On Gay Marriage

Currently in the UK the big debate is over gay couples getting married in religious institutions. Earlier this winter the proposal for women bishops was defeated by a measly six votes so it would be nice for the church and other religions to catch up with the modern world and support equality and tolerance.

One argument against gay marriage is that historically marriage was between heterosexual couples. This argument is invalid.

  • Historically women couldn’t vote
  • Historically men under 30 couldn’t vote
  • Historically British people had to pay for healthcare
  • Historically you had to come from a wealthy, respectable, well-bred family to get anywhere in life (although it could be said this still holds true)

It doesn’t mean it’s right or should remain the same.

Gay marriage will not undermine the traditional institution, in fact it might strengthen it. The divorce rate is steadily increasing, single parent families are becoming more common so why shouldn’t two men or two women marry and raise a family? Surely that is both more stable and beneficial for the children than a heterosexual married couple who argue all the time.

Why can’t someone choose to be both gay and Christian? Or lesbian and Hindi? and be faithful to their religion by marrying in the eyes of the church/temple etc? I don’t claim to be an expert on the Bible but surely they advocate tolerance and equality? That seems to be the moral thing to do. It’s time to enter the modern world and start creating   harmony instead rifts.

[links] Posts of Remembrance

9/11 – a date which will never be forgotten. The day the world stopped and watched in horror.

Posts to read, sit quietly, think and remember.

http://nittygrittydirtman.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/lessons-learned-from-a-911-survivor/

http://foiegraschick.wordpress.com/2012/09/09/remembering/

http://iamanafterschoolspecial.wordpress.com/2012/09/10/the-day-the-devil-took-over-ny-911-revisited/

http://iamanafterschoolspecial.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/september/

http://plaintextnotes.com/2012/09/11/on-911-being-whole-together-as-we-are/

http://outsiderlookingin.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/never-forget/

http://feedmylove.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/remember-september-11-2001/

http://readstuffwithme.wordpress.com/2012/09/11/911-a-lesson-learned/

Personally I can’t say much about this date as I was only eight or nine but one thing I do remember was in the classroom at school perhaps a few days after the event. We were doing an activity which involved writing answers on white boards and holding them up. As usual we got a bit bored with what the teacher asked and began drawing silly things, smiley faces etc. Of course we all got moaned at, until our teacher noticed one particular boy had drawn a picture of a tower with a plane flying into the side. At our age we weren’t overly aware of worldly events but in that moment the room froze. Even if we didn’t understand the whole issue the teacher’s face was enough to send the most hardened city kid running for the hills. Needless to say he was sent off to the headmistress for a right talking to and has probably never thought of 9/11 in the same way again. My memory is hazy but that one event remains clear despite my eight-year-old self not truly comprehending the seriousness of the matter.

More September 11 – http://en.search.wordpress.com/?q=september+11&s=date&t=post

Socialisation: Part Two

Theories of socialisation

There are three approaches to socialisation; they all contribute different understandings of socialisation:

Psychoanalytic theory (S. Freud)

Freud focused on the unconscious mind and how emotions drive people towards particular actions and behaviours, primarily the desire for pleasurable experiences and sexual gratification. He asserted the conscious mind, otherwise known as the ego, is dominated by attempts to control such unconscious drives.

As for socialisation, psychoanalytic theory states the first few years are crucial for the formation of ‘self’. A sense of morality is gradually internalised and becomes part of the conscious mind, called the ‘superego’.

Psychoanalysis looks at the relationship between the surface structure of consciousness and the deeper, inner structure of the unconscious, much of the early psychoanalytical theory emphasised the biological bases of emotions and the ways in which people learn to try to control their natural tendencies. Later psychoanalysts broadened this perspective and recognised the cultural origin of these unconscious drives

Sigmund Freud argued that the core elements of the personality are formed during childhood, the first few years of life develops a sense of self, morality and conscious orientation to the world. Parental prohibitions and punishments are gradually internalised by the child as knowledge of right and wrong in their conscience. There are several studies looking at how parents and teachers can instil expected codes of behaviour in children, Thorndike and Pavlov are the first two who come to mind but their thoughts are for another time and post.

Role-learning theory (structural-functionalist approach)

A structural-functionalist approach which stresses the importance of learning the norms that make up role expectations. It rejects biological reductionism and states social roles are blueprints for action learned through interaction; systems of rewards and punishments induce conformity to role expectations. This process of internalisation guarantees the maintenance of conformity over time.

Social roles are treated as social facts as determined by Durkheim: they are seen as institutionalised social relationships; matters of constraint rather than choice e.g. people aren’t free to renegotiate what it is to be a doctor, teacher, mother, or father.

