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NP Journal for experimenting with ideas, Copyright © 2011-2018 LJ Frank. All Rights Reserved. 

 

Narrative Paths Journal

“We think we know but have yet to discover.”  Thomas Aquinas
“Narrative Paths Journal is a literary magazine focusing on new philosophies and ideas.”  Uriél Dana

 

NP Journal is an evolving experiment within the context of experiences – rooted in treks, passages, voyages, peregrinations, studies and work of the various contributors. The views and opinions expressed in the Journal are those of the individual authors. 

Update: NP Journal – over 3,000,000 impressions and views to date from over 100 countries.

 

CONTENTS

About Us

Brief overview of the vision and people who offer their insights and expertise.

NP Journal Group & Contributors: editor, assistant editor, guest columnists, writers, poets and photographers.

For comments, suggestions, questions, being a guest columnist, interviewee or photographer.

Contact L J Frank at:  narrative.paths@gmail.com

Announcements

Introductions and links to evolving ideas, philosophies, trends with both narrative and poetic reflections on diverse issues.

Interviewees, columnists and other contributors may list their publications and presentations – books, articles, book signing events, links to periodical, radio, television, YouTube, theater and film productions, talks, speeches, other programs and performances.

Art

Abstract Expressionism. Numerous works are on display in business, professional offices, non-profits and private homes.

Guest Column

We welcome guest columnists/contributors. We enjoy exploring ideas, different philosophies, topics and trends. We offer links to your online sites, and upon your request, offer  updates to your writings/publications, and social media presentations.

Guidelines for the length of a written article – up to 3000 words. Photos, videos, film, You Tube, podcasts, art works, cartoon drawings and other formats are welcome. Contact us for questions, suggestions or comments.

Inquiries

Philosophical approaches in essay and occasional poetic format to a variety of artistic, cultural, literary, political, religious, scientific and social matters.

Interviews

Thoughtful observations of varying lengths in areas that are engagingly diverse and leaning towards the paradigmatic.

NPJ Book Review

Books from the past to the present reviewed within the inquisitive, exploring nature of the journal. All reviews are by L J Frank unless otherwise noted.

Publications 

Preview listing of L J Frank’s published books with links to retail availability, includes works in progress.

Rhythms

Contrasting shapes of experiences, ideas, dreams and thoughts primarily in the form of experimental poetry, short essays and conversations.The words amusing, romantic, disquieting, nonlinear, asymmetrical, obscure and existential are a few of the descriptors for these jottings.

Witticisms

NPJ’s wink at absurd, amusing, chimerical, droll, existential, frivolous, offbeat, provocative, satirical and whimsical messages.

 

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Index

Links to archived Contributors, Announcements, Guest Column, Inquiries, Interviews, NPJ Book Review, Rhythms and Witticisms.

NPJ Briefing

The Briefing includes: Visitors by country, region and union and the irregular Publisher’s Log.

Comments and Questions: please send to attention of L J Frank at narrative.paths@gmail.com

Privacy Policy

 

 

 

 

Psychotherapist photographed carrying her pampered pets across the border into Mexico for authentic burritos

 

 

The Diet

A fictionalized version of a reality

 

I refuse to watch food commercials. I watch people instead. Sometimes I talk to the people I watch. If they happen to be male and appear too good-looking to talk to, I may follow, but never into a restaurant or a place having anything to do with food. Home Depot is always a possibility, although I prefer Bed, Bath, and Beyond. I have coupons, and I am always running out of Plink, those colorful little marbles you put in your garbage disposal to make it smell fruity.

In fact, the man I followed today into Bed Bath and Beyond is buying a strainer for his garbage disposal.  I think of saying we have garbage disposals in common, but then I wonder how many times you have to run into a stranger before speaking. Like what would that equation be if it existed.

I follow him out of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, down the strip mall. When he goes into Charles Schwab, I go into Charles Schwab.  He takes his place behind the counter.  I take mine in front of the counter. Over the counter he tells me about a penny stock on its way to becoming the next IBM of India.

“I’ll think about it.”

“Might be the next IBM of India by then.”

If you have one thousand dollars in your checking and you write a check for one thousand dollars plus commission, that’s how you get the bank to charge you an overdraft fee. It’s also how you get a stockbroker to talk to you.

Buy, hold, long, short, put.

The next IBM of India goes up. He tells me to hold. Before it goes bust, he tells me to sell.  Okay, so I don’t make it into the next IBM of India, but I do make it into a booth at Dunkin’ Donuts with the stockbroker.

He orders us coffee and French Crullers.

“I’m on a diet,” I say, and push my French Cruller over to his side of the table.  “You can have mine.”

He takes a bite. “See,” he says.  “It doesn’t bite back.”

He reads the blue strip of stock quotes streaking across the TV suspended over the donut case.   “You need to know when to get in and when to get out.”

“Sounds sort of sexual,” I think to myself.

“Trading is very time-sensitive,” he says.

“So are relationships…whatever it takes to find the future blue chip,” I add.  Once I tried hedging my bets by dating a Rabbi. On High Holy Days, he carried the Torah. The other days, he carried a huge torch for another Rabbi who constantly quoted an old ancient rabbi. “Wonder is the root of all knowledge.”

I do not doubt that this is the truth. Even a donut is the truth if you consider the hole.

“The holes are getting bigger,” I say.

“As long as the dough doesn’t  shrink,” Buy, hold, long, short, put.

“How do you see your future?” I ask.

“With an ‘s’ at the end, as in futures.”

“Pork Bellies?”

“Futures are financial contracts. Pork bellies are commodities. Sugar, beans, coffee.”

I sip mine. “Any stronger, will give you a cardiac standstill,” I say, like the imperial wizard of coffee and cardiology.

“At least it’s not the market standing still.” He looks at his I-phone and watches it move. Up, down, minus, plus.  Bravo. He’s doing a bang-up job at his job on our time.

“If you sell will it come back to haunt you?” I ask, wanting us to have the blue strip of quotes in common.

“Deciding what to buy and what to sell is the essence of this life. Buy this. Sell that.”

“Save this, get rid of that, get rid of whatever is in the bio-grams of your ‘kishkas’ and even then, you never get rid of it. Even if you throw it away, you don’t get rid of it; it all comes back to haunt you.”

“Jewish guilt?” he asks.

“How to improve the impromptu.”  I can’t.

He comes to the rescue.  “Would you rather get taken hostage or clobbered by a meteorite?”

“I would never contemplate either. Well maybe under different circumstances.”

Coffee and a donut here, a blue streak there. These are the circumstances.

“I would rather get clobbered by a meteorite than taken hostage,” he says. “Don’t want a sadist controlling me.”

“Sounds like you need to take the edge off,” I say, and invite him to a Tupperware party.

