Sunday, July 30, 2017

What Criminals With Guns?

Ask yourself: What is the one element that is present in most shootings by another person?


I'm not talking suicides by gun (which typically are three times more common than gun homicides and usually make up just over half of all suicides.[1]) I'm talking about being killed or wounded by a firearm in the hands of another person. Or, hell, even shot at.


Before I go on let me point something out. Something that has a major influence on why there's an elephant in the room. An elephant that not only the government isn't talking about; the cops know it, but don't make official statements or talk about it in court; and gun control advocates are mum about too. The idea is found in what's called a "bill of attainder." The U.S. Constitution prohibits them as do the constitutions of all 50 states.


So what is a bill of, writ of, act of attainder? From the dictionary: Under English common law, the state of having lost one's legal and civil personhood, as through losing the legal capacity to own or pass on property.


In plain English it's when you're condemned by the state as a criminal (or traitor) without trial or specific charge. You're -- literally -- declared an outlaw. Not in the romantic bad ass sense of the word, but meaning you're outside the protection of the law. Civil rights? You don't have any.
 Protection by the law? Nope. Sure they can shoot you down like a rabid dog on sight. But more than that they can put you in prison without trial and throw away the key. The cashier's check about this, however, is anything you own can be seized by the powers that be -- again without trial or chance to defend yourself. Taking this a step further, it's not necessarily a specific crime, it's just that you are... you know... a criminal and therefore deserve all this happening to you.


"No bills of attainder allowed" doesn't sound like a big thing, but quite frankly you don't want the government to have the ability to write them up. It's been abused way too often in the past by the rich and powerful. They tell someone in the court, "This guy pissed me off" and 'viola!' you're a state certified outlaw. You're on the run, everything you own is seized, your family is destitute, and helping you isn't just a crime, but giving you a hand will get those folks the same treatment.


As an individual in the U.S. you can only be charged with a specific crime.[2] This nix on bills of attainder is why -- if you listen very carefully -- you'll not hear cops, lawyers, lawmakers, or others refer to someone as 'a criminal' (on the record), but more commonly refer to the person as "involved in criminal activity." While you might hear someone referred to as a career criminal that's both dancing close to the line and still the person can only be charged for specific crimes. While 'career criminal' acknowledge the individual is making his livelihood through criminal activities, it's not branding the individual as an outlaw for just breathing. It does, however, have a lot to do with sentencing. (Habitual is another common term.)


Now to the average person this 'you can't label someone a criminal' sounds stupid. Because we all know there are criminals. We know the cops and courts know there are criminals. If you've dealt with them, you know it's not just a career it's a way of life and mindset. But if you're in the government, a cop, a psychiatrist, or associated with the legal system there are the folks called, 'lawyers.' Lawyers can make a mountain out of a molehill and cause all kinds of problems if an official pronounces someone 'a criminal' and tries to punish them for that general condition. Now this whole 'the government can't call someone a criminal' may sound silly to you, but it's kind of like political correctness. And like PC, it has fangs because of the rules and lawyers.


So guess what is not tracked on a national level when it comes to shootings?

You got it, criminal records and behavior. It is tracked on a local level because it has a lot to do with the investigation into the shooting. Oh and by the way, no matter what you've heard or think: The cops can't blow off a homicide investigation just because the guy was a criminal. Nope, death of a citizen must be investigated. They may do a sloppy, half-assed job because they know he's a douche, but they can't officially ignore it. It has to be investigated especially if it results in a corpse.


In case you didn't get it, the answer to the 'what element is present' question is criminal behavior.

When it comes to gun deaths and shootings, crime is more important than race. It is more important than age. It is more important than income. It is more important than sex. And it definitely has a lot to do with who is pulling the trigger and why. That's why it's 'absence' in official numbers is a serious, "Hold the phone." As in how the hell can you have a rational conversation about guns without it?

The answer is you can't.

This is more suggestive of an agenda than actually looking at the subject of guns, shootings, and deaths. The bottom line is in the U.S. we have a professional, armed criminal class who shoot each other with distressing regularity. They in fact make up most of (nonsuicide) gunshot 'victims.'


Now while I say, "When it comes to crime there are no statistics that are worth wiping your ass with,"[3] I'm going to have to use them to demonstrate a point. It varies from year to year, city to city, but -- in places where homicides are common -- the rate of homicide victims who have criminal records typically range between 90 percent to 100 percent. Oh and guess what?
The same majority applies to the shooters themselves. As one cop from a mid-sized city once told me, "In the twenty years I have been on the force, we've never had a homicide where the victim was not known to the police."


So yeah crime and shootings? Big connection.


BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN?!?!?!


~sigh~


Let's talk about some ugly realities here. First, if you keep on using that phrase what do you mean by 'children?' Do you mean anybody under the age of eighteen? Because where I'm from we call anyone past the age of twelve a "teen."

Those ages ten years between two and twelve are "children." And under two babies, infants, or toddlers. The term children typically implies that two to twelve period. (Although legal standards usually go to fourteen and anyone above that is a minor.) Under twelve, however, are not the majority of people under eighteen being shot.\


In fact, according to the FBI's Uniform Crime Report the by age break down of all homicides of minors in 2015 was:
Infant, 182
1-4, 328
5-8, 75
9-12, 78
13-16, 456
17-19, 1,349
Additionally (and for comparison)
20-24, 2,834
https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2015/crime-in-the-u.s.-2015/tables/expanded_homicide_data_table_2_murder_victims_by_age_sex_and_race_2015.xls


Now that's homicides by all means, not just guns. (While very few infants or toddlers are shot, most are killed by abuse and neglect.) Notice the rise in numbers starting with the teens.


Once again we are facing something that is deliberately not tracked on a national level, but is one of those 'criminal thaings.' And that is gang affiliation.



But let's talk about gang affiliation. Not just membership. Gang members make up a majority of teens who are shot and killed. But also on that list are people who know, are related to, and -- often -- are in physical proximity to a gang member (who is the actual target). This especially means other minors. Oh and do you want to know the fastest way for a teenage girl to get shot? Try screwing or partying with a gang member. It's all fun and games until the other side shows up, and bullets start flying.

