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FF Podcast 54 (Audio): Jennifer Laude was a Woman

FF Podcast 54 (Audio): Jennifer Laude was a Woman

FF Podcast 54 - Jennifer Laude was a Woman

Podcast host Red Tani is joined by sociologist Nicole Curato to discuss Jennifer Laude, her murder, and her identity as a woman.

You may also download the podcast file here.

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

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Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Gender Rights, Society0 Comments

Laude Did Not Know Pemberton was a Killer

The following quote is a comment written as a response to the article, “The Ugly Reality of Transphobia in the Philippines“:

“In the perspective of sex work, lives of transgendered sex workers is at risk in many ways. They have many stories untold, and Jeniffer’s story is one. Given the circumstances her bringing the service man to the hotel herself, stories of transgendered sex workers is reverberating. If the service man really intended to hook up with Jennifer and he knows she was a transgender/transwoman and his purpose was to torture and kill her, I think it is right to say it is hate crime and the element of homophobia is present.

But as the case unfolds, her story is just like our transgender sex workers who don’t disclose their gender to their partner. This practice also inspired Blakdyaks song ‘modeling charing’ (that I guess everyone listening to even gays themselves enjoys it not knowing the popular song promotes transphobia). The only difference is, Jennifer’s life was taken and by rage.”

The comment, in my opinion, seems to suggest that part of the reason Jennifer was attacked was because she did not fully disclose her status to the suspect.

PembertonThe headline a recent Philippine Star article decided to publish, “Pemberton did not know Laude was a transgender,” also seems to suggest that her non-disclosure was relevant to the crime committed.

It’s not.

The victim was killed NOT because she didn’t disclose her transgender status. The victim was killed because Pemberton is a killer. The suffering that the suspect allegedly put the victim through is a criminal act, and can’t be justified in any situation.

One can argue that there are situations where it’s dangerous for a transgender to conceal her transgender status. However, it’s also a fact that there are significant safety concerns that make it difficult for a transgender to be upfront about her status as well.

It is not the moral duty of a transgender woman to randomly volunteer information about her transgender status. She has a right to her own personal information, and it should be up to her, if and when she wants that information to be revealed. Coming out as a transgender woman to anyone is difficult. It’s a personal and private struggle that cisgender people (people who are born with a gender identity that matches their biology) and heterosexuals will find difficult to understand completely. Whether or not she wants to share these private details is ultimately up to her.

Pemberton’s “abrupt discovery” may have contributed to his rage, but it doesn’t change the fact that he allegedly made a decision to cause a human being excess suffering because of what he may have perceived as a deceptive act.

Also, why are we making excuses for the violence committed?

If the victim was not a transgender woman, but a cisgender woman, would people still make excuses for the violence done?

Let’s say that there was a man who exclusively slept with virgins. One day he consents to have intercourse with a woman who he assumed was a virgin. Then, before they have intercourse, the man discovers that the woman was, in fact, no longer a virgin. He feels deceived and decides to kill her. Would anyone be making excuses for the killer then?

The relevance of Jennifer’s gender and profession is brought into question only because the crime happened in a community that is prejudiced against prostitutes, sex workers, and transgender women. If the same crime happened to a heterosexual, cisgender woman, it’s unlikely that the public’s response would be similar.

Even if a man was upset because he almost had sex with a person outside his preferences because of the latter’s deception, he still shouldn’t kill her. The same goes for this particular situation. A person who finds himself in this situation has a right to be upset, because he did not prefer to sleep with a transgender woman, but he still should not commit homicide.

Did Jennifer’s failure to disclose that she was a transgender woman increase the risk of violence? Possibly. But even if the discovery of Jennifer’s transgender status was what agitated the suspect, it doesn’t change the fact that what Pemberton allegedly did was wrong.

Jennifer’s failure to disclose her transgender status SHOULD NOT HAVE resulted in her death, and the only reason that it did, is because she was unfortunate enough to have had relations with a prejudiced killer.

The Philippine Star headline should have been written as, “Laude did not know Pemberton was a killer.”

 

Image Source:

https://ph.news.yahoo.com/pemberton-did-not-know-laude-000000903.html

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Society1 Comment

FF Podcast 53 (Audio): Is the Church More LGBT-Friendly Now?

FF Podcast 53 (Audio): Is the Church More LGBT-Friendly Now?

FF Podcast 53 - Is the Church More LGBT-Friendly Now?

The Catholic Church recently held a synod and discussed how they treat LGBT members. This week, we talk about whether it’s all PR or if there has been real change.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Gender Rights, Religion, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 53: Is the Church More LGBT-Friendly Now?

FF Podcast 53: Is the Church More LGBT-Friendly Now?

The Catholic Church recently held a synod and discussed how they treat LGBT members. This week, we talk about whether it’s all PR or if there has been real change.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Religion, Society, Video0 Comments

The Ugly Reality of Transphobia in the Philippines

Jennifer Laude was found dead in the bathroom. She was slumped on the toiled seat, peppered with black and blue bruises. She also had bruises on her neck. Her feet were also bruised. Reporters are not sure whether she died from the injuries she sustained from the beating that she took, or from being strangled. She was murdered.

Let’s try that again.

Jefferey Laude was found dead in the bathroom. He was slumped on the toilet seat, peppered with black and blue bruises. He also had bruises on his neck. His feet were also bruised. Reporters are not sure whether he died from the injuries he sustained from the beating that he took, or from being strangled. He was murdered.

I’m not here to discuss whether Jeffrey/Jennifer Laude should be considered a he or a she. People can debate on his or her gender all they want, but what we can’t debate about is that this person was the victim of a crime. This person was murdered.

Laude 5

When a person is murdered, regardless of sex or gender, the ethical human response should be outrage or, at least, sorrow. If this tragedy happened to a straight woman or a straight man, that’s exactly the kind of response we could expect from the majority.

