Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Government

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Government: Government is the act or process of leading by legitimate authority. To govern implies ruling, but in a democracy, ideally, this rule should only come through the will of the people. It is also a broad term that is used to refer to all of the individuals and agencies that are involved with administering or managing a nation, organization, business or institution as one entity (i.e. “the” government). The act of governing requires problem solving, prioritizing, decision making and a commitment to maintaining the legitimacy of rule in the eyes of those being led. So, are you a leader or a follower? Do you thrive when you are accountable for governing or when unburdened by this responsibility? Do you believe that those who govern deserve perks that ordinary citizens are denied? Is it okay and forgivable when governments lie? What is the single most important thing that government must do to keep your support? Are you careful to scrutinize the motivations of politicians? How can you tell whether they are acting in the interest of the people at all, or by their will? Where is that will perverted in today’s government? How might our government be reformed to become again by the people and for the people? How would we be able to tell when a successful reformation has taken place? Do you hold your government (corporations) accountable for their discrepancies?

According to the Los Angeles Times, the federal spending bill that recently passed Congress has, with little notice by the general public, effectively legalized medical marijuana at the federal level. As you might recall, medical marijuana dispensaries, though legalized by various state laws, have been subject to raids by federal drug agents because marijuana is still classified by the federal government as a dangerous schedule 1 drug. Although, 32 states and the District of Columbia have legalized pot or its ingredients to treat ill patients, the federal government has staunchly stood their ground under the belief that marijuana is correctly grouped with other schedule 1 drugs like LSD, peyote and heroine.

Now, with Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska voting to completely legalize marijuana for recreational users, it is likely that the feds are beginning to see and feel a change in the public perception of the war on drugs. After four-plus decades of this war and billions of dollars spent to curtail drug production, distribution and consumption around the world, it is arguable whether any headway has been made. What is not arguable, however, is that locking up low level, non-violent offenders by the thousands will not make the problem go away, nor will throwing billions of dollars at it make a positive change.

Another problem for governments that will not go away is cyberwarfare committed by foreign governments. The recent hacking of Sony Pictures, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), is increasingly being attributed to the North Korean government and their dislike of the comedy-farce, “The Interview,” which is about two journalist who are recruited by the CIA to assassinate North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un. The WSJ also reports that, “during the attack, internal data was leaked to embarrass executives, and then threats of violence were made against any theaters that showed the film.” This was followed by Sony pictures shelving the movie rather than releasing it on December 25, as was planned. A primary clue, the fact that the cyberattack software used in the Sony hack attempted to connect to a North Korean Internet address, has convinced some U.S. government officials that North Korea is, indeed, the government to blame.

The WSJ reports that the U.S. government’s decision concerning a response to the hacking is difficult “because such a breach is not the type of hacking scenario contemplated in the government’s many drills and contingency-planning for cyberattacks from foreign countries.” Sony, as an entertainment company, is not a part of the critical infrastructure (banking systems, communications, and the power grid) so little thought has gone into how to respond if a nation state cyberattacks a national or international corporation. What is the appropriate government response to corporate cyberattacks? Would a stern warning that they went too far suffice? Certainly, economic sanctions have not worked to make North Korea comply in the past, so what can be done?

Finally, President Obama announced this week that the U.S. has re-established diplomatic relations with Cuba. According to USA Today, “the countries are preparing to open embassies in each other’s capitals and increase the flow of people and capital between them.” President Obama, while speaking about the embargo and other sanctions that have been placed on Cuba for fifty years, declared, “I do not believe we can keep doing the same thing for over five decades and expect a different result.” He went on to say that we have “cut loose the shackles of the past so as to reach for a better future for the Cuban people, for the American people, for our entire hemisphere and for the world.” Whether or not this push to normalize relations with Cuba comes to fruition, the ability to create peace where there is conflict and foster understanding in times of fear should be seen as a primary duty of government.

Going Beyond Word By Word with OBES: Incentive

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Incentive is a form of external or internal motivation that encourages and compels one to accomplish a specific goal or achieve a certain level of proficiency in order to receive a benefit, payoff, advantage or some other specific perk. Incentives, when placed properly, can energize individuals or work groups to complete tasks and objectives that would otherwise be considered, either, too difficult, too long, or beyond the normal scope of one’s duties and usual compensation. What is a good incentive for you? Do you use incentives to motivate yourself? Do you need an incentive to do what is best for you? How about when you do things for others? For you, which type of incentive is the strongest, external ones like money, or internal types, like pride and the need to do good things? Do you find that the incentives that previously motivated you are presently insufficient? What has changed? What incentive do you need to change your life for the better … perhaps by joining The Universal Body of Observations and utilizing the Encyclopedia of Observations?
Related to last week’s blog discussing “Guilt” and the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the federal government has decided to provide an incentive to law enforcement agencies in the form of $75 million to cover half the cost of 50,000 officer-mounted cameras. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there are approximately “630,000 police officers in the United States,” so “municipalities will have to bear most of the funding burden.” However, the up-side is that officer-mounted cameras, which are always recording, are figured to reduce civilian and police misbehavior. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette claims, “At least one study of body camera use showed that complaints about police conduct dropped along with the use of force on civilians.” We can only hope that utilizing this technology will cause all concerned to think about things before acting badly and hurting others.

