You take out your swords every day. Sometimes it feels so heavy you can barely lift it. Sometimes it’s hard to even get out there: It’s easier to just stay under the blanket and let the storm rage. Still: You do get out there time and again. You carefully spend from your precious reserves of energy to put on the armor, and grab the sword. You peer out at the world cautiously, even if the world can be dangerous and treacherous at times. More: You dare to let me fight along with you. You dare to trust me, even if you’ve been stabbed in the back before.
My strong fighters. I see you jump over stones, even if they are high. You wade through rivers, no matter if you sometimes must try different paths to not be taken away with the current. You have battle scars, but you make them your weapon of choice. Proficient warriors are not afraid of scars, but show them to the world with pride. No one can ever take away the moments you did get to the other side of the river, or when you put on your armor after all. No one can erase these moment of victory no matter what they say. They did occur and history is history.
My wise fighters. I have never heard more inspiring battle cries. I have never heard more important voices.
“On September 1st 1967, the Nobel Prize-winning civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech entitled “the role of the behavioral scientist in the civil rights movement” to the American Psychological Association.
As University of Liverpool said, with eloquence and passion, Martin Luther King championed the civil rights struggle … and spoke about how people like me could and should support the civil rights movement. This speech is particularly relevant today.
“Always be maladjusted” — Most powerfully, Martin Luther King said: “There are some things in our society, some things in our world, to which we … must always be maladjusted if we are to be people of good will. We must never adjust ourselves to racial discrimination and racial segregation. We must never adjust ourselves to religious bigotry.
“We must never adjust ourselves to economic conditions that take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few. We must never adjust ourselves to the madness of militarism, and the self-defeating effects of physical violence. … There comes a time when one must take a stand that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular. But one must take it because it is right…” If there were a Martin Luther King for 2013, he or she would call on us to speak out, to identify and to condemn those things that should be condemned. We should refuse to tolerate the unacceptable and to act accordingly.
That modern Martin Luther King would turn to academics and psychologists and call on us to analyze – using those particular skills and perspectives that we possess – the psychological and social mechanisms that sustain and maintain those unacceptable current realities, and similarly to use our particular skills in psychological science to research social and psychological mechanisms that could support positive change.
In 1967, Martin Luther King identified a number of key issues that should be the focus for behavioural scientists; urban riots, the Vietnam war, unemployment and civil disobedience.
It’s remarkable how well these issues have persisted over two generations. We have seen urban riots on the streets of major UK cities in the very recent past, we have military adventures in Iraq, Afghanistan and Mali, we have mass unemployment and we have civil disobedience – today in the shape of the ‘Occupy’ movement. We would add social and economic inequalities, the credit crisis, with its lethal impact on citizens’ well-being, and climate change. I would add humane care for people with disabilities and mental health problems. But Martin Luther King’s speech still resonates.
Today, we may have seen significant improvements in the political status of black people in America – we have a second-term black president in Barak Obama. But Martin Luther King’s words are still relevant.
Some of us may have offered some gentle words on the use of torture in the so-called ‘war on terror’, but many clinical psychologists may well still be silent, even colluding. As a psychologist, an academic and a human being I should speak out (even though it’s painful) when I observe injustice.
Many of us say and do little about the social circumstances that determine – more than any biological factors and more than any therapy – the well-being and mental health of our clients.
Social pressures that blame victims — Many of us – sadly – collude with the social pressures that blame victims, atomise people from their social contexts, medicalise and diagnose what are essentially social and psychological problems and focus on the benefits we can accrue ourselves or maximize for our western, white, male, middle-class friends.
I fear that the key social problems Martin Luther King described two generations ago have not been solved, and I fear that psychologists, in particular, have not really risen to his challenge. We should.
Psychologists uniquely study why people behave as they do. We are uniquely placed to help understand and address some of the most pressing problems facing humankind. Since our science is purportedly the science of human behaviour – understanding why people behave as they do – we have a unique and valuable perspective on explaining why people commit crimes, are apathetic bystanders, eat, drink and consume excessively and dangerously, harm their children’s future with their purchasing decisions etc.
