“The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.” – Vince Lombardi
Recently a Syrian boy drowned at sea along with others he was traveling. The poor child then found washed ashore. The merciless seas took his young life but they aren’t as merciless as man.
The image of the child washed up on shore haunts me. I can not bear to include the image in this article but instead have posted this photo. On the left Aylan Al-Kurdi the child the story was about and his older brother Ghalib Al-Kurdi who also drowned. The child shown lifeless lying face down in the water along the shoreline. It was truly heartbreaking to see and has me feeling more than a little down. What a terrible fate to befall on anyone let alone one so very young.
It was such a rebuke of our humanity that we have not done more to provide these poor souls shelter. That rather than take in this little guy, his family, and many other desperate refugees we allow them to drown in the sea. Oh how heartless are we.
Our refusal to take in more refugees has been a major driver of tragedies like this. Our inactions have consequences too, not only our actions. We must not wash our hands in the sea. Let us all remember dear Aylan and Ghalib and countless others breathe life no more, because of what we as the world have failed to do.
We have failed Aylan and Ghalib and so many countless other refugee and migrant children and their families. My own guilt as an activist for not doing more is sincerely felt. If only…? What if…? Why…? I get sidetracked with all the other things happening in the world.
We are losing so many Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni, Libyan, Palestinian children and young people, among others. The scourge of war has covered the region in misery, heartache, and bloodshed. It’s as if death itself has cloaked the region in a cold and cruel darkness that has mercy for none and the only charity it awards is a short and difficult life.
We need to stop kidding ourselves that having Syrians, Iraqis, and others continue to live in areas with bloodshed is a viable option. If they stay their only options will be take up the sword and fight or die. Do people expect children and the elderly to fight? Women to fight rather than care for their family? The sick and disabled to take on ISIS and Assad? These populations have virtually no other option than leave.
We must stop thinking other Nations in the region can handle the refugee and migrant crises alone. They are on the verge of collapse as is trying to care for the hundreds of thousands and millions. The UN can only do so much to support the refugees and migrants.
The rest is up to us the member States and the leaders and people of those Nations. The United States and Europe must play a larger role in the refugee and migrant crises in the Middle East than we have done so far. The days thinking regional Nations are sufficiently able to handle the crises alone has long passed.
I am going to be frank, if we do nothing or little we should expect more tragic endings like that of Aylan and Ghalib. If we are comfortable with that than okay. Let us do nothing and watch the death toll grow ever higher. Let us watch news story after news story of migrant and refugee children dying, of mother’s being swept out to sea, of father’s spending their last seconds alive trying to save their family. Let us make one statement of heartbreak and well wishes after another while we do nothing. Let us forget our fellow humanity and in the end our own humanity. Then watch as we destroy ourselves.
How can we turn our backs on those like Aylan and Ghalib trying to escape violence and heartache? How can any Nations that says they care about human rights stand for this? Of little children drowning in the sea because we have become too self-absorbed and heartless as people to care about their plight. The shame is on all of us as we are one people.
We need to stop all this red tape and terrorism fears that only allows the US to take in a very small number of Syrian, Iraqi, and other refugees. If Congress refuse to act then Obama should using whatever power in the executive he has to speed up the process of allowing more refugees in. This is not something we have years to figure out. This requires action immediately! We’re tired of waiting. If the government refuses to act then it is time for a new government. For a government that does not care about humanity including those like Aylan and Ghalib Al-Kurdi then they are not fit to govern.
I think the government should consider letting private citizens sponsor refugee families and advocate for their approval for visas or citizenship. There is a lot of money in the private sector and with private citizens that could help take some of the financial strain off of public funds. Non-profits and business charities should be able to sponsor refugees as well. This is something both sides of the aisle likely could support.
There is many such examples of things we could do different. Like if a family applies for citizenship and the father has ties to terrorism, why should the entire family be denied citizenship? Why can’t we pass an emergency act temporarily easing laws for refugees to come here from Syria and Iraq?
Why can’t we offer temporary visas until the hostilities and migrant crisis has subsided sufficiently? Lastly why can’t we have an international adoption program for refugee orphans? There is many ideas such as these we should consider.
Whatever the case we must do much more. This is a human tragedy that we should not ignore. Let it not take another story like Aylan’s before we address such problems.
It only takes a little compassion to make a big difference in someone’s life. Let’s live up to the values we claim to have as a Nation or let us stop preaching them. The time for indifference and hypocrisy has long passed. We either are the America we claim to be or we are not, which is it?
