Thursday, October 23, 2014

Political correctness not always easy, necessary or relevant

File:Felice Gaer at Chatham House.jpg
Felice Gaer, Chairperson? Chairman?  Chair woman? at human rights event
Shock jocks provide interest through using language intended to startle. So when they use language that does that, where do we draw the line? Has political correctness negatively affected how we interact and communicate?

In the American lifestyle, language plays a big part influencing how we relate to one another. Different groups have special concerns and want others to recognize them in discourse. These days we refer to Indians as Native Americans to describe a group of indigenous people. We use the term African Americans to define a special group of color we at one time referred to as black and before that as Negro. Language changes, and speakers and writers have to conform. We do this so we are not considered biased, prejudiced or ill-informed. How do we know what to say and when in a climate that is obsessed with making sure that language be precise at all times? Has political correctness gone too far?

William McGowan believes that political correctness has negatively impacted news reporting. In his book called "Coloring the New" he maintains that the news is inhibited by having to make sure that language is always precise. This is particularly true in those areas where there is controversy such as race, immigration, gay marriage, abortion and other topics where people struggle to define terms so not to antagonize a particular group.

Lampooning the President has always been part of political cartooning. These days, however, cartoonists have had to be careful about how they depict the new President. That's because Barack Obama is African American, and some individuals believe that a cartoon that exaggerates certain features or shows Obama in some perceived negative light is automatically a reflection of bias or prejudice. Writers and artists are inhibited by factors that involve group sentiment about certain issues. This makes it difficult to fairly comment because of the overriding concern for those feelings that have become part of reporting the news or describing contemporary events, even in daily conversation or comedy.

This political correctness in social discourse can at times be personally amusing. Some years ago when I referred to female friends as "girlfriends" a male friend declared I was no longer a girl and that my friends weren't either; we were "women" instead. A part of me thought I had lost something when the term "woman" was considered to be politically correct for those of a certain age. "Girlfriend" had been a term used automatically without worry about age or social status. But girl implies a level of immaturity or sexual subrogation that weren't part of my thinking nor those of anyone else I knew at the time. Still my language changed to correspond with the new social climate. That's an example of how we have had to adjust ourselves to get along in social groups as political correctness continues.

A book about language once defined how what we say affects our behavior. This book called Language in Thought and Action" is still considered a classic. It was the foundation for political correctness in language, but may not have been the intent of the author, S.I. Hayakawa. He discussed issues about racial and social bias reflected in speech, but the language continues to change as groups define and redefine themselves. That makes it difficult for the ordinary person to keep up with what to say and how to say it both socially and in print.

This issue of going too far in the news was brought out during the controversy over Don Imus who used the term "nappy-headed hoes" to describe a college team of African American female basketball players. How much is too much and when does it cross the line in speech became the issue that eventually cost Imus his television job at the time several years ago.

These days gay marriage is a major social debate as several states have passed laws allowing gay marriage. It means that political correctness will likely have to correspond with these changes in the law, since marriage used to be defined as a formal relationship between a man and a woman. Merriam-Webster's new dictionary marriage now defines marriage as, "the state of being united to a person of the same sex in a relationship like that of a traditional marriage."

Language in everyday discourse, politics and the press has become so complex that William McGowan believes there needs to be a balance where language issues should be reasonable, allowing freedom of expression balanced by responsibility. That responsibility comes from ethics.

Often it's a matter of common sense, one would think; and individuals and groups need to be willing to be less antagonistic towards those making an effort to do the right thing. Because as language changes it will always take some time for behavior to change and for people to know what to say that is right in certain circumstances. Experts say sometimes political correctness has meant too much of a good thing, that in surplus makes it difficult to communicate so that perhaps we need to go back to the simply courtesy of allowing others the benefit of a doubt and being flexible in how we respond to what is said.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fairy tales have special value in times of trouble for both children and adults

Jackie Evancho, discovered and became a sensation on Americas Got Talent
Fairy tales aren't just for children. Adults need them too. That's why folks responded with great joy when they heard Paul Potts, Jackie Evancho or Susan Boyle sing on Britains Got Talent and Americas Got Talent. It's also why people fixate on bad things that have drama.  Here are some of the ways they help us in ways that alleviate our problems.

Rags to riches stories make us feel that we can conquer our fears, work hard and achieve. When an unattractive person finds success with talent we applaud that. When a disabled person rises above the disability to achieve in life and business, we are pleased. These are the human fairy tales that are good, that teach us about the higher qualities of ourselves and others and give us hope for the future.

We look for, and long for, fairy tale folk in our lives for many reasons, much of which has to do with getting out of our problems and our small universes into a bigger world where there is hope and goodness.

