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I Shamelessly Stole From Baffled Mum Today

Baffled Mum’s post today, “Who Will Miss You?” is an outstanding illustration of why I like to steal things.

That’s my polite way of saying the idea for this post is stolen from a post of hers.

[Back story] Baffy — as she kindly allows me to call her — Baffy overheard some jerk rhetorically asking someone, “Who will miss you!”  Being foolishly in possession of a heart just as big as her mind (Which seems at least big enough to embrace most anything she wants it to embrace), Baffy posted a concise, surgically accurate response on her blog. Nailed him, she did!  Didn’t call him out by name, but nailed him right properly and good. [/back story]

Here’s my favorite Baffy quote of them all, “Who are we to judge the worth of people anyway?”

Yay!  You go, Baffy! Stick it to that dragon!  That dragon of unnecessary and unwarranted ranking of ourselves and others.

All I want to know is just which god slammed a ten-foot high judge’s bench under the exalted butts of possibly three-quarters or more of humanity?

Call me crazy if you must, but somehow, I doubt anything divine had a hand in placing those benches under those butts.  Somehow, I smell the profane stench of self-righteous self-appointment.  Just ain’t nothing sacred about them benches at all, so far as I can see.

I agree with everything Baffy said today.  Just I want to add this.  Each and every act of abuse the world sees moment to moment of each minute of the day is to me evidence of our co-equality when it comes to our most fundamental human worth.

Every act of abuse from the father’s too sharp criticism of his child to the dictator’s bloody genocide, is evidence of why we must treat each other as equals in basic human worth.

Abuse — it all adds up to a price, a cost, humanity simply hasn’t got it to pay off.

Abuse, Cultural Traits, Culture, Equality, Equality of Opportunity, Fairness, Freedom and Liberty, Honesty, Mental and Emotional Health, Morality, News and Current Events, Oppression, Quality of Life, Racism, Society, Values

The Two Kinds of Racism

(About a 5 minute read)

Some years ago, I had a contract to supervise and manage for a corporation its small call center of about a dozen people.  One day, my client informed me that a vice-president of the corporation had come to her more or less demanding that a young friend of hers be given a job as one of the callers.  Consequently, I was forced to bring the young woman on board without going through the normal hiring practice.

I forget her name now, but she was about 20 years old and black.  The day following her first day on the job, all three of my other black employees approached me — one by one — to privately warn me about her.

Continue reading “The Two Kinds of Racism”

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Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?

(About  5 minute read)

Growing up, I had a keen sense that I could get away with a good amount of rule-breaking.  Not just little things, but some fairly sizeable offenses too.  I didn’t usually push things as far as I sensed I could, but I did have the perception I could get away with a whole lot of things — if only I wanted to.

The sense stayed with me when I got older, although it became a little vaguer.  When I was in my late teens, early twenties, majoring in philosophy I was aware that I wouldn’t have much trouble getting a good job upon graduation — despite some warnings that my major was impractical.

Continue reading “Who is Privileged and Who Is Not?”

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The Terrible Terrys and Racism

(About a 5 minute read)

I was five years old when my maternal grandmother passed away.  She’d been born in 1875, and my best memories of her are of her in a rocking chair, her hands sewing, while she sits in a sunbeam streaming through the big southern window in my bedroom.  I play at her feet.  And sometimes she reads to me.

She would have been in her mid-to-late eighties then, and my mom tells me she was frail in old age.   She taught me to sew, and I — with my sharper sight — threaded needles for her.

That’s about as much of my grandmother as I remember, but mom quite recently told me a bit more.   It seems grandmother had, for her time and place, slightly peculiar ideas about race.

For instance, in the community grandmother lived in most of her adult life, it was commonplace for Whites to use racial slurs when referring to Blacks.  Even some of the community leaders did so.  Grandmother was among a minority of  White people in her neighborhood who seemed disturbed by those slurs and who refused to call Blacks anything other than “Negroes” (The word, “Black”, having not yet come into general usage).

From what I gather, there might have been a couple sources of encouragement for grandmother’s somewhat peculiar ideas about race.   In the first place, grandmother’s side of the family was from New England and had included among it’s members some staunch abolitionists.  Not that abolitionists were always respectful of Black folks, but I’m guessing that her’s might have been.

In the second place, grandmother was one of those women — rare in her time — who had a college education.   Not that one can be sure, but grandmother might have picked up some of her strange ideas about race while attending college.

So whether by family tradition or by education, or by some other source, my grandmother somehow came to the notion that Black folk were to be respected as equals — and she did so in a time and place when, according to my mother, she would not likely have gotten that notion from the community in which she lived.

Her husband, my grandfather, had a farm and he hired men to work it.   When mom was growing up, one of the hands was a Black man mom called “Uncle Albert”.   Uncle Albert’s wife, whom mom recalls was a rather beautiful woman, she called “Aunt Martha.”

My mother was taught to call adult friends “uncle” and “aunt” because it was thought disrespectful for a child to call an adult friend by their first name.

