Why Smoke is Worse than Fire

By Delaney Shiu

Everyone has been hearing about all the natural disasters occurring in the U.S. recently – historic flooding, major hurricanes, and unforgiving wildfires. We all have tendencies to focus on one major problem until the next one comes along, which is why everyone is talking about California wildfires right now instead of the problems that many people who live in Houston are still facing and will be faced with for years to come. In a few weeks, something else will happen, and we will move on from conversing about the wildfires, which is why I want to take the time while we’re all still focused on the topic to talk about how they might be causing more damage to the state than we can see.

Even though the fire itself is extremely destructive, the main problem that the Californians will be facing is the smoke, ash, and debris left over from the fire. Most people who are killed in wildfires die from smoke inhalation rather than from the fire itself. Inhaling carbon monoxide decreases the body’s oxygen supply, and even people who survive wildfires are often faced with health problems for years depending on how long they were breathing in the low-quality air. Most of the time, the people who develop prolonged health problems because of a fire are ones who are particularly sensitive to air quality, such as people with asthma or heart disease.

Right now, health officials are most concerned about the levels of PM2.5 in the air. PM2.5 is made up of very small pieces of liquids and solids that are no more than 2.5 micrometers across. Since PM2.5 particles are so small, they can be easily inhaled and transferred into the body’s bloodstream through the lungs and alveolar sacs. Good-quality air has no more than a dozen micrograms of PM2.5s per cubic meter of air. Once the level reaches about 55 PM2.5s per cubic meter, people with diseases such as asthma begin to notice, but most healthy people wouldn’t. Above 55 PM2.5s per cubic meter, anybody outside would begin to notice and breathing would become difficult. Once you reach the level of 100 PM2.5s per cubic meter, everybody outside would feel their eyes and throat sting as they walked around. Recently, there was a reading of about 137 PM2.5s per cubic meter in Californian air affected by the wildfires, and that was 50 miles away from the actual fire. Using this data, we can clearly see why the fire is causing more problems in California than just the destruction of property.

Unfortunately, since the majority of us reading this article are stuck in Waco, Texas, there isn’t anything we can physically go out and do to help the people who are suffering in California. However, there are other ways to help. The Salvation Army and American Red Cross are the two organizations that most often deal with natural disasters such as this one, and could always use monetary donations. There is also a GoFundMe page that is gaining popularity and is going towards helping the victims of the wildfires. Californian agencies such as the Napa Valley Community Foundation and Northern California Fire Fund are also accepting monetary donations and serve particular parts of California.

It is no secret that the state that contributes the most students to the Baylor community, other than Texas, is California. We hope that the wildfires come to an end soon and that the air quality continues to improve consistently so everyone is able to return home safely, whenever that may be.


Delaney Shiu is a freshman in the BIC.

JASTA and Charlemagne

Image courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute
Image courtesy of the American Enterprise Institute

On September 28, 2016, the United States Senate overrode President Obama’s veto of the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA) by a vote of 97 to one. JASTA limits the extent of a political concept called “sovereign immunity,” which states that a sovereign body cannot be accused of legal wrongdoing and is thus immune to any type of legal prosecution, criminal or civil. In simpler terms, JASTA will remove sovereign immunity from Saudi Arabia and allow the families of 9/11 victims to sue the Saudi Arabian Government.

Despite the unanimous vote of 97 to one in the Senate and 348 to 77 in the House of Representatives against President Obama’s veto, American lawmakers have already started backpedaling. Days after overriding the president’s veto, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell stated, “Everybody was aware of who the potential beneficiaries were, but nobody had really focused on the potential downsides in terms of our international relationships,” and blamed President Obama for this lack of discussion.

Come on, Mitch. Why do you think the guy vetoed the Act? ‘Saudi Arabia’s mad that we’re allowing our citizens to sue them for a crime they did not commit? Who woulda thunk!’

Some Americans might say, ‘Well, of course the Saudis funded the 9/11 attacks. They hate our freedom and our blue jeans and our rock and roll. I bet they haven’t seen a single episode of the Brady Bunch.’

To put these thoughts to rest, both the FBI and CIA have published reports which officially clear the Saudis of any suspicion of wrongdoing1. Moreover, although Osama Bin Laden was a member of the prominent Bin Laden family in Saudi Arabia, Osama’s Saudi Arabian citizenship was revoked in 19942. Furthermore, in his official reasons for committing 9/11, Bin Laden clearly stated, “We call upon you to end your support of the corrupt leaders in our countries. Do not interfere in our politics and method of education,” with “corrupt countries” meaning Saudi Arabia3.

Finally, Saudi Arabia and the United States have been very close allies since 1945, with Saudi Arabia investing trillions of dollars in the United States which JASTA has seriously endangered4.

While I cannot hide my disdain for this act and the immediate backpedaling of the lawmakers who we trust with our international relations, I nonetheless find this act extremely interesting, as there are few actions throughout history that truly compare to JASTA.

The closest comparison that I can muster is the “Donation of Pippin.” After the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the political landscape of Europe was scattered and unclear. The Franks took control of a great deal of Western Europe, with the Lombards, the remnant of the Ostrogothic Empire, occupying Italy.