However, I don’t think some Filipinos see transgender individuals as people. That’s the only reason I can imagine why there are over 200 comments posted on inquirer.net insulting, cursing, and mocking the murder victim.

Many of these comments express disgust and indignation, not because a person was brutally murdered, but because “a tranny tried to have sex with a straight man”:

Laude 1

Many comments expressed satisfaction that karmic justice was served, not because a murderer was caught, but because “a sinner was punished”:

Laude 2

Some comments even suggested that it was funny, and it was Jennifer’s fault that she was murdered because she was “pretending to be a woman”:

Laude 3

The insults and curses hurled at the victim has even inspired its own photo album in Facebook:

Image 1
 

This attitude towards the transgender is not surprising though, especially in a country with a reputation for being religious and conservative. The Philippines, for one, is the last country without divorce and many of our religious countrymen are proud of being the last stronghold of idiocy.

Unfortunately for the LGBT community, research done by Wade Rowatt and colleagues from Baylor University in the States learned that religiousness and conservatism are the top two factors that account for a person’s homophobia.

Here’s a graph:

Image Source: http://goo.gl/jZSpX1

Image Source: http://goo.gl/jZSpX1

 

It should be no surprise that hate crimes against the LGBT community are tolerated in a country where majority of the people identify as Catholics, Christians, or Muslims; all of them, religions that hate homosexuality.

I can provide a litany of research proving how those who believe themselves to be the holiest of the holy, the most righteous of the righteous, the most faithful of the faithful, the most religious of the religious, the closest to God, are the most determined advocates of hate and bigotry. The most fervent believers of homophobic religious doctrine inevitably become the most homophobic people. When a person is indoctrinated and trained from childhood to hate homosexuality, it’s rather difficult to unlearn it as an adult.

The suspect, obviously, is himself transphobic. He probably can’t tell the difference between a homosexual and a trans-woman. He probably doesn’t give a shit about those subtle differences either. This may sound a little racist, but studies do prove that Americans are less accepting of homosexuality than other westerners and religion may have something to do with it.

Many Filipinos have no empathy for the murder victim, Jennifer/Jefferey Laude, simply because of religion. They were raised to believe that any non-heterosexual person is a Sodomite; a disordered sinner that deserves divine punishment, in the same way the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were punished – with the righteous vengeance of a brutal God.

The Philippines’ religiousness and conservatism simply can’t peacefully co-exist with homosexuality. In the minds of some Filipinos, it might as well be God beating up the victim.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that the Catholic hierarchy hates LGBT people. Just recently a bishop said that homosexuals should not be invited to the dinner table if there are children present, because impressionable children should not be exposed to something so “intrinsically disordered.”

Some people would argue that homophobic doctrines, like the Bible, don’t necessarily cause homophobia. They say things like, “But the Bible also has verses about love and tolerance…”

Are you serious? The Bible said that homosexuality is an abomination. The Bible also said that an adulteress should be stoned to death. The Bible also said that a rape victim should marry her rapist. Unfortunately, the context for these verses are not explained because the Bible doesn’t have editor’s footnotes. Many believers also suggest it’s “open to interpretation.” Well, anything can be open to interpretation. Even “Dora the Explorer” can be interpreted from a Marxist perspective.

However, there is a limit to the number of ways one can interpret, “Gay = Abomination.” If you think that these verses, as they appear in the Bible, do not at all, inspire prejudice or bigotry, you need a mental health evaluation.

The Bible, along with other homophobic religious doctrines, are books filled with hate. These books don’t belong in any society that aspires for gender equality. As long as there are people who adhere to Biblical authority, to verses that call homosexuals abominations, there will always be members of the LGBT community found dead in toilets and there will always be people celebrating the torture of the victim.

Posted in Gender Rights, Politics, Pop Culture, Religion, Society7 Comments

FF Podcast 52: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck on Islam

FF Podcast 52: Sam Harris vs Ben Affleck on Islam

How is Islam related to extremism? This week, we talk about criticism of Islam and how liberals tend to discuss Islam.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Podcast, Religion, Society, Video1 Comment

Entitlement: Creating Killers and Divas One Spoiled Brat at a Time

The site Jezebel reports that a week ago, a man has slashed a woman’s neck after she refused to talk to him. At around 5:20 am, on October 1, a woman was in the lobby of a building in New York when a man approached her in an attempt to make conversation. She refused to talk to him and turn away. As soon as she did, he grabbed her from behind and slashed her neck.

Two days ago, Mary Spears, an engaged mother-of-three was harassed in a bar. A man came up to her and said, “Can I get your name, your number?” She told him that she was in a relationship, but he persisted. Because of the constant harassment, the man was asked to leave the venue. However, he later confronted Spears and shot her three times, killing her.

Last May, Elliot Rodger posted a video complaining about how women have rejected his advances, even though he was a gentleman. He also ranted about still being a virgin at the age of 22. Because of these perceived slights, he promises ‘retribution’ and ‘punishment.’ Later, he killed 6 people.

These men shared a similar attitude towards women; they felt entitled to a woman’s affection, or at least, attention. When they encountered resistance, they felt as if they were being deprived of something that they deserved. This frustration has led them to commit violence.

Entitlement

“Nice Guy Syndrome” aka “Irrational Feelings of Sexual Entitlement”

I’m not saying that all men are capable of killing a woman out of frustration. I’m saying that there is proof that a sense of entitlement is a predictor of violence toward women.

According to a study found by ScienceDaily

“…for men, entitlement was associated with hostile views of women. Entitled men were more likely to endorse views of women as manipulative, deceptive, and untrustworthy — attitudes, which past research has shown are predictors of violence toward women.”

A common complaint made by men about women who reject them is, “She never even gave me a chance.” Some men perceive that “not being given a chance” represents an opportunity they were deprived of. What most men and women should start to understand is that the attention another person provides is a privilege, not a right.

