Although there are legitimate reasons to shape and frame facts in order to develop ideas and better communicate thoughts, the same techniques used are more often abused to manipulate others for deceitful, self-serving reasons. Those pushing political agendas, selling snake oil, and trolling for booty use our own psychological failings to accomplish their goals. While someone with an advanced understanding of the psychology involved in decision-making can become a master manipulator, a basic grasp of such concepts offers potential victims a powerful defense.
All people act on their emotional, intuitive, and intellectual instincts when interacting with others. Manipulators interacting on an emotional level will tend to pray on our emotional deficits. Emotional manipulators frame and shape their interactions with others in order to exploit this most fundamental element of personhood. With exception to sociopaths, all people, including trained professionals, are vulnerable to this mode of manipulation thanks to our humanity. Where individuals are emotionally disconnected from a given situation, we are protected from the emotional manipulator. Where individuals cannot emotionally disconnect, we are vulnerable to this most basic mode of manipulation.
Meanwhile, manipulators, who function on an intuitive level, will more heavily rely on the action-reaction dynamics of personal and social interactions. Because intuition is an instinct of automatic mechanisms, which allow us to respond to highly dynamic and/or novel situations, manipulators are able to use their actions to guide our reactions. Those using intuitive modes of manipulation will shape and frame the responses of their pray, so the manipulators’ interests will be served. From an outsider’s perspective, the structure of such an interaction would appear to be a broken argument of conflicting rationales lacking in logical flow that ends in an outcome desirable to the manipulator.
Finally, manipulators interacting on intellectual instincts plan and develop situations where potential victims are forced to “choose” to fulfill the interests of the manipulator, often at the expense of their own interests. More dangerous than emotional or intuitive manipulators, these highly skilled individuals will make use of forgotten facts, a lack of technical understanding, and the tendency of society to determine truth based on public opinion. This mode of manipulation works through long-term interactions and the pursuit of grand schemes that may convincingly appear to fulfill the interests of the victims. Asking proper questions, especially on what assumptions are being made, can help reveal whose interests are truly being served by the shaping and framing of facts in this manner.
Furthermore, a person’s decisions are motivated by economical, i.e. the pursuit of self-interests including financial interests, social, and emotional incentives. Before an individual acts, he, or she, will evaluate a situation in terms of one or more of these three modes of motivation. A healthy individual will ideally be able to use all three modes to process information and make decisions to pursue the most advantageous outcome. Unfortunately, flawed humans often distort information. For example, decisions regarding relationships should be made to fulfill emotional needs and sustainable wants; however, society has a long history of encouraging marriage as a means of solidifying social standing while modern thinking has too often turned marriage into an economic arrangement where the contract is dissolved when economic factors no longer serve one or both individuals.
What manipulative people do is use our tendency to improperly, or over, process information in a specific motivational mode, i.e. our thinking becomes locked into an inappropriate mode(s). One major reason why this happens stems from our natural tendency to lie. Not only does society encourage dishonesty by more often offering punishment for those who recognize their failings, we are also physiologically programmed from conception to appease others for our gain and to avoid recognizing the faults we need to work on. As such, we avoid uncomfortable interpretations of information. It is often necessary to remain externally silent to protect our interests; however, internal dishonesty opens us up to negative influences, because we choose to avoid the discomfort of unwanted truths.
Clearly, manipulators will strive to use all three modes of manipulations in order to achieve their goals. They will also manipulate how we process information to force us to use our preferred modes of motivation to further their goals. As such, there are a few basic steps that people need to integrate into their thinking in order to avoid being manipulated:
Recognizing someone is trying to manipulate you by processing information in all three modes of motivation helps minimize our personal bias toward more favorable interpretations of given situations and facts. By understanding the consequences of a decision in emotional, social, and economical terms, it is easier to comprehend the consequences of a potentially damaging decision. Everyone we encounter helps influence what we do and who we are; however, it is the decisions, which harm us that we need to avoid by minimizing the negative influence of others.
Even if the intentions of manipulators are benign and/or favorable to us, it is important to empower ourselves by knowing that we are being manipulated and knowing how we are being manipulated. Knowing is the only way of ensuring our needs and wants will be pursued when the interests of our manipulators are no longer aligned with our own. While it is essential to recognize how we are being manipulated, it is not necessarily important to know the purpose behind a manipulation, so we need to concentrate on understanding the methods of manipulation.
The modes of thoughts we, and those influencing us, use greatly impact our choices. By better understanding how and why we make decisions, we can better defend ourselves against the harmful influences of others. Consequently, we must recognize what modes of manipulation and motivation are being used to influence our decisions.
