Tuesday, October 27, 2009

War, Foe or Friend?

War has been waged between separate fronts since the very beginning. Nearly every current country has been involved in some war or war-conflict and have made an effort to have ready defenses. It is often debated whether or not war is good or bad, practical or impractical, functional or messy. It seems that history always repeats itself and therefore there are always going to be wars. But while some argue the validity of the statement "war is inevitable" and others say war is evil, I will offer an argument for why war is necessary for our society. It will become obvious that war has many societal functions which are not easily replaced in my following presentation derived from the purposely-hidden Report From Iron Mountain, a distinct unbiased assessment of war and peace and their functions, established by a counsel under Lyndon Johnson in the early 1960's.

A military is needed in order to protect our nation from the threat of attack, as does every nation. The military is an element of war by nature and thus is as inevitable as war itself. But the military has some non-war functions pertaining to society. Outcasts, prisoners, "juvenile-delinquents" and other antisocial persons in our nation are given the opportunity to enlist and therefore find an acceptable role in the society (The Report 41-43). Without a military, the ramifications of letting such antisocial persons stumble and disrupt normal society would not go unnoticed. Imagine what would happen if there was nowhere for violent men to go once the prisons became to crowded. Or the levels of suicide because those with nothing else to live for decide they are no longer needed. The military, and drafts and wars serve the purpose of giving these members of society a place to belong.

Secondly, the military helps dissipate unemployment levels. For nearly every civilization has used armed forces to provide a state-supported area for the "unemployable" (The Report 43). In effect, the military has been the earliest form of any social-welfare program for civilians deprived of the economic or cultural background suitable for employment. Since war is blind to cultural differences among one side's armies, and knowledge and schooling is not necessary to be a soldier, nearly any able-bodied person is quite well suitable for the job. Therefore, those who do not necessarily have the skills or qualifications to work to make a living may easily enlist in a military and draw wages from the State to support himself or his family. Without these military institutions, prone and ready for combat and war, some experts speculate that unemployment levels would dramatically rise by nearly 10-15% (The Report 43-45).

While appreciably morbid, and rarely thought about, another function of war is to eliminate the excess population who would, if not eliminated, contribute too much to over-population, and thus the scarcity of resources. It was been observed that man has the unique tendency toward the organized killing off some of it's own species in order to fortify the survival of the rest. Call it survival of the fittest, or murder, but it is not inhumane because it is a natural tendency (The Report 47-48). Scarcity of resources and over-population has been a plaguing problem in mankind for millenia. In fact, often times war is waged over some resource or section of land on which to expand. But, ironically, another function of war is to control the over-population rates and prosperity of resources such as food, housing, medicine, and even personal attention and individuality. Consider in a purely logical fashion what one would do if farm's soil began to be depleted in the elements necessary for plant growth in a dense field of corn. One may conclude that a logical solution would be to space the corn plants farther apart in the next harvest in order to assure each surviving plant would retrieve adequate nutrients from the soil. This is essentially the same logic placed upon war in mankind, and while it may seem wasteful and immoral, it is in fact useful.

Finally, it can be proven that war provides the "machinery" which motivates human behavior to form social allegiance. In this way, war has made sure the cohesion of social groups exists to establish independent nations. It is essentially a binding force in mankind, providing a common enemy and purpose for peoples of some specific sect, ethnicity, or way of thinking (The Report 48-50, 81). No other force, group or any kind of constructed establishment has been able to successfully achieve this other than war in history (The Report 81).

Works Cited

Lewin, Leonard C. Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. New York: The Dial Press, 1967.

Police Violence

When someone attacks you, who do you call? The police. When someone steals from your house, who do you call? The police. When a child goes missing, who do you call? The police. The police are considered trustworthy. They protect us and do what is considered just by the people. They uphold our laws. Yet, who makes up the police? Humans, just like the rest of us. So, when the police mess up, it isn’t justice. However, we could prevent events such as police violence and brutality to save lives, not only of the police and their victims, but also others involved in the crime or riots caused by this violence.

Rodney King was apprehended and beaten excessively by L.A.P.D. They not only used TASER guns on him, but they beat him repeatedly with batons to subdue him. This beating was caught on tape by an innocent bystander. This video led to riots all over Los Angeles. Parts of Los Angeles were set on fire and many policemen came under gun fire from random spots around the town. Other individuals were shot at or beaten by the police during these riots. (Gray)

In an experiment called The Stanford Prison Experiment, a group of males were divided into two groups, the guards and the prisoners. As the experiment went on, the guards fell into their roles and became more violent and aggressive, while the prisoners became depressed. A clear example of the frustration-aggression is found in this experiment. In the beginning the prisoners rebelled. Out of frustration, the guards stripped, harassed, and intimidated the prisoners. This led to psychological tactics and brute force being used against the prisoners. The longer they were placed in their roles, the more they became their roles. (Zimbardo)

These two different ideas come together under one theory. Furstration-aggression theory, proposed by Doob, and modified by Leonard Berkowitz, states that as someone becomes more frustrated, the more aggressive they become, and with the modification, that there are certain cues in the environment around people that can set them off. A clear example from the Stanford Prison experiment is the violence the guards experienced being that role of power. (Berkowitz)

If the aggression problems of the police in this case could be analyzed, the brutality to come could be prevented, and riots would never start. This could save multiple lives, on both police and public lives. There are many instances of police violence and brutality, not just this one, that could be prevented and many lives could be saved. I propose that since the role the police are in seems to make them aggressive, all police should be psychoanalyzed and their cases evaluated if there is any sign of aggression. This could help us save lives of many who are beaten and killed by police brutality.

Works Cited

Gray, Madison. "The L.A. Riots: 15 Years After Rodney King." Time. Time. Web. 26 Oct. 2009. <http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/la_riot/article/0,28804,1614117_1614084,00.html>.

Rodney King. Perf. Rodney King, the L.A.P.D. Youtube, 2007.

Staten, Clark. "Three Days Of Hell In Los Angeles." Emergencynet News Service, Apr.-May 1992. Web. 26 Oct. 2009. <http://www.emergency.com/la-riots.htm>.

"The Stanford Prison Experiment." Stanford Prison Experiment. Ed. Phillip G. Zimbardo. 1999. Web. 17 Nov. 2009. <http://www.prisonexp.org/>.

Berkowitz, Leonard. "Frustration-Aggression Hypothesis: Examination and Reformulation." 106.1 (1989): 59-73. American Psychological Association, Inc. Web. 7 Dec. 2009. <http://www.radford.edu/~jaspelme/_private/gradsoc_articles/aggression/frustration%20aggression.pdf>.

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and Practice. 4th ed. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon A Pearson Education Company, 2001. Print.