“No thanks,” he says.

“The hostess is selling bongs.”

“Oh, then, okay.”

The stockbroker and I get lost in a sea of pretty glass bongs, percolator bongs, ceramic bongs that look like aliens, suns, mushrooms. We get bonged for free. For the munchies, we get a layered jello mold of psychedelic colors.  I help myself to two servings. It’s not fattening.

The lady who lives in the apartment upstairs says she has a cake in the oven still baking but is too bonged to get it.  I volunteer because I am also too bonged, which in no way impedes me from unlocking her apartment, she has given me the key. On top of the stove lies a pair of potholders covered with flower children. I put them on, take the cake out of the oven, even turn the oven off. Holding the cake with the flower children potholders is  how I walk out of her apartment with no free hand to close the door, but I do have the key in my pocket.

So here I am in the hall.  Before I can wonder which way to walk, I smell the cake. It smells like banana. It tastes like banana with walnuts and sour cream. It tastes great. I only eat about one-fourth of the cake.  Then it dawns on me I have no idea where I am or where I am going. I forget I am on a diet. I only know I have the munchies. This is where the banana cake comes back in, another fourth of it.

Then come the stockbroker and the ones with the bongs.

“What are you doing?” asks the lady whose cake it is.

“I can’t remember,” I say.

I feel like my Alzheimer’s stricken grandmother. I often wonder how she got it. Too much tin foil?  God getting even?  Take your pick, but if she survived the Holocaust, then certainly I thought she’d survive Alzheimer’s, even if she had to burn down the house to do it.

Scary.  I kept a fire extinguisher under my bed.  I honed my sense of smell. To this day, I can smell anything.  Good, bad, indifferent.

“It smells as wonderful as it tastes,” I say, and demolish the rest of the banana cake.

“What did you just do?” asks the stockbroker.

“I can’t remember.”

Freud says if you can’t remember, you are doomed to repeat. He also says something to the effect that it is human nature to go beyond our own possibilities. Sounds about as possible as starting another diet, which I do, the very next day, a starvation diet.  I am so hungry my head hurts.  Pain speeds through my temples, up my frontal lobe.  My philosophy is better to  do something and get nowhere  than to do nothing and get nowhere.

To get nowhere with my headache, I take a little road trip  to the ER, just around the other side of the strip mall.  I  get to the ER, get a plastic card with a double-digit number older than I am.  The lady whose stomach is soaking in blood gets a plastic card with a double-digit number the size of my measurements.

“Have a seat,” the nurse instructs her. “The stomach is one of the most misused body parts, “ She states. “ The other most misused body parts are the sexual organs and the feet.”

The man with no feet to misuse, presses a button. A wheelchair rolls through the big double doors separating the patients from the staff.  This is America. You have to be handicapped to get somewhere.  Otherwise, you’d better have a good dream.

“Number 27,” shouts the nurse.

I am Number 84 seated next to a man who is Number 47. I wonder if he’d like to trade cards with me.

“Number 25!” screams the nurse, three decibels higher.  And to think of the fortune she has paid to learn to change bedpans when all she got to change now is her voice.

Number 47 tells me he lives in a little house just off the expressway. People stuck in traffic jams stop in and hang out until the traffic clears.

“Sounds like a party,” I say.

Number 29 tries to sell me a computer. “This is how to save the trees.”

Number 33 is a foreign investor. “Have faith in China.”

“Only bamboo shoots up,” says Number 37.

Well, people bonded by double-digit numbers on plastic cards will tell stories whether or not you listen. Problem is, I listen.  It’s my professional avocation which has no correlation whatsoever with making my number come up any faster.

Number 31 has a gunshot wound. He’s not a quick draw.

“Ever try a double action trigger?  asks Number 135.

This is Detroit. Murder and weapons are the conversation of choice in a hospital that will never be referred to as the Mayo Clinic of Michigan.  Although it is named after Henry Ford, the guy that invented the moving assembly line, nothing is moving, except maybe the TV suspended from the ceiling.

“What if the TV falls?” asks Number something or other.

“Just signal,” says the nurse, and points to the disaster alert codes plastered on the dull green wall. Fire, Evacuation, Severe Weather, Bomb Threat, Infant Kidnap.

Exactly two hours and twenty some belly aching stories later, the nurse calls my number and tells me to put on my dull green gown.  It’s backless. Another nurse escorts me into a little green cubicle of a room.  Thirty minutes later, I venture out into the narrow corridor only to discover two ways to roam, back or forth.  Either way, I am wearing the same dull green backless gown as the Customer Service Representative. It matches the dull green sign plastered above her booth. FAST, FRIENDLY, PROFESSIONAL SERVICE.

“Better to pace in your room,” says the Customer Service Representative.

“There  is no room to pace in my room. There is only room to sit like inert gas.”

“I’m sorry but that complaint is not on the list.”  The Customer Service Representative hands me a Customer Satisfaction Survey.

Dear Patient:  Please let us know whether you Strongly Agree, Strongly Disagree.

The Doctor seemed to care about me.

The Doctor spent enough time with me.

The Doctor explained my diagnosis and treatment.

I would recommend this Doctor to my family and friends.

Just as I scream out, “What doctor?” The doctor appears in a dull green, backless gown.

Blood rushes to my face.

“Don’t be embarrassed,” says the doctor as we enter my cubicle.

“I’m trying not,” I say, like petrified palmwood.

Glad that now is our chance to be alone together and discuss the pain in my head, I read the name on his badge.

“Dr. Moss, it’s a pleasure to finally meet you.”

“I prefer my spiritual name.  Please call me Nilaudra. It means blue mountain.” He sticks a Q-tip down my ear. “Do you hear anything?”

“Anything like what?”

“Like the mating call of crickets but twice as loud.”

“No, nothing like that.”

His hands travel across my skull as if on some New Delhi pilgrimage. He begins a lecture  on everything that causes a headache. Humidity, light, hunger, too much sex, not enough sex, everything but flashing neon signs and incessant horn honking.

“Breathe God into the ache,” he says, and relaxes his facial muscles into a smile, not a constant smile; it comes and goes every ten seconds, barely enough time to find anything new to smile about.

He hands me a prescription for a pain medication and tells me to buy a headache hat with an ice halo.  Have you ever seen a headache hat with an ice halo?  If not, check out Amazon.  That’s where I order mine.  It comes two days later.  I put it on, wear it around. Horns honk, dogs bark, neon signs flash, my head still aches.

The good thing about a headache is it kills your appetite.  Not that I am fat by any means. I am petite. Possibly anorexic.   An anorexic in a headache hat walking a standard poodle. Fetching.

The headache hat covers most of my eyes, so when I run into the stockbroker, he recognizes me first.  He gives Love’s top knot a little pat.