During the depression movies were successful, again because people could escape into the fairy tales of existence. They could see Lana Turner making it big from soda fountain to major movie star. They found hope, love and drama out of watching movies where people lived out loud and demonstrated that there could be a happy ending in spite of hard times. It was a way to escape the real hard times and find joy in watching people glamorously enjoy life in ways that people then could not.

It isn't just good stories, however, that are part of the fairy tales we seek or use. Evil in the world is also part of the fairy tales we learn. There is also a beast with beauty, or the evil troll under the bridge that can catch the hero and cause trouble. There are wolves that can enter a home, eat grandma and wait for Little Red Riding Hood to come in to get her too. Movies and stories like that make our own lives look less hard. We tend to demonize real-life characters, like mothers who allegedly kill their children in real-life stories like Casey Anthony who is thought by the State of Florida to have killed her child Caylee. A woman like Michelle Huckaby, accused of raping and killing Sandra Cantu, fascinated us and revolted us because that too is an escape from the problems we have.  It is also why crime stories are popular. And when victims escape and are able to build new lives, as the young women have done in Cleveland, we are able to see the happy ending and recognize that there can be a happy ending in the worst kind of situation, the kind we pay personally face ourselves.  Amanda Berry, Georgina "Gina" DeJesus, and Michelle Knight moved beyond the terrible event of their kidnapping and 10-year horror in captivity to work well on rebuilding their lives.  In some ways they are the real life Sleeping Beauty who was rescued by the trolls and returns to a beautiful life.

There are always people in worse shape, we can see; and so our own lives don't appear to be as difficult. We can project our anger and frustration on figures that are unlikeable for that reason.

Our personal lives are like fairy tales. We use the descriptions found in them to describe the events in our lives. We talk about going down long roads, about the twists and turns and dramas in our journeys in fairy-tale terms because we are able to see our lives apart from ourselves in order to interpret their meanings. We refer to the man we seek for love as a "Prince Charming" and women we think are ugly or mean as witches. Again this allows us to label so others can understand and we have a way to discharge our feelings.

Therapists sometimes use fairy tales in therapy. People learn to act out certain archetypes in learning why they do certain things and how those things either advance them or get them into trouble. They also help us see that we can realize our dreams and get past our fears to move ahead, just as a Susan Boyle or Paul Potts have done with unattractive images yet with resounding success. The ugly duckling becomes a swan before our very eyes, telling us that we can be one too. In fact Potts life has been is the stuff of real movies because of his life story that involves physical and emotional rags to riches details.

We find in fairy tales what is missing in our own lives. That enhances our sense of creativity, one of the principal areas we need to work on to alleviate depression. So fairy tales have a way of lifting sadness and moving our thinking to positive ideas rather than negative ones.

Fairy tales that become real make us remember our childhood, the surprises and joy we felt when we learned that a character lived happily ever after. It is why with just a few notes from a song someone like Susan Boyle, the wonderful woman who sang with such beauty and intensity, thrilled so many people. This was our Sleeping Beauty, our Cinderella our Horatio Alger story in female form. Out of something that looked like defeat, success and happily ever after came through. That tells us that no matter who or where we are perhaps our lives can turn a corner and be better too. That's why we all need fairy tales.

Monday, October 20, 2014

How might health care workers respond in the event of a disease pandemic?

Nurse, a key caregiver in health care emergencies
One of the tragedies of Hurricane Katrina had to do with the lack of responders in the emergency. This same sort of situation could well happen in the possibility of a pandemic of Ebola.  The same problem might occur in the event that Ebola becomes widespread in the United States, which most experts agree is at most a remote possibility.  What has research indicate might occur with health workers and what might be the overall response?

Approximately 1 in 6 public health workers completed a survey put out by the Centers for Disease Control in 2009, maintaining they would not report to work in the event of an emergency.  In that case the question was related to the potential of an H1N1 pandemic flu. Researchers at the time of the report declared that was a problem but also observed it was an improvement over a similar study made in 2005 where 40% of health care workers maintained they wouldn't respond to a pandemic emergency.

This is relevant as the world prepares for what the Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization maintain could be a major problem in adequately preparing health care workers and supporting them in responding to any disease emergency  For the individual hospital there may be a wait-and-see stance for some elements of preparation. The new study suggests ways of improving the response of the workforce in general that are essential in the preparation.of health care workers in the United States if there is a significant increase in the numbers identified with Ebola.

Daniel Barnett, MD, MPH, leading author of 2009 study, that took place under the aegis of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Bloomberg School of Public Health, underlined how important it is to understand the underlying factors involved in whether or not an employee will respond appropriately to an emergency." He goes on to say, "Overall, 16 percent of the workers surveyed said they would not report regardless of the severity of the outbreak."

