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How Addicted Are We? Kicking The Smartphone Addiction

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I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my smartphone since 2010.

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When I first turned it on I sensed life was never going to be the same. The ease of writing text messages in a stream of conversation. So many old devices all wrapped up into one. Boundless internet connectivity. This thing was awesome… and I was suspicious.

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The last six years, insofar as my smartphone is concerned, have gone like this: awe, suspicion, cautious adoption, addiction, suspicion, and rejection. This is the story of that journey, and life less connected.

Technological Abuse

Through the 2000s I dabbled in techno-pessimism. I was drawn to this idea that technology can provide us great gifts with the one hand, and stab us in the back with other. Oppenheimer created the atomic bomb then pleaded for it to never be used. Rachel Carson sounded the alarm on DDT. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned us to curtail the burning of fossil fuels or we’ll melt the polar ice caps.

When we make new things a part of our world, or our lives, we should be thoughtful about their potential to harm, destroy, or displace. Reckless adoption seems to consistently get us into trouble.

So, in this vein, I aimed to cautiously use my new smartphone to supplement, not substitute, real world engagement.

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Bowling Alone

Around this same time, I was studying the rise of the Religious Right in the US and the conditions that led to the born-again movement and its politicization. It turns out the phenomenon happened in lockstep with a few important social trends: lower community involvement, less time spent with friends and family, and declining social trust. As Harvard political scientist Dr. Robert Putnam argued, we had become less trusting and more isolated. And, as psychologists like Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers have pointed out, we don’t like feeling lonely. A sense of safety, belonging, and purpose are core human needs. The more we feel that void, the more we seek to fill it — or ignore it.

What caused this alienation?

Putnam looked at a host of factors starting in the 1950s through the 1990s, including: suburbanization, lower trust in government, economic forces, and spectator entertainment. His conclusion was that the most powerful cause was television or, more accurately, the time we spent watching television.

When I was a child my grandfather used to scold us, “turn off that idiot box and go play outside.” He was on to something.

Psychological Manipulation

Something else interesting happened in the 90s. Advertising companies began using language like, “supporter engagement” and building “brand communities.” Logos were big and ubiquitous but were not enough. Marketers realized they could engineer cult-like support by building trust, and loyalty, and — most importantly — becoming a platform for interpersonal relationships. Saturn Motors organized “Homecomings” for their vehicle owners. Lululemon Athletica hosted yoga sessions in their stores. The Running Room created local running clubs that started at their shops. Brands didn’t want to just tell us how great they were, they wanted to become an active part of our lives.

These were the pioneers for the social media age.

Today’s social web — and games — exploit many more psychological hooks. Likes, shares, followers, comments, messages all carry micro stimuli: a buzz, a flash, a notification, a reward. These stimuli are designed to fire a release of dopamine. Input becomes associated with gratification, which, if abused, can lead to obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Tech companies now openly discuss designing “compulsion loops” that result in obsessions with their applications. As Bill Davidow of the Atlantic put it, “Many Internet companies are learning what the tobacco industry has long known — addiction is good for business.”

One problem with addiction is that eventually you become numb. It takes more hits to solicit a response. Then you start to do it because that’s your new baseline. This can lead to many more mental health issues like detachment and depression.

The End Of Absence

By 2013 I was totally hooked.

I had worked for years in digital strategy and political campaigns. Staying on the cutting edge was my jam. And to be honest, I found the frontier fascinating. But it became totally unhealthy. I was checking work emails at dinner. Thumbing through my Instagram feed on the bus because I was bored, or anxious. I’d fall asleep reading a news article while my partner watched Netflix. We’d face away from each other, back-to-back. The phone had become an extension of reality. I had placed it between other people and myself. I used it to substitute real world face-time. At its worst, the over-connection created new anxieties, à la Portlandia’s technology-loop.

In the spring of 2015 I woke up to feeling disconnected. Disconnected from people, but also moments. Less present, less aware. My short-term memory had become terrible. The transition from sleep and being awake became less clear. I’d go through the daily motions, ear buds in, spending the majority of the day looking at a screen. I even felt sluggish, as if my energy was being drained, which led to another crutch: coffee.

So I downloaded an app that tracks your daily smartphone usage called BreakFree. Given the nature of my work, and my symptoms, I assumed I was somewhere on the more extreme side of the spectrum. Turns out I’m only slightly above average.

According to a study by Locket the average user checks his or her phone 150 times per day. Another study estimated that the average 18-33 year-old spend five hours a day looking at a screen. Close to 55% of us sleep with our smartphones on our bedside table, 13% keep it on our bed, and 3% fall asleep with it in their hand. This may help explain why three quarters of women in committed relationships feel that smartphones are interfering with their love life. The mere presence of a phone on a table leads to more shallow conversation, lowering the amount of empathy exchanged.

How Addicted Are We?