Our next story concerns Ebola and “commercial incentive” for pharmaceutical companies. According to Reuters, “paying for vaccines is a challenge because the worst affected countries of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea are some of the world’s poorest, providing little commercial incentive for manufacturers.” Of course, this is just a more polite way of saying that big-drug companies care about the money, not the suffering poor or the possibility of the disease spreading. Yet, some people, such as those at GAVI (The Global Vaccines Alliance), have cobbled together a pledge of $300 million that will buy approximately 12 million doses of vaccine from pharmaceutical companies, as soon as a vaccine becomes approved for use.

Now, admittedly, “commercial incentive” in business is not a bad or evil thing in of itself. Most intelligent people understand that pharmaceutical companies, with all the money that they spend on developing each drug in their arsenal, it must be expected that their drugs/medicine will be expensive so that the drug companies can recoup their investment. However, Ebola, and other deadly diseases like it that could annihilate humans by the thousands or millions, would seem to be game changer. For goodness sake, you think that big pharmaceutical would reduce the price of their vaccines for deadly diseases because they have an incentive to keep people alive so that they can sell them other drugs for more minor conditions! After all, a breathing customer is a possible return customer . . . .

Seriously, the main incentive should be to help those that need it the most, not the profit. Drug companies rank as some of the wealthiest corporations in the world, so absorbing some of the cost of the vaccines would be easy to offset in a world that loves to provide corporations with tax-break and subsidy incentives. Yes, corporations are similar to individual people, in that, no one minds being rewarded for doing what is ethical. On the other hand, some care little for doing the right thing, but the accumulation of wealth, power, or advantage is all the incentive that they need.
We hope that you all enjoy reading this blog, and that you will continue to visit us. We would like to invite you to visit http://www.obes.me and http://www.tuboo.me because they are companion sites to The Encyclopedia of Observations, the source for the word excerpts that we discuss every week. In doing this, you will discover additional tools that can assist you toward understanding and enlightenment in your life. Be well, and thank you.

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Harm

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Harm is the damage of someone or something. It can be both the act and effect of injury and comes in many forms, including physical and emotional harm. Sometimes, harming other people occurs as an unintentional consequence of one’s actions. Yet, in other instances, harming others is a calculated and intentional act that can originate from one’s negative feelings, ranging from a slight dislike to blind hatred, for the victim or target. Do you harm yourself? Do you frequently put yourself in harm’s way without reason? Are there people in your life that unintentionally harm you? Is communicating to them that you are being harmed the first step to making a positive change? Are their people in your life that you unintentionally harm? Can you find a way to stop harming these people? Do you allow yourself to purposely harm others because of a grudge or hatred for them or what they symbolize? When you harm other people, do you notice that any satisfaction that you receive from it is insignificant and short lived?

No discussion of the term “harm” would be complete or relevant without talking about the recent events in the Michael Brown case. As you probably remember, Michael Brown (18) was a young black man who was shot dead by Ferguson, Missouri police officer, Darren Wilson (28), on April 9 of this year. Citing racial motives for the shooting, protesters the following evening began to vandalize and loot the surrounding neighborhood, while other protesters climbed on top of police cars to taunt the police. After four days rioting and violence, the responsibility for security was handed over to the Missouri Highway Patrol. According to CBS News, “The shift in command [came] after images from the protests show many officers equipped with military style gear, including armored vehicles, body armor and assault rifles. In scores of photographs that circulate online, officers are seen pointing their weapons at demonstrators.” Certainly, getting rid of the assault rifled police and other “war” type equipment and tactics might be the only reason why conditions didn’t worsen quicker.

Now, the Grand Jury has decided that no criminal charges will pursued against Officer Wilson. Combine this with the recent decision in New York to not prosecute officer Daniel Pantaleo for the choke hold death of a black man named Eric Gardner, who was initially approached by police for selling black market cigarettes in the street, has directed public outrage and discussion toward issues of race, the misuse of police power, and a re-evaluation of whether justice has been served or harmed.