“Let’s you, me, and the pooch get together,” he says. “I have some good weed.”

“When would be good?”

“Now would be good,”

His living room is loaded with Universal Equipment. A bicep curl press covered with plaid flannel shirts. Tennis shoes on the torso twister.

“You date yourself to the Iron Age,” I say.

“I’m a bodybuilder who doesn’t build my body.”

“At least you have a body to build.”

“Oh, you’re a schmoozer.”

“If I have to be.”

I notice a half dead marijuana plant. “It stinks,”  I say.

“Oh that’s just Molly.  The worse she smells, the more potent she is.”

He invites me to lay across his work out mat.  He offers me a joint.  We toke up, stare at the common wall between his apartment and the neighbor’s. Totally dead space, not covered with art or photos of people close to him.

Heh plops his legs across my lap and hands me a jar of cocoa butter.

“Rub,” he says.

I dip my hand into the jar, then give his hairy leg a little pat.

“Harder,” he says.  “I know my legs.”

His legs aren’t long and skinny like he thinks he can make them by working out with resistance bands.  They’re short and fat enough to cross for the Mexican Hat Dance.

He passes me the joint.  “If I sprinkle Molly with enough Ovaltine, I’ll get her to grow way higher than my shoulders.”

Two tokes more and we grow way higher than his shoulders.

“Take off your clothes,” he says.

“You first.”

We take off our clothes.  Three tokes more and the common wall is no longer common. It looks neon flamingo pink. Even the beetle crawling on the wall looks neon flamingo pink.

“The beetle is off the wall and moving in on us!” I shriek.

“Don’t worry, a beetle does nothing much except invents its own way of dying.  It just rolls itself over on its back.  Then, kerplunk, it dies. “

Soon the wall sounds orgasmic.

“Obviously the neighbor and the one he goes on at it with aren’t married to each other,” he says. “But who would marry a man who goes to gun and knife shows?”

“How do you know he goes to gun and knife shows?”

“Behind every wall is the story of a life. Just listen.”

“I only like to listen to violent sex with delicious food in front of me,” I say, and take off to the refrigerator.

Luckily, it’s empty except for a jar of sweet and sour pickles. I pick it up and then I see the Liberty Cap, most potent psilocybin mushroom ever.  I take a few bites. Okay, big bites. But there is nothing fattening about a shroom.  Zero calories.

I look around. The kitchen is a no plan, a hodge podge. The stove’s in the pantry.  Or is it?  I’m not exactly tripping.  I’m on my way.

I place the little bit left of the Liberty Cap on a plate I find in the bread box. What am I doing in the bread box? I walk into the living room with little left of the Liberty Cap on the plate.

“No one gets seconds until everyone gets first,” says the stockbroker, and holds out his hand, a noble gesture deserving no reward.

Love jumps up to the plate, gobbles up the rest of the Liberty Cap.

“I was saving that,” he says, like some mob boss.

“Who were you saving it for?  An army of frogs?”

“You’re tripping.”

“Don’t feel a thing, not even a headache.”

“Just wait.”

“How long?” I glance at Love. Her eyes are dilated.  She’s swaying. She looks like she’s above it all.

“Better take her to the vet,” I say.

I look for my clothes. I know they’re exactly where I put them, but I can’t remember such a place. I can’t remember the pizza we order, or eating it, or what happens after we eat it. All certainty vanishes.

 

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

Emigration etymologically is from the late Latin, probably in the 17thcentury, and means to depart from a place. The word immigration etymologically is also rooted in the 17thcentury and essentially means to move to a place.

Thousands of years before the 1600s people moved about from one place to another before there was land with political and cultural boundaries. Different words throughout history in various locales were invented by people to help identify and categorize people who departed and moved in. Once you give a name to someone it’s easier to approach and apply attributes and attempt to control them.

Beyond the sociological, anthropological and biological constructs of what constitutes a race of people lies the ultimate challenge of human beings and their memory.

Memory involves a collaboration and a sharing.  It’s inherent in the core of our humanity along with a sense of belonging, affection and nurturing. Our memory is our stored knowledge that tends to set us apart from other species. People without memory tend to lose their way.

Ancient humans departed from and moved to different places within the context of their survival. Whether they were forced to move – environmental reasons or by the chaos and plunder within their own tribe or the invading force of other ethnic groups – the result was movement especially when outnumbered and limited resources to fight back.

People in history generally moved because of distress. Distress comes in many forms – poverty, abuse, enslavement, not enough food, and a desire for survival and opportunity to live better lives. Some tribes collaborated with each other for survival while others were and are mere takers. Human life to date has been a complicated struggle of competition and associated greed versus cooperation, collaboration and sharing.

The history of human beings is the history of being an emigrant and an immigrant. The memories of such movement are integral to the study of humanity. We are all linked together in a complex web of existence and memory of that existence serves as a cornerstone for the future. What will the downstream effect be on future migration trends within the context of war, revolution, global warming, plagues or….?  Will we be around to remember? What will our memory suggest to us?

There exists a more distant and cataclysmic test for humanity should we survive our self-destructive tendencies and behavior. That is, at some point in the future the earth and our solar system will be, either  sucked into a black hole or swallowed by a dying sun. Either way, it will happen. There is no getting away from the fact that life on earth will die out someday.

Unless we become immigrants to another distant planet, or create an artificial one, all memory of Earth, the people, the civilizations that ever existed, will be gone forever as if we never existed. During the last days I wonder what surviving humans will think about life after death? Will they envision their spirits floating around in infinite space? Will the only remaining evidence of our physical existence be on a digital recording we sent into space on a Voyager mission?

The brain which houses our memory and our ability to share and collaborate is core to our future.  Aren’t we all immigrants from the “stardust” of the universe?

 

Kenneth Fikes is first and foremost a maverick. Growing up in a single parent family in North Carolina he became a top athlete and a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a degree in African Studies.  His greatest competition coming from within his own mind and heart. His professional positions included: Risk Management (City Bank N.A. – New York); Options Trader (Susquehanna Investment Group – Philadelphia); Portfolio Manager & Analyst (Smith Breeden Associates – Durham/Chapel Hill); Fiscal Analyst (Oklahoma State Senate – Oklahoma City); Chief Operating Officer (Oklahoma Supreme Court – Oklahoma City); Regional Manager & Broker (Banc One Securities – Oklahoma City); and Managing Director of Sydney Capital, LLC and Sydney Group since 2008.

Given a somewhat eclectic body of work across industries, he is called upon sparingly for customized consulting projects – particularly when there isn’t an accomplished expert for the issue at hand or the solution must be developed along the course of work.