Nationalism: From War to Sports

The Olympic Games are traditionally thought of as the pinnacle of peaceful competition between nations. International sporting events are made to bring peace and unity to an ever globalizing world, but often some of the most brutal examples of violence are found at these events.
During the 1994 FIFA World Cup, Columbian soccer player Andrés Escobar scored an own goal in a match which Colombia lost 2-1. After returning to Columbia, Escobar was confronted by a gunman and shot six times with the gunman reportedly shouting “gol” with every shot. Throughout the years, other examples of this unnecessary violence have been seen all around the globe over sporting events. What causes this senseless violence over nothing more than a simple soccer match? A simple game?
For international sporting events nationalism can often be credited as one of the main causes. WWI demonstrated the devastating potential of nationalism on a large scale. As the world becomes more and more globalized; outlet of nationalism have become scarcer to find. One of the remaining outlet; however, is sports.
The existence of nationalism has been present since nations were first formed, but has only been made prominent in the last three centuries. The main reason for this is the evolution of personal property. Michael Hechter states: “The principle benefit of group formation lies in the concentration of individually held resources. By pooling at least some of their own resources, people can provide themselves with jointly produced goods-including security” (Hechter, 2000). Because of the increase in personal property brought on by the industrial revolution, people began to have more pride in the products their country was making. This pride transferred from the items being produced to the nation itself with the help of propaganda and as a result, nationalism increased (especially in Europe and U.S.).
Nationalism is prevelant in most if not all 20th century wars and this trend has continued into the 21th century. However; more recent wars have not been fought in the traditional stronghold of nationalism (The West). Europe since the end of the cold war has been relatively peaceful and the only western power that has been heavily involved in war in the 21th century is the United States. The War on Terror; however, does not affect the lives of many of the citizens of the U.S. and many of them are against the war. During this time period, there has been an increase in fan violence. This shows the lack of nationalism that has been directed at large conflicts over the past few decades.
Even though nationalism has not been expressed in large conflicts, it has manifested itself into smaller incidents (usually at soccer matches in Europe and South America). The feelings of pride in the success of a nation cannot simply disappear. They ultimately change the way by which they are presented. a

Hechter, M. (2000). Containing nationalism. New York: Oxford Publishing Inc.


Terrorism is defined as deliberately and violently targeting civilians for a political purpase, and is always considered a bad thing. America has even gone so far as to "declare war" on terrorism, which in and of itself is a dangerous idea. However, American troops also use acts of terrorism to "persuade" others to do what we want.

In my opinion, the most notable of these acts are the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The government deliberately dropped atomic bombs on these two cities, knowing full well that they did not house military bases. It is almost impossible to count the number of people those explosins affected, because even if you went uninjured from the blast, there were still all sorts of uncatalogued effects from the radiation poisioning. These bombings were used to bully Japan into surrendering.

Which leaves me with this question: How can we expect the American government to get rid of terrorism when they are not above it themselves?

Richardson, Louise. "What is Terrorism." What Terrorists Want: Understanding the Enemy, Containing the Threat. New York: Random, 2006. 3-20.

Monday, October 26, 2009

North vs. South

The Civil War raged in America from 1861-1865, splitting it between North and South. Nearly 700,000 people from both sides lost their lives fighting a war whose meaning can be boiled down to one ideal, slavery. But with the masses of differing opinions on different subjects, how could an entire nation be brought down to one yes or no answer? The answer may lie in the psychological principals of group think and group mentality.
Group mentality is a social phenomenon seen in many aspects of society such as jobs, schools, and homes. It occurs when a group becomes completely polarized to a certain thought without any differing opinions. Though the members of the group may have slightly differing opinions to start with, over time those opinions blur into a set ideal. One modern example of this can be seen at football games. Each team has its own fans who think it is the better team, the fans may both look at the statistics showing the other team to truly be better, but they believe in their team either way. This however detracts from the thoughts of the individual until there is no individual, only a crowed of fans. The same effect can be seen in The Civil War. Although there may have been some dissenting opinion on one side at the beginning, during the midst of the war, the only thing separating people was their respective "team". Because people saw themselves as Northerners or Southerners, with no mid ground, there was no room for the individual mind.
In times such as this it is not uncommon for leaders to emerge. The only problem is that these leaders will tend not only to lead the actions of their people, but also their minds. This is known as group think. The individuals of a group make their decisions based solely on the thoughts of one member. When looking back at General Custard's last stand, it is obvious that the challenges his men faced would have been incredible. However because Custard wanted to fight, his men gave up their own rational thoughts for his. Lincoln himself became an icon to the North, and there were times in the war where his thoughts lead hundreds to fight.
When mankind tosses away its greatest gifts, rationality, reason, and thought, it delves into a darker and more primal state. Such large group movements as the Civil war can be seen in many other conflicts such as WWII Nazi vs. Jew, or the middle eastern Palestine Vs. Israeli. When the individual mind is taken away and people attribute themselves to something other than themselves, conflict arises. War will not end when all people share the same views, but when people are willing to think for themselves and not go with what the majority thinks, just to fit in. When individuality is taken away and the group mindset takes over, the world can be split in two.

~ Davis, Burke. "The Civil War, Strange and Fascinating Facts,". Wings, 1988.
~ http://www.abacon.com/commstudies/groups/groupthink.html
~ http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/exchange/node/2451

Diversionary War - a guide

Why did the leaders of Germany and Russia continue World War I at the cost of hundreds of thousands of lives long after they had to have known that it was impossible for them to win? Why did George Bush senior really begin the Gulf war in 1990? Why did the United States invade Iraq in 2003? A truly startling theory known as “The Diversionary Theory of War” may hold the answer to these questions. The diversionary theory of war states that leaders may start a conflict in order to divert attention from domestic problems (Geomans 2008).

Strategically speaking, one can see the benefits of starting such conflicts. You as the instigator of the conflict get to pick a conflict with minimal risk and great benefit. Maybe a country with a much weaker military than your own. A country with a culture much different from that of your own country that you can maybe spin as barbaric. Or a country rich in natural resources. As a leader, of a country with domestic problems, such as a struggling economy, a scandal, or a brewing challenge to your leadership. You merely have to find an excuse to start a conflict with such a country and achieve a decisive victory. Once you as a leader successfully select and begin the conflict you may want to go for the packaged deal, getting rid of all challenges to your leadership. This can be done by murdering them and blaming their deaths on the country you are now at war with or by simply sending them to the front lines and hoping your new enemy really takes care of them for you.

The key to a successful diversionary war, as George W. Bush may have belatedly found out (his approval ratings were among the highest any president has ever achieved when he invaded Afghanistan after September 11th, and they continued to drop as he orchestrated the war in Iraq then sighed the $700 billion dollar economic bailout plan in 2008) seems to be to make your viewpoint seem righteous, make sure your country benefits from the war, and have a quick, decisive victory that shows everybody your prowess as a leader.

Goemans, Hein, 2008. “Which Way Out? The Manner and Consequences of Losing Office,”
Journal of Conflict Resolution 53 (6): 771-794.

Benefits of war

To date, we have discussed war as an essentially bad thing, with no redeeming qualities. This may be true,t but I cannot help wondering first, If there is a point at which the necessity of war outweighs the desire for peace; where war actually becomes helpful to humanity as a whole. I wonder ,also, if we are ever even absent from a state of war. I contend that first, humans are always in some form of combat and it only occasionaly manifests itself in war, i think that in some special cases war can be beneficial to humanity.

If it can be assumed that we are all constantly competing, and war is simply a manifestation of that, than it would seem that, when two parties go to war, it is not necessarily because the members of a party adore each other, it is simply because they dislike the member of a rival party. according to the theories of group think and group polarization people make riskier descisions when in a group. And

Now let us take world war two as an example. Hitler made it quite clear that he wanted to do two things; exterminate the Jews, and create a worldwide master race. It is the part where he wants to make a master race that Hitler made a psychologicle mistake. there have been genocides before that did not draw worldwide outrage. But in declareing war on the world hitler gave the entire world a common trait and common objective. to protect themselves from him.

Have you ever played a game of risk with three people? the two weeker people will always form an alliance for a few turns just long enought to get the stronger one out of power, then some one else becomes strong and a new alliance is formed. Niether of the weeker players want the other weeker player to win. but they do themselves want to not lose, and they see a temporary alliance as the best chance of that.

