community development

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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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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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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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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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I see the potential for perpetual personal evolution and perhaps personal revolution within Diaz’s summary, “. . . a relational/empathy based concept of social justice provides us with an interpretation of social justice as the perpetual process of creating and recreating relationships of awareness, empathy, and empowerment.” I see this either as the direction that is needed by societies, current social evolution or I am projecting personal evolution and revolution that is occurring for me at the moment.  Nonetheless, for society to thrive and survive, perpetual social justice is vitally necessary.

In the discussion of procedural justice, Diaz asks a series of difficult but necessary questions to determine what is and what isn’t procedural and moral justice for the franchised and the disenfranchised. I was struck by the timeliness of such questions in relation to the inequality that surrounds me daily and by the recent US government greed, selfishness, and apathy without any desire for real justice over personal, self-inflicted revenge justice from so-called liberals and so-called conservatives.  I understand that the self is of highest importance in social interactions, and most individuals cannot see outside of themselves unless it is blatantly obvious and unless they can relate to the other.  I also believe that more relational justice needs to happen in order for the privileged to understand those that are not privileged on a more human level.  Perhaps privilege makes people apathetic or immune and perhaps relational justice and discussion will allow for better understanding on so many other levels. On a local level, I believe relational justice can be quite effective and possible if people remain open to others that are different and open to real personal justice rather than justice by the letter of the law.  But people must understand that suffering exists in everyone, that people must work together to achieve real evolutionary change in society.

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While much has been said and much has been written about scientific objectivity and, in the case of my experience in local television journalism, much has been said regarding journalistic objectivity, sometimes quite passionately to the detriment of the local issues being discussed.  Both have their place, but I have never really understood why there isn’t a middle ground to analyze the needs of objectivity in relation to the needs of the community and the activism necessary to improve the work of both.  The scientific objectivity is recent within the study of sociology, psychology, and the IndividualEvolution.org classes that I participate in on Saturday mornings.  The journalistic objectivity is not new but while I was immersed in it, I always saw the false integrity (even without my awareness of the propaganda) in claiming objectivity while accomplishing no community improvement.   This objectivity vs. productive involvement is something that has also interested the readings’ authors as well, and I am glad that it has because I have wondered if I had been the only who has been puzzled by this.

Freire takes on this dichotomy to analyze the oppressed vs. the oppressors.  Other than the unique situation of the oppressed and the dictatorship of 1960s Brazil and the unique ways that subversive music produced (In the case of music specifically, Gilberto, Jobim, and Os Mutantes, for example, were part of an underground movement protesting the dictatorship while seeming to follow the strict dictates of the regime.), I see little difference in the ways that the oppressed of the world are reacting and rebelling against their respective oppressors, even in the United States where the economy continues to create more poverty and more apathy in the economically oppressed and the rich, respectively.  However, in the case of the oppressors, there may have been an element of humanity present when Friere originally wrote.  I see few elements of humanity in any present day oppressors unless there is humanity in apathy.

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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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