As a professor of Critical Thinking at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, CA, my entire academic life I have been constantly receiving similar feedback on my observations and opinions, something along the line of, “I have not really thought of it that way before.” Jimmy’s intention is to develop critical thinking skills, look at things a different way and to question everything. I speak and write of all aspects of life, from Buddhism to twerking, from the spiritual to the profane, from meditation to pornography. It all makes for great conversation and analysis.

So sit back, read and/or listen, and question me as we learn in the tensions of life.

Alcohol

I never was much of  a drinker–”was” being the operative word in that phrase. I did the usual high school-football-player-getting-drunk-bullshit on occasion, (highlighted by passing out my senior year at a party and getting dolls laid upon my limp body by the party goers…sure it was humiliating though that is price you pay for this American rite de passage); yet, overall, I never really drank all that much. So much so, that I doubt more than a drop of alcohol ever crossed my lips in my 20′s and damn near most of my 30′s.  I am not sure what really changed for me, perhaps it was children who were getting older (no more infants) and some additional added stress in my  religious job of yore – a nice cold one at the end of the day became increasingly enticing for me around this time.

alcohol-on-shelvesDuring my 40′s, particularly late 40′s, was when my drinking accelerated – for a variety of reasons -reasons I really do not need to get into in this blog. Let’s just say the last 5 years or so (damn you Jason Robert Brown…you are a hack…but that is a different blog for a different day-”I could shove an ice pick in my eye, I could eat some fish from last July, but it wouldn’t  be as awful as a summer listening to Jason Robert Brown’s shitty lyrics…in Ohio or elsewhere“) I have overindulged. No, I have no DUI’s -actually not even a speeding ticket in 10 years- my relationships are awesome and my work productivity is as strong as ever. Perhaps the most unfortunate consequence of my drinking the past 5 years has been my poor liver…yet even liver blood tests I received back not too long ago were all normal -better than normal, in fact.

Drinking was, and is, fun. It is a delightful way to wind down from a long and productive day. Other than a cognitive awareness of what it potentially can do to my body, I have no good reason to stop…even temporarily. Outside of a drunk Facebook post or two or three or four, drinking life is good.

Yet now I am reconsidering the role of alcohol in my life, just as I have reconsidered the role of caffeine in my life: I enjoy it though I want to be addicted to nothing but the air in my lungs and the ground under my feet.

I guess I just had that voice inside me saying, “Slow down big guy…it’s a marathon not a sprint.” So, a few weeks ago, I decided to slow the hell down. I cut way back (I heard cold turkey was not a great idea) and now have not had a drink in a couple of weeks. Foregoing the evening nightcap is the toughest part of it all. Why? Because my evening nightcap became the mid-evening nightcap, became the early evening nightcap, became the late afternoon daycap. For the time being, I am opting to be sans cap.

Am I planning on drinking again? Well, I have no formal “plans” to drink. It’s not like I’ve drafted a memo that I am going to take a shot of Vodka on September 17 at 5:36pm rain or shine and cc’d it to my superiors; yet, I do not have plans not to drink, either.  I want to treat alcohol the same way I treat Hostess Powdered Donettes, every once in a while it’s an amazing treat…just can’t overindulge.

Yes, I know you AA people (I love you guys BTW, you guys are awesome) claim that there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to alcohol and perhaps you are absolutely correct–in fact, you probably are correct–but, like the child that doesn’t believe the oven is nearly as hot as mama says, some things the individual must find out on her own.

Therefore, it was very strange last week when I was spending the night in Redlands and saddled up to my favorite bar, The Royal Falconer.  At this time, I did something I have NEVER done in my life…ordered a non-alcoholic beer, the infamous O’Douls -the beer I once thought was for losers meandering down the sober walk of shame. The fact of the matter is that I had no idea whether or not bars even serve drinks without alcohol and, though the selection is few and far between, I have come to find out that most do. Nice. I sat at the bar and nursed my children’s drink while eating some fish tacos (Thursday night is taco night…$1.75 per…not bad) when the bartender inquired as to why I was drinking a non-alcoholic beer. I told him I have not had a drink in a week or so and am just trying to slow down.

Then the irony went down. The provider of all things alcohol to a thirsty Redlands crowd became the pious pontiff of prudence and temperance.

The bartender literally sat down behind the bar and began preaching to me his alcohol “testimony” -he has been sober for nine years–no meetings, no AA- a sermon complete with dates, times and details.

“I have no trouble serving anyone and have no judgement,” he explained, “but if I can help just one person who wants to quit, quit, I feel like I have helped the planet.”

Weird. This was like being at a nudist camp and the head nude dude is telling you to put your clothes on (yes, JUST like that). Or the priest instructing you to sin. Or the nutritionist telling you to eat more Hostess Donettes. Or the evangelical pastor telling you NOT to give your money. Or, better yet, Timothy Leary telling you to put away your acid and have some milk and cookies.

Just weird. Ironic, don’t ya think?

After a rather lengthy message, which included his mother dying of cirrhosis of the liver at age 44, the very self-aware, charismatic man offered a firm handshake (and I do mean firm, as in I will break your hand) while offering me the best of luck.

I sat at the bar and looked up at the mugs of some deceased former Royal Falconer patrons who, according to Pastor P. Bartender, essentially drank themselves to death over a period of years: A continual, stark reminder of the poison that those lined up at the well are ready to ingest. Now, I have I heard of buzzkills and boner killers before, but this one took the freakin cake. It is like sitting down and crackin a cold one with both the grim reaper and Jack Kervorkian.

