Two Paths in the Woods, Pt 2. Beyond Symbolic and Poetic Words By Guest Author Anthony Marsella

Another nuclear accident? Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. By Dr Lesley Morrison.


The path we choose in our lives is not merely a symbolic or poetic path — one presented so eloquently by Robert Frost’s image of worn and less-trodden paths at a fork in the road.   No! The path before us is an essential life-nurturing and sustaining path and each person must choose to renounce violence, destruction, war, and killing. In each of our daily habitual actions, we are making moral choices regarding the survival of our planet.

Humanity is at the point of extinguishing countless life forms and expressions. We engage in an unbridled assault upon each other and upon the natural world. Our appetites for destruction are endless in virtually every realm of our lives — economic, political, social, educational, and moral. Our global condition is well–known, and yet we are oblivious to the dangerous consequences of actions we are supporting. These facts are most visible in the United States of America, a nation once symbolized as a “beaming light-on-the-hill.” It is now  a nation whose policies and actions — whose “choices” — are characterized by corruption, cronyism, exploitation, violence, inequity, prison population disproportions, and the sins of affluence (e.g.,  lobbyists, hypocrisy [hypocracy], contempt for citizen rights and participation [demonocracy], and slow deaths by obesity, malnutrition, racism, classism, poverty). We can do better.

The mass media, a potential voice for informing and educating citizens is a participant in destruction. Analyses of critical news events become opportunities to defame the “other side” — whatever that may be! Receptive audiences choose to watch and to listen to media supporting their existing views. Minds become closed to doubt and fall prey to gossip, calumny, half-truths, entrapment, stereotypes, falsehoods, and misrepresentations. We can do better.

*Anthony J. Marsella, Ph.D., Emeritus Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Hawaii. Dr. Marsella’s essay was originally published by Transcend Media Service at . We will publish excerpts from it intermittently over the next few months.

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7 Responses to Two Paths in the Woods, Pt 2. Beyond Symbolic and Poetic Words By Guest Author Anthony Marsella

  1. Gold Dust Twin says:

    How many lives have been wrecked by malicious, misleading gossip? Sensational headlines are usually little more than shouted falsehoods and exaggerations designed to catch the eye as they call, “Buy me and I’ll give you details that will make your hair stand on end!” I don’t trust the big corporate news channels anymore. To get a better understanding of what goes on in the world, I watch the news programs on public television, and read Truthout, Jim Hightower’s monthly newsletter, and Engaging Peace.

  2. Nicole V. says:

    This blog post talks about how it is human kind’s responsibility to better the environment by renouncing war, destruction and killing instead of choosing a destructive path. One area that has much room for improvement is the destructive treatment of people of different races and ethnicities within the United States. Violent behaviors such as intimate partner violence, elder abuse, and child maltreatment, become much more prevalent within communities exposed to greater levels of poverty and discrimination. Due to the fact that both race and ethnicity are associated with income levels, it is often that certain violent social habits are found among impoverished communities. Black parents, for example, are more likely to approve of spanking as well as other forms of physical punishment. In addition, when focusing on incidents of intimate partner violence, the highest rates were found amongst black communities. Poverty, however, is not the only factor that contributes to potentially dangerous environments. Some ideologies are also very influential. Within the Latino community, “machismo” encompasses various cultural values harnessing damaging behaviors such as tolerant “of aggression against female partners.” Further, certain cultural values found among Asian, Latino and Native American communities such as marital devotion, cultural taboos about addressing intimacy, and honor placed individuals within these groups more at risk for intimate partner violence, in particular. Furthermore, incidents of elder abuse in which a person was blamed for their abuse, unaccepting of outside help for an elderly person, and the most tolerant of this kind of abuse in general was seen in Korean American families.
    When the more privileged sectors of society view the hurtful and debilitating actions being prevalent within minorities of the population, it allows for stereotypes to be applied to people who may very well not be maltreating their children, their elders, or their significant others. The blog post referred specifically to minds becoming “closed to doubt” and instead allowing misrepresentations, gossip, and half-truths to dictate reality and go unquestioned. Furthermore, certain factors such as “fear of retaliation, victim-blaming attitudes, resistance within the criminal justice system poverty, all its associated factors, fear of abandonment by one’s religious or ethnic community, general distrust,” are genuine concerns that children, female, or the elderly consider when debating the social consequences of breaking away from their community. Kathleen Malley-Morrison’s book on family violence encourage “increased cultural sensitivity and competence” to reduce the occurrences of family violence among the American population, but in particular, the more vulnerable minorities that fall prey to environments conducive to violence among different family members.

  3. Celeste H. says:

    It is disheartening that the mass media has so much influence on the general population, but instead of using this power for good, mass media enforces racism, stereotypes, violence and overall negative messages about important social issues. During the last election cycle, the media had a chance to provide an accurate representation of social and economic inequality in the United States, but instead they focused on attention grabbing less vital headlines. Currently in the United States, the top ten percent of the wealthiest people have about 75% of the total wealth in this country, while the bottom ninety percent only has about 25%. If more voters were aware of and understood this inequality maybe we would not have seen the election of wealthy conservatives who seek to reduce vital social programs and assistance to those in desperate need. One of these vulnerable groups that rely on government programs are older adults and people with disabilities. The rate of self neglect in elders is 37.2%, and one study found that 11.3 in 1,000 older adults have experienced some form of maltreatment. Many elders with declining health and health problems may become on able to take care of themselves and experience self neglect or may have to rely on caregivers who are neglectful or abusive. Low income and living in disadvantaged areas are some of the most powerful predictors of elder maltreatment. This demonstrates why governmental support programs for older adults are so important, they can ease the financial burden and create a safer environment where maltreatment is less likely to occur. In addition, frailty of the victim puts elders at higher risk for maltreatment. With programs that provide adequate and affordable healthcare to older adults we can help keep older adults healthy and less likely to face some sort of abuse or neglect.
    The mass media should focus on the huge inequalities in the United States that are contributing to some of our most prominent social issues. Instead of spending time just trying to be flashy or indulging stereotypes, the mass media should work to provide a clear and truthful picture of important issues, like elder violence.

  4. Michaela Buckley says:

    I’m not sure if I’d go so far as to say that “our appetites for destruction are endless in virtually every realm of our lives — economic, political, social, educational, and moral,” but when looking through the lens of some of the specific issues in society, this hyper-negative view on humanity does seem to apply. Intimate partner violence (IPV) towards women, for example, is certainly multifaceted. As HMM writes, “abusive relationships often involve more than one type of maltreatment, including physical assault, psychological maltreatment, sexual assault, and stalking. In fact, 93% of women who reported experiences of physical IPV also experienced psychological aggression, 