Foreword Communications

Friday, June 27, 2008

Transnational Gangs: How have gangs gone global? How does immigration facilitate the international spread of gangs?

The United States is not the only nation that has seen the proliferation of street gangs in recent decades. However, the explosion of street gang activity in other nations can, at least partially, be traced back to the U.S., where many of these foreign gang members receive their training and internship. Individuals who make their living through criminal activity cycle in and out of the United States and take back to their own country, or another country altogether, more criminal skills and network contacts than they left with.

Although there are many reasons why gangs have gone global, one of the main sources of their education comes from time spent in the U.S. Individuals enter the country either with some criminal skills already present or with the predilection toward criminal activity, and through their initiation into the U.S. crime world, they increase their skills and criminal contacts. If the individual is arrested for such activity, he or she may be deported back to his country of origin, taking everything he has learned with him, including the many contacts he has made, which, in many cases, are drug related. The United States deports thousands of individuals each year for participating in criminal activity making this a major source of the global gang member pool.

Another reason for the global spread of street gangs can be traced to the media representation and glamorization of the gang member stereotype. As far back as the many Hollywood pictures of James Dean as the romantic and misunderstood hoodlum, American culture has inadvertently idolized the gang member. What was once present only in the movies and American novels has spread to the internet and into popular music further widening the reach of the gang mystique. Interestingly, the gang members that are created by such methods probably wouldn’t even be familiar with the terms globalization or transnational, nor would they likely care. Even more interesting is the fact that these romanticized images in no way reflect the realities of gang life, which is another fact that up and coming gang members don’t know about, but probably wouldn’t care to know either since the goal is not to become one of the criminal element that lives in squalor and deals with the day to day avoidance of arrest. The idealized image of the successful criminal as having a garage full of flashy cars and a stable full of women is the image that these individuals strive for.

It is also likely that the majority of the globalization of gangs is due simply to the move toward an increasingly globalized world. As world travel became easier, and the spread of national cultures became more prevalent, it was inevitable that the movement of individuals would signal the spread of the good and the bad, including gang mentality, culture, and activity. Some of these gangs operate as a part of criminal networks and others operate independently using what they have learned in the states as a basis for their activities.

Gangs were once formed by a group of individuals who were generally short-term, temporary members. The average gang member was usually a young man who joined the gang as a sort of rite of passage. Most of these members would eventually outgrow the gang. However, in recent decades, gang activity has taken on a whole new meaning with individuals becoming more permanent members of a gang and more entrenched in gang life and gang activities. Women are becoming more involved in gangs. And the gang has become more of an organization unto itself with members as employees and the spread into the whole of the U.S. and numerous foreign countries.

Still, for the most part, it is not the gangs themselves that have gone international but the gang persona or mentality. The phenomena of the globalization of gangs has occurred because the gang culture has spread via the media, and, most importantly, the migration of individual gang members. As previously mentioned, the individual gang members takes what he has learned and incorporates it into gang activities in another country. Gang activity in the United States has increased more than four hundred percent since the 1970’s, and gang activity has been reported in such countries as France, Germany, Canada, Japan, England, Mexico and South Africa, to name only a few. It used to be said that gangs migrated in order to find new members and to acquire additional territory. However, although this does still happen occasionally, it is now thought that the international spread of gangs did not result from any intentional plan, but rather as an unintended result of the migration of individual gang members.

The international trend of gang migration has followed a similar pattern as that which has heralded the spread of gangs in the United States itself. Gangs were once a localized phenomenon. However, as the members of the gang migrated, ironically sometimes in order to get away from the gang itself, the gang member formed a new gang in the new location. At first, these new gangs were not offshoots of the former gang, but were new outfits altogether. Once gangs realized the benefits of forming actual networks of gangs and gang members, gangs went national, and then, inevitably, international. There is little difference between the international spread of gangs and the phenomenon of the spread of gangs within the United States. The majority of this type of international spread has occurred mainly among the Hispanic and Asian migrants. These former U.S. gang members then act as a connection between the new gang and the old gang back in the U.S.

Many countries report that it is these deported gang members who are linking up with other deported gang members that are responsible for the dramatic increase of gang related crime. Many of these countries are not equipped to deal with gang activity and have found that there has been a significant increase of violent crime in their nations. Some of these gang members continue to move illegally back and forth between countries transporting people and goods. This is especially prevalent between the United States and South America. It is interesting how, in an effort to decrease gang related crime in its own country, the United States has been largely responsible for the spread of gang activity into other nations. Unlike the media, such as movies and music, the U.S. policy of deporting those immigrants that have been found to be involved in gang-related crimes has spread the gangs themselves from a once relatively segregated phenomenon into a global problem. Gangs now have initiated internationally available websites that are complete with gang mottos, symbols, bylaws, and pictures. This new form of gang communication has become as complex as the internet technology that supports it. However, such communication is reserved for the privileged few gangs that can afford it. For the most part, gangs are a non-technical network of criminal activity; some far more profitable than others, but almost all of them violent. For most gangs, the best technology they can access is the cellular phone, but this method of communication has been sufficient enough to spread crime, including murder and drugs, across the nation.

Globalization has resulted in a number of modern phenomena, both positive and negative. As gang-related activity is known to occur as a result of the disenfranchisement of a particular group of individuals, the global disenfranchisement of particular groups of individuals is likely to result in the proliferation of international gang activity. Such activity can be evidenced in the spread of terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda. Some of the international members of Al Qaeda have been solicited and others have joined the organization without any group invitation. The spread of gangs on a global scale can be seen in the same way and may, eventually, operate on the same scale.