NP:  We decided to approach this interview in a reflective fashion and explore the mind and spirit of a man who was and is always looking at the world around him from a distinct angle, while acknowledging he is a “what box” thinker.  With that in mind we explore the edges of a person who questions everything around him and articulates his views from an unconventional perspective.

So, who is Kenneth Fikes?

Fikes:  I’m considered by those who are in my circle of friends, colleagues and business associates as complicated, intellectual, competitive, open-hearted, and empathetic to those around me.  I am one who believes in UBUNTU. The word is from South Africa  (Nguni Bantu) and can be translated into – “I am because  of you (or, I am because we are).”  It’s a belief that essentially means all life is woven together. Human existence is about human relationships. Humanity. Our work, our family, our belief systems are all tied together. In other words, I evolve as a result of the relationships I form.

Over the years one thing has stood out. I don’t fit into a given pattern. I am always questioning why and is this the most effective thing I can do, particularly given that my ultimate concern is my fellow human being. Love, compassion and integrity are intricate to who I am.  None of it is without struggle, especially given the ways of the world we live in today.

To whom much is given, much is required, isn’t just about material things. It’s tough at times to share the grace that we know we’ve received from God. People make it really hard for them self and others, yet somehow the thought always comes back, “Look at yourself and your own issues, then judge.”  That gets me straight.

Long ago, as a trader on the PHLX (Philadelphia Stock Exchange) I found myself caught up in the brash and cold nature of the competition – environment. It was about money – at all costs. Greed was and is considered good and so instead of developing further into my nature, I was in practice buying into the culture of the market. It’s a place where everything and everyone has a price.

Drinking not because of personal issues but rather as a natural part of the work and pace of lifestyle, I eventually became an alcoholic. Attending AA meetings allowed me to see another side of those given the necessity and practice of slowing down for self-analysis. I’d never imagined myself as the alcoholic ending up in prison or one who might end up where they see no palatable way out. But being around these other men and women allowed me to see that I wasn’t in fact immune to a story that could end that way if I kept on driving while drinking and the consequences that could come with such behavior. This is and was particularly true when you consider that I do not have a living parent and I’m an only child.  Sure I have friends, but they have their own families, so outside of God, I’m in this thing alone as it were.

Back to the professional stuff for a minute.  I must admit it all came easy to me. Money, the lifestyle and wealth of experience. I looked at my personal and work-related priorities.

What I found? I witnessed government failing the man, woman and child on the street. Hard work didn’t necessarily mean a living wage. The government and the corporation acted as parents, with the common persons viewed as children. Picking yourself up by the bootstraps when you have nothing to look forward to, but pain, is easy for a person of wealth to say. It’s another thing for the person who has worked hard but sees no future. Depression and suicide go hand in hand. How could I help?

I began volunteering and figuring out ways I could assist those in need both in this country and abroad. People around the world face common issues such as enough food to eat, health concerns and a roof over their head. Each job I accepted tested my personal and global view. The core to my very being was re-examined. It was about love. I knew from experience that love is not merely a word and that it often feels trite in use, yet in the real world of action it’s anything but trite. It’s a way of thinking and living. It is God. I don’t say this in the pious sense of public praise for some sort of ‘at a boy’ slap on the back, but as a true daily practice of doing my best to see the best in people, narrow the road of acceptance of any undesirable behavior from me, while broadening the road for giving grace to others who stumble when not at their best. Again, it’s a way of thinking, not standing on a stump and talking about it.

As an individual with a high tolerance for risk I understand that not everyone possesses the ability or resources or knows how to be an entrepreneur. Whether one is an entrepreneur, a lawyer, a teacher, barista or some assistant tucked away in government or academia or wherever, I found that practicing love is at the center of the human core. So when I accepted a position it was natural for me to ask myself where my love, integrity and values fits in.  I found in general people tend to react to their issues rather than graciously respond. How does one respond to a loss of job and family and living in the street like veterans who return home from a meaningless war and nothing to grab on to? One learns that not everyone has the intellectual and emotional resources to stand alone in a world where survival depends on networking and human relationships – the act of love is the only thing that can save people. The word kept following me. How do I express it in my work? I am at another turning point in my evolution.

NP:  Where is the evolution taking you?

FIKES:  It’s simple from the outside….for me it means creating the Fikes Fund and helping others such as aiding small construction firms realize their dreams and working on government projects. These projects might include homes for the impoverished, homeless veterans, single parents and projects have the greatest benefits for example in an urban or rural setting. At some level it’s scary because I just want to get up and do whatever I want to daily, but because I’m now 51 some fear is starting to creep in.  This means that I don’t know whether to think, “God forbid,” or, “God willing,” I get to be 75 years old.  In other words, I’ve spent so much time in giving that I’m now concerned about being able to take care of myself in future years financially. Don’t get me wrong, my life is great. And I have no current financial struggles, but who knows what is ahead health wise or otherwise?

With that said, I’ll keep pushing in a direction that helps others and earns substantial income for me. I don’t think I can operate outside of something that has meaning.  But what I cannot continue to do is operate at the breakneck pace I have in owning several ventures over the last 10+ years.  So, I continue with Ubuntu. If there is outside funding beyond my own personal funding of the 501c3 or I may just stick to helping disadvantaged businesses which then allows them to pay it forward as they become self-sufficient and sustainable.  This is my hope.  I’ve also learned that we really never have any control, hence circuitously, not gratuitously – all I can do is take the steps and put it in God’s hands.  It always works out.  This I know.

 

 

When it comes to competition, we Americans typically recognize only two legitimate positions: enthusiastic support and qualified support.

The first view holds that the more we immerse our children (and ourselves) in rivalry, the better. Competition builds character and produces excellence. The second stance admits that our society has gotten carried away with the need to be Number One, that we push our kids too hard and too fast to become winners — but insists that competition can be healthy and fun if we keep it in perspective.

I used to be in the second camp. But after investigating the topic for several years, looking at research from psychology, sociology, biology, education, and other fields, I’m now convinced that neither position is correct. Competition is bad news all right, but it’s not just that we overdo it or misapply it. The trouble lies with competition itself. The best amount of competition for our children is none at all, and the very phrase “healthy competition” is actually a contradiction in terms.

That may sound extreme if not downright un-American. But some things aren’t just bad because they’re done to excess; some things are inherently destructive. Competition, which simply means that one person can succeed only if others fail, is one of those things. It’s always unnecessary and inappropriate at school, at play, and at home.

Think for a moment about the goals you have for your children. Chances are you want them to develop healthy self-esteem, to accept themselves as basically good people. You want them to become successful, to achieve the excellence of which they’re capable. You want them to have loving and supportive relationships. And you want them to enjoy themselves.

These are fine goals. But competition not only isn’t necessary for reaching them — it actually undermines them.

