CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

CONSTRUCTS of REALITY

IN LIFE THERE ARE MANY EVENTS that force us to redefine our reality. Think back to that childhood moment when you realized that Disneyland was in California, and that California was over a thousand miles away, or that Santa Claus did not exist! What was to be done with that “new” information? How are white lies incorporated into our morality – especially the one about an elderly do-gooder, dressed in red, who sneaks into our houses to leave gifts and eat our cookies? What is realized when we come to understand mom and dad aren’t going to pack away the family for a week of fun in California when simply getting to school some days remains a challenge?

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Aside from these seemingly trivial matters, I’m sure we have all had thoughts along these lines, shared the developmental milestones that opened our consciousness to a society filled with grey areas and the realization that the “real world” is sneakier than we imagined. Obtaining what we want in life – for many of us – begins exactly with a strangely dressed bearded fellow purportedly steering a reindeer sleigh – and evolves into truth: success takes time, patience, hard work, which includes a lot of planning – not simply socially accepted behaviors as  reinforced through economic coercion and wrapped gifts. Additionally, these consciousness milestones allow us to question deep-seated cultural and family practices such as bases for religious ceremonies and customs, and a belief in a single immortal being whether called God, Jesus, Great Spirit, Allah, or Yahweh.

With religious ideas, it can become less clear with age just how to maintain these conflicting precepts, especially in our busy lives. Also, the more intelligent we Earthlings become, the less we can honestly conceptualize any divine place. For instance, we now know with complete certainty that “heaven” is not a place behind the clouds, and the “underworld” is neither a place below the Earth’s crust, yet these facts still have the strength to tug at our sense of place and at our family or cultural loyalties – more so than when we discovered it was our lactose intolerant dad who would drink the milk we set out for the burglar we called Santa; and that mom and dad were, in fact, collectively, Santa !

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It’s true, no matter the constructs of our beliefs (or disbeliefs) – these ideas are our own. So long as these ideas do not advocate hatred or violence we do ourselves and our communities a service by welcoming diverse views of the world. After all, we can never honestly know how difficult it is (or has been) for those who maintain or adopt ideas we know to be false. Fresh ideas push evolution in consciousness – as our loss of Santa and the knowledge we would never reach Disneyland did. We are a better people without the illusions, and a more empowered people knowing we can influence the mindset of future generations. What do you think? What do you believe?

IF YOU COULD, WOULD YOU LIVE FOREVER?

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THE LARGEST RELIGION IN EXISTENCE is Christianity, pushing 2-billion plus adherents.[1] It’s followers represent dozens of sects and denominations that actually disagree on more ideas than most care to keep track of. In a broad sense Christians share a few core beliefs, particularly that Yashua – a peasant Jew from Nazareth – was sent as Son of God to enlist believers in him and to atone for a sin that God’s first man was talked into.[2] It’s in belief of Yashua (Jesus is what the Romans called him) that humanity gains eternal life. Yashua died on a cross and raised himself from the dead after three days.

So much can be added to that short summary of what the core elements of Christianity are, so many arguments could be had, too. Christianity is a theologically complex religion and is somewhat irreconcilable with itself as well as historical knowledge. Equally complex and irreconcilable are the 27 holy books making up the New Testament.

As a simple exercise, ask yourself a few fundamental questions – that implicate a variety of religions aside from Christianity. Why is eternal life an idea that is offered in exchange for adhering or believing? What is so fascinating about eternal life that roughly half of the world, mostly industrialized areas, find such an exchange fruitful? What exactly are some of the implications of becoming immortal ? Would eternal life be a suitable situation for you? Have you thought about it?

Personally, despite my own beliefs, I would psychologically and spiritually grow weary of eternal existence. I can confidently state that without having any concept or taste of any afterlife. Let’s say I died tomorrow, came into some phantasmal form. I could imagine initially being sad, then being amused for awhile. Going everywhere I’ve never visited, learning things I hadn’t previously had the time for. Yet, as years would pass, I would witness the loss of other loved ones – some of whom might not be so lucky as to obtain immortality. I would be helpless as I watched my people deteriorate, become sick, or grow old and struggle.

There I would be, eternally struggling with such loss, never needing sleep, never resting, only suffering for millennia.

Well, I don’t want eternal life, I wouldn’t want that for you either. After all, to compartmentalize loss, to bury emotion, to replace grief with eternal life, is tantamount to adopting sociopathy. A sociopath lacks a conscience, is distant from humanity; I wouldn’t want to turn into that, to grow cold as the universe, as it, too, finally freezes all light from existence. That sounds so lonely, living forever in a cold expanse.

As with many firsts, a first kiss, the first bite of an ice cream sundae, a first soda or any other possible vice, eternal life will – much like those – appear awesome and grand initially; however, as we experience more and more of something it will either kill us or grow less tasteful and unsatisfying.

But, then again, what do I know, right? Actually, what is known is that we have around five or so decades together – if we’re fortunate. We have now , the present, to do kind acts, to cry together, to laugh, to share memories at gatherings and share moments of accomplishment. We have now.
As for me, when all this is gone, when precious light fades from the back of my eyelids, I want to go in peace, I want to rest well knowing that I will leave this world to you in slightly better condition than when I found it.

Notes
1. Goldwag, Arthur. (2007). ‘Isms and ‘Ologies: The 453 Basic Tenets You’ve only Pretended to Understand. Madison Park Press. New York

2. THE BOOK OF GENESIS, Old Testament

Image: public domain customization

LETTING GO: A RECIPE FOR THE FUTURE

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During the course of each of our lives we hear many things that cause us to listen. Some of these things are helpful, some disastrous, and between all that is conflicting advice. Take for instance, the concept of forgiveness. I have always been told by my elders to forgive people for their wrongs and accidental slights – no matter what these were. Few people have gone so far as to advise that, in addition to forgiveness, “to pray for them”, or “forgive, but don’t forget”. I’m sure I’m not alone in this confusing matter, so I’m going to briefly share what I think about it.

Forgiveness, at its very core, harbors the assumption that people will cross you, people will do you wrong, hurt you, use you, amongst all other manner of negative things. This means that forgiveness exists because people are capable of harm – directly or indirectly, and sometimes both ways.

Secondly, forgiveness assumes a therapeutic role – in that there is marginal benefit for victims and a vague notion that is to befall those unforgiving people. Resentment, negative expectations, deteriorated social relationships, spiritual stress, ailments, and sometimes deep-seated cultural morés, such as distrust in the “white-man” – or some such things – can be traced to unforgiveness.

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So, here I am, discussing forgiveness – an idea that most of my loved ones proclaim I should adopt, yet, they have such difficulty themselves with forgiveness. (This is not to say they are sociopaths.)

Perhaps the world I want to see doesn’t have forgiveness at all; a world where there are no people whose words trespass against anyone, and that acts are no longer harmful; eliminating all of those things that typically trigger the need for gifting or asking forgiveness. Of course, that’s not a reality; however, just as forgiveness does, we can also act upon our world in ways to preempt forgiveness: we can work to eliminate forgiveness. This idea may seem, at first glance, tricky, for us Indigenous people, having carried so much pain about the world in which our ancestors lived, a world near universally lost. But, if we can change our approach to how we are affected by others, we would do some real good for our next generation – freeing them from the weight of all that could have been.

😉

IN SERVICE OF PEOPLE, NOT GOD

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After this century began, I had the pleasure of reading an anthology of short-stories, stories that implicated the human role in the larger scheme of existence. Is human life an absurd situation, or is there any inherent purpose in life, at all? For a guy who, at the time, didn’t have any formal college education, the old dusty book posited interesting questions about how people behave in ways so that life has meaning. That struck me as very interesting! The book, published in 1963, is called The Existential Imagination.[1] Many copies of the book are still available via Amazon.com and for as little as a penny (shipping and handling, is extra).[2] Need I mention, I’ve owned three copies over the years?

There are many good stories in the book regarding issues unique to the human condition. I don’t necessarily have any favorite story because they are all good for very different reasons. I would like to share the plot from one of the stories, here, and hopefully it allows you to ponder about any philosophical or theological implications thereafter. Hopefully, you are curious enough to go buy a copy, then read the rest of the book yourself.

The story that I mean to share is called Saint Emmanuel The Good, Martyr. It is the longest story of the anthology at around 35-pages. It’s written in the form of a fictional memoir, a letter found by the true author. The letter is an account of an Italian woman, Angelita, who takes the reader through her life, beginning as a young girl who entered convent school – at her brothers bidding. She spends five years there – until at age 15 – before returning to her village, Valverde de Lucerna. There she introduces us to the true protagonist in her memoir: Don Manuel, the priest in her beloved village.

The Don is described as a healer, a saint, who chopped wood for the poor, the protector, and nourishment to the village. He is kind to all – favoring “the most unfortunate…especially those who rebelled” (102).
One of my favorite quotes came from this story. It’s great advice even if stemming from a work of fiction. It reads:

“We should concern ourselves less with what people are trying to tell us than with what they tell us without trying” – Don Manuel

Angelita, also wrote about a time when a man in the village sent his boy out into the woods in a heavy rainstorm to fetch a loosed calf. The Don, saw the boy wandering near the trees, so he went out in the heavy rain to inquire why the boy was out at such a dangerous time. The boy explained, his father sent him out for a lost calf, whereafter listening, the Don sends the boy home. He explained he would locate the calf and bring it home for him. Upon returning to the boys home (with the calf) the father went out to meet the Don, who was soaking wet. The man, Angelita wrote, was thoroughly ashamed of himself.

The story builds to denouement once Angelita’s brother, Lazarus, returns home from America. Lazarus was not Catholic, and further did not believe in God. However, Don Manuel and Lazarus spend so much time together that after Angelita’s mom died, Lazarus chose to take communion, thereby converting to Catholicism. The village rejoices, and because, Don Manuel, had yet again, performed a miracle!

Later in the evening, Angelita finds herself alone with her brother, to whom she asks, “What things did Don Manuel state to you, that caused this conversion?” She hugs him. Lazarus finally replied that he only did so for the people, not because he himself believed, nor to seek eternal life. The Don implored him to take up religious life so to set a good example for the people, by taking part in religious community life. But Lazarus explains solemnly, that he also asked the Don, why he seemed to ask that he live a lie, adding, “Do you, believe, Don Manuel?” The Don, looking out over the lake, silently wept. After a few moments, the Don said:

“The truth, Lazarus, is perhaps something so unbearable, so terrible, so deadly, that simple people could not live with it,” and, “I am put here to give life… to make [people] happy, to make them dream they are immortal – and not to destroy them. The important
thing is that they live sanely, in accord with eachother…with my truth they could not live at all…”, “…let them live…”, “with the illusion that all this has a purpose”
(120).

So, there were tough questions, indeed, utilizing deep human conflict, one that many people have grappled with over the millennia. I, too, have often looked to the stars, asked my elders, and sought the answer to the very questions this story outlines, namely, Is there a God, and what does that mean for us? If there is no God, what then? Is life a pointless marathon unto death? Maybe it’s not so bad that we are left to answer this question alone? The greater point is that it’s a wonderful journey trying to figure it out for yourself. As I believe Don Manuel would say: At times, you might feel sad, or liberated when pondering the meaning of existing only a short while. Life may seem very lonely in that view. Whatever answers you come to, I’m sure you will be fine when choosing to live for others; according to one priest, it is exactly the same as living for God.

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Notes:
1.Karl, Frederick R., and Leo Hamalian, eds. (1963). “The Existential Imagination.” First Premier Books/Fawcett. NY

2.https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B000GRFJYO/ref=mp_s_a_1_1?qid=1465370579&sr=8-1&pi=AC_SX236_SY340_FMwebp_QL65&keywords=the+existential+imagination

3. Images, public domain, customizations

5 THINGS ABOUT LEADERSHIP

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ACCORDING TO A FEW EXPERTS, leadership is defined as, “the ability to get work done with and through others while winning their respect, confidence, loyalty, and willing cooperation” (Greer and Pkunkett, 2007:261). That definition implies quite a broad set of traits. A number of you might have all of these, and at the same time, not really grasp that leadership is part of your heritage, it’s in your veins.