For those under the influence of an extremely manipulative person(s), especially victims of abuse, avoidance is the most fundamental defense. In other words, we need to avoid engaging manipulative individuals. Intellectually, this means disengaging from the thinking of manipulators when a potential conclusion goes against our broad interests, i.e. ignore and refuse to recognize the validity of the contorted rationales used by manipulators. Socially, it is necessary to disengage from manipulative people and others who knowingly, or unknowingly, support manipulative behavior. In other words, stay as far away from such people as possible and interact with those who are willing to recognize and confront manipulative behavior. Perhaps more importantly, it is essential to avoid the tendency of victims to focus on the negative social consequences of acting against manipulators. Emotionally, victims need to avoid considering the emotional impact of their defense tactics on their manipulators. This can be difficult as most people have trouble learning how to disconnect from their emotional instincts, but it can be done by more often utilizing other instincts when interacting with manipulators.
4. Interact Wisely
It might be possible to reshape a manipulator’s goals in order to either avoid situations that spark manipulative behavior or force these individuals to consider the interests of others in addition to their own. For example, conversations should be avoided where manipulators can use your views and opinions to reshape your thinking so you act against what you need and want. Alternatively, someone might offer a strong enough argument that forces manipulators to recognize they have broader interests that are served by calculating and addressing the interests of others. In both cases, the ill-effects of manipulators will be neutralized. Clearly, this should only be tried if a situation is stable, the tactics of the manipulator are fully understood, and one is unable to avoid the influence of manipulative individuals.
5. Seek Help
In situations where a manipulator has full control over a situation, it is important to seek outside help. Professionals, such as lawyers, accountants, and political scientists, should be consulted when dealing with legal, financial, political, or other civil affairs. For personal relationships and issues, the field of psychology has allowed for the training of a wide range of professionals capable of mediating conflicts and offering escape options.
Being manipulated, especially for those who have been seriously harmed by manipulators, can be extremely frustrating, damaging, and enraging. Clearly, the intellectual architecture presented here does not provide specific answers for every conceivable situation, but it does offer some of the key tools needed to learn how to deal with dishonest, self-serving manipulators. As someone with a father and extended family with massive control issues, a tendency to be dishonest, and a dysfunctional nature, this writer has been trying to develop and explain defense tactics to victims of manipulators for years.
At the age of ten, I consciously started developing my own defense tactics in order to strengthen my natural defense mechanisms before I could understand the intellectual architecture behind my behavior. Where I had to reverse engineer this intellectual architecture based on my own experiences, readers have the advantage of using this modeling to develop defense tactics tailored to their own unique circumstances. Moreover, understanding the modes of manipulation and modes of motivation affords individuals of all educational levels a platform for building defense tactics against manipulators.
It is interesting that the English language offers over 3,000 words to describe human emotions. What I think is even more interesting is that someone, who can access the full range and depth of their emotions, will behave differently than someone who cannot in differing circumstances.
So many English and other words exist to describe emotions, because the human capacity to feel is actually a spectrum of broad emotional states and micro-emotions. Narrowing the focus to a couple of emotion classifications, or states, and more specified emotions, the following chart can help us understand what emotions an individual can experience.
Furthermore, people cycle through these emotional states on a momentary, daily, seasonal, and yearly basis. As such, an even more useful way to understand emotions would be to arrange these various feelings into an actual spectrum where all the micro-emotions can be included.
As we cycle through our broad range of emotions, i.e. we progress or regress, it is important to recognize most people experience a narrower range of micro-emotions in each emotional state. In fact, some individuals might experience such a narrow micro-emotional range that their emotional spectrum is more like a discrete set of the emotional states while an even smaller number of people may not even experience a complete set of the fundamental emotional states. This explains why on a regular basis a particular individual, who might be happy one moment, suddenly becomes angry; this person does not experience emotions in-between these states.
As the wave and Gaussian forms suggestion, an individual may cycle through some of the emotional states and micro-emotions more quickly than the other states, i.e. a higher frequency for some states, while the ordering of the states may differ for different people. (I would be very interested to see more research on the subject as developing our understanding of how we cycle through our micro-emotions could help us progress in our emotional health.)
A couple of more thoughts on emotions…
Individuals cycle through emotions differently. Behavior, including thought behavior, is influenced by circumstance and personality. A person in an unhealthy environment may gravitate toward the sad or angry areas of their spectrum, i.e. exhibit a depressed or violent persona; whereas, their essence may gravitate toward the more happy end of their spectrum.
