On Rejecting “The System”

In the natural world, a mother bear, during a particularly harsh winter in which it is hard to capture prey, will often eat one of her cubs. It will nearly always be the runt unless the larger one is sickly. If she is still hungry and unable to locate food from other species later that same winter, she will consume the remaining one. Thereby she will guarantee her survival as the alternative would be all three bears dying — the helpless cubs unable to live on their own and herself. However, she, by using her offspring for nourishment, will help ensure that she can carry on to produce further offspring in, hopefully, more auspicious circumstances. By such a manner, her species manages to endure.

All considered, life in the natural world, although often brutal, is neither moral, nor immoral. No animal sits around in a circle of his peers debating the relative rightness or wrongness of the act of eating one’s own progeny, nor the ones of other species. At the same time, humans, in certain groups, can also forego ethical underpinnings in their actions.

For example, the Nazis, in a calculated fashion, rounded up children and adults from supposedly undesirably ethnic groups for systematic slaughter. So did European invaders with indigenous people in the Americas. So did Pol Pot in Southeast Asia and so did ancient Romans. There is nothing new in this regard. This sort of behavior has been occurring for times immemorial amongst humankind. So has cannibalism when life gets tough…

As the author Peter Goodchild shared with me, “I sometimes think about a book called The Siege of Leningrad. The healthy people walking the streets were the butchers. But the meat they had to offer wasn’t beef, and it wasn’t pork, and it wasn’t lamb. You figure out the rest.”

Then, too, humans periodically face the types of decisions as did the pioneers at Donner PassFor details, please refer to: Donner Party — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. — a walk in the park in some ways compared to the Leningrad events in that there was no deliberate murder involved. As such, much of the difference between the two events hinges on intention and deliberate proactive choices rather than a passive stance to simply make do as had the survivors at Donner Pass. Meanwhile, the aggression inherent in deliberate slaughter of one’s own kind reminds about how well “laws of the jungle” still are extant amongst people unless we are well taught that life, itself, has value beyond self-serving sorts.

Meanwhile, not all people, who are at risk for starvation, resort to dire unconscionable actions. Oddly, we sometimes even see quite the opposite type of behavior wherein underfed people consciously try to share whatever little they have with others. Perhaps surprisingly, such demonstrations are not rare.

As Garda Ghista, the editor of World Prout Assembly, suggests, “One day I had gone with my auto rickshaw driver to the slums, to take photos of the very poorest people, the poorest of the poor who had nothing — no home, no anything. It was to raise funds for a service project, a children’s home, and I needed the photos for the flyer. So we would stop, for example, on a bridge where, on a ten by twenty foot piece of land along the bridge, some cloths were stretched across two poles, and people were living under them. There was no running water in sight. There was no anything. but, when I stepped out of the rickshaw and took out my camera, all these homeless, water-less, nearly foodless, nearly clothes-less people started moving towards me, with utter joy on their faces.

“I simply could not take the picture. I needed photos of miserable looking people in desperate poverty. They just didn’t look miserable. None of them did. It happened time and again, as when my rickshaw drove past the rock quarries where women with axes hammer at granite rock for ten to twelve hours a day, backbreaking labor — but again, when they saw me and the camera, they moved slowly toward me smiling.

“There is an NGO called Transparency International which rates corruption levels in countries. Bangladesh was coming out number one every year. (I haven’t checked recently.) At the same time, an institute in Great Britain assessed “happiness” levels of populations, and determined that the people of Bangladesh were the happiest in the world.

“We Westerners do not understand all the love that exists in people there — whole families sleeping in one room. It is not a hardship for them. It is the only way to be. It is about staying close and intimate. To them, the way we stick each baby in a separate room is something primitive and backward.

“Here so many Americans forgot how to talk — maybe due to watching so much TV. Even the TV programs and movies have such low levels of conversation. In contrast, go to India or Middle Eastern countries and speaking in poetry is something natural to the people. It is, also, loved and respected.

“When I worked in a college in the Middle East, the students (local Bedu) would sometimes come to my desk to make a phone call. Who would they phone? Again and again, it would be their mothers.