This whole thing reminded me of a Buddhist aphorism along the lines of, “When you are ready to learn, a teacher will appear.”

Of course I have no doubt I will engage in the devil’s brew again, perhaps later than sooner or vice-versa. Yet, I will never forget that evening at The Royal Falconer. It could, eventually, be a game changer.

Well done, Pastor P. Bartender. At least ya got me thinking.

 

 

 

 

Cheating

Today, as I blog on the subject of relational cheating, I must say upfront what I am NOT saying: I do not encourage cheating, I do not condone cheating and I would strongly encourage you NOT to cheat on your partner. I blog today as one who is objectively looking at what I perceive to be a problem in society (and please argue with me on these perceptions!) and make some, perhaps, unpopular observations concerning the nature of relational cheating. I am trying to understand cheating and its role in society.  I am one who likes to look at what is happening without moral judgment -which tends to cloud productive and objective thinking.

Let’s get this party started, ya cheatin’ bastards.images

There is a fundamental rule I have learned in my lifetime: People are going to do whatever the hell they want to do and very little can be done to stop them.  As a society, we set up certain punishments and incentives to discourage or encourage certain behaviors with some degree of success, yet, I would argue, these punishments and incentives are not as effective as we might want to think or want them to be a great deal of the time.

Our prisons are filled with people who murder, rob banks, molest children, etc…in spite of the fact we have set up strong punishments for such people. Conversely, our government has set up certain financial incentives to save additional money in certain programs, Roth IRAs for example, yet millions do not take advantage of such programs while our savings rate as a nation is one of the lowest in the world, around 4.5% in 2013, 16th out of the 28 countries in this study.

Thus, we can conclude that for some, neither punishments nor incentives are necessarily indicators that behavior will be changed or altered. In terms of infidelity, obviously the threat of divorce or being the family pariah is not a strong enough punishment to dissuade many from cheating. In the end, the human being will act like a human being regardless of consequences. Why? We are getting there…

I blog today on an issue I once blogged about a couple of years ago–the fact that many people always have and always will cheat in their relationships. I do not want to sound like a broken record and simply rewrite what I wrote in my blog of nearly two years ago. In that blog I focused much more on people’s self-righteous indignation towards cheaters (and you will get a strong dose of that in this blog as well…at least I’m consistent), mainly directed at a website whose sole purpose is to make cheating “safe and easy.” Today I want to address the human condition of why people, of both genders, cheat, and offer my observations of the cheating world.

Today I begin with 3 fundamental questions: Why do people cheat, how many people cheat (an impossible number to figure out with great precision) and what, in fact, constitutes cheating -at least for the sake of this blog. I will work off a few basic assumptions that you may or may not agree with:

  • First off, though there are many reasons people may cheat, the primary reasons are sexual fulfillment, new emotional connections and newfound excitement in an otherwise mundane and dull relational existence. It simply spices up the main course meal of life. Many who cheat are still very much in love with their partner.
  • Secondly, the assumption is that A LOT of people cheat, much more than what we may currently think. Of course this is not a stretch as a contemporary “cheating” website was recently hacked and threatened to expose the name of all 37 MILLION, yes million, users. When one considers this is only 1 website of many, is it farfetched to conclude A LOT of people cheat, perhaps MOST people? I do not think it is. When you consider that most people who do cheat do not get caught and sure as hell are not going to tell anybody, the number of  cheaters -again, a number we can never be entirely sure of- is astronomically high. I am sure there are many more people cheating on their taxes than have ever been caught cheating on their taxes. Most of us might hate to admit it though cheating, can be argued, is a fairly normative human behavior.
  • The final assumption, for the sake of this blog, is that any physical intimacy -be it a one time make out session or ongoing affair- though certainly different in scope and potential fall out, are all considered cheating at some level in a traditional arrangement.

My first observation is this: When most people engage in a particular somewhat normative behavior, why do we demonize it and not simply accept it as part of the human condition? Maybe “cheating” is just a human being being a human being. Perhaps a more accurate term would be “human exploring,” as in, “She is one of the most notorious human explorers I know.” Homosexuality was once considered a disease, transgendered people were mentally sick and women were considered inferior to men. We evolve as a people when we let go of our biases and see reality for what it is -and it first comes with accepting the behavior of those (seemingly) different from us without judgment. Many evolutionary biologists, anthropologists and psychologists contend it is monogamy that goes against the grain of human nature, not cheating.

“But, wait Jimmy, I am human and I do not cheat.” Thank you, oh omniscient one. I’ll take your word for it…though read on. To this I respond that I am human and am not gay…though a lot of humans are. I am human and I am not asexual…though a lot of humans are. I am not into S&M…at least not tonight…but a lot of humans are. The human experience is vast and diverse -simply because someone does not share my personal proclivities does not make them any less human and certainly not any more or less moral.

My second observation concerns the indignant responses society has toward cheaters, errr, explorers (I promised you I would get there!). My thought is “thou protesteth too much.” Human beings tend to get the most riled up over issues they personally struggle with the most. Since most people have explored -or at the very least have had thoughts of exploring outside of traditional set-up- it is no wonder we project our own personal frustration onto others who have been caught. Our reactions may be generated by inward jealousy for those who have not cheated yet would love to, or, for those who have cheated it is just creating self-righteous theater to make you look like a monogamous hero. Just like the angry senator who consistently votes against gay rights only to be caught with a young male intern in a compromising position…same type of hypocrisy.

