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March 6, 2017

Et tu, Seuss???

For some background, see this piece on the racist cartoons of a young Dr Seuss.

Seuss Race

This is where redemptive stories get tricky. I watched The Shack last night, which has as a major story line, forgiveness (in this case without any real redemption).

Some of Seuss’s later children’s books have fantastic messages running completely counter to what was clearly his head-space early in his career (there is an argument for an amount redemption here – I’m not taking a side on it, just acknowledging it is there).

In The Shack, we are supposed to forgive a child murderer and move on; however, I’m not sure how to do that here. Do you condemn the entirety of the man for his early actions? Do you separate the man from his – decidedly disparate – message(s)? The adult from youth? The cultural context of an era from a moral and ethical true north that is itself a social construct?

I’ve spent hours spinning the tales of The Lorax and Horton to my children as examples of “who to be”… now I’m faced with the creator of those upstanding examples being (at times) reprehensible.

I’m seldom at a loss for a solid decisive path on issues, but have to admit, I am a bit torn on this one. Which, I think, is ultimately a good thing. “Good” and “evil” are certainly subjective concepts, relative to the lens of the person perceiving the action. This will lead to more (probably really good, because they are older now and have so much to add themselves) conversations with my kids. We’ll talk about “early-Seuss”, and how he effects the messages and lessons from “later-Seuss,” why this matters and how to apply it to our lives.

I’m sad to see a childhood icon fall, to whatever degree, from grace; however, I’m excited about the potential growth that fall might bring.

Maybe I’ll even have something more concrete to write about after that’s all said and done………………

April 28, 2015

Cultural Cognitive Dissonance and the Baltimore Riots

I’m not one to condone violence or destruction of other people’s property, and I find the events in Baltimore to be truly tragic. But in scanning my Facebook timeline this morning I have to say I was equally disgusted with several of my “friends.” The level of hypocrisy emanating from those heaping vitriol towards protesters, rioters, and looters by those whose taste for vengeance is well documented on their own timelines speaks to a societal cognitive dissonance that I cannot see ending in anything but violence.

I’ve seen this image of a mother addressing her son’s protesting activities three times, each with a completely different take on the scene. Coverage (that I have seen) has ranged from “Mother of the year” to “Woman berates and dehumanizes son.” Think about that, same picture, same story… completely different representations.

That we make of the news what we want, is not “new news;” however, the inevitability of outcome, when we do so, always seems to be revelatory. I’ve read, this morning, about how the rioters are doing so “because they want to, and finally have an excuse.” I’ve also read that they are desperate people left feeling as though they have no choice, in the words of none other than Martin Luther King Jr “riot is the language of the unheard.” (Note: fuller context of that quote is below, and is very much worth the read for a better understanding of the message he was sending and the culture and climate he faced; which is not entirely different than that which many in Baltimore and across this nation feel they find themselves in today. I’m not going to try to say those people are right, or they are wrong, I’m just acknowledging their perspective, because without it there is no hope of understanding or addressing this situation).

One definition of cognitive dissonance is this: “In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.” What I am talking about is the manifestation of that stress and discomfort on a society that is at odds with itself. A culture that finds more and more to disagree upon, embraces divisiveness, and often eschews (even condemns) the ideas of compromise and moderation.

Given human nature and history, how can this society move anywhere but toward violent conflict? How can police officers not gravitate toward more violent arrests; and criminals toward more exaggerated forms of resistance and obstruction? When we call for the destruction of the foreign regimes over humanitarian violations, and launch wars in the name of the same; how do we reconcile condemning the use of violence or destruction toward a perceived oppressor that will not listen to complaints about, let alone act upon, these rising tensions on our city streets?

We have invaded nations in defence of “democracy”… an ambiguous concept (that we don’t even really embrace in full ourselves… but I digress); and yet we expect portions of our population to sit idly while members of their community are injured or killed without recourse.

