Inequality

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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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(A first attempt at technical writing.  It’s not perfect but it’s not terrible either.  With more practice, this will improve as well.)

As a metaphor, social psychology is much like the epic novel of a country’s history laid bare from all perspectives including political majority and minorities viewed through the inner workings of their movements explained and interpreted through words, ideas, and points of view, which are generally limited. Statistical research, on the other hand, if it is conducted and interpreted properly, reveals numerical probabilities that cannot be ignored and are similar to the infinity of a profound piece of art,pierre august renoir like Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “In The Meadow,” that pulls you further and deeper in each time you look to see newer details of raw art or numbers in front of you. In the case of the statistics, the numbers are interpreted through a filter, usually, software, that allows us to see details that the naked eye cannot.

The study of statistics has helped me understand concepts related to raw numbers, and statistics will continue to teach me as I learn further to understand and analyze study results and their interpretations in news articles and academic literature, such as the one I am concerned with here, “The Gendering of Language: A Comparison of Gender Equality in Countries with Gendered, Natural Gender, and Genderless Languages.” While there is more than enough detail in this article to encourage further study, I would like to understand the implications of this study, before moving on to read further academic articles and perform my own research.

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Abstract

While propaganda in the form of unintentional influence and the language of sexism has been independently researched, a review of literature reveals no such studies that link these two topics.   In this paper, I link these two subjects to study the hypothesis that the language of sexism, embedded within media, unintentionally influences individuals and small groups.  Through participatory action research methodology, participants will take part in a series of focus groups analyzing sexist language within media contexts. Findings will indicate how media sexism influences individuals and small groups, what that influence means to the health of their local community, and what action should be taken to alleviate negative consequences.

 

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(This is it folks.  I may have found the research method of choice to write thesis and dissertation in social psychology and media studies respectively.  It’s Participatory Action Research.  Everyone teaches and everyone learns, including the study participants.  Stay tuned.)

 

Participatory action and the research that it entails give me hope for the future.  Seeing Pray the Devil Back to Hell was enough to remind me that it takes a group of people to create powerful change (political or otherwise), but it only takes one individual to initiate that change that creates a domino effect in others, whether that be intentional personal propaganda or unintentional propaganda, and while I have hope in the future of humanity, I believe that it will take a great deal for people in the United States to realize this simple fact.  There are many throughout the world that have already realized this.  The women of Liberia give me hope.

Johnson et al’ Naming our reality recalls the torture and murder of a young transgendered woman outside and a few feet away from an upper Manhattan police station that made the rounds of Facebook and Tumblr.  This article was written in 2007, and the murder occurred in 2013.  Activism has improved awareness of these issues, and affected populations have banded together to realize that they are stronger as collectives than as individuals and that everything is connected, “where life histories and social positions – including gender, race, sexuality, age and culture – are taken into account,” making participatory action research more powerful and effective by drawing upon liberation, black, and feminist psychologies. Still, there is much to be done when the so call safety officers of a city ignore the safety of a person whom they do not consider as a human being.

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N.B.  This summary is a “follow up” on my reaction to the Implicit Associations Test that I wrote of earlier.  I wanted to summarize a journal article that presented a different perspective than mine even though I am still in disagreement with the intention and what I feel is a bias in the tests that I took.

Summary.  The implicit associations test, according to the author, is a means to determine what role cultural elements play in the understanding and behavior of individuals, especially since elements of the culture in question exist independently from how they are used or understood by the individual.  The question that is asked is what effect that external cultural environment has on the individual. Culture is a major term for this study so it is defined, in short, as the “interaction of shared schematic representations [shared by individuals and groups] and the external world.” (Shepherd: 122).  The author studied literature that draws upon the Implicit Associations Test to determine how culture functions and how it fits into current sociological study.

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I know there are” ideal” companies to work for, not because I have worked for them (because I haven’t), but because very few friends have mentioned their work environments and their ideal supervisors and because I have read about them occasionally in the news pages.  But now that I have read Hacker and Robert’s analysis of when great managers fail to become great leaders.  In point of fact, I have rarely encountered what I consider a great manager, and when I have, they moved on shortly thereafter or I did.  I suspect that most managers, and frankly most front line employees, according to Hacker and Roberts’ description, don’t receive proper mentoring or training to be managers or leaders.  On that level, this book is rather enlightening and if all companies don’t need to read and apply this, most do.

