The Knockout Game

chess

There is a new “game” among the teenage crowd that is spreading in popularity across the US.  Called the knockout game, the primary objective of the “game” is to deliver a single blow to an unsuspecting pedestrian to either knock the victim down or render the victim unconscious.  You earn more points for the latter. Typical (easy) targets include:

  • the elderly,
  • people with disabilities,
  • women,
  • young children.

What in the world would make any teenager think this behavior is “fun” and “okay” to take part in?  Having wracked my brains, I cannot fathom why anyone other than a mugger/thug would do such a thing.  Conversely, these youngsters don’t rob their victims of cash or jewelry.  They just want to get the points and win the “game.” This is not an isolated phenomena; in fact, it is spreading like wildfire on both coasts.  Is it really possible to believe that the parents of these kids are completely clueless about their offspring’s violent behavior?  I doubt it. It is my personal opinion that:

  1. the parents are mostly absent from the kids’ life, and they just don’t care (neglectful),
  2. the parents encourage the violent behavior and express pride in their “tough kids,”
  3. the parents are abusing their kids, and their kids respond by acting their rage out upon the innocent,
  4. the parents and their kids are both completely out of touch with reality due to either low intelligence, substance abuse or both.

We have a crisis folks; one where any of the four above scenarios comes into play.  How we got to this point is debatable, but more importantly, we need to make our way out of it.  Our culture is becoming more blood-thirsty each and every year.  Think about that statement – then ask yourself what is happening and how it can be stopped.

Respect is Sometimes Earned, But Often Not

I’m a big advocate for cultural renewal at the community level, likely because of various cultural anthropology and sociology classes that I took in college.  I believe that a loss of community has led to severe socio-cultural isolation among people in the United States, resulting in the current era of social unrest. Our desire for independence as individuals, in light of ever-dissolving community structures, has left a void within us.  As social beings, we need interdependence between our families, peers and the social structures surrounding us in order to function as an advancing society.

The concept of interdependence describes a pattern of human interaction, which upholds and sustains individuals for the benefit of all members within a large group of people. To illustrate, we might look at the Neighborhood Watch programs that sprang up across the country in communities during the late 1980’s.   They used a common goal (crime prevention) to create community bonds and to deter crime in the neighborhood.  There is one requirement that must be present in interdependent groups – a community value of respect for each other’s point-of-view. Most people believe that respect is earned rather than given, but I beg to differ.

Before I defend my position, let’s define the word “respect” when used as a verb:

Respect[i]

  • to feel admiration for (someone or something)
  • to regard (someone or something) as being worthy of admiration because of good qualities
  • to act in a way which shows that you are aware of (someone’s rights, wishes, etc.)
  • to treat or deal with (something that is good or valuable) in a proper way

Respect is one of the basic norms that has held communities together since the dawn of mankind. When we behave the opposite way, we are called “disrespectful.” The problem with American culture is that we feel compelled to stand on one side of the fence or the other. Respectful behavior requires us to quietly sit on the fence, taking time to observe and understand one another, rather than making impulsive judgments and speaking rashly, before we have considered all of the facts.

Today’s cult of personality encourages us to exude self-esteem as we each stand up and make our voice heard. We have zipped straight past assertive empowerment into the realm of highly-opinionated aggression. In earlier societies, such behavior would only be employed by those who challenge, overthrow, and assume leadership. These days, everybody is coached to be a leader beginning in elementary school, throughout college, and in their career. However, being a leader doesn’t require us to be ultra-competitive; conversely, some leaders work “behind the scenes,” influencing peers to use skill and integrity. Their goal is not to overthrow anyone, but to act as a guide.  After all, being labeled a leader doesn’t necessarily mean one has the ability to attract followers.