Leadership is a consequence of complex interactions, whether psychological or social; and we all know history has created complex socio-psychological situations for Native People. The notion that leaders possess a specific set of traits traverses cultures. While all cultures do not share a universal idea of what every leader looks like, or acts like, there is a set of universal traits that all leaders do have. Let’s look at 5 of them, here.

Leaders are trustworthy. Leaders uphold a reputation for integrity, are less likely to be engaged in risky ventures, cheat, or conduct affairs that could place others in danger. Being trustworthy, that people trust your judgment is the first trait of a leader.

Secondly, Leaders act out of concern for others. Leaders are not loners, they are inherently part of a social group. So it is the people of the group who agree on leadership. It’s one thing to declare oneself a leader, and another when people treat you as one. If you are greedy, or otherwise unethical, people will see that. Leaders keep the greatest good in mind, rarely, if ever acting in self-interest. Think of the 19th Century leader, Chief Joseph.[1] Chief Joseph thought it best that his small tribe survive, instead of continually sending the dwindling men and boys to die fighting against the technologically advanced settlers ever moving westward into Nez Pierce country. Fighting was senseless by the late-1800’s. The millions of settlers weren’t going anywhere. Chief Joseph recognized that the numbers were clearly not on his side and so he acted on behalf of his people: advocating for a reserve. Acting out of concern for others, is primary, and must be in the heart of a leader.[2]

Thirdly, while leaders must be intelligent, not every intelligent person has the ability to explain things clearly . Thus, leaders must not only know the important issues at play, but need to also have the ability to clearly explain them to others. It’s through explaining and clarifying issues that consensus is developed. Consensus equals followers or disciples, and building a consensus is derived from the ability to explain important things clearly.

Leaders have to possess courage to proclaim a particular course of action. What’s the point shouting that there is such-and-such problem, trying to get people to listen without also providing the solution? Solutions don’t fall from the sky. Leaders will have taken the time to ponder about consequences. It will be from those variables that leaders must decide the most appropriate course of action. Otherwise, what you have is a clairvoyant. A clairvoyant is not concerned with outcomes, they simply report what’s going to happen next!

Finally, a leader will be scrutinized when things get tough. When water and food are scarce, or when buildings are burned down, the leader must have already developed in herself the determination and will to persist a course of action, but remain flexible enough to know when a change of direction is needed. Changing course can be both psychologically and socially difficult. Consider how Chief Joseph must have felt when he desired true freedom for his people, that he desired to fight on, but that his people were few and hungry. He had to inform his people – many of whom already knew – that it was in their best interest to settle, so that the Nez Pierce would live on- albeit on a reserve.

For sure, leadership is a social necessity. Leadership takes on unique shapes provided by the cultural and situational settings. For the Indigenous of America, leadership is part of their heritage. However, in movies and other popular media, Indigenous Americans are romanticized as as mostly Sioux-Indian males – sitting around a nighttime fire (inside a teepee) bickering about issues, perhaps passing a pipe while a drum beats into the night. On the contrary, most American Indigenous leadership hed councils in vastly different places. The Caddo Tribal leadership met in grass structures; and the Iroquois, in longhouses.

Notably, the Iroquois, or “People of the Longhouses”, (Kannonsionni ) are known broadly as the Six Nations (Haudenosaunee).The Six Nations include the Seneca, the Cayuga, the Oneida, the Mohawk, and Onandaga – and later, the Tuscarora. Today, this Six Nation Council is known as the Iroquois League.[3] Each of the Six Nations have representative leadership who are selected by the clan mothers of each Nation. These 56 chieftain leaders (Hoyenah) make up The Great Iroquois Council.[4] This ancient council is nearly 600-years old. According to the best contemporary archaeological evidence it is stated to have began around the year 1450.[5]

Throughout half a millennia we can trust that the clan mothers made sure that their selections to the Great Council possessed the 5 traits discussed here and that historically, there were undoubtedly difficult decisions made by these elected Hoyenah (chiefs). More difficult still, was that courses of action taken by the council had to be unanimous. Imagine the kind of leaders it takes to create unanimity? That’s the heritage in your veins. That’s the kind of leader you are.

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Notes:

1. Nez Pierce Chief, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chief_Joseph
2. “In 1885, Chief Joseph and his followers were allowed to return to the Pacific Northwest to settle on the reservation around Kooskia, Idaho. Instead, Joseph and others were taken to the Colville Indian Reservation far from both their homeland in the Wallowa Valley and the rest of their people in Idaho,” ibid.
3. http://www.bigorrin.org/iroquois_kids.htm
4. “The Grand Council of the Iroquois League is an assembly of 56 Hoyenah (chiefs) or Sachems, a number that has never changed. Today, the seats on the Council are distributed among the Six Nations as follows: 14 Onondaga, 10 Cayuga,  9 Oneida,  9 Mohawk,  8 Seneca,  6 Tuscarora”, ibid.
5. Dean Snow states, “the archaeological evidence does not support a date earlier than 1450,” ibid.
Greer, Charles, R. and W. Richard Plunkett. (2007). Supervisory Management, 11th Ed. Pearson/Prentice. Hall. Upper Saddle River, NJ. 07458
Images, public domain customizations

APPROACHING RESISTANCE TO CHANGE

AS HUMANS, DESPITE OUR COLLECTIVE TALENTS and knowledge, we all encounter challenges in our lives. Although one challenge may be greater than another, it is the challenges that create action, create impetus to change, to adapt, or employ patience or some other skill that allows us overcome these challenges, and to evolve past them.

Challenges can be physical, such as in making the basketball squad in your school or college (a challenge that is not subject to diplomacy: you either are good enough or not). Then there are emotional challenges, such as involving the bereavement process (loss of a loved one) which may invoke spiritual, religious, and intellectual challenges, such as consideration of creeds of worship or religious rites. Moreover, challenges can be social, and perhaps a combination of any of these. No matter the type of challenge, they create stress.

So what do you do then?

Well, some people exercise – to increase endurance; some people do sudoku or perhaps take a class. Whatever the method utilized to combat stress, hopefully it works for you, but there is a pre-stress technique I would like you to be aware of which may allow you to affect a positive outcome in the face of certain social challenges. The technique, termed force-field analysis, comes to us from social-psychologist, Kurt Lewin. [1] Force-field analysis is used in business, collective-bargaining, and mediation. It can be employed by anyone who takes a few minutes to conduct such an analysis, and it is quite easy to remember. Force-Field Analysis, then, can be viewed like this:
In response to challenging stimuli, people will behave as resistant or encouraged to change – in relation to the adversity. There are 3 types of forces in any “field of controversy”. The first set of forces is called restraining forces – which aid ones resistance to change. Then, there are driving forces – which encourage change. Finally, there is the “inertia force” in the field, where both restraining and driving forces collide. The term force-field analysis is named for the insight used to devise strategies based on what is learned from competing forces in the field.

Let me clarify with an example:

You have been tasked with a project at work, this Friday afternoon, and due to the nature of your employment, are forced to work overtime. The project will likely add another 6-hours to your shift therefore you will certainly miss your son’s coveted playoff basketball match – one you promised to make. However, you realize that you could complete the extra work in around two-hours and still be able to keep your promise to your son if you could convince another colleague to also work overtime – which for any one of them – is not mandatory. After your initial inquiries nobody is convinced to stay late. There is one lead who seemed promising, but she had voiced concerns about additional pay for the babysitter, and was not sure she could afford to cover an extra 3-hours considering she has already exceeded her monthly budget expenditures.

A Force-Field Analysis for this scenario would look like this:

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In this situation, without the analysis, it looks as if you will miss your son’s senior basketball game and you will have broken a promise to him. However, a close analysis provides hope. If you are able to introduce an additional driving force (money) it might act upon your colleagues resistance. Offers to cover the babysitter out-of-pocket, and/or perhaps order a take-out meal to reinvigorate your colleague’s energy stores, or you might offer to baby sit for free a few nights, so your colleague could get a night on the town at some point in the future? Whatever course you choose, the answer lies in the creativity you attach to your analysis of the forces at play. This technique not only works well in business and in mediation-type arenas, you might discover that it can be used to see many kinds of challenges from a clearer perspective, thus, overcome resistance to behaviors you wish to modify.

I hope this was helpful. May the force be with you.😉

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Notes:

1. Lewin, K. (1951) Field Theory in Social Science, New York: Harper and Row
2. Simple guides to carry out force field analysis, with examples in management, see: http://www.mindtools.com/forcefld.html.

EMPLOYING YOUR PERSONALITY

Employing Your Personality

In today’s atmosphere, applying for a job entails providing a large amount of personal information to prospective employers. Health records, medical documents, and psychiatric records, are – in the vast majority of cases – protected information beyond the reach of anyone without direct written authorization. This helps to prevent specific discrimination as exemplified by the 1990’s film Philadelphia. [1]

At any rate, savvy employers may not necessarily require a direct peek into health information as a few carefully worded questions can give any HR Department insight into what type of people are applying for jobs. This way businesses can weed out those applicants – who despite meeting qualifications – are simply not the kind of worker the business desires. Let me exemplify how questions could be posed to applicants in the near future by recalling a few ethics scenarios that I encountered in my college days.

The first scenario presented to you, goes like this:

“Imagine you’re a train conductor on a runaway train. The brakes have failed, the horn does not respond and you have come to a fork in the tracks. On the right side of the tracks – the side you and the train are – there are five Girl Scouts crossing the tracks headed to an adjacent neighborhood to sell cookies. On the left side of the tracks there is a hobo who has fallen asleep on the tracks. You have only enough time to either A) pull a lever to switch the course of the track, saving the five little girls, but killing the hobo, or B) do nothing, whereby the five Girl Scouts are killed, but saving the hobo’s life. Which action do you take?”

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That was a rather common ethics question; one I have proposed to my own students over the years. I have heard everything from, “I’m not answering that”, to “I need more information”, and even, “I’m just jumping off the train”. While their responses are simply attempts to avoid responsibility, for class, this was OK, but mostly, for others, the question is a great point of deep contention and leads to discussion that allows students to get to know one another early on in the course.

Let me give another scenario.

“Imagine you’re a mute walking along the sidewalk at a roadside festival. You are part of a small crowd of people where only you notice an oncoming vehicle that is about to ram into three women at a high rate of speed and kill them. The women are beyond your reach, but there is an elderly man between you and the girls such that if you were to instantly act, you know with certainty that A) pushing the man into the girls would create a domino-effect which will save the lives of three ladies, but would kill the man by placing him in the path of the vehicle, or B) do nothing whereby the three women are killed. Which choice would you make? ”

If you compare the two scenarios, there is a basic distinction that produces answers that could be of keen interest to prospective employers. While the vast majority of businesses will never request access to protected health information, answers to scenarios like these are not protected, and may reveal more about “the real you” than a physical exam. In fact, one retailer, KMart has used actual personality assessments. These are used to determine likelihood of deception in answering, or perhaps an inclination to steal, or embezzle money. The practical usefulness of assessments are unknown, but answers are compiled to hopefully reveal more about you than what you present in your history.

Part of the point is that you have to pay close attention to the changes in the law as relates to applicant-prospective employer relationships, but more importantly, that you occasionally remind yourself of the kind of person you truly are. Reread the two scenarios I presented above. If you have any trouble answering, then perhaps you could benefit yourself and everyone else around by taking some time alone to hopefully figure out why that is before applying for that job.

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Notes:
1) HIPA ( The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191)

• Images: public domain customizations

FAMILY VIOLENCE: AN ANCIENT ENEMY

Family Violence: An Ancient Enemy

Among ancient people, intimate partner violence occurred for reasons similar to many rationalizations that modern humans provide: jealousy, anger, food, mating privileges and so forth. The most obvious reasoning that intimate partner violence occurred among ancient humans is the physiological rule: that is to say, the larger an animal, or more physically imposing partner/group member would have been more likely to use force or inflict violence upon another smaller one (essentially bullying). After all, which smaller ancient individual dare challenge the larger attacker?

