Stop Assuming They Think Like Adults

A recent fight within the UK and between that nation and Turkey – a country that seeks admittance to the EU, even though only the small portion of it actually belongs in Europe; the majority is in Asia – has to do with teenage girls from Muslim families. Three of them left the UK the other day. The eldest had stolen her older sister’s passport. The UK does not keep track of who leaves the country. Although the rules state that minors may leave only when accompanied by a parent, the girls (one aged 16, the other two 15) were able to fly to Turkey all by themselves.

Why were they going? To cross Turkey into Syria, there to become the latest in a series of adolescent girls scammed and persuaded to become “jihadi brides”.

It appears now that they have entered Syria, despite their parents’ pleas and the Foreign Service tracking. Turkey, blamed for facilitating both female and male Isis devotees’ border crossing, has in turn become rather stroppy itself, complaining that the UK lost three days in informing Turkish officials of the girls’ intention.

Even the girls’ school has had to defend itself from finger-pointing, noting that it does not permit extremist doctrines and strives to teach its students to accept others. The three girls, it says, were not radicalized on its grounds.

That’s probably true. There are too many places online to read radical Islamist philosophy – who needs a brick-and-mortar school?

The parents, rather than accepting responsibility for teaching their daughters that what Muslim men want is more important than the desires of Muslim women, wants the UK to keep track of exits as well as entries. Not a bad idea.

The girls’ aim is to marry terrorists and murderers. Not the actions of sane, healthy women. And even Isis points out that jihadi brides must prepare to be jihadi widows – which means they will in turn be traded off, potentially sold into sexual enslavement, and almost certainly will die (of beatings, suicide, complications of pregnancy and childbirth) in Syria, probably within five years. The parents will never see their daughters again.

There may be good reasons for keeping them from the UK, as escapees from Isis have been indoctrinated in terrorism. Even when their primary role has been support and childbearing, creating more children to be molded into mini-terrorists.

But now comes the argument in The Guardian that the UK should let its adolescents leave because, well, look, they’ve made their decisions. Let them lie in it. Don’t stop them, even if they’re under 18 years old and legally minors to be protected. We’re better off without them. They want to support brutal and murderous regimes? Fine. They’re old enough to know better.

Except they’re not.

What that Guardian writer fails to understand is that although adolescents may look mature, inside they’re still growing. They certainly aren’t mature when it comes to childbearing, which is hugely more risky for teenagers than for women over 20. Even sex is risky, since their bodies have not finished developing. An immature vagina should not be entered by anyone’s engorged penis, including that of a jihadi “husband”.

And we have evidence that inside these girls’ brains, there is a whole lot of re-assembly going on. Dr. Jay Giedd of the US National Institutes of Health, among others, is engaged in longitudinal research on brain development. What he has found through fMRI examination of healthy people is that teenagers’ brains are entirely different from those of adults. The area really should be cordoned off with “Caution: Undergoing Construction” tape. Teens literally cannot think the way grown-ups do, and it’s wrong to blame them when they don’t.

As Giedd has said, “It’s sort of unfair to expect them to have adult levels of organizational skills or decision-making before their brains are finished being built.” Meaning, just because a brain has acquired adult size in terms of its weight does not mean it’s ready for full and complete use. That’s like saying a house that’s just been put under roof — meaning the slates or shingles are attached – is ready to be moved into. Wait a minute. What about walls? Plumbing? Electrical wiring, floor finishes, paint, all the other things we expect of a house? Not there! Well, it’s not freakin’ done, then, is it. Back to work!

No one in their right mind leaves to support Isis. We don’t see long lines of mature women ready to give up their freedom and families, do we? These girls are just the latest in a series from different Western countries who have been groomed and seduced online, who wish to exchange a fairly restrictive family existence for an entirely restrictive and ultimately painful and fatal one, while imagining they are more holy for doing what terrorists bid them do.

Prime Minister David Cameron has urged that more attention be paid to online radicalization by people promoting the “poisonous ideology” of terrorism, and Europol is enhancing cooperation among agencies to connect the dots between extremist recruiters and those who finance their activities.

Families need to make their children’s passports unobtainable. In a deposit box or held by a non-Muslim friend or colleague. In addition, they must have serious chats with their children in order to teach them of the risks of extremism. Also, the UK ought to be keeping track of the people who leave its shores, especially where they look young.

