Monday, October 24, 2011

The Pink Cure Nonprofit Gone Bad

I have been very aware for years that most nonprofit organizations are little more than income generating frauds that can and do make more money, with less restrictions and accountability, than those in the for-profit sector. They have marketing budgets that most for-profits would kill for; and who is their target audience - those who want to give back or help in some small way. Unfortunately, most of us do not have the time, the means or the knowledge to do the kind of work that results in the wiping out of hunger or finding the cure for cancer. So, we open our checkbooks and contribute to those organizations that convince us they are doing a good thing. It makes us feel better when we do and the US government gives us a tax break to boot!

Here's a bit of a reality check about those nonprofit organizations who ask for our money - the creators (and the friends they "hire") earn exorbitant salaries, have little to no experience working in the nonprofit arena and contribute only 20% of the monies raised to the actual cause. Yes, you read that correctly, the government states that a nonprofit need only give 20% of it's annual donations directly to the cause for which the nonprofit was created. I don't know about you, but there is something about that which just doesn't sit right with me. So, when I read the following article, I just had to share it with you. By the way, I couldn't have said it better myself. Please come back after you read it and share your thoughts.

I Will Not Be Pinkwashed: Why I Do Not Support Susan G. Komen for the Cure
October 22, 2011
[I'll admit. I'm a little nervous to put this one out there. The closest I've come to writing anything super controversial has been standing up for my beloved, saturated-fat-laden butter. And this is obviously something much more serious. But it's something I feel I absolutely have to say, and I hope you'll listen with an open mind.]

Pinkwashing America

It’s October.
And that means, it’s prime pink season. It’s national “Breast Cancer Awareness Month.”
It’s that magical time of the year when shades of pale pink are plastered onto every product, every container, every conceivable gadget or gizmo that the Susan G. Komen Foundation can get their hands on.
When that iconic symbol of overlapped ribbon is supposed to adorn every man, woman, and child who ever had a mother, grandmother, sister, daughter, niece or aunt who faced the horrifying struggle of breast cancer.
But I am not buying it.

Susan G. Komen: For Cure or Con?

Susan G. Komen for the Cure is a multi-million-dollar company with assets totaling over $390 million dollars. Only 20.9% of these funds were reportedly used in the 2009-2010 fiscal year for research, “for the cure.” Where does the rest of the money go? Let’s have a look. Read the rest of the article here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

What if Doing the Hokey Pokey Really is What It's All About?

I have been through what I lovingly call a "mid-life crisis" (for lack of a better description) at least three times in my life (thus far) - the one in my 20's, the one in my 30's and the one this year.
And it's not as though these three occurances were all that relevant (although I have learned important things about myself from each one) as my "search" has truly been ongoing for a very long time. Sadly, whatever it is I am looking for continues to elude me. 

I am not unhappy - I have a wonderful husband, child and home. And yet, there is this niggling feeling that something is missing, that I am not fulfilling some aspect of who I am.
I followed the path of the "American Dream", or did the "Hokey Pokey", to a "T" - be a good daughter, get good grades, go to college, get a degree, get a good job, get married, have children, purchase a house, buy stuff, keep up with The Jones - put your whole self in, take your whole self out, shake yourself about and turn yourself around (and repeat). This "path" was supposed to result in happiness, contentment, a strong sense of God and country. And yet, something is missing.
I had a sort of epiphany during my most recent "mid-life crisis". I realized that while I was following the path of the "American Dream", it wasn't my dream. The "path" that I followed, like Dorothy on the Yellow Brick Road, was one that I had been told I should want, but not the path that led me to happiness, contentment and fulfillment. Like a cow to slaughter, I mindlessly followed the path of materialism, debt and corporatocracy, aka the "Great American Dream".
It's troubling that it took me this long to discover that I have been following the wrong path. But even more troubling is, how will I now change the path? It's the feeling of having walked so far down a certain road that you've passed the point of no return. How do you change direction after following the same path for more than 30 years?  And how do you explain to your loved ones that what you thought you wanted - stuff, the 8 to 5 existence -isn't what you want anymore?

For me, it will be one baby step at a time. And while there is a part of me that thinks that it's too late to start over, a bigger part of me knows that if I don't at least attempt to make some changes than I may as well just resign myself to living the status quo. And I now know, I just can't be that person anymore.

So, my journey begins... I've set my first three goals - get out of debt, downsize and de-clutter. And then there is my work. I have some ideas about that, too, and this blog is part of the plan. I know this journey comes with it's share of baggage to work through, but hopefully I am up for the challenge. And I hope that the Hokey Pokey is NOT really what it's all about!

Friday, October 14, 2011

I am the 99%...

I recently ran across this letter written by "Cylinsier". I do not know to whom it was addressed. The last paragraph (typed below) is the crux of the letter.

