Monday, May 14, 2018

Covert War - decade seven

In 1898, my grandfather was born out on the mid-western plains.  He grew up on a farm and married a local girl.  They farmed for a living, and their friends were mostly members of a small church community.  His children were born in the 1920s and were raised through the Great Depression years and the aftermath.  Tough years, tough people; they were farmers, so they didn't starve.

By the time their grandkids showed up, Grandpa and Grandma had sold the farm and migrated to the city for a normal middle-class existence; regular job, regular home ....

As one of the grandkids, I had them to myself for a week or two in the summer, sometimes.  Grampa took me with him to work at the hospital where he did maintenance work on air conditioning and heating, I think.  At home, he taught me how to drive his riding lawn mower because I insisted.

They were picky about tv shows we'd watch, and I remember wanting them to take me to see 'Exodus' at the movie theater, but they were uneasy about it.  They eventually did, but we had to show up just for the movie and not any previews of anything else.  Why would they do that?

It took a few decades before I connected the dots.  Our culture was changing quickly, and they noticed but I didn't.  They had conscience problems with the entertainment industry and the way relationships were portrayed between men and women.  They had problems with glamorizing and sensualizing women.  They didn't want to think that way, and they didn't want me to, either.

We didn't talk about it.  Folks didn't talk about that sort of thing with any clarity back then.  It wasn't until the 1980s that we began to study healthy sexual behavior and its compulsive variant.

"The modern western society in which we live is slowly but surely conditioning women and men – children or adults – to a world where whatever we desire must be available for immediate acquisition. ...  In this context, one that would rather ignore the feelings of frustration associated with abstinence, sexual behavior has also known an evolution in which the laws of supply and demand have come to reign, along with the rules of free competition, giving to ‘sex’ objects the same status as any other product. In just a few decades, access to pornography has not only been developed but also became banal. We are far from the censure of the early 20th century when kissing scenes were simply cut from cinematographic reels. Consumer studies show that on Google, the world’s number one search motor, the terms ‘sex’, ‘love’, ‘porn’ arrive at the fore of all requests by both type and nature. Sexuality has become recreational, and even imperative. In effect, it was as if the slogan of the new societal Super-ego had become: ‘Unfettered and unlimited pleasure is a must!’"  ~ from the U.S. National Institutes of Health.
Newsweek; admitting the obvious in 2011


Every year, PornHub (the largest porn website in the world) publishes insightful statistics. In 2016, they racked up 23 billion visits to their site and collectively, 4.6 billion hours.  Porn is just one indicator.  

The war is on, much ground has been lost, and as yet, there is little public awareness of what happened.  For those who care about their own mind and the minds of their children, just standing on the sideline is no longer an option.

Churches are beginning to respond thoughtfully and effectively.  National programs with a history of success are being integrated into church education for men and women.  Talk to someone you trust, get informed, be open and proactive.  The alternative is just being swept along by the changing culture along with our children.

The covert war began in 1948.  If you're brave enough, trace the Kinsey Report (Human Sexuality, 1948-53) through Hugh Hefner (who declared he would be Kinsey's pamphleteer and then launched Playboy magazine) and note the removal of relational elements from physical intimacy.  As they've presented it, there is no relationship factor beyond the physical contact event.  No magnificent love, no covenant, no higher calling.  The decline has been precipitous.  Does that make a difference?  See Playboy, Polanski, and Sex Trafficking.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Shortcut to Change, just an opinion

We can complain a lot and criticize a lot, I suppose, but will that change things?  Years down the road, folks will perhaps remember what we did and whatever difference it made, but no one will remember what we said.  Or posted.  Even us.  So what can we do.  
The greatest change we need to make is from having to giving, even if only on a small scale.  If most of us did that, there'd be enough for everyone.  Hence the futility of critics  and complainers, who depend on the very system they attack, who produce words and recrimination, not food and shelter and life.  
My reading of Bill Mollison, an Australian researcher, author, scientist, teacher and biologist.

Did you know that you can help a kid in the developing world stay in school for maybe $50/semester; after the 6th grade, it costs maybe $150.  Seeds for crops are less.  You can send a young person through college for maybe 1/20th of what it costs here.
Here at home, you can help who you know easily enough, but you have to be open and involved to do that.  Everybody needs a hand sometime along the way.  We certainly did, and gracious people helped us through.
The real world - friends in Ethiopia
Churches are a good focal point for helping folks.  Efforts include volunteers and funds with administrative costs usually being covered separately.  You can contribute to a project, and all your gift goes there.  Enough for someone's gas to get to work 'til the end of the month, for food for the kids until payday, for heat in a cold winter.
So what can we do that will make a difference?  Answering that one puts our priorities and perhaps our budget on the table.  

