CHARACTER AND MARRIAGE

Sapiens_neanderthal_comparison_en_blackbackgroundI recently read an essay on character listing the wonderful characteristics that a person should look for in a life partner. It made me think of that fictitious place, Lake Woebegone, in which all the children are above average. It seems to me that Having an ideal view creates useful distinctions as aspiration. However, looking for ideals in a marriage / life partner, apart from as their aspirational view, is entirely the wrong way to go about it.

In the first instance, it would be a miracle if you found someone who fitted those ideals, and especially our individual interpretation of those ideals.
In the second instance, unless you are also perfect in your potential partner’s eyes, there’s already a significant mismatch in expectations.
In the third instance, given that you may have found that perfect person (probably through your rose coloured glasses), and they through theirs, there is little doubt that both of you will change your relationship with the ideal within the first year of being together.
There definitely can be a great benefit to the longevity of companionship, of getting to know each other’s character in a rigorous manner (getting to take off the rose coloured glasses). The first benefit is so that we can get to know ourselves, more clearly, through their eyes. Knowing ourselves, being authentic about who we are for another, is the best way to for them to see your character. Likewise, knowing how we are being as authentic and inauthentic (for the two are constantly in play) gives us access to seeing those areas in which others are authentic or inauthentic. It also subverts our desire to dominate others through judgement because our recognition of how we are when others dominate us, tends to activate an empathetic response, in itself a desirable trait in most people’s eyes. Recognition of the authentic way of being, allows us a certain conversation in inquiry of the other. Without any expectation we can explore the attitudes, commitments, and actions of the other.
The conversation around reality becomes crucial to any empowering conversation. Reality just means how it is in actual living structure, form and action. So, conversations and inquiry around what we are in action about, becomes crucial to an understanding of authenticity and integrity.
A word on authenticity. Authenticity is just saying how you are being around some circumstance rather than covering up or pretending or repressing or condoning. It is not about being right, just showing who you are, what you need, and want, regardless of what others or society might think. It is a stand in courage, for oneself.
Integrity is a function of honouring our word, either keeping our word to ourself and others, or cleaning up when we haven’t. Integrity is not a set thing that we can achieve, but a dynamic in which we are often out of integrity either because we are playing such a big game for our personal capacity or because we are playing too small a game. Much like walking is constantly falling, standing still on one leg is harder that jogging, although both will lead to falling due to fatigue. One, however, will lead to some progress being achieved, the other, not so much.
So where does that leave understanding another’s character, in terms of life partners? Within the conversation in reality, integrity and authenticity, it becomes apparent to the couple that a relationship could either have workability or not, around that each other are regularly out of integrity and inauthentic, as a way of striving for authenticity and integrity.
Does the ideal matter at all? The aspiration around an ideal can be useful in the conversation between two people. In the first instance to gauge how far apart are the aspirations in viewpoint, current achievement, and capacity. While each persons specific visions and goals will be different even when there is a general match in aspirational viewpoint, empathetic responses are less likely to be strained. Secondly, after an aspirational match, a personality-identity match is important. This match does not mean ‘same’ but more importantly, ‘fitted’. For example, an extremely frugal person and an extremely generous person may be a poor fit, while and generous person and a modestly frugal person may make a good fit, neither having to compromise far from their personal range, while their relationship now has twice or more the range of each individual. Inside of the conversation that makes use of that greater range, is an ‘person’ who is a ‘we’ not a ‘me’. And that ‘we’ models and creates a vaster ‘we’ circle of human relationships, the basis of a whole new society.

How to prevent violence against women

Domestic violence in Australia is on the rise. Women’s rights advocates are calling for a cultural shift away from the acceptance of domestic violence. Because, believe it or not: According to some surveys, one in five young men believed it was a right to hit a woman if they were drunk.

