Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Calm your horses, before they trample you!

I wanted to run. I wanted to get up and rush to the exit, maybe I'd get away, perhaps if I sneaked. They said boredom never killed anyone, but I didn't want to take any chances. I am sure school assemblies were similar for you. Fortunately, neither of us raised our backsides from the chair and fled those monotonous voices... Not in high school anyway... in Grade 2 I had decided enough was enough, and landed in trouble. As adults, we know the importance of self control. Children don't quite yet have the potency of will.

In the adult world, though, the same sort of urgency is still common enough. It is just generally better justified, latent, or expertly hidden. People get this sense of urgency, urgency becomes desperation, and keeps its annuals in stress. Whenever I have done something I whole heartedly regret, that urgency egged me on. I am told I am calm in most emergencies... I certainly didn't used to be. I thought self control would be a useful skill to master. I didn't realise quite how difficult it would be until I realised that I had never been guilty of a faux pas without that nagging sense of urgency. Patience is not merely a virtue, it is the power by which self control has a foothold in our lives.

When you want to do something you shouldn't: to eat that creamy chocolate cake that calls your name during a diet, to respond to an insult when you just know it would cause a fight... to say things you really shouldn't say... have you ever done anything you regret that was not accompanied by an unusually potent sense of urgency?

There are times for urgency... it might be wise to run if you are late for an important exam. It can be pretty urgent to get out of the path of an elephant or of an out of control truck. Urgency has a place, but generally its place is limited. When I am about to make a mistake, I might not realise that I am being foolish at first. What is always obvious to me is that sense of urgency. I just have to do it... I must... When my thoughts become urgent, I take a slow deep breath and ask myself if there is any real reason to be urgent... usually there isn't, and once calm, I see the fault in my thoughts.

Some of the more famous saints of the Catholic canon are famous for doing all sorts of exotic things to maintain their self control. Scary things, like jumping into a painful thorn adorned bush to undo their naughty lusts. I imagine they transferred the urgency they felt to do naughty things, upon an urgency to jump into a nest of thorns. No doubt that pretty lady who wanted them, noticed their passion, and regretted asking a monk to coffee or a date. The same desperation for company redirected, caused the painful jump, and with their desires cleansed, they limped away from their floral friend. Thomas Aquinas, who every lawyer learns about, was among such saints... when his family hired him a prostitute against his wishes, he directed his excess passion to chasing her out of his chambers with a fire poker... yes, that Aquinas, every lawyer learns about. And yet, in a non-medieval society, it is not socially acceptable to jump into someone else's perfectly pruned roses, or chase our fellow man with a fire poker... Deep breathing exercises and logic will have to suffice for the modern professional.

They say the wolf you feed is the one which grows. Over the years, a focus on calm and patience has truly reduced my levels of stress.

Even when urgency might be warranted, I find a calm has come over me... the less you stress, the less you are controlled by it. A few years ago I was halfway up a steep staircase, and saw what looked like paper on the step above me. I started to bend down to throw it away... next I knew, I was a few steps up, staring down at a snake... no paper had rested on the stairs. My voice sounded like that of a little girl's, but I stuck it out, just out of reach of the serpent, waiting for help without letting it out of my sight. If I had not learnt to fight urgency in my daily life, I might have run... and lost sight of my nemesis, the snake.

There is a place for urgency, but it is a very limited space.

Next time you feel just a bit too much stress, the child of urgency, ask whether the urgency is warranted... if it isn't, take a few deep breaths, calm yourself down, and passively continue with your day. I find that when I shelve undeserved urgency, I get far more done during any one spin of the earth around its axis.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Easy statements: how to damage your reputation overnight.

The annoying song blasts from the speakers. Advertisers purposely use annoying tunes, in hopes an earworm will play their song as you sleep. Computer generated cartoons prance about as Budget advertises their insurance product.

Buy the wrong insurance, and when something goes awry, you may be left in the deepest of dark holes. People I know, people you no doubt know, have experienced this. Insurance comes down to trust in a provider to be that safety net. I don't know much about Budget, I am sure I could look them up at the CIPC, the FSB, or the Who Owns Whom database, but their actual business is not what I am discussing here. I will note that the unfortunately ruined people I know were not insured with them, however, with the consequences of any doubt in the reputation of an insurer, their advertisement makes a terrible mistake, which harms their credibility in a field where trust is everything... they make an unnecessary absolute statement, which is easily verifiable as entirely wrong.