Competition is to self-esteem as sugar is to teeth. Most people lose in most competitive encounters, and it’s obvious why that causes self-doubt. But even winning doesn’t build character; it just lets a child gloat temporarily. Studies have shown that feelings of self-worth become dependent on external sources of evaluation as a result of competition: Your value is defined by what you’ve done. Worse — you’re a good person in proportion to the number of people you’ve beaten.

In a competitive culture, a child is told that it isn’t enough to be good — he must triumph over others. Success comes to be defined as victory, even though these are really two very different things. Even when the child manages to win, the whole affair, psychologically speaking, becomes a vicious circle: The more he competes, the more he needs to compete to feel good about himself.

When I made this point on a talk show on national television, my objections were waved aside by the parents of a seven-year-old tennis champion named Kyle, who appeared on the program with me. Kyle had been used to winning ever since a tennis racket was put in his hands at the age of two. But at the very end of the show, someone in the audience asked him how he felt when he lost. Kyle lowered his head and in a small voice replied, “Ashamed.”

This is not to say that children shouldn’t learn discipline and tenacity, that they shouldn’t be encouraged to succeed or even have a nodding acquaintance with failure. But none of these requires winning and losing — that is, having to beat other children and worry about being beaten. When classrooms and playing fields are based on cooperation rather than competition, children feel better about themselves. They work with others instead of against them, and their self-esteem doesn’t depend on winning a spelling bee or a Little League game.

Children succeed in spite of competition, not because of it. Most of us were raised to believe that we do our best work when we’re in a race — that without competition we would all become fat, lazy, and mediocre. It’s a belief that our society takes on faith. It’s also false.

There is good evidence that productivity in the workplace suffers as a result of competition. The research is even more compelling in classroom settings. David Johnson, a professor of social psychology at the University of Minnesota, and his colleagues reviewed all the studies they could find on the subject from 1924 to 1980. Sixty-five of the studies found that children learn better when they work cooperatively as opposed to competitively, eight found the reverse, and 36 found no significant difference. The more complex the learning task, the worse children in a competitive environment fared.

Brandeis University psychologist Teresa Amabile was more interested in creativity. In a study, she asked children to make “silly collages.” Some competed for prizes and some didn’t. Seven artists then independently rated the kids’ work. It turned out that those who were trying to win produced collages that were much less creative — less spontaneous, complex and varied — than the others.

One after another, researchers across the country have concluded that children do not learn better when education is transformed into a competitive struggle. Why? First, competition often makes kids anxious and that interferes with concentration. Second, competition doesn’t permit them to share their talents and resources as cooperation does, so they can’t learn from one another. Finally, trying to be Number One distracts them from what they’re supposed to be learning. It may seem paradoxical, but when a student concentrates on the reward (an A or a gold star or a trophy), she becomes less interested in what she’s doing. The result: Performance declines.

Just because forcing children to try to outdo one another is counterproductive doesn’t mean they can’t keep track of how they’re doing. There’s no problem with comparing their achievements to an objective standard (how fast they ran, how many questions they got right) or to how they did yesterday or last year. But if we value our children’s intellectual development, we need to realize that turning learning into a race simply doesn’t work.

Competition is a recipe for hostility. By definition, not everyone can win a contest. If one child wins, another cannot. This means that each child comes to regard others as obstacles to his or her own success. Forget fractions or home runs; this is the real lesson our children learn in a competitive environment.

Competition leads children to envy winners, to dismiss losers (there’s no nastier epithet in our language than “Loser!”), and to be suspicious of just about everyone. Competition makes it difficult to regard others as potential friends or collaborators; even if you’re not my rival today, you could be tomorrow.

This is not to say that competitors will always detest each other. But trying to outdo someone is not conducive to trust — indeed, it would be irrational to trust someone who gains from your failure. At best, competition leads one to look at others through narrowed eyes; at worst, it invites outright aggression. Existing relationships are strained to the breaking point, while new friendships are often nipped in the bud.

Again, the research — which I review in my book No Contest: The Case Against Competition — helps to explain the destructive effect of win/lose arrangements. When children compete, they are less able to take the perspective of others — that is, to see the world from someone else’s point of view. One study demonstrated conclusively that competitive children were less empathetic than others; another study showed that competitive children were less generous.

Cooperation, on the other hand, is marvelously successful at helping children to communicate effectively, to trust in others and to accept those who are different from themselves. Competition interferes with these goals and often results in outright antisocial behavior. The choice is ours: We can blame the individual children who cheat, turn violent, or withdraw, or we can face the fact that competition itself is responsible for such ugliness.

Studies also show, incidentally, that competition among groups isn’t any better than competition among individuals. Kids don’t have to work against a common enemy in order to know the joys of camaraderie or to experience success. Real cooperation doesn’t require triumphing over another group.

Having fun doesn’t mean turning playing fields into battlefields. It’s remarkable, when you stop to think about it, that the way we teach our kids to have a good time is to play highly structured games in which one individual or team must defeat another.

Consider one of the first games our children learn to play: musical chairs. Take away one chair and one child in each round until one smug winner is seated and everyone else has been excluded from play. You know that sour birthday party scene; the needle is lifted from the record and someone else is transformed into a loser, forced to sit out the rest of the game with the other unhappy kids on the side. That’s how children learn to have fun in America.

Terry Orlick, a Canadian expert on games, suggests changing the goal of musical chairs so children are asked to fit on a diminishing number of seats. At the end, seven or eight giggling, happy kids are trying to squish on a single chair. Everyone has fun and there are no winners or losers.

What’s true of musical chairs is true of all recreation; with a little ingenuity, we can devise games in which the obstacle is something intrinsic to the task itself rather than another person or team.

In fact, not one of the benefits attributed to sports or other competitive games actually requires competition. Children can get plenty of exercise without struggling against each other. Teamwork? Cooperative games allow everyone to work together, without creating enemies. Improving skills and setting challenges? Again, an objective standard or one’s own earlier performance will do.

When Orlick taught a group of children noncompetitive games, two thirds of the boys and all of the girls preferred them to games that require opponents. If our culture’s idea of a good time is competition, it may just be because we haven’t tried the alternative.

How can parents raise a noncompetitive child in a competitive world? Competition is destructive to children’s self-esteem, it interferes with learning, sabotages relationships, and isn’t necessary to have a good time. But how do you raise a child in a culture that hasn’t yet caught on to all this?

There are no easy answers here. But there is one clearly unsatisfactory answer: Make your son or daughter competitive in order to fit into the “real world.” That isn’t desirable for the child — for all the reasons given here — and it perpetuates the poison of competition in another generation.