 

I don’t have all the answers either.

 

 

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

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Copyright © 2008 ForeWORD Communications.  All Rights Reserved.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

why cant kids write rite?

Filed under: CULTURE, EDUCATION, FAMILY, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 10:22 am

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My daughter has elected to complete a couple of extra academic credits toward her graduation requirements via a reputable online school this summer.  One of those credits is an English III credit.  The course focuses on grammar, punctuation, and capitalization.  A week before the course began, the teacher, we’ll call her Madame English Teacher, placed the following message on her site: 

 

“Welcome to English III.  I’ll be posting a discription of the course soon.  This class is defenitely harder than the regular version because it is much shorter, so be prepared to work a lot harder.” 

 

Now, my degree isn’t in English, it’s in Psychology, but even I can see that Madame English Teacher has two very glaring misspellings in those three short sentences.  And this individual is teaching high school seniors! 

 

So, anyway, I called the school principal listed on the website and although she seemed unconcerned about the errors, she promised to point them out to the instructor.  My daughter informed me later that day that the blurb had been removed and the English III home page was now blank.  I also received a call from Madame English Teacher herself explaining that the Science teacher had written the contents of the page because Madame English Teacher herself was busy trying to wrap up her end-of-semester duties from the regular school year.  I’m wondering how the Science teacher managed to pass English herself. 

 

My daughter has since completed the first unit and taken the unit quiz.  The quizzes are teacher-generated and then loaded into the online system.  During the regular school year, my daughter earned a perfect grade in English.  She does well in all of her subjects, but she’s an exceptional English student.  But this summer school course has her ready to pull her hair out, and here’s why: 

Quiz One, Question 3…

Select the option that best completes the sentence. 

The librarian _______ _______ work long hours.

a.      do not

b.      does not

c.       doesn’t not

d.      can’t not

 

My daughter, being a veritable genius, selected option “b”.  Her answer was marked wrong.  Thinking “what the…?”, my daughter emailed Madame English Teacher and, trying not to sound like she thinks the teacher is a complete moron, worded her email as such. 

Hi, Madame English Teacher.

I just took the unit one quiz and, maybe I’m tired, but it seems as if some of the questions might be scoring incorrectly.  I’m not sure but I think I got question three right even though the system said I got it wrong.  Can you take a look at it?

Thanks

Genius Daughter

 

This is the reply she received from the teacher… 

i think youre just tired ill reset the quiz so you can take it again 

 

Ok, is it me or is something very wrong here?

 

I believe that the above written communication from Madame English Teacher contains two separate sentences, yet there is no placement of periods or capitalization that would indicate such.  Also, last I checked, the “word” youre is supposed to contain an apostrophe indicating that it is the product of two separate words; you and are.  Ditto for ill.  Although, “ill” is a word, I believe that the teacher meant to write I’ll, to represent “I” and “will”.  I don’t believe she was trying to tell my daughter that she wasn’t feeling well.  And shouldn’t there be a line of greeting such as “Hi, Genius Daughter” and a closing such as “Thanks, Madame English Teacher”?  I seem to recall, way back in the dark ages when we were expected to communicate correctly, actually studying how to write a letter.  Emails are electronic letters, not an invitation for sloppy written communication; especially on the part of a teacher!  Hello!

 

The ongoing inability of this teacher to communicate effectively using good written English indicates that she may have told a little fib about the Science teacher.  Either neither teacher can spell worth a darn or Madame English Teacher just needed to divert blame from herself.  Additionally, the fact that the English teacher cannot seem to recognize that there is a significant problem with the quiz indicates that, like my daughter suspected, the woman is far from qualified to teach the course.  And, finally, it scares the bejesus out of me that Madame English Teacher sent my daughter a reply email that was completely devoid of capitalization, punctuation, and proper grammar.

 

Shouldn’t English teachers, heck, teachers in general, be held to a higher standard? 

 

No wonder we’re raising a nation of people who can’t spell, write, or communicate effectively; or even adequately.  When even a teacher can’t manage to make the effort to set a shining example of proper use of the rules of the English language, something is very wrong.  One of the first things we learn – in psychology, in education, heck, as parents – is that children learn by example.  What kind of example is Madame English Teacher setting for her students?  How can she possibly correctly judge the standard of a student’s work when she obviously doesn’t know what such work should entail (as evidenced by her inability to display the standards in her own communications)? 

 

And, please don’t make the argument that teachers are overworked and underpaid.  First, that’s the state of most employees these days.  Second, that’s no excuse for an inability to do one’s job properly.  And, third, it’s not true.   

 

I spent several years working in the human resources department at a local urban school district and most of them were paid nearly twice what I was making, and I was making pretty good money.  Our human resources director used to say that teaching was the only profession where you could make more from year to year merely by virtue of staying alive.   

 

And, summer school teachers…!  Forgetaboutit!  They got paid their regular daily rate plus a premium for teaching summer school.  Teachers would actually fight to be placed in a summer school position!  It was like earning double-time plus.  Now, to be fair, beginning teachers weren’t paid a whole lot, but because of union rules, teachers got what was called a step increase every year, plus, because of contract negotiations, they received regular cost of living increases (those of us who worked in administration, at the time, had not seen a cost of living increase or a raise in more than five years).  Additionally, teachers had a top-of-the-line health care plan which included dental and vision coverage (they paid less than $50 a month for this superb coverage!), they received a certain number of free sick days, got winter and spring breaks and summers off, worked less than seven hours a day, got one free period for “planning”, and received numerous “bonuses” for any perceived extra duties they performed.  For instance, a teacher would receive extra pay if he or she had to cover another teacher’s class, even if it was for mere minutes.  Teachers were also paid their daily rate for taking professional development classes and received what was called a “schedule” increase once they earned a higher degree (i.e., anything above a B.A.). 