“We, here in the US, can hardly imagine the closeness of the families and the other more extended groups found in third world countries. When my Bedu friends took me to the desert, we used to sit on the ground, and the father would immediately go and milk the camel and bring me a huge bowl of fresh camel’s milk. Simultaneously, the mother (of my student) would cut up fruit and put it in my mouth.

“Does it happen here in the US? . . . and in India, when I visited a family there and at dinner said that I am full, then that mother took the spoon and began feeding me spoon by spoon, putting the spoon in my mouth, ignoring my protestations. Will it happen here? So who is more civilized and who is more happy? I never saw such love, hospitality and happiness as I saw in the Middle East and South Asia. For this very reason, what the American Empire has done to my friends there is painful beyond measure.”

My response to this is that, when people need each other to survive, they tend to act more kindly to everyone else, including outsiders. Indeed, they are especially generous towards those who serve their interests as does a teacher for their son.

Conversely, they tend to develop a state of anomy, callousness, apathy, contempt and disregard in relation to the welfare of others when it is not in one’s own interest to support them. This second state, one of almost complete alienation and independence rather than interdependence, has been shown time and again in various situations.

One of the most notorious episodes involved the murder of Kitty Genovese in NYC.To learn more about this incident, please see: Kitty moc.2gnihtyrevEnull@esevoneG, Bystander effect — Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Kitty Genovese – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Thirty-Eight Saw Murder, and A Picture History of Kew Gardens, NY – Kitty Genovese. In addition, the Kitty Genovese incident would seem to indicate that the more people that exist concentrated together, the less likely that individual worth has much merit. Congestion studies amongst many species bear this out as does, in general, crime rates in crowded VS uncrowded regions when variables such as socioeconomic class are factored into the mix.An overview of this topic is supplied at: The Real Picture of Land-Use Density and Crime: A GIS Applic….

The implications relative to urban settings and overpopulation, in general, are clear. As Larry Winn states, “Imagine a group of humans, indeterminate in number, confined in a place of fixed dimensions, wanting for nothing. They have plenty to eat, plenty of water, plenty of places to live, and only the dimmest sort of apprehension of a larger world. They might even think of “the outside” as a kind of malicious fiction perpetrated by malcontents. It’s a circumstance not unlike the one “sustainable development” is supposed to create for us. Also, not unlike the universes of John Calhoun’s rats.”A description of John Calhoun’s findings, along with their implications, is located at: Universe 25.

He goes on to conclude in the same article, “…the rats in Calhoun’s experiments developed social pathologies similar to the behavior of humans trapped in cities. Among the males, behavioral disturbances included sexual deviation and cannibalism. Even the most normal males in the group occasionally went berserk, attacking less dominant males, juveniles and females. Failures of reproductive function in the females — the rat equivalence of neglect, abuse and endangerment — were so severe that the colonies would have died out eventually, had they been permitted to continue.”

At the same time, one could only barely suppose that such happenings as Kitty Genovese’s type or as Larry Winn’s description would have a high rate of prevalent to transpire in small remote villages wherein personal relations are more all inclusive, intimate, relevant and indispensable for maintenance of optimal social welfare. With less people in a community, there tends to exist stronger intact ties across the board — even with strangers, who are merely passing through the environs.

In addition, I predict that, with material affluence on the increase in Bangladesh and elsewhere due to globalization of industries, many people there will become more like much of the US population — self-absorbed, largely indifferent to the welfare of the poor, insular, impressed by wealth and signs of wealth (as exhibited by Hollywood starlets and major sports figures), driven to get as much for themselves and their families at the exclusion of others as could be possible, etc. This is largely because cultural values are predicated on whatever serves to maximally support life in a particular set of circumstances.

In other words, people will more readily commune with each other and share if these sorts of behaviors foster their own well-being. If taking as much for oneself with disregard for others does it, then this model, instead, will be the one habitually learned and supported by the public at large. (Just as “necessity is the mother of invention,” it is also the mother of behavioral patterns developing one way VS. another.)