When you talk about these issues, the common anti-gun and gun control advocate will try to zig and start talking about all the five- and six-year-olds who are shot. After all those children couldn't be in a gang at that age. Nor are they willingly affiliating with them.

Well this will make you want to scream. First, yes, a four-year-old isn't likely to be a gang member, but that child is often in proximity to his or her Baby Daddy -- who is in a gang. Oh and *is* the target. The same goes for younger siblings of gang members. Turns out other gangs aren't really concerned about who gets caught in the crossfire.

Then comes the real disgusting element of how many gangs and criminal organization use children -- actual seven-, eight-, nine- and ten-year-old children-- as part of their criminal enterprises. Talk to older gang members and try to find some who didn't grow up as a hangers on or were being used as mules and look-outs. And yes if a drive-by shooting or assassination happens there's a good chance these children will be caught in the cross fire between warring criminal groups.

So even legitimately innocent children are swept up in criminal gun violence. Not as many as gang member minors, but innocent children. Wanna try and take them away? Oh great, if your try now you're involving child protective services, family court, and parental rights. Welcome to a whole new can of worms.

Now I want to address how a small percentage of children are deliberately killed by firearms. That is in mass shootings, commonly in the form of familial murders and suicides. This isn't 'crime related' nearly as much as it's a family member going off the deep end. Usually the father who kills his family then himself. But often enough not to be uncommon, it's a sibling who also kills parents. (I should say I was once woken up by the sound of gunfire as a father -- who'd killed his two children -- committed suicide by cop by opening up on the local police station. I also have a friend who survived a familial murder/suicide incident so I'm not talking in the abstract about this.) I'm going to redirect your attention to 2015 homicide numbers by age. Then I will point out that of the tens of thousands of gun deaths these are -- if not under 100 -- in the low hundred plus. It happens and it is a horrible tragedy.

Criminal activity ranks in the hundreds of thousands when it comes to homicides and shootings, especially when we factor in robberies using firearms. One source put the 2015 firearm robberies at 123,358.
https://www.statista.com/statistics/251914/number-of-robberies-in-the-us-by-weapon/

(Look at the third footnote. Odds are those numbers are extremely low. You also have to factor in the numbers of 'shots fired' reports when the police showed everyone was gone because nobody got hit.)

Oh and BTW, a University of Chicago/Duke study found criminals are armed because they fear each other more than the police. It also found that most firearms in the hands of criminals are acquired by illegal means (i.e., criminal networks).
https://d3uwh8jpzww49g.cloudfront.net/sharedmedia/1508093/ccjstudy.pdf

So yeah in case you missed it: In the U.S. we have a professional criminal class. Criminals who are both heavily armed and who have a bad habit of shooting each other. And they aren't too persnickity about 'civilian casualties.' Now while the average citizen might return the lack of concern and say, "Good, let them kill each other" that isn't how the government works.
Nor should you want a government that takes that line.

Something that does concern Joe and Jane Civilian, however, is when criminals stop shooting each other and aim their guns at... well... Joe and Jane. This is of particular importance to people who work behind the counters of establishments likely to be robbed. In other words, civilians tend to get cranky about criminals pointing guns at them. And face it, it happens -- especially in high crime areas.

Now what you may not know is that high crime areas are not exclusive to poor neighborhoods. Nope. Have you ever heard the term "Robbery Corridor?" It's the one-half to a mile 'corridor' on either side of a freeway and nearby on/off ramps. Businesses located here-- especially cash heavy ones -- are more likely to be robbed than businesses farther away from the freeways. Why? Simple, easier escapes. Jump on the freeway and you're gone. There are various 'crime tracker' sights that show both the types of crime and locations.

You'll also see personal robberies go way up in popular social and night time locations with multiple exit routes. In other words, you're more likely to be mugged while out for dinner and a movie than you are stopping off to pick up your dry cleaning after work.

The fact is very few people who are not involved in criminal lifestyles are ever going to get shot, get shot at, or -- as there are a huge number of unreported robberies and rip offs in the criminal world -- get robbed by a criminal. But that doesn't mean you aren't at risk.

The fact of the matter is you -- whether you know it or not -- probably travel in and out of high crime areas every day and its your lifestyle choices that have a lot to do with your chances of running into a criminal. High crime areas are often safe to go into during the day, but not so much at night. For example in Denver, one of the higher crime areas is downtown where during the day, it's business. At night, it's leisure and entertainment... and robberies and theft.

You've got a good chance of being the victim of a violent crime if you live in a city. This is especially true if you use the same 'accounting' as the alarmist agenda people and include your entire lifetime. (Although for bragging rights, I do have to admit it's been more than 20 years since I was last shot at -- I've never gone that long in my entire life.)

Also, if you live long enough there's a good chance of being on the ground when something bad happens. (Another example, I spent the LA Riots in '92, sitting on my porch, reading, and smoking my pipe with a shotgun next to me as the riots came within two miles of my house.) Seeing mobs run up and down the streets burning and looting forever answered the question of 'why would anyone need a high capacity magazine?' I saw the rioters turned back on live TV. Oh and in case you're wondering, 2000-2010 was the first decade of my life when I wasn't caught in a riot or just down the road from one. I'm going for two consecutive decades in 2020. It makes up for the multiples I dealt with in the '90s. What can I say? Fun times... not.

So let's get real. When people argue for gun control don't let them distract you from the issue of crime. But especially don't let them get away with using statistics that ignore criminal activity. Because while politicians, academics, and gun control proponents can ignore the connection of gun violence and criminals, you can't.

But now you can point out that yes, there's a deliberate attempt to ignore the fact that criminals have guns. Your right to self-defense and gun ownership is strongly tied to this fact.

