Saturday, February 16, 2013

We are evoling not revolving - the power of language

A word of warning, my language is all over the place here today.  I recently had an experience where I allowed myself to witness ignorance at its worse and I decided not to take it on.  The choice bothered me to the point I internalised it and allowed it to boil over into my communication with those totally uninvolved in the previous situation (the collateral damage) and kept me awake for the rest of the evening.  So my usual Sunday blog is a little disjointed, a rambling of language and thoughts. Be warned.
It's been a long while since I felt the turn of the newspaper, the quiet morning with a cuppa browsing.  I'd taken to online reporting, it's more sensitive to the environment, yet strangely enough I rarely read it anymore.  So a moment to spare, I picked up a few papers (always good to read a few points of view on the same subject! we all have those friends who could be a writer for the Telegraph).
Somewhere in PNG a young woman had been tortured for witchcraft under a tribal type system of justice. They had beaten and tortured this young woman with a poker. From a western middle class, Christian perspective (& I'm not suggesting this is mine only generalising here) I could see the gasps now, the squirmish and quickly turning to something more sensitive and interesting.  If you read on it tells the details of how the woman was handed down a system of punishment for using witchcraft on a 6 yr old child who was killed by this woman.  Would that change your perspective?
On another more elaborate full spread was the story of the Olympic SA 'Blade Runner' currently accused of taking his pistol, possibly after consuming too much alcohol and putting several bullets in his girlfriends head.  There is no history on his girlfriend.  The article featured the disappointments of a person placed so high on the hero ladder his fall collects a few misguided individuals on the way down, the ones who think to be a good person requires success in sport, politics, coming first in something; the same people thinking "oh how very sad that he should be experiencing this, surely there must be a reason for such an amazing person to behave this way". There are amazing successful people in sport, yet let's not assume that makes them nice, honest people as well. You don't think about his girlfriend, her family, her loss of potential, life ahead; you are manipulated by the lack of information you are given.
It is rather interesting the way we use language to push an agenda, to manipulate the visual representaation of language, tell the public what is more important than something else and nothing pushes my buttons more than the arrogance of a 'white way is the right way' approach to anything. On watching the anniversary of the Sorry Day speeches the other evening, I was glad to hear that our education curriculum will now represent an account of Aboriginal history which includes the Stolen Generation history, the systematic government policies of removing children from their families. 
We should never need to have such information made as part of the curriculum in order to teach our children our countries history, yet sadly in so many homes people only hear what they choose to hear. When we only teach our children one way of knowing, we promote the development of a precious bubble in which they surround themselves, believing their world is the only world, we are witnessing this more today than ever before in the change in use of language across our younger generations.  Yet let's not jump on the internet bandwagon, as at the core of language is the family environment and to be honest about it, if internet were to blame language should be improving as access to the wider world has never been more available.  Yet what is occurring is a decline in the rules of language, how we speak to others, how we share information, learn from each other.
In a discussion with a teacher the other day we were reflecting on the huge decline in language pragmatics in our children, homes and communities than ever before. The rules of language which we learn from our social environments, parenting/childhood, reading, education, knowledge, appears to be declining and we are being influenced by it's disappearance with the increase in social networking, the media grasping to hold on to their audience and needing to find more ways to influence the reader to see their way of interpreting an event. Even our political agendas manipulate what is acceptable and non acceptable forms of language in certain environments; with graphic signs of our PM with defamatory slogans and personal attacks common in the background of media reports. What does this tell our children, let alone the ignorant uneducated persons who are easily influenced by creative persuasion.
The days of minding your manners, being sensitive to someone's feelings, not always speaking your mind as the words come to your mouth, these cognitive skills we develop in childhood from our own parents, families, education; is it disappearing at such a rapid rate as a social network explosion provides immediate large scale soap boxes in which to skip all the rules of basic language. There are forums, agendas, ways to have your thoughts heard, blogging for example! Yet these are opportunities to vent appropriately, you can choose to log out, you don't have to read, you can choose read several, even hundreds of views on the same topic at the same time.  What you take on board is up to you.  When I write an article, I pull the reserach on the topic and then I search the criticism and read their research as well. It gives a balance to presenting anther point of view. 
