How freedom of Information impacts you and I: The Legacy of Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz may not be a name that most of you know. In fact, I wasn’t familiar with his name until after his death. Unfortunately, some of the greatest accomplishments go unnoticed until the person who catalyzes interest in the cause gets notice posthumously. People who have the most impact usually are the ones who work without fanfare, oftentimes bucking systemic limitations on personal freedoms. The government is invested on keeping these people quiet and painting them as criminals and lunatics. With information comes knowledge and knowledge creates the seed of decisive action.

Since the industrial revolution, training for the masses has been centered on the dulling of intellectual development. There is nothing worse than an uppity line worker! So, our schools were modeled to produce the workers to man the factories. We are molded to fit that need. Discussion and debate has been relegated to course activities that have little relevance to the understanding of different viewpoints. We are tested in a multiple choice or true/false format. Essays which provide exercises in articulation of thoughts are discouraged. Originality is penalized. In fact, within this framework, alternate viewpoints pose threats to a purposeful socialization that yields an inability to articulate thoughts.

We have been witness  to some rather insane utterances of some of the political candidates, utterances that fall short of ideology because they lack merit or connection to anything resembling fact at all.  Remember, politicians in power who lack the ability to think and articulate ideas sit as willing pawns for the corporate industrial complex with an agenda. From http://agvnotes.tumblr.com/post/29904483410/the-top-5-quotes-about-rape-from-republican-men
The Top 5 Quotes About Rape from Republican Men

1. Todd Akin: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways of shutting that whole thing down” – mid 2012 Senate Campaign

2. Clayton Williams: “If it’s inevitable, just relax and enjoy it” – mid 1990 Gubernatorial race in Texas 

3.  Chuck Winder: “I would hope that when a woman goes in to a physician with a rape issue, that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage or was it truly caused by a rape. I assume that’s part of the counseling that goes on.” – March 2012

4.  Ken Buck: “A jury could very well conclude that this is a case of buyer’s remorse … It appears to me … you invited him over… the appearance is of consent.” – October 2010

5. Rick Santorum: “I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you… rape victims should make the best of a bad situation.” – January, 2012

The climate within organizations since WWII has necessitated government intervention to ensure the rights of workers. Roger Eugene Karnes (2008) http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10551-008-9878-x?LI=true  shared the change in business atmosphere:

Before WWII,  written contracts were unheard of, but rather, the employment agreement was steeped in a tradition that carried the promise sealed with nothing but a handshake. Now employees have little or no rights; and the ones they are given are provided not by the employer, but by government regulation and court precedent. Issues such as time off for illness, sexual harassment, and workers’ compensation are all handled through legal or regulatory means rather than ethical considerations. The research further shows that the distinct lack of leadership within organizations play a significant role in the disintegration of employer–employee relationships. Specifically, how the lack of leadership relates to the emotional intelligence of the leader. Areas such as empathy and social skills are under trained and under developed by organizations.

Karnes (2008) goes on to further consider the complications of overseeing large agencies and corporations, “When an organization is so large and has unlimited resources, they can buy their way out of any predicament”. Corporate entities know several ways to ensure  deregulatory objectives: 1) money to buy off politicians 2) backing government officials who lack the brain power to stand up to BIG business tactics and 3) the actual placement of former BIG business officials in government positions. The aim of corporate entities has become centered on disempowering the government’s ability to effectively shut down or complicate the attainment of maximal corporate profits. We were witness to this tactic within the 2012 presidential campaign when former Governor Mitt Romney rose as a candidate, corporate leader and intellectual knit wit. The fact that he represented BIG business might not have been detrimental to his run, but his lack of intellectual prowess was. As told on http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/mittromney/a/Mitt-Romney-Quotes.htm former Governor Romney was heard making statements like:

1. “There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. … My job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives.” -Mitt Romney, in leaked comments from a fundraiser in May 2012

2. “Corporations are people, my friend … of course they are. Everything corporations earn ultimately goes to the people. Where do you think it goes? Whose pockets? Whose pockets? People’s pockets. Human beings, my friend.” —Mitt Romney to a heckler at the Iowa State Fair who suggested that taxes should be raised on corporations as part of balancing the budget (August 2011)

3. “When you have a fire in an aircraft, there’s no place to go, exactly, there’s no — and you can’t find any oxygen from outside the aircraft to get in the aircraft, because the windows don’t open. I don’t know why they don’t do that. It’s a real problem.” –Mitt Romney, suggesting it would be a good idea to crack a window at 35,000 feet, Beverly Hills fundraiser, Sept. 22, 2012

4. “I like being able to fire people who provide services to me.” –Mitt Romney, using an unfortunate choice of words while advocating for consumer choice in health insurance plans (January 2012)

5. “I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there.” —Mitt Romney (January 2012)

6.“I went to a number of women’s groups and said ‘Can you help us find folks?’ and they brought us whole binders full of women.” —Mitt Romney, on staffing his cabinet while he was governor of Massachusetts, presidential debate, Oct. 16, 2012

