…taking myself too seriously again…
and other inflammatory viewpoints….
Recent events like the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO refocused our national radar from ISIS and Ebola to the issues permeating our sometimes painfully slow transition from a culture that is strongly compartmentalized to one that operates as one that is more inclusive. I’m talking about “diversity“, I’m talking about “racism“. We all know numerous ways to define the underlying behavior: prejudice, bias, racism, sexism, and so on.
I find it strange for me to be writing from such an angle instead of the usual curmudgeonry. Actually, my views haven’t changed significantly, but I think the way I arrive at them has been nudged over some.
I have been curious for as long as I can remember about what makes both individuals and groups of individuals tick. As a child, I’d take things apart just to see what was in there even though I didn’t have as clue how to put them back together. Various arrangements of the underlying mentality associated with such behaviors have given us a litany of “I wonder what will happen if I push this button… ” and “..hold my beer and watch this” jokes, but I suppose it also led me to major in psychology and sociology in college and later to spend 25 years working in the behavioral health field.
I still approach current events, metaphorically speaking, with a magnifying glass, a pocketful of litmus papers, and a kit of small hand tools. What has transpired in the world is far less interesting to me than why it happened and why it is being reported in different ways across the media.
My neurons have been kept buzzing in recent years, along those lines, by the periodic eruptions occurring around circumstances involving racial conflicts, gender related issues, and “bias” in general. My focus has not been one of advocacy, but one of the what-where-when-why and how variety. While the news pumped out seemingly endless visual and editorial descriptions of intra-cultural collisions involving the popular racial, gender, and class issues, I have pondered and sputtered via-keyboard about some of the underlying factors of our levels of polarity, the widespread all or nothing perception-response phenomenon, etcetera.
In other words, my approach tends to be “I know we are ticking, but that is a natural human behavior, so the issue is not that we need to eliminate ticking, but to know why we tick and perhaps how to redirect it to constructive purposes”.
I was gratified to stumble across a You Tube presentation on that very subject that sounded a great deal like what I have been trying to understand and write about. It is wordy and long….about an hour….but I found it to be extremely enlightening. I highly recommend “Everyday Bias”, with Howard Ross, (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v01SxXui9XQ) to anyone interested in seeing a non-cliché discussion of bias and discrimination for a change. It’s long, but I found it worth listening to.
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and the currency of need….
Let’s be clear from the start. I’m not overly fond of President Obama, and I see the “Affordable Care Act” as being neither affordable nor caring, but most assuredly counter to the principles of the United States of America. Yes, I’m preaching to the choir, so those who have no intention of being weaned and those named Paul who actually like seeing Peter get robbed might just as well go read a comic book or something. You’ll either not like what I have to say, won’t understand it, or both.
We’re like children. We stretch permissions and presumed permissions to the limit, just like a toddler explaining “…but I thought you meant I could eat the whole box of cookies…”
The last time I looked, neither the Constitution of the United States, nor the one of my state, says anything about healthcare being a “Right“, nor do they declare it a privilege, nor do they suggest or imply that our “rights” must be paid for by way of the government confiscating and redistributing the earned income of the entire working population. Expanding the declared rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” to include increasingly more generous interpretations of what those three words mean over recent decades has obscured the underlying principles whereby the Founders saw the wisdom in declaring equal access to the benefits of citizenship for all so as to prevent the development of privilege by class and classification. They were breaking loose from the centuries old tradition of self indulgent and pampered monarchy and nobility. Equal access to the water in the well was of primary significance.
It still is, but serial amendments, exceptions, special cases, and simply drawing the longest straw at the right time have created a cesspool of privilege and denial, with a pseudo-monarchy formed of the incestuous mutual ear nibbling of government and industry.
Think about it. The evolution of a welfare society, a path we embarked upon long before the unnamed recruited a relatively unknown and unremarkable Illinois Senator to put his name on what would be called the Affordable Care Act, includes outcomes the naive and overly passionate don’t know about or refuse to see.
No matter what one calls it, any process by which the population is mandated to buy a product it doesn’t want, from vendors set up by the government, and regulations are tweaked and reinterpreted to establish the Internal Revenue Service as the National Repo Man to confiscate the assets of any who dare to say no….is NOT VOLUNTARY. Using such carefully vetted terminology for the Liberal rape of the American people as “Affordable” and “Care” is a travesty of language and morality. It has proven to NOT be affordable in many instances and has failed to demonstrate affordability in others. The administration and its handlers did a bit of hot-shoe dancing to finalize plans to put lipstick on the proverbial pig and sell it as a centerfold.
