Archives for posts with tag: society

Social cohesion is a key concept in modern sociology.
There are many definitions – most of which complement each other, and the gist of them is ‘glue’.

…the glue that bonds society together…

Do you actually perceive modern society as being glued? Bonded? Together?!?

As an engineer – MSc in Mechanical Engineering, Bucharest Politechnica University 1986 – I’m primarily interested in ‘consequences’. ‘Causes’ come second. A close second but still second. Because it’s ‘consequences’ we have to face/endure directly, not ’causes’.
Whenever I feel bad, really bad, I begin by stopping everything that I was doing. To have enough time to determine the proper cause for my malaise. Identifying/dealing with causes ‘on the go’ – usually by having faith in what I already know, without realizing that it was exactly that which had led me to where I am now – is not such a good option.

Very few societies (countries, nations) continue to behave coherently. Many of them – most of them, actually, used to. Until very recently.
Yet most of my ‘recent’ colleagues – B in Sociology, Bucharest University 2009, continue to discuss about ‘cohesion’.

Communities continue to be cohesive. And, as a consequence, continue to behave coherently.
Why?
The easiest answer is ‘by definition’.
That’s how you recognize a community. A group of people who act coherently because they are ‘bound together’ by ‘social cohesion’. How that happened to be? Some other time!

Societies, on the other hand, no longer are.
Nations, which used to be whole, are now ‘fractured’. Not entirely, but they certainly behave a lot less coherently than, say, 50 years ago.
OK, this is not the first time that something like this had happened….

Civil wars are nothing new.
None of them had been ‘civil’ though. Which makes ‘civil war‘ an oxymoron
Something so ‘impossible’ that we haven’t coined a proper word for it. Something so horrible that we speak about it using an ‘impossible’ name in order to properly mark its utter impropriety.

What is new is the amount of knowledge we currently have about the whole matter. About the inner workings of our collective psyche.
How we use that knowledge, what we have understood from learning it, the manner in which we allow that information to shape our actions … that’s another matter!

Whose consequences are in the making.
There are no other ‘makers’ but us.
Also, there are no other people to bear the consequences of what we’re doing now.

More than ten years ago I was preparing my thesis.
To get a ‘title’ – BA in sociology, in my case, each Romanian student must submit a paper to a commission. To help them, students are allowed to chose a Professor.
My choice had been Petre Anghel.
We had many interesting ‘exchanges’. Before, during and after preparing my thesis.
One of the most interesting ones had been about education.

Education is, maybe, the most ‘conservative’ things known to man.
The transfer of knowledge from one generation to the next one is the single thing which allows a society to survive.
And to thrive, if each successive generation diligently improves
what has been bestowed upon it!

Petre Anghel

Fast forward to right now.

The US is the current ‘top dog’.

According to my Teacher, for a nation to reach this ‘stage’ it needs a smooth flow of knowledge from one generation to the next one. And a strenuous effort to improve that knowledge made by each successive generation.

Nowadays, both current generations – the one trying to pass over its knowledge and the one at the receiving end of the process, are dissatisfied with the current ‘education system’.
Many belonging to the ‘mature’ generation are obsessing about ‘who runs the system and towards which end’ while the ‘learning generation’ is buckling under the costs incurred during the process.

Do I need to remind you that it’s the conservatives the world over who are whining about this?

OK, I understand the whiners living in failed states. Afghanistan, Somalia…
But those enjoying the perks of living in the ‘civilized’ world?
What are they complaining about?
Weren’t they in charge while the current education system had been put in place?
Aren’t they the parents, and educators, of the current student generation?

What’s going on here?!?
Why are the American Conservatives, living in the most advanced country of the world – no doubt here!, the most vocal critics of their own education system?

What, and why, went wrong?

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As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
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Your contribution will be appreciated!

As much as I love writing, I do have to eat.
And to provide for my family.
Earning money takes time.
If you’d like me to write more, and on a more regular basis, hit the button.
Your contribution will be appreciated!

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SARS-CoV 2 lock-downs have intensified the already heated discussion about ‘rights’. About “our rights”. Which have to be defended “at all costs”.

The way I see it, rights can be evaluated from two directions.
As ‘gifts’. Either gifted to us by ‘higher authorities’ or conquered for us by our ancestors.
Or as ‘procedures’. Elaborated in time by society and coined into law by our wise predecessors. Who had duly noticed that societies which respect certain rights work way better than those who don’t.

After all, societies are nothing but meta-organisms. Which, like all other organisms, function for only as long as the components interact according to certain, and very specific, rules. The ‘better’ the rules, the better the organism works.

In this sense, ‘rights’ are the code we use when interacting among ourselves. The rules we use when cooperating towards the well being of the society.

You don’t care about the society? Only about ‘your rights’?

OK, but if the society, as a whole, doesn’t work properly, who’s going to respect ‘your rights’?
Who’s going to help you when a bully will try to snatch ‘your rights’ away from you?
And bullies trying to separate you from ‘your rights’ are the most certain occurrence whenever societies cease to function properly.
Whenever the individual members of a society no longer respect each-other enough to collectively uphold their rights. Their rights.

