This post is a response to Will the Real Iranians Please Stand up? byAzadeh Aalai, Ph.D.
Bravo’s the Shahs of Sunset has set off some predictable replies among the Iranian community. We are not like that, we say, we’re better.
Of course everyone knows reality TV exaggerates. The African-American community is not like the Real Housewives of Atlanta. The Italian-American community is not like the Real Housewives of New Jersey. The shows are all exaggerations (with some kernels of truth) – and thus entertaining.
I agree with my Iranian fellow critics that the Bravo show does not do justice to most Iranians, but I think these predictable blanket condemnations show something else about Iranians, something which I hope I can state without too much negative reaction by my fellow countrymen:
We Iranians are thin-skinned. We can’t accept criticism. We are this way as individuals, and as a nation. One of our greatest writers, Muhammand Ali Jamalzadeh, made this point in his book Our Iranian Character. I know that many Iranian-Americans are sensitive because there is some stigma to being Iranian in the US, and it has been so for three decades. We are constantly in the news, and not in a good way. So the Bravo show just seems like one more criticism.
But we were sensitive to criticism long before the problems between the US and Iran after the 1979 revolution. Jamalzadeh’s book came out in the late 1960s, and he was roundly attacked by all sides, right and left, monarchist and communist.
We are a great culture, that is true. The Oscars speech of the director of A Separation was classy and honest. But any culture has its flaws.
One of our flaws is that secular, Westernized Iranians can be rather materialistic. Not as extreme as in the Bravo show – but self-abnegating we are not. One of my southern California Iranian friends, who did his medical training in Harvard, went back to Orange County and arrived in his VW Jetta. Iranians who saw him said: You went to Harvard, and you drive a Volkswagen? He immediately rented a BMW 3-series.The response was: A 3-series? That’s the lowest level you can get. He bumped it up to a 5-series, and everyone was happy. Of course, we can attribute it to California, southern California to be precise, but there’s something about Iranians in the West that predisposes to this kind of thinking. There’s a reason why Iranians flocked to Orange County and Beverly Hills, not Berkeley and Boston.
There are different Iranians: I grew up in the Washington DC area, the second largest Iranian community in the US, among many cultured persons. I live now in Boston with a rather intellectual circle of Iranians. And of course Iranians who live in the home country itself come in all varieties: Westernized and Gucci-toting, religious and chador-wearing, and everything in between.
Iranian cinema is almost uniformly existential, realistic – and depressing. There used to be good Iranian comedies like My Uncle Napoleon. I don’t like many aspects of Shahs of Sunset, but it made me laugh.
Let’s allow for a little laughter. That’s also part of our culture.
(NB: This blog’s policy, unrelated to any cultural traits, is to delete all personally taunting comments).
Zombies can Teach us About Morality Published by Lawrence Rubin, Ph.D. in Popular Culture Meets Psychology
What is it about Zombies that so captivates us?
Is it their persistence? Their unflinching work ethic? Their insatiable libidinal drive?
And why have they seemingly made a resurgence in all things popular, including the the recent AMC horror/sci-fi series, The Walking Dead, a post-apocalyptic thriller about, you guessed it, zombies.
I could ceraianly opine from a psychological perspective about the cause of their appeal…blood lust, vicarious brutality, oral rage gone amok, death anxiety, etc…but I was most captivated by the question of morality raised after recently viewing episode 11 from season 2 entitled, “Judge, Jury and Executioner”.
In it, a young man named Randall is held captive by the “good guys” because he has done something very bad, They contemplate executing him because he is a threat. Rick is chosen for the job, but the elder, Dale, argues that to execute this man, is to surrender their humanity…in essence, to themselves become the walking dead…zombies. With his young son watching on, Rick is unable to pull the trigger. Later in the episode, Dale is attacked by a “walker”, or zombie, and the group decideds that mercy killing is in order. Again, the young son watches on as this time, a “good man” is killed, when just hours before, a “bad man” was saved.
