Generation Talk

 

 

‘Double Speak’ was coined by George Orwell in his classic novel, 1984. Saying one thing and meaning the exact opposite. We all recognize that in current life. “Bad” is the highest form of compliment among teenagers. The Pentagon Budget is built on a necessary stockpile of war materiel. “Academically challenged” means a slow learner. Some contradictions begin to make sense after awhile.

While Double Speak has become a part of our living language, an interesting new phenomenon seems to be emerging. Let’s call it Generation Talk. Using words and concepts that have little meaning for other generations. Consider this scene: Two couples in their sixties are seated in a booth waiting for the table server to appear. A young woman, in her early 20’s, approaches and cheerily asks, “How are you guys tonight?”  Aside from the unisex usage of ‘guys”, is that supposed to put the two couples at ease? A sort of inverted compliment. We’re all in this together, even with that sprinkling of gray hair. The ubiquitous ‘you guys’ is one of the signature phrases of Generation X.

 

Americans are living longer these days. Thus, the Elders, the respectful term among Native American tribes, are in their 60’s, 70’s and over. They would like to be considered wiser with this age and experience advantage. But it doesn’t always work that way. Elders need a sense of humor and perspective to communicate effectively with the younger generations. When they refer to the London Blitz during World War II, or rationing of food and clothing, ‘victory gardens’ and “ F.D.R.‘s fireside chats”, most of these terms have to be explained.

“Two pairs of shoes a year! Are you kidding, Grandma? No way!”  So responded a teenager when ‘rationing’ was made vivid in terms of her lifestyle. Would you believe five different types of sneakers in her closet? Plus dress shoes. And an assortment of play sandals and boots for one sixteen year-old.  Just a normal array.

How about explaining curfews in the colleges in the 50’s. The outside dormitory doors locked at 10:30 on weekday nights. Midnight on Saturday for the women’s dorms. No visiting privileges above the first floor. “You can’t be serious! Our dorm is co-ed. Only the bathrooms are off limits. And we’re free to come and go whenever we want. After all, we’re adults, aren’t we?”     Is that a rhetorical question? If it is a real question, some elders would love to answer it. Yes. They may have found the dorm rules too restrictive. But, they’re not sure the pendulum swinging 180 degrees is the answer. They know that ‘unisex’ was not a word in their vocabulary then. Now, they’re getting used to it in clothing and haircuts. It may take a little more time to convince them that unisex dorms are an improvement in the halls of learning.

Child rearing is another mine field of Generation Talk. For elders, “time out” means a break in the basketball or football game. Today, it is the primary form of discipline and/or punishment. Sitting in a chair for a proscribed period of time; it is aimed at bringing about a change in behavior — often in a sullen and resentful child. In the old days, spanking was taken for granted. It was only a matter of who administered it, how hard and how often. Did it work? We’ll never know. Now, it is likened to child abuse. “Mother, we would never use physical force with Bobby!” Mother may be tempted to respond with, “Give me a break!”, a favorite cry from Generation X.

Dr. Spock gave confidence to decades of unsure new parents. “Trust yourself”, he said. And they did. Of course, parents certainly made some mistakes. Then, Chaim Ginott, the child psychologist, brought comfort with the soothing, “Parents are not perfect.” Today, a pantheon of experts give parents the latest child rearing advice. Many of the new theories make good sense. Perhaps reading books to three month-old babies needs more research. But teaching them to swim sounds like a good idea.

Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher, wrote, “The limits of my language are the limits of my world.” Since each generation grew up in a different era, in fact in a different world, there is a need for give and take in the use of language and understanding. Finding out that one’s givens pull a blank stare from the listener is a sure clue that Generation Talk is taking place. The words we use convey the thoughts and feelings we have. Most important in communication is the skill of listening. Not just hearing what the other generation is saying. But listening for their meanings, their concerns and their world in the language they use. A basic communication formula is Two Ears minus One Mouth = Successful listening.  2E-1M =S.

Generation Talk can be about trivial matters. It can also mirror the values we treasure most. The trick would seem to be in “sorting out” as the British say, which is which. The next time two or three generations get together, listen for Generation Talk. Is it on the surface? Or does it dig deeper?  Are the generations listening to each other? These are important questions and interesting to pursue. They can lead to meaningful answers that could improve communication and living within families — and our society as a whole.

…………………………………………………………………..  Joyce S. Anderson

 

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Banning Words at the Centers for Disease Control!

                       

Prologue:  In George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984”, he introduced words that held opposite meanings to truth and facts.  Big Brother ran the state and the entire government.  Language was the fundamental tool that exerted control over citizens’ minds.