I am currently reading a book, Modern Romance, by Comedian Aziz Ansari…who wrote this book along with a number of respected academics and relational researchers. In the portion of the book dedicated to cheating, in particular the very high prevalence of it contrasted with the reaction of disgust towards it, he opines, “…when it comes to sex and relationships, what we believe in theory does not line up with what we do in practice…When you compare this level of disapproval with the data on the actual prevalence of cheating, it paints a strange picture. Do we really believe that all these masses of people who engage in affairs are moral monsters? That makes quite a lot of monsters. It seems that we reluctantly accept the act of cheating in our own lives while still condemning the practice at large.”

Preach it Aziz. Perhaps the only thing worse than a cheater is a hypocritical cheater.

When faced with a wall of insurmountable facts and data, humans tend to poo poo such evidence if it makes them feel discomfort or flies in the face of what they so desperately want to believe. Most prefer a shallow and unrealistic romance with illusions over and above a deep relationship with truth -and the truth is cheating is well within the realm of normal human behavior.

My third observation concerns a troubling traditional marriage contract between two people that forbids either of them to “explore” EVER and under no conditions. Why? Do we now own the other person upon commitment? I hate to go all 1970’s on your asses though we had a saying back then that suggested, “If you love something set it free.” Yes, technically it is “cheating” because most of society has drafted an unreasonable and unrealistic contract for the majority of people. Therefore the primary problem lies in the untenable contract much more than in the human beings who are just acting like, well, uh, human beings.

Or does it?

I am not convinced that hoping and aspiring to a very difficult goal, some might say a nearly impossible goal, is necessarily a bad thing. Yet, I am not saying it is a good thing either. To aspire to an objective that separates us from other animals, keeping our baser instincts controlled and intact may be a very positive venture for society in general, particularly the family structure. Yet, the downside is pretty strong as well…by aspiring to something that is very difficult to achieve and then being devastated when it is not realized comes with a very painful emotional price tag -not to mention lawyers fees and court costs. Ahhh…the tension. Still, in the end, I would say the costs of such aspiration outweigh the potential rewards of it.

I understand that many people have been hurt by the behavior known as “cheating.” I contend that it was not the “cheating” that was devastating, rather the above-mentioned social constructs we have created that placed certain expectations on certain types of relationships. Perhaps if we rid society of this expectation, cheating would become exploring (I know I am using that word a lot and do not care for it all that much…but the English language does not have word for a “cheater” that is not laced with hate and vitriol…let’s think of one kids) and we could all calm down and accept the human animal for what it is. In other words, we could become much more European -53% of the French believe exploring to be morally acceptable. Or Chilean, 33%. America? 16%. Americans are notorious for preferring devastating divorces over empathy and understanding…lawyers are thrilled.

In most of my courses the examinations are taken online with open books and open notes. I instruct my students that it is impossible to cheat…you can use anything you wish and you can even take the test together as a group. The confused students, who are conditioned like Pavlovian mutts to finding creative and inventive ways to cheat on exams, are often disarmed and bewildered. As the professor, I am relieved of my burden of detecting, finding and calling out cheaters. It’s nice. As a result, my classes often get together as a group in our library, collect their books and notes, open their exams together and then discuss and argue communication concepts for about an hour…it is a beautiful thing to see students working together in this way. I believe that they are learning FAR MORE than if I stuck with a traditional method of examinations.

I think you get the analogy.

The goal in my courses is student learning –nothing more, nothing less. I never want convention to get in the way of student learning. For most of us, I believe our goal in life is to be happy and fulfilled yet often our convention may get in the way of those simple goals. I am not talking about a relational free-for-all, rather a basic understanding and acceptance of how human beings operate- and it’s high time we stopped the self-righteous moral outrage.

So people are going to do whatever they hell they want to do. Can we all just accept that fact and move forward and act accordingly?

Relationship advice author Dan Savage, in his book American Savage, sums up my sentiments quite nicely: “I’m not saying that being cheated on by your spouse is not a big deal, or a violation, or a betrayal. It is all of those things. But if more people understood how difficult monogamy is over the long term, and how common cheating is, and if people were encouraged to assess the actual particulars of a particular adulterous incident rather than seeing all cheating as essentially equal…maybe more marriages would survive the nearly inevitable infidelity.”

Smart guy, that Savage.

I realize arguing that “cheating” /slash/ exploring as a fairly normative behavior and should be accepted as such is a very unromantic, nontraditional, and an uncomfortable position to take. Ironically I am in no way promoting cheating…I just want to look at reality, as uncomfortable as it may be, and help save relationships. The choice seems rather simple, we can either keep aspiring to a lofty goal and continue to be devastated or we can identify the true human condition, stop aspiring and accept the human being for what it is.

There you have it. My longest blog ever. I try to keep my blogs to a thousand words…I guess I cheated, errr, explored.

 

Insert Title Here: Feeling Somewhat EnTITLEd Today

So what’s in a name, or more specifically, a title? I’ve been thinking about this subject recently since a former student of mine, Holliann (who recently graduated from University), wanted to get together for a chat concerning some of her strange and unusual experiences while away at school.

“Thanks Professor. I will see you then,” is how she concluded our social media conversation.

“Please, call me Jimmy,” I told her.

“I don’t think I can,” she said, “but I’ll try.”

“Just do it,” I told her.

Such formal titles make me somewhat uptight and uncomfortable. I understand why certain people would rather stick to formal convention, yet it still does not set right with me.

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This exchange really got me to thinking. What are the criteria for determining whether we call someone by their first/last name or their title/position?