 

I’m not saying that teachers don’t work hard.  I could never do the job.  I would never want the job.  Still, being overworked is no excuse for the poor performance of teachers such as Madame English Teacher.  And, I don’t believe that this teacher is performing poorly because she’s overworked.  I believe that she performs this way because; first, she obviously doesn’t care; second, she’s not held to a higher standard; and, third, she’s not good at her job. 

 

The quality of my daughter’s education depends on the quality of the individuals who provide that education.  If a teacher can’t be bothered to facilitate a quality educational experience for every child, they should find another profession.

 

I don’t have all the answers either.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications

 

All Rights Reserved 

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

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Sunday, June 22, 2008

Stop Smoking Now!

 

 

May 17, 1999…

 

That’s the date I stopped smoking.  I’ve got the date programmed into my calendar as an anniversary upon which I am due a great deal of honor and respect.  And every year on May 17, 1999, I give myself a pat on the back and sing my own praises to anyone and everyone who will listen.

 

Why?

 

Because, as many people know all too well, it’s darned hard to stop smoking!  Studies show that most people will try to stop and fail at least three times before they are successful, and, honestly, I think that statistic is far too low.

 

I smoked for 18 years.  And during the course of those 18 years, I managed to increase the amount that I smoked until I was puffing through four packs a day!  Every day, by the end of the day, my lungs ached and my head was throbbing.  But, still, I lit ’em up.

 

I smoked through three pregnancies.  I was convinced I’d never be able to quit so I tried to cut back.  Didn’t work.  In the hospital after giving birth, I was one of those people who would sneak into the bathroom, turn on the exhaust fan, and surreptitiously feed my addiction.  ‘Course, that was in the later years.  After giving birth to my first child in 1991, it was still ok to smoke in a visitors lounge on the maternity floor.

 

I remember once, when I was pregnant with my son (he’s kid number three), I was walking to the park with my neighbor and our children, and someone who was driving by actually made a comment about the fact that I was pregnant and smoking.  That comment made me angry… and ashamed.  That person was obviously never a smoker; not a real smoker anyway.  A real smoker can’t just quit because it’s what’s right for the baby.  It’s just not that darned easy!  And, remember, I grew up in an era where women smoked while pregnant and no one batted an eyelash.  When I was a kid, just about every adult I knew smoked.  I held out until I was 17, but once I started, it was downhill from there.

 

People just don’t realize that smokers don’t jump out of bed every morning and sing the praises of nicotine.  Of course, smokers, for the most part, aren’t as bothered by the effects of smoking as non-smokers are either.  Until I became a non-smoker, I had forgotten how bad smokers smelled.  Blech!  Now, I’m reminded every time my kids come home from their father’s house how bad the odor really is.  When they get home from somewhere where there is smoking, their hair and clothes smell so bad I tell them, to shower and change right away.

 

My mother had a dream once that cigarettes were $20 a pack and she was still smoking three packs a day.  I’m reminded of her dream every time I glance at the cigarette prices at the store.  Forty dollars a carton?!  Holy smokes!  For some weed in a tube?  Are they nuts?  My sister and her husband have taken to rolling their own, and even that ain’t cheap!  Ah, but the law of supply and demand means that, as the number of smokers decreases, the price of smokes is going to keep going up.

 

I used to have a little program on my computer that kept me informed of the number of cigarettes I haven’t smoked and how much money I’ve saved.  I’ve bought a new computer since then, and the company that developed that handy little program has since gone out of business but I can still enter my information into an online calculator like www.quitsmokingcounter.com and get my stats.  ‘Course the savings aren’t adjusted for inflation (it’s based on the cost of a pack of cigarettes at the time I quit), but it appears that I’ve saved $27, 678.80.  A discussion on where in the world all that money went is for another time, but I do know that, if I were still a smoker, burning through four, or more, packs a day, I’d be spending upwards of $120 a week to kill myself.  Thank you Phillip Morris.  Also, according to this quit smoking counter, I’ve been a non-smoker for 474 weeks, 3days, 10 hours, 58 minutes, and 48, 49, 50… seconds.  Even better, I’ve added 181 weeks, 1 day, 14 hours, and 41 minutes to my life.

 

Still, even as a former smoker, I’m different from that person who made the comment about my pregnant-and-smoking condition years ago.  I’ve never condemned anyone for smoking and I never will.  Sure, I hate it when my ex, or anyone else, smokes around my kids, and when I have to be around cigarette smoke for too long, I don’t feel well, but what kind of hypocrite would I be if I condemned everyone else for doing exactly what I subjected them to for so many years.  And I know that, even though that person who condemned me back in 1997 obviously thought her comment was either productive or welcomed (it was, of course, neither), it didn’t stop me from feeling powerless against my addiction.  You can’t shame someone into quitting, but you sure can be supportive when they decide to take the plunge.  And if you can’t be supportive, just keep your big mouth shut.

 

The good news?  Quitting smoking was far easier than I had imagined!  Don’t get me wrong, it was tough, but nowhere near the pure hell that I thought it would be.  All those times I tried to quit cold-turkey and failed; those times when it was pure hell, are now overshadowed by my success.  I’ve been a non-smoker now for… well… 474 weeks, 3days, 10 hours, 58 minutes, and 48, 49, 50… seconds, and I’ve managed to stay that way through the most hellacious divorce known to woman, the stress of single motherhood, and two daughters in their teen years.  If I can do it, anyone can!

