Archive for the ‘social psychology’ Category

Lies, damn lies, Same Sex Marriage and press responsibility

September 25, 2017

Should there be some requirement for “letters to the editor” to be fact-checked? What is the editorial responsibility if letters misrepresent the law?

Re—–
Subject: Editorial irresponsibility
Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2017 12:29:40 +0800

To: letters@sundaytimes.com.au

Dear Editor,

In “Your Say” 24 September, Leslie L Cummings suggested that same sex marriage imperils children, Andre Nel claimed that homophobic bullying is a “red herring,” and ID Smith claimed that legal marriage is required for access to IVF, artificial insemination, and adoption. As the “Indicative Survey” is being seen as a serious vote, and as anti-SSM speakers are verging on calls for children to be removed from same-sex couples, I feel it is irresponsible of your paper to print these letters without an associated factual article citing:

– the statistics which show greater psychological and physical
well-being in children raised by same-sex couples (the opponents of SSM generally cite stats from single-parent families to show ill-effects of lack of one gender in the house),

– recent reports of bullying at school of children of same-sex couples because their parents “shouldn’t have children” or are “unnatural,”

– statements of the legal situation in the various States of Australia, for example, lesbian couples can now start a family using IVF in every state and territory in Australia except the NT. 2014 Australian Census data indicate that 12% of same-sex couples have children (3 % of male couples.)

The amount of spreading of false statements about the welfare of
children and the rights to adoption and parenting is nearing
vilification. I hope someone whose children are bullied, or whose house is vandalised, brings a case under the protective legislation.

FYI, I am in an over-30-year hetero relationship, and have 4 admirable adult children. So no homophobic hatemail, thanks.

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What if Trump was literally being honest for once?

July 10, 2017

President Trump tweeted “Putin & I discussed forming an impenetrable Cyber Security unit so that election hacking, & many other negative things, will be guarded..” Consider the literal meaning (assume prescriptivist semantics apply) : Putin and Trump get an “impenetrable” unit protecting their election hacking etc from detection and publicity.

What if he is telling the truth this time? If hacking is being guarded, rather than guarded against?

When political activism is triggered by falsehoods, what do we do?

November 6, 2016
I was curious about the alleged blasphemy which had been reported as triggering violent protest in Indonesia – none of our local news services cited the inflammatory words.
A bit of googling found several sites saying that it was because a Christian Governor had had electoral opponents citing the Koran to say Islamic believers should not vote for a non-Muslim, and he had responded that the voters were being misled by the use of the Koran verse. More digging found:

According to sites including the Sydney Morning Herald, some Islamic groups had urged voters not to re-elect Ahok, citing verse 51 from the fifth sura or chapter of the Koran, al-Ma’ida, which some interpret as prohibiting Muslims from living under the leadership of a non-Muslim. It is often translated as:

“5:51 O ye who believe! take not the Jews and the Christians for your friends: They are but friends to each other. And he amongst you that turns to them is of them. Verily Allah guideth not a people unjust.”

Others say the scripture should be understood in its context – making allies a time of war – and not interpreted literally – its context excludes those who respect the ways and beliefs of Islam. e.g. http://www.answering-christianity.com/sami_zaatri/friends.htm and http://seekershub.org/ans-blog/2009/09/07/friendship-with-non-muslims-explaining-verse-551/

I wondered whether it was extreme sensitivity to allegations of anti-Muslim bias which led the newspaper and TV  reports I came across to avoid dealing with the misinterpretation of sacred words as a basis for violence. If so, it is a pity – much of the world’s politics is shaped by invincible ignorance or deliberate lies, and we really need some mechanism for dealing with that.

This is a serious topic which has not been addressed by our parties’ policies.  It is time we wrote to our representatives and called for legislative action to protect the ignorant from falsehoods in the political arena as well as in the commercial world.  Maybe even time to picket or pillory those who are caught out misleading the public.  If they should have known better, if they could have checked with reputable experts, if they chose to speak from ignorance while acting as demagogues – they are as culpable as if they had lied.

In this case it is worse than usual, as the protests could be used by those already nervously aware of the Koran’s approach to those who are not of the Christian or Jewish faiths (why not to be an active atheist or pagan in Indonesia or Dubai…) to fear that Muslims could be led to vote for radical candidates purely on the basis of their faith, and thus destabilise our political system.

What future for the average intelligence student? The problem with education “for employment”

July 10, 2016

Both our major political parties are talking about education to fit students for jobs in “the new economy.”  At the same time  Our Coalition Government wants to give Company Tax reductions to large businesses.  However, for large companies,  increased company profits invested in expansion tend to lead to job losses.

Not just from offshore subcontracting of labour to exploited workers with no leave entitlements, OH&S rights,  or superannuation. Consider  http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36376966

It includes a quote from a former McDonald’s senior staffer : “It’s cheaper to buy a $35,000 robotic arm than it is to hire an employee who is inefficient, making $15 an hour bagging French fries.”