In a 2015 Pew Research Centre study 24% of teens described going online “almost constantly.” Surveys in the United States and Europe from 2012 indicate Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) rates varying between 1.5% and 8.2%. Other reports place the rates between 6% and 18.5%. The Governments of China and South Korea have already declared IAD a significant public health threat. Usage is highest among Millenials, which means if we stay the course these trends will only worsen.

Artists, satirists, and public commentators are trying to point out the sickness and the absurdity.

Erik Pickersgill’s photo series Removed features people in normal social situations looking at their phones (the phones are edited out). In all the photos no one looks particularly entertained or happy. Award-winning Israeli filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia followed young Chinese men as they spent three months at a military style anti-addiction rehab centre in their PBS documentary, Web Junkies. Louis C.K. eloquently pointed out cellphone use is now the number one cause of motor vehicle accidents in North America. My personal favourite is Darby Cisneros’ stinging critique of “Instragram Reality” via her now inactive Hipster Barbie account.

Even President Obama chimed in, “Put your phones down. I’m right here.”

Searching for guidance I mentioned my symptoms to a friend. She recommended I try meditating and mindfulness exercises. So I got an app for that. Another friend recommended I read Michael Harris’ The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection.

Harris’ thesis is that anyone born before the mid 1980s will be the last generation in human history to know the pre and post Internet era. “I fear we are the last of the daydreamers. I fear our children will lose lack, lose absence and never comprehend its quiet, immeasurable value.”

That was the tipping point. It was only after reading Harris’ book that I realized what I was missing was absence. And through absence I would find presence. My relationship with technology needed a serious course correction. It wasn’t enough to simply recognize the dependency; it was time to take control.

Brave New World 

I started by decoupling my work email from my phone. I sent an email to my Board and told them I was “trying something new” and would no longer respond to work emails outside work hours. That helped, but it only made a small dent in my pattern.

Then, through a stroke of good fortune, I lost my phone while on vacation. I was upset for a few hours then saw it as a blessing. Okay, that’s it. I’m out. I called my provider and asked them to switch me to the most basic plan: Text and Calling only. Then I found a $15 ol’ school Nokia phone on Craigslist. Apparently it’s a growing global market, and not just for drug dealers. All the key functions are there: calling, texting, alarm clock, calendar. Apps are gone, as is Internet connection. So is the capacity to play music, take good pictures, and do group messaging.

For most functions lost there are workarounds. At the airport I print out my boarding pass. Before I go somewhere new I print a map, or write down the directions. If I want to hail a cab, I call the company. If I need to check my bank account balance, I do that before leaving home. You learn to chill out a bit and appreciate that not everything will always be at your fingertips. You also re-learn how to pre-plan better. If someone really needs to get in touch, they can call you.

Some functions are just lost. When away from my laptop I can’t participate in group chats, like WhatsApp. I can’t take good pictures or post to Instagram. If we had Uber here in Vancouver, I don’t think I’d be able to use it. If a question comes up that I can’t answer and I’m itching to solve, I write it down and come back to it later. I can’t play music and I’m resisting getting an MP3 player. Sound, apparently, is a huge part of feeling connected to space. For most of these lost abilities I say good riddance; others can be annoying but you learn to make do. The upshot is worth it.

First, I feel liberated. Liberated from the constant urge to open my phone. Liberated from the rush of concern if I can’t find the device. Liberated from the thought, “Hey, I should take a picture of this!” I’ve relearned (and apparently rewired my brain) to just be present. On the bus I look around and think about the other people, or just let my mind wander. Walking home I pay more attention to all the little details, and make an effort to smile as people walk by — although, 30-40% of the time they’re on their phones. My awareness feels sharper and my energy feels stronger.

My mental capacity has noticeably increased. I think about my friends and family more. I feel more empathetic, and “in-tune.” Because I don’t use headphones in public I’ve found myself sparking up more conversations with strangers. For example, I’ve gone to the same gym for almost a year. I’ve had more conversations with people in the last two months than in the previous ten. Some of the artificial boundaries have dissolved.

I have moments where I get an “itch” to reach for my phone — usually in a moment of boredom — but those quickly subside. They have also become less frequent as time goes by. The biggest hurdle was making the switch; now I’m perfectly content and have neither desire nor any intention to go back.

Pro-Internet, Anti-Abuse

To this day I remain very pro-Internet. It’s one of the most empowering inventions in human history. Digital rights organizations like Electronic Frontiers Foundation and OpenMedia.ca are doing excellent and important work.

The question, really, is, are we in control of our digital lives? If we are dependent or addicted, have we come to terms with it? If yes, what are we doing about it?

Harris, who went on a one-month digital detox, put it this way:

This book is a meditation more than a prescription. There are no ten easy steps to living a healthy digital life; there is no totalizing theory, no maxim, with which we can armor ourselves. Nor is digital abstinence the answer, absolute refusal being just another kind of dependence after all. Easy fixes are for easy problems. And what do real problems, big problems, call for? Experimentation and play.