 

 

I don’t have all the answers either.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications    

All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

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The Eco-Labeling Regulation of 1992

Filed under: ENVIRONMENT, GLOBAL LIVING, GOING GREEN, NATURE — Tags: , , , — forewordcommunications @ 3:15 am

 

Since its inception in 1999, thirteen European countries have adopted the Euro as their national currency. In another well-discussed move that attempts to bond a common European market, the European Union, in the early 90’s, and prior to the adoption of the Euro, implemented the Eco-Labeling Regulation. This 1992 agreement states that member countries will implement a cohesive system of labeling ecologically friendly products and services in order to encourage a continent-wide, and possibly an eventual worldwide, definition of what is to be considered good for the future of the environment. 

The United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (1999) defines Eco-Labeling as “a voluntary trademark that is awarded to products deemed to be less harmful to the environment than other products within the same category.” The idea is that an informed consumer will prefer to invest in products and services that make the best use of the environment. An “award” in the form of an official “flower” stamp that details one, two, or three of the requirements that the product has met to ensure that it is environmentally friendly. The European Parliament and the Council of the European Union has stated that “It is necessary to explain to consumers that the eco-label represents those products which have the potential to reduce certain negative environmental impacts, as compared with other products in the same product group, without prejudice to regulatory requirements applicable to products at a Community or a national level”. The Royal Society of Chemistry noted, in its 1998 document entitled Eco-Labeling: Life-Cycle Assessment In Action, that Eco-Labeling is a valid pursuit but argues that “the companies genuinely embracing eco-labeling will tend to be those with major market penetration and high brand status.” 

In May 1997, a report entitled The European Union Eco-Labeling Scheme for Textiles: Ecological Criteria for Bed Linen and T-Shirts, points out that Eco-Labeling will incur additional expenses for manufacturers and that many nations already have their own ecological stamps of approval in force that have been slow in catching on. Although the primary purpose of Eco-Labeling was to implement a cohesive strategy and definition of “green” products and services, many industries rejoiced at a European-wide set of standards and expressed disappointment that industry standards were being constantly redefined after they thought a definition had been reached via their own industry regulation councils.  

General concerns about the Eco-Labeling law include criteria subjectivity, financial cost of implementation, and discrimination against imported products that are similar and meet the Eco-Labeling criteria. One report calls Eco-Labeling “unrealistic”, and another defines Eco-Labeling as a failure while commending Germany’s Blue Angel label as being the best. This discussion also calls the Eco-Labeling process “lengthy” and “bureaucratic” and “political” and points out that politicians should not be making policy decisions on industry standards. 

The implementation of the European Union’s Eco-Labeling criteria has been slow and has met with some resistance, not from consumers, but from industry manufacturers and distributors. Complaints that the EU’s system is bogged down in bureaucratical intricacies and political negotiations have marred the scheme’s progress and acceptance. Industry leaders have expressed the very valid concern that their own governing organizations have spent years evaluating and developing the appropriate guidelines and procedures for application to their particular industry processes and that, since the inception of Eco-Labeling, politicians and other government officials are reevaluating and redefining these widely accepted industry standards. 

Important questions have arisen regarding the impartiality of the Eco-Labeling system as it is currently defined and why the Eco-Labeling system doesn’t more closely mirror successful established systems of environmental labeling already in place such as Germany’s Blue Angel system. The Eco-Labeling system also tends to ignore that these other systems would have to be scrapped and the Eco-Labeling system adopted by all European manufacturers for the system to be completely effective. 

Globalization of labeling guidelines for products and services is, in itself, a commendable idea. However, the reality of implementing a continent-wide strategy that has ignored the input and concerns of industry and trade leaders appears destined for failure. Consumers have, in recent years, become much more environmentally savvy and are open to purchasing more “green” products. Any effective Eco-Labeling criteria have to appeal to both the consumer and the industry that produces the targeted goods and/or services.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Fair is a Place…

Filed under: FAMILY, FUN, FUNNY, HUMOR, HUMOROUS, LIFE, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 9:00 am

 

Kids are always whining about how unfair life is.  When I was growing up, I was told that “fair is a place where men go to throw cow pats to win prizes”.  I’ve also heard “fare is what people pay to ride the bus”.  Either way, the point is that life just isn’t fair; at least not in the way we’d like it to be.

 

We obviously gauge what we consider fair by how things affect us personally.  It’s normal to feel that you’ve been dealt a raw hand when you don’t get the raise or promotion you’ve worked so hard for.  It’s understandable for anyone who has suffered a debilitating life event to feel as if someone or something is out to get him.  And we know such happenings as Hurricane Katrina, the 2004 Thailand tsunami, and the massive earthquake the Earth released on China earlier this year are definitely not “fair”.

 

Yet, there’s a difference between how children and adults define fairness.  If a kid doesn’t get what he wants, no matter what that thing is, the situation is declared unfair.  Little Billy didn’t get that third ice cream cone – ding, ding, ding, unfair!  Polly doesn’t get to play with her friend Betty’s new doll – come on people!  Unfair!  Cindy didn’t get a new car for her sweet sixteen – alert the authorities!  Unlike children however, most adults realize that fairness requires more than our mere existence and desire to stack the deck in our favor.

 

In his book, Nine things you simply must do to succeed in love and life: A psychologist probes the mystery of why some lives really work and others don’t, Dr. Henry Cloud indicates that people shouldn’t “play fair”.  Now, before we all go off and rail about how unfair it is to others not to be fair, or, even worse, take the suggestion at face value and just start taking everything we want regardless of how doing so would affect other people, let’s look at what Cloud means by “playing fair”. 