Sidestepping a discussion about absolute guilt or innocence of all the parties involved, let us ponder how things could have been perceived differently to minimize the damage and harm that, to varying degrees, injures all of us. Certainly, law enforcers have a brutal and dangerous job, so we, as citizens, should hold some sympathy/empathy for the difficult work that they do. How would you feel if your loved one was a police officer that had to deal with the most dangerous people in society on a daily basis? Undoubtedly, you would want that person to use whatever tactic or amount of force that would be necessary for them to come home safely. Of course, “necessary” is the key word here. That being said, however, institutions and members of law enforcement need to keep in mind that every officer or agent is in the spotlight at all times, so the abuse of their power by even one bad cop often allows the public to stereotype all police as oppressive and corrupt. Add to this a display of force by police in an already heated situation like Ferguson, and one might understand why public opinion begins to see the police as the problem. Threatening harm by pointing weapons at the public seems like an excellent way to incite more violence, which only fortifies the “evil” police stereotype. Unfortunately, good police officers are unjustly harmed by this, but unless law enforcement and the public create a greater sense of trust in and consideration for one another, nothing will change for the better.

However, let us not forget that the public display of anger and violence by hundreds or thousands of people rioting in our city streets is equally as harmful as bad cops. Please, explain how vandalizing cars, looting and burning local businesses (which are owned by fellow citizens of that local community), and attacking the police improves the situation? It certainly did not cause either grand jury to prosecute in the Brown or Garner case. Sure, it sends a signal of public anger to our leadership, but this public reaction is ineffective and does more harm than good. Local business loses money, not only from looting and property destruction, but also from the fact that the violence scares away many existing and potential customers. In turn, businesses close and more people are forced to look for employment, which deprives that very same community of the revenue from that person if they were employed. Finally, rioting and violent public protest sends a signal to everyone, including our children, that violence and harming innocent people is acceptable if you feel angry. It works against the idea of community and diminishes our self-respect as a collective people. Certainly, police brutality and murder are worthy of our collective anger, but harming ourselves and others through violent protests and riots destroys property, people, and our ability to communicate with law enforcement agencies to figure out how to change the system for the better in the future.

We hope that you all enjoy reading this blog, and that you will continue to visit us. We would like to invite you to visit http://www.obes.me and http://www.tuboo.me because they are companion sites to The Encyclopedia of Observations, the source for the word excerpts that we discuss every week. In doing this, you will discover additional tools that can assist you toward understanding and enlightenment in your life. Be well, and thank you.

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Guilt/Guilty

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Guilt/Guilty is the state of being found at fault for some wrongdoing by others, as well as a feeling of heavy responsibility or regret for an offense, crime, or wrong that was either intentionally or unintentionally committed by the person suffering with guilt. Guilt is a self-inflicted phenomenon in which we cannot stop mentally punishing ourselves for wrongs we have committed. Feeling guilty can make us feel bad. Sometimes, the guilt one feels is certainly warranted, but a feeling of guilt often results because we base it on assumptions, falsehoods, and fears about our ability to succeed or do things correctly. Have you ever felt guilty? Was the guilt based on something real that you did or was the guilt caused by your imagination? Do you feel guilt everyday? When you feel guilty, what course of action do you take to feel better? Have you ever tried to make others feel guilty? Did it make you feel better or was it not worth the negativity and pain that you caused someone else? How do you feel when other people place the blame for bad things on you? Are there ways in which guilt can be productive or positive? Do you feel your guilt indicates you are an evil person for doing what you feel guilty about, or a good person, for feeling guilt about it? Has guilt ever made you frustrated enough to attack people who had good intentions when talking to you about your problems?

According to USA Today, the list of women claiming that Bill Cosby (77), who was thought of by many as a comedic legend and an American Icon symbolizing wholesome family values, is guilty of rape and/or sexual assault is growing. One of the latest accusations was made by the wife of Lou Ferigno, star of the Incredible Hulk television series of the late 1970’s. Carla Ferigno, who was a Playboy Bunny at the time, claims that she met Bill Cosby in 1967 after being invited to his house. According to Mrs. Ferigno, Cosby waited until their were no witnesses and then grabbed her violently and kissed her hard on the mouth. Ferigno stated,”No one has ever been that physically violent with me. I was stunned. I was frozen. I took all my body strength and used both of my arms to stop him and push him away from me. He was so forceful.” Apparently, Mrs. Ferigno was able to find her date and leave Cosby’s house before he could do worse. According to USA today, however, a registered nurse from Florida by the name of Therese Serignese was not so lucky. According to Ms. Serignese, she met Cosby in 1976 at the Las Vegas Hilton while headlining a show at the hotel. Cosby, who noticed the 19 year old in the hotel gift shop and quickly coaxed her to follow him to the green room, held out his hand and told Ms. Serignese to take the two white pills with the glass of water that he was offering. According to Ms. Serignese, “The next memory I have was I was in a bathroom and I was kind of bending forward and he was behind me having sex with me.” She goes on to say, “I felt drugged and I was being raped and it was kind of surreal. My frame of mind was that it would be over soon and I could just get out of there.” Although, Ms. Serignese did not call the police, admits to having a sexual encounter with Cosby around 1982, and also admits receiving money from Cosby in the years following the initial encounter, the drugging and rape accusation is difficult to overlook because it strengthens the allegations of the other dozen or so women making similar claims. Unfortunately, Cosby has refused to answer the claims, which, in the court of public opinion, makes him look guilty.