The Lombards ruthlessly attacked the Papacy’s holdings in the area surrounding Rome proper around 754 CE. While Pope Stephen III technically reported to the Byzantine Empire (the Eastern Roman Empire), Constantinople could spare no reinforcements as it fought the Ummayad Caliphate in the East. As such, Pope Stephen looked to the Franks for assistance. The then king of the Franks, Pippin, the son of Charles Martel, answered Pope Stephen’s call and swiftly forced the Lombards to sue for peace.

Having suppressed the Lombards, Pippin met with Pope Stephen and claimed that, due to their transgressions, the Lombards should cede land to the Papacy, which thus created the Papal States. It is important to note that this meeting took place without Lombard leadership. However, Pippin promised that the Papacy would receive the city of Ravenna, which was then held by the Lombards. The Lombards refused to cede the city, however, and, turning his attention to other problems in his empire, Pippin did not fully deliver his promise to the Papacy before his death.

It was Pippin’s son, Charles the Great, more popularly known as Charlemagne, who would deliver on his father’s promise to the Papacy. In 772, Pope Adrian I formally requested that the Lombards cede Ravenna. King Desiderius of the Lombards refused, however. Once again, the Papacy turned to the Franks for help. Charlemagne intervened and completely erased the Kingdom of the Lombards, giving Ravenna to the Papal States and declaring himself King of the Lombards, absorbing the remaining territory in Italy into his Frankish empire.

This historical example is a case, much like the one we are facing now, which involves one sovereign power forcing its will onto another sovereign power, demanding money and property for what it sees as a transgression. Yet there is no means to force a sovereign power to act against its own interest, save for violence. Unfortunately, our modern day case could similarly result in all-out war.

This all to say, for the sake of argument, let’s assume that Saudi Arabia is a terrorist state (they’re not – but we’re pretending). Furthermore, let’s assume that somehow an unbiased ruling originating from a New York court against Saudi Arabia actually occurs. Finally, let’s assume that a reasonable sum of money in damages is requested of Saudi Arabia.

Who is going to make them pay this sum? The United Nations? The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries? The Arab League? No, none of these bodies will force Saudi Arabia to pay. Saudi Arabia is a sovereign power, just like the United States.

There is one power that can force Saudi Arabia to pay – the United States Military. Yes, the US Military would have to invade Saudi Arabia in order to extract the money a court in the United States has demanded.

While America’s potential occupation of Mecca and Medina would surely improve our relations with the Arab world (pause for nervous laughter), we probably should not invade Saudi Arabia for a crime they did not commit, according to the CIA at least.

French philosopher René Girard identified what he called a “Scapegoat Mechanism” in human history, by which every society finds a scapegoat and kills that scapegoat. When a society’s problems persist, they simply find another scapegoat and kill it as well. According to Girard, this mechanism drives human history.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not fund the 9/11 attacks. They had no reason to do so. As this country soils itself before the international community in the upcoming presidential election like a toddler at a piano recital, our society has deemed it fit to blame someone else for our problems: the Saudis.

Please write your congressman and get this law thrown out as I try to remove myself from the watch list I have surely been added to after searching “Bin Laden’s Justification for 9/11” a few too many times today.


Lee Shaw is a junior majoring in professional writing and the current editor of The Mug.


Works Cited








Aleppo and Ancient Sieges

Image courtesy of Abdalrhman Ismail
Image courtesy of Abdalrhman Ismail

If you have been paying any attention to the major headlines in the news these past few weeks, you have likely seen the devastation in Aleppo, Syria. Aleppo, formerly Syria’s largest commercial city, has been a major point of contention between the Syrian government and Syrian rebel forces.

The city has been under siege by government forces since the Free Syrian Army retook the eastern portion of Aleppo in 2012. The Syrian government has stepped up its siege, however, utilizing Russian air support as well as its own in an attempt to bomb the rebel-held section of Aleppo into submission. Civilians, hospitals, and first responders have been targeted directly through these attacks.

In particular, Russia has been using bunker buster ordinance to destroy underground shelters and hospitals utilized by civilians. In this week alone, nearly four hundred people have been killed in Syria and Russia’s bombing of Aleppo, including over one hundred children. The total number of deaths from the Aleppo from the past few years are somewhere in the tens of thousands. This number is only increasing.

The situation in Aleppo has been condemned by the UN, especially Russia’s involvement, but the situation only worsens. The horrible conditions in Aleppo have led to people making statements like “We live in the most violent age of human history.” Yet when one actually looks back at human history, he or she will see that civilians have never been safe in times of war. In fact, despite what the situation in Aleppo might suggest, the 21st century is the safest time for civilians yet.

In the ancient world, the civilians of a captured city had two fates. Civilians would either be sold into slavery by the thousands, or they would be raped and killed.

For instance, in Alexander the Great’s campaign against the Persian Empire, the young commander set upon the city of Tyre in 332 BCE. Although Alexander’s army outnumbered Tyre’s garrison by about five to one, Tyre’s defenders held out against Alexander’s siege for seven months. Outraged by the extended siege and the loss of his men, Alexander slaughtered all the defenders and sold the remaining 30,000 civilians in Tyre into slavery. This practice would last well into the early medieval period.