In world war two the entire world saw hitler as a threat and allied to defeat him not because every one in the world liked eachother. they just saw it as the only way to live. In this sense war against a common enemy can initiate a sense of freindship between allies that previously had not existed. The US and Britain specificly have ended putting aside their inital differences in the interest of their common goals in euope and africa.

Nationalism = Internal Conflict

Nationalism moves countries to conquer great feats, like winning a war. It brings countries together in patriotism, to reach a common goal for their nation’s advancement in the world. Although it helps mobilize a population towards war, it always causes an internal war among the population.
This is clearly evident post-9/11. After the attacks on the World Trade Centers and the Pentagon, American nationalism sky rocketed. Americans came together towards a common goal: fight the war against terrorism. However, because the people involved in the 9/11 attack were Muslim, soon people had the misconception that all people of Middle Eastern descent were terrorists. Americans soon came to this idea that all Muslims in America were Muslim extremists. Because of the high nationalism following the attacks and the misconstrued beliefs of Americans towards Muslims and Middle Easterners, there was a 70% rise of violence and harassment in 2002 towards Muslims. In the following years discrimination rose another 30%.(Smith)
Nationalism is supposed to bring a country together, not tear it apart by violence and discrimination within its own borders. Why is this such a common phenomenon? It is most likely due to group polarization. When 9/11 occurred the United States as a whole came together as one. Nationalism was high and so was the hate for those of Muslim faith and those of Middle Eastern decent. Because Americans were under the impression that all of said people were bad, and because Americans were already so close ideologically through nationalism, they raised arms against Muslims and Middle Easterners living in the United States. Group polarization is a concept that explains how populations band together and act in extreme ways. It is a theory that says that when people join a group that is fixed on an idea, in this case on the hate towards Muslims after 9/11, they tend to act in more extreme ways than they would if the individuals were acting alone(Stonor). After 9/11 with Americans, who had never shown violence towards others before, beating up Muslims, shooting, and killing Muslims(America’s Muslims after 9/11). Also American group polarization could be seen in a less non-violent way, in the work force. After 9/11 job discrimination against Muslims was a huge issue.

As I have shown you, nationalism can be a terrible thing. Yes, it brings countries together and promotes patriotism, but it can also rip it apart. Many examples can be given to show this, how it has happened in the past and how to this day it is still common. Nationalism, when steering a population towards a common goal, can turn these patriots into terrorists themselves.

Smith, Sharon. "Stoking Racisn After 9/11". Socialist Worker 24 September 2004: 4-4.

Stoner, J. A. F. (1961). A comparison of individual and group decisions involving risk. Unpublished master’s thesis, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, School of Industrial Management.

"America's Muslims after 9/11". Voice of America. 25 October .

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Civilization vs Uncivilization

Civilization vs Uncivilization

Most people would expect that should a more sophisticated and civilized society fight a less civilized and sophisticated society, that the more civilized would win. After all, the more civilized one is, the more powerful and advanced their military weapons and techniques will be. However, sophistication and better weapons do not always seem to determine a winner, simply because other aspects, such as fear, can often come into play.
The Mongol invasions are the most significant example of this, as the Mongols managed to conquer the vast majority of Asia with nothing beyond horses and bows. At first this sounds impossible. But the method that they employed to accomplish this is simple; fear.
The appeal to fear works whenever it manages to effectively scare people, and when a solution to the fear is given and can be easily accomplished (Pratkonis&Aronson 211 - 212). The Mongols employed this tactic often by threatening their target with torture, and saying that if they surrendered that there would be no torture. Along with the fear that they used, they also practiced what they preached, thereby ensuring that their target believed them.
While the Mongols were the most effective users of fear tactics, it has been used by other less civilized nations to overcome more powerful states. The Vietkong also used fear tactics, as do modern day terrorists and cults, which allow them to fight the USA with far more effectivity than should be possible, considering the difference in resources. Ultimately then, this fear tactic is difficult to overcome for the simple reason that everyone is susceptible to fear. The best way, then, to counteract fear is with another diametrically opposed fear of greater magnitude; the entire idea of soldiers fearing their general more than they do their enemies.

Pratkanis&Aronson, Emotional Appeals.

Fear of Being Afraid

Fear is a very powerful concept. Fear can break men down, fear can build a man's career, fear can give rise to a new nation, and fear can lead to a scene of grisly deaths. Since the dawn of time fear has been a main motivator for not just human kind but also for animals. Animals have a natural instinct that tells them to run away when they sense danger, for man there is no exception. Everyone remembers what it is like to feel fear. Some people may have been scared as children of the boogie man, others may have been traumatized by some unfortunate event but we all feel fear from time to time. Parents are certainly some of the most fearful people on the planet because they constantly worry about their children. Fear comes in many forms but like with an animalistic instinct we try to run from what makes us afraid. If we are worried about the homeless man on the corner next to a stoplight we make sure our door is locked, if we are uncomfortable with the city we live in we move, if someone breaks into your home you immediately grab a weapon to help dispel the fear. Fear is easily recognized as a powerful motivator for human behavior, and so people have begun to use fear as a means of persuasion, to make people believe or act in a way that benefits the manipulator. First we must realize that one does not even need to fear something that exists. Men can easily cause others to have a fear for something, as seen in the Little Albert experiment. Little Albert was a small child who was allowed to see undisturbed pictures of lab animals and was then allowed to play with a lab rat. At first Albert played around normally with the little white rat, until every time Albert touched the rat an assistant would smack a hammer across a metal bar behind Albert, causing the child to be frightened. After some repetitions Albert became too terrified to even go near the lab rat. The Little Albert experiment shows that fear can also be man made and it is possible to create a specific fear for anyone. Fear is also a technique that was used by the Church, such as Jonathan Edward's famous “Fire and Brimstone” sermon. In this sermon Edwards preaches that God is an angry god with contempt for humanity and that only a string separates the human race from plunging straight down into Hell. We also see religion using fear during the time of the Catholic Inquisition, where heretics were “tried” and then executed, or with the Salem Witch Trials where neighbors were accusing neighbors of being witches before they themselves were accused. These “witches” were then unjustly tried and executed. Fear is especially potent when a man is presented with an omnipotent force who's existence can not be readily identified, in this case God. Wars have been fought with God's name countless times where the enemy was God's enemy or if you fight you will be forgiven for your sins such as in the Crusades. Fear is an almost insurmountable emotion that can cause a man to do many things, and we must all recognize and face our own fears or else others may very well take advantage.

Only kids can have nightmares, right?

Perched behind a rock, the familiar sound of bees whizzes through your head as the bullets whip past your ears. Bursts of gunfire pierce the dry sky and ricochet off of the barren ground around you. Hundreds of spent bullet casings lie gleaming in the desert sun, each representative of another instant that you have survived in order to continue fighting. You suddenly hear an ever so slight "thump" from a couple of yards away. In the midst of all the gunfire and battle cries, it is akin to hearing a needle drop in a haystack, yet you hear it, you recognize the sound, and after scanning the field, you see it. You see it laying next to a fellow comrade reloading his M16. If you could have one wish in the entire world, you'd wish that the enemy hadn't properly cooked the grenade. They did.

Thousands of soldiers have experienced the coarse reality of this situation. Thousands of men and women are left broken with the images and memories of death. Have you ever witnessed the maiming of a soldier and heard the chilling cry of a dying man? How do you get over that? Do you just shrug it off? Can you erase it from your mind? Many returning soldiers are left to deal with these painful experiences; this is why over a third of Iraq veterans seek psychological therapy. Haunted by vivid recollections and disturbing dreams, these Vets suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, which commonly leads to alcoholism, drug abuse, and unfortunately in some cases, suicide. PTSD also handicaps the Vets' abilities to have close relationships with others in fear that either of them will die someday. Future dreams and aspirations become demolished and life is stripped of its optimistic hope.