7. “As president, I will create 12 million new jobs.” —Mitt Romney, during the second presidential debate
“Government does not create jobs. Government does not create jobs.” —Mitt Romney, 45 minutes later (Oct. 16, 2012)

8. “My dad, as you probably know, was the governor of Michigan and was the head of a car company. But he was born in Mexico… and had he been born of, uh, Mexican parents, I’d have a better shot at winning this. But he was unfortunately born to Americans living in Mexico. He lived there for a number of years. I mean, I say that jokingly, but it would be helpful to be Latino.” -Mitt Romney, in leaked comments from a Florida fundraiser, May 17 2012

9. “It’s hard to know just how well [the 2012 London Olympics] will turn out. There are a few things that were disconcerting. The stories about the private security firm not having enough people, the supposed strike of the immigration and customs officials, that obviously is not something which is encouraging.” –Mitt Romney, insulting Britain on the eve of the Olympics by suggesting the country is not ready, NBC News interview, July 25, 2012

10. “I believe in an America where millions of Americans believe in an America that’s the America millions of Americans believe in. That’s the America I love.” –Mitt Romney (January 2012)

Governor Romney was a willing participant in a corporate agenda to steal the power of the White House. The fact that he lacked the ability to pull it off is due in fact to the media’s   exposure of the true Romney which negated the effectiveness of the campaign in its entirety. It is clear that the loss highlights an environment of ever increasing corporate greed and the need  for a public and candidates who exhibit a vacancy of thought.

While the Patriot Act and the National Defense Authorization Act ensure the rights of the government over many of the personal civil liberties that we have taken for granted, we cannot allow the further erosion of the freedom of information in the opposite direction. We as a people demand transparency and the right to object to the corporate take-over of our lives for the sake of profit.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey, MS, MAC, LMHC

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If Manti Te’o is Gay or not IS NOT THE ISSUE

Social expectations come early for all of us. We are taught to accept what is told to us because we find out that we are most likely to get what we need by parroting what those around us say. Since we are busy mimicking those around us who have the ability to bestow on us that which we need most; from the most basic needs like food, shelter and clothes when we are young, to the more ephemeral needs in attaining meaning, self knowledge and self awareness, we find ourselves performing to meet extreme social standards and are taken off course in our own development. That creates a chasm between the role we play, the expectations that we are held to, and who we really are. And so we have the Manti Te’os of the world.

The illusion that Manti was able to create ensured his status and he thrived. But the energy that was consumed in performing the role plagued him and made him question himself.  At some point he faced a social situation in which his truth would be exposed. Unsure of himself because of years of listening to others and coming to the awareness that he was not who he and others claimed him to be, he felt ashamed. The motivation for the story of Lennay Kekua was born.

Our voyeuristic and gossiping nature precedes the rest of us. We lack authenticity in our own lives so we salivate at the mere mention of drama in other’s lives.  We cheer the rise of stars, living vicariously on their ability to rise above it all. But we are as unrealistic with our expectations as the organizations that script celebrity behavior. So, Manti, Lance, and Tiger have been forced to play the role created as much by us as the organizations and corporate entities they represent. When inconsistencies in celebrity behavior are exposed instead of feeling compassion we begin the feeding frenzy of speculation and gossip, demonizing the celebrity and contributing to his downfall.

So as Manti struggles with the increasing pressure of being under a microscope, we sit back and dissect his every move without regard of the continued stress that is mounting for him. We are mere observers in ours and Manti’s life story. We lack the integrity to realize the problem we perpetuate with the social standards that we support. Those who dare to rise in status and are most visible in that role are the most easy to scapegoat. By holding people like Manti accountable for their misdeeds without any other consideration, we fail to take notice or even address the social issues that develop their roles in the first place.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC

The Lesson that is Lance Armstrong

We vacillated back and forth during the saga that has been Lance Armstrong. The story that has played out like a fairy tale has now revealed the ugly truth that lies at its core. Lance Armstrong used performance enhancing drugs. It must be true, after all, he told Oprah!

What lays at the heart of this saga  is the story of how culture creates the Lance Armstrongs of the world. It is a common tale tucked away in both corporate boardrooms and the government back room obscure dealings of a nation too absorbed in scandalous gossip to deal with the foundational elements that take root in our own countrymen. Lance and others like him are symptomatic of the moral decline of a culture, nothing more.

We educate our children without teaching them to think. We receive financial incentives to produce in our workplaces without experiencing the self gratification of a job well done. We lose our jobs for offering our expertise and are punished for voicing opposition to poor treatment of our peers and clients. We have become line staff in industries that have no connection to the factories of early industrial America. Without the ability to think and problem solve, we are willing puppets of the post industrial complex working for the accumulation of wealth for smaller and smaller number of elites.