I’m optimistic that we will take a step back from this mass addiction because in many ways it is in our own self-interest. Presence and absence have intrinsic value. So do awareness, and daydreaming, and creativity. Human connection is beautiful. Time is precious.

Some with stronger self-control will be able to self-monitor. Some will use tools (i.e. BreakFree) and strategies (digital breaks). Some, like me, need to restructure our lives without a smartphone. Each of us who agree this is a problem, can be part of the solution by helping ourselves, and others.

As we barrel down the path toward nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, and biotechnology it feels all the more pressing to stop and reflect on our relationship with the virtual world, and its gatekeepers.

What kind of lives do we want to live? What kind of world do we want to create?

As Marshall McLuhan said, “There is absolutely no inevitability as long as there is a willingness to contemplate what is happening.”

The choice is ours, but it’s going to take some effort.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

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Media Blackout: Italian Bars & Restaurants Disobey Rules & Open Together In Civil Disobedience

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Thousands of restaurants appear to have opened in Italy in defiance of the country’s strict coronavirus lockdown regulations.

  • Reflect On:

    Are governments doing the right thing? What does the data about lockdowns say? Is it causing more harm than good? Is it having any impact at all on the spread of COVID-19? What are and have been the consequences of lockdown?

Make sure you follow Collective Evolution on Telegram as we have no idea how much longer we will be on Facebook. Follow me on Instagram here.

What Happened: Despite no mainstream media coverage, people are starting to become aware of what seems to be a mass civil disobedience campaign in Italy against lockdown measures (#IoApro). An estimated 50,000 bars, restaurants and other businesses are defying government orders and are remaining open to the public, together. We cannot confirm the exact number. UK journalist Damian Wilson writes, “if the number of 50,000 establishments currently on board is to be believed, it’s a movement growing by the day.”

EuroNews is one of the few outlets on the scene providing coverage.

One frustrated restaurateur said the move was as “a polite protest” and another“civil disobedience”, as they invited customers to dine on Friday night despite measures put in place to fight the spread of COVID-19.  Armando Minotti, owner of Loste Ria restaurant in the south of the city, said “we cannot go on this way” – recent losses were making it impossible to provide for his children and he said government financial aid wasn’t enough. “Let’s call this a polite protest. If the guards come in, and they surely will, we will let them in, we will accept the fine but we are going to stay open and we won’t close any more. Because it is impossible to go on like this,” he added. Across the city, pizzas were churned out of the ovens at Fuoco & Farina where owner Max Vietri admitted to seeing the action as “civil disobedience”.

The Express in the UK also did, along with a few others.

People sit at a restaurant as bars and restaurants reopen in ‘yellow zones’ of Italy after the government relaxed some of the coronavirus disease curbs on weekdays following a strict lockdown over the holidays, in Rome, Italy January 7, 2021. © REUTERS/Yara Nardi

A popular hashtag is also providing information from various social media users who are uploading articles and videos. The hashtag is #IoApro. If you view this hashtag on twitter, you can see some pretty large protests. As the #IoApro (I am open) momentum builds, politicians like Vittorio Sgarbi are supporting the restaurants with a message against the rules in which he urges establishments, “Open up and don’t worry, in the end we will make them eat their fines.”

Why This Is Important: Whether you are a world renowned scientist, doctor, academic, journalist, politician, or anybody for that matter who opposes government lockdown measures as a way to combat COVID-19, you’re going to face the consequences. In Ontario, Canda, for example, a member of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s caucus was fired for speaking out against his own government’s policies and calling for an end to the province-wide pandemic lockdown. “The lockdown isn’t working,” wrote York Centre Progressive Conservative MPP Roman Baber in a letter to Ford.  “It’s causing an avalanche of suicides, overdoses, bankruptcies, divorces and takes an immense toll on our children. Dozens of leading doctors implored you to end the lockdowns.” (source)

Over the last few months, I have seen academic articles and op-eds by professors retracted or labeled “fake news” by social media platforms. Often, no explanation is provided. I am concerned about this heavy-handedness and, at times, outright censorship. – Vinay Prasad, MD, MPH (source)

If you’re a public figure in such a position as Barber was, you face losing your job. If you’re a scientist or a doctor, you risk losing your social media accounts for sharing your opinion, and if you’re an independent media outlet like Collective Evolution, you risk having your life’s work deleted from popular social media platforms.  But that still hasn’t stopped information from spreading.