 

Cloud actually believes that we should be more than fair.  Kind of like, if we make sure that we do unto others better than we want others to do unto us, we’ll trigger some sort of Karmic reaction that will lead to a better life for us.  Ok, I’m exaggerating a bit, but you get my meaning.

 

Now, I have an incredibly rigid sense of fairness.  I’ve always tried to make sure that the people around me get more than they are required to give in friendships, business transactions, etc.  But, all that my rigid sense of fairness has earned me is a head full of grey hairs, most of which I swear are caused by people who frustrate the bejesus out of me with their ability to take advantage of other people.  And it’s that darn fairness rigidity that leaves me open-mouthed most of the time, thinking “what the devil did I do to deserve this/that?” 

 

Something else I was always told when I was growing up?  “You will receive your reward in heaven.”  In other words, don’t expect it here.

 

 

 

But I don’t have all the answers either.

 

 

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
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Biological Altruism: Are we Hard-Wired to Behave in a Socially Caring Manner or to Maximize Personal Gain

Filed under: FAMILY, GLOBAL LIVING, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, SELF-IMPROVEMENT — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 2:55 am

 

There exists a current debate over whether behaving in a socially caring manner, or social altruism, is a learned behavior or whether human beings are hard wired, or genetically predisposed, to behave in such a way. There are surely rational arguments for each side. However, some studies indicate that altruism is indeed hard wired into the human brain as well as the brains of several other species. In essence, humans can’t help the urge to help. 

Social altruism is a form of behavior in which an individual places the needs or benefit of another over the needs or benefit of the self. The individual must give something of himself such as money or time, in order to have fulfilled the requirements for altruism. Essentially, by losing something, time or money, another person, or persons, gain something. It can be argued that altruistic behavior occurs out of a sense of duty or out of some sort of inner compassion, and the answer is both. Scientists have uncovered evidence that animals may behave in an altruistic manner. Animals such as birds and insects such as bees and ants have been shown to care for the young of their groups at the expense of their own good, and sometimes even their own lives. However, this type of altruism is clearly instinctual. 

Although human beings often behave in a way that places the needs of others before their own, scientists often call this pseudo-altruism because it mimics true or instinctual altruism. Human beings may also behave in a socially altruistic manner due to a connection between empathy and compassion. In other words, the human ability to imagine one’s self in the position of another (empathy) results in a feeling of mutual suffering (compassion). This form of compassionate social altruism is as close to instinctual altruism as humans can get, and is indeed hard wired. 

This ability to act on behalf of someone else in a similar manner as one would act toward one’s self is not merely a duty bound process. If this were true, there would not be so many instances of an instinctual-type of altruism amongst any number of animals, including humans. Science has used the explanations of kin selection and reciprocal altruism to explain altruism. The theory of kin selection as relating to altruism indicates that altruism assists in the perpetuation of the species genes. Science argues that the extension of altruistic behavior in animals exists because certain altruistic actions ensure that the species survives and passes along its genes. Additionally, the closer two organisms are related, the more likely it is that altruism will be considered. In essence, as altruism is defined as a cost to the altruistic organism and a benefit to the recipient, the closer the relative the more the altruistic behavior is seen as a greater benefit to the recipient and a lesser cost to the giver. Kin selection indicates that an organism is less likely to act in an altruistic manner towards non-kin as such acts do not ensure the natural selection of one’s own genes. 

Because evidence of kin selective altruistic behavior has been noted in animal species, science assumes that the behavior may be generalized to include human behavior as well. This theory however, does not however explain why, if humans are hardwired to behave in an altruistic manner only toward kin, humans will display altruistic behavior toward a spouse. In essence, if genetic strangers are at the bottom of the altruistic chain, then humans should display altruistic behavior toward a spouse no more often than they would a complete stranger. It is, however, interesting to note that proponents of kin selection also include everyone in a general area as being members of one’s kin. One can assume that kin selection favors how human society views itself as a social entity. Since one’s society could be assumed to consist of the whole of one’s kin, the theory would preclude that an individual’s altruistic behavior would extend to all members of the human society, i.e., the entire world. Kin-based systems require little thought and may be a stepping stone to other forms of altruistic behavior. 

Reciprocal altruism, much like the evolutionary ideology of kin selection, also has its roots in an organism’s self interest. Reciprocal altruism assumes that an organism engages in an altruistic act because that organism will receive a similar consideration at some point in the future; a kind of quid pro quo. In this kind of altruism, the giving organism does so knowing that the balance of altruistic behavior will remain unequal until that organism’s altruistic behavior has been reciprocated. In other words, the theory of reciprocal altruism indicates that both the giver and the receiver realize that, over time, the benefits outweigh the costs of the altruistic acts so that, in the end, both the giver and the receiver realize a net gain. Although the giver will not realize any immediate benefits from his altruistic act, the understanding is that there will definitely be something in it for him, if not now or in his lifetime, then for his descendents or relatives. 