I have worked in several industries for several companies, and I have no interest in working for any more companies any more than I have to.  I am more interested in working for myself teaching and learning from others and helping them individually and in small groups find their life’s passion in their local environment.  Given that this is a corporate-slanted text, I am surprised and impressed to see a whole chapter devoted to creating a life of meaning.  This concept has puzzled my family since they felt I should be doing one thing from the beginning of my working life to the end of my working life and I did not because I did not and still do not feel that I fit a mold or stereotype that they forced themselves into.  Retirement is a social construct designed to give people a false impression that they cannot do what they love and do something instead that they are obligated to do for family, for society, for security until they are too tired to continue doing it. When did this happen? In the not to distant past, each of our ancestors, wherever they were, worked the land, worked with their hands, worked with their brains to offer local wisdom to heal.  In a manner of speaking, a career was something that you simply were, rather than something you did temporarily. I have no intention of retiring. I don’t know what that would look like, and it certainly would literally bore me to death.

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Growing up, I had enough struggles to keep out of the way, to understand what was going on around me, and to navigate my own way through puberty in junior high and high school.  As it was for everyone else, it wasn’t easy for me.  I had no conversation with my parents about any of it because I did not feel comfortable talking with my parents or my father about anything.  Understanding came later with my father and it is still difficult to have any conversation with my mother.  Oddly, the one person I felt completely safe with, my grandmother, never brought up the subject and I never thought to ask.

I was different.  I read a lot of books and my socialability developed late, so I was shy and appeared withdrawn and awkward.  Where other boys were abusive and rude to teenage girls (which in retrospect is “normal” in this society of male conditioning), I made an effort to be kind, understanding, and as protective as I was able because that’s what I projected from childhood.  I am still that was in many aspects.  When boys stole purses to torment, I attempted to play along when they were playing catch and once I had the item, I returned it.

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If one conquers obesity and disease, one conquers bad eating and living habits.  This is a “comprehensive tool for communities to assess opportunities for active living and healthy eating and to mobilize all sectors of society to conquer obesity and chronic disease.” (Kim:  1).  While I agree that obesity is an epidemic that I see daily, in order for people to eat and live more healthy, a combination of acts need to happen.  Propaganda (and I should clarify that I mean propaganda in the neutral, European sense as influencing ideas, objects, actions, etc. rather than anything that one disagrees with, or an “evil”) needs to be instituted that conditions people to read labels in detail, refuse to eat most packaged food, and to eat more local foods and less sugar.  In tandem, the correct funding needs to be made available that allow low-income families the affordability and availability to purchase (or better yet, grow their own) local and organic foods. Both are vitally necessary, but in the end, each person has to take the initiative and make the decision to eat and live healthy, all the while fighting intellectually to question the propaganda that bombards them daily and hourly.  The collective or the government cannot make this decision for anyone or prohibition and illegal activity result. But creating such a program may result, partially, in a “build it and they will come” phenomenon.

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The intersection of power, leadership, and multicultural inclusion into such a flexible dynamic is intriguing, not because it is generally overlooked by those in power who prefer to label multiculturalism as Minority, but because it may be the first time I have seen it considered seriously on such a scale.  This puts some power into the hands of those most negatively affected by policy and allows them to take part in effecting change.  In particular the APA multicultural guidelines call for activism by psychologists to effect change and achieve equality for all peoples affected by treatment of the so-called majority in various settings.  Since I view objectivity, except in exceptional cases, generally impossible, it is refreshing to see activism and change agents at the professional level.

At the heart of the APA Multicultural guidelines is acknowledgement that the ethnic and cultural makeups of the United States population are changing and have been changing for several years.  Living in Texas and California for a time, I realized that the so-called white majority was no longer a majority in either state.  This was acknowledged by the census a few years ago, but while I was living in Texas, a local community radio station that was supposed to reflect the diversity of Austin did not and fought to keep control of the station and the board even while professing to be diverse and liberal. An attempt to create a diversity committee was not successful.  In hindsight, I wonder if some aspects of community psychology would be beneficial?