I have a friend who has chosen for a long time not to watch the news, read the papers, follow any news basically outside their small community, with a desire to focus on what is relative to them.  At first glance I thought this was incredibly ignorant, yet on further examination of how other people develop their understanding of what is going on in their community, in the wider world I wonder if chosing to only hear one view on something, read the same paper each time (just like your father or mother or someone did) or watch the same channel, the same current affairs program, whether that is just as ignorant? This is not a conclusion merely a question.
Learning does not cease at adulthood.  Understanding ourselves, our impact on the world, on others never needs to cease.  We choose our knowledge, we choose whether to educate ourselves, we choose whether to educate our children.  We only need to follow the process of racism, sterotyping, violence; these beliefs and understandings begin in the earliest years of a child's development. It is the language they are exposed, the knowledge they are limited to, the questions that are not answered. this whole process intrigues me; at times completely fascinated by human behaviour, why people do what they do, how they do what they do and how we learn, what shapes our behaviour, modifies it and influences our interactions with each other.
The other day I witnessed a conversation between two 7yr olds, one asking if the other would like an iceblock for afternoon tea in a polite and non threatening manner and the other 7yr old responded with a loud, aggressive and categorical "why would you eat that, it makes you put on weight, it's just junk food", it was language straight out of the mouth of an adult who had predisposed their child to flippant comments only to be re shaped by a 7yr old into their way of understanding of it's relevance.  Yet adults often forget children are incredibly easily manipulated by our language, what we say; monkey see, monkey do. What was even more interesting, is the 7yr old who referred to the water iceblock as being a threat to their weight, was incredibly underweight.  The teacher and I were discussing at the time how influential a parents view of the world, themselves is to their child's, it was straight out Skinner's conditioning theories, like training a puppy, your behaviour follows down the lead.
Language is one of the most incredibly powerful tools we have as human beings, how we speak, converse, use our body language, interact with each other says alot about who we are, what beliefs we have, our education, our personality. Most people are completely unaware short simple statements reveal so much about their unconscious mental processes, their schemas (beliefs about things, people, events), their defence mechanisms; you only need to open your mouth and a history of information about you oozes out. How you use language, speak to others, understand information tells a story like a map to your encoding. These understandings have opened thousands of opportunities for profiling, predicting human behaviour, understanding who we are, it's my passion and I can see in the near future I will be swimming in a sea of literature hoping to better understand this interesting area of human development.
Most people go along their merry little way and tell themselves "I am what I am, I ain't no more" (thanks Popeye), justify their beliefs using cultural props to hold up their backbone, rather than learning to stand erect with the knowledge they have sought, to better understand their childhood encoding, it's benefits and risks. Encoding, the root of behaviour in our brain; the way we represent people, places, things, events that are significant to us, how we understand and interpret the world in many different ways does and will define our personality.  It goes on to influence our behaviour, our use of language and it will go on to influence our children's.  By understanding our persons limited understanding of the world it is much easier to predict their intelligence and success in life, even their child's; those with accurate and more organised schemas (encoded information) are closely linked with superior levels of social intelligence, high results in achieveing interpersonal goals, make friends, keep friends easier, get the jobs they want, have a high level of resilience, these people get up, get up and get up again.
So what this tells us is what we read, what we learn, what we accept as information, how we educate our children about language, about understanding the smaller and wider world forms the basics of their language and primary to influencing their behaviour, the formation of their bias, their stereotyping and understanding who they are and where they are in the grand scheme of things.