Similarly we have a unique perspective on why people might behave in more pro-social ways; offer leadership, act with optimism, possess resilience, etc – in essence, the stuff of positive psychology. And we should acknowledge and help others understand the social determinants of human behaviour – how people’s behaviour is (at least in large part) shaped by social factors.
“Psychology is action” — Albert Camus, the Nobel prize-winning intellectual and philosopher, was distinctive in that he actively resisted the Nazi occupation of France, editing “Combat”, the clandestine newspaper of the Resistance.
In his private notebook for May 1937, Camus wrote: “Psychology is action, not thinking about oneself”. So I vote with Camus and King. The point of psychology is to do something useful.”
Cowardice asks the question, “Is it safe?” Expediency asks the question, “Is it politic?” Vanity asks the question, “Is it popular?” But, conscience asks the question, “Is it right?” And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but one must take it because one’s conscience tells one that it is right.– Martin Luther King, Jr.
Every day someone lives in pain. Sometimes it is physical torment, and sometimes it`s mental agony.
Our blog tries to cover varied topics, but the underlying theme is that we want to inspire and give people hope. One of our goals is to do our part to make the world a better place, and maybe somebody else will want to do the same? We see people around us everywhere, and we don`t always know their stories.
Today was a good day for the blog. Some weeks ago, I ordered business cards, small post-cards and a cup, and today it finally arrived. I was very happy with the result, especially the business-cards that look gorgeous. What do you think? If readers of this blog would like to help me with distributing them, feel free to send me some contact information, so I can mail some business-cards you can give to people you know, or even complete strangers (thereby also getting extra stars in the «kindness project».
If you don`t want to do that, it`s perfectly fine.
I hope our readers like what we`ve produced so far. If not, we really love concrete feedback on how we can make the blog even better. We can only deliver high-quality content if readers tell us what could be better.
I want to thank all the readers, contributors and people who`ve been involved so far. Without you I would be nothing.
The last post was actually post number 200. I AM proud of myself. From writing almost nothing, I have the last year written and written, and there is still so much to say, so many stories to tell, so many other blogs to share (there is a lot of interesting stories out there) and thoughts that have to come out. I hope you have enjoyed the journey so far. Any wishes on themes I might write about?
I am reblogging one of my fav. blogs:
Every day someone lives in pain. Sometimes it is physical torment, and sometimes it`s mental agony. A memory can harm as well as knives and blows. I want to present a blog from Ashana. She grew up with no safety net, and it is almost impossible to imagine how that must have been. But we have to. We can`t close our eyes. Stories like her, make me want to fight for a better world.
Ashana, thank you so much for sharing your story. Sending you warm thoughts.
August 6th, a lone gunman toting two semi-automatic weapons killed seven people and wounded a number of others at a crowded Sikh temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. A few weeks before, a man opened fire in a theater in Colorado, killing 12 and wounded 58 others. The first instance is classified as a hate crime. The second appears to be entirely random—murder for the sake of it.
These are difficult and frightening times we live in. Much of the Middle East has become destabilized, with civil war raging in Syria and smoldering in Egypt. Terrorist attacks and sectarian violence have become so commonplace in Afghanistan and Iraq it no longer seems to be news. Bombs planted in war-torn Chechnya, where violence has erupted sporadically since the start of the First Chechen War in 1994, reportedly killed four individuals on the same day as the gurudwara shooting. Meanwhile, the Indian Mujahideen struck in Pune on August 1st, when serial explosions rocked Jangli Maharaj Road. The world has become a terrifying place.
Or has it? Is this really anything new?
The aftermath of the 2010 German Bakery bombing in Pune.
What about the 500,000-100,000 murdered in Rwanda in 1994? The 200,000 killed in Bosnia’s “ethnic cleansing” between 1992 and 1995? The 2 million executed, starved, or worked to death in Cambodia starting in 1975? The .5 million hacked to death or burned alive during Partition? Or, for heaven’s sake, the 11 million who died during the Holocaust under Nazi rule? And going back to perhaps one of the first genocides of the 20th century, the mass killings of 1.5 million Armenians by the Turkish beginning in 1915? What about them?