I get where entitled men are coming from. I used to harbor the same illusion that “girls should, at least, listen to my pickup line when I try to talk to them in bars.”

Here’s what men might be thinking:

“I am entitled to this opportunity, because I live in a society that has essentially required me to approach a woman to reduce the odds that I’ll die single. This is ‘me,’ taking matters into my own hands; being a man. The choices are clear: it’s either I approach a woman, or I never get a date, because women will never approach men.”

This type of logic holds a number of sexist assumptions. For one, a man who thinks this way may have associated the idea of pursuit with his own masculine identity. He may be thinking that he’s simply performing a gender role. To some extent, when a man approaches a woman, he may actually believe that he’s simply being “masculine.” If he gets rejected, he may feel slighted, because he may see the rejection as a hostile act that robs him of his ability to express his sexual identity as a man.

In other words, he’s being told to stop his inappropriate advances, but he may interpret it as being told to stop being a man.

I’m not surprised that entitlement and sexism are correlated. Sexist people think in terms of binaries. A sexist man believes that he is supposed to be the “active” participant in the courtship dance, and a woman is supposed to be the “passive” recipient of his advances. When he’s told to stop being “active,” to stop advancing, he feels like he’s been robbed of his birthright – the right to pursue.

However, men are just one half of the entitled, sexist club.

In the same article, it was mentioned that:

“Conversely, the researchers found women who have a high sense of entitlement are likely to demand men take care of them because they are weak and frail. A large body of research shows that such demands lead to women being viewed as too weak and placed in roles where they are not allowed to advance in education and jobs.”

The research also reports on how feelings of entitlement affect men and women differently. Generally, entitled men are more prone to exhibiting hostile sexism; many of them held misogynistic beliefs and viewed women as manipulative and demanding. On the other hand, entitled women exhibited benevolent sexism. They harbored the “princess mentality” and thought that women deserved special care and treatment, because they were, you know, women.

That’s not even the bad news yet.

According to a report by Richard Alleyne, the science correspondent of The Telegraph, there’s a study that shows how “Those who were born into ‘Generation Y’ have an over-inflated sense of entitlement, [but] lack the work ethic to achieve their goals.” What the study reveals is that our generation, those born between 1980 and 1990, is fostering an entire generation who think they’re “special” and should be treated as such.

According to the article:

“Professor Paul Harvey, of the University of Hampshire, carried out a series of studies measuring psychological entitlement and narcissism on a group of Gen -Yers and found they scored 25 per cent higher than respondents ages 40 to 60 and 50 per cent higher than those over 61.”

Entitled men believe that they deserve a woman’s adoration and desire, by default, or by simply being “nice guys” (See: “Nice Guy Sydrome“); they feel that they don’t need a woman’s permission to pursue her romantically or sexually, by default, because they are men; they feel that if they are sexually attracted to a woman, being the woman’s friend is something they are entitled to complain about (See: “Friend Zone“).

Women feel that they deserve to be taken care of and provided for, by default, because they are women (In fact, 75% of women will not even date an unemployed man).

However, although entitlement corrupts both men and women, entitlement in men have worse consequences.

Let’s take a closer look at the behavioral disparity between the sexes:

  • An entitled woman, who has diva or princess delusions, throws a histrionic fit when her expectations are not met. It’s possible that she thinks she’s entitled to a man’s resources, expecting to be provided for.
  • An entitled man, who thinks he should be “permitted” to “woo” women he is romantically interested in, may turn into a violent psycho once the permission he assumed was there is withdrawn. It’s possible that he thinks he’s entitled to a woman’s body.

The only conclusion I can think of from the material I’ve read is that entitlement turns men and women into horrible people, but it makes men significantly more horrible. Unfortunately, we’re living in an era littered with an entire generation of psychotic, narcissistic, entitled assholes. I think that this might be the only generation in history that would benefit from being told, “You’re not entitled to a beautiful woman, or a wealthy man, or even a job, really.”

Image Source:

https://encrypted-tbn0.gstatic.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcT16EXxU0s3g2edTY2tQBamjt5F5fNFnPAIYpCOjA7R0pZhCi7z

Posted in Gender Rights, Personal, Philosophy, Pop Culture, Science, Society1 Comment

Does The Church Accept Boy Abunda?

Boy-Abunda-health-conditionA special episode of “The Bottomline with Boy Abunda” aired last Sunday. In the show, Boy Abunda was asked if he believes that living the life of a gay man is a sin. Boy Abunda explained, “I do not agree to all the teachings of the Church, and one of them is saying that, ‘We’re okay with homosexuality, but the moment you practice, the moment you have sex, it is a sin.'” He later added, “How can love be a sin?”

I’m glad that Boy Abunda asks the right questions about love and faith, but I don’t think he has the right information. I’m sorry, Boy, but The Church is not okay with homosexuality.

John Finnis’ article, “Reason, Faith and Homosexual Acts,” provides a very thorough breakdown as to why homosexuality can never be “okay” from a Catholic perspective.

The article mentions that:

The Church refuses to consider the person as a ‘heterosexual’ or a ‘homosexual’ and insists that every person has a fundamental identity: the creature of God and, by grace, his child and heir to eternal life.

The Church does not believe in sexual orientation or sexual preference. There is no such thing as a homosexual. People are not gay or straight, and their preference for men or women is irrelevant. People are either men or women, period. So, The Church doesn’t consider Boy Abunda a “homosexual.” The Church was never okay with Boy Abunda being a homosexual; they were okay with him being a man who has homosexual inclinations, but doesn’t do homosexual acts.

What The Church wants Boy Abunda to do, really, is to not have sex with boys, and start having sex with a girl that he has married, because The Church believes that although Boy Abunda may prefer men, they don’t think he’s incapable of having sex with women.

According to the article:

That is to say, most people who engage, or have an inclination to engage, in homosexual activity also engage, or are more or less inclined to engage, in sexual activity with a person or persons of the opposite sex.  Very many homosexual persons – persons with homosexual inclinations – marry and have children by their spouse.

