Tuesday, March 20, 2018

something to remember

An Article from the The New Yorker 

The Root of All Cruelty?
Perpetrators of violence, we’re told, dehumanize their victims. The truth is worse.
Paul Bloom

A recent episode of the dystopian television series “Black Mirror” begins with a soldier hunting down and killing hideous humanoids called roaches. It’s a standard science-fiction scenario, man against monster, but there’s a twist: it turns out that the soldier and his cohort have brain implants that make them see the faces and bodies of their targets as monstrous, to hear their pleas for mercy as noxious squeaks. When our hero’s implant fails, he discovers that he isn’t a brave defender of the human race—he’s a murderer of innocent people, part of a campaign to exterminate members of a despised group akin to the Jews of Europe in the nineteen-forties.

The philosopher David Livingstone Smith, commenting on this episode on social media, wondered whether its writer had read his book “Less Than Human: Why We Demean, Enslave, and Exterminate Others” (St. Martin’s). It’s a thoughtful and exhaustive exploration of human cruelty, and the episode perfectly captures its core idea: that acts such as genocide happen when one fails to appreciate the humanity of others.
One focus of Smith’s book is the attitudes of slave owners; the seventeenth-century missionary Morgan Godwyn observed that they believed the Negroes, “though in their Figure they carry some resemblances of Manhood, yet are indeed no Men” but, rather, “Creatures destitute of Souls, to be ranked among Brute Beasts, and treated accordingly.” Then there’s the Holocaust. Like many Jews my age, I was raised with stories of gas chambers, gruesome medical experiments, and mass graves—an evil that was explained as arising from the Nazis’ failure to see their victims as human. In the words of the psychologist Herbert C. Kelman, “The inhibitions against murdering fellow human beings are generally so strong that the victims must be deprived of their human status if systematic killing is to proceed in a smooth and orderly fashion.” The Nazis used bureaucratic euphemisms such as “transfer” and “selection” to sanitize different forms of murder.
As the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss noted, “humankind ceases at the border of the tribe, of the linguistic group, even sometimes of the village.” Today, the phenomenon seem inescapable. Google your favorite despised human group—Jews, blacks, Arabs, gays, and so on—along with words like “vermin,” “roaches,” or “animals,” and it will all come spilling out. Some of this rhetoric is seen as inappropriate for mainstream discourse. But wait long enough and you’ll hear the word “animals” used even by respectable people, referring to terrorists, or to Israelis or Palestinians, or to undocumented immigrants, or to deporters of undocumented immigrants. Such rhetoric shows up in the speech of white supremacists—but also when the rest of us talk about white supremacists.
It’s not just a matter of words. At Auschwitz, the Nazis tattooed numbers on their prisoners’ arms. Throughout history, people have believed that it was acceptable to own humans, and there were explicit debates in which scholars and politicians mulled over whether certain groups (such as blacks and Native Americans) were “natural slaves.” Even in the past century, there were human zoos, where Africans were put in enclosures for Europeans to gawk at.

Early psychological research on dehumanization looked at what made the Nazis different from the rest of us. But psychologists now talk about the ubiquity of dehumanization. Nick Haslam, at the University of Melbourne, and Steve Loughnan, at the University of Edinburgh, provide a list of examples, including some painfully mundane ones: “Outraged members of the public call sex offenders animals. Psychopaths treat victims merely as means to their vicious ends. The poor are mocked as libidinous dolts. Passersby look through homeless people as if they were transparent obstacles. Dementia sufferers are represented in the media as shuffling zombies.”
The thesis that viewing others as objects or animals enables our very worst conduct would seem to explain a great deal. Yet there’s reason to think that it’s almost the opposite of the truth.
At some European soccer games, fans make monkey noises at African players and throw bananas at them. Describing Africans as monkeys is a common racist trope, and might seem like yet another example of dehumanization. But plainly these fans don’t really think the players are monkeys; the whole point of their behavior is to disorient and humiliate. To believe that such taunts are effective is to assume that their targets would be ashamed to be thought of that way—which implies that, at some level, you think of them as people after all.
Consider what happened after Hitler annexed Austria, in 1938. Timothy Snyder offers a haunting description in “Black Earth: The Holocaust as History and Warning”:
The next morning the “scrubbing parties” began. Members of the Austrian SA, working from lists, from personal knowledge, and from the knowledge of passersby, identified Jews and forced them to kneel and clean the streets with brushes. This was a ritual humiliation. Jews, often doctors and lawyers or other professionals, were suddenly on their knees performing menial labor in front of jeering crowds. Ernest P. remembered the spectacle of the “scrubbing parties” as “amusement for the Austrian population.” A journalist described “the fluffy Viennese blondes, fighting one another to get closer to the elevating spectacle of the ashen-faced Jewish surgeon on hands and knees before a half-dozen young hooligans with Swastika armlets and dog-whips.” Meanwhile, Jewish girls were sexually abused, and older Jewish men were forced to perform public physical exercise.
The Jews who were forced to scrub the streets—not to mention those subjected to far worse degradations—were not thought of as lacking human emotions. Indeed, if the Jews had been thought to be indifferent to their treatment, there would have been nothing to watch here; the crowd had gathered because it wanted to see them suffer. The logic of such brutality is the logic of metaphor: to assert a likeness between two different things holds power only in the light of that difference. The sadism of treating human beings like vermin lies precisely in the recognition that they are not.