Playing musical pockets with the money to make something look “affordable” or “free” doesn’t make it so. That’s like buying a $35,000 car marked down to $25,000 because you “save” $10,000, even though you know it’s a phony deal. What the hey, it sounded good…..
Make no mistake. This scam was not put together by idiots, and it would be extremely difficult if not impossible to parse it down to truth and consequences. If the Republicans think they can do that, they are fools. The only sensible recourse is to just flat out repeal it, and that’s not without serious consequences either.
Remember Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s iconic pronouncement “We Have to Pass the Bill So That You Can Find Out What Is In It“…?
If it is subsequently decided that some sort of federally influenced healthcare system is needed and wanted, not only by a healthier Congress, an appropriate President, and serious, transparent research, but by a direct vote by the people rather than by cabal of whispering politicians and their ménage à quiconque partners in crime, then perhaps that’s the way it will end up going. Between now and then, we must recognize that we’ve “been had” and decide exactly what we plan to do about it. Voting is not enough, because too many of those we elect are a part of the problem.
When something like “Obamacare” is perpetrated in the name of “helping the people who need help,” keep in mind the modern hobby of creative linguistics. What is meant by help? What is meant by people, and how does one distinguish between those who need that “help” and those who should pay for it…and how?
As former President Clinton so eloquently put it back in 1998, “It depends upon what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is. ”
The dynamic has very little wiggle room. Consider four subpopulations: (1) the poor who are not insured and don’t currently qualify for medical care under preexisting programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and who supposedly would benefit from a government mandated healthcare system; (2) the wage earner and members of the “middle class” who are employed, have insurance, have access to healthcare, and will end up paying the most for a mandated government controlled program they don’t need; (3) Elected and appointed officials of government who benefited from passage of the ACA, and who are conveniently exempt; (4) those behind the scenes who benefit financially from government programs and mandates by participating in operating and servicing the “machinery”.
(1) the poor who are not insured and don’t currently qualify for medical care under preexisting programs such as Social Security and Medicare, and who supposedly would benefit from a government mandated healthcare system;
(2) the wage earner and members of the “middle class” who are employed, have insurance, have access to healthcare, and will end up paying the most for a mandated government controlled program they don’t need;
(3) Elected and appointed officials of government who benefited from passage of the ACA, and who are conveniently exempt;
(4) those behind the scenes who benefit financially from government programs and mandates by participating in operating and servicing the “machinery”.
In this scenario, two groups will benefit, and not all “benefits” are financial. Money is the currency of the middle class. Power is the currency of others such as politicians and “royalty”. The wealthiest don’t need money. They can point at something and it is taken care of for them. Fame and stature are forms of currency, too. I recall one college professor talking about this topic and about how different classes steal and what their “currency” was. The lower income brackets, the working poor, were said to steal “time“. I wonder if that is the case anymore, since so many have been introduced to the currency of need.
Thus, the ones who stand to benefit the most from the Affordable Care Act are groups (3) and (4). Just enough of group (1) will see some improvement in certain areas to lend an air of legitimacy to the ACA, but the largest group of all, group (2) not only ends up paying for the ACA through confiscated income, but experiences disruption in their own existing insurance and care. They lose. Period. Cattle. There are more than the obvious reasons for so much ranting about rebuilding the middle class! This is the biggest act of organized crime since Guido made his rounds in Chicago and elsewhere back in the twenties and thirties “helping” people to not get their knees pulverized.
One of the saddest things I can imagine would be for young people of today to experience the USA my generation experienced in the sixties and seventies. It was a time of fire in the streets, armed troops patrolling American cities, fighting, assassinations. The other saddest thing I can think of would be for nobody to act, for the heart and soul of the United States to be surgically removed and then be replaced by a government programmed computer, one that they are required to pay for.
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the loving parents of injustice….
I have certainly been guilty of breaking my own resolve, but I generally avoid internet “comment” opportunities and the like. Despite frequent claims to the contrary, such environs are not reservoirs of intellectual stimulation and discussion. Those who never launched a stream of mother-cuts and other character disembowelments as a kid have no business entering such places. That would be like Mr. Peepers barging into a biker bar.
Owing to my partially misspent youth, I am credentialed to frequent such seedier loci, and have done so, at least until I realized that the experience always felt like “déjà vu”, the reason being that the regulars either were fourteen years old, or middle aged with severely arrested emotional development, a bona fide diagnosis, or both.
