Category Archives: Human behavior

Homophobia, inequality, religion, and the law


Imperial revanchism is integral to rising tide of authoritarian movements of the extreme right, a hunger to return to the glories of an imagined past.

The ISIS slogan might as well be Make the Caliphate Great Again, given their claims to be the modern reincarnation of an empire that once stretched from India and the islands of the Asian seas to Modern Spain and Portugal.

Here in the U.S., many hard-core Republicans dream of a return to the 17th Century, with patriarchy enshrined, divorce impossible to obtain, schools mandated to teach an established religion to ensure orthodoxy.

As noted in an earlier post, they want to muzzle the press and [as another posted noted] impose draconian curbs limiting and even abolishing the right to peaceably assemble

Authoritarian regimes play to social reactionaries by fanning the flames of deeply buried resentments, then directing the collective rage at hapless and helpless targets named as the villains who brought down the ancien régime.

Common to almost all such regimes is suppression of anything considered sexually deviant, most notably in the criminalization of homosexuality.

An academic seeks correlates

Amy Adamczyk serves as Professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at City University of New York, where her work focuses on how personal religious beliefs and social groups [from micro to macro] shape the way we attitudes about criminality, social deviance, and health-re;ated behaviors.

Her most recent book is Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality, a look at attitudes in this and other countries.

What follows is Why do some countries disapprove of homosexuality? Money, democracy and religion, an essay written for The Conversation, a plain language open source academic journal:

With Trump’s removal of federal protections for transgender students, debate over LGBTQ rights rage again across the U.S.

Despite these disagreements, Americans are relatively liberal compared to countries across the world, where the consequences for gay or transgender citizens are far more dire.

In Europe and here in the Americas, only a minority of people believe that homosexuality is never justified. The percentage increases in places like Russia, India and China. In Africa, the Middle East and parts of Southeast Asia, attitudes become even more conservative.

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Why are there such big differences in public opinion about homosexuality? My book, “Cross-National Public Opinion about Homosexuality,” shows that a key part of the answer comes in understanding how national characteristics shape individuals’ attitudes.

Within countries, a similar set of demographic characteristics tend to influence how people feel about homosexuality. For example, women tend to be more liberal than men. Older people tend to be more conservative than younger ones. Muslims are more likely to disapprove of homosexuality than Catholics, Jews and mainline Protestants.

Just like people, countries too have particular characteristics that can sway residents’ attitudes about homosexuality. I have analyzed data from over 80 nations from the last three waves of the World Values Survey, the oldest noncommercial, cross-national examination of individuals’ attitudes, values and beliefs over time. It is the only academic survey to include people from both very rich and poor countries, in all of the world’s major cultural zones. It now has surveys from almost 400,000 respondents.

My analysis shows that differences in attitudes between nations can largely be explained by three factors: economic development, democracy and religion.

Money matters

Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands are some of the richest nations in the world. They are also some of the most tolerant. In sharp contrast, countries like Uganda and Nigeria are quite poor and the vast majority of residents disapprove.

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How does the amount of money a country has shape attitudes? In very poor countries, people are likely to be more concerned about basic survival. Parents may worry about how to obtain clean water and food for their children. Residents may feel that if they stick together and work closely with friends, family and community members, they will lead a more predictable and stable life. In this way, social scientists have found that a group mentality may develop, encouraging people to think in similar ways and discouraging individual differences.

Because of the focus on group loyalty and tradition, many residents from poorer countries are likely to view homosexuality as highly problematic. It violates traditional sensibilities. Many people may feel that LGBTQ individuals should conform to dominant heterosexual and traditional family norms.

Conversely, residents from richer nations are less dependent on the group and less concerned about basic survival. They have more freedom to choose their partners and lifestyle. Even in relatively rich countries like the United States, some people will still find homosexuality problematic. But, many will also be supportive.

Regardless of how much money they make, most people living in poorer countries are likely to be affected by cultural norms that focus on survival and group loyalty, leading to more disapproval.

Freedom of speech

The type of government also matters. People living in more democratic countries tend to be more supportive of homosexuality.

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Democracy increases tolerance by exposing residents to new perspectives. Democracy also encourages people to respect individuals’ rights, regardless of whether they personally like the people being protected.

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Fukushima student survivors bullied in Tokyo


If there’s anything that the recent elections have taught us, it’s that fear leads to violence.