What about violence more generally? Some evolutionary psychologists and economists explain assault, rape, and murder as rational actions, benefitting the perpetrator or the perpetrator’s genes. No doubt some violence—and a reputation for being willing and able to engage in violence—can serve a useful purpose, particularly in more brutal environments. On the other hand, much violent behavior can be seen as evidence of a loss of control. It’s Criminology 101 that many crimes are committed under the influence of drugs and alcohol, and that people who assault, rape, and murder show less impulse control in other aspects of their lives as well. In the heat of passion, the moral enormity of the violent action loses its purchase.
But “Virtuous Violence: Hurting and Killing to Create, Sustain, End, and Honor Social Relationships” (Cambridge), by the anthropologist Alan Fiske and the psychologist Tage Rai, argues that these standard accounts often have it backward. In many instances, violence is neither a cold-blooded solution to a problem nor a failure of inhibition; most of all, it doesn’t entail a blindness to moral considerations. On the contrary, morality is often a motivating force:
“People are impelled to violence when they feel that to regulate certain social relationships, imposing suffering or death is necessary, natural, legitimate, desirable, condoned, admired, and ethically gratifying.” Obvious examples include suicide bombings, honor killings, and the torture of prisoners during war, but Fiske and Rai extend the list to gang fights and violence toward intimate partners. For Fiske and Rai, actions like these often reflect the desire to do the right thing, to exact just vengeance, or to teach someone a lesson. There’s a profound continuity between such acts and the punishments that—in the name of requital, deterrence, or discipline—the criminal-justice system lawfully imposes. Moral violence, whether reflected in legal sanctions, the killing of enemy soldiers in war, or punishing someone for an ethical transgression, is motivated by the recognition that its victim is a moral agent, someone fully human.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

While watching a show

 I was watching my television show called “a place to call home”  a son was being visited in the hospital by his father he was being treated for homosexuality and his next treatment was to be a lobotomy. I was dumbfounded by the idea that a lobotomy could be a treatment for homosexuality.
 In the United States open till 1971  and much more will being used as treatment to cure homosexuality.
 A quote from an article that I’m going to list below : men and women were rendered mentally disabled through the torture of castration, lobotomies, forced chemical treatments and experimental treatments. The horrors experienced by hundreds are almost too hard to comprehend in America.
Now the article 

