Existentially and in every other way, I see everything as connected. But philosophically? Yes. Since my immersion into the social sciences a few years ago, I have noticed that the American Sociological Association (ASA) and the American Psychological Association (APA) divide themselves into several divisions each. Even with major philosophical differences, I can still see points of agreement as I look at both of these worlds and their myriad divisions. While there is some need for subdivisions, their separation also perpetuates the bureaucracy of corporations and government. I’d like to get away from that.

While not everyone is interested in clinical psychology as a profession (including me), there is value in reading and applying ideas from a variety of disciplines that can help each of us in some way. Hoffman & Trash (2010) explore this division in miniature with the neuropsychology and existential APA divisions and their several commonalities, including cognition and emotion, and the intersection of the interpersonal and intrapersonal that can certainly benefit clients in the clinical space. While not every division can meet and join with another, certainly we would all benefit from more of this exploration, resulting in a more socially and emotionally healthy society.

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What is personality? It is made up of thoughts, ideas, relationships, feelings, dreams, aspirations, environment, even rebellion. At the same time, it is nothing but the figment of our dreams if one takes the Eastern and Buddhist view of existence. The readings here are becoming more fascinating and challenging, though I still find flaws in the Western bias (Blatt, 2008), though it is probable that personality is viewed differently in the East, but defining personality as it has developed in Western culture alone, necessarily denies the inclusion of the Middle East and parts further west that are not Western Europe as well as Eastern cultures themselves. While individuality was suppressed in the Middle Ages, I have to wonder if it actually suppressed all of society. I suspect individuality was not completely suppressed in isolated pockets of community who did not adhere to the dictates of the political church until they were forced to. And please remember that Africa and Muslim Enlightenment was dominant in Europe for 700 years. This is never mentioned, not even in passing.

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While, I still don’t see a benefit to relying upon quantitative studies to the exclusion of all others when complex conversations, action research, and asset-based community development yield so much more nuance into a study, I do see the benefits of employing some quantitative methods to determine a direction for a qualitative study, but I’ll never see it as an exclusive fix. Quantitative data is too dry and cold for me, and effecting real change in my world is going to necessitate qualitative research and activism.

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Understanding Health, Community, and Community Health

How health, community, and community health are examined, utilized, and defined depend upon the representatives of the community involved. All are key, all are vital, and all are based upon the perspective of key individuals and groups. A politician will obviously differ from a health care provider, a social service agency, and, most definitely, a recipient of various services. Whose perspective is most important? Ultimately, the recipient is paramount, but from a community perspective, every member of the community concerned with its successful and healthful evolution is a recipient of the community organism and must be considered for the community to thrive, grow, and continue to nurture its members, helping them to thrive.

My understanding of health, community, and of community health is complex and biased by what I have seen and what I have experienced in a variety of communities from birth throughout my life. Let’s be honest here. Objectivity is very difficult to achieve, and I didn’t become interested in humanistic psychology to be apathetically objective. I’m here because I want to help people thrive and evolve and to learn from them. Health, to me, is social, emotional, and physical. Health is well-being in a community that allows its members to thrive and contribute personally and socially after being provided rightfully necessary shelter, healthy food (with space to grow it), preventative medicine, and the ability to work. Community is all of that and allowing a space where people feel safe and accepted, safe enough to be themselves, valued enough in the community to suggest and contribute unique solutions to community challenges, no matter the youth or the age of the member. Community health is all of the above.

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While a research methods class isn’t necessarily an ideal venue to receive revelations of a personal nature, the latest readings on quantitative analysis have made me aware of how my ever devouring mind works as it continues to seek out and absorb valuable information and higher-level knowledge. Here, there is the qualitative side that is always talking to people, making new friends, learning their stories, and offering help. That’s the creative side. Then there is the quantitative side, the side that wants to break down almost everything into a method, into a process, to make things work like a factory assembly line. That’s the logical side, but it’s also the side that realizes humanity is not a factory and will not evolve successfully if we treat it like a government program of numbered live bodies. Both get along as I work to help people help themselves while I develop simple systems they can use to learn and grow.

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What is personality? It is made up of thoughts, ideas, relationships, feelings, dreams, aspirations, environment, even rebellion. At the same time, it is nothing but the figment of our dreams if one takes the Eastern and Buddhist view of existence. The readings here are becoming more fascinating and challenging, though I still find flaws in the Western bias (Blatt, 2008), though it is probable that personality is viewed differently in the East, but defining personality as it has developed in Western culture alone, necessarily denies the inclusion of the Middle East and parts further west that are not Western Europe as well as Eastern cultures themselves. While individuality was suppressed in the Middle Ages, I have to wonder if it actually suppressed all of society. I suspect individuality was not completely suppressed in isolated pockets of community who did not adhere to the dictates of the political church until they were forced to. And please remember that Africa and Muslim Enlightenment was dominant in Europe for 700 years. This is never mentioned, not even in passing.