People are motivated economically, i.e. pursuit of self-interests including financial reward, social, and emotional. In many respects, the Cold War era forced Westerners to reject, or at least partially reject, thinking outside of capitalism, i.e. the pursuit of self-interest becomes first, thus the decision-making capacity of Westerners, especially Americans, become more economic and shortsighted in nature. One consequence is that we tend to process information economically (cost versus benefit) and in terms of economics, even when we should be processing thoughts emotional or considering the social impact of our actions. It makes me wonder if this has a lot to do with why people have so much difficulty dealing with their emotions honestly and building healthy relationships. Instead of relationships, which are rooted in emotion, people embrace arrangements built on economic factors like comfort, ease, sexual impulse, and financial benefit in order to fulfill basic emotional and social needs.
Looking at how exhausted medical and mental health professionals can become when dealing with severely disturbed individuals on a daily basis over a career, I cannot help but consider how emotionally exhausted children from dysfunctional families or families with disturbed family members must feel. It should be no surprise that most kids from broken, dysfunctional, abusive, and impoverished families cannot function at the same level as their peers from healthy and affluent families, yet it is to most people.
Can people be emotionally raped? That is, will someone respond to a severe emotional assault, i.e. someone’s emotions have been manipulated through deceit, in a similar fashion as a rape victim responds to the violation of their body, personal security, and ability to choose. (Of course, this also begs the question of whether or not someone can be socially raped. For example, a disenfranchised woman or an appeaser is socially pressured by her overbearing parents to date or marry someone.) As a commonplace example of potential emotional rape, a manipulative person lies to a person he knows to be emotionally vulnerable in order to get sex. As another example, someone does not want to have romantic feelings for someone else (not because things didn’t work out, but because he knew it would likely not work out, she didn’t love him romantically, he knew he couldn’t handle the rejection, and she wouldn’t try to make it work), but the girl continuously and forcefully uses deceit to convince this person to fall in love with her. Once the deceit is fully realized, though he is still in love with the lie as he struggles to move on, she then attacks him socially when he tries to confront her with the feelings she forced onto him and the hurt she caused, i.e. silence him, in order to protect her social standing and allow herself to continue to move on without regret. Thoroughly violating someone’s ability to choose and confront the cause of their hurt is very traumatic; I think the response to such a violation can very much resemble rape in extreme cases, especially when exasperating factors exist….she touched me here
Tragic events like the Boston Marathon Bombing leave people to question why the perpetrators of these violent crimes chose to harm others. All choices have economic, emotional, and social consequences to the decision-maker and others. In fact, even the act of making a choice has costs as the decision-making process takes time and effort that takes away from other intellectual endeavors. A preoccupation with emotional or social issues can very much limit the ability of a person to focus on essential intellectual endeavors. When trying to understand individuals in crisis, such as those on the verge of committing a violent act, it is important to understand their state of mind by looking at what costs these individuals do not consider and what costs these individuals are willing to endure over what others typically will not.
For example, someone who is in a critical stage of suicide, i.e. thoughts of suicide have been crystallized into worsening suicidal impulses after decades of suffering, struggle to make the choice to live on a daily basis. The decision to live is based on whether or not such an individual can live with the short-term consequence of a given choice or the day’s events while decision-making becomes ever more dependent upon emotion, even when inappropriate. Unless a critically suicidal person can find a significant enough purpose to live for, such as having a child, an equivalent love of science or meaningful job, he cannot progress beyond this degenerative state. Because of the short-term nature of these individuals’ reactions to life events and ongoing stressors, these individuals may not be able to address their broader and long-term interests, even when they thoroughly understand those needs.
Suicidal victims eventually regress to a state where they no longer consider social costs, i.e. the impact of their death on others, and economic costs, i.e. personal interests like finances, as their focus is on the emotional costs associated with continuing to live. Similarly, an individual considering a first act of violence narrows their decision-making capacity to include only a few factors. Instead of recognizing the pain and suffering an act of violence will do to potential victims, or the legal fallout, a would-be attacker might consider the cost of disappointing peers.
For Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the cost of disappointing his brother (social/emotional cost) was likely more “expensive” than the cost of hurting others, being punished criminally, and distressing other family members, if these factors were even considered. For those who have been radicalized, such as Tamerlan Tsamaev, the choice to commit a violent act may depend upon a feeling that the rules of society do not address a critical set of his interests. These individuals feel neglected by our broader society, so the social cost of not acting violently for the approval of a small group of peers is far more costly than the cost of going to prison or being killed.
What makes acts like suicide or violent crimes so mystifying to healthy, well-assimilated individuals stems from the ancient Western philosophies that influence modern day thinking. Much of the world has been indoctrinated by Socrates’ assertion that motivation is rooted in the fear of death. Shifted to more modern, accurate terms, motivation is based on an avoidance of discomfort. In ancient Japanese tradition, as an example detached from Western thinking, suicide was seen as an acceptable means of avoiding the discomfort of shame. In a similar fashion, emotionally damaged people use suicide as a means of avoiding emotional pain. In turn, violent criminals use violence to avoid the discomfort associated with having their interests neglected. In other words, they feel a need to “fight back” against what they perceive to be an attack on them by society.