"I am the 99%, and if you make less than $350,000 a year, YOU ARE TOO. Being the 99% is not a choice, it is determined by your income. That's what it is referring to: the 99% of people who earn less that the top 1%. And the reason that is a problem is because that 1% of top earners use their money and stature to influence our laws and politics with greater force than the 99% is capable of doing. A country where 1% of people make decisions for the other 99% is not a Democracy. And your personal level of success does not excuse their behavior." - Cylinsier, October 13, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

We Don't Protest Anymore

I am not what you would call a political activist. I am not all that interested in what the political parties (and the people who represent those parties) are doing, what they believe or how they vote. Mostly this is because I do not believe that anyone in Washington, DC represents me - the people.

I read an article not very long ago, "8 Reasons Young Americans Don't Fight Back: How the US Crushed Youth Resistance", and I cheered at the truth in the words. FINALLY! It punctuated everything I have been thinking and saying for years - about our education system and schools, the marked increase in the diagnosis of ADD and ADHD, how we are not taught to think anymore or express an opinion especially if it differs from the mainstream consensus. We have become apathetic - we don't fight back anymore, we don't protest, we don't gather together to let "the powers that be" know that we don't agree with what they are doing. We have become "me-centric" and if it doesn't directly affect us on a regular basis, we simply ignore it. In effect, we have immunized ourselves to what is really going on in the world in which we live. We have allowed government and big business to dictate to us. And we've taken it, lying down.

We've allowed them to "strip search" us at the airport all in the name of safety and security. We've allowed them to genetically engineer food, not test it and then add it into the food system - all without our knowledge or our consent. And we've allowed them to tax our income for 69 years, 67 years of it wrongly. Don't believe me? Get more information here.

Here is an excerpt from the article: "Traditionally, young people have energized democratic movements. So it is a major coup for the ruling elite to have created societal institutions that have subdued young Americans and broken their spirit of resistance to domination.  

Young Americans—even more so than older Americans—appear to have acquiesced to the idea that the corporatocracy can completely screw them and that they are helpless to do anything about it. A 2010 Gallup poll asked Americans “Do you think the Social Security system will be able to pay you a benefit when you retire?” Among 18- to 34-years-olds, 76 percent of them said no. Yet despite their lack of confidence in the availability of Social Security for them, few have demanded it be shored up by more fairly payroll-taxing the wealthy; most appear resigned to having more money deducted from their paychecks for Social Security, even though they don’t believe it will be around to benefit them.  

How exactly has American society subdued young Americans? 
1. Student-Loan Debt. Large debt—and the fear it creates—is a pacifying force. There was no tuition at the City University of New York when I attended one of its colleges in the 1970s, a time when tuition at many U.S. public universities was so affordable that it was easy to get a B.A. and even a graduate degree without accruing any student-loan debt. While those days are gone in the United States, public universities continue to be free in the Arab world and are either free or with very low fees in many countries throughout the world. The millions of young Iranians who risked getting shot to protest their disputed 2009 presidential election, the millions of young Egyptians who risked their lives earlier this year to eliminate Mubarak, and the millions of young Americans who demonstrated against the Vietnam War all had in common the absence of pacifying huge student-loan debt.

2. Psychopathologizing and Medicating Noncompliance. In 1955, Erich Fromm, the then widely respected anti-authoritarian leftist psychoanalyst, wrote, “Today the function of psychiatry, psychology and psychoanalysis threatens to become the tool in the manipulation of man.” Fromm died in 1980, the same year that an increasingly authoritarian America elected Ronald Reagan president, and an increasingly authoritarian American Psychiatric Association added to their diagnostic bible (then the DSM-III) disruptive mental disorders for children and teenagers such as the increasingly popular “oppositional defiant disorder” (ODD). The official symptoms of ODD include “often actively defies or refuses to comply with adult requests or rules,” “often argues with adults,” and “often deliberately does things to annoy other people.”

3. Schools That Educate for Compliance and Not for Democracy. Upon accepting the New York City Teacher of the Year Award on January 31, 1990, John Taylor Gatto upset many in attendance by stating: “The truth is that schools don’t really teach anything except how to obey orders. This is a great mystery to me because thousands of humane, caring people work in schools as teachers and aides and administrators, but the abstract logic of the institution overwhelms their individual contributions.” A generation ago, the problem of compulsory schooling as a vehicle for an authoritarian society was widely discussed, but as this problem has gotten worse, it is seldom discussed.
The nature of most classrooms, regardless of the subject matter, socializes students to be passive and directed by others, to follow orders, to take seriously the rewards and punishments of authorities, to pretend to care about things they don’t care about, and that they are impotent to affect their situation. A teacher can lecture about democracy, but schools are essentially undemocratic places, and so democracy is not what is instilled in students. Jonathan Kozol in The Night Is Dark and I Am Far from Home focused on how school breaks us from courageous actions. Kozol explains how our schools teach us a kind of “inert concern” in which “caring”—in and of itself and without risking the consequences of actual action—is considered “ethical.” School teaches us that we are “moral and mature” if we politely assert our concerns, but the essence of school—its demand for compliance—teaches us not to act in a friction-causing manner.  