Science is being suppressed for political and financial gain. Covid-19 has unleashed state corruption on a grand scale, and it is harmful to public health. Politicians and industry are responsible for this opportunistic embezzlement. So too are scientists and health experts. The pandemic has revealed how the medical-political complex can be manipulated in an emergency—a time when it is even more important to safeguard science. – Kamran Abbas, Executive Editor of the British Medical Journal, and the editor of the Bulletin of the World Health Organization. (soure)

Four professors from Stanford School of Medicine have published a paper showing that lockdowns, stay at home orders and business closures are not an effective tool for stopping the spread of COVID. There are many studies claiming the same. You can access that study here and read more about the harms of lockdown, its consequences and its supposed ability to stop the spread of COVID. There are dozens upon dozens of studies providing data that argue against lockdown measures.

Dr. Martin Kulldorff, professor of medicine at Harvard University, a biostatistician, and epidemiologist, Dr. Sunetra Gupta, professor at Oxford University, an epidemiologist with expertise in immunology, and Dr. Jay Bhattacharya, professor at Stanford University Medical School, a physician and epidemiologist  where the initiators of the The Great Barrington Declaration. The declaration has an impressive list co-signers, and has also now been signed by more than 50,000 doctors and scientists and more than 700,000 concerned citizens, which is pretty impressive given the fact that it’s received no attention from mainstream media. It explains why they oppose lockdown measures. Follow their twitter account here.

The point is, one perspective is dominating the mainstream media and political circles, while the other is being censored, ignored, and ridiculed by these powerful platforms. This alone has been a catalyst for many people to question what exactly is going on here, and that’s always a positive thing.

The Takeaway: Do we really want to live in a world where questioning actions taken by our governments, and whether or not they are in our best interest, can be shut down and discouraged? Is this not the responsibility of all people? Do governments actually represent the will of the people these days? Or do they represent other agendas?  Why are we all so polarized in our beliefs? Can we not see the perspective of another and try to understand why they feel the way they do? Does this mean freedom of choice should always remain, and that governments should simply make recommendations and allow people to do as they please? When measures become unacceptable in the eyes of many, is the only solution mass, peaceful civil disobedience? What else can be done in this situation for all those who are suffering the consequences of lockdown measures? Can the mainstream media make the majority seem like the minority, and the minority seem like the majority?

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

Continue Reading

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Encounters With Star People: “They Meant Us No Harm. Grandpa Called Them Our Ancestors”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Dr. Ardy Sixkiller Clarke, a Professor Emeritus at Montana State University who is Cherokee/Choctaw has been researching the Star People and collecting encounters between them and Native Indians for many years. This article shares one of many.

  • Reflect On:

    How many races are out there doing star travel? How many have visited our planet? How many are visiting our planet? What are the implications? Will our race ever traverse the stars in search of new worlds?

Follow me on Instagram hereMake sure you follow Collective Evolution on Telegram as we have no idea how much longer we will be on Facebook. 

Introduction: Richard Wagamese, who was of Canada’ foremost authors and storytellers from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario, once wrote, “My people tell of Star People who came to us many generations ago. The Star People brought spiritual teachings and stories and maps of the cosmos and they offered these freely. They were kind, loving and set a great example. When they left us, my people say there was a loneliness like no other.”

Another example from Canada comes from Stephane Wuttunee, who is a Plains Cree and French Canadian author and storyteller.  He has explained that his perception and understanding of the ET phenomena as a Native person and its global implications comes from having been partially raised within the culture itself. He has made it a clear point to mention that they “give far greater attention to the seeking of the spiritual understanding of things.” He heard about “distant relations and Star People living amongst the stars many times, mainly around campfires and during traditional ceremonies. Far from being anything to be feared, Star People was just another term I grew up around.”(UFO Digest, 2008. Link no longer available)

Stories of the Star People are well documented in Native Canadian and Native American lore, and in this article I will share a story, as I’ve done so many times before, from the work of Dr. Ardy Clarke, a Professor Emeritus at Montana State University who is Cherokee/Choctaw. She has been researching the Star People and collecting encounters between them and Native Indians for many years. She also grew up being told about the Star People from her family and elders.

She’s written multiple books documenting her research. This particular one is taken from her book, “Encounters With Star People, Untold Stories of American Indians.”

The Story: In this particular story, Clarke spoke to a man connected through a mutual friend, on the Navajo Indian Reservation, named Darren. Clarke spoke to his aunt, who was the one who told her of his extraterrestrial experience.

I am not the first in my family to see the Sky Gods. My grandfather told me that one time a spacecraft landed over in New Mexico and some Indians hid an alien.”

Said Darren.

He said it happened “Back in the 40s. It was about the same time as Roswell.”

My grandfather said that he and some of his friends came upon the alien wandering in the desert. They realized he was one of the Sky Gods and they hid him from the government soldiers. He died though and they buried him.

I saw an alien once. He came to my Grandfather’s hogan. When I saw him, I was frightened, but I didn’t know he was an alien at the time. He was a stranger. I was afraid of all strangers. So I ran inside and told my grandfather that there was a man outside. My grandfather turned off the burner on his hot plate and walked outside. I couldn’t hear, but I’m sure they were talking. Then my Grandfather came inside and told me to come with him. I walked outside and the alien was leaning against the wall and looked at a small metal object. I reached for my granddad’s hand, but he told me not to be afraid. He said everything was all right.

