Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Pre-Natal Agreement

For your consideration, I bring to you the "Pre-Natal Agreement"! This is my little creation and gift to the legal world. In short, it works like a pre-nup, but gives one parent complete control of child-rearing in the event of a divorce. No more arguing over visitation, over dental benefits, over who's going to pick up little Johnny up from soccer practice! This gem gives it all to one parent! How easy will your custody battles be now!! In fact, it even comes with a built in addendum that the non-custodial parent can choose to pay child support or sign away parental rights, no questions asked!

This is a culmination of years of me shaking my head at the evils that parents will do to their children post-divorce, but now it includes court involved evils. Recently that boy and his mother who ran away to get away from a court-appointed chemo treatment incited me to dream up the "Pre-Natal Agreement". Depending on which article you read after googling the boy and his story, you get various views on who has custody of the boy and his medical rights, and why custody is in question, and why there is a court-appointed chemo treatment in the first place. You also occasionally run across their religious beliefs (like them or not) that are against non-hollistic medicine in the first place.

The questions that this boy's case raised for me include:
1. who gets to decide the patient's rights in this and other cases and what are the guidelines?
2. what about his own rights to decide his quality of life and/medical treatments?
3. how far can the courts and the doctors go to force treatment upon patients?
4. will these treatments be directly related to the business of medicine? i.e. will there be a harder and perhaps court-backed push for more costly treatments?
5. when does patient care count as more important than patient treatment?
6. will personal beliefs towards medicine -- be them religous or cultural -- be subservient to the sickness itself? In other words, will the patient be little more than the vehicle to treat the illness, while the illness is the real interest?
7. how will the insurance agencies lobby and for what ends? Will this be one more area where we-the-people have little say in how we are treated and billed?
8. Did this all start from a divorce and shared custody rights? Some articles suggest that it did, others suggest that the state interfered on behalf of the boy because his parents did not believe nor wish to participate in "traditional modern medical practices".

The easiest way to avoid such convoluted situations is to stay married after procreation. But since we don't live in a society that encourages such unions, the next best thing may be to have ultimate rights over one's progeny.

Of course, this brings about several other basic issues that need to be understood:

1. children are an 18 year commitment at minimum. If you are not financially nor emotionally prepared to dedicate 18 years of your life to a life-form other than your own, then do not procreate or sign away parental rights if you do.
2. children are not playthings that are for your amusement in pride issues and control battles over custody. Grow up before you procreate, or agree to act like a grown up once you have.
3. understand that if you play by the rules of society, you just may scrape by under the radar. Draw unnecessary attention to yourself through any means of stupidity or irresponsibility, and you may find Social Services at your door, and then your parental rights could become a moot point anyway.
4. how you feel about someone the day you decide to procreate with them will be very different from the day you decide you're tired of their antics. Think beyond the moment to the worst possible scenerio and plan to deal with the worst, not the best.
5. use your head for something other than a hat rack. If you don't already have the answers you need to the questions you have, go get them from someone who does.
6. you are not half as important to everyone else as you think you are, but you are ten times as important to your child than you think you are.

I look at the situation we are in as a nation with regards to child-rearing and custody arguments and "a village raising our children" from social services to public education and I wonder how humanity survived long enough to get to this point. To all those people in power that are now making decisions to "safeguard our children" I ask you this: did your parents do such a horrible job with you that you now feel that we should grow up in a bubble until we're 18 and then register to vote to support the social programs you think are inalienable rights to our citizens and illegal immigrants?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

United we stood

I recently took a very casual poll and discovered that most people consider "nationalism" to be the same thing as patriotism: love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it. However, ask a history buff knowledgeable in the emergence of Nationalism, and you'll learn something a bit different.

"Nationalism proved to be the single most powerful European political ideology of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries (pg. 744)". Yes, European political ideology. And nationalism is very simple, really. The idea is simply the "concept that a nation is composed of people who are joined together by the bonds of common language, customs, culture, and history, and who, because of those bonds, should share the same government [such as a democracy, a monarchy, or other governmental form]" (pg. 745). Ideally, any group can form its own nation, "but in reality nationhood came to be associated with groups that were large enough to support a viable economy, that had a history of significant cultural association, that possessed a cultural elite that could nourish and spread the national language, and that could conquer other peoples to establish and protect their own independence" (pg. 747)*.

Such relatively simply ideology helps really put a fine point on why there are so many conflicts and wars in this world, doesn't it? We want to be united and have the right to be united and protect ourselves from other groups. And by "we", I mean just about every single individual culture on the planet.