Reciprocal altruism asserts that, for an altruistic act to be completely reciprocal, there must be some cost to the giver and some benefit to the recipient, the altruistic act must be performed contingent upon the presumption of receiving something in return, and there must be a separation between the individual’s altruistic act and the receiving back of a benefit. This type of altruism is marked by indirect benefits that are presumed to be received over a period of time and not immediately. Additionally, reciprocal altruism is a risky venture as the giver must trust that the recipient will indeed reciprocate and that, if the recipient fails to do so, that organism will be subject to any number of social sanctions. Unlike kin-based altruism, reciprocal altruism allows for a sort of altruism exchange or social surplus of altruism and assumes more than mere cooperation. In essence, reciprocal altruism indicates that human beings operate in a cooperative manner with each other because there is an equal likelihood that he or she may, throughout the span of a lifetime, be equally able to give and also in need. Using the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina as an example, if, for instance, one segment of a society, in this instance those affected by the hurricane find themselves in a situation where they are low on, or devoid of resources, then reciprocal altruism dictates that the segment of the society that posses resources, in this instance those not affected by the hurricane, will share the resources with those who need them regardless of the pinch in their own resources that may occur as a result, and with the understanding that the recipient, in this case the victims of the hurricane, will reciprocate in some way in the future. 

Reciprocal altruism assumes that the organisms involved in the transaction will remain familiar for a period of time sufficient to realize a return on the giver’s investment and assumes that, should the transaction go awry, i.e., that the recipient fails to reciprocate, the giver has sufficient social status to initiate some form of social sanction against the transgressor. Some researchers argue that humans are the only species able to develop or profit from reciprocal altruism as humans are the only species that are capable of realizing sufficient benefit from the altruistic reciprocity, the only species that is capable of maintaining a record of altruistic balances, and the only species that is capable of maintaining a social connection long enough and stable enough to initiate and benefit from reciprocal relationships. 

Both theories of kin selection and reciprocal altruism provide rational arguments for altruistic behavior in humans. However, neither completely explains why humans will engage in such acts. Kin selection only works if the entire world community is seen as one’s kin and reciprocal altruism only works if one assumes that the recipient has the resources to return the favor, which, in many instances such as the world’s response to the tsunami in Thailand, is simply not feasible. The chances that Thailand will have the resources any time soon to reciprocate on a similar scale is highly doubtful. Additionally, the example of the individual who can help out on a global scale, yet pass by the homeless person on the street corner, must be addressed. Altruism has a bit of cynicism attached to it. Although one could assume that an individual tends to ignore the beggar on the street because of that recipient’s perceived inability to return the favor, so to speak. However, one could also assume that the giver fails to acknowledge the needs of the street beggar because of a learned cynicism that dictates that the street beggar does not truly need one’s services. Many individuals have heard of the stories of individuals who pose as beggars who are not truly needy or who will likely use any donation toward a non-essential purpose. Because of this, it can be assumed that, although altruism is hardwired and biologically determined, it can surely be influenced by social learning, i.e. that certain individuals are not worthy of our altruistic acts. As humans are presumably higher-thinking organisms, one can justly argue that their altruism is determined by a number of internal and external factors.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wherever Two or More Are Gathered…

Filed under: FAMILY, FUN, FUNNY, HUMOR, LIFE, MODERN LIVING, RANDOM, RANDOM THOUGHTS, THOUGHTS — Tags: , , , , , , , , — forewordcommunications @ 8:51 am

 

Driving to pick up my son from a friend’s house this afternoon, I saw a group of men gathered in a yard.  These men had fashioned a couple of small ramps out of plywood and some other odds and ends.  The ramps were facing each other.  At the time I was driving by, the men appeared to be standing around discussing how to utilize their creations. 

 

I saw this and I was reminded that wherever two or more are gathered… there’s bound to be trouble.

 

Men, especially when gathered in groups of two or more, have an almost childlike ability to create chaos.  I was reminded of this universal truth because each of the men in the group I witnessed today had assumed his own version of the man stance.  The man stance is a physical positioning of the body a man assumes that he apparently thinks makes him look more intelligent, better looking, or like an important contributor to the task at hand.  Although the man stance varies according to the individual man, there’s no doubt that it signals impending doom.

 

Any woman who has witnessed such a gathering of men can attest to the fact that they should never be allowed to gather in groups to do man stuff.  When they do, someone is bound to get hurt or something is going to get broken.  Why is it that during this mine-is-bigger-than-yours contest, men are immediately drained of any sense that they may have had before coming into contact with another man/men?  It’s like there is some sort of inverse correlation between the amount of testosterone in any given area and the amount of intelligence being employed.

 

So, back to the group of men gathered in the yard.

 

I imagined that one of those men was going to be brainless enough to ride those ramps in some manner that was likely to prove disastrous.  I had a friend, years ago, who, whenever he said the words “watch this” he ended up in the hospital.  The words “watch this” were only uttered in the presence of other men and they always preceded his doing something completely stupid like back flips off a springboard (During the back flip incident, my friend was showing off for some cheerleader friends at a local university).  Add alcohol to the man-stuff-and-stance soup and the inverse correlation I’ve already mentioned becomes increasingly proportionate to the amount of alcohol that has already been ingested. 

 

I’ll bet at least one testosterone tarzan in that yard got hurt and I’ll bet a group of wives and girlfriends are sitting around at this very moment shaking their heads and thinking “he/they did what?!”

 

Sigh.  I look at my son and wonder if he will ever really mature past his current chronological age of ten.

 

 

 

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
Intelligent Writing Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

Articles – eBooks – eCourses – White Papers – Web Page Content – Etc.

Email: forewordcom@aol.com

Webpage: www.forewordcommunications.com

 

Breast Augmentation: Is Bigger Really Better?

Filed under: BEAUTY, HEALTH, HEALTH AND BEAUTY — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 2:09 am

 

So, you’re thinking about breast augmentation?  There are certainly a lot of things to consider before you take the plunge.  Ultimately, your final breast size will be determined by the limitations of your body, but you will want to do some research into what makes you comfortable. 