It is also interesting to note that siege engines such as catapults, ballista, onagers, and trebuchets, whose purpose was to hurl large chunks of often flaming material over stone walls upwards of sixty feet tall often hit civilian populations indiscriminately.

For instance, the siege of Carthage by Roman forces in the Third Punic War lasted for almost three years. In this three-year period, hundreds of thousands of projectiles were launched by Roman siege engines. By the time the city fell in 146 BCE, the walls were reduced to rubble, many of the city’s buildings were destroyed, and a large portion of the civilian population was dead. In accordance with ancient practice, most of the defenders were killed, tens of thousands of people were sold into slavery, and the city itself was razed to the ground.

All of this to say, the current situation in Aleppo is terrible and deplorable. The civilians trapped within the city are exposed daily to a horror that no one should have to experience. Yet it is important to note that many strides have been made in the modern era to protect civilians in times of war. There was no UN to advocate for the Carthaginians. There was no news outlet that abhorred the butchering of the citizens of Tyre.

While the modern age has brought us bunker busters, so too has it brought us international diplomacy and the establishment of universal human rights. Do not be so quick to forsake our time.

Lee Shaw is a junior majoring in professional writing and the current editor of The Mug.





ISIL and Attila

Image courtesy of Factsanddetails.com
Image courtesy of Factsanddetails.com

With Secretary of State John Kerry’s announcement on March 17th that ISIL is guilty of committing genocide in the Middle East, the Islamic State was officially established as a morally-reprehensible entity in the eyes of the international community. As Brittany Gamlen noted in her article “Is the Declaration of Genocide Enough?” this declaration does not officially elicit any particular action from the United States or its allies but, at a base level, it symbolizes the United States’ abhorrence of the violent acts of the Islamic State.

ISIL’s bombing of European nations, organized sex slavery, and vicious tactics in warfare have placed the group on a worldwide stage upon which most nations across the world have expressed their condemnation of the group’s horrible acts. The current international disdain for ISIL raises the question, “Has the world ever seen such a violent and internationally-hated entity? Unfortunately, our current situation shares a number of similarities with Europe and the Middle East’s conflict with the Hunnic Empire, which began as early as 372 CE.

A notable difference between ISIL and the Huns is that while ISIL is interested in capturing settlements and forming a new caliphate, the Huns were a nomadic people who were interested in sacking and razing settlements, not capturing them.

ISIL and the Huns do share, however, almost global enmity. In 372 CE, the Hunnic hordes descended from their Northern Eurasian steppes and began raiding the territories of various Gothic factions bordering the Black Sea. By 376 CE, the Huns had subjugated the Alans and the Greuthungi, two previously prominent factions, forcing coalitions of Ostrogoths and Visogoths to abandon their settlements and flee toward the protection of the Roman Empire to the West.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.com
Image courtesy of Wikipedia.org

Notably, however, neither the Western or Eastern Roman Empires would be able to withstand Hunnic attacks. The Huns began their first major invasion of the Eastern Roman Empire in 395 CE, raiding and pillaging around modern Bulgaria and Greece for three years before falling back to the steppes to count their plunder.

Hunnic attacks would not stop, however. In 435 CE, under the leadership of the infamous Attila, the Huns forced the Eastern Roman Empire to sign the Treaty of Magnus, which gave the Huns trade rights and required an annual payment of tribute from the Eastern Roman Empire. This agreement would be broken quickly, as hostilities resumed in 440 CE with the Huns sacking more than ten Eastern Roman settlements.

What is truly notable about the Huns, however, is that they would regularly raze their enemies’ settlements. When a settlement is “razed,” its population is either completely decimated or enslaved, its buildings are burned or knocked to the ground, and its fields are torn up and filled with salt. Sophomores taking Natural World II this semester were recently taught that the Western Roman Empire fell because of its non-sustainable agricultural practices, but this may not be the case. We do not know a lot about Roman farming practices, but we know that their fields were destroyed by the Huns. As such, the Romans did not have the food to feed their soldiers and, thus, did not have the soldiers to maintain their empire.

But why raze a settlement? We can look to the acts of ISIL for an answer. ISIL has systematically looted and destroyed modern cities and ancient ruins alike, notably the ancient ruins near the settlement of Palmyra in Syria. ISIL has claimed that these attacks are meant to destroy the idols of other Muslim sects (although there is no indication of idol worship in many affected areas) and landmarks of Western expansion into the Middle East. There is also a great deal of money to be made through the sale of the ancient artifacts that ISIL has stolen.

Therefore, both modern ISIL and the ancient Huns share the same despicable and barbaric practices. The Hunnic menace to the world, rampaging through most of Europe as well as the Middle East, lived for almost an entire century. ISIL cannot have the same lifespan. The Huns succeeded because although the entire world was afraid, they did not unite against the Huns. When one Gothic faction fell, its neighbor to the West would wait with fingers crossed, hoping to not be the next anthill sitting in the path of the Huns. For this modern Hun to be destroyed, the civilized nations of Europe, Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East must unite against our common enemy.

While we share many differences, a united global coalition would free the world from a shared terror.

Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing. 

Further Reading:






Favelas and Helots

Photo courtesy of Christophe Simon
Photo courtesy of Christophe Simon

“Part of my son’s skull landed here in the living room.”