He was tall. He was dark. Dark skin and dark eyes. I never saw his hair. His clothes were brown and form fitting. He had a strange pair of boots. The pants were stuffed inside. The boots had pointed toes. They were the same color as the suit. I had never seen clothes like that. Gloves covered his hands and there was some kind of a covering over his head like a hood of some sort, but it was really tight like elastic.

He communicated with my grandfather. We walked off into the canyon with him. My grandfather stopped a few times and checked foot-prints. He was backtracking. They led to a large craft on the other side of the ridge.

Clarke asked, “Are you telling me the alien was lost?”

That’s what my grandfather told me. He was part of a small exploring party. They had separated and he had gone up one canyon and the others went in other directions. He had some equipment with him that was supposed to get him back to the craft, but it quit working. He came to our hogan looking for help. My grandfather and I took him back to his craft.

My grandfather and I talked about it often. After that, when my grandfather told stories he would begin with ‘it happened before the Star Man or after the Star Man.’ My grandfather said that when he was a boy there were many stories about Star People, but that this was only the second time he had ever seen one.

He mostly talked about how they were friendly and meant us no harm. Grandpa called them our ancestors. He said that they had visited Earth from the beginning of time. They come to remind us to keep everything in harmony. He called them seed layers.

By seed layers, Darren meant, “You know. They brought seeds to Earth to see if they would grow and then come back to check on them.” Darren believed his grandfather meant plants, animals and humans. He was told by his grandfather that “they brought animals.”

Clarke then asks, “Did you go near the spacecraft?” Darren replied. ” I wanted to, but my grandfather warned me away. He said I should not touch it.

It was round. Silver, but dull silver. There were no windows. Only a door and when it closed, you could not see where the door had been.

Clark asks, “When your grandfather led the star man back to the craft, did the other beings see you?

Yes. They came out and greeted their friend. I watched as he turned to my grandfather as though he were introducing him. The other Star Men bowed and for a moment they stood there and talked with him, but I could not hear. When they boarded the craft, my grandfather told me we must move to a safe distance. Then we watched as the craft moved upward. It did not even stir up the dust. That was the most amazing thing to me. When the wind blows there there is always dust, but when the craft lifted off the ground, there was no dust. For some reason, I understood that there was nothing normal about this situation. I was afraid of strangers anyway, but these strangers were not like the people I saw in town. They were different. I held my grandfather’s hand all the way home. Somehow it felt safer.

Darren goes on to describe that the Star Man appeared two more times when he was much older. The final time when his grandfather was in his 80s, sick and unwell in bed.

It was late at night when the Star Man appeared suddenly without warning. He walked over to my grandfather’s bed and kelt over him. After a moment or two, he walked out.

Clarke asked, “What did your grandfather say about the meeting?”

Darren replied, “Only that the Star Man came to say they were waiting for him. Three days later, my granddad died at the clinic in town. Just hours before he passed, he told me that they would be coming for him.

This was the last meeting, during the second meeting grandfather gave the Star Man a pouch with turquoise stones inside, a gift that pleased the Star Man.

Two years after his grandfather’s death, Clarke stopped off at Darren’s mother’s house. Darren invited her to go outside to his workshop.

I go out to Grandfather’s place and work in the summers. In the winter, I work here when I am not traveling with art shows.

Clarke interrupted, “Have you ever seen the Star Man again?”

No, but I know he still comes here,” he replied as he unlocked the work shed…I was hoping you would come see me again. I have something for you, but first, I have to tell you what happened.

Last summer, I spent about a month out at the home place. My sister was getting married and everything was chaotic around here. The first thing I noticed when I arrived at the hogan was a bag in the doorway of the little workshop I had set up for myself years ago. It was my grandfather’s pouch.

It was the one his grandfather gave to the Star Man.

I opened it and the turquoise stones fell out. They were the ones Grandfather had given the Star Man. For some reason, he returned them. I think it was my grandfather’s way of letting me know that everything was okay with him. I have no other explanation.

The Takeaway: When you dive deep into this topic, it leads to so many other topics and opens up so many more questions that are too many to explain here. As I always say, it truly leaves no aspect of humanity untouched and is and will transform human consciousness in a major way. There is still so much we have to discover about ourselves as well as the cosmos, and I imagine there are an unimaginable amount of worlds out there with an unimaginable amount of races that are doing star travel. Hopefully, like the one in this story, most of the ones who are and have been visiting our planet are benevolent, but I don’t know. At the end of the day, it’s my belief that this topic forces humanity to question itself and truly ponder why we live the way we do here. We are a race of extreme potential and have the means to create a human experience where all life, and the planet itself, can thrive. So ask yourself, what aren’t we doing it? What’s the problem? Why are we destroying our planet?

