Monday, February 16, 2015

The Curious Case of Roger Ebert

     We've been learning about Roger Ebert in G+T 2, and there is a lot to be learned (and asked) about his life.  Prior to his surgery that removed his jaw and ability to speak, he was a world-renowned film critic.  Following the surgery, he spent the remainder of his time writing a blog with very insightful and thought-provoking topics ranging from loneliness, the universe, and death.  No doubt he suffered following the surgery, but in his blogs, he seems very content.  I don't get him.  He was in a position and had the mentality that would cause constant torment (not being able to speak and pondering death and the concept of eternity on a daily basis), yet he proliferated during this time.  In terms of the "sink or swim" moment (or as I prefer to say the breaking point), I don't think he ever reached it.  Then again, I don't have nearly enough information about his life to draw a finite conclusion.  Still, from what I've been exposed to, there was never anything that bad about his life to cause him to break.
     For instance, he mentions in his post "All the Lonely People" that the only time he ever felt alone was when he realized that if Chaz, his wife, or himself passes away during surgery, then he will be alone from his wife.  He discusses how scary that is for him, but this is the first time he ever feels like this.  I feel this on at least a weekly basis of being abandoned by friends, teachers, and family.  It has happened in the past, by people who promised they would always be there for me, but would abandon me after.  I have serious trust issues, and my despair and fear force me into situations to where I need to trust people.  That trust usually winds up getting broken.  I have been through times where I felt completely isolated, where the people I thought cared did not, where I couldn't go anywhere or to anyone for help, anyone for a companion.  I'm not asking anyone to try to "save" me, I just want a friend I can go to, to talk to, to hang out with, a companion.  But I'm not good enough for that.  No.  I'm different from everyone else.  I'm that freak in the distance watching everything.  This is only a mere fraction of what it feels like to be broken, and Ebert didn't even feel this.
     Ebert was lucky, and he knew he was lucky.  He never looked down on people, and he brought others together that did suffer more than him to air their grievances, connect, and find hope.  For this, I have immense respect for Roger Ebert.  Ebert was under a circumstance that could have broken him, but did not due to his own mind set, which is what makes him lucky.  He just used the situation to its fullest to proliferate in his blog, and he seemed to enjoy that.  Sure, the surgery was a falter in step, but he just kept going, and I don't fully understand that.  To me, to be broken is to realize how utterly pointless everything is and how everything you ever aspired for and did was a complete failure.  I don't think he hit that point, but I know others have, myself included.  It's when one is broken that the person either stays their or their entire existence adopts a purpose.  For me, it's to help others, make a difference.  I deserve every once of suffering that comes my way, but no one else does.  We live in a disgusting, cold, dark, and gritty world, and I want to change that.  I have nothing else to live for; so, I'll take on as much pain, despair, agony, and suffering there is in existence... because they can't break me again.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Caught in the Cross-Hares

             The United States institutes policy that is allegedly at best interest of the United States.  However, there are certain aspects of policy, I believe, are not at best interest of the United States, more specifically its citizens and those inhabiting the US.  When considering the atrocities against human lives brought on by US immigration policy and the militarization of the police, I personally find that the US needs to change its policy.
             Foremost, immigration is a hot topic in US culture.  As per the status quo, many would-be-immigrants are denied entrance into the country.  Statistics between conservative and liberal sources vary immensely about the number of undocumented immigrants and about who these people are.  Commonly in the media, (mostly conservative sources) attack the "illegal immigrants" for drug trafficking.  To reduce this trafficking and fight the "war on drugs", US policy calls for stronger border patrol and deportation of "illegal immigrants".  Truth be told, this is primarily assumption on behalf of the conservative sources.  In fact, the US Chamber of Commerce published statistics and facts about immigration from the US-Mexican border.  Most undocumented immigrants are not drug-traffickers but are in fact trying to escape the drug-trafficking present.  Most undocumented immigrants cannot find jobs in their country;so they come to the US to work to be underpaid for excessive hours under brutal conditions.  The increased border patrol and visa inefficiencies create problems in distinguishing between drug-traffickers and those looking to better their family's lives.  These immigrants actually help create jobs in higher positions, not take them.  Lastly, about 97% of these undocumented workers, who have faced squalid conditions and racial discrimination within our country, still want to be US citizens.
            Personally, I am disgusted by the treatment of this issue.  "Oh, but they don't pay taxes." They pay sales tax on everything they buy.  Besides, undocumented immigrants come to work (which is economically good) and make a living within our country (that means buying things, which is also economically good).  It never truly hit me what it meant to be undocumented.  After learning about this, it means you can't get a driver's license.  It's so ingrained in my head that every adult has a driver's license, and that everyone has the capacity to drive.  That isn't the case!!  Public transit and walking are the only legal options! To understand that undocumented immigrants have to go through so much just saddens me.  I can't do much, but I will do this.  Stop saying "illegal immigrants".  It sounds horribly negative and perpetuates racial stereotypes.  Instead, say undocumented immigrants, okay?
           Secondly, there is a massive issue of police militarization within our country.  The military is giving weapons to police to fight the, you guessed it, "war on drugs".  Now, I am not that educated about the issue at hand, but I can definitely say it is an issue.  Police forces across the nation are being upgraded military-wise with more lethal weapons.  I do know of a small town in Georgia that received a tank.  Why on earth would police need a tank??  That has to be destroying America's already broken roads, and instilling fear into all US citizens, including the innocent.  I do not know much about this issue, but I do know that you should never overpower a force.  After the Manhattan project, the US was in about 40 years of tension with nuclear war at risk.  Why are we letting the same build-up of militarism happen at a local level?
           As a skinny white boy, I'm terrified of the police with this stuff going on!! and who wouldn't be!  The scary part is: acting nervous gives suspicion for the police to investigate.  What I do know is that people will feel scared about being investigated and act like they did something wrong, even though they did not.  Psychology is a powerful thing, just like the assault rifles that make me not want to go out anymore (yeah, like I wanted to from the beginning) (what is the beginning? My mom's uterus? This is getting off topic!!)
           My point is: people are getting caught in the cross-hares of this war on drugs; weapons are escalating, but responsibility is not.  Military soldiers with military training receive military weapons, and now so are snipers at the border and possibly my school resource officer.  Please, show some respect to other people, and understand that bigger guns do not solve our problems.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Passion Project Update #2