Tuning in to any nature channel, such as National Geographic, we can see the physiological rule of violence play out in the animal kingdom as day-to-day business: the silverback gorilla, or the alpha wolf imposing their wills and sizes upon others. Here, too, intra-group violence occurs for many of those same reasons given by modern humans: challenge to mating privileges, territorial disputes, food, threats to immediate family, etc.
But rules are meant to be broken, often by those we least expect.

This physiological rule is also countered by nature itself, an opposing force of smaller size, such as we find in the snake – whose various venoms can easily subdue or kill a being one-hundred times its size. This is natures answer to predation (bullying). An even smaller, similar situation is provided us by the ignorant mosquito – who, in conjunction with the many viruses and diseases it carries, such as malaria – kills billions without any thought of malevolence.

In humans, we have developed two of the most potent forces against the physiological rule. The first is the brain itself – the most advanced brain we have known among creatures of the Earth. The second force being the social group itself: the norms of civilization. We primarily came to understand that it was wrong to obtain things we wanted, whether for psychological satisfaction, or biological urges, through unjustified force. We have the greatest treasure of higher intellect and greater reasoning ability over all the creatures in the animal kingdom, though like them, we have not been able to irradicate intimate partner violence (family violence) from our cultures.

Families are the cornerstone to any great society. Currently, however, there exists a sad social problem of violence within families. One fairly recent study of families shared that 74% of children younger than five were hit or slapped by their parents (n1). A 2004 study of sexual abuse of children showed a drastic decline in reported cases toward the end of last century, though the remaining 89,500 cases occurring every year, is 89,500 cases too many involving this type of violence (n2).
In 2005, the National Crime Victim Survey (NCVS) produced a number of reported instances of intimate partner violence at 690,100 cases (in America), (n3). Of those figures, 16.2% of the victims were males. Obviously, males committed the remaining 83.8% of instances – another likely example of the physiological rule of violence at play in modern humans.

Can it be anymore obvious- that no matter how we define family violence, wether as emotional, physical, sexual, or instrumental – modern humanity relies too heavily upon it. Violence is outdated software, so to speak, as it is assumed we have moved beyond instinctive reactions and drives as primary motivators in behavior. Humans can develop machines to analyze planetary bodies in deep space; we can construct telescopes to see millions of years into the prehistory of our universe; we cure disease, yet we cannot seem to irradicate the most ancient of our behaviors which is violence among families.

If there’s nothing else you do in life, if you reject voting, if you do not volunteer in your community, or do not give to any charities, or fail to pay sufficient taxes, there is one thing you should honestly do to create a better world and that is to reject violence. This can be taught by example – through the power of diplomacy, leadership, and empathy. By failing to perpetuate violence, we can finally evolve into the civilization I see we can become. Reject violence, that is our first step for a better tomorrow.

Lean more about family violence at teachyoung.org, or through researching any of the references below.

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(N)otes:
1. Gallup Organization. Disciplining Children In America: A Gallup Report. Princeton, NJ. (1995)
2. Catalano, S. Criminal Investigation, 2004. Washington, D.C. (2005)
3. TeachYoung.org

Four Considerations in Educational Planning

What are your true passions?

What are your true passions?

IN LIFE, FEW THINGS DRIVE BEHAVIOR as strongly as does passion. Whether passion for creativity, for aiding the needy, a passion for music and so forth, these will vary among us, but we all should share a few passions. It would be nice if we shared the same passion for life, well-being, and education, too. However, we have so many distractions in contemporary times that a passion for learning and progress often gets stifled by frivolity and work.

One of the things I am passionate about is education, more specifically, lifelong learning. Educating oneself involves so much sacrifice, diligence, and focus though can also be enjoyable, especially when education from one’s culture or heritage is playfully passed down through the generations.
Another reason to be passionate about education is that one’s academic accomplishments represent hard work and positive steps toward one’s career, a promotion or raise in a wage, and perhaps a huge leap toward more meaningful employment altogether.

Finally, we cannot obtain anything in life without money from work. Everything costs money, from the air we breathe (we are taxed due to pollutants), the food we eat, the water we drink, to our comfortable shelters and clothes. Without a good-paying job, one likely could not attain much stability nor be able to appreciate the fruits of one’s labors through vacation, leisure, or by participating in holiday celebrations. Money demands work, work demands education, education demands you. So, before stepping into an educational institution – to work for that raise in pay or to start a new career – there are a few things that I discuss with my students before they jump in to this grand responsibility; I’m going to share those ideas with you, here. I call them the four directions on education.

1) What is it that you want to do for work for a very, very long time? In other words, you’re going to be going to school for at least 1-year and then after that, hopefully work in this position or this “career tree” for the rest of your life. It’s an important consideration.

2) Are you legally able to work in this field? Talk to someone who works in the field, research it, and determine what the minimum requirements are that would need to be met. There would be no sense in studying to work as detective if the legal environment prohibited it, right?

3) Conduct a cost-benefit analysis (list Pros and Cons) against your current life once you’ve decided upon your career path What sacrifices could be made, and can you absorb the additional loss of 10-to-25 hours per week doing homework – and probably commuting, if you’re not taking classes online.

4) Do you plan to attend a regionally accredited university or college, or nationally accredited university – in the alternative, as these groups typically permit credit transfers for work completed. You never want to attend a school for any extended amount of time or spend any money on a dead end degree or diploma from some career school to only find out later it was a waste of time and energy attaining it.(1) The U.S. Dept. of Education has a good reference list of accepted accredited academic bodies.(2)

Four simple considerations...

Four simple considerations…

Once you’ve covered all of these bases contact an academic advisor and open your life up to her, as she can help you into the next chapter of your life (as well as direct you to the financial aid office for options). In a few years time you will enjoy the fruits of your labors and bask in the glory of your new-found stability.
Get passionate about education, education carries your future.

Notes:
1. http://www.geteducated.com/regional-vs-national-accreditation-which-is-better-for-online-colleges
2. http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/
3. images, public domain customizations

FEBRUARY MAN

February Man

A MERE FIFTY-SEVEN YEARS AFTER The Emancipation Proclamation, humanity was granted the timely presence of a great man. This man’s words are archived for us in the many beautiful poems and ideas he left regarding the dual-consciousness that some African-Americans felt during his time: on the one hand, learning to assimilate into white society, and on the other, struggling to maintain cultural autonomy. Even without knowing who this man was, a poem such as, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”, waves that dual-consciousness a generation removed from bondage.(1) This poem – if one can see past its vivid sadness – hides evidence of an energy that would aid the birth and rise of the Harlem Renaissance.

Langston Hughes wrote that poem as a teenager in 1920, where he sat as a passenger on a train that took him directly over the vast Mississippi River. Langston was on his way to meet his estranged father, who lived far to the southwest, in Mexico City.(2)

ca. 1925

ca. 1925

About his poem, Langston stated the river made him feel a connection to history, pre-January 1st, 1863(3). That he recalled reading President Lincoln’s biography, about the horrors of bartering over and selling humans, in places near the Mississippi: the same water that nourished the cotton fields, once smothered his people. Feeling this, he wrote, “I’ve known rivers ancient as the world and older than the human blood in my veins…I bathed in the Euphrates when dawns were young.”

There are parallels today which beckon the spirit of Langston Hughes – a disunity of culture which cannot be broadly articulated. Yet, this is a great month, a great opportunity to spy the past, realizing that everyday can be a Mississippi River – an image that stirs our core energy and compels us to bring about our vision of who we want to be, perhaps 57-years from now. We all carry that energy, but like Langston we have to have the courage, the will to express it – even when things are dark and out of reach…

We all have those days, mornings when the sunrise seems more of a weapon of torture than a symbol of a new day, of new beginnings. When I get down, or when I’m lonely, when darkness calls for friendship, I find myself sitting on the front porch steps listening to Langston’s mama talk to him, encouraging him. Langston archived this image in one of his most famous poems. He wrote it for you:

“..Boy, don’t you turn back.
Don’t you set down on the steps.
Cause you finds it’s kinder hard.
Don’t you fall now — For I’se still.
goin, honey.
I’se still climbin’, And life for me.
ain’t been no crystal stair. “
(4)

__________

Notes:
1. Langston Hughes, 1920, “The Negro Speaks of Rivers”
2. Langston was of mixed race, picture Terrence Howard after three or four strong cups of coffee.
3. Official signing of the Emancipation Proclamation
4. Excerpt from, “Mother to Son”, from Hughes, Langston. “(James) Langston Hughes.” Gale Database Contemporary Authors (2003): Web. November 13, 2010
Photo: Langston Hughes, circa 1925,public domain

Our Social Imperative

Our Social Imperative

I WAS NOT ALIVE DURING THE SIXTIES; a turbulent time for the minority of America. The seeds of social equality in America were sewn over a hundred years earlier, and it was during the middle of the 20th-Century when we began to harvest fruits of our sacrifices, when our solidarity began to be felt by justices of The United States Supreme Court (Brown v. Board of Education, 1954; Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 1960; Boynton v. Virginia, 1960), and in the actions of leadership (Civil Rights Act of 1964).

This period began with such great potential.

Again, I wasn’t alive then, but I have immersed myself in the light of that period: I’ve read Malcolm X’s biography, read Doctor King’s letters from his days as a political prisoner, and watched documentaries of gunfire, riots, and bigotry mar this otherwise great period. I am a fragment of that generation, a generation that came out of the ashes, tears, and triumphs of the civil rights era. I am proud of that fact.

So you might understand it was no accident that I cried during Obama’s initial inauguration. Inside, my soul sang loudly that old Sam Cooke tune about being born by the river… but I was crying happy tears. I felt energized, that finally, as a minority, I witnessed the energy behind grand historic progress, that I had a small taste of that harvest that Doctor King dreamt about. I am proud of that, also.

image: allposters.com

image: allposters.com

I believe, as a nation, we need more moments like that. Moments that prove we are at our best when we work together and acknowledge that personal progress is in fact, correlated to the progress of our neighbors.

As cultural beings, we set aside special days and months to remind us that true success, our true strength is inextricably bound to how well we treat and celebrate others. Nearly every American holiday, does not exist for us to celebrate individuals, they aren’t there to remind us of the fleeting benefits of individual success. Nearly every holiday exists to remind us of the importance of loving other people and celebrating the bonds of our shared humanity. Most major religious tenets or ethics are based on the same idea: celebration of caring for other people.

It remains my hope, that as we journey through 2016, anticipating another grand inauguration, that when we are able, we give a helping hand to people who need it; that along our way, we donate a talent or skill we may possess to make someone’s life easier – if only for a few moments a week. In celebration of this special month stop by and check on your parents and grandparents; promote the value of what it means to have been a part of their lives. We can never forget how far we’ve come. Participate in your community, be nice to people, and you will enjoy a great, productive year.

References
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Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Ks. 347 U. S 483 (1954)
Boynton v. Virginia, 364 U.S. 454 (1960) Racial segregation in all public transportation illegal under the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.
Civil Rights Act of 1964
Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960) Electoral districts drawn to disenfranchise blacks violated the Equal Protection Clause

EDUCATION AND SKILL DEVELOPMENT IN A SATURATED MARKET

EDUCATION AND SUCCESS share a unique link. Although education does not guarantee success, don’t opportunities exist today provide inexpensive alternatives to advanced degrees or extensive costs of perpetual continuing education? If so, where are they? And in a market where tons of schools exist that want your money, and every employee looking for an edge, how does one make the right choice?

I've graduated,  now what?

I’ve graduated, now what?

………………………………

Most people typically have some college debt, thus, it should feel odd if the notion of debt=degree continues into grad school. Debt is unnecessary! While some careers at a minimum require advanced degrees such as lawyer, psychiatrist, professor, most all employment opportunities do not have such requirements. So, how does one stay competitive in the labor market, or advance up the corporate ladder without dropping a minimum of $25-thousand dollars in a Master’s program? The answer – believe it or not – is specialty knowledge, abilities, and unique skill sets.