Alan Curtis Montgomery
Children today are cossetted and pressured in equal measure. Without the freedom to play they will never truly grow up
When I was a child in the 1950s, my friends and I had two educations. We had school (which was not the big deal it is today), and we also had what I call a hunter-gather education. We played in mixed-age neighbourhood groups almost every day after school, often until dark. We played all weekend and all summer long. We had time to explore in all sorts of ways, and also time to become bored and figure out how to overcome boredom, time to get into trouble and find our way out of it, time to daydream, time to immerse ourselves in hobbies, and time to read comics and whatever else we wanted to read rather than the books assigned to us. What I learnt in my hunter-gatherer education has been far more valuable to my adult life than what I learnt in school, and I think others in my age group would say the same if they took time to think about it.
For more than 50 years now, we in the United States have been gradually reducing children’s opportunities to play, and the same is true in many other countries. In his book Children at Play: An American History (2007), Howard Chudacoff refers to the first half of the 20th century as the ‘golden age’ of children’s free play. By about 1900, the need for child labour had declined, so children had a good deal of free time. But then, beginning around 1960 or a little before, adults began chipping away at that freedom by increasing the time that children had to spend at schoolwork and, even more significantly, by reducing children’s freedom to play on their own, even when they were out of school and not doing homework. Adult-directed sports for children began to replace ‘pickup’ games; adult-directed classes out of school began to replace hobbies; and parents’ fears led them, ever more, to forbid children from going out to play with other kids, away from home, unsupervised. There are lots of reasons for these changes but the effect, over the decades, has been a continuous and ultimately dramatic decline in children’s opportunities to play and explore in their own chosen ways.
Over the same decades that children’s play has been declining, childhood mental disorders have been increasing. It’s not just that we’re seeing disorders that we overlooked before. Clinical questionnaires aimed at assessing anxiety and depression, for example, have been given in unchanged form to normative groups of schoolchildren in the US ever since the 1950s. Analyses of the results reveal a continuous, essentially linear, increase in anxiety and depression in young people over the decades, such that the rates of what today would be diagnosed as generalised anxiety disorder and major depression are five to eight times what they were in the 1950s. Over the same period, the suicide rate for young people aged 15 to 24 has more than doubled, and that for children under age 15 has quadrupled.
The decline in opportunity to play has also been accompanied by a decline in empathy and a rise in narcissism, both of which have been assessed since the late 1970s with standard questionnaires given to normative samples of college students. Empathy refers to the ability and tendency to see from another person’s point of view and experience what that person experiences. Narcissism refers to inflated self-regard, coupled with a lack of concern for others and an inability to connect emotionally with others. A decline of empathy and a rise in narcissism are exactly what we would expect to see in children who have little opportunity to play socially. Children can’t learn these social skills and values in school, because school is an authoritarian, not a democratic setting. School fosters competition, not co-operation; and children there are not free to quit when others fail to respect their needs and wishes.
In my book, Free to Learn (2013), I document these changes, and argue that the rise in mental disorders among children is largely the result of the decline in children’s freedom. If we love our children and want them to thrive, we must allow them more time and opportunity to play, not less. Yet policymakers and powerful philanthropists are continuing to push us in the opposite direction — toward more schooling, more testing, more adult direction of children, and less opportunity for free play.
I recently took part in a radio debate with a woman representing an organisation called the National Center on Time and Learning, which campaigns for a longer school day and school year for schoolchildren in the US (a recording of the debate can be found here). Her thesis — consistent with her organisation’s purpose and the urgings of President Barack Obama and the Education Secretary Arne Duncan — was that children need more time in school than currently required, to prepare them for today’s and tomorrow’s competitive world. I argued the opposite. The host introduced the debate with the words: ‘Do students need more time to learn, or do students need more time to play?’
Learning versus playing. That dichotomy seems natural to people such as my radio host, my debate opponent, my President, my Education Secretary — and maybe you. Learning, according to that almost automatic view, is what children do in school and, maybe, in other adult-directed activities. Playing is, at best, a refreshing break from learning. From that view, summer vacation is just a long recess, perhaps longer than necessary. But here’s an alternative view, which should be obvious but apparently is not: playing is learning. At play, children learn the most important of life’s lessons, the ones that cannot be taught in school. To learn these lessons well, children need lots of play — lots and lots of it, without interference from adults.
I’m an evolutionary psychologist, which means I’m interested in human nature, its relationship to the nature of other animals, and how that nature was shaped by natural selection. My special interest is play.