Have you ever felt guilt because you overcharged someone? Well, if you have, I am sure that you will not be pleased by the way that Blue Cross Blue Shield Insurance and the Kapiolani Medical Center in Hawaii treated vacationing Canadians, Jennifer Huculak-Kimmel and her husband, Darren. According to Today.com, Mrs. Kimmel began labor two days into the vacation and was air lifted to Kapiolani Medical Center and placed on bed rest for six weeks. Eventually, Kimmel had a C section and gave birth to her beautiful daughter, Reece, nine weeks premature. After the birth, baby Reece was placed in the neonatal intensive care unit for eight weeks. Unfortunately, the proud parents soon found out that, after being assured by Saskatchewan Blue Cross that they were covered for their trip to the US, the insurance company refused to pay based on a preexisting condition exclusion. Apparently, Mrs. Kimmel had a bladder infection that caused slight hemorrhaging about a month prior to their Hawaii trip. As would soon be discovered, the Kimmels owed $950,000! According to Mrs. Kimmel, “At no point was I ever told by a doctor that a bladder infection could cause a water breakage down the road . . . the doctors at Kapiolani told me there is no specific cause. They can’t link a water breakage to anything. These things just happen.” Unfortunately, the new parents are struggling to figure out what they can do about the debt and past-due collection. According to Today.com, “the Saskatchewan government and the state of Hawaii picked up a portion of the bill, but about $900,000 still remains.” Certainly, if the Kimmels are forced into bankruptcy for this debt, it would be one more example of how big business and powerful corporations (see Corporacracy) are allowed to take advantage of those who have less. You or I would feel guilty if we were the ones of charging the new parents a million bucks to deliver their child. But, it is very possible that the hospital and doctors do not feel any guilt at all (i.e. otherwise, they would do something about it). The insurance company, on the other hand, lied to clients, abandoned them when they were needed the most, and they continue to collect premium dues without conscience. So, who is guiltier, the hospital or the Insurance company?

We hope that you all enjoy reading this blog, and that you will continue to visit us. We would like to invite you to visit www.obes.me and www.tuboo.me because they are companion sites to The Encyclopedia of Observations, the source for the word excerpts that we discuss every week. In doing this, you will discover additional tools that can assist you toward understanding and enlightenment in your life. Be well, and thank you.

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Improve/Improvement

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Improve/Improvement is the act of making a person, place, or thing, such as a situation, better, as in to gain quality. One might improve by upgrading, updating, enhancing, or by intentionally altering and modifying a specific quality or aspect of one’s life or environment. Many people make the most of their lives by using the time that they have to improve their knowledge, the quality of their relationships, and the world that they leave behind to future generations. Are their aspects of your life that you would like to improve, relating to your life or your situation? If someone were to show you how to improve, would you be open to the experience? Do you understand that you are powerful and capable of improving your life and the lives of those around you? However, are you dedicated enough to act and continuously move forward with creating improvements? Do you have people around you that support your improvement goals? Is improvement a major goal in your life? What steps do you think you could take to help yourself accomplish these improvements?
Improving Internet security has become increasingly important to many people since the Snowden event enlightened the world concerning the NSA’s ability to invade our privacy by breaching our Internet browser security. Mozilla, the company that has gained renown with their Firefox web browser over the last ten years, has decided to team up with the folks at TOR in a project named Polaris. The Polaris project is designed to combat internet censorship and make NSA like intrusion’s a thing of the past. TOR, a software program that facilitates online anonymity for users, works by randomly bouncing your specific connection to the servers of volunteers from around the world, and, in this way, making it extremely difficult to track where and who you visit on the web. According to a classified NSA document provided to The Guardian in 2013, the NSA considers TOR “the king of high-secure, low-latency internet anonymity,” while admitting that the agency could do very little to discover a user’s identity.
Certainly, the NSA will undoubtedly improve their efforts and succeed in cracking TOR. The NSA is charged with the daunting task discovering threats to this nation’s security, which is a task that requires monitoring Internet traffic to discover who the wrong doer is and where they have traveled on the Internet. Yet, and equally important to our nation, is the ability of free people to have privacy and assurances that our government uses their power to disrupt viable threats to our nation, not the lives of everyday Americans. Mozilla and Tor’s Polaris project will, hopefully, help to maintain some privacy for members of the general public in the future.
From the future, we now turn to the past. Scientists, wishing to improve our knowledge concerning comets, the Earth and our understanding of the formation of the universe billions of years ago, have landed a small ship the size of a washing machine on a comet traveling at speeds greater than 40,000 miles per hour. Adding to the awesomeness of this accomplishment, the comet is approximately 2.5 miles wide and 317 million miles away from Earth! According to the New York Times, the lander, named Philae, had some trouble with a thruster that was supposed to fire and press the lander down to the comet’s surface. According to scientist, Philae bounced more than a half-mile into space after its initial landing attempt, and, after a smaller second bounce off the comet’s surface, finally came to rest a half mile away from the intended landing zone. To make matters worse, two harpoons that were designed to fire into the comet to secure the lander failed. Thus, the solar panels of the lander are misaligned and will only provide a fraction of the power that scientists hoped would allow them to carry out their experiments. All is not lost, however, because the lander is communicating with the Rosetta orbiter and we are receiving data. Undoubtedly, the pictures and scientific data that we do receive from the crippled lander will improve our understanding of comets and help us to answer what part they played in seeding our oceans with their immense quantities of ice.
We hope that you all enjoy reading this blog, and that you will continue to visit us. We would like to invite you to visit www.obes.me and www.tuboo.me because they are companion sites to The Encyclopedia of Observations, the source for the word excerpts that we discuss every week. In doing this, you will discover additional tools that can assist you toward understanding and enlightenment in your life. Be well, and thank you.