1,835 public health workers participated in the online survey in Minnesota, Ohio and West Virginia during the period. What the survey found was those public health workers who were particularly concerned about what might happen in a pandemic threat and were confident they could fulfill their obligations were 31 times more likely to respond in an emergency then those
who perceived a threat was low or who didn't have confidence in their abilities to respond appropriately.

"We found belief in the importance of one's work was strongly associated with a willingness to report to work in an emergency. Our results could help preparedness planners to identify workforce needs and develop strategies for improving worker response," said Ran Balicer, MD, PhD, MPH, who is the senior lecturer in the Epidemiology Department at the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel, and Joint Editor of the Israeli Ministry of Health Pandemic Preparedness Plan.

According to OSHA the preparation of health care workers for a pandemic is especially difficult given travel restrictions and multiple emergency procedures that might need to be taken during a major catastrophe. It can increase the need for beds in hospitals, staffing, transportation and a host of other problems. The training across geographic locations, cultures, with communication issues makes the job of health care especially complex during emergencies. Add to this the pressures of time, the potential for health problems among those assigned to help others and personal needs, including families; and those who serve during emergencies will be under definite strain, according to experts.

On the other hand, many of the Ebola experts recommend regional centers for the treatment of Ebola patients as opposed to every individual hospital.  That being the case, the response could be different.  But again those involved in the study highlighted that attitude of health care workers is tied to how they perceive the disease, their training to deal with it and whether or not they believe they are well equipped to handle the emergencies that might occur.

The CDC has acknowledged it could have done before it its own initial responses to the Ebola health care personnel in Texas. They are underlining the importance of a more adequate and faster response in the future to any incident where a patient is identified with Ebola.  It is training that will help increase the potential for a good response from health care workers in the (remote) event of a major increase in Ebola cases in the United States.  Comprehensive training for those who care for others during a serious crisis can make a difference also in not just how health care workers respond but how the public responds in general, as avoiding a panic is also key to the management of the disease throughout any widespread geographic area.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

How do your political views develop from how you were raised?

Firist modern political debate, Kennedy and Nixon
Behavioral scientists recognize that people learn what they live and that child-rearing patterns produce behaviors that can continue later in life. Children are said to model their parents' behavior and to develop in certain ways as they are taught. So how does that child-rearing affect political choice?.

Experts tell us there are four patterns of child rearing that shape behavior.  These behaviors then become the cornerstone of an adult's future life, including how successful he or she may be and how an individual will think and behave in relationship to other people.

Children who are given strict rules learn to expect them. They value discipline and knowing good limits and often end up wanting to raise their children in the same way they were brought up. Strict definitions of rules that are said to be important lead people to define their world in terms of rules and laws and ways to behave that are said to be part of tradition.

The Republican Party emphasizes the Constitution, the rules, the need to have defined order and the importance of tradition in life. Those who have led their lives by these same rules as children find it comfortable to be within a political party where the rules of behavior are defined and where they can feel safe that those around them can be trusted to follow the same rules.

Those who lived by rules that were understood, yet changed when new things happened in families, and where information was explained as opposed to the message, "just listen and obey" are likely to want the same flexibility in adult life. This means rules might be important but can be broken if there is a new event that requires a different set. Democrats pride themselves on understanding change and being able to work within it as time and events bring new and important information where people must make adjustments. The child who has been taught to do that will choose a political party where those same behaviors are found.

Authority, who has it and how it is used is another way people learn to define themselves in childhood. The father in charge of a family who has unqualified authority and who exercises it with a strong hand will have a child who seeks a parent figure who has the same type of characteristics for leadership. The child who has a strong father in authority will want a political leader with the same characteristics,often Republican as well for that reason.

The person who has parents who share authority and where decisions are made through collaboration come to seek that same collaboration in how they conduct their lives. So the "big tent" of Democrats where negotiation takes time because of differences isn't as uncomfortable for those people where parents sometimes negotiated, or even verbally battled, over differences.

A nurturing parent who disciplines with a voice not the back of a hand often ends up with a child who wants to talk, negotiate and reach understanding, according to the experts. Politics that emphasize e a caring, nurturing pattern, reflected by social concerns for the poor, elderly, disabled and the underdog in general appeal to those individuals who were raised themselves in a caring, nurturing home where parents talked about sharing and caring for others.  Social liberalism defines the Democratic Party, according to social scientists and students of history, particularly in the 20th century.  President Franklin D. Roosevelt is one of those politicians who represents that social liberalism, as his programs to help the underprivileged and his New Deal ideas were oriented towards helping others in a nurturing way, and a way that said society has a responsible to care for its members who have less prilege than others. And FDR himself was raised in that nurturing style that is said to create the social liberal.  His mother was particularly nurturing in her raising of FDR, according to biographers,as she doted over him much of his life, including when he was President.

