Dream World

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In chapter 3 of Sears and Cairns, they write about perceptions. One of the sections of the chapter talks about dreams and how they impact reality. On pages 100-101, Sears and Cairns talk about Walter Benjamin and his idea of a “collective dream-world.” My first thought was of the Matrix where reality is just a dream and the real reality deals with an underground society trying to fight the government, or something along those lines. However, the more I thought about it, the more it actually began to make sense and I could understand how it applies to the real world. People can go through life just expecting things to get better in the world, or for change to happen, without them having to do anything. This would be the “dream-world” that Benjamin talks about. After they “wake up,” they finally see how they have to be the ones to step up and do something about the state of things. If they want a better world, they have to be the ones to work for it.

The picture I drew is pretty straightforward. The girl is dreaming about normal life as she knows it, nothing too exciting going on. When she opens her eyes, she realizes that she had believed it was okay to just go through life doing nothing, but now she must take action. By being active in the world, she is able to see how things really are and she can fight for what she believes in. The cape, for me, is a symbol for taking action, like superheroes do.

Benjamin describes the dream as being a collective one, so everyone is in the same dream and they will wake up at the same time. However, I think people can have their own “dream-world.” Making personal decisions to finally step out of routine and doing something, even if it is just a small decision, is like waking up to the real world. Life as a student can be like living in a dream sometimes. Get up, go to class, go to work, and go to bed so the same thing can happen the very next day. By doing something as small as even deciding on a major or going for a new job interview can wake someone up to reality and see how they can change their own life for the better.

Shirts, People, and Anthropology

I had originally planned to do a breeching experiment having to do with disturbing the assumptions of apparel in accordance to gender, but my time schedules would not allow me adequate time to do them.  Instead what I had decided to do was similar to a breeching experiment but on a much smaller scale, in fact, it was more of a “watch-people’s-reactions-to-the-slogans-on-my-shirt” kind of observation.  Some of you may have noticed that every Thursday I wear a shirt that has to do with supporting the LGBTQI community; shirts that say “Some Chicks Marry Chicks. Get Over It.” or “Some Dudes Marry Dudes. Get Over It.” as well as a shirt with the symbol for marriage equality; the heart with the equal sign in it.  In addition to wearing these shirts on Thursdays, I also wore them on days that I work or on weekends when I am out and about in public interacting with people.  One of the indicators that people were actually reading what was on my shirts was that many coworkers and peers at school actually stopped me to read what my shirt said or asked me what the heart symbol meant.  Some even got close enough to see the tiny letters of the website I bought them from (FckH8.com).

Now, you may be reading this and yawn to yourself, “Mike, why is this important?  So you wore shirts that supported marriage equality, whippy-do! Just tell us how this is related to the class and get on with your life.”   Well, this does relate to the class in a small way, and I took that small significance and ran with it and made connections with my own experiences that I don’t know if I can explain enough without seeming too disjointed and jumping around everywhere with ideas. But I will try.

About two years ago I was really into listening and watching TED Talks, and through my searches I came across a talk by iO Tillett Wright titled “Fifty shades of gay”.  In this talk, iO addresses how humans interact with one another and when we are first meeting someone we are going through this mental resume based on the answers the unknown person gives, and it provides a framework for our own assumptions about that individual; who they are, what they do, what they are wearing, possibly their socioeconomic standing.  It is in our nature to categorize things we learn and we place them in “boxes” or categories based on the information and inferences we made about whatever we are doing.  What iO is doing is highlighting our perceptions we have of the world around us, and when something does not fit in the box we assigned it, we either have to make a new box or reallocate that information into another box.  This connects with the small discussion in Sears and Cairns (from pages 85 through 93) that we categorize our perceptions and need to constantly reevaluate our reality and assumptions about it.

This leads into my whole shirt observation scheme.  You see, many people will say I am a quiet, calm, polite person, while others will say I am extremely talkative, loud, and hyper.  Most of my coworkers think the former, so when I wear a shirt claiming something loud and against what they have heard from their religion (roughly four-fifths of my work were hired because they had connections with the owner from a Christian church they all attended at one time and, in case you were wondering, I am in the one-fifth and have no previous interaction with the owner), it definitely turned heads.  I got a mixture of responses from my coworkers:  some told me they liked the shirts, others scowled, one high schooler  tried to embarrass me by saying, “So, chickens can get married now, that’s irrelevant and dumb,” other people asked if I was gay or if I had a boyfriend (to that I told them “I don’t know” and “Maybe”).  At Parkside, some peers just smiled at the shirts, while one Thursday, I walked into a philosophy class and those who did not know me read my shirt, and continued to just stare at me throughout the class with looks of confusion or concern (I’m not sure which).  On a weekend I went to a friend’s house and when I took off my jacket, he threw me his sweatshirt and told me that if his parents saw me supporting gay marriage they would probably not want me in their house.