Now if you read my previous post, "Out of Africa", you already know that I posed a very dramatic pitch for peace by way of understanding and respecting our genetic similarities as a species. Genetic similarities do not define cultures, however, and the European Nationalists saw a problem in Europe that ended up redefining borders and bringing about nation states such as Italy and Germany, as well as tying peoples together in a way that had not ever occurred before.

You'd think we, the fledgeling U.S. and "Republic experiment", would have learned something. Apparently we did not.

Take another look at what nationalism means: "peoples joined by common language, customs, culture, and history...." Who in politics is trying to keep this country united at all? No one, that I can think of. Every single politician that comes to my mind is focused on segregating this country by focusing on various economical or cultural differences within our borders. Abortion activists' tend to define that entire argument based on a difference between the sexes, supported by the rhetoric of "a woman's right to do what she wants to do with her body". The entire political plank of illegal immigrants recognizes and thus divides culturally the Mexican/Latino culture from the "American" culture. Arguments over health care tend to alienate economic classes and to some degree also includes ageism by focusing on Medicaid and Medicare. The argument over taxes divides the working class, the upper class, and the tax exempt class.

In short, how does this country stay together at all? We are no longer joined by a common language (we're increasingly bi-lingual), we have no common culture or customs, and our history is used as a political tool to divide us instead of unite us.

With cultural globalization we are increasingly losing whatever vestiges of culture we had as we embrace individuality and increase our integration of other cultural norms into our own melting pot. This in and of itself would not be a bad thing if we actually had an "American" culture that united us. When this country was founded, it was in response to religious oppression and persecution. It was a break from the tyrannical rule of a monarchy. It was to separate from a government that failed to allow equal representation. It was also a chance to pursue personal wealth without strict adherence to a caste system, and a chance to encourage and participate in free trade.

We seem to have abandoned everything that once united us. With no commonality as a nation, of course we're at the whims of our president and congress. Of course we're turning towards socialism and communism and away from the republic that our forefathers established. And until we understand our history, we cannot begin to change our future.

*Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, Turner (2009) The Heritage of world civilizations, (vol. 2, 8th ed., pp. 744-747). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Out of Africa

Anthroplogists believe that modern man comes from Africa. “...Geneticists found that characteristic DNA sequences called markers on the Y (male) chromosome in a huge sample of men in Asia and Oceania could be traced to forefathers who lived in Africa in the past 35,000 to 89,000 years. Two other groups studying Y chromosome markers have come to a similar conclusion. Together with a variety of studies showing that mitochondrial DNA is of recent African origins, anthropologists now have two strong lines of evidence in favor of the 'Out of Africa' model, which says that the ancestors of living humans swept out of Africa in the past 200,000 years and replaced all indigenous people they encountered.”*

This means that either the government should start passing “racially” preferred handouts to everyone, or quit handing them out at all. It also means that the NAACP needs to widen it's recipient base. Finally, it means that affirmative action really is discrimination. But most people with any sort of common sense already knew that.

But outside of poking fun at governmental policies that allow for any particular group to get any specific favor based on the “color of their skin”, there is another and deeper meaning to being “African American”... the anthropological belief that we're all one race. “In the United States both scholars and the general public have been conditioned to viewing human races as natural and separate divisions within the human species based on visible physical differences. With the vast expansion of scientific knowledge in this century, however, it has become clear that human populations are not unambiguous, clearly demarcated, biologically distinct groups. Evidence from the analysis of genetics (e.g., DNA) indicates that most physical variation, about 94%, lies within so-called racial groups. Conventional geographic 'racial' groupings differ from one another only in about 6% of their genes. This means that there is greater variation within 'racial' groups than between them. In neighboring populations there is much overlapping of genes and their phenotypic (physical) expressions. Throughout history whenever different groups have come into contact, they have interbred. The continued sharing of genetic materials has maintained all of humankind as a single species.”**

With all the religious, political, sexist, demographical, “racial”, cultural and economic diversity on this planet, realizing that we are, essentially, no different from one human to the next, we can de-value the constant bickering and warring over inconsequential stuff – like whether or not the color of someone's skin reflects who they are as a person, or whether or not it reflects how capable they are to perform a task. It should also be broadened to consider such things as whether or not acts of terrorism is performed against truly different persons (it is not), or instead just different ideologies (it is). Perhaps human identity is not the way to peace, but perhaps if we focused on our genetic similarities and less on our cultural differences, PERHAPS we could begin to value human life enough to pursue avenues of peace that typically and historically have not worked, because of a shift in fundamental beliefs about what it is to be a human.