Children can be taught about competition, prepared for the destructive forces they’ll encounter, without being groomed to take part in it uncritically. They can be exposed to the case against competition just as they are taught the harms of drug abuse or reckless driving.

You will have to decide how much compromise is appropriate so your child isn’t left out or ridiculed in a competitive society. But at least you can make your decision based on knowledge about competition’s destructiveness. You can work with other parents and with your child’s teachers and coaches to help change the structures that set children against one another. Or you may want to look into cooperative schools and summer camps, which are beginning to catch on around the country.

As for reducing rivalry and competitive attitudes in the home:

  • Avoid comparing a child’s performance to that of a sibling, a classmate, or yourself as a child.
  • Don’t use contests (“Who can dry the dishes fastest?”) around the house. Watch your use of language (“Who’s the best little girl in the whole wide world?”) that reinforces competitive attitudes.
  • Never make your love or acceptance conditional on a child’s performance. It’s not enough to say, “As long as you did your best, honey” if the child learns that Mommy’s attitude about her is quite different when she has triumphed over her peers.
  • Be aware of your power as a model. If you need to beat others, your child will learn that from you regardless of what you say. The lesson will be even stronger if you use your child to provide you with vicarious victories.

Raising healthy, happy, productive children goes hand in hand with creating a better society. The first step to achieving both is recognizing that our belief in the value of competition is built on myths. There are better ways for our children — and for us — to work and play and live.

* “Copyright 1987 by Alfie Kohn.  Reprinted from www.alfiekohn.org with the author’s permission. For more on this topic, please see the author’s book No Contest: The Case Against Competition.”

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The most recent of his 14 books are SCHOOLING BEYOND MEASURE…And Other Unorthodox Essays About Education (2015) and THE MYTH OF THE SPOILED CHILD: Challenging the Conventional Wisdom About Children and Parenting (2014).  Biography

 

 

Maria-Kreyn Drawing

 

A Tantric Viewpoint: Living Together vs Marriage

Someone recently asked me why should any man bother getting married? He said men risked being ruined financially by one bad woman. He was lamenting that he could get stuck paying alimony or child support. Why not just live with someone instead?

Let me begin by saying to live with someone is not the same as being married. Marriage is a sacrament where you accept the karma attached to another person. You are agreeing to help the other grow and evolve at an accelerated pace. It is the fastest way to have who you are and who you are not, reflected back at you. We may not like what we see in that process, but we become a better human being because of it.

Living with someone you are not married to does not share that sacrament. I’ve seen people who have lived together 20 years, get married, and are divorced within a year. The reason is because that spiritual agreement kicks in. I think people choose to live with someone instead of getting married because subconsciously they know they’re in a karmic relationship and the growth process is going to hurt.

People do not ruin our lives, our choices do. If you marry someone for their looks or position in society (a doctor, a model, coming from a wealthy family) it is going to be a painful ride. You are marrying them for what you will get from them, not what you want to give to them freely. Choosing a partner based on surface criteria will make you a victim of your emotions. In a spiritual union, emotions enter your consciousness without you having to act upon them.

When you meet someone who shares similar interests, makes you smile easily, really listens to you and you really want to listen back, it is special. A trust develops. They become a mirror of your inner male or inner female part of yourself. Finding someone who helps us develop this part of ourselves is richer and sweeter than we ever imagined. You will thrive in your career because your heart, body and mind are thriving. People will be drawn to that natural expansion. It is very attractive because it brings energy to a room.

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Expedition ship – the Ocean Endeavor…off shore…in distance

 

I didn’t think I would ever be a cruise kind of person, but then this Newfoundland Circumnavigation expedition cruise came up on my radar. I had this idea that cruising is only on ships that are floating cities and where you eat and drink yourself silly. When I learned about Adventure Canada, I simply had to think again…

I spent two weeks at the beginning of October sailing counterclockwise around Newfoundland aboard the Nassau registered ship, Ocean Endeavour, with the expedition team from Adventure Canada.

There were about 180 or so “guests” plus about thirty staff on board the ship. It was big enough to be comfortable, but small enough that you could make good friends. The food was excellent, often local, and the expedition adventures were superbly planned.

Every morning, we’d wake up at a new port of call. We’d dress for the (usually beautiful) weather and get to shore via zodiacs. There were outdoor activities for every fitness level. Hiking was popular, but there was also kayaking, mountain biking, diving, painting and drawing. Expedition experts were along from all the academic fields you could think of. Biology, archaeology, geology, photography, anthropology…
There were also two Newfoundland authors and an authority on Canada’s national parks.

And to top it all off, there were musicians. Singer, songwriter and cultural expert Tony Oxford; Gerry Strong, flute and whistle player; and the amazing Alan Doyle, former lead singer with the internationally renowned Newfoundland band, Great Big Sea. We had no choice but to be happily immersed in the culture of Newfoundland.

By the end of two weeks, most of us wished we had been born and raised on this gorgeous island where humour and unique turns of phrase come off the tongue like the ever-present waterfalls over the rocks above every town.

We visited twelve places during our circumnavigation, many of them off the usual tourist track. There were UNESCO world heritage sites such as Red Bay and L’Anse Aux Meadows, where we learned about Basque whalers and Norse settlers occupying these shores.

We visited famous lighthouses, remote fiords, and an indigenous community. At Gros Morne, we even walked on brown rusting rocks from the uplifted earth’s mantle that provided evidence for Tectonic Plate theory.

We visited ‘outports’ (some of the oldest European settlements in Canada) where whole communities were having to choose whether to stay or to leave, life having been so tenuous and difficult since the cod fishery was banned in 1992.

This was an adventure where you found you’d received more than double what you’d expected. It was travel that was active, engaging and above all, meaningful. Not what you think a cruise would be, not at all.

I came away with a greater understanding of the challenges of living and surviving on a rocky island in the north Atlantic Ocean, the most easterly place in all of North America. It made us all appreciative and thoughtful about this beautiful place, affectionately called The Rock by those who call it home.

 

 

Prisoners of Hate, The Cognitive Basis of Anger, Hostility and Violence by Aaron T. Beck, M.D. (1999)

Researched and written in the late 1990’s by a leading psychiatrist this is a tightly woven look into cognitive therapy and is quite relevant today…more so with the “dazzling technological advances of our era.” These “advances (in technology) are paralleled with the savagery of the Dark Ages.”

The author looks at self-abuse, child abuse and domestic violence including rape, murder, genocide and war and then peers into their roots which in many cases are quite deep.

Questions arise in the reader’s mind: how do we individually and collectively process information? This work peers into the effects and nature of social isolation, hostility, egocentrism, mistaken judgments, misinterpretation of remarks as a result of bad experiences, unprocessed impulses, anger, violence and more – through empirical observation, studies and research using the cognitive approach.