-Terezinha Maria de Jesus

Over seven months ago, 10-year-old Eduardo de Jesus was shot to death in front of his home in Complexo de Alemão, one of the many favelas in Rio de Janeiro. While one might expect this horrible death to be the result of gang or drug violence, which so commonly plagues favela life, Eduardo was in fact killed by an unidentified member of the Pacifying Police Unit stationed in the favela. Ironically, these police forces which have been tasked with driving gangs and drug traffickers from Rio de Janeiro’s favelas have caused a great deal of civilian deaths.

Having been so saturated by an overwhelming amount of human of loss, Eduardo’s story was lost until this week when Rio de Janeiro authorities announced that they would not be charging any of the officers who were suspected of involvement with the young man’s death. Following the announcement of Rio de Janeiro’s decision to refrain from charging any of the officers suspected of involvement in young Eduardo’s death, protests have broken out in many of the thirty-eight favelas which are now under the influence of the government’s pacification initiative. Protestors are calling for the immediate expulsion of Pacifying Police Units from their local favelas in hopes of stemming the civilian casualties that have resulted from the initiative.

While Eduardo’s death serves as a stark reminder of the shortcomings of the initiative, the pacification process has dramatically benefitted certain communities. For instance, Vidigal, a pacified favela, once no stranger to gunfire and death, is now a popular tourism spot. Unfortunately, the situation is not as black and white as we might have hoped.

Before the initiation of pacification, many of these favelas were completely devoid of governmental representation. This lack of an authoritative presence allowed gangs and drug dealers to rule favelas however they pleased. Yet since pacification began in 2012, there has been a dramatic decline in reported deaths and robberies in affected communities.

Unfortunately, many police officers and civilians alike have been killed on account of the initiative. In the winding and narrow pathways of the favelas, civilians find themselves caught in the crossfire all too often. Police officers have also been ambushed and executed by gangs looking to send a message. While the pacification initiative has been shown to have a positive impact in some cases, many people are paying the price with their lives.

Could such senseless death be unique to our modern world, or can similar examples be found in ancient history? Understandably, if any major ancient civilizations took violent action against their lower classes, any surviving accounts would likely be “neutralized” or destroyed. There is one civilization, however, ancient Sparta, where the people were as backwards as they were beefy.

Spartan society was increasingly dependent on its slave class, commonly referred to as Helots, as almost every Spartan male was tasked with serving in the military and women were confined to the city; someone had to grow the crops. Helots did not live in Sparta proper, but rather in slum towns on the fringes of the city, similar to the favelas of Rio de Janeiro.

The Helots were obviously treated very poorly. If they did not spend their entire lives growing food that they would never be able to eat, then they were conscripted to serve as skirmishers (bowmen, slingers, or peltasts) for the Spartan military, as true Spartans wouldn’t be caught dead (literally) without a spear and shield in their hands.

In order to prevent the Helots from rebelling against their cruel overlords, the Spartans organized annual “Culling of the Helots,” during which, according to Greek historian Plutarch,

“By the day they would disperse to obscure spots in order to hide and rest. At night they made their way to roads and murdered any helot whom they caught. Frequently, too, they made their way through fields, killing the Helots who stood out for their physique and strength.”

Such senseless violence suggests that humanity is not becoming more violent, but rather, more aware. When the Helots were culled year after year, there were no ancient Grecian Helot-rights activists who stood outside of Sparta with protest signs.

As educated individuals, we have a unique right which very few people possessed thousands of years ago: the right to be informed. What we do with this knowledge, this unique responsibility, is up to each of us.

If we stand by the oppressed, if we make their strife known, if we complain about injustice rather than red cups, I believe that we are doing right by our ancestors, those who, if they had been informed, would have been trembling with fear outside of Sparta, waving their protest signs which would have read, “Culling Helots? How ‘bout Hel-no.”

Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing and the current editor of the QuickBIC. 

Further reading on the Cull of the Helots:





Further reading on Rio’s Pacification Police Units:




Syria and Iberia

As the Syrian War unfolds before the world, as anarchy, disarray, and unrestrained violence becomes ever more commonplace on Syrian soil, we must ask ourselves, “How could this have happened?” It is undoubtedly difficult to even consider the fact that this horrible series of conflicts, broadcasted constantly on our TVs and becoming ever clearer from the cockpits of American bombers, is not the first of its kind. Unfortunately, if modern nations do not take a hint from the empires of old, it will not be the last.

“The Syrian War” is a term used to describe the current conflict in Syria, which has come to involve a complicated variety of engagements and the combined forces of over twelve nations. The Syrian War began as the Syrian Civil War, in which rebel forces rose up against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over four years ago.

The United States has since allied itself with the rebel forces, offering air support, supplies, and military training in an effort to topple the Assad regime. The military forces of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Arab states have similarly joined the rebel cause. The Syrian government under Assad is not without allies, however. Assad has enlisted the support of Russia, Iran, Hezbollah militants, and local loyalist militias. This war has raged for over four years and has resulted in thousands of casualties.

This conflict would be enough on its own, yet with the Islamic State (ISIS) added into the mix, the situation becomes as complicated as it is deadly.

