Sunday, May 25, 2014

Cooking With Frank: Pulled Pork, Chipotle and Chèvre Lasagna

Who doesn't love pulled pork. In this household new pulled pork recipes are created every few months (we're saving them for "a rainy day"), but after awhile pulled pork on a bun (or baked potato) can get sort of ho-hum.

Additionally, in this household, pasta is something that is rare. Very rare. It's not a Frankie friend. But James loves pasta, so sometimes he has to be indulged. We figured what better time to indulge him than when Jesse (@cool_jesse) comes for his annual summer visit (then there's less that we "have" to eat).

This recipe is in three parts, like a play. It's really easy, and mostly 'set in and forget it' in nature. You can start it today and make it tomorrow.

Please note: The sodium content is if

you use store bought canned tomatoes (2,254 g).
The other major sodium source is from the pork (9,800 g).
The recipe is relatively healthy compared to other more traditional lasagnas, but with great flavors like pulled pork, spicy chipotle and goat cheese...it seems so much more naughty.

  • It's sweetened with carrots instead of processed sugar.
  • If you use home canned tomatoes the sodium can be better controlled than if the tomatoes are store bought.
  • You can add whatever vegetables you want to make it super packed with vitamins and nutrients - if you want to "trick" your family and friends into eating healthier (peas, fresh peppers, leeks, asparagus, celery...since it just gets cooked and then blended up, the options are vast).


Plus, goat cheese is higher in protein, vitamins A and D and low in carbohydrates compared to part skim milk ricotta [but higher in calories, fat and sodium. More on goat cheese vs. part skim milk ricotta >>> SkipThePie.org Nutrition Search Engine]


Pulled Pork, Chipotle and Chèvre Lasagna
Serves 8-10 (at 9 servings the serving size is 3"x 4")

What You'll Need:
9 x 13 glass pan
crock pot
bender or immersion blender
aluminum foil.



FIRST: The Pork
1.5-2 pounds Pork butt or pork shoulder (you can use tenderloin, but the meat will be a bit chewier)
2 cups Carrot, rough chopped
1 quart Tomatoes, stewed
1 quart Water
1/2 Onion, Yellow, rough chopped
1/2 Onion, Red, rough chopped
3/4 cup Red Wine
1/4 cup Red wine vinegar
3 Tbsp Marsala cooking wine
2 Tbsp Worcestershire
Salt, to taste (but at least 1 tsp*)
Pepper, fresh ground, to taste

Combine all ingredients in a crock pot on high and cook for at least 12 hours. If part of the cooking includes overnight turn the crock pot on low, just to be safe.
DO NOT BREAK UP THE PORK INTO SMALL PIECES.

After about 12 hours, remove the pork and set aside.
Puree the sauce mixture with a blender (but be careful, leave plenty of space in the blender, or you'll have a hot mess) or an immersion blender.
In a separate bowl or container, shred the pork into small pieces. Set aside.

*Notes:
- rough chop = large chunks
- if you are using canned tomatoes from the store, use less salt.

SECOND: The Red Sauce
All reserved sauce from the pulled pork [there should be at least 9-10 cups, or 72-80 oz]
2 Chipotle peppers in adobe sauce, removed from sauce and chopped*
1 tsp of the adobe sauce from the can*

Add the chopped chipotle peppers and adobe sauce to the reserved sauce. Blend with immersion blender. Set Aside.

*Notes:
This is a very spicy (hot) product. Use sparingly if you, your family, or your guest can't handle spicy food.

THIRD: The White Sauce
170-200 grams Chèvre  (goat cheese) [about 1 1/2 cups]
1/2 cup Half & Half
1 medium clove garlic, minced
Salt, to taste (keep in mind the saltiness of the cheese)
Pepper, to taste

Blend together with blender or immersion blender. Set Aside.

FINALLY: The Assembly
1 package lasagna noodles [you'll only need 12 of them]. DO NOT COOK BEFOREHAND
Marjoram, fresh, chiffonade
6 oz Mozzarella cheese, shredded

Preheat oven to 350° F
Top of bottom layer

Assemble lasagna:
Place 3 cups of red sauce in bottom of 9x13 glass pan.
Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on top of red sauce (3 by 1)
Spread half of the meat mixture
Lightly cover meat mixture with half of the white sauce
Sprinkle marjoram over white sauce
Arrange 5 lasagna noodles on top of sauce (4 by 1)
Put at least 2 cups of red sauce on top of noodles
Spread second half of the meat mixture over red sauce
Cover meat mixture with half of the white sauce
Arrange 4 lasagna noodles on top of white sauce (3 by 1)
Cover noodles with remaining red sauce.

Cover with tin foil and bake for 40 minutes.
Uncover and sprinkle mozzerealla cheese over top. Bake for 5-7 more minutes or until cheese is bubbly and browning.
Take out of oven and let sit for about 5-10 minutes. Cut into 9 pieces. Serve with a nice green leaf salad.

Enjoy!



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Friday, May 23, 2014

Emotional Intelligence: Exploring Nonverbal Behavior And Facial Expression in Emotional Contagion


The end of semester grades are all in, and officially the semester ended with straight A's. It didn't feel like a straight 'A' semester...it felt like a struggle. But somehow it ended well. Yay! Other than culinary school, this is the first 4.0 GPA ever. The next two semesters are going to be hard to top. The best we can do is try to improve individual assignment and paper grades - which shouldn't be too hard.

Basically the issue with the major papers for this past semester was that they didn't conform exactly to what the instructors expected. Similar to the political science paper, this final paper for interpersonal communications was not exactly what the instructor wanted. She wanted something more basic, birthed more from the two weekly communication journals she had each student keep (one for a close relationship, one for a "distant" relationship) over the semester, with outside sources to support it. She wanted the format to be more in the "I", which we talked to her about - in academic writing the use of "I" and "me" is frowned upon, and, well...we just couldn't do what she asked, and we told her so. However, at the end of this we did include a "social penetration" drawing for each relationship [Google it if you want to know what that is] and a paragraph for each one explaining the evolution of each relationship over the semester (which is not going to be shared here), which facilitated a bit of what she wanted. When she paged through the paper before it was officially handed it in she commented that the writing is clearly going to be at a much higher level than the other students.
The paper ended up getting a 179/200 (which is an 89.5 - a half a point from an A! There were some angry feeling about this - but we got an A overall in the class...so...*shrugs*)

The following is the final paper of the semester.
If you don't know about emotional contagion and nonverbal behavior you might find this interesting. 


Emotional Intelligence: Exploring Nonverbal Behavior And Facial Expression
in Emotional Contagion

Interpersonal relationship skills are essential to good relationships in all aspects of life, from intimate to casual, to working, to family. Even the creation and maintenance of computer-mediated relationships require communication skills. Every part of human life includes exchanges of messages between people who must try to maintain a harmonious existence. Interpersonal communication, defined as mutual message transactions in a variety of relationships involving interlaced environments, where exchanges of messages, influenced by external physiological and psychological noise, work to satisfy a range of needs; these message transactions involve verbal and nonverbal forms of communication. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) Interpersonal communication is integral in the formation of interpersonal relationships, which fulfill the human need of belonging and companionship, found to exist in all human cultures, as well as needs such as identity and self-esteem creation, attainment of pleasure, escape, and social control. (Baumeister & Leary, 1995; Adler & Proctor II, 2014) The purpose and needs in interpersonal relationships is dependent on the type and depth of relationship. The cultivation of good skills in interpersonal communication lead to higher levels of emotional intelligence, which is a “crucial component of social development and contributes to the quality of interpersonal relationships” (Nicola, et al., 2001) benefiting a person socially, psychologically and physiologically. Emotional intelligence can be defined as the “ability to understand and manage one’s own emotions and be sensitive to others’ feelings […] and is positively linked with self-esteem, life satisfaction and self-acceptance, as well as with healthy conflict management and relationships”, which are “unquestionably vital to […] success”. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) Proficiency in emotional intelligence is also linked with academic, economic and job related achievement, as it aides in fostering healthy learning and work-related environments, which are influenced by good interpersonal relationships and good communication skills. (Martin & Dowson, 2009; Carmeli, Brueller, & Dutton, 2008; Prati, Douglas, Ferris, Ammeter, & Buckley, 2003) Among the characteristics of people with high levels of interpersonal communication skills is the ability to adequately decode nonverbal messages through perception-checking and owning of emotions, interpret nonverbal cues in a variety of contexts, and understand the effect of perceptions of nonverbal communication on emotional contagion. These skills in nonverbal communication can improve the communication climate and increase the quality of given relationships through cognitive complexity, while creating various contexts to understanding communication issues. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014)