Again, I’m not condoning or supporting the violence/riots/protests; what I’m suggesting is that we stop complaining about it, stop pointing fingers over it, stop generalizing, criticizing and stereotyping it, and get down to the dirty business of trying to prevent it going forward. As with all issues and addictions, this starts with admitting we have a problem.

We have a problem of us vs. them, a problem of hypocrisy, a problem of divisiveness… a problem of cultural cognitive dissonance. I often find myself a part of it and, most likely, you do as well. The question is, what are we going to do about it?

Full MLK quote on rioting:

“But it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention. And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the negro poor has worsened over the last twelve or fifteen years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

March 18, 2015

An Open Letter to the Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , , , , , — sbj @ 10:07 pm

Note: I’ll start by saying that the open letter to which I’m writing is here, and is well worth your time to read. It talks about the importance of addressing and attacking the systemic roots of racism rather than identifying and personifying the issue via individual instances (that summary is what I got from it, apologies to Race Forward if I misinterpreted or misunderstood the intent).

race

Dear Open Letter to Starbucks and USAToday (AKA Race Forward, AKA Rinku Sen),

I appreciate the focus you have placed on the institutionalized aspect of race and the importance of understanding these underlying tenets of our cultural fabric. I could not agree more (and, in fact, have written numerous times about this very need) regarding the urgency of pulling back the curtain in order to expose and address these issues.

Having said that, I cannot agree that individual conversations are unimportant – or – as stated by Jay Smooth in a tv interview, that it is sometimes better not to have a conversation if that conversation is not focused on the big picture. I get (and, again, agree with) the idea that entering the blame game does nothing but create defensive, closed off people who are no longer a potential part of the solution.

The thing is, it doesn’t have to be like that. My father, for years, said “that was mighty white of you” whenever someone did something particularly praiseworthy. He grew up hearing it on a daily basis (never as a contrast to something being mighty black or brown by the way… it had nothing to do with race to him). *I* grew up hearing it on a regular basis (from him) and not really thinking much of it… until I went off to college that is.

I played basketball in college, and – as such – the racial makeup of my friends changed significantly (not a lot of diversity in a private Catholic high school in Reno Nevada). I never really got into my dads pet phrase so I never ran into a problem using it, but as I hung out with my new friends I found myself becoming increasingly aware of what was and was not racially charged. Suddenly, for example, the Cleveland Indians mascot was significant to me. Over the years, I sort of forgot about dear old dads expression. But then I went home to visit and *boom* there it was, big as life, and through my new world lens… unconscionable.

So I talked to my father about race, about bigotry, about reinforcing negative (or falsely positive) stereotypes… about “mighty white.” He was shell-shocked. What he was saying (the meaning rather than the words) had never occurred to him. Some would say my father doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, other would say everyone has some racism or bigotry in them and he is no exception; but either way, it is highly unlikely that anyone has ever said (nor are they likely to ever say) he is a racist in any way shape or form. The guy simply doesn’t have “race” or anything like it in his value system… people are people, their actions determine “good” or “bad.”

But here’s the thing, I could have talked to him for days on end about systemic racism or about institutionalized bigotry and it really wouldn’t have been something he could relate to. In his insulated world (he moved to Boise Idaho after I left for college… also not a hotbed of racial variety, especially in 1984) those idea just wouldn’t (couldn’t) resonate with him. His world, consisting largely of one race, didn’t really contain any racism. However, once I was able to illustrate how he, himself, was acting, it opened the door to the bigger, more substantive, conversation. Simply put, once he realized he could be doing racist things (without actually having any racist thoughts or ideals) the idea of a society so conditioned was no longer such a far-reaching concept.

My (long-winded) point is that the individual conversations do matter, in fact, they are important. It’s not the existence of these conversations that cause defensiveness, it is the method of delivery or approach. Most of society is not ready to take on big conceptual issues. Heck, much of society is already pretty occupied trying to get the kids fed and the house cleaned up in time to get some sleep before they start all over the next day. And, if they are potentially open to waxing philosophical about race (or gender, or sexual preference, or gender identity et. al.) they are probably more likely to do so if they are invested or the subject resonates with them in some personal way.