Support services for family and domestic violence:

  • 1800 Respect national helpline 1800 737 732
  • Women’s Crisis Line 1800 811 811
  • Men’s Referral Service 1300 766 491
  • Lifeline (24 hour crisis line) 131 114
  • Relationships Australia 1300 364 277

Fiona McCormack, the CEO of Domestic Violence Victoria says we need to frame the deepening crisis in terms of power and justice.

The national average is a woman murdered every week by someone known to them.

All forms of violence against women are caused by the same factors, whether it occurs on the street or in the home and whether it’s perpetrated by a stranger or someone known.

  • One in three Australian women will experience physical violence.
  • Family violence is a key driver of 23 per cent of national homelessness in Australia.
  • It comprises 40 per cent of police time.
  • It’s a factor in over 50 per cent of substantiated child protection cases.
  • Violence against women costs the Australian economy $13.6 billion every year.

The common denominator in most of these cases is gender.

This is something deeply cultural—a part of our history deeply ingrained in our collective psyche. It’s like we’re fish but we don’t see the water.

International research shows that violence against women occurs in countries across the world to a greater or lesser extent depending upon some key factors:

  • Rigid adherence to gender stereotypes
  • The status of women compared to men
  • Our violence-supportive attitudes

Academically gender refers to social norms, the social expectations about the roles and rights of men and women in our society. Our expectations about men and women stem from a long cultural history and are essentially sexist.

Men who choose to use violence have hyper-masculine attitudes about their rights as men and the role and rights of women. They believe they have a right as men to behave this way and that it’s women who are to blame. Importantly, they see their partners and children as their possessions. That’s why we see so many women and children murdered as payback when women try to end a relationship.

A cultural aspect of how we define masculinity is that it is seen by many as something that has to be proved over and over. Men with hyper-masculine attitudes see it as critical that their masculinity isn’t doubted or challenged, which is why these attitudes are so problematic in the context of family violence. This is particularly so when women try to end a relationship and are made to pay. We would assess that about 50 per cent of the family violence the system deals with is post-separation violence, and it can go on for years.

This (the solution) isn’t about men being less than men. It’s about reshaping expectations of what it is to be a man, about shedding concepts of masculinity that have such a negative impact on us as a society, particularly when ‘being a bloke’ involves derogatory attitudes towards women. I think that can be another way in which masculinity can be reasserted or affirmed by some men—by engaging in disrespectful comments about or behaviours toward women when they are together. With the development of healthier interpretations of masculinity we’d see a range of benefits in terms of reducing street violence, rates of violence against young men and bullying.

There are many women who experience far higher rates of violence, and more extensive violence, than others: women with disabilities, Aboriginal women and women newly arrived to Australia. There’s a common myth that certain women seek out abusers as partners when the reality is that there are men who recognise there are few options for redress for certain women and take advantage of that fact.

So what would it take to deliver a just society?

At an individual level:

  1. We need zero tolerance of violence against women.
  1. We must understand violence against women as a choice.

This is not a sudden loss of temper or control. Many times it doesn’t even involve physical abuse. It’s usually experienced by women as a range of behaviours meant to intimidate and control. It’s a deliberate choice.

  1. We must understand these are everyday men.

So many women don’t recognise they’re in an abusive relationship until it’s reached crisis, especially if they’re not experiencing physical violence.

If we’re going to prevent murders, really it’s critical we start saying: ‘No matter how disaffected a man feels, no matter how hard done by the system he is, it’s never okay to harm or take the life of your partner or your child.’

  1. We need to challenge sexist or derogatory attitudes towards women.

Sometimes people can think they have to wait until they see a violent altercation before they can do something, but the reality is men particularly can play a major role in challenging the conditions that allow violence against women to flourish by challenging derogatory comments, sexist jokes, et cetera.

If we’re going to start preventing men from being violent in the first place, we need to challenge sexist attitudes and behaviours.

Violence is the ultimate expression of sexism

At a societal level:

We need to be intervening earlier. Providing women with information on the early warning signs is crucial because it also provides us with information on the patterns of control.