Department of Health & Human Services, 20l7:  The Trump presidency is continuing the policy of dismantling the federal government that has been in effect in full force in The Environmental Protection Agency, The State Department, The Education Department and The Interior Department.  President Trump has used executive orders,and department secretaries have carried out his overall policy of lifting regulations in all areas that were put into effect during the two Obama terms.  Certain cabinet ministers were chosen because of their past records of opposing the Obama regulations. They have been vigorous in making changes as rapidly as possible.  Scott Pruitt, E.P.A. secretary stands out for the numbers of regulations he has dismantled since being confirmed.

On December 16, a report leaked at Health and Human Services , that the department had banned officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from using seven words or phrases in their documents.  They were: “science based”, “fetus”, “transgender”, “entitlement”, “vulnerable”, “diversity”, and “evidence based”.  The Washinton Post reported that instead of “science based” or “evidence based”, “the suggested phrase is “C. D.C. bases its recommendations on science in consideration with community standards and wishes.”

The bombshell announcement on Saturday set off a firestorm among Democratic officials and free speech advocacy groups across the country.  Dr. Vivek Murthy, former surgeon general, said, “Whether this is a directive from above is not clear. But for C.D.C. or any agency to be censored or passively made to feel they have to self-censor to avoid retribution, that’s dangerous and not acceptable. The purpose of science is to search for truth, and when science is censored, the truth is censored.”  The New York Times reported that a former federal officer , who asked not to be named, said, “It’s absurd and Orwellian, It’s stupid and Orwellian, but they are not saying to not use the words in reports or articles or anything else the C.D.C. does.  They’re saying not to use it in your request for money because it will hurt you. It’s not about censoring what C.D.C. can say to the American public. It’s about a budget strategy to get funded.”

During the first year of Trump’s presidency, attacking the news media as “ the enemy of the people”  and all factual reports as “fake news” have become standards in his daily tweets.  He has used Twitter as the new presidential communication system reaching millions of women and men in his political base daily. At this time, Trump has made no comment on the leak of  “banned words” at the C.D.C.   It is also unclear if the ban started at the parent agency of Health and Human Services or within the C.D.C. itself.   The Food and Drug Admimistration made known, it had not received the “banned words and phrases” report.  Jennifer Rodriguez, an agency spokeswoman said, “We haven’t received nor implemented any directives with respect to the language used at F.D.A. to describe our policy or budget issues.”

Epilogue:  Trump and his lawyers have been concentrating on attacking Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his team’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.  Certain Republican Congressmen have also been urging appointment of a second special counsel to investigate Robert Mueller and his team.  This bizarre full court press against The Federal Bureau of Investigation and our entire Department of Justice was started by Sean Hannity on Fox News.

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein testified at length to the House Judiciary Committee.  He answered their sharp critical questions with a firm support of Counsel Mueller and his team’s integrity and professional dedication.  He also said he could not appoint a special counsel without a “credible allegation of a potential crime to investigate.”

Experienced commentators on CNN and MSNBC , including former federal prosecutors from the Watergate era, said that the president and his lawyers were attacking Mueller because he is moving closer to Trump and his family members who serve as advisers at the White House.  They hope this will divert attention from the four  members of the transition team who have already been indicted.  Retired General Michael Flynn, the last to be indicted, was very close to Trump during the campaign. He then served as National Security Adviser after Trump was elected.  He pled guilty and is “cooperating” with the Mueller Investigation. There is heavy speculation regarding the information he knows and will share with Mueller’s team.

…………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Looting America’s Monuments and Public Lands!”

 

Prologue:  The Antiquities Act of l906 was one of President Theodore Roosevelt’s major conservation achievements.  It gave presidents unilateral authority to establish monuments that preserved the natural beauty of the vast lands across the country.  It did not give them the authority to abolish the monuments.  That right was held only by Congress which also has the right to create national parks. It is not clear if a president can significantly reduce the size of a monument.   Over the years, different presidents have established monuments in different regions and states.  Millions of Americans have traveled to see and wonder at the beauty of the Canyons, Waterfalls, Forests and Wildlife Refuges that have been set aside and protected from commercial exploitation.

Donald J.Trump’s policies on U. S. monuments:   Soon after Ryan Zinke was confirmed by the senate as Secretary of the Interior , he was ordered by the president to review all national monuments of over l00,000 acres that were designated after 1996. While the order covered 27 monuments in all, the order was aimed primarily at two monuments in Utah: 1.9 million  acre Grand Staircase Escalante , established by President Bill Clinton in 1996, and Bears Ears, a 1.35 million acre expanse protected by President Barack Obama.   Trump ordered the reduction of Grand Staircase by 800,000 acres, nearly half its size;  Bears Ears by 1.1 million acres, 85 percent of its size. In his  order Trump wrote that “he had to rush to the rescue of local citizens who were trampled by “federal overreach” and “because some people think that the natural resources of Utah should be controlled by a small handful of very distant bureaucrats located in Washington”.