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With this specific food assessment, I appreciate what all of us will be doing even more. Essentially, this assessment will teach us life-long skills that each of us can take with us, and more immediately, it will serve to improve the lives of the residents of three Georgia counties.  That is my intent and my goal at least.  The Northwest Colorado Community (NCC) strikes at the heart of the need by asking directly if the policies in place are meeting the fruit and vegetable consumption needs of the residents.  (p. 3).  I observe and I am affected by such economic policies that determine if healthy foods are available and affordable.  The NCC finds that the answer is yes, the healthy options are available, and no, they are not affordable.  If further engagement in the NCC communities and the communities that we will be studying is possible, educating those communities about the importance of healthy eating and realistically rationing their limited economic and food resources is a possible reality.

Faced with dietary restrictions, whether based on spiritual practice, a diet based upon non-animal products, or a diet based upon health hazards (gluten-free, nut-free, etc.), I have hardly considered that programs such as this consider such limitations or are even aware of them.  Local hospitals and local churches hardly seem to consider these, but maybe programs such as these are the first step to larger societal evolution.  This actually makes me hopeful that we can make a difference in our study.

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In this article as I interpret it, Bronfenbrenner argues that the sciences that relate to human development in theory, method, and substance, are generally caught and placed in a box to verify stringent ideas of what it means to evolve and develop as a human. Bronfenbrenner is correct in pointing out the limited significance of such studies, especially in light of his proposal that the life course needs to encompass more than the most immediate and noticeable environment, that immediate environment and its system are constantly changing.  In light of class discussions of microsystem, mesosystem, exosystem, and macrosystem as it relates to my and others constantly evolving and revolving lives, Bronfebrenner’s idea is particularly significant.

However, studying all four systems is particularly challenging, given that our dyad and triad conversations in class seemed to cover every system at once because, in truth, each system is nested within the other and each is intimately connected and each of us influenced each other during those conversations.  Reciprocity is something that Bronfenbrenner discusses in the Microsystem that was not considered before, while science naively thought the Experimenter could be pure and not influence Subject(s) during the study of an environment however small or large, involving environments of two and environments that involve more than two individuals.

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This reflection may be filled with more questions than analysis, though it will certainly include that.  However, I see this as an incomplete assessment only. According to the abstract, it contains a toolkit for “assessing various aspects of community food security.”  Nowhere do I see steps to improve the food security and access food security in each community.  With the realities of malnutrition, poverty, unhealthy eating habits, and the woefully inadequate monthly allotment of Food Stamps to eat as healthily as possible that is regularly reported in the news media, I would have liked to see more plans of action, especially ones that involved homesteading.

Overview of Food Insecurity and Hunger.  While initiatives to connect farmers to urban consumers, there is no mention of farm-to-table or farm-to-school initiatives such as farm co-ops just outside of large urban centers and no mention of local farmer’s markets as they exist in several locations across the country (http://www.localharvest.org/farmers-markets/) until much later in the document in a later section, but there is mention of lack of grocery stores in strategic locations.  While this latter point is important, it does not address the issue of healthy food products.  Food insecurity is defined here as access, financial means and prices.  There is discussion of unavailability of local food resources and inadequate food assistance resources, but, again, there is no discussion or plan to address the inadequate allotment of food stamps to enable families and individuals to eat as healthy as possible.

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(Possibly part of an ongoing series.  Stay tuned)

Beginning this I had thought that it should be, “I am a feminist because…” primarily because feminism has been on my mind for the last several years probably without placing the label on it, and quite possibly due to the roles that my grandmother and my aunt have played in my life.  My life is an evolutionary process and, thus, I am learning, and programming thoughts in my life on a daily basis.