Again, I appreciate your focus on the more entrenched societal norms and how they effect race (and other issues) today. Those are the areas in which real and lasting change can take place. I’d just encourage you not to lose track of the value of everyday, personally relevant, conversation in the mix. It’s not a matter of settling, it’s a matter if being comprehensive and fully vested in your efforts, and I think that goes well beyond the shallow bar of settling for “okay.”

With Respect,
SBJ

November 20, 2014

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve decided if I can’t beat them, I’ll join them. Since “everyone” is ramping up for Christmas already; despite the fact that it’s still November and Thanksgiving is a full week away I figure I might as well try to do something constructive with the momentum. So here is my Christmas list (fully inclusive of all of my desires for this year).

1. Stop the bigotry, hate, derision, and fear. Break free of the onerous trappings of ignorance and embrace others for what they truly are… people, just like you and I, trying to move through and make the best of their lives.

That’s it… that’s all. Ready go!

This starts with stereotyping, and I’m not even thinking about “little black sambo,” the drunken indian, or the nerdy socially awkward (but super smart) Asian (or any of the other myriad of examples where minorities are marginalized by the generalities we cast upon them). No, today I’l focused a little closer to home (at least for me)… this has popped up on my facebook timeline four or five times over the last 24 hours:

Now, based on the tried and (arguably not) true axiom that “it’s okay if we say it to/about ourselves,” I should be okay going through the machinations of figuring out my redneck elf name. It’s all in good fun, and I’m not making fun of anyone but myself.

Except… I am. In reality this effects everyone. First and most directly, of course, it effects any and all “white” people who see it. Beyond that, though, it effects literally everyone… in so many ways. Once I get comfortable disparaging myself or those who are like me, the bar (of resistance) is lowered when it comes to grouping other people (and subsequently, potentially stereotyping them as well). I am tacitly approving of a society based on inclusion (and therefore also exclusion)… a culture of “us and them,” rather than “we.”

This type of thing is the toughest to get away from as well. Because it seems harmless, and self-effacing/deprecating, so why should anyone else be offended. The thing is, not offending someone (even though, perhaps it should) doesn’t mean what you have said or done is right; or, more importantly, best.

We don’t need to live in a divisive, unkind world. But if we are going to try to exist another way, it will take effort… including giving up some of our creature comforts like making fun of ourselves (and others) in a mean spirited way.

So there is it. my Christmas wish for 2014. And, since I am certainly guilty of doing this myself, I’ll go ahead and double down and make it my New Years resolution while I’m at it.

PS: Not judging anyone who did this and/or had fun doing so. This sort of thing is absolutely a societal norm in our culture and noone should be belittled for taking part in it. I just have a vision for what I believe is a better world for my children and their children to grow up in… and it starts with treating each other (and ourselves) better than we currently do.

September 23, 2014

Which witch is which? Emma Watson and the case for advocacy.

Recently Emma Watson gave a heralded speech to the UN on gender equality and the #HeForShe movement, spearheaded by the UN. #HeForShe is a worthy endeavor attempting to enlist 1 billion men and boys as supporters for gender equality… I am man number 41,039 for what that’s worth…

I have seen several portions of her talk both quoted and gushed about, so I figured I’d do my part in heaping praise toward her effort. Before I begin though, I do have a bit of a bone to pick with the UN and the name of the campaign… so… if you will indulge a short detour (if not just skip the next paragraph)…

One of the oft cited portions of her speech included dipping into the issue of equality from a male perspective. Specifically, talking about how women were not the only victims of gender inequality. Along with many others I found this to be a powerful addition to her words (not unlike President – then candidate – Obama’s speech on race from 2008). The issue is, I find “HeForShe” to be a bit at odds with the overall message (as paraphrased by me: “this effects us all and we are all part of the solution”) I got out of that segment of her speech. I think I would have preferred some sort of “all for one and one for all” type of name (not sure what it would be… but that’s not the point of this post, so I’m not really spending cycles on it right now).

