Blame: The antithesis of Human Inquiry and Justice

Two people come into a room to discuss differing viewpoints. Each carries with them their own biases and life narrative that frames the perspective that they hold. Each also carries within reactive emotional stances that are cultivated in living an emotional life devoid of an appropriate outlet. The exchange is a confrontation and conflict by its very construct.

Culture asserts rules of conformity to reinforce social cohesion. People know their place and operate within a strict doctrine of social etiquette. These rules are only visible through the rituals that they enforce within social institutions which reinforce compliance…

In a school the loud speaker booms overhead, “Please rise for the Pledge of Allegiance”.

In a courtroom the bailiff stand to announce the entrance of the judge, “All rise… The Superior Court of Skagit County is now in session”.

Within these small examples comes an assignment of status and defines a role that one is expected to fill. Blame is the construct of a society demanding conformity from citizens.

Individuals use blame to deflect or abdicate personal and institutional responsibility. Those in positions of authority are in the best position to use the tactic. These individuals find themselves buffered by rituals that reinforce their superiority. The more that blame is used, the less real interaction actually takes place. The dynamics in these scenarios favor one side and minimize, if not nullify the input of others.  It is the epitome of a top-down hierarchy.

People who accept this dynamic find themselves in positions to enforce the same rhetorical hegemony. Their egos support the maintenance of status quo over the basic rights and civil liberties of others and their compliance is rewarded with materialistic advantages.

Lopsided Power plays

Case #1: The Case against a Single Mother facing CPS Proceedings

During work with a young woman who had lost custody of her children, allegations of a “Bipolar Disorder” came to light within Child Protective Service documentation that I reviewed. Since multiple physical diagnoses had been given, the client had been being maintained on a slew of medications prescribed by the physician who had made the original “Bipolar” diagnosis. With the tremendous amount of drugs, some prescribed for a condition that did not exist, the client’s behavior was erratic. The erratic and irrational behavior created the incentive for the removal of the children but an investigation into the authenticity of the claims was never conducted.

I was able to track down the origination of the diagnosis and discovered that it had been made by a local physician known by CPS to have some significant problems managing and treating clients. Despite the fact that it had been some time since the children were removed and it took some time to get her an evaluation by an independent professional, he concluded that the diagnosis was in error. CPS continued to overlook the fact that her behaviors stabilized when the medications were properly being administered and overseen by respected professionals within the community. The children remained out of her custody and mandated expectations multiplied to provide “proof of her ability to parent”.

In CPS proceedings the clock starts ticking as soon as the children are removed from their families’ of origin. All issues complicating reunification for safety reasons are to be resolved within one calendar year regardless of: the lack of credible information that precipitated the removal of the children in the first place; lack of timely evaluations, lack of timely treatment referrals being made by CPS; the inherent conflict of interest in which CPS appoints “independent” community professionals to write up supporting statements to back assertions made by CPS; lack of consistent expectations; repeated turnover of CPS staff,  poor communication between biological families and staff; and duplicitous alignment with foster families over that of biological families.

The stage had already been set for disaster. The department was not interested in why the young woman had acted irrationally nor was interested in looking into the implications that the slew of unneeded prescriptions had on her behavior. By withholding her children, delaying precious time, without interest into the credibility of the charges, the stage was set to seal this young woman’s fate. When institutional power encourages and rewards a blind eye by those it compensates monetarily, justice is not just blind, but deaf and dumb as well!

 Case #2: Treatment Facility Bias and Punitive Interventions: Power from the Court

The coordinator of a local drug court was facilitating a group with me in a treatment center that held the drug court contract for the local county where I lived. She confronted the group though accusing them of being complicit with a participating member who had come up with a “dirty” urinalysis, testing positive for a substance. She demanded the group member who was positive admit to using. Clearly uncomfortable, the 12 women in attendance took turns looking at each other and shifted uneasily in their seats.

The counselor looked over at me as the co-facilitator expecting me to agree with her tactics. I immediately felt uncomfortable. She looked away to continue her harassment of the ladies in attendance. By the time that she was finished, she was yelling at them, calling them names and demanding that those in attendance expose the woman who had tested positive.

I felt compelled to speak against this tactic. I knew the person who had the dirty urinalysis and knew from my sessions with her that she professed to be clean. I felt the harassment and berating being used were abusive to all in attendance and I did not agree with the tactics being employed to elicit information. I may have had deep seated feelings about what was transpiring but as a single mother of three needing a job to support my family, I kept quiet.