Some women long for large, over the top, breasts.  Others could care less what their breast size is.  Most women fall somewhere in the middle.  If you’re on the smaller size and are thinking about going up a cup size or two, you’re not alone.  Studies show that millions of American women wish they were just a little bit larger in the chest. 

Before you commit to an implant size, try some larger breasts on for size.  By this, we mean purchase a couple of bras with cup sizes a size or two larger and stuff them.  Wear each one for a few days so that you can get a feel for what your new breasts will look like.  This is an important step in determining how large you should go.  For most women, going up just one cup size does the trick.  For others, they really like the idea of those double-D’s.  

A board certified plastic surgeon is a great resource for helping you select the best implant size for you.  Your plastic surgeon is most concerned with making you happy while making sure that your chosen implants are the most proportionate for your body size.  Bring those bras that you bought for your research along with you to your visit with your plastic surgeon and you’ll be able to place an actual implant into the bra to give you a pretty realistic idea of how your new breasts will look and feel. 

Your plastic surgeon will help you determine the size that is best for you based on your body size, the placement of your natural breasts, the thickness of the skin on your chest, and the fat content of your upper body.  He or she is also the best resource for information on whether saline or silicone implants best suit your needs and lifestyle.

 

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
Intelligent Writing Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

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Email: forewordcom@aol.com

Webpage: www.forewordcommunications.com

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Can You Avoid Foreclosure?

Filed under: ECONOMICS, ECONOMY, LIFE, MONEY — Tags: , , — forewordcommunications @ 1:56 am

 

Sure, you didn’t think when you signed your mortgage papers that you’d ever be in the position where you might lose your home.  But, sometimes life throws curves that we don’t anticipate and we find ourselves swamped with unexpected medical bills, out of a job, or faced with the income shattering consequences of divorce.  There’s usually very little standing between the average homeowner and their worst nightmare – foreclosure.  There are however, several things that you can do to avoid losing your home.  And with planning and perseverance, you should be able to make it through even the toughest financial crisis and still keep your home. 

For the most part, your mortgage lender will probably be willing to work with you.  After all, they’d rather have your money than an empty house that will sit on the market for months costing them money instead of making money for them.  Most lenders understand that even the best customers can fall behind and have devised ways to help you get back on track.  So, first and foremost, if you are behind on your mortgage payments, communicate with your lender.  Don’t make the mistake that so many people make and avoid making the call.  Tell your lender up front, and as soon as possible, what is going on so that they can help you. 

Most lenders have relatively similar programs to help you avoid foreclosure.  The first option is usually a simple repayment plan.  The lender will generally allow you to spread the repayment of your missed payments over the next few months.  You will need to agree to a definite payment plan and there are usually some small fees involved, but this is likely the best option for most people who are capable of catching up and are just a payment or two behind. 

Some lenders will allow you to modify your loan if you fall behind.  The most common way to do this is to roll the missed payments back into the loan balance and reamortizing the loan.  This gets you back on track right away and allows you to pick up where you left off.  There’s also the option of the short refinance or the hard money refinance.  The short refinance will allow you to refinance your loan while the lender forgives some of your mortgage arrears.  The hard money loan generally involves receiving a high interest loan from a private lender that will see you through until you sell your home.  The hard money option is usually not for those who are going to keep the property. 

Finally, if you’re sure that you will not be able to either catch up on your mortgage arrearages or you are not certain that you are going to be able to stay current if your mortgage company helps you out, you may want to consider discussing a short sale with your mortgage lender.  In a short sale, the lender approves the sale of your home for less than the outstanding loan amount.  The mortgage company will keep any proceeds from the sale and will forgive any remaining balance.  In this option, you will receive no profits from the sale of your house but you will also not owe the lender anything once the process has been completed.  

Your mortgage company has many options designed to help you avoid foreclosure, whether you intend to keep your home or not.  The key is to act quickly and discuss your financial situation honestly with your lender as soon as you see that paying your mortgage has become a problem – preferably before you miss your first payment.  Generally, the earlier you begin proactive discussions with your lender, the better the outcome.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
Intelligent Writing Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

Articles – eBooks – eCourses – White Papers – Web Page Content – Etc.

Email: forewordcom@aol.com

Webpage: www.forewordcommunications.com

 

Aging Across the Generations

Filed under: AGING, FAMILY, HEALTH, LIFE — Tags: , , , — forewordcommunications @ 1:35 am

 

As an entire generation of baby boomers ages, this unique demographic draws attention to aging in general just as it drew attention to the concept of generation merely due to the sheer size of the generational cohort. Interestingly, the baby boom generation has been relatively easy to define. And it is the comparison of certain patterns and events that allow sociologists to define generations. Generations can only be separated from one another by comparing them to one another; the cohorts that came before and the ones that come after. Generations also desire to demarcate themselves from one another. Because generation x and generation y are certainly far too young to be considered in terms of aging, the study of aging across the generations, in order to produce conclusions that are adequate, must entail baby boomers and those that came before. 

Each generation produces an identity that is separate from previous generations and those that follow even though many of the characteristics may be similar. Certainly, baby boomers will age just as previous generations aged and just as all other generations have aged. However, it is the way that the generations age, the ages that each generation reaches, and society’s response to the aging that varies across time. Additionally, the aging of the baby boom generation is expected to place a significant strain on global resources as they are one of the largest cohorts to age concurrently. Baby boomers have also had a significant effect on the world’s politics, and they are likely to continue to do so. 