4. “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” The corporatocracy has figured out a way to make our already authoritarian schools even more authoritarian. Democrat-Republican bipartisanship has resulted in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, NAFTA, the PATRIOT Act, the War on Drugs, the Wall Street bailout, and educational policies such as “No Child Left Behind” and “Race to the Top.” These policies are essentially standardized-testing tyranny that creates fear, which is antithetical to education for a democratic society. Fear forces students and teachers to constantly focus on the demands of test creators; it crushes curiosity, critical thinking, questioning authority, and challenging and resisting illegitimate authority. In a more democratic and less authoritarian society, one would evaluate the effectiveness of a teacher not by corporatocracy-sanctioned standardized tests but by asking students, parents, and a community if a teacher is inspiring students to be more curious, to read more, to learn independently, to enjoy thinking critically, to question authorities, and to challenge illegitimate authorities. 

5. Shaming Young People Who Take EducationBut Not Their SchoolingSeriously. In a 2006 survey in the United States, it was found that 40 percent of children between first and third grade read every day, but by fourth grade, that rate declined to 29 percent. Despite the anti-educational impact of standard schools, children and their parents are increasingly propagandized to believe that disliking school means disliking learning. That was not always the case in the United States. Mark Twain famously said, “I never let my schooling get in the way of my education.” Toward the end of Twain’s life in 1900, only 6 percent of Americans graduated high school. Today, approximately 85 percent of Americans graduate high school, but this is good enough for Barack Obama who told us in 2009, “And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country.”
The more schooling Americans get, however, the more politically ignorant they are of America’s ongoing class war, and the more incapable they are of challenging the ruling class. In the 1880s and 1890s, American farmers with little or no schooling created a Populist movement that organized America’s largest-scale working people’s cooperative, formed a People’s Party that received 8 percent of the vote in 1892 presidential election, designed a “subtreasury” plan (that had it been implemented would have allowed easier credit for farmers and broke the power of large banks) and sent 40,000 lecturers across America to articulate it, and evidenced all kinds of sophisticated political ideas, strategies and tactics absent today from America’s well-schooled population. Today, Americans who lack college degrees are increasingly shamed as “losers”; however, Gore Vidal and George Carlin, two of America’s most astute and articulate critics of the corporatocracy, never went to college, and Carlin dropped out of school in the ninth grade. 

6. The Normalization of Surveillance. The fear of being surveilled makes a population easier to control. While the National Security Agency (NSA) has received publicity for monitoring American citizen’s email and phone conversations, and while employer surveillance has become increasingly common in the United States, young Americans have become increasingly acquiescent to corporatocracy surveillance because, beginning at a young age, surveillance is routine in their lives. Parents routinely check Web sites for their kid’s latest test grades and completed assignments, and just like employers, are monitoring their children’s computers and Facebook pages. Some parents use the GPS in their children’s cell phones to track their whereabouts, and other parents have video cameras in their homes. Increasingly, I talk with young people who lack the confidence that they can even pull off a party when their parents are out of town, and so how much confidence are they going to have about pulling off a democratic movement below the radar of authorities? 

7. Television. In 2009, the Nielsen Company reported that TV viewing in the United States is at an all-time high if one includes the following “three screens”: a television set, a laptop/personal computer, and a cell phone. American children average eight hours a day on TV, video games, movies, the Internet, cell phones, iPods, and other technologies (not including school-related use). Many progressives are concerned about the concentrated control of content by the corporate media, but the mere act of watching TV—regardless of the programming—is the primary pacifying agent (private-enterprise prisons have recognized that providing inmates with cable television can be a more economical method to keep them quiet and subdued than it would be to hire more guards).
Television is a dream come true for an authoritarian society: those with the most money own most of what people see; fear-based television programming makes people more afraid and distrustful of one another, which is good for the ruling elite who depend on a “divide and conquer” strategy; TV isolates people so they are not joining together to create resistance to authorities; and regardless of the programming, TV viewers’ brainwaves slow down, transforming them closer to a hypnotic state that makes it difficult to think critically. While playing a video games is not as zombifying as passively viewing TV, such games have become for many boys and young men their only experience of potency, and this “virtual potency” is certainly no threat to the ruling elite. 