I teach for crying out loud…I am not part of  some kind of regal Monarchy.

If someone asks me what I do for a living I will say Professor. When someone, anyone—students and non-students alike—ask me what I would prefer to be called, I usually instruct them to call me Jimmy. Yet I have found over the years that students, both past and present, are very reluctant to call me anything but Professor.

As a result, now I simply instruct students to refer to me in the moniker they feel most comfortable calling me, provided it is not disrespectful.

So I feel like “Comedian” Seinfeld when I ask, “What is the deal with this whole title thing?”

Please understand…I realize most companies have a myriad of job titles from CEO’s to Janitors, yet we do not call the Janitor, “Janitor Fred,” rather they are Fred -who happens to be the Janitor.  Or we refer to Frank Jones, CEO of such and such a company, rather than CEO Jones.

I wanted to find out more so I went where most of my students go for research, Wikipedia. The site did not provide much help though did offer me the following definition: A title is a prefix or suffix added to someone’s name in certain contexts. It may signify either veneration, an official position or a professional or academic qualification. In some languages, titles may be inserted before a last name.

Yes, I knew that. Thanks Wikipedia. You reminded why you are a crappy source and my students cannot cite you.

I get the whole old school idea of respect, professionalism and appropriateness, yet where do we draw the line and why? I do not refer to Baseball Player Kershaw (ironically we do call his coach, “Coach”), Plumber Stan, Musician Slash, Model Klum, Artist Nick, Accountant Jones, Neuroscientist Williams or Announcer Scully.  Then when it comes to 5 specific fields—namely religion, politics, education, military and medical—we engage in a mad orgy of title-driven monikers.

Why?

If one contends that those 5 areas are more deserving of respect than some others, how unnecessarily disrespectful is that to those other professions?  Are there commonalities in these 5 areas that might designate them for fancy titles? Or is just random cultural bullshit that we have just adopted because, as one of my students recently observed, most people are just “sheeple” and usually do not ask such questions.

I do. In particular when I give a shit about something.

It does seem that within each of the title-driven fields the one common theme is that the various “titled” people directly exert a certain amount of power and control over others. Yet, so do directors, producers, and most business owners and they do not warrant a title when others refer to them.

Then I think about nobility. Are religious, medical, education, military and politics more noble professions, hence a fancy title? Hmmmmm…I wonder what my musician and artist friends would have to say about that?

When I was telling Holli about this blog I was writing, she suggested that maybe we place more trust in the people in those 5 areas, hence the titles. Yet we still must place trust in our engineers so our bridges and buildings will not fail us. In fact, we must place the most trust in our babysitters and childcare workers and they are not referred to as Babysitter Mary.

Therefore it is not about power, importance, nobility or trust…why the titles?

It would seem to me to be an issue of basic identity. When we refer to someone by their title, it is important we see them as first and foremost by their profession.  Is it that when we speak to Pastors, Senators, Professors, Generals and Doctors it is imperative that we see them through this lens exclusively?  Why? What if I would prefer to be known as Jimmy first, Father second, Partner third and then, maybe, just maybe, Professor would land around fourth. Blogger? Maybe 20th.

A title really is a show of power and authority.  As a low power distance person in general -meaning I do not gravitate toward separating myself great distances from those over whom I have power- I have no great need to be thought of in terms of title first, person second. In terms of authority, separating yourself from others by slapping on fancy titles is hardly an effective means of gaining respect. I would rather be respected for the quality of what I do over the quality of the title that has been bestowed upon me.

For those who do not respect my style of teaching or leadership, throwing an ornate title to my profession is not going to change that anyway.

I am not dismissing titles as worthless or in some way negative, rather I am questioning the inconsistent use of them and whether or not they are entirely necessary.

So call me Jimmy. You can do it Holliann! But, hey, if you can’t, I get it.  Just try.

 

Prostitutes, Whores Or Escorts? Thoughts On The World’s Oldest Profession And My Encounter With a Real Life Lady Of The Night

whoreAs a Communication Studies professor, I believe I have heard nearly every subject matter on the planet there is designed to inform and/or persuade others. If I were to identify just a handful of the, “If-I-Hear-This-Speech-One-More-Time-I-Am- Going-To-Kill-Myself-And-Innocent-Bystanders-In-The-Process” type speeches, the list would go something like this:

  1. Give Blood
  2. Learn CPR
  3. Legalize Marijuana
  4. Practice Safe Sex
  5. Legalize Prostitution

Of course I kid with the killing myself part…and there are good reasons these subject matters are on the most common list–as they are really poignant and important. I suppose I just love original topics…yet I realize students in the class have not heard these topics delivered over 10,000 times, as I have, so they are certainly allowed to deliver such topics. In spite of the fact I personally abhor the redundancy, I realize these topics NEED to be addressed, particularly giving blood and CPR –as CPR saved my father’s life nearly 3 years ago.

Therefore I find it strange that I feel compelled to write a blog on one of these topics that so bore me…so why now?

I was at the gym on the treadmill (shocking!) watching an MSNBC show on the horrors of Prostitution.  Of course it was an overly dramatized, one-sided view that painted all women as victims and all men as scumbags, but what else is new?  Our eyeballs are drawn to drama…whether it is true or not. My point of view is this: When will the “World’s Oldest Profession” be honored and acknowledged as such? When do we finally accept it as part of the human condition and let it work better for everyone…solicitor and solitcee alike?

Why are so many human beings such self-serving, goddam hypocrites when it comes to issues of a sexual nature? If one more anti-gay Senator gets caught fondling his young male intern, the only standard we will have left to serve in government is double, as in double-standard.

