Channeling Anger

“You can’t organize a group of victims. If people only see themselves that way, there’s no sense of agency, no sense of power. But when you tell them that we’re fighting an injustice or an offense to their dignity, they become angry and involved.”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2019/01/charles-duhigg-american-anger/576424/

As Americans, we really feel righteous in anger. We’ve been played by the entertainment industry into thinking that being enraged is equivalent to being informed, and we’ve become too comfortable with laughing at snipes over hearing what is going on around us.

We also have being hypersensitive to slights against us. I am not sure where all our thick-skinned ruggedness went, but it is gone. The perception of disrespect, intentional or not, means the actors go right to the endgame. No middle ground. Full assault.

It is social media that has enabled this in us, given us license to be so snarky, so concerned with thumbing out our own blaring klaxons instead of being thoughtful in reading and listening to the voices who would differ from our own. That psuedo anonymity of the web, or the digital screen separating us from those who have wronged us, it liberates the inner bumptiousness that we all harbor.

Maybe late night “news” comedy shows are a little to blame, as well. They make it so easy to pick apart politicians or celebrity foibles with confident laughs. They tell us how to feel, what to think. Who is good and who is not. Are they correct in their character assisinations? Sure why not. Do we need a late night laugh? Yes, laughter does our souls good. But the delivery, the one liners, the zingers, they propagate that culture of snarkiness that feeds our inner righteousness, momentarily soothes our anger at the helplessness we feel before such incompetence from our leadership. It’s the delivery system, the routine of it becoming familiar and informing our own way of communicating and thinking. See injustice? Something making you angry? Disagree with someone? A one liner that makes other people laugh will shut them up, break them down, and reinforce your righteous way of seeing the world.

Where are our masses being shown dialogue between differing parties? Where are we seeing two parties negotiate complicated issues civilly? Who is displaying an alternate method to the hyper prolific “win-lose” culture that is flooding our shores?

We would all do well to slow down our lives and breathe. Work to be better listeners and respectful of opinions that differ from ours. That means working to understand why others are different, what their context is, how they arrived at their conclusions. Respecting that. And understanding that truly winning means building things together, not breaking things apart. Not belittling or dehumanizing or glibly judging from our armchairs.

Get Sleep

“In the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, there is a 24% increase in heart attacks the following day. In the autumn, we gain an hour of sleep opportunity, and there is a 21% reduction in heart attacks. “

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/feb/09/best-thing-you-can-do-for-your-health-sleep-well

It can be a challenge to try to get a solid eight hours of sleep on a regular basis. There are many things calling for our attention: kids, work, email, house chores, school work, pets, hobbies, fitness routines … by the end of the day, it is easy to feel justified in zoning out in front of the TV. Who hasn’t thought to themselves, I just need some downtime? There is nothing wrong with this but, for me, it can be a factor in staying up too late to really get that full eight hours of sleep. First step for me, then, is to make an effort to not turn on the TV on weekdays.

I feel lame for wanting to go to bed right after I put my kids to bed. Because I’m not in elementary school, I’m a grown up, right? I am not sure why I feel that, almost a shame, for going to be when the rest of my family does. I wake up two hours before them, what’s so bad about going to bed right when they do?

I found it helpful to agree to do two things at night:

  1. Agree to unplug from my cell phone after ten PM. Just try not to look at it after then. This is part of me recognizing that grabbing my cell ends with me mindlessly scrolling through news headlines or emails or text streams or articles. I’m tired, my brain zones out, and I’m just a click delivery system for some algorithm by nightfall. So I try to just leave it on the charger downstairs. That’s right – not even in the bedroom.
  2. I agree to allow myself to read a book at night. Not a textbook for school or an article on my laptop for work, but a regular old book for fun. There are many benefits. Making progress through the chapters over a week or so makes me feel a sense of accomplishment. Reading stories is a nice distraction from rigors of our duties as well as an informative pursuit to my curiosities. Reading books relaxes my mind and calms my body in preparation for sleep. I’m upstairs with my family all nearby with cozy thoughts, the house below all shut down for the night.

It is OK to sleep. It isn’t lazy or slothful. It’s being responsible to our body and its biological requirements. All nighters are over-rated. Prepare yourself for the new day. Don’t cram, crunch, and crash. To be refreshed and destressed, just sleep.

Hope for the Spring

Now that we’ve broken through the historic cold snap that hit most of the US last week, I feel like spring is already here. I know it is unreasonable to start looking for flowers and birds – it is still early February. But when I go outside, I hear birds and see daffodil flower tips popping up! So I obsessively monitor the long term forecast and predictions for variability in historic trends for local weather patterns. I know February is usually the dreaded month – that time in school when there are no breaks to look forward to, no community celebrations or bright spots, and for worker drones February is the time of year when you leave the house in the dark and come home in the dark with wet, slush-covered shoes. But it’s a short month, and the days are getting longer minute by minute. My pond ice is melting and in the morning, I feel like I am fighting to get my walk finished before the rising sun beats me home. All good signs we are heading to an early spring.

