Tuesday, April 29, 2014

What can I do about it?

There are some choices:
  • Vote
    • I've been voting since the 1980's. It didn't help much at all.
  • Protest
    • Protesting didn't do anything but probably get my name on a watch list. Who has such lists?
      • Law enforcement
      • The Chambers of Commerce
      • Opposing political organizations and Think Tanks.
      • Other religious organizations.
      • Seriously though, with our current technology, who would turn down an opportunity to put their opponents on a list of enemies? Think about it.
  • Boycott
    • I boycott everything because I have no money to not boycott anything.
  • Sign a Petition
    • Signing a petition just got my name on someone's watch list.
      • See Protesting above for lists.
  • Donate
    • I have no money to donate.
    • Nothing changed when I did donate.
It feels good to share on social media some article or graphic that expresses an emotion with which you empathize, but that good feeling you get is a false sense of vindication that contributes to your complacency and inaction, and it's not enough anymore. Does everyone feel this way?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Patterns of Bureaucratic Corruption

I'm game if there's a position open on a team somewhere that specializes in bureaucratic behavior analysis, looking for the odd balance of procedures and benefits that lead to identifying criminals shielded by organizational subterfuge. A little more challenging than having an email land in your lap blatantly stating "It's time for traffic problems in Fort Lee."

This inspiration came to me in the form of a petition by MoveOn.org which seeks to deny a former Illinois State Trooper, reinstatement of his drivers license. I was immediately reminded of the scandal that resulted in the conviction of former Illinois Governor George Ryan whose political campaign coffers were filled with bribes paid by unqualified truck drivers in exchange for drivers licenses. This scandal came to light following a deadly crash.

The leniency of justice in Illinois is astounding. The history of corruption in Illinois runs so long and deep it has become tacitly acceptable, and even necessary for survival in a career in the Illinois public sector.

Once upon a time the fourth estate (the news media) was there to publicly humiliate corruption in government. Punishment-avoidance behavior by state officials worked well for generations, but in Illinois, the humiliation of being exposed as corrupt seems like a badge of honor anymore, like an old scar from a knife fight. The public has become numb to the incessant scandals reported. In psychology it's known as "Exctinction."

What may be attributed to Groupthink, the extinction of punishment-avoidance behavior on a cultural level is caused by the total absence of justice that in previous times immediately followed public humiliation.

The public assumes that justice still exists because the media coverage implies that it does, enabling diffusion of responsibility on such a massive scale that nothing gets done.. In reality there is nothing that follows but endless yammering of pundits on news programs, speculating endlessly about what they did and how they got away with it, but the discussion goes no further.

Getting away with it is only temporary, and the standoff with Clive Bundy is a symptom of the stress levels building up everywhere. People from all over are under so much pressure they will jump at any cause that will provide an outlet, no matter how illegal it may be. They are getting so fed up that they will take what they perceive as justice for themselves.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Misattribution of Arousal and relationships.

How misattribution of arousal from an old incident involving
simple gossip can create a permanently hostile work environment.
Affinity-seeking behavior drives the bulk of social media. Posting signals to everyone in the hopes of finding like-minded people. I tend to look for explanations or rationalizations for the way I feel and then post them hoping to find people who feel the same way, but the effect is quite different. The consequence of posting things I tend to think make me feel the way I do, tend to make other people feel the way I do. In other words, I seek out and post bad news as a reflection of how I feel but its taken by others as an attempt to make them feel bad.

The internal reality of how we feel has little to do with anything external, which is why the slogan rings true, "money doesn't buy happiness." So, why do I seek out bad news? Is it just a morbid sense of curiosity? It's more like a quest for an explanation for the way I feel. I think we all make the false assumption that our feelings are tied to happenings outside ourselves. After over a year of isolated introspection I have arrived at this conclusion.

This has been a problem for my my whole life. I blamed the way I felt on everyone or everything around me. I think there were times when this was pointed out to me but it never took root. I may have thought about it for a while, but then forgot. This is called "misattribution of arousal." It comes from the primitive part of our brain responsible for the survival of our species over the eons. It supersedes the rational part of our brain and makes us forget, unless we continue to remind ourselves every day that we own our feelings. It's very difficult, at least for me. Tomorrow I will probably wake up and blame the weather for the way I feel.

Misattribution happens all the time with powerful emotional states. Everyone close to someone who, regardless of the situation persistently feels sadness, anger or anxiety, may feel guilt for a while and may try to resolve what they believe is a temporary problem, but this usually ends in frustration and dissolution of the relationship. The emotionally disabled are left with abandonment issues unless they can recognize the problem first.

This emotional imbalance is also blamed on addiction to substances, but the substances are not the cause of the addiction, they are an attempt at solving the way we feel but it's only temporary. Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes, caffeine, sugar, salt and probably fat are among the chemicals that can alter moods temporarily. Activities are also temporary mood-changers, like sex, video games, skydiving, running, gambling, making money, hoarding, donating or volunteering beyond one's means of self-sustenance. 

My emotions led to my actions which led to the responding actions of others. If I had feelings of abandonment, they traced back to me. Ultimately my current feelings have no external cause. Everyone acts on their baseline standard emotional state. What ever transpires from that, you can construe all the chain reactions you want, but it's all emotional in origin. I feel terrible guilt for my behavior growing up, blaming other people for the way I feel. What good is an apology? They only work when you have time left to repair the damage and rebuild their trust.