The Church thinks that the only reason Boy Abunda doesn’t want to have sex with girls is because something went wrong with his sexual development, or because he saw gays having sex, or because he didn’t get a proper education, or he developed a habit of homosexuality. But, even though there are a lot of disordered gays out there, it’s okay, because gayness, according to The Church, might be curable.

According to the article:

The Church observes that in some homosexual persons the homosexual inclination (= orientation) comes, it seems, “from a false education, from a lack of normal sexual development, from habit, from bad example, or from other similar causes, and is transitory or at least not incurable.

Although The Church acknowledges the fact that a person’s homosexuality may have been inborn, meaning it wasn’t a choice, they still think it’s wrong.

According to the article:

The Christian teaching from the outset, has been that no homosexual acts are ever justified, even the acts of someone whose inclination to engage in them is ‘innate’ (that is, present at birth) and, in one sense of the word, ‘natural.’

The main reason homosexual attraction can never be morally justified from a Christian perspective is because they view homosexuals as inevitable adulterers.

The article says:

As Jesus makes clear, this natural communion requires for its integrity not only the sexual intercourse of the spouses (Matt. 19: 5), but also the complete and unwavering mastery and overcoming – by everyone, married or unmarried — of every desire for sexual contact or enjoyment outside marriage (Matt. 5: 27).

What that means is that it is morally wrong for anyone to lust outside of marriage. Unfortunately, for gays, they can’t ever lust within a marriage, because they’re not allowed to get married. The Church is basically telling Boy Abunda, “It’s okay to be a man with gay inclinations as long as you don’t do any sex outside of marriage; but you can’t get married, so doing sex in any circumstance is immoral.”

The Church doesn’t accept Boy Abunda, or any homosexual for that matter. But in my opinion, Boy Abunda shouldn’t worry. I personally think Boy Abunda has more moral authority than The Church. Here are 5 reasons why:

1. Boy Abunda did not have Galileo arrested and imprisoned for being right about heliocentrism.

2. Boy Abunda never burnt a 19-year-old girl at the stake for heresy.

3. Boy Abunda didn’t start an Inquisition to drive Muslims out of Europe.

4. Boy Abunda didn’t cover up child abuse crimes by priests. Neither did he spend over 4 billion dollars in settlements to shut victims up.

5. Boy Abunda never threatened his followers with eternal damnation just so he can sell them Indulgences, to buy back their salvation.

If The Church doesn’t accept Boy Abunda, he doesn’t have to accept them. They don’t have monopoly on God. Boy Abunda can worship, love, believe, and serve his God from the comfort of his own home, or his new Hummer, free from any discrimination based on gender, orientation, or preference.

The good news is, you can too.

 

Image Source:

http://amazingnews.ph/wp-content/uploads/2014/09/Boy-Abunda-health-condition.jpg

Posted in Gender Rights, Personal, Pop Culture, Religion, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 51 (Audio): Ban Private Cars to Improve Traffic?

FF Podcast 51 (Audio): Ban Private Cars to Improve Traffic?

FF Podcast 51 - Ban private cars to improve traffic?

Did you just waste another evening on Metro Manila traffic? This week we talk about a proposal to ban private cars on EDSA. We discuss why the Philippines has consistently failed to address a problem that costs the country billions of dollars in lost productivity.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in audio podcast, Society0 Comments

FF Podcast 51: Ban Private Cars to Improve Traffic?

FF Podcast 51: Ban Private Cars to Improve Traffic?

Did you just waste another evening on Metro Manila traffic? This week we talk about a proposal to ban private cars on EDSA. We discuss why the Philippines has consistently failed to address a problem that costs the country billions of dollars in lost productivity.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast feed

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers podcast on iTunes

Posted in Media, Podcast, Society, Video0 Comments

Do you need a shrink?: An Introduction to Mental Disorders Part I

We have at least once in our lifetime, met a weird but fascinating character. They sometimes may be extremely annoying but brilliant.  Sometimes, from an indispensable genius, they turn to totally useless. If you yourself, are thinking that you might be one of them or that someone close to you is, then it might be good to have a little introduction on what a mental disorder is. This may help you decide if you or your friend needs to see a doctor or if it’s just a quirkiness one could easily cope with.

Let’s all think of a hypothetical character named Tom. Tom is a brilliant, creative individual whose charisma and optimism inspire a lot of the people that he meets. However, those who are truly close to him know that his mind runs too fast, and sometimes gets overloaded. He tells his friends, at some point that he feels so happy, like he was flying or is on top of the world and then he crashes. Upon crashing, he feels as if dark clouds are hovering above him. Sometimes, this crash is triggered by a dreaded event, too much stress or sometimes, the dark clouds just come with no apparent reason. Hopeless, unfocused, lethargic, he stays in bed all day. Occasionally, his kindness gets shrouded by his irritable mood that manifests itself by his snide remarks or sometimes coldness. He would also bang his head on the wall, smash an expensive piece of equipment on the floor or walk along the streets hoping that a car would just hit him. Tears would not stop falling even if he is in a place full of strangers. He pushes people away. His work and relationships suffer. He entertains the idea of taking his own life.

Tom’s extreme moods characterized by elation and sadness are nothing but symptoms of what psychologists call Bipolar Disorder. On one pole there is the depressive condition, on the other pole, there is the manic state – a state of intense optimism, happiness and delusions of grandeur. Some of Tom’s concerned friends tell him he should seek professional help but some others tell him that it is all a matter of control and that takes practice. As one of his friends says, “arent’ we all a little crazy?”. What then distinguishes someone with a mental condition from a “normal” person? Are the boundaries between disorders that clear cut? Tom, in his readings finds that he could also be someone with Aspergers Syndrome or ADHD. What does he really have? Should he take pills? Should he see a shrink or should he just simply exercise, meditate and practice Deepak Chopra’s tenets? (No, he does not follow Deepak Chopra.)