"Photograph is courtesy of American Anthropological Association and Science Museum of Minnesota"



Saturday, May 09, 2009

This year's ode to mothers

I have had very little time to dedicate to something worthwhile here in the last couple of weeks, and I finally get a few moments and find myself less than 24 hours away from Mother's Day.

For good or ill, we all have opinions about our mothers, and even without the Freudian approach to how our mothers have affected us, we can probably take a moment to tell a tale of humor or woe that closely connect our heartstrings where our umbilical cords once connected us. Too graphic? Fine, go visit and send her some flowers and call it a day.

But before we cut off our reflections so quickly, have you ever stopped and really thought about how your mother's presence or absence in your life has structured you as a person? Think of all the stories of soldiers that die calling out for their moms. Think of all the people that fall into deep depression when their mothers die, regardless of how they connected with their moms while they were alive. Despite the traditional need for a sperm and an ovum to create life, children bond at a deeper level with the mom.

So tomorrow is Mother's Day; the one day a year we are federally told to appreciate our mothers, buy them Hallmark cards, and take them out to overcrowded restaurants to show them how much we love them. Maybe we'll buy them jewelry -- some family birthstone related thing that we can get at Walmart -- maybe we'll buy them chocolates. Maybe we'll remember them with a phone call, a visit to the nursing home, or a visit to the grave. Maybe we'll go out of our way to ignore them altogether.

However you do, or do not, remember your mother tomorrow, remember that the one person who is acutely aware of what "day" tomorrow is... is your mom. The only day that she will be more aware of her motherhood is on your birthday, and that day is set aside for you.

Also remember that she could've aborted you, and without any social accountability after 1973.

Friday, May 01, 2009

don't you forget about me

The 80's was a decade of great songs. Sure, better music has come out of other eras, but arguing "what musical era or genre is best" is like arguing any other opinionated topic -- no one is going to ultimately win.

It reminds me of the nonobjectivist approach to ethics, which states that there are no moral truths, but instead morality is simply a reflection of opinion and societal norms. For example, say you like Mozart and I like The Kinks. Instead of being able to sit down and rationally and calmly discuss the talents of either, with the intention of deciding one to be better than another, we will ultimately become inflamed and start spewing rhetoric and name calling. A.J. Ayer says that this will happen in any conversation where there is disagreement, and that ethics is therefore nothing that can be argued about as it is all opinion. "Lying is wrong" is as nonsensical to him as "Elvis is alive" or "Bread is tasty" because they're all opinions and cannot be proven as universal fact.

You know, when researching the Na of Southern China, or reading about the Ik of Central Africa, or even just considering dissenting opinions regarding abortion and same-sex marriages in our own country, it's easy to give a lot of credit to the idea that there is no moral truth and we're all arguing our opinions and feelings.

How dare you tell me that I have to agree with you because you're right and I'm wrong!! And do those that believe in abortion have any more right to say that to those that believe abortion is wrong? Do monogamous heterosexuals have the right to force their notions of morality onto sexual "deviants"? If I tell you that you are wrong for thinking that the sky is blue because in reality it is not blue but is merely reflecting blue as all other colors are being absorbed... do I have the right to force you to agree with me?

Ah, morality. How difficult it is to explain you, how impossible it is to contain you.

So maybe there are no universal truths. I mean, even "murder is wrong" is heavily debated by those that think that motive plays no part in murder, therefore even "killing" is wrong. Jainists would be among them; to them, I'm a murderer because I stepped on a cockroach and killed it. I meant to, as well, so maybe I am guilty -- universally speaking. I mean, either taking life is wrong or it is not, right?

Do I have the divine right to define what "life" is? Do I have the moral responsibility to set boundaries? Is making motive an acceptable cause and therefore exception simply making morality more comfortably fit? Just because I did not take human life, I did take life... a cockroach may not be a desirable lifeform to many of us, but we would all agree that it is indeed alive.

Does it become abominable for me to kill something because it's cute -- like a kitten? Where is the line drawn? Who gets to decide? If I accidentally kill it, because it runs out in the street and I run over it with my car, am I absolved of all moral responsibility? Aren't I surely a monster if I hack it up with an axe, however?

So if there are universal truths, then some of us must uncomfortably admit that we've done some universally morally reprehensible things, even if they weren't done to humans.

I remember a mouse I once killed in my house. I was not particularly kind to it, although it was no cold-blooded killing, but instead a rage response because I found the mouse in my cereal box that I retrieved from the cabinet to pour myself a bowl. But the circumstances notwithstanding, I took that mouse's life. The fact is, that mouse died at my hands.

It seems like something of a nicety that we only include humans in our societal ethical norms. How very Kantian of us. How ignoble. Do I have another solution? Are you kidding? I'm an amateur at this stuff.