Monday, June 1, 2015

The Structure of Your Mind

Ever since you were born, you were in a non-stop phase of constructing your mind.  As with any building, there are different components to its construction.  The components for the base of your mind are: 1) biology; 2) biography; 3) society.  With these added, you get a total that is greater than the sum of the parts: your mind.  Your mind is complex and constantly changing.  The earliest influence is our genetic predisposition, which interacts with our biology and that interacts with society.  As we continue, we shall see that there is a commingling of deterministic and free will aspects of our lives.  

After conception and our genetic predisposition, the primary contributor is biology.  This is the initial blueprint of the structure that your mind will be based upon.  It will also be one of the key contributors to further development throughout your life.  It will be the basis for neural and overall physical development.  If there are problems at this level (genetic, disease or accident), then future development of all kinds will be impaired if not impossible.  For example, if there are not a sufficient number or type of cones in the eye, one will be colorblind to some extent and won’t be able to know what ‘red’ is as compared to other colors.   Equally, if born deaf one won’t be able to hear voices and music, or speak phonetically articulately.  Finally, if born without the sensation of touch, one won’t be able to tell what ‘hot’ is as compared to cold.  Biological abilities and limitations will affect future cognitive development.

The next level for contributing to our mind structure is biography.  Biography is our experience and the processing of life events, including how we (if we) reflect upon those events.  It is from this base that we see individual units as distinct from others and begin to conceptualize based upon that distinction.  This is done in two phases; recognition of individual units and grouping into an individual concept.  For example we see six identical units, we say we have six apples, but as there are other small, round sweet fruits we come up with the concept of apple as contrasted to the concept of orange; as they both share some characteristics while not other characteristics with each other and other types, we combine or exclude them from the greater category of fruit.  This is a pre-social acceptance of a term, for what may be ‘hraguhd’ to the toddler who doesn’t have language, will be changed to black in English-speaking societies, negro in Spanish-speaking societies, and so on.

Our experience of apples and oranges can be extended into ripeness, whether over or under, or even rotten.  We contrast each type of fruit so we don’t treat one different ones such as a banana to be as long-lasting as a walnut.  Similarly, this same process of experience, we come to make friends, have food preferences, as well as music and all other appetitive preferences.

The final level for contributing factors to our mind’s construction is society.  Whether formally or informally, expectations and rules of how to act ‘legally and ethically’ as well as general behavior are defined and enforced by society.  This includes everything from gods to worship or deny, gender norms, roles of the citizens and the State, professional roles and all else where individuals in society interact.  This is a two-way street for it guides us toward what is acceptable and what is not acceptable.  This begins as small as one’s family in childhood to as large as one’s country or religion.

These three levels interact to construct the base structure of your mind.  When we combine the three levels, we can see the interaction.  We are born with predispositions that direct us toward a preference for some things over others, such as authoritarianism/libertarianism, toward drinking alcohol or not, sexual preference and so on.  From our experiences, we develop a penchant for specific parts of those broader preferences, such as when do we care to dictate or live free, or if we will pursue hetero-, homo- or bi-sexual interests.  Society influences in whether those authoritative/libertarian acts are acceptably exercised: are you exhibiting authoritative acts by being a bully and a brute, or by being a coach and a guide; are you being libertarian by ignoring speed limits, or by ignoring property rights and stealing?

However, an empty building does not make a home.  All buildings are more than just the physical structure.  The biology states there will be specific rooms.  Your biography states what kind of material the rooms will be built from and how big those rooms need to be.  Lastly, social influences will state what should be placed inside those rooms.  To visualize, we can picture an artist; that artist was born with genetic predispositions such as a higher sensitivity toward picking out details for art, say colors.  These predispositions and potentials are then utilized in biography where enacting with the environment, the artist will come to prefer certain colors, textures and the like.  Lastly, society will press upon the artist what subjects are appropriate or inappropriate to treat in artistic expression.  The artistic room will be built of a better material, be larger and decorated more than other rooms; the artist who prefers to use white marble in smooth sculptures has his mind’s home.

There is a final point to consider.  As mentioned earlier, the mind is more than the sum of its parts.  It is the self-directed aspect that is consciousness that completes the mind.  As you grow, you fill the floors of your mind’s structure.  

Being that at our base we are animals, that is we have bodies, the body has its requirements for our mind to function.  If we are starved, we are not as likely to be able to focus and ponder the nature of the universe or understand the text on a page as well as if our hunger was sated.  The ground floor is where the body gets its base necessities taken care of: resources in and waste out, as in loading and unloading gates.  Base bodily functions of all sorts begin here.