As a teacher, parent and therapist, I saw in this episode a powerful teaching moment for those of us interested in imparting lessons on morality to our children. Why was the ‘bad’ man saved, while the “good” man was put to death?
On the heels of Jean Piaget, Lawrence kohlberg and Carol Gilligan, theorists have alternately conceptualized morality as an evaluative orientation towards actions and events, a sense of obligation to rules and others, a concern for others’s welfare, and a comitment to honesty and the norm (Damon, 1988). And in our increasingly complex postmodern world of ethical and moral vagaries, we are continually scanning the social environment for effective ways to teach our children about self control, instrumental versus hostile aggression, rules, norms and social propriety. This particular episode of The Walking Dead is full of life, and excellent opportunities for conversations about important issues related to violence, morality and relationships.
I propose that we broaden our scope and look to the fruits of popular, and perhaps in the case of zombie media, unpopular art forms for lessons that can last a life time.
Most of us are horrible lie detectors in face-to-face interaction, and we’re even worse when it comes to knowing if someone is lying online. New research suggests, however, that there are certain linguistic signals we can look for to determine if someone is trying to hoodwink us.
The research focused on online dating, an arena rife with deception from men and women alike. Using personal descriptions written for Internet dating profiles, researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Cornell University have identified reliable clues as to whether the author was being deceptive.
The researchers compared the actual height, weight and age of 78 online daters to their profile information and photos on four matchmaking websites. A linguistic analysis of the group’s written self-descriptions revealed patterns in the liars’ writing.
Here are a few examples:
The more deceptive a dater’s profile, the less likely they were to use the first-person pronoun “I.” Liars do this because they want to distance themselves from their deceptive statements.Liars often used negation, a flip of the language that would restate “happy” as “not sad” or “exciting” as “not boring.”
Expert Advice from Fern Reiss About Selling Your Memoir Published by Randi Kreger in Stop Walking on Eggshells
I get a fair number of people contacting me because they want to write a memoir about their relationship with a high conflict family member. One of the biggest reasons people want to write is to help heal from their experiences. In that case, I recommend the book The Power of Memoir: How to Write Your Healing Story.
But if you’re serious about getting it published and are willing to make changes to make it marketable, I asked Fern Reiss of PublishingGame.com (and a fellow American Society of Journalists and Authors member–see her bio below) to give some advice to my readers. I have added in some info about my own experiences with my non-fiction books.) Be sure to read the questions and answers at the end.
So you’ve written your memoir. You’ve done the hard part–you’ve finally got the manuscript written. Now all that’s left is to publish it-and that’s the easy part, right?
Welcome to today’s new world of publishing and the options that await you. In the old days (we’re talking only 15 years ago) there was really only one choice for writers who wanted their memoirs published: You sent your manuscript to a publishing house, and then you prayed. (Sure, even then you knew you were supposed to find a literary agent first, but that seemed a harder quest even than nailing down a publisher.)
Six, eight, twelve, sometimes 24 months later, you’d get that sinking feeling in your stomach when your familiar, brown-wrapped manuscript turned up again in your mailbox. Sometimes it would be accompanied by a scrawled, “Sorry, not for us,” or a day-brightening, “Try us again!” More often it would come with a form letter, explaining politely that they get a lot of manuscripts and they publish few. After attempting in vain to remove the coffee stains from your once-virgin pages, you’d type the thing up afresh and start all over again.
Today’s publishing world is radically different–and this new reality poses both challenges and opportunities for memoir writers, and indeed, all writers.
First of all, there are many more outlets today to which to send your work. Twenty years ago, there were a handful of top-notch literary agents. Today, there are several hundred good literary agents across the country. (Partly this is because the large publishing houses have downsized and been gobbled up in recent years, and many of the former publishing house editors have now hung out shingles as literary agents.)