In front of the group, the coordinator identified the client and reprimanded her about the dirty urinalysis while threatening her with jail time. The client was visibly shaken. During break she was abandoned by the other clients to deal with her misery on her own. Clients knew if they were to console her, they would face sanction as well, regardless of their personal feeling of her innocence or guilt in the matter.

Still denying the use, she came to me in tears. I knew that I was in no “position” as a subordinate to question the tactics and at the same time ask for a more open minded approach to the client. Instead I told her to make an appointment with her physician and discuss with him the possible reasons for the dirty urinalysis. By getting authorities in a better position than I, more independent of the agency and with more status and power to back her stance, she would be in a better position to confront the allegations.

In court that week she came with a letter from a MD. She had a dirty urinalysis because she was borderline diabetic. If I had not helped her to “position” in the situation, she would have been jailed, her sense of self-esteem obliterated, and a very real physical condition would not have been addressed.

 Get the Facts Straight:

Blame is a coward’s way of avoiding a meaningful conversation.

Blame is asserted to reinforce status and power without a fair consideration of issues.

Blame is hidden in diagnoses which reinforce stigma and propaganda about groups of people.

Blame is hidden in the assertion of biological conditions for human behavior deviance creating and preserving the pathological focus and the medicalization of rehabilitation efforts.

Blame is hidden in warnings given about people with different ideas as being potential aberrant personalities.

Where bias coincides in judgment, there can be no justice or human advancement!

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Questioning the Scientific Method and Reductionist Approach in Evaluations made of Human Suffering!

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I am at a crossroads. I know that I cannot go any further in my “profession” and have come to acknowledge that my evolving thoughts do not fit within the confines of a practice limited in the focus of its definition. I am a former nurse and disability advocate, dually credentialed as a mental health and addiction practitioner. I am finding myself squeezed out of the evolving dialogue because of an education and training that appreciates the nature of a multiplicity of issues confronting people in recovery.

The Problem with the Scientific Method

Science breaks things down to understand their function.  That is the focus of the reductionist approach. The focus insists on looking at ALL phenomena through a microscope. While that might help us understand the components of a particular aspect of, let’s say, a system, a disease, or, a social phenomenon, it does not do anything to help us understand the relationships between the multiple variables which give rise to the human physical, emotional and social experience, nor does it give us an appreciation of the interplay of these three on the functioning of a living being. Because we continue to fund “professionals” to be expert on the components of systems and their function while neglecting the importance of their interaction, we are complicit in the undermining of human existence. We have come to judge symptoms and behaviors we cannot understand for lack of appropriate focus and interest. Yet many of us feel compelled to act on erroneous judgments and intervene in ways that deprive people of their most basic civil rights; support of their families and loved ones, their freedom to make informed choices and the right of self-determination, in essence, their very lives!

Reducing human problems to encourage funding over effective intervention

I remember being approached by an addict who was then a member of the local adult felony drug court. “Are you an addict”, he asked me as he sized me up.

“I may not be an addict, but I have done my own recovery” I replied with all sincerity. He seemed to relax a little but seemed puzzled by my response.

“I suffer from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder,” I clarified, “I have triggers much like you do. When I am triggered, I revert to a panic response, much like your cravings do to you. I have learned to limit my exposure to triggers, disengage from unhealthy situations so that I am not further harmed and de-escalate my triggered responses so that I can function. These are all skills you can develop and they will help you stay clean”.

My approach gained credibility with clients I served but the political and financial nature of my placement within a chemical dependency agency limited the focus of treatment to an “addiction only” priority.  As my credibility increased within the court, questions emerged concerning my interventions and my work was conveniently articulated as being solely applicable for “mental health” clientele.  The competition for funding and preference in contracts makes addiction and mental health separate entities pitted against each other for preferential consideration. I was hired for my mental health training or my substance abuse and addiction specialty, thus my holistic perspective was completely discounted. To this day when I interview for mental health positions, my placement within substance related programs causes me to be seen as being an “addiction professional”. The holistic nature of my expertise is being ignored by both streams of therapeutic approaches.

Clients continue to receive less than optimal services for complex issues that have been broken down into funding streams so fractured from each other as to make the service meaningless. I have witnessed drug court clients sent to prison for mental health conditions that have not been addressed within treatment and severely mentally ill clients fail to address their mental health symptoms due to an addiction that repeatedly them.