Nonetheless, most of us are well-aware of pecking orders, and we know enough to remain compliant within chains of command.  Not very long ago in history, any challenges towards an authority figure could have resulted in a trip to the gallows. Our current freedom of speech gives license to all matters of troublesome talk. Our government knows this and exerts damage control measures to contain potentially damaging dialogue. But in everyday interactions with our peers, we have very few checks and balances. Instead, we tend to push and pull until we get our way, or else we simply withdraw from the conversation altogether.

I’d like to point out another strong contributing factor to our loss of interdependence – the mask of social media. Rude, disrespectful behavior comes out quite naturally when we hide behind it. In the few years since the internet came along, we have seen it affect nearly every aspect of our society from bullied teens to national security leaks. Without social monitoring controls or adequate recourse against criminal activity, we are witnessing the worst of mankind’s nature. These types of problems will multiply as we delve into the world of artificial intelligence.

When emerging societies begin adopting modern American ideals, we will have a greater need for cultural harmony. Right now, the rest of the world sees us as egotistical nationalists. We need to change this perception by being effective leaders for the promotion of cultural renewal. I propose the following ideas in meeting this objective:

  1. Education – Provide instruction in basic sociology theory and communication skills for school-aged children. Employ the word “respect” as a community value within the student-body. Direct interdependence public service campaigns towards parents and community members.
  2. Government – Include cultural awareness, tolerance and diversity, and organized community building activities in public planning committees. Institute government reforms that include training in effective communication skills, social policy and sociology. Encourage respectful dialogue as an ethical norm.
  3. Religion – Promote dialogue that uplifts individuals, while encouraging fellowship instead of pointing out community divisions. Emphasize relationship-building as a means of serving others. Promote the equality of all mankind and direct parishioners towards self-appraisal vs. judgment of others.
  4. Family – Treat family members with dignity and unconditional positive regard. Focus on, building up individual strengths instead of shaming individual weaknesses. Verbalize words of approval at every opportunity, rather than disappointment for shortcomings. Don’t ignore negative behavior, but explain why correcting it is important for the benefit of the family and the greater community.
  5. Economic – Encourage small business growth via community collaboration initiatives. Develop technology incubators within highly diverse communities. Enhance outreach efforts for marginalized populations, and increase monitoring activities of public funds used for those purposes.  Tighten up oversight of banking and industry violations and be consistent about prosecution of criminal acts.

To conclude, I must reiterate the need for respectful dialogue and behavior as a foundation for interdependence, along with the use of restraint in forming opinions within social situations.  Those who are able to master this personal discipline may find themselves treated as peer role-models who are esteemed social leaders.  This, my friend, is what has been referred to since days of old as wisdom.


[i] “respect.” Merriam-Webster.com. 2013. http://www.merriam-webster.com (10 October 2013).

Web of Life

This fascinating video illustrates how our world, and the entire universe is evolving in ways we are only beginning to grasp. Though I’ve not been thrilled with the development of evolution theory to date, I find social networking theory to be a beautiful orchestration of consciousness.

Wouldn’t it be something if we were part of a network of neurons and cells in a colossal physical body with infinite intellect? Wow! Okay, I know that’s a bit  of a leap of faith, so to speak. But, who knows?

Just one more question – does this remind you of a scene from any movies or skits? I have a couple in mind, but I’m going to keep them to myself for the time being. I would really love to hear your thoughts on this:

When Domestic Violence Continues Beyond Divorce

Picture1

I was recently asked to ghost-write a memoir for publication in a literary journal. It is about my sister, a survivor of domestic violence and a stalking victim. The reason I approached her about writing the story is to help her process the events four years after the trauma began. Her life story is one of incredible sadness, but it is also one of amazing strength, because the failures of law enforcement have resulted in an impenetrable wall built around her daughter and herself.

The pain of domestic violence cuts deep, and coping mechanisms are often employed. Escape poses additional risks, and most victims can’t break free until the situation turns dire. Those who are already battle-worn face new challenges after the split, usually ones that they are completely unprepared to handle. The presence of children in the home further complicates things.