According to Adler and Proctor II (2014), some social scientists attribute between 65-95% of emotional impact from a communicated message to nonverbal cues. Nonverbal cues are both intentional and unintentional and include a variety of qualities including facial movements, physical proximity, appearance, gestures, eye contact, verbal pitch and tone, and emotional expressions such as laughter and sighing. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) While nonverbal cues can reveal more than the verbal message, Adler and Proctor II (2014) caution that due to the highly ambiguous nature of even the “most common nonverbal behavior” it is important to keep in mind that each cue can “have so many possible meanings that it’s impossible to be certain which interpretation is correct”. Additionally, interpretation and perceptions of nonverbal cues are highly subject to personal bias of the observer and their own emotions. (Doherty, 1997) An important skill of emotional intelligence is encoding (sending) and decoding (receiving) nonverbal cues using the processes of perception checking. The influences and the impact that perceptions of facial expressions have in nonverbal communication, the potential roles of facial expressions and nonverbal behavior in emotional contagion, and possible resolution of these issues through perception checking are important in the development of emotional intelligence. Further, exploring the function of perception checking and emotional intelligence should prove to elevate the communication climate in the enrichment and maintenance of interpersonal relationships.

Members of interpersonal relationships who come from high-context cultures or backgrounds often interpret and more highly value facial expressions and other nonverbal cues, over verbal messages. For those from high-context cultures or backgrounds, nonverbal cues are often highly prized as a key source of meanings in messages. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) When one member of an interpersonal relationship comes from a high-context background, and the other member does not, dysfunctional communications arise. The primary problem is in the ambiguous nature of nonverbal cues, and the different perceived value placed on nonverbal cues between partners. When considering levels of low emotional intelligence, such as poor skills in perception checking, encoding, and decoding, as well as inclinations towards egocentrism, considerable conflict within the relationship arises, and can have a negative impact on emotional experiences and stability of the relationship.

Low levels of emotional intelligence can present a danger when errors in decoding facial expressions occur. This can lead to outcomes of perceived “negative” emotional contagion - that is a transference of a false negative mood or emotion from one person to another, though the false perception of facial expressions, “causing the viewer to mimic elements of that expression and, consequently, to experience the [false] associated feeling state” (Doherty, 1997). This can interfere in the healthy processes of transactional communication and over time can lead to a negative self-perpetuating spiral of false emotions, causing a breakdown in the message process and an erosion of the interpersonal relationship.

Some studies suggest that emotional contagion is unintentional, automatic, unconscious, and spontaneous in nature. Those with higher levels of emotional intelligence are more susceptible to emotional contagion in both distant and close interpersonal relationships due to their propensity to pay close attention to others, an ability of accurately interpreting facial expressions, and a collectivist view of relations, among other qualities of emotional responsibility and higher levels of empathy. (Doherty, 1997) However, it is interesting to note that emotional intelligence does not always equate with altruistic motivations subjective well-being or mindfulness, as Doherty alludes. (Schutte & Malouff, 2011) Some researchers indicate that there could be manipulative abilities in those with high levels of emotional intelligence. In Strategic Use of Emotional Intelligence in Organizational Settings: Exploring the Dark Side, M. Kilduff et al (2010) posited that in organizational settings, the emotionally intelligent individual has the ability to execute four tactics; strategic targeting, concealment and expression emotions at will, agitation through “sensegiving and misattribution”, and “strategic control of emotion-laden information”. Using these tactics, the manipulative emotionally intelligent person can use their skills in order to advance in the workplace by inciting emotional contagion while protecting themselves thorough various “self-regulating processes”. (Kilduff, Chiaburu, & Menges, 2010) This is an indication that, while emotional contagion appears uncontrollable, those with high levels of emotional intelligence have the ability to initiate and control it both externally and internally in interpersonal relationships.

As illustrated, emotion contagion does not exist in close personal relationships alone. In distant relationships, such as those with co-workers, business partners, and/or casual friends some research indicates a correlation with the influence of facial expressions and the level of emotional contagion in terms of leadership success (Dasborough, Ashkanasy, Tee, & Tse, 2009). It is important to recognize that social contagion borne out of competent interpretations of nonverbal cues through high levels of emotional intelligence can be constructive in all environments, including work and educational institutions, (Chang, Sy, & Jin, 2012; Moore & Mamiseishvili, 2012) due to the high correlation with empathy and effective communication. Additionally, a study done by Kimura & Daibo (2008) on emotional contagion across a variety of interpersonal relationships, from acquaintances to friends, indicates that while emotional contagion occurred regardless of relationship type, there are many factors involved in contagion across different emotions (love, happiness, sadness, anger), and there are further degrees of variations in factors social statuses, cultures and relationship intensities. Despite the subjectivity of emotional contagion, it is important to note that it exists and occurs in all types of interpersonal relationships.

In close personal relationships, through increased emotional intelligence, decoding nonverbal messages of facial expressions becomes easier as the couple moves through the various stages of the relationship. Perception checking and owning of emotions becomes particularly important in the development of various stages of relational maintenance. Additionally, there are a number of challenges in reading nonverbal cues, which is “dangerous to assume […] can be read with much accuracy”. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) Prevention of inaccurate interpretations, for both verbal and nonverbal communication, occurs through the process of reappraisal. During reappraisal, the receiver of the message must “step back” to asses, or reassess, the communication, while identifying and owning their own feelings, in order to alter the “emotional impact”. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) This, one of many skills in emotional intelligence, thereby works to prevent potential negative conflict spirals in the climate of communication. In addition, preventing inadequate perceptions prevents transference of incorrect or false emotions and decreases the potential for negative emotional contagion in the relationship.

To prevent inadequate perceptions in facial expression and nonverbal behavior encoding and decoding, which degrades the quality of a relationship and the messages in communication, there must be an increase of the level of emotional intelligence. According to Nicola, et al. (2001) emotional intelligence is both a trait and a skill which can be increased through “intensive training” via perception checking and the development of emotional reasonability. Perception checking involves acknowledgment of the observed [nonverbal] behavior, the creation of various potential explanations for said behavior, and a “request for clarification about how to interpret the behavior”. (Adler & Proctor II, 2014) Additionally, recognizing and taking responsibility for one’s emotions and thoughts, an essential part of emotional intelligence, deters potential communication quagmires. (Nicola, et al., 2001) Among other management strategies to avoid situations that involve negative emotional contagion are self-regulation strategies such as response modulation, characterized by reaction adjustment and feedback through paraphrasing, as well as cognitive changes, which involves “selective perception [checking] of the situation”. (Rempala, 2013)

In nonverbal communication, emotional intelligence is key whether in a low-context or high-context cultures. The ability to decode nonverbal cues along with verbal messages in the process of communication is just as important as the ability to encode (deliver) them, despite the ambiguous nature. The function of emotional intelligence and perception checking requires an openness to sincere inquiry into behaviors and the ability to admit that you need clarification. When a communicator is able to approach each communication event in a responsible manner, they can manage the levels of both positive and negative emotional contagion. These abilities emotional intelligence elevate the positive communication climate in interpersonal relationships, as well as add to higher levels of success in learning and employment. Emotional intelligence “can [potentially] heighten empathy, self-monitoring, social skills, cooperation, relationship ties, and marital satisfaction” when developed or enhanced. (Nicola, et al., 2001) Additionally, there is increased satisfaction with life, increased social well-being, and healthy interpersonal relationships linked to people with higher levels of emotional intelligence. Interpersonal relationships are at the center of all societies and cultures, and the ability to create, maintain, and nourish them fulfills a very basic social need of humans worldwide.