Targets change, weapons improve, but ordinary people are now and always have been quite capable of torture and mass murder. Evil, it seems, is part of the human heart.
In saying this, I am not arguing that we are all just sinners, hopelessly seduced by that devil. Evil, at least in my mind, is a complicated matter. It is worth making an effort to understand These are my questions:
Why do some people carry out evil acts?
Why do some engage in more extreme acts of evil than others?
Why do these events occur more at some times than others?
How is it that some people—and not others—take a stand against evil, often at great personal risk to themselves?
This Travelodge in Oceanside was shut down in 2011 because of its use in sex trafficking by gang members.
Since I was about 13 years old, I have been deeply and abidingly interested in these questions. While an adolescent Stephen Hawking may have started searching for a unified theory of physics at that age, I started looking for a unified theory of evil. We need to understand the worlds we live in, and mine was for many years almost unrelentingly evil.
It might help to tell a little of my story. My dad molested me from the time I can remember. When I was two, he raped me with a pair of scissors. Like many sociopaths, he killed animals from time to time—usually in front of me—and at least once insisted I kill as well. His aim was not only to frighten, but to corrupt.
Before I was school-aged, my mother assaulted me multiple times—a few times by strangling, once with a pair of kitchen knives, once with a kitchen chair. I have incoherent memories of being dunked head-first in water—the tub or the toilet. I think she did that. But I don’t know.
To discipline me, one or both of them shut me up in a freezer until I lost consciousness. Alternatively, they chained me blindfolded to a wall in the garage, at times without any clothes on. In the garage, I was fed spoiled food, crawling with bugs, or no food at all and refused access to a toilet.
At the same time, my father was also my pimp. For 11 years, I serviced the perverted desires of pedophiles, mainly in a variety of cheap hotels, but also at home or in the homes of his friends. In addition, I performed sporadically in child pornography—both still and filmed.
I grew up in hell and the devil lived there.
Except these were people. People did these things, and in some cases, a lot of people. Unlike my mother, who acted impulsively and alone, my father was intelligent, organized, and apparently well-connected. For the most part, he abused me in the context of organizations that were systematically abusing other children and employed a variety of people—as actors and film crew, hotel managers, maintenance and janitorial workers, and human traffickers.
This was not simply the product of a single, unbalanced mind going over the edge, nor was it the result of a few people getting greedy and slipping into amoral behavior. There were too many of them—both consumers and producers—for these to be adequately understood as isolated incidents or as the work of the 1% of the population who simply lack conscience. Some of this is about ordinary people committing unbelievably, horrifyingly evil acts..
This blog is not so much the place where I am telling my story, as the place where I work to understand those stories. And also where I try to heal the scars.
When I started this blog, I had a vague idea of what I wanted: To share some of the knowledge collected over a lifetime with the readers, and maybe find others who wanted to do the same. I love meeting new people, and wish I had more time to get to know many more than I already have. One of my new aquaintances has produced this post for our blog. I have read some of his post, and know already it is an intelligent and creative man who follow his thoughts and ideas with vigor. I respect people who do, and am very honored that he wanted to use some of that valuable energy on us. The post is well written, based on his personal theory and experiences and really interesting to read. He applies his own thoughts on former psychological knowledge, and the result is an exciting new view of things. Of course, this is an individual thoughts, and one must remember that this is just one possible perspective rather than the «solution». He has written many posts and tries to do research to strengthen it`s credibility, so I will follow his further work with excitement.
Again, thank you Monty.
Many of our post focus on how we can do small things to change the world. We have a chance, every day, but sometimes it just feels like a drop in the sea. Be assured, your drop might be a important ingredient the world-remedy. With all those individual and special drops, our sea will never be polluted by debris from high power industries, stigma or “parasites”. Today I want to focus on a blog that has dedicated itself to searching for the good, by also contributing to it. It amazes me how much love and joy one person is able to give, and I am sure he has already inspired many others to do the same.
