Saturday, April 18, 2009

Me of the Day

2:30 I roll out of my bed
2:40 I witness a car being stolen...maybe. I'm not quite sure. I do not know how to respond.
3:00 I take my puppies for a walk
4:00 I call my little sister
4:25 I speak to my mother
4:30 My mother tells me I'm terribly judgmental of my cousin who is going to fashion school (I asked if he would commute or move into the city)
4:33 My mother tells me I judge anyone who lives in a small town. (No? ...)
4:37 My mother tells me I'm terribly judgmental of my other cousins, too. (I didn't even mention them!)
4:40 My mother asks me why I'm so horribly judgmental of my aunt.
4:44 My mother tells me I'm terribly judgmental of her husband, too, and that people can change, dammit, why do you JUDGE?
4:49 I ask my mother to maybe stop calling me judgmental quite so much next time?
4:50 My mother tells me she cannot talk to me when I'm being like this! UGH! (and then she hangs up on me)
5:00 I begin to write the preceding 1200 word essay describing my understanding of human nature in an attempt to explain that, actually, I'm not that judgmental...because clearly logic is the way to go

Human Behaviour and Me

a depiction in accordance with the principles of Science

I believe that pretty much all behaviour is a due to a person’s past and present circumstances. If we think of human behaviour as an equation, every single thought, feeling, environmental influence, past experience, and scrap of genetic code gets entered into that equation to determine how we’ll respond in any given situation. So the way that an individual responds in any given environment is pre-dictated (though NOT predictable - these influences are incredibly, infinitely complex). The way I act in a certain situation (a result of the way I think and feel in a certain situation), is always because of my cumulative learning, environment, and circumstance.

This does not mean that adults lack “choice” in their actions - because every adult in Canada is in control of their own circumstances to a certain degree. Thus, they can alter their own environment, learning, and circumstance in a way which is likely to alter their future behaviour - by manipulating just one part of the equation, we can end up changing the entire outcome. We seek out different experiences, and can learn skills and knowledge that we previously did not possess. We can change our environment drastically, and consequently change the environment within our own bodies, too; by changing the food in my fridge, the amount of stress I’m exposed to at work, the person I’m married to, etc., I can certainly change my health, blood pressure, and even neurological structure and chemistry. The results can lead to me feeling, thinking, and acting in a different manner when exposed to similar events. Most parts of our circumstances remain outside of our control and always will (we can‘t change our genetics, our past experiences, or the weather), but there is always at least some potential for future change and growth through adults influencing their own circumstances.

In many ways, those who fail to act in an appropriate manner are set up to fail (and vice versa; all very successful people had a lot of help in getting there). As communities, we all have some influence over each other’s environment and, consequently, future behaviours. A friend may lead you to start a new hobby or suggest you seek counselling, while a police officer may enforce legal consequences for certain behaviours. A person’s perfume choice may trigger a headache, while another person’s driving ability determines both your personal safety and speed in getting home. Every adult has a certain degree of influence over the environment of every other adult and child they encounter - as such, all members of communities are somewhat responsible whenever any member succeeds or fails. Times six billion people and fed into an infinitely complicated equation of human behaviour, this fact is slightly obscured - however, it is essential for individuals to remember that their every (positive or negative) action will inevitably influence countless people in a series of unpredictable ways.

According to this understanding of human behaviour, it’s hard to classify anyone as a Bad Person (or a ‘good’ person - people are just people acting according to their experiences and circumstances). However, there certainly are lots and lots of damaging people, or people who act in a manner which harms those around them, usually via some form of violence. We can accept that this is a result of circumstance which is largely outside of that person’s control (just as all behaviour is), however, it is the responsibility of all individuals to protect both themselves and others from those who are likely to cause damage. While the most obvious damage is the type we can see (‘physical’ violence, for example, often leaves obvious welts and bruises), all damage is in some ways physical (it alters a person’s brain chemistry and structure), and certainly all damaging experiences have some negative impact on an individual’s future (and can negatively influence the environment of many, many others).