Back to the point…

There was a lot to like in her presentation, but what really resonated with me was this:

“You might be thinking who is this Harry Potter girl? And what is she doing up on stage at the UN. It’s a good question and trust me I have been asking myself the same thing. I don’t know if I am qualified to be here. All I know is that I care about this problem. And I want to make it better.”

And therein lies the rub. Anyone – and everyone – who cares can make a difference (in truth, by the simple act of caring, they already have). This is powerful, powerful stuff. If we all simply ignored the traditional/perceived blockers to the things we want to accomplish or the change we want to see in the world and, instead, acted upon our passions/interests; neither our lives nor our world would have any choice but to change.

In talking with a friend about this he threw out the quote about a journey of a thousand miles beginning with a single step. I agreed, but countered with what I feel is a more empowering, albeit slightly more prescriptive quote from Arthur Ashe:

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”

Every bit of effort – no matter how small – makes a difference; momentum absolutely matters. You don’t have to be Hermoine Granger to care about equality; and you don’t have to be asked to speak at the UN to make a difference. Every person you interact with is influenced by that experience. Every person who cares about you also cares (to whatever degree) about the things near and dear to you. No matter who you are you have that, and you can use it.

If you’ve ever played the 6 degrees of separation game (or, in terms the younger generations will find easier to relate to… signed up for LinkedIn) you know that no matter who you are, you are not many leaps away from a very large number of people. Shaquille O’Neil, Stanford University’s Provost, and the aforementioned President Obama are all 3rd degree contacts of mine on LinkedIn – meaning someone I know knows someone who knows them. There are literally tens of thousands of people one contact away from me. All I need to do is say the right thing, in the right way (so that it resonates with the right person) and it could explode throughout my personal network, and probably, by extension, yours as well.

So, I’d like to encourage everyone (especially the men reading this) to support the #HeForShe movement… it is important. However, on a bigger canvas, I’d like each of you to take a close look at what is important to you. What change would you like to see (or what do you want to ensure does not get changed)? Whatever that is, start talking about it, because you care and because you want to make it better.

To quote Emma Watson, quoting so many before her… if not you, then who? If not now, then when?

——

If you didn’t get a chance to see her presentation, here it is.

January 1, 2014

Happy New Years… maybe…

It’s New Years Eve and, as is the case some years, I have spent a little time reflecting on the year, my life, the state of the world I live in and my impact upon it. I don’t always do this… some years I’m very “New Years Snobbish” and convince myself that this type of reflection should be a daily occurrence and not something reserved for the end/beginning of the year. Those years I consider New Years Resolutions (or even “deep” personal introspection) to be anything from passionate pretense to pandering-preachy-(self)promotion (or at least an excuse for shameless alliteration ;) ). This is not one of those years (next year – or even tomorrow – I will undoubtedly hate myself for writing this).

I’ll start by sharing my basic frame of mind going into the day (and I’ll do it in classic egocentric form, by quoting myself)

I don’t currently recall when or why I said that (other than it was earlier this year) but I do recall how true it rang when I first said it, and I also recognize how much it resonates with me in these last few hours of 2013.

This should not be confused as some fire and brimstone sermon about how we are hurdling toward Armageddon (even if, perhaps, we are). In fact, as difficult as this may be to digest based on that quote, I am somewhat optimistic right now. I’m hopeful because of this other little narcissistic jewel I’m going to drop on you (once again, me quoting me):

See, I told you, I’m little Mary sunshine!

Seriously though, here’s the thing. While I struggle, on a day to day basis, to find much moral, intellectual, or even self-sustaining value in our society, I do continue to be reminded and confronted by acts of charity, compassion, and kindness; and in these things, in our humanity, I see hope for our species. It makes me think that, perhaps sometime soon, before it is truly too late we will begin to act – as a society – as though we are a community; a mesh network of interconnected (and interdependent) people, rather than an ever growing collection of individuals related by proximity… and little else.