We’ve been writing about this topic since our inception in 2009, if you’d like to visit our article archive on the phenomenon, click here and enjoy.

Photo Credit: The image is a wonderful work of art that seems to have been shared around the internet quite a big. Still looking for the original source. If you find it, please do let me know. You can also email me at Arjun@collective-evolution.com

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

Continue Reading

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Another Lawsuit Against Merck Alleging Gardasil HPV Vaccine Caused Life-Changing Disability

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Another lawsuit has been filed alleging severe injury and disability as a result of the HPV vaccine. This time it's on behalf of teenager Michael Colbath alleging that his debilitating injuries were caused by the HPV Vaccine.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are those who raise concerns always considered "anti-vax conspiracy theorists" and ridiculed? Should freedom of choice always remain when it comes to vaccines?

Make sure you follow Collective Evolution on Telegram as we have no idea how much longer we will be on Facebook.

What Happened: Another lawsuit has been filed against Merck for allegedly causing another life-changing disability. As lawyer Robert F. Kennedy Jr. explains, “Before he got the Gardasil (human papillomavirus) vaccine, our client Michael Colbath was a superlative athlete and scholar. A happy, healthy and active boy. In the months following his first injection, exhaustion and extreme fatigue forced Michael away from the sports and hobbies that had been centerpieces of his life. He had trouble staying awake during the school day. After his second Gardasil injection, Michael developed severe foot pain in both feet, so severe that he needed crutches to attend school. He had trouble waking up in the morning and getting out of bed.”

He goes on to explain:

As his symptoms worsened, multiple physicians and specialists treated him for migraine headaches; body pains and muscle aches; chronic fatigue; hypersomnolence (sleeping 15-22 hours in a 24-hour period), sleep drunkenness, unrefreshing sleep; excessive sweating, lightheadedness, and tachycardia; tunnel vision on standing; difficulty with concentration and memory; confusion and brain fog; intermittent or episodic paralysis, numbness; and stomach pains.

Michael’s post-Gardasil injuries and diagnoses, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)idiopathic hypersomnia (IH)myalgic encephalomyelitis / chronic fatigue syndrome (ME / CFS)complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) and gastroparesis, kept him from his passions, sports and hobbies. He missed most of high school and only his formidable self-discipline allowed him to complete his school work at home — he could not walk or move unassisted, he earned his Eagle Scout award using a knee scooter.

If Mrs. Colbath had known that Gardasil could create these health issues, she never would have allowed him to receive it.

This is the fifth Gardasil lawsuit Baum Hedlund and I have filed against Merck challenging the company’s dangerous and defective HPV vaccine for causing severe and life changing injuries. In addition to Mike’s case filed this week, we have filed cases on behalf of Sahara Walker of WisconsinZach Otto of Colorado and Julia Balasco of Rhode Island. While each case is unique, they share common threads: All of our clients were happy, healthy, bright, active kids with unlimited potential until they received the Gardasil HPV vaccine. We look forward to getting these cases in front of a jury as soon as possible.

Kennedy and his team are currently engaged in five lawsuits regarding injury as a result of the HPV vaccine. I recently wrote about Sahara Walker, a 19 year old girl from Wisconsin who suffered debilitating injuries after receiving the vaccine. You can read more about that here.

How Necessary Is The Gardasil Vaccine? The HPV vaccine is heavily marketed as a preventer of cervical cancer, but many studies have called this assumption into question. For example, in a recent study published in The Royal Society of Medicine, researchers conducted an appraisal of published phase 2 and 3 efficacy trials in relation to the prevention of cervical cancer and their analysis showed “the trials themselves generated significant uncertainties undermining claims of efficacy” in the data they used. The researchers emphasized that “it is still uncertain whether human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination prevents cervical cancer as trials were not designed to detect this outcome, which takes decades to develop.”  The researchers point out that the trials used to test the vaccine may have “overestimated” the efficacy of the vaccine.

Another interesting thing to note about HPV infections is when it comes to women in particular, approximately 70 percent of those who get an infection will clear it all by themselves within the first year, you don’t even have to detect it. Keep in mind that only a handful of HPV infections can actually lead to cancer. Within two years, approximately 90 percent of these infections will clear all by themselves. By three years, 10 percent of that original group will still have an HPV infection, and 5 percent of this 10 percent will have progressed into what are known as a precancerous lesion. There are three types of precancerous lesions, CIN1, which requires no treatment, C1N2 and the most severe, CIN3.

So now you have that small group (the remaining 5 percent)…who have precancerous lesions and now let’s look at that moving into invasive carcinoma. What we know then is that amongst women with CIN3 lesions, it takes five years for about twenty percent of them to become invasive carcinomas. That’s a pretty slow process. It takes about thirty years for forty percent of them to become invasive cervical carcinomas. – Dr. Diane Harper, one of a select few specialists in OB/GYN (in the world) who helped design and carry out the Phase II and Phase III safety and effectiveness studies to get Gardasil approved.