In diagnosing individuals, psychiatrists have a guidebook called the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM -5) [1]. The book is the culmination of more than a decade’s work of revising the classification of mental disorders. Depression is not just some short feeling of sadness. The DSM V characterizes someone who is suffering from depression as someone who has experienced at least five signs of depression for more than two weeks. [2] Some of the symptoms are, moroseness, hopelessness, significant weight loss and gain, too much or too little sleep, feelings of worthlessness, fatigue, decreased interest in activities that s/he usually enjoys, difficulty concentrating or making decisions and recurrent thoughts of death and suicide. Someone with Bipolar Disorder however may flip back and forth between overexcited states of mania and depression within a single day, week, or month or year. With the manic state he can also be hyperactive, he also overestimates his abilities and his self.

While Tom did entertain the idea of visiting a psychiatrist, it took him seven long years before he went to one. His parents warned him that, consultation might be too expensive. He might also be too dependent on the drugs and he might suffer from unwanted side-effects.  His intelligence made him very self-aware. He tracked his moods. He exercised, meditated, ate fish which has a lot of omega-3 fatty acids that are supposed to “heal” the brain and he wrote a lot of poems and reflections in his journal. They all helped his character. However, he has noticed that in times of extreme stress, pressure from school, work, financial and family problems still get the better of him despite all his efforts of preventing a fallout. The tipping point came, when he ran away and took a 24-hour trip by land and sea to the south of the country. Without clothes and not enough money to last him a week, he left. It almost destroyed him and his dreams. He finally decided to meet a doctor.

The doctor admired his self-awareness and noted that this is one of the most important abilities one should have. He should be able to recognize the feelings that are coming to him so that he can gain full control of his so-called demons. He must come up with a strategy or a game plan.

Fig. 1 Tom came to his doctor with a piece of paper describing the mood swings he was experiencing. He made a rough sketch of his ‘highs’ and ‘lows’ over time when he was off and on medication.  With medication, Tom’s mood became more stable.

One of the strategies suggested to him was cognitive behavioral therapy[3]. Specifically, he was asked to write his thoughts and feelings whenever he feels like he is bound to do something that has dire, irreversible consequences. For example, reasons for suicide, things he might look forward to the next day, week or year, snapping at someone, quitting a job instantly, among many other things. Writing his thoughts and how he dealt with them, helped become even more self-aware and things that are needed to be done to are clearer to him. He was also asked to try certain drugs that will address the chemical imbalance in his brain. Exercise and eating food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, are no longer enough.

In the beginning, Tom’s medicine worked well with him until he experienced lethal side-effects. While others were afraid, Tom was willing to experiment to get the right balance and dose so that he could get the quality of life he wants. He had experienced rashes, extreme sleepiness for over 12 hours, and vomiting. He has also arrived at a point that he is confident enough to skip a couple of days without medication just so he could experience the “creative highs” of a typical bipolar. He just has to prepare for the “crash” that will ensue.

So to answer the question, “Do you need to see a shrink?”. If you think that you have been undergoing prolonged distress, your behavior has been negatively affecting your work and the people you love no matter how you try to control yourself, then it is best to seek professional help. Seeking professional help will not magically take away your troubles. The pills, the strategies, the changes in perspective are all part of a delicate balancing act in having a well-lived life. It will be a lifetime of management and the first step is to recognize that you do need people who can understand what is going on in your gifted but differently-wired brain. The next question is, how does your shrink know what kind of condition you have?

Preview for Part II: Standardized measures in psychiatry, Learned Helplessness and Comorbidity. Tom thinks he has Aspergers Syndrome and ADHD too. We will introduce another hypothetical character named Sylvia who “demands” understanding for her bad behavior just because she has a disorder.

Useful Links

[1] Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DSM-5

[2] Crash Course Psychology on Psychological Disorders:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZwMlHkWKDwM

[3] Cognitive Behavioral Therapy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cognitive_behavioral_therapy

 

Posted in Science, Society0 Comments

Filipinos are Poor Because of a Loser Mentality?

loserIn the research writing classes I teach at Asia Pacific College, I often argue that research should be seen as a social and personal responsibility, rather than as a practice done exclusively for academic reasons. I believe that it should be an individual’s duty to approach information he encounters online and elsewhere with a healthy dose of skepticism. I also believe that it should be an individual’s duty to refrain from making unfounded accusations prior to actual research.

Earlier today, I read an article from GetRealPhilippines.com that says, “Filipinos’ obssession (sic) with ‘happiness’ is what keeps them mired in chronic poverty.”

According to benign0, “You wonder why the Philippines continues to fail? It is because Filipinos have been led to believe that simply being “happy” makes them “winners”. That is a nice philosophy to live by — when you are happy being a loser for the rest of your existence, that is.”

One reason why people need to research more is to prevent their fingers from typing ridiculous statements. The only thing such a statement reveals is that the writer doesn’t understand poverty.

There are three questions the writer is trying to answer in his poorly researched article:

1) Why are many Filipinos poor?

2) Why are many Filipinos happy even if they’re poor?

3) If a poor Filipino is happy, is it a bad thing?

His answer to question number one is, “Because they’re obsessed with happiness.” His answer to question number two is, “Because they have a loser mentality.” His answer to number three is, “Yes, because it’s their happiness that is making them poor.” What data were used to support the validity of these answers? None.

The writer was guessing, or making up information, or making an erroneous observation. Basically, all his answers are wrong.

I like teaching research. Every time I correct a student who makes assumptions based on nothing, I feel warm and fuzzy inside, like, maybe I made the world a slightly better place by reducing the number of people who say dumb things by one. So, as a public service, I’m going to demonstrate how to use simple research data to make defensible conclusions about the world we live in.

Why are Many Filipinos Poor?