Sources

Adler, R. B., & Proctor II, R. P. (2014). Looking Out Looking In. Boston: Wadsworth.
Baumeister, R. F., & Leary, M. R. (1995). The Need to Belong: Desire for Interpersonal Attachments as a. Psychological Bulletin, 117(3), 497-529. Retrieved April 24, 2014
Carmeli, A., Brueller, D., & Dutton, J. E. (2008). Learning Behaviours in the Workplace: The Role of High-quality Interpersonal. Wiley InterScience. Retrieved April 24, 2014
Chang, J. W., Sy, T., & Jin, C. N. (2012). Team Emotional Intelligence and Performance. Small Group Reseach, 43(1), 75-104.
Dasborough, M. T., Ashkanasy, N. M., Tee, E. T., & Tse, H. H. (2009). What goes around comes around: How meso-level negative emotional. The Leadership Quarterly, 20, 571-585.
Doherty, R. W. (1997). THE EMOTIONAL CONTAGION SCALE: A. Journal of Nonverbal Behavior, 21(2), 131-154.
Kilduff, M., Chiaburu, D. S., & Menges, J. I. (2010). Strategic use of emotional intelligence in organizational settings: Exploring the dark side. Research in Organizational Behavior, 30, 129-152.
Kimura, M., & Daibo, I. (2008). The Study of Emotional Contagion From the. Social Behavior and Personality, 26(1), 27-42.
Martin, A. J., & Dowson, M. (2009). Interpersonal Relationships, Motivation, Engagement, and Achievement. Review of Educatioal Research, 79(1), 327-365. doi:10.3102/0034654308325583
Moore, A., & Mamiseishvili, K. (2012). Examining the Relationship Between Emotional Intelligence and Group Cohesion. Journal of Education for Business, 87(5), 296-302.
Nicola, S. S., Malouff, J. M., Bobik, C., Coston, T. D., Greeson, C., Jedlicka, C., . . . Wendorf, G. (2001). Emotional Intelligence and Interpersonal Relations. Journal of Social Psychology, 141(1), 523-536.
Prati, L. M., Douglas, C., Ferris, G. R., Ammeter, A. P., & Buckley, M. R. (2003). EMOTIONAL INTELLIGENCE, LEADERSHIP. The International Journal of Organizational Analysis, 11(1), 21-40. Retrieved April 24, 2014
Rempala, D. M. (2013). Cognitive strategies for controlling emotional contagion. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 1528-1537.
Schutte, N. S., & Malouff, J. M. (2011). Emotional intelligence mediates the relationship between mindfulness. Personality and Individual Differencecs, 50, 1116-1119.




Source

Monday, May 19, 2014

Anti-Consumerism and Anti-Consumption as Expressions of American Exceptionalism

This paper was a Political Science term paper for a class about American Political Thought, for the semester that just ended. Basically the class was theory-based; there are no definitive or absolute answers to a class of this nature. While the professor said the paper was good, it wasn't exactly what he was looking for (we used too much non-political writings to back the theory), and therefore warranted a 'B'. Fair enough.

In any case, it was a fun paper to write. A topic of choice based on a theory/opinion of choice using readings from the class and outside sources.

This is what a 'B' paper looks like. It was the first "bad grade" on a paper for the last year of University. Obviously a 'B' isn't what too many people consider a bad grade on a ten page paper at the Undergraduate level...but personal expectations require better.

We're trying to get over it.

Comments welcome.

Anti-Consumerism and Anti-Consumption as Expressions of American Exceptionalism

In a patriotic consumer society, with a deified economic social systems based around spending, consuming becomes a form of patriotic and ritualized worship, by which there becomes contextualized cultural meaning. In this, an idea of what it means to be a modern American in such a society as the United States forms, and those who dissent against such methods of worship become marked with their own brand. In a 2006 article for USA Today, about the concepts of living a simple life taking hold across America, Elizabeth Weise acknowledged that, “to many, the entire notion seems strange, even downright un-American”. As Keith Brooks (2007) would say, citing Rebecca Caldwell, “consumerism is so central to the American psyche that people who willingly curbed their consumption have been accused of being “un-American”. To buy things, to consume them, to give into materialism, driven to participate in consumerism merely in support capitalism is, to some, an illustration of devotion, patriotism, and love of country – part of being American. While this remains a uniquely American attitude, another part of Americanism, seen through various movements against consuming, used to define and improve “the self” and support individualistic ideals, exists.

We can come to understand and appreciate anti-consumerism and anti-consumption movements in America by recognizing these movements as not only characteristics in the individualism of American Exceptionalism, but also as a quest for personal liberty. Interwoven in the fabric of American consumer history are movements such as these. Through aspects of communication and studies of sociological consumer theory, juxtaposed with philosophies set forth in writings of Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin, the concept that behaviors of anti-consumerism and anti-consumption as expressions of individualism becomes actualized. A platform is constructed to support anti-consumerism and anti-consumption movements as legitimate components of a “true American” by studying the thought and actions of some of the earliest influential American thinkers on the principles and the dangers of consumption in terms of identity, self-reliance, and self-improvement. Built around the framework of political, ethical, and conscious consumer behavior, self-definition through individual judgments, as well as participation in activist social groups, can become part of a strive towards personal liberty. Therefore, expression of individualism through anti-consumerism and anti-consumption, in a capitalistic market-driven society, becomes an expression of the individuality of American Exceptionalism.

Part and parcel of the American Exceptionalism, which Alexis de Tocqueville introduced in his writings on America in the 19th century, addresses the idea that Americans are innovative. To De Tocqueville, it was the American’s innovativeness, which their keen sense of “rugged individualism” affords them, and with that individualism they are given the liberty they so enjoy. It is with this liberty that men like Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau were able to influence generations of people with their philosophies on self-improvement and self-reliance. Franklin and Thoreau, by inspiring generations of individuals to consider how, through the practice of moral virtues inside of natural rights, and endeavors towards personal liberty, illustrated how the construction of personal identity and individuality could be attained.

In the decades to follow their works, with “increased emphasis placed on consumption” (Hilton, 2003), where “consumption [became] regarded as a system of signs, [creating] meaning in terms of social order” (Sanne, 2002), the “right to explore one’s social and political identity through the culture of consumption” (Hilton, 2003) arose. In exploring the concept of identity creation and personal liberty through acts of consumer behavior, one can begin to see “how anti-consumption relates to other key constructs such as self-consciousness, self-actualization, and assertiveness”. (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009) In recognizing the role of anti-consumerism and anti-consumption in the creation of an improved and enlightened self, there becomes an actualization of the philosophies promoted by both the works of Henry David Thoreau and Benjamin Franklin.

Before understanding how consumer behaviors are characteristics of American individualism through identity creation and personal liberty, there must be an illustration of historical anti-consumerism and anti-consumption significance within the context of consumer behavior. Anti-consumerism and anti-consumption activities are not new occurrences of disgruntled un-patriotic “un-American” activists of the Twentieth Century. Anti-consumerism sentiments, that is those meant to enact social change of one sort or another, are an expression of individualism and liberty at the heart of American political movements, they are activities “practiced by a diverse group of Revolutionaries, abolitionists, Southern nationalists, and moral reformers” (Glickman, 2009) throughout American History. For example, the Anti-Consumption League of New England was formed in response to the 1774 Boston Port Bill, an act by British Parliament intended to control shipping and receiving in the ports of Boston. Retaliation as a political act led to the anti-consumerism boycott of British goods through The Continental Congress. (Jackman, 1920) These actions, among others, eventually led to the American Revolution. Another example, this time of acting on virtuous grounds for social change through anti-consumption activities, is the ‘Free Produce Movement’ of 1826. This movement led to the boycott of slave produced goods and was a reaction of moral fortitude of the Quakers, and led to the formation of the American Free Produce Association in 1838, which in turn “laid the template of modern consumer activism” (Glickman, 2009). These represent only a couple of instances of early anti-consumerism and anti-consumption activities prior to the nineteen hundreds.

Even Martin Luther King, in his civil rights actions, recognized acting against consumerism in America as powerful political tool, writing from a jailhouse in Birmingham, Georgia in 1963:

“We decided to schedule our direct-action program for the Easter season, realizing that except for Christmas, this is the main shopping period of the year. Knowing that a strong economic with with-drawl program would be the by-product of direct action, we felt that this would be the best time to bring pressure to bear on the merchants for the needed change.”

While this was only one way in which King acted in working to carve out an identity for black citizens of America, it serves as another example of how anti-consumerism movements, commonly used throughout American history, became tools in enacting change and expressing the spirit of liberty and individualism rooted in American Exceptionalism.