8. Fundamentalist Religion and Fundamentalist Consumerism. American culture offers young Americans the “choices” of fundamentalist religion and fundamentalist consumerism. All varieties of fundamentalism narrow one’s focus and inhibit critical thinking. While some progressives are fond of calling fundamentalist religion the “opiate of the masses,” they too often neglect the pacifying nature of America’s other major fundamentalism. Fundamentalist consumerism pacifies young Americans in a variety of ways. Fundamentalist consumerism destroys self-reliance, creating people who feel completely dependent on others and who are thus more likely to turn over decision-making power to authorities, the precise mind-set that the ruling elite loves to see. A fundamentalist consumer culture legitimizes advertising, propaganda, and all kinds of manipulations, including lies; and when a society gives legitimacy to lies and manipulativeness, it destroys the capacity of people to trust one another and form democratic movements. Fundamentalist consumerism also promotes self-absorption, which makes it difficult for the solidarity necessary for democratic movements.  

These are not the only aspects of our culture that are subduing young Americans and crushing their resistance to domination. The food-industrial complex has helped create an epidemic of childhood obesity, depression, and passivity. The prison-industrial complex keeps young anti-authoritarians “in line” (now by the fear that they may come before judges such as the two Pennsylvania ones who took $2.6 million from private-industry prisons to ensure that juveniles were incarcerated). As Ralph Waldo Emerson observed: “All our things are right and wrong together. The wave of evil washes all our institutions alike.”
Please view the original article here.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

No, I Don't Want To Be Your Social Networking Friend

A friend (someone that I know well, can actually meet for dinner or lunch and knows something more about me than just what is on my Facebook page) sent me an article a while back that resonated with me so strongly that I want to share it here, in it's entirety.

Cambridge, MASS. - Dear Friend (if I may still call you that),

Recently I received an email inviting me to be your friend on LinkedIn, Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Friendster, or some other professional or social networking website.

I receive many such emails, which I pretend I don't get. But LinkedFaceTickleFreakSpaceFriend, or whatever you call the website, keeps sending messages claiming to be you, so I feel compelled to respond.

1) Your friends may not be my friends. Your friends may be hyper-aggressive salepeople, spammers, stalkers, random jerks or just plain nuts. Not that I think your contacts are, but how do you weed out the weirdos online? As you know, I work at a well-respected university with an impressive name. It doesn't hurt my feelings that my work affilitation is probably why you want to link to me, as opposed to my killer rendition of "Hunka Hunka Burning Love." My email and voice mail already overflow with demands from would-be friends that I buy their whirligig, hire their nephew, or find a spot for their child in the next freshman class - mostly from people I've never met. If I joined you on BooBooFunnyFaceCookBook, or whatever you call it, I would never have another moment's peace.

2) You're a friend, not a revenue stream. When you send me photos, I frame them and display them in my home. When you post a photo, or anything else, on Friendster, "you automatically Friendster an irrevocable, perpetual, nonexclusive, fully-paid, and worldwide license to use, copy, perform, display, and distribute such Content... "What a fun group! It gets better, though. On LinkedIn, you're not just a professional contact, you're "rich user profile data," all the better to sell to advertisers. Facebook encourages advertisers to "pair your targeted ad with related actions from a user's friends." So you're hanging online with friends, and some giant, hungry Facebook spider is tracking your movements and selling the information. Can it get any creepier than that?

3) Well, yes, it can. Once you give companies personal information, they can turn you into something you're not, as I learned making online purchases. Recently I signed onto eBay and was greeted with the message, "John, fuel your passion for Male Nurse Action Figure!" I bought my son a toy because he is interested in medicine. Now eBay thinks I want to meet guys in surgical scrubs. thinks I need a subscription to "American Girl" Magazine. I won't bore you with the hygienic product offers I get from retailers that have decided I'm not only female, I'm perpetually pregnant. Not only is "personal data" the newest oxymoron, it's not even personally correct.

We already know that prospective employers Google your information on sites such as MySpace. I imagine networking sites could make quite a bundle by selling you back the compromising photos you shared in a moment of insanity, or better yet, charge to remove compromising photos from your profile that aren't of you.

4) Corporations used to become billion-dollar enterprises by owning stuff: airplanes, oil tankers, rain forests, that sort of thing. AOL bought Bebo in March (2008) for $850 million because it has...a list of your favorite 1980's bands and a photo of you doing the chicken dance at your cousin's wedding? I don't want to ruin anyone's economy, but if the whole social networking boom is built on your performance of "Being With You," then dude, it's doomed. And then what happens to your personal data? Snapped up in a fire sale by an ISP in Uzbekistan?

5) Most important, friendships should be real, not conducted through a proxy such as MissingLinkSausageFaceSourPickle, or whatever it's called. Media hype would have you believe everyone is Facelinking, but a June 13 (2008) press release from The Conference Board puts the percentage of social networkers at 25 percent of those online (37% in 2010). Seventy-five percent of us still like talking to real people! Alert the media! Or better yet, just give me a call. I'm always happy to hear from you.

I couldn't agree more...

John Lenger - Harvard University Journalism Professor -