Since there were not many Blacks in the neighborhood at the time, Aunt Martha’s circle of friends was small and comprised mostly of White women.  And the prevailing custom was for a White woman to receive her White friends in her parlor or living room, but to receive her Black friends, if she had any, in her kitchen.  No doubt never being invited beyond the kitchen was originally conceived of as a way to send a message of some sort.

As mom recalls, grandmother ignored the prevailing custom and always received Aunt Martha in her living room, the same as she received everyone else.

Of course, nothing in the ways grandmother treated Aunt Martha — or even treated Blacks in general — was momentous, earthshaking or even sufficient grounds for erecting a statue of her, but her ways seem to me to have possessed a simple decency.

What makes grandmother’s behavior puzzling to me is that, from everything mom has told me about her, grandmother was one of those people who — quite far from ever wanting to risk stirring up trouble — habitually avoided any kind of social or personal conflict.  That is, she wasn’t exactly someone to routinely go against customs and conventions.  Yet, it appears that on a handful of issues — issues she felt strongly about — she would quietly stand her ground without making a show of it.

People are a strange maze of contradictions and complexities.

Thinking about all this, I would bet half the women who kept Aunt Martha in their kitchens did so simply because it was custom, because it was what their mothers taught them to do, and they never meant any cruelty by it.  They just thought it was her place.  People can be barbaric in their thoughtlessness.  They can be ugly in their carelessness and unquestioning obedience to custom.

My grandmother’s married name was “Terry”.  In part because of her somewhat strange ideas about race, which she communicated to her daughters, and in part for a small handful of other reasons, the women in her family eventually came to be nicknamed by some in their neighborhood, “The Terrible Terrys”.   I think that must surely have displeased her, given how little she liked controversy.


Originally posted January 9, 2010 and last revised April 27, 2017 for clarity.

Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Love, Mature Love, Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Quality of Life, Racism, Relationships, Romantic Love, Sexual Abuse, Sexuality, Verbal Abuse

Why Women Sometimes Become Addicted to Abusive Partners

Have you ever wondered why anyone might become addicted to an abusive partner and simply cannot leave them for long?

As most adults know, a lot of women seem to have a great deal of emotional difficulty leaving an abusive spouse. In fact, some women will stay forever with such a spouse, though he (or she) destroys their mental and emotional well-being, crushes their self-esteem, and — perhaps — even threatens their lives or the lives of their children. And, sometimes, abused men have much the same problem leaving an abusive spouse as abused women do.

However, it now appears that science is in the process of revealing the underlying reasons why (1) women seem to have such difficulty leaving an abusive spouse, and why (2) women seem to have much greater difficulty than men leaving an abusive spouse. But to understand what science has to say about it, we must begin by discussing popular notions of love.

If you ask most people who are in lasting relationships — including marriage — to describe love to you, they will most often describe the warm and fuzzy feelings that oxytocin produces in us of trust, love, and so forth. Oxytocin is a neurochemical that creates in us the emotions we usually associate with our most important emotional bonds to other people. Such as our warm and fuzzy emotional bonds to our kids, to our parents, to our siblings, and to our spouses. When people talk about their feelings of love for someone, they quite often describe the emotions produced by oxytocin.

Oxytocin is highly addictive. Some scientists even describe oxytocin as being more addictive than heroin. And — although it doesn’t have all that much to do with newly minted romantic love, oxytocin seems to very frequently dominate the feelings we have in long-term, lasting relationships. It’s addictive qualities are cumulative. That is, the longer you are physically with someone, the more oxytocin will bond you to them.

Like many addictive chemicals, oxytocin does not immediately produce withdrawal symptoms. Usually, there’s about a three (3) day wait between your last oxytocin fix and the onset of withdrawal symptoms. So, if you are like most of us, then you can expect to go from two to four days before you start missing — painfully missing — someone to whom you are heavily bonded.

To put all of the above in context, a woman leaving an abusive relationship has roughly three days before the onset of oxytocin withdrawal symptoms, when she will discover that she is painfully missing her ex. And, according to some scientists, those withdrawal symptoms, when they hit her, can even at times be more severe than if she were withdrawing from an heroine addiction.

But the above is further compounded by the fact the poor woman — the woman leaving an abusive relationship — has been taught her entire life to call the feelings produced by oxytocin — to call those feelings, “love”.
So, three days after she leaves the person who is beating her, and/or in some other ways abusing her, she starts to crave him. She starts to miss him painfully. And she thinks — she believes — that her painful feelings of oxytocin withdrawal mean she is still in love with him.

Both her feelings and her beliefs about her feelings encourage her to return to her abuser.

Up to a point, abused men go through the same process as women. But there is one major difference between men and women here. It seems that the effects of oxytocin on us are significantly stronger in women than in men. Studies have now shown that estrogen, the so-called “female hormone”, multiplies the effects on us of oxytocin by — at the very least — a factor of 10. Hence, women usually find it far, far more emotionally difficult to permanently leave an abusive partner than men do.

