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Archive for January 2nd, 2009

Deliver Us from Evil (2006) is a documentary film directed by Amy J. Berg which tells the true story of Catholic priest Oliver O’Grady, who sexually abused potentially hundreds of children between the late 1970s and early 1990s. The film won the Best Documentary Award at the 2006 Los Angeles Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. The title refers to a line in the Lord’s Prayer, or the “Our Father.”

The video gives us a sordid glimpse at the story behind the abuse, the psychology of the abuser and the abused, and the circumstances that led to and are a result of the tragic events. It also raises questions of how the Catholic Church polices its own ranks and the tremendous power and responsbility of Church leaders have on their faithful flock.

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 Jared Diamond, author of Collapse, gives an interesting talk in TED regarding the reasons why societies collapse. In this talk he describes the story of the Norse society in Greenland which went extinct. He describes a 5 point framework he uses to examine the collapse of human societies:

  • Human Impact On The Environment
  • Climate Change
  • Relationships With Neighboring Friendly Societies
  • Relationships With Hostile Societies
  • Political/Economic/Cultural/Social Factors

One of Professor Diamond’s controversial statements in the talk relates to the tendency for societies to collapse in a rapid fashion:

7:47 One interesting common thread has to do with, in many cases, the rapidity of collapse after a society has reached its peak. There are many societies that don’t wind down gradually but they build up, get rich and more powerful, and then within a short time within a few decades after they have peaked, they collapse.

Professor Diamond’s talk is a timely one especially in light of the economic crisis gripping the globe now and the troubles hitting First World societies in the United States and Europe.

An ecologist, evolutionary biologist and professor of geography and physiology at UCLA, Diamond takes an approach that goes beyond culture and into the impact it has on the environment. As Malcolm Gladwell observes, “Diamond’s distinction between social and biological survival is a critical one, because too often we blur the two.” Diamond’s ability to tackle daunting questions (and pose unsettling answers) in a straightforward voice may be reason enough to share his optimism that recognizing a problem paves the way for solving it.

Going back to his talk, at one point Professor Diamond makes an excellent point about the relationship of values and the consequent collapse of society:

13:37 The other generalization that I want to mention is that it’s particularly hard for a society to make ‘good decisions’ when there is a conflict involving strongly held values that are held good in many circumstances, but are poor in other circumstances.

For example, the Greenland Norse in this difficult environment were held together by for four and half centuries by their sheer commitment to religion and by their strong social cohesion. But those two things: commitment to religion and strong social cohesion also made it difficult for them to change at the end.

Although religion continues its influence in the present time, the best analog to the Norse situation in the present societies in the U.S. and Europe is the strongly held but conflicting beliefs relating to Capitalism and Free Markets–undeniably the locus of today’s crisis. Whether governments should be more active or less active in market dynamics is the strongly debated belief. Understanding this belief in the context of Diamond’s framework might be helpful in seeing a solution to the societal collapse being predicted (as we featured recently by Schiff, Rogers, and co.).

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In our last discussion on prayers and placebos, a very important insight:

it is also important to study prayer as an adjunct—not a replacement—to standard medical care, to make sure it is safe.

Which from a recent ABC News report, appallingly is farther and farther from common sense these days:

A Clackamas County, Ore., couple accused of letting their infant daughter die by relying on prayer, rather than medicine, today asked that the charges be dropped, arguing that they infringe on their freedom of religion and their right to raise their children in their own way.

Carl Worthington, left, and Raylene Worthington of Clackamas County, Ore., were charged with second degree manslaughter and criminal mistreatment charges March 28, 2008, after their 15-month-old daughter died from what the state medical examiner said were easily cured illnesses.

Carl Worthington, 28, and his wife, Raylene, 25, belong to a church that believes in faith healing, and police said that, instead of going to a doctor when their 15-month-old daughter Ava got sick, they turned to prayer.

The infant girl died March 2 from bacterial bronchial pneumonia and an infection, both of which could have been cured with common antibiotics, the medical examiner said.