The American-backed rebels have no interest in combating the ever-advancing Islamic State, who have ravaged the Syrian countryside, but are focused on bringing down the Assad regime. Meanwhile, the United States is openly assaulting ISIS positions while supplying its rebel allies. Kurdish militants have also been coordinating attacks with the United States against the Islamic State, but this has only increased tensions between the United States and Turkey, which has fought deadly war upon deadly war against Kurdish separatists. The tensions do not stop there, however, as Saudi-Arabian-backed militant forces have squared off against Iran and Hezbollah-backed loyalist troops, thus increasing the already apparent
turmoil in the Middle East.

Image courtesy of Thomas Van Linge
Image courtesy of Thomas Van Linge

The situation only worsened once Russia began launching airstrikes in Syria as of September of this year. Russian cruise missiles are targeting not only ISIS positions but also American-backed rebel groups battling the Assad regime. Accordingly, this has increased tensions between the United States and Russia; they have only recently signed a shaky pact as of October 20 regulating both nations’ airstrikes within Syrian territory.

As of January 2015, the United Nations estimated that over 220,000 people had died over the course of the Syrian War. Unfortunately, this death toll has only increased, and exponentially so.

With a death toll exceeding 220,000 people, it may be hard to believe that the world has ever seen such a complicated and deadly conflict, especially the ancient world.

Yet the first-ever Syrian War began in Saguntum, an ancient Iberian settlement that is now the small town of Sagunto on the southeastern coast of modern day Spain. It was the siege and consequent destruction of this settlement that brought about the Second Punic War, the conflict which would establish Rome as an international superpower.
Following the First Punic War between the Carthaginian Empire, based out of modern-day Tunisia, and the Roman Empire, based out of, well, Rome, these two powers held an uneasy peace. While Rome and its allies had the Italian peninsula firmly under their heel (get it, Italy looks like a boot), as well as the island of Sicily to the South, Carthage commanded firm control of the African coast, a large portion of the southeastern portion of Iberia (modern-day Spain), and the Balearic Isles.

Image courtesy of totalwar.com
Image courtesy of totalwar.com

Yet beyond their personal territorial holdings, both Rome and Carthage had a variety of allies across the Iberian Peninsula. For instance, Carthage held the Iberian tribes of the Oretani, Turdetani, and Illervacones as client states. Carthage also held some uneasy relationships with the major Iberian tribes of the Lusitani and Arevaci. Hannibal Barca, the general who spearheaded the Second Punic War, regularly bolstered his forces with Lusitanian and Arevacian troops.

Rome similarly had no shortage of allies. The Greek city states of Massilia (modern Marseilles) and Emporion (near modern Catalonia) on the Iberian coast were dedicated military allies of Rome. Many small Iberian tribes were also loyal to Rome, as they sought the lucrative trade agreements that came with such alliances. One such Iberian tribe were the Sagunti, who occupied the city of Saguntum.

Much like Syria, ancient Iberia was a powder keg of complicated hostilities and alliances just waiting for a spark. That spark was embodied in Hannibal Barca, the leader of the Carthaginian cause. After the Roman-backed Sagunti were accused of conducting raiding parties against the Carthaginian-backed Oretani, Hannibal took the situation into his own hands and captured the city of Saguntum, plunging the entirety of Iberia, Africa, and Spain into war.

This war would last for nearly twenty years, resulting in an estimated 650,000 militant deaths alone, not including civilian casualties.

Once again, history has shown itself to be cyclical. In modern Syria, we see a bloody mix of varying intentions and internationally-backed militant groups, just as we did in ancient Iberia. While we do not know how the Syrian conflict will end, we can be certain that the same formula resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in the ancient world.

I will leave you with the thought-provoking notions of American literary theoretician Henry W. Said and his notion of imperialism,

“Every empire, however, tells itself and the world that it is unlike all other empires, that its mission is not to plunder and control but to educate and liberate.”

Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing and the current editor of the QuickBIC.


Further reading on Iberia in the Second Punic War:



Further reading on the Syrian War:















Africa and Athens: Modern and Ancient Stigma for Mental Illness

Photo courtesy of Joao Silva
Photo courtesy of Joao Silva

No great genius has ever existed without a strain of madness.


If I were to tell you that at one time people with mental illnesses were literally chained to trees, given no treatment other than prayers, forced to live in their own feces, and deprived of the known medical treatments of the time, you would probably think that I am talking about some ancient civilization, some backwoods area thirty miles northwest of Athens proper.

Unfortunately, however, people with mental illnesses have been experiencing this horrible treatment in Western Africa for years – and there seems to be no end in sight.

The so-called “treatment” that these people are receiving is nowhere near as forward-thinking or scientifically-supported as the treatments that physicians administered in ancient Greece, over 2,500 years ago – and that is saying something.

“Jesus is the Solution” Prayer Camps have arisen all over Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Benin in the past several years. At these camps, people with mental illness are chained to trees, where they are forced to eat in the same place that they defecate, and are prayed over until the head religious official of the camp deems that a “patient” has “recovered.” Patients at such prayer camps never receive actual diagnoses or medication, however, so an individual’s healing process is solely evaluated by criteria provided by the head religious official.

According to one such official, “If I pray for someone and he finds a cure, he himself will ask to be bathed. But as long as he is not healed, if we tell him that he has to go and wash, he will say no.”