As quoted by Paul
Rieckhoff, executive director of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, "I had 38 guys under my command. One shot himself in the leg to go home. Seven of them got divorces, one is in a mental institution, and one took his own life a few months after he got back. Not everyone comes home with post-traumatic stress disorder, but no one comes home unchanged."

Chong, Jia-Rui, and Thomas H. Maugh II. "Study Details Mental Health of War Veterans." Common Dreams. Los Angeles Times, 1 Mar. 2006. Web. 19 Oct. 2009. .

Oak, Manali. "Emotional Effects of War on Soldiers." Buzzle. 20 Aug. 2008. Web. 18 Oct. 2009. .

Tian, Stan. "The Emotional Effects of War on Soldiers." Health Guidance. SOS Villages, 2004. Web. 19 Oct. 2009. .

The Depiction of Violence in the Media and its Effects on Youth

The Depiction of Violence in the Media and its Effects on Youth
Gunfights, bombs, professional wrestling, and car chases mare all depicted on television and in video games on a day-to-day basis. Most video games involve fighting an opponent of some kind and arcade games often have you shoot the “bad guys”. These are all games geared to towards adolescents and pre-adolescents who are quite impressionable. The link between violence in media, games and music and both short term and long-term increases in aggression is indisputable. (Anderson 1).
Media violence can lead to actual violence due to the aggressive scripts it primes and the arousal it causes (Anderson 1). Short term aggression happens while the priming is occurring; long term aggression is caused when the aggressive scripts are the most easily available. Desensitization also plays a part in long term aggression. Desensitization occurs when a person stops having the normal negative emotional responses to violence usually due to having seen it many times (Anderson 1). Long term aggression is characterized by actions such as spousal abuse and constant verbal aggression and threats. There is little known on how media violence affects the violent crimes of rape and homicide because they are so rare.
Children learn by imitation: of their parents, teachers, friends, and the media they are exposed to. In a study in Finland children were shown either a violent or a non-violent film. The observers, who didn’t know which children, had viewed which video watched them play together and rated their violence level in play. The children who watched the violent film were far more likely to physically assault (hit, kick) another child then the children who had not been shown the film. (Anderson 5). A similar study was done with slightly older boys. Half of the boys watched a violent film and half didn’t. Then they played a hockey game and double blind observers counted the number of physical assaults (hitting, shoving, kneeing, tripping) each child performed. The children who watched the violent movie were more likely to be aggressive and to physically assault the other team than those who hadn’t seen the film, especially when a trigger from the movie (a walkie-talkie) was carried by the referee. (Anderson 5) These studies show that children are indeed influenced by violent media and it can lead to physical aggression in their day-to-day lives without them even knowing it. Considering the amount of violence on television and in video games these days this is very troubling.
Media violence can lead to aggression which can lead to conflict and conflict can lead to war. If two leaders are both aggressive people who don’t want to back down and want to fight then there will be a war. While the reasons behind war are usually politics, religion, and predisposition the leaders may be more aggressive, and therefore more likely to go to war, if they were exposed to media violence as children. The relation of media to violence and aggression is large and even for the more violent forms of assault the findings are as statistically significant as those linking aspirin to preventing heart attacks. (Anderson 1)
In order to save a life we need to stop showing our children that violence is okay. We need to stop turning a blind eye to violence in the media especially in children’s games, movies, and television shows. If this callous view of hurt and death that is so often portrayed by them were erased then there would be less desensitization and aggressive scripts would not be as accessible. This would cause the levels of violence in the real world to go down. Aggression and violence lead to conflicts in which people die. Reducing violence helps reduce conflict and death.

Works Cited
Craig A. Anderson, Leonard Berkowitz, Edward Donnerstein, L. Rowell Huesmann, James D. Johnson, Daniel Linz, Neil M. Malamuth, and Ellen Wartella. The Influence of Media Violence on Youth. American Psychological Society. December 2003.

I am Human.

I am human.
Watch me feel.
Watch me find beauty in everything.
I am human.
I can only be.
I can live or die but always be.
I am human.
Watch me kill.
I am a predator at my own will.
I am human.
But what am I?
Am I good or evil or neither?
I am Human.
But what do I do?
I breathe and sleep and walk and run.
I consume and produce and create and dream.
But what am I?

In many aspects of society, the theory of utilitarianism is well sought after. The premise of always doing what is best for the greatest number resonates an especially honest exterior regarding utility virtues. However, relative to environmental problems, the theory does not always appropriately apply. With differences between contingency and non-contingency affecting the state of being of the environment, from a utilitarian perspective, it is nearly impossible to benefit the environment without precise “calculation” (Jamieson). Environmental issues revolve around preserving the environment and preventing as much devastation and excess use of natural resources on the planet as possible. Yet, with pleasure-seeking ways and a utilitarian approach, humanity benefits in the end much more so than the environment does. “We are cognitively and motivationally weak creatures, with a shortage of time, facts and benevolence.” (Jamieson 169)

As discussed by Dale Jamieson in “When Utilitarians Should Be Virtue Theorists”, rather than being an act-utilitarianism who is guided by the acts which bring about the most optimum outcome pertaining to their acts, instead one should be an indirect utilitarian, or one who focuses more so on “motives, maxims, polices, rules or traits” (Jamieson 168). This view point of how to handle environmental issues makes much more sense because the topic includes such things as endangered species and rainforests being cut down for housing developments and what not, and of course global warming “climate change, ozone depletion and mass extinctions.” (Jamieson 163) Another relevant problem is the fact that utilitarianism is usually the greatest good and happiness for the greatest number but centering on pleasure fulfillment. When dealing with environmental problems, pleasure is usually at the bottom of priorities and preservation at the top. If anything, utilitarianism promotes greed, over-consumption, draining resources dry for the here and now and other selfish qualities. “While Korsgaard castigates utilitarianism for its environmental obsessions, many environmental philosophers see utilitarianism as a doctrine that celebrates consumption rather than preservation.” (Jamieson 164) It is difficult to say what exactly is the right way to handle these situations but the greatest good for the greatest number is most certainly not it.

According to Jamieson, the difference between contingency and non-contingency circulates around the use of calculation versus that of behavioral virtues. With reference to the environment, clearly non-contingency would be a much more appropriate approach in terms of looking at environmental issues one case and a time and using virtuous considerations with each to make the best decision. “Non-contingency requires agents to act in ways that minimize their contributions to global environmental change, and specifies that acting in this way should generally not be contingent on an agent’s beliefs about the behavior of others.” (Jamieson 167) Contingency would prove to be most difficult when figuring out if an endangered species needs protection using a mathematical approach. “This should lead us to give up on calculation, and giving up on calculation should lead us to give up on contingency. Instead of looking to moral mathematics for practical solutions to large-scale collective action problems, we should focus instead on non-calculative generators of behavior: character traits, dispositions, emotions and what I shall call ‘virtues’.” (Jamieson 172)

Another lacking quality of utility is the aspect where it is the end that justifies the means. This should be understood as it does not matter what desolation you have to permit to reach your goal, as long as in the end you reach it. “Other environmental philosophers argue that utilitarianism cannot account for the value of biodiversity, ecosystems or endangered species, and go on to condemn the theory for ‘sentientism’ and ‘moral extensionism’. According to these critics, rather than presenting us with a new environmental ethic, utilitarianism is the theory that has brought us to the edge of destruction.” (Jamieson 164) This brings to question the idea of utility being a virtuous theory at all especially regarding environmental issues. “Utilitarianism is a universal emulator: it implies that we should lie, cheat, steal, even appropriate Aristotle, when that is what brings about the best outcomes.” (Jamieson 160) It is almost impossible to respond to this quote with a positive light in terms of the environment and its relating issues.