Specialty knowledge acquisition takes the form of informal cross-training (learning someone else’s job in the company, and perhaps doing so over a series of months), or formal apprenticeship, in the traditional sense. The problem is that with both of these methods one doesn’t really set oneself apart from the paradigms in place (co-workers production, or teacher’s work styles) fast enough, and in an apprenticeship, one is essentially training to work as one’s predecessor, period.

So,  if I don't have a ton of money,  want to set myself apart from predecessors and co-workers , what idealistic options remain?

So, if I don’t have a ton of money, want to set myself apart from predecessors and co-workers , what idealistic options remain?

………………………………

Actually, there are a number of low-cost methods available to enrich one’s career, of course, depending on what one’s career objectives are. Let’s look at a short-term example, then an intermediate to long-term means by which to enrich one’s knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSA’s for short).

Short-term methods to increase ksa’s involve utilizing a bit of your extra time, perhaps a handful of hours per-week, devoted to learning. Depending on your priorities, there are plenty of online, as well as brick-and-mortar schools (and vocational institutions) through which to take a class.

Adams State University of Colorado, is accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. ASU, as with many Universities, offer certificate programs in business, legal studies, and other areas at approx. $375-500 per 3-credit certificate.
This is a more expensive route, but well worth the 8-16 week trouble. Plus, if one were to seek a degree later, the credit will transfer. Employers love nothing more than employees who care by showing interest in a collective future.
The extended education staff are really helpful, and academic advisors are invested in student success.
https://adams.edu

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Now let’s look at a long-term example – though an accredited certificate should not be misconstrued as only a short-term option. Certificate programs should not be underestimated in value and actually have long-term implications also.
Aside from a certificate – used to delve deeper into one’s industry – a non-accredited certificate can do the same thing – in so much as one is not attempting to later transfer the certificate into a degree program. These types of certificates won’t be accepted by credible universities, but employers will be thankful you took the time to develop your skills and abilities – especially when it shows in your productivity.

A no-cost long-term option can involve developing a cornucopia of knowledge through a number of programs over the course of a year or so. A great place to learn in online format is http://futurelearn.com At Futurelearn you can take dozens of courses, working at your own pace in areas of mental health, business, legal, history, public policy, and many others. Additional to the work, one is exposed to articles, videos, quizzes, and interaction with a handful of mentors who interact with students as they work. It must be admitted this platform is amazing, fun, and interactive. In this way, contacts from all over the world can develop; in any given course one can interact academically with someone from Canada, Zaire, Japan, and Italy (even retired folk!) all bringing nuances of culture and society to the class. A very enriching opportunity. Courses are delivered through numerous British universities such as University of London, University of Sheffield, etc. Additionally, courses last anywhere from 3-weeks to 12, depending on the subject matter, and certificates are available for proof of completion at minimal cost of around $32 – shipped to you from the UK.

________________________________

Thus, no matter the method you choose, developing your KSA’s really comes down to asking yourself: Is this knowledge meaningful and will I benefit from the information beyond a promotion? Remember, Learning is time-consuming, often expensive, and requires a level of maturity needed to focus your energy and balance your schedule to accomplish your goals without negative disturbance to other aspects of your lifestyle.
The key is documenting your learning and doing so at relatively low-cost.
See you at Futurelearn.
😉

CAPITAL PUNISHMENT and the BROAD IMPEDIMENTS to CORRECTIONS

THE PENALTY OF DEATH

Modern forms of execution consist of firing squad, hanging, and the electric chair, with the most current method being lethal injections. Do we absolutely need such a punishment? In what ways is it needed? Before the questions are answered personally, let me explore some of the history of the utilization of the death penalty.
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2015-09-14_19.15.12
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THE STATE OF OKLAHOMA was the first state to utilize lethal injection, a procedure which began in 1977. Oklahoma is the same state set to tragically put to death Richard Glossip, this Wednesday (he was granted two-week stay 5-hrs before today’s execution: 9/16/15). Currently, the federal government – including 31 other states permits judges and juries to kill people, specifically, people convicted of murder (Ross, 2015).

Early American executions were routinely accomplished on lesser criminals: people such as robbers, or for rape convictions, and more aptly for treasonous acts. Though this is no longer done, except for treason, the manner in which industrialized societies have elected to killed people did not always appear as seemingly clean, quiet, and distant from the public as a lethal injection.

Background

The Romans publicly crucified criminals, most notably, Jesus of Nazareth. Before criminals were crucified – in ancient Rome, the condemned persons were sometimes given a drink mix of wine and myrrh – a mild narcotic concoction called galla. When condemned did not partake of anesthesia, as Jesus did not, the tortuous activities could be a most gruesome spectacle. Even crucifying ancient humans, occurring in the thousands, did not deter crime.

Crucifixion means a victim is nailed to two sections of crossed-wood beams. Nails seven-and-a-half-inches long, we’re used to hold a sagging body of a full grown adult. Once the person was nailed to the cross it was positioned upright, for all to see – including carrion eaters. Neither blood loss nor shock was the primary cause of death for those who were crucified; it was a helpless suffocation. The two rebels who were crucified next to Jesus, had their legs broken in order to expedite their deaths, so their feet could less be used to prop their damaged bodies up (Cawthorne, 2006).

The Romans also practiced beheading, but this was typically done to Roman citizens considered military deviants – and an honorable death, likely too quick for Roman tastes. The rare instances of Christians being beheaded publicly occurred at the behest of Emperor Caligula (ibid, 34).

While contemporary America does not engage in the type of spectacle as ancient Romans did, the implications of state-sanctioned death penalty now, reflect a spiteful and conflicted people.
2,000-years removed from Rome, philosophies have not really changed. Marked consternation and the power of everyday distractions among America’s voters deters coalition and activism. Until a sizable majority refuses to enforce this penalty, we, to some degree resemble ancient Rome, and our rationalizations of deterrence, punishment, and humiliation remain pitifully in place. These arguments are ineffective. Voters have all the power to act.

The death penalty is a remnant of sins against a God, remnant of a theocracy; thus, a peculiar ideal under an American system advocating and otherwise practicing separation of church and state. The death penalty – as used against treason – during times of war through early history held a rational argument for its temporary use. This is because the future of budding democracy – as in colonial America – sovereignty and existence hung in the balance. A single spy, or traitor could crumble the gains and sacrifices of millions. The death penalty, as used during the infancy of pre-industrial civilization had a practical and philosophical argument of a specific deterrence: true “national security” interest.

America

“… nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted” -Amendment 8, U. S. Constitution.

IMG_20150914_191415

The men who ratified the United States Constitution through the late 18th-Century, after years of war, incorporated the heart of our civil liberties, a special section called the Bill of Rights – the first of the ten amendments in our Constitution. 200-years later, in Furman v. Georgia (1972), the Supreme Court struck down the death penalty as was then utilized in Furman’s case was unconstitutionally cruel and arbitrary – contravening the 8th amendment protections. America enjoyed four brief years’ freedom from state-sanctioned killing.

A few years after Furman, 1976, the court revisited the death penalty – again through the State of Georgia. The majority held that the “arbitrary and capricious” elements within the procedure used in Furman’s case, had been remedied, and once again, America began tragically murdering its citizens. Justices Brennan and Marshall, however, believed “capital punishment…inconsistent with contemporary values… ” (Smith, 2009).
This writer wants to believe that.
We are no longer a budding tract of colonies, teetering on extinction.

Moral Perspectives

“To understand criminal justice, it is necessary to understand crime. Most policymaking in criminal justice is based on criminological theory, whether the people making those policies know it or not. In fact, most of the failed policies (what doesn’t work) in criminal justice are due to misinterpretation, partial implementation, or ignorance of criminological theory. Much time and money could be saved if only policymakers had a thorough understanding of criminological theory” –T. O’Connor, in Crime Theories

One of the oft-touted rationalizations for use of the death penalty today, is retribution, which means, in short, that punishments for crime “…must match the gravity of the offense” (Barlow, 1996), and that criminals must be punished. The idea of An eye for an eye, life for a life, a poetic maxim, came down to us through religious ordinances from the Code of Hammurabi. Religious ideology still influences our politics despite rhetoric. In America, most assume we are not forced to believe this way, and in fact, have some sort of say so built-in to our representative form of government, to determine which punishments fit which crimes. Is this true? When has the death penalty (human life) been a relevant enough topic in your life that you interacted with your representatives about it? A majority, while strong in number, does not equate to being more correct than any minority view. And a silent majority is immorally incorrect.

Deterrence

Punishment must, as a utilitarian belief, serve to prevent the majority from suffering crime. In order for deterrence to be effective, so it goes, punishment must particularly be shameful enough, and in some way, debilitating – whether by restricting personal freedoms or through the application of unappealing economic sanctions in order for a malefactor learn her lesson. If we do not attempt to deter crime, we are in a sense accomplices after-the-fact, we are unjust. In a less dramatic fashion, we unapologetically acquiesce to the idea that we value nothing, outside of perhaps anarchy. We cannot let crime go unpunished. Yet, we can be totally and irreversibly smarter!

Punishment

Torture is illegal , deportation cannot be applied to natural-born citizens, suicide cannot be forced, nor can allegiance to a god or goddess be thrust upon us; however, citizens can yet be killed in some states – as a punishment.
In this writer’s naive opinion, it seems that the death penalty needs to be abolished. There is a tragic, though steady rate of murder that exists in society, and this cannot be remedied by further killing. The idea of deterrence is supposed to work as it does in firefighting, analogous to what is called a firebreak. A firebreak is a line that is burned at some safe distance between the firewall and path of destruction, so that there is nothing to burn or fuel the fire once it reaches this point. That is a figurative use of deterrence, which actually works. For prevention works best. The death penalty will never work. The death penalty has never worked. Social attention to others, and creating “firebreaks” will aid us just the same.

Rehabilitation

While seemingly cliché, contemporary punishment does not possess the aspect of reparation of the offenders as may be assumed. People who can get released, do so without skills and precious time out of the workforce.

Budgetary excuses aside, the persistent reliance on sensationalist broadcasting has provoked mass fear of a plague of violent crime – which has interestingly gone down across the past handful of decades. Unfortunately, as have rehabilitative efforts.
It’s drug offenders who create most of the “violent crime”, drug offenders have to protect territory, collect debt, fend off robbery, require countless conspiracies just to get to the point to sell, and are the most resistant to new behavior, primarily because money they make from drugs far exceeds any legitimate venture. Thus, how can one repair a value? So, recidivism is high…

• Corrections simply do not pay sufficiently to attract urban elite professionals to work – often in the middle of nowhere. This barrier is built in to the system.

• Local politics ensure that political reps are “hard on crime” such that a single 600+ bed facility can basically subsidize the local economy surrounding the prison. Why rehabilitate that?

• Additionally, programming cannot be implemented because staff-to-prisoner ratios prohibit it, and staff do not have the education for the most part. So, what’s left is an extremely bored criminal left to his own devices and, again in Oklahoma, there were 6-men recently killed across a 3-month span. Death should not be included in any sentences. Doing nothing for them shouldn’t be either.

• Rehabilitation cannot occur in corrections industries programs where prisoners work for pennies supposedly to develop skills for a workforce that largely doesn’t exist – America is a service economy. Additionally, the industries located at medium security facilities use prisoner labor from prisoners who have more than 20-years to complete on their sentences, which means any skills they develop will be useless at age of release and likely obselete. Punishment needs to include all these factors, when it does not have legitimate ends, prisons become arbitrary and capricious and cruel.

Conclusion

Crime is a failure as much as the death penalty is. We must try to first determine criminogenic needs of offenders, so as to cure the ailment(s), the suffering, addressing criminogenic needs during/before punishment. Most all murderers feel guilt from taking another person’s life. And sometimes one becomes a murderer by accident, where the heightened risk of death is imminent, but not obvious such as in a car crash while drunk, or in a felony murder, such as in a botched bank robbery or accident where the victim falls and breaks a neck. Sometimes punishment is, in fact necessary, but the emotion needs to be separated from its application.