If an individual’s decision-making processes have been distorted by an emotional or social deficit, making an economic argument, for example, will have little effect on their actions. As an example, society offers prison time for a violent offense, which is an economic incentive not to commit a crime. Most people make the choice not to cause harm due to the consequences; however, certain violent offenders cannot. FBI and other interrogators have a successful track record with interrogating methods based in efforts to forge relationships with detainees. These methods can be successful, because interrogators recognize and attempt to exploit the emotional and social deficits of their subjects.
Like a suicidal individual, a person contemplating a violent crime, including an act of terrorism, may offer a few subtle hints in order to find an “out,” as these people may want to maintain their options, or legitimatize their actions as the only path. For potential terrorists and other outcasts, violent groups, characters, and ideals can fulfill the needs that our broader society has neglected. Where an emotional or social deficit can motivate an act of terrorism or other violent offense, preemptive efforts might be taken to address such emotional and/or social deficits in order to avoid acts of violence. If investigators, who flagged the young man, had an opportunity to steer Tamerlan Tsamaev’s pursuit of his emotional and social deficits into more construction outlets during an interview, they might have been able to motivate him away from terrorism. In short, understanding the decision-making process of those in crisis can help our society both explain and prevent future tragedies.
It makes sense that a growing number of older workers are starting new businesses. Individuals in their late working years tend to have more assets and greater savings, so they possess the capital needed to invest in a business, establish a line of credit for the business, and endure an almost certain period without revenue. They also have experiences that helps guide them as to what products and/or services can turn a profit while their experiences afford them the benefit of having relationships with a potential customer base. Trust and professional recognition are two invaluable commodities in short supply that cannot be bought; they must be earned over time. Older workers enjoy these real benefits, whether as, the youth tend to lack these resources.
Perhaps more importantly, older workers looking to start a business have the confidence that comes with a history of financial and professional success. Starting a business due to job loss has become far more common, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. Older workers, who know they have the ability to make money with their skills and experience, have an easier time seeing a clear path to prosperity. A young worker, however, may not be able to see a way forward, especially if this individual has made multiple attempts to find a means of generating revenue after being rejected by employers. Given the Great Recession, this scenario may well be more commonplace than some would like to admit while exasperating factors, such as mental illness or inherited poverty, can leave individuals unable to effectively compete in the economy.
Although these factors are largely perceived costs, which motivation might overcome, it is foolish to think a person can have their legs broken then be expected to win the marathon that economy has become. Capitalism is predicated on the idea that effort, which is beneficial to others and/or society as a whole, is rewarded finically via an increase in standard of living, greater financial freedom, and financial security. Young entrepreneurs will tend to quickly exhaust their capital, especially if they cannot temporarily displace costs necessary for their success onto others, such as their parents, and their ability to adjust to failures by finding new directions.
In many respects, the idea of older workers leading the charge in business creation is nothing new. In Meadville, PA, which had been known as the tool and die capital of the world, well-paid blue collar workers would establish themselves in a shop, develop some idea, which they conceived while working, then spin off new companies to service the needs of their employers and other surrounding businesses. Today, this cycle of innovation has been short-circuited by a need for greater startup capital thanks to inflation and the focus on capital-intensive, high tech industry, a mismatch of technical and intellectual capital with those who can start a business venture, and a tendency of businesses to incur opportunity costs over training/productivity costs.
Opportunity costs are incurred when businesses do not utilize the skills, knowledge, and intellectual capital of employees to purpose new opportunities. In order to control costs, employers seek ready-to-go workers with specialty backgrounds, where the cost of specialized (re)training is continually subsidized by the government or absorbed by the workers, instead of hiring workers with broad-based training such as those educated in the sciences. Locking the right people out of an industry in order to save on training costs, appease labor unions, and/or suppress wages by embracing lower skilled labor is a killer to innovation and industry, especially in a globalized, lowest bidder economy. It is also harmful to high quality employees who cannot get their foot in the door. In short, older workers are needed to be the source of new businesses.
With the younger of the two Boston Marathon Bombers in custody and the older brother dead, it is time to ensure these individuals are held accountable for their actions and learn what can be learned from this tragedy. Although our public officials and public protectors performed well in the aftermath of the bombing, the handling of the young suspect and future perpetrators of such violence could get very murky given past oversights introduced by the far right through the George W. Bush Administration.
Clearly, national security is far too politically charged as politics pushed the hands of the Obama Administration to classify the massacre as a terrorist attack prematurely. On the right, a strong coalition of influential individuals would have liked to see the young suspect treated as an enemy combatant in order to circumvent his Constitutional rights guaranteed to him as a US citizen.