M

1) Although interestingly enough while there are commonly three-million-two-hundred- thousand-plus suicide attempts in the U.S. Attempted suicides by firearms typically only numbers in the low hundreds. Yes you read that right, firearms are-- technically speaking -- the leading means of suicide, but are statistically meaningless in suicide attempts. Drug and booze overdoses are the second most common means of suicide, but -- again talking the majority -- also are the most common attempted suicide methods. (Source: Centers for Disease Control
[CDC])

2)  The work-around for that is using the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), but that is when you're part of an organization that is deemed criminal and arising from specific charges.

3)  Yes, it's a big statement. Let's start with any solid number that is given as 'proof' is incorrect. I don't care who it's from.

Issue number one - If it's from 'official sources' (Federal Bureau of Investigation , Bureau of Justice Statistics, Center for Disease Control) it is based on reported crimes. A lot of shit goes down that isn't reported. Mainly because it's between criminals. Which remember, no bills of attainder, so it's still a crime.

Issue number two - What definitions and standards are used? Really, really important. For example, the FBI defines mass shootings as four or more people killed excluding the shooter. (Understandable given murder/suicides and rampage shootings.) Whereas other organizations include both wounded and the shooter in their definition of 'mass shootings.' So how many mass shootings happened in a particular year? It depends on the definition. Official numbers tend to be low because of this.

Issue number three - Are the numbers provided accurate? Seriously, we're talking business and politics having a vested interests in not accurately reporting how much crime occurs.

Issue number four - Remember lies, damned lies and statistics? (Go read "How to Lie with Statistics" by Daryl Huff.) I'll give you a hint. An area with zero homicides for ten years will demonstrate a 100 percent increase for the year if someone is killed.

Issue number five - Estimated numbers. Yeeeeeeah, some lie low, some lie high-- especially when your funding is based on the size of the crisis you are reporting on. Basically, the idea is to take the known low numbers and make up huge numbers to warrant your funding.

Issue number six - Redefinition of crime. Basically the exact reverse of number two with a heap of the motive for number five included. Instead of narrowing the definition, expanding them. For example, rape is no longer defined only as forced penetration. Add in drunk sex, throw in "sexual assault" (up to including a boob bump) and 'attempted' rapes and estimates and the numbers explode.

Number seven is yearly variances. Let's say there are ten shooting victims per year in a city over five years. For the last two years, all shooting 'victims' were criminals. The year before that there was a murder of a non-criminal (so the rate of criminals as victims dropped to 90 percent) before that it was 100 percent criminal. This year, there was a familial murder suicide where ex lost it, shot his former wife and two kids, then himself. (Excluding the shooter only 70 percent of the people shot and killed were criminals for that year.) Those are going to change the percentages. In tracking homicide averages for the last five years do you use the mean, the median, or the mode? Because each will give you different numbers.  All statistically sound.

The best I can do to accurately convey understanding is to provide actual numbers when ever possible and when using statistics say they typically range between ___ and ___ .


Friday, July 21, 2017

The Need For More 'Enemies'

Last weekend, surrounded by my kinsmen, I said/asked.
"I've been pro-gay marriage since the '80s. I've been pro-equal rights since the '60s. I’m definitely against systematized racial and sexual discrimination policies and laws. I was raised as a California liberal. I'm for legalization of drugs. I'm pro-abortion. I'm DEFINITELY for free speech (even if it means I have to put up with hearing shit I completely disagree with). I grew in in a place so racially mixed everybody was a minority. I am for assistance for the poor, sick and needy. And I'm a registered Independent. SO HOW THE FUCK DO I GET ACCUSED OF BEING RIGHT WING?"*
 
I don't know if Steve Pinker came up with a term or I heard it from him first but, "_____(insert left or right) pole." Basically the idea is if you're at the South pole, every direction away from that exact spot is north. Basically if you're so far into an ideology that everything exactly not how you see it means that person is ______-wing, then you've reached the left/right pole. 
 
 That makes sense to me and flat out both sides have their own version. I say that to head of the tu quoque crowd. (No shit Sherlock, let me guess the sun comes up in the east too.) But what I want to talk about today is numbers. Well numbers and a few other things that relate.
 

I'm concerned we're going through a period of reestablishing tribalism. A system that our forefathers tried to contain, our grandparents tried to throw out, our parents were taught to ignore and overcome, but now the backlash is happening. There's a strong push to identify with a tribal group and to expand that group's power and control. Thing is, after a few generations of ‘tribalism is bad,’ there’s just a little bit of hypocrisy about denying that’s what we’re doing -- at least to those other rat bastards in THAT tribe.
 
We're not only going excessively tribal, but aggressively so. Except we’re doing it without the checks and balances that allowed tribalism to work. You know for the oh say 200,000 years of human history instead of just the last 150 years we’ve been challenging the idea and kind of forgotten how to do it.
See a big part of this 'new tribalism' is show your allegiance to your tribe by going after those not of said tribe with hook and claw. This gets you status in your tribe. (If you know anything about American Plains Indian culture and the concept of counting coup, you'll see some parallels.) Now this isn’t really a new thing. In fact, having long established enemies and going after them is very much a part of tribalism. What’s new is doing it without the checks and balances of ye olde days. Like you know, it was considered brave because doing it could get you killed or if you pushed too far you could start a war between your tribes.
 
Those are just some of the problems with this new version of tribalism. Another one isn’t that obvious until you actually look for it. That is there's kind of a glut in the market (That's called changing analogies in case you missed it.) What do you get when you have more 'qualified' people in a field than you have positions for? The answer should be you get a lot of people working outside their field of training until the glut ends and the market stabilizes. And if it were an ideal world, you'd get trainers/educators telling folks "Hey, this field is glutted right now and it's hard to get a job."
 
But that's not how it usually goes. First off, people who are doing the training have an economic incentive to keep cranking people out (it's their paycheck). But often, especially if it's a service field and there's 'protection' for the field (i.e., government, academic and business contracts) you typically get an inflated crisis. For example, what do you get when you have too many PTSD 'counselors' and not enough traumatized people?
 
I'll give you a hint, if someone's a specialist in a problem, he/she will always find a problem -- especially if their paycheck and job security is based on the number of problems they 'deal with.' Along a similar line did you know one of the reasons the Founding Fathers DIDN’T want a standing army was the tendency of governments to find excuses to use them? And now we have that whole ‘military industrial complex’ that Eisenhower tried to warn us about. How are you going to sell your goods and services if there are more providers than a need? 
 