Going Beyond Word By Word With Obes: Health

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Health: Health is the degree of wellness and overall condition of an individual’s physical and mental state. Typically, concern for one’s health is minimal when young. Yet, as we age, health related problems facilitate an increased concern for one’s health and the habits that sometimes influence the quality of health we experience later in life. Life as it relates to health is subject to three conditions or setbacks: your genetic makeup, physical injury or trauma, and, finally, disease and the subsequent use of internal or remedial medicine. The first of these is highly controversial because it involves manipulation before life begins, assuming we enter this world with good or average genes. The second begins with our ability to avoid injury and ends as a measure of how well we repair our minds and bodies. The third, if not genetically steered in a negative direction, is simply a matter of what enters our bodies; for example, making the conscious decision to inhale smoke despite our knowledge of its cancerous effects. Here it is important to differentiate and point out that we are not only affected by what we take in with our mouths but also what we absorb via our other senses. For example, witnessing violence with our eyes can disease our brain by desensitizing us to violent acts. Likewise, listening to abrasive or subversive speech can cause disease by instilling us with negative values. Have you considered what role habits and addictions play in the regular function of your body? What decisions can you make today to improve your health now and in the long run? Do you consider exercise as being taken into the body? How does stress enter the body and what effect does it have? Can you conceive a total picture of what is possible in the broadest sense to take into your body and affect your health? Are you a healthy person? Is there a health issue requiring attention that you have been avoiding because of fear? If you want to improve your health, do your habits support achieving this objective? Is maintaining your good health a priority in your life? When you think about the concept of health, do you focus on physical health rather than on the mind, body and spirit of total health?

With the Republican win of the Senate during this year’s midterms, the Health Care Reform Act is once again a topic of contention in Congress. According to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), Sen. Mitch McConnell was quoted to say “It is no secret that every one of my members thinks that Obamacare was a huge legislative mistake … If I had the ability … obviously, I’d get rid of it.” Although, there is little hope of repeal with President Obama ready to veto any legislative attempt, McConnell suggested “the law’s tax on medical devices, its requirement that big employers provide insurance to all workers clocking 30 hours a week or more or pay a fee, and its mandate that most Americans carry insurance or pay a fee,” would be aspects of the law this Republican led Congress would try to change. Of course, the WSJ reports that “Senate Republicans said Wednesday they would still hold a vote to repeal the law to show voters they support eliminating it.”
As we discussed a few months ago, the quality of health care that our military veterans are receiving is still being questioned because of delays in care that were linked to multiple patient deaths. According to the secretary of Veterans Affairs, Robert McDonald, changing the culture of VA hospitals is paramount to improving the system. McDonald claimed “we know that the trust has been compromised. And we know that we’re going to have to earn that back — one veteran at a time.” The New York Times reports that “the agency has extended clinic hours at facilities across the nation, sent out mobile units to constituents in places like Phoenix, and hired more doctors and nurses, all in an effort to accelerate patient access to care.” Interestingly, McDonald offered his cell number to the public in July, which promptly brought a few hundred calls from frustrated and concerned veterans. Six months later, McDonald reported that he gets “maybe five to 10 a day,” which seems to show that personally fielding those calls might have fostered some trust and sense of accountability.
Finally, Ebola and the potential for outbreak and global pandemic places a heavy burden on health care professionals everywhere, but especially on the doctors, nurses and other health care professionals helping Ebola patients at ground zero in Africa. Dr. Gino Strada, who has been helping the infected in Sierra Leone, related the tension of health care workers to Newsweek, when he confided, “you remain anxious all day. You can relax a bit when you get home. Then in the morning it starts again.” According to Newsweek, the contagion “has spread through villages and cities, killing 5,000 and infecting over 13,000.” Additionally, Newsweek reports that 500+ health care professionals have been infected and over half have died. Ensuring that health care workers stay healthy has become a priority. So much so that the US Department of Defense has spent a portion of the $30 million Ebola response money to build a 25 bed hospital to specifically treat health care workers. Certainly, health care workers fighting the spread of this disease and comforting the already infected are worth the expense. As President Obama emphasized, those who are willing to aid the sick and curb the spread of the disease are, indeed, “heroes.”