As such, people tend to work together to get water, feed each other, and provide for other material needs in these societies wherein it is necessary for many people to work together as a precondition to fulfill common aims (without which doing they would all die). Opposed to this are the conditions wherein success is primarily and almost exclusively tied to personal fiscal gain rather than mutual philanthropy.

With this alternative in place, there is little loyalty to companions, employees, nor employers. Instead, the overriding concern is simply advancement of one’s own profit and this aim, alone. Hoarding behaviors will, then, be on the rise, too. At the same time, the gap between the haves and have-nots will, also, enlarge. All the while, people will be seen not as having much merit in and of themselves as they will largely be viewed as expendable commodities — as means to an end to add to one’s own financial and other assets.

This being the case, the number of millionaires in the world swelled to 8.7 million. Meanwhile, is there any mystery about whatever most of them are trying to do rather than spread their wealth in service to humanity or improvement of the natural environment? No. Instead of promoting widespread benefits, they are, for the most part, striving to become billionaires (called “kleptocrats” in a related Wikipedia citation below as they are thievishly parasitic on the body politic).

Indeed, many are wildly successful in achieving this objective. ‘The number of billionaires around the world rose by 102 to a record 793 . . . and their combined wealth grew 18 percent to $2.6 trillion, according to “Forbes” magazine’s 2006 rankings of the world’s richest people.’Data on wealth can be found at: FOXNews.com — “Number of Billionaires Up to Record 793,” “Number of billionaires grows, Gates stays on top,”
Billionaire – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, Number of Billionaires, and Number of Millionaires in the World Swells to 8.7 Million.
In addition, their group has been expanding steadily. All the while they, also, command vast stores of resources (obtained through their purchasing power), manipulate their governments (through lobbies and other means) and control others (via military might and other kinds) to keep everything solidly behind their acts of racking in ever more dollars and possessions, including huge tracts of land and factories, for themselves.

The flip side to this situation is that US jobs are disappearing overseas to second and third world countries in which the populations are paid measly salaries of a dollar a day for their hard work. Moreover, these laborers will get fired if they dare to complain about their income, work conditions, or other aspects of their jobs. Furthermore, they are, for the most part, easily replaced as there often exists the condition of large unemployment in their locations. Therefore, they’d better, meekly and gratefully, do as they’re told by management.

Meanwhile, the goods that they produce are sold to eager consumers in first world countries, consumers whose own economies are crumbling due to a growing deficit of work at reasonable wages. For example, one in five Americans now lives on less than seven dollars a day according to fairly recent US census figures.Related information can be found at: Thomas Paine’s Corner: “American Dream Now a Nightmare for Mi…” and Some Statistics on Poverty in America. All the same, it is primarily the near poor, who give the most to charities — not the middle and upper classes. It is because they are almost poverty struck and know the degree that being so can be horrendously grim to the point of being even life threatening.

All of the above in consideration, it might be easy to conclude that capitalism, itself, is antithetical to altruism and benevolent regard for life as its economic program is based on buying low (i.e., raw products, human labor, etc.) and selling high to get ahead FOR ONESELF. As such, there is no mutual regard or tender support for others as this way to go forward is, essentially, carried out by progressively taking greater advantage of others, including other species that are used to make products. At the same time, these predatory conditions are especially evident in countries, like the US, governed by plutocratic corpocracies.

One needn’t even look at cities, like New Orleans in the aftermath of Katrina or Detroit in relation to GM plant closings, to see the damage done by such malevolent business and government structures. Any public school in a ghetto, a crowded homeless shelter, hoards of street people in every major urban environment (80,000 in LA alone of whom 1/2 are mentally ill), overwrought food banks strung out across the land, the rate of home foreclosures, the depreciation of the country’s currency and myriad other indicators can amply serve in and by themselves as proof.

So what are we to do in the face of such daunting circumstances? Is the best way to proceed in such a rapacious backdrop to simply claw one’s own way to the top of the economic ladder, scratch out the competition and forget about everyone else left behind? Should we just shrug our shoulders and passively go along with the damaging industrial and governmental plans that are in place because that is all that we know? Certainly not!

