Thursday, 29 October 2015

Valuing Others - The Reciprocal Gift

29 October 2015. I sat in a meeting where only men were present and experienced probably one of the most feminist meetings I've ever attended. It was superb. It was a gathering to counsel us of the importance of our relationships with women, especially the most important women in our lives. It did not deify women but it established the worth they should have in our lives. It did not fall into the trap of emasculating men, something that too much of the world thinks is a suitable way to show respect to women, when it only serves to be condescending and, ultimately, more sexist. What it taught, more than anything, was that our lives should be in the pursuit of making others feel valued, rather than vainly chasing our own self worth.

Self worth is heralded as the ultimate goal by a select few who want to sell their books, DVD and audio downloads, telling you how to unlock your potential. It is a mirage. A false dawn that doesn't exist but the world tells to keep running for that horizon because it's so close. Self worth doesn't come that way. It comes from an absence of conceit. Selflessness, not selfishness, breeds self worth.

We have fallen into a trap where we believe that we live in a 'bucket of crabs' society. We think that only a few can sit at the top and the rest must first drag the others down, if only sit atop them for a short while. It isn't true. When we value people, when we lift them up and see the good in them, we get a return that cannot be measured. The reciprocal gift is self worth itself. We become surrounded by people who are invested in our success because we have been on a crusade for their victory.

Recent experiences have taught me the incredible things that can happen in people's lives when we are invested in each other's worth over our own. When a manager believes in those whom he is in charge of, they rise up to better things. As such, they can show their managers as to how they get the best out of people. When you are invested in friend's happiness, whether it be their job, their relationships or just a craving for them to do something crazy, they radiate the edification they feel upon you. Sarcasm and snide banter are replaced by genuine compliments and positive insights. They do things for you because they want to. Why wouldn't they? You were so willing to give of your time, of yourself. Why would they not want to reciprocate? From that, you're rewarded with enriched relationships and the indirect but greater blessing is the self worth that comes from it.

It is time to stop thinking that discount relationships are bargains not to be missed. It is in our interest to be invested in those we care about. The value we place in people, namely those we should care about the most, is the self worth gift that will be reciprocated to us above that which we gave. When people rise because we lift them, we soar with them to. It's not a sacrifice. It's a priceless investment. It is the one contest where we can all win. That's worth a lot and it is when we will find out just how much we are worth.

Far more than you think. Far more than you can imagine.

Friday, 23 October 2015

Emotionally Fragile - The Myth About Men & Emotions

I actually like the above photo. It improves my chances of getting a sandwich. It does, however, reinforce a notion that men are not emotional creatures and this is incorrect. Phrases like "Man up" or "Don't be such a girl" promote the idea that men are steel like in their emotional make up and that women are emotional dynamite, just waiting to go off. It demeans both genders but also allows people to play up to those stereotypes, so to exploit situations. If a woman wants to fly off the handle, she might hide behind "It comes with being a woman", where as men will not talk about something that is bothering them because "Men deal with it." Both dismiss the complex nature of what it is to be human and both have to go.

The implication is that men are weak if they speak about their problems. That leads to problems not being addressed. While the statistics suggest that 1 in 4 women will suffer from depression, the numbers for men that say 1 in 10 men will suffer from depression is now largely considered being down to men not speaking about it. Men are more likely to suffer from addictions, especially alcohol and other drugs. Suicide is now the biggest killer of men aged between 20 and 49 in Britain. Those statistics are startling and yet they are not spoken about nearly enough.

Women may say that they have pressures on them that evoke emotional responses. Those pressures exist on men too and they appear to be having similarly destructive effects. Body image expectations are still on the rise. In the past three decades, men stating that they are dissatisfied with their bodies has gone from 15% to 43%. In teenage boys, as high as 68% believe that they are underweight and need more muscle mass, when every test indicates they are in a healthy state. Men are sexually objectified just as much as women are and yet it is shrugged off as a bit of fun. Nothing is said of the man who sees this perceived perception and experiences crippling loneliness and inadequacy because of a Photoshopped reality, probably achieved with some pharmaceutical based help along the way.

More than anything though, I'm completely uncomfortable with the idea that a woman can lose control of her emotions and brush it off as part of her gender. I don't accept that. Such a standing is the soil used to bury other problems. It is known that only a tiny percentage of men who are abused by their partners report it. Worst of all, he blames himself because society all too often will say that he "let her do that to you." Abuse has no "let" in it at all. There is no consent. This is the extreme example but it can come to many men in more subtle manners. Men are considered stupid for not understanding the complex emotional needs of a woman. Maybe we don't but that isn't necessarily down to us being stupid. It may not have been explained very well. It may be completely irrational and beyond comprehension. It may just be wrong. What is wrong is making someone feel inadequate in the realms of emotions when they are something that no one truly understands completely. 

When men are demonised for not comprehending emotions or belittled for expressing their feelings, it perpetuates the myth that men are made of stone with no heart. Then we expect them to be romantic and caring, despite society cementing over them for years. It is not right. Men can be emotionally fragile too. That's okay. Sometimes they do need to be told that they are being ridiculous and that they need to pull themselves together. Sometimes they are being a cry baby for no good reason. Sometimes, however, they need someone to listen to them.

