What if fear isn’t the goal?

The root word of terrorist is “terror.” The conventional wisdom is that the purpose of terrorists is to incite fear, to make people give in to their demands out of fear. However, when you look at what certain groups of terrorists target, it seems that fear might  not be their goal.

If their goal isn’t fear, why not? Ultimately it is because fear is an empiton that provokes unpredictable responses. One person might lash out, another might collapse into a ball, while a third might just keep pushing through. Certain terrorist groups might benefit from this, but the ones who are doing the large operations like 9/11, or the Paris Attacks, or the bombings in Istanbul? Fear is likely not their agenda.

If fear is not their agenda, what is? There is a negative response that their actions are engendering that is very predictable in its outcome. Hatred. While there are those who are afraid, the reactions by those who are prone to hate is what seems to be the goal.

Isn’t that counter productive? How would being hated benefit them? Being hated is absolutely beneficial. First, it means people are reacting to them. They get to dictate the response by what they support, or what they choose to not support. but, it is more than that: If you get enough people to hate your particular group, and then make them lump other groups that have nothing to do with your group in with your group, what have you done? You have worked towards isolating those other groups.

Consider that many of these terrorist groups are extremist ideologies that consider everything from The West to be evil. They have a goal of imposing their beliefs over the rest of their own religion, a religion that has many followers who will willingly work with those that these extremists consider to be evil. How do you stop this if you cannot force these moderates to agree with you? You undermine their ability to engage outside groups, by fomenting hatred and paranoia and prejudice. You turn the world against you AND those who follow beliefs that are less extreme and violent.

So, what if these terrorists are not trying to make us afraid of them(that that is just a by product), but, instead are trying to make us blindly hate them? What if fear has never been the goal?


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Say that to my face, why don’t’cha..

People on the Internet are familiar with the concept of “Internet Trolls,” those people who harass and abuse people through the anonymity of the internet. One primary cause of this is often attributed to the “online disinhibition effect,” where there are lots of factors that amount saying: When you are online, you have lower inhibitions regarding social behavior, whether it be pro-social or anti-social.

What makes this interesting is the emphasis in popular perception on the anti-social behaviors of trolls. What about the people for whom the Internet is not a place to look for prey to bully, but, instead, is the source of their strongest relationships, sometimes even with people they have never met?

The Internet provides this shield, so to speak, for people. You don’t have to interact with the person directly, you can craft your words carefully to convey your meaning, and, unlike in real life, if a conversation is making you feel uncomfortable or self-conscious, or in other way bad about yourself? You can just close the window and look for another conversation(which you might be having in another window already, anyway). In fact, you do not even need to say something directly.”There is someone  I really like, but I am afraid  would laugh at me. Can you help me figure out what I should say?” and then tag the particular person you are talking about with a couple others is a great way to hide the person, but also get the information, after all. This means that the internet has some great ways to shield oneself beyond just the anonymity of the web. It almost encourages people to take social risks they would not in the physical world. And this is not always a bad thing.

However, what happens when you have someone who has been made fun of, insulted, and harassed for years in the real world, and then makes real friends, not fake, abusive “friends,” who they know both online and real life? The Internet feels safe. They want to share things with their friends, but they are afraid of the rejection, or the ridicule that they had gotten in the past. And the internet is safe They like that man or woman, but have never had someone say “yes” when they asked someone out,  and they want to appeal to the person. And the internet is safe. So, they will say things they would never say in the real world. They will leave themselves more vulnerable, but then, when they meet with the person in the real world next, they shy away from what they shared online.

Now, imagine you are the other person. Someone who is a friend shared things with you that made them vulnerable, and now, when you are talking with them in person, they are shying away. Does that mean they regret sharing their thoughts with your? Do they not feel safe talking to you in person for some reason?What is the effect these questions would have in your interaction with this person?

This is a social dilemma that, with a more and more online society and more and more social interactions occurring online, we are going to have to face. I think, ultimately, two things need to be done. First, patience needs to be shown to people both online and real world. Someone sharing things online that they couldn’t real world? It is because it feels safe. It will take a person time to feel as safe talking in person, where all their self-confidence and self-esteem issues are there for others to see. Second, people need to be willing to reach out to these people in the real world. It could be something as simple as a hug, or as complex as sharing something that would make you feel as vulnerable as what the person shared online. The ultimate goal would be to get where you could feel as comfortable with someone in both the physical and digital worlds.