Fractured medical treatment:a lesson of the dangers of reductionism and protectionism

My father had multiple physical ailments. He suffered from Diverticulosis, Raynauds Disease, high blood pressure, and colon polyps. He had suffered a mini stroke from over extending himself cleaning the basement floor in 95 degree heat because “it had to get done”.  This behavioral manifestation was a clear indication of the Obsessive Compulsive nature of his personality that I was raised with. I distinctly remember him standing in front of the stove every time that the family was about to leave the house. “One, two, three, four”, he would count slowly and methodically looking first at one burner and then the next in a clockwise direction. He would repeat the sequence 5 times before including the number 5 which designated a check of the oven. He neglected his mental health all his life seemingly more prepared to deal with the mounting physical conditions that resulted.

Never diagnosed, my father pretended that he did not have mental health symptoms despite the days that I remember highs when my father would sing, dance and act silly. As a little girl he would ask me to stand on his feet and he would take my arms and dance around the kitchen. I hated the highs knowing the plummet into the opposite was just around the corner. I never knew when it would come, just that it would. Those were times filled by grumpiness and fits of anger. On nights that I would come home from swim team practice hungry, thirsty and tired, he would take my food away and taunt me. He would react aggressively to my objections and physically run me into the wall when I tried to get away from him. He would often withdrawal and work in the basement for long hours. He would not even discuss mental health issues and refused to do anything to stop the vacillation back and forth. He seemed reticent to distance himself and his emerging mental health symptoms from his own mother, a woman he called “Crazy Lil”. I am sure both he and his mother suffered from Bipolar Disorder.

Years later when my adoptive father was declining, he had undergone a colonoscopy to snip some of the polyps that occasionally occurred along his colon. Before he had gone in, his Coumadin (an anticoagulant) used to avert stroke or heart attack from a dislodged clot, was stopped. The rationale was that the action would promote a better healing post-op by allowing him to effectively clot.

After the surgery he began walking around his neighborhood again. One day the walk was taking exceedingly too long. When my adoptive mother saw him hunched over clutching his chest as he approached the house, she sprang into action. He was immediately admitted to the local hospital where he was monitored. Because his symptoms were not responding, he was transferred to an inner city hospital. His Coumadin was reintroduced and its dosage upped. To my knowledge there was no conversation between the specialist who had performed the polyp surgery and his cardiologist who was monitoring his cardiac status.  As a result, my adoptive father began hemorrhaging internally. Immediately clotting factor was introduced. He had a subsequent heart attack. He started going into respiratory distress since his heart was compromised. An order was made to ventilate him since his respirations were compromised and his oxygen saturation dropped. Like many people who are prone to mental health conditions, his gag reflex was over sensitive so he was prone to choking.  Intubating (inserting the breathing tube) caused him to vomit from his violent choking. They continued to struggle to get the bleeding contained while supporting his cardiac function, two very opposing goals since the introduction of clotting agents precipitated another heart attack. They vacillated back and forth between the two approaches. At that point he became comatose and he spiked a fever. He had turned septic, that is, his system was poisoned by the vomit he had aspirated. It was shortly after that my adoptive father expired.

The specialists indicated here are: Psychiatrist, Cardiologist, Proctologist, Pulmonary specialist, and Hematologist. Not one of them specializes in understanding how their “professional opinion” will affect the status of the others, yet, each one affects the other and together creates the neglect indicated in the condition of the patient in question, who in this case was dead!

The lesson about status and power in the abdication of patient and client rights

My fiancé has multiple health problems. He has been subject to poor treatment by physicians on a regular basis. When I met him he was in kidney failure and had dialysis 3x/week. His dry weight, meaning the weight he was when ALL extra fluid was removed from his circulation was 125 kg. The technicians at the center were instructed to make sure that they always took off enough fluid to hit his dry weight number. The problem is that technicians have very little training and, quite frankly, are not trained to think, just follow directions. These technicians do not individualize their treatment; that is, account for body mass gain, seasonal weight gain, heat of the day, perspiration expected, activity level etc. They would take off sometimes 3.5 kg in one sitting. 3.5 kg is 7 pounds of fluid!!! Cedric was repeatedly suffering dizziness and hypotension to the point of collapse. He would go home and sleep the entire remainder of the day from the tremendous stress that it put on his body. One half of his life was essentially being wasted.