From Maxine Doogan of the Erotic Services Union: “There…needs to be a shift in attitudes to agree that sexual expression, for the mature, can take the form of negotiating and paying for sexual services; that this activity is a privately protected right and is subject to the equal protection laws, for starters. If someone poses as a prostitute and rips off a customer, that should result in a prosecution for theft. Which is not the state we’re in right now.” These laws hurt everyone involved–from the abused prostitute to the one ripped off by the abusive prostitute.

Do I believe that human trafficking and abuse among prostitutes exists? Yes. Of course I do. Just as I believe exploitation and abuse exists in EVERY industry, be it religion, politics, the workforce, etc. This is why Samuel Gompers, so many years ago, created a union as human beings carry a natural propensity to exploit others. When and where do they exert this propensity of abuse? Whenever they can in whatever circumstances they can.

Yet there is no easier context for exploitation and abuse than the unregulated sex industry. Why? Because it is illegal.

If one were to use the exploited and abused argument to argue against prostitution–which is severely more pronounced in the sex industry than most others–I would contend that this argument provides an even stronger reason to legalize prostitution and allow them to form unions and benefit from law enforcement when needed.  Why? Because regardless of one’s personal moral stance on prostitution, it is going to happen anyway, with or without government protection.

Well, one could safely argue that an anti-legalization stance on prostitution is a stance AGAINST the protection and safety of women.

Consider the analogy of abortion, (please do not misunderstand, I hate abortion more than I hate divorce…but this is a different blog for a different day) regardless of one’s stance on this issue, they are going to happen anyway. We can either make it safe for women or not.

I often then get the question, “Well what if one of your daughters wanted to be a prostitute?” Like any job one of my children wanted to pursue, I would definitely want to make sure they have thought it completely through and are certain it is the right path for them. It would be no different for prostitution. I would want to be assured that she has thought it through completely and it is the correct path for her.

But we cannot just legalize immoral activity just because people are going to do it anyway. People rob banks, should we legalize that?”

Thanks omniscient arguer –though even you cannot argue successfully with Jimmy. Prostitution is a mutually consenting act between adults that benefits both parties–activities like robbing banks hurts other people.

But, hey, don’t take my word for it and why should you? I am not a prostitute.  So I went to interview a real, live “escort” of about 3 years, who works in the Southern California area. She happens to be an acquaintance of mine and gladly gave me permission to use her experiences in this blog…as long I did not mention her name.

So, prostitute, what about all those shows like MSNBC who show the dark side of prostitution?

“In every industry there is going to be an exploitation of labor. I am sure it happens in prostitution but it is a small percentage. It has never happened to me. I love my job,” she explained.

And what kind of ratings would a television show get if they interviewed people who are really happy and have no complaints and the fear of the universe was not coerced upon them? Pretty lousy.

So, Lady Of The Night, have you ever had a bad experience?

“Yes, once. About a year ago when a guy started to creep me out a bit. But it was not a problem. I just ran out the door.”

Not a bad batting average for an escort whose encounters are deep into the hundreds.

She explained that the key to successful escorting is finding the right madam (read: pimp) who screens all “Johns” and knows how to make the correct matches.

Of course, since all of this now has to be done in secret, it makes this process much more difficult and far riskier.

“I know this is something I can only do for a small window in my life,” explained the mid twenty-something escort, “I will probably be out of it in a couple of years. But it is good for me right now.”

Wow. She has never been hit, nor pressured, nor hurt, nor trafficked…in fact she is one of the happiest people I know who happens to make really good money. She is not scared, alone, uneducated, nor exploited. Quite the contrary, this self-empowered woman has a Bachelor’s Degree from one of the most prestigious Universities in the world.

Some might contend this particular escort is the exception. Perhaps…but would not the abused and exploited sex workers benefit from being able to climb out from under their rock and report abuse to authorities?

And what’s the downside to prostitution again?

Oh, yes. It’s illegal.

These are my thoughts on college students’ fifth favorite topic to speak about. The best part is that now if you ever want to speak on this matter, you have a really reliable source.

 

 

People Are Suffering Around The World And I Do Not Really Care…Neither Do Most Of You

It was a lazy summer Wednesday afternoon so I decided to do something I do not often these days -catch a movie at the local theater.  Today when I now go to the movies, I want to see something “easy” and relatively mindless -meaning no complicated plot lines and low-context stories that require my complete attention and demand I stay awake. I prefer movies with simple story lines and very interesting characters -think Big Lebowski meets The Truman Show meets The Poseidon Adventure meets anything Steve Buscemi. My real life has enough drama and complicated story lines -no need to go to the movies for more of that. On this particular day I decided to take in “San Andreas” and appreciate the eye candy of watching my state shake to shit…in 3D.

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As I watched the movie something occurred to me that I often get in a lot of trouble for saying, hence the title of this blog. As I watched Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson fight and struggle to save his family from death, I noticed he did something that most of would do if in that same situation -he watched people dying left and right, people he could have helped, in order to save, specifically, his wife and daughter. In other words, he would rather watch 100′s of people die in order to save 2, because those 2 are his own family.  Theoretically, if someone informed you that 10 strangers are going to die unless you agree to lose 1 very much loved one, most of us would probably choose to kill off 10 strangers in order to save our 1 beloved.

Why are we humans wired this way? Why would we, generally, and again, theoretically, work feverishly to protect our beloved selected few at the possible expense of losing many? Thank the universe most of us are never handed that choice and I am relatively certain how most of us would respond.