So the fact is I need feminism because, I become irritated and angry when human beings are treated as inferior because their socially constructed gender, race, or “acceptable” or “unacceptable” appearance does not conform to the so-called majority.  I need it because my grandmother and my aunt were THE strong and intelligent family leaders in my immediate and extended family, and my father, who immigrated from a heavily male-dominated society, Italy, was the most obvious sexist in my life.  Juxtaposing those two contrasts disturbed me enough to think about equality and feminism without placing a label on it until later

For me, the subject of propaganda will come up many times in this class, because it is a subject that fascinates me as a neutral term, rather than a negative one.  It is the intention and the effects that can be either positive or negative.  But I also see a very strong relation between feminism and propaganda texts (either feminist or sexist, but primarily sexist) used within advertising, television programming and motion pictures, newspaper articles and op-ed pieces.  Make no mistake that I see the overt propaganda in all media, but the sexist textual context is something I obviously need to learn more about, so yes, I need feminism because. The conversations that I have with friends and acquaintances and conversations that I overhear where human beings are prejudged as either superior, equal, or inferior based on part or all of their appearance kept me silent but disturbed until recently when I have reached the end of my patience, which can only turn me into a better activist for equality.  People who assume the inferiority of a person based solely on their gender, color, and body modifications particularly disturb me.  The psychological effects can be debilitating and superficially unnoticeable.

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“What does wellness, security, and happiness mean to you?”  Thus, my first Community Psychology class ended with a question and an introduction to the first reading.  My first reaction was, this is Abraham Maslow and his hierarchy of needs.  On page 198 of the reading, Maslow’s third tier of needs is introduced as community and belongingness.  But wellness, security, and happiness condensed this into the hierarchy of needs up to and including self-actualization.

Community is introduced as something with a perceived common characteristic among individuals, while larger communities are geographically larger with more cultural diversity and little in common. In my outside readings in anarchism and temporary autonomous zones (TAZ), this idea of community in wellness, security, and happiness is particularly intriguing as it promotes the common interests of small groups.  Community beyond the spatial unit of geography through electronic communications expands the idea of a “small group” into a much larger unit with close ties of a small group, but one that may be the size of a mid-sized geographic area or larger. This is particularly interesting from the aspect of values, obligations, and expectations and the influence of groupthink.

The authors also discuss the sustainability of a community and reference the 2005 UK government’s largest sustainability conference where it was defined as  “a place where people want to live and work now and in the future” (p. 199). I would also include TAZ, planned communities, such as the anarchist collectives based on mutual benefit, support, and interests.  Unfortunately, as the UK government states that it is interested in community sustainability, it demolished one of the largest Romani/Traveler camps a few years ago without even considering the needs of the residents.

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What is institutional ethnography?  At a basic level, institutional ethnography is the study of the social organization of everyday life.  What it does not do is objectify the subjects or people into objectifications of the everyday world that one is studying.  The social ontology of institutional ethnography, its underlying fundamental, essential principle, is that the social is something that unites people’s activities.  As I see in the day to day everyday, people “do” things.  However, there is more to it than this basic definition.  There are key features that determine its scope and its facets.

Institutional ethnography’s emphasis is on research as a form of discovery rather than the testing of a hypothesis.  In sociology, the emphasis is on conducting studies, interviews, and research to support a preexistent hypothesis rather than exploring a problem from the bottom, from the people affected most and tracing it up a chain of command to the very institution or institutions “controlling” the subjects.  Institutional ethnography accomplishes this through the use of interviews “for the investigation of organizational and institutional processes.” (IEAP:  15) As a result, practitioners of institutional ethnography begin where they are and discover the institutional organizations of power that control people experiences.

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While Erving Goffman expanded the scope and study of sociology to face-to-face interactions between individuals and small group gatherings, little has been said of the application of those ideas to propaganda on a personal level.  I will argue that Goffman’s study of frame analysis and impression management apply to propaganda of various types that he may not have considered, including the propaganda that occurs in public relations, advertising, marketing (terms that are used to avoid any negative connotation described below), “traditional” political propaganda, and “pure” personal propaganda (that is, not related to or influenced by any of the above, though this rarely happens today), that influence the personal propaganda that takes place in face-to-face networking groups, collectives and cliques, and Internet social networks, bulletin boards, and forums..

