Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Tylor, Spencer and Marx meet Globalization

I'm in the middle of writing a paper on the Marxist, Tylorian and Spencerian perspectives of globalization. Trust me when I say, it sounds much more interesting than it actually is. To boil this down to the nitty gritty of the paper: Tylor would have seen globalization as an extension of his social evolution theory. Spencer would have seen globalization as fitting in perfectly with his model of the social organism. Spencer believed in a correlative theory of society where he compared societies of scale to living, biological organisms. He believed that the mobile hunter-gather unit was like a simple creature such as a paramecium or amoeba. It lives independently and has a simple structure (egalitarian). As societies grow so does their complexity along with being an interconnected-interdependent organism. The human body needs the circulatory, nervous, digestive systems in order to survive and societies on the level of states need garbage men, craftsmen, politicians, religious leaders, etc. I don't think that Spencer had an idea to extend this idea of growing complexity to the global level where nations would become parts of a complex whole but in many ways, that is exactly what has happened. Marx, on the other hand, would have viewed globalization as increasing antagonism and exploitation of the masses for the benefit of the few. In the global economy there are the countries which profit and there are the countries which do not. Now, all I have to do is extend these sentences out to ten pages, and I am golden. I have plenty of resources with which to support my thoughts, now I just have to write it all down.

Problem is that I have to write this paper in a way that I am not accustomed to writing. Normally when I write, I write an outline, followed by a rough draft the next day. I have to let the outline percolate in my brain (although, I am doing that in my dreams- I REALLY hate dreaming theory. I'd rather dream about some hot young man feeding me grapes while fanning me with a palm frond, but apparently those dreams are over for now) before I begin writing the nuts and bolts. Then I usually edit the crap out of the paper, working on items such as clarity and word choice. Then I write the abstract and title. I have always had trouble with titles because I have to give a snapshot usually of a complex item. And titles really do involve using the right words, in the right order to say something that takes me however many pages to write. Same with the abstract. Its like taking a photograph of a movie which is playing. It can be taken out of context or might not have enough information to make sense. Unfortunately, I have to turn in an abstract and title by midnight tonight (thank goodness for electronic drop boxes). Wish me luck

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

I was asked to get this out to as many people as possible. I know that not a lot of people read this blog, but please forward this out to as many as you can. A commenter on P. Z. Myers blog, Pharyngula , Brokensoldier wants everyone to know about the lacking care for many soldiers who separate from the services with health issues. Many are returning with some very serious health issues such as concussion injuries, PTSD, etc. I, personally, have seen two soldiers who have separated from the military who have definitely not seen the care that they deserve. One of the soldiers came back long term memory problems due to a medication contraindication to the malaria drug he received and the other was involved in an IED explosion as well as shot in the arm. So without further ado, I will forward on Brokensoldier's story.

I believe it is a story that we all need to read and listen. If you are moved by this story, please contact your congressmen and let them know what you think.

This is a request for help. Disabled veterans are being treated as if they are a burden on the government's checkbook, and the government is getting away with it, mainly because the situation is so far out of the public's collective eye that the military can quite effectively sweep it under the rug. Politicians are using our sacrifices as political capital in front of the nation, while the Army medical system turns around to our face and disdainfully treats us as if we are asking for something we do not deserve. All we want is the care we were promised, and all we are getting is organized resistance from the military medical bureaucracy. In some cases, this resistance amounts to the pure manipulation - and even alteration - of the medical regulations, for the sole purpose of reducing the amount of money the Army has to pay disabled vets upon their separation. I have turned to this kind of appeal, frankly, because I am out of options. I believe that the only thing that can even begin to fix a problem such as this one is true exposure to the bright lights of public scrutiny.