The young of all mammals play. Why? Why do they waste energy and risk life and limb playing, when they could just rest, tucked away safely in a burrow somewhere? That’s the kind of question that evolutionary psychologists ask. The first person to address that particular question from a Darwinian, evolutionary perspective was the German philosopher and naturalist Karl Groos. In a book called The Play of Animals (1898), Groos argued that play came about by natural selection as a means to ensure that animals would practise the skills they need in order to survive and reproduce.
This so-called ‘practice theory of play’ is well-accepted today by researchers. It explains why young animals play more than older ones (they have more to learn) and why those animals that depend least on rigid instincts for survival, and most on learning, play the most. To a considerable degree, you can predict how an animal will play by knowing what skills it must develop in order to survive and reproduce. Lion cubs and other young predators play at stalking and pouncing or chasing, while zebra colts and other prey species play at fleeing and dodging.
Do we need more people who are good at memorising answers to questions and feeding them back? Who dutifully do what they are told, no questions asked?
Groos followed The Play of Animals with a second book, The Play of Man (1901), in which he extended his insights about animal play to humans. He pointed out that humans, having much more to learn than other species, are the most playful of all animals. Human children, unlike the young of other species, must learn different skills depending on the culture in which they are developing. Therefore, he argued, natural selection in humans favoured a strong drive for children to observe the activities of their elders and incorporate those activities into their play. He suggested that children in every culture, when allowed to play freely, play not only at the skills that are valuable to people everywhere (such as two-legged walking and running), but also at the skills that are specific to their culture (such as shooting bows and arrows or herding cattle).
My own research and ideas build on Groos’s pioneering work. One branch of that research has been to examine children’s lives in hunter-gatherer cultures. Prior to the development of agriculture, a mere 10,000 years ago or so, we were all hunter-gatherers. Some groups of people managed to survive as hunter-gatherers into recent times and have been studied by anthropologists. I have read all the writings I could find on hunter-gatherer childhoods, and a number of years ago I conducted a small survey of 10 anthropologists who, among them, had lived in seven different hunter-gatherer cultures on three different continents.
Hunter-gatherers have nothing akin to school. Adults believe that children learn by observing, exploring, and playing, and so they afford them unlimited time to do that. In response to my survey question, ‘How much time did children in the culture you observed have for play?’, the anthropologists unanimously said that the children were free to play nearly all of their waking hours, from the age of about four (when they were deemed responsible enough to go off, away from adults, with an age-mixed group of children) into their mid- or even late-teenage years (when they would begin, on their own initiatives, to take on some adult responsibilities). For example, Karen Endicott, who studied the Batek hunter-gatherers of Malaysia, reported: ‘Children were free to play nearly all the time; no one expected children to do serious work until they were in their late teens.’
This is very much in line with Groos’s theory about play as practice. The boys played endlessly at tracking and hunting, and both boys and girls played at finding and digging up edible roots. They played at tree climbing, cooking, building huts, and building other artefacts crucial to their culture, such as dugout canoes. They played at arguing and debating, sometimes mimicking their elders or trying to see if they could reason things out better than the adults had the night before around the fire. They playfully danced the traditional dances of their culture and sang the traditional songs, but they also made up new ones. They made and played musical instruments similar to those that adults in their group made. Even little children played with dangerous things, such as knives and fire, and the adults let them do it, because ‘How else will they learn to use these things?’ They did all this, and more, not because any adult required or even encouraged them to, but because they wanted to. They did it because it was fun and because something deep inside them, the result of aeons of natural selection, urged them to play at culturally appropriate activities so they would become skilled and knowledgeable adults.
In another branch of my research I’ve studied how children learn at a radically alternative school, the Sudbury Valley School, not far from my home in Massachusetts. It’s called a school, but is…
A long article of 5,100 words but well worth the read
Originally posted on AMERICAN MALE:
Originally posted on AMERICAN MALE:
Originally posted on George Campbell Gosling:
Last week I finally said goodbye to my Nan. I wouldn’t normally blog about something so personal, but her influence has guided so much of my academic career to date that she deserves a mention. Besides, the academic and the personal aren’t so easy to separate as we might imagine.
Vera Pelley holidaying on Loch Etive in Scotland in 2002
History is written by people. Historians are not Objective History Machines, however much we might aim to be so. Something I try to emphasise to students is that the scholarly book or article they read is the product of a process, the work of an actual human being – with a life, with prejudices, with political views, passions, anxieties, obsessions, influences and the rest that comes with… well, being human. It’s not always easy to see, but it’s always there.
This was highlighted in an excellent blog post recently by historian of French folklore…
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The number of friends one has seems to have become more important than the quality of our friends. The number of likes more important than the quality of one’s work. The outward appearance and superficial emotional mask more important than the content of our characters, wisdom of our minds, compassion in our hearts, and the human spirit. The appearance of reality has seemed to have become more important than reality itself.