 And that starts us back towards tribalism, the poles and our numbers problem. How do you get status in your tribe as a brave warrior if there aren’t enough enemies to fight? Now to really complicate things let’s talk about proximity and scarcity. Another way to look at bubbles and echo chambers is location, location, and location. Hell it’s gotten so bad in Berkeley that they had to import racist redneck, Trump ‘supporters’ to counter demonstrate against. Then, because of an over hunting problem, counter-protestors from across California had to drive all night to get there too. This just so they could say they’ve faced them. (Maybe the Division of Fish and Wildlife should start a California Conservative breed and release program to keep the species from going extinct from over hunting.) 
 
Now I’m making light of it, until you look at the pole. A pole that everyone who is not the same brand as ______(fill in the blank) is automatically labeled the opposite wing. 
 
 
 
 

 Remember that in the world of careers and funding numbers measure success? What you may not realize is you can look at ‘status’ in your tribe as a numbers game too -- especially when it comes to showing how brave and committed you are. Except what do you do if there are more ‘warriors’ than enemies? How do all the people playing this game get status?
 
 Simple, if you can’t find actual people of that other side, you have to start calling anyone and everyone not EXACTLY like you a ________. And there’s your chance to prove your commitment to the cause. You find the mechanism to do this by going to the pole, because from that position everyone else is an enemy to the tribe you’re so valiantly fighting for.
 
So next time someone starts calling you names and labeling you -- despite what you actually believe -- take a look at from the perspective that this person is trying to label you for his/her own selfish ends. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like being used like that. 
 
 M 
 
*Apparently it's because I'm pro-gun, pro-fiscal responsibility, against corruption and profiteering, not fond of government overreach and budgetary excess (regardless of the cause) and -- perhaps most of all -- I don't shriek and shut people down when they have a position I don't agree wit, so that MUST mean I agree with them. Uhhh... no. It means I really do believe in free speech.
 
 

Friday, June 30, 2017

Social Reflex vs. Understanding vs. (this spot intentionally left blank)

Some years ago I was listening to my cultural anthropology professor talk about how there are core elements that must be addressed by people living together in a society. Her contention was 'culture' is how a particular society addresses those issues. This is a simple but profound concept. The manifestations are different and details change over time, but the core elements are fixed to human social behavior. They have to be addressed. 
 
 I was trying to frame this  in a way that I could grasp and being both a sci-fi geek and a rebellious in nature, something clicked. “So it’s like Sturgeon’s Law,” I said. 
“I don’t know what that is,” the professor replied. 
“90% of everything is crud.” 
“I don’t understand” 
“There is 10% of issue that must be addressed and the remaining 90% is how a specific society does it” 
She thought about it for a second, before admitting that would work. 
 
Welcome to throwing the baby out with the bathwater of blind rebellion. The mistaking your 90% for the 10% of traditionalists. And the ‘before you tear down a fence know why it was put up in the first place’ of pragmatists. While we’re at it, welcome to a major problem about the new generation gap...oh and poverty... and being raised dysfunctional ... and...and... 
 
Yeah, it’s kind of an issue. 
 
Except it’s like the story of the father who took his 4 year old down to the ocean to see a beached whale. Standing in front of it, the child asked, “Where’s the whale, Daddy?” It was so big, the child literally couldn’t see it. So let me reduce things down a bit. 
 
Think of an annual event where family and friends come together, everyone exchanges gifts, eats, observes rituals and customs. Name that holiday. Obviously, if you’re American I’m talking about Christmas. Unless you’re Jewish, in which case I’m talking about Hanukkah. Unless you’re Vietnamese, then I’m talking about Tet. Unless you’re Muslim in which case I’m talking about Eid. Unless you’re Chinese then ... 
 
See it’s not the ‘holiday.’ It’s the behavior. It’s the group coming together, sharing, bonding, remembering, celebrating and committing to each other on a scheduled basis. A sense of goodwill and celebration that extends beyond just the family and goes out into the community. Oh and creating community and fellowship, yeah, that’s kind of important too. This commitment and goodwill is kind of important for us to function and co-exist. Important to the point of every culture has their own version. In fact, you could say it’s a 10% issue ...because it is. 
 
 Bet you never heard of your holidays described like this before. No need to. Because face it, these traditions/customs are just something you were raise with. To the point of you don’t even think about it. It’s just something you do -- and everyone else does -- in your society. In fact, you could call it ‘social reflexes.’ 
 
Or putting it another way, you don’t have to understand -- hell even know about -- the need for scheduled reaffirming of commitments. What’s more important is you participate. That’s a 10% issue embedded in the 90% of things that you ‘just do.’ You were raised to do things without question. Things that serve vital purposes. (Even if you think it’s just running around like a chicken with your head cut off in preparation for the damned holiday.)
 
My point is these customs serve purposes both beyond the surface ‘details’ and any simplistic ‘____ism’ or personal feelings. You may not know it, but by participating in the particular custom you’re doing something much bigger and more important. You are in fact, addressing a 10% issue.
 
Which brings us to the (this spot intentionally left blank) in the title. 
 
What if you were raised in a dysfunctional/scattered family where you weren’t allowed to bond? For example, if your mom couldn’t keep a relationship going and you changed ‘families’ every few years? Or you’ve decided you’re so smart and superior that you don’t buy into the crass commercialism of the holidays so you refuse to participate? Or that since you don’t believe in the --often -- religious overtones of an event you act as a little raincloud of resentment? Or because of personal trauma and/or resentment you get depressed and angry about being forced to deal with ‘those people’ and go in expecting trouble? In any of these -- and more -- cases the individual’s personal agenda gets in the way of achieving the goals of the underlying 10%. 
 