The next level up is the security center, where our sense of safety can emerge.  It is the base from where our ‘guards’ reside, our walls and barriers are constructed for when they need to be deployed.  Our bodies and minds are vulnerable to threats, and it is to this level that handles those threats, whether it may be a threat to employment, home, yourself or loved ones, it is handled by the security level.

The next level up is where our taking in and putting back out into society is based.  Consider this equally the main living area where you get ready to go out into the world, interact with friends and family you invited to interact with you.  This is where the general, pleasing aspects of life are shared.
The next level up is a more personal place.  Those who you allow to enter here are more important to you.  It is the difference between an acquaintance, a family member and your beloved; the acquaintance may not be invited at all, while the family member may get to visit this area at times, but your beloved and those you hold dearest visit the most.  This is where you want and feel your best self with esteem gained from those you esteem.  Want to be the best lover, partner, brother, sister, or whatever else and feel the appreciation of your being your best at what you do – it is at this level that it is done.

The first four levels are each dependent upon someone or something external.  The final level is the highest level.  Unfortunately, not all create this level.  This is where you are truly you.  This level is not based upon relationships – it is not tied to another.  You may want to be the best lover from the level below, but when you are not actually being the lover and are on your own – who is that?  Disagree with what society prescribes, it is here you emerge above the role handed down.  This is the level of self-actualization, your highest achievement for this level will enable you to be better for the lower levels by advancing to your greatest potential.  This highest level is where the total being more than the sum of the parts.  

That these are in ascending levels does not mean that the prior level has to be fully sated before the next can be attained.  You can – and generally do – have varying levels filled at any given time.  However, achieving the higher levels enables the lower levels to be endured when having moments of trouble.  For example, parents who will forego sating their own hunger to feed their children.

A final point to consider.  From the moment we are born change is constant, and we are continually assuaged by external and internal factors – how society presses upon us, how our own biology presses upon us and how we integrate everything to then return it back into our world.  Our experiences and our thoughts may change us, and from that we act in ways that can change our environment that in turn acts upon us once again.  It is a combination of genetic predisposition from conception, environmental factors and biology, to social factors and finally self-direction and actualization – that is if you reach the highest points.  This is your mind’s structure, everso briefly summarized.   
[Psych 101 level intro]

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Sometimes, Violence is the Answer and a Weapon may be the Punctuation

As long as more than one person exists, there will exist the potential for conflict.  Most can resolve conflicts without drastic measures; however, some will resort to using violence.  It is for these times that violence may be morally called for in response.  It must be clarified, violence is not to be a tool used to initiate a means to an end – not as a whip upon a slave.  The violence I am referring to is in the preservation of life and liberty.  This is not oxymoronic, and to falsely equate the immoral and moral uses of violence as the same because they are violent is moronic.  It would be to equate and castigate the slave who pulled the whip from the slavemaster’s hands in order to fight back, as morally equal as the slavemaster’s whips upon the slave.

The whipped slave is not a scenario that people can relate to, so a different and unfortunate all-too-common scenario will be used: domestic violence.  Lisa Skinner in Alabama had a protective order against her [estranged] husband, but being only a piece of paper, that did not stop him being armed with a gun and a knife, and coming after her; she shot back and defended herself.  When a physical conflict emerges and there is a power differential, might has a strong advantage.  If a 6ft and physically powerful man wants to rape and murder a 5ft petite woman, she is at a disadvantage. 

Boko Haram kills and enslaves many, even kidnapping hundreds of schoolgirls at a time.  Hundreds of girls have been released after assaults and raids against Boko Haram.  Two attackers shot at people during a Draw Muhammad contest in Texas, and armed men killed the first shooters.  A man who tried to shoot up a mall in Oregon was stopped by Nick Meli – who didn’t even shoot – but his armed presence was enough to stop the one plotting the mass shooting.  Each situation, violence (or the threat thereof) was used against those who initiated violent action. 

When someone holds a religious conviction denying your humanity, calling you an enemy and the best way he can show his devotion is by attacking and killing you – how would you reason with him to change?  When someone holds a feeling of hostility against you and no law, or restriction printed upon a piece of paper will dissuade him from trying to rape and murder you, what will you do?

Decry violence and ban guns?

James Holmes went into a movie theater that banned firearms, but he still brought guns to murder movie-goers.  Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical paper had multiple employees murdered by those who didn’t appreciate the satire; France has strong gun control laws.  According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, most violent crimes don’t even use weapons – of those that remain, firearms are just one type of weapon.  Mr. Skinner was also carrying a knife when he came after his estranged wife.

Weapons are equalizers of force for when there was an initial imbalance.  As the saying goes ‘God made man; Sam Colt made them equal’.