Anyway, I suppose I needed a refresher course or something because this morning I found myself inexplicably staring at the invitation to comment at the foot of an online news item about the Maine nurse held in quarantine in New Jersey and then hunkered down in her home, under siege, because she had been in West Africa treating ebola patients, even though she was not symptomatic.
I succumbed to temptation and scrolled down through the vitriol.
It was like a one note concert. Virtually all who commented viciously accused the nurse as being uncaring, selfish, self centered, stupid, an idiot, unfit to practice her profession and on and on. Most said she should lose her license, many said they hoped she comes down with ebola, and a few opined that she should be shot. Standard internet fare.
While there were one or two commenters who identified themselves as nurses and condemned Kaci Hickox for bucking mandatory quarantine anyway, almost all demonstrated little or no understanding of the disease and the history of the current situation.
My thoughts on the matter:
First of all, I am opinionated and have rarely passed up an opportunity to exercise that characteristic. I claim no expertise on the matters of medicine, law, or ebola. However, I do claim a modicum of skill when it comes to extracting a message from a sea of misapplied verbiage, reading between the lines, and knowing when and where to look for information about a subject rather than try to pretend I actually know anything about it by hiding behind a paper shield of bellicosity. My somewhat eclectic work history included being an editor and working in the mental health field as a counselor. I specialized in probationers and people most folks would not wish to be alone in a elevator with.
Selfishness-self centeredness-self interest
That said, I would first like to address the rampant use of the word “selfish”, almost universally applied as a pejorative rather than as the description of a thought process or personality characteristic. I understand that it sounds more authoritative and legitimate than “shit head“, but it doesn’t communicate anything of substance about the speaker or the target.
People confuse the term selfish with self-centered and self interest.
Selfishness, as used by those commenting about nurse Kaci Hickox, is intended to imply a general lack of concern for, or interest in the needs or desires of others. It is the act of consciously placing one’s own interests before all others. Considering the fact that Kaci Hickox is a Registered Nurse, and voluntarily travelled halfway around the world to battle a deadly disease in spite of the potential risk to herself, selfish just doesn’t seem to fit. Now, those brandishing their pitchforks and squealing for her essential incarceration, without due cause and without due process, because of their own fears and poverty of knowledge, might qualify for such a moniker….I don’t know. When a person is transported to a hospital because knowledgeable people have assessed that he appears to be a danger to himself or others, a considerable amount of time, paperwork, and an appearance before a Judge precedes that person’s involuntary restraint and treatment.
Self centeredness can appear similar to selfishness, but it has a different etiology, perhaps stemming from a developmental glitch or personality disorder. It may involve some awareness, but not necessarily intent.
Self interest is something else entirely, and seems to be mistaken here for one or both of the preceding issues. Self interest is a process of decision making and action based on an understanding and recognition of one’s own self worth and value. One practicing self interest tries to live in ways that honor and respect their sense of self worth. Often, that means standing up to those who would violate that principle by demeaning one’s worth and right of self determination. This may spark resentment and ire in others who are not comfortable in the company of self assuredness and assertiveness, or who have been unexpectedly disagreed with. Self interest does not exclude respecting those same qualities and rights in others, however. In fact, it demands it.
Think of selfishness as a behavior, self centeredness as a mindset, and self interest as a conscious process of decision and action.
As a related sidebar, I would include altruism for consideration.
Altruism is considered to be the antithesis of selfishness, and thus may be incorrectly believed to be antithetical to self interest. It is not, although altruism implies selflessness while self interest is the practice of valuing oneself. Altruism is actually a philosophical ideal rather than a definable quality. One may be said to act “altruistically” as demonstrated by a dedication to some service or cause, but that does not preclude self interest. Altruism in the common understanding does disallow self interest, and may in fact require observable sacrifice or humility in practice.
It is difficult to assign boundaries between all of these concepts, largely because they are not fixed or finite. I am presenting my understanding of them with full appreciation for the possibility that my interpretations may not work for another. Along those lines, I’d like to move on to discuss a thinking structure that I believe is at the core of much of our most egregious interpersonal conflict.
Black and white thinking
So called “black and white” thinking (BWT) goes by many names, but they all describe the same process. Some of the other terms are “polarized” thinking and “all or nothing” thinking. To understand the significance of BWT it may be helpful to consider some of the basics of communication.
Communication is not just “talking” any more than “dining” is just walking by a restaurant. Communication describes the process of transferring information and ideas, and as with a radio signal there must be a transmitter and a receiver. A man wandering about the desert talking to himself is not communicating. If nobody reads what I have written, have I communicated? No, I will simply have written something, as in a journal or diary.