I began to strongly object to the technicians removing so much fluid and we were lucky to find a technician who backed our decision. It was through her encouragement we became even more convinced that we were doing the right thing. She was an important factor in his empowerment and the developing voice that he was beginning to have in his care. The Northwest Kidney Center removed her from providing Cedric’s care as a result.

Since he transferred north, he has been receiving much better care. Despite the ability that he now has to express his wishes, none of the healthcare team WILL openly voice objections to care that he has received elsewhere, even when that care has jeopardized Cedric’s life.

The appearance of melanoma: a process of misinformed healthcare delivery and the lack of “informed consent”

Cedric is African American and has spent his whole life in the Pacific Northwest. He had been placed on Enalapril in 2007 for blood pressure management after suffering Congestive Heart Failure as a result of his failing kidney function.

In 2010 he showed his primary physician a lesion his back just below his armpit. She thought nothing of it. In 2012 when I met him, I told him about the lesion on his back as well and suggested that we keep an eye on it. Later that year, he was being worked up for a kidney transplant. Because he was a below the knee amputee, the cardiologist who wanted to do a stress test on his heart, told him that he would be doing a “chemical stress test” against Cedric’s open objections. He was injected with a radioactive isotope. He was also subject to a CAT scan and an MRI. He did blood work and was declared “cancer free” in November 2012.

Getting up early one December morning I told him not to move and started to palpate what was a more nodular and puffy side to the lesion on his back. All of a sudden, it appeared to be growing at an alarming rate. We got the name of a dermatologist and were seen…

“Ninety nine point nine percent of these are not cancerous,” he tried to reassure us, “I will schedule you to come in and take a biopsy”.

“Can’t you take it now?” I asked him.

“Well, I guess,” he said as he turned Cedric’s back away from me. When Cedric turned his back to me again it was clear that the dermatologist had just taken a small part of the lesion, leaving most of it intact.

“Aren’t you going to take the whole thing?”

“No, we can take the rest of it at another occasion”.

The phone rang the next day and the dermatologist himself was on the phone.  “The biopsy came back positive. I am going to make a referral to the University of Washington. They have a doctor who specializes with melanomas”.Stunned, Cedric turned to tell me the news.

“So, they just left the lesion on your back to possibly spread?”

“He told me that the doctor in Seattle was better prepared to do the surgery” he told me with a faraway look.

The scheduled meeting was almost a month later. I tried to have the dermatologist agree to take the lesion off but he refused to do so.

“How does that make sense when cancer spreads?” I asked Cedric, “…and what does it do when he performs a biopsy only on one portion and causes bleeding? Doesn’t that introduce cancer cells into the blood stream?”

The appointment at the University of Washington was a consult. They would not even consider taking the lesion off. A resident reported the findings of the pathology report that was done up north without ever seeing the pathology report itself.

Small talk ensued to lighten the mood as the surgeon walked in the room after almost an hour wait. “That is an interesting accent you have” I quipped.

“Well,” he said, “I am from South Africa.” I was not aware of how important that fact would become as our interaction continued…

“Well, that is odd” the surgeon said looking at the lesion, “I have never seen a melanoma that was so warty looking,” he added as if to no one in particular.

“Can you please tell me how an African American as dark as Cedric who grows up in Seattle develops skin cancer?”

“That is rare” the doctor admitted.

“How does Cedric get passed as cancer free in November and develop a melanoma within one month?”

Nothing.

“He was worked up for a kidney transplant, you would have thought that they would have noticed this lesion on his back and had it checked. Then without looking at the lesion they repeatedly dose him with radioactivity…. Wha la… I find the lesion on his back, once appearing dormant, now growing at an alarming rate”.

Cedric chimed in, “Goddamn it, can’t you just get this thing off my back.”

“No,” the physician told him in a patronizing tone patting his shoulder, “watch your language”.

“The longer this thing sits here, the greater the chance it will spread. Don’t you get that?” Cedric implored him.

“Oh, I will have to do much more than just take off the lesion. What we will do is have you come in and inject the melanoma with radioactivity…”

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Didn’t he hear anything I had said?

“…then we will track the radioactivity through watching it illuminate those lymph nodes that have been draining the site. We will remove those nodes and dissect them to see how much cancer is present. We will then inject dye to the surrounding area and take the tissues that show color”.