In the modern family parents often exchange roles, with the father and mother assuming different responsibilities at different times, according to the American Psychological Association.  Still there are differences in child-rearing according to the region of the country where the family resides that will also impact political views. For example, in the South the father often still retains the role as head of the family.  Rules are important, as reflected by the South's legislation that controls personal behavior.  And spanking as a form of discipline is still favored, including the physical discipline by teachers to enforce the rules, as observed in an article about child rearing and child education in Texas.  Still in most American families there has been some shift in how decisions are made within the modern family and a mixed style of how children are encouraged or disciplined, where one might receive a spanking one day or conversation about a behavior the next.. These patterns lead to behaviors where flexibility and independence are required and where this same type of independence and flexibility becomes the hallmark of the behavior and needs of the child as he or she grows up.  These are the people who often become the political Independents.

Political pundits agree that voter apathy is an ongoing concern.  Much of that apathy may come from a fourth pattern of child raising.  That pattern involves parents who are not that involved in the child's rearing, who don't set rules and who are not responsive to a child's needs. Children who are raised with this style have a higher rate of social problems than others and are therefore apt to have those same patterns incorporated into social and political behaviors.  They won't or can't vote, or they may be changeable depending upon emotions at the time.

Those who want to shape politics might examine the behavioral principles involved in how attitudes are shaped from child rearing practices, as these may make a difference in how people vote.  And the problem of voter apathy can also be examined from the standpoint of child-rearing practices as well, so that at the core behaviors can be shaped to encourage voter participation by encouraging parental participation with children in their developmental years.   Because how a child is raised, like a tree that is bent, will determine how he or she will grow and become the adult who helps to shape a nation.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Jehovah's Witnesses and Quakers: How to forge links for religious understanding

Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses
In a world where divisions of all types can occur among people, building bridges toward understanding can occur by looking at areas of agreement.   On the surface, Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses might appear so different in their beliefs that they would be unable to interact kindly.  But it turns out there are fundamental truths believed by both where they could dialogue in constructive ways.  It is an example of what could be done with many groups to create good will among religious groups and groups of various kinds.

Quakers admonish their followers to examine other religions with an open mind and heart. Others do as well, including many other religious group and individuals that include, but are not limited to, Unitarian-Universalists, Unity Church, and the Baha'i Faith .  Atheists too can find paths to peace in looking at the good within a given set of spiritual beliefs. World Religion Day, which is celebrated annually, is a time when members of different religions come together and share their ideas in ways that promote understanding. To do that means to get past preconceived notions to areas where a given group excels.

As a reporter who has covered religion over a number of years, some of my knowledge of the Jehovah's Witnesses comes from my interaction as an adult in social media groups or places where music and writing is shared.  Other information is gleaned from interviewing members of their church. But years ago I had already formed a positive view of Jehovah's Witnesses based upon my interaction with an any elderly couple I knew as a child.

I grew up in a small town in Eastern Oregon called La Grande, and the elderly couple, the Yentzers, were the parents of my Mother's stepfather.  They were known for their great love for one another and their kindness to others.  On cold days, when I would visit their home, they would greet me with candy and hugs, as they asked questions that showed interest in me.

I read the Watchtower many times during my visits.  It was usually on a side table, and even as a child I enjoyed reading almost everything I could find.  I had been raised to have an open mind and to ask questions. This was something new that challenged my thinking that I could compare with my Father's Mormon family and those of my Mother's core family who were Quakers.

Jehovah's Witnesse have many beliefs in common with Quakers.  They believe as Quakers do in non-violence and refuse to bear arms. They recognize Jesus as central to their faith, just as Quakers do, and do not believe in the Trinity but Christ as the Son and head of their church as Quakers do as well. Many Quakers retain the belief in the Trinity, but differ from other Christians in that Christ is seen not as God but God's son.

Group support for one another within a community is important for both Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses. Witnesses also offer love and support to people outside their own religion, as do Quakers, although social activism is not a major principle of Jehovah's Witness belief.

Quakers advance the preservation of the good of the earth and care and caution with regard to taking care of one's health, as do Some of the Jehovah's Witnesses avoiding pork and unclean things, but many simply focus on living a healthy life.  Much of that depends on the individual's personal behaviors in each case. Quakers also have made a conscious effort to express community, regardless of race; and in the South, where many fundamental Protestant churches are not integrated, Jehovah's Witness groups pride themselves on embracing members of all races.

For every spiritual group there is a set of beliefs and principles that define it, but the best part is the way a person may practice in relationship with others. A loving heart and open mind is fundamental to the Quaker view, the concept of a loving heart regardless of belief.  To examine ways to dialogue with one another, when there are differences, establishes the fundamental principle of how to get along with others.  It is the concept of a loving heart for all, regardless of belief, that can reinforce for everyone the notion that all men are brothers truly.