Senators Orrin Hatch and Mike Lee of Utah, as well as state representatives have resented public ownership of  Utah’s  lands. In contrast, polls show strong citizen support for most of the monuments. It is also important to know that five Native American nations live on the acres of the two designated monuments slated for reduction.  They deeply value the artifacts, natural stone  structures and graveyards as intrinsic to their history. They have lived for  thousands of years  on those acres.  Lawsuits have already begun, voted upon by five tribal councils, Navajo, Hopi, Zuni and Ute, and environmental groups as well as Patagonia, the large outdoors company. The outcome of the suits which may take many months will affect not only these two monuments but also eight others that Zinke  has recommended for smaller downsizing or changes in management. Let’s note that Mr. Zinke rode to work for his first day at the Interior Department astride a horse, an ironic comparison to Teddy Roosevelt that he has spoken of several times.  As president, T.R. gave federal monument status to 230 million  acres for 18 national monuments. Zinke has reduced those lands by ten million acres in just ten months.

After Trump’s trip to Utah to make his announcement,  Mike Lee said,  “He’s been sympathetic to the fact we have been mistreated.  And I’m grateful that he is willing to correct it. “  However, there was a sharp outcry from Rhea Smith, the president of the Natural Resources  Defense Council, who asked, “What’s next , President Trump, The Grand Canyon?”

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge opened to oil drilling:  The Senate tax bill included a provision  by Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska to authorize oil drilling in the coastal plain of the Refuge, a 1.5 million acre strip that was not protected in the original law creating the refuge.   This area is of great importance to environmentalists and economic significance to Native Americans.   Previous  tries to open the refuge have failed.   President Clinton vetoed an attempt in 1995 while moderate Republicans defeated another try in 2005.   It is estimated that the refuge holds about seven billion barrels of recoverable oil, about a year’s consumption in the United States.  However, at present, we are cutting back importing oil from the OPEC nations since we are able to meet the diminishing need for oil and other fossil fuels.  Wind and solar power are on the rise throughout the country.

“War on Coal is over .”   Closely allied to the reduction of millions of acres in monument lands is the Trump’s policy to support coal mining as essential to the growth of jobs.  He began  this  slogan during the campaign and continued once he arrived in the Oval Office.  Surrounded by coal mining executives and workers, he announced, “The war on coal is over!” and  signed his executive order  to support coal mining as they cheered.  A reality check shows that coal mines have been closing since demand for fossil fuels has continued to drop due to wind and solar power increases across the country.   Both  non-fossil fuel sources are growing rapidly as industry discovers costs and value make them more profitable than coal.  In addition, the environmental benefits are clearly better for the health of American citizens.  President Obama’s  policy for clean power plants plus the  bans on certain noxious gases are reducing the pollution of  the nation’s air and water dramatically.  Challenged in the courts,  the Supreme Court supported Obama’s power plant policy as in line with the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts enacted  by Congress.

Yet, Scott Pruitt,  Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency, E.P.A.  has met with mining companies and told them to apply for new permits.  Scott Pruitt is a climate change denier with close ties to fossil fuel industries .  He is one of the cabinet members chosen by Trump for his record of opposition to the long time goals of his area.  Pruitt has been systematically dismantling Obama’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions from power plants in line with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the global agreement and Paris pact on setting goals to reduce carbon emissions.  We are now one of only two countries not taking part in the agreement to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.

Epilogue:  Bear’s Ears Monument is described as a “vast, remote stretch of red rock canyons dotted with Native American sites…..”  As I researched and wrote this blog, I remembered the timeless response by one of the tribal leaders when he was approached by settlers migrating into their lands.  “The Earth is our Mother and we cannot sell our mother.”

…………………………………………………………………………………….Joyce S. Anderson

 

 

 

Measuring Happiness

 

 

Prologue: The first year of the Trump Presidency has produced a state of anxiety for a majority of the American people according to recent surveys. Millions of Americans turn on TV each morning to see the first tweets on Donald J.Trump’s Twitter account. His base of about 37 % watching FOX News are usually pleased and supportive of his message. Commentators on CNN and MSNBC reflect the rest of the people who gave Hillary Clinton the popular vote margin of 2.9 million votes.  They provide the news and critical analysis of what the latest Trump tweets mean in our polarized political nation.