Do I spend time and money on ...
(Ever wonder what 'elegance' adds to your life?  In the military for 25 years, we moved many times.  We lived in apartments and simple houses. and a few times, we lived in really fancy places.  They were all adequate, but the fancy ones took more time and effort.  Fancy cars were pretty much like that, too.  Living in non-western countries and cultures was an eye-opener.  I guess that sort of shaped our thinking.)

(If I had a recommendation for young people, it would perhaps be to join a service organization and go live in the developing world for a few months.  Or more.  Learn some language, get to know people, understand real life.  Then go home and decide what's important.)
- Elegance?  Luxury?  Entertainment?
- Charity?  Helping?  Relationships?
- Saving for the future?  Of course.
- Working for the future of others?
- Making a way forward for my family?  Absolutely.
Making a way forward for others?


How rich do I need to be?  Around $20k per person per year is the dividing line between the richest 5% of folks in the world and everyone else.  That much puts you in the richest 400 million people in the world with 7.1 billion folks below you on the ladder.  Statistically, one group is normal and the other is an outlier, an aberration, and unconnected to 'normal' or 'reality'.  Want a proportional goal?  Change the world for 19 people.  
Or ninety, or nine hundred ... just my opinion, of course.  I'll shut up now. 

Friday, May 4, 2018

Eggs and Chickens

... the ancient battle.

Which came first?   The chicken and egg question was first asked by Aristotle and continued in debate among intellectuals for more than two thousand years.   

The debate was entertaining, but the question is simply one of origin, of first cause.  How did we get to the place we're in today? 

Practices and Principles ... the other ancient battle.

There are two parts to how we each view things, like a chicken and an egg, perhaps.

We have the influence of family and friends, church and school; our environment.  Cultural traditions and expectations are continually fed to us in every venue.  That's our external world.

Then there's the world inside each one of us.  It's filled with what we hold to be true along with the values fed in from the outside.  We struggle back and forth trying to reconcile it all in terms of truth and worth.  It's a lifelong process for thoughtful folks.

For example --  the Boy Scouts of America are changing to boys and girls.  The resultant kerfuffle points interestingly to that internal battle.  Why were they separate?  "Because they should be; it's best that way," is the answer that pops up first, or some equivalent.  

Now, broaden your look to include kids in Israel.  Scouts are boys and girls.  In 1909, the Tzofim (Hebrew Scout Movement) became the first scouting movement in the world where boys and girls participate together on an equal basis.  All five scouting organizations in Israel today are co-ed.

(We're decades behind much of the world in the transition to co-ed scouting, by the way.  The UK and Canada transitioned in '91/92)

Here, we perhaps believe that Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts should be separate, but why?  Because they always were.  But why?  Perhaps because there were traditional cultural roles assigned by gender.  Was that the best choice?  
(Ask a boy scout what he thinks girl scouts do.  "They do girl things like sewing and cooking and selling cookies.")  

The internal battle continues between our commitment to truth and the interpretation that our culture offers.  It's unsettling to discover an inadequate foundation for values we've held.  

The science -- “The truth is that sex differences in math ability, spatial skills, assertiveness and competitiveness are much more a product of gender socialization and segregation.  In other words, it is precisely because girls and boys spend so much time apart, practicing different skills and relational styles, that they walk into college classrooms with different types of academic confidence and career ambition.” ~Dr. Lise Eliot, Professor of Neuroscience at Rosalind Franklin University.  Neuroscientists refute the merits of gender differences between girl and boy brains.  And rather than creating more equitable schools, critics compare separating boys and girls to racially segregated schooling.
Co-ed sports --  How might that change self-image and social interaction?

The Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts are great organizations that have helped many children achieve their goals, but the benefits are not from single-sex enrollment. 

Unnecessarily sex-segregating schools and sports or after-school activities like scouting send the message that girls and boys are somehow fundamentally different - when they're not.  Such segregation perpetuates stereotypes and encourages discriminatory behavior.


The law -- Remember Title IX?  We had to pass a law so that girls who wanted to play school sports weren't relegated to the parking lot. 

"No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance." ~signed into law in 1972

There were no sports for girls at my high school in the '60s.  None, unless you count pep squad and cheerleading.

Do your own research.  Can strength, leadership, and healthy interaction be modeled for all children together, or must we separate them by gender rules and roles?  An interesting dilemma.  

Thoughts on the issues?  

Sunday, April 29, 2018

iGen - the first generation

to spend their entire adolescence with smartphones
the i-generation, born after '95

From today's discussion on the effects of technology on childhood development, here's one perspective.