The main item in the article is that 60 000 (probably OH&S nightmare) jobs have gone because Chinese factories invested in technology not humans – even at their pay rates the robots are cheaper.

These job losses are not just the semi-literate jobs.  Consider the rise in expert systems, even self-reprogramming learning systems: the first white-collar job robots are already here, even doing work for lawyers: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/innovations/wp/2016/05/16/meet-ross-the-newly-hired-legal-robot/

The students know about this.  They know that machine intelligence researchers are even starting to find ways to program the machines for creativity.
(see John Gero on Creativity emergence and evolution in design concepts and framework
and  https://www.jwtintelligence.com/2016/06/cannes-2016-creativity-and-machine-learning/  )

So why should the less bright and less creative struggle to learn the basics, if they are told education is “to get a job” and they know they are headed for love on the dole?   (Read Greenwood’s book, or at least a detailed review, if you haven’t come across a film or play adaptation yet )

It is time for the meme of “education to be fit for work” to die.  Move to “education to get tools to make more fun and happiness, or dodge trouble.”  Start classes in “Learning something new without a teacher’s help, and demonstrating it to others,” “Comparing and testing health benefit claims,”  “Bullshit detection,” “website reliability testing,” “effective complaints,” “Dealing with Bureaucracy 1:  Completing a basic tax return so you don’t pay your refund to an accountant,” and  “Dealing with Bureaucracy 2:  Complying with Dole paperwork requirements.”

Of course, you may end up with a lot of activists trying to improve the Nation because they realise that the  current socio-economic system is the source of much unhappiness.  They may even realise that money is just another social construct – and not a good one – and demand a world run on social obligation instead.
Would that be so bad?

Cruz Iowa “big victory”?

February 7, 2016

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/02/ted-cruzs-interminably-long-iowa-victory-speech-annotated/  said “Ted Cruz won a big victory Monday night at the Iowa caucuses.”   Most Australian media had American talking heads referring to a clear victory and Donald Trump coming second, with little talk of Rubio.

From http://www.iowacaucus.biz/, Marco Rubio took 23.1 per cent, Mr Trump 24.3 per cent and Mr Cruz 27.7 per cent of the vote.

Less than a 5% difference?  In polling terms, that’s experimental error.  In USA political terms, at the start of the long chain of preliminaries in  other – less farm-based – States, this is neck-and-neck.

I think the media have not done a good job of reporting here.  We have the right to feel insulted, and the responsibility to wonder about their hidden agendas.

 

I

What is normal?

January 27, 2015

This was left in a caravan park in the 1950’s, earlier provenance unknown, but the hairstyles date it.

My, how culture changes: we are no longer allowed to see the range of shapes as normal, let alone have images of them or names for them except on unsavoury internet sites. Some may object to the descriptive lables, but I think they are rather poetic.

In these days of Barbies, airbrushing, and boob-jobs it could be a valuable health-ed and art resource.  Imagine comic-books with the full range depicted…

 

Dismissing Freud – baby and bathwater time.

January 6, 2015

According to university student reports, Psychology students are now taught to dismiss Freud – that is, if they are even introduced to his name.  I see three problems with this,  Firstly, they lose the good bits such as  the concept of “Freudian Slips.”  Secondly, they miss the historical perspective – which can inform a properly sceptical view of current theories.  Thirdly, they miss the anthropological perspective, the link between the theories and the culture in which they were developed (for example, penis envy and castrtion fears in a society where men have social power and freedom of movement and body details are a taboo topic, what a surprise….)

The third point is a sad loss in our increasingly multicultural society:  If a woman seeks mental health support and comes of a very patriarchal and female-restricting society, would current approaches help her fit the social rôle her family expects, and would the health professionals be sufficiently aware of the problem to even consider offering culturally sensitive counselling?  I have the uncomfortable feeling that old-style Freudian would be more fitting for some groups – not just Muslim, consider  http://blogs.forward.com/sisterhood-blog/127114/why-jewish-women-are-wearing-burqas/ and assault on non-compliant http://failedmessiah.typepad.com/failed_messiahcom/2014/03/haredi-modesty-assault-woman-beaten-up-by-haredi-man-in-beit-shemesh-over-skirt-length-678.html

– our underlying WEIRD cultural  assumptions will challenge these families should they migrate here.

Should people be offered the option of psychiatric help to fit in with their sub-culture’s expectations for their rôle, rather than to achieve full mental health as our culture defines it?  To what extent would a Freudian approach help?

A quote that got me wondering – and where I went from there.