I watched a show the other evening on relationships and couples. The program focussed on identifying the issues and then developing strategies for healing the relationships, these were relationships in obvious trouble.  One would only need to see how the couples verbally expressed themselves to each other to know which relationships were going south no matter what strategies were attempted.  I recall discussing this once before and it never ceases to amaze me how little people communicate verbally and appropriately with the most significant person in their life.  They are happy to share a bed with, their most intimate parts of themselves, yet be honest in their thoughts and use of language.....pffff, no never! Bettina Ardnt (Clinical Psych & sex therapy guru) highlighted this phenomena in her book 'The Sex Diaries', of many couples who live these false, plastic lives yet too hung up on their own crap to be able to be vulnerable mentally with the one person they committed a life to! It is so insane!!!
Sometimes we use language to vent, we excuse our rants and sharp words as some sort of cathartic process to feel better about ourselves, denying the other people around us the right to live without your inability to control your emotions, to do something about educating yourself about the power of language.  Let me tell you, your apologies are all well and good yet they also condition the person who may love and have developed strong attachments to you, to be your doormat, unless you change your behaviour.  They don't deserve your crap, your irresponsible rants and raves, just because you have bottled up something and too afraid to be vulnerable, to be honest with them about how you are feeling, in a more appropriate, sensitive and respectful manner. Take some responsibility people for the power of your language, do something about it.  You are not an expert just because you know how to form words.  I ate french food once, does that make me an expert in French cuisine? You do not have all the answers, unless of course this is your field of experteise, see an expert!Your lack of insight and ability to control the power of your language tells us you have a long way to go.
I have seen this over and over and over again to the point of frustration some years ago and now to the point of knowing humanity is incredibly imperfect, flawed and underpinned by ignorance, that I will not sit quietly and listen to someone's ignorance, to do so would enable it to flourish. Never have more true words been spoken than by Mr Burke "Evil flourishes when good men do nothing". Sitting back and pretending everything is going to be OK if you just think positive thoughts, is not only stupid and naive, it's dangerous. It is those individuals who make a conscious choice to stand with a backbone, to not ignore the ego drive need to change other cultures, justify arriving into foreign shores, slaughter of millions of people in the name of advancing western civilisation.  No this is not just history, we are still doing it today.  We are still going into countries with our religion, our culture, our western practices and thinking we need to fix, remedy and improve the lives of peoples who have survived for thousands of years.  How many times have you heard the phrase "I tried to help her but she didn't want my help". It is only ever help if you have allowed the other person, country, culture to have self determination.  You don't ever need to shove help down anyone's throats, they embrace it when it is genuine and sincere. Does anyone bother to ask whether on a friendship level, family or country/cultural level does a person/country want your help? Our white way is not the right way just because someone says it is. Your religious beliefs are yours to keep, to nurture, to hold.  Why do you feel the need to ram them down the throat of others? What makes your belief so right and everyone else so wrong? Books people, books, words and language; stories of thousands and thousands of years have underpinned these beliefs.  Words underpin these beliefs, manipulated and told into so many different spin offs, it makes the head spin thinking about it.  Millions, trillions of financial institutions bricks and mortar relies on these words on the manipulation of these beliefs, there is a lot vested in promoting these and invading the shores of other countries and ramming our ways down the throats of other cultures. 
Maybe you think I'm being a bit harsh, yet I find the whole arrogance disgusting and a total waste of our humanities intelligence.  I'm not referring to the safety of others, I'm not referring to going to aid the wellbeing of other human beings; why we have borders other than to determine financial obligations and political responsibilities is questionable.  We have every responsibility to support our fellow human beings, yet to be so arrogant to want everyone to be like us? WT? because we know better? Do we really?
Take a little time to read a few anthropological studies on parenting, on the basic needs Maslow describes, our connections with each other.  We have more dysfunction and declining values, more mental health issues than many other cultures in the world. We have diagnoses that are not even heard of on some shores! Oh please give me a break.  We live in a culture where we have government funding for education, where it is a right and afforded right to go to school, yet we still have not-for-profit organisations having to provide 'sponsor an Australian child' to attend school, provide clothing, shoes and basic essentials.  We have a massive homeless rate and child abuse is not going down in statistics it is increasing! Yet we have people more comfortable with knowing what is so far away from our shores that they can be arm-chair advocates rather than do something about their own community, create a ripple of change around the globe. We have people dying in their homes in our cities, surrounded by neighbours and their corpse is discovered years down the track. Family is becoming synomous with friends, colleagues and work. People have more time to ring/message and chat on Facebook than they do to support their own family. We put sporting success at the top of our hero scales, sports people who use illegal substances, greed and power to fund their success.  We hold rallies regarding the injustices across the world, scream our distaste and shock at how women are treated around the globe yet totally oblivious to the mortality rate of domestic violence in our communities, to the mortality rate of child abuse, neglect, poverty and disease. It is so much easier to point the finger at another country, to look at our own requires taking responsibility for the impact we have ourselves on our own society.