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Pressure Cooker of Friendship!

Modern society has a lot of social pressure on those who are single to not be.  Of course, there are holidays like Valentine’s Day, and the constant asking by your parents “When are you going to get us some grandchildren?” But, there are a lot more subtle ones. Stop and think about this: How many people have you met in management outside the military who are not married, have been married, or are going to be married, or even just have a significant other? What percentage of managers you have known in your working life have been single? The answers, I expect, will be “Most of them” and “pretty low.” This creates a rather insidious social pressure for people to be in relationships, even bad ones: Management is generally selected from people like the managers. If you cannot handle the stresses of maintaining a romantic relationship, then how can you handle the communication skills necessary to lead people?

Now, imagine this pressure. Imagine how, even though never overtly stated, it lingers in everyone’s minds at some level. You want to rise within your company, if you are like most people, so you can get paid more money. To rise, you need a significant other. This creates a desperation for a partner, and, where is often the safest place to look for a partner but among your friends of your preferred gender and orientation. And there lies the rub.

You are a safe guy for your women friends to be around. You are a woman the guys can be guys around. Because you are friends with these people, you have similar interests. Why wouldn’t any of these men or women want to be involved with you? The answer is simple: because they are afraid. You change how you act to them by seeking a relationship. On top of that, that you are responding to these pressures makes you come across as either desperate or appeasing. Additionally, your seeking a relationship from among them calls into question why you were hanging out with them in the first place. Finally, even if they were to not think about those, there is the simple fact that people fear change. You have been a friend to these people for years, someone they could depend on in thick and thin. And now, you are wanting to change the nature of the interpersonal relationship. What happens if things don’t work out? No. It is just better to stay friends. It is safer.

And that is what has lead to the “Friendzone” phenomenon. This has always been around, mind you, but had  been formally recognized only recently. Some people say that it is misogynistic because it is men demanding a “right” to relationships. That is missing it entirely. First, that is assuming it is only men who get “Friendzoned.” Second, it is looking at it completely wrong. No-one would be saying “Because I have been your friend for these many years/months/weeks, you need to go out with me,” regardless of the gender of the speaker. What is going on is the person doing the asking is saying “You are my friend. You know me well, and I know you well. I want someone to be closer than a friend to, and I feel safe asking you.” The response that creates the “Friendzone” is the response of “If you were any other person, I might actually accept. However, you are my friend. I feel safe around you, and changing the nature of our relationship would make me uncertain. I don’t want to change things. I want to continue to feel safe around you. Can you accept that?”

The person asking really has two choices: He/She can accept the response unconditionally and forget about it completely, or she/he can accept it but always hope for a change of situation. It is the second option that, ultimately, leads to people making the complaints about “being sent to the Friendzone.” That response creates the question in the mind of the asked person of “Was he/she ever really my friend? Or was he/she always just trying to get into a relationship with me?” It not only hurts the person who was asked, but it also hurts others, as that person can easily begin to question all their friendships.

Sadly, the pressure to have romantic partners does not go away. Maybe the person tries another of their friends. Maybe they ask out strangers in desperation. Either way, they keep trying to find someone so they don’t feel lonely, so that they do not feel the social pressure to have a partner. A relationship becomes just a goal, a stepping stone to economic success after a while. And someone has likely lost many friends in the process of trying to get that success, if even on a subconscious level.

If only there was some way to make being single be accepted as normal again. I think that would solve alot of the problems caused by this cycle of social stress.

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Lies, Damned Lies, and “It’s OK”

People lie for a variety of reasons. Some lies(“Lies”) are done to protect the feelings of others. Other lies (“Damned Lies”) are told to harm others, whether through their feelings or their reputations. But, the worst lie is one that we tell because it is almost an automatic response. “It’s OK” or “I’m OK” or anything that expresses that sentiment. The lie told by the person who is hurting but doesn’t want the person who cares, who sees the lie in those words, to know.