Regardless, there are many more outlets for your work, and many more opportunities to capture a literary agent than ever before. (There are also more venues in which to meet a literary agent. With writing conferences popping up all over the country, you can pretty much pre-select your agent of choice and then track down the conference where you can most easily meet him.)
Forgiveness is an invitation to a second chance at love Published by Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D. in Emotional Fitness
It can be hard to forgive, especially if your partner has broken the most solemn of their marriage vows. Surprisingly, infidelity is not necessarily fatal to a relationship. With the appropriate communication, therapy and a willingness to let go, many couples get past it. As strange as it may seem, in some cases, the healing process can actually make a relationship stronger.
Couples who survive this tragedy do so when the offending person takes responsibility for his or her actions and becomes open to dealing with their partner’s pain and anger. Most people can’t imagine living with someone who has betrayed them in this way, but the truth is that with time and lots of hard work, the heartache can be healed. In order to make this happen, the one who has been betrayed must accept that their partner made a huge mistake and allow them to repent.
After ending the affair, the unfaithful one needs to realize that, for some time, their partner will pelt them with questions and concerns that they must truthfully answer in a kind and sensitive manner. It is part of the healing process and will also help the transgressor forgive himself or herself. Through this process I have seen many couples actually grow, and though the affair cannot be forgotten, it can be forgiven.
Affairs happen because most couples enter relationships unaware of how to deal with their feelings both inside and outside of their commitment. Some people place far too little value on the depth of love and mistakenly think, “what they don’t know won’t hurt them.” The real truth is that an affair will take energy away from your primary relationship and your partner will feel that on some level.
Forgiveness is not about letting the other person off the hook; it is about letting ourselves off the hook. Through forgiveness our hearts no longer have to endure the torture that comes from holding on to the violation. Forgiveness, if it has been properly earned, can be a healthy response to infidelity. It can also be seen as a reward to the injured party for having lived through a transgression of their trust.
However, forgiveness is not mandatory or necessary. In cases where the transgressor will not apologize or take responsibility for their actions, it is imperative that the one who has been betrayed must move on – even if that means breaking up the family and starting over. The logic here is that if the unfaithful partner cannot bring himself or herself to owning their guilt and get help to understand why they chose the hurtful action, they will repeat it.
Rebuilding the trust and intimacy that has been stolen by infidelity is never going to be easy, but it is doable. It begins with the willingness to hang in there and try. If this has happened to your relationship you need to think before you react to your appropriately hurt feelings. Find a therapist who is experienced in this area and do some research on your own, a great book for those who are working through the pain of an infidelity is “After the Affair” by Janis Abrahms Spring, Ph.D.
Remind yourself that it’s OK if you don’t know what to do or how to feel. There is a road back, and though it is far less traveled, it is an invitation to a second chance at love and life.
Move more, eat better: these goals top any weight watcher’s goal list. In fact, they top anyone’s health improvement list, no matter their size or weight. While lifestyle advice churns out wherever we look, it seems, some new books offer fresh insights and help that don’t require dropping whole food groups or changing your personality.
If regular exercise eludes you, for instance, Gretchen Reynolds’ new book The First 20 Minutes: The Myth-Busting Science That Shows How We Can Walk Farther, Run Faster, and Live Longer may have you thinking differently about the importance of movement. Reynolds, who writes on exercise science for The New York Times, looks at why, how, and how much exercise helps. What she uncovers may surprise you. Some of this will certainly interest those whose routines flag because weight stays stuck. Or because the routines themselves seem daunting.
The most recent science, in fact, suggests that exercise helps weight in a less direct manner than we typically think. One of its most important roles, for example, may be as a “gateway” behavior to other health habit changes. Further, different benefits accrue for exercise routines of different types and different durations, including those 20-minute ones of the title. And any movement at all, anything but sitting , in other words, burns calories and boosts health.