“There is a silent tragedy developing right now, in our homes, and it concerns our most precious jewels – our children…. Researchers have been releasing alarming statistics on a sharp and steady increase in kids’ mental illness, which is now reaching epidemic proportions:
“Today’s children are being deprived of the fundamentals of a healthy childhood:
  • Emotionally available parents
  • Clearly defined limits and guidance
  • Responsibilities
  • Balanced nutrition and adequate sleep
  • Movement and outdoors
  • Creative play, social interaction, opportunities for unstructured times and boredom
Instead, children are being served with:
  • Digitally distracted parents
  • Indulgent parents who let kids “Rule the world”
  • Sense of entitlement rather than responsibility
  • Inadequate sleep and unbalanced nutrition
  • Sedentary indoor lifestyle
  • Endless stimulation, technological babysitters, instant gratification, and absence of dull moments”
(Quotes above are from The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids based on research published in Emotion, a journal of the American Psychological Association, by Dr. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University and author of "IGEN".)

Note: Correlation vs Causation -- smartphone use does perhaps correlate with the changes we see but it is not necessarily the cause.  Electronic device usage may be detrimental to development, or it may be the refuge to which our youth turns to escape a difficult environment.  Researchers have suggested both as answers to the changes we see.  Thoughtful parents are fighting a difficult battle.

"I spent my career in technology. I wasn't prepared for its effect on my kids," says philanthropist Melinda Gates, whose three children were also born after 1995.  "Phones and apps aren't good or bad by themselves, but for adolescents who don't yet have the emotional tools to navigate life's complications and confusions, they can exacerbate the difficulties of growing up."

Social media is easier than face to face; you can usually slip in and out without stress, unlike dealing with the tensions of hallway encounters at school.  It's not real life, of course, and provides no development of interaction and communication skills.

In a 2015 report, 92% of teens surveyed said they went online daily, according to the Pew Research Center. This includes 24% who were online "almost constantly."

One perhaps helpful perspective:  Dr. Twenge found that happiness correlated most strongly with sports, followed by socializing in person and religious services. On the negative side were online computer games and social media.  Interesting.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Fair and Balanced

When I was young, the news included both sides.  (As was required, back then.)

That 'balance' was required by the FCC's Fairness Doctrine.  Introduced in 1949, the policy required licensed broadcasters to present controversial issues of public importance in a manner that was—in the FCC's view—honest, equitable, and balanced.  That policy was rescinded thirty years ago marking the end of 'fair and balanced' and the beginning of the most extreme polarization our culture has seen since the Civil War.

              - The struggle for free speech and a free press -
  • Through the '60s, the FCC policy applied to all licensed broadcasters and was upheld by the courts. 
  • In 1985, as corporate interests challenged the policy, the FCC eventually released a report stating that the doctrine "no longer served the public interest".   
  • In 1986, Congress directed the FCC to examine alternatives to the Fairness Doctrine and to report to Congress.  
  • In 1987, the FCC abolished the doctrine in the Syracuse Peace Council decision. 
  • The ruling was upheld by the D. C. Appeals Court in 1989.  The FCC suggested in Syracuse Peace Council that because of the many media voices in the marketplace, the doctrine be deemed unconstitutional, stating that:
          At the 4-0 vote, Chairman Patrick said,

Today, we find it difficult to get a clear and objective view of local and world events.  There's a broad spectrum in the mainstream from true to biased to fake.  There has been discussion of reinstating the Fairness Doctrine in some form, but defenders of free speech have opposed any such change.

It has been suggested that the media mainstream is a product.  The FTC's Fair Packaging and Labeling Act requires that all 'consumer commodities' bear a label with an accurate 'statement identifying the commodity'. If revenue-generating commercial broadcasts (whether by radio, tv, or internet) are a 'consumer commodity', then they must be accurately labeled. That would seem to preclude 'News' that is not genuine, 'Opinion' that is not the author's actual opinion, or 'Analysis' that is not at least arguably analytical. In general, however, the FTC only has authority over commercial aspects (pertaining to revenue) rather than speech.

So, 'the news' is redefined.  As American consumers of mass media, we're given truth and lies, bias and misrepresentation, and half-truths sponsored by commercial interests.  The industry priority is profitability via persuasion and specific appeal to a target audience's bias.  Objective analysis and information are not part of the business model, nor is there any policy for serving public interest.

If you're curious about how misrepresented information might affect our communities, note that many continue to believe the link between certain vaccines and autism, or Iraq and WMDs, or the necessity of hospitalization for childbirth.  'Junk science' has been used to defend the tobacco industry, the petroleum industry, the abortion industry, and to deny climate change.  False facts are now in common use by key players in national leadership.

That's the challenge we now face and must deal with thoughtfully.

Note that there are now several public forum organizations that publish 'fact checks'.  FactCheck.Org is perhaps useful.  You might appreciate Digital Literacy in the Age of Fake News.