October 14, 2014

The quote:

I decided to track down the source of an often quoted bit of “Children of Dune” by Frank Herbert:
When I am weaker than you, I ask you for freedom because that is according to your principles; when I am stronger than you, I take away your freedom because that is according to my principles.
 “Quand je suis le plus faible, je vous demande la liberté parce que tel est votre principe; mais quand je suis le plus fort, je vous l’ôte, parce que tel est le mien.”
Conversation avec Augustin Cochin.
but in French Wikipedia it says
Pierre Pierrard explique que cette phrase a été mise dans la bouche de Louis Veuillot par Montalembert sous la forme « Quand les libéraux sont au pouvoir, nous leur demandons la liberté, parce que c’est leur principe, et, quand nous sommes au pouvoir, nous la leur refusons, parce que c’est le nôtre.»  et citée le 3 juin 1876 à l’Assemblée nationale par Jules Ferry.  Elle a depuis, sous des formes changeantes, été constamment r.épétée bien que dès le 6 juin suivant Veuillot eût protesté et affirmé que cette phrase n’était pas de lui.
– that is, he probably didn’t say it.  But people in 1876 thought it was worth having him say it.

 Where I went from there

 Many countries have signed the Convention relating to the Status of Refugees

the term “refugees” applies to any person who:

“Owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

I know that most –isms and religions have some extreme adherents, who honestly believe that the rest of the world should  follow their beliefs.  Some of these form groups devoted to achieving this.   Some of these groups believe that failing to follow their beliefs makes one less than human, and that non-believers should not have equal rights with believers – for instance,  it may be that atheists, agnostics, and miscellaneous pagans cannot get employment documents.  Some go further and believe that force should be used to make some others comply – for example, live peacefully with “People of the book” but use threat of death to convert everyone else.   Some go further still, and wish to kill  even those who hold to  a  different interpretation of their holy books while  following the same version of the divine, or whatever other social belief is important to them.

Being a devout agnostic, I am deeply aware of these groups. I have met people who assume that I am worse than untrustworthy because I don’t claim to have a god I believe in, even though those who lie about their beliefs or ignore their religions’ rules are much less trustworthy (Seen the statistics on child abuse?)  I avoid going to certain countries because  I don’t want to have to lie about beliefs in order to travel safely.  I worry about their spread.  Especially the extremists who believe that abortion clinics should be bombed, and that no non-christian should ever be President,

 I suggest that all members of the United Nations publicly state the following: 

We will only give refuge to those who commit to reciprocal tolerance of others’ belief and lack of belief,  and to recognition of all human rights.

The extreme case

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be treated as they would treat others.    If their group generally  say that those who convert from their belief should be killed, they  must not be given refugee status unless they renounce that aspect of the belief, and if they later recant the death penalty should, logically, apply.  If they deny others’ evidence equal weight before the law, their evidence should so be discounted in the country of refuge.   If they would tax unbelievers more heavily than their own, they shall be taxed heavily in the country of refuge.

The moderate case – or is it?

Where people are  of a social or religious or political group that believes that unbelievers / some other group should be oppressed,  unless they will commit to leaving that group, they should be  denied refugee status.  If they are refugees from another such group of differing belief – well, that is fair exchange of oppression.

The interaction of this with overseas oppression

Where a government oppresses others in such a way as to make people become refugees, that government should not generally be assisted if another oppressive group attempts their overthrow.  Intervention should only be on a humanitarian basis. Refugees should not be sent back to an oppressive regime, as they have renounced the oppressive culture and will therefore be liable to greater risk.

If a self-proclaimed government attempts to invade other nations and enforces oppressive beliefs,  that requires immediate and forceful response from the United Nations – Peace Makers, not Peace Keepers.  The attempted invasion  is not just a war, it is a denial of human rights extending across borders, which is a much more serious and urgent matter.  If we stand idly waiting for someone else to fix it, we encourage all extreme belief groups to try their hand at the same game.

And that, I would pay higher tax to avoid.  I would travel to be a “grumpy old pensioner” on the battlefront, to embarrass the invaders until they stop that so that my grandchildren will be safe.   (Besides, it beats relying on the social system in old age, now that the illiberal and small-hearted are running the county.

 

Housing on the dole – or the minimum wage

May 6, 2014

 Fining beggars, cutting welfare, and moving young unemployed away from home.

The City of Perth recently suggested that beggars should be fined.  (They rapidly backed away from the resultant backlash, and started talking about “… if they don’t accept a referral to the Salvation Army…”)   At that time I thought – Our State gaols people for unpaid fines.  Someone poor enough to need to beg, and allergic to  religious types, can’t pay the hundred dollars, so goes to prison.  One way out of homelessness…

Now the Australian Government’s rushed “Commission of Audit” – consisting of the type of people you’d expect  to be appointed by a very Big Business aligned government – has brought in its predictable extreme list of possible actions.  As in the Pauline Hansen /  One Nation days, their suggestions are so extreme as to make vicious treatment of the poor look moderate, and a number of rich people are chipping in with ways to cut the welfare budget.