Utilitarianism is impractical when dealing with the environment; virtue ethics are much more accessible. In utilitarianism, the moral worth of an action is determined by its outcome. This view contradicts virtue ethics and deontological ethics. “Rather than beginning with the principle of utility and then demanding that people become gods or angels in order to adhere to it, they start from a picture of human psychology which they then bring to the principle.” (Jamieson 169) The theory of Utility expects everyone to make unfeeling decisions over issues that require compassion and empathy. Virtue ethics is a much more superior approach because it is, in essence, a case by case understanding and evaluation over environmental issues. “Non-complacency should lead a utilitarian to moral improvement in two ways. First, she should be sensitive to the fact that circumstances change. What is the best motivational set in an analog world may not be best in a digital one. Second, a utilitarian should constantly strive to shape his motivational set in such a way that his behavior is ever more responsive to particular situations.” (Jamieson 173)

Utilitarianism is an unrealistic approach to environmental issues. In terms of the environment and from a utilitarian view, when the end justifies the means it translates to evil acts on the planet are acceptable as long as everyone is happy in the end. The environment’s best interest is thrown aside as the greed of humanity is satisfied. “… human beings are transforming Earth in ways that are devastating for other forms of life, future human beings, and many of our human contemporaries.” (Jamieson 160) This direct opposition to virtue ethics is clear, as is not a virtuous path to what may seem to be a common goal and common good of society. The transfer of responsibility and moral obligation based on meeting the demands of society and constantly getting ahead, makes utilitarian an inferior approach to virtue ethics in regards to environmental issues.

Works Cited

Jamieson, Dale; When Utilitarians Should Be Virtue Theorists. Cambridge University Press. Utilitas Vol. 19, No. 2, June 2007

Monday, October 19, 2009


“If you wish to study a granfalloon, just remove the skin of a toy balloon” –Kurt Vonnegut, Cat’s Cradle

In the Age of Propaganda, Pratkanis and Aronson define granfalloon as “proud, meaningless associations of human beings”. Granfalloons are the insignificant reasons you can relate to some more than others – those who grew up in the same hometown as you, they share your birthday. According to Forgas, humans have a “need for positive social identity” (Forgas 786). These granfralloons help us cope with a large and complex world and give us a sense of belonging. Perhaps the criteria of forming these groups may be asinine but the reason behind them is logical. The criteria to define the groups are called a minimum group paradigm which “describes an experimental context… basis for categorization and discrimination between groups involved” (Crisp 188). Whether they are used for positive or negative purposes, using these granfralloons is something normal we see every day.

Although granfalloons are sometimes good, creating a sense of belonging and identity, many times they are looked upon and criticized as a bad thing. The problem with using granfalloons begins when people use their group distinctions and use it to treat others unfairly or to oppress them. People use these minor distinctions and make them seem like major ones to polarize groups. Then the people of that group feel like it’s us against them (any other group).Once they do that, then it is easy for people to justify their behavior by making the other groups seem like the enemy. Hitler used the granfalloon of the “superior Aryan race” and made everyone else outside this group (Jews, Gypsies, Communists) a threat and therefore an enemy. So when Hitler enacted his laws against these people and began slaughtering them, he faced no objection because he dehumanized them by lumping them into groups and made them seem like a threat to safety. Other examples include the conflict between the Hutus and Tutsis and in Ireland, between Catholics and Protestants. Minor distinctions like religion and ancestry are used to create granfalloons and justify massive slaughter.

Still, even though granfralloons can be abused, I still think they are a good way of finding some group identity and be can be used for good. The idea of a nation could be considered a granfalloon, consisted of nothing more than people who live in the same area and follow the same rules of government. But the distinctions that create a nation help make sense out of a chaotic world. In sociology, someone’s group/ social identity helps shape their personal identity. The way we interact with others are shaped by it. Vonnegut says that to study a granfalloon you need to look beneath the skin of the balloon and that you would find nothing there. But underneath a balloon you have air and don’t we need that to survive? Absolutely.

Works Cited:

Crisp, Richard J. Essential Social Psychology. London: SAGE, 2007.

Forgas, Joseph P. The Social Self: Cognitive, Interpersonal and Intergroup Perspectives. New York: Psychology Press, 2002.
Vonnegut, Kurt. Cat’s Cradle. New York: Delta Trade Paperbacks, 1998.

Implicit Association

(Part 1: The "Inevitability" of War)-(Part 2: Racism)-(Part 3: Implict Association)-(Part 4: National Identity)-(Part 5: Multiculturalism)

Generally speaking, people do not want to become associated with the term “racism”. “Racism” conjures strong images of slavery, torture, and genocide of specific ethnic groups. It is important to note, however, that these barbarous acts are a result of racism. By addressing the abstract concept of racism itself and how a culture can foster it, society can consciously keep such racism in check, eventually overcoming it. Oftentimes, people will go out of their way to prove that they are not racists. The problem is, however, that racism is almost always embedded within the subconscious mind.

Oftentimes, people associate terms (such as poor, horrible, violent) with ethnic, age, or gender qualities (such as black, old, or female). Such implicit associations occur without conscious effort and foster social division. It is, therefore, important, that society be made aware of its subconscious racist tendencies if it has any hopes of addressing them. The Implicit Association Test (IAT), developed by “research scientists at Harvard University, the University of Washington, and the University of Virginia” helps to bring implicit racism to light while simultaneously providing scientists with an excellent research tool (Bar-Anan Website).

The purpose of the IAT test is to indicate whether or not the test-taker has any overt or implicit stereotypes. There are several IAT’s for different topics such as an Asian IAT, a Disability IAT, and a Gender IAT. (Nosek Website). The manner by which the IAT operates is rather simple. For instance, the purpose of the Age IAT is to detect a bias in relation to “young” and “old” people. A series of faces appear on the screen and the user must sort out which face appears “young” and which one is “old”. As the test continues, the user must then sort a series of faces and words into the category of “young and bad” and “old and good”. Finally, the relationship is switched with the user having to sort the faces and words into either the “young and good” or “old and bad” category (Nosek Website). A person with a strong bias in favor of young people would have sorted the “young and good” category a lot faster than the “young and bad” category. A person with no apparent bias would have sorted each category just as fast (Nosek).

In a peer-reviewed study published in 2005, researchers used a customized Implicit Association Test in conjunction with a questionnaire to gauge Christian sentiment towards Muslims (Rowatt 29). Since facial features do not necessitate religious affiliations, test subjects sorted Christian and Muslim terminology rather than faces (Rowatt 34). The results shown indicate that it took the test subjects approximately 887.14 milliseconds to sort each term into the “positive and Christian” category as well as the “negative and Muslim” category (Rowatt 36). When sorting terms into the “negative and Christian” and “positive and Muslim” categories, however, it took the participants 1174.62 milliseconds to sort each incongruent word (Rowatt 36). The difference in reaction time indicates that a notable implicit bias against Muslims is present within the Christian community.

This implicit racism already has a profound effect on society. Even in a seemingly unrelated topic, the mental health care system of England, implicit racism has seen to it that white and black patients are often treated differently (Secker 161). This results in black mental patients being"locked in wards", obtaining unsatisfactory diagnoseses, and being assessed as a threat to the community more so than white mental patients (Secker 161). Since Western culture is still dealing with negative implicit associations of ethnic minorities with terms such as "violent", this problem persists in virtually every facet of society.