It swiftly reminds me of a Nedbank campaign where a well-spoken voice, seemingly of a white male, tells you, and newly wealthy black Nedbank client, Eugene, to be 'more savvy' with your money... The phrase 'more savvy' is far from unused, and does appear in a number of newspaper articles. A search of all major dictionaries via a specialist search engine, only sees the phrase appear in quotations on news media (3 results) in one specific online dictionary, namely Dictionary.com, and in Wikipedia entries. A search for use of this phrase in the Oxford Dictionary of English, however, turns up no results whatsoever, suggesting it is not proper English in regular usage. Oxford Dictionary of English would have us use the generally accepted word 'savvier'... in their advice on word use.

Clearly the advertisers thought they were being clever, and maybe they were: people I met suddenly began to speak of being 'more savvy'... rather than being 'savvier'. As for the Budget advert... the dreadful cacoffiny of the horrendous commercial always ends with the same phrase: 'nothing rhymes with premiums'. Absolutist statements are fine if they are verifiable and correct. Unfortunately, very many words rhyme with premiums. I will list some of them for you a bit later, below.

Either way, many would be loath to do any business with either Budget Insurance or Nedbank... brands in industries requiring extensive trust from their customers... for the simple fact that they made statements which in hindsight should have nothing to do with their ability to do their business.

The world is filled to the brims with armchair experts, and bush enthusiasts. Experts are usually loath to give an opinion on anything they have not researched. The law changes so quickly, that unless you carefully monitor it, or have a specific area of practise, utter caution is often much needed. I pay a lot of money every year for access to up to date information of various areas of law, as do many in my field. A mere ill thought tangent can permanently damage your brand, even if it is an ill-conceived statement which is entirely unrelated to your field... This mistake has been made by many an architect commenting too rashly on car design, or lawyer - on stock picks.

Personally, one of my favourite things to do is to research and authenticate information. When I speak, I have usually read up on what I am saying. Often, I have consulted the word of an expert or two. The process of finding out the truth gives me a bit of a rush, especially if the real answer is unexpected. I have gained access to many specialised search engines, tools, programs and databases, some I have made myself... just to satisfy my own curiosity. A proper fact check via sources not every Joe knows how to access, can be mightily fun to do.

It is, however, essential to do some basic research into what you are saying before you attach your integrity and your brand to an ill begotten mast.

Below are two advertisements from the respective campaigns, and explanations as to some of what is wrong with their presentations.

Nedbank "Savvy"


URL for the video of the offending Nedbank advertisement: https://youtu.be/A4BY8m5A0Vs



The Budget Insurance advert, and below it, words that rhyme with premiums:


URL for the video of the offending Budget Insurance advertisement: https://youtu.be/gEgk5GNxP1I


Take a quick gander at a list of 31 words, which in British (and South African) English, rhyme with premiums (from the phonetics program, PhoTransEdit). I imagine that advertisers couldn't complete their rhyme, and so decided to make up their absolutist claim:

premiumsː ˈpriːˌmɪəmz

compendiums /kəmˈpendɪəmz/
condominiums /ˌkɒndəˈmɪnɪəmz/
craniums /ˈkreɪnɪəmz/
crematoriums /ˌkreməˈtɔːrɪəmz/
delphiniums /delˈfɪnɪəmz/
emporiums /ɪmˈpɔːrɪəmz/
encomiums /ɪnˈkəʊmɪəmz/
euphoniums /juːˈfəʊnɪəmz/
geraniums /dʒəˈreɪnɪəmz/
grahams /ˈɡreɪəmz/
graham's /ˈɡreɪəmz/
gymnasiums /dʒɪmˈneɪzɪəmz/
harmoniums /hɑːˈməʊnɪəmz/
honorariums /ˌɒnəˈreərɪəmz/
hyams /ˈhaɪəmz/
idioms /ˈɪdɪəmz/
mediums /ˈmiːdɪəmz/
moratoriums /ˌmɒrəˈtɔːrɪəmz/
museums /mjuːˈzɪəmz/
pandemoniums /ˌpændɪˈməʊnɪəmz/
planetariums /ˌplænɪˈteərɪəmz/
podiums /ˈpəʊdɪəmz/
praesidiums /prɪˈsɪdɪəmz/
presidiums /prɪˈsɪdɪəmz/
prosceniums /prəˈsiːnɪəmz/
requiems /ˈrekwɪəmz/
sanatoriums /ˌsænəˈtɔːrɪəmz/
sealyhams /ˈsiːlɪəmz/
stadiums /ˈsteɪdɪəmz/
symposiums /sɪmˈpəʊzɪəmz/
trapeziums /trəˈpiːzɪəmz/