While Benjamin Franklin may not have decried consumption of goods outright, the exercises in virtue ethics outlined in The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1759) that were designed to help “arrive at moral perfection”, illustrate a kind of utilitarianism view of material goods. Franklin’s ideas of virtue ethics, such as the conduct in consuming is not only well practiced with frugality in mind, but also when done with mindfulness of others and the environment, exists today embedded in the philosophy of some anti-consumption subgroups. It is a duty to note that it is my belief that the utilitarian of Franklin, while it may be rooted in that of British philosopher and father of utilitarianism Jeremy Bentham, is of a different ilk. Many people, whether correct or incorrect, associate the ethics of free-market capitalism ideals and corrupt exploitation with the utilitarianism of Bentham. (Fieser, ----) Franklin’s concepts were rooted in the natural good that he believed was in every man that would drive them to do right by each other, in which there should be no “injury of your own or another’s peace” in a man actions.

Through Franklin’s first virtue of Temperance, fifth virtue of Frugality and ninth virtue of Moderation, one can infer that Franklin’s view on personal belongings were grounded in fulfilling basic needs. Supporting this further are entries in Poor Richard’s Almanac such as “455: spare and have is better than spend and crave”, and “277: If you know how to spend less than you get, you have the philosopher’s stone”. Franklin not only saw value in utility, function, and thriftiness but also recognized the function of consumerism in the creation of individual self and the maintenance of “moral perfection”.

As the Industrial Revolution and the globalized market grew to further impact consumerism, modern anti-consumerism and anti-consumption movements have evolved past mere political and traditionally moral driven causes. Today’s activists have expanded their motivations, working towards environmental activism as well as using it towards expressing increased individuality, though many of the movements still remain rooted in the political and moral. Modern day consumption behavior has birthed in-groups and out-groups through “symbolic (anti-) consumption” (Hogg, 2009) used to define the self through group affiliation, or non-affiliation.

In Purpose and Object of Anti-Consumption, for the Journal of Business Research, Rajesh and Muncy (2009) defined four general groups of consumers: “simplifiers, ethical and global impact consumers, market activists, and anti-loyal consumers”. A range of personal notions motivates individual members of these groups of consumers. As Sandicki and Ahmet (2009) report, they “may reject certain brands if they perceive an association between the brand and a particular political ideology that they personally oppose”. Additionally, they may also act in opposition “to an ideology that they believe has the potential to change the order of society for the worse” (Sandicki &Ahmet, 2009) such as the impact on human rights and the environment. These actions are not simply because of virtuous “personal lifestyle choice(s)” or acts of utility. These consumers (or ant-consumers) “refrain from using a particular product or brand [to] promote what is good for the society overall” but they are also acts by consumers used to define themselves, whereby “avoid[ing] social groups, roles, and identities that represent the negative self” (Sandicki & Ahmet, 2009). In the act of “political consumerism” in groups like ethical and global impact consumers, market activists, and anti-loyal consumers, “actions and consumer choice” (Sandicki & Ahmet, 2009) becomes a political tool created in the marketplace by the “use [of] the power of consumer dollars to impact societal issues” (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009). This type of ethical consumerism does not speak to Franklin’s virtue of the utility of frugality and simplicity, but rather to the “basic good” that he believed that all people inherently have in them.

In looking at consumer behavior as a way of forming identity, “marketable goods are forwarded as the means to satisfy not only material needs but also needs of social stratification and cultural identification” (Sanne, 2002). By rejecting those marketable goods, subgroups of anti-consumer philosophy make individualistic moves away from applied and accepted social and economic identifiers. The level of consumption and the types of goods consumed becomes a form of nonverbal communication method of conveying identity. Cultural meanings become associated with consumption of those goods (McCracken, 1986), and the forming of social identity plays out in the acquisition of those goods. “Distastes and dislikes are important factors in how consumers define their identities and the undesired self can be linked to a series of consumption choices that are represented by tastes and distastes”. (Sandicki & Ahmet, 2009) As Sanne and Ahmet (2009) assert, by “[creating] yourself with the help of an abundant supply of consumption items” and in “forming an identity […] away from the marketing of lifestyle concepts” you can see the role of anti-consumerism in definition of self, instead of having brands of consumption being the definer. In addition, capitalism and pro-consumerism behavior works to homogenize societies by forming connections and meaning through the illusion of choice and freedom in selection of goods. This “anti-consumption-as-rejection (within symbolic consumption) is about what a person is afraid of becoming” (Hogg, 2009) and how a person is afraid of being defined by their peer in-groups. Used as a way of defining self, as well setting the self apart from others, anti-consumerism and anti-consumption movements in a consumer-based society become a method of expression of the individualism that is part of American Exceptionalism.

In anti-loyal consumerism groups, “avoidance of undesirable products is equally important to individual consumers' shaping of their ideal selves” (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009), and they use the rejection of products as a way to “express resistance against some power imbalance within the market place” (Chatzidakis & Lee, 2012), where “the amount of work performed determines the level of consumption” (Sanne, 2002). In Willing Consumers - Or Locked-In, Sanne (2002) emphasizes that “the amount of work performed per capita is controlled by social order rather than by individual choice”, and “the media promotes consumption by making the consumerist lifestyle the social norm” creating structures of “work-and-spend lifestyles”, where “consumers may not be so keen and willing but are rather locked in” by this endorsed social structure. In this, Sanne supports Thoreau’s view about the salve relationship man creates with work due to materialism, but also stresses the pressure of society to conform to it. In this way anti-consumption behavior is a tool in attaining the personal liberty, as discussed by Thoreau, where an individual becomes more free from the toils of work, and less a slave to “producer and business interests” (Sanne, 2002) and goods, through the act of moderation.

In contemporary groups like The Simplicity Collective, views of Thoreau in relation to luxuries, work, technology and basic needs, are utilized as guides of inspiration towards liberty as “the poetic alternative to consumer culture”. Throughout Walden, Thoreau spoke of the various ways in which people, enslaved by belongings, perpetuate the vicious circle of work and materialism vis–à–vis the lust of consumption and/or acquisition of goods. Thoreau expounds how, in the never-ending pursuit of owning things, a man becomes a slave by his own hand. Repeated throughout Walden, Thoreau presents a message of self-reliance through achieving basic skills, which free you from being dependent on the “trade and barter” of merchants, but also offer freedom from the uncertainty of “distant and fluctuating markets”. In addition, in the rejection of consuming past the point of basic needs for life, Thoreau defined those requirements under the headings “Food, Shelter, Clothing, and Fuel”, which he believed once attained leads to the ability to “entertain the true problems of life with freedom and a prospect of success”.

So-called Simplifier groups of anti-consumption movements desire escape from “fast-paced, high-consumption society and [wish to] move to a simpler, less consumer oriented lifestyle”. (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009) So, additionally, in striving towards a simplified life, aspects of Franklin’s concepts of self-improvement and self-actualization, as “simplifiers, in general, become less dependent on the opinions of others and more and more on their own knowledge and values” (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009) are realized. Independence and liberty, found in leading a simpler and less materialistic life, fosters the growth of the positive-self and is achievable by supporting this “self-concept” by avoiding “products and services [associated] with [corresponding] negative stereotypes” (Sandicki & Ahmet 2009) and influences on the qualities of the negative-self.

Along with Henry David Thoreau’s notion of liberty through self-reliance, Benjamin Franklin prized liberty through virtue of frugality. Efficient use of assets by “avoiding wasting resources on frivolous pursuits” (Franklin; Chancellor & Lyubomirsky, 2011), affords the freedom to pursue worthwhile objectives such as self-improvement and self-reliance. As Goldsmith and Clark (2012) stated in the Materialism, Status Consumption, and Consumer Independence in the Journal of Social Psychology, materialism “leads consumers to put a disproportionate amount of their resources into acquiring goods”. Frivolous pursuits such as materialism are a waste of time, which leads to such things as envy, greed, lower levels of self-actualization, higher levels of mental and behavioral disorders and psychological tension (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002). Matthew Hilton (2003) speaks to this psychological tension in Affluence or Effluence: Globalization and Ethical Consumerism: “As with the ass in Jean Burdidan’s allegory, so confused are we by the array of brands and images for identical goods placed before us, that we are prone to starve through our inability to choose between two equally attractive piles of hay”. For some, society’s attribution of too much value on goods, the overwhelming perception of choices presented, and “belief that well-being can be enhanced through one’s relationships with objects” (Burroughs & Rindfleisch, 2002). This leads to the shunning of materialism in favor of embracing virtues of frugality and thrift, and is a rejection of the qualities of negative–self and psychological burden of materialism.