Some of those warning signs are:

        • Is he resistant to you living an independent life?
        • Is he resistant to you having your own bank account?
        • Is he resistant to you socialising with friends independently?
        • Is he overtly jealous? Does he monitor where you are and what you do?
        • Is he respectful to you? He may be in the early stages but is he respectful to other women? Ex-girlfriends?

Reality vs Terminology – The Main Game?

Let’s start with the premise that language is an expressive code for a perceptual code from a receptive code of some thing that exists external to our code-making apparatus, including that part of our code-making apparatus we aren’t using in making the code while we are in attention to it.

There are two implications from this:

  1. We cannot perceive everything that exists; and of what we perceive, we are not describing that perception with accuracy but only generally. Receptive and perceptual coding is predefined by the physical structure that it is, only codes for what it codes for, and therefore does not necessarily code for everything that exists. In physical terms, receptor codes are loops of neural circuits, complex but static pathways stimulated by limited energy gradients conducted by the receptor nerves at the periphery of our physical awareness. Humans have millions of these loops receptive to external energy sources. Expressive coding has two portions: millions of additional loops among receptor code loops creating relationships between codes – a perceptual integration of the external world; and an additional intricate network looping among perceptual integration apparatus and motor (movement) effector loops such as associated with the human larynx. The motor effector loops that drive the larynx, literally give voice to the codes of perceptual integration. So there are four basic layers of coding that provides us with language, or, in other words, four physical re-interpretations of the energies of the world.
  1. Language itself, once commenced, began looping itself through perceptual fields, and the integrations of this constant internal looping makes increasingly varied relationship connections with elements of the derived world. The variations of looping create a capacity to deconstruct the world into elementals so long as a vocal attribute can be associated with the elemental. Language develops as vocal loops become associated with elemental loops. This looping provides the ‘naming’ of the elemental. Once the neural loops could do the trick of coding a ‘name’ a ‘noise’ for an external elemental, that trick could continue to be used to name parts of an external object, and also larger groups or patterns of external objects as elementals. Eventually, the trick of deconstructing form into elementals that can be named and reconstructing those elementals into something new, could be used to create a type of new elemental, and abstract form that doesn’t exist in the environment. Language is one such abstract set of elementals. Here are the foundations of thinking or internal speech. Once an elemental has been defined by ‘naming’ it can then be appropriated by additional loops with connections to special looping functions such as emotions, motor effect, language and another neural area recognised for extraordinary planning functions. As these loops become more diverse and increasingly resonant, we develop the consciousness – a constant internal conversation that relates both to the internal and external world and a conversation about that conversation. As consciousness or internal language becomes increasingly more complex, mathematics, sciences, philosophy, and social relationships become increasingly complex, giving rise to religion, and government and all various forms of community.

Our own body is party to this process and so our enquiry into our own mind-brain. Given that our body is represented in the brain by a code of neural looping, even the body cannot be said to be represented as a whole truth. And then, even our brains cannot be said to be more than a partial representation of its reality.

So, can we say with any reason what we are? Abdu’l-Baha explained the world and ourselves as a shadow or reflection of the spiritual world. We could call the spiritual world, the real world. We could surmise, then, that reality is not limited to our meagre three or four dimensions, but not limited at all. Perhaps we are part of a 4 dimensional being, and that is a part of a 5th dimensional being and so on and so forth. Yet all this supposition is just an extrapolation of some basic loops of language that other loops have ‘named’ mathematics, and so quite limited in its access to any greater reality, altogether. The story of dimensions, therefore, might not be even close to guessing at the reality. Yet we might wonder could we access our greater reality. Could it be that the disciplines of the Great Educators are just what we need to evolve the requirements for that perception?

Consider that, even if we are working as a 4 dimensional being, then that being would have its own coding and would still only be representing as that code, a part of reality, a code or symbol of reality, perhaps some kind of averaging or grouping of elements of reality.