In terms of the way to proceed given the conditions that we have in our societies and our personal lives in connection to the social order, I often go back to a comment that E. O. Wilson made to me when I asked him, around fifteen years ago, about the most important action that we could undertake to stymie environmental collapse. His reply was simple. It was that we must educate as many others as possible to the truths regarding the happenings. This, in his opinion at the time, would ultimately provide the best assurance of improvements across the board. In addition, his viewpoint would seem to apply to other areas of concern besides environmental ones.

At the same time, I realize that I, individually and in group efforts, must always resist corrupt authority and any wrongful control (i.e., arising from my dependence on repugnant transnational corporations like Exxon, Monsanto, Bayer and so many others) as best as possible. Yes, many of us are cogs in the wheel (a reference to Mordechai Vanunu’s I’M YOUR SPY at vanunu.org) as we are well integrated into and play a role in destructive systems on which we are reliant for our livelihoods, life maintaining goods and services, etc. So, we keep the status quo (including their affiliated big corporations and political arrangements) as is on an ongoing basis.

However, we can, as Peter Goodchild writes in his essays and many others suggest, get out of it all as much as possible, wean ourselves from some damaging behaviors and develop better methods of self-sufficiency. In other words, we can minimize our involvement with whatever it is that we abhor. We can also always make a point to deliberately stand up for whatever is right when given a reasonable opportunity to do so. There are plenty of ways available through volunteer activities, letter writing campaigns and other forms of protest.

Nonetheless, I realize that I. F. Stone’s comment (located below) is probably dead-on correct for a wide array of goals that many people would want to support towards creating a constructive future. Yet, in the end, it all boils down to a matter of conscience. As such, one has to do whatever one does simply because it does seem right and because there is no better alternative even when the outcomes AREN’T likely to be the sorts that one would ideally wish to have transpire. Then again, getting overly concerned about results in endeavors can take one’s attention away from any hard struggle towards betterment, itself. So, one deliberately has to maintain focus on the beneficial action, whatever it comprises, regardless of any other factors.

So, yes, we’re “stuck” in some ways because we need oil, drugs, food (of which the majority is GM), clothing (often made by poorly paid laborers), etc. This being the case, though, does not excuse us one iota, I would think, from doing whatever we can, even if small and seemingly inconsequential, to improve the way that we go about our lives.

Even if imperfect at it, we owe it to ourselves and each other to strive to create a better world as best as we can given our underlying circumstances. Then, who knows? Maybe at a certain point, we can, as Stone implies, reach a point in the far ahead times where some benefit has accrued on account of our seminal action. Maybe we can be one of the snowflakes that provides the weight to reach that final tipping point. (The NAA Voice)

The only kinds of fights worth fighting are those you are going to lose, because somebody has to fight them and lose and lose and lose until someday, somebody who believes as you do wins. In order for somebody to win an important, major fight 100 years hence, a lot of other people have got to be willing – for the sheer fun and joy of it — to go right ahead and fight, knowing you’re going to lose. You mustn’t feel like a martyr. You’ve got to enjoy it.

— I. F. Stone

Emily Spence is an author living in Massachusetts. She has spent many years involved in human rights, environmental and social services efforts. She can be reached at: EHSpence@aol.com Read other articles by Emily.

16 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. John Wilkinson said on January 11th, 2008 at 2:11pm #

    “In the natural world, a mother bear, during a particularly harsh winter in which it is hard to capture prey, will often eat one of her cubs. It will nearly always be the runt unless the larger one is sickly. If she is still hungry and unable to locate food from other species later that same winter, she will consume the remaining one.”

    Emily, you apparently don’t know the most basic fact that I thought every five year old does: the bears hibernate in the winter (look up in the dictionary: H-I-B-E-R-N-A-T-E). They don’t hunt or “capture prey”. They don’t eat. They definitely don’t eat their young, because ‘they’re hungry’ — because they are not even half concscious. When finally awake in the spring, they fiercely protect their young — the mothers do.

    So, this — the very beginning of your article, was a fantasy — complete with all the details so artfully and so matter-of-factly supplied as to which young the mother will eat first and why; it was conjured up by you not knowing even the most basic thing about what you’re writing about. So typical of extremists, either on the left or the right. Just invent “the facts”, fill in the “details” from fiction, the rabble (who never had proper schooling anyway) will never know the difference, after all it’s written here in such authoritative tone, black on white.