The belief of the Simplifiers subgroup of anti-consumption is that “maximizing their consumption, as is commonly done, has undesirable consequences, such as stress and distraction from higher pursuits” (Rajesh & Muncy, 2009) mimicking both Franklin’s philosophies of self-improvement and perfection, and Thoreau’s vision of liberty and success. It is not difficult to recognize how the philosophies of these two men, in terms of quality of life through liberty and individualism, play out in simplified living through anti-consumption. It is clear why attempts at frugality, with an end goal of self-improvement, may be viewed as being at odds with a materialistic and consumption-for-the-sake-of-consumption culture. The result of society’s standards of consumption and consuming is lowered well-being and in so leads a path away from healthy individualism. Many claim anti-consumerism acts on political and moral grounds, and anti-consumption acts on grounds of health and frugality, to be “un-American” to be against popular cultural ideals of “true Americans”. However, anti-consumerism is a movement of empowerment is American, and has been through history, and these very actions of individuality and liberty, are American.

Through this brief multi-disciplinary exploration of historical and modern anti-consumerism and anti-consumption activity and sentiment, the values purported by the works of Benjamin Franklin and Henry David Thoreau shine through. Along with the historical framework, in disassembling and exploring the concepts and ideas in the monolithic and sociological foundations of a culture of pro-consumerism behavior, the individualism of American Exceptionalism is realized at the heart of anti-consumerism and anti-consumption activists. In individualism and self-actualization through self-reliance and attainment of liberty, through frugality and moderation in self-improvement and through simplicity there is an appreciation of the works of Franklin and Thoreau. At the center of what fuels both consumer and anti-consumerism behaviors is now the idea that each is equally as a valid expressions of American Exceptionalism as their counter-parts are. However, perhaps, anti-consumerism and anti-consumption behaviors become ultimate expressions in a country built on revolutionary movements and calls-to-action meant to establish independence and individuality for all.


Resources:

  • Binkley S, Littler J. INTRODUCTION. Cultural Studies [serial online]. September 2008;22(5):519-530.  Available from: EBSCO MegaFILE, Ipswich, MA. Accessed March 2, 2014.
  • Brooks, Keith. The Modern Consumer: Overtaxed, Overwhelmed, and Overdrawn. York University.  (2007) N.p., n.d. Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://robarts.info.yorku.ca/files/graduate  papers/Brooks_Modern_Consumer.pdf>.
  • Burroughs, James E., and Aric Rindfleisch. "Materialism and Well-Being: A Conflicting Values  Perspective." Journal of Consumer Research 29.3 (2002): 348-70. JSTOR. Chicago Journals. Web. 19  Mar. 2014.
  • Chancellor, Joseph, and Sonja Lyubomirsky. "Happiness and Thrift: When (spending) Less Is  (hedonically) More." Journal of Consumer Psychology 21.2 (2011): 131-38. Happiness and Thrift: When  (spending) Less Is (hedonically) More. Science Direct. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
  • Chatzidakis, Andreas, and Michael S.W. Lee. "Anti-consumption as the Study of Reasons against."  Journal of Macromarketing 33.3 (n.d.): 190-203. Anti-consumption as the Study of Reasons against.  Sage Journals, 4 Nov. 2012. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
  • Fieser, James. Ethics. The Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ISSN 2161-0002.  http://www.iep.utm.edu/ethics/#SSH2c.i. Accessed March 10, 2014
  • Franklin, Benjamin. Poor Richard's Almanack. (1759) N.p.: U.S.C., 1914. Google Books. Web. 16 Mar.  2014.
  • Franklin, Benjamin. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin. (1791) New York: Dover Publications,  1996. Print.
  • Glickman, Lawrence B. Buying Power: A History of Consumer Activism in America. Chicago: U of  Chicago, 2009. Print.
  • Goldsmith, Ronald E., and Ronald A. Clark. "Materialism, Status Consumption, and Consumer  Independence." The Journal of Social Psychology 152.1 (2012): 43-60. Taylor & Francis Group. Web.  19 Mar. 2014.
  • Hilton, Matthew. "Affluence or Effluence: Globalization and Ethical Consumerism."Consumerism in    Twentieth-Century Britain. The Search for a Historical Movement. Cambridge: Syndicate of the  University of Cambridge, 2003. 298-317. Library of Congress. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.  <http://catdir.loc.gov/catdir/samples/cam041/2003048473.pdf>.
  • Hogg, Margaret K., Emma N. Banister, and Christopher A. Stephenson. "Mapping Symbolic (anti-)  Consumption." Journal of Business Research 62.2 (2009): 148-59. Mapping Symbolic (anti-)  Consumption. Elsevier. Web. 16 Mar. 2014.
  • Jackman, William J. "The Builders of the Republic." History of the American Nation. Vol. 8. Chicago:      Western Association, 1920. 2459-476. Print.
  • King, Martin Luther. "Letter from Birmingham Jail." N.p., n.d. Web. 10 Apr. 2014.
  • McCracken, Grant. "Culture and Consumption: A Theoretical Account of the Structure and Movement  of the Cultural Meaning of Consumer Goods." Journal of Consumer Research 13 (1986): 71-84.  EBSCOhost Business Source Premier. Web. 19 Mar. 2014.
  • Rajesh, Iyer, and James A. Muncy. "Purpose and Object of Anti-Consumption." Journal of Business  Research 62.2 (2009): 160-68. Science Direct. Elsevier. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
  • Sandicki, Özlem, and Ekici Ahmet. "Politically Motivated Brand Rejection." Journal of Business  Research 62.2 (2009): 208-17. Science Direct. Elsevier. Web. 2 Mar. 2014.
  • Sanne, Christer. Willing Consumers - Or Locked-In? Policies for a Sustainable Consumption. Ecological  Economics 42.1-2 (2002): 273-87. Science Direct. Elsevier. Web. Accessed March 10. 2014.
  • Thoreau, Henry David. Walden. (1854) Radford, VA: Wilder Publications, 2008. Print.
  • Tocqueville, Alexis De, Gerald E. Bevan, and Isaac Kramnick. "Two Weeks In The Wilderness."  Democracy in America: And Two Essays on America. (1835, 1840) London: Penguin, 2003. 875-927.  Print.
  • Weise, Elizabeth. "Idea of Simple Life Takes Hold." USATODAY.com. USA Today, 23 Mar. 2006.  Web. 1 Apr. 2014. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-03-22-simple-life_x.htm?  POE=click-refer>.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Critical Reflections on Why Truth Matters - Part 3 of 3

If you want to know what "this" is all about, or why it is, start with Critical Reflections on True to Life: Why Truth Matters - Part I: Cynical Myths and Critical Reflections on True to Life: Why Truth Matters - Part II: False Theories. The intro to those provide context to this final reflection for the three part series. (spoiler: it was for a University course)

For the regular readers of this, and previous reflections, thank you for reading. Hopefully you have been inspired to think further about truth, knowledge, free will, and reality.

As always, feel free to comment, argue, etc.

Part 3: Why Truth Matters

“If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything.” 
― Mark Twain 

As previously stated in class, truth matters because we care about people being honest with us, and all healthy relationships require trust, which requires honesty. As Lynch points out throughout the third section, truth among people in society is important to get things done and to maintain levels of trust (152). Truth is an important ingredient in achieving common goals and sharing information, and lack of truth – lies – are a violation of communication, which is damaging to society. Truth is a central aspect of many parts of life and things would be very bad if everyone lied all the time. Without truth, things would fall apart, both in society and in interpersonal relationships.

If this is not enough to convince the reader they should care about truth, Lynch presents agreeable alternative reasons, aside from simply caring about truth for its own sake. He highlights the intrinsic value of truth to self. Caring about truth in general, Lynch says, is a path towards authenticity, self-awareness, self-regard, and self-respect, and knowing the truth about what you care about is part of intellectual integrity. (35) People who care about the truth, and acknowledge what they care for it, therefore have a good sense of the degrees of self and have increased self-respect, according to Lynch. It would be nice to think most people care about self-respect, however, often times it seems the opposite.

Lynch says that caring about truth and honesty leads to authenticity and integrity, and that “our lives go better when they are lived authentically and with integrity”. (20) Additionally, caring about truth is essential in knowing ourselves and being self-aware. “What we can know – or not know - about ourselves runs the gamut”, says Lynch (121), but we can know and understand ourselves better through truth. Therefore, truth becomes a building block in self-understanding and identity construction.