Okay fine and dandy, you don’t want to play. Modern society has enough safety nets that this can work for an individual. Well, let me rephrase that. You’re not going to die if you don’t have a group to bond with. You’ll be as neurotic as a three-legged troll, but unless you choose to suck a bullet you won’t die because of it. Oh, did I not mention that being social primates if we don’t ‘have a group,’ we go nuts? This is kind of a booger because a big problem we face today is how many people have lost the skills necessary to maintain long term relationships. 
 
And that brings up the problem of how many people were never taught HOW. 
 
See in rejecting customs we’ve often thrown the baby out with the bathwater. Often in railing and condemning the 90% ‘details’ we’ve failed to recognize the embedded 10%. Which hey, as an individual, that’s okay. You can hurt yourself all you want. The problem is when it becomes generational. 
 
In our rampaging quest for independence and emphasis-on-self we’ve kind of created a massive untended consequence. Many in the next generation weren’t given the understanding about the need for the 10%. I’m not talking about rejecting the 90% I’m talking a blank spot in their understanding of what it takes to be a functional human being.
 
I’m not talking malice. I’m not talking selfishness. I’m talking parts missing. 
 
Now lest people get to hung up on the whole holiday trauma drama idea, let me give you a different example. What does it take to keep a job? 
 
Seriously. Stop and think about it for a second. Bare bones, what standards do you have to meet in order to stay employed? I’ll give you four: 
1 - Show up 
2- Show up on time 
3 - Do your work 
4- If appropriate, have an acceptable appearance
 
There are more, but those are pretty basic right? (Como se de se, “10%”?) To keep a job you need to meet these standards. To do that, you need to ‘assign value’ to them. This influences your decision making. (For example you party all night long on your ‘Friday’ instead of when you have to be at work the next day. That way you don’t call in with the round bottle flu.) People who are interested in keeping their jobs, accept and meet these standards. They do it as well... a given. You don’t even have to think about it, you just do it. 
 
 However, did you know one of the challenges of getting people off generational welfare and out of urban poverty is they have to be trained to assign value to these ideas? To understand why, know this: The skills necessary to keep you alive in poverty are not the skills that will get you out of poverty. (These folks are real good at surviving in that environment.) Followed by: In the urban poverty lifestyle those four standards are not relevant. They don’t understand why it’s important. I cannot stress enough, these are missing parts. It’s not just being told these standards (knowing them). Without the assigning of value to them, those four standards are just noise. 
 
And the fastest way to ignore them? “That doesn’t make sense.” True. But a big part of it not making sense is you have important parts missing from your world view. You need to have A and B in order for C to make sense. This is a gap that goes beyond just youth and inexperience and into not being given the resources and framework to develop understanding.
 
This is where we really have to stop and consider the problem of ‘in rejecting the 90% losing the 10%.’ Core elements -- that used to be passed on as social reflex (you did it because ‘that’s just what you do’) -- are no longer being communicated. A big part of why is the people who are not passing them on -- if not outright rejecting and condemning it all -- don’t understand the difference between the 90% and the 10%. 
 
Remember, the 90% isn’t fixed, it can be changed, adjusted and developed. And quite frankly it happens all the time. But throwing out that 10%, yeeeeeeeah, that’s a problem. It’s also made worse by the fact that there are people who are actively working to trash the current 90% and replace it with their version of how things ‘should be.’ (Take a good hard look at what happened after the French Revolution and the attempts to redesign society... up to and including the Terror.) A big part of that involves tearing down the current 90%, but do they understand that 10% still has to be addressed? Here’s a hint, utopia without the 10% isn’t utopia, it’s hell. 
 
But attempts to create a perfect society isn’t the main problem. The bigger problem is: What we rejected yesterday is going to bite us on the ass tomorrow, and it’s creeping up on us today.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Chang Your Fuckin' Zip Code