When wounded soldiers comes home, they have to go through an evaluation process in which a panel of Army doctors determines what their final disability rating will be. If they decide that the soldier rates less than 30%, then they can separate that soldier with merely a severance check, and never dole out another dollar to him or her again. Should the rating be above 30%, the Army is required to medically retire that soldier, and send him or her a monthly check after they leave the service. In principle, this makes sense. But this is being abused by those doctors, in that they are intentionally low-balling wounded vets in order to get them under the 30% ceiling and get them out, for obvious reasons of saving money. Just in my case alone, I have seen doctors lie on official reports about what I told them, make childishly snide comments about the appeals that I have written to the Physician Evaluation Board (PEB), and one doctor even suggested that a previous diagnosis was invalid simply because I was "fine" on the day he saw me. (And I have proof - to include hard copies of documents showing the offenses.) This does not stop with the low-level doctors, by any means. The Army PEBs operate on instructions given to them by their command, and one in particular is very telling. Since soldiers began coming home with serious concussion injuries, the Army medical community has seen fit to publish instructions to its PEBs concerning certain ratings and how they are to be 'interpreted' pertaining to veterans' disability claims. One of them that I ran directly into deals with the occurrence of migraine headaches, which many veterans with concussion injuries suffer from, and how they are to be viewed. The schedule that lists ratings that are to be applied states that for a 50% rating, migraines must meet the frequency requirement of at least two pper month, and the severity must be prostrating. After veterans began receiving this rating for their complications from IED-induced concussions, an instruction to physicians was published informing them that from then on, the word 'prostrating' was not to be interpreted as it is defined, but rather for migraines to be considered prostrating for rating purposes, the soldier must have stopped and sought immediate, emergency medical attention. Due to the fact that it is very difficult for someone laying prostrate from a migraine to get up and make it to the ER, you can imagine how well this worked in reducing the number of veterans that received disability ratings for their migraines.

And aside from the failings of the rating process, once the soldier is done with that, then there is the incompetent bureaucracy within the ranks of those handling retired service members to deal with. I was retired in January, but did not see a single cent of my retirement money until June. And when it did begin, taxes were being deducted - which shouldn't happen, because combat wounded vets get tax exemption from their disability checks. After getting that fixed, I recently discovered that I have absolutely no medical coverage whatsoever - which I found out while trying to get my prescriptions filled - because my retirement documents never got to the agency responsible for administering my care as a medical retiree. The incompetence of those that handled my retirement file ensured that the necessary paperwork failed to reach almost all of the necessary agencies. And I am by no means the only one this type of injustice is happening to, but instead it is a widespread occurrence. The reason for this is that once the soldier leaves the service and begins the fight for his or her benefits, it is simply that soldier against the entire framework of the Army bureaucracy, and that is far from a fair fight. (They do allow you a liaison in order to to help you navigate the system, but if mine was any indication, this is more of a burden than a help - in asking her to participate in a conference call to discuss why I disagreed with my initial rating of 10%, she resisted and actually said to me, "I'm not here to hold your hand through this.") So I have ended up in a position quite familiar to veterans - broke, living with my parents, in debt up to my ears from the months without income, and having no consistent medical coverage.

So, if you read through this and it seems wrong to you, especially if it makes you a bit angry, then I'm asking for your help. The only thing that will fix this problem is to shine a spotlight on what is happening, because once that happens, the freedom of action that the Army medical community has enjoyed in bullying the wounded soldiers applying for disability will be gone. Once the public is cognizant of exactly what has been done to the veterans the government so profusely praises for their sacrifice, their hypocrisy will be laid bare. If you know anyone - journalist or not - that will take this story and tell it to the public, please let me know. The above injustices are only the tip of the iceberg, even in my case, and I have documentation of many more transgressions.

A disabled vet has fought far too much already to have to continue to fight with their own government like this when they get home. In this case, it is the soldier who is looking to citizen for help with this fight.

If you're willing to help get the word out, contact Gary E. Ford.

Thank you!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Fission - Fusion and Fictive Kinships

First, allow me to preface this post with I'm exhausted. I refuse to be held responsible if this rambling is incoherent. Tell me in the morning, after I've had coffee...

In a recent discussion, some acquaintances of mine have been debating the idea of fictive or created kinships: Are marriages a blood relation or created kin? What about adopted children? What about friends who fill the void of familial relationships?

Many agree that with the industrial revolution, Western European and American culture has had to create communities to serve the purpose of extended families of the past. As we create these extended networks of friends, we move from the concrete capital of blood into the symbolic capital of friendship. Evolutionarily speaking, we all gain from these extended networks with our blood relatives as they help us navigate the waters of finding food, avoiding being food and booty (and not the Captain Jack version of booty). Additionally, it has been suggested that we are more incline to help those of our kind with whom we share a genetic link because we are in essence helping ourselves by keeping some of the same genetic material out in the pool. If I help my cousin survive, my genetic material is still present in the community because we share common grandparents.

Now, how does this evolutionary tactic extend to the modern day fictive kinship dynamic? One could argue that these fictive kinships are not evolutionarily feasible because we are not out there promoting our own genetic material. The flip side of this is that these fictive kinships help us to gain food and to avoid being eaten. So are we trading one evolutionary positive for a negative? Maybe? Maybe not?