Any patient, whether suffering from depression and anxiety or schizophrenia, will show that he or she is healed when he or she asks for a bath, according to this official. As such, many patients can end up “living” in such camps for years.

Yet you might be wondering, “How are people ending up in these terrible camps?”

More often than not, families bring their relatives to such camps. The stigma of mental illness is horribly pervasive in West Africa, leading many citizens to believe that individuals who suffer from mental illness are possessed by demons. Families often bring their relatives to traditional healers, who fail to provide any form of solution. As a final last-ditch effort, individuals are often brought to prayer camps by their families, who have run out of options. This “service” is free, except for the chain which will bind the suffering individual, which the family must purchase.

How does modern West Africa’s treatment of individuals suffering from mental illness compare to the ancient Grecian understanding of mental illness?

Spoiler alert: Even the most ignorant toga-wearing Grecian doctor would not support the current treatment of mental patients in West Africa.

Although a prevalent stigma towards mental illness was present in ancient Greece, Greek physicians and culture worked hand-in-hand to combat this stigma. For instance, if a person was suffering from depression, he would first go to a “Physician-Hero” (Hear that pre-med kids, you are all heroes!) where he would offer wine and honey to a deity in order that he or she assist him with his distress. If this did not work (for some reason), this man would then travel to a large city such as Athens, where he would meet with a physician (of the non-hero variety). This ancient psychiatrist would ask a variety of questions, evaluating (to the best of his ability) the man’s physical and mental state. They would discuss the man’s wine consumption, exercise habits, and dreams.

If everything else was in order, the physician might diagnose the man with melancholia, a state of sadness caused by an excess of “black bile,” a substance the Greeks believed to be found in certain foods and accumulated through certain lifestyles. In turn, the doctor would prescribe “medications” which would result in a purging of the body (to remove the black bile) as well as a particular diet and exercise regimen.

The physician would then refer the man to a Korybantes, a group of women who would perform ritualistic purification ceremonies. If none of these treatments worked, members of the man’s community, including oracles, priests, and public officials would often come to him in an attempt to make him feel better.

There were even mental illness support groups in which distressed individuals and their families could talk with other such families in an attempt to achieve a better understanding of their respective conditions.

What does this mean for those suffering from mental illness in West Africa? Progress is being stifled and, in turn, people are suffering needlessly – chained to trees and deprived of medication. Prayer certainly has its place in healing, but so does medicine. As intelligent and educated individuals, we must ensure that our faith is not blind.

I will leave you with the words of Gregoire Ahongbonon, the founder of Saint-Camille-De-Lellis, an organization that provides West African mental patients with actual medical treatment,

“As long as there is one man left in chains, it is humanity that is chained. When I see a man tied to wood or in chains, I see my own image. And it is the image of each and every one of us.”

Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing and the current editor of the QuickBIC. 

Further reading on the Ancient Grecian Psychiatry:




Further reading on West African Prayer Camps:



Gladius and Glock: Weapon Regulation of Past and Present

Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David
Oath of the Horatii by Jacques-Louis David

Following the shooting at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, the age-old debate regarding gun control has arisen again. While we all might not be able to agree as to how firearms should be regulated in the United States, I would hope that we can all agree that there are currently 15 families in Oregon that are in need of support. Nine people have died and six have been critically wounded. Our thoughts and prayers here at the QuickBIC are with these families as we delve into the issue which has so drastically affected their lives.

On October 29, 2015, Christopher Harper-Mercer, age 26, entered room 15 of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon and, armed with body armor, five handguns, and a semiautomatic rifle, proceeded to execute his fellow classmates and professors. Within five minutes of the first gunshot, local law enforcement arrived and began trading fire with Harper-Mercer. Two minutes later, along with nine of his victims, the gunman lay dead.

In order to survive, some students played dead next to their wounded classmates as Harper-Mercer fired into the heap of cowering bodies. Others, such as army veteran Chris Mintz who was shot six times as he attempted to prevent the gunman from entering another classroom, struggled to protect the lives of their fellow human beings in the face of such a travesty. (Mintz is expected to recover from his wounds.)

Unfortunately, we are all too familiar with the horror of school shootings. The very mention of “Columbine” or “Sandy Hook” evokes bleak emotions which require no explanation. Umpqua will join this list of names.

Catastrophes such as the Umpqua Community College shooting seem to beg the question, “Should stricter gun laws be put into place in the United States?”

Perhaps history will provide us with some answers.

The Byzantine Empire, the surviving fragment of the Eastern Roman Empire following the Byzantine-Sassanid Wars, serves as one of the few ancient civilizations for which there are surviving records of its personal weapon regulation laws. Taking the throne in 527 CE, Emperor Justinian I sought not only to reclaim Italy and Africa from its barbarian invaders, but also to systematically collate the complex laws of Rome. Within ten years, Justinian’s personally-appointed committee organized over six centuries of Roman law into a number of straightforward codices.

In the third such codex, Roman law states,

“We grant to all persons the unrestricted power to defend themselves, so that it is proper to subject anyone, whether a private person or a soldier . . .  [to] suffer the death which he threatened and incur that which he intended” (Codex Justinianus 3.27.1).