Needless to say, wearing these shirts got people thinking. They may have heard the marriage equality debate (if it really is a debate) and what others have to say, what their religious institutions have to say, and made assumptions based on those experiences.  But when someone they know, someone who isn’t “evil” or wanting to “ruin their sanctity of marriage” (whatever that is), someone they know in the past they could trust, when they see that person support a cause, regardless of their opinions, the wheels in their minds start turning, and they have to redefine their perceptions and assumptions that they had made.  Whether or not they change their assumptions in a way that supports the cause or leaves them with unanswered questions, it still threw a wrench in their overall worldview.  That is the point behind breeching experiments, to get people to think of their own socially subconscious decisions and thoughts and question the assumptions of their reality, and that is what I hoped to demonstrate.

I had so much more I wanted to address about sexuality and how it may relate to law and politics but this post is much too long to begin with (even with edits) so a few last words.  In the final few minutes of iO’s TED Talk, she addresses sexuality as a spectrum (in this talk she is only talking about being homosexual or straight) where being bisexual is the middle, the polar ends are 100% homosexual or 100% heterosexual.  I find it intriguing the discussion she has where laws cannot be specific enough to address the conditions under which, an employer can fire someone under the grounds of being homosexual or conducting homosexual behavior.  If I can figure out how, I will attach the TED Talk; the last 6 minutes are really significant but the whole talk kind-of builds to her conclusions. As a side note, I would like to add that my own view of sexuality is more like a blurred circular pinwheel with 100% of all the sexualities are at the edges and everyone falls somewhere in it.


A link between Anthropology and Criminal Justice

Dual majoring in Criminal Justice and Anthropology requires me to compare and contrast concepts that are taught in both fields.  While reading the last 3 chapters of A Good Book, In Theory I have seen the most connections between the fields than I ever have before, in my 5 years at UW-Parkside.  In Criminal Justice (CJ) we have four theories we focus on to identify why criminal behavior manifests in certain individuals; Structural Functionalism, Conflict theory/Marxism, Interactionism, and Habermasian, the last two you may not heard of, but Conflict theory/Marxism is what resonates closest to me in connection with this course, and what I’ll concentrate on in this blog post.

The nurture versus nature debate is not so much a debate anymore, as we recognize it is often a combination of both that explains particular behaviors.  In terms of nurture, if we zoom out of the individual level, and focus on the macro forms of nurturing provided by the government (nationally, state-wide, and municipally), we can see the disregard for human life, we can see this oppressive and exploitative force the Conflict Theory suggests, that targets lower classes in the United States.  We see a similar oppressive force when we discuss fourth-world peoples, or those who are often marginalized by a larger entity.  Sears & Cairns discuss, on pg. 128, the types of environmental hazards that are inflicted on the working class, people of color, and the impoverished.  In a lecture series hosted at UW-Parkside last semester called Environmental Racism, one speaker explained the types of establishments that are imposed, toxic-waste dumps, large factories, and major highways.  These establishments not only cause extreme health risks, but lower the value of surrounding property thus making it next to impossible to better the conditions of the area.  The people living in these areas do not have the same opportunities or availability to resources as the middle and upper classes, and have little to no authority to stop these institutions from degrading their neighborhoods.

These anti-nurturing conditions elicit an adaptive behavior, and criminal activity could be a behavior produced.  I am not saying all impoverished, or working class, or minorities engage in criminal activity, just like not all pastoralists love cattle as much as the Nuer, but there is a clear correlation between oppressive forces and criminal activity as an adaptive behavior.  The criminal activity I am referring to is not serial killing, acts of terrorism, or assault, but rather petty theft, burglary, prostitution, and drug dealing or smuggling, crimes that have financial or social gain to support a lifestyle.  The cost of living is rising, but minimum wage has remained static, and with much of the work available to the impoverished and working-class being limited to labor, criminal activity is a way to supplement a low income.  I am not condoning any criminal behavior, or stating it is exclusively caused by oppression, I am just astonished on how a theory in Anthropology shed light and further expanded my comprehension of a Criminal Justice theory.

-Saraya Kohloff

All the time.

One of the things that has really stuck out to me is the chapter in Sears and Cairns about time.  I think about time a lot, in particular the way our perception of time affects other aspects of society and the world around us.  Sears and Cairns are not wrong; time seems to be speeding up around us and it has profound implications in the way we interact with others.One example of this is fast food.  In theory, you get in, you order, you get out, you gobble down your food and you go on your merry way.  The problem comes when we start to generalize this concept of fast, cheap, and easy to every other aspect of our world.  I work in a retail pharmacy and I have noticed that people have a tendency to apply this concept to their healthcare.  The industry standard wait time to have a prescription filled is 15 to 20 minutes on average.  This covers the time it takes for a person to talk to you and review your file, type your prescription, have a pharmacist check that the typed information is correct, submit the prescription to your insurance, fill the prescription, check that the medication is correct, and counsel you on the medication.  When you spell it all out, it is a lot.  But, when people hear that the wait time is 15 to 20 minutes, they lose their minds.  “Why is it going to take so long? All you have to do is count a couple pills out of a bottle and label them!”  It takes this long to complete a prescription for a simple reason: if we don’t get it right, you could become more seriously ill or even die.So, if one’s personal health is at stake, why are patients so intent on this fast food type service?  I’m sure there are many reasons, but the most obvious one to me is that retail corporations are fostering the image of pharmacy as fast food in consumers.  Starting with the $4 dollar prescription “value meal” and ending with the convenient drive-thru service, corporations have realized that they can make an enormous amount of money just by being the fastest and along the way, quality is misplaced.