In this analysis, the application of expectation states theory is particularly relevant where external status characteristics, including age, gender, sexual orientation, occupation, education, race, and ethnicity are the externally created status differences that “determine the power-prestige order of the group whether or not the initial status differences are relevant to the group’s task.”  (Berger, et al:  149).  In every group or gathering, large, small, or Internet-based, these unspoken hierarchies exist, hierarchies that are based upon the above characteristics fueled and fed by culture, environment, and the reinforcement of generalities that allow us to distinguish ourselves from others, to separate ourselves from those that are different.  David Hume calls this general rules, the source of prejudice.

An Irishman cannot have with, and a Frenchman cannot have solidity, for which reason, tho’ the conversation of the former be visibly very agreeable, and of the latter very judicious, we have entertain’d such a prejudice against them, that they must be dunces or fops.  Human nature is very subject to errors of this kind. (Hume 2000:  99-100).

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While general study can encompass a wide subject area, it does not cover every nuance of our population.  The subject of inequality touches upon almost everyone in our society and others, barring the standard bearer of privilege, the wealthy white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male, but we can only discuss general aspects of that inequality within a given time frame.  It remains for us individually and collectively to research other important aspects more in depth. These include people of colour, women, the poor, and even the LGBT communities.  But there is also another that is of equal importance that receives short shrift in most societies, the Rromani, euphemistically referred to as gypsies (usually reduced to a lower-case word to emphasise their status as second-class citizens or worse as well as their unimportance.  This synthesis of readings from our study of inequality will briefly examine Rromani prejudice, state sponsored as well as those practices sanctioned by the state and perpetrated by individuals and groups viewed through those texts as well as additional texts related to the Rromani. While I will attempt to cover a wide area, this is only a brief introduction to the inequality suffered by the Rroma.

Even while violence and prejudice against the Rromani have continued for centuries, certain aspects of their culture have been embraced and absorbed by the dominant culture, including (aspects of) tango as well as flamenco dancing and music.  There are countless other influences, but it puzzles and shocks me that society, any society, could be so duplicitous to adapt certain rich cultural contributions but reject the people who introduced those contributions outright.  However, a majority of people in the United States has done the very same thing to its Black community in relation to its cultural contributions.  Witness the experience of Django Reinhardt during his tour of the United States with Duke Ellington’s orchestra.

As a Romany in France, Django suffered incidents of enduring racism against his own people and quickly perceived and rebelled against any discrimination of his fellow bandmates. . . . . Drummer Sonny Greer recalled:  “. . . .So he, a French boy, say, ‘Come on Sonny, we go have a drink.’  I say all right.  So we go in this high-class joint, se stand at the bar, cat don’t pay him no mind. . . . . And the guy says, ‘I can serve you Mister,’ but he wouldn’t serve me. (Dregni 2004: 217)

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In the remaining chapters of Just One Of The Guys?, Kristen Schilt  offers her conclusions as she discusses the effects and reception of open transgendered men in the workplace in addition to her concluding chapter.  I will stop here, for a moment, and relate an incomplete anecdote when I was living in Austin, TX working at a telephone call center when a new employee, a woman, declared her intention to soon become a transgendered man.  Unfortunately, Austin is not as open as it’s reputation, and this place of employment had been very gossipy and petty.  While the workplace seemed openly accepting, given that everyone wanted to discuss this with him, it may have not been as open as it seemed, since shortly after his declaration, he left the job due to what for me were unknown reasons.

Schilt cites several examples of workplace transitions, in Texas and elsewhere (Schilt 2011: 110) where varying degrees of acceptance and non-acceptance prevail.  It is interesting to note that while we have equal treatment laws for other so-called minorities, we do not seem to have any for transgenders.  And while I believe that it is difficult to legislate personal attitudes on the unwilling and the quiet and vocally prejudiced, in addition to the fact that we have too many laws to be considered a free and open society, I believe that transitioning at work should be a non-issue.  Because of individual personalities and prejudices reinforced by prevailing personal face-to-face, corporate, and media propaganda, this will not happen in the long term without a steady and consistent propaganda campaign that views all transgenders as “just people that you know, live, or work with”. In other words, we need to view human beings as human beings and accept them as they are, not as we would like to view them.  Period.

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