    I didn’t read the rest, there’re probably a million logical holes you can drive a truck through, based on this inauspicious beginning.

  2. Em said on January 11th, 2008 at 6:57pm #

    I am sorry if such facts as these offend your sensibilities:

    ‘During “hibernation”, the bear may only eat once a week, or if it is very cold he will not eat for a month.’ From: Bear Country USA
    Gestation:, About 7 months. No. of Young:, 1-5 cubs a year. … During “hibernation”, the bear may only eat once a week, or if it is very cold he will not …

    Why some animals eat their offspring – LiveScience- msnbc.co…
    Eating your offspring may sound unthinkable, but animals from fish to birds are … sheds light on the factors that may drive some parents to eat their young.

    FOXNews.com – Why Some Animals Eat Their Young – Science New…
    Why Some Animals Eat Their Young, Study finds that eating offspring boosts survival chances of … New cuddly polar bear grabbing the spotlight in Germany …

    Zoo fears as polar bear eats cubs – CNN.com
    Nuremberg City Zoo’s other polar bear ate its own two offspring earlier … Polar Bear Vera has been separated from her cub amid fears she would eat it. …

    Outrage as Polar bear mother eats starving cubs at German zoo that refused to hand rear … Zookeepers believe she gave birth to two, possibly three, cubs. …

    Polar bear cub removed after mum eats two siblings
    A POLAR bear cub has been separated from its disturbed mother at a German zoo … as polar bears to eat their young if the cubs are sick or refuse to feed. …

    Zookeepers to raise rescued polar bear cub – AOL Video
    A German zoo is under fire for letting a mother polar bear eat its cub. … the cub, believed to be female, feeding her rich milk every two or three hours. …

  3. John Wilkinson said on January 11th, 2008 at 9:46pm #

    “Does it happen here in the US? . . . and in India, when I visited a family there and at dinner said that I am full, then that mother took the spoon and began feeding me spoon by spoon, putting the spoon in my mouth, ignoring my protestations. Will it happen here? So who is more civilized and who is more happy? I never saw such love, hospitality and happiness as I saw in the Middle East and South Asia”.

    Just skipping along the article, for amusement, I stumbled across the above nugget. So, the host force-feeding the guest, against the latter’s will or protestations, that’s a sign of love, civilization, happiness, hospitality? That is preferable — in Emily’s world, than the host and the guests exhibiting a little mutual respect, restraint and not invading each other’s personal space? And the Middle East (Israel, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Iran, extreme wahabism, extreme judaism, extreme mullahs, punishing rape victims, etc. ) is the epitome of love and happiness?

    Like I said, I didn’t need to read the rest of the article to know something like this was coming — the opening sentences set the tone in the New Math (2+2=37) kind of way.

    Emily, I suggest a crash course in Reality 101 and Abstinence from Psychedelic Drugs 101.

    But thank you for providing such smashing entertainment.

  4. Doug Page said on January 12th, 2008 at 5:45am #

    I think that Emily’s article is profound. It seems to me some of the comments represent denial. Most of us are unhappily complaining about the status quo, and yet we cannot organize so as to oppose it effectively. We are fat, “happy,” alienated, individualistic, and addicted to comfort. Emily gives us two paths that we humans can take under conditions of adversity. One is akin to Naziism, Fascism, hatred of “others.” The other is a cooperative loving human community. We may soon have to deal with a severe economic downturn. Which course will we choose? Emily helps us to think about this. What will it take for us to organize into a caring community? One does not now exist. Could we organize as “We the People?” Doug Page, Tucson AZ ten.knilhtraenull@2egapguod

  5. Em said on January 12th, 2008 at 6:14am #

    P. S., Since you appear to like math and rational underpinnings, you might like taking a course in symbolic logic. It aids in inductive and deductive reasoning patterns, although is less adept at helping one with abstractions, synthesis and extrapolation.

  6. Em said on January 12th, 2008 at 6:24am #

    The web site program will not post this commentary, which was to precede the post script, as it identifies these remarks as identical to my prior ones. So I will post it without the embedded links and try to add them in a subsequent section.