This is not only applicable to pharmacies, but also to hospitals.  A few months ago, I read an article talking about changes made in hospital operations based off changes made by the ObamaCare programs.  The main point of the article was that in the past, doctors were pressured to get people in and out fast in order to keep making money.  If there were complications due to rushing, that was fine, bring them back in and make more money off of another visit.  Now, insurance companies are trying to cut back on how many times a person visits a doctor, it is in their financial best interest to do things right the first time because they will not receive more money for subsequent visits.  So, hospitals have started forcing personnel to slow down and use check lists to make sure things are done right the first time.  Slowing down is not always a bad thing.

I guess what I’m trying to get at is that what is the point in all this rush that people engage in?  All they are doing is rushing towards mistakes and time “wasted” fixing mistakes they made in that rush.

My thoughts on the readings so far

I hope you’ll pardon me if this is a little bit of a ramble. I do feel like there are connecting threads!

As I mentioned in class, one of the things that I found striking in the discussion of theory so far was the way that, in one important respect, positivism and post-modern thought converge when taken to logical extremes. They both suggest that it is impossible to know anything. To be fair, our inescapabable ignorance would stem from very different causes: either we can never make complete enough rigorous observation to make a valid conclusion, or we must accept that our observation is simply incapable of the necessary rigour. But either way, the end result would appear to be the same.

It reminded me of some discussions I’ve had about politics. Something about a theory that, rather than a linear spectrum, political beliefs are actually circular, and that extreme forms of both ‘right’ and ‘left’ politics circle back to meet each other. I wasn’t sure if there was a term for this theory, but some Googling led me to the Wikipedia article on “Horseshoe Theory.” Horseshoe Theory, I learned, proposes not a circle, but a non-linear, though still bipolar, continuum whose warped ends begin to aproach each other, if not to actually meet. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory

This horseshoe interpretation is, of course, subject to some criticism which I didn’t dig into. But the concept makes me think that the critical approach, as described by Moberg, is best suited for both politics and anthropological theory. (This is a slightly difficult admission for me as someone who is an avowed leftist, and who feels like the viable parties in my country are less left and right than they right and middle. But I digress.)

Perhaps in much the same way that I’m left politically, I also lean toward post-modernism over positivism in coming to an understanding of why things are the way we are and how we know what we know. Yet my inclination toward post-modernism is, for the most part, limited to the humanities. Again, as Moberg points out, it’s important to recognize that some bases for knowledge have greater validity than others. (It helps, sometimes, that one of my partners has a physics degree and was a working science journalist before going back to school; she keeps me a little grounded in reality!)

In matters of theory, and I suspect this may be true for politics or other fields where multiple viewpoints contend as well, I’ve felt for some time that what’s important to consider is not “Which theory works better,” but rather “What does each different theory tell us?” I believe that there is a reality out there to know, but as we move increasingly far from the hard sciences, it becomes more difficult to get at that reality. Each different theoretical approach has its own contribution to make; its own set of conjecture and relationships to serve as a framework for observable phenomona.

This reminds me too of a piece I read in my LGBT Studies class last year by Karen Haraway about the concept of situated knowledge. (http://www.jstor.org/stable/3178066?seq=2) She argues that a major failure of science is its attempt to generate knowledge of a universal nature. In reality, our knowledge is situated in the context that it arises from. We cannot make universal statements because we do not know the universe; only our small part of it. The way to approach something resembling universal knowledge is to combine many differently situated knowledges into something resembling (though perhaps never quite attaining) a whole.

In that way, I feel that each different theoretical perspective is its own bit of situated knowledge. I stand with Moberg in thinking that some may have more validity than others, but I also think they may all have at least a little utility to them, even if only to stand as examples of how things are not. The best way, then, to work toward an understanding of the reality underlying our observations is to look through as many different lenses as possible and compare and contrast the insights gained thereby.

Professional Demeanors on our Class Blog

Be creative and adventuresome, but treat this all professionally. I can see that a lot of people have personalized screen names – not too surprising if you already have an online presence! BUT do not expect other people in the class to know who you are. I can guess because I’ve known some of you a long time, but other students might not know who is responding. 

Therefore, if you are using a personalized screenname in which your legal name is not obvious please sign your posts with your first name and last initial.

Transparency is important in professional communication.