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I propose, as I have in many of my academic writings and conversations that within all of us is a vital need to create, even within the most anti-creative of us. My father may be a perfect example of this when he eschews all creative activity because it distracts from “more important things” in life, like making money, making babies and raising a family, and a myriad of other activities that he does not view as creative, viewed through the lens of his Italian family culture. Yet, my father can take a broken down bicycle and lawnmower and make them sing. And he sculpts, but not in a traditional “artistic” sense. He can take a piece of animal flesh and carve it into shapes that no other meat cutter I have ever met can do. I call my father the anti-creative artist. And then there is me with the need to write, a need for music and making music mixes, and a need to draw that out of others. Perspective is everything for all of us.

Krippner (2011) explore creativity from a waking consciousness and a variety of alternative states, primarily the latter, but it is more of an overview. While important and valuable, overviews of such complex topics don’t include everything and they always compel me to dig deeper into the sources that are referenced. This is no different. However, I did find it intriguing, but not surprising that early researchers equated schizophrenic psychotic states with altered consciousness states stimulated by a variety of natural and manufactured drugs. Interestingly, I have read recent accounts in a few journals where researchers are experimenting with LSD to help minimize psychotic states in schizophrenics.

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Charet’s encyclopedia entry serves as an entry point, a definition, of consciousness. As such, it is aa general introduction, but given the work done by others in this area, including the Buddhists, Jung, and others, this definition barely cover the territory. I concentrated the majority of my analysis on the other two articles.

While Early’s The social evolution of consciousness (2002) makes many valid points, he misses others. His emphasis on reflexive consciousness is key, his emphasis on the suppression of participatory consciousness (community and communal – usually matriarchal – is ignored) is particularly one-sided and biased from a Western viewpoint (i.e. not Asia, part East of Africa and Africa which he rarely takes into account contemporarily or historically) with its emphasis upon the mindset of a white Western Patriarchy, though he does not make a note of that.  Especially when he states, “Participatory consciousness (emphasis author’s) is characterized by a sense of aliveness and belonging to the world. In this mode, people relate to the world primarily through intuition, emotion, the body, and the immediate present.”  These are particularly if stereotypically maternal characteristics that are typical of matriarchal and communal societies in Africa and Asia).
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I appreciate the idea that we are studying a practical, on-the-ground-activist-map and an academic and analytical one. The readings of Minkler’s (2006) case studies and Jackson & Volckens (1998) illustrate this very well.

While Jackson’s “reverberation theory of stress and racism” as it occurs in both the dominant political majority group and throughout the subgroup as their stress and “racism” is subjected to other less prevalent political minority groups. I question the idea of racism within the subclasses for the obvious reason that while a political majority has dominant control of society and its apparatuses, it is impossible for any subgroup to exhibit racism when they don’t have dominant control. That doesn’t stop the dominant group from defining these terms and claiming “reverse” racism that is evident in many online social network exchanges and news media reports.

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The process of constantly contemplating a research topic from one class to another serves an interesting purpose in my mind.  It causes me to constantly rethink this topic and others that I have dwelled on for the last few years. I see this as a powerful engagement with the topic of gender and racism propaganda, sitting where I sit from a perspective of an Italian white-appearing cisgender man and causing me to constantly look at this topic from different perspectives and engage others with this topic.  As a result, my area of interest at this time has been refined as, what are the short and long-term effects of organized sexist media propaganda as it influences unintentional interpersonal sexist propaganda upon Black women and girls.

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The subject of work has surfaced in several other personal and academic discussions within institutional ethnography (that is extremely difficult for me to understand) and, especially, in feminist discourse (Silvia Federici, among others) as it relates to the subject of women’s work in and out of the home.  What the authors add is something additional that I have not yet seen: The treating of the chores and school homework of children as work.  The authors opening treats children as something rarely see, as human beings with brains, with feelings, with agency.  This is powerful.  Given the definition of health promotion from, the American Journal of Health Promotion, “to enhance awareness, change behavior, and create environments that support good health practices,” I wonder how health and health promotion would be rated in the United States and how it would fare compared to other country’s programs?

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I’ve contemplated a research topic for a few years, and even mentioned it to new friends at Saybrook as well as family and friends outside of academia because the subject of gender and racism propaganda is a subject that is at once fascinating and deeply disturbing to me, though I don’t think I can combine a question and human subjects that allow for research analysis of both gender and racism propaganda unless I specify the participants of the study to women and girls of color.  Given that I would like to create it as a participation action research study, this is within the realm of possibility.  However, I have not yet formulated a question that is definitive in this area.  For our purposes, the research question that I am interested in is, “What are the short and long-term effects of organized and unintentional interpersonal propaganda upon women and girls of color in the black community? This is a good start but it still needs some refinement.