To me, this would be the big turning point in the history of mankind (and the one thing that might enable us to overcome the threat of extinction). The ability to see ourselves as being a part of the same team, hoping to achieve the same goals, rather than adversaries competing for the same commodities.

So that’s my goal, or, if you prefer, resolution: To seek out, focus upon, glorify, and empower humanity; to find or build synergies with both my best friends and “worst enemies” for the sake of a common goal we may or may not as yet even fully recognize; and to do my part in fulfilling the potential and promise at the foundation of each and every New Years wish/dream/resolution ever made… to live happily ever after…

July 29, 2013

And another thing… (Trayvon Martin thoughts, cont.)

murder

I do not mean to be insensitive to the Martin Family (or any of Trayvon’s other loved ones), nor do I mean to offend anyone who has taken up or adopted his plight but I am concerned about the singular attention this case has been given and the exclusion of so many other stories and other families who are suffering no less than his.

Over the past two years (for which we have statistics ’10 and ’11) there are an average of 42 homicides a day (roughly 30,000 over that time, 22,000 of which were by gunshot). Which means that during the jury deliberation portion of the trial alone (16 hours) 28 people would have been murdered (if the averages were maintained during that time).

That’s 28 people neither you or I (in all likelihood) will ever know the names of, or the circumstances of their demise. That’s also 28 people who are no less dead than Trayvon, with families no less torn apart than his.

We know that only 10% of homicides victims are under the age of 18, so maybe that makes it a bit more palatable that only 3 children murdered while those deliberations took place. The same source (the U.S. Bureau of Justice) tells us that 48.1% of those murdered are black… so that gets us close to only one murdered black child during that time.

Perhaps that child was Darious Simmons, or Nazia Banks or perhaps it was one of the several hundred other black youths that I was able to find that had been shot to death within the last year or so – none of whom I have heard of (including those in this tribute to the 108 Chicago area children killed in 2012)

My point is that while Martin, his family (along and Zimmerman et. al.) have become (certainly unwilling) celebrities, the circumstances of this tragedy continue to repeat themselves each and every day. So, while I think it is great that there is a growth in national awareness that is coming from the Trayvon Martin case, I fear that the wrong conversations are being had.

All of the conversations are important, but, this case has gone on long enough… lets start talking about Darious now. Lets discuss Nazia (and Kentan, and Porshe, and Sergio… and… and… and so many others from the Chicago list… all 15 or younger), then lets get over the racial aspect and talk about Latino children, and white children and every single child that is in harms way.

42 people a day (30 of them murdered with a firearm, for the record – and before the NRA apologists get into the act, these are homicide numbers, suicides etc. have already been baked out of the equation)…and yet for over a year our nation (and news media) was gripped by the drama generated by just one of these cases.

Trayvon Martin has become the face of the problem, the personification of it, and as such, I fear that when the news about him dies down… so will the associated (and very important) conversations. Put another way, the reality of young black people (or people of any age or color for that matter) being murdered will continue but the national awareness will not because our focus will have moved from the ongoing issue to a temporarily sensationalized example of it.

If we are not careful, the tragedy of February 26th may be re-doubled because we miss out on the chance to talk about the entire forest due to our interest in this particular tree.

April 30, 2013

Without tolerance, there’s something missing…

So, I’ll just admit it. Five years ago, I was a hater. A big time hater who eschewed most of what he believed in in order to advocate for what he believed in. I think the technical term for this is hypocrite. And like most things, it got worse before it got better (assuming I can justifiably call where I am now better… I have no idea how I will judge myself in five more years).

hater

This little epiphany came to me shortly after I was sorting through and processing news related to Jason Collins, specifically the reactions of other people to his announcement. This may seem unrelated to what follows, but bear with me… they connect (at least in they mystical ether more commonly referred to as my brain). A friend came up to me and showed me a picture on Facebook with President Bush and President Obama standing together with a caption that read something like “like if you think Bush was a better President.”