And fear is easily aroused through reckless talk about others we associate with danger, even more so when the objects of are fear are immigrants from a land associated with danger.

The immigrants don’t have to come from other lands or even look different than we do.

Which brings us to our story.

From the Japan Times:

Fresh cases of bullying have been reported targeting children who evacuated from Fukushima Prefecture amid the nuclear disaster that started in 2011, this time in Tokyo.

According to Tokyo Saigai Shien Netto (Tossnet), a group of lawyers supporting Fukushima evacuees, three schoolchildren who moved to Tokyo in the wake of the triple core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were subjected to bullying at an elementary school in Chiyoda Ward between 2011 and 2015.

According to the group, one elementary school student and two others who now study at a junior high school were called names repeatedly, with classmates shunning them by saying radiation might spread from them. One of them recalled being called kin (germ).

The group on Monday reported the incidents as cases of bullying to the board of education in Chiyoda Ward. The board of education says it had not been aware of the incidents and will look into facts surrounding them.

A Muslim girl fights for her individuality


And we mean fight literally.

A wonderful documentary from Jayisha Patel of Australia’s SBS Dateline, a look at Fareeha, a remarkable young Indian women skilled in a very untraditional martial art struggling to make her way to the national championships.

It’s a story about a person from Hyderabad whose dream is to become a police officer so that she can protect young girls in a nation riven by religious and sexual violence.

Her struggle reveals tensions universal in modern life, created when cultural norms created in an era of slow travel and limited technology were evolved at a time when organized religion dominated all aspects of civic and familial life.

While the West dubs the struggle triggered by America’s armed imperialism Islamist, what has happened in the U.S. and Europe might be called a Christianist insurgence. While authoritarianism in the Mideast and North Africa is fueled by an authoritarian interpretation of the Koran and sayings attributed to the Prophet, while the authoritarianism of the West is inspired by an authoritarian interpretation of the Bible, relaying heavily on particularist selection of passages from practices proscribed by Torah and a vision of the imminent future taken from Revelation.

The cultural norms   struggles against are not so different than the gender-based laws many Republicans dream of enacting.

And when you look at how the Christianists really want to control women and their roles, is it really that different from what the Islamists want?

In that context, enjoy a remarkable, true story about a triumphal struggle.

From SBS Dateline:

India’s Wushu Warrior

Program notes:

What happens when cultural tradition clashes with a young person’s dream? Dateline meets a Muslim girl whose passion for martial arts is raising difficult questions for her family.

Mass deportation is system rooted in racism


And until we grasp how fear of the Other has been used to stroke fear and resentment, it’s a tragedy we’re liable to reenact again and again.

Kelly Lytle Hernandez, Associate Professor of  History and African-American Studies at the University of California–Los Angeles, gives us a look at this less-than-grand-old propensity in this essay for The Conversation, an academic journal written for the rest of us:

A rowdy segment of the American electorate is hell-bent on banning a specific group of immigrants from entering the United States. Thousands upon thousands of other people – citizens and immigrants, alike – oppose them, choosing to go to court rather than fulfill the electorate’s narrow vision of what America should look like: white, middle-class and Christian.

Soon a series of U.S. Supreme Court rulings could grant unrestrained power to Congress and the president over immigration control. More than 50 million people could be deported. Countless others might be barred from entering. Most of them would be poor, nonwhite and non-Christian.

This may sound like wild speculation about what is to come in President Donald Trump’s America. It is not. It is the history of U.S. immigration control, which is the focus of my work in the books “Migra! A History of the U.S. Border Patrol” and “City of Inmates: Conquest, Rebellion, and the Rise of Human Caging in Los Angeles.”

Historically speaking, immigration control is one of the least constitutional and most racist realms of governance in U.S. law and life.

Made in the American West

The modern system of U.S. immigration control began in the 19th-century American West. Between the 1840s and 1880s, the United States government warred with indigenous peoples and Mexico to lay claim to the region. Droves of Anglo-American families soon followed, believing it was their Manifest Destiny to dominate land, law and life in the region.

But indigenous peoples never disappeared (see Standing Rock) and nonwhite migrants arrived (see the state of California). Chinese immigrants, in particular, arrived in large numbers during the 19th century. A travel writer who was popular at the time, Bayard Taylor, expressed the sentiment settlers felt toward Chinese immigrants in one of his books:

“The Chinese are, morally, the most debased people on the face of the earth… their touch is pollution… They should not be allowed to settle on our soil.”