Implicit associations that society makes everyday has a profound effect upon how we treat other people. Furthermore, implicit racism is a contributing factor to the poisonous notion that war is inevitable. To take sides with your nation and alienate other people groups you do not associate with is an unfortunate side effect of the subconscious racism that we must all work hard to resolve.

Works cited:

Bar-Anan, Yoav, Scott Akalis, Christina Fong, et al. Project Implicit. Project Implicit Team, 2008. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Nosek, Brian, Mahzarin Banaji, and Tony Greenwald. Project Implicit. Harvard University, 2008. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Rowatt, Wade C., Lewis M. Franklin, and Maria Cotton. “Patterns and Personality correlates of Implicit and Explicit Attitudes Toward Christians and Muslims.” Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion 44 (2005): 29-43.

Secker, J. and C. Harding. "African and African Caribbean user's perceptions of inpatient service." Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing 9.2 (2002): 161-167.

Soldiers=Instruments for harm?

Blog 3 Nicole Saint Paul
Regardless of our age or profession we all have the tendency to obey authority. In childhood we are taught to respect our elders. We are also taught to be obedient to people with visual credibility. What I mean when I say ‘visual credibility’ is when we perceive that a person has credibility by what they are wearing. Doctors wear lab coats, lawyers wear high profiled suits, and police officers wear uniforms. The same cognition occurs when we listen to our superiors. Soldiers are taught to listen to those with a higher rank without question. This is important to realize because authority can be a harmful tool in a society where obeying is important; innocents have died as a result of strict obedience.
The 1968 My Lai Massacre was a result of the obedience to authority theory (Time). Early one morning first Lieutenant William Laws Calley Jr. ordered his men into My Lai, Viet Cong with the orders of destroying the small hamlet (Time). It took them less than 20 minutes to kill approximately 100 men, women and children along with their homes and livestock (Time). Twenty-six soldiers, including Calley (charged with murder), were investigated after the murders (Time).
Social psychology can explain why this happened. Obedience to authority is a strong power over people. Stanley Milgram, a psychologist, said, “It is ironic that the virtues of loyalty, discipline, and self-sacrifice that we value so highly in the individual are the very properties that create destructive organizational engines of war and bind men to malevolent systems of authority,” (Milgram). Milgram describes four specific reasons as to why people willingly obey authority, but admit to little or no responsibility for their negative actions. His reasons include that people obey due to the feeling that it is their duty, they find it to be difficult to disobedient, they feel that their behavior is useful to society, and they remember that they were raised in a society where obedience is important (Milgram).

Milgram conducted an experiment where he tested his theory about the effects of obedience and authority:

His hypothesis: “When an authority figure gives normal people instructions to do something that might hurt another person, some of them will obey.” This hypothesis turned out to be true. His experiment consisted of ‘teachers’- the unknowing subjects and ‘learners’-actors on a tape recorder. The ‘teachers’ were told that the study was exploring the effects of punishment (incorrect responses) on learning behaviors. They were then told that for every incorrect response they should administer an electric shock to the ‘learner’ with increasing intensity (15-450 volts). The ‘learner’/actor would be in another room and pretend he was receiving the shock, thus screaming in agonizing pain. “At 330 volts [the ‘learner’] made no response at all. Still the experiment ordered the teacher to continue asking questions and delivering shocks.” Many people got upset and agitated while administering the shocks, yet they continued. Out of 40 participants 25 went all the way to 450 volts, and anyone who continued above 330 always went to 450. (Kalat) .Sixty-three percent of the "teachers" obeyed orders to punish the learner to the very end of the 450-volt scale! No subject stopped before reaching 300 volts! (Kalat).

In conclusion even smart, tough soldiers are susceptible to the obedience-authority theory by Milgram. Milgram proves that, “Man feels responsible to the authority directing him but feels no responsibility for the content of his actions that the authority prescribes;” which explains that people feel like instruments for carry out others’ demands (Milgram). Soldiers are taught to obey their superiors and that needs to be limited. Without limits another My Lai Massacre could possible happen. Civilians do not deserve to die because of a social psychological issue. We can save many lives if the military places limits on obedience to authority; soldiers can be obedient without being naïve, unethical or inhumane. Even instruments like computers have limits, its time our soldiers do too!

Work Cited:
Kalat, James W. Introduction to Psychology. Belmont: Wadsworth Cengage Learning,

Inc., 2008. (520-522).

-Has the research on Milgram’s book below in his words.

Milgram, Stanley. Obedience to Authority. New York: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc.,


Nation: The My Lai Massacre. Time Magazine. 28, Nov. 1969. Web. 11 Dec. 2009.


Picture: http://comps.fotosearch.com/comp/ARP/ARP108/drill-sergeant_~sergeant.jpg

Sunday, October 18, 2009

"Autobots: Roll Out!"

OR: "Men: Move Out!"

In the face of deployment, there is immense amounts of pressure, stress, and emotion weighing upon soldiers and their families. Even though they are trained to withstand such pressures, how do they deal with it in the weeks just before they leave and once they arrive?

War has been around for a very long time, and military powers almost as long, and from all over the world. So to discuss this in a sense that encompasses the entirety of wars and soldiers would not be fair to those who participated. Each war is different, each deployment is different, each soldier, their training, and their personal situation is different. For these reasons, I will be discussing the pressures of deployment in terms of modern-day warfare and, in particular, the soldiers of the United States military.

The death toll in modern warfare has lowered substantially in the modern-day, and although there is actually more of a risk of death every time you drive your car than being killed in war, there is still that possibility, and every soldier and their family has to be prepared for it.

Most people hear about post-deployment stress, such as PTSD or PTSS, or depression. "Although the mental health focus has been on symptoms and quality of life following exposure to potentially traumatic events in the war zone, there is also ample evidence that troops poised for deployment may experience considerable anticipatory anxiety and distress, which may place them at higher risk for mental health difficulties after deployment" (Maguen).

There are the rare cases that don't make it to deployment, but the majority of soldiers make it through the tough weeks of preparation, physically, mentally, & emotionally, before they board the plane to war. Each soldier undergoes basic training, roughly 3 months of intense physical exertion, technical training, combative skills, shooting skills, specialty driving skills, and other skills specified to their specific jobs. During the training, for most combat-related position such as Infantry, the soldiers are subject to high degrees of mental stress from sleep deprivation, bullying by the Drill Sergeants, time constraints, constant hunger, loneliness/detachment, and of course the mental strains caused by the physical exertion. The constant pressures and stress chip away at the material-driven mindset the soldiers first arrived to training with, and give them a view appreciative of the small things with no patience for over-sensitive reactions as the trainees fight over toilet paper & hot water. After training and getting stationed and settled into their specific jobs and base-life, the soldiers are still in constant training of physical fitness and in the technicalities of their jobs. When deployment time comes around, they have to uproot their lives, whether single or with a family, pack up, and leave. It does not matter what may be going on in their personal lives, or with themselves mentally, they must be ready to go.

There are numerous reasons as to why soldiers experience elevated mental health levels before deployment: "... Military personnel face a number of stressors that may cause nonspecific distress [such as] saying goodbye to family members and friends, preparing to be away for an indefinite amount of time, making sure that finances are in order, dealing with last minute business, and preparing for an emotionally challenging deployment. [Also] personnel who have participated in previous deployments may be reminded of prior traumatic events as they prepare for future deployment... Anticipatory stress may cause elevated levels of mental health symptoms in military personnel" (Maguen). "Stressors" before deployment also have effects on the mental health of the personnel. "Before Operation Desert Storm, health care personnel reported a mean of 1.44 negative life events in the past year and those stressors were related to anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms" (Maguen).