This is the worst of all lies, because it is a  Lie and unintentional Damned Lie. Your friends can see when you are hurting, when something has it so that, while you present a strong face to the world, underneath that, you want to break down and cry. Of course, you, being a strong, modern-type person are not going to let anyone know how much you are hurting, and so, when they ask if anything is wrong, you respond “It’s OK” or  “I’m OK.” You have just told someone who likely wants to do nothing more then help you, to take some of your burden onto their own shoulders, that you do not trust them. Maybe you are not meaning to do that. Maybe you are just trying to protect them, maybe you are trying to not look weak in front of your friends for whatever reason. But, the message you sent was clear: “Your help is not welcome.”

From the side of the person you have just told “It’s OK,” however, things are much different. They are your friend and they care enough to be asking after you, meaning they are not just shallowly asking because it is the expected response.(Sure some might be, but let us assume for now that this is a real friend.) They see past the mask, see the battered and bruised self of someone they care about, and yet, when they reach out, they are lied to. Worse is that, because of the lie, even though they know the truth, they can’t call you on it. One doesn’t tell a friend that you know you are being lied to.  All they can do is wonder what is up. Is it that you don’t trust them? Is it that you think you can handle it on your own? Are you blaming them for the problem? These are all the sorts of things that go through someone’s mind.

What is really behind this lie, though? I believe, ultimately, we do not want to feel vulnerable, even to our closest friends. To take off that mask that is “It’s OK,” we have to tell the person what we are really feeling. How do you tell someone you want to respect you that you want to curl up and cry because your boy/girlfriend dumped you over an E-mail? How do you tell your spouse that that crack they made to their friends about how fat/skinny/whatever another guy’s girlfriend made you feel horrible about yourself? How do you tell that woman that you have met that you want to go out on a date with her, but have had such bad luck in the past with rejection you are afraid to ask? All of these and more are reasons someone might say “It’s OK” when asked about something relating to where they feel vulnerable.  So, you think (not in so many words)”It won’t hurt..it will make them feel better for me, and so..I will just tell a little lie.”

But, you just lied to them. Worse is that if the person has any shred of empathy for their fellow human beings, or knows you at all, they know you lied to them. It doesn’t matter why you lied to them, just that you told them something you knew was untrue. Maybe the person asking about your breakup wants to be there for you to vent and cry to. Maybe your spouse wants to do something to make up for their unintended insult(or, frankly, just needs to be told off for being so stupid and inconsiderate). Maybe that woman who you are afraid to ask out is afraid to ask you out because she thinks you don’t like her. By the lie of “It’s OK,” however, you have cut off any of these outcomes.

By cutting out outcomes that can either lead to the resolution of the problem, or the emotional release of catharsis, you create a bigger problem for yourself. You internalize the problem. You make it part of who you are. You scar your psyche and prevent healing for yourself, prevent yourself from moving on from the problem that caused the lie, making it fester and grow behind the mask you have worn.

How can you keep the worst from happening to yourself by this internalization? Ultimately, you cannot tell the whole truth to everyone. But, you need to know who you  can trust. They are often easy to spot: they are the people who stand by you when everyone else seems against you. If they ask, your response should not be “It’s OK” but “I can’t talk about it right now..can we talk later?” and then telling them all about it when later comes. Your friends, your real friends, care about you. They will not judge you for what you tell them. Give them the trust they deserve, because, when someone will walk through fire for you, they are someone worthy of telling the truth to.

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Why Poly?

             A while back, I had posted on polyamoury, and, as I watch news and other discussions on a number of things, I think maybe a bit better chance to to talk about it is here. Namely: Why would someone go that route? Why not stick with the “traditional” one partner relationship? Sure, I could argue the anthropological point that most cultures are polygamist, and monogamy is actually pretty much only truly seen in post-Christianity Western Societies, and in societies trying to emulate them. Or I could argue all the stuff that scientists say to point out that monogamy is not how Humans are engineered. But, that really doesn’t address the big question: Why would you choose polyamoury over the single partner relationship?

            One would argue that the classic, single partner relationship leads to greater emotional intimacy, that, because they are the “tradition” that makes them better, or a wide variety of other arguments. You could argue that cult leaders preach polygamy, and since cults are bad, anything they advocate is bad, as well. You could even use a bunch of religious reasons(which are, of course, completely invalid if the person you are arguing those reasons to does not follow your religion). But, those are all reasons why not. In addition to all those, the purpose of Marriage in the West has traditionally been to insure legitimacy of children, and to secure “proper” lines of succession and inheritance. In short, it was all about property and how it passes along. But, again, that is all about a reason why not.