“The lesion looks very different from one side to the other. Doesn’t that indicate that the lesion might just be cancerous on one side?” I asked him.

Nothing.

“They reported that the lesion was 1.7 millimeters in depth but I think it probably is as much as 7 millimeters. In fact it is probably 7 millimeters for sure” he replied as if that answered the question.

“Don’t you know from the slides taken?” I asked him.

“Oh,” the surgeon told me with all sincerity, “I haven’t seen the slides”.

“Then how can you make the diagnosis? And we are setting him up for surgery?” I looked over to see Cedric squirming in his seat, the physician’s hand tapping him as if he were an inconsolable child.

“We will schedule you as soon as possible” he told me, “we don’t want to waste any time”.

I looked at Cedric who appeared like a deer caught in headlights. “I think we need some time to consider everything” I responded.

“No,” Cedric said reluctantly, “schedule it.”

As the surgeon left the room, Cedric turned to me with tears in his eye, “I don’t want to do this but I have to”.

When we got home, I sprang into action getting as much information as I could regarding Cedric’s medications and skin cancer, specifically melanoma. Remember the Enalapril? I came across a study that tracked people who had been on the drug over a prolonged period of time. Guess what? Some of the older patients had developed…. skin cancer, specifically melanoma! I approached his kidney physican and told him that I wanted his medication changed.

He looked at me confused, “I wasn’t the one who put him on that medication was I?”

“No,” I reassured him.

“We need to get him off that right away. Bring me the bottle and I will call in another prescription as soon as possible for you to pick up…,”

Very interesting!

I also came across information discussing the benefit of using high concentrated THC oil for the treatment of cancer. Come to find out, there were also scholarly articles that had been suggesting the importance of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancer going back to 2003 http://www.jci.org/articles/view/37948.

The day of the surgery, I was in training and was not able to be by Cedric’s side. He checked in at 9am with surgery scheduled for 11am. He was injected with radioactivity at 11am and was not in surgery until 1pm.

“I want to see slides and pictures so I understand what is happening to me”. Cedric reported saying to the surgeon.

“That is just not feasible” the surgeon reportedly replied.

“Then how can anyone give informed consent if they cannot understand the implications of what is being seen?” I asked him after it was all done.

“He told me that there is a 15-30% chance of this recurring”. That information was echoed by my son who accompanied Cedric in my absence.

Ten minutes after waking, Cedric was ushered out of the hospital with a sheet of post-op instructions without ever seeing the surgeon again. Questions were avoided that way, I guess!

The follow-up was inadvertently scheduled for a day that Cedric was in dialysis despite the fact that the staff of the University of Washington knew his other medical obligations… We met a resident for the review 2 weeks later. He was apologetic with the delivery of the news that they had indeed found cancer in the lymph nodes but that it appeared that they had gotten all of the cancer.

“You are facing three options: 1) Wait and see if there is a recurrence 2) You can begin chemotherapy, or 3) Start radiation treatments”

“If we got the cancer, why would we want to subject Cedric to these treatments?” I asked him, “Do we know how many of the nodes were cancerous? What was the percentage of cancer found within each one?”

The resident excused himself to ask the surgeon my questions. He came back just briefly to hand me the pathology report which I read carefully….

Indeed Cedric had a rare melanoma that was slow growing and generally has been implicated in a significant amount of lymph node involvement with other cases. Called “pigment synthesizing melanoma” it resembles a melanoma seen often in the grey horse. There is very little information on the progression of the melanoma’s growth over 10 years though it was not clear if that was due to the fact that intervention led to remission or not.

When the resident returned the information had drastically changed. We stand by our assertion of these events because we can NOT substantiate ANY of the surgeon’s claims, never seeing the pathology slides, the evidence of the lymph node dissection… ANYTHING.  “Four nodes were involved and two were cancerous. The doctor wants to schedule you for a follow-up surgery to go in and remove more lymph nodes to make sure that they are not cancerous”.

“How does that make sense to remove more of Cedric’s lymphatic system, a system that is there to protect him from the very cancer that we just removed? And he is immunosuppressed as a kidney patient?  After all you removed 4 nodes and only 2 were cancerous. Do we even know what percentage of the lymph nodes were indeed cancerous?”

No answer.

We declined the surgery.