There are many reasons why a Filipino could be poor. We can blame a rapid population growth that our economy can’t keep up with. We can blame unemployment, inflation, inequality and corruption.However, if we wanted to simplify the subject, we can definitely say that most Filipinos are poor because they were born poor to begin with.

According to an SWS survey, self-rated poverty in Luzon is at 45 percent, 74 percent in Visayas, and 71 percent in Mindanao.

Needless to say, many Filipinos become poor before they can even spell “happiness.” Filipino babies become poor before they can obsess about happiness.

Once these babies grow up and realize that they’re poor, why don’t these people just decide to be rich then? Well, for one, life doesn’t work that way. A poor person can’t simply “decide” to be rich. In fact, even if he wanted to, there are factors that may prevent a poor person from being rich, and it has very little to do with the often blamed Filipino laziness.

People Who Grow Up Poor Experience More Negative Emotions as an Adult

With regard to how difficult it is for a poor person to be rich, it’s possible that people who are born poor struggle to become rich because kids who grow up poor have less impulse control. According to ScienceDaily, “Researchers found that test subjects who had lower family incomes at age 9 exhibited, as adults, greater activity in the amygdala, an area in the brain known for its role in fear and other negative emotions. These individuals showed less activity in areas of the prefrontal cortex, an area in the brain thought to regulate negative emotion.”

What that means is that a person who experienced chronic stress from childhood to adolescence may be less capable of suppressing negative emotions such as fear. In fact, according to surveys, 1/6 people raised in poverty develop mental disorders.

The psychological consequences of childhood poverty and stress are the same psychological barriers that may prevent a person from becoming more successful in adulthood. Furthermore, impediments to the development of the prefrontal cortex can also affect a child’s ability to learn, making it more difficult to compete with children who did not grow up in poverty.

Poor People Make Bad Decisions

A common gripe against the poor is that they’re poor because it’s their fault. They’re poor because they make bad decisions. However, according to this, this, and this, it’s actually the other way around.

Bad decisions don’t cause people to be poor. Poverty causes people to make bad decisions. The research article, “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function,” suggests that stress experienced due to poverty impede cognitive function. In other words, people who are poor are at greater risk to make decisions that further perpetuate their poverty, because their brain is so exhausted by, well, poverty. The poorer are person is, the higher the likelihood that he’ll make decisions that will worsen his situation.

“Previous views of poverty have blamed (it) on personal failings, on an environment that is not conducive to success. We are arguing that the lack of financial resources itself can lead to impaired cognitive function,” says Jiaying Zhao.

Why are many Filipinos happy even if they’re poor?

Benign0 implied that he’s seen too many Filipinos who are poor use “happiness” as an excuse to not try to improve their own economic situation. He even mentioned that, “It is easy to retreat to the ‘happiness’ metric when all other success indicators suck. That’s the loser approach to rationalising one’s existence. There’s a a simple colloquial term that encapsulates that attitude: sour grapes.”

In other words, he’s saying that unless you are “successful,” you can’t be happy; and if you’re poor, and you say that you are happy, you’re probably lying, because the Philippines, as a country, is not among happy countries.

Here’s the thing, according to most studies, happiness can be attained by people who are poor for various reasons.

Happiness is Determined More by Genetics than by Economics

A person’s capacity for happiness have very little or nothing to do with other indicators of “success.” In the research report, “Happiness is a Stochastic Phenomenon,” David Lykken and Auke Tellegen write:

“Are those people who go to work in suits happier and more fulfilled than those who go in overalls? Do people higher on the socioeconomic ladder enjoy life more than those lower down? Can money buy happiness? As a consequence of racism and relative poverty, are black Americans less contented on average than white Americans? Because men still hold the reins of power, are men happier than women? The survey in this journal by Myers and Diener (1995) indicated that the answer to these questions, surprisingly, is “no.” These authors pointed out that people have a remarkable ability to adapt, both to bad fortune and to good, so that one’s life circumstances, unless they are very bad indeed, do not seem to have lasting effects on one’s mood.”

In other words, people who are poor are just as capable of happiness as people who are rich. A more productive question to ask is “Why do rich people think that they are happier than poor people?”

Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer?

Two professors from Princeton, economist Alan B. Krueger and psychologist and Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman, along with several colleagues wrote the research paper, “Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion.”

According to the paper, a lot of people believe that a high income is associated with a person’s good mood. However, it’s not true. The correlations are illusory. Wealthy people are content with their lives, but they’re not much happier than poor people. They don’t spend more time doing cooler, more enjoyable, activities either.

According to Kreuger, people with a higher income report more satisfaction only because they think that they should be more satisfied because of the high income they enjoy. He says, “If people have high income, they think they should be satisfied and reflect that in their answers. Income, however, matters very little for moment-to-moment experience.”

If Anything, We Should Encourage Poor People to Be Happy

If someone wanted to help poor people, discouraging them from happiness and calling them losers, like benign0 did, will not help them. The article, “Self-worth boosts ability to overcome poverty,” from ScienceDaily discusses how encouraging the poor to improve their feelings of self-worth will help them overcome the psychological and emotional barriers that prevent them from seeking help or making good decisions.

According to Jiaying Zhao, the study’s co author, “This study shows that surprisingly simple acts of self-affirmation can improve the cognitive function and behavioral outcomes of people in poverty.”

In addition to that, happiness improves a person’s motivation and actually causes an individual to work harder. A study on the relationship between happiness and productivity was done by Andrew Oswald, Eugenio Proto, and Daniel Sgroi. According to the study, “Happiness and Productivity,” happiness made people around 12% more productive.

“The driving force seems to be that happier workers use the time they have more effectively, increasing the pace at which they can work without sacrificing quality,” says Dr. Sgroi.