The subjects of the academic articles I selected relate directly to my research interest, though the authors do not make use of “propaganda” as a working term within their studies, but it is used there as an influence upon the subjects as “proper” vs “improper” behavior to police women and girls to avoid the use of extreme forms of gender propaganda. ter Bogt, et al (2010) and McFerran, et al (2010) are quantitative and Bailey, et al (2013) are qualitative.

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Being born the curious type, from the beginning, I have questioned everything much to the chagrin of many around me.  At this point, nothing has changed but an increased ability to apply critical thinking, though “Why” has been a key and hard question from the beginning.

Analyzing assumptions are both critical to understanding biases and to evolving personally and spiritually.  While my personal studies in propaganda have allowed me to see clearly that everyone is affected by propaganda, how it works from a marketing propaganda viewpoint, and the psychology involved, it has not given me license to assume that I or any other educated person is not affected by its effects.  In fact, I understand from Ellul’s Propaganda:  The Formation of Men’s Attitudes (1965) that the educated are effected to a greater extent because they believe they can discern it more critically.  So my assumptions are that I am affected by propaganda in every aspect of my life, be it academic, cultural, media, music, marketing, advertising, and even interpersonal.  My assumptions of mainstream psychology, however, are not as colored in some ways and heavily in others, tempered by the fact that I seldom watch television news propaganda programming and don’t read mainstream media, but realize that psychology is key to all aspects of propaganda that is successful (see my comment above about being affected by propaganda).

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Opening up Pilisuk and Parks (1986), the first thought that came to mind is that laughter is the best medicine.  Given that healthy and supportive community is necessary for our physical and emotional health and well-being, this should be obvious to most.

Even though Pilisuk and Parks temper their remarks, cautioning us “not to generalize too much …, especially since they all deal with psychological consequences of insufficient support,” and stressors differ from person to person and from community to community they bring up some interesting ideas that support some of my personal observations.  While the Western medical professional has evolved since the days of suppressing folk and community medicine and are beginning to acknowledge these adjuncts, there is still much work to be done, as I see it, if all the sciences, clinical, medical (especially in the area of medical specialization that does not treat the whole patient as a person, rather than as an object to experiment on), folk, et al, are to work together to improve communities by considering the person as a whole as well as their personal support system, their place in the community as well as the social, emotional, and spiritual support system that the community provides to the individual.  What is particularly unfortunate but not surprising to me is the minimal support system and social networks of individuals suffering with major and not so major psychiatric illness as there are in my family, especially since Pilisuk and Parks indicate its normality for this population.  What is particularly intriguing is the size of one’s social network of friends and contacts in relation to mental health, but given the fractured state of societies and individuals; I don’t wonder that I want to start an intentional community with like-minded individuals to help and support each other in addition to growing our own food.  Honestly, I see a very vital, powerful, and evolutionary support system here at Saybrook that I have never seen in any other educational environment.

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The research process is something that feels very familiar to me. While I am always learning, always searching and seeking, and perpetually digging deeper, not for passages to prove q point, though that is not unfamiliar to me, but to learn, always to learn more. Locke, Silverman, and Spirduso (2010), introduce the idea of researching for a specific purpose, though it seems I have been seeking out information and researching since I was a little.  Researching is a very familiar place.  In some ways, it feels like home, whether it has been within academic primary sources over the last several years or even secondary and general sources for much longer.  Locke, et al go on to indicate that information that look for as academics may be somewhat buried as incidental information within studies that is more observations of the participants regarding particular behavior, or even as secondary sources or study questions.  Again, this kind of research feels very familiar to me, though I obviously need to hone those skills to a sharp point to be affective and effective here at Saybrook and later when I move on to dissertation research and teaching.

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(Below are three responses to my previous essay.  My responses are in italics.)

N.’s Response:

Michael,

I just read your paper with great interest.  You make a number of important points.  However, you say repeatedly that not every group needs to follow all of the 10 steps [required according to IndividualEvolution.org] to be successful.  However, you never give any support for that opinion.  You may be right about that, but I wish that you would give specific details showing which steps can be omitted and why?  You indicate that various movements have been successful in the past without using all these principles.  But I believe those so-called successes have only been partially successful.  The reason for that may be that they have not followed all of the points B. has used.

Sincerely,

 

N.

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“Nobody in the world, nobody in history, has ever gotten their freedom by appealing to the moral sense of the people who were oppressing them.” -Assata Shakur.