Conformity to role expectations is a result of external pressure through the rewards and punishments that people apply to each others behaviour. Role-learning theory emphasises a process of role-taking: it sees people as taking on culturally given roles and acting them out in a mechanical way. People’s actions are seen as almost completely determined by the cultural definitions and expectations that they have learned through socialisation.

  Symbolic interactionism (C.H. Cooley, G. H. Mead, E. Goffman)

Focuses on the formation of self through social interaction; role-playing as a creative process (not just enacting things learned during socialisation). It originated in the social psychology of William James and was developed in its classic form by George Herbert Mead at the University of Chicago. Herbert Blumer then coined the name symbolic interactionism to distinguish it from mainstream structural-functionalist sociology.

Symbolic interactionism  places strong emphasis on the roles of symbols (gestures and objects) and language as core elements of all human interaction. It sees society as a set of fluid and flexible networks of interactions and their consequences within which we act.  Socialisation involves a more active role of individuals.

Charles Horton Cooley

Developed the hypothesis that we learn who we are by interacting with others; our view of ourselves comes from our impressions of how others perceive us. Cooley used the phrase “looking-glass self” to emphasise that the self is the product of our social interactions with other people; just like the reflections from a mirror, the self depends on the perceived responses of others.

The process of developing a self-identity of self-concept has three phases:

  1. First we imagine how we present ourselves to others
  2. Then we imagine how others evaluate us (attractive, intelligent, shy or strange)
  3. Finally, we develop some sort of feeling about ourselves, such as, respect or shame

 George Herbert Mead

Is best known for his theory of the self, according to Mead the self begins at a privileged, central position in a person’s world. Young children picture themselves as the focus of everything around them and find it difficult to consider the perspectives of others. This childhood tendency to place ourselves at the centre of events never entirely disappears. As people mature the self changes and begins to reflect greater concern about the reactions of others.

In Mead’s terminology there are two aspects of the self: the ‘I’ and the ‘Me’. The ‘I’ is the source of action, but other people observe and react towards the ‘Me’. The ‘Me’ is the social self, constructed through interactions with others and reflecting the attitudes that they adopt. The social self develops at the age of 4 or 5. At 8 or 9 children begin to take on the attitude of what Mead calls the generalised other, they begin to infer the common or widely held values of their society by generalising from particular adults to society in general. They begin to consider how other people in general within their society might react to particular kinds of actions. The attitudes of the generalised others become the voice of their moral conscious.

This theory took several readings but eventually it made sense – sort of.

 Erving Goffman

How do we manage our self? How do we display to others who we are?

Goffman suggested that many (if not all) of our daily activities involve attempts to convey impressions of who we are. His observations help to understand how we learn to present ourselves socially.

  • Impression management (1959) à Early in life individuals learn to manage their presentation of the self to create distinct appearances and satisfy particular audiences.
  • Dramaturgical model à Goffman makes so many parallels to the theatre that his view has been termed the dramaturgical approach. According to the perspective, people resemble performers in action e.g. a clerk may try to appear busier if a supervisor happens to be watching
  • Face work à how often do we initiate face-saving behaviour because of embarrassment or rejection? We need to maintain a proper image of the self if we are to continue social interaction

Goffman’s work of the self represents a logical progression of the sociological studies begun by Cooley and Mead on how a sense of self-identity is acquired through socialisation and how we manage the presentation of self to others. Cooley stressed the process by which we come to create a self; Mead focused on how the self develops as we learn to interact with others, Goffman emphasised the ways in which we consciously create images of ourselves to others.

Do any of these theories or approaches ring true for you? Personally, I see a few elements which are relatable such as Cooley’s realisation that our perceptions of ourselves can depend on the opinions of others and the role-learning theory stating that the definition of ‘doctor’ or ‘mother’ are more or less stable in Western culture.

A Worrying Time to be Alive

Last week James E Holmes terrorised a cinema in America showing the latest batman movie, shooting dead twelve people, including a six-year-old girl whose mother is still fighting for her life in hospital, unaware of her daughter’s death. He arrived through an emergency exit dressed as the Joker, causing many to assume he was a practical joker, that is until the shooting started. A few were shot at as they raced towards the exit, one man leapt from a 20ft balcony with his baby daughter as his partner was shot in the leg as she moved in front of their other child to protect her.

Most worryingly of all perhaps is that there seems to be no motive behind this attack. James Holmes had just dropped out of his PhD, and although fellow students didn’t know him as he kept to himself, neighbours described him as a “normal kid”.

Over recent years there have been other incidents which cause you to question people’s sanity. A shooting in Norway last year left 77 dead. A father killed his three children before committing suicide.

What drives these people to invoke such terror?