        The choice is always going to be made for a variety of reasons. Not all of those are going to be logical, but, when dealing with relationships, logic is not always going to be a big factor. One simple reason is that the additional person or persons bring something more to the relationship. Someone with an extremely submissive partner, for example, might have another partner who is more dominant. Or, maybe, one partner is better at emotional support, while the other is better at helping out with a variety of other things the one who provides emotional support cannot, and the two form a partnership to help the third partner.

       Another reason could be practicality and ethics. Say two of the partners very much want children, but one of them suffers from some genetic disease that would like be passed on to any children he/she was a parent of. Does this one leave the other partner to prevent that? Do they adopt? What if they have another person who is emotionally capable of working through the reality of a triple relationship, who also wants children? This could lead to a beneficial partnership, making all three happy, and making sure that any child is in a better position for support, and keeps both biological parents involved.

      Of course, other reasons amount to:no-one is really a one person person. And, more importantly, they are not prone to jealousy. If they can work with others, communicate, and be honest, then polyamourous partnerships could be more natural, and more comfortable for all involved, then a more traditional two-partner relationship, just because it is more what they want. Frankly, there is not any one reason why. However, as much as there are reasons not to, for those who have functional group relationships, those reasons of “why not” are not important. The reasons why they work are just as inscrutable as to why the more “traditional” kinds of relationships work or fail.

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Why 16 Days of Glory?

            I watch the Olympics. I love watching the Olympics. I will watch events during the Olympics that I will not watch any other time. Some people will look at me and go “Why? Why does the Olympics matter so much to you?” Well…I think I will take a crack at trying to answer that. Because, I think, looking at why I do something might make people think a bit more on why they do it. And, I have a lot of reasons to watch the Olympics.

          First is that I am proud of my country. I may not always agree with the government, may not always agree with some of things people in our country say and do in the name of the country(whether they are official or not). But I am proud of my country. I love hearing the Star Spangled Banner at the Medal Ceremonies. However, I am also proud of watching Team USA lose but give the absolute best they could. There is nothing wrong in not medaling in the Olympics. If an event had 100 people competing in it, and only 1 American, and that American poured their all into their performance, but finished ranked 100, then, you know what? Yeah, sure, he or she finished dead last…but that was dead last against the BEST in the world. Just BEING in the Olympics is an honour.

         That leads to the second reason I watch the Olympics: The ideal and the fantasy of them. For 16 days, you can believe that all the rivalries of the world are put aside for the Olympic Truce. You want to believe that anyone competing in the Olympics is there just to compete for the glory of the sport. That they do not hold the rivalries and hatreds they might bring from outside. That a North Korean and a South Korean could be put next to each other, and they would not care where the other was from. I want to believe in that. For 16 days, I can live in this fantasy world, and know that many out there also believe the same. The hope that, with enough people believing this, the world can be changed.

           The third reason is a bit less ideal or philosophical. Frankly, and I will admit this, I like watching beautiful bodies in motion. Whether it be women’s figure skating or women’s volleyball. Be it Women Gymnastics, or women’s speed skating. It doesn’t matter to me. The female form in motion is captivating, and you will rarely see as solid a demonstration of the form as you will in the Olympics.

          I also love watching Good Sportsmanship in action, and a good competition. In the professional sports like Hockey and Basketball, and even professional Soccer, the games are played by completely different kinds of people then you will see in the Olympics. I have seen some of the best displays of Sportsmanship in these sports in the Olympics then I would ever expect to see in a professional game. I remember, as well, rooting for the Iraqi Soccer team after the fall of Hussein. Not because they were a great team. Not because I believed in anything political about them. No, it was because here was this team that had never gotten to practice together before the Olympics, and they were playing their hearts out. They were not making any complicated plays, and that simplicity was what served them so well. Then, there was the first time the Jamaican Bobsled team showed up. They were joked about, but they did their absolute best(and have since reached the point where they are taken as serious competitors). I ALWAYS root for the Jamaican Bobsled team. I remember watching the Gold Medal Match in Curling back in the controversial French winter games a few years ago. I remember when there was an accidental bump of the stone by one team, and the two team captains waved off the judge, and pulled out their own surveyors bob, and the two captains conferred, moved the stone back to where it should have been, shook hands, and went back to their match.  Show me sportsmanship and people playing their hearts out.