Individuals who are habitually damaging to others do, like all individuals, have the potential to alter their own behaviour through influencing their circumstances and experience (and such individuals may also face externally mandated changes, such as legal intervention or forced counselling). Given the right opportunity and environment, almost everyone will act in way which is dramatically different from previous behaviours; however, the single best predictor of future behaviour remains how a person has behaved in the past. A husband who hits his wife when experiencing huge external stressors may stop after he finds a more relaxing job, for example, but he will likely continue to act violently if his stress levels rise to what they were before.

Everyone is prone to using the same behaviours over and over again, even when they are ineffectual or abhorrent, in part because so much of our behavioural influence is outside of our locus of control (we cannot change our genetics or our past). For individuals who cause damage to others, their behaviours are often facilitated by unusual attitudes and beliefs, or a lack of commonly held inhibitions. For example, if a parent believes that corporal punishment is acceptable in certain situations (and thus lacks inhibitions towards hitting their child), they are more likely to act violently towards their children in all situations. While beliefs and attitudes facilitate violent acts, these actions themselves increase the likelihood of future violence; our largest inhibitions are always against a new and unknown behaviours (‘once you cross that bridge…’), and personal values are often reoriented to allow us to repeat an act we’d previously deemed unthinkable. This pattern sets any individual up to fail, and then fail again, and again.

In interacting with a person who has a history of damaging or violent behaviour, it is important that we, too, do not set them up to fail, and that our interaction is done in a manner which makes damaging behaviour unlikely. A friend with a history of violence may only be seen in a public setting, for example, or a person with a history of sexual violence towards children could visit their own child, but never unsupervised. Opportunities and examples for better behaviour should be made available whenever possible, but never in a manner which compromises safety (especially towards children). This is not about judgment or punishment - it is solely about minimizing risk and acting to control one’s own environment. Individuals with a high degree of motivation can, and do, change their own behaviours - however, this process is at best a gradual shift and usually involves a great deal of relapse. In evaluating future safety, we must always ask what, if anything, in the environment has changed, and in turn question the motivation and consistency for that changing factor. An individual taking action to improve their own behaviour in no way obligates victims (or anyone else) to place themselves at risk.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Receipt of Shame

Tonight, Thursday the 16th of April, at approximately 11:30pm, I traveled by foot, in the rain, to my neighbourhood grocery store - a Safeway outlet known for its inexplicably chipper cashiers. There, the following purchases were made:

1 Safeway-Brand Frozen Cheesecake
1 2L Bottle of Diet Coke
1 Small Bag of Mini Multicoloured Marshmallows
1 Regular-sized Box of Lucky Charms (a cereal containing mini, multicoloured marshmallows)
3 Bananas, slightly green

Total cost: $17
Total nutrients: A little potassium, nothing else

The attractive and friendly cashier smiled and asked me a question I didn't quite understand (I was overwhelmed with shame): ".....tonight?"

I can only assume the question was "Are you planning on going home, alone, and eating this entire frozen cheesecake while watching reruns of Lost on your computer...tonight?"


This post was an attempt to shame myself into healthier actions which might spare my wilting body. I suspect, however, that I may be beyond help, and that suspicion is translated into a hunger for an entire Safeway-brand frozen cheesecake.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Etiquette for Communicating - What YOU Need to Know

This is a Public Notice on the Joys of Communication:

There are approximately seventy-five different ways to send a message. Back in the day, there were only four: yelling loudly, sending a letter via the imperial postmaster, smoke signals, and pigeon carriers. Today, almost no one has a pigeon carrier (made unreliable by owls), or knows which wood to burn in sending clear, Morris-code smoke signal. But that’s okay. Because there are a whole rang of other options available, from FedExing to phoning to wall-posting on Facebook.

If new things scare you more than rabid mongeese with a lust for blood, you may be understandably afraid. But fear not…there are now so many different ways to communicate, you can skip out on one without missing too much. Don’t like MSN? Don’t use it. Don’t like Facebook? Well, you’ll have to call or text more often so that people remember you exist, but you’ll be okay. Fear talking on the phone? Send emails, or text, or assemble messages with cut-out-newspaper-letters and glue. The world is your gregarious oyster.