Oxford Dictionary is clear on the related forms of the word 'savvy', 'more savvy' is not among them:

RELATED FORMS:

savvy (noun)
savviness (noun)
savvinesses (plural noun)
savvy (verb)
savvies (third person present)
savvied (past tense)
savvied (past participle)
savvying (present participle)
savviness (verb)
savvinesses (third person present)
savvinessing (present participle)
savvinessed (past tense)
savvinessed (past participle)
savvy (adjective)
savvier (comparative adjective)
savviest (superlative adjective)
savviness (adjective)


Monday, 14 September 2015

Our moral compass defines our identity (to others) - science.

It seems obtuse at first. As it comes into focus, it still appears somewhat off. People are shown other people - walking. Those who walk at the same pace as the crowd are seen as smarter. The slower and faster walkers are looked down upon. If I told you this was the basis of all laws, regulations, and of government itself, you might look at me slightly strangely. After a while - much against your better judgement - you'd start to agree.

When people are asked to judge another's intelligence, they tend to look at Emotional Quotient (EQ), not Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

People walk at many different paces. No crowd walks as one body. People's behaviour within the crowd is... random. When, however - a crowd becomes one mind, as they do during specific incidents of rioting... or some protests, its members can become as synchronised as a primitive tribe. When a crowd is walking at one pace, a custom is created. EQ is heavily associated with an ability to abide by custom. High EQ is also associated with the ability to intentionally disobey customs. The person who wears a shirt with the word 'costume' on it to Halloween is perceived as smart. The one who steps too far off the mark, or unintentionally flouts custom, is a different story.

Morality and custom have a lot in common. People who act in a predictable way, by obeying customs, are less likely to unexpectedly harm us. The man who opens the car door for his woman, and regularly buys her flowers, is more likely to be perceived as marriageable. After all, he obeys customs gentlemen might.

There is such a swathe of pseudo-science out there, I thought that what I am about to tell you - might just be that. It isn't. It turns out that friends and relatives of neuro-degenerative patients, only tend to feel that they no longer know the mind-loss victim, when their morals decline or their speech becomes impaired.

Researchers firstly did something abstract: something along the lines of... is your friend still your buddy old pal if they suddenly turn into a jerk. Many people would say no.

One might well add real world examples to that: Is your husband still the person you knew if he murders your sister? Most women would say no. The neighbours saying a serial killer was quiet and kind, are asserting their reliance upon neighbourhood customs. How could a good neighbour be a serial killer? Yet, every so often... they are.

Because we define others in a way that facilitates our own survival, it seems our judgements of whom other people are - centre not on their intelligence, their memories or so much else - but rather upon their moral compass. It makes sense. If someone wouldn't murder, they wouldn't murder us.

To get to know someone, is to know what direction their hidden moral compass points - whether we recognise its clear components, and how close to your own true north it rests.


It is just one study I am referring to from this point of the article. It is perhaps one of a kind, a fluke - it is walking in a different direction from the centuries old philosophy crowd. However, it makes sense, and as such I think it worthy of discussion.

The abstract of the study, appearing in the journal, Psychological Science, states:

'There is a widespread notion, both within the sciences and among the general public, that mental deterioration can rob individuals of their identity. Yet there have been no systematic investigations of what types of cognitive damage lead people to appear to no longer be themselves. We measured perceived identity change in patients with three kinds of neurodegenerative disease: frontotemporal dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Structural equation models revealed that injury to the moral faculty plays the primary role in identity discontinuity. Other cognitive deficits, including amnesia, have no measurable impact on identity persistence. Accordingly, frontotemporal dementia has the greatest effect on perceived identity, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis has the least. We further demonstrated that perceived identity change fully mediates the impact of neurodegenerative disease on relationship deterioration between patient and caregiver. Our results mark a departure from theories that ground personal identity in memory, distinctiveness, dispositional emotion, or global mental function. ' ('Neurodegeneration and Identity' by Nina Strohminger of Yale School of Management, Yale University and Shaun Nichols of Department of Philosophy, University of Arizona, published August 12th 2015 c.f. http://pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2015/08/11/0956797615592381?papetoc )

Nathan Collins, writing for the Pacific Standard ('Identity Is Lost Without A Moral Compass', Quick Studies Series, 18th August 2015), puts it this way:

'In previous work, she and co-author Shaun Nichols found that moral traits, such as empathy or politeness, seemed to be the most important component of identity. But that research focused on hypothetical situations—if a friend became a jerk, would he or she still be the same person you knew before? The new study "is an expansion of that work that aims to see if this privileging of moral traits extends to a real-world example of radical mental change, neurodegeneration," Strohminger writes.