Conclusions

Based on the evidence gathered from multiple reliable sources, we can make the following defensible conclusions:

1. Filipinos are poor NOT because they have an “obsession with happiness.” In fact, there is no evidence that suggests that “contentment” can cause poverty. Through inferences made from reading the evidence, we can say that it’s possible that many Filipinos are poor simply because they are born poor. Their experiences of poverty in the crucial years of their mental development negatively affected their capacity to learn and their ability to regulate negative emotions – factors that may impede their economic progress as adults. Furthermore, poverty itself impedes their cognitive function, making them prone to bad decisions that could worsen their situation.

2. Some poor Filipinos are happy NOT because they have a loser mentality. Some poor Filipinos are happy simply because nothing is preventing them from feeling otherwise. Although depression is twice as common among poor people, poor people who don’t have depression are not much less happy than rich people. In fact, a study suggests that, “one’s life circumstances, unless they are very bad indeed, do not seem to have lasting effects on one’s mood,” implying that there are genetic factors to be considered when measuring a person’s capacity for happiness.

3. Happiness has a tendency to increase a persons productivity and make him work harder. If a person thinks that the problem of poverty is due to a poor person’s lack of productivity, the scientifically correct thing to do is to help them recover their self-esteem and encourage them to be happy, to improve their cognitive function and increase their productivity. In any case, one should not call poor people losers, because doing so will only reinforce the psychological barriers that impede their cognitive functioning.

Based on the same evidence, we can also conclude that benign0’s article, “Filipinos’ obssession (sic) with ‘happiness’ is what keeps them mired in chronic poverty,” is wrong about a lot of things. THAT is why research is important.

It’s the difference between being a writer and being a ranter.

 

References:

benign0. (2014). “Filipinos’ obssession with ‘happiness’ is what keeps them mired in chronic poverty.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://getrealphilippines.com/blog/2014/05/filipinos-obssession-with-happiness-is-what-keeps-them-mired-in-chronic-poverty/

Brady, D. (2013). “Poverty strains cognitive abilities, opening door for bad decision-making, new study finds.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/poverty-strains-cognitive-abilities-opening-door-for-bad-decision-making-new-study-finds/2013/08/29/89990288-102b-11e3-8cdd-bcdc09410972_story.html

Examined Existence. “The Profound Effects of Childhood Poverty and Stress on Adult Brain Function”Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://examinedexistence.com/the-profound-effects-of-childhood-poverty-and-stress-on-adult-brain-function/

Flores, H. (2014). “Number of ‘poor’ Pinoy families up by 600,000.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/07/29/1351563/number-poor-pinoy-families-600000

Kahneman, D. Krueger, A. Schkade, D. Schwarz, N. Stone, A. (2006) “Would You Be Happier If You Were Richer? A Focusing Illusion “ Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.morgenkommichspaeterrein.de/ressources/download/125krueger.pdf

Kim, P. Evans, G. Angstadt, M. Ho, S. Sripada, C. Swain, J. Liberzon, I. Phan, K. (2013). “Effects of childhood poverty and chronic stress on emotion regulatory brain function in adulthood.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1308240110

Lykken, D. Tellegen, A. (1996). “Happiness is a Stochastic Phenomenon” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://cogprints.org/767/3/167.pdf

Mani, A. Mullainathan, S. Shafir, E. Zhao, J. (2013). “Poverty Impedes Cognitive Function” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.sciencemag.org/content/341/6149/976

Oswald, A. Proto, E. Sgroi, D. (2014). “Happiness and Productivity” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/eproto/workingpapers/happinessproductivity.pdf

ScienceDaily. (2013). “Self-worth boosts ability to overcome poverty” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From:
Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131217085056.htm

ScienceDaily. (2013). “Growing up poor, stressed impacts brain function as adult.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131021211450.htm

Starecheski, L. (2014). “This Is Your Stressed-Out Brain On Scarcity.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/14/330434597/this-is-your-stressed-out-brain-on-scarcity

Weller, C. (2013) “Poverty Lowers IQ: How Financial Strains Put Pressure On Cognitive, Logical Reasoning.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.medicaldaily.com/poverty-lowers-iq-how-financial-strains-put-pressure-cognitive-logical-reasoning-255093

Yglesias, M. (2013). “Bad Decisions Don’t Make You Poor. Being Poor Makes for Bad Decisions.” Retrieved on October 1, 2014. From: http://www.slate.com/articles/business/moneybox/2013/09/poverty_and_cognitive_impairment_study_shows_money_troubles_make_decision.html

 

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FF Podcast 50 (Audio): Duterte, Abad, and Vigilante Justice

FF Podcast 50 (Audio): Duterte, Abad, and Vigilante Justice

FF Podcast 50 - Duterte, Abad, and Vigilante Justice

What is the appeal of authoritarians? This week, we talk about Rodrigo Duterte threatening to kill the instigator of his presidential campaign and why authoritarians have such great appeal to Filipinos. We also talk about vigilante justice and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad being pelted with objects by UP students.

You may also download the podcast file here.

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) feed

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Filipino Freethinkers Podcast (Audio) on iTunes

Posted in Audio, audio podcast, Media, Politics, Society0 Comments

Is Victim Blaming Always Irrational?

stop-victim-blamingVictim blaming, which is said to occur when “the victim of a crime or any wrongful act is held entirely or partially responsible for the harm that befell them,” is perceived by many as irrational because it shifts the blame or at least a part thereof from the real offender to the innocent victim. They contend that the victim has zero responsibility every time regardless of the circumstances.

I intend to challenge this absolutist position.

When comedian Ricky Gervais posted a tweet about the leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities, people called him out for victim blaming. In his tweet, which he later deleted, Gervais wrote:

“Celebrities, make it harder for hackers to get nude pics of you from your computer by not putting nude pics of yourself on your computer.”