At any rate, that seems to be the most recent, up to date, explanation that science currently offers as to why anyone might become addicted to an abusive partner, and why women tend to become more addicted to abusive partners than men. Do you think the science on this matter sheds any light at all on any relationships you have known about? Why or why not?

Abuse, Emotional Abuse, Oppression, Physical Abuse, Psychological Abuse, Quality of Life, Racism, Self, Sexual Abuse, Verbal Abuse

What is Oppression?

Suppose, for a moment, the world were to agree that a person is oppressed if and when something (such as another person, a government, or a society) causes them to become alienated from themselves.  That is, prevents them from being true to themselves.  If the world understood that to be oppression, then what might be the consequences?

In practice, I think there might be quite a few problems with defining oppression in those terms unless we were to also distinguish between necessary and unnecessary oppression.  Thus, necessary oppression could be defined as oppression that is necessary to prevent one person from unjustly harming another, while unnecessary oppression could be defined as oppression that serves no such purpose.

For instance:  Let’s say that, in stealing from others,  I am in some significant sense being true to myself.  Any person, government, or society that tried to prevent me from stealing would, by our definition of oppression, be oppressing me.  So, if oppression is morally wrong, then I could argue no person, no government, nor any society had a moral right to prevent me from stealing.

On the other hand, if oppression is morally right whenever it is done to prevent one person from unjustly harming another, then in so far as stealing from someone harms them, it is moral for others to prevent me from stealing even though doing so also prevents me from being true to myself.

All of the above seems simple enough, but does it work?  Is it an adequate definition of oppression? If not, then what is oppression?

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Are Our Hierarchical Societies Intrinsically Abusive?

As I understand it, civilization got its start about 5,500 years ago when folks in ancient Sumer began living in agricultural-based, hierarchical societies.  Before then, our species almost exclusively lived in egalitarian bands of hunter/gatherers.  And one thing the anthropologists have noticed is that the shift from uncivilized hunting/gathering to civilized agriculture was not physically healthy for us.

It’s been discovered that our uncivilized ancestors were on the whole better fed and nourished than our civilized ancestors. Consequently, our uncivilized ancestors were taller, more robust, healthier, and possibly lived longer, than their civilized cousins.

Agriculture was a devil’s bargain.  It supported more people per acre than hunting/gathering.  But most of those people were malnourished.

I think the more you study it, the more you realize that civilization itself was a devil’s bargain — and not merely, or even primarily, because it was physically unhealthy.  Rather, I think civilization has been emotionally and mentally unhealthy for us when compared to our uncivilized past.  Why?

There are a lot of answers to that “Why”, but here’s one — it might even be the best: Civilized societies, perhaps much more than uncivilized societies, abuse their members.  And the abuse most likely creates all sorts of emotional and mental problems.

At least, that’s my hunch.  For the most part, my hunch comes out of what I’ve read in anthropology and closely related fields over the past 35 years.  But of course, I could be wrong.  For one thing, my reading in those fields has been casual, rather than systematic.  After all, I am a proud intellectual who tackles information in order to get laid, rather than a confused scientist who tackles information in order to discover truths  (But why isn’t it working?  Why am I not laid? Who must I see about correcting this?).

At any rate, let’s put aside for a moment the immense and meaningful tragedy of my not getting laid (Readers should seize this opportunity to dry their tears!), and ask ourselves the more relevant question:  If it can indeed be said that civilized societies, perhaps much more than uncivilized societies, abuse their members, then what is meant by “abuse” here?

As I am using the word, “abuse” is any unnecessary repression of a person’s true or genuine nature.

Of course, there is always someone who will object to that definition on the grounds that — if that is abuse — then most of us these days are to one extent or another being abused.  Or put differently, someone will object that abuse simply cannot be any unnecessary repression of a person’s true or genuine nature, because if that were so, then how can society function without abusing its members?

Well, that “objection” all but makes my case for me, doesn’t it?

It seems to me highly likely that the hierarchical societies our species first began living in some 5,500 years ago are intrinsically abusive.  Or, as some might say, “structurally” abusive.  In other words, I think it highly likely there is no real way we humans can live in hierarchical societies without, to various extents, abusing most of the people living in them.

Of course, some hierarchical societies are comparatively more abusive than other hierarchical societies.  Liberal democracies are significantly less abusive of their citizens than dictatorships are abusive of their subjects.  Even though all hierarchical societies today unnecessarily repress people’s genuine natures to one extent or another, it would be foolish to see no difference between one society and the next.

I think you could write a hundred blog posts on this one subject and not exhaust it.  In this post, I am attempting to merely introduce the topic.  I am certainly not, in so few words as these, attempting to persuade anyone that there is truth to the notion our hierarchical societies are intrinsically abusive.  So, I could go on and on about this, but I am now sure and certain I have already said enough to get me laid.  In the future, I hope to return to this subject again and again and again in order to probe deeper and deeper and ever more passionately into the hot, wet, willing TRUTH! of this wonderfully throbbing, hungry subject in order to get at whatever truths there might be in this matter.