The handling of murderers as deviant should not, in my opinion, be the immediate province of the judicial branch of government. The proper form in which murder (and sex crime) should be treated or handled should fall to the psychological or medico-psychiatric community, then judicial. Here again, we will never eradicate murder this way, or even deter murder, as murder is primarily spontaneous. Using this rationale; however, the idea is to study the perpetrators of the crime, repair problems, and allow treatment of the human to prevail, using results to assist countless others. After all, most murderous and all violent crimes (notwithstanding extremely rare serial-murderers/habitual sex-offenders) will never recidivate again – even without such treatment. And, yes, some may not be reached, but this we will know and we can prepare for long-term treatment. Housing mentally-ill with neuro-typical prisoners does create more negative issues and abuses. So this extreme minority cannot be stored in a prison (not simply because most $13-per hour corrections guards lack formal training in how to manage these individuals, but for safety of all stakeholders).

We must consider the idea that by killing citizens, we are throwing away our responsibility to them. In a way, we are trying to ignore the applications of our technological progresses. The M’Naughten Rule which states that an insane person is one that does not know right from wrong, acknowledges that we cannot kill certain individuals because they are incapable of responsible action. If genetic predisposition, is not factored for violence, then what remains are treatable social conditions. Philosopher Colin Wilson, stated that the complexities of civilization led man to develop the independent left brain so that criminality became possible…that violence is a reflection of social tension: “Anyone who has any dealing with criminals, any a policeman, lawyer, psychiatrist will verify that far from being happier than the rest of us, most of them seem to be plagued by a permanent dissatisfaction” (Wilson, 2005: 603).

• Science and research in the socio-medical fields and related social sciences should play a much more integral role in the spectrum of criminal justice, not just in law enforcement, nor in simply determining competence;

• The criminal justice system is in fact too large and cumbersome, organized in such a way as to stifle progressive activities in treatment; offenders should be incarcerated together based on similar offense type, not mixed together; this practice will aid programming needs and affect prisoner sub-cultures by diminishing criminal osmosis and prison politics; Staff within pristine can become specialized to coordinate their education/training to specific populations.

• Psychiatric patients of any kind should never become part of a general population mix. They cannot be held to typical standards. They are easily ignored by directional staff, and taken advantage of by certain opportunistic criminal elements. Yet this is practiced.

• Prosecutorial discretion (as regards plea bargaining) as opposed to sentencing guidelines is a systemic power barrier for egalitarian forms of punishment and access to treatment within reasonable time; Sentencing indeterminately, across the board would work best, placing release powers within institutional committees, those closest to offenders.

• Electing global-thinking officials is also problematic, as perceived peer/public scrutiny interferes with job stability and a career in politics; change will take decades in southern, conservative legislatures.

• The historical utilization of the death penalty is insufficient to perpetuate it; No good is accomplished for anyone in these situations.

• The private, for-profit corporations impede these ends of justice. They are an extremely large and sophisticated lobby. Prisoners are worth roughly $65-per day (far exceeds the cage value of any livestock). What’s $65 x 365? No farmer gets that for any animal.

• Secondary victims can also be asked to assist in playing a pivotal role in treatment. This participation helps the majority of victims, reconcile and adjust.
We should live by positive examples and not submit to the reciprocal killing of our citizens. Regressing toward the perpetrators actions is not the way to deter crime. If we continue to perpetuate the idea that emotional responses should precede a death, we are not at all providing moral foundations. And we condone murder by committing it as a society. We have to take an evolved approach, being more involved with our government, being involved with the criminal, even though she has committed one of the most heinous acts known to us.

The many questions that arise when debating the use of the death penalty will remain with us – and we must always debate themes of civilization, so as to progress considerate of technology or any newer and effective approaches. Relying upon a process that does not work is madness, and is akin to planning to ride a bicycle into space. As Americans we need to give up our bicycle and concentrate on constructing a more conscientious approach to punishment: value of all human life. We must understand that a person in our species who kills another is in need of some assistance, she is hurt, she is suffering, and she needs help. To deny interventions to people, our species, is tantamount to yelling to God that God is imperfect, which is ultimately false. If your ears are closed, read the following words: fix the real problems.

😦
References

Barlow, Hugh. Introduction to Criminology, 7th ed. Harper NYC. 1996.

Blacks Law Dictionary, 8th ed. M’Naughten Rule.Thompson. St. Paul. 2011.

Cawthorne, Nigel. Public Executions: Ancient Rome to the Present Day. Arcturus. London (2006).

Furman v. Georgia 408 U. S. 238 (1972).

O’Connor, T. (03/26/04). In Crime Theories, MegaLinks in Criminal Justice. Retrieved from http://faculty.ncwc.edu/toconnor/111/111lect03.htm on January 9, 2006.

Ross, Phil. The US: Which States Still Practice Capital Punishment And What Methods They Use. IBTimes 1/15 /2015 http://www.ibtimes.com/death-penalty-us-which-states-still-practice-capital-punishment-what-methods-they-use-1785124

Smith, Christopher. Criminal Procedure. Wadsworth: CA (2006).

Wilson, Colin. A Criminal History of Mankind. Mercury Books. London: 2005.

United States Constitution, Amendment 8

Images:public domain customizations

REDISCOVERING BELIEF

REDISCOVERING BELIEF

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In ancient Rome, there were only two men in all of pre-Christiandom who were ever thought to be the “Son of God”, thought of as divine beings. One was the Roman emperor, Caesar Augustus (Julius Caesar’s adopted son, Octavian ), the other – to no ones surprise – was Jesus of Nazareth. Ideas regarding exaltation (of men to divine status) developed across centuries, through help from a miraculous thing called: belief. For Caesar Augustus, he became the “Son of God” after Julius Cesar bequeathed this status to him – an adopted son, at that. For Jesus of Nazareth, this title occurs through writings of what are now called The Synoptic Gospels. Synoptic, means similar, or synonymous. The Synoptic Gospels include Mark, Mathew, and Luke. (It is only in the book, The Gospel of John where Jesus becomes exalted to God-equivalent status, beyond being the Son of God). Jesus, himself, was also, interestingly an adopted son (Ehrman 233).
Jesus believed himself to be the prophesied Messiah, the King of the Jews. In Roman-ruled Palestine, only Caesar could appoint a king, only Caesar was divine, thus, Jesus was killed for his beliefs.

As a result of legend, and the lives of both of these men, we are living in a world that is exactly the result of our belief in them. Think back into history of all the wonderful things that have resulted from Jesus alone: The Reformation, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment Period, the United States itself, was pieced together via belief in God. The world – as we know it – would not exist, if not for belief.
Beliefs are powerful!
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Beliefs Determine Vision

Beliefs Determine Vision


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So, contemporarily, is there anything fantastic and great about what YOU believe in? Do you have beliefs that shake the world? If so, what are they?

I, for one, tend to be optimistic when it comes to the future, and hold the belief that working involves movement toward some betterment, however incremental, else why waste time ritualistically toiling away on something, if no belief supported the action? That would be very robot-like!

It is belief that is compelling you forward

It is belief that is compelling you forward

Personally, I don’t have any Earth-shattering beliefs, but I can list 5-beliefs that have never failed me.

1) I believe people are inherently
sensitive to others needs;

2) Everyone has different needs and
levels of needs, and their behaviors
are affected accordingly (e.g. a
hungry person is going to be
occupied by a search for food);

3) Self-love allows evolution of
love for others;

4) It pays to be teachable, period.

5) An education is worth your time, and
also of benefit to those around you.

You see!? There is absolutely not a single belief that I listed that can be viewed as Earth-changing as any of your beliefs in Jesus of Nazareth. In fact, if you believe in Jesus, you can very well lay claim to being ahead in the game.

It may seem counter-intuitive, but it’s in our contemporary world, drowning in all of our distractions and responsibilities, where we are susceptible to forgetting who we are – and sometimes, what we stand for. (Have you ever gotten unreasonably angry with someone only to realize something else was actually bothering you?) EXACTLY!

It will never hurt you to take a few minutes every few months to rediscover your core beliefs. From your self-rediscovery you will learn that, no matter what happens to you – negative or positive – how you carry yourself, your behavior, your response to adversity will alter your world. Your beliefs are Earth-changing.
(That’s my 6th belief!)

Start today… Write down 5-things that you believe in. Take a few minutes to Rediscover who you are. . .you’ll feel better reminding yourself of exactly those qualities that make you strong!

😉

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Notes:

• Ehrman, Bart. HOW JESUS BECAME GOD. HarperOne. N.Y.: (2014)

• images: tinkering with public domain works

The Secrets to Managerial Success: Unlocking Functions

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SUCCESS IN MANAGEMENT STEMS LARGELY FROM skill sets as opposed to externalities such as height, good-looks, or racial group as it may have pre-21st Century. Neither does success depend on charisma alone. The primary determinant of managerial success results from how well the manager knows then executes her Four Major Functions as manager.
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These four major functions of management are Planning, Organizing, Controlling, and Directing. While these functions share similarities, they are distinct and developed to produce different outcomes. However, this is accomplished with the success of the enterprise as the end-goal.

Let’s examine individual functions, starting with Planning.

Planning includes major activities that encompass decisions involving company goals and direction, and figuring out ways to implement these directives within constraints of finite resources. Besides ones education, the industry in which one learned to manage provides some initial direction. For instance, ideas used in the hospitality industry may not translate to success-filled plans in agribusiness if one changed jobs.

Primary plans need to be available for everyone to see. These plans are policies, procedures, and most mission statements. One must communicate these plans to the work force.

The ever-important planning function must expound a direction and its goal(s); planning must also elaborate the means to accomplish the jobs; the resources to be used, and training to accomplish these tasks. Additionally, there must also exist a means through which to evaluate alternative courses of action, and determine if ones goals and procedures have aligned, or tragically, why they have not. If ones goals are not being met, troubleshoot the plans, ask for feedback, and never be fearful of going back to the drawing board. After all, short cuts such as installing faulty products (instead of finding another distributor to provide a better part) have led to deaths and billions of dollars in liability, resulting in mass recall of products because the end goal of profit was thought to be more important short-term than long-term, ethical and strategic plans and procedures upon which any company is founded.

Organizing, as alluded to in the first function, is likely the most similar and parcel to the planning function. It’s in the organization of the business that ones goals will be implemented and tasks carried out. This entails deciding which employees do specific jobs and “establishing a framework of authority and accountability among the people… ” assigned to complete the jobs (Greer & Plunkett, 2007:100).

Whether a business is bureaucratic (infexible and reactive) or organic (flexible and creative), this design will have an effect on the entirety of philosophy, hierarchy, and effort of the employee. This must be kept in mind as part of some radical strategy may even perhaps involve revamping the design of the organization itself so as to better compete in a dynamic market (e.g. outsourcing, virtual conferences, etc.)
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Planning and Organizing

Planning and Organizing

Direction and Control

Direction and Control

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Directing is thought of in much the same way as one thinks if a music conductor. The music conductor coordinates the structure of a symphony by employing variously specialized musicians to work together, each contributing to a highly intricate goal at the behest of the conductor. Successful directors and managers do the recruiting and staffing based on needs, tasks and corporate goals, and coordinate training staff to function in their particular symphony of commerce. Once staffed and trained, these roles also require support through incentives, discipline, evaluation, and motivation.
This important function, a human resources function, demands a group of skills that the manager must enrich through practice. One must learn to draw upon these skills at-will to influence others and to exercise leadership.

Finally, there is the Control function. This function invokes history; that is, comparing industry standards for performance to ones own. Standards must be accepted practices, produce quantifiable or measurable results, must be economically sensible, and focus on key points of the service or production to have maximal effect.

To illustrate this control concept, there is a popular story about a manager who held a meeting before shift began at an assembly plant. She talks about efficiency and savings then concludes the meeting with, “Does anyone have input or suggestions?” The workers are standing around trying to come up with something when a new employee yells (in a strong southern accent) from the back of the crowd, “We always have to leave the production floor to fetch gloves and that takes like 30-min. We have to walk to storage, fill out some long form. On top all that, we have locate two-managers to sign-off on it just to get a pair of gloves to do our jobs. That seems to be completely senseless, if you ask me.”
The manager smiles, then she replies, “From now on gloves will be moved to the production floor, require no forms, and no signatures.”