No matter what form of communication you choose to employ, it is still advisable to follow laws of Basic Etiquette. Etiquette is not about punctuation (as some English teachers would have you believe). It is about avoiding hurtful, annoying, or embarrassing situations which might arise when you interact with other people - as such, it is just as applicable to text msging as it is to pigeon carrying. If you live in a Society, then Basic Etiquette applies to you.

As such, please observe the following…because you are not special. Yes, the rules do apply to you.

Rules Governing the Use of Communication Within a Civilized Society

1. Drunk communication with ex lovers is an act to be avoided.

2. Any communication that is written down and/or publicly observable should be carefully considered, as such messages can easily be passed into the wrong hands or annoy unwitting observers who do not want to know the intimate details of your life. Discretion is key.

3. Be aware that your communication preferences and skill may not match those of the person you are communicating with. Since the point of communication is "communication," the use of illegible writing and/or excessive jargon should be avoided (unless the sender is certain that you're being understood), and alternative forms of communication should be made available whenever possible.

4. If you don’t want to use a form of communication which is available only by subscription to an account, then please don’t. BUT if you maintain an account AND use it solely for the purpose of complaining about said form of communication, OR if you refuse to acknowledge communication received via said account (without deleting said account), OR if you constantly complain about being "left out" because you don’t have whichever account, THEN I have grounds for throwing a large melon at your head.

5. There is a hierarchy of communication based on intimacy: the more personal contact or physical presence involved, the more intimate the communication (the more public or translated, the less intimate or more casual). In replying to a received communication (which is generally customary), an equal or greater form of intimacy should be employed (though an excessive ‘jump’ in intimacy should be avoided, lest one be labeled a stalker). For example, showing up on a person’s doorstep with flowers and a hand-written poem is pretty intimate - Twittering (Tweeting? Twatering?) is not. Most communications fall somewhere between these two on the intimacy spectrum.

6. And finally, all forms of mass communication are considered to be egregiously annoying. As such, all forwards, reply alls, automated messages, newsletters, megaphones, and group texts should be avoided or available only through subscription. Failure to comply is grounds for dismissal from society via ice-float.

And…that’s it. Good luck! And remember…you are not special. Obey.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Wonders of the Modern World

Alright, yesterday’s entry was a downer. Yesterday was a bit of a downer, as a whole, and after a night of dreaming about volcanoes, dinosaurs, and child molesters (seriously…wtf, subconscious?) I decided it was in my best interest to dwell on much happier thoughts.

Thus, I present:

The Wonders of the Modern World (in the form of Daisy Razors!)

Ten years ago, I began shaving my hairy pubescent legs. There were two options available in girly pink: a single bladed, crappy razor, or a double bladed, crappy razor. That was all.

Today, I find myself fascinated by the noise of my new, kickass five blade girl razor as it glides across my leg stubble (it sounds a bit like those toy cars from McDonalds that you pull backwards to charge their manual motor…whirrrrrrrr…no? Nobody?). But I digress…Five blades. Five! Who the hell has hair on their legs worthy of five blades? Never mind what’s available in the boy-razor department, which has always been one step ahead of the girls; with those new trimmer blades for sideburns…what are those, seven blades now? Crazy!

I should also mention that my razor, which is purple and covered in sparkles, mounts seamlessly onto the wall of my shower through the power of suction cups, and has a storage bin containing extra razor heads…wow. Appreciating the wonders of advancing technology has turned shaving my legs into a magical experience.

Case and Point: A short two hundred years ago, back in pioneer days, only pretty boys shaved anything at all, and they did it with a giant knife-like razor blade that would slice the throats of the incompetent. People bathed but once a week, and only women washed their hair, monthly, using an egg. Think of how far we have come in terms of hygiene. The future is now, people, and it is a beautiful, unsmelly time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's All Downhill from Here

Dear world,

I am getting old.