In a study published in Autoimmunity Reviews, the authors note that “The decision to vaccinate with the HPV vaccine is a personal decision, not one that must be made for public health. HPV is not a lethal disease, in 95 percent of the infections; and the other 5 percent are detectable and treatable in the precancerous state.”

This is why cervical cancer is usually diagnosed among the elderly, because it takes a long time to develop. This means that one has a very long time to treat pre-cancerous lesions that have the potential to develop into full blown cancer.

Not only is the efficacy of the vaccine called into question by many researchers, the supposed protection it provides, if any, only lasts a few years. Ask yourself, how likely is it for your 11 year old daughter/son to develop an HPV infection that will lead to cancer in a few decades, before she’s/he’s even done high school? The main cause of HPV infections is sexual intercourse.

Harper told CBS a few years ago that “the benefits (of the vaccine) to public health is noting, there is no reduction in cervical cancer.” She also emphasized that parents “must know that deaths occured” and that not all deaths have been reported. This information is accurate, we know this in the United States, for example, because of the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Compensation Program. It stems from the National Childhood Vaccine Injury act, which protects pharmaceutical companies from liability and uses tax-dollars to pay for vaccine injuries. Multiple countries have a program like this in place, and the United States has now paid more than $4 billion to families of vaccine injured children. The main takeaway is that the FDA Vaccine Adverse Events Reporting System (VAERS) is estimated to capture only 1 percent of vaccine injuries.

 A study published in 2013 in Current Pharmaceutical Design carried out a review of HPV vaccine pre- and post-licensure trials to assess the evidence of their effectiveness and safety. They found that,

HPV vaccine clinical trials design, and data interpretation of both efficacy and safety outcomes, were largely inadequate. Additionally, we note evidence of selective reporting of results from clinical trials (i.e., exclusion of vaccine efficacy figures related to study subgroups in which efficacy might be lower or even negative from peer-reviewed publications). Given this, the widespread optimism regarding HPV vaccines long-term benefits appears to rest on a number of unproven assumptions (or such which are at odds with factual evidence) and significant misinterpretation of available data.

For example, the claim that HPV vaccination will result in approximately 70% reduction of cervical cancers is made despite the fact that the clinical trials data have not demonstrated to date that the vaccines have actually prevented a single case of cervical cancer (let alone cervical cancer death), nor that the current overly optimistic surrogate marker-based extrapolations are justified. Likewise, the notion that HPV vaccines have an impressive safety profile is only supported by highly flawed design of safety trials and is contrary to accumulating evidence from vaccine safety surveillance databases and case reports which continue to link HPV vaccination to serious adverse outcomes (including death and permanent disabilities).

We thus conclude that further reduction of cervical cancers might be best achieved by optimizing cervical screening (which carries no such risks) and targeting other factors of the disease rather than by the reliance on vaccines with questionable efficacy and safety profiles.

Not long ago researchers from Mexico’s National Institute of Cardiology looked at 28 studies published through January 2017—16 randomized trials and 12 post-marketing case series—pertaining to the three HPV vaccines currently on the market globally. In their July 2017 peer-reviewed report, the authors, Manuel Martínez-Lavin and Luis Amezcua-Guerra, uncovered evidence of numerous adverse events, including life-threatening injuries, permanent disabilities, hospitalizations and deaths, reported after vaccination with GlaxoSmithKline’s bivalent Cervarix vaccine and Merck’s quadrivalent or nine-valent HPV vaccines.

Mary Holland, a former a professor on the faculties of Columbia Law School and the New York University School of Law for the past eighteen years who taught courses on human rights, recently retired as the Director of the NYU Graduate Lawyering Program. She co-authored a book titled “The HPV Vaccine On Trial: Seeking Justice For A Generation Betrayed.”

The HPV Vaccine on Trial is a shocking tale, chronicling the global efforts to sell and compel this alleged miracle. The book opens with the vaccine’s invention, winds through its regulatory labyrinths, details the crushing denial and dismissal of reported harms and deaths, and uncovers the enormous profits pharma and inventors have reaped. Authors Holland, Mack Rosenberg, and Iorio drill down into the clinical trial data, government approvals, advertising, and personal accounts of egregious injuries that have followed in countries as far-flung as Japan, Australia, Colombia, India, Ireland, the U.K. and Denmark. The authors have written an unprecedented exposé about this vaunted vaccine.

Written in plain language, the book is for everyone concerned – parents, patients, doctors, nurses, scientists, healthcare organizations, government officials, and schools. Ultimately, this book is not just about the HPV vaccine, but about how industry, government, and medical authorities may be putting the world’s children in harm’s way.

A study published in the journal Pediatrics found that many paediatricians don’t strongly recommend the HPV vaccine. Since then it’s now known that vaccine hesitancy is rising among many doctors, scientists, academics and people of all backgrounds and professions. The question to ask is, why?