The following are some of the responses he received:

@rickygervais, Ah, victim-blaming at its finest. “If you don’t want people to break into your house and steal your things, don’t own things.” – Brian Herbert

@rickygervais this is like telling women, make it harder for rapists to rape you by not going outside. – Jen Italia

While Gervais’ tweet was done in bad taste, I do not find it necessarily illogical as what the responses seem to suggest with their analogies. My position is that there are certain instances where victims can be held at least partially responsible for the harm that befell them, and those instances are where they acted negligently, and especially if they were grossly negligent.

Negligence is defined as “failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise in like circumstances.” Now whether the celebrities’ act of uploading their nude photos on the Internet constitutes gross or even simple negligence is an issue beyond the scope of my contention, because in order to resolve it certain facts need to be established, like how secure were the sites they used, how strong were their passwords, and what other necessary precautions they took or did not take.

For sure, however, not uploading one’s nude photos if you don’t want them leaked cannot be equated to not owning things if you don’t want people to break into your house and steal your things, or to not going outside if you don’t want to be raped. The analogies used by those who responded to Gervais’ tweet certainly do not constitute even simple negligence. We only need to ask the question: Would a reasonably prudent person not own things, or never go outside?

On the other hand, uploading nude photos involves a presumably unnecessary risk to one’s privacy. Of course, it is also entirely possible that the person actually did not know the risks, or had a compelling reason to back up photos online. These factors would certainly modify the dynamics of blame, but their existence is not to be presumed. Someone who knows how to upload photos will probably have a basic idea of the risks involved, and I cannot think of a compelling reason for a person to upload naked selfies. But even if you can come up with something, such “compelling reason” would probably be the exception rather than the norm, hence, its existence is not to be presumed.

For a better perspective, let us say person A, a famous actress, uploads to a non-secure site, not her naked photos, but those of her friend, person B, another famous actress. The site gets hacked and the photos are leaked. Would person B not have the right to blame person A – to hold her at least partially responsible for compromising her privacy? Can person A raise the defense that it is the hackers who should be held entirely responsible for the leak?

The problem with the term “victim blaming” is that it seems to imply that a person is being blamed because he or she is a victim, when in fact the reason for the blame is that he/she acted negligently. This is made clear in the above example where the one who acted with negligence and the victim of the privacy breach which the negligent act helped make possible are not the same person.

Moreover, we must distinguish between criminal liability and the non-criminal culpability arising from negligence. In the case of hacking, no amount of negligence on the part of the person uploading private photos to a non-secure site can remove or even diminish the hacker’s criminal liability in invading other people’s privacy. Just because the victim acted negligently does not mean that the hacker acted less criminally.

A friend of mine expressed this in another way:

“What people who keep bandying about the ‘victim-blaming’ argument seem to scarcely understand is that blame isn’t a zero-sum game where holding the victim partially responsible for her victimhood (i.e., if she can be said to have done something she knew would significantly increase the likelihood of being victimized) removes a proportional amount of blame from the victimizer; a victimizer can be 100% responsible for a crime (whatever it is) while the victim can be partially responsible for knowingly placing herself in a situation that increased the odds of said crime taking place. There is no contradiction there.”

Suppose a guy who jogs at night decides for no compelling reason to change his route and passes through a dangerous part of town known for its alarming number of muggings. He enters a dark alley and, sure enough, gets mugged and robbed of his wallet which contained a lot of cash and all his IDs and credit cards. At this point some people would probably say that the jogger should not be held even partially responsible for his loss and that all the blame should be laid on the mugger because it was the latter who committed the entire crime and the jogger took no part in it.

But let’s suppose that hours before his evening run he went to a wedding for which he borrowed his friend’s gold watch that happens to be an heirloom. He didn’t remove the watch when he went out jogging to that dangerous part of town. He gets mugged and loses his friend’s watch along with his own wallet.

If you were his friend, would you hold him responsible, not for the mugging because the criminal liability solely belongs to the robber, but for losing your watch because he was being grossly negligent for wearing it when he knows he’ll be passing through a dangerous area?

If you say yes, would you also hold him partly responsible for the loss of his own wallet in the same mugging incident? If your answer to the second question is no, then how do you distinguish between losing his own wallet and losing your watch? What fundamental distinction lies between a person’s negligence that contributed to his own loss and the negligence that contributed to another’s such that the negligent person can be blamed for the latter but not for the former?

But if your answer to the first question about holding your friend responsible for losing your watch is no, then I’d be very interested to hear your reasons for finding no fault on his part. And if you decide to play with words and say that you blame him for acting negligently but not for losing your watch (since it’s the mugger who’s solely to blame for that), then would you still blame your friend if he returned home safe and sound with your watch in one piece?

To blame means “to say or think that a person or thing is responsible for something bad that has happened.” If nothing bad happened, there is nothing to blame. A person can be blamed for something bad that has happened, or he can be blamed because of his role in allowing that bad thing to happen in that particular instant.

It must be stressed, however, that life is full of risks, some of which are unavoidable, and not acting negligently does not guarantee that one will not be mugged or that no nude photos will be leaked, or that one will never suffer any tragedy.  But to knowingly place oneself in a situation where risk is unnecessarily increased is to act with gross negligence. Even if the jogger in the above example never went to that dark alley or even if he invested in a treadmill and stayed at home, he could still be mugged elsewhere, or he could be robbed of his friend’s watch at the parking lot right after the wedding. The only difference is that he could not be blamed for losing it in that particular incident because he did not go out of his way to increase the chances of a bad thing happening.

After all, in this so-called “victim blaming,” what’s being blamed is not the victimhood.

It’s the negligence.

* * * * * * * * * *

Postscript:

Some readers might be tempted to draw a simplistic analogy from the mugging scenarios and relate them to rape. I caution them from doing so. Rape is a far more complex issue than mugging and nude photo leaks, and the dynamics of rape requires a deeper analysis than what this article provides. Here is an article that discusses victim blaming in rape cases. It is up to the reader to decide, after reading that other article, whether the principles laid down in this article apply to rape cases.

Posted in Advocacy, Gender Rights, Society3 Comments

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