The very principles we pride ourselves on as Americans are the very skills many of us will never be paid for. Education, certification and license requirements serves the idealist but has no carryover to the workplace. Ingenuity is perceived as threatening. Problem solving is relegated to carbon copied programmatic policy guidelines. Conflict resolution is settled by who has the most power to bully his point. This takes place as much in corporate America as it does on our own school playgrounds. This is the workplace and social experience no matter where we find ourselves. These are the rules that we are forced to play by.

We live vicariously through Lance. He is our hero. His triumphs fuel our belief that one day we will find success and be better able to face the mounting obstacles and injustices in our own existence. We support his efforts through blind adulation and defend him regardless of allegations hurled at him.

Corporate entities salivate at the Lance Armstrongs of the world. Built within each  is a representative to use to drive up sales. With money as the driving incentive, corporations are able to make willing participants of the most idealistic among us. The unspoken problem with the arrangement is that signing on with BIG business makes each participant beholden to the corporate goals and tactics regardless of its ethical or legal consequences… Where corporate interests collide with individual convictions, corporate entities are sure to win. This statement is further substantiated by the United States Supreme Court Citizen’s United ruling asserting the fact that “corporations are people and money is voice”.  It stands to reason that as a representative of a corporate entity, contractual expectations of performance is mandatory.  Within the hierarchical arrangement between corporation and employee there are added unspoken expectations of behavior that hasten the further erosion of the individual self in any interaction where money exchanges hands. Through the long list of public figures that have succumbed under the pressure to perform, it is not outlandish to question the evolving mental health crises for those who enter the realm of celebrity status. Corporate entities are not interested in the personal effect of their expectations or media exposure on people. They are interested in the most important aspect of the transaction, their investment.

So, amid the adulation and hero worship that is bestowed on celebrities like Lance Armstrong, it is easy to understand how they come to rely on questionable activities to feel in control of expectations that come from both their ascension to world status and their corporate affiliation. Many engage in the unethical and illegal behaviors because 1) They are affected personally by the stress of being center stage, and/or, 2) There is an unconscious mistaken assumption that their corporate affiliation buffers them from any investigation into improper behavior.  I want to make it very clear, corporate entities may wine and dine celebrity wanna-bes before the deal and to celebrate gross earnings but they will be the first to pull the plug when questionable behavior arises regardless if it was caused by personal shortcomings or unspoken corporate expectations. Remember, “corporations are people and money is voice”. With that ruling it is clear that even Lance Armstrong gets the short end of the stick no matter what he has personally accomplished.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC

The Reason we will not Learn from Sandy Hook

Face it, it is hard to look at yourself with a critical eye. After all, we live in a world where we face criticism more often then compliments. We are evaluated for deficits before we are thanked for our contributions. We navigate our lives in compliance of social expectations and pack away the critical voices all around us. To stand up for ourselves is unthinkable and punishable through a wide range of options that range from job and income loss to incarceration. And then we witness Sandy Hook…

We ask ourselves how something like Sandy Hook can happen despite the fact the  answer is closer than we would like to think. We focus on the “craziness” of the gunman without considering the string of gunmen that have preceded him. We distance ourselves from “those people” and talk about guns and mental illness. We link obscure variables of the incident to the key reason that the carnage took place. Those in power attempt to have control over the issue by focusing on those who own guns. In response, those who own guns defend their right to bear arms and target people mental health diagnoses suggesting developing a “registry” for the mentally ill. We are becoming closer and closer to the reality of the meaning that the wearing the Star of David has for Jews. And yet, we are no closer to the answer now then we were before the incident.

The answer lies within the fabric of our culture. The desire for financial security has opened us to become victims of apathy. We are educated without having to think. We gain prestige and upward mobility by spouting the ideas of those who employ us. We lack an understanding of ourselves and are placated through the acquisition of things. We question no one because we lack the self knowledge and moral fiber to know that we should. We ally ourselves with those who grant us what financial means we can acquire so that we can continue to band-aid our vacant soul. We regurgitate the words that those in power use because that assures us continued financial well-being. We know that our ability to succeed will depend on how well we parrot those sentiments.

We choose to uphold “social stability” through victimizing others who do not work for financial security. We have developed ways of ostracizing these people as undesirables; the disabled, the mentally ill, the criminal, minorities, illegal aliens, women. We know the undesirables by these names and others. We find ways to make their ascension in our culture more difficult. Why? Because we agree with the unspoken belief that they want a “free ride”, “hand-outs” and are “lazy”. We harbor hatred for helping those we deem unfit to receive it. When we do help, even in social service organizations, we expect change to happen in a particular time frame to our own specifications. As removed as we are from power, we feel the right to provide human services, mentor and parent in an authoritarian manner in which we remain in control, the expert of someone else’s reality and by its very definition doomed to fail.

Our children, our clients and students are affected by this lack of concern in their welfare whether it is ever voiced or not. With each and every generation that follows the mounting confusion and pain is evident. It is evident in the increasing obesity problems, the domestic violence within our homes, the continuing addiction statistics, rape, suicide and yes, Sandy Hook.

Nanaymie Kasmira Godfrey MS, MAC, LMHC