One of the ideas raised in the past week was to require young unemployed people to move from areas of high unemployment.

This reminded me of the City of Perth’s proposal, and I shall explain why.

 Income and homelessness

In Australia we have well over 5% unemployment, where that is defined as  not having had an hour’s paid work in the previous week.  

We also have cities where a report on affordable housing

“… prepared by Anglicare Australia, found single Australians on government payments are “seriously disadvantaged” in the housing market, with less than 1 per cent of properties examined deemed suitable. 

Single people with no children living on the minimum wage were slightly better off, with 4 per cent of listed properties found suitable, according to the study. ” 

The full report is at http://www.anglicare.asn.au/site/rental_affordability_snapshot.php   It includes figures for some areas where welfare income won’t even rent a shed.

Now, business claim that the minimum wage is sufficient, and the governments say that the various welfare payments are sufficient.

Welfare groups say that we need much more public housing, as we have at least 100,000 homeless (2011 figures plus local information).

Young unemployed people rely on support – and often housing – from a network of family and friends.  Couch-surfing and rental sharing are much easier where you know a lot of people. Life is cheaper when they help you with food and laundry facilities. So, moving young unemployed people away from their home ground will lead to more homelessness and begging.

Here’s a thought.  Social Science Fiction, perhaps.

If the payments are sufficient, let the Federal government and State governments accept responsibility for showing it is so.

Sell no more government owned land within 20 kilometers of a city – any buildings which are no longer required (say, an old hospital in Perth where a replacement is being built elsewhere) can be replaced by State-owned quick-built and easily recycled buildings (in this case, so when the new hospital gets too old, you have somewhere to rebuild.)    That way you can experiment with physical structures for the housing.  (By the way, NEVER sell government owned land within 20 kilometers of a city in Oz,  ever.  You will need the land later, and it will have increased in cost beyond the interest on the money you get today.)

Have large, mulitstorey complexes with communal kitchens and laundries, and a mixture of single and family accommodation.  Provide subsidised housing there for concierges/maintenance workers, police, nurses, teachers, cooks, lawyers  and social workers.   And hire some of these to work in the buildings as teachers for those who cannot attend school, social trainers, residents’ representatives, police, etc.

People on welfare can choose to surrender their benefits in return for secure housing, food and clothing and laundry (taking rostered turns at kitchen and cleaning and maintenance duties if capable – thus learning skills and responsibility), transport to education or job-seeking activities and to second-hand stores (to get clothing etc.), internet access for such purposes, education and work equipment costs, health care, etcetera.  One of the in-house jobs woud be the “knocker-upper” : some people do need a person to get them up on time to get to where they have to be on time, and to remind them to get to important appointments.  It is a surprisingly common problem, and naturally linked to unemployment and problems with bureaucracy.

Where welfare recipients have their payments suspended for “breaches” they can be put on daily work rosters – a contrast with the current system: six weeks or more with no income and no monitoring of behaviour (natural risk of crime or homelessness.)

If  residents get employment or other income, half of all after-tax-and- costs income above welfare is also charged, and once they get more than the minimum wage they have support to find independent rentals (they do, after all, have a “rental reference” now. )

It’s cheaper than imprisonment or fully institutional care, and for many of those who are  intellectually handicapped / brain injured / just unable to cope out of institutions it is more likely to be  a happy life than tying to live independently.  For those who haven’t learned how to run a home in our culture, it can help with gaining the skills they need.  For families under stress it may provide the added support the children need to get them to happy adulthood – without the shame of being officially “targets” of support.  For single unemployed people, it provides a better environment that many random share houses.  For the elderly, it provides support greater than fully independent living but less intense that nursing home care.

What is more, it will take some pressure off the lower end of the rental market.

The trouble is, the State and Federal governments want to send the needy to the Salvation Army, Anglicare, the Uniting Church Mission, … anything but admit that the problem requires serious action by something more than volunteer organisations.

 

A Challenge for “Corporate environmentalists”

April 22, 2014

Many organisations paint themselves Green, and proudly “Turn off the lights for Earth Hour.”  I would like them to try a more lasting challenge:

Make unironed clothes an “Environmentally Aware” corporate fashion statement.  Those creases and wrinkles come from cleaning, which shows intelligence,   or from being packed neatly, which shows forethought – but what is the point of burning electricity to take out wrinkles?

How many kilowatt/hours power irons and clothes steamers?  How many hours are spent ironing rather than doing life-enriching activities?  This is insanity continued by the social pressure to “look Professional.”

Join the movement:  use Earth Day to bring a little sanity to your workplace – and your local school, and anywhere you visit where they want to look “properly ironed.”