    I neither have time, nor inclination, to nitpick over every point with you. It seems that perhaps you missed the point due to employment of a small frame of reference based in a fixed curtailed social context — the one with which you are personally familiar in daily discourse. Instead one has to look at intentions and prevalent customs in the particular associated (assessed) society for interpretation in such actions.

    While there are universals in culture regarding behaviors, expressions of motives vary from social group to social group and, thereby, form different meanings. Perhaps these following sites will help you to grasp an overview in this matter a little more firmly and from a more complex, as well as broader, hermeneutic filter. (However, you really don’t need me to get these sites for you on the internet. When you have a question concerning some topic of interest relative to this essay or any other, you can do the research, yourself, to obtain satisfactory verifications.)

    From: “(1984). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 53:100-106, The Psychoanalysis of Culture: By C. R. Badcock. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1980. 264 pp.. Review by: Howard F. Stein

    “For the past half-century, cultural relativism has reigned as anthropology’s virtually undisputed ideology and inviolate mythology. Originally an intellectual antidote to the pseudo-biologism of European nationalism, the putative cure merits discussion as at least a semantic and epistemological disorder. The heuristic strategy of examining a way of life on its own terms has been superseded by a doctrinaire insistence that this is the only methodologically legitimate—and moral—way to conduct an analysis of culture.

    “Not only do cultures differ, but there are no universal standards by which cultures are to be compared. Each group must be approached ideographically, as though the science of man were an aesthetic exercise. Cultural relativists repudiate and rebuke the evolutionism of anthropology’s founders as a rationalization for colonialism, imperialism, and racism. The secular, urbanized, industrialized West is viewed as far from the pinnacle of h…”

    One last thought as an aside: If you like stereotyping and/or denigrating people from other societies, it is entirely your right. However, it might behoove you to have access to other perspectives rather than to look at issues from myopic, monomaniacal lens. In this vein, why not check out Gardy’s (worldproutassembly.org), Binu’s (countercurrents.org), Tom’s (informationclearinghouse.info/) and Ramzy’s (palestinechronicle.com) sites? Why — it could do you a world of good and here’s a good start point. In addition, our problem, I suspect, is one of disparate weltanschauung. (If you don’t know the term or about hermeneutics, please feel free to check them out, too, if you wish.) Yet and as mentioned above, I have neither the time, nor inclination, to explain more and debate with you. So, write whatever further retort or other sort of commentary that you may wish. You’re, though, on your own now to shift your views or happily maintain them as is.

  7. Em said on January 12th, 2008 at 6:34am #

    I intended to place these links after the quotation in my prior commentary, which is now awaiting moderation:

    [PDF]Cultural Relativism and Universal Rights in Isla… torical bias. Over the past decade I have written. about my own reluctance—derived from. my training in cultural relativism—to …

    Thomas H. Johnson – Cultural Relativism: Interpretations of … Cultural relativism is part of our training as social scientists as well as …. Of course, bias could enter any of the areas of research done by …

    [PDF]Cross-Cultural Research: An Introduction for Stu… Thanks are due to my students in Anthropology 174AW, World Cultural Comparisons, … privileged frame of reference for interpretation cannot be justified.

    A Brief History of Cognitive Anthropology Moreover, it has significantly changed the face of cultural anthropology, …. around the analyst’s imposition of his own cultural bias on a society.

    Rashomon effect – Wikipedia
    The Rashomon effect is the effect of the subjectivity of perception on recollection, by which observers of an event are able to produce substantially.

    [PDF] The Rashomon Effect. Combining Positivist and Interpretivist Approaches ….. Roth, Mehta / THE RASHOMON EFFECT.

    Journal of Experimental Social Psychology: Contrast effects… a Department of Social Psychology, Free University Amsterdam, … The presence of a salient comparative context during stereotype formation has been shown.

    Ethnic Stereotyping and Identification in a Multicultural Context: …. Social identifications: A social psychology of intergroup relations and group.