I know…that’s a very relative and slightly cruel thing to say. I’m younger than most people. I’m younger than the culturally-defined definition of old. I don’t have white hair. I don’t even have a full time job, or pension, or anniversary of any type worth celebrating.

On the other hand, I am the oldest I have been so far. I am certifiably an adult, and have surpassed that lovely grace period which allowed me to hit up my parents for rent money without guilt. I am in my mid-twenties. And as someone with very little imagination or much thought about the future, it’s all come as a bit of a shock. I’m suddenly Old, with crow’s feet, and smile lines (since when do I smile?), and a sense of my own mortality. Soon I’ll throw out my back and stop running, for the sake of my knees. I’ll stop caring about social norms-

(…Oh god. There are Jehovah’s Witnesses on my front law, and my blinds are open, and maybe if I don’t move they won’t see me….oh, crap, I think they see me. Oh, fuck, please just go away. Why do you keep standing there so awkwardly? What are you writing on your clipboards of religious annoyances? Crap, that’s the doorbell, they know I’m here…

Thank god, they were just political canvassers. Alright. Awkward conversation about Jesus avoided for another day.)

Okay, where were we? Right, old. Me, old.

Old age is coming. It’s there for all of us, looming on the horizon, and we’re all just a broken hip and pop culture reference away from its clutches. It comes on slowly, painfully, gradually, until you wake up one day wearing adult diapers with one of your grandchildren mopping up your drool (at least I think he’s my grandchild…Billy? Billy, is that you?). Today, it’s already started. At the age of twenty-three, my body has begun to deteriorate in a way that will slowly lead to false teeth and talking loudly about what a nickel could buy in my day. Actually, growing up, I could buy no-name soda for 35 cents. And the cent symbol appeared on most keyboards. And there was no internet…See? See how it’s already started?

I think the descent into very old age is hardest on people who see themselves as strong and powerful. You see this in old men who bark orders at nurses - twenty years ago, they were strapping CEOs and heads of their family. They lived in a world of which they were masters. Today, they cannot even control their own bodies and find themselves begging for attention. It’s a power shift which stings with indignities.

For people used to not having much power, the descent seems easier, and almost relaxing. If life has never entirely gone your way, there is less expectation and less disappointment. If life has been hard and painful since you were young, then at least on your deathbed you’ll be used to the feeling. Or so the theory goes.

For me, you’d think there'd be nothing to fear. The standard of care in your average nursing home is actually an improvement over my current living conditions, and no one listens to me much now, anyways. My family never visits, despite the fact that I remember all their names and my face is not yet a gruesome imitation of its former self. I don’t have any money or prestige, so I don’t have much to lose. You’d think I’d look forward to the days of napping and annoying others and the throwing rocks at kids who stray onto my lawn…

But no. Old age terrifies me. And I suppose the reason is simply that, to me, Life is Hard. Even at my present relatively young age, with most of my intellect and body intact, with living friends and freedom and not too much physical pain - Life is quite often just barely bearable. So the thought of adding to the pain, and the wrinkles, and the indignities suffered…it makes it all just seem too much to take. If life, now, seems difficult to take, how can I expect my later years to be anything other than excruciating?

This is why it’s best not to think about such things (a statement which probably should have proceeded this note). And also why it’s a good idea to foster an interest in motorcycles, or scuba diving, or jay walking with your eyes closed while gargling Mercury. Just in case.

Me of the Day

Current Mood: Surly.

Major Existential Crisis: It is 11am. Why the fuck am I awake??

Also: Why is the world a cruel joke? Why do I have seasonal allergies? What the hell is that buzzing noise?

Elaborate Plan to Solve All of Life's Problems: Move to Northwest Territories, where I will be employed as a medical liaison for a community of 75 people, and have no friends, and be plunged into eternal darkness for three months of the year (though there will be Northern Lights...pretty!), and my puppies will likely be eaten by a polar bear. That is my plan.

...Sorry. I was going to say more, but my puppies are humping each other, which totally broke my train of thought, and now I have to go.