Homosexual Dachau? This name doesn't have anything to do with World War II. More than any other mental institution in the United States, Atascadero State Hospital (photograph) was a chamber of horrors for homosexuals. The tag "Homosexual Dachau" was well-earned for its forced lobotomies, castrations and brutal treatments practiced at that facility. Hundreds of gays and lesbians were forcibly sent by their families to be cured of homosexuality which, as recently as the early 1970s, was considered a sexual and psychological disorder.
The 1950's were an especially dark time for homosexuals. Because of the witch hunts by Senator Joseph McCarthy, Americans started passing horrible and oppressive laws against homosexuality. Same-sex behavior was linked to treason and Communism in that period. Ironically, Senator McCarthy had many homosexual aides at the time led by lawyer Roy Cohen. As the witch hunt spread across America, homosexuals with no politics were sent to the worst institutions imaginable.
Even up until 1971, simply being a homosexual could result in a life sentence. Twenty states had laws stating that the mere fact you were a homosexual was reason for imprisonment. In California (of all places) and Pennsylvania, we could be put away for life in a mental hospital. In seven states castration was permitted as a way to stop homosexual 'deviants.'
At Atascadero State Hospital, doctors (I use that term loosely) were permitted under an obscure California law to commit those who practiced sodomy into the hospital. Once admitted, normal men and women were rendered mentally disabled through the torture of castration, lobotomies, forced chemical treatments and experimental treatments. The horrors experienced by hundreds are almost too hard to comprehend in America.
The most notorious was a Dr. Walter J. Freeman who perfected the ice pick lobotomy. He jammed an ice pick through a homosexual's eyes into the brain and performed a primitive lobotomy. According to records, he treated over 4,000 patients this way around America and it is estimated that nearly 30% to 40% were homosexuals. He believed deeply this was the only way to cure homosexuality.
A caller into an NPR Radio talk show about lobotomies recalled a cousin who was a homosexual. She said,
PAT (Caller): Yes, I'm Pat from Naples, Florida. I just wanted to tell you about a cousin of mine who, in her late 30s or early 40s, was forced into a lobotomy by an uncle of hers who had some control over her finances. And she was forced into a lobotomy because they said she was a homosexual. And she lived after that in somewhat sheltered situations, like a boarding house, but she never could hold a job and she certainly is not as lucid as your guest. She was eccentric. She had no emotion, only showed emotion as she learned it. But it was only because she was a homosexual that they gave her a lobotomy. ........ And she herself told me how and why she had had the lobotomy. And at that point in her life, she was in her 70s and she said, `Oh, well, that was the right thing to do because they told me I was homosexual.' "
The difficulty in documenting so much of this history is that most of the records, history and data have been destroyed. Families were often adamant about not leaving any trace of the overwhelming shame of having a homosexual in the family and they often erased the gay relative's presence on earth. Many individuals who were terrorized died in the institutions or were made mentally disabled with an inability to recall. Or unable because of their torture to share their journal.
The work we do today for our freedom must honor them. They never got a chance. We have a chance. Let's not lose it

Monday, October 9, 2017

Interesting Brain Difference

Men's and women's brains react differently when helping others, study says
12:12 PM EDT October 9, 2017

CNN reports-

There is pleasure in both giving and receiving. Does gender influence which of these pleasures we prefer?

In women, part of the brain showed a greater response when sharing money, while in men, the same structure showed more activity whenthey kept the cash for themselves, a small study published Monday in Nature Human Behavior found.

Searching  the brain for answers

Women tend to be more altruistic than men, previous studies have shown.
As Philippe Tobler, co-author of the new study, sees it, "women put more subjective value on prosocial behavior and men find selfish behavior more valuable."

"However, it was unknown how this difference comes about at the level of the brain," Tobler, an associate professor of  and social neuroscience at University of Zurich, wrote in an email. "But in both genders, the dopamine system encodes value."

By "encode," he means the activity in our brain changes in proportion to the value we give social experiences.
Searching for answers for why women and men are not equally selfish, he and his colleagues focused on the dopamine system.

Dopamine, which plays a fundamental role in the brain's reward system, is released during moments of pleasure, yet it also helps us process our values. This mental ability transpires within the brain machinery known as the striatum. Latin for "striped," the striatum is threaded with fibers that receive and transmit signals from the cerebral cortex, the thalamus and other brain regions.

Tobler and his colleagues designed a series of experiments to test how dopamine might influence the behavior of men and women. Fifty-six male and female participants made choices between sharing a financial reward with others or keeping the money for themselves.

Given only a placebo before making decisions, women acted less selfishly than men, choosing to share their money with others. However, when their dopamine systems were disrupted after they received a drug called amisulpride, women acted more selfishly, while men became more generous. Amisulpride is an antipsychotic normally used to treat the symptoms of schizophrenia.

"Based on the opposing priorities of the genders, interfering with the dopamine system has opposing effects," Tobler said.

In a second experiment, the researchers used functional MRI to investigate changes in the brain while eight female and nine male participants made choices. Compared with the males, the striatum in females showed more activity when they made a prosocial decision.

According to Anne Z. Murphy, an associate professor of neuroscience at Georgia State University, other research has shown "that females are more prosocial. We find it more rewarding, and if you manipulate dopamine signaling in the brain, you can make females less prosocial and males less selfish." Murphy was not involved in the study.

