Unattended Death: The plight of growing old alone [sbs.com.au]

A ninety year old woman died in her home in Auburn.  The diaries found in her belongings shed light on this lonely and brilliant mind. Watch the documentary above, and read further excerpts from her diaries below.

by Andy Park / sbs.com.au

These impressions, after a long life of nearly 90 years, are my own, right or wrong, are real and lived through. My ten fingers don’t need any support to hold a pen, and neither does my mind need any stimulants to express itself. A last pleasure of a lonely life. 

 

AGING

With aging, we realize that life can be compared to a constant falling of leaves. In dreamland, the leaves don’t fall anymore., they acquire a verdane, which never fades like memories.

With aging, the taste for fighting is gone drastically weakened, with the depletion of the hormones and we become silent pacifists, trying to adjust ourselves to what is left.

I know that I must look to others as a stupid old has-been, because I avoid most of the new and prefer the old, I am a complete ignoramus in the modern ways of life and I don’t mind. I can still walk to the shops and choose what I buy. My first hundred metres of walk(ing) might seem brisk, then (I) slow down to to just a careful pace, which suits my age.

Once in human history, old age was respected and even venerated, but no more today. IT’s a shocking fact to observe how old age is considered and treated.

It is the saddest occurrence when old people are displaced from their habits and placed into an unfamiliar milieu. They slowly die away too, which sometimes is a cruel death. Euthanasia would be a blessing. Once families cared for their aging parents, but today, many can’t be bothered or they want the old house for themselves.

I have reached 87 years of my life with no fanfares, with only one birthday card. However, I am still granted many blessings for which I am grateful. I still have my five senses, not as good as new, but quite serviceable. I can use my legs and walk with no fancy steps in a hurry.

I have reached that stage at the present. Am i of unsound mind? It might appear so to some privileged people, until they reach the point of no return themselves.

My own blessings for which I am grateful in my own age, would be judged by some with pity or with distain for an old fool by others. With the tendency of today to give a name to any malaise, it would be called depression and given some artificial props to make it vanish. In reality, it is a sadness for the things passed, for the wrong acts and words especially words, which can’t be erased…”

In the quietness of old age, many unanswered questions occupy the mind, with no definitive answers, only guesses.

Click on this link to continue reading the article:
http://www.sbs.com.au/thefeed/blog/2014/08/11/unattended-death

Anti-conformity Research Led to Freud’s Best Sarcastic One-Liner [io9.com]

by Esther Inglis-Arkell / io9.com

There are plenty of tests that study conformity, but measuring anti-conformity is a tougher proposition. How do you measure something that is only evident after you make your influence felt? Researching this led to some interesting experiments, and the best line ever delivered by Sigmund Freud.

Conformity experiments have revealed some horrible truths about human nature. Anti-conformity experiments have just revealed, for the most part, only the annoying truths. Then again, anti-conformity is tough to measure. Not only has a person got to go against the grain of the group, it has to be shown that their only reason for doing so is to keep themselves from fitting in. How do you set up an experiment to prove that?

Michael Argyle, a psychologist, attempted the first experiment meant to measure anti-conformity in 1957. He had volunteers come in, and pair up, in order to engage in a little art critique. Unbeknownst to one half of each pair, their partner was actually Argyle’s assistant. The assistant was there to reject the participant’s view of the painting they were evaluating – which, by the way, was The Poet Reclining, by Marc Chagall. (If anyone is wondering about my opinion, I am not a fan, although I like the colors in the sky, and the piggy. Have at me, anti-conformists!)

Whatever view the participant expressed of the painting, Argyle’s stooge rejected it. The participant was then given another chance to evaluate the painting. Fifty-eight percent of the participants didn’t change their ideas. Around thirty-five percent adjusted their opinions towards those of their partners. Eight percent went the other way. They exaggerated the differences between their opinions and the opinions of their supposed partner. Argyle dubbed these people anti-conformists.

Click here to continue reading the article: http://io9.com/anti-conformity-research-led-to-freuds-best-sarcastic-o-1589769720

Los Angeles Bans Homeless from Living in Their Cars [neontommy.com]

by Isaac Moody / neontommy.com

The city of Los Angeles is now banning the homeless from living in their cars. If caught, they will be cited, their vehicles will be towed, leaving them without shelter and still homeless.