Americans have always valued happiness. The Declaration of Independence declared that we all have certain unalienable rights, among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”  It is also  a given that we Americans live in a youth obsessed culture.  Most films are action thrillers aimed at young men in their late teens to mid 20’s.  Fashions begin with the young and are adopted by older generations. Food and drink products cater to children and teenagers’ tastes.  In every area of life, being young is held up as the model to emulate. Billions of dollars are spent every year on cosmetics, clothes, exercise equipment and the nip-and-tuck path to keep us fit, energetic and looking as young as possible. But does that mean we are happy?

Measuring Happiness: Gallup conducted a comprehensive national survey in 2009 based on phone interviews with over 350,000 people across the country. The questions and answers fell into six “happiness” indexes:  (As you read them, why not consider your own answers.)

*Life Evaluation: Personal assessment of one’s present life and life in five years on a scale of 1 to 10.

*Emotional Health: Measures a composite of respondents’ daily experiences, including laughter, happiness, worry, anger and stress.

*Work Environment:  Measures job satisfaction, ability to use one’s strengths at their workplace and whether one’s supervisor treats him or her more like a boss or a partner.

*Physical Health: Measures chronic diseases, sick days, physical pain, daily energy and other aspects of physical health.

* Healthy Behaviors: Measures smoking, consumption of fruit and vegetables, and exercise.

*Basic Access: Measures basic needs optimal for a healthy life, such as access to food and medicine, having health insurance and feeling safe while walking at night.

The data from the survey was described by Gallup as the largest database with information concerning Americans’ well-being in existence.  There were correlations with location, ranking the 100 cities with the highest Well-Being index.  Boulder, Colorado ranked first with Holland, Michigan known for their tulip festival second, and Honolulu in third place.  The age of the people interviewed was recorded and produced some of the most surprising results of the survey. Starting at 50 years, there was a sharp rise in the level of happiness that respondents reported.  Arthur Stone, the lead author of a study based on the Gallup poll, suggested that changes in brain chemistry as we grow older affect our happiness index.  Neuroscientists have shown that in younger adults, the amygdala,  the emotional core of the brain, is activated when exposed to negative and positive input.  However, adults in their middle and later years appear to have the ability to screen out or lessen negative emotions and “light up” when they see positive images.

The Gallup findings on age matched results from an earlier research study from the Institute on Aging at the University of Wisconsin. The report found that the most anxious years were the 20’s and early 30’s , the time of career development, dating, marriage and raising children.   Adolescence and teen years were also more stressful than midlife.  “From many points of view, midlife permits many of us to feel on top of the world, in control of our lives, and well enough pleased with what we have accomplished to seek new outlets of both self-expression and giving back to society some of what we have earned and learned.”

The psychologist, Erik Erikson created 8 stages in his classic model of psychosocial development.  Stage 7, Middle Adulthood, 35 to 65 years , poses the challenge of Generativity vs. Stagnation. Stage 8, Seniors, 65 years onward face the challenge of Ego Integrity vs. Despair.  The research findings from the Gallup and Wisconsin studies on happiness describe men and women in midlife and beyond who continue to grow and feel a sense of wholeness in their selves and their lives.  Stage 6, Young Adults, 20 to 34 years cope with the challenge of Intimacy vs. Isolation, reflecting the research findings of higher levels of anxiety and unhappiness during those years.

Pew Research Center had conducted a major survey on happiness in 2005, looking at different demographic groups. They found, contrary to the aphorism that money can’t buy happiness, that based on family income, 49% of respondents with an annual family income of more than $100,000 said they were “very happy”.  In contrast, only 24% of those with an annual family income of less than $30,000 said they were “very happy”.  (One should note that although a correlation is established, it does not prove causation.)  Other interesting findings were: Married people , 43% very happy, while unmarried 24% very happy. Married people with children were about as happy as married people without children. Those who worshipped  frequently were happier than those who did not; Blacks (28%) were less likely than whites (38%) or Hispanics (34%) to respond as very happy. Sunbelt residents were happier than those who live in the rest of the country. Suburbanites happier than city dwellers. Certain non-correlations: People who had children were no happier than people who did not; Retirees were no happier than workers; Pet owners were no happier than those without pets. The age data showed that the young were less happy than the middle aged or old, in agreement with the 2009 Gallup findings.

Epilogue: Scientific research can always give us a new perspective on our personal lives. For example, Erik Erikson discussed three stages of adult development.  Where do we fit in? Stage 6 for young adults; Stage 7 for middle adults and Stage 8 for senior adults.  The key to his classic model is that individuals have choices in life dependent on many factors. Happiness becomes a corollary based on the choice and direction we each follow in our lives.

……………………………………………………………………..Joyce S. Anderson

Recommended Reading: “Wisdom and the Senses” by Joan M Erikson

The Way of Creativity