As such, Romans were encouraged to protect themselves by any means necessary. Especially as the Byzantines were harassed on all fronts by “barbarous” nations, certain laws directly encouraged citizens to amass and utilize their own weapons in defense of Roman territories from barbarian raids.

For instance, the Edict of Valentinian proclaims,

“By this edict we urge one and all . . . to use, if the occasion demands it, along with one’s close relatives and friends, whatever arms they can against the enemy” (Nov.Val. IX, A.D. 440).

Yet personal weapon ownership was scarcely regulated. Certain laws forbade arming slaves with weapons, selling weapons to “barbarians,” or using them “unlawfully” – but there was by no means any way of ensuring that these laws were followed. As such, while some Romans simply protected themselves with swords and shields, others made massive profit by arming slave rebellions and barbaric invasions alike.

So where does that leave us on increased gun control vs. maintaining current gun control standards scoreboard?

The Byzantines lived lives that were constantly defined by war – wars that were fought not in distant territories but on their front porches, in their backyards, in their burning living rooms. I would argue that modern America is not plagued by such threats, but I am sure some would disagree.

Are guns inherently evil? Are swords naturally bloodthirsty? Should guns be completely outlawed for personal ownership? I would argue that weapons are inanimate objects that reflect the will of agents, namely human beings, and can be utilized to commit a robbery as easily as they can put a stop to one. I similarly believe that the Byzantine Empire would have fallen much sooner if citizens were not allowed to own swords.

I do believe, however, that there should be stricter gun control laws in the United States. For those who disagree, I would pose this question: Is utilizing a firearm properly not a skill?

Ask any soldier and he or she will tell you that intense training is required to wield a weapon as military regulations demand. Ask any seasoned hunter and he or she will likely tell you that he or she has spent many a hunting trip learning how to strike with precision while also keeping fellow hunters safe. In a sense, the proper utilization of a firearm is an art while its misuse can constitute an utter travesty. Should just anyone be allowed to access this art form without the proper training or materials? Should we allow this art form to be utilized by those who would harm humanity instead of elevating humanity’s skill?

Consider the prodigal works of Rembrandt, who sold all of his beautiful paintings through the leading art guilds of the time. I simply propose that prospective gun owners enter a similar, federally-mandated guild in order to insure that their passion, their “art” as it were, coincides with the continued safety of the American people.

I will leave you with the thought-provoking words of Psychology Today writer Michael W. Austin,

“The right to own a firearm is not absolute; its exercise should be dependent upon the individual meeting several important conditions: a criminal and mental health background check, a required safety course, competency with a firearm demonstrated via a skills test, a regular renewal requirement, a minimum age requirement of 25, and some form of gun liability insurance.”

Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student and the current editor of the QuickBIC.

Further reading on Ancient Roman Laws:



Further reading on Modern Gun Control and Shootings:







ISIS and Sertorius

Image courtesy of CNN.com
Image courtesy of CNN.com

In the past year, ISIS has murdered thousands of people, destroyed ancient ruins, bombed mosques and churches alike, instituted organized and theologically-ordained sex slavery, and has absorbed an additional 30,000 volunteers from the international community. How is ISIS continuing to rally support despite the atrocities that they have committed? While ISIS is a carnage-fueled terrorism epidemic the likes of which history has never seen before, the world of the ancients can provide us with some insight.

An estimated 30,000 volunteers have entered Syria over the course of the past twelve months with intent to join the malice and destruction of ISIS, including 250 American, 500 French, and 750 British citizens. Unfortunately, this is double the number of recruits that ISIS managed to muster during the year before. The number of countries from which ISIS draws its recruits has also increased, from 80 countries last year to 100 as of 2015.

The international community is desperately trying to combat the influx of ISIS recruits, but with mixed success. For instance, France has passed a law which allows the government to detain anyone who is suspected of intent to join ISIS, and countries such as Germany, Tunisia, and Morocco have passed laws which criminalize the support of terrorist groups. Yet only 5 of the 21 countries deemed as “high priority” in terms of the apparent need to identify and detain ISIS recruits have the required technology and laws to do so.

According to a report by the House Homeland Security Committee, “Foreign partners are still sharing information about terrorist suspects in a manner which is ad hoc, intermittent, and often incomplete. There is currently no comprehensive global database of foreign fighter names. Instead, countries including the U.S. rely on a weak, patchwork system for swapping individual extremist identities.”

ISIS constitutes an obvious threat with a significantly less obvious solution. Can history help us out here? While fortunately there are not many terrorist threats in ancient history that compare to that of ISIS’ advance through Southwest Asia, we can still draw certain parallels.

In 87 B.C.E., following the Roman Social War in which Rome and its Italian allies fought for control of the Italian peninsula, Rome was divided by the Optimates, who sought to limit the power of the plebs (that’s you and me), and the Populares, who sought to increase the say of the plebs. When violence finally broke out between these two factions, one member of the Populares, Quintus Sertorius, then proconsul, took matters into his own hands.

After being driven from Spain into Africa by Optimatian forces, Sertorius mounted a campaign in the province of Mauretania (modern day Morocco), freeing the Mauri from the oppressive rule of the Optimates. With both his forces and morale boosted by the success of his African campaign, Sertorius returned to Hispania (modern day Spain) where the Lusitanian tribes who had suffered under Roman rule welcomed him with open arms. At this time, the Populares regime in Rome had fallen, making Sertorius an enemy of the state.