Our rights.

Let’s face it. The homeless are ‘survivors’ who don’t pull their weight as members of the community. They live ‘off the land’ – but the land they use to live off is us, and they don’t give anything back in return. Except for the garbage they leave behind…

Hence we have a problem.
Which we might choose to ignore. Or to solve.

I’ll presume we want to solve it.
First step to solving any problem is, of course, to understand its nature.

So, what is bothering us?

The garbage they leave behind?
The sore sight they offer each time we see them?
The danger they represent for public safety?
The fact that they occupy public property? And prevent the rest of us from using it?
The fact that they don’t contribute?
The loss of their creative potential?
The bad example for our children?
They are a reminder of what could have happened to any of us?

Second step, the ‘how’ of the matter.

What caused such a number of able bodied people to live in the streets?
Why do so many of them use drugs? And alcohol?
Why do so many of them refuse to be helped? By the institutions which care for them?

I don’t have a real answers for any of these.
The first category of questions depends on each of us while the second on each of the homeless.

Nevertheless, I would like to point out a few things.

Very few of the homeless have been born on the street.
Most of them have been educated into the values of the society to which each of them belongs. Very few are recently arrived immigrants, at least in the US.
“we found that the longer that immigrants had lived in the United States, the greater their risk for homelessness. This is a unique finding that has not been reported before and suggests that immigrants are more likely to shed previous practices and attitudes from their origin countries over time as they live in the United States, which can put them at increased susceptibility to mental illness, substance abuse, and other factors that can increase homeless risk.This idea would be consistent with the literature finding that the health immigrant effect declines for immigrants in the United States as they acculturate and develop habits and practices similar to native residents”. J. Tsai, X.Gu, Homelessness among immigrants in the US

Why do I bother? Specially if I don’t have any answer?

The way I see it, each society is a social organism.

This image had been labeled ‘misleading’ by the Reddit users who cared enough about the subject. And rightly so. “This data is incredibly unreliable. It spans from 2009 to 2015 in different countries and has different criteria for defining homelessness.”
More about how this kind of data is been gathered and why it becomes misleading can be found in the OECD report on the subject. Click here for the 2019 one.

And what might we learn from this? Leaving aside the ‘vagaries’?
That New Zealand has way more homeless people than Japan?
And why nobody knows anything about the New Zealand homeless – or about those in the Czech Republic, but all concerned netizens are horrified by the manner in which the US are treating their homeless?

“”Where are we going to go now?” Denver closes park near Capitol, clears homeless camp citing rats, health hazards.”

For starters, and given the relative size of the US population, there are way more homeless in the US than in the rest of the OECD. Roughly counting, of course.
Secondly, the US is the wealthiest country in the world. And the one which used to describe itself as being the place where all dreams could be fulfilled.

Then, and this is only a hunch, there is the ‘small’ problem of the ‘native citizens’. Oops… not a mere hunch anymore. “In 2013, 12,754 Māori were homeless, comprising 32% of the homeless population compared to comprising just 14.9% of the total population” Same considerations may be taken into account when evaluating the situation in Australia and Canada while Europe has a rather consistent Roma population. Many of whom continue to live in a ‘traditional’ manner.

So, after all, is there anything to be learned here?

Actually, yes.

That luck does play a huge role. It makes a hell of a difference being born a Maori in New Zealand or a billionaire’s child in California.
And that becoming acculturated in the US actually increases your chances of becoming homeless.

What?!?

Have you already forgotten? 😦
“we found that the longer that immigrants had lived in the United States, the greater their risk for homelessness. This is a unique finding that has not been reported before and suggests that immigrants are more likely to shed previous practices and attitudes from their origin countries over time as they live in the United States, which can put them at increased susceptibility to mental illness, substance abuse, and other factors that can increase homeless risk.This idea would be consistent with the literature finding that the health immigrant effect declines for immigrants in the United States as they acculturate and develop habits and practices similar to native residents”.” J. Tsai, X.Gu, Homelessness among immigrants in the US

The way I understand all this is that there must be a link between homelessness and the intensity, and character, of the social interaction prevalent among the members of any given society.

People in the West, and specially in the US, see personal success as paramount. And personal failure as … well… something to be shunned. Simply because it reminds us of what may happen to any of us.
Specially when taking on the risks we must assume if we want to really succeed. As we are pressured from early childhood.
The risks the immigrants grow accustomed to the longer they live in the US.

I’m afraid I was that close of forgetting a point I planned to make.
Why so many of the homeless use drugs and have an alcohol problem.

“The new study, led by NIDA’s Dr. Marco Venniro, required rats to choose between social interaction with another rat or access to a drug (heroin or methamphetamine). The animals consistently chose social interaction when given the choice, and this was true when they were first given access to the drug or when they were experienced drug takers.”

Nature.

‘Resources’ to structures to meaning.

Man.

Opportunities to structures to comprehension.

Society.

Pre-existing conditions to structures to culture (survival)

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