The salient question to this sad affair: if you pray for your sick child and ignore medical care and your child dies, are you responsible for the child’s death? Freedom of religion does not mean you can commit criminal negligence in the name of faith. Or does it?

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Life is great seen as a study in contrasts. For me, the issues of womanhood, gender roles, marriage, and sexuality are some of the most subjective topics to discuss. In my recent blog surfing I found two interesting posts on womanhood and marriage that can be interesting parallels of each other.

The first post is from Myraine’s Realities and Realizations blog, which is a personal blog of a wife and mother dedicated to happiness and inspiration. Here’s a portion of her post on The Ideal Wife:

It is never easy to be a wife. It is never an easy task as others may think it is. And I strongly believe that every wife just like me wants the husband to be happy not just every time they are together but for the entire marital relationship… for a lifetime.

Since I really love reading for several reasons most of the time, for personal and professional growth, I have read a write-up on what a man looks and expects his woman to be. Upon discernment, I have decided to share it to all the wives around the globe.

  • She has to give him the freedom from possessiveness. Men say that the excessively possessive heart tends to be quite selfish, jealous and doubtful. Thus, it attributes deprivation from the joys, happiness and fulfillments of the lifetime commitment.
  • She must never be a nagger. She may always share her thoughts and insights; yet, this must never be done in such a harsh, rough and tough manner. Remember that nagging irritates the husband.
  • She feeds his husband’s ego. Learn to appreciate and love his actions and words. Sometimes, it is never harmful to make him feel superior and special.
  • She possesses physical attractiveness, faithfulness and spiritual strength. They simply complete a woman’s image – strong yet vibrant, bubbly and sophisticated.

Yet, do not live to these points alone. Remember that you should still be the real you and you’ve got to be true to yourself, too. You should also consider doing things to make you happy and never do things for him alone or not just to satisfy him. You must always do things for both of you as well as your and your husband’s happiness.

See how the above provides an interesting contrast with this second post, by Intsik Siomai, a blogger who writes about the injustices of society to women, and especially Chinese women. In her post Separada, she writes about the other side to relationships and a perhaps alternate view of men. Part of that post:

I am now surrounded with married female friends who want out of their marriage. Most of them have frequent fights with their spouses. They also have controlling husbands who demand that they stay home, be a nice obedient wife and mom, stop having friends and activities that has nothing to do with being a wife and mom. They have lost their power. They are not individuals anymore, but just a wife and a mom. They cannot even assert their rights as an individual because they are financially dependent on their husband. But they can’t find good jobs if they are “required” to be full time wife and mom. This is a dead-end situation. Their jerk husbands are resentful and controlling because they are the breadwinner. But they don’t want to empower the wives either.

Many husbands I know are powertrippers. This is especially the case with Chinese men. In the chinese set-up, the wife doesn’t hold the money. The husband just provides the basic needs and maybe some luxury if he is pleased. In the Filipino set-up(at least the ones I know), the husband gives the salary to the wife, and the wife budgets it and saves the rest. A Pinay housewife has more power than an intsik wife. Intsik husbands know that their wife is powerless, valueless without them, and they push the situation even more, so the wife becomes a doormat, a follower, obedient server, slave, lifeless, no individuality, powerless.

On a glancing note, is this simply a question of seeing a glass half-empty or half-full–or do both Myraine and Intsik Siomai actually agree on a deeper level about the salient issues of being a woman, wife, and mother? For me the context that underscores both their posts are the issues of identity and individuality–which as I said can be very subjective. The emotional value may differ between them, but the needs they address are the same: that of finding one’s self and purpose in the roles you choose.

Of course, questions of marriage and family go beyond individuality since there are more than one party involved, however the basic root remains the same: the self. How one conducts the self in relation to their partner, children, and society will ultimately influence whether one ends up with Myraine’s bright rhetoric Intsik Siomai’s scathing sarcasm. At the end of the day maybe both of them are holding the same glass, only from different sides of the table.

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