When we know better, we have the capacity to learn more, to do more and to do better. This is our gift as human beings.  To push our our choices onto others who are neither hurting themselves or hurting others is just ignorance, it is the ego marching to the beat of it's own drum.
Who are we to take our language and use it to manipulate the language of others? That it is more important to feel disappointed about a man who kills his girlfriend in cold blood, because he wins a gold medal in running than it is to be concerned about the use of witchcraft on 6yr old children.
I'm hearing those of you out there who work in those fields where you feel the need to slap someone so hard it shakes all that encoding and schemas in their brain that they re align their basic functions so as to cease the constant justification of violence, racism, discrimination, abuse in the name of "I didn't know" or religion or I was told to.
Think for yourselves people.  Educate yourselves.  Open your mind, let the power of language educate you, so as to prevent the concrete setting on your ignorance. Do better than your childhood experiences, we are evolving, not revolving. This not the rinse and spin cycle.  We are here to do better and better and better. I'm not suggesting you go out there and tell everyone what you think they need to know, yet impart your own skills if they are open to it, impart information, listen to others, learn about each other, about cultures, religions different to your own, let your brain grow and in turn watch your behaviour change.  Be a ripple of change.  Learn how to speak, communicate and interact with all the gifts you are afforded.  Keep learning about yourself, about others, build on those blocks you have been resting your backside on for too long, get up and give your brain a chance!
I had a rather funny, yet interesting experience among many yesterday.  I was at a country show and there was this religious organisation and their big bus, which is fitted out with a health/education unit in which to help the public understand their health needs. It is an awesome concept, yet underlying is information about the religious practices and how we could better change our lives.  Anyway I thougth it would be fun to have the health check, given I have a pretty good understanding of my health at present.  So I ticked a few boxes regarding sleep, eating, exercise, alcohol consumption, basic health info.  Apparently this group had conducted a study and been able to predict the changes need to a persons health based on physical attributes (I can hear the psych friends reading this now having a giggle....yep I was laughing internally as well).
So I ticked the boxes, jumped on the scales (damn I had gained 2kg! wooo hooo so excited! no really I was), I remained polite as I do and waited for the results.  Had my blood pressure checked etc. The computer spits out this predictor of age.  It came in I am much younger than my years, however I could make some improvement on my weight as I am slightly over for my height, that maybe "I could exercise more" (yep I'm still laughing internally).
The young nurse was extremely informative, we spoke a little about the philanthropic history of the bus project, it often feeds young adolescent people at the local skate park and provides educational material on health issues at a community level.
Whilst this approach is incredibly useful for people who have no idea about their health, which always surprises me given the onslaught of media promoting good health practices, I wondered when will start using our language to highlight someone's strengths, to build them up, rather than continually telling people what they need to fix; not just on the individual level.  When will use our gifts of language to change the way we do what we do.  Oh I know it is happening all the time, we have an amazing array of 'crazy ones' as they are referred who have changed the world for the better.
Yet imagine being a single parent, slightly overweight, working your tail off doing two jobs maybe or one and studying, trying to improve your outcomes, budget is tight, do what you can, really trying hard to keep on top and you think such a little test might help you with some positive direction.  Only to be told, you are overweight, you need more sleep, you need to cut down on stress etc.  Wow just what you need more weight on those shoulders!