One of the most interesting effects of the aging baby boomers has been on the world’s politics. The baby boom generation was particularly attuned to politics as young adults. This political activism has affected their voting preferences and political engagement as they have grown older. This, of course, has caught the attention of many a politician as the sheer number of baby boomers must be appeased and attended to. Another interesting aspect of baby boomer aging has been the impact upon their own aging parents. Certainly the numbers of baby boomers that will be available to care for their aging parents will likely be adequate. However, the priorities of this generation have been significantly different in regard to finances, parenting, and social obligations, and are therefore likely to be different in regard to elder care as well. Additionally, the baby boom generation reflects the larger family size of their parents. Therefore, there will be the additional variable of multiple siblings to add to the mix. 

As the baby boomers themselves age, the makeup of their own families will come into play. The baby boom generation has experienced the highest rates of divorce and remarriage in modern history. As families have separated and reformed, the addition of step parents, step siblings, and half-siblings has been increasingly prevalent. Additionally, the wider acceptance of same-sex families and women having children well into their forties has further broadened the concept of family. This wider interpretation of the family unit will have a significant influence on how baby boomers will experience aging and how the nations of the world plan for their needs. 

Interestingly, studies of aging have traditionally paid little attention to the concept of the generation. Some experts assert that baby boomers will have a significantly different aging experience than did their parents. Part of the problem is that some experts have intentionally tried to downplay the differences between generations, as well as the concept itself, ultimately seeking to render the concept unimportant in terms of analysis of aging, morality, politics, etc. However, as baby boomers age, the concept of generation becomes all that much stronger. Some researchers believe that this is because the original interest in this cohort as a generational concept is likely to resurface creating a resurgence of research on the topic. And as the concepts of generations and aging are linked, the shared experience of aging has a host of fresh research subjects. 

However, one cannot assume that, just because they are one of the largest generations, baby boomers are likely to have an aging experience that is significantly different from previous generations or that this group will somehow redefine aging itself. Some experts have asserted that aging is the one experience that bridges the generation gap; that aging is does not, as once thought, differ from one generation to the next. These same experts insist that previous generations have already provided all of the information on aging that policy makers will need to predict the needs of the baby boomers. However, other research indicates that this is largely untrue as attempts to predict other trends of the baby boom generation, such as work trends and political trends, have been mostly unsuccessful. Certainly it is likely that a larger number of baby boomers may choose to work well past the age where their predecessors may have retired. A focus on financial success that was not prevalent in other areas may be a factor in this trend. Conversely, many baby boomers saw their parents work into their sixties, and may be willing to sacrifice material benefits for the enjoyment and freedom of early retirement. 

Other factors in the aging of generations surround the previously discussed area of caregivers. The parents of baby boomers have access to a wide array of caregivers in their children. Baby boomers have not been as prolific in producing the next generation but do have the benefit of blended families which may widen the responsibility of generation x when providing care for the next generation of the elderly. Baby boomers, by waiting longer until having children, unlike their parents, reduced the number of potential caregivers in addition to producing younger caregivers than their parents. It will be interesting to discover whether generation x, as a younger set of caregivers, will be willing to take on the responsibility of caring for their aging baby boomer parents or the extent to which they will access caregiving services that are not provided by family members. These are factors that will influence and effect the decisions of national governments to plan for and distribute services. 

There are other considerations that add further complexity to the issue of aging. It is generally agreed that the generation previous to the baby boomers were benefited in their retirement years by a relatively stable economy and a large pool of caregivers in their baby boomer sons and daughters. It is also generally assumed that baby boomers will not have the benefits of a stable economy, a large pool of caregivers in their generation x sons and daughters, and will likely live longer due to better medical care than did their parents. Therefore, most experts assume that there will be a shortage of caregivers for baby boomers in addition to assuming that the trends surrounding these issues will be almost unpredictable. An additional issue, as previously intimated, will surround the willingness of generation x to provide care for their aging baby boomer parents. 

Generational aging effects are widespread and, unlike some expert opinions, obviously differ. The size of the generation alone, as evidenced in the case of the baby boomers, will have a significant impact. Additionally, the age of the next generation as the parents reach caregiving age and the attitudes of that generation regarding their caregiving responsibilities not only vary by generation, but, as sociologists already know, vary by culture. Certainly, there will be some instances where the aging process will mimic that of previous generations, however, there is no way to reliably predict whether baby boomers will mirror their own elders completely; in fact, it is likely that they won’t. Additionally, time has borne witness to the concept of personal independence. As much as this concept has been prized by the aging parents of baby boomers, it was also prized in the younger years of the boomers themselves. It can therefore be assumed that the concept of independence will be equally as prized by aging baby boomers as it was for their parents, if not more. 

The only predictions that can be made regarding the aging of baby boomers, as well as any other previous or future generations, are in what year they will reach a certain age. All other factors are as unpredictable as the generation itself. Because statistics can only provide black and white figures regarding firm numbers, predictions regarding the behavior of any generation must be undertaken from a purely hypothetical standpoint. As society changes with each generation, as well as the ideals and goals of the generation, the importance of predicting aging becomes more unpredictable. Certainly generational aging has been as alike as it has been different, but it may be largely guided by differences within generations than by the generations themselves. Already, it has been shown that baby boomers have experienced life differently from previous generations and subsequent ones. With this information in hand, it can be therefore also assumed that their experience in aging, retirement, and elderly caregiving will be just as different.

 

©2008 ForeWORD Communications     All Rights Reserved

 

For intelligent writing solutions for your business, visit my website at www.forewordcommunications.com

 

ForeWORD Communications
Intelligent Writing Solutions for Individuals and Businesses

Articles – eBooks – eCourses – White Papers – Web Page Content – Etc.

Email: forewordcom@aol.com

Webpage: www.forewordcommunications.com

 

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