Further, caring about truth leads to the knowledge of what matters to us and promotes self-reflection; a lack of which he attributes to internal traits such as laziness, lack of discipline, but also external factors such as, poverty, hunger, lack of education, cultural discouragement of reflection (Lynch, 122). Additionally, not caring about truth or what we think leads to self-deception and when “we don’t really care about what we think we care about and we live our lives with bad faith” (Lynch, 122).

People who approach truth with ambivalence experience instability. While Lynch claims that sometimes this is inevitable due to “overpowering and contradictory pressures of outer circumstances” (123), I would like to assume he means ambivalence about specific truths (i.e. religion), and not truth overall, because to not care about any and all truth just seems, to be frank, dumb.

Logically, caring about truth requires “being open-minded and tolerant of others’ opinions, being careful and sensitive to detail, being curious, and paying attention to evidence […] being willing to question assumptions, giving and asking reasons, being impartial, and being intellectually courageous” (Lynch, 129-130). The pursuit of truth also includes the willingness to admit when one is wrong, and is not a matter of consistency, but a matter of the ability to consider information and adjust beliefs accordingly. Not standing up for what you think is right is a lack of intellectual integrity, according to Lynch, but defending a view without bothering to examine it for truth is also a lack of intellectual integrity. In lack of intellectual integrity is the lack of authenticity, which indicates lack of self-control. These are all very agreeable assertions.

An important part of caring about the truth and seeking the truth, in Lynch’s eyes, is sincerity, which has “instrumental value” (153). Lynch says caring about truth, seeking truth, is risky; but caring about truth also leads to authenticity and degrees of happiness, which gives life meaning, because in not caring about truth, one lacks of self-respect, and lack of self-respect leads to unhappiness – again, very logical. As Ellen J. Langer, professor of psychology at Harvard University says, “Self-respect […] may hold the key to achieving the peace of mind we seek”, and by self-respect, she means acceptance. (Langer, 1999) As Lynch has said you cannot accept yourself if you do not know yourself, which happens in-part through caring about the truth. What Langer suggests also coincides with Lynches theory on happiness in caring about and valuing the truth, and living a “life lived well”. Happiness, while it can be allusive, becomes more attainable through truth.

You can hardly talk about truth without talking about lying. Lying involves belief, but in a different way, when “what you say is not what you believe” (Lynch, 147). Lying is just as complex as truth. According to Lynch there are many kinds of lies, from ambiguous to equivocal. According to Lynch there are justifiable lies, which are ones used to “save-face” or protect the feelings of others, or in some cases, such as in the government, used to temporarily protect national security. Some lies a “tall tails” or “yarns”, and some are outright “bullshit lies”. Lies, then, can be just as subjective as truth, but are generally intentional and meant to be misleading or deceiving and other nefarious motivations. Additionally, lies harm people, and lies breed more lies. Not very noble ends, really.

In the end chapter, Lynch dipped his toes into politics and truth, while interesting, and seemed like a personal rant about his issues with liberal democracies. What really stood out is that when discussing “the liberal” he used pronouns such as “herself”, “she” (165). I am also not so sure that I agree with Lynch when he states that “liberalism is presupposed a concept of objective truth” (167). If anything, conservatism seems more inclined to objective truth (based on religious “truth”), while liberalism is more subjective, and that is why conservatives assert that liberals “don’t believe in truth” (evidence of which can be found doing a very quick Google search). In any case, it seems that when Lynch took to the political soapbox and with him a broad brush of personal opinion, certainly detected throughout the claims in other parts of the book, also. This does not make what he says any less “true”, but for people who want to deny truthiness in his truth, it is an opening for contention.

Ultimately when it comes to choosing between the truth and a lie it is important to remember, like with anything, that you should treat others as you would have them treat you. Surely there are few people in the world who want to be lied to. At the end of the day not finding value in truth, at least for the same of it, and rejecting truth as something exists is dangerous, just as is thinking there is no such thing as free will and becoming a victim of self. Giving up on truth embraces doom, for who wants to live in a society where nobody believes in truth.

Lynch never had to convince me to care about truth, because being lied to hurts. However, he did present new ways of thinking about truth, especially in relation to truth being a potential catalyst in becoming a better happier person. Hopefully more people come to see that there is a clear value in truth, both personally and for society.


References

Langer, E. J. (1999, 11 1). Self-esteem vs Self-respect. Retrieved from Psychology Today: http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/199911/self-esteem-vs-self-respect

Lynch, Michael P. True to Life: Why Truth Matters. Cambridge: MIT, 2005. Print.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Picking Up The Chips - Mental Health Month 2014

I'm Blogging for Mental Health.
Alternative Title: On Understanding

The thing about mental illness is that even when you have good days, good months, good years, there always exists somewhere in you the fear of the if, or the when, it might or will all crumble again.

Just as a quick brief, the mental health issues that grace “my” diagnosis rap sheet, severe depression, social anxiety disorder, manic depression (bipolar disorder) and schizophrenia, are mostly misdiagnosis' - depending on who you ask, I suppose.

It took several years of being a pharmaceutical guinea pig, over and over, before coming to terms with the “problem” in this brain. It is fractured, and was at a very very young age. It is fractured into different people; different people with different feelings, different wants and desires, different interests, different memories. Different entities, sometimes at odds, wanting different lives. They are more cohesive now, the memories, than they have ever been. But that took both understanding, and time. While it is not always easy, we have learned to communicate with each other in order to try to live a more stable existence than we had in the past, separated, fragmented, and dangerous to one another.

It probably sounds strange, it probably sounds...who knows, maybe dumb or unbelievable to you. Who knows. It's not really like it's portrayed in movies either.
Just as there isn't anybody who knows how your mind works, or has not had the experiences you've had, or seen the things you have, neither have you of anybody else's.

What most people call multiple personality disorder is actually known as dissociative identity disorder, and is not a personality disorder, rather a dissociative disorder. Everybody at some time experiences a little dissociation. Those who have a history of trauma and abuse experience more severe forms, occasionally for some, often for others life disrupting in nature. People with dissociative identity disorder may be considered fractured by some, but they are not broken. It is simply the function of a protective brain at a young age of development.
There have been several times throughout the lives shared in this body where, seemingly unexpectedly, the strives that had been made to remain at the top, to stay mentally healthy, were dashed. Looking back on each time, the signs were all there, despite being blind to them at the time. It is the err of the human, really. Hindsight is always the teacher, as long as you pay attention in class.

Four years ago this past June was the last time it happened, and it months of a downward spiral followed. The only clear memory of the moment it all tipped over the edge and the months of madness ensued, was the end of September 2010. We moved out of the house we owned in the city where we lived at the time, renting it out (which ended up being a disaster twice over) and moving closer to the more urban part of the center of the city. The house was too big, and having no car, despite being very close to the center of the city, it felt isolating.

It required several trips with a moving van, taken during the day. Most of the people we knew at the time were at work, so it had to be done alone. Back and forth across town, up and down the elevator of the building we moved into, box after box of books, kitchen supplies, small furniture. For whatever reason we were frustrated, sad, angry – not uncommon for us, actually. It was hard on our back, which was riddled with a plethora of issues because of a bad car accident six years before involving a semi-truck. We had just ended a two year relationship a few weeks back, a relief really, but a change none-the-less. We were moving to a new area, a hipper more urban part of the city with a nightlife right out the front door. We should have been more excited.

Pulling one of the final boxes from the van, a large wooden case of poker chips fell out and spilled all over the alley next to the apartment building. Crying, kneeling in the dirty alley, we grabbed at the chips, which just seemed to keep multiplying. Like all the pieces we were picking up on the ground, we broke. Exhausted, sobbing, we sat in the dirt, head in hands. We hit the breaking point.

After that day everything changed fast. It took several months to scratch our way back to being mentally healthy, days, nights, screaming and sobbing on the apartment floor, sobbing on the living room floor, breathing in the dirty carpet fibers. Sometimes drunk, sometimes sober - punctuated by days and nights of stupid unwise decisions. We lost some great friends (and not so great ones). We lost a good job. We lost our mind. We looked totally together on the outside, save the weekend night when we would wander around the neighborhood, the grocery store, the video store, drinking white wine from a back metal water bottle. The paranoid in us closed the blinds, which stayed closed for months on end. We shut ourselves in, and shut everyone else out, save a few specific people, new friends who were helping us through this, who meant the world to us. We had managed to come out of the fog. It took vanquishing our core, sending her away; she is never allowed back again, she was the weak link, as far as many of us were concerned.