There's a abyss people can fall in. It’s a dark and evil place filled with monsters. It's got all kinds of nasty, dysfunctional stuff in there, like addiction, betrayal, death wishes, trauma, depression, hatred, violence, abuse, suicide, death, yada, yada, yada. I liken this mental abyss to the Grand Canyon. It's frickin' huge and it’s hell on earth. 
Of those who fall into the Abyss, most never come out. Fast or slow, they die there. Now while this is the biggest and most traumatic thing that has ever happened to the individual, straight up, it’s just another day in the Abyss. Namely because it’s filled with like minded people -- and other things. In fact, there’s worse the further in you get. (Remember my first question about ‘bad’ is “Did the person live?” If yes, I say,“Good, we can do something.” If no, the second question is, “How many parts was the body found in?” Where’d you think I got such a warm and fluffy standard?)
Some people fall into the Abyss and at some level they manage to grab on to something and hang on. They don't get worse, but they don't get better. They’ll stay there for the rest of their lives. Other people try to climb out, slip (or give up) and fall to their deaths. People who’ve never been there don’t understand why this happens. Start with the only guarantee in the Abyss is it sucks. I mean that in both meanings -- but mostly about pulling you down. Oh and while climbing out technically sucks only slightly less, it’s WAY more painful, scary and work. Painful because many of the things that soothes the pain of the Abyss are denied to you at this time. Scary because you have to question your ‘truths’; truths that sent you into the Abyss in the first place. Work because ...well you’re changing your entire life. So depending on the individual, just hanging on can be one hell of an accomplishment.
Still others do manage to climb out. Once you've climbed out, you're pretty well exhausted, torn up and twitchy. I liken this to, at first, just laying on the edge of the canyon panting and hurting. You're alive, but you’re a mess and can't do much. 
It takes time to 'recover.' That’s what really want to talk about. Not just the time, but breaking the Abyss’ domination of your life -- especially after you’ve gotten out. This is important because once you’ve been there, the Abyss never goes away. But there’s a difference between it not going away and controlling the rest of your life.
So there you are exhausted and bloody at the edge. In time you can move enough to set up a camp and take care of business while you heal up some more. Those wounds you took in the Abyss seriously limit you. And while we’re at it, there’s the exhaustion issue. You’ve just shot your wad getting out of that big ass canyon. You’re not going to be able to pop up and do a double time a fifty mile march. This ‘camping’ is very much a part of the recovery process.
Here's what’s interesting about that camp. Even though you're not in the Abyss anymore, it still 'rules your life.' I mean it's RIGHT THERE! A yawning darkness that’s there all the time and still having major influence on everything you do. Its presence limits your options and weighs heavily on your soul and consciousness -- including the high likelihood of falling back in. As long as you’re camped on the edge, it’s still staring you in the face. Oh yeah, take a wrong step and you’re back in it. (Or decide that it’s ‘easier’ back in the Abyss and you deliberately jump back in.) 
So there you are, you’re alive, but just barely. And even though you’re out of it the Abyss is still messing with you. Here is the core message of this piece: You aren't supposed to permanently set up house on the edge of the abyss. Yeah you need to camp for a while, but over-all, the goal is to get the hell away from the edge. Keep that in mind, we’ll come back to it.
That temporary camp on the edge is where you try and make sense of the suffering. Understanding is another process that takes time and work -- and here is what a lot of people don’t get: It’s going to change. Yeah, yeah, your life will change. But I’m talking about your ‘understanding’ of the suffering. There’s an old recovery saying, “When you’re in a toilet all you can see is a bigger toilet.” Well, when you’re camped at the edge trying to make sense of the suffering, the only tools you have to make sense of what happened are the same thoughts that put you in the Abyss in the first place. Your ‘understanding’ of the toilet comes from the toilet. So don’t get married to it. It’s at this time that you have to be careful not to turn into -- or be turned into -- a permavictim. 
See there are alot of people out there who want to help you ‘make sense of the suffering’ and get over the trauma of having been in the Abyss. Often in the form of ‘help’ that really, really makes sense. At least sense to the way of thinking that put you into the Abyss. That’s to say it really sounds good and it’s a much better story about ‘you’ than the one that put you into the Abyss. A lot of people really grab onto these ‘new and improved’ tales about who they are. Once again, put a push pin into this, we’ll come back to it. Back to the Abyss and the camp. In time you’re going to heal up enough that you can start doing stuff. By that I mean doing more than just surviving and -- literally -- healing. You don’t run a sprint after surgery, much less a marathon. Healing of your psyche after getting out of the Abyss is the same thing. It’s not just the original pain that sent you into the Abyss, you picked up a lot more wounds while in the Abyss and on the way out. 
 As you heal and get more ‘energy,’ you come to decision point. What are you going to do now? This is both a bigger question and a weird-assed one than you’d think. See before you fell in, your thinking was dominated by whatever sent you to the Abyss. While you were in it just getting by ate up all your attention. That’s why “What now” is a weird-assed question. You’ve never had to ask it before. There’s another important point that is both contentious and a little ... well squishy: Resources. Contentious because some will argue you never had resources, others take the approach that “yes, you had them -- or at least the potential -- in the past (but, like parts tearing off a satellite that’s lost its orbit, they were stripped away as you were going down in flames.)” Then come assholes like me who point out, “Why does it have to be either/or? Why not both?” That squabble aside, the bottomline is at the ‘camp,’ you don’t have too many resources. To recover and get on with life, you’re going to have to do something about that.
Anyway, resources are also squishy That’s partly because it’s a basket concept. Partly it’s that ‘resources’ are both physical and non-physical. When I say a basket concept, that means there’s lots of topics that go into that basket and not all of them make sense to someone camping on the edge. That’s because not all of them have a physical existence. Sure ‘money’ is physical resource, so too is owning a car. Those are physical resources you can have - or not. With physical resources there’s always a matter of how much and how reliable? (Is your car reliable and can you afford to fix it if it breaks down?) But coping skills, boundary enforcement, self-discipline, people skills and time? Those are not physical; but they are very much resources you need. And to get them, you have to develop them. Something you won’t often hear is gaining resources is a part of the recovery process.
 That’s because resources are a big part of getting away from the edge. But, here’s the catch, as you’re healing some of the most important don’t look all that important. The ones you can see can look insurmountable odds. For example the old quandary: To get a job you need experience, but how do you get experience if you can’t get a job? (The answer to that problem is in some of those non-physical resources.) Putting in terms of this analogy: Resources will be the ‘supplies’ you’ll need to break camp and move on. Move on and away from the Abyss.
Changing tracks for a moment, a guy by the name of Fredrick Nietzsche said “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” There’s a lot of wisdom in that saying. But I’m going to add a caveat, once you’ve been into the Abyss it’s carved into your psyche like the Grand Canyon is carved into the state of Arizona. When I said, it will never go away, I wasn’t joking. It is now part of you. Here’s the thing though, it doesn’t have to be all of you. 