"Contrary to what generations of philosophers and psychologists have thought, memory loss doesn't make someone seem like a different person."

Strohminger and Nichols focused on three neurodegenerative diseases: frontotemporal dementia (FTD), Alzheimer's disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, better known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease. ALS served as a control since it primarily affects movement, and not memory or moral behavior. Alzheimer's, for its part, primarily affects memory, but also has some impact on moral behavior. Of the three, FTD is the one most likely to have a moral impact—its symptoms include a loss of empathy, poor judgment, and increasingly inappropriate behavior.

'Next, Strohminger and Nichols recruited 248 people from online support groups for friends and family of patients suffering from FTD, Alzheimer's, or ALS, and they asked questions like, "Do you feel like you still know who the patient is?" using five-point scales. Friends and family of ALS patients averaged about 4.1 points on that scale, but the number dropped to 3.8 for Alzheimer's and to 3.4 for FTD, suggesting that morality was at the core of how people conceived their loved ones' identities, perhaps even more than memory.

'Following up with a more detailed analysis, Strohminger and Nichols discovered that symptoms of declining morality were strongly associated with the perception that a patient's identity had changed, while failing memory, depression, and more traditional measures of personality appeared to have almost nothing to do with a person's identity. The only other symptom that had any discernible impact on identity was aphasia, a language impairment' (c.f. http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/identity-is-lost-without-a-moral-compass )

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Women rape men... often - crime statistics. #Sociology #Demographics

Reading certain newspaper articles leaves a surreal taste. Perhaps it shouldn't. Inevitably though, it tends to. New statistics suggest that we shouldn't be quite so surprised when women rape men.

Perhaps it is that manly world view, which struggles to accept statistics from America of all places: where 38% of reported sexual violence incidents recorded in their government's National Crime Victimization Survey- were against men. Just maybe, it is a result of our men-are-tough mentality, that we ignore that 46% of sexual crimes against men in that placid western nation, were performed by women.

Some examples of alleged rape by women - appearing in South African media, might include:

Terrified men are reported as claiming gangs of rough and ready women performed unwanted sex acts upon them, before fleeing in getaway cars.

Strange tales of men being stalked late at night and forced to perform at knife point - by otherworldly not-quite-femme-fatales . The men find themselves ridiculed in comment boxes and on radio shows.

Rapes of men by women - also take place in social contexts, and in schools, colleges and in the home, the Pacific Standard is quick to assert. Use of alcohol or drugs by women to rape men, is even common enough to have historical references. Lot was famously raped by his daughters in a cave, if we are to accept the biblical record of his tragic life.

These sometimes almost sensationalist tales are the sort that make for headlines by the media, however - statutory rape of men, performed by older women is also a matter that evokes perhaps misplaced disbelief. Sober sources state that even if a relationship seems fine at first, long term damage can be done upon the underage gent. Abandonment issues emerge when the lax lass inevitably breaks the arrangement to shreds.

As legal practitioners and members of the public, sometimes we need to be reminded that rape is not a crime with only female victims. Men may not quite so often come out and say it, but they do report being raped often enough to the police to cause just a bit of concern.

As girls, women are as violent as men are. Society rather than genetics is responsible for reduced physical violence among women. Passive aggressive behaviour such as false compliments, and rumour mongering often replace aggression among women in socially sensitive scenarios. This is why men far outnumber women in jails. However, a statistically relevant portion of sexual crimes continue to be committed by women.

This article was inspired in particular by an article in an American sociological magazine, the Pacific Standard. That specific piece of journalism opens with the bizarre headline 'Young Men and the Unspoken Danger of College Campuses', and was written on the 10th of August 2015 by a David L. Bell.

http://www.psmag.com/health-and-behavior/young-men-and-the-unspoken-danger-of-college-campuses


Marc Evan Aupiais

Marc Evan Aupiais

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