And not only are the soldiers affected by their home life, but their families are too. A study conducted on stresses experienced at the time of deployment showed that: "Rates of individual deployment-related stressors, the global perception of stress, and depressive symptoms are high among spouses as their family members deploy to war. Under such circumstances, the interactions between the realities of stressful events and the appraisal of such events are complex and an area for further research. These reactions to deployment warrant ongoing and expanded programs to military families prior to, during, and following deployment" (Warner).

These situations where both the military personnel and their spouse and/or various family members are feeling the stress, just bounce the the stress off of each other before deployment, which could easily lead to mental health issues in an already mentally stressful situation.

Luckily for some soldiers though, their families and commanding officers are there to stand by them and allow for the heart-felt moments that the soldiers hold so dearly to their hearts and touch hearts all across the world, such as Staff Sgt. Bennethum of Fort Dix: "Four-year-old Paige Bennethum really, really didn't want her daddy to go to Iraq. So much so, that when Army Reservist Staff Sgt. Brett Bennethum lined up in formation at his deployment this July, she couldn't let go. No one had the heart to pull her away. The commanding officer allowed Paige to say goodbye as her dad prepared to ship off from Fort Dix" (Lattanzio). (Refer to photo above.)

Overall, there are many stressors that are felt by the soldiers pre-deployment, and they can cause even more serious mental-health issues. It is up to the families, the offcers & surrounding personnel, as well as the soldiers themselves, to be prepared for the deployment, and to seek support and help when they need it.

Works Cited

Lattanzio, Vince. "Little Soldier Girl "Didn't Want to Let Go"" TV Network for Primetime, Daytime and Late Night Television Shows - NBC Official Site. NBC, 06 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 Oct. 2009. .

Maguen, S., D. Turcotte, A. Peterson, T. Dremsa, H. Garb, R. McNally, and B. Litz. "Description of Risk and Resilience Factors among Military Medical Personnel before Deployment to Iraq. " Military Medicine 173.1 (2008): 1-9. ProQuest Medical Library, ProQuest. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Warner, C., G. Appenzeller, C. Warner, and T. Grieger. "Psychological Effects of Deployments on Military Families. " Psychiatric Annals 39.2 (2009): 56-63. Research Library, ProQuest. Web. 19 Oct. 2009.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hateful Influence

While studying the history of the Holocaust, I’ve often wondered what my position would have been if I had lived in Germany during the 1930s.Would I have joined the masses and supported the rising empire? Would I have continued my life without speaking up at all? Or would I have stood in defiance to Nazi Germany by considering the Jewish race equal to my own and helping them as a result? As much as I’d like to believe the latter, cold facts show that the majority of Germans supported the Nazi Party, some actively and others passively. How could this have happened?

Aside from the Jewish boycott of April 1933 when many Germans refused to betray their Jewish counterparts, the Nazis experienced almost no opposition from the public. (Kaplan, 1998) Within just twelve years, history shows us that Germany mass murdered twelve million innocent lives. (Marrus, 2000)

I want to scream out and say that this would never be possible today, especially in America. However, Germany was the world’s leading nation in education and science up to the 1930s. The Jews were almost completely assimilated into the culture and many held prominent positions. Why didn’t the people of Germany stand up for their countrymen and save millions of lives?

One explanation could be that the Germans truly believed the ideology behind the Nazi Party, which declared that Aryans were a superior race and they need to exterminate the inferior races, especially the Jews. If this was so, why did the Germans wait until the 1930s to act? Obviously, there had to be another sort of influence that caused this type of bigotry. Propaganda. The Nazis took careful measures to influence the masses through posters, flyers, films and speeches. As we now know, it worked.

The Social Impact Theory explains that in order for something to be influential, the strength, immediacy and number of the source all play a crucial role. In the case of the Nazi Party, it had strength because it held authority over the entire nation and the new leaders offered hope and solutions. The German people were constantly surrounded by different types of propaganda, thus the message was immediate and high in number.

It is no wonder that the public was so quickly affected by this hateful influence and almost no opposition was shown against the government that ultimately killed twelve million people.

If propaganda has such great power and influence, I believe it is crucial that it be used to save lives instead of destroying them.

Kaplan, Marion A. (1998). Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Marrus, Michael R. (2000). The Holocaust in History. Ontario: Key Porter Books.

From Racism to Genocide

I never considered myself racist until I moved to Jacksonville, Florida the summer before my sophomore year of high school. My family had moved several times in my childhood, but the majority of my early years were spent in a small town in Tennessee. Although my Russian nationality made me a minority, I was still very much Caucasian and part of the White society. For a couple of years, I was part of an organization that reached out to inner-city kids and had the chance to work closely with minority children from Hispanic and Black families. Because of this experience, I was convinced that I didn’t have a racist bone in me. However when I began school in Jacksonville, I was shocked at my own reaction. For the first time in my life, I felt like a minority not because of my nationality, but because I was white. It took me an entire year to sort through my emotions, thoughts and actions. I became very aware of racism and began to struggle against mine.

What is racism and what are the dangers behind it?

Racism has been defined as “the prejudice that members of one race are intrinsically superior to members of other races” and “discriminatory or abusive behavior towards members of another race”. (Word Net Web) I think racism is a result of people categorizing themselves into specific groups and comparing to other groups. Categories such as White, Black, Asian, or Hispanic become part of our social identities. Although each individual has a social identity, racist ones lead to danger.

Not only do people identify themselves by their skin color and/or nationality, groups such as Aryans, Hutus, and Tutsis begin to form. The problem is that “racism defies logic, knows no boundaries, and finds differences unacceptable and intolerable.” (White, 2009)

Two of the most horrific conflicts during the 20th Century are the Holocaust and Rwandan Genocide, both a result of racism. Nazi Germany murdered about 6 million Jews because they were considered subhuman and “parasites” to the Aryan society. (Engel, 2000) In Rwanda, the Tutsis were considered “vermin and cockroaches”; over 800,000 lost their lives during the 100 day massacre. (White, 2009)

I understand that racism is very real and can exist in any person regardless of their race or situation, just like it affected me. However, if it is not dealt with and becomes exacerbated within a social group, it can become extremely dangerous. History shows us that in fact, racism can lead to genocide.


Engel, David. (2000). The Holocaust: The Third Reich and the Jews. London: Pearson Education.
White, Kenneth R. (2009). Scourge of Racism: Genocide in Rwanda. Journal of Black Studies 39 (3). Retrieved from http://ejscontent.ebsco.com.dax.lib.unf.edu/

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"You can't always get what you want..."

The phrase “you want what you can’t have” seems to pop up often in everyday life. Who wouldn’t want what they know is impossible to have? That expensive car, the brand new dress from Alexander McQueen, the perfect partner that is dating your most hated enemy. These are all things that people can seem to want but think they will never have. Whether they can attain these things or not doesn’t matter. What matters is that they believe that these things are scarce.

The scarcity principle states that we, as human beings, want what we’re afraid we will never be able to obtain. As things truly become scarce, we really fight for what we want. Sometimes, as this drive to attain these scarce items increases, death becomes inevitable, as one side must completely dominate to win.

In the Battle of the Little Big Horn, the Native Americans made a stand to protect their sacred lands. The United States Army, however, had other ideas. Not only those sacred lands were at stake, as the United States in general had been trying to take Native American land for themselves. The United States fought the Native Americans over this land, because land was scarce and the Native Americans “owned” (I use the word loosely here, because Native Americans believed the land was free, not owned by anyone) many portions of land that the United States wanted. This battle, however, did not leave the United States in a winning position. The Native Americans, fearing the loss of their scarce, sacred land, fought and massacred a large amount of the United States military fighting against them.