We could make the genetic slash DNA argument that we are all hardwired to protect our small tribe -be it children, parents, siblings- first and foremost.  Thus it is pure instinct and, bottom line, we are animals acting upon what our reptilian brains dictate.

Several years ago a student, Lou, introduced me to a concept he referred to as the “monkeysphere” -which I later found out to be more formally termed, “Dunbar’s Number.” If I were to risk huge oversimplification of this fascinating theory it would go something like this: All primates are only capable of caring and having social relationships with only a certain number of other primates depending on the size of their brain. Thus, from the size of an animal’s neocortex, the frontal lobe in particular, you could theoretically predict the group size for that animal.

If we were to buy into Robin Dunbar’s theory, the human being is capable of having approximately 150 casual friendships, 50 close friendships, 15 intimate relationships -for example, you could turn to these people in times of sorrow- and, finally, 5 ultra intimate relationships, meaning good friends and/or family members. These numbers are only averages and there is huge range among people, depending on personality type, etc.. In addition, social media is definitely playing a role in reshaping these numbers somewhat -though I think you get the idea here -as human beings we are only capable of only so much REAL empathy and social reciprocity towards others.

So I will take this understanding and stray from it just a bit yet still abide by its logic -our brains are simply not capable of truly caring for everyone on the planet experiencing suffering of some variety. I believe if we could do so we literally would go crazy. Yes, literally. Reality can be such a bitch that we must shut off part of our brain in order to not experience it in totality. So if I see a report of a tsunami in Japan, should I, or better yet even, CAN I, truly care?

Some recent brain science suggests that our brain functions quite differently when dealing with 3 distinctly different groups of people. First off, our brain handles interaction with real people with high personal relevance to us quite differently from, second, real people who have no personal relevance to us (think famous people) and, third, fictional characters -my hunch is this is part of our necessary survival process. So, let’s say one is watching a fictitious movie of a young child choking, a news report of a famous person’s young child choking, or one experiences their own young child choking (even if it were on film) our brain reactions would be highly different. Imagine if we witnessed hundreds of people dying in the aforementioned tsunami and we felt the same sense of care and empathy as if each of these people were in our ultra-intimate circle? Again, if we did, we would absolutely go out of our minds.

Now, here is what I am NOT suggesting. I am not suggesting that people cannot react to global tragedies and act with benevolence…of course they can and many do. Whether it is a tsunami in Japan, a hurricane in New Orleans, or an earthquake in Nepal we have seen people (think “Doctors Without Borders”) act lovingly and altruistically on such occasions. However, I would argue that these tragedies are simply the Disaster Du Jour, induced by a selective media that only plays the most viewable disasters for ratings, the ones that strike the most fear into our psyche, while making it feel hip to get on the bandwagon of support and fulfill our social need to belong.

Sound cynical?

Consider that if we felt real empathy for those suffering we would not have to wait for a Disaster Du Jour, that plays like great theater, in order to practice such empathy -there are plenty of more boring tragedies to go around that do get much media hype.

  • More than two-thirds (70%) of all people living with HIV, 24.7 million, live in sub-Saharan Africa—including 91% of the world’s HIV-positive children. In 2013, an estimated 1.5 million people in the region became newly infected.
  • Between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the U.S. each year. Human trafficking is the third largest international crime industry (behind illegal drugs and arms trafficking). It reportedly generates a profit of $32 billion every year.
  • In 2014 alone, 5 million people were treated around the world for malnutrition and illness including:
    • 2,718,401 people in Nigeria
    • 104,117 people in Democratic Republic of Congo
    • 93,043 people in South Sudan

Shall I go on? Cause this is only the beginning.

Of course most of us fall for the proverbial hook, line and sinker for tragedies that news directors would like us to support (when I used to pastor I would plead with people not to let news directors dictate their prayer lists…that went over really well…now I write blogs…but I digress). I would argue that if we practiced REAL caring, TRUE empathy, and REAL concern we would not have to wait to do something until we watch Disaster Du Jour on TV and gasp in horror. Do we really care OR do we feel a sense of wanting in on the collective story in some way, shape or form, and, in a strange way, feel a bit better about ourselves in return? In the same way it so much more difficult to truly love one person than it is to “love” thousands, it is far easier to “care” about a tragedy in Nepal than to truly be a good and loving companion to your closest loved ones.

But Jimmy, just because I cannot truly love and be concerned for these people to the degree I would a close loved one, this does not mean I cannot care and empathize to a lesser degree and do what I can to help.”

Thank you omniscient arguer.

Perhaps we could have a semantics argument over the words care and empathize, yet I do contend we have been conditioned to view nearly all image-based news as a mild form of entertainment, even in spite of the fact it could provide us a twinge of what feels like concern and empathy.

I am often criticized when I say when we watch these natural disasters unfold we are being entertained…not in a humorous, “ha ha” kind of way, rather in a a theater of the macabre sense. We are watching others misfortune unfold half way around the globe and the tugs at our heartstrings are generated by those suffering who are well outside our monkeysphere slash Dunbar’s Number. Certainly none of us WANT others to suffer, yet we strangely do not mind being entertained by others misfortune, rationalized and condoned in the name of what feels like empathy. We gasp and shriek that this is horrible…yet we watch and watch and watch. Contemporary media has created a generation of eavesdroppers in the name of news.