Sertorius assumed supreme command over the Lusitani, however, and mounted a massive campaign against his fatherland, Rome. His forces were bolstered by the Lusitani, Roman deserters, freed and escaped slaves, pirates, and other tribes of Hispania who had suffered under Roman rule.

Sertorius instituted Roman education for everyone in his armies, promised plunder and victory, and preached religious tolerance among his diverse subjects.

You might be wondering, “Gee, this Sertorius guy who wanted to expand my rights sounds super cool, but he hasn’t bombed a mosque or instituted organized sexual slavery. Where’s the connection?”

Sertorius and ISIS make many of the same promises. This Roman general recruited everyone who had an issue with Rome with the promise of plunder, acceptance, and honor – even though it was particularly anti-Roman to bring violence against Rome. There is no hypocrisy so poignant that it cannot be obscured with money. In the same way, ISIS is promising the begrudged youth of Southwest Asia and the entire international community money, fame, and women – all under the guise of an honorable cause. While Sertorius actually utilized his cause to unite the oppressed, however, ISIS uses its cause to further oppress. Who, when properly uninformed, can resist such a call – especially when the cause seems so successful?

Fortunately, ISIS, much like Sertorius, will be stopped as long as there are people who stand up against injustice. As Americans and citizens of the world, I hope we stand together.

Lee Shaw is a current BIC sophomore majoring in professional writing and the current editor of the QuickBIC. 

Questions? Comments? Suggestions? All are welcome! Email me at Lee_Shaw@baylor.edu

Further reading on the Quintus Sertorius:




Further reading on ISIS Recruitment:




Female Spartans and Female Marines

Photo courtesy of the New York Daily Sun
Photo courtesy of the New York Daily Sun

Feminism is a stigmatized term that pops up in the BIC and in life every so often, and as I will be utilizing this term throughout this article, I would like to set the record straight. The sophomores received a great lecture last week concerning the rise of feminism during the Enlightenment, but the definition of the actual term “feminism” was overlooked.

Feminism is the belief that men and women are equal and, furthermore, that this equality should be represented on a global level through legislation, salaries, and general societal interaction. I believe that if both my mother and father were to work at 7/11 as cashiers, then they should be paid the same salary (though hopefully they would rake in some sufficient bonuses so I could go to Baylor). I am male. I am a feminist. If you agree with the above statement, then you are too.

The issue of feminism has flared up recently in regard to the Marine Corps’ intention to persistently fight against the Obama administration’s order that women be effectively integrated into all combat positions by 2016 (unless the military asks for certain exemptions for specific taskforces). While the Marines submitted the results of a 36 million dollar, nine month study which concluded that inter-gendered combat groups do not perform as well as their all-male counterparts, the Secretary of the Navy, Ray Mabus, dismissed the results and the study as a whole on account of gender-based bias.

According to Mr. Mabus, “My belief is you set gender-neutral standards related to the job Marines have to do, and you adhere to them. It doesn’t matter whether the Marines who meet those standards are male or female.”

The common argument against integration of women into Marine combat units relies on the belief that the presence of women in combat will undermine the general morale, fellowship, and overall killing power of the unit in question.

Mabus argues, however, “That is almost exactly the same argument made against ending racial segregation in the military, and the ban on gays – that it will ruin morale. And it just isn’t true. We’ve seen that.”

Since 2013, over 11,000 combat positions in the Marines which were previously closed to women have been opened, while 22,000 remained closed.

This issue has yet to be resolved, but can history offer us any answers in the meantime? Fortunately for Mabus, there are dozens upon dozens of historic examples of women in ancient warfare. But for the sake of time and word count, I will only mention a few.

Surprisingly, the ancient Spartans, though not exactly known for their “open-mindedness,” are cited by noted historians on multiple occasions in their employment of female soldiers. For instance, when Pyrrhus of Epirus (whose infamous military exploits resulted in the term “Pyrrhic Victory”) besieged Sparta itself, a Spartan princess named Chelidonis rallied a group of female warriors who aided in the defense of Sparta’s walls. Plutarch writes that the walls likely would have fallen without Chelidonis’ support; she who wore a noose around her neck while she fought – representing her intent to never be captured.

There are ancient cultures who went beyond individual units of female warriors, however, such as the Lusitani, an ancient Iberian tribe based out of the southwestern portion of modern Spain who tangled with the two largest empires of the time, Rome and Carthage.

According to the Roman general Sextus Junius Brutus, the female warriors within the completely gender-integrated forces of the Lusitani were, “Fighting and perishing in company with the men with such bravery that they uttered no cry even in the midst of slaughter – bearing arms with the men, never turning, never showing their backs, or uttering a cry.”

If a person, male or female, wants to defend his or her country, he or she should be allowed to do so. As long as that person meets the standards as set by the military, he or she should be allowed to become a patriot. I mean if the Spartans didn’t think it was too racy for women to fight alongside men, is it really too outrageous for modern America?

Further reading on the ancient warrior women:






Further reading on marines fighting gender integration:


Lee Shaw is a sophomore BIC student majoring in professional writing and the current editor of the QuickBIC.