Because kids and adolescents do not, cannot, think like adults.

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You Don’t Know Jack About Isis

Their flag flying over . . . where?

Whatever it’s called – Isis, Isil, Islamic State – the men running this campaign of brutality are, according to them, reestablishing a caliphate that went out of business hundreds of years ago. They allege they follow the rules of Islam. Thus any apostates they capture deserve only the worst: beheading, burning alive, torture, sale as sexual slaves, forced “marriages” and resale to the highest bidder – sexual torture, in other words.

We’ve seen the reports. Hopefully have not watched the videos, since the mind cannot blank those images.

Just in case you’ve actually believed the spin, remember that every single week we find out more about the atrocities these men commit.

And how some non-Muslim people in the West are aiding them with money.

The Isis men started out making money through ransom paid for captives. They moved on to oil – smuggled and sold. And drugs. A great deal of heroin from Afghanistan is funneled through Isis coffers. Every heroin addict is financing brutality against innocent people.

Now it’s selling on the loot they retrieve from the Christian and Muslim buildings they tear down. The teardowns are carefully orchestrated. A man who knows antiquities and their value first organizes the removal of valuable artifacts. Only then is the building demolished. The treasures are sorted, catalogued, and offered for sale through intermediaries. Often, their buyers are wealthy collectors in Europe and the Americas. People who persuade themselves they’re saving irreplaceable artifacts are in fact helping Isis torture progress through the Middle East and now in North Africa. In Libya, they close in on Europe with plans to invade across the Mediterranean.

Crete is only 200 sea miles away. If Isis were to reach the northernmost part of Tunisia, Sicily is a hop of less than 100 miles.

The European buyers of looted artifacts are essentially financing threats to other Europeans.

The sale of antiquities is “clean”. A distinct contrast to the blood and pain that accompanies another new method of getting money: harvesting organs from captured, living people.

According to the Express, “Some 10,000 black market operations involving human organs take place each year across the globe – more than one an hour. Desperate patients will pay gangs more than $200,000 (nearly £128,000) for a kidney, WHO concluded.” This is especially true in nations like China where organ donation is uncommon.

The victims are not donors. They do not give consent. They are simply drugged, pushed into surgery, and slashed. Some do not survive. They are not meant to survive.

Unlike the novel and film Never Let Me Go – where children are brought up in a dystopian future as intended shells for their genetically matched organs, taken one by one – Isis demands money now. Now, now, now. Doctors who refuse to commit these crimes are themselves murdered.

This is brutality with no religious stamp.

Captured Isis fighters have indicated they were drugged with cocaine and hallucinogenics in order to fling themselves into battle without a care. That may be true.

What is also true is that after battle, the men of Isis stoke themselves up to brutalize women and children. This is the fate worse than death, being abused by a “husband” or captor high on liquor and Viagra. Who sees a frightened girl (as young as eight years old, according to escaped women) as someone to attack over and over. The brutality of their assaults has been viewed by doctors. Wounds, torn tissues, fistulas (which can be repaired only through surgery – denied under Isis, of course), unbearable pain.

This is Islamic behavior? No.

When an Isis man tires of his “bride”, he simply sells her on to another man. While girls and women cower, fearing the next man will be even more brutal. Suicides among captured girls and women are common. In killing themselves, they avoid beatings, torture, rape and sexual trafficking. The selling of sexual slaves is not just among Isis men, but also to local businessmen.

The girls who left European families to join jihad, like these, find they are not given the glorified role they assumed. They are quickly forced to marry, often become pregnant (with all the attendant risks for teenagers), and are cast aside. Even their Facebook accounts are hijacked. They disappear and may by now be dead. Or the punching bag for another man.

Meanwhile, very few escape Isis. Those who are caught are murdered. The traumatized few who make it to safety bear witness. We know very little about the brutal men who drive stolen trucks through Muslim-majority countries. That they resemble Nazis and the SS is patently true. Nazis with mobile phones and internet.

Imagine Hermann Goering or Reinhard Heydrich with modern technology. Gestapo men would have gotten their orders as they ran. The Holocaust machinery would have been assembled much more quickly. Millions would have died in a shorter time. Meanwhile, they would have been financed through sales of resources, smuggled drugs, snatched organs, stolen artifacts. (The Nazis did get money through many of those means, but in a slower time.)