The use of concepts like terrorism, enemy combatant, and weapons of mass destruction offer insight into the wrongheaded thinking of these influential Americans. How words are used matters, especially when they come from the mouths of public officials and influential persons, because the working definition of key concepts determines if we embrace proper, effective policies or simply complicate issues.
A terrorist is a criminal and can be a murder; however, a terrorist is more than a criminal as a terrorist acts to intimate society as means of changing public policy through fear. In the vagueness of the legal and working definition of terrorist, a protestor or freedom fighter may be labeled by a government as a terrorist or a supporter of terrorism. Consider that the CIA is regarded by many in the Middle East to be a state-sponsored terrorist organization while the militarized wing of Hamas is not.
The reason the definition of terrorism matters is that governments misuse the term to legitimize the abuse of those seeking their freedoms and radical groups misuse the term to manipulate would-be recruits. In events like the Boston Marathon Bombing, the distinction between a murderer and a terrorist is important, because a murder is motivated by different thinking than a terrorist; therefore, the threat of further terrorism must be addressed differently than the ongoing threat of murder.
Meanwhile, one of the most damaging aspects of the George W. Bush era was an effort by the far right to circumvent the US Constitution and basic American values concerning human rights. The rise of globalized terrorism tested the fabric of our society by forcing us to recognize the need to balance freedoms with security. Instead of rising to that challenge with our best efforts, our public officials gave into the temptation and ease of engaging in practices like torture and unwarranted detentions.
It is these same voices on the right who wish to ignore the young Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s citizenship and the Constitution to interrogate him as an enemy combatant in Guantanamo Bay. The term enemy combatant has great significance. It implies war, but the use of it in classifying terrorist suspects stretches the definition of war to mean any act of violence against all self-proclaimed US interests. Because war tends to involve a loosening of Civil Rights, an ill-defined perpetual war is a threat to our freedoms and values.
Furthermore, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is charged with the use of a weapon of mass destruction, among other criminal offenses. The concept of a weapon of mass destruction was originally introduced as a classification for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. The entire point of using the term “weapons of mass destruction” was to alert public officials and the general public to the enhanced treat that they present. In turn, laws were supposed to created and action taken to deal with the increasing threat of WMDs.
Quite frankly, the threat posed by something that can be made from horse shit, i.e. a fertilizer bomb, is not the same threat posed by a nuclear weapon. Creating a legal standard that treats someone, who sets off a conventional explosive, which is admittedly terrible destructive, in a similar manner as someone trying to build a chemical or biological weapon at home lessens the significance of the charge. Laws had already been written to punish people for bombings; the laws against the use of WMDs needed to exist in order to offer an enhanced punishment for using an actual weapon of mass destruction.
Perhaps more importantly, the broadened use of the term WMD paves the way for human rights violations, i.e. the death penalty could be expanded to crimes that would otherwise not result in the death penalty. If someone uses an explosive as a weapon with the same potential to cause harm as a gun, equal treatment under the Fourteen Amendment demands a near equivalent punishment. Should an individual or business accidently kill someone in an explosion, such as the one in West, Texas, any intentional wrongdoing could translate into a death sentence under the WMD classification when a lethal car accident caused by drunk driver would result in a far less punishment. We must also ask whether it is reasonable to subject a child to the WMD charge for using a cherry bomb on a mail box.
Moreover, the reason the misuse of these concepts matters is that these situations will play out at some point while our legal system needs to be consistent. After all, the justice system only has value to society, because it promotes order through equal treatment. Just as sneak-and-peak searches under the Patriot Act were used for drug enforcement when they were intended to be limited to investigations into terrorist threats, the increasing misuse of concepts like terrorist, enemy combatant, and weapons of mass destruction is certain to undermine public policy and our civil rights. Instead of addressing key questions on how to deal with terrorism, the US government has far too often chosen to avoid finding a means of balancing security with freedoms.
Just a thought…
Because George W. Bush and his Administration view terrorism as antifreedom; they viewed any means of stopping it to be profreedom. Although he and his political allies might agree torture is bad, the use of the practice is completely justified in their minds as they still believe it helps fight the threat of terrorism. Similarly, Al Qaeda operatives and other violent criminal actors view America to be a violator of their righteous and cultural practices, i.e. we deny them freedom. Such individuals may believe killing, including killing Americans, is wrong, yet they also view violence as a legitimate means of fighting US oppression. (Attacks on civilians are further legitimized as the US is a democracy and the government is supposedly beholden to the People.)