If we want to practice true humanitarianism, perhaps we should not send a check to some organization in god-knows-where, China (Buttfuck, Egypt?). What if true humanitarianism was defined as being loving, kind, giving and compassionate to all those within your Dunbar number, to the people we can truly make a difference in their lives? Perhaps the world would be be a much more caring and empathic place.

I have heard the term, “Think locally, Act globally.” I would argue we must act locally first and foremost.

But perhaps I overthink.

Maybe I just should have watched JurassicWorld instead. I heard it’s pretty good.

 

It’s Over…Good. Crafton Hills College Now And Into The Future

Each year our school hosts by far my favorite event of the year—graduation.  Every third or fourth Friday in May we celebrate the day with a breakfast in the morning and a wonderfully, positive, high-charged ceremony in the evening.

Not so much this year. Just wasn’t really feeling it.

Normally we faculty members have to scheme ways to beat the heat and the blinding, terrible glare of the late afternoon sun—so much so that the faculty purchased matching yellow and green sunglasses to sport during the outdoor celebration.

Did not need them this year.

Rather, the entire day was cold, rainy and downright gloomy; in retrospect it was actually the perfect weather conditions for a rather down and downright gloomy school year.

It was just one of those kind of years.

For me personally, the academic year began with teaching for a semester in London. Yes, the experience was overall very much worthwhile, highlighted by the fact my daughter and her man Nathan reside there and I could spend copious amounts of time with them, yet it was quite taxing as well and I am quite confident when I say I will never do it again.  The students were entirely disinterested in studying (as I would be); the program was not particularly well-run, and my experience ended with a trip to the emergency room (you can read more about that here).

Needless to say, when I arrived back in California in early December and drove my convertible home from LAX on a bright, cheery, eighty degree Saturday, even the traffic on the 405 was a welcome sight…ANYTHING but the cloudy, dark and rainy London days, crowded tube rides and masses of humanity—everywhere at all times. Some people just love that stuff…just not my cup of British tea.

It was when I arrived back to teaching in the Spring was that the parade of gloom hit the campus. The semester essentially began with a report by the state accreditation commission placing our campus—and the entire district—on “warning.” Having written a large portion of the accreditation report the year prior, I, particularly, was pretty bummed out. The infractions that placed our campus on warning were relatively minor and, for the most part, very easy fixes.  The general consensus remains that we were placed on warning due to some very problematic issues with the District Office…all issues that have, essentially, nothing to do with our campus. But, hey, it takes a village, right?

What was particularly demoralizing about this was that previously there was a sense of positive, growing optimism on campus. The school was, and is, growing in terms of both students and buildings. We were one of the few colleges in the state selected to offer Bachelor’s degree’s in certain fields. Prior to this “warning,” overall feelings of camaraderie and community were at all time highs.

As a result of this status, the school held a number of additional meetings (meetings I personally was a part of) to determine if we should give our current District Chancellor a vote of no confidence. A number of negative, contentious and overall yucky meetings later, we did.

Then the real tragedies struck. A very popular and well-liked student on campus, Adam, who had just been accepted into UC Berkeley, died in a tragic car accident. Just a couple of days later, a beautiful and intelligent young student, Amanda, was found dead.

The entire campus has been grieving these losses for weeks.

So, the campus community sat in the cold and rain on this Friday evening in May fairly exasperated. Tired. Happy it’s over and certainly ready to move on.

Yet something hit me as I sat in the gloom and the cold rain hit my face. Something that just snuck up on me as if out of nowhere. I just looked around and there it was.

I really love these people.

These people -staff. faculty, students- are my family. I really care about them. Perhaps by collectively mourning together and dealing with negative circumstances, we reached a new level of care and concern for each other that, perhaps, we could not experience in any other way.

I realized Crafton Hills College is not just a job, a paycheck and a place to do what I love. It is home to my family, my friends and the people on this planet I care deeply about.

I am quite certain that we, together, will rise like the Phoenix out of the ashes and become bigger, stronger and tighter than ever.

We carried on with our traditional end of the year faculty and staff party after the graduation. Our President, Dr. Cheryl Marshall, was particularly festive and far more gregarious than usual. It was little wonder why. It was very easy to see the pain and burden she has been carrying these past few months…you can read it on her face as easy as a pop up children’s book.

It was just one of those kinds of years.

Her festive and gregarious spirit screamed one thing: It is over—and it is time to move on.

Yet, now we move on stronger in spirit and community. We cry together, we mourn together, we party together, we dance together and we work together.

And it’s over. It’s goddam fucking over.

Good.

Now it is time to rest and get ready to rise out of these dirty ashes.

Together.

Crafton-Hills-College-01

 

 

4 GREAT, Foolproof Reasons To Use Profanity In Your Everyday Life. Hell Yeah.

Let’s get to it. I recently heard through the gossip grapevine that one student of mine did not like me. Why? I apparently used too much profanity for his liking in one of my classes.

Well la tee freaking dah.

Of course this is not the first time one has not appreciated my colorful and free-range use of the English language, nor will it be the last. Yet, there are reasons behind my profanity madness. My use of profanity is neither flippant nor without deep critical thought and consideration -it is quite calculated. So, today, I share with you these reasons and perhaps you will be enlightened to the reasoning behind my profane ways. Thus, I bring to you:

Four reasons why I, and why YOU, should use profanity.

A wise person once told me that when delivering a potentially controversial message, it is important to begin with what you are definitely NOT saying before you address what you ARE saying. Soooo…

First and foremost, I am in no way suggesting the use of profanity is good for everyone, all the time. Like everything in life, there is a time and place. Context is everything.