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Happiness

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Happiness, Happy: We can experience happiness in many different forms. It is the pleasant feeling we have when we experience positive emotional sensations. Do you treat happiness as one of your ultimate goals in life? We dedicate much of our lives to the pursuit of it, but how often do our personal definitions of happiness change? Can relief bring happiness? What are the different possible avenues from which happiness can come? Since happiness is usually derived from pleasure, should we not analyze the source of pleasure? Is it acceptable when someone feels happiness after causing another person harm? When you find that elusive feeling, are you consciously aware of the benefits and effect of being happy, such as attitude and consideration for others? Is happiness we receive from physical sensations as worthwhile as happiness we gain emotionally? Do you seize opportunities to spread it to those around you? What makes you happy? Are you generally and genuinely a happy person?

For some people, happiness results from making others happy. For instance, Peter Sharp of Perth, Australia, recently had a You Tube video of his “Moving Train Dance Party” go viral. What, you ask, was the reason for the impromptu party? Sharp simply wanted to make other people happy. The tuxedo-clad Sharp announced to his fellow passengers that he was going to dance and that they should join in by clapping or getting up themselves to dance. After making it clear that he did not want money, but only to spread a little happiness, Sharp turned on James Brown’s “I Feel Good” and began dancing up and down the length of the train car. At first, only a few of the passengers got up to dance with him, though one could see that most of them were smiling. Amazingly, by the end of the three minute video, most of the passengers were dancing, and boarding passengers were greeted with happiness as they entered the train. The truly remarkable thing is that almost everyone, whether dancing or sitting, had a smile on their face and acted happy! Mr. Sharp, great job.
Many of us, however, are slightly less fortunate because we do not have someone like Mr. Sharp to coax us into being happy. Sometimes, making oneself happy in spite of all the modern-day annoyances and stressors seems impossible. According to Hanzo, a recent report released by the University of Michigan emphasizes that, “when it comes to your health and happiness, the relationships you have with others play a main part.” Dr. Drell, a Louisiana State University Psychiatrist, adds “solid, positive [relationships] are associated with less stress, increased happiness, increased immune system, increased health and increased longevity.” Certainly, this suggests that, in creating a good life, one must have cheerful, optimistic friends and family around to assist in creating happiness.
However, according to Seidman (Time Magazine), experts have recommended a few more strategies for happiness in addition to surrounding oneself with positive people. First, having a can-do attitude is essential. One must believe that happiness is possible and, then, be motivated to create it. Second, think about happy/positive events because experts say that doing so will give your mood a boost toward happiness. The next two are “Know you own bliss” and “prioritize it.” According to one expert, “a key to steering your own happiness is reflecting on the things that make you come alive,” which might be different from those things that did it for you as a younger person, but the essential “carefree state” of mind will be familiar. Prioritizing the things that make you happy is necessary because people usually allow the “stuff that needs done” to intrude on fun time. In an efficiency minded world where we sacrifice fun and happiness by convincing ourselves that doing more work will lessen our stress, it is easy to understand why the time we set aside to do the things that make us happy should be protected as sacred. Next, experts suggest savoring every pleasant moment, be it a funny You Tube video, a relaxing shower, or a particularly fine meal. Appreciate and share these pleasant moments with others because studies show that those who do are much more likely to remain happy, regardless of what happens during their day.
Importantly, the final strategy for happiness that we will discuss is “Be nicer.” Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, emphasizes that she has “found that when people are told to try to do three to five acts of kindness a week, they get happier.” Lyubomirsky contends that simple acts of kindness, such as complimenting or smiling at someone, not only brightens the day of the person receiving them, but also makes the “giver significantly happier.” Sounds like a win-win solution to me, so spread happiness wherever you go and know that you are making the world a better place.

Going Word By Word With OBES: Arrogance

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Arrogance is the display of overconfidence and excessive pride by an individual or group. As opposed to someone who is self-reflective, open minded and humble, those who are arrogant rarely accept the advice or contributions of others because they feel that their ideas, plans and knowledge are superior to any outside input. Some are arrogant enough to believe they always know what’s best for others, but are blind to their own arrogance. We’ve all had moments in our lives where we’ve considered ourselves superior, whether in intelligence or in ability. Those who hold this to be the case at all times make themselves un-teachable. In what aspects of your own life are you arrogant, believing yourself to be more capable and successful than you really are? Does it irritate you when someone else comes up with an idea or plan that is better than yours? Do you ever reflect on how others see you, especially when you are in a leadership position? Do you recognize these aspects in yourself and seek humility? Do you see through the arrogance of others?