Laughter ensued, and a few snarky comments as well. But then it struck me, there are a lot of people who would be inclined to hit that like button. A lot of good, intelligent, compassionate people for that matter. And here I was mocking them, and then… suddenly… I was transported back in time to 1984 with the sage words of none other than the great prophet General Public resounding through my mind and into my soul:

I don’t know where I am but I know I don’t like it
I open my mouth and out pops something spiteful
Words are so cheap, but they can turn out expensive
Words like conviction can turn into a sentence

Hyperbole aside, this is where my mind went. I pointed out to my friend that, in fact, there is a group of people who really sincerely believe that President Bush was the better leader of the free world. I went on to say (in my mind) “who am I to berate them for that?” Our country is deeply divided right now over… well.. pretty much everything. This is not because one side is clearly right and the other side is clearly wrong (if that were true we wouldn’t be so deeply and evenly divided); more-so, it is because we are investing so much time and energy in pretending that the other side is clearly wrong – and deriding them for it – that we aren’t spending any (or at least enough) time actually trying to come up with solutions.

I, for example, in my excitement to support the candidate I had chosen, jumped firmly on the waxing tide of vitriol being heaped on outgoing President Bush as part of the Obama campaign. Completely ignoring the fact that Bush was not running in 2008, so anything dumped on him had nothing to do with the election that year. What I saw in Obama, a chance for progress toward general equality and tolerance I was conveniently evading in my own political rhetoric.

Coming back to Mr Collins announcement yesterday. I am happy, impressed and (more than anything else) thankful with/to him for taking that all important first step and “coming out.” I was also overwhelmed with the initial outpouring of positive emotion and support for him from athletes and others. Then some of the “other” responses started to trickle in. Mark Jackson said:

“As a Christian man, I have beliefs of what’s right and what’s wrong. That being said, I know Jason Collins, I know his family and I’m certainly praying for them at this time.”

This was actually filed under the “positive” responses… I didn’t take it that way (I’m not going to go into how I did take it as that would run contrary to what I’m trying to say with this post… you can be your own judge).

Mike Wallace posted an update on twitter wondering why, with so many attractive females around, a guy would want to mess around with another guy. An ESPN reporter went off on a bit of a rant about living in sin and what it was or was not to be Christian.

It was Mr. Wallace’s comments that really struck me. My instant (in my mind, again) response was something along the lines of:

That’s like asking a football player (which he is) – “with so many good basketball games going on, why would you want to waste your time on football” – or, asking a person who is eating Thai food – “with so many good Italian joints out there, why would you take your chances on Thai”…

In short, it’s a matter of taste. My sister (despite being brought up in a good family and being loved as a child) loves (**LOVES**) mayonnaise. I, by contrast, loath the fact that it exists and might accidentally get on a spoon I could possibly use months (and numerous washings) later. Other than the fact that *I think* she is bat-shit crazy for liking the stuff, there is nothing wrong with my sisters view. Further, no amount of intense personal loathing of the creamy white menace on my part will make her wrong (let alone change her taste for it).

There is also nothing wrong with Mr. Collins being more attracted to men than to women. In a more open, equal society he might be just as confused about why Mr. Wallace likes women as Mr. Wallace is currently confused about Collins predilection toward men. And that’s the thing, we should be able to treat someones sexual orientation (or political views) like my sister and I treat her taste (or my lack thereof) for mayonnaise (with respectful levity if anything at all).

But somehow we can’t. Bush has to be a villain and the worst President in history, God has to hate fags, I’m supposed to hate Mike Wallace (or Chris Culliver before him) and on and on it goes. What we fail to grasp, at times, is that while something may be a complete abomination to some of us (I’m looking at you, mayonnaise), what someone else feels about it is none of our business. Even when we view it as a sin or a blight against humanity we also need to remember that people are blessed with free will and can sin, blight, and abominate to their hearts content… so long as they are not harming others in the process. It is not our job to “fix” them, and even if it were… hating on them won’t do it.