Secondly, I am vehemently opposed to hateful, vengeful, mean-spirited words and speech intended for ill will. However, such speech knows no specific words, only motivation and intent. One could be mean spirited with or without profanity -there are plenty of “non-profane” words that are obscene in intent. Isn’t it interesting how our culture delineates between words that are profane and words that are not while the “profane” words may be kindly and gently spirited in intention, while the non-profane words are acceptable-yet full of ill will and contempt? Ah, such tension. And hypocrisy. Now let’s get reasonable and get started.

1. When prohibiting yourself from using profanity, you are limiting your word choices to most accurately communicate with others. Communication is a difficult enough process -why make it more difficult by not allowing ourselves to use the full arsenal of vocabulary choices available to us? Good communication is all about knowing your audience and/or the person to whom you are communicating. In many contexts, profanity is going to be the best language choice available. In other cases, one might argue that profanity might be the worst possible choice –talking to a classroom of preschoolers, let’s say. However, even if the person/group you are communicating with does not use profanity, what better way for them to get to know you than by using words that you feel most comfortable using? I have found that using profanity in normally formal environments brings about a tone of realness and genuineness to the occasion while making others feel more comfortable and able to share their true thoughts and feelings on issues. You might say it serves to breakdown the bullshit formality that exists so often in life.

Again, am I suggesting to always use profanity? Of course not. I am saying that sometimes the intense  beauty of a finely placed profanity is an unparalleled and wonderful experience and should be considered a communication option.

2. Profanity has a positive, relieving effect on your psyche when used in the proper context to let off steam and/or decrease your feeling of pain. In June 2009, researchers at Keele University in England sought to determine why the automatic response for so many people in pain is to blurt out profanity. You know, like after stubbing your toe, a good “FUCK ME!” is usually in order. In snippets taken from this article, researchers found 68 college-aged students and asked each to submerge one hand in icy water for as long as they could possibly stand it. They were trying to test if students could keep their hands submerged longer if they used curse words or non-curse words.

During the first trial, the students were permitted to swear out loud as often as they needed to see if it could lengthen the period of time that the hand could stay submerged. During the second trial, the students submerged their other hand in the icy water and this time, they were permitted to say whatever they wanted, as long as it did not contain swearing. It was determined that, on average, swearing students could hold their hands in the water over 40 seconds longer than when they did not swear. Why were the swearing students able to keep their hands in icy water longer? These researchers have found that the amygdala, a gland that makes the heart speed up and the resistance to pain stronger, as the key. It is basically responsible for the “fight or flight” reaction. The theory is that using actual cuss words somehow activates deep primitive negative emotions, which somehow triggers the amygdala to choose the “fight” response. The fight response then raises your heart rate and decreases pain sensations, just like swearing after feeling pain.

So, even though cursing is often thought of as reflective of inappropriateness, it may be that profane language has the power to decrease pain that general speech does not. Keele University psychologist, Dr. Richard Stevens, summarized his findings and offered this sound advice after the study was over: “I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear.”

And you all thought it was just me. Fuck you. ☺

quote-Mark-Twain-under-certain-circumstances-profanity-provides-a-relief-100676_2

3. Like Marlita Hill contends in this brilliant speech concerning the word, “nigger,” (if you have never watched this 11 minute speech, treat yourselves to this gem) words only become profane when we deem them profane and allow them to be such. Using “profane” words only serves to demystify their meaning and decrease their social power and control.

I recently had a student write me an email describing her anxiety concerning an upcoming speech assignment. In her words, she was “sh#$ing bricks” and “scared off her a$$.”

Hmmmmm.

She then went on to say that she does not like profanity and cannot even write the profane words out. Poor f#@king girl.

Ugh.

I would suggest this “camouflaging” of “profane” words only serves to heighten their social taboo and perpetuate their power and intrigue. Seriously, are you all aware that some strands of Judaism are forbidden to write out the word, God? They must camouflage the word to G*d, for example, with this or some such other replacement symbol. I understand the reasoning behind this idea –it is all about giving God the highest amount of reverence and respect while not cheapening the nature of an eternal, infinite and all powerful G@d by simply being able to write out his (yes, his) name.

Using such logic, do you realize that all of you “profanity camouflagers” are elevating profanity to a deity-type status? You are providing profanity both reverence and respect. Your camouflage is providing the exact opposite effect of your intentions while continuing to perpetuate the perceived power of certain words. It is not necessary to use any variation of profanity, written out phonetically incorrect or not…just use a non-profane equivalent. And while you’re at it, stop with the substitute freakins, goshes, darns, cruds and fudges. Stop the madness –cuss for G%d’s sake. These words also serve to make you look like a pretentious d^%k…whoops.

If you want to deflate and cheapen the power of profane words, use them, in excess.

And, lastly…

4. Because we can! This is America, correct? The land of free speech, correct? Why would we metaphorically shit all over our founding fathers by not using what they fought so hard for us to attain? Fuck yeah Thomas Jefferson and hell to the yes George Washington! I, for one, will not give in to this very un-American madness of not using profanity.

So, for the sake of good communication, our health and wellness, our society and our American right to free speech, cuss away my friends. Again, I am not suggesting to use it all places, all the time, without good reason -it simply must be an option in our vocabulary arsenal.

As for all of you “holier-than-thou” douche-bags who want to restrict and ban others use of their G*d-given right and very American right to use profanity -grow a pair and well, just grow up. If you don’t want to use it, don’t. Just don’t tell me and others what we should or should say in terms of our own self-expression.

Now ask me how I really f*cking feel.