Arrogance (i.e. “hubris”) in Greek Mythology, is exemplified by the popular story of Daedalus and Icarus. In the myth, after Daedalus builds a labyrinth to capture the Minotaur for King Minos, the King then imprisons Daedalus and his son, Icarus, to the labyrinth and the fate of being eaten alive by the Minotaur. However, unbeknownst to the King, the father and son find their way through the maze to the shore of the island. Daedalus uses seagull feathers and wax to craft wings that will allow him and his son to fly away to safety. After building the wings and giving Icarus a warning not to fly too high because the sun would melt the wax holding the feathers, they took flight from the beach. With great excitement and overconfidence, Icarus disobeyed his father’s warning and flew higher and higher. By the time Icarus noticed the feathers falling off his wings, it was too late and he plunged to his watery death. Certainly, this myth is a cautionary tale, but one need not look to ancient mythology for arrogance and hubris.
According to the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Rear Admiral, Margaret Klein, Hubris Syndrome is a theory that might help to explain the “self-control dysfunction” experienced by senior military officers during the past few years. Psychologists, according to Klein, define Hubris Syndrome as “a personality disorder acquired through the long-term possession of power with minimal constraint, and particularly associated with overwhelming success.” Klein went on to say, “One of the unique symptoms of this Hubris Syndrome is the belief by these individuals that they are only answerable to history for their actions.” Klein, who is Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel’s senior advisor for military professionalism, explained that the DOD is attempting to discover “the best programs in each of the military service branches to determine which specific practices or techniques can be adapted for use by other organizations then adopted, scaled and systematically shared.” It is Klein’s belief that utilizing the input of psychologists, sociologists, business leaders, and neuroscientists during this evaluation of current leadership ethics training will make ”strides toward restoring and maintaining trust and transparency internally and with the American public.”
In addition to military leaders, political leaders are occasionally branded as suffering from hubris. A New York Times opinion by Ackerman claims that President Obama’s handling of the ISIS terrorist group is akin to “imperial hubris” because he has overstepped his presidential powers. According to Ackerman, the problem is that Obama neglected the War Powers Resolution of 1973 that mandates congressional approval of the military action within 60 days from the beginning hostilities, or he must pull out our forces within 30 days. Ackerman emphasizes that Obama is using the Congressional consent garnered by the Bush administration shortly after the 9/11 attacks to justify the acts of war against these terrorists. Certainly, presidents over the last twenty years have pushed the envelope in the context of their powers as President, but, regardless of the righteousness of the cause and resulting military action, congressional consent for beginning or expanding hostilities is a part of the checks and balances that guide our leaders. These safeguards were purposely structured in the Constitution to ensure that power is distributed equitably among the legislative, administrative and judicial branches of government. Hopefully, however, arrogance and widespread hubris will not be a problem for the last check and balance in our system: the American people.

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Empathy

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Empathy is a person’s ability to identify with and understand the situation and feelings of another. By identifying with someone else who is experiencing a difficult situation, one who is empathetic is more able to realize the needs and hopes of the other person while also utilizing the perspective of the other to form their own opinions and question the justness of the situation. It is important to be able to show empathy, in both personal and professional relationships. We must all work to train ourselves to better understand those around us; to live together with the constant of changing differences and strive for happiness. Relationships are built around the ability to understand and feel the emotional states of others around us, and it helps those who feel depressed and grief stricken as though they aren’t alone. Empathy requires us to put ourselves aside and let others be the focus. The ability to empathize is an excellent attribute to have when attempting to understand the perspectives of other people, but, if empathy fails to motivate, does it become a self-centered endeavor that is akin to telling yourself, ”I feel badly for them, but thank goodness it is not me”? Is it difficult for you to understand how others feel? Do you ask yourself what you would do if it was you experiencing the same difficulties of another person? When empathetic to what others are going through, what is the most likely thing to spur you to act? When you are able to imagine “walking a mile in their shoes,” does it provoke you to provide assistance? Do you feel better about yourself when you help others? If not, how would you feel if it was you in need of assistance and others merely ignored or slighted your problems and needs? How much credence do you give to the emotions of others? Are you a warm or cold shoulder to others in times of need? Do you try to act selflessly so as to give others emotional space?