Still, she said, the study brings "greater awareness to the fact that there are brain differences in male and females."

"It just shows, once again, that people can point to a biological basis for some of the characteristics that are prototypically male," Murphy said. These traits would include selfishness, self-promotion, generally, a hard-driving profile.

"Now, you can point to another biological basis for it," she added, "And rather than using this knowledge to divide us, maybe we can use this to help make society a better place."

For instance, she said, when women act in more altruistic ways, they shouldn't be regarded as less deserving than male colleagues who are more self-promoting.

Gender differences in the brain may not be due to structural differences — for example, variations in region size or shape based on sex, noted the researchers. Gender differences in the brain could be functional. This would mean a flood of the very same neurotransmitter — dopamine — might cause a very different response in women than in men.

"It may be worth pointing out that the differences are likely to be learned," Tobler said.
Though male and female tendencies may be learned, Murphy said, these behaviors are not acquired in a single lifetime.

‘Shaped by history'

Instead, these preferences develop over time based on the differing roles of females and males: "reproduction versus resource-gathering," Murphy said.

"You see similar behavior in rodents," she said, noting that female rats act in more altruistic ways than males. "It's evolutionarily conserved. It's shaped by history."

The study has implications for drug research, Tobler noted.
"Historically, medical drugs were often tested primarily on men and sometimes drugs have been found to be more effective in men than women," he wrote.
Murphy explained that "preclinical studies have shown that females require approximately twice the amount of morphine than males to produce the same level of analgesia."
All opiates that are metabolized in one specific way produce what is known as a "sexually dimorphic response," she added.
"People are starting to look at whether cannabinoids are sexually dimorphic. It's been suggested that cannabinoids are more effective in females than in males," she said, with a lot of preclinical data showing this is the case.
© 2017 Cable News Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

 I wanted to document a solar eclipse August 21, 2017 the first time an eclipse pattern will cross the North American continent in 90 years.

From the NASA web site a

Eclipse: Who? What? Where? When? and How?

Total Solar Eclipse

On Monday, August 21, 2017, all of North America will be treated to an eclipse of the sun. Anyone within the path of totality can see one of nature’s most awe-inspiring sights - a total solar eclipse. This path, where the moon will completely cover the sun and the sun's tenuous atmosphere - the corona - can be seen, will stretch from Lincoln Beach, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina. Observers outside this path will still see a partial solar eclipse where the moon covers part of the sun's disk.

Who Can See It?

Lots of people! Everyone in the contiguous United States, in fact, everyone in North America plus parts of South America, Africa, and Europe will see at least a partial solar eclipse, while the thin path of totality will pass through portions of 14 states.  

What is It?

This celestial event is a solar eclipse in which the moon passes between the sun and Earth and blocks all or part of the sun for up to about three hours, from beginning to end, as viewed from a given location.  For this eclipse, the longest period when the moon completely blocks the sun from any given location along the path will be about two minutes and 40 seconds.  The last time the contiguous U.S. saw a total eclipse was in 1979.

Where Can You See It?

You can see a partial eclipse, where the moon covers only a part of the sun, anywhere in North America (see “Who can see it?”). To see a total eclipse, where the moon fully covers the sun for a short few minutes, you must be in the path of totality. The path of totality is a relatively thin ribbon, around 70 miles wide, that will cross the U.S. from West to East.  The first point of contact will be at Lincoln Beach, Oregon at 9:05 a.m. PDT. Totality begins there at 10:16 a.m. PDT.  Over the next hour and a half, it will cross through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and North and South Carolina.  The total eclipse will end near Charleston, South Carolina at 2:48 p.m. EDT.  From there the lunar shadow leaves the United States at 4:09 EDT.  Its longest duration will be near Carbondale, Illinois, where the sun will be completely covered for two minutes and 40 seconds.

When Can You See It?

Times for partial and total phases of the eclipse vary depending on your location. This interactive eclipse map(link is external) will show you times for the partial and total eclipse anywhere in the world.

How Can You See It?

You never want to look directly at the sun without appropriate protection except during totality.  That could severely hurt your eyes.  However, there are many ways to safely view an eclipse of the sun including direct viewing – which requires some type of filtering device and indirect viewing where you project an image of the sun onto a screen. Both methods should produce clear images of the partial phase of an eclipse.  Click here for eclipse viewing techniques and safety. -   Picture taken by Eric Crouse