Communication occurs by many means. In face to face, verbal communication, information and ideas are exchanged through the use of words, but that is a very small part of the whole. In fact, most of whatever message is transmitted and received does not involve words. Some say words comprise 15% or less of the average verbal communication. Most of the message is conveyed by the way in which those words are expressed and the body language involved. It is understandable then why written communication, and the internet “chat” format are significantly handicapped and can be volatile. Some 85% of the cues necessary to the efficient exchange of information and ideas is missing!
The art of saying “have a nice day” in a way that communicates “eat $#@! and die” is learned by most of us before reaching high school.
Black & white thinking interferes with clear communication because it involves distorted messages. The English language is rife with idiomatic references and words borrowed from many different languages. When one verbalizes an exaggerated expression, our culture intuitively knows where to draw the line between the data and the bling. “That was the best day ever” actually means “I had a good time and enjoyed myself very much.” The literal interpretation is unlikely to be accurate. We communicate in such a manner on a daily basis.
However, when the exaggerations are unspoken thoughts and provide the foundation for assessments, attitudes, and actions, the outcomes can be problematic or even disastrous in some cases. There are some legitimate explanations for why we gravitate to black and white thinking sometimes and not at others, and regarding the historic basis of such a thinking process, but that is for another time. Here we need only understand the existence of black and white thinking and how it may impact communication.
Black and white thinking is not an abnormality; it is a normal aspect of defense that happens to occur excessively. It is neither conscious nor intentional. What teenager doesn’t classify entire populations such as a rival school or some group as all good or all bad? When one carries such shortcuts into adulthood, however, it can cause great injustice and harm. It is quite normal for people to observe, assess, and make decisions about things and people they encounter in their environments, but when all are assessed on the basis of observations of one, and decisions are made accordingly, trouble ensues. Two major sources of ignorance are lack of knowledge and the application of black and white thinking to otherwise perfectly good knowledge.
I sensed a prevalence of this rigid decision making tree in the comments about the nurse in question. Draco would be proud. Such commentary would easily excuse one from jury duty!
Regarding the underlying issue itself, the question of whether the governors of some states are justified in declaring mandatory quarantine measures, or whether the nurse is justified in challenging that action, I look to what we know and what we don’t know.
What we know:
The most appropriate interventions are the result of a learning process. Those having to respond to potential threats of contamination know more about the nature of ebola today than they did when the Liberian gentleman Thomas Duncan arrived in Texas at the end of September.
The CDC has established guidelines for assessing the risks posed by those returning from West Africa. The four levels of risk run from no risk to one suggesting the advisability of quarantine. Kaci Hickox was not level 4.
Medical scientists know that non-symptomatic subjects are not contagious. Front line people are now practicing extreme methods for putting on and removing protective suits, including using teams to observe each other.
Considering what was known about the nurse, Kaci Hickox, her exposure to ebola patients in Africa, and measures taken to ensure her safety, medical professionals agree that quarantine was not warranted.
There are legitimate questions regarding the legality of holding a person against their will without due cause and due process.
What we don’t know:
We don’t know that public safety is enhanced if those deemed by the public and by politicians to be at risk are sequestered away from the general population regardless of medical assessment and reasoning to the contrary.
I agree that the passionate and overreaching demands for a modern version of the Leper Colony approach without medical justification are excessive, fear based, and hold more potential danger than the disease in question.
Government does indeed bear responsibility for protecting the safety, as well as the liberty, of all citizens. However, it can best fulfill those duties by enlisting, and listening to, those most knowledgeable in the field of concern. I understand they also feel compelled to allay the fears of a reactive public. They can best do that by leading, not by following.
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Tyranny never seems to be perpetrated in the name of tyranny, but in the name of some alleged “good” by the disturbed, the naive, or the well-meaning who are afflicted with tunnel vision and egoism.
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they must be taught to be men….
The media thrives on unpleasantries, which isn’t necessarily bad. After all, bandage makers thrive on injuries, but just as there are good bandages and there are cheap knockoffs that aren’t worth a toot, there’s good journalism and tabloid garbage. When a story is “reported” instead of just mined for the dirt, I’ll read it.
Today, I ran across a news item regarding seven teenage football players who are in serious trouble because of allegations of hazing and significant sexual assault and other charges that have been occurring within their team culture. Their school cancelled the football season, and it has not yet been determined which, if any, of the young men will be released to the custody of their families and which will remain incarcerated for the time being.