You don’t have to forever stay at the edge of the Abyss. In fact, that kind of defeats the idea of recovery. The idea isn’t just to change your zip code from the Abyss. It’s also to change your zip code from the edge too. The edge of the Abyss is a temporary camp. That’s something a whole lot of ‘survivors’ don’t want to hear, some don’t want others to know it and some folks -- including those supposedly helping survivors -- don’t want survivors knowing either. We’ll come back to this in a bit because it’s important.
To get a different understanding on recovery, we’re going to have to change the analogy slightly. Yes the Abyss is the Grand Canyon in your psyche. It’s huge, in your face and a burden. It’s a horrible pain and is almost overwhelming to your limited consciousness. So become bigger. 
As I like to say, “Become Arizona.” See, as big as the Grand Canyon is, it’s just a tiny section of a much bigger State. Really, it’s off in a deserted corner. The counter to the magnitude of the Abyss and its domination over your life is to become ‘big enough’ to be more than just a survivor of the Abyss. Sure it’s there, but so what? That and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee. Using geography, the Grand Canyon is there, but you don’t have to live there. You can spend your time in Flagstaff or Phoenix. Yeah, it’s still part of you, but you spend your life and efforts being more than just a victim. By becoming bigger, you’re not running from it, it’s just a small part of a much larger and -- actually -- healed you.
To do that though, you’re going to need to develop resources. Resources not only to help you get away from the Abyss, but get to those other places. These are the non-physical (soft if you will) resources I was talking about earlier. Soft resources like better coping skills, emotional intelligence, people skills, trust, trustworthiness, reliability and how to grow and maintain stable relationships. Like I said, when you’re at the edge of the Abyss, these don’t sound important for recovery, but they really, really are. (And BTW, odds are it was the lack of these that put you into the Abyss in the first place.) This is how you become bigger than the Abyss. When you do that, both the pain and the pull of the Abyss fades. And that’s what breaks its domination over your life.
The trick of that is you develop these extra resources as you’re growing. It takes time, but you have a ways to go. So yeah, you have the time. You do this so when you ‘get there,’ you have what it takes to stay there. Having ‘soft’ resources means you won’t get pulled back to the edge of the Abyss. It’s not just coming to terms with your past, it’s having the resources to keep surviving the Abyss from ruining your life. It’s about moving on by discovering life is about more than just you (and how only thinking about yourself put you into the Abyss in the first place.) 
In closing I’d like to tell you the reason I came up with this analogy of a temporary camp and moving away from the edge of the Abyss. In case you haven’t figured it out by how I’m talking I have ...a little experience... with the Abyss, crawling out and moving on. It was a lot of work and I had a lot of catching up with people who hadn’t been sidetracked by the Abyss. Okay double duty sucked, but life ain’t fair. But you know what? It was worth it. Those things that made life -- and me --miserable don’t control me anymore. In short, I recovered by becoming more than just what happened to me in my past. All in all, life’s pretty good. 
Having said that, I began to notice a disturbing trend. There are a lot of people who climb out of the Abyss and don’t just camp before moving on. They build a permanent home on the edge. I’m not talking a base camp, I’m talking condos. They make the lip of the Abyss their permanent zip code. This isn’t recovering. This isn’t moving on. They build their identity around the Abyss. At the same time, it’s always about them. Whether it’s what happened or why they can’t control themselves now because of it.. Some not only ennoble it, they brag on it. This to the point of turning it into Victim Olympics of who had a worse time. But a big part of this comes from a disturbing place. Sometimes I see what is being offered as ‘help’ and I have to ask, “How’s that helping the person move onto Phoenix?” 
See, when you’re laying on the edge of the Abyss, you do need help. You’re desperately trying to make sense about what went wrong and how you ended up in the Abyss. And you want to listen to people who can offer you different perspectives to keep you from going back in again. One of the stories that makes sense (for most) people is that of victimization. You are a victim of the Abyss. That becomes your ‘new’ identity. You must embrace the pain and feelings of what happened to you. You are broken and have been wronged. Often to the point of saying you had nothing to do with ending up in the Abyss. 
 Ummm...excuse me?
I’m pretty sure there wasn’t just one thing that ‘put you’ into the Abyss. There were a lot of conscious choices that brought you to the Abyss and even more that put you into it. Now maybe they were bad choices, hell let’s even go so far to say they were fucked up. I’m a big fan of saying, “You didn’t have the coping skills to handle what happened to you and that is what drove you to the Abyss.” But there were lots and lots of conscious choices -- even if they were impulsive. Owning that doesn’t sound too helpful on the edge (in fact, it might even be too much), but it’s critical for moving away from the edge.
What I’m saying is the victim identity is a short term sooth, with long term problems. To fully heal and get on with life, you don’t need to be ‘empowered,’ but you’ll need agency. Don’t take that agency away from people or give it up yourself. Especially don’t let some counselor take your agency away and turn you in into a perma-victim.
 Did you just fight your way out of the Abyss because it sucked so much? So why is this person telling you to embrace the role of a victim and set up house on the edge of the very Abyss you are trying to get the hell away from? This is a really important point. Your goal is to move on with life, not stay stuck as an emotional cripple because of the past. Is it going to be easy? Hell no. Are you going to be able to do things like a ‘normal’ person who didn’t have that past? Sometimes yes. Sometimes no. The ability is again something to be found in soft resources. At the same time, often the wounds are so deep that you’re going to have to figure out a different way to get along. That’s okay. It can be done and these alternative can work. Sometimes you just are going to have to suck it up and learn how to deal. (It took me years to be able to relax on the Fourth of July, because there are certain cracking, white flashes in some fireworks that look just like muzzle flashes in the dark. As in what it looks like when someone is shooting at you. Every time I saw them I wanted to dive, roll and come up shooting. I learned to deal because it’s a tradition of the family I married into.) It’s going to take time and practice, but you can do it. It’s part of moving away from the edge of the Abyss. 
But I want you to take a good hard look at people who have turned the edge of the Abyss into their permanent zip code. For many people it’s their carte blanche for their bad behavior. For others, they’re an explosion looking to happen. They’re not looking for a fight, but they are looking to go off on someone...anyone...over the slightest excuse. Other people just ‘can’t help themselves. They feel so ‘strongly’ they just have to act. For others the injustice of what happened to them has becomes their crusade. They mix it with ideology and identity and you get a ‘defender’ of the oppressed who attacks at the drop of a hat. There are a lot of people who have weaponized their victimhood. People who have set up house on the edge of the Abyss come in many forms, but it’s always about what happened to them. They’ve never moved on. The Abyss still rules them. 
 If you really want to heal and move on, you’re going to have to change your zip code. So while that temporary camp is an important step. Don’t listen to people who tell you you can’t move on from there. It can be done. You can do it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Animal’s Guide to Negotiation and Compromise -- Out at the Sharp End.