According to the Department of Housing and Development, the homelessness population has increased between 2011 and 2013 by 67%. The population has risen to 57,737 people due to the economic downturn and it has forced more people out of their homes and into their cars.

The California Coastal Commission and Los Angeles Municipal Code state “No person shall use a vehicle parked or standing upon any parking lot owned by the City of Los Angeles.” That means the homeless could not only face living on the street if they are caught, they could also face misdemeanor charges.

Some people view living in their cars as a temporary thing. Unfortunately, the only cities that constructively address this type of homelessness are San Diego and Santa Barbara.

These cities have programs that help people transition and recover from job loss. Hannah Porsell, Program Manager for Dreams of Change, San Diego said, “We are helping a new type of homeless, whether it be disabled veterans, recently laid-off professionals with advance degrees, or current employees who cannot afford the standard costs of living, and our goal is to prevent them from reaching chronic homelessness and all possible resources.” But when a city prohibits these types of services, what kinds of options do they have?

Lawrence Williams has recently transitioned into living in his car in Inglewood, CA. He is a long time resident of the city, and has experienced the effects of Los Angeles-county parking and police enforcement firsthand.

He was living with his mother in a senior citizen housing complex in Los Angeles, but that all changed once his mother passed away.  “I was in the living room watching tv and I heard a thump in the bathroom. It was my mother leaning on the side of the bathtub, and she was foaming at the mouth. That led me to call 9-1-1.” Williams listened to dispatcher who informed Williams to place his mother on her side; he recalls the woman taking heavy breaths that sounded like snores. He didn’t know these would be her last breaths of life. His mother died from a heart attack and complications of seizure on January 16th, this year.

After his mother’s death, he was given two weeks by the facility to vacate the property. In less than a month, he was fired from the job at which he had worked for over four years. He was a Receiver’s Assistant at Ralph’s grocery store. Williams’ former Ralph’s supervisor refused to give his name but commented, “Williams was fired for a verbal altercation with staff.”

“When I lost my job, my car was the only thing I had left,” Williams says.  He sleeps in a purple, 1998 Nissan Maxima. He has a comforter, a toothbrush, a few pair of clothes and shoes, and old security gear. He uses his money he receives from General Relief and bathes in nearby fast food bathrooms.

He received an inheritance from his mother but was broke in three months. “I was given money, when my mom died, but you have to pay for motels and outstanding fines–it’ll run out real quick.”  Most of Williams’ money was spent on living and food, while another portion was spent on fines for expired tags, registration and child support. His fines were outstanding, not because he refused to pay them, but because he simply couldn’t.

Williams made less than nine dollars per hour when he was employed at Ralphs. “ I was bringing home $125 a week. Now, you tell me where I can make a basic living off of that in LA.”

He has four fines that have turned into warrants, and in order to pay them, he must turn himself in to the police. He has been a long-term resident of Inglewood and decided to park his car at the 2300 block of 78th Place in Inglewood, because that’s where he was born and raised. Before he made his decision, he let local residents know he means no harm, and his situation is temporary. Most residents weren’t as receptive.

One resident said, “I get home at midnight and just to see someone sitting in their car that I don’t know. I don’t know his intentions and I don’t know if they’re good or bad. Why does he have to be on our street?” Another resident said, “As long as he’s not bothering me. Put yourself in his shoes; he’s gonna move soon.” One neighbor said, “I don’t think he’s supposed to be out there.”

According to LAPD, aggressive enforcement is a result of neighborhood complaints. The Inglewood Municipal Code states,”it is unlawful for any person to stop, stand or park a vehicle upon private or public property.”

Since Williams’ car doesn’t start, he moves it himself throughout the week from one side of the street to the other, depending on the day of the week for street cleaning.