For these past 2 weeks, I made some insightful progress.  Being the roots of obsession, I did a little research into fear.  Through research in the form of a video and an informal survey, fear can condition others into obsession and/or phobia.  Conditioning can occur through constant repetition of something.  To make someone avoid a "thing", that "thing" will have to be associated with something threatening to a person, and the exposure must take place at a very young age (including infancy).  To me, this makes sense.  As humans, we evolved through the "fight or flight" response causing us to react to threats regardless of age.  However at a very young age, we subconsciously learn that the threat is something we want to avoid for the rest of our existence.  If its something we want to avoid, something we were conditioned to through childhood, we develop an obsession to do something in order to avoid the threat (whether that threat really exists).  Having a nightmare as a child can leave a phobia to haunt someone for the rest of his/her life, and that nightmare could have arisen from anything.  For example, one may have a crippling fear of dogs because this person was exposed to vicious dogs as a child.  And this person may not even realize it.  I think this analysis is fairly accurate; so, I think this was good progress.  For next week, I am anticipating on either looking into obsession not rooted in fear or exploring my own fears.
Also, I dipped into the neuro-chemical aspect of this a little bit.  I came at the concept of proper serotonin balances from how medicine regulates the balances.  I came across SSRI's which slow down the passing of serotonin through synapses.  This treats panic attacks and obsessive behavior through limiting the serotonin that can pass through.  To me, I think this means that obsession occurs in a short burst of serotonin.  To be obsessive calls for the transaction of the neurotransmitter.  This analysis and research seems very accurate, especially based on how it feels for me when I freak out.  For next time, I would like to go deeper into the chemical processes of how SSRI's work and how the neurotransmitter serotonin works in its balances.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Passion Project Log 1

Well, it's that time of the year again! For my passion project, I'm researching the psychological and neuro-chemical aspects of obsession in humans.  So far, I watched a video detailing what is Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and how obsession can be rooted in fear and conditioning as a child. For the next week, I learned the basics of neuroscience, and the various neurotransmitters that relate to behavior and emotion.  These past 2 weeks set the foundation of what I need to know.  I have been using this with myself and my character David from the play David and Lisa.  I noticed that fear is a strong contributor psychologically to obsession.  It also relates to serotonin, relating to depression and anxiety.  As it stands, I think I made good progress in taking on the foundation.  I will be focusing more on fear and how conditioning works for next week and the balances for serotonin to manipulate emotions.  Till next time!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Who was Right? Obama or Alfred?

President Obama calls Americans to order (back in 2011) for a more empathetic society.  In reference to the Arizona shootings, the President made a heartfelt speech addressing the nation on building empathy.  Various articles and experts, much like Obama, agree that humans need to focus on a global empathy.  But is this realistic?
First, let me explain that empathy is a GOOD thing and it is very necessary in our society.  Do we as humans suffer a lacking of it in our present society? Absolutely. Can we improve our empathy as a society? ...I don't know... Now, empathy is something within all of us that is controlled by all of us as individuals. One can not simply pull the empathy out of someone.  That person needs to be ready to share and let their empathy prosper.  Usually, it takes a struggle or some amount of pain to build empathy.  After all, empathy connects us as humans through our shared suffering.  Being so, Obama used the pain of the shooting to bring out the empathy. A valiant and good-hearted effort, but I don't think it affects enough people personally.  Also, it takes more than the eloquence of a speaker to invoke empathy.  The human mind processes thoughts on an incredibly higher level than speech can provide.  The pain must take place on a personal level, and the human needs to process the situation to build empathy, not misplaced hate and anger.  Being that said, that's how empathy can be built.  However, that needs to happen to EVERY person in America (at least) to build a better society.
Obama is not by any means wasting his time in addressing the nation as such, but he can better apply himself in more effective action for gun control and mental health as opposed to giving a speech that will hopefully cause all Americans to become good citizens.
In my own personal experiences, I have come to realize that not all people are capable of empathy.  Various students I know have no consideration what-so-ever for anyone else's feelings.  Bullying is a true issue, and most often it is behind people's backs.  In my experiences, the only form of bullying that people are up front about are homophobic comments and racism.  When I say racism, it happens on all aspects.  White people are discriminated against just as much as any other minority group.  If you have an ethnicity, you are now considered the scum of the Earth by a different ethnic group in my school.
According to research, Frontiers in September 24, 2013, the defining psychological characteristic of psychopath is a severe lack of empathy. In a test group, people with a very severe form of psychopathy were tested for empathy. When imagining pain for themselves, they reacted in a normal neurological response, they didn't like it.  However, when they reacted to the thought of other people getting hurt, they reacted with pleasure.  Lower level psychopaths typically feel nothing; thus, there being a lack of empathy. But there does exist people that have an "anti-empathy", reacting in opposite of the expected empathetic reaction.
Can we build empathy in everyone?  Day by day, exposed to the cruelties of humanity, exposed to the bleak consciences of high school students, I lose hope that an empathetic global community can exist.  At least I think of it as; if I don't care, who will? Now, I close with what I fear is true.

"Some men, just want to watch the world burn." -Alfred Pennyworth, The Dark Knight