These fictive or created kinships also provide symbolic capital to the group. They may not be providing the actual food we need but they do provide the emotional gumption to go to work-to earn the money-to go to the store-to buy the food... Now, the question is: What causes these relationships to break down and return to their original state of friends or acquaintances, or less than that? Is there some sort of stresser which reduces the symbolic capital of the community, causing the group to go through a fission. Do the times of abundance help to re-inforce the relationship and bring in others to the community-A fusion state?

Most of our primate cousins go through some sort of fission/fusion during times of stress and abundance in regards to food availability. When food is declining due to drought or human intervention- these groups of blood and fictive kinships will divide into smaller groups. It is easier for the groups to forage and provide food to these smaller groups thus eliminating some of the stress-Its easier to feed five mouths than fifteen. When the rains have arrived, and fruit (usually fruit is a preferred food amongst our cousins) has returned these primate groups return to their larger group status.

But, is that the whole story? No. These groups which had split off had to re-establish social hierarchies for food dispersal amongst the new groups. Additionally, some of the group members probably were killed off during the famine period. If one of those killed were a member of the alpha community, then others will strive to take over. Also, some members who went from a Beta member during the previous abundance period, might become an Alpha during the fission and not want to return to their lower status when the group has fused back together. Now, how does this relate to those of us with the larger brains and bipedality?

If we are going through a famine of symbolic capital from our extended created families, do we go through the same acts of fission? When we are happy with our symbolic capital, do we invite more to join our group? Since we have moved away from our blood relatives, establishing neo-local environs, are we seeking out to re-establish these relations for our own psychological needs? or our own evolutionary needs?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


The other day I made a comment on another blog about the lack of grammatical / spelling aptitudes in writing today. The writer of the blog had recently read an article by CNN where the author had used bare instead of bear in regards to the recent SCOTUS decision on gun ownership in Washington DC. My view is that people are entirely too dependent on grammar and spell check (especially when using Microsoft office products). These products do have the practical application of correcting basic errors but do nothing in regards to context of the writing.

Naturally, this lead to a discussion of where writing is going in America. My problem is that too many students today, thanks to internet chat speak and a lack of emphasis in the grade/high schools on grammar, do not have a competency in this particular area. Many college writing instructors/writing lab attendants as well people like me who have read papers from incoming freshmen report the necessity to review these basic skills. In addition, there seems to be a prevalence to write in chat speak either in the note taking (and in some cases in assignments). This has lead me to question the beginnings of chat speak, anthropologically speaking.

Some argue that chat speak is a natural progression from the early days of BBSes (and I am assuming that is how BBS would be made into a plural) and the early days of hackers such as Masters of Deception. My question: Is that the true beginning of chat speak or is the military use of acronyms the true harbinger of chat speak. When I was in high school, there were few acronyms used amongst high schoolers although my home life (being a military brat) was filled with acronyms. Words like SitRep, AWOL, SOP, etc. I've also noticed that certain acronyms have made the jump from the military world to the corporate world. For example: SOP has become almost common place to describe the operating procedures of almost any business. Additionally, television shows such as JAG and movies like Renaissance Man and Good Morning Vietnam have all "promoted" (wrong word but I am not sure what the right word is) this shortened writing/speech style of inserting acronyms into sentences.

So any thoughts?

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This post is probably going to bore the socks off of anyone who reads it but oh, well. As the subject line clearly states this is about infixes and their use in the English Language. The English Language does not use an infix (a word inserted into the middle of a word much like a prefix or suffix) the way other languages like Arabic do. In fact, there is only a few cases where I personally know of an infix being used in English. And all of these cases use some sort of swear word/derogation. In the case of Shinzwani, an infix is inserted to express self reflection. In English we have terms like abso-f*cking-lutely, or abso-bloody-lutely. What does this say about English? Are infixes just not a concern? Or do we only use them to emphasize something? And then why are we only using derogatory infixes?

Hmmm, something to think about. If you have any other infixes, please add them to my comments. I would like also like to hear if those of you who are living in English speaking countries outside of the US have any others as well (Hint, Hint.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

First Post

I want to start blogging not about my personal life like so many, but about my professional life as a student. I know that I need a place to vent about articles that I may not understand initially. I want to be able to discuss anthropological news with people who might be interested in everything that is "the human collective experience throughout time and space"