Williams plans to turn himself in and work towards finding a job and pursuing a security license.

http://www.neontommy.com/news/2014/04/los-angeles-bans-homeless-living-their-cars

Dallas Sports Anchor Delivers Perfect Speech to Michael Sam’s Critics [gawker.com]

During his “Hansen Unplugged: Celebrating Our Differences” segment Monday night, WFAA sports anchor Dale Hansen issued a near perfect public takedown to the the anonymous NFL officials in Sports Illustrated’s much-criticized Michael Sam story.

From Hansen’s speech, via Towleroad:

“You beat a woman and drag her down a flight of stairs, pulling her hair out by the roots? You’re the fourth guy taken in the NFL draft.

You kill people while driving drunk? That guy’s welcome.

Players caught in hotel rooms with illegal drugs and prostitutes? We know they’re welcome.

Players accused of rape and pay the woman to go away?

You lie to police trying to cover up a murder? We’re comfortable with that.

You love another man? Well, now you’ve gone too far!”

Hanson acknowledged his own faults but welcomed Sam, saying it was “time to celebrate him.”

“I’m not always comfortable when a man tells me he’s gay; I don’t understand his world,” Hansen said. “But I do understand that he’s part of mine.”

[via Reddit]

http://gawker.com/dallas-sports-anchor-delivers-perfect-speech-to-michael-1521723229

Religious fundamentalism could soon be treated as mental illness [digitaljournal.com]

by John Thomas Didymus / digitaljournal.com
Kathleen Taylor, a neurologist at Oxford University, said that recent developments suggest that we will soon be able to treat religious fundamentalism and other forms of ideological beliefs potentially harmful to society as a form of mental illness.

She made the assertion during a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday. She said that radicalizing ideologies may soon be viewed not as being of personal choice or free will but as a category of mental disorder. She said new developments in neuroscience could make it possible to consider extremists as people with mental illness rather than criminals.

She told The Times of London: “One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated. Someone who has for example become radicalized to a cult ideology — we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

Taylor admits that the scope of what could end up being labelled “fundamentalist” is expansive. She continued: “I am not just talking about the obvious candidates like radical Islam or some of the more extreme cults. I am talking about things like the belief that it is OK to beat your children. These beliefs are very harmful but are not normally categorized as mental illness. In many ways that could be a very positive thing because there are no doubt beliefs in our society that do a heck of a lot of damage, that really do a lot of harm.”

The Huffington Post reports Taylor warns about the moral-ethical complications that could arise.

In her book “The Brain Supremacy,” she writes of the need “to be careful when it comes to developing technologies which can slip through the skull to directly manipulate the brain. They cannot be morally neutral, these world-shaping tools; when the aspect of the world in question is a human being, morality inevitably rears its hydra heads. Technologies which profoundly change our relationship with the world around us cannot simply be tools, to be used for good or evil, if they alter our basic perception of what good and evil are.”

The moral-ethical dimension arises from the predictable tendency when acting on the problem, armed with a new technology, to apply to the label “fundamentalist” only to our ideological opponents, while failing to perceive the “fundamentalism” in ourselves.

From the perspective of the Western mind, for instance, the tendency to equate “fundamentalism” exclusively with radical Islamism is too tempting. But how much less “fundamentalist” than an Osama bin Laden is a nation of capitalist ideologues carpet bombing civilian urban areas in Laos, Cambodia and North Korea?

The jihadist’s obsession with defending his Islamic ideological world view which leads him to perpetrate and justify such barbaric acts as the Woolwich murder are of the same nature as the evangelical obsession with spreading the pseudo-religious ideology of capitalism which led to such horrendous crimes as the murder of hundreds of thousands of civilians in four years of carpet bombing operations by the Nixon administration caught in a vice grip of anti-communist paranoia.

The power to control the mind will tend too readily to be used as weapon against our jihadist enemies while justifying the equally irrational and murderously harmful actions we term innocously “foreign policy.”

Some analysts are thus convinced that neuroscientists will be adopting a parochial and therefore ultimately counterproductive approach if they insist on identifying particular belief systems characteristic of ideological opponents as the primary subject for therapeutic manipulation.

On a much larger and potentially more fruitful scale is the recognition that the entire domain of religious beliefs, political convictions, patriotic nationalist fervor are in themselves powerful platforms for nurturing “Us vs Them” paranoid delusional fantasies which work out destructively in a 9/11 attack or a Hiroshima/Nagasaki orgy of mass destruction.

