“Dr. Mark Goulston: Life Lessons from a People Hacker”

A really good podcast and interview, though it may seem to start off a little odd. His first story/examples provided might seem off-putting to some initially, but stick with it. His following stories and examples add a great deal of clarity to his position while veering off into other areas where Dr. Mark’s personal and professional experiences unfold a rich and interesting perspective.

I’ve now added three of his books to my wishlist.

As for his talk on “terrorism”…what can I say? His is a perspective impacted by the military and government through his past employment ventures. I can understand that. It’s true that terroristically-inclined persons will continue to exist. Though I don’t believe the major global powers could focus enough military and police attention onto citizens or foreigners in order to completely stamp out all “terrorist” acts. Not possible. Though the man’s right that acquiring and enlarging our empathy so as to better relate with one another can do wonders. Feeling misunderstood is a terrible plight, particularly while living in what can feel like such alienating times. I get it.

Just that I also understand that stamping out all forms of malicious violence would require either eradicating or completely overhauling all human beings, and those aren’t the outcomes I’m open to. Some folks see social and/or biological engineering projects as hopeful and promising, but I cannot be counted among them. And policing by itself can only go so far and do so much. Preemptive precautionary measures walk a very fine line against invading individual privacy and trespassing against the rights bestowed upon us by the Constitution as American citizens. To effectively throw out those rights by trampling upon them will most certainly open up a pandora’s box of its own.

Yes, humans are all potentially dangerous. Sanity isn’t static or even easily definable. I’m under the assumption that we’re all crazy to one degree or another, and outside appearances, impressive resumes, and whatever else can’t always alert us to who’s who. We all wear masks, at least while out in public. Some masks appear more stoic than others. Some people have mastered the art of outwardly appearing gentle, kind, fun-loving, helpful, sweet — doesn’t mean that’s necessarily who they really are behind closed doors. Male or female, doesn’t matter. Humans are a tricky lot.

But nearly all of us do crave and need bonds and connections and love. We are a social species, no getting around that. And this is why we also can’t help but be a manipulative species as well. No judgment intended either way in stating that, just noting the obvious.

Re-watching tonight: “Deep Water”

Watched that one before a couple years ago or more. Emotional film when you really sit with it and ponder and pay attention.

It’s about a man in a race around the world by boat who gives up in the end, realizing he has to lie to distort his navigation trail, troubled by a long period at sea in isolation.

Watch and see how it affects you.

“The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” (powerful and important documentary)

Wow. Very powerful film. An absolute must-see for everybody, most especially my age group on down. I’ve been aware of Aaron Swartz for quite a while now and knew how his life tragically ended, and this is an amazing documentary to bring people up to speed on who he was and what he was up against.

People like to talk about feeling disposable. Well, welcome to it. These are the times we live in and it all runs very deep. Nobody is safe from what’s been legally instituted at this point. Nobody. And Aaron’s case was particularly harsh and unfair and just a damned shame all the way around.

Please do view this video. Especially all of you who claim to be supporters of “gamergate” since this is far more important and impacts you as well.

Problems with psychiatry discussed by Dr. Peter Breggin

An internet peep passed along the following videos of Dr. Peter R. Breggin.

“Beyond Belief – Behind the Scenes w/ Peter Breggin”:

“Dr. Peter Breggin, MD, Brief Intro to Empathic Therapy (2013)”:

“Dr. Peter Breggin’s Keynote address at the 31st Conference of the South Carolina Society of Adlerian Psychology, Oct 2013”:

And following are some videos by him I’ve watched previously.

“Peter Breggin, MD: Do You Have a Biochemical Imbalance? Simple Truths About Psychiatry”:

“How to Help the Suicidally Depressed Person–Dr. Peter Breggin’s 5th ‘SimpleTruths About Psychiatry'”:

That last one was a very good video that deserves to be watched by anybody and everybody. Glad to have found it.

In the next video Dr. Breggin talks about “how to help deeply disturbed persons”:

He went into much more detail about his experience volunteering at the state mental hospital in the book I’m currently reading titled Toxic Psychiatry, which I’m thoroughly appreciating. In that video he also mentions a non-psychiatry-related book by Martin Buber titled I and Thou, which I’ve also read and appreciated (recommended by prof. Anton).

There are also two other titles I’d care to mention here that complement the notions expressed by Dr. Breggin, and they are: The Manufacture of Madness by Dr. Thomas Szasz and The Denial of Death by Ernest Becker. And for those interested in delving deeper into the psychospiritual rabbit hole, the writings and talks by Joseph Campbell add an interesting historical dimension.