Needless to say its easy to see production increased throughout the entire organization based on initiative to ask a question and take really simple action.

While not every problem can be solved as easily as shown in the glove anecdote, it does illustrate successful use of all four functions of management. With practice and experience employing functions of management, one ties the success of business to oneself. Skilled, confident employment of these functions starts with these “secrets”:
1) knowing the business
2) knowing the staff
3) knowing corporate goals
4) possess the willingness to elevate the firm through critical thinking and decisive action.
Those are the secrets.

______________

Sources:

• Charles Greer, and R. Plunkett.
SUPERVISORY MANAGEMENT, 11th ed. NJ.
PEARSON. (2007).

• images, courtesy of shutterstock.com

🙂

EDWIN SUTHERLAND: Sociological Contribution

Edwin Sutherland (1883-1950)

Edwin Sutherland (1883-1950)

WHILE SUTHERLAND CRAFTED HIS THEORY NEAR THE BEGINNING OF THE 20th CENTURY, his contribution is absolutely the most influential criminological theory to date. Sutherland termed his theory, Differential Association, and its precepts were espoused in Sutherland’s 1939 book, Principles of Criminology. In addition to his famous theory, Sutherland also provided insight into white-collar crime.

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The late 19th-Century to early-20th Century United States experienced large scale emigration such that the social flux of the times provided many social scientists a vast field in which to work, draw statistics, and to map crime in newly, densely populated areas, such as Chicago, New York, and Boston.

Coming from the Chicago School influence, Sutherland’s contemporary academics were largely in agreement that social disorganization incubated crime just as criminogenic values do; that is,the attitudes of criminals.

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Sutherland’s differential association theory sought to determine reasons why the poorer classes suffered higher crime rates and Sutherland also provided suppositions as to why this seemed to be the case. Before delineating these concepts it is fair to note that there are no perfect explanations for criminogenesis, and even so, Sutherland’s theory had a few criticisms. For instance, differential association does not account for crimes of passion (domestic violence, spousal murder) nor rapes, which are crimes not particularly learned through ones peers. Aside from such inquiry, scientists must ponder the infamous chicken-and-egg question of which comes first, as regards learned criminality: the individual deviant behavior, or deviant group?

Accepting these criticisms let’s sift through the nine (9) major propositions of Sutherland’s differential association, and try to see how these ideas may apply or not to your situation.

• Criminal behavior is learned;
• like all learning it stems from
communication and experience;
• and this learning is accomplished
through people closest to us.

• Know-how of crime, tools,
techniques, attitudes and
rationalizations for
committing crime, stems from
such learning;
• There is a determination as to
whether or not certain laws are
legitimate (to be followed); a
code of the streets.
• The number of negative beliefs
which support committing certain
crimes, outweighs typical
values such as “doing the right
thing”.
• Simple motivations are
insufficient in and of themselves
to produce crime (considering most
people work for money and the
majority of jealous people do not
kill their spouses);
• The acts involving differential
association vary in four (4) ways:

1) frequency-number of times
involving interacting with
deviants;
2) duration-length of time
interacting with deviants;
3) intensity-emotional importance
one places upon deviant
interactions;
4) priority-how early in ones
development that these
interactions occur.

Thus, while differential association is not a catch-all law of criminal development, this theory, in 1939, represented a legitimate shift to a more scientific approach to criminology–which differed from simple assertions at the time that alleged big noses, large eyes (anthropometry), or that ones race (eugenics) somehow correlated with propensity to break the law.

Sutherland remains a towering figure in criminology/sociology, and one can notice traces of his influence in Merton’s strain theory, Aker’s’ social learning (and other sociological) theory. If one studies criminal justice, criminology, or sociology you will often run headlong into Dr. Edwin Sutherland.

Think about this theory for a moment: by using Sutherland’s notions, could you become a more effective parent, draft more tolerable/sensible rules, or even design a habilitation curriculum/program for prisoners that seeks to reduce reoffending?

🐔or🐣?….🐒

🙂
__________________

• image, Sutherland, public domain
• image, custom font

Sources:

• Steven Barkan. Criminology: A Siciological Perspective, 2nd ed. NJ: Prentice Hall (2001)

The Five Things I Want in An Afterlife

IN OUR LIVES, we have all experienced invaluable friendships, enjoyed some great foods, perhaps fell in love, been hurt, and even sad… yet, we often barely scratch the surface of our humanity, or delve into the meanings we give to existence.

I do know, I don’t want life to end, not after 80-years, not after 103, not ever…though that’s idealistic at this point in our development as a species; maybe someday, but I will long be gone, likely, in 80-years, we all will be gone.

Nevertheless, having thought about life, I was confronted with the notion, that at some point my life here–this will end: that is reality. Pondering mortality, I felt sad, though only momentarily.

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Sadness gave way to smiling, as a peculiar, yet interesting thought crossed my mind… After living, there is death, but I was stuck pondering what I have enjoyed most being alive!
I thought of specific people’s’ companionship, places that meant the most, and I contrasted those memories with a foreign place called, the afterlife; a mysterious place without these many things I valued here, things I wanted to have for all-eternity…many I have taken for granted.

My thoughts began to disorganize because myself, nor anyone I had ever known had any concrete preconceptions of what any afterlife may look, our feel like, if any!?
What would I know of existence without all I’ve come to know? Could I go on forever without a family, or a stupid joke from a close friend?
Inadvertently, I went through the first 3-stages of the Bereavement Process (google them, under psychology).

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Is there an afterlife?

Of what does it consist?

To satisfy my naive curiosity, I needed to conduct an ad hoc experiment.

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Immediately, I tapped my inner- Freud and set out demanding responses from people, as simply as I could, I said:

“Without thinking about it too long, tell me 5-things you would take into the after life if you could…”

Everyone I asked gave variation to the following responses:

• Most said they couldn’t answer that question, as they had never thought about it, or were speechless at the depth of the implications;

• some stated we wont have needs in heaven;

• only a few stated their sibling or a parent;

• one stated he wouldn’t even want a physical body.

WHAT WAS INTERESTING? These people are like me in every way, they have families, friends, aspirations, and like me, none had really thought about loss in such a way, whether taking the family pet or a sibling into the afterlife violated their freedom to choose, what love meant, or the values at play in such a choice. I guess, one could agree to go with another, and ones conception of after life would influence ones luggage, but this was just a simple thought experiment that turned into a bunch of insightful conversations about our beliefs: our unrefined theology.

So, in fairness, here are MY 5-things I would take with me:

1) My consciousness, as I want to be ME, I like who I am and if there’s an experience left after death, I want to experience that with all that I am;

2) Cheddar/Sour Cream Ruffles! (If you have to ask, then you haven’t eaten them);

3) A Purple Lightsaber–you never know what’s out there to defend against, plus, it’s just plain coooool;

4) Digital Wallet, only to show beings who my loved ones were, share my life with whomever I meet, and also to have those photos to show and revisit;

5) My Soulmate. . .but of course, she would have to agree with traveling. She is an amazing mind, and a great human being. Without her, all is dark.

An afterlife can be conceived of! Of what it consists will be based, strangely enough, on terrestrial learning. One thing is for sure, we needed to be cared for on Earth (to exchange emotion with others) so a bit of love will likely help me, my cheddar chips, and my plasma-sword as I venture to a galaxy far-far-away…
Think about your own list, however ridiculous, and consider your choice of five things carefully, as your items will be based on what you’ve known and loved during YOUR life, and YOUR life, this one life…is a beautiful one.🕕

IMG_20150428_185421

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♒ photos, personal and public domain, courtesy of shutterstock.com

♒ list subject to change the closer I get to death.

♒ it was really a toss-up between tightie-whities and the chips, but I was hungry so…
🙂

Braving Elements for Tigers, Bears and Elephants

CULTIVATING YOUR MANAGERIAL TIC

Cultivation of ones managerial skills involves intense experience and education; however, practicing a trio of principles throughout ones education and career, may insure persistent quality of work and appreciation for ones position by oneself and others. (A very profitable move, I must add.)

• What is meant by managerial tic?

TIC is an acronym: Technological, Interpersonal, and Conceptual, which refers to the three kinds of leadership skills that managers need to cultivate. TIC Skills influence everyones job in throughout the firm, produce trends in business through leadership, and TIC Managers can anticipate changes within an organization/business environment. TIC Skills also affect productivity.

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• Technological Skills:

Technological skills is the know-how required to complete the functions within a job. For instance, a secretary possesses a variety of skills different from those of a landscaper. A secretary must typically master a number of software programs such as ©MICROSOFT OFFICE, ©CORELL, OR ©ADOBE, in order to operate at optimal production, whereas a landscaper utilizes hand-tools, machinery, and later, perhaps many of the “secretarial” software programs that have become commonplace in day-to-day life, such as Office®.

Effective managers master the many tools required to perform their jobs. This also improves explanation when training/developing employees; one becomes a greater teacher.

Many skills can be developed at tech schools or colleges for use on the job. Once you have these… teach them, even explaining them to yourself out loud will make you more aware of your work. Your work will become better.

IMG_20150308_190334

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• Interpersonal Skills:

Just as with tech-skills, serious approaches to crafting interpersonal skill will work in your favor, not just on the job, but throughout life. Interpersonal skills aid our communication with others, and involve techniques on how to communicate most effectively.
Much of our at-work communication is formal, so politeness and chain-of-command will determine the extent of such activities. However, body language, written, and spoken communication skills are not the only means by which we communicate with peers and employers; recognition of unspoken communication and diversity of people are also important concepts.

There are cultural norms and customs that one also needs to be aware of in order to become an effective communicator. In Japan, a bow instead of hand shaking is typical and polite. In America, we make direct eye-contact, where there, it is disrespectful to do so. Thus, cultural knowledge must be taken into consideration when attempting to communicate with, or train employees.

Finally, ones mastery of technical training will be put to great use once that knowledge needs to be passed on to employees. After developing both of these skills, you gain confidence through training others to reach optimal performance!

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• Conceptual Skills:

Michael Jeffrey Jordan–the greatest basketball player to ever play in the National Basketball Association, not only had the god-given talent to play, and the technical/fundamental acumen of the game of basketball, MJ also possessed the interpersonal skills of leadership. His TIC helped him to win 6-Championships throughout a 16-year career!
Mike’s successes were no an accident; Air Jordan, had to first conceptualize the entirety of the game in order to become the greatest. His tasks encompassed learning rules, boundaries, any grey areas, and his opponent’s abilities, too: otherwise there’s no gamesmanship, nor any reason to grow. Thus, develop interpersonal skills. Knowing hoew your industry communicates is how one begins to champion ones job.

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In management, there are employees to be trained, led, and superiors to communicate with, each with an amalgam of differences. The point is, one has to have the rules of the game–the bigger picture–in mind when managing anything; knowledge of each job, the time it takes for each step in production, the purpose of each tool, the uses of the floor plan, etc. These are compartments of your jobs concept. Get to know these processes. Do you think Jordan knew who had the ball at any given time, whom to pass it to in a pinch? How many time-outs were available, or fouls to give? Of course, he did.

Don’t lose the forest for the trees, yes, but the big picture will assist in maintaining focus and direct you to the answers of tough questions that leaders are often faced with.

The RippleFX Foundation encourages each of you to develop your own personal TIC. In this path, any charismatic ability to leading others is honed by your TIC. We all have it. Master the tech, master the interpersonal, and the conceptual, and soon enough, you will discover you’re right where you want to be: at the top.

3Wmn

Notes:
________

• Greer, Charles R., and Richard W. Plunkett. Supervisory Management, 11th Ed. Prentice Hall. N.Y. (2007)

• photos of Jordan, courtesy of blackpast.org

VIOLENCE: An Evasive Symptom


VIOLENCE IS A VERY COSTLY SYMPTOM of a more acute set of problems. Every violent act has ingredients, roots, branches, and results, and sometimes they are ongoing. It is at certain periods in our development that predilection to violence seeks to assert itself. Indeed, violence is “default programming”, vital to early human survival and presents when the self is endangered.
Our perceptions can be fooled, thus, to be at our rational best, our sense of reality must align with our emotionality.