I was asked the eternal question. Well okay, so it’s not really eternal, but -- because I talk so much about negotiation and compromise -- I get asked it A LOT. “How do you negotiate with such people?”
Such people are the bullies, temper tantrum throwers and “NO COMPROMISE!” idealists (read, pain in the ass fanatics). 
 
 
Here’s the thing. Most the people asking this question are ‘nice people.’ Unfortunately nice people translates into “People who have been conditioned to let others do the dirty work about shutting down bad behavior. People who have lost the skillset -- much less the willingness -- to do it themselves.” 
 
Yeah, about that... 
 
 
Here are basic skillsets to help you break the habits that leave you vulnerable to being bullied by ‘such people.’ 
 
 ****
 
 
We're going to start by quoting Nietzsche. "He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you."
 
 
Keep that in mind, it will become important later.
 
 
Moving on, realize that although I speak long and loud about compromise, it isn't from a warm fluffy kumbaya singing standpoint. As a friend of mine once summed up "Negotiation without the means to back it up is just begging." I'm not much into begging. 
 
 
My deep love for negotiation and compromise is rooted in fact that shooting people -- who are shooting back at you -- is rather ... unpleasant. 
 
 
(And gawds know there's all that paperwork. But before paperwork there's the whole surviving being shot at issue. Which people who haven't been shot at [or think they have a monopoly on doing the shooting] don't realize is NOT as easy as they think. And of course when your friends and loved ones don't survive, that isn't much fun either.)
 
 
Negotiation, compromise and treating with people are the absolute best and effective ways I know of keeping blood off the walls and all over the floor. Yay for them! Love not having to scrub the walls or shampoo the carpet. 'Cause trust me, that shit smells.
 
 
Many people fail to understand that compromise has different levels. Not just that compromise works on many levels. (Which BTW is very true, yet often forgotten.) But there are many levels and types of compromise. Yeah there's all kinds of complex, on going negotiations over trade, business, and politics. But it works it way down through different levels until it can get to "You don't make a move. I don't make a move and we both walk away from this situation alive." If it's a one time deal, it's done and over. If there are proximity issues then it gets into a more complex 'to avoid having to shoot each other you stay on your side of the fence and I stay on mine." 
 
 
But remember kiddies -- YAY for compromise!
 
 
Having said that. Not everyone can be negotiated and compromised with. In fact, some people you're just going to have to shoot in the face. Not just because they're absolutists, but because they'll never agree to 'you stay on your side of the fence and I'll stay on mine.' (Which is ~gasp~ a form of compromise.) Nope. EVERYTHING is their side of the fence and you are on their property.
 
 
Make no mistake. These people exist. However, they are radically different than someone who has learned they can get away with not compromising. To the point of it has become their negotiation strategy. And a very successful strategy it has become. These folks are as common as cockroaches. And now for the cold bucket of water over your head. 
 
 
This strategy relies on you being a wimp.
 
 
But more than that, it relies on you not knowing there are other options than negotiation and compromise. Or you being unwilling to do them (see wimp comment). All you got is trying to compromise (see begging comment). Their hissy fit depends entirely on you not being willing to make NOT compromising too costly. Not in the sense of a screaming argument costly, but a shrug of 'okay, if you insist' before you drop them.
 
 
The reason I say they are as common as cockroaches, is like cockroaches they come in all sizes. They can range in size and targeting from a 12 year old being snarky with mom to Khrushchev banging 'his' magical third shoe on the table at the UN. The core strategy is the same, what varies is the degree and who they target. Which basically boils down to who they think can get away with it with.
If you're afraid to stand up to people -- whether because of the person or from fear of institutional reprisal -- that means you. In other words, you aren't negotiating, you're begging -- and THEY know it. Even if you don't.
 
 
Which brings us back to not becoming a monster, but first a word about negotiating.
 
 
One of best models for negotiation I ever came across is done with two circles. (BTW, I got this from SSgt Grizzly Bear whose MOS is 'Find evil men and shoot them in the face.") Each circle represents the wants and needs of a party. For negotiation to happen there has to be some overlap (Think Venn Diagram). The more overlap -- while still staying distinct -- the easier it is to compromise. The less, the harder and more likely failure. 
 
 
Common example, you have something to sell. I want to buy. You have the maximum you want and minimum you'll take. I have maximum I'll pay and the minimum I want to pay. As long as there is overlap, we have something to talk about.
 
 
The key point here is everyone gets what they need... not necessarily what they want (there's a difference)... but what they need. This makes compromise a win/win.
 
 
If however, there is no agreement (no overlap if you will) we go our separate ways. I do not need THAT particular one. We walk away from each other seeking to get what we need -- if not want. Although not technically accurate think of agreeing to walking away as a lower level of compromise and agreement. We agree to let the other person go about his/her way.
 
 
Got this? If everyone plays by these rules we can go about our business of getting what we need -- and maybe even what we want. Cool beans.
 
 
Problems occur however, when someone wants their 'circle' to eclipse yours.This is not compromise or negotiation, it's an invasion. Worse, it's not an occupation. It's more like the aliens form Independence Day where they come in, strip the planet and then move on.
 
 
We're gonna have to talk about that happy horseshit.
 
 
MOST people who do this behavior are El Cucaracha. They're used to getting away with this because most people are afraid to say "Not only no, but HELL no." (Or if you're a Southern girl, "Awww hell no.") When they run into people who are willing to say it ... well, you know what happens with roaches when you flip the light on. (Except unlike real roaches, damn are these people loud as they scurry away.)
 
The others are the ones you're going to have to evicerate because there's no compromising with them. They're going to try to invade no matter what you do.
 
 
The trick is not only to be able to tell the difference, but react accordingly. Even it it means letting the son of a bitch live and walk away because he didn't cross the line. But if he does cross the line... oh well, I'm pretty sure I made it clear what would happen.
 
 
I hope the Nietzsche quote has been simmering on the back burner. Because the only thing that separates monsters from those fighting monster is ethics, rules, standards and codes of conduct. Things like letting the cockroaches scuttle to safety -- instead of assuming that everyone who disagrees with you is an extremist and must be shot in the back of the head.
 
 
What are your standards about telling people no? What are your ethics about compromise and negotiation? How much do you allow other people to get what they need? Are you playing for a win/win or is your negotiation based on the assumption it's a zero sum game? What are the lines you won’t cross? What are the lines you absolutely won’t allow to be crossed? Under what conditions will you act? When will you start? When will you end? How much time do you spend honing these skills?
 
 
You asked how do you negotiate with 'such people'? Well start out with it's not a technique. It's more understanding negotiation and compromise. Then responding on the level and how hard they're coming at you. And, of course, balancing the acceptance that sometimes a situation can't be negotiated (and must be resolved by other means) with not crossing the line and becoming a monster yourself.