The same friend who brought me the picture this morning also made the point to me yesterday that people shouldn’t be chided for openly and honestly sharing their feelings (ALA Mr. Wallace), even if they run contrary to the feel good mood of the day. And he’s right. He’s right because at the end of the day it’s not how well we articulate our opinions of someone else’s views that will make the world a better place, but rather, how well we tolerate, understand and ultimately respect those views no matter how much we might disagree with them.

April 10, 2013

The Decisive Element…

Some of the “Facebook history threads” or whatever they are called are hilarious, some are patently offensive… the one I read today, while having doses of both, I found to be more instructive or insightful (even if – perhaps – accidentally so).

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know one of my pet peeves is when someone willingly relinquishes their position of righteousness and joins the madding crowd. This usually take the form of some form of revenge or vigilante justice. I should be up front about this… I’m a prime example of a person who – despite awareness, loathing and best efforts – has done, and most likely will continue to do, this very thing. It drives me no less crazy (in fact considerably more-so) when I am the one doing it.

Getting back to the little comedic history (this one was about WWII) there was this clip:

Note the (very short) journey of common sense in this clip. From a rather… dare I say… common sense response to one charged with anger and retribution. For now I’m going to ignore all of the pro/con arguments about the use of atomic power at the end of WWII, that is not the point of this piece. Rather I want to talk about how our emotions effect our thinking, judgement, and finally actions.

Literally years ago (it will be 5 years in May… unbelievable that I have been at this that long) I wrote about the somewhat famous Stanford prison experiment, the effects of the war in Iraq on our soldiers and other manifestations of stress et. al. Like the clip above, these are all cases of seemingly normal, healthy, and good people going bad.

At the very least, without context, their actions would be taken as bad, and in some cases even with full disclosure there is seemingly no excuse for what transpired. In the case of the clip above, in an attempt at humor, the creator has captured the essence of how so many bad decisions are made and bad actions taken. Given the right stimulus the human brain can rationalize any action. Note, for example, that the motivation for the sudden change of heart was actions taken by the Germans… while Japan received the atomic treatment.

Atomic (and nuclear) weapons will never do the bulk of their damage against the perpetrators of atrocities, but instead the majority of the victims will be the (at least relatively) innocent people having the misfortune of being born within the borders of the “evil doers” country. At best, tens of thousands of civilians (again, arguably completely innocent) will die for every truly “bad” person killed in such an attack. Morally, practically, and certainly with an eye toward justice, it makes absolutely no sense as a solution… and yet…

I had an online conversation yesterday and today regarding a rape/suicide and the perpetrators who walked away pretty much scotfree. The conversation was ripe anger (perhaps more accurately: rage) frustration, and helplessness. What was disturbing to me though were the calls for retribution rather than justice. There was talk of meat grinders, forced suicide etc. etc. etc. I understand the anger and hopelessness, and feel it myself, but I do not think sinking to an equally destructive position does the world any good. It might (or might not) make an individual feel better, but what has it done to reshape the rape/sexploitation/comodification of women culture we live in? what had it done to prevent the next Stuebenville, or Halifax, or wherever?

Slap on the wrist sentences are ridiculous and no more equal to justice than meat grinders. However, trivial punishments are something that we can reasonably attempt to address, without becoming part of a spiral of anger and destruction. Moreover, when it comes to changing the culture we live in, punishing the perpetrators of these crimes to the extreem is a bit like putting a mattress on the spot a jumper landed when they threw themselves to their death. It won’t bring them back, it won’t save the next person (even in the highly unlikely situation that they land in the same spot), and it won’t change the circumstances that led that person and anyone having already jumped or considering taking their own lives from following that path.

What we need is a fundamental societal shift.