Does this little step towards changing the world matter? Or is it «no more than a drop in the sea»? Decide for yourself.
My lungs ached, as frost hung in the bitterly cold December morning air, making breathing difficult. I trudged in the falling snow toward Place Bell where I work, in the city’s gray, concrete, office tower canyon. I dodged other pedestrians, also trying to get to work on time, I noticed a woman seated cross-legged on the sidewalk with her back against the wall of the library. A snow-covered Buddha wrapped in a sleeping bag, shivering in the below freezing temperature. I guessed her to be in her forties. Everything about her seemed round. She had the most angelic face, sparkling blue eyes and a beautiful smile. A cap was upturned in front of her. I thought,There but for the grace of God go I. Her smile and blue eyes haunted me all day.
In the past I’ve been unemployed, my wife and I were unable to pay our mortgage and other bills, we went through bankruptcy, lost our house, my truck. Being in my fifties, my prospects looked dim. It could have been me, on the sidewalk, in her place.
I’ve been told not to give money to pan handlers because they’ll just spend it on booze. I thought to myself, What should I do, if anything? What would you do? I asked for advice from a friend who has worked with homeless people. She said, “The woman is probably hungry. Why don’t you ask her if she’d like a breakfast sandwich and maybe a coffee?”
That sounded reasonable, so the next day I asked, “Are you hungry? Would you like some breakfast, perhaps a coffee?”
“That would be nice,” she replied.
When I brought her a sandwich and coffee she said to me, “Thank you so much, sir. You’re so kind. Bless you.” I truly felt blessed.
This has become a morning routine for the past two and a half years. The woman (I’ll call Joy) and I have become friends. Often I’ll sit with her on the sidewalk. We sometimes meet her companions in the park. They have become my closest friends. I think of them as angels. My life has become much richer for the experience.
Throughout the past few years I have come to know many people, now friends, who for various reasons are, or were, homeless. Antonio, slept on a park bench and was beaten, had his teeth kicked out, for no other reason than his choice to sleep outdoors. He is a small, gentle man who has a phobia about enclosed spaces.
Craig, slept on the sidewalk in the freezing cold. I see him every morning and am never sure if, when I lift the corner of his sleeping bag, I will find him dead or alive.
Sometimes, he confided, he would prefer never to awake.
Joy is a friend who fell on hard times. She slept behind a dumpster in back of Starbucks. I have seen her with blackened eyes, bruised legs, cracked ribs, cut and swollen lips. I usually see her sitting on the sidewalk ‘panning’ for change.
I can’t do much for these people except to show them love, compassion, an ear to listen, perhaps a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. I would like to do more. To know them is to love them. What has been seen cannot be unseen. I have started to write an account of their daily lives. I intend to turn this into a book and have it published. That is my goal.
I am writing articles and biographies of Joy and other street people. They have been informed that they don’t have to use their real names, that any profits would go back to the homeless and that it could be a vehicle to say whatever they want to the population at large.
In four weeks I will be in New York together with 3 friends. I arrive on the 10th of September and we go bach early the 17th. The time zone will be completely different from in Norway, so I am a bit nervous about how that will work out. I have never been in America before, and people have especially recommended New York as one of those cities you absolutely have to visit once in a life time. Since we only have 5 proper days, this time, I will not get to see everything, but I would still love to know what I should prioritize. For those who`s been there before: What would you recommend? And: If some of my readers actually live there, what about a coffee? I love meeting new people, and it would be a joy to meet some new people when I go there.
After reading this post about the movie “Dangerous Minds” I will without doubt see the movie one more time. When I saw it the first time, I probably did not understand the implications and importance of it, and I did not even know it was based on a true stories. I have been very interested in true, inspirational stories the last two years, since it gives me so much energy to read them. Maybe that is the way I survive as a psychologist, hearing tough stories all the time? Somehow, I need to counteract it with good, to feel more balanced inside.