When we got back home we submitted a complaint about our treatment and the lack of information provided. The physician called. The questions that I asked regarding what had transpired and what the implications of the findings were ended up being ignored as if I was not even present. I got up and walked away in disgust. Cedric tells me that the doctor kept insisting that Cedric was “out of control” when it was clear that it was the physician who was not in control of his own emotions. Without any more information, Cedric ended the conversation politely.

The complaints we have lodged with other professionals about Cedric’s care go nowhere! Clearly this surgeon’s prestige supersedes the treatment that he gives his patients while his expertise elevates him beyond reproach! Legally he is responsible for providing accessible information to his patients so that they can give him “informed consent” to perform surgery and follow-up care. He does not, nor does he have any intention to do so.

Applying relevant lessons to social services

I have arrived at a similar conclusion about my place within my own “profession”. I am expected to provide mental health or addiction services without consideration of the holistic needs of the person, couple or family I am working with. When I provide dual services, my efforts threaten the staff and administrators through the creation of trusting bonds with clients that they are paid to serve. They discount my interventions as only being appropriate for “that other approach” and insist on defining client behaviors as being centered in their own specialty. Agencies, like doctors, are politically wired to be more concerned about maintaining their funding streams than doing what is best for clients that they serve. I cannot be defined solely through one or the other and so threaten the funding of both.

What became clear to me in maneuvering through my line of work is that the number 1 producer of stress, anxiety and depression has been the understanding that adherence to my thoughts, my ideas and my approach for the good of the people I serve has made me a pariah within the political structure of a social and human service delivery system modeled by reduction of client needs into categories of ailments and conditions in need of amelioration through rehabilitation, and funding resources.

If we focus on just SYMPTOMS that result from more and more people who cannot fit into our ever shrinking focus, divvying the physical, emotional and behavioral manifestations into categories and diagnoses, we neglect the real understanding of how our socially created concepts affect the quality of living we are forced to endure. We miss the myriad of variables that influence human experience by inflicting the focus of an artificially derived lens called “the scientific method”.

Within psychological and sociological experiments, researchers are aware of a phenomenon called, Observer Bias: “This refers to the cultural assumptions which all researchers bring to their work and which help determine their method of research and their observations. It has been argued by some that all enquiry (including ‘pure’ science) is simply a reflection of such biases”. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O88-observerbias.html   Since Science has been touted as the methodology of choice in evaluation, it is important to understand its appropriate applications and its limits.

Social interaction etiquette is biased towards elite people who are put in places of judgment to uphold the status quo. We defer to those people because of their station often without consideration of the merit of their contributions, qualifications, or intelligence. The people in these positions get away with being ill informed, narcissistic, disrespectful, bigoted, hateful, and as a result, dangerous (See Stanley Milgram “Obedience to Authority” http://youtu.be/yr5cjyokVUs and Philip Zimbardo’s “Stanford Prison Experiment” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L_LKzEqlPto)

Summing it up

Truth is not in the sole possession of “professionals” as much as they would have you believe otherwise.  Empowerment of self through attainment of personal knowledge begins a journey that can lead to “Strategic Positioning” in the face of powerful forces and “professionals” who function within a limited scope of expertise and biased focus. The beginning lies within you.

Black and White thinking: The recipe for Ineffective and Mediocre Presidential Leadership

There are certain people whose names rise to our lips when we think of great presidential leadership.  Presidents these days fail in comparison because the nature of elections continues to be dependent on money, therefore creating regurgitated rhetoric and stagnation. Because it takes money to be heard, the field of candidates is limited. We have two parties made up of people who either are wealthy or who are willing to sideline their own unique ideas to win the endorsements and funding of one of the two major parties. This silences the participation of alternative points of view that could come from alternative party representation and perspective.  http://www.apatheticvoter.com/PoliticalParties.htm

It is more than apparent that in order to secure longevity within the political process, elected officials learn to “play the game” and in doing so become part of the dysfunction.

Our two party system exists to balance the polar reality of one another. Together their opposing viewpoints create a kind of dysfunctional homeostasis. Adapted to the political social construct in America, and viewed as a system of balanced interaction, needed so that as a culture we do not descend into chaos, it creates a balance so that once one “position” is taken, the other “position” is created as an equal and opposite response. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Homeostasis . Stated through Sir Isaac Newton’s third Law of Motion “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction” it describes the stalemate that occurs between the two competing and polar opposite stances taken by our political parties.  http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/newtlaws/u2l4a.cfm  The American public is exposed to just the two extremes and are therefore set up to be dissatisfied by their representation and the political process in general.