What can be done to restrict irrational violence, and when?

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If we eliminate genetic predisposition/gender factors, perhaps personality factors (sociopathy, psychopathy) we divest a large number of males from scrutiny as producers of violence–particularly males from fatherless homes and having had a parental, or co-substance abuse history. As the foregoing characteristics are factors unique to individuals, we do not review them here although they are specific ingredients of violent criminality as the overview would be infinitely broad. Moreover, we will not discuss spontaneous acts (mob violence/roits) concentrating upon developed violence as adopted behavior through lenses of: social strain, socio-economic factors, social relationships, peers, media violence, and culture, and not individual traits, which are unique anomalies.

IMG_20150203_092633

Social Relationship and Crime

Setting aside nuances of personality and biological defecit, our resulting assumption is that violence is learned without it having to be taught. Thus, violence is preventable as much as predictable, as it is cultivated through ones peer-associations and social environment.

Peer groups, clubs, and cultures possess particular “values, norms, beliefs, and technical knowledge”, “socializing forces”, as from a classroom, religious affiliation, or gang. It’s the cherished anti-social ideas/traits that coalesce as a set of sub-cultural ingredients from which violence (and crime) becomes incubated (Jensen, 2007).
We largely obtain our behaviors via interaction, imitation, and guidance (reinforcement) not through Tabula Raza solitary meditation in a cave, thus , consider the following hints from which you could reduce violence in our world.

Hints:

• Be aware of how we introduce/place our progeny at the outset of life, as learning is very difficult to overwrite;

• Structure stimuli around low-violence activities. Violent video games, movies need to be minimized as they tend to desensitize to violence;

• Instruct upon appropriate responses to bullying, teasing, self-defense parameters, and alienation. This reduces reliance on instinctive aggression;

• Model prosociality; that is, the expected behaviors in situations, even if parents have to create a sham situation (role-play) to provision opportunity for cognitive absorption.

Recalling these concepts over time will insulate against social pressure and individual susceptibility that sometimes turns into rage, or the mind-emotion imbalance.

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 General/Social Strain and Crime

According to David Farrington, in Origins of Violent Behavior Over the Lifespan (2007), low socio-economic status, intergenerational exposure to disrupted families, and life within neglected neighborhoods are contributors to what is termed as, strain, or social strain. These many types of strains- often beyond individual control-create an atmosphere of stress and hypervigilance when commingled, too much of any negative experience will frustrate the best of us given sufficient time. Multiple strains upon legitimate opportunity lends itself to improvised, non-conformist short-cutting called crime or violence, as a means to gain a foot up (see the post below re: ROBERT MERTON). Resulting in higher crime rates and intergenerational lapses, perpetuating cycles of violence and victimization.

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The notions here, are nevertheless built upon lifestyle  and choice: individual factors which have a ripple effect in society. While this may seem an oversimplification, upon initial review, we may recognize susceptibility in our lives, despite any freedom of choice or free will argument. Nevertheless, we can adjust our range of lifestyle factors to minimize risk of becoming victims, and reduce contribution to violence by not being a passive ingredient in its development.

The point here was simply to reiterate the importance of individual relations and the subsequent impressions we leave in our communities as crafters of our own violence. Whichever the excuse: time is money, there doesn’t seem to be enough of one parent to go around, or walking the streets at night is cool, etc. Upon deeper inspection of our reality we may find this to be untrue. We CAN adapt to 3-less work hours per-week so as to ref a flag-football game, or share a pizza to foster bonds with those around us, and stop jogging at midnight. We reduce violence by sharing our attention, laughing, and letting someone know they are important in our eyes, and being responsible knowing our behavior affects others.

Transcend any personal defecit through investment in other people. Watch your energy reduce violence, crime, and victimization. Our result in mind must be taught.

______________

NOTES:

Flannery, D., Alexander Vazsonyi and Irwin Waldman, eds. CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK of VIOLENT BEHAVIOR and AGGRESSION. N.Y. Cambridge, UP (2007)

JENSEN, G., SOCIAL LEARNING and VIOLENT BEHAVIOR. (2007) 636-64

THE EPIC OF CIVILIZATION: What Now?

THE OLDEST EPIC POEM, The Epic of Gilgamesh, elaborates upon a long-standing human notion: the selfish quest for immortality. Gilgamesh, himself, was supposed to have prepared the Cuneiform tablet upon which his poem, his story, was carved. Gilgamesh was sort of the first historian (as well as an early hunter-gatherer). He did great and unimaginable things! He encountered gods, ventured into the underworld, and even suffered moral conflict (the stuff of humanity). IMG_20141213_222000 Interestingly, Gilgamesh is also the legendary “father of civilization”, having founded the first city: Uruk (near what is now, Iraq, Mesopotamia).

His is a great story, foreshadowing the story of Moses and Jesus. But perhaps a very important message is not advanced, or is absent: Once cities are constructed, how then, are we supposed to deal with each other in such unfamiliar/unnatural situations? Why, after millenia of practice, are we so seemingly lost?   Perhaps the very premise of civilization contravenes our innate selfishness, that self-interest that drove Gilgamesh to desire eternal life, is the very thing that separates us today? Perhaps, his story is not to be taken literally, or maybe his nature is ours, and the story applicable to all of us? This nevertheless does not address the reasons that living amongst each other produces such flux…

There were many things that drove us to cities, namely, safety in numbers, agriculture, trade, and a greater or diverse gene pool. Additionally, with all of the barter and craftspersonship comes influence. Thus, inequality becomes more of a salient or necessary force.

In order to combat our inner anti-sociality we have devised codes, laws, policies,  to wit: Code of Hammurabi, The 10-Commandments, Magna Carta, etc., each draft an attempt to curtail what we really are: selfish and autonomous creatures. These codes are each an aim to encourage predictability and stability: norms. Each principle rule addresses sociological concepts, how to live amongst other closely situated humans, conformity, and what we ought not to do. Our values and boundaries began taking shape as we moved closer together.

Do we have to have such formal complexity? Can successfully living next to someone really come down to being NICE to her? Does thou shalt not steal have to be delineated on a stone tablet to remind us? Absolutely. Gilgamesh after all told us that. Codification lies at the root of law, ordering complex society so we can maneuver with the least amount of friction and interests are protected.

What are your values? What are your policies? Do you ponder about them much?
You may have heard the old adage, “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything”.

FIVE-PERCENT (5%) OF THE HUMAN POPULATION have a dominant personality type, meaning, they are driven to lead, to order, or to take. Like the speed of light or pi, this percentile is a natural constant, having extremely little variation.
During the time of Gilgamesh, cities were small, thus 1-of-20 dominant types could flourish in a town of say,1,500. These 75-people would have been priests, teachers, government leaders, or military leaders. Acute problems arise, however, once populations reach into the hundred-thousands, or millions, 50,000 dominant types are problematic as competition is high, there exists lean opportunity for legitimate expression: the result is crime. Crime is a simpler means by which expression of dominance is achieved (Wilson , 2005:72).

(view the following slide)
maslow
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs was devised, true from simian observations, yet remains applicable to the types of developed crime having occurred throughout human history. Earliest crimes were for food, then the best of caves, or trees, then the gene pool, and to be chieftain or King, then to be a God-king and realize ones life meant more than a bag of bones and a few children, that one has realized full-potential and accepted that which Gilgamesh had to as well, that we will die, there is no eternal life in a literal sense. (Think Alexander the Great.)

Gilgamesh, cities, and Maslow share for us a view of the Epic of Civilization.

Maslow’s study, at least the pyramid, will be worthwhile study, as it calls forth the essence of motivation, that there are certain things that we must do to stay alive. The hierarchy does not rule over us as a law, it does not cleanly escalate everyone’s needs nor address a clean regression, if at all. However, these five (5) needs exist.

This morning, as you wake, believe in goodness, be motivated by the higher order that Gilgamesh missed, that Maslow defined…accept that helping others will accomplish the greatest good: invoking the ripple effect. We pray their eyes are open, and that they too become motivated by helping others: I understand you, I care for you, and I value you. Pass it on, and remake civilization as you have known it.

Notes:

-Colin Wilson, A Criminal History of Mankind, Mercury. London (2005)

– Gilgamesh photo statuary, public domain, 2014

KEEP MOVING: A Moment with Joy Harjo

ARTIST IN MOTION: Miss Native American (2013~14), Sarah Ortegon

MINDFULNESS: Practical Lessons from Buddhism for Existential Combat

Stressors occlude the path we call life. Stress is physical, as in excercise or disease; external, as noise or weather, and emotional, as in grief or loss. Stress can come in many forms: spiritual, social, etc. Stress is basically defined as: stimuli that provokes an engaging reaction in something. Stress affects everyone differently, as in runners and bodybuilding, it is a tool. In a tempermental individual it is an enemy.

Blotterart jpgphoto by bloggerart

”Meditation in the Buddhist tradition involves a process of intense concentration and attention to quiet the conscious mind” (Nataraja 2008:18). The methodology of meditation varies by culture (tai chi, prayer, dance), yet it is in Buddhism where mindfulness meditation~as opposed to trancendental~appeared, which sought to reduce stress via focusing attention. Mindfulness is being in the moment, and being non~judgemental to unfolding experience (20).
Another way to view this focus is as a distraction from physical/sensual stress.

In contemporary industrialized societies we are bombarded by stresses unique to our human evolutionary biology; we have hunter~gatherer bodies and systems reflective of those experiences. Our contempory morés do not always mesh well with our bodies: we may succomb to anxiety, obesity, diabetes, and socioeconomic pressures. These things sometimes cause us to question whether we are purposeful life forms, with divine predestination, or that life and all that exists is meaningless struggling and randomness.

Hmm..how will mindfulness combat physical or existential stress?

Develop these six (6) features:

1] Adopting the non~judmemental attitude to experiences by observing and not reacting to them as good or bad experiences;

2] Patience must be developed to reduce anxiety and slows perceptual time so we do not suffer disappointments;

3] Accept situations as they are to combat denial and struggle: trust the universe is operating as it should;

4] Trust yourself;

5] Sometimes do nothing, exist in an unforced manner to promote the above concepts and relieve modernity of its sway over your ancient self;

6] Release the excessive emotional value to negative imaginings and seductive worry, (198).

As Pavlov showed us, we can alter a response with the chosen conditioner. In fact, that is what ancient Buddhist practitioners have known all along. There are far greater benefits in seeking a calm, mature perspective to the world, because if one does not develop ones place and self in our vast universe, we become vulnerable and seem lost and overwhelmed.
Tell yourself it’s ok to relax and listen to the wind or to the stillness of your soul. This practice of seemingly doing nothing, will make you stronger than ever and insulate you so you can be the lighthouse for others.

😉

Notes:

Nataraja, S. THE BLISSFUL BRAIN: Neuroscience and Proof of the Power of Meditation. Octopus. N.Y. (2008).

Why Did You Do That, Free Will?

EVERY NOW AND AGAIN people talk about decisions, choices, or free will. There are determinists~those who believe what will occur has pre~determined bases, thus, we lack free will of action, and cannot alter our fates. Then there are those who believe that people make rational and independent choices, of their own free will, and remain arbiters of their future.

This author does not propose a resolution to that timeless mystery, only relate a few facts regarding Human chemistry. Human thought, after all, is an invaluable combination of water, carbon, and hydrogen, and a host of amino acids. These also give us a body as well as our animation.

LET’S REVIEW A MOLECULE and its important interplay with our free will: seratonin. Seratonin has a molecular signature of: C10, H12, N2, O, which reads, ten carbon atoms, twelve of hydrogen, two of nitrogen, and a single oxygen atom. This molecule is derived by the amino~acid Tryptophan, found in foods such as bananas, papayas, and meat from turkeys. In humans, 90% of their seratonin is found in epithelial layers of the gut, and the other 10% in cerebro~spinal fluid, and in the brain where it is an important neurotransmitter.