From this we can say that terminology is never reality. That is not to say it is not honest in itself but that, without understanding that terminology is, at best, only an impression of reality, then we will probably be failing to use terminology honestly. We could say that, as an evolutionary process, language and terminologies exist as a function ie a workability in which language is a tool for optimising human relationships and development.

As a tool, though, language is not limited to honest usage, and cultural uses of language can support the dishonest use of language. Philosophical terminologies are often derived from internal linguistic looping layering processes. These terminologies have a very low relationship to reality. The terminology of theism and atheism is a case in point. While philosophers have designed these terms, there is no actual thing (form with identifiable characteristics) that the term describes except through the internal circular logics of the terms design. To wit, there is no religion that claims it is a group of theists, rather that a philosopher might use the term as a description of what the philosopher believes they are seeing. The philosopher might recognise that their perceptual code is limited, and so use the term as a tool to access the truth of religious idea. However, the philosopher who believes that the term ‘theist’ is a true thing, might, then, also believe that there is something that is theist and something that is not a ‘theist’ (an atheist). They might even imagine that there is a person that is described that they are atheist or theist. Even a person may then describe themselves by these terms, claiming that they are this term. Yet, even presuming honesty, if the language that is now quite abstract, a completely fabricated story of who we are, is not workable as an optimiser of human functions, then we may be seeing, in the complex modern world, a movement of language into a realm of dysfunction.

The conclusion, here, is that language in all its facets for human relationship, science, mathematics, and community, is a fantastic vehicle for the re-creation of the world. Yet, it is a tool that has been built out of some limited physical conditions and therefore its access to reality is probably very limited. Our stories can support the fantastic recreation of the world or it might support a dysfunction. Presuming we prefer a highly function, workable, society, acknowledging that the stories of our life are all not reality, and that, in a physical form, we will always be limited, it can still mean that we can be as access to anything that might take us closer to reality. It could be that there are many pathways to that access including trying to get behind language even just to see how the world is, or using language to explore the extent we can take our own creativity and relationships; and perhaps there is a way that looks for something as knowable as it is unknowable, that we might call God, a pervasive essence in all reality and an emanator of reality.

Loosing Our Head For Humanity

I am grateful for having, over the last 30 years, come under the influence of the great contemporary religious philosophy, The Baha’i Faith. Forged in the middle east during the 19th century Baha’u’llah raised a counter culture to the prevailing corruption, religious distortions, and fanatacism of Islamic mainstream of the day. The early followers of that counter culture were also murdered, beheaded, staked, etc, in their thousands. Their contribution to the world is not only in their courage to stand for peace, justice, and a dramatically new view of a global humanity as one people by reason of the diversity of our histories, but that, they saw the world itself as fleeting shadows in which the actions of fanatic and hateful people are simple consequences of a void that exists when nothing real is being created. They saw that ‘real’ was their being as selfless before God, and all human beings regardless of the inability of those humans to ‘know’ the ‘reality’ and distinguish it from the void. They saw that ‘real’ is the unity among human beings, a complete forcelessness, a devolvement of self to the larger miracle of existence. These early disciples didn’t cogitate about this reality or its influence on society, rather they just WERE that reality. And so they died, often cruelly, expecting nothing but seeing that all ‘fire’ creates the space for a new being to exist, and tempers the character of those new beings so that they can create new and extraordinary life in that space. This space is not a geographical space but a transformed and enhanced way that humans BE in the world, in fabulous peace, justice, love, equity, oneness and detachment.

Those who have gone before us, who lost their heads in the heady fragrance of spiritual love, and those who, now, have lost their heads to living in a world of equity, surely allow us all to loose our heads to love for humanity. There will be much deliberation about how to contain ISIS and other terrotrists, how to destroy the evil that it brings. Yet, so many strategies will only be modestly successful, for every strategy will be tainted with hatred and revenge and bitterness and greed. And as such, the strategies will dampen some fire, only to also feed another. So it shall be as we all, as one humanity, learn that it is only in that detachment from our personal interest, can true justice flourish and only in justice can peace and security be established throughout the world.