In Isis, that’s what confronts the world.

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Stockholm Syndrome At Home

Read the hand.

The term “Stockholm syndrome” – meaning an emotional attachment to a captor, formed by a hostage as a result of continuous stress, dependence, and a need to cooperate in order to guarantee the hostage’s survival – was coined in 1978. This followed five years of psychologists arguing what could possibly be the reason for such an attachment. In 1973, in the course of a violent robbery of a bank in Stockholm, Sweden, four bank employees were held hostage in a bank vault for nearly a week. They had no idea whether they would survive. During that time, the four hostages developed unforeseen emotional attachments to their kidnapper – whom they had not known prior to the robbery – and a concomitant fear of rescuers. Because such attachments seemed inexplicable, experts as well as the public discussed what could bring about what seemed a reversal of expectations.

There is an interesting connection between Stockholm syndrome and the attachment of people to abusive spouses. Let’s take a look at the language.

“An emotional attachment to a captor . . ..” Current newspapers are filled each week with stories of spouses – usually wives – who escape a marriage based on abuse and humiliation. Sometimes torture. Likewise, the murder-suicides instigated increasingly by husbands. These are the end-point of a struggling marriage, often where the wife has indicated plans to leave or has sometimes only mentioned that she is considering it. In these marriages, there is a controlling captor – to whom other family members, even adults, have an emotional attachment.

“… formed by a hostage . . ..” It could be argued that where people come and go, there is no hostage-taking. On the other hand, do those people feel free to leave at their own convenience? Must they account for their movements? Are they allowed access to money, passports, resources? If they return late, are they fearful of consequences? Are they afraid that other people – perhaps children – might be punished for failure to conform to the captor’s demands?

“… as a result of continuous stress, dependence, and a need to cooperate . . ..” It’s easy to count the stress in the life of someone whose spouse or family member is abusive. Stress is constant. It’s like living in a concentration camp where the rules can change in an instant at the whim of those who hold power. Such hostages have to calculate every move, and their attention to detail engenders stress. Dependence is often enforced on them. With little power, little money, often isolated from friends and family members who might support their leaving, those who are in thrall to their captors lead lives of quiet desperation and fear. The need to cooperate is paramount. Rebellion is cruelly quashed, after which the captor takes revenge. Against the adults, against children, sometimes against animals. The message is clear: this is what happens when you disobey.

“… in order to guarantee the hostage’s survival.” Life or death. That is what hostages feel is on the line. It’s unimportant, really, what their captors say (“I was kidding!” “It’s a game we play!” “She’s crazy!”), because the bottom line is whatever the person threatened perceives it is. In the past, police officers took the word of the captors. These days, they’re learning. Captors will lie, and lie bigtime. What matters is the story of those being held. Unfortunately, their survival is too often not guaranteed.

The New York Times recently ran a piece that examined how multiple killers, mass murderers, often “practice” on their wives and girlfriends. Domestic violence, intimate partner violence, should thus be seen as the tip of a warped and fatal iceberg. If we stop terrorism at home, we are more likely to prevent even greater tragedies.

Activists have been trying for years to get police and municipalities to understand that they should drop the requirement of a complaint from the injured party. If it’s a Rolex watch taken, an iPad stolen, the police need no special input from the aggrieved party. Robbery is robbery, and the sooner it’s stopped the better. If a domestic hostage is so immersed in Stockholm syndrome that she fears pressing charges, then police must go ahead anyway. They’ve got demonstrable injuries, often with witnesses from within the household. Usually, there are neighborhood witnesses as well, people who can testify as to noise, yelling, the sounds of battle.

We have to punish the perpetrators of violence wherever it is. Not only does it hurt people, affect children’s development and often lead to death, it can also be a dry-run for the massacre of strangers.

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The Constant Struggle to Counter Crazies

 

It’s a little-discussed truth that “mentally ill” does not apply solely to people who have been so diagnosed. Instead, and especially given the dearth of American mental health facilities and aid, plus the stigma that – when will we grow up? – attaches to those who seek help for themselves or their loved ones, we call someone mentally “ill” only when there is a prior diagnosis.

 

Let’s change that. Let’s instead use the expedient, all-purpose, “Who in their right mind would ….?” evaluation, which has the virtue of being accessible at any time. As opposed to experienced and insightful mental health professionals, who are (there’s that American health market again) thin on the ground.