Molecule

”Posture is more erect post~triumph” ~Darwin

”Heads are lowered after defeat” ~Irenaüs Eibl~Eibesfeldt

A HIGHER SERATONIN LEVEL correlates to social rank. Seratonin is found in greatest concentrations in dominant primate males. This is not to say that socially dominant primate males are genetically endowed to use/absorb/maintain/have naturally larger stores of seratonin. Actually, it means dominance
(greater amounts of seratonin) has a social basis.

Reference the quotes above, as relate to body language (a social phenomenon). Darwin’s ape, having defeated Eibl~Eibesfeldts ape in a territorial brawl, has elevated seratonin: a molecule that encourages a sense of well~being, regulates mood intensity, and ”guards against depression and anxiety” (Wright 1994: 243). As a result of such chemical~social interplay, Darwin’s ape sits proud (and it’s not being recommended that one go beat someone up). Interestingly, research has shown to associate low~levels of 5~hydroxindoleactic acid, a seratonin metabolite, ”in aggressive or violent individuals” (Linnoila et al., 1983).

So how does free will play to these ideas? If seratonin is not by itself deterministic, can one assume individuals have independently unique seratonin levels? Further, since seratonin regulates range of behavior, could a level of seratonin below ones unique baseline produce behavior that cannot be judged as free will? Well, drugs such as Prozac (seratoninergic anti~depressants) attempt to empower people with more will power! Selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI’s) and Mono~amine oxidase inhibitors (MAOI’s) discourage breakdown of seratonin in the brain, thereby keeping seratonin on the synaptic cleft (edge of a neuron), to encourage mood stability, providing resilience against anxiety and depression and maintaining prosocial levels of seratonin.

Additional biosocial factors influenced by seratonin are the receptorcites: 5HT 1A that influences pleasure via dopamine release (chemical also triggered by cocaine, amphetamine, and MDMA), positive/negative effects of schizophrenia, and learning. 5HT 2A also associated with schizophrenia, depression, mood, and anxiety. Seratonin, in a very simplistic way, according to Wright, is a glass of wine (244). [Ethyl alcohol actually releases seratonin, and research by Masters and McGuire (1994) shows people with low seratonin levels commit greater amounts of impulsive crimes (Wright, 244), and alcohol is involved in 64% of violent crime (Barkan 2000)].

Perhaps we will finally realize that social inequality, education and socioeconomic status, are great powers that induce individual response. Is it a stretch to believe Eibl~Eibsfeltds ape turned into a bum and did not potentialize due to chemistry? Social structure? In humans, whether God has given us freedom to choose, or that we are bound to a range of behavior due to chemistry is to be seen, guarded in faith that we do the right things, develop the most beneficial habits, and have sufficient seratonin to encourage the ripple effect of prosociality.

Notes:
1] Flannery, Vazsonyi and Waldman, eds. THE CAMBRIDGE HANDBOOK OF VIOLENT BEHAVIOR AND AGGRESSION. Cambirdge U.P., N.Y. (2007)

2] Wright, Robert. THE MORAL ANIMAL: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage N.Y. (1994).

CRIMINOGENISIS: Outlining Three General Theories

CRIMINOGENICS is a subset of theories from the field of criminology. Researchers and academicians use micro or macro approaches to study possible origins and causes of crime. There are three (3) general approaches: Biological (genetic propensity, disability, disease, race); Psychological (pathology, disease, syndrome, insanity, intelligence, morality); and Sociological: (geography, locale of residence, poverty, deficits in education, racism, lack of opportunity, etc).

The first of these two (2) theoretical approaches are micro~level, that is, they look to the individual for clues to criminality. Sociology takes a broader view, and with the assumption that circumstantial pressures are often stronger forces, in toto, than individual will. ( Recall Phillip Zimbardo’s Stanford Prison Project). Situational forces such as economic, familial, infermity, day/night, rural/urban residence, organizational polices at work, have substantial influence upon psychology and biology of individual behavior.

Ones approach to origin of crime leads to direct handling of crime thusly. In America, our individualism and entrepreneurship places the individual at the fore of responsibility. Technology is pushing psychological and genetic theory forward, but people still find study of groups (racial) quite evocative, partly based on historical blunders, such as, Tuskeegee Institute’s Syphillis Study (virus introduced to unsuspecting black men), Radium/Platonium/Uranium exposure to U.S. military during 19th Century, etc. So there are strong sociological forces inhibiting advancement in these areas, which are micro~level psychological issues: emotions and concern for abuses.

While time passes, we hope our wisdom accumulates and is spread throughout so the greatest good can be done. Taking the broadest views on approaching how best to handle our socially akward is not a slap in the face of personal responsibility, it’s in fact, grasping the most virtuous of calls, that is, to fix societies greater problems: alleviating victimization of poverty, crime, and lack of opportunity.
Join us today. Adopt the ripple effect principle. Act without accident.

Notes:

1) Barkan, Steven. CRIMINOLOGY: A SOCIOLOGICAL UNDERSTANDING, 2nd. ed. Prentice Hall. N.J. (2001)

Generalizability

Research Concept: GENERALIZABILITY

Primitive Atmosphere, Charted Experiment

Primitive Atmosphere, Charted Experiment


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TO STATE THAT RESEARCH IS IMPORTANT cannot be argued against. Scientists, doctors, teachers, indeed non~profit organizations and governments conduct extensive research. One end of conducting research or experimentation is to obtain externally valid results or data which appears to be what it’s stated it is. Results, not simply to have data, but meaningful data that can sometimes be generalized to larger populations. Quantifiable data, or measured data, begins with a hypothesis [n1].

Example hypothesis: Can a moderate level of alcohol intake impair brain function (motor function)?

Varied tests/research of alcoholic effects on the brain have proven this hypothesis in the affirmative, producing applied knowledge via tests that were very reliable and replicable [n2]. The generalizability of findings in this area has historically driven policy development affecting some aspect of our lives today, whether we drink alcohol or not.

Consider that our brain development unfolds into ones mid~twenties. This is partly why alcoholic beverages are not freely available to those under 21 here in America. Moreover, research from the influence of alcohol on brain development serves an even greater social purpose: that we have a duty to minimize others’ exposure to harm.

IMG_20150822_221945
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In a complex civilization, we need confidence and faith that what we experience in life leaves minimal, if any, negative effects. Assisting us to achieve this principle end, are traits intrinsic to being human: that we are social creatures, and it is appropriate thst we care for our neighbors’ well~being.

Further, it’s no secret we require a bit of predictability – so we can go about our days with the least amount of emotional and intellectual stress as possible. Without generalizability, research, both applied and secondary, (and surveys as well) would be meaningless, and among other things, alcoholism in children would be rampant and likely, just as it was in the early 20th Century. If not for research of that issue, our society would be totally different, not for the better [n3].

Ask yourself a few questions today:

¤ How do your actions insulate others from harm?

¤ What can we take from your leadership and generalize to make ourselves more socially conscious?

IMG_20150822_221454

Notes:
[n1] Inter alia, internal validity, statistical relevance, causality, control for rival causal factors, influence results in research.
[n2] Random selection of subjects affects reliability of results, as well.
[n3] Experiments are not generalizable.

Image of primitive atmosphere chart courtesy of Duke University, North Carolina.

Searching for Home

STANDING ROCK RESERVATION IS NOT A TOURIST ATTRACTION; however, it is a place reeling from the unintended effects of history, yet remains home to thousands of Sioux. Kristen has survived Standing Rock, but not without her share of bumps and bruises.
Kt1
Despite turmoil, a home is difficult to leave. If all one knows is alcohol, emotional and drug abuse one believes it’s typical. Kristen herself had been left with her two sisters in the car while a girl, as mom and dad drank in a bar. She knows the pain of home.

”That’s how dad died, drinking. So drinking was not my thing. I first left home for job corp. at 16, and had not experienced methamphetamine until 18. I used to be a runner and sometime enforcer when asked. I loved to fight. I tried the drug and it has been an uphill battle since then.”

Part of Kristen’s strategy to break the cycle of poverty, drugs, and alcohol was to head to Rapid City, S.D., a new place, greater opportunities. Through it all, she managed to keep all that’s important to her: her boys, Ashton and Logan, a healthy mind, and renewed faith in God.

”My parents, the rez, exposed me to many things. Others’ alcoholism profoundly affected me, my sisters, and my kids, too. I still don’t know where my youngest sister is, but she’s not in a good place. I know what it’s like for alcoholics, but for female meth addicts it’s scarier. Some women steal, lie, con, and prostitute themselves for drugs.
I pray for them.”

Alcoholism is a creeping disease, like meth addiction.

”Some don’t realize the time gone by, years and money wasted until it’s too late to make a difference. One of my major regrets
is losing education. I am a pretty good artist, so while Standing Rock was rough, and we were poor, I learned to paint and craft from my dad. I’ve done tattoos for 20~plus years, so home is still with me, you know. I try to mentor young girls from home and help them cope and understand how bad stuff affects a woman and how to cope.”

Women are especially vulnerable to drug addiction and abuse. Humans were not meant to undergo such trials. Yet, through all the victimization and pain and loss. We still drink, still chase drugs.

Kt2
”I support myself through craft, making dancers’ outfits, and tattooing. My second tat ever was on my mom. (laughs) I broke apart a Walkman and someone showed me how to construct a tat gun and I began tattooing; sometimes even to get/stay high, so my home is always with me.
I recall we had an outhouse, we had to fetch water, we were poor…”

Kt

Life continues, even when you don’t live it. Remaining sober is not a unique challenge, it can very well be ones greatest.

”Anymore, I exercise, go for walks, or read scripture to occupy my mind. Sensitivity to loud/sudden noise, nervousness, suspicion of others are ever present effects from my personal fight with meth. I think about it at times, but I’m wiser, my boys deserve me, and I don’t want to end up a zombie. I do pray a lot and drink water when I feel down. My son likes to smudge (marking with the black ends of burned sweetgrass, for prayer). He smudges the cat, too!” (laughter)
We’re going to be baptized soon, so God and spirituality is a great part of my recovery and lifestyle.”

Kristen’s keys to success.

”Hearing yourself speak heals you; talk to someone immediately. Maybe an elder. If you don’t have someone you can absolutely and genuinely trust, find them. Expressing yourself makes a lot of changes…and you have to stay away from old places and those types of people.”

Thank You, Kristen. Blessings to you.

When He, the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth…from him you will receive what He will make known to you.” (John 16: 13~14)

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Support Kristen’s effort, order regalia at: kristentuske@gmail.com

WARRIOR WOMAN: Rachel Crowspreadingwings

Systemic Challenges


INEVITABILITY OF CHANGE

Change

Change

Communication between two individuals can be a very straightforward exercise. The depth and meaning of what is conveyed, the medium used, the lighting or noise of the environmental setting, can, at times, create unintended complexity for any general conversation. Communicating with two people, then three, and fifty each requires additional considerations that makes preparation to communicate, itself, a distinct realm of specialized knowledge.

The issues of growth and complexity in communication present great challenges to as scarcity of resources and quest for solutions grows more imminent. Plans that worked yesterday, likely wont work forever~and the numbers don’t lie! That realization calls for strategic planning.

INDIVIDUAL, ORGANIZATIONAL, and SYSTEMIC PROBLEMS

Individual Example:
I broke my toe walking to work today.

Organizational:
We broke our toes on the mandatory corporate trolly~ride to work today.

Systemic:
Every baby is now tragically born without toes.

Each of the foregoing situations calls for varied attention, including different levels of action, and resource allocation. In the first example, the toe is immediately an individual problem, but if it were say, Kobe Bryant’s toe, it very well would become an organizational issue (as collective objectives are delimited).

Individual issues are generally easiest to solve; organizational ones, and systemic problems are more complex, often requiring extensive – and expensive redesign. This is why Identification, Foresight and Strategy are important at the outset of any plan. First of all, determining which of the three levels issues belong to is a good exercise in critical thinking. Identification causes one to refine ones place in the world, and percieve the types of knowledge one will require in order to contribute to solutions. With your newfound ideas in place you may ease suffering, and create great benefits for others.

Can you identify one systemic problem?
What happens once you have that knowledge?

Knowledge is Powerful.

🙂

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