When determining the guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime their actions, and only their actions, need to be considered. It doesn’t matter what their victim was wearing, singing or doing with their cherry stem… what matters is what the accused did with their hands (or other implements). This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.

actions

When the US patent office receives a copyright application for “breastaurant” they need to reject it on the spot and initiate the biggest sexual workplace harassment investigation in history. Cause, seriously, I can’t say “you look great in those jeans” to a co-worker (not that I want to… just making a point) but that joker can call his bikini clad employees (all of them, nationwide!!!) “breastaurant workers” and that’s totally cool???? This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.

bikinis

And, when a car company tries to sell used cars by saying “you know you’re not the first, but do you really care” we all need to say enough! If the workplace is the only place a woman can feel protected from being reduced to a commodity (not that she really can, but at least there are some laws that *should* protect her there) we are doing something drastically wrong. This is actionable, you can write your congress person, start a petition, write a blog, talk to your sons and daughters… or… or… or… the bottom line is that you can take action without compromising yourself and with the bigger goal of improving our national (global) quality of character.

usedcar

I could go on, but you get the point (and I’ve drifted a bit from mine).

The things that we see, hear, experience in the world effect us… at times they infuriate us. What we do about that is up to us. It is – often – not easy to find a productive reasoned response to what we are exposed to (as I said at the beginning, I often fail at this); however, in the long run, doing so is exactly what will help us manifest the change we want to see in the world. At the end of the day, I’m pretty sure that restraint and constructive reactions are and will be what separate us from being the worst that we can be… and provide the potential for attaining some much more than we can imagine ourselves accomplishing.

Or, put better, by someone far smarter than I:

July 25, 2011

What time is it???

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 5:13 pm

No big intro here… I’m going to jump right in… I find myself wondering if the concept of time zones has run its course and the world wouldn’t be better served by using one universal time.

As I ponder this I can see many reasons to having the same time everywhere, and very few (non-babysitting, or habitual) reasons for having time zones.  Sure, there is some familiarity (and associated comfort) with the idea of having the sun high over head around “noon,” but, does that really add any practical value to our lives?

In 1884, when time zones (as we currently know them) were first implemented the world was a very different place.  In a word, it was huge.  Traveling distances that would require crossing time zones (especially multiple time zones in a short period of time) was rare; and since the telephone was essentially still being invented (AT&T was created the year after our existing time zone system was implemented, and the first coast to coast long distance call was not completed for another 31 years) rapid communications across time zones was not common either.

127 years later, things are a bit different.

People jump from time zone to time zone daily, even hourly.  When I travel to the East Coast I have to reset all of my time pieces (admittedly, many of them change themselves) and the reset them when I return.  If I land in Chicago on the way I need to figure out not only what time it is there, but how that relates to both where I came from and where I am going.  In New York (or wherever I might be going back East) I need to re-calibrate again.

We telephone people across the country and the world from devices we carry around in our pockets or on our belts.  When someone in Atlanta wants to set up a teleconference with me, the first question is “what time” and the second question is always “my time or yours.”  Frequently that second question is forgotten, and more often than I’d like to admit, meetings have been missed because of a misunderstanding (read: lack of communication) based on who’s time the meeting was supposed to occur.

The largest casualty of this change, in my opinion would be New Years Eve… whoever gets “midnight” at 11am is gonna kinda be bummed, and I get that.  However, I’m not sure I dislike that more than I like watching a ball drop in New York that actually happened two hours ago… I’m not really that into living the lie, ya know?

One global time zone would mean that when my cousins in Denmark said “call me at 3pm” we’d both know exactly when that call was going to happen… without wondering who owned the 3pm in question.

One global time zone would mean that my flight itin wouldn’t imply it takes 15 minutes to fly from Boise to San Francisco, and 2 hours and 15 minutes to fly back.

One global time zone would mean that when I traveled, all of my time pieces would always have the right time… even if there was no network to connect to for some reason.

One global time zone would mean that it was the same day everywhere on earth.

I am of the mind that time zones are an antiquated idea who’s time has come… and gone.  My fiancee disagrees with me on this one… how about you?

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