The author’s research suggests that, “aggressive, manipulative people generally believe that their entitlements and rights override others.” He then provides detailed examples in dealing with these people.

He goes on to state that “the tendency to over interpret situations in terms of our frame of reference is an expression of an egocentric perspective.” He reviews the rational approach to the issues of violence, hostility, destructive behavior and anger. Beck outlines  the cognitive therapeutic approach to managing anger, hostility and violence. Being a rational and reasoning human being requires effort, skills and focus (one’s own feelings, hurt and anger and how those feelings are processed). The challenge of the work is applying the methods suggested by the author to the those who are viewed as offenders – the people leading a country into wars and setting up the conditions for a genocide to take place. Reasoning is not an easy task when the “other” sees itself as reasonable. The author tackles the issues through the use of negotiators using the cognitive model on a national and international level.

Beck also early on in the text, offers insight into the behavioral sequence: loss and fear leads to distress which in turn leads to a shift of focus to the offender and a feeling of anger. Permissive attitudes towards violence only accentuates the violence. He examines individual and group narcissism, egocentricity and the processes involved.

The cycle of violence, hostility and anger can be broken he argues and demonstrates the process in which the cycle can be broken.

This remains a thought-provoking work in cognitive therapy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What follows are a few closing thoughts of our guest columnist, Mary Bryant. Mary remains an inspiration and a gift for her family, the lives she has touched and for us at NP Journal. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I lay on the bed watching the doctor’s lips move. He utters words like chemo and radiation…like oncologist and palliative care…liver and bile ducts and cirrhosis…and malignant. Phrases like…you are not a good candidate for surgery.

More words and signs on another doctor’s office door…like infusion area…words like hematologist…and a shelf full of hand knitted hats you can take…holding hands and prayers…all slip by into the recesses of my brain which remains alive and grasping for a different reality while the fragrances of life diminish…thoughts of flowers…I won’t be able to see them later…why not share them now?

Words like Hospice care and…

Support system…way stations to the final breath…others who care, stand and sit nearby…one’s impending death has a singular meaning.

Please no morphine! Isn’t medical marijuana legal here?

Words that I never needed before. Now they drift in the air before me. Just out of my reach.

New appliances have invaded my space as my mind visits the roads I have traveled in life.

Shower stool and grab bars and cane and walker and wheel chair and ramps.

There must be some mistake. What other Ms. Bryant can be in the waiting room? Apparently none.

Words like treatment options, none of which sound good or hopeful. Invasive and noninvasive. Advance directive and living will. The pain increases. My heart pounds. Breathe.

Tears from my daughter and son and sisters…and my own, burning my cheeks as they flow down my face.

I’m not angry….it’s just my brain feels alive and wanting…but, hope slips quietly out of the room…eyes gaze in my direction…they share stories as my thoughts return to the highways I have journeyed…and focus on the positive voices, smiles and laughter I have encountered…along the way.

Words enter my space again…it’s okay. Let go. My body drifts.

Wait! My mind feels so alive.

There must be some mistake.

 

Larousse Gastronomique  The World’s Greatest Culinary Encyclopedia  Completely Revised and Updated (2000 and 2009)

A cultural and political perspective – my modest experience suggests that when you’re sitting at a table with international guests the language of discretion and pleasure would seem obvious like the food you are being served and the cooking required to create a sensory and conversational awareness. The Gastronomique serves the appetite with digestible aplomb without being linguistically gluttonous or hoggish. (I own the 2000 English Edition and perused the 2009 Edition at a public library.)

The culinary accent of this thick, monumental work of love on food and cookery is, as the title suggests, French, and I would add, in a world-class by itself.  I’m a novice when it comes to the French language but steeped in the politics and culture of French food and especially, red wine. Though the word gastronomy possesses an expansive cuisine perception, I have found French portions refined, diverse, delicate and tasteful.

I regularly consult the Gastronomique when  I seek a depth of understanding and explanation of food and cooking, though I’m a pescatarian and have to date,  the luxury of being able to survive on fish and vegetables. That noted, the work leaves little to chance when exploring the world of food and cooking everything imaginable. The entries “describe produce, ingredients, techniques and methods, traditions and, where appropriate, innovations.”

The recipes have a cultural and political quality with a long history of refinement. There are reasons people eat what they eat and today the corporate world does have influence in the politics of personal and public taste.

Interestingly, the first Medieval cookbook was written in French in the 14th Century CE and served as a standard work for reference throughout Europe.

This is the world of food, cooking and diversity at its most formidable level, with photos that whet the appetite – a superlative encyclopedia and an excellent reference tool on your cookbook shelf, or stop by your library.

 

NPJ Author

 

 

Author

 

 

 

 

Author taking a break before a change – somewhere in the Appalachian mountains on a rainy day… listening to water cascade over boulders, smelling the fragrance of the wet forest…return to a seashore and then to a city…compelled to write….

 

Is a getaway car really a getaway car, if no one notices you and the car got away?

 

What if you could access all the wisdom you need for living a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life… from your nighttime dreams?
Imagine if your dreamtime could provide you with the necessary insights to integrate your soul’s deep knowledge and create the life you desire.
Well… it actually does.
Paying attention to your dreams and deciphering the messages living in the images, symbols, characters, and landscapes that appear can be a magical experience. And today, anyone can practice dreamwork… and reap its many benefits.
Dreamwork can help you gain insights into how to heal an illness, mend a difficult relationship, jumpstart a creative project, or make a big life decision.
This is why I’m excited to invite you to join The Dreamwork Summit where a global gathering of leading dreamwork experts, renowned psychology professionals, and inspiring authors – including Robert Moss, Jean Shinoda-Bolen, Sandra Ingerman, Lynne McTaggart, Grace Cheptu, Grandmother Flordemayo, Toko-pa Turner, and me – will be sharing a unique variety of dreamwork approaches and ways to open to your inner guidance.
Join us to discover how you can access the soul-guided wisdom, healing power, and creative inspiration emerging nightly in your dreams!