Is it the array of violent films and video games available? Because that’s what they thought prompted the kidnapping and murder of James Bulger in 1993 by two older children (as well as a troubled home life).

Or is it mental instability? The father-in-law of the father who stabbed his three children to death before killing himself insists there was no malice, that there was “only victims”.

I think it’s scarier if these people who commit these acts are sane, as then they are completely aware of the destruction and the heartbreak they’re causing.

Incidents like the cinema shooting really make you consider today’s society and how we are capable of creating monsters who feel no remorse after killing dozens of innocent people.

Seven Pounds: Will Smith

“In seven days God created the world. And in seven seconds I shattered mine.” – Seven Pounds (2008)

Yesterday my brother was doing his PRE (Philosophy, Religion and Ethics) homework and said he needed a film which had moral implications. After suggesting Seven Pounds and trying to remember what exactly what happened we decided to put it on.

Will Smith stars as Ben Thomas, a man who is trying to redeem himself after causing a terrible catastrophe, ruining several lives. He chooses seven people who he believes deserve a second chance and plans to help them. However, after developing feelings for one girl, whose life is in the balance, he must decide whether he should reveal his secret or continue with his original intentions.

The first time I watched it, Seven Pounds was a bit confusing as the scenes flashed between Ben’s life before and after the accident. At the time, as I remember it, it wasn’t clear what had happened to cause the torrent of guilt and the drive for redemption, however, it remained a powerful and moving experience as the story becomes apparent by the end.

This film certainly shows Will Smiths’ acting at its best, he displays real emotion for each decision he makes and causes the audience’s emotions to fly with him. Though Seven Pounds is not a happy film, it ends on a joyful, inspiring and hopeful note as Ben succeeds in bringing new life and opportunities for the chosen seven.

As well as being an excellent film, Seven Pounds is also a thought-provoking experience as it raises questions and moral issues over who has the right to decide who deserves life, death or a second chance. Ben Thomas tests his chosen seven to see if they are kind enough to be worthy of his help, but should that really be his decision? Who is he to condemn a person to a life of poor health just because there is someone else who he sees as a more worthwhile subject?

Anyway, moral issues aside Seven Pounds is an absorbing, captivating film; perfect for an afternoon with your feet up. My advise would be to watch it with a comforting cup of tea and a box of tissues.

Euthanasia – murder or a human right?

Recently a stroke victim, has challenged the euthanasia law in front of three High Court judges. Mr. Nicklinson, 58, previously worked all over the world as an engineer and enjoyed sports such as skydiving and rugby. However, after a serious stroke in 2005 he became paralysed from the neck down, only able to blink his eyes. Mr. Nicklinson claims it is human right to decide whether he should die and so states that any doctor who assists his suicide should not be prosecuted.

As quoted in the ‘i’ (sister newspaper to the independent)Mr. Nicklinson says “I feel I am denied my most basic human right; I object to society telling me that I must live until I die of natural causes and I will do all I can to restore those rights.”

This case has huge moral implications as ultimately it questions the law as to what constitutes as murder, and the outcome could affect many others who suffer from painful terminal illnesses or are paralysed. However, the BBC 2 reporter stated it would be likely the case would be dismissed. Could this be because assissted suicide comes too close to murder and change could cause huge problem in the future?

Many agree with Mr. Nicklinson that he should be able to make his own choices and since he is physically unable to act independently a doctor should be allowed to help him achieve his wishes. Also, what about his wife and family and friends; is it harder on them to watch one they love suffer or to deal with his choice in his own death? Others ask what sort of life does Mr. Nicklinson currently have? Does he even have a life anymore?

Some people say that new technologies allow those who are paralysed to communicate and live with everyone else. Mr. Nicklinson has been using a form of gaze-detection, computer software which detects eye movements so that he is able to pick out letters and the comupter device then forms the sentences. This technology means Mr. Nicklinson has been able to communicate with the outside world via twitter, where he has gained 8000 followers. Furthermore, similar gaze-control technology can enable the paralysed to play video games – an activity considered a waste of time by many, but for one guy, the one thing he could share with his son.

So, can it be said Mr. Nicklinson has no life? He certainly does not have the same quality of life as before his stroke, but can adjustments be made through technology to build a different life? Dr Donegan’s video –

– explains similar technology. One subject, Marco, says via gaze-control software “without this equipment, it would be as if I didn’t exist”. (Quoted in the ‘i’).

Or, should Mr. Nicklinson be granted his human right to decide his own fate? (even at the hands of others)?

Personally, I think technology can seriously aid the paralysed to interact with their families and friends. But if this is not the right choice for Mr. Nicklinson; I feel it is his decision and his decision alone. After all, who are we to judge a man who suffers from circumstances we cannot even begin to imagine?