They also need women to stop using the veil of emotionality to hide behind. We get that you've got emotions and, yes, we should be more considerate of them. We'd just like some help in the other direction too. Not sarcasm or snide remarks. Just someone who listens, who cares and allows us to feel safe in expressing our emotions. Because men can be emotionally fragile too. More than you think. A lot more.

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Gun Control - The Great American Divide

1 October 2015. Christopher Harper-Mercer shot and killed eight students and one teacher at Umpqua Community College. He then engaged the police in a gun battle, which resulted in Harper-Mercer being killed. This was the 19th school shooting in the US in 2015. Nineteen... 

I find it interesting that the argument for having guns is rooted in the Founding Father principles of the United States. For those who don't know, it is in the Constitution of the USA. Not the original. The fact that the principle is called "The Second Amendment" should have given it away. It came in two years after the Constitution did. That, to me, counts as an afterthought, not a core principle. The Bill of Rights seems to be esteemed above and beyond anything else in the Constitution and, as a consequence, they are the most fiercely debated points. However, Amendment number two rears its head on a regular basis these days and it does so with its hands soaked in the blood of young people.

The Second Amendment reads: 

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." 

For such an important legal statement, it is clumsily written. For argument's sake, let's agree that this allows every American to the divine right to own a gun. I know I could dispute that but stick with me. Every American can own a gun.

Let's look at the First Amendment, which I think we can all agree on: 

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

The indisputable right to freedom of speech is clearly stated in this principle. It is less clumsily worded, granted, but there is no doubt of the guaranteed privilege that is being extended. Does that freedom come without limitations? No. Speech that stirs up the people against the Government is a crime, namely sedition. Words that incite violence against people based on their race is illegal. The revelation of Government secrets is not freedom of speech, it is treason. Even putting crass language and adult based themes on the television at certain times breaks reasonable censorship regulations.

Most people accept that freedom of speech needs a level of control. If the controls in place were not adequately protecting the nation and its citizens, they would be increased. So why is America so divided on the issue of gun control, when their children are getting gunned down on a regular basis?

You only need to find a post on gun control on Facebook to see that the chasm between the standpoints is rooted in culture and, well, stupidity. There is no other way to put it. To illustrate my point, I take comments from this meme that was posted on Facebook.

Try to forget the horrendous apples and oranges argument presented in the meme. I'm not entertaining how utterly idiotic the comparison is, even though the creator in question thinks it has merit. Maybe he thinks meth should be legal, which demonstrates just how moronic they are.

So let's go through some of the comments it garnered:
Don't like guns...fine dont buy guns...but don't call the cops either ...they have guns
The police are heavily regulated when it comes to their weapons. If anything, they are the very embodiment of gun control!

i mean theres gun control in england and people still get killed by guns
This is true. In 2010, there was one gun homicide in the UK per every 2,000,000 people. In 2013, in the US, there was one gun related murder per every 28,000 people. Or in other terms, if the UK had as many citizens as the US, roughly 175 Brits would be shot to death, while 12,500 Americans would face the same fate. If you think improved gun control is not worth 12,325 lives, so be it.

Look at how banning guns in Australia worked. They have more crime and the thugs still have guns. The only thing is now the general public can't protect themselves with the same kind of force. Banning guns is not the answer.
Really?! In 2011, one Australian died by a gun per every 116,000 people. Of that, 72% were suicides. These are still tragic and unnecessary deaths but they don't involve the savage shooting of college students. It is also about the same rate of gun suicide as in the US.  Compare the homicide rates and the picture changes. Simply, for every Australian murdered with a gun, 32 Americans are killed with a bullet. That's one Sandy Hook and half a Columbine.

The statistics bear it out. I'm not even advocating the removal of all guns, just that increased gun control is required. Sure, some people will still be able to procure a gun by illegal means. That is not a sound argument against gun control. If you say "If they want a gun, they'll get one, so there is no point in gun control" then why isn't plastic explosives readily available in Walmart? It's the same argument. If someone wants to blow a place up, they'll get it, right? But because it's tougher to get, it happens less.

Some Americans foolishly assume that gun control is part of some covert conspiracy to turn the USA into a communist country. Those people need to join us in the 21st century. Some say that knife crime will soar if guns are controlled further. Knives have a practical use, like preparing vegetables. You can't peel a potato with a Magnum, so that argument is back to the apples and oranges farce. None of the pro-gun arguments that oppose at least an increase in the level of gun control have any credibility, irrespective of the passion those points are preached with.

It seems clear that I am for further gun control laws in the US. Yet, it doesn't matter what I think. I'm not an American citizen. I have no say in the politics of that country. I can also rest easy because the children in my life, namely my niece and three nephews, live in the UK and Canada. The likelihood of them going to school and being gunned down are pretty slim. If you want to cuddle your guns more than you want to cuddle your children, that is your political right. May God have mercy on the souls who are murdered, not on yours who stand by and let it happen because of your precious blood-soaked principle.

Jeb Bush summed up the pro-gun feeling. He shrugged it off, with the statement "Stuff happens." That's the problem. This stuff shouldn't happen. Ever. President Obama was right - "Enough is enough."