How do you get yourself to move more, even if you target the small change? Diet and exercise habits notoriously challenge people in their change efforts. Last year, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, by Roy F. Baumeister and John Tierney, renewed attention to willpower building. Excerpts from their, and others’, work continue to appear in women’s and health-oriented magazines. This focus on “the self-control muscle” can aid our efforts tremendously. But Miriam Nelson and Jennifer Ackerman’s The Social Network Diet renews attention, instead, to the ways our social environment.
When twelve seals were shot and mutilated on Ireland’s north shores in 2009, a commentator quipped that the perp had to be some kid honing his serial killer skills.
Thanks largely to misconceptions and spotty research, the notion that the Macdonald triad (animal cruelty, fire-setting, and bed-wetting) points to murder-prone kids has become an entrenched stereotype. This easy formula carries a heavy load, but it actually offers little for the prediction of criminality.
How did it gain the status of fact?
In 1963, forensic psychiatrist J. M. Macdonald observed in a paper, “The Threat to Kill,” that these behaviors (along with two others) often showed up in his most aggressive and sadistic patients. Macdonald had compared 48 psychotic patients against 52 non-psychotic patients who all had threatened to kill someone. (Note: The study was about those who had threatened a violent act, not committed one.) Just over half were male, and they ranged in age from 11 to 83.
Macdonald relied mostly on clinical observation to make his assessment and he did not believe the study had predictive value. In any event, his research group was small and unrepresentative.
Despite these glaring issues, other researchers decided that Macdonald’s notion was worth testing.
A couple of years after Macdonald’s publication, a team of psychiatrists divided 84 incarcerated offenders into two groups: nonaggressive (53) and aggressively violent (31). They found that three-fourths of the violent offenders showed evidence of one or two behaviors from the triad, and that 45% showed all three.
But their study, too, was small and poorly designed. When other researchers tried to replicate it with much larger groups and better controls, no one’s results came close.
Nevertheless, some criminologists have applied the triad to various offender populations, including – and especially – serial killers. Although some violent offenders do have excessive fire-setting, animal cruelty, or bedwetting past age five in their backgrounds, rarely do all three behaviors show up. Other behaviors, such as callous disregard, occur more regularly.
In addition, some of the data on which claims are made about the triad’s relationship to serial murder come from inaccurate true crime books or websites. Many authors today just assume that the Macdonald triad’s predictive power has been roundly proven.
Among the most visible spokespeople on this relationship were former members of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit. During the 1980s and 1990s, they offered evidence from their own studies, but their research, too, was flawed.
While on the road teaching local jurisdictions about behavioral analysis, several members of the then-Behavioral Science Unit interviewed offenders at nearby prisons. With no effort to work within a randomized scientific design, they gathered information from just 36 convicted murderers, only 25 of which were serial killers. All had voluntarily agreed to talk. Once more, the sample was too problematic to draw significant conclusions.
Yet several agents used this data to develop theories and publish articles. They found that nearly half of the subjects were from single-parent homes, three-fourths had described an indifferent or negligent parent, a majority had a psychiatric history, the mean IQ was bright normal, three-fourths had paraphilias, and the same percentage reported an experience of abuse.
In addition, although the agents found evidence in many of their subjects of at least one of the Macdonald triad factors, they supplied no data about the percentage that had all three. Enuresis, high on the list, was evident in more offenders than animal cruelty, and yet recent research has shown that enuresis is not an indicator of psychological maladjustment.
The data analysis from the BSU’s study made its way into criminological texts as a reliable source, and only recently have researchers challenged it.
For a master’s thesis, Kori Ryan submitted a study in 2009 that contradicts nearly half a century of claims. Ryan performed the most extensive review of the literature to date and found little empirical support for the triad’s predictive value.
Together or alone, the triad behaviors can indicate a stressed child with poor coping mechanisms or a developmental disability; such a child needs guidance and attention. However, until we design and carry out better empirical studies than we’ve seen thus far, researchers and media agencies should refrain from stating that the triad identifies a future serial killer.