The irony of the family violence is most people already know about the “secret,” but spouses often partially succeed in hiding the truth from themselves. Conflicting emotions of fear and denial intertwine, causing psyche paralysis. Anger and depression are two sides of the same coin – a crushing sense of hopelessness channelled either outward or inward.

Although domestic violence often involves criminal activity, stalking is a much more insidious crime. By definition, it encompasses unwanted persistent harassment that is meant to disturb and frighten a target repeatedly over a long period of time. Victims of stalking feel as if a murder for hire contract has been placed on them, and they are well-aware of the danger in simple daily activities such as shopping or taking a walk.

I hope that writing my sister’s memoir will help her process painful events that continue haunting her, events that have frozen her in time. This is one of the common social problems that has affected my life several times. Perhaps  I will tell my personal story one day, though my sister has suffered a great deal more than I ever did.

The Trayvon Martin Case: Thoughts about Law Enforcement, Civil Rights, and Justice.

Self esteem

Image credit: Aleshia Clarke

I received an interesting response to my tweet regarding the Zimmerman verdict. It reminded me how easily social media posts are misread. The original conversation is on my twitter feed, but this is basically how it went:

Me: I’m sad – This decision will further divide America. Guys like Zimmerman will continue to inflict power and control over our people. #NoJustice

Tweeter: Troublemakers like you are stirring up the pot so you can start a race war to divide America.

Initially, I wanted to engage and tell her “you don’t know what your talking about.” After all, I’m on her side AGAINST stirring up racial conflict – two wrongs don’t make anything right. But I chalked it up to the “heat of the moment” and let it go. Engaging in arguments doesn’t usually bring about positive change.

People today thrive on conflict, constantly consuming it to fuel their overblown self-esteem. I realize that everyone has self-righteous moments, but as adults we should LEARN to keep them in check, instead of speaking (or typing) before we THINK a situation over. The problems facing mankind aren’t simple ones. Each “side” of a social issue has it’s good points and bad points. Isn’t it about time people start using their brains and working constructively towards the resolution of social problems?

Did race and civil rights play a part in the killing? Probably. As a Florida resident, I can personally attest that racism is still prominent there. Racial profiling by police is statistically verified, and Zimmerman appeared to have taken on the “role” of neighborhood cop. Why did he choose a confrontation with Martin instead of with a white teen? It’s a question that, in light of the evening’s circumstances and the current tide of social unrest, needed to be asked.

There is another neglected issue in this case – the pathological behavior that caused Zimmerman to act. In my personal opinion, he had a variety of OPTIONS other than confrontation, but his personality type craves power and control. When he rejected the authority of Sanford law enforcement to “handle the situation” on his own, he should have been charged with obstruction of justice, harassment, assault with a deadly weapon, and voluntary manslaughter.

We tell our kids to beware of strangers, but that alone can’t protect them. Perhaps Martin attacked Zimmerman in a futile attempt to overpower the gun-wielding aggressor. We will never know the truth, but here’s what we do know:  Zimmerman made a CONSCIOUS CHOICE to disobey the police dispatcher when he stepped out of his car, then ENGAGED with a teen who was OTHERWISE ENGAGED  in a cell phone conversation. I think this action alone proves Zimmerman had a MOTIVE to commit manslaughter – to exert power over someone he perceived to be weak with intent to kill.

The ball was dropped more than once in this case. If we’re going to pass blame, let us spread it across the legal system, the political system and the entire culture. Most of us have experienced chaos in our job, government, or community. It’s that feeling of being on a sinking ship, and knowing your only alternative is to jump off and swim as hard as you can. Yet, in our denial, we continue to cling to it even after the opportunity to fix the leak passes.

Unchecked, chaos leads to complacency and mismanagement – the unwillingness to step up and do the RIGHT thing regardless of the personal cost. For instance, the rising crime rate in the town of Sanford, is skyrocketing. Unless you live near the area, you have no idea how much daily crime taking place there: mobile meth labs, bank robberies, and carjackings. Law enforcement officials have trouble keeping up with calls, let alone spending an adequate amount of time on casework. MOST law enforcement personnel did the best they could with the situation they were given. Some officials swept it under the rug, choosing to focus instead on what they perceived as more serious crimes.

The jury has decided in favor of Zimmerman, and I respect that decision. His defense team proved there was reasonable doubt, and the jurors followed due process, as required by law. This is what ensures freedom and liberty for all Americans – we all have civil rights because of the law. But sometimes bad guys do get away with crime due to an unsatisfactory investigation or if the prosecution doesn’t prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Unfortunately, the jurors decision was based only on what happened DURING the confrontation. I don’t understand why. I’m sure Zimmerman received a pummeling, but his I feel that his willful actions show evidence of premeditation – just enough to tip the scales of justice away from him. Although justice was served according to the law, a young man is still dead, and a killer is free. As a result of the trickle down failure of the MULTIPLE systems, the Martin family was endured trauma twice; once by the death of their son, and again by a lack of justice for his killer.

Protests so far have been peaceful so far. Many feel the same sadness that I do over a teen’s senseless killing. The gatherings are small; most of us don’t want to get very involved with the controversy. Instead, we hide behind our computers and state our opinions. In doing so, we are either growing wiser about the struggles of mankind, or playing “the blame game” as we fling outbursts of anger across our screens.

Yes, I know this posting is going to be judged before it it read, but maybe a few will take the time to HEAR my reasoning. The truth is, we ALL have the responsibility to save our youth, our people, and our country. Isn’t it about time we reign in our exaggerated self esteem and start behaving like mature adults?

LEGISLATURE : Bill seeks end to spousal support for child abusers – Press-Enterprise

See on Scoop.itSocial Deviance

Press-Enterprise LEGISLATURE : Bill seeks end to spousal support for child abusers Press-Enterprise SACRAMENTO — Carol Abar, of Riverside, paid her ex-husband $22,000 in spousal support before he went to jail after pleading guilty to unlawful…

Aleshia Clarke‘s insight:

It happens to battered spouses too. I know a woman who worked 80 hours per week to support her abuser, who chose to be a “stay at home father.” His idea of childcare entailled making his daughter stay upstairs in her room. He eventually tried to kill his wife for insurance money. After she escaped, he received a slap on the wrists, then he proceeded to stalk her. Imagine her surprise when the divorce lawyer told her she may get stuck paying alimony to him because she had supported him for years during the marriage.

Anyone in a similar situation needs a really good lawyer as well as a domestic violence advocate to help them through the tangled web of getting a divorce. This woman was “lucky.” She didn’t end up paying alimony. It has been 4 years since the divorce was finalized .Her ex has never stopped stalking her.

See on www.pe.com

Where is the voice of reason?

In my opinion, Paula Dean is pretty darned ignorant. I never cared for her style, but millions of Americans love her down home Southern cooking. I suspect that most people don’t really watch her show for the cooking; rather, they enjoy her simple nature, her Southern charm and her sense of hospitality – ideals which represent American pride to folks across the country. Older Southerners grew up in an era with different norms and values. It’s no secret that many of them continue to dislike the North, so it’s also no surprise that their prejudices against African Americans still exist.

With few exceptions, the younger generations are far more accepting of all kinds of people – black, Asian, LGBT, tattooed, pierced, etc. They welcome and celebrate diversity. The older generation; however, is just now starting to realize how discrimination feels. You see, it never affected them personally before. Now, they are dealing with issues such as age-related job layoffs, hearing loss, and trouble getting around. And do you know what? People don’t care. I actually saw a Facebook post, a kid talking about the double murder of an elderly couple, and here is what he had to say: “They had a good, long life, and they were gonna die soon anyhow. The guys that did it made a bad choice, but they have their whole life ahead of them. They shouldn’t have to spend it in prison.”  Yeah, he actually put it out there for the whole world to see!

During our stay in Florida this year, I was asked to help out an 86 year old woman with errands and such. She is a pain in the explicative – bossy, demanding, and selfish. I was a Northerner, and she subtly let me know that she felt superior, having been raised in the South. After about 6 months, I was angry and ready to call it quits, then she started showing her own vulnerabilities. She confided in me that she was lonely and bored, so I urged her to spend time with other people around the park. Her fear of being taken advantage of, in combination with a judgmental attitude she has towards her neighbors, had built up a wall that imprisoned her in her own home. The conversation shifted to another topic about a young black man who was rude to her. She whispered the following words: “You may not know it but down here, us white folks don’t care for them black folks, and they don’t care for us neither. It’s just the way it’s always been.” Now, I had two choices – I could either lambaste her ignorance and prejudice, or I could keep talking about the issue. I decided to be the better person, to share the voice of reason with her, and to try stripping away the fear and hate behind her mindset.

Building up acceptance and tolerance of those who are different from us, by open discussion of these issues, will encourage all people to develop empathy; it’s our only hope in preserving humanity. We can shut people like Paula away and lock the key, or we can say, “hey Paula, I’m a person too, and what you did hurts. Let me explain to you why that is so.” It is far more effective for us to positively build-up freethinking individuals, than it is to jump on the bandwagon of group-think condemnation.

Building a love for science both in (and out) of the classroom – Video on NBCNews.com

See on Scoop.itProtective Factors

Video on msnbc.com: A Chicago program called Project Exploration is helping low-income kids discover practical applications for science, math and engineering by introducing them to careers they might not ordinarily have considered.

Aleshia Clarke‘s insight:

These programs are a "lifeline" to disadvantaged kids. They offer a "hand up" for those who don’t currently see the point to getting a good education. Their "hands-on" nature motivates a child’s natural curiosity and willingness to learn.

 

Parents can also host small group STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) "clubs" at home by getting 4 – 6 kids together to work on a "project" a couple times a month.

 

There are formally sponsored teams that teachers or parents can "lead." I lead my daughter and her friends, aka the "Random Clan" in the Sally Ride Science Toy Challenge, and we made it all the way to the final challenge round!

 

If a group is out of the question, I reccommend the NASA Inspire Program; it is an online STEM mentoring community that rewards kids for individual activities and offers online teamwork activities too. Plus, kids get an official NASA team patch designed by one lucky member. How cool is that!

See on www.nbcnews.com

1 in 3 women globally has been abused by partners, study finds

1 in 3 women globally has been abused by partners, study finds

How can we expect to achieve world peace, when we cannot be safe in our own homes, with our those who are closest to us? There is only one solution: RESPECT other people; and I mean ALL other people, whether they are like you or not. We are not all-powerful gods who can force others to do our bidding. We cannot CHANGE people to be what our image of them is. If you are NOT HAPPY with your intimate partner, then YOU need to END THE RELATIONSHIP and MOVE ON with your own life.

When, and only when, we learn to let go of power and control of others, we will be able to look INWARD to correct OUR PERSONAL FAULTS. Then we can grow up into the type of person who is able to LOVE and BE LOVED. If we can do this on a micro-scale, we can do it as a NATION.

Go B Team, Go!

My comment on Huffington Post in regards to the following article:

People, Planet, Profit: Introducing the B Team by Arianna Huffington

It is time to put aside our differences for the good of ALL humanity. As human beings, we have been given the gift of reason. This proposal has been well-thought out, not some off-the-cuff scheme. I don’t care if you are Republican or Democrat; just start using your BRAIN and be willing to work a little harder. This is especially relevant to the Execs, Managers, and other so-called leaders who have allowed their thirst for power to leave their overworked, underpaid subordinates “in charge.” We may have been flattered initially, but now we know that you are just LAZY. We can’t cover your behind anymore!

Donna Jean McDunn

Author of Nightmares & Visions, both paranormal mystery, in addition, on this site, you'll find stories about romance, love, children, grandchildren, humor, serial killers and much more!

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