A year later, October 2011, we were on the move again, this time going back to the states, new boyfriend from England in tow. Even though the relationship involved mutual sacrifices, his love for us, all of us, was a giant Band-Aid. We met James through social media. He had read our blog, he knew all the dirty vile things we were capable of. He knew how our brain was fractured. He started following our Twitter account and we became friends. We never thought we could be truly loved by another person again.

He knew that a relationship with us was never going to be easy. Some of us loathed him. Eight months later, we married so we could continue being together in the States. It may not be “perfect”, sometimes he doesn’t feel as loved as he deserves to, sometimes, some of us, feel caged, but at some point in life it becomes clear that no relationships are ever easy, they all take work, and commitment.

Four years later, we live in a small town with James, in a house bought after the sale of the house we owned in Canada, that took over a year to find, and many struggles to get through. We are not social with the people in the town. From our many experiences, a product of moving nearly twenty times as an adult, people are temporary. We still don’t like leaving the house very often, but we have to, occasionally it causes anxiety, but there are ways to deal with that. However, we still try to travel, because life is short, and living a life being a slave to anxieties and fears, is no way to live.

We have a good paying part time job in a city nearby with people that are nice, and have just finished the first two semesters of university (with exemplary grades), upon returning to secondary education after a five years. There is only one year left to go and we will have a second degree (one in culinary arts, one in communications). It will have taken almost twelve years to finish the degree we started in 2003. Physically we’ll be pushing 36 years old when graduation comes, but the achievement will be worth it.

In our spare time we paint, and garden, and read, and spend a lot of time on social media where we have met some amazing people. Despite still experiencing mental health issues from time to time, we have learned how to manage them fairly well, and have had a really good couple of years. We will have been off of all medications for four years this June, and hope never to go back to them.

But…

Always lingering is the fear, it suddenly pops back in the head when things feel like they are going extra well. On the 40 minute commute to work or school. The falls that led to the gamut of diagnoses’…the final fall that lead to this place. Will there be another? Will there be another relapse?

It does no good worrying about it, some might say. But all of the times we have come out of it, stronger, we have pushed forward, forgotten about it, thinking arrogantly that we will never be “sick” again…and then hairline cracks form, we refuse to recognize them. Then they spread, and they weaken the vessel. Then life gives us a small bump, and suddenly we are picking up the chips in the dirt, with tear-stained cheeks.
It’s mental health month. Another month to bring awareness to something people are already aware of; but awareness means nothing without understanding, just as you can no more understand the life of a bird by simply being aware of its existence.

You probably know someone with a mental health issue. You may have one yourself. You may develop one in the future. So please remember: the mental illness is not the person; it is a burdensome accessory people are yoked with. People with mental illness get a bad rap in the media, beneath feigned concern, as if they need that extra struggle of harsh judgment because their brain works differently. Many of the people who deal with mental health issues have been through hell and back, they fight to come out on top, to be employable, to have normal relationships, to be productive…sometimes over and over again. Even if they don’t, even if their struggle seems too great to be able to manage employment, manage “normal”, they just need support and encouragement. People are capable of overcoming so much, if only they believe in themselves, and have the support from people they care about.
Next time you are quick to judge, take a step back from yourself, and put yourself in their shoes, and see how you like being judged because of the footwear you didn't choose. This month, do more than be aware. Try to understand.


Monday, May 12, 2014

You Might Call It Antisocial...

Some people just don't want to talk to faces very often,
because after tens of years of recognizing disinterest in eyes,
the not-so-subtle look at a watch, the quick glances away,
the heart detaches, only knows despise.

Some find comfort staring at a screen,
writing words that two or three might acknowledge...
even some words never seen.

Because at least then rejection isn't as obvious...
Being ignored isn't so direct...
Every part of being, becomes easier to protect.

You might call it unhealthy, anti-social, 
but you refuse to see, 
the alternative is simply loathful,
painful, for someone like me.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Somebody...

Somebody needs to create bodies for the people in this brain right now...
Someone wants to paint.
Someone wants to read.
Someone wants to listen to music.
Someone wants to play on social media.
Someone wants to sleep...
Some people are asleep (some have been for too long, and are missed).
It's shocking, but nobody wants to eat. (fatty must be asleep)

Sometimes you can only pick one someone. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Devolving with Emojis


This can be taken in jest, or not, it's just something that has been stewing around in the brain and tonight on the drive home it all came together. If you can get past the "brief" fragmented history lesson (hopefully it's at least tolerably accurate), you might be entertained. Who knows.

Communication is an important part of human existence, without it there would not be...well...so much advancement in all areas of life, from science, to medicine, to entertainment...on, and on.

While some claim that the Chinese first used written symbols in 7000 B.C.E., most agree that there was definitely picture language in Southeastern Europe in 6000-5000 B.C.E.

The first widely accepted written communication was cuneiform, which is pictorial representations of mostly nouns (proto-writing), that dates back to at least 3500 B.C.E. in Mesopotamia, created by the ancient Sumerians.


Then came the hieroglyphics of the Egyptians about 500 years later, which was then developed into a phonetic hieroglyphs, but it had no vowels so it made pronouncing the words difficult. Around 1100 B.E. it was further developed, and a cursive style was further refined by 700 B.C.E.

The Coptic (Greek) written alphabet and language arrived in 200 A.D. IN 640 A.D. the Arabic language replaced the Coptic language in Egypt.

The Bronze Age (3300-600 B.C.E.) had an explosion in the development of proto-writing: India, Pakistan, China, Europe - at varying times, of course - all started using written communication. Eventually, overlapping into the Iron Age (1200 B.C.E.- 1 A.D.), it all became alphabet-type symbols and words.
The Phoenician alphabet was formed, based on speech sounds...you get the idea. (Still no English though)

Greek and Latin were the written languages (birthed from proto-writing) of communication in most of the countries of power and influence in the large expanse of Europe (and parts beyond). The English written language (based on Latin and created by the Saxons) didn't even start to become of a thing until about 600 A.D. - less than 1500 years ago - and it didn't even catch on right away. The literacy rates (ability to read, write and comprehend written language) were low up until the 18th century (prior to the 18th century literacy just meant you could sign your name). For example into the mid-1600's only 30% (of males - some reports say the rate was higher among women) in England were literate, though it did increase to 60% by the middle of the 1800's and steadily rose. In the United States at the same time, literacy rates were as high and in some areas higher. The increase was due in large part to the creation of the printing press, increased leisure time because of technological advances in industry and farming, among other factors.

Written communication, from pictures to words. Development! Trade became easier. Beautiful full languages were created. Trade became easier. Societies advanced under higher literacy rates. People reading, writing, and communicating for all purposes! So exciting!

That's a little bit of history, loose and chucked together, because let's be honest...nobody is getting paid for this. 

You're thinking "History *yawn* well that's all very la-dee-da". We can hear you. (If you even made it through the brief history lesson. What's your attention span like these days? Thirty...forty seconds?)

Fast forward...

Now, obviously language is ever evolving, and new words are always being creating (hello "selfie"), and that's all great (it is); but what happens when it all starts to devolve?

In 2011, roughly 2,700 years after the first cursive-type writing was formed...it caught the attention of the media...cursive writing was beginning to be dropped from American educational curriculums! Kids won't have to know how to write cursive anymore. However, Katie Zezima makes good cases for continued teaching of cursive writing in The Case For Cursive via The New York Times. One that stood out was the ability to read letters and the like handed down from past generations. Written history from great-grandma (or grandma) whoever. 

Coming from a generation who had to learn cursive writing, it's second nature to at least incorporate it into handwriting - it's quicker to write that way, for one. Unfortunately when having to handwrite and exchange papers with kids in University, they stare down at the page in utter confusion. They can't read cursive - some didn't even know what cursive is, and had never learned it. It was shocking.

In an age where most everything is done on a computer, including writing, and where spelling is checked for you by a machine (so why bother learning the right way to write a word, right? And who needs proper punctuation anyway...) the language of written communication is becoming increasingly bastardized [don't even get me started on reading comprehension]. They leave out punctuation, vowels, sometimes most of the entire word, expecting the receiver of the message to figure out the word based on the mangled half-words that surround it. Nobody loves you anymore, English.