 

However, just as juries once utilized a “reasonable man” standard and now take into account a benchmark labeled “reasonable person”, we do need to specify that the “who” needs to be a healthy adult of at least average intelligence and with a good dollop of emotional understanding.

 

While there are certainly more than enough examples of men tormenting men (the so-called Islamic State comes to mind, though nearly all of their latest victims have been women and children attacked at random; boys watching soccer; and educated women simply because they had, well, more education than the killers themselves), the following exemplars of “who in their right mind would…?” come from the copious files of non-Islamic men tormenting women and girls. It’s important that we recognize these as illustrations of the failure to do good thinking, not using one’s brain, and in fact, trusting a mind that is dangerously askew:

 

In the UK, one-third of female university students report having been subjected to sexual assaults or harassment. Who in their right mind does that to a fellow student?

 

Although his sentence is under review, a 44-year-old high school teacher has walked free after a judge decided he was sexually “groomed” by his 16-year-old victim. No one in their right mind would determine that a teenager possesses more power than an adult man intelligent enough to teach.

 

One woman decided to fight back after she was groped on public transport. Who in their right mind thinks it’s okay to touch a stranger, to appropriate that person’s body for their own use?

 

In a hospital, a male police officer punched and kicked a woman at the bedside of her chronically ill child, an assault his colleagues deplored as “horrific” – they gave evidence for the prosecution – after which he was acquitted of actual bodily harm. We can only hope an appellate court will hold him responsible for the victim’s more than 40 injuries, but no one in their right mind, especially a police officer, would make such an attack.

 

Then there are the numerous instances of women and/or their children murdered by a man related to them and whom they trusted, like here and here and here. Those murders are horrifying, and committed by someone who was not in his right mind . . . obviously.

 

Just the tip of the iceberg, of course, but you get the picture. There are a lot of undiagnosed crazies out there with whom 75% of the population (children plus women) have to deal every single day. Just because these offenders have not been diagnosed as mentally ill does not mean they aren’t. Their behavior speaks for itself.

 

We need to speak out and challenge the thinking that assumes that until someone has been formally diagnosed as mentally ill, they are mentally healthy.

 

Because no one in their right mind would . . ..

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Who Knew Selfies Could Be So Treacherous?

The selfie phenomenon is no more. Selfies aren’t a phenomenon, they’re constant proofs that one is important, hip or fun or in an enviable place – the Oscars, for example. Where once you’d have to approach a stranger (“excuse me, would you mind taking a picture, just press this button”), now you can do it yourself, unless you’re with a group of more than three. If you own a selfie stick, aka the “wand of Narcissus” (recently banned in Premier League stadiums, the UK equivalent of NFL venues), you can extend your reach and incorporate even more into your visual memories and self-aggrandizement.

Oops. All about self, right? Yeah, thought so.

Now there’s proof, at least with men.

An Ohio State research study focused on 18- to 40-year-old men who enjoy taking and posting selfies. They found that these men posted high scores for impulsiveness, lack of empathy and – no surprise here — narcissism. Ew.

What was even more disturbing was the discovery that the subjects also displayed high levels of the antisocial personality trait of psychopathy.

Ewww.

In addition, these men tended toward self-objectification, meaning they valued appearance above all else. In themselves, and also in others. Self-objectification “can lead to discounting and ignoring other people based purely on the superficial”.

Anyone who’s ever been on the receiving end of another’s self-objectification can vouch for its pain.

It’s true that character traits lead to habits, but habits can also reinforce traits. The more focus on selfies, the greater the narcissism and psychopathy.

If you know a man who is all about his selfies, show him the linked article. If you are that man, stop taking selfies. They’re doing you more harm than you think. They’re aiding your entrance to a very dark place, indeed.

And if you’re in a relationship with such a man, please leave. You deserve better, and it is better to be alone than to be linked to a risky companion. Lack of empathy, narcissism, impulsiveness, valuing appearance above everything, psychopathy . . . that’s a cluster of traits that leads to inevitable “If only I’d known!”.

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Breastfeeding Prevents Breast Cancer

Breastfeeding is the original calmer, too. Oxytocin, babes.

A few weeks ago, I encountered a university student raising money by staffing a bake sale in support of breast cancer research. I bought two chocolate chip cookies, perused the brochures displayed on the table and noted, “There aren’t any on breastfeeding.”