While I am certainly not qualified to compose a proper tribute to Sandra Bland, I am qualified as a social psychologist to analyze some elements of #BlackLivesMatter in relation to Individual Evolution1. In order for either to impact societal change, it will be necessary for both to be revolutionary. In this case, revolution implies change. Whether it is gradual or immediate depends upon the need and the circumstances. Political minorities have been programmed into subservience for centuries via a political majority fueled by institutionalized racism utilizing propaganda promoting the idea that if they do what they are taught, what they are told, and what is demanded of them, they will receive fair treatment, equality, and integration with that political majority. In other words, if they play nice, institutionalized racism will eventually disappear. That has not happened, and it will never happen unless it is demanded as forcefully as possible and racism is deinstitutionalized. For most people, recent events contradict the myth of a peaceful transition. For some, Individual Evolution does not need to proceed according to a formula that progresses from a bureaucratic vision to an evolutionary power (the Head of logical thought through the Heart of desire to the Hand of action). And while individual evolution continues to evolve through a series of conference call classes anyone interested is welcome to attend, I will argue that it doesn’t necessarily need to follow this method to be successful.

A friend asked me to write this, even after I explained that I am not worthy to write a tribute to Sandra Bland, the woman who was recently murdered by a Texas police officer and made to appear as though she hanged herself in her jail cell. I know I am not worthy because Sandra Bland should not have been murdered. I know I am not worthy because the families of every person of colour, men and women that have left us too, too soon, before and after Michael Brown in recent months and, frankly, in the last few hundred years of murder in the employ of institutionalized slavery and racism, understand what is at stake better than I do. People of colour have died and continue to die needlessly, sacrificed to the bloodlust of a white patriarchy that doesn’t care, a white patriarchy that lashes out in fear and hatred with the knowledge that their control, their enslavement of everyone not like them, their reign, will end soon. Those that have been awake for centuries are still awake, and they have awakened the rest of us, though frankly we all should have been wide awake and alert for decades if not centuries, leaving institutionalized slavery, with all its permutations, in a weakened blob at the bottom of the dustbin of history.

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For your listening pleasure, here is my radio interview from last night.  This is something I had not thought about doing until the opportunity was presented to me by the producers of Radio Islam who found my content here.  For those of you who are curious, I am open to other opportunities to discuss cultural conditioning/propaganda, sexism, racism and everything that the intersection of all of those subjects entail and more. I am about halfway into the show. If you have time to listen, I would love to know what you think. 

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(Or as I would like to call it, The Intersection of Common Knowledge with Sexism and Racism, but that will have to wait for my own research study.)

This was written in response to a request from the VU University Amsterdam admissions department as part of the Social Psychology master’s degree application.  I need to write more often because I certainly enjoyed this, however short it is.

Within social psychology, cooperation research is normally devoted to altruistic cooperation, where one individual appears to assist a different individual without any incentive or reward, but there is little research literature devoted to mutual coordination or what the authors of the Psychology of Coordination and Common Knowledge (Pinker et al.) term, common knowledge, “any string of embedded levels of knowledge that falls short of infinity.” The authors decided to address the epistemological challenges and explore the problems associated with cognition and motivation of mutual cooperation between two or more individuals. They wanted to test their hypothesis, whether people react positively to common knowledge when confronted with an activity that requires cooperation with one or more other individuals. Based on previous research, the authors expected to find more cooperation through common knowledge and mutual benefit that with secondary shared knowledge.

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This may be my final retrospective of Full Life Farm for 2014, but life and adventures, the academic and homesteading ones, will continue as I work towards an MSc in social psychology, a PhD in community psychology, and the co-creation of an intentional community eco-village while I also learn of life and the uses of herbal medicine. Hopefully, you have read my other experiences in previous entries so this won’t be a difficult to follow. Rather, this will be a reflection of what I have experienced and learned from the end of April to the end of September.

I explored the possibility of an internship over nine months ago when I when I began research and visited Paul, Terra, and Zinnia at the farm in December. The day we met to interview each other, Zinnia was barely four months old, tiny, and bundled up warmly from the cold. It’s now over a month after her first birthday, and she’s walking, laughing, talking, and energizing everyone she encounters. I am eager to visit all of them soon to update them on my adventures and hear them tell their tales.

After nine months of living less than a mile from Full Life and assisting where I was needed, everything became a routine of one sort or another. Paul always generously asked me where I would like to work and assist to occasionally break that routine, but the routines became such a joyous routines in the end. Yes, I am romanticizing but not by much. My destiny is my own collective farming spacer with others. Ultimately, there is much on a farm that generally remains the same, as you read in previous entries, but there was always something to learn, even if it was a tiny but important detail. Full Life was, and is, a wonderful place to learn while communing with nature and warm, intelligent human beings that care about the future of sustainability. I do miss the farm.

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