When Dr. Breggin talks about how he realized the psychiatric profession was headed one way and he was headed another in terms of him placing more emphasis on social connections and addressing our human life concerns, I totally get where he’s coming from and felt the same way about the field of sociology (albeit for different reasons). While I share his psychosocial approach and attitude from what I’ve learned of the man thus far, my own division with the field of Soc. had a lot to do with it becoming aligned with the field of Social Work which ties into the State and thereby winds up tying back into the field of psychiatry. And not enough people within the sociology field seem terribly concerned about that, even as they superficially draw distinctions between their field and that of psychology and its theories applied through psychiatry. Too much lip service without enough bite. Very often sociology is left out of the mainstream conversation altogether, largely because it’s only taken seriously where it conforms and/or where it draws attention to itself. But sociology is the study of human life because we are core, first and foremost, social beings. Everything we do and everything we are is determined by this fact of life — no getting around it. And yet these field’s devolved into obscure academic squabbling over matters that most people out in society don’t know or care about (like what’s also happened to academic philosophy by-and-large). And it’s viewed as a field belonging to the political Left when it’s totally above and beyond being tied down by that nonsense. The political Left is within the realm of sociological examination, not the other way around. But academe now gives a different impression.

So there again I went my own way. ha  A pattern can be detected. Because why not? It’s about time people start opening up these inquiries out in greater society and investigating them where we stand. We all care about social dynamics on some level and can’t help but do so since we’re damn sure all impacted whether we like it or not in countless ways. Neither “I” nor “we” can exist on its own. We define who we are in relation to others, and we all interact and have a hand in molding one another, consciously or otherwise. It’s elementary, and yet plenty insist on treating the word “sociology” like it’s a bad thing, like it serves no useful purpose and its content is totally unimportant. That’s so odd when one really stops and thinks about it. lol  And that’s another one of those issues I take with academia dominating as it does, despite it supplying us with an abundance of interesting social theories that really work the imagination and get the juices flowing for those who are curious. The best stuff is farther back in history before it became suffused with and largely directed by special interest stances. But that’s a topic in itself to be further unpacked another day.

“Depression is a disease of civilization: Stephen Ilardi at TEDxEmory”

I appreciate what this depression researcher is aiming to do here, and I especially like that he’s taking cues from past hunter-gatherer societies and aborigine Papau New Guineans. His recommendation for increasing Omega 3 fatty acids intake is one I’ve heard mentioned before and fully intend to look into going forward.

But, while I agree with the importance of exercise and completely appreciate his acknowledgment that exercise equipment seems so counter to honest productivity (as in humans used to exercise as part of their daily life operations — exercise wasn’t the goal in itself but rather was the means required to reach their ends, as was natural all throughout history for humans and every other species), I’m not sold on this idea of simply trying to turn exercise into more of a social endeavor so as to motivate us, because hasn’t that indeed already been tried? What are team sports then? Plenty of people do go on brisk walks with others or walk their dogs. I think right there we’re still going to come up against resistance because the activity in question isn’t actually contributing to the creation or perpetuation of something of greater significance (other than one’s own personal health, which apparently isn’t terribly motivating for many of us otherwise we wouldn’t be facing so much resistance in the first place). I do believe here we will continue to bog down because it’s missing the creative and/or operative component that serves something outside of or greater than merely oneself. Hence why these activities naturally were socially carried out—this was about the performance of tasks necessary for the well-being of themselves and others in their tribe/community. Whereas today exercise has become a largely selfish activity intended for the betterment of only oneself, mostly for aesthetic reasons, which to a depressed individual is very likely to seem futile.

That is such an important point that I think really goes to the heart of the matter in terms of the civilizations we now live within and how our labors are being divorced from the creation and upkeep of our habitats, food production and/or procurement (e.g., hunting, fishing, gathering, etc.), self-defense and defense of our communities (police now perform this role on citizens’ behalves), and basic daily tasks and chores required to keep life functioning. We now live in a situation where many sit at desks all day in order to earn money that they then spend to purchase what they need, with very little physical exertion required. The focus nowadays is on conveniences and cutting corners so that less and less physical effort need be required, so we’re just moving farther and farther away from integrating our physicality with achieving our own ends. And this is absolutely one of the biggest downsides to modern civilizations, no doubt, because this drive toward comforts and ease is actually robbing us of the productive use of our bodily energies.

It’s very sad to consider, but also I can’t help but laugh at how complicated humans have made things for themselves. It is truly bizarre how through “advancements” we’ve actually undermined a great deal that historically has provided meaning for our lives and cohesion for our social bonds. So, while humanity has achieved so much in terms of specialization and gaining abstract understandings of natural phenomena, look at what it’s cost us. Is that not a doozy of a paradox to contend with?

“Survival of the fittest. Adios. Unfit.” — excerpts from a very interesting article on the rise of suicide

In the land that commercialized positive thinking and put pill bottles in every drawer, depression has emerged as the most debilitating condition we face.