“Well, no, because this is about breast cancer. And research for a cure.”

“I understand. But maybe you didn’t know that breastfeeding prevents breast cancer? Up to one-fifth of malignancies.”

What?

After I explained, she dragged her friends over to listen to my impassioned – albeit short — speech. Not one of these intelligent, competitive students had even heard of the research showing that feeding one’s baby from the breast benefits the mother, too. Not from their maternal relatives, nor their physicians, nor their professors, nor . . ..

So do girls and young women a favor. Let them know. Spread the message below. Forward this post – every message below links to a different article or study on how, when they are mature and ready to take on the task of raising a child, breastfeeding improves the health of the mother.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

Breastfeeding prevents cancer.

BREASTFEEDING PREVENTS CANCER.

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When Is A Shirt Not A Cigar?

When is a shirt more than a fashion statement?

Sigmund Freud – that lovable psychoanalyst who denied that his female patients’ close relatives (fathers, brothers, uncles) were sexually abusing them in the early 20th century, thus setting their sanity and the health and well-being of millions of women back about a hundred years –said that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. An object to put in one’s mouth in order to inhale pre-vape fumes.

Maybe. Maybe not. But what if that cigar were wrapped in demeaning illustrations of women? What would it be then?

No longer just a cigar, I bet.

Matt Taylor, a British scientist who is, I’m sure, perfectly competent at his work at the European Space Agency, was less than competent to decide what to wear – and say – during a televised interview about the camera probe he and his colleagues managed to land on a comet (the  mission was named Rosetta). I mean, hey, the guy only has a PhD in space physics.

He wore the above shirt, one which displayed what a source termed “provocatively dressed women”. Translation: women wearing very little clothing. And then Taylor said of the Rosetta mission, “She’s sexy, but I never said she was easy”.

Amazingly (caution: sarcasm at play), people grew rather angry at him.

To his credit, when Taylor was apprised of what rapidly became known as “Shirtstorm”, he issued a rapid and apparently genuine apology.

Then the trolls emerged from their solitary holes under lonely basements – er, bridges – and proceeded to sneer at and threaten the mostly female people who had the temerity to be appalled that an educated (PhD, remember?) man would parade such lurid and derisive images, such casual sexism. Even BoJo (Boris Johnson, London’s wild-haired mayor and no stranger to hyperbole) weighed in to declare that objections to Taylor’s choice of shirt and words resembled “a scene from Mao’s cultural revolution”.

Which is why I love the title of this male-authored article on Slate: “Shirtstorm: Casual Sexism and the Inevitable Horrid Backlash When It’s Called Out”.

Called out and, let’s add, correctly identified, named and shamed.

From the article: “To be clear, I don’t think Taylor is a raging misogynist or anything like that; I think he was just clueless about how his words might sound and his shirt might be interpreted. We all live in an atmosphere steeped in sexism, and we hardly notice it; a fish doesn’t notice the water in which it swims. I’ve lived in that environment my whole life, and I was well into adulthood before I started becoming aware of it and figuring out how to counter it. I’m still learning.”

The author, Phil Plait, goes on to say, “If you think [the shirt and words] isn’t a big deal, well, by itself, it’s not a huge one. But it’s not by itself, is it? This event didn’t happen in a vacuum.” He also mentions that it wasn’t only women who complained to and about Taylor’s choices, it was male scientists, as well.

Phil Plait sounds like the antidote to BoJo. The calm after the storm. The reasonable, informed voice. Really, Boris, Mao’s cultural revolution? – the ten-year one in which educated people were denounced as traitors, had their property stolen by the Chinese goverment, and then were banished to the countryside for “re-education” and/or murder? You’re comparing Shirtstorm to that?

I like best, though, Plait’s ending. It takes up space but is not long. Rather like the comet itself, its tail streaking across the sky:

So yeah, it’s just a shirt.

And it’s just an ad.

It’s just a saying.

It’s just a TV show.

It’s just the Internet.

Yes, but you almost make as much as a man does.

It’s just a catcall.

It’s a compliment!

It’s just that boys will be boys.

It’s just that she’s a slut.

It’s just that your dress is too short.

It’s just that we want to know what you were wearing at the time, ma’am.

It’s just it’s just it’s just.

It’s just a death by a thousand cuts. No one cut does the deed. In the end, they all do.

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