When the very pleasant nurse had finished I asked her what the correlation between the weight and muscle weight is, she never asked me if I was overweight due to fat or overweight due to muscle (muscle weighs more than fat). Under my clothes  I had trimmed downed my body fat to well as far as I can go today, more work still to be done, yet I had gained a few kilos not from fat, from muscle mass.  Whilst I had gained a few kilos in the last few weeks I've dropped a couple of inches, so I'm definitely losing it and gaining it in muscle! Yet the computer program doesn't provide for this.
I also asked about the psychological health questions, which there weren't any.
You can be the fittest, most controlled eater in the world, yet if you are unhappy, lonely, without love, dissatisfied with your job, your life expectancy is much lower.  Yes there are correlations between healthy people and positive people, yet as the article from South Africa above goes to show, you can be an elite athlete and psychologically you still sit in the gutter unless you can manage your behaviour; to take another human beings life is certainly not worthy of a gold medal.
Late last year in Victoria a man was stripped of his bravery medal for saving lives and risking his own life in the Black Saturday Bushfires.  After petitioning the authorities his ex wife was successful in having his hero status removed following years of sytematic horrific abuse.  He was not a hero, he was not even a nice man, he was abusive, violent and had ignorant to his behaviour and the impact it had on the people he called family.
So where does this leave us early this Sunday? Language and the power of language, you always had it.  Do you use it to evolve or are you stuck in a revolving door, leaning on the patterns of learned conditioned behaviour from childhood, because it feels comfortable and it means you don't have to change, to take on any responsibility for the mistakes of previous generations, take some guts and make the world a better place.
Language and the power of language, what do you tell your children about themselves, how do you role model the power of language.  Are they encouraged to speak up, to advocate for what is right or do you suppress with your power every opportunity they have to make sense of the world? Do you encourage them to read, to learn about other cultures, to learn about other religions, to touch, feel and use every sense to see the world as it is, not through the television and internet where they are desensitised?
I made a mistake (yep I put it here in writing lol) I will not make again.  I do not need to sit quietly and play to the ignorance of others because it makes them feel uncomfortable to be challenged on their stupidity and ignorance, nor should I expect others to treat me with the same enabling behaviour.  I look forward to the year I ahead, to a lifetime of endless learning; to be educated to the point of exhaustion on the nature of human behaviour, to think outside the square, to learn, learn and learn more about understanding why we do what we do.  The challenge will be how I will ever look with the same lense at humanity again, yet I'm already considering that is an amazing positive consequence! I am excited by the intriguing, educated and open minded people I will come across, the lives I may witness evolving, making history, bringing understanding to complex behaviours. I'm emptying out the unused crap in brain and making room for a lot more meaning and relevance.  I will not be weighed down by ignorance and apathy, nor let it dampen my spirit, erode my values or persuade me to surrender my standards.
I leave with a few ideas I came across on predictors of a child's success (please email me with more ideas - ps thanks Ms J for your email on child/parent relationship awesome research!); based on a number of behavioural theories and hope that your mind remains forever open to growth and change.

Parent indicator's of a child's success (what we do)

- Parent can think outside the square
- Parent has developed autonomy
- Parent has well developed independence
- Monkey see, monkey do (healthy lifestyle, positive communication, self respect, respect for others)
- Has a good relationship with child
- Strives to maintain a good relationship with child
- Attempts tasks beyond their own reach (models success, reilisence, perserverance)
- Exhibits intuition

Key ingredients to success & motivation for children


Strong correlations between - parent:child relationship, child's self talk/beliefs & the parents self talk & beliefs, quality of the parent/child relationship

* parent discourages inappropriate complaining/advocates positive dialogue
* build on child's strengths rather than consistent focussing on what they child doesn't/can't do
* encourage independent thinking
* encourages abstract thinking (outside the square), OK to be different, question things/advocate for yourself/others, uniqueness celebrated
* promotes multiple solutions (rejects the one way is the only way - eg encourages to seek help, parent role models ability to do so)
* encourages autonomy (responsible to self, respect for others, responsibility for their actions)
* praise succcess when it occurs


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