Came across a very interesting article this evening in Newsweek titled “The Suicide Epidemic” by Tony Dokoupil (May 22, 2013):

http://mag.newsweek.com/2013/05/22/why-suicide-has-become-and-epidemic-and-what-we-can-do-to-help.html

I read the following excerpts aloud in a video uploaded on YT:

Suicide — a very important, albeit under-appreciated, topic. I’m running out of steam and time this evening, so I’ll save all my thoughts for another day and post up excerpts from it instead.

Every year since 1999, more Americans have killed themselves than the year before, making suicide the nation’s greatest untamed cause of death. In much of the world, it’s among the only major threats to get significantly worse in this century than in the last.

The result is an accelerating paradox. Over the last five decades, millions of lives have been remade for the better. Yet within this brighter tomorrow, we suffer unprecedented despair. In a time defined by ever more social progress and astounding innovations, we have never been more burdened by sadness or more consumed by self-harm. And this may be only the beginning. If Joiner and others are right—and a landmark collection of studies suggests they are—we’ve reached the end of one order of human history and are at the beginning of a new order entirely, one beset by a whole lot of self-inflicted bloodshed, and a whole lot more to come.

Damn. That’s what I’ve been suspecting in my own little way also. Hence why I keep fretting about us driving one another crazy and stepping all up on each other’s necks so much, being rude and cruel and outright dismissive and inhumanely intolerant, especially online. And this ties into why I also freak out a bit over prescribed psychotropics intended to treat “mental disorders,” seeing as how they too can add “suicidal ideations,” as their small print states and as evidenced in news stories that tell of those medicated or getting off of these drugs doing harm to themselves and/or others.

This is also why I keep yammering on about us creating hell on earth. This hits at the core of that concern and aids me in pointing at where we appear to be headed and why.

This year, America is likely to reach a grim milestone: the 40,000th death by suicide, the highest annual total on record, and one reached years ahead of what would be expected by population growth alone. We blew past an even bigger milestone revealed in November, when a study lead by Ian Rockett, an epidemiologist at West Virginia University, showed that suicide had become the leading cause of “injury death” in America. As the CDC noted again this spring, suicide outpaces the rate of death on the road—and for that matter anywhere else people accidentally harm themselves.

If the CDC is to be believed, that data is shocking.

(Not sure why he chose to crack on Ralph Nader in the article though. Cheap shot and completely irrelevant.)

This development evades simple explanation. The shift in suicides began long before the recession, for example, and although the changes accelerated after 2007, when the unemployment rate began to rise, no more than a quarter of those new suicides have been tied to joblessness, according to researchers. Guns aren’t all to blame either, since the suicide rate has grown even as the portion of suicides by firearm has remained stable.

Throughout the developed world, for example, self-harm is now the leading cause of death for people 15 to 49, surpassing all cancers and heart disease. That’s a dizzying change, a milestone that shows just how effective we are at fighting disease, and just how haunted we remain at the same time. Around the world, in 2010 self-harm took more lives than war, murder, and natural disasters combined, stealing more than 36 million years of healthy life across all ages. In more advanced countries, only three diseases on the planet do more harm.

[…]

Last fall the World Health Organization estimated that “global rates” of suicide are up 60 percent since World War II. And none of this includes the pestilence of suicidal behavior, the thoughts and plans that slowly eat away at people, the corrosive social cost of 25 attempts for every one official death.

[…]

That’s scary in a world of constant (and welcome) improvement, but there’s an even bigger reason to fear the burden of suicide in the new millennium: it’s a charge being led by people in middle age. In America in the last decade, the suicide rate has declined among teens and people in their early 20s, and it’s also down or stable for the elderly.

The suicide rate for Americans 45 to 64 has jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade, according to the new CDC report, and it’s possible to slice the data even more finely than they did. Among white, middle-aged men, the rate has jumped by more than 50 percent, according to a Newsweek analysis of the public data. […] In wealthy countries, suicide is the leading cause of death for men in their 40s, a top-five killer of men in their 50s, and the burden of suicide has increased by double digits in both groups since 1990.

The situation is even more dramatic for white, middle-aged women, who experienced a 60 percent rise in suicide in that same period, a shift accompanied by a comparable increase in emergency-room visits for drug-related (usually prescription-drug-related) attempts to die. […] And the picture is equally grim for women in high-income countries, where self-harm trails only breast cancer as a killer of women in their early 40s—and has become the leading killer of women in their 30s.

[…]

She sifted through eight decades of U.S. suicide data, wrenching it to separate the influence of absolute age, peer effects, and the events of the moment, and she found something shocking: the boomers have the highest suicide rate right now, but everyone born after 1945 shows a higher suicide risk than expected—and everyone is on pace for a higher rate than the boomers.