According to the Pacific Standard, a research study on empathy was recently published with unexpected results. Although empathy usually is thought of as a good thing, this study found that “participants were, to a surprising degree, willing to inflict pain on a second person to help a distressed individual they felt empathy for. . . .” which “occurred in spite of the fact that (a) both were total strangers, and (b) the second person had done absolutely nothing wrong.” In essence, this study has shown that human aggression is linked to empathy/caregiving.
Yet, it is difficult to define empathy negatively. For example, imagine, if you can, a world without empathy. Would we be able to feel appropriately for all the unattended children flocking to our border from Mexico? Would we give one second of thought to the conditions and horrors currently experienced by people in Iraq, Syria, or the Ukraine? Would we not find ourselves indifferent to the poor families that have lost loved ones to bombings and other brutal acts of violence, only to be categorized as collateral damage rather than as human beings? Would the concept of (social) justice fade away to obscurity because we are uninterested in stemming slavery and human trafficking or the violent crime that afflicts our society? Finally, would we have the ability to understand and help our children who are experiencing all the good and bad that our world has to offer while attempting to find their own identities? It is likely that we would be unable to do any of the previous without empathy.
Now, a new challenge to our collective empathy has become apparent. According to the New York Times, West African communities, such as those in Sierra Leone, are being hit hard by Ebola. Many medical providers are becoming overwhelmed by infected patients. Ebola is a disease that can be transmitted by blood, vomit, urine and diarrhea, as well as from sweat, saliva, tears, semen and breast milk. The disease is so horrific and deadly, especially when sanitation lacks, that some Americans fear that we are witnessing the beginning of a pandemic. Of course, the recent news that a Liberian national infected with Ebola was misdiagnosed and mistakenly released by a Texas hospital into the surrounding community for several days as he became sicker does nothing to invalidate those fears.
Then again, there are also people who purposely ignore the suffering and torment that the disease is causing in West Africa. They quickly gloss over the pictures of the young men, women and children bleeding on hospital floors and lying in pools of bodily fluids while they die. Is this merely a way to cope with their fear of Ebola? Or, is it that type of self-centered empathy that merely thanks God that it is not them or their family suffering from it while failing to acknowledge the needs of those who are sick? Certainly, the people living in West Africa need the support of the entire world. This support includes not only aid workers and doctors but also drugs to combat the contagion. The question is whether the world will provide the needed support before Ebola spreads to the majority of Africans and the larger world. In this case, empathy must lead to action because pity and fear will not make the situation better.

Going Beyond Word By Word With OBES: Change

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Change: Is change an exponential measure of growth? It is the process in which people, places or things (e.g. ideas, emotions, mountains, etc.) transform into something different. In the context of our perception of time, change can occur very rapidly or so slowly, such as the growth of grass and trees, that we do not notice any significant difference from hour to hour or day to day. Ubiquitous, perpetual, and frequently unintended, change often represents the unknown, which can instill fear in some people because of the uncertainty of what change will bring. Change is omnipresent in our lives. You cannot stop it from happening, and you must accept its power. We must think diligently about what we have the agency to change and what falls outside of our influence. Once you realize that you cannot change everything, you must accept this fact and change only what you can. To begrudge them and their place in life is to foster stress. How do you feel about change? Does it scare you? What do you do to decrease the fear that can accompany change? Do you have difficulty keeping up with change that occurs in your personal or professional life? Or, do you look forward to most changes with excitement and increased hope? If you could make a positive change to your outlook on life, what would it be? What in your life is currently changing? What is staying the same? How do these changes and ‘non-changes’ influence your life as a whole? How do you adapt to these changes? What are the things in your life that you cannot change? What are the things you can change? How do you change them?

Recently, as a precursor to the UN Climate Summit, people from around the globe organized and protested the seeming lack of action on the part of nations and corporations in dealing with climate change. According to the Huffington Post, more than 300,000 people in New York City, along with “2,800 coordinated events held in 166 countries” worldwide, participated in the Climate March to draw attention to the disastrous effects of climate change. Admittedly, the protesters did not focus on any specific action, such as the carbon fee and dividend bill being pushed in Congress by the Citizens Climate Lobby, but, at minimum, the march displayed that people are becoming increasingly concerned with the adverse environmental changes occurring around the world.
Specific instances of climate change were discussed by Leonardo DiCaprio, star of the movies Titanic and Gangs of New York, during his address to the UN Climate Summit. After acknowledging humankind’s tendency to view climate change as “fiction,” he stated, “we know that droughts are intensifying, our oceans are warming and acidifying, with methane plumes rising up from beneath the ocean floor. We are seeing extreme weather events, increased temperatures, and the West Antarctic and Greenland ice-sheets melting at unprecedented rates, decades ahead of scientific projections.”
However, there are still many people arguing about the climate change issue. Some claim that noticeable climate change events, such as an increase in the quantity and ferocity of storms, are a natural part of the Earth’s cycle and unrelated to humankind’s activities (i.e. deforestation, burning fossil fuels in our cars and homes, chemical pollution on the corporate scale). Yet, is our future on this Earth, the one and only world that is hospitable to our form of life, too big of a wager? The majority of the scientific community believes that we are well on our way to creating our own extinction, so, yes, betting the future of our children by doing nothing to slow or stop climate change now defies common sense and our innate instinct to survive.