed to understand politics and economics in a way that would allow me to make more responsible choices as a voter. Since then, I have watched as Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama have squandered our money for their supporting political allies, forsaking the people of the United States.

I had considered myself a Democrat until I took the time to understand the simplistic nature of economics. Obviously disagreeing with left-wing politics, I analyzed the right and found much more of the same waste, fraud, deceit, and callousness in the Republican party. I found that I had to understand my own values before I could vote again. My values are much more in line with the libertarian philosophy that once made this country great. Libertarianism is about freedom, freedom to make choices, freedom to succeed, and most importantly, freedom to fail. For failure is the greatest teacher and motivator.

The United States is heading for a disastrous economic climate where millions of people who rely on government subsidy will find themselves without benefit. Government-subsidized social programs, such as welfare, Medicare, et al., are meant to be stop-gap measures designed to temporarily fix problems to extend the time available to find more permanent solutions. For welfare, short-term use precludes this necessity, but abuse assures the programs demise.

The greater social responsibility is understanding that as a member of our great society, and in order to help many, we need to support the survival of our society. This means that we, the individuals, need to be self-sufficient. This means that we, the communities, need to be self-sufficient. This means that we, the states, need to be self-sufficient. This means that the next larger government is there to help the next lower government recover from the unforseeable. As individuals, we need to rely on ourselves, our families, our neighbors, and our community before asking for a hand-out from the state, and we should never have to ask for hand-outs from the federal government.

This post may seem like political ideologue drivel, but I assure the reader that it is not. Some, like the author of our class text, would have you wave a sign for the sake of political or environmental activity (Loeb, 2010, p. 10), but I argue that if we all minded our own homes with such conviction, then no one would dare stand up to advocate diminishing us as people. So long as an action benefits society, it is socially responsible. And, I am socially responsible.


Loeb, P. R. (2010). Soul of a citizen (2nd ed.). New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Social justice. (n.d.). In Webster’s online dictionary. Retrieved from http://www.websters-online-dictionary.org/definitions/Social+Justice