The infamous Guantanamo Bay detention center continues to generate one problem after another for the US military. While hunger strikes have long plagued the facility, the practice has been taken to a whole new level of unhealthy in recent months with over half of the detainees refusing to eat. Although the military recognizes the detainees have a right to protest, their policy is to use a feeding tube to force-feed any individual who is in a critical stage of starvation. Several human rights groups consider the intervention a violation of the detainee’s human rights. That is, the practice violates a person’s right to be treated humanely, i.e. the feeding tube cases undue discomfort, right to self-determination, and right to protest.
Ironically, these same groups would probably accuse the US military of violating human rights, if they allowed these detainees to simply die as doing so would be an indication of intentional neglect/mistreat of detainees. That said, the right to self-determination and the right to protest are human rights; however, these rights are severely truncated for these individual due to the fact they are imprisoned. Legitimately imprisoned individuals forfeit their right to self-determination while their right to protest is only limited to activities undertaken to ensure their human and civil rights are respected by their caretakers. Meanwhile, it is important to remember suicide is illegal and the US government does intervene to prevent the suicide of free individuals all the time, by force if necessary.
Unfortunately, it is questionable as to whether or not these detainees are being held legitimately. Not only is the term enemy competent loosely defined and applied inconsistently, i.e. those being held as enemy combatants have not been formally charged with crimes, have not been given a adequate opportunity to review or protest the validity of even basic evidence, or been freed when they have been legally guaranteed their freedom. Certainly, foreigners do not have Constitutional rights, but the world standing and moral character of the United States is deeply rooted in justice, human rights, and freedom from arbitrary imprison for all. As such, the US needs to do more to bring Guantanamo Bay away from the practices that pushed our Forefathers to found our Nation by embracing the principles that all Americans are supposed to espouse. In short, the ethical concerns of using feeding tubes is somewhat superficial as the real ethical violation is whether or not these individuals are beginning illegitimately held by the United States government.
No matter who is responsible; whether an act of terrorism or the crime of a deranged murderer, the Boston Marathon Bombing is yet another massacre in a lengthening string of mass murders that both strain the fabric of society and bring our communities together. It is important to remember on the same day that this tragedy struck the heart of the American People, the Iraqi People experienced a string of attacks that killed at least 55 individuals. While we will always strive to ask and answer questions when we are faced with such painful reminders of the fact that our world is full of violence, our rational minds can never quite grip the emotional implications of these events. Like all things that leave deep scars in our hearts, unresolved feelings and insecurities caused by past events begin to stir when we are periodically reminded of them or experience similar crises. We may even find ourselves descending into a long and deep personal catastrophe of our own as we watch others pick up the pieces of their lives. Unfortunately, tragic moments in our lives and shared history will continue to materialize, no matter how much we do to lessen their occurrences, but we can push forward and deal with the consequences by working together in order to build stronger community that nurture fewer criminal minds. In closing, I hope next year’s Boston Marathon is even bigger and better than this year’s.
In recent years, the world has seen a growing amount of civil unrest, political strive, economic instability, financial insecurity, violent outbursts, emotional/relationship conflicts, and a general decline in social cohesion. Part of this degenerative trend may well come from a real and/or perceived view that society is becoming fundamentally unjust. While parts of the world have long been deprived of legal justice, those who know it lose faith in the system when judicial review becomes little more than a superficial justification for government overlooking social grievances or it becomes bogged down in technicalities and lawyer speak.
Justice is the social institute that ensures an individual constrains his, or her, actions for the benefit of the whole by offering some guarantee his, or her, most pressing interests will be addressed by society. When society fails to reasonably address the interests of individuals, it is the innate desire for justice that drives communities and individuals to demand offenders attempt to address their offending grievance and offer some sort of restitution for their actions. Justice is what we need to feel the rules of our society are worth following. It is when we feel violated and unheard or we lack choice that we feel the world is unjust. That said, justice is not simply about building a legal system that safeguards us from criminal acts. There is also a need for social, economic, and personal justice.
The idea of social justice stems from a need to offer all members of society equal opportunities to enjoy the privileges and rights afforded to all other members of the community. Largely thanks to the Civil Rights Movement of the Twentieth Century, America has learned individuals should not simply be condemned by society or judged by individuals solely on innate or potentially offensive characteristics. We have come to understand personal merit should be the determinate of someone’s social position. Unfortunately, there remain communities of disempowered individuals who have been locked into degenerative circumstances where there is little to no real, or perceived, opportunity to escape. The value of personal merit, therefore, is greatly diminished for these persons as disempowerment is a lack of choice.