At a World Health Organization (WHO) conference on vaccine safety, Dr. Heidi Larson a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project Emphasized this point, having  stated,

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers. We have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen…still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider.

A study published in the journal EbioMedicine  as far back as 2013 outlines this point, stating in the introduction,

Over the past two decades several vaccine controversies have emerged in various countries, including France, inducing worries about severe adverse effects and eroding confidence in health authorities, experts and science. These two dimensions are at the core of vaccine hesitancy (VH) observed in the general population. VH is defined as delay in acceptance of vaccination, or refusal, or even acceptance with doubts about its safety and benefits, with all these behaviours and attitudes varying according to context , vaccine and personal profile, despite the availability of vaccine services VH presents a challenge to physicians who must address their patients’ concerns about vaccines and ensure satisfactory vaccination coverage.

A Typical Response From Merck For A Supposed Vaccine Injury? A 14-year-old boy named Christopher Bunch passed away more than a year ago, and the mother and father claimed that it was as a result of the HPV vaccine. His mother started a petition over a year ago claiming that her son “died as a direct result of the HPV vaccine.”

The father of the boy, Elijah Eugene Mendoza-Bunch, wrote this via his Facebook page, in January of 2020.

So back on December 11th 2019 I sent an email to CEO Ken Frazier of Merck song to speak with him about the HPV VACCINE and how it killed my son and how it is destroying lives. Well here we are January 25th (the day I got it in the mail) and this is the response from Merck….

As you can see, the letter states that,

“The safety and efficacy of our HPV vaccines have been established in a clinical development program that started more than 20 years ago and involved more than 49,000 individuals. Safety has continued to be evaluated after approval in multiple studies in several million people, in long-term follow up studies and through our extensive ongoing pharmacovigilance monitoring program in place throughout the world. Multiple independent scientific organizations and major regulatory and public health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have repeatedly evaluated the safety of HPV vaccines. The results of these evaluations continue to be reassuring

Is Aluminum a Concern? The HPV vaccine does use an aluminum adjuvant, something that’s come under fire over the past few years. You can read and learn more about that here.

The Takeaway: This isn’t even the tip of the iceberg, there are many papers published in various journals over the past decade pointing out the same thing. There are also many published studies and papers that claim the vaccine is completely safe and very effective. This is why it can be a confusing topic to look into and why we believe that informed consent in place of an HPV vaccine mandate for children should be in place.

What do you think? One thing is for certain, people should be free to engage in conversations about controversial topics. This is one thing the mainstream fails to do, and always seems to deem the type of information presented in this article as a result of “anti vax conspiracy theorists.” Instead of using ridicule, it would be great if the concerns being raised about vaccine safety were actually spoken about openly and transparently, and most importantly, actually acknowledged and addressed.

Do we really want to live in a world where we can’t talk to each other? Why do we have such a hard time seeing from the perspective of another and trying to understand where they are coming from and why they feel the way they do? Do we really want to create a world where we are forced into certain actions by our government at the threat of losing certain rights and privileges?A world where we are so polarized? Should people not be free to do what they want with their body, especially if the evidence to suggest that they are harming others if they don’t is weak and unsubstantiated?

When it comes to vaccines specifically, a quote from a paper published in the International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy by professor Paddy Rawlinson, from Western Sydney University, provides some good insight into what I am referring to.

Critical criminology repeatedly has drawn attention to the state-corporate nexus as a site of corruption and other forms of criminality, a scenario exacerbated by the intensification of neoliberalism in areas such as health. The state-pharmaceutical relationship, which increasingly influences health policy, is no exception. That is especially so when pharmaceutical products such as vaccines, a burgeoning sector of the industry, are mandated in direct violation of the principle of informed consent. Such policies have provoked suspicion and dissent as critics question the integrity of the state-pharma alliance and its impact on vaccine safety. However, rather than encouraging open debate, draconian modes of governance have been implemented to repress and silence any form of criticism, thereby protecting the activities of the state and pharmaceutical industry from independent scrutiny. The article examines this relationship in the context of recent legislation in Australia to intensify its mandatory regime around vaccines. It argues that attempts to undermine freedom of speech, and to systematically excoriate those who criticise or dissent from mandatory vaccine programs, function as a corrupting process and, by extension, serve to provoke the notion that corruption does indeed exist within the state-pharma alliance.

Dive Deeper

These days, it’s not just knowing information and facts that will create change, it’s changing ourselves, how we go about communicating, and re-assessing the underlying stories, ideas and beliefs that form our world. We have to practice these things if we truly want to change. At Collective Evolution and CETV, this is a big part of our mission.

Amongst 100's of hours of exclusive content, we have recently completed two short courses to help you become an effective changemaker, one called Profound Realization and the other called How To Do An Effective Media Detox.

Join CETV, engage with these courses and more here!

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