        Maybe I am just a bit of a weird person. But, I love the Olympics. Yes, I am proud of Team USA,and love seeing us win. However, it is not all about USA! USA! USA! for me. I love the Olympics, and always will. Now, pardon me, I need to get back to watching Germany vs Russia women’s hockey….Right now, it is going into the 3rd Period, and the game is German 1, Russian 0…

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Paging Representative Howard, Senator Fein, Doctor Howard….

Something that has been big in the news for the last year or so has been the Affordable Care Act, also known as “obamacare.” It has a number of provisions that people don’t seem to like. It has that whole tax penalty if you don’t have health insurance. It has that whole central database idea for diseases popping up, and a number of other things that people are a little nervous about. The purpose of the law was to make it so that medical care was affordable for all Americans. It operates on a solid, logical assumption: If every American has medical insurance, then the Health Insurance companies can reduce deductables and premiums, because the majority of Americans are not sick all the time, and the amount that the Insurance companies pay out of what comes in would be a much smaller percentage. The idea might have worked if not for one thing: Insurance companies are for-profit corporations, and have a legal requirement to make as much money as they can for their shareholders. This means that, ultimately, they have no incentive with a requirement of insurance to keep premiums low, and, instead, have every incentive to do the opposite.

However, the goal of the Affordable Care Act is noble. It wants to make it so if, say, someone in your family got cancer, they would not be bankrupted by the bills. The whole political discussion is about repealing or defunding the law. Why is there not a “We don’t like that law. We think we can do better. Here! Here is better!” Why is there no greater discussion going on? Isn’t that what we Americans elect our Congressmen to do?

The answer, unfortunately, is money. And, no, it is not money from the doctors or drug companies. It is money from the banks and the insurance companies. You see, when a doctor graduates, gets his medical license after his residency, he has debt. LOTS of debt. He can pay it off quicker then other professions, sure….except that he also has to pay huge amounts of money out to the Malpractice insurance companies. Think about it like this: Say you pay $100 for an office visit. A likely breakdown is going to be something like this: $30 goes to Malpractice insurance, $20 goes to student loans, $30 goes to paying his staff, lab access fees, paying rent on his office, utilities, and hospital access fees. This leaves him with $20 out of that for himself. Now, figure that our doctor’s office is open the standard 8 AM to 5 PM, with a 1 hour lunch. Remember that most of the money from a patient is going to practice, and that any necessary things are coming out of that 20 per patient. Let’s assume that our doctor is going to give plenty of time per patient, say, 30 minutes. This means that, on a single day, he is going to have 16 patients a day, or 320 dollars for himself. This means he would be making $1600 a week, or $83.2K. Seems nice..but this is assuming that the doctor can collect all that. Most doctors offices have patients who haven’t paid, and have unexpected bills that come up, like when a law changes and they have to hire lawyers to brief them on what changes they need to make, and have to pay for the latest medical journals, and new equipment.

And, the Malpractice Insurance companies want it like that. They up their premiums yearly, while the Health Insurance companies drive the doctor to charge less per patient so they can make more money, so that doctors have to see more and more patients, and then, they start charging higher rates for patients who don’t have insurance(because the Insurance companies negotiate rates..and require them for their patients) because they have to. Imagine, for example, an Insurance company tells our doctor that he can only charge 70 dollars for an office visit(and some companies do!), and that is the dominant company in the area..that doctor is not just not making any money for himself, he is in debt for every patient from that company. This drives the doctor to have to see more patients, just to reach the point where he is making the money to cover all his expenses.

Ultimately, though, the issue comes down to this: We have to change the whole system. Out of 100 dollars, the doctor should not be having to pay half of that for malpractice insurance and student loans. He should be able to just charge $50 dollars per patient and make that comfortable 80K before taxes a year.

And all this is just talking about the family practioner or a specialist who only does exams. This is not even talking about surgeons, or VERY specialized doctors, who have even higher student loans and malpractice insurance. When a surgeon is doing more then one surgery a day because he has all those hospital fees, malpractice insurance, etc to pay….that can even cause the fatigue that leads to the errors that cause malpractice.

But, yes…let’s argue about the Affordable Care Act. That will fix the problem….or make people not think about what the cause of the problem is…

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