Furthermore, the concept of economic justice builds on the value of personal merit. Clearly, not everyone is born with the same privileges or hurdles, but economic justice hinges on a system that rewards personal merit that benefits society and punishes wrongdoings that hurt society. When people see Wall Street executives, who have maintained or bolstered their privileged positions after causing Americans and all the Peoples of the world untold hardships with the Great Recession, they feel a lack of economic justice. Someone born into a low socioeconomic family, who works hard, tries to be all that he can be, and seeks to do work the world needs, yet finds his basic needs are overlooked when no one will hire him for a job that offers purpose or advancement, feels economic injustice, especially when employers chose to hire uninterested, incompetent workers for even basic entry level jobs over him. In turn, a lack of economic justice is thoroughly demoralizing on a personal level and costs society in terms of unrealized opportunities.
Finally, the need for personal justice comes from a failure of society to punish individuals for selfish, socially degenerative, yet legal, behavior. Personal justice is not revenge as there is room for redemption and forgiveness. It is when we are always asked to turn the other cheek, especially if we have the ability to cause great pain to those who casually hurt us on a continual basis, that we crave personal justice. For example, the innate human need to be loved is often abused by self-serving, egocentric individuals looking to fulfill their own whims without concern for the needs of others. Creating the illusion of love, these people are, at the most, only capable of long-term hookups and other arrangements devoid of honest love. Their actions leave victims searching for the imperfect perfect mate they came to love when they cannot find replacements who do actually love them and can fill the holes cut into their hearts. Personal justice is lacking when individuals and communities no longer offer open and honest criticism of such behavior. People need to be scolded when they cause others great hurt, especially if they could have spent a few moments of their time when it mattered the most to alleviate a lifetime of pain with honesty.
Although a lack of legal justice undermines the fabric of society, all forms of injustice cause damage to our communities and personal relationships. We live in communities to improve the quality of our lives, but people only have an interest in serving the interests of society when their interests are addressed. It is when society no longer serves the interests of the People that social order loses its value, starting with those who have been most neglected. Justice is, however, not simply the responsibility of elected officials and civil servants. Justice can only be served in all of its forms when all the People of a society fight for justice.
Insecure people seeking a sense of security can benefit from a criticism free environment. By affording such individuals reasonable concessions when they engage in disagreeable behaviors, they can learn to both trust and behave in a more acceptable fashion. By contrast, insecure persons, who express their insecurities in a domineering, aggressive manner, will be less likely to benefit from such an environment, because these individuals view concessions to be appeasements. As these individuals begin to feel more secure, they tend to grow increasingly aggressive and domineering. Consequently, the only means of managing their misbehavior is by forcibly stopping the misbehavior and/or offering punishments that demonstrate the willingness and ability of a legitimate authority to prevent the misbehavior.
In recent years, North Korea has grown increasingly hostile towards its neighbors. In spite of the fact the North has been afforded a great deal of concessions over the years, its behavior has only crescendoed from bad to moderate to worse. Not only has the North achieved its goal to become a nuclear power, it has even physically attacked South Korea without a proportional reprisal. Some believed the isolated nation would behave more in line with the expectations of the International Community once it had greater leverage thanks to its expanding nuclear capacity. Unfortunately, it has not. In fact, the installation of Kim Jong-Un after the death of his father has only resulted in an even more aggressive stance. With North Korea ending the long-standing armistice and fully cutting off communications with the South, among other acts of aggression, it is clear the new leader is striving to prove himself deserving of his post while it is unclear if he shares his father’s same drive to behave rationally when it serves his only interests.
Modeling North Korea after an insecure person, the communist country is very much an isolated, insecure nation thoroughly afraid of the outside world while it is also a narcissist, self-righteous country convinced of its own national and racial supremacy. By defying international conventions and engaging the world in a hostile manner since the Korean War stagnated into an armistice sixty years ago, the rogue state has acted as a state terrorist that has successfully used violence and threat of violence to demand continuous ransom from the International Community. Meanwhile, the North Korean government has essentially created a national cult that severely punishes individual and novel thought. This means the culture is stagnate and unlikely to revolt against government misbehavior.
Consequently, the North can only be expected to remain locked into the same vicious cycle that has allowed for its nuclearization and escalating hostility against South Korea, the US, and the rest of the International Community. Political and diplomatic efforts have had a few minor successes; however, these successes will not lead to an end game strategy. Appeasing the North Korean dictator will only encourage his government to demand greater concessions from the West and afford him the room to expand his nuclear arsenal. All diplomatic efforts going forward must, therefore, be aimed at reversing North Korea’s progress on nuclear weapons; otherwise, they will useless endeavors that will result a greater threat in the future. The world is at a critical juncture where the lack of a sufficient response to North Korean violence will lead to escalating aggressions on behave of the North Koreans until the world finds itself in a major war that could start off with a nuclear blast.