The Dreamwork Summit
November 13-16, 2018

Your dreams can give you a glimpse into your future — helping you better navigate what lies ahead. Some dreamers find themselves visiting other realms – even past or parallel lives – in their dreams.
This powerful event will feature 20+ leading teachers in the first-ever Dreamwork Summit, who will guide you in transforming your relationship to your dreams (and to yourself) – as well as help you to heal, enliven, and expand your life.
I hope you’ll participate in this special online gathering presented by The Shift Network.
RSVP here for The Dreamwork Summit – at no charge.
During this groundbreaking four-day event, you’ll discover:
  • How important, easy, and fun it is to keep a dream journal, and the amazing healing & life-fulfilling insights this simple practice can bring
  • That clues about a yet-to-be discovered health challenge can show up in dreams… and ways to work with them to help yourself heal
  • Somatic approaches to dreamwork that look to the body and our feelings for interpretation, healing & transformation
  • Dream yoga, a form of lucid dreaming that allows you to practice a skill you’d like to improve while you’re sleeping
  • How you can courageously face and work with nightmares, which can actually be in service to your healing & growth
  • Possibilities for healing & forgiveness when you’re visited by deceased loved ones in your dreams
  • The magic and power in accessing and illuminating your mythic imagination sourced from the world of dreams, myths & archetypes
…and much more!
By looking to your dreams for guidance, healing, and inspiration, you open to a higher source of knowledge… to wisdom aligned with your Soul.
And by learning how to bring this wisdom out into the light of day through dreamwork, you’re empowered to live a happier, healthier, more creative and fulfilling life.
I hope you’ll join this first-ever online gathering presented by The Shift Network.
RSVP here for The Dreamwork Summit – at no charge.
P.S. Here are some more highlights from this revelatory summit:
  • How the ancient practice of shamanism views dreams, and ways you can experience shamanic dreaming
  • Dreams as inspiration for bringing your creative self forward
  • Ways that dreams can show you the future to help you better navigate your life
  • The potency inherent in symbols and images and how they can help you discover new insights about yourself to heal & transform
  • Collective dreams and how they can help validate our connection to ALL & promote profound healing

Join us here! RSVP here for The Dreamwork Summit – at no charge

 

Image for Writings

Credit: Jean Philippe-Cypres, photographer

 

Being pro-life on the surface promises

a sensitive and courageous philosophical posture

to be translated into a compassionate, humane act;

Yet, the textures possess burdensome queries

with the potential of tragic, collateral effects.

 

Does the posture become lost in the hypocrisy of translation

for isn’t pro-life more than being – pro-birth,

doesn’t it also mean to be

against capital punishment and murder,

what of war…which is a legalized version of ending a life,

and to resist unstable minds wishing to do battle

for the sake of power and greed…

does pro-life entail offering health care for everyone

and equal opportunity for all

along with breathable air and drinkable water,

should pro-life be interpreted as

loving and treating your neighbor

as you would do to yourself?

 

What are the downstream implications

for a person who is raped,

or an already disabled fetus within the mother’s womb

or…

perhaps

saving a mother’s life at the expense of another…

what are the compassionate options?

 

Does a legislator have the moral and legal right to legislate

what a woman does with her vagina

and should a man’s penis be under similar scrutiny

rather than having a double standard,

for isn’t Intent a mental desire to act in a certain manner?

Should a woman’s health and her doctor’s professional advice

be as relevant

as the politics of a politician seeking office?

 

Does a man have the right to grab a woman

Or a woman to grab a man

without her or his consent?

And should a male or female who wish to copulate

have a choice in condom or mesh

or to wear a chastity device or cock cage

while their partners hold the keys?

 

Should people be better sex educated

beginning as a child

to open the doors of the human mind

and allow the brain to see what’s at stake  –

for bearing, nurturing and supporting a child

has a human cost beyond economics

in a world where knowledge and empathy are starving,

and brutal words

create a vacancy in conscience

and the violent thought and act

fills the void.

 

 

 

The male population is what we read about when we view what’s going on in ‘The war on drugs and the war on crime,’ we are learning it is more of a war on minorities and women.

Did you know that women are filling up our jail cells? Did you know that most of the women behind bars are mothers? Did you know that most of these women are single parents, having sole responsibility for their children? Minority women are affected by this – war.

It’s a war on women, that we are beginning to recognize that is not only unfair and unjust but that also sets limits on these same women, these same sole providers from being able to apply for help within the system, in both welfare, child support and drug treatment programs.

Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of the prison population. From 1970 to 2015, the number of women in prison grew by approximately 1,000 percent. That is a tragic statistic. And although the U.S. accounts for 5 percent of the world’s female population, it also represents 30 percent of women imprisoned. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics there are 8,500 women in federal prisons on drug charges, 24,700 in state prisons and 27,000 in local jails. Sixty three percent of these women have not been convicted.

Source:Bureau of Justice Statistics.6 Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2016.

Mothers of minor children make up 60 per cent of women in prison. Two-thirds of these parents are incarcerated for non-violent offenses, an increasing proportion of which are drug law violations. More than 5 million children (one in every 14) have a parent who is or has been incarcerated. The racial disparities seen in the incarcerated population replicate themselves among the children who remain behind: by 2008, one in nine (11.4 percent of) black children, one in 28 (3.5 percent of) Latino children and one in 57 (1.8 percent of) white children had an incarcerated parent.

Eighty four percent of parents in federal prison and 62 percent of parents in state prison are housed 100 miles or more from their children. Pregnant women who are incarcerated for drug law violations, often do not receive prenatal care. Children are routinely separated from their imprisoned mothers, causing irreparable damage to the child.

Sources: Bureau of Justice Statistics.18 1 Bureau of Justice Statistics, “Female prisoners under State or Federal jurisdiction,” Corrections Statistical Analysis Tool, www.bjs.gov. Aleks Kajstura and Russ Immarigeon, “States of Women’s Incarceration: The Global Context,” (Prison Policy Initiative, 2015) http://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/. Ibid. 4 Carson, “Prisoners in 2015,” Table 9. 5 Prison Policy Initiative, “Women’s Incarceration: The Whole Pie ]2017” https://www.prisonpolicy.org/reports/pie2017women.html, Source: Western and Pettit, Pew Charitable Trusts, 2010.

Prisons and jails commonly use restraints (handcuffs and shackles) on women in labor and during delivery, regardless of their histories. According to a 2015 shadow report to the United Nations Committee on Torture, “Only 18 states have legislation in place that restricts the use of restraints on pregnant inmates, 24 states limit the use of restraints on pregnant inmates only through institutional policies, and 8 states do not have any form of regulation at all.” Washington DC and the Federal Bureau of Prisons have also banned or restricted this practice, which the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposes because it puts “the health of the woman and fetus at risk.”

The long-lasting penalties and exclusions that follow a drug conviction have created a permanent second-class status for millions of Americans, who are often banned from voting, getting a job, securing a student loan and accessing housing or other forms of public assistance, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

A 2013 report found that more than 180,000 women were affected in the twelve states that maintain a full lifetime ban for people with drug convictions. Due to the extreme racial disparities in drug law enforcement and sentencing, these collateral consequences disproportionately affect women of color.

Our society still today has a limited understanding of the inequality that women truly suffer, regardless of the #metoo movement. It is as important to educate the public to speak up with courage and conviction about the injustices and social stigmas inflicted upon all women.

Addendum: America’s Other Family – Separation Crisis 

 

 

 

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