When discriminatory laws and settler violence failed to expel them from the region, the settlers pounded Congress to develop a system of federal immigration control.

In response to their demands, Congress passed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the country for 10 years. The law focused on Chinese laborers, the single largest sector of the Chinese immigrant community. In 1884, Congress required all Chinese laborers admitted before the Exclusion Act was passed to secure a certificate of reentry if they wanted to leave and return. But, in 1888, Congress banned even those with certificates from reentering.

Illustration, ‘How John may dodge the exclusion act’ shows Uncle Sam’s boot kicking a Chinese immigrant off a dock. Library of Congress.

Illustration, ‘How John may dodge the exclusion act’ shows Uncle Sam’s boot kicking a Chinese immigrant off a dock. Library of Congress.

Then, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was set to expire in 1892, Congress passed the Geary Act, which again banned all Chinese laborers and required all Chinese immigrants to verify their lawful presence by registering with the federal government. The federal authorities were empowered by the law to find, imprison and deport all Chinese immigrants who failed to register by May 1893.

Together, these laws banned a nationally targeted population from entering the United States and invented the first system of mass deportation. Nothing quite like this had ever before been tried in the United States.

Chinese immigrants rebelled against the new laws. In 1888, a laborer named Chae Chan Ping was denied the right of return despite having a reentry certificate and was subsequently confined on a steamship. The Chinese immigrant community hired lawyers to fight his case. The lawyers argued the case up to the U.S. Supreme Court but lost when the court ruled that “the power of exclusion of foreigners [is an] incident of sovereignty belonging to the government of the United States” and “cannot be granted away or restrained on behalf of anyone.”

Simply put, Chae Chan Ping v. U.S. established that Congress and the president hold “absolute” and “unqualified” authority over immigrant entry and exclusion at U.S. borders.

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Intolerance II: A censored potent white racism talk


You would think the University wouldn’t censor a talk by Tim Wise, an outspoken, articulate, well-informed critique of white racism and its deep cultural and institutional roots in American culture.

On 25 January, the University of California–Santa Barbara Multicultural Center hosted An Evening with Tim Wise, A White Anti-racist Advocate.

It’s a powerfully informative talk, a rant [in the best sense of the term] revealing the Trump campaign’s skillful use of racism to mobilize his voters.

And in making his points, Wise employs the occasional shit, a fuck or two, and what we suspect is one instance of asshole.

The words are used in the best rhetorical tradition, as potent emphases.

But where the words were only a brief silence remains in the version posted online by University of California Television today [24 February].

How stupid.

But that hypocritically ironic flaw aside, do watch a very memorable talk.

From University of California Television:

An Evening with Tim Wise: A White Anti-Racist Advocate

Program notes:

Author and anti-racist activist Tim Wise speaks about the importance of being a white ally to communities of color, and how we can all work together to create a healthier community on campuses and in the world beyond. Wise spoke as part of UCSB’s Resilient Love in a Time of Hate series.

The Cassandra Effect: When ignorance is cherished


We begin with some questions:

  • Suppose you were given the chance to know the date when your closest loved one would die. Would you want to know?
  • What about the chance to know the cause of your now-healthy loved one’s death?
  • How about the date of your own death?
  • The cause?
  • Would you want to know right after your marriage whether or not divorce would eventually follow?
  • Say you’re a big soccer fan who’s watching a video you’ve recorded of the big game and you don’t know the outcome. Then a friend who’s seen the game walks in. Do you ask her who won?
  • Do you want to know what’s in a wrapped Christmas present?
  • Do you want absolute knowledge of whether or not there’s an afterlife?
  • Say you were on vacation in Sri Lanka, famed for its gemstones, and you paid $2000 for what you were assured was a gem quality blue sapphire, and as steal at the price. When you got back home, would you be willing to shell out fifty bucks for an appraisal, knowing there was no way you’d get your money back if the stone turned out to be a fake?
  • And last, would you want to know the sex of your unborn child?

These where the questions posed to folks in Germany and Spain in a cross-cultural study examining the Cassandra Effect, the degree to which anticipation of future pain drives our choices.