Think of the concept like a pendulum. When a pendulum swings it starts in one position but needs to swing to the polar opposite side to equalize the force of the swing. That action creates homeostasis by allowing the pendulum to continue to move between the two extreme positions.   Focusing on the two polar extremes within the pendulums track of movement represents splitting, a term used in psychology to express the acceptance of polar realities without an appreciation of the nuances that exist between. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splitting_%28psychology%29

Within the Republican party we can see this black and white thinking in the “flip flopping” undertaken by candidates and elected officials. The rapid vacillation between opposing ideas come from a limited perspective and is born of a system with few choices and little exercise in the open sharing of ideas. Reactions are commonplace because emotions run high and no thinking is required.

http://youtu.be/rsCmiFcRyIc

http://youtu.be/lwsZw-VjTNI

http://youtu.be/IimIWhExY0U

Our elected officials have been affected by life events that can make them more reactive than interactive to the situations around them . Without the need to think and keep the mind active in debates and open discussions, alternate points of view can trigger the need to “bully” the other side into submission. Those who choose to stand up to these tactics must do so carefully or they  can find themselves without a party affiliation.

http://www.usvetdsp.com/dec07/mccain_suicide_ptsd.htm

In contrast, backed by an intact party, elected officials get to speak their minds and gain the leverage so needed to move legislation. The good news is that the tactics being taken by the Republican party exposes their inability to effectively govern. The problem is that we as a country continue rehashing the same issues over and over, losing momentum and the true ingenuity needed to remedy our current problems. Democrats are stuck in the position of responding to the obstacles created by their polar reality, the Republican party. Nothing gets done and stagnation remains intact.

The Social Construct of the Madman: A Eulogy of Christopher Dorner

We as a society want to simplify everything even though there is NOTHING simplistic about the nature of our violent social reality as of late. The problem is that violence, in any form, exists as A SYMPTOM of a society and culture out of control.  We are told how to think, feel, and act. We have a code of conduct for our work places as much as we do within our homes.  Many unspoken expectations  in  agencies and corporate entities within which we work lie in direct opposition to the policies and procedures within the agency written code of conduct. In fact, agency written policy and procedures are as helpful for navigating our places of work as the ethical considerations in the licenses and certifications that we hold. We are rewarded less by being able to comply with the written standards than we are for adhering to the unspoken political natures of our roles.

There is less and less time to understand the internal feelings that are generated by walking through this maze of conflicting expectations. We are expected to morph seamlessly from one social setting to another without confusing the expectations and stresses. We are told to “leave work at work” and “home at home”. We dissociate our identities into neat packages and perform in each without understanding the impact of the stress. For those of us who choose to live outside the  institutional and corporate code of behavior, who defy the often unspoken code of silence when faced with witnessing real human atrocities, intervention is swift and painful. We are harassed, ostracized, victimized and lose our professional status, our jobs and our futures.

Human experience is our greatest teacher but it means nothing if we are not allowed, or we actively CHOOSE not to take the time to reflect on its lessons and to adjust our actions to reflect personal integrity and ethical human living. We no longer think. We follow those with more power and the institutions that they represent. We walk around in a daze bombarded by life events and, as time goes on, become less and less able to deal with their meanings. We aren’t mentally present in our life anymore. We live based on perceptions and interpretations that originate outside of us. We give up an intact sense of self to gain acceptance in social interaction.

The anger generated within is borne out of a feeling of helplessness in a world in which the words, thoughts and actions of human beings are becoming less and less consequential in preserving personal autonomy and accountability in life. Without autonomy and a sense of self, we lose our power and become victims of the social institutions and postindustrial corporate complex on which we all depend. Without actively teaching the importance of boundaries between personal ethics and institutional monopoly of human drive and motivation, we lose all human ingenuity, responsibility and generativity, creating the passive and apathetic public we now know.

Corporations, social institutions and professionals all tell us what to do and how to do it. When there is a conflict between what we are told to do and what we know to be best, we abdicate the most important aspect of human experience, free will. Through this MINDLESSNESS we are losing the ability to know HOW to understand the importance of the experiences we have. Instead, we look to “professionals”. We consult self-help books that rehash the empty and disconnected feelings we struggle with and offer cookie cutter, simplistic interventions for what are cultural and systemic problems.