To remove by law is to use legal force making the law-abiders hamstrung in the face of one who is already intent on breaking the law.  Adam Lanza, Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold, Nidal Hasan and many others were already set to break the law by committing acts of murder.  Was a piece of paper telling them they couldn’t use a certain type of firearm, or ammo going to stop them?  If we let our ability to defend be contextual in how, when and where we can carry we make ourselves vulnerable, and become Suzanna Hupp who to obey the law left her gun in her car and there it remained when George Hennard killed many in Luby’s Cafeteria, including Hupp’s parents.

Whether it is in individual defense, or group – Nick Meli against a single shooter, or a military force against Boko Harem – it is violence used as a counteraction against those who initiated the use of violence.  Weapons are not ‘evil’ or killers themselves, but are tools and it is up to the wielder on how they are used.  To say violence or that weapons should not be used – including guns – is to say that the suffering of the victim is a higher moral value than self-assertion and self-defense.  To those who cannot be reasoned with, and you cannot defend yourself against, you can only be moral by being their victim, and letting others be victimized.

Lastly, it is hypocritical to say that weapons and violence are not needed and that we need laws to enforce these decrees.  When seconds count, the police may be minutes away and when they arrive – they will be armed and ready to use violence to enforce the laws stating you are not to use violence and weapons to defend yourself.  With a weapon a rapist may try and take a victim – he is already violating the law; disarm the victim and there is less of a chance of defense by obeying the law.  The woman who shoots her would-be rapist, the shopkeepers holding a marauding mob at bay, the one carrying concealed who stops a robbery each use violence (or the threat) by using a weapon.  To take away their defense would be to send others (police) with weapons to use violence – either way, the victims would be victims, but one would leave them as legal victims as a state of existence instead of situational.

Weapons exist, and sometimes violence is needed.  When a fire starts, you can put it out with an extinguisher or call and wait for the fire department to arrive, while the fire consumes your property.  In a worst-case scenario, such as any of the aforementioned examples – or worse, [e.g. your children being victimized] – will you take a fake moral high ground as you and yours are victimized, or fight back using what is necessary to not be victims?

It is that simple. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Common Good, Common Need and a Common Cost [healthcare costs, a brief review]

Healthcare is an important issue – also a misnomer as it is referring to medical care – that justifiably gets much attention.  Politicians offer various plans that are supposed to fix the system – that was broken by earlier politicians – to varying degrees of the same principle: that the State can fix the problems in the system.  Whether it is Romneycare or Obamacare, only degree differs, and both Republicans and Democrats want to get your support for their respective plans.

Healthcare is a good, and as everyone living is going to have some kind of a medical issue at some point, some say that healthcare is a right of the individual.  As a right, it is something everyone should have and that making people pay according to various life factors is problematic.  (In general) That women use more healthcare (child birth and longer life spans), that some are born with a predisposition or have a disease/sickness that was outside their control, or are making poor life choices that negatively affects their health are not to be considered.  After all, it’s ‘sexism’ to say that women should pay more for what they use more, not the fault of those who rolled ‘snake eyes’ with Nature’s dice, or society’s failing those who didn’t learn to make better decisions.

An analogy, if you will, to something that is more important and pressing than healthcare: food.  For we may not become greatly ill or ever get injured so our healthcare costs may be minimal, but there is no way that anyone can live long without eating regularly.  Then we shall see how costs look.

Let us take a look at two people: a woman who is 5’1”, around 110lbs, eats healthy with an occasional unhealthy treat and is fairly fit, though not working out every day, she does make it a point to exercise at least three times a week for at least 30 minutes each workout; a man who is 6’1”, around 220lbs and working out six days a week, primarily lifting weights for at least one hour each day.  Or, we can contrast the aforementioned woman who has a desk job against another man who builds houses, or we can contrast the first woman again against another who may not be obese, but is large as in 6’10”. 

Shall we make food a common good, as it is a common need and therefore a common cost?  Shall we make it so that each person has to pay the same amount, even though there will be a great variation in how much each individual consumes based upon the context of his or her life?  How much more should the 5’1” 110lbs woman who has the desk job pay for the 6’1” 220lbs man who spends extra time to increase his muscle mass?-or for the man to build houses?-or for the giant just for being big? 

If there is to be a different amount paid by each individual based upon their life situations (activity and genetics), shall the condemnations of sexism (man-hating) or cruelty for not considering their situations (genetic ‘snake eyes’ or social system that ‘led’ to seeing being muscular as good) be used?  Food is more important than healthcare, for though one may eventually ‘walk it off’ or a cold may pass, there is no way to get around the necessity of eating and replenishing nourishment – an aspect of true healthcare instead of just medical care.  If people should pay based upon their life context for food, the same goes for healthcare – need to use it more, it costs more.  Any political act, as has been the case ever since it was injected into the system, will serve to exacerbate the issue, not fix.