What we perceive from our perspective as our legitimate self-defensive reaction to the psychosis of the enemy, is from the perspective of the same enemy our equally malignant psychotic self-obsession.

The Huffington Post reports that this is not the first time Taylor has written a book about extremism and fundamentalism. In 2006, she wrote a book about mind control titled “Brainwashing: The Science of Thought Control,” in which she examined the techniques that cultic groups use to influence victims.

She said: “We all change our beliefs of course. We all persuade each other to do things; we all watch advertising; we all get educated and experience [religions.] Brainwashing, if you like, is the extreme end of that; it’s the coercive, forceful, psychological torture type.”

She notes correctly that “brainwashing” which embraces all the subtle and not-so-subtle ways “we make people think things that might not be good for them, that they might not otherwise have chosen to think,” is a much more pervasive social phenomenon than we are willing to recognize. As social animals we are all victims of culturally induced brainwashing whose effectiveness correlates with our inability to think outside the box of our given acculturation.

The Many Shades of ‘Out’ [huffingtonpost.com]

by Lynn Conway

On a sultry June afternoon, as my husband and I strolled towards the White House East Entrance, I reflected back to the time of my gender transition, in 1968.

Shamed as a social outcast, I’d lost my family, my friends and all social support. I’d beenfired by IBM, and lost a promising computer research career. In many jurisdictions, I could have been arrested and charged as a sex offender — or, worse yet, institutionalized and forced to undergo electroshock therapy in a mental hospital.

Evading those fates, I completed my transition and began building a career in a secret new identity, starting at the bottom of the ladder as a contract programmer. Even then, any ‘outing’ could have led to media exposure, and I’d have become unemployable, out on the streets for good. The resulting fear channeled my life into ‘stealth-mode.’ I covered my past for over 30 years, always looking over my shoulder, as if a foreign spy in my own country.

But this was June 13, 2013, and what a contrast it was. My husband Charlie and I, along with many other activists, advocates and allies, were about to join the President’s White House Reception in celebration of LGBT Pride Month. The atmosphere was full of joy and hope for the future. As we waited for the President, I reflected further.

I had been ‘out’ for 15 years now, or so I’d thought: out on the Internet to inform colleagues about my past, out as an advocate for transgender people, out as an activistagainst the psychiatric-pathologization of gender variance.

It was one thing to hide in the back-rooms of Xerox Palo Alto Research Center decades ago, launching innovations as the hidden-hand behind the VLSI microelectronics revolution in Silicon Valley – a revolution that’s changed the world forever. I didn’t mind being almost invisible in my field back then or that no one had a clue what I was really doing, much less who was doing it. I was thrilled to even have a job.

But ‘out’ has many shades of grey — and even in recent years I kept on partly covering, shyly holding back, lingering in the darker shadows. Although times had changed, I’d clung to old habits.

Down through the years no one could explain how the VLSI revolution actually happened. The results were simply taken for granted. Although I’d gained vital knowledge about generating such engineering paradigm shifts, I feared that my personal history would loom large in people’s minds, and obscure any attempts at explanation. It wasn’t till 2012 that I finally got up the nerve to publish a career memoir, to begin telling the story of how the revolution came about …

As the president entered the room, I glanced around and took in the joyful vibes. As he began to speak, I grasped the reality of how far we’d come. Times had more than changed: a fresh wind was sweeping through our society, especially amongst the younger generations.

Then I thought of the millions of other LGBT people out there. I tried to envision the enormity of lifelong struggles against stigmatization and ostracism, of losses of families and employment, of their oppression by having to ‘cover’, often not fully engaging life nor being known for who they were, what they’d done, who they loved or who loved them.

And it hit me: we’ve come so far, so fast, that ever so many others could begin shedding old habits too. After all, freedom isn’t just an external concept, framed by our laws. It’s a gift of the spirit that we must give ourselves, in this case by going towards brighter shades of ‘out’.

Bottom line: If you want to change the future, start living as if you’re already there.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lynn-conway/the-many-shades-of-out_b_3591764.html