With the Citizen’s United ruling “corporations are people and money is voice”, real human input in cultural progress has been minimized and business ethics have gone by the wayside. With the wealth of this country being held by fewer and fewer people, more and more people have less and less power within their own lives. This external focus keeps us struggling to just meet our basic needs and willing to give up our morality to meet the financial obligations that we have amassed in our lives. Those of the ruling and judging elite reward us monetarily ONLY if we play by their rules regardless of who gets hurt in the process!

Christopher Dorner’s  life stands as a stark reflection of our violent annihilation of the human spirit and the costs created by the rage that lies beneath.

Where Trickle Down actually works

Back in the ’80’s, for those of us old enough to remember, Reagan promoted the idea that when corporate entities made money, they would pass on their good fortunes to  employees, their families, the communities in which they found themselves and the nation at large would reap the benefits. If you haven’t been paying any attention, Reagan’s theory didn’t work then and it sure as hell isn’t working now.

The evidence was already mounting as childhood poverty began to rise that deregulation might not be the great idea that “the great orator” sold us on. Despite the signs that suggested this tactic was yielding less than optimal results, the government began turning a blind eye to bank and corporate transgressions while increasing its   regulation and oversight of individuals. Thus began the enslavement of the American people through the devaluing of work, the hording of resources to a smaller and smaller portion of the population, and the selling of this evolution as being in the best interest of the American people.

With the recent United States Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision, we have in evidence the most blatant form of granting corporate supremacy, now sanctioned and upheld by government entities as the law of the land. When “Corporations are people and money is voice”, people will always lose. So while banks get bail-out dollars, individual consumers will be pursued  for infractions in contractual obligations on homes that were sold through deceptive practices. While corporations like BP will have to fork over fines for poisoning the Gulf of Mexico, individuals who have been prescribed medical marijuana for real medical conditions will face imprisonment and/or the loss of their children in state child protective proceedings. While the government will pull more and more oversight away from industrial complexes who are dumping poisons into our air and waterways affecting our health, they will stand by as government agencies launch drones to spy on our activities within our homes and communities. Now government, corporation and agency interests can LEGALLY take precedence over individual civil rights.

We have been seeing the erosion of individual rights since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Whereas factories with line staff have all but disappeared, the need for subservient workers has not. Our social institutions have been established to ensure compliance not ingenuity. Regurgitation of facts is preferred to the intellectual debate that encourages the thinking process. We test by multiple choice and mark down for originality of thought. Our great thinkers, like Albert Einstein, who were dyslexic and slightly hyperactive (from sheer boredom in our classrooms) are now seen as a challenge, medicated and whisked away into Special Education classrooms that dulls their senses and slows their mind.

In order to survive in this society we are expected to parrot the corporate and agency interests in the places in which we find employment. Stanley Milgram was able to demonstrate the power that authority had to influence individual decision making. Through his study he proved that someone perceived to be in a position of authority could ask subjects to inflict pain on other participants without raising questions about the ethics or morality in the request to do so. (http://youtu.be/BcvSNg0HZwk). Within our corporations and agencies employees abdicate their moral and ethical convictions to appease the powers that be thereby maintaining their employment  to the detriment of both colleagues, and clients alike. Within these expectations we find the foundational aspects that have eroded our humanity. While Milgram’s experiment took place  in 1961 long before deregulation of banks and corporations, just one ruling has given those entities a jolt of support equivalent to the effect that doping has on superior athletes. We are witness to not just the erosion of civil rights, we are also witness to the sanction of that erosion by national, state and local government agencies and providers. Within this last election buffered by the Citizen’s United ruling, corporations even felt at liberty to tell their employees how to vote. Politicians, mimicking corporate interests, who received corporate payouts almost succeeded in suppressing voter participation in several key states.

Within our homes we have less and less time for each other. We look for evidence that our children are succeeding without investing in the process to make it so. We want intimacy and loyalty but come off as distant, uninvolved, and uninterested. We fault our children for the very issues that we fail to recognize and deal with ourselves. We are ashamed of ourselves so look for ways to blame, ridicule and ostracize others.  While it seems rights and safeguards flow upward, the bulk of the struggle for existence will continue to TRICKLE DOWN!

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

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