Should North Korea strike the South or any other neighbor, either China and/or the United States must make a quick, crushing blow against the North Korean military. In doing so, the North will quickly learn it does not have the military supremacy the leadership has convinced the North Korean People it has. In turn, the North Korean government will either be forced to learn that its bad behavior will not be appeased or escalate the war. If escalation occurs, both China and the US must be prepared to inflict serious damage to the regime’s military infrastructure. As frightening as escalation is, a failure to act will lead to a situation where North Korea will be more likely to use nuclear weapons at a time when it will have a larger stockpile and better delivery systems.
“Stupid is as stupid does.” On Wednesday, March 20, 2013, the GOP’s charge to balance the Federal Budget scored another victory when the Senate voted to cut an entire ten million dollars worth of National Science Foundation funding that pays for political science research. As clearly expressed by the intended goal of amendment SA 65 to H.R. 933, Republicans like Jeff Flake and Tom Coburn wish "to prohibit the use of funds to carry out the functions of the Political Science Program in the Division of Social and Economic Sciences of the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences of the National Science Foundation, except for research projects that the Director of the National Science Foundation certifies as promoting national security or the economic interests of the United States."The obvious political motivation is a view that the Federal government’s role should be limited to providing for national security and ensuring economic development. Quite frankly, the responsibilities of the Federal government go far beyond the national security and economic interests of the United States as stated by the General Welfare clause under Article One, Section Eight of the US Constitution. That said, it is important to remember that we are in an age when democratic revolution is engulfing the Middle East and much of the developing world while the governments of the developed world are being undermined by global economic instability and growing ideological polarization.
Consider the fact that when it comes to legal and financial matters, people tend defer to lawyers and accountants. Consequently, it only makes sense for us to seek the council of relevant professionals when it comes to understanding the role of politics in government. Political science is the discipline that develops the models, theoretical constructs, and intellectual architecture that governments and citizens need to transcend politics in order to achieve improved governance. Instead of cutting a laughable ten million dollars worth of funding, the world’s most powerful democracy should be expanding funding for the field of political science.
Unfortunately, our society seems to regard the field of political science as little more than an academic pursuit. Part of the problem is that our largely science based education system has lead Americans to over focus on numbers while we have also grown extremely shortsighted in our thinking thanks to a variety of other factors. Economics is driven by numbers; political science is not. Economics largely models short-term outcomes; political science models long-term social characteristics. Meanwhile, politics is a fairly accessible subject and most people have their own opinions on the issues of the news cycle, so professional political scientists do not offer unique skills in the eyes of the general public and the economy. As such, there are few private sector jobs available for political scientists doing basic research.
What was once the field of research that strived to understand the intersection of politics and policy has too often become an easy college major used as a springboard to law or business school. Aside from political science professors, journalists, who may or may not have an in-depth understanding of the discipline, and lobbyists, who have client interests in mind, are the ones trying to do the work of political scientists. With academia under pressure to control costs and produce graduates, who can actually expect to earn a living with their degrees, professional media outlets competing against free social media by pandering to viewer impulse, and lobbyist seeking only the interests of their clients, the political science field lacks the economic backing it needs to properly serve its social function.
Unfortunately, political science is not the only academic discipline in jeopardy. There are, in fact, many crucial intellectual disciplines that our society needs, yet such fields of research are neglected by the economy. A prevailing fault of economic thinking has been a view that technological advances occur at a predictable rate, so there is no need to push for the development of innovation as the market will provide what is needed. A great deal of innovation comes from basic research and scientific inquiry by those who study the sciences. Just as there is no political science economy, there is no physics economy, chemistry economy, earth science economy, biology economy, or even computer science economy.
The aforementioned fields exist today, because they are housed in universities and colleges while their research is funded by these professionals begging for grants from governments, research foundations, and private donors. Alternatively, individuals holding professional degrees in these fields find work in businesses where their skills are grossly underutilized and their job is often not to pursue the type of basic research that will lead to the advancement of the scientific models and theories needed for the next technological revolution. From a capitalist perspective, the fact that so many fundamental functions of our modern civilization are funded through socialist channels, instead of economic mechanisms, is disturbing and untenable.
Because our capitalist society never developed the economic mechanisms needed to fund critical intellectual endeavors, the natural sciences and social sciences, such as political science, have been growing increasingly underfunded. The pursuits of these fields more often than not fail to offer immediate, obvious benefits to our society. The fruits of these intellectual endeavors are, however, quite significant. For example, the socioeconomic benefits of quantum mechanics can be seen in LEDs and solid-state lasers, but it took decades before researchers figured out how to turn a bazaar theory into a series of world changing products. In summary, government needs to either fund political science research or fund research on how the private market can pay for the vital contributions of political scientists and other intellectual disciplines.