    [PDF]Manipulating stereotype rating tasks: understand… e€ects produced by varying the context in which stereotype judgements were ….. entiation in a dynamic intergroup setting’, Journal of Social Psychology.

    PDF]The fundamental context categories in understand… their varying relevance. The context is determined by the features of the physical environment, by the. features of the social world, and by the features of . . .

    Faculty of Social Sciences – Social and Cultural Psychology … When do we communicate stereotypes? Influence of the social context on the … reactions when confronted with virtual others with varying ethnicity.

    [PDF]. PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY BULLETIN. van Rijswijk, Ellemers / CONTEXT EFFECTS. Context Effects on the Application of Stereotype.

    ANU – School of Psychology – John Turner My research interests are in social psychology and have covered a number of topics … J. C. (1995) Context-dependent variation in social stereotyping 3

    Culture Bound Syndromes Explanation of the Cause and Connect… I intend to demonstrate the cause of Culture Bound Syndromes. …… although possible artifacts such as ascertainment bias must be considered.

    [PDF]Culture-Bound Syndromes forceful critique of the ethnocentric bias inherent in such a position, Ritten-. baugh [21] provides a four-part definition of culture-bound syndrome that …content.karger.com/ProdukteDB/produkte.asp?Aktion=ShowPDF&… – Similar pages

  8. Leroy said on January 12th, 2008 at 8:35pm #

    Forgive me if I misinterpreted your article as a meditation on justice, happiness, and how to achieve both. I liked your article very much.

    I have a vibrant image of people smiling underneath a bridge. I have the concept of what it means to be a family clarified. This article has also added depth to what I think it means to be happy. Thank you for that.

    Still, I’m not sure if the tension between being happy and making change can be resolved. On the one hand, there are poor people, who, having ‘figured it out,’ are supposedly uncomfortable but happy. They probably say something to the effect of, ‘look, here we are. What’s there to figure out? [let’s just be happy]'” The point is, making change really is based on results, and so you say, ‘let’s have fun when we protest,’ and I say, “But you can’t have fun.” You respond, “Why not?” I say, “Why?”

    Why make change? Certainly I want change. But I also want to have fun.

    Please excuse me if I’m not being clear. What I’m trying to say, is that the fun you can have while protesting is a self-righteous one. I find protests slightly revolting in this aspect. Perhaps I can protest in my own way, but why? The only reason is so that I can make change. And so goes a great battle between two respectable causes: “Let’s make the world a better place” and “Let’s be happy.”

    Let me say it one more time: I currently believe the way you choose to live can be for justice or for happiness, but not both. If you choose to be just happy, then justice is secondary. If you choose to be justice, then happiness is secondary. I’m not sure if I’m right though.

    I leave it unresolved for now.

  9. Em said on January 13th, 2008 at 5:11am #

    Leroy, I appreciate your comments and enjoyed considering your thoughts. I, also, am glad that you liked the essay!

    Personally, I don’t think that change and happiness are mutually exclusive. On an individual basis and in social systems, all progress is based on change. For example, a child, first, learns to crawl and, eventually, develops the musculature and skills to walk, run, skip, dance, leap, etc. In the same vein, humans would still be living in trees and caves, instead of in skyscrapers and other buildings, without change. Evolution, itself, would not happen without it.

    All of this in mind, the problem becomes one in which we have to seriously consider to what are we to change to become. How are we to change the world and how are we to change, ourselves? What is the most beneficial course to take with each area of alteration?

    Over time, it becomes increasingly clear to me that some of the directions that humankind is taking are downright wrong and dangerous. To get a good overview of some of these perilous sorts, please feel free to check out these web sites: postcarbon.org, growthmadness.org and dieoff.org!

    In closing, thanks for sharing your reflections, Leroy. They are wonderful to consider!

  10. Lloyd Rowsey said on January 16th, 2008 at 12:24pm #

    Thank you Em for taking the time and having the heart to respond to posters to this article. I now intend to read the piece, instead of just scanning it, and I hope to have something constructive to post about it; but I don’t anticipate the latter happening for several days. I realize that it is already three days since your last post, but I hope you will check back again in a few days or a week, and if there is a post from me, please give it your due consideration.