- how r u (How are you?)
- thatz whut he sed. (That's what he said)
- its p kewl. (It's pretty cool)

These are actual sentences you can see in social media, in e-mails, in text messages (you know you see them all the time.)...and according to some university professors we've had...in college level essays and papers.

WHAT?! That's sick.

This should make you angry.

But it gets worse.

Do you know what else that should make you angry? EMOJIs

BUT THEY'RE CUTE AND FUN! (okay, used sparingly, they are kind of fun...sometimes...)

Not only is written (English) communication becoming a bastard child, it's devolving. Think about it.

Pictorial representations of noun words -> alphabet developed based on pictorials -> cursive and written words based on alphabet -> cursive writing deemed unessential -> removal of essential vowels ("text speak") -> removal of words altogether in lieu of emoji (pictorial representations).


[Translation: "Listening to music in the car at 3 o'clock while it rains".]

Might as well be writing hieroglyphics or cuneiform in the Middle East, in 2500 B.C.E. *hands you a chisel and some stone*

Intelligence, knowledge, caring about things being right, isn't valued like it used to be. Wanting things to be spelled properly, wishing people understood grammar...it's not cool anymore. But it should be. At least by people who have some level of self-respect.

Civilizations and societies flourished and thrived when people were educated and were able to communicate well through writing and reading. Sometimes it's disappointing how much people have no regard for the written word, and only care about people "speakin' English good(er)". No irony there, of course.

If there was infinite time in the evening this entry would have been better developed. All that can be hoped is, please, "God", don't let there be too many spelling and grammar mistakes...that would be humiliating.

~ Frankie

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Some Key Sources:
"(12) Early Civilizations and the Development of Writing Systems in the World."(12) Early Civilizations and the Development of Writing Systems in the World. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://www.encyclopediaofauthentichinduism.org/articles/12_early_civilizations.htm>.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Critical Reflections on Why Truth Matters - Part 2 of 3

The last (3rd) reflection paper for this book, and the class, is done (and will be posted next week).
WE'RE DONE!
As fun as it was to do all of these reflective papers, on Free Will by Sam Harris, On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right, Even When You're Not by Robert A. Burton, When Science Meets Religion: Enemies, Strangers, or Partners? by Ian G. Barbour, and finally True to Life: Why Truth Matters - it's nice to be done.

Tomorrow is our last day of classes, finals are next week. We're nearly done with all the final writing assignments. The end is here. Finally.

Next week we'll be writing our official blog post for the 2014 American Psychology Association  Mental Health Month Blog Day. It'll be the third year in a row. (2011, 2012), last year we dropped the ball on it. Not sure why.


A friend on Twitter (and a talented Canadian artist), @CanadianCheri/SelfProclaimedMuse - who we've had the honor of meeting has a beautiful entry about learning to love her bipolar life.

And finally...part 2...(Part 1 is Here)...enjoy. Or don't.

[Past essays, papers and other University related content can be found here, the essays and papers are from the last year - the other stuff is personal historical stories: http://just-call-me-frank.blogspot.com/p/university.html]

Part II: False Theories

Coming to a consensus on how truth is formed, and why truth is formed are the only ways to come close to understanding of what truth is. As Lynch says William James posits, truth is made not found (62). In the “real world” people do not put a label on what kind of truth they believe in i.e. pragmatic (classical or modern), reductive naturalist, verificationsim, etc and they don’t often consider why a truth is a truth. But why are truths made? That answer depends on the philosophical line of thinking; self-delusion, power, and/or comfort. For most people it comes down to personal truths, based on beliefs about morals and values, generally meant as a tool to guide decisions and action, rarely thought of as a thing.

In fact, in reading the various views set forth by Lynch in True to Life, truth becomes an ambiguous theory and in other visions, it becomes nonexistent. In some instances, with its lack of properties, truth simply becomes a word describing subjective abstract concepts just as words like good, evil, true, false, do. To some this renders truth unimportant and meaningless – there is no such thing as truth! (Lynch, 106) The truth in a belief can be subjective. There is no realistic or rational truth, commonly known as pragmatic truth – but there is truth and it is complex. As stated in my previous reflection paper, and by Lynch, that by thinking of the complex nature of truth, truth, “much like “courage, kindness, and love” truth becomes recognized as something that has many forms. (100)

According to Lynch, Williams James asserts, “Truth of a belief consists in the practical use it has in your life” and truth “helps us to deal, either practically or intellectually” with reality. (64)

The first idea Lynch presents is that beliefs are a tool. They help people get what they want; truth is a means, not an end. Truth may be utilitarian in that it can get you what you want, and in that, there is value to truth. By the classical pragmatism standards of truth, in the utilitarian properties, truth has cash value because truth is a way of attaining something. However, lies, or false truths, can also get people what they want, sometimes more and better things than truth can provide, such as more opportunities, a better job, or a longer lasting relationship.

If a truth is perhaps equally as utilitarian as a lie, then why does truth matter, why tell the truth at all? There may be many answers, each individual will have a reason why truth matters to them, but in order to understand why, truth must be defined and recognized.

The first “problem” for some is finding the tangibility in truth. As reductive naturalism states, truth does not take physical form or space and therefore there is no reality in truth. (Lynch, 76) Truth has no physical properties, but as Lynch says of the nature of the reductive naturalist’s views, it poses a “serious threat to truth’s value”. (77) In the very least truth can be tangible and verifiable in the sensory experience, i.e. whether or not you can see, touch, smell, hear, and/or feel it. It still does not take truth out of the field of subjectivity though.

The second problem then, to people who philosophize about truth, is that the value of truth is not verifiable or falsifiable by scientific method. Truth is not verifiable by physical properties (Lynch, 89). The idea that things, that are not things, or “non-natural property”, are not true means, to some, they have no value. (Lynch, 89) In the very moral nature of truth, there is a lack of way to verify its worth. However, according to Nietzsche, it is “power that is valuable, not truth” (Lynch, 103). It is not truth itself that is powerful, but the illusion of truth that has power. If illusion is a lie, then false truths (lies) theoretically have equal value as truth. Taking Nietzsche’s concepts, but removing his idea of illusion out of truth, truth, along with lies, attain value. That value then is not money, but power, which becomes a means to money.

Truth still remains ambiguous, particularly those based on ethics and morals, which are manifestations of emotions, feelings and attitudes, simple synapses in the brain, often with cultural bearings. While truth based on morals cannot be justified or verified, truth is still dependent on reality and therefore tangible through consequence. As John Stewart Mill says, the consequence of taking action is what makes beliefs right or wrong (Lynch, 66), in ascribing right or wrong, truth develops a property; while it may not be a physical property, it a property that can be felt (by anyone who is not a sociopath).

In the coherent belief of coherence theory truth is given another property. To counter the “perceptual illusion” (Lynch, 86) of truth, this theory states that to be a truth, the truth must cohere with other beliefs within that belief, no matter what further information is receive. In this, if you believe in x because y, but z presents something that proves y incorrect, than x is no longer a truth. Therefore, truth becomes part of a whole.

While “it is useful to believe that truth is deeply good [it] doesn’t explain why it is deeply good, or even how it can be deeply good” (Lynch, 115). The ways in which truth is good can be seen in the opposite of the truth, which is the lie. Lying requires effort that taxes your brain, costs you money, causes stress, and effects you in many other ways. (Dachis, 2012) According to Jeff Hancock, truth is an important part of being true to yourself. (Hancock, 2012) In this, the real worth, the real good of seeking truth and the value of truth itself, the real reason truth matters, is found in the maintenance of your healthy positive self, the power and the value of being true to yourself.

In reading and reflecting on this section, I have created my own working definition of truth. Truth is a valuable power that is part of a whole of beliefs, guided by goals and values, which has tangible consequences good and bad, and helps in the sustaining of the best you.

References

Dachis, A. (2012, December). What Lying Actually Does to Your Brain and Body Every Day. Retrieved from     Life Hacker: http://lifehacker.com/5968613/what-lying-actually-does-to-your-brain-and-body-every-day

Hancock, J. (2012). The Future of Lying. (J. Hancock, Performer) Winnipeg, Canada.

Lynch, Michael P. True to Life: Why Truth Matters. Cambridge: MIT, 2005. Print.