The Native Americans having scarce, sacred land is not based only on the idea that the land was just sacred, but any land they had was scarce, as the people of the United States were attempting to expand. The fact that the land was sacred just pushed the Native Americans even harder to fight for this land. As it so happens though, this scarcity principle pushed the people of the United States to fight harder to take the land and claim it as their own. The scarcity principle works on both sides.

One of the reasons why this happens, according to Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence: Science and Practice, is because of a secondary power of the scarcity principle. This power is that we hate to lose freedoms, and the freedom to own something in this case is what prompts the attacks. (Cialdini, 208).

This happens over and over again throughout history, where some leader or some country wants what they can’t have, so they attempt to take it with as much force as necessary. If people could realize that the fear of losing these scarce items is often somewhat irrational, many lives would be saved, because this brute force wouldn’t need to be used.

To fix this issue, I propose that people become educated about this need, perhaps in high school classes, when the brain is developed enough to understand the problem and what can be done to fix it. If people could understand this problem, they could prevent themselves from committing some horrible act to attain certain goals.

Works Cited

"The Battle of the Little Big Horn, 1876." Eyewitness To History. Ibis Communications. Web. 9 Nov. 2009. <http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/custer.htm>.

Cialdii, and Brehm. "Scarcity Principle." Changing Minds. Web. 9 Nov. 2009. <http://changingminds.org/explanations/theories/scarcity_principle.htm>.

Cialdini, Robert B. Influence: Science and Practice. 4th ed. Needham Heights: Allyn & Bacon A Pearson Education Company, 2001. Print.

Violence against the LGBT community

Today we are still witnessing violence against the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender) community by religious radicals. They believe it is their duty to rid Earth of all homosexual persons in any way. The reason they believe they must do this is because of their strong convictions and devotion to their religion. They find that their violence against the LGBT community is justifiable by the teachings of the Bible and should not in any way be punished, for they are simply doing Gods will.
In the Bible it is said that punishment for those who engage in homosexual behavior or even wear the clothes of the opposite sex, is death. Today, we see less and less of such crimes against LGBT persons by religious persons in the United States, although hate crimes and protests are still prevalent. Where we see violence of LGBT persons is in South Africa and the Middle East by radical religious people. In South Africa, women who are lesbian are subjected to gang-rape. Those who do such a horrible thing to be done to these women intend for it to supposedly "cure" the women of being lesbian. A lesbian woman, Soldaat, living in South Africa was ganged raped, and was told during her attack by her attackers that they were going to make her into a real woman again. She says that "Most of the lesbians in my community are being subjected to 'corrective rape', in the hope that it will cure us of something which the rapists believe we have copied from white people."(SOUTH AFRICA). This as well as terrible torture and murder of gay men in Iraq. BBC News reported from a Human Rights Watch researcher that gay men are kidnapped, then have their anuses glued and force fed laxatives, inevitably resulting in death.(Saddam's Rule)
So why is it that these people who murder and torture LGBT persons feel like what they are doing is justifiable by the Bible? There are many reasons why people will commit such acts without remorse because they believe it is what they are supposed to do according to the Bible and other Holy texts. There is the Belief Bias, this theory states that people "accept any and all conclusions that fit in with their systems of belief, without challenge or any deep consideration of what they are actually agreeing with."(Henel 69). People are using their Holy text to justify their cruel, horrible actions against the LGBT community. They believe what they are doing is morally right.

"SOUTH AFRICA: Tide of violence against women drowns out homophobia." Medilinks. 01 February 2007. Plus News, Web. 10 Dec 2009. .

Henle, M. (1962). On the relation between logic and thinking, Psychological Review, 69, 366-378

"Saddam's rule 'better' for gay Iraqis ." BBC News. 06 July 2009. BBC, Web. 10 Dec 2009. .

Kill or Be Killed

So often it happens, it cannot be denied: people will turn against their own beliefs or morals in order to protect themselves. This innate nature of man, to protect one's own life and to survive, has been visible since the beginning. If confronted by conflict, people will attempt to save themselves even if it means taking the lives of another or many. It may be a small conflict with small repercussions, it may be a small conflict with great repercussions. Why do they "strive to survive"? And why can they consciously destroy someone else in order to prevail? The answers are not as obvious as one might imagine. Man has been considered a logical or rational animal, yet he tends to rationalize his own behavior during and after the act. The act itself is caused by fear of his demise and the narcissistic thought that he must survive over the conflict at hand. This behavior is rooted in the Terror Management theory.

The awarness man possesses of hiss own mortality is unique to the animal kingdom, yet the will to survive transcends all species. Therefore, man is capable of fearing his own demise and thusly will act against death in order to survive. This principle illustrates the Terror Management theory (deathreference.com).

In the 1950's, a draft forced young citizens of the US to go fight in the Vietnam war. There were over 350,000 casualties for the US and close to 2 million for the Vietnamese (fsmitha.com). Let's look at both sides:

The US soldier forcibly sent to armed conflict in Vietnam more than likely did not have any interest attached to the defeat of the North Vietnamese. But when engaged by the "enemy," he was quick to kill. Why? because his life was at stake. Ernest Becker's Denial of Death describe man's will to survive a "narcissistic" yet innate behavior. He mentions that people in combat tend to feel that their life is more important than those of their enemies, or even their own comrades, and so lose the moral guilt of murder if it means saving their own skin. Often this will to survive follows their causa sui, as Becker referred to it, or their need to live on and make a legacy to which their name can be attributed (informationphilosopher.com). In this way, they try to deny their own death. Becker argues that all men are constantly trying to deny his death.

On the flip side are the Vietnamese. They are convicted with the will of their race to prevail. When engaged by the US troops, they will fight to their death in order to allow the race to survive. This is a quite different reaction, but it is the same basic principles. The Veitnamese are very collectivist, working together to better the whole, as are many Asian cultures. The causa sui therefore of an individual in such a society would be to protect the whole of their society. They will use deadly force favoring their own causa sui, their own legacy, over that of the enemy. In both cases, the people involved are trying to create a lasting legacy to immortalize themselves, denying the reality or possibility of death.

Because man is trying to deny his own death by means of survival, when engaged by potent conflict, he may drop his moral code to defend himself. In 2007, Joe Horn, a Texas resident, shot and killed two burglers threatening his life and the posessions of his neighbors. He claimed right to use deadly force on the burglers because they threatened him on his own property. It was logically not necessary to take the lives of the two Columbian immigrants, yet Joe's own rationalization made it acceptable to himself (nytimes.com). Man is a very rational animal, capable of using logical progressions to solve problems, but so often the emotional aspect of man, the raw spontenatity of action, produces a rationalizing man (Becker). What ever the conflict may be, people tend to rationalize their actions of defense during and after the action takes place. This makes man potentially very dangerous.

These processes bubbling around in the core of man are paradoxical. Fear of death creates conflict between people, which produces more fear in accordance with the Terror Managment theory, and therefore more aggression and self defense. The cycle has repeated itself as consistantly as history itself.

Becker, Ernest. The Denial of Death. New York: Free Press, 1973.

"Causa Sui." informationphilosopher.com. October 12, 2009. http://www.informationphilosopher.com/freedom/causa_sui.html

Shootings Test Limits of New Self-Defense Law." Nytimes.com. October 12, 2009. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/13/us/13texas.html

"Terror management Theory." deathreference.com. October 12, 2009.

"The United States and Vietnam." fsmitha.com. October 12, 2009.