Researchers from the Max Planck Institute and the University of Granada found some interesting responses, via their report in the Psychological Review, Cassandra’s Regret: The Psychology of Not Wanting to Know [open access]:

Prevalence of deliberate ignorance concerning positive and negative events in two national quota samples in Germany [n=1,016] and Spain [n=1,002]. For instance, 89.5% of Germans and 90.5% of Spaniards would not want to know when their partner is going to die.

Prevalence of deliberate ignorance concerning positive and negative events in two national quota samples in Germany [n=1,016] and Spain [n=1,002]. For instance, 89.5% of Germans and 90.5% of Spaniards would not want to know when their partner is going to die.

More from the American Psychological Association, via Newswise:

Given the chance to see into the future, most people would rather not know what life has in store for them, even if they think those events could make them happy, according to new research [open access] published by the American Psychological Association.

“In Greek mythology, Cassandra, daughter of the king of Troy, had the power to foresee the future. But, she was also cursed and no one believed her prophecies,” said the study’s lead author, Gerd Gigerenzer, PhD, of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development. “In our study, we’ve found that people would rather decline the powers that made Cassandra famous, in an effort to forgo the suffering that knowing the future may cause, avoid regret and also maintain the enjoyment of suspense that pleasurable events provide.”

Two nationally representative studies involving more than 2,000 adults in Germany and Spain found that 85 to 90 percent of people would not want to know about upcoming negative events, and 40 to 70 percent preferred to remain ignorant of upcoming positive events. Only 1 percent of participants consistently wanted to know what the future held. The findings are published in the APA journal Psychological Review.

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Trump’s rhetorical secret? Use “I,” keep it simple


The top ten most over-used terms for each candidate. One can see the presence of expressions related to the dialogue between candidates (‘Senator Sanders’ by Clinton, ‘Donald’ with Cruz, ‘Jeb’ under Trump). The relationship of some candidates to their origin is also represented (‘Ohio’ with Kasich, ‘Texas’ for Cruz, ‘Kentucky’ with Paul, ‘Maryland’ for O’Malley). From “Analysis of the style and the rhetoric of the 2016 US presidential primaries ,” [open access].

The top ten most over-used terms for each candidate. One can see the presence of expressions related to the dialogue between candidates (‘Senator Sanders’ by Clinton, ‘Donald’ with Cruz, ‘Jeb’ under Trump). The relationship of some candidates to their origin is also represented (‘Ohio’ with Kasich, ‘Texas’ for Cruz, ‘Kentucky’ with Paul, ‘Maryland’ for O’Malley). From “Analysis of the style and the rhetoric of the 2016 US presidential primaries ,” [open access].

A new academic study by linguist Jacques Savoy of the University of Neuchatel offers a detailed analysis of the Campaign 2016 presidential debates and reveals that the use of language by the candidates reveals deep and disturbing patterns.

Consider the ten most distinctive words used by the ultimate winner: I, very, tremendous, nobody, going, Mexico, not, Jeb, excuse, and deal.

There’s no room for complexity, no room for nuance, and no space for anyone else.

More on the research from Oxford University Press via Newswise:

A new paper published in Digital Scholarship in the Humanities reveals and quantifies dramatic differences in the speaking styles of candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election. Lexical analysis indicates that President Donald Trump had a distinct communication style, and it was far more direct than any of the other candidates.

The most frequently used thematic words are very similar across politicians, with ‘people’ appearing in the top 4 for 7/9 candidates, and ‘say’ for 5/9. Trump and Hillary Clinton had 3 out of 4 most-used words the same.

Researchers here analyzed the transcripts of the TV debates involving Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton, Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Martin O’Malley, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, Bernie Sanders, and Donald Trump.

According to several overall stylistic indicators, candidate Trump used a simple communication style, avoiding complex formulation and vocabulary. The authors analysed lexical density – or how much actual information there was in the words spoken. Trump scored the lowest for lexical density, and he also reused the same phrases more than other candidates.

Former governors (Bush and Kasich) tend to use “we” more frequently than “I.” Usually Senators (Cruz, Paul, Clinton, and Sanders) tend to prefer using the pronoun “I.”

Donald Trump presents an atypical figure, employing short sentences, a reduced vocabulary, repeating the same arguments with simple words. He is the single candidate to have the pronoun “I” in the second rank (after the article “the”).

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