Many pretend to be whole but inward are broken. To be confident but in reality they are weighed down with feelings of self-doubt. That they are Superman and Wonder Woman but in reality are vulnerable. To have all the answers when truthfully they are searching for the answers like the rest of us. Feign perfection but they are flawed human beings like everyone else. Preach they are righteous and upright but are sinners with vices. Make appear their appearance is flawless when in reality they spend a lot of time hiding imperfections.
What if you stopped pretending and just decided to be yourself instead? What if you stopped playing the game? What if you stopped living a lie? What if you showed your broken places. Admitted to feeling a lack of confidence? That you are vulnerable? Admitted you don’t know? Did not hide from your imperfections. Acknowledged you were a sinner and admitted your vices. What if you showed your supposed flaws and learned to accept your imperfections. What then? Would the world end?
I have seen in my own life there is a price to be paid for authenticity. Friends you thought you had suddenly vanish. The awkward silence, the silent treatment, and shunning. Indirect comments that are obviously directed at you. I have proven when you show your true self people in your life show their true selves. Their true colors come shinning through.
Though the price is worth it. As the alternative is to spend your life living a lie, being someone you’re not, never having people know the real you, being unhappy because you are living for other people’s happiness rather than your own, and never developing your own identity as you are living like another character in a play rather than playing your own part. That is no way to live.
It is a miserable way to live, yet it is the way millions choose to live. Fake people, living in a fake world, faking their way through life, talking to other fake people, making fake friends, hoping they can continue to fake people out as the reality scares the hell out of them. Faking fakers who in the end are only faking themselves.
Better to be hated for who you are than to be loved for who you are not. Better to have a few true friends than many fake friends. Better to risk being hurt than spend your life hurting inside.
Yet there is too many people who aren’t willing to risk being hated. Risk judgment, shunning, and being ignored. Biting comments that tear into the flesh and wound the heart. They are afraid to be their true selves because they fear the social consequences. They fear people will not like the real them. They have even come to hate themselves.
In a world increasingly socially connected, people increasingly judge their worth on the number of followers they have and likes they get. There is young people who become so obsessed with these silly measurements we use to measure the value of people that they base virtually their entire self-worth on such. They are simply heartbroken if some random jerk comes on and leaves them a cruel and hurtful message. That is because they do not know their true value and are measuring their value based on followers, friends, and likes. They are measuring their self-worth by comparing themselves to others. They are looking for validation and acceptance from others more than validating and accepting themselves. True peace comes when we are at peace with ourselves and at peace with the people and world around us.
Still we are indeed social creatures even us introverted people and loners. We need that human connection with others. When we lack such for too long it begins to effect us in many ways. We are all looking for validation and acceptance sometimes or at least compassion and understanding. We all are hurt sometimes by cruel words and actions. We all sometimes get caught up in competition, comparing, and measuring our worth by the wrong measurements. We all feel alone at times, passed over, judged, ignored, and as if we are being shunned. We all could use a friend or family member to talk to at times. We all are human after all and only human.
We need to do more to reach out to and encourage others. I never have regretted it yet the many times I have. I have even encouraged people when I myself have felt very discouraged. That is difficult to do but we shouldn’t discourage people who are already so discouraged. Ignore people who are reaching out and already are being ignored. Harshly judge someone who has already been so judged. Tell a person looking for hope that there is none. Wound an already wounded heart and soul. Yet in the cruel world we live in, many people routinely do just that.
They do it because of ego, pride, feelings of superiority, arrogance, selfishness, and ignorance. They do not consider the feelings of others only their own. Cold hearts and cruel minds. Yet in reality they are wounded people wounding others and I try to remind myself of that. Rather than hate and despise them. Hoping maybe just maybe being kind to them might melt their cold hearts and enlighten their cruel minds. Thinking perhaps being merciful to them might result in them being more merciful to others. In the end love is always stronger than hate.
I just think there is a better way. The belief too many people have that they live on an island needs to be shattered into millions of pieces. What we say, do, or fail to say or do; does effect others much more than we may realize. We need to better understand our true worth and the worth of others. To stop looking so much at superficial things like followers and likes. Instead focusing on much more important things. Like helping ourselves and others and the world around us. We need to get in a better frame of mind and start looking at the good and beauty in the world too instead of all the bad and ugliness all the time. We need to be reminded from time to time what is truly important. For you’re more than the followers you have and likes you get.
Alan Curtis Montgomery