That means that the last decade isn’t just a statistical blip, a function of a bad recession, unlocked gun cases, or an aging counterculture. It’s much darker, and deeper than all that. This is the “new epidemiology of suicide,” as Phillips puts it, one where the tectonic changes of the last decade—socially, culturally, economically—have created a heavy burden of suicide, growing heavier by the year. “The baby-boomer generation,” Phillips writes in her new paper on boomers, “may be the tip of the iceberg.”

[…]

With people relinquishing life at its supposed peak, what does that say about the prize itself? What’s gone so rotten in the modern world?

[…]

People tell surveyors that the world has become less helpful, trustworthy, and fair. It’s a place where you work longer at more deadening jobs for less pay, your life pulsing away with each new email, or worse, each additional hour on your feet. What’s deadly about all this is the loss of what Joiner calls “reciprocal care.” When people have no shoulder to lean on, they feel more isolated, and that isolation can be lethal.

[…]

The life-saving power of belonging may help explain why, in America, blacks and Hispanics have long had much lower suicide rates than white people.

[…]

When people see themselves as effective—as providers for their families, resources for their friends, contributors to the world—they maintain the will to live. When they lose that view of themselves, when it curdles into a feeling of liability, the desire to die takes root. We need each other, but if we feel we are failing those we need, the choice is clear. We’d rather be dead.

[…]

Has there ever been a society that does more than our own to make people feel like ineffective animals? Whole neighborhoods are caught in federal catch nets, incarcerated or snared in a cycle of government benefits. Millions more are poor or near poor, most likely stuck that way. And never have Americans been heavier, or sicker. One in five people in middle age suffers multiple chronic diseases, double the rate of a decade earlier. If Joiner is right, all these developments are as hard on the mind as on the body. As one of the suicide notes Joiner quotes puts it: “Survival of the fittest. Adios. Unfit.”

Very sad last message, that was. But I get it all the same.

I’ll stop there. The article is pretty long and these excerpts don’t do it justice, so please check it out for yourselves.

The Sad Fate of Aaron Swartz

It’s a case that’s bothered me a quite a bit. As many already know, Aaron Swartz took his own life earlier this month at age 26 due to feeling there was no way out of his legal conundrum after state prosecutors rejected all pleas and let it be understood that they would settle for nothing short of Aaron pleading guilty to 15 charges and that it was within their power to push for the maximum sentence, which could have resulted in 30 or more years in prison. Aaron’s crime was downloading millions of articles and documents from JSTOR academic database with the intent to freely distribute this information to the public. In my firm opinion, he was in the right and fighting for a good cause.

JSTOR (along with EBSCO and other scholarly journal databases) are accessible to students and university faculty, but once outside of academe the cost for access is steep, which thereby cuts most of the public off from what is being argued in academia. The problem with this is these academics do actively influence public policy, yet average citizens are effectively cut out of the debates taking place within ivory towers. Arguments that affect our lives and impact our political system are removed from our view unless we are willing to pay handsomely for access. It seems Aaron recognized this for the injustice that it is and aimed to free up the information for the masses, and he was handled severely by the Law as a result.

“Prosecutors defend charges against Reditt co-founder Aaron Swartz,” on RTAmerica:

“WikiLeaks confirms relationship with Aaron Swartz,” on RTAmerica:

 

What really makes my hair bristle is the FBI’s National Security Higher Education Advisory Board, which Susan Hockfield, President of MIT, resided as a member on since 2005. Information provided on that FBI link:

The board, which will consist of the presidents and chancellors of several prominent U.S. universities, is designed to foster outreach and to promote understanding between higher education and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The board will provide advice on the culture of higher education, including the traditions of openness, academic freedom, and international collaboration. The board will seek to establish lines of communication on national priorities pertaining to terrorism, counterintelligence, and homeland security. They will also assist in the development of research, degree programs, course work, internships, opportunities for graduates, and consulting opportunities for faculty relating to national security.

Graham Spanier, president of Pennsylvania State University, will chair the board.

 

Anyone else see anything odd in that? Graham Spanier, (now former) president of Penn State University — that’s the same Spanier involved in the cover-up of sex scandals involving assistant coach Sandusky molesting boys in The Second Mile program. The same man who turned his back on protecting innocent boys subjected to harm from trusted authority figures chaired a board responsible for throwing the book at Aaron Swartz for downloading academic journal articles with the intent to freely distribute?? Anyone can see that that doesn’t add up, not unless your prerogative is to promote the power of the State while protecting your own status. These crimes were treated according to how they might impact their respective institutions and concerned faculty — one swept under the rug for fear of negative publicity, the other deemed worthy of punishing to the full extent of the law because it might have lost universities a few bucks and freely enriched the public in turn.

The ill will in this is threefold and in my eyes a sure sign of sociopathic self-concern on the part of Spanier and others like him at the expense of anyone and everyone else.