  11. Mike McNiven said on January 16th, 2008 at 1:30pm #


    Thank you for the very helpful quote from I.F. Stone!

    How about the following as the first stage toward your goal:

    “Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins
    Mohandas Karamachand Gandhi, one of the most influential figures in modern social and political activism, considered these traits to be the most spiritually perilous to humanity.

    Wealth without Work
    Pleasure without Conscience
    Science without Humanity
    Knowledge without Character
    Politics without Principle
    Commerce without Morality
    Worship without Sacrifice “

  12. Em said on January 16th, 2008 at 4:41pm #

    Everyone writing here:

    I appreciate you thoughts and comments. EVERY single one has merti and furthers understanding for each of us. As such, it is considerate.

    Lloyd, I will definitely check again and thanks again to all for taking the time to share.

  13. Brian Koontz said on January 16th, 2008 at 9:20pm #

    It’s really dangerous and simply false to misunderstand the nature of change within the political arena. The Obama campaign is just the latest to take advantage of this misconception.

    Everyone wants change. There is not a single human being alive who supports the “status quo”. The rich don’t want the “status quo”, they want to be richer. They want whatever change will bring them additional wealth and power. Most other people want change that brings them additional happiness, which includes wealth in some cases.

    It’s not a fight about change vs. the status quo, it’s a fight to control the nature of the change that is inevitable. “Evolution” isn’t some choice, it’s a certainty.

    Milton Friedman, for example, wanted change. And he got it. Hitler wanted change. The CEO of Exxon wants change. Sam Walton wants change.

  14. Em said on January 17th, 2008 at 7:27am #

    …very nice comment from you, Brian! It reminded me of Rashomon Effect in a way in the sense that everything has to do with relative placement and surrounding conditions (i.e., if one is dark skinned or light relative to surrounding people, wealthy or poor relative to the rest, etc., etc.)… For me, positive change implies greatest good for the majority in a way that takes into account balance with other species and nature in general on account of our interdependence for well being…I covered this a little and indirectly at:

    Weighing the benefits and the deficits of advancements « Gro… Weighing the benefits and the deficits of advancements …. These comments from Emily Spence and others are wonderful and, I believe, they have to grow in …growthmadness.org/2007/10/01/weighing-the-benefi…

    Additionally, you might like this following piece. Joel raises some points that correspond well with yours!


    When people rally behind false change agents something worse than being disappointed and having their hopes killed happens: the national energy for real change is wasted. In the end, false change agents protect the status quo political establishment.

    Joel S. Hirschhorn

  15. pat said on January 18th, 2008 at 12:10am #


    I enjoyed reading your article, and i contemplated all the points you brought up throughout. I especially enjoyed your experiences with photographing people, their reaction to your interest in them was wonder and obvious joy, and it is heartening to know that there are still spiritually wealthy people that live on our planet, with no regard for material wealth and selfish intent, it reminds me of a quote i once heard that i recite to myself every day ” it is only after we have lost everything that we are free to do anything ” and free to love as if we had nothing at all to lose. I think if everyone was to concentrate every day on truly being present in every moment of their lives, we could do nothing but love each other and live in real harmony and understanding. much peace.

  16. Em said on January 18th, 2008 at 6:16am #

    It was, actually, my friend Garda (gro.ylbmessatuorpdlrownull@rotide), who was attempting to photograph the friendly impoverished people. I quoted her. 🙂

    Your thoughts are delightful and, everywhere that I go, I find some individuals only too willing to foster a better way to interrelate — a way that is more greatly altruistic, ethical and fair. This is heartening. All the same, we have a long way to go in terms of revamping damaging (exploitive, corrupt, etc.) economic and governmental practices and policies…

    Please consider attending Garda’s conference. Issues like this will be covered and plans for widespread implementation could arise from the various discussions. Here are two links associated with the event:
    http://www.wpaconference.org and http://www.worldproutassembly.org.

    In addition, you might find the texts at these sites of interest: http://www.russellmeans.com/speech.html, http://countercurrents.org/agrwaal120108.htm and here. In part, they point out the degree to which we MUST change and the reasons are quite clear.