It would seem that anyone who has been at least moderately socialized would find this story disturbing. Being a male, I have observed and experienced some of the more unsavory residual behaviors that somehow have been passed down from generation to generation since the first of us stood upright. Adolescence is the Marine boot camp of life, and very few reach their thirties without some nicks and dings. For most, these nicks and dings are learning experiences, and the manner in which some engage and adapt to the challenges sometimes contributes to the development of desirable character traits. For others, those experiences are traumatic and significantly impact how they will navigate the ensuing sixty years or so.
No longer being among the primitive fauna where brutishness , or at least the capacity for it, may be necessary to survival, human beings have largely suppressed and redirected such energies towards competitions like sports and other positive creative outlets. But, the potential has not been bred out of our species, regardless of our self-serving claims to the contrary. Human beings can be, and frequently are, violent members of the animal kingdom. Like it or not, it is part of our underlying nature, and without it we would probably have to be downgraded to join the mosses and lichens.
All of that being said, the other aspect of our nature is to strive for nonviolence and peaceful interactions. We are “civilized”, yet like other species, we tend to congregate with or nearby our own kind. Being out of one’s element engenders anxiety and hyper-alertness. Having “outsiders” enter our “space” creates similar responses while the intruder is assessed and identified as friend or foe. That particular behavior has not been bred out of our species either, and outlawing it doesn’t make it magically go away.
Adolescence as a whole, and Teen sports in particular, is a time when these human characteristics are identified and the current socially preferred adaptations and expressions of them are learned and practiced. Mistakes are made, and while we normally don’t respond to teen transgressions the same as we would with an adult perpetrator, the intervention is equally important, perhaps even more so.
The investigations will produce knowledge regarding the alleged hazing and sexual misconduct. It is crucial that two things occur as part of whatever interventions are applied.
First of all, as the story reports, those harmed must be healed.
Second of all, those responsible for the harm must be corrected and redirected. The interventions for 15 to 17 year olds must not be formulated from a 40, 50, or 60 year old perspective, though the ultimate goal is to teach them to adopt those adult social and cultural standards. There is no life experience to draw on for the adolescent to “see” through that lens, but adults may be able to remember how to at least access some recollection of the teen view. Look at this way: if you want to teach American literature to a Spaniard, you had better learn to teach it in Spanish.
During my 25 years in the behavioral health field, I specialized in working with adults and adolescents referred by the Department of Corrections and the Department of Human Services because of problems with substance abuse, and later as a part of the support staff for a residential psychiatric facility. According to my peers and supervisors, one of my strong points apparently was a knack for “meeting them where they’re at.” Whether that was a compliment or a zinger depends upon one’s viewpoint; I choose to stick with the former. Finding that turf could be an interesting prospect when trying to establish a connection with a street wise sixteen year old who doesn’t trust anybody and probably with good reason.
It is vitally important that the young men who committed the illegal and immoral behaviors be engaged in a way that facilitates them being redirected and corrected without condemning them to association with the Dark Side of the adult world to which they will likely gravitate if nothing is done at all. Those responding to them must ask what kind of men do they want these errant teenagers to become. Just writing them off as “bad” eggs may vindicate the adults, but it doesn’t do much to help them make course corrections toward productive citizenship in the future. Consequences for unacceptable behavior are important, but if the message is just negative, expecting positive behaviors to follow is misguided. Just threatening or beating someone into compliance is not “change”, absolves the subject of responsibility for making internal changes, and is only appropriate for the unapproachable cases.
Of course, positive redirection and creative consequences may not work with all of them. There are some who, for any one of a number of reasons, may already be firmly on a path of self-destruction. In fact, in my field, there were more non-successes than successes. In those cases, “containment” and control may be the only realistic options. After all, the victims must be healed, and future potential victims must be protected.
I’m retired now, but I couldn’t help but think while reading the story, if I was a part of the response team and was given a choice of which kids to work with, I’d choose the ones who are probably rightfully scared, rightfully in very deep shit, and most certainly in need of a guide who knows how to peel an onion to its core without ruining it.
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- Animal behavior
- behavioral stuff
- everything else
- fire in the streets
- global stuff
- Great Society
- gun control
- Health care
- health reform
- just blowin' off
- law enforcement
- politically correct
- POLITICS: talking out of one's ass and face at the same time
- Right to Work
- Society in general
- Sunday School Truancy and other moments of Epiphany
- tax protest
- the arts