The Play Deficit

Some more reading on modern children and changes in their upbringing.

The golden rule of social play is not ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Rather, it’s something much more difficult: ‘Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.’ To do that, you have to get into other people’s minds and see from their points of view. Children practise that all the time in social play. The equality of play is not the equality of sameness. Rather, it is the equality that comes from respecting individual differences and treating each person’s needs and wishes as equally important. That’s also, I think, the best interpretation of Thomas Jefferson’s line that all men are created equal. We’re not all equally strong, equally quick-witted, equally healthy; but we are all equally worthy of respect and of having our needs met.

Anthropologists report an almost complete lack of bullying or domineering behaviour in hunter-gatherer bands.

There is evidence that the young of other species also learn to regulate their anger and aggressiveness through social play.

To the degree that we take away play, we deprive children of the ability to practise adulthood, and we create people who will go through life with a sense of dependence and victimisation, a sense that there is some authority out there who is supposed to tell them what to do and solve their problems. That is not a healthy way to live.

https://aeon.co/essays/children-today-are-suffering-a-severe-deficit-of-play

Smartphones and Our Children

I just want to highlight some points from an article I just read in The Atlantic.

“There is compelling evidence that the devices we’ve placed in young people’s hands are having profound effects on their lives—and making them seriously unhappy.”

Like her peers, Athena is an expert at tuning out her parents so she can focus on her phone.

Teens who spend more time than average on screen activities are more likely to be unhappy, and those who spend more time than average on nonscreen activities are more likely to be happy. 

There’s not a single exception. All screen activities are linked to less happiness, and all nonscreen activities are linked to more happiness.

The more time teens spend looking at screens, the more likely they are to report symptoms of depression

“What does that feel like, when you’re trying to talk to somebody face-to-face and they’re not looking at you?,” I asked. “It kind of hurts,”

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2017/09/has-the-smartphone-destroyed-a-generation/534198/

BEST PGH

Launched the first draft of BEST PGH – my exploration project of bringing business services to existing commercial endeavors who are located in the underserved neighborhoods of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA.

My intent is to bridge gaps in financing and IT development cause by the lack of robust connections and networks that wealthier business districts can offer by intentionally targeting businesses and engaging with them over long-term periods (18 months).

The underlying theory is that you can change a neighborhood by building up its businesses, helping them grow and hire and be more robustly present in their district, and become capable of providing increasingly resilient services. I do not assume they can not already do this, but I do know I have seen businesses struggle for lack of resources and networks, and that underserved communities can want for these resources. And that I can be the bridge that provides them.


CONNECTing in Allegheny County

I had the pleasure of attending a CONNECT meeting yesterday. CONNECT is a regular meeting, usually monthly, of invited leadership from Allegheny County who gather together and work on solving common municipal issues.

CONNECT is housed at the University of Pittsburgh, in the Graduate School of Public & International Affairs (GSPIA). Their meetings are hosted by a different municipal partner on a rotating basis.

As they say on their website:

Congress of Neighboring Communities (CONNECT) brings together the City of Pittsburgh and surrounding municipalities to identify common public policy challenges and advocates for collective change on behalf of Allegheny County’s urban core.

I am fascinated by the topics addressed and dynamics of area leadership in the room. These are elected officials and appointed managers working together to find ways to address problems such as the opioid epidemic and gun violence, or the more subterranean challenge of county-wide shared waste water resources, controlling the costs of energy use, or sometimes just to encourage one another and offer support in the common work of continuing to face the issues these leaders wrestle with daily.

We often think of politics as a dirty game, but these folks are working on action-oriented policy proposals. They seem to have left their party affiliations at the door in favor of working together to have real, tangible conversations on the problems we see in the local news headlines. It is refreshing and exciting to know that local government can work and its practitioners have a place to gather where they can be energetic, creative, honest, and smart in their discussions.

From their team work and availability, solutions arise and they can make plans for policy which, in the end, has a positive impact. An enduring success story is the Community Paramedic program, which I believe is now hosted by UPMC, and was originated by the Allegheny County EMS Council. They create a team of paramedics who can provide more than just emergency medical transportation to those who make a 911 call; they can provide various types of intervention that improve the long-term outcomes for the patient, not just immediate medical relief and transportation. This has the effect of reducing overall non reimbursed costs to EMS. Check out their website.


A map of the 2018 CONNECT member communities