by Captain Jennifer D. Stephens, D Civ USAF AFMC AFLCMC / PZIOB (Photo of Kori Cioca)
Mandatory Annual Sexual Assault Prevention Training Is A Snooze
This weekend my Battalion in the Ohio Army National Guard had our mandatory annual sexual assault prevention training. This is typically something that is dreaded amongst all soldiers, regardless of age or rank. You sit in a packed, dark room watching a power point presentation with a few video clips or, as DoD has moved to in recent years, a poorly executed and low budget film that lasts about an hour. Typically these trainings generate little to no conversation (other than the whispered jokes between buddies about the poor acting in the films or what they could be doing instead of sitting inuseless training). Soldiers sit sucking down coffee, Mountain Dew, Monster Energy drinks or 5 Hour Energy shots and do their best to stay awake. Half the room is doing the "Blackberry Prayer" - sitting with their head bowed slightly as if in prayer, with thumbs moving furiously over mobile phones nestled half concealed in their laps, texting, emailing or surfing the web in an attempt to stimulate their minds and not nodd off.
By the end of the training, a quarter of the soldiers are standing up along the edges of the room in a last ditch effort to stay awake - not because they don't want to miss a second of the enthralling training, but because they don't want to get caught sleeping by their supervisor. The supervisors half pay attention to the training and instead stalk around the room in the shadows, hoping to catch a soldier with their eyes closed and dole out the appropriate punishment. I have seen, on more than one occasion, a soldier almost fully asleep while standing up propped against the wall. This same scenario plays out on a yearly basis in Guard, Reserve and Active Duty units in the Army, Air Force, Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard across the world. This much needed training has been diminished to a "check the block" requirement that almost no one pays attention to and that certainly no one talks about.
There sure seems to be a lot of confusion — even among technologists — about what technology actually is. I recently had the experience of hearing an investor who funds clean tech startups say that he is “focusing on creating technology, not researching culture” as a way to dismiss the role that cultural evolution might play in getting ideas to market. This was especially surprising considering that all technology arises from culture, each with its own unique history of blended concepts, domains of knowledge, standard practices, sociological models, mythic narratives, and demonstrated solutions.
Take, as one widely known example, the invention of the GUI (graphical user interface) known as the computer desktop. It is a conceptual model based on prior experience many people had with real-world desks, where they stored their pens and laid out folders to organize their workflow. The computer desktop is an interactive blend of new GUI technology and a long history of cultural practices that people draw upon to make sense of it and put it to use.
It is this historic embeddedness that reveals where new technologies come from. Each new widget arises from a context of prior use, existing needs, common stories, and more — the “genetic material” of culture from which new ideas spring into being. This is why meme science (the study of cultural evolution) is the primary lens through which to understand both what technology is and how it is likely to change in the near future.
One of the challenges of caring citizens in America today is how to frame the conversations about how to expand and strengthen our 1st Amendment freedoms to one another. There are five basic freedoms all of which are focused on how to have conversations that matter: freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and freedom to petition.
One thing science is teaching us about human beings is that we are ALL hardwired to practice morality, i.e. well-being of ourselves and others. One doesn’t need organized religion to learn well-being. If I don’t eat or drink, I die. Therefore, it’s right to eat. It’s wrong to starve.
Our 1st Amendment freedom of religion simply means that if you want to participate an organized religion, great - “We the People” are not going to force one on you. At the same time, because we’re human beings hardwired to make choices - our founders wanted and expected us to bring our diverse moral perspectives into public conversations about how we can make our common life better. If our common life is happy, more than likely our private lives will be fulfilling as well.
Thus, our 1st Amendment freedoms focus on civility at the local level and diplomacy at the national level. It’s only when our 1st Amendment freedoms break down that our 2nd Amendment becomes important. We have been neglecting our 1st Amendment freedoms locally and nationally, and it shows.
by Sara Robinson, originally published on AlterNet, July 2012
One of the great historical strengths of the progressive movement has been its resolute commitment to the separation of church and state. As progressives, we don’t want our government influenced by anybody’s religious laws. Instead of superstition and mob id, we prefer to have real science, based in real data and real evidence, guiding public policy. Instead of holy wars, othering, and social repression — the inevitable by-products of theocracy — we think that drawing from the widest possible range of philosophical traditions makes America smarter, stronger, and more durable over time.
That said: while we all want a government free of religion, there are good reasons that we may not want our own progressive movement to be shorn of every last spiritual impulse. In fact, the history of the progressive movement has shown us, over and over, that there are things that the spiritual community brings to political movements that are essential for success, and can’t easily be replaced with anything else.
Clark: When it comes to breaking down how language matters to our ability to address political issues, no one has been more influential from the progressive side of any discussion than George Lakoff. As a linguistics professor at the University of California at Berkeley and an author of books such as Don’t Think of an Elephant: Know Your Values and Frame the Debate–The Essential Guide for Progressives, Lakoff has spent years writing about why we use certain words and why, as he says often, “language matters.”
Saturday’s Melissa Harris-Perry brought in a panel to discuss the Associated Press’ decision to stop using the word “illegal” to describe immigrants; Lakoff spoke with MSNBC.com about that change and the other linguistic tricks and frames to keep track of in the immigration debate.
This week the Supreme Court is considering a case about the constitutionality of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and legal protections granted to same-sex couples in states where gay marriage is now legally recognized. This is a watershed moment in US cultural history and internet activists are doing their part to make a collective statement.
If you’ve been on Facebook in the last two days, you have likely seen an explosion of red squares that look like this:
By George Lakoff, Republished with Permission from the Author, Originally published in Alternet
Paul Krugman, Joe Stiglitz, Robert Reich and other major economists have pointed out that the deficit is not an urgent economic problem and that, to the contrary, the economy would be helped by an increase in public investment and harmed by drastic cuts. The Sequester would hurt the economy, millions of people, and the country as a whole.