COMMUNITY DISARMAMENT REQUIRES AN ONTOLOGICAL APPROACH

And the ontological approach requires a hermeneutic method in a great social conversation.

It is 14 years since I first wrote a university paper on guns and  violence in my rural community. In that small enquiry, I found that the use of guns as threats including the discharge of weapons, was a disturbing aspect of domestic abuse.

By the time I wrote that paper, Australia had already regulated and destroyed many weapons after the last massacre (Port Arthur, Tasmania)    to have occurred in Australia. However it has only been this latest massacre in the USA (Sandy Hook School, Newton, Connecticut)  and the conversation that has followed, that has hade me revisit the idea of being a gunless world. My first responses have been to castigate the NRA of North America for its own culpability. However, a sport shooter called me out on the idea of prohibition of firearms. Here were my responses:

Me: I realise firearm sports are even on the increase in Australia, and I have some empathy for the draw it has. I’m not a prohibitionist, and don’t see there is any evidence that it works for any issue. What does work is strong community conversation and regulation. Training and licensing are the key elements of working regulation. However, even in Australia, while we have a reasonable grasp on workable regulation, what we lack is strong community conversation. Peace will only be won by peaceful conversation. In spite of my approach here, I do think peaceful conversation also can’t be rampantly derogatory, just that it doesn’t have to be nice. My challenge here is really to say, “Think about this. What would you do, here, now, to support the next step towards a gun less society?”

He: As you do, I can commit to initiating and continuing a rational, gentle conversation about the balancing of public/personal safety in our Australian ( and to a lesser extent international) society with legitimate, safe and peaceful pastimes which happen to use firearms. As a left of centre voter with a strong sense of social justice and an abhorrence of violence, I still don’t see your presumption that we need a gun less society is correct anymore than one that might say we should have a carless, ropeless, drugless, knife less , Bungy-jump less etc society. But I am astounded by the American refusal to balance individual ‘rights’ with public safety in the face of such evidence. The massacres are not numerically significant whilst shocking. The 10000 gun homicides vs Australia’s 19 per year is more shocking. That anyone could have a concealed weapon next to me in a supermarket queue if i lived in the states is shocking. Thankfully I think Australia has found a balance. Our psyche is different. Our civil society is very different and we can have great discussions without being polarized or extremist. Thanks.

Me: This is essentially an ontological argument ie an argument for BEING gunless or BEING people for whom the idea of weapon is strange and unusual. I can’t be sure that the future of the human society will be weaponless, I simply offer myself the possibility that (while)the rationale of my own mind isn’t capable of going to that place where human society lives in 100 or 500 years, it may indeed be weaponless. However, from that possibility I know (expect) that weaponry at least need be scarce for what the hell would there to fight over, kill. If it is scarce in 500 years, it can be scarce today. Why, because the reason it is not scarce today is because humans believe they are important for something, mainly killing someone, secondarily to kill an animal, thirdly to shoot an inanimate object. However, if you rank all the beliefs and reasons, and you really desire to have them on that basis, I am happy to concede to you. And all the ones that have no belief or reason, well let’s get rid of them. And I am happy to make the same deal with a Neo Nazi with his cache of assault rifles. However, if I ask everyone for their list and then apply hermeneutic conversation to the one’s that are off each list, until we have some clear 90% agreement what can stay and what should go, then I will be extremely happy with that conversation and that outcome. And once we have seen that outcome applied we are already far done the track of a cultural change in which the weapon is a strange and unusual idea.
 
I am glad this engagement has lead me to review the possible approach to a big community conversation. Such conversation can translate to many, if not all, issues of governance, policy and public health. The hermeneutic approach is no easy method to translate on a mass scale but when doing that research back in the 1990’s I realised that a combination of household survey and an analytic approach to select representatives of the diversity of opinion, for a hermeneutic group approach is do-able. For the application of the hermeneutic approach to community problem solving I used the 4th Generation Evaluation concepts of Gubba and Lincoln.