Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Human Rights Paradigm Shift to End Violence, Especially Against Women and Children

All humans and the societies in which they live are different, yet they all have beauty. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. The impetus for implementing cultural education to end violence against women and girls is coming from honor killings committed in Western countries. Many cultures still consider killings based upon family honor as legally legimate. Honor killings, as these are known, are the murder of women because they have been raped, had sex outside of marriage, wanted to pursue a higher level of education, or refused an arranged marriage. Honor violence and killing is usually committed by fathers and brothers, and has generally been legally categorized under the umbrella of domestic violence in Western countries.

Women from Arabic and South Asian countries are the predominant victims of this form of gender-based violence. When people from these cultures immigrate to Western countries, they also bring their long-held cultural beliefs with them. Many of these women do not have access to the social services of their host countries. They are also trafficked against their will as "brides" back to their former countries. There is a need to be culturally sensitive towards immigrants, up until the point at which another human being's basic human rights are violated. At this point, the interactive acculturation of people from these societies must become a legal and educational priority in those host countries to which they immigrate.

Violence against women is not only found in the original countries from which immigrants bring their belief in honor killings, but in their host countries, as well. All countries have a high level of violence against women and girls, and boys, including murder. As reported in the Daily Telegraph, the UK has committed to an age-appropriate K-12 education program to teach gender equality in the wake of many honor killings. Police from EU member states have recently met with women's organizations, social groups and educators at Europol at the Hague to strategize, seek solutions and crack down on those committing honor killings and the trafficking of women.* No matter the impetus, the education of all people of all countries of the equality, value and rights of all people, especially women and children, is needed. It should also extend to adults, and become a real presence in the media and conversations of all people, in all countries.

Women, children and other marginalized people are often caught between a rock and a hard place, with very little room or the basic human rights with which they may move beyond to a path of freedom to pursue their lives.

In all societies, including Western, the value of women and children is still obviously less than that of men because their very safety and lives are continuously and disproportionately jeopardized by violence, domestic or otherwise. This is also evidenced by the continued devaluing of traditional "women's jobs" and the wage gaps between men and women found in all societies. During the current US recession, many people in higher paying jobs are unemployed, and most of those are men. Yet those workers in lower paid, necessary service industries have retained their jobs, and most of them are women. Obviously society cannot exist without these jobs. So, now, we see lower-paid women supporting their families on low wages that are often not high enough to support themselves and their families. Now, the economic impact of this wage gap is finally being felt by large numbers of men, although it has long been felt by women and children for centuries, in poverty.

What all members of our society are living and grappling with right now is not just an economic, political or legal phenomenon. It is the direct result of a social phenomenon based upon cultural attitudes of the lower value of women and children, whether or not they are as extreme as those in societies that legitimize honor killings. Economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems don't define a society's cultural and religious beliefs; a society's cultural and religious beliefs defines its economic, political, health care, educational, and legal systems. What is valued is priced high, has high political power, better health care and education, and is well-legislated; what is not valued is priced low, has little political power, health care, and education, and is inadequately legislated.

Economic, political, health care, legal, and educational reform must take place to ensure the equal value of all people, including women and children, as equal members of human society. Legal reform must use a zero-tolerance approach to the marginalization of and violence against any human, especially women and children, in the laws and courts of all countries. Economic reform must also highly value those jobs that perform direct service to individual members of society and society in general, even though the results of that service are not directly and rapidly felt in the economy. This must include such jobs as home health aides and teachers. Political power must be equal for all, and seen and felt in political representation, rather than the marginalization currently found. Educational reform must include teaching all people, and must teach the value and rights of all, to all. This educational reform must also include mediation and conflict resolution training, so all members of humanity can learn more effective ways to solve any problem, rather than resort to violence. Health care reform must grant all people a high basic level of health care, especially women, whose ability to bear and birth healthy children is necessary for the very existence of the human species.

Research has shown it takes three generations to make such major changes in a society. The very lives of billions of women and children are at risk, as well as the basic well-being and rights of all members of humanity, so the current generation must quickly implement these changes now. When all people are highly valued members of humanity, the myriad benefits of this reform will create a win-win situation. This will lessen the need for violence to demand basic human rights and social services. People will abhor the use of violence by one group of people against another, which will decrease violence, war and genocide. When people realize all humans are of value and utilize mediation and conflict resolution to resolve differences, we will see increased political and economic stability because we will work together to find win-win solutions, rather than compete for resources and power. When all governments adjust their legal, political, economic, health care, and educational systems to honor in thought and deed the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, they will respect the value and equality of people, while at the same time, retain what is unique and beautiful within all of their independent cultures. Empowerment creates positive change through cooperation, rather than the will to compete, which creates violence and war. This is a win-win solution to a win-lose problem. When all people are valued equally in thought and deed, all people benefit. All we have to do is step into the light of human rights.


Monday, November 23, 2009

Health Care Reform, Abortion, Insurance, and Discrimination

The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights states, in part, that...

"Article 1.
All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

Article 2.
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

Article 3.
Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

Article 25.
(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
(2) Motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. All children, whether born in or out of wedlock, shall enjoy the same social protection."

Health care is a basic human right, so the access to and quality of health care should be equal for all people regardless of gender, age, religion, pre-existing condition, or income. Anything less denies people their basic human right to health care. Health care reform is largely about providing a basic level of health care for the tens of millions of uninsured and underinsured citizens of this country and making sure that insurance companies don't discriminate against people regardless of their gender, race, income, religion, or pre-existing condition. Insurance companies are interested only in reducing their costs and increasing their profits rather than looking out for the best interests, medical care and human rights of the human beings they insure.

Insurance companies discriminate against women by charging them higher insurance rates than men, and then do whatever they can to actually reduce their medical coverage or not cover anything at all. For example, insurance companies will cover men for Viagra, but not women for birth control. Insurance companies also use domestic violence, rape and c-section as pre-existing conditions in order to deny women health care coverage. All of these tools are used by insurance companies to increase their profits, reduce their costs, and discriminate against women.

Recently, two medical panels were told to put cost reduction as a priority in their studies. One was looking at mammograms, and the other at pap smears. If these were truly scientific panels, why was cost given any thought or priority in the analysis of the data? The recent mammogram panel also did not contain a single oncologist or radiologist, yet it interpreted oncology and radiological findings. So we have economics, as opposed to science in a "scientific" panel. Why convene a second panel on mammograms at all, when they used the very same data as did the first panel? Predictably, the recent panels decided to reduce the availability of mammogram and pap smear tests to women by changing the age and frequency of their recommendations on testing. Amazingly, these very same recommendations are used by insurance companies to determine coverage of mammograms and pap smears. I find the impeccable timing and findings for reduced testing of these recent 'scientific panels' suspect, since their recommendations deny women medical coverage and guarantee higher profits for insurance companies.

Health care reform and the legality of a particular health care procedure are two very separate issues. Health care reform should and will include those health care procedures that are currently legal in the United States. Health care reform is not the place for debating the legality of any procedure. If individual people or groups aren't happy with what is or is not currently legal (I'm not saying their beliefs are right or wrong, just that they are putting their efforts into the wrong place), then they should be spending their time and energy going through proper channels to change those laws, rather than derail health care reform for procedures already established as legal. Those people and groups who are using the debate on health care reform as a platform for pushing their own legal and religious agendas have disregarded and put in jeopardy the health and very lives of those people who so desperately need this reform to pass.

Why do we have such high costs in health care, refusal of coverage, and reduction in insurance payments for services? The problem stems from for-profit insurance and health care. The CEO's of top insurance companies earn approximately 250 to over 500 times the salary of the average American worker. In addition, we now have two-tier health care where there is one facility with two doors. One door for cash customers (patients), the other for those with insurance. Check out the difference in care between the boutique medicine of the rich and the revolving door medicine of the insured in the link below.*

In one study of women diagnosed with ovarian cancer, the outcomes and their very existence were influenced by their insurance status. Women who had Taft-Hartley and Medicaire insurance had the best outcomes. Women who had commercial insurance (gtoup insurance), such as found in unions and corporations, had the second-best outcomes. Women who had Medicaid insurance had outcomes that came in third place in results. The women who were uninsured had the worst outcome - death. Insurance companies run by the government had the best outcomes, because they covered earlier screening and covered more treatments along the entire course of treatment. Quality health care is a human right for all people, not just an entitlement of the increasingly insular rich. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow exponentially, as does the quality and availability of their health care.

*Follow this link to see the difference in care:

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tweed Riding the Vanguard of a Renaissance in Style, Elegance, and Manners

I've been feeling it for some time. It's a reaction to the extreme haste and the lack of manners, respect and depth found in current society. It's also due to the absence of any major definition between styles for men and women and a distinct lack of elegance in the metrosexual look in today's fashions. It's why so many women and young ladies are so drawn to fictional vampires who were born and raised in the Victorian and Edwardian Eras, yet still live in the present: Bill in the "True Blood" series and Edward in the "Twilight" series. It can be seen in the renewed interest in and use of calling cards with which we now provide others our phone number and e-mail address. It's why I'm so obsessed with the costume and production design of movies like "Out of Africa." It's the reason I began collecting antique furniture, bedding, and linen bath sheets, as well as antique and vintage hats; all remnants of a bygone era that I can still touch and to which I feel a distinct kinship.

The desire for the good taste, quality, noble causes, and old-fashioned respect and manners of earlier times is creating a renaissance of the classic tweeds, well-read intellectualism, thoughtfulness, and style of dapper men and elegant women. Those characteristics of bygone days are now being recreated by 20-somethings, as well as older gentlemen and ladies, in Tweed Rides on vintage bicycles through many cities across North America and in Europe. They are scouring vintage clothing stores, J. Crew stores, J. Peterman catalogues, and garage sales in their quest to find the clothing and vintage bicycles that create the look and feeling of those times.

In those days, manly men knew how to dance and recite poetry. They were admired, not only for being rugged, but also for being well-read, intelligent, and elegant. Now, those men who have the courage to exhibit many of these characteristics are often looked upon as "prissy." How did we reach this point? As women entered the workforce in larger and larger numbers right after World War II, and especially in the aftermath of the Women's Movement, they began to dress and behave more like men as part of their effort to break the glass ceiling in the workplace. So men's dress and behavior also changed in response, often becoming more rugged and less elegant. Eventually androgynous behavior and metrosexual fashion became the norm.

Now women make up half the workforce, have broken the glass ceiling, and are CEO's, CFO's and Heads of Households. Women no longer need to dress or behave more like men to achieve equality. In addition, many people simply want a change from the driven, conspicuous consumption, greedy, power hungry, scandal ridden, violent, I want it yesterday, all about me way of life of the past few years. The renaissance of the dress and genteel ways of the Victorian, Edwardian, Belle Epoque, and Gatsby/Jazz Eras is a reaction against all of this. Designers like Alexander McQueen have their finger on the pulse of this renewed desire for old-world style and elegance. The larger question is, will this romanticized renaissance extend past the Tweed Rides, a few designer collections, calling cards, and fictional vampires to make the transition into mainstream society?

I most certainly hope so. As I reminisce about my grandmother, I believe she would be extremely appalled at the lack of breeding and gentility exhibited by many people today. She did not define these characteristics as the result of a generous bank account or high social status, but by the caliber of a person's social skills, manners, integrity, and respect for themselves and others. My grandmother never did possess a large bank account or a place on the social register, however she never left the house without being polished. She would always modestly wear a slip under her skirt or dress, a hat on her head, and gloves on her hands. I never heard her curse, and she always had impeccably good manners. My grandmother had good breeding; she was a genteel lady. I'm truly hoping that there will be a renaissance of good breeding and gentility in mainstream society. This renaissance also gives us the opportunity to combine the equality and independence of modern woman, with the elegant dress, good breeding, gentility, and manners of bygone times. Those of us alive today are very lucky, because we can create the best of both worlds.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Breast Cancer in Women and Men, BRCA1 and 2, and the Patenting of Natural Genes

I want to pass on information about a documentary on breast cancer caused by the BRCA1 and 2 gene mutations. Breast cancer does not solely affect women. I just went for my yearly mammography, and was asked what more I thought my teacher's health trust could do. I explained that they should educate both women and men about breast cancer gene mutations, discuss how a family history of breast and ovarian cancer can be the red flags for both women and men to explore the possibility they may need genetic screening to determine whether or not they have the mutation.

Knowledge is power. Knowing that you have the mutation gives you the power to determine how you will live and deal with possibilities, rather than not know, be surprised by a late-stage cancer diagnosis, and possibly die. Knowing you don't have the mutation takes away a lifetime of worry. Knowledge of whether or not you have the mutation may also inform your decision on whether or not to have children. Men are the underserved population in this type of cancer. This needs to change so that men can also have the knowledge and power to determine their course in life, and also lift the silence about male breast cancer. I invite men to join women in educating and disseminating information about all forms of breast cancer. Please pass this along to all women and men you know and love. Here is the link to the documentary:

A key component to the large amounts of people who need genetic screening, actually getting the screening for BRCA1 and 2, or any other genetic mutation, is the availablity and cost of the screening. This is greatly impacted when companies are allowed to patent genes that naturally occur in nature. Ethically, I believe individuals, corporations and/or governments should never be legally allowed to patent natural genes and life processes. This grants the patent-holder untoward and dangerous power over nature and the human population. Financially, this allows companies to charge customers thousands of dollars and reduces the availability of tests because the number and cost of tests is determined by one company, the patent-holder. Health care is a right. The poor should not "be granted" a different level of care or access to testing than the rich, who can afford to go anywhere in the world for the best health care, testing, genetic screening, or treatment.

Rather than competition for services and profits, I'd prefer cooperation for the betterment of all. Competition automatically creates win-lose situations. In health care, losing may mean horrible pain and death. Cooperation invites win-win situations. Here is a link to an article about the legality of patenting natural genes in relation to health care:

Friday, November 13, 2009

Open Dialogue and Mediation Could Change the State of the Nation

I recently viewed the PBS POV (Point of View) program documentary "The Fire Next Time," about how extremists with an open mike can incite hatred and hate-crimes in an American town in which people used to agree to disagree. The film also shows the process that conflict resolution expert Melinda Smith used to bring both sides back into open dialogue, the necessary beginning to any possibility of a future resolution to the conflict. There is now hope that this conflict may be resolved. The Q & A on the website about Resolving Community Conflicts is excellent and a must-read for anyone interested in resolving conflicts of any kind.

I posted what follows on their site. I agree that open dialogue and mediation are extremely important in resolving conflicts. The United States could most certainly use this on a national level at this time, due to the divisiveness and hate engendered by some national talk radio hosts and news reporters. As Americans, we used to come together to resolve our differences, to help each other and build our communities and country. Now, it seems like vocal people on the outer extremes of both the left and right are bent on using media outlets to incite hate, instead, which is beginning to tear apart the fabric of our society. Perhaps the majority of moderates who have been drowned out by the few, can come together, find common ground, and speak up to lend a more balanced and cohesive central core through which we can weave a more peaceful resolution to the conflicts in which we currently find ourselves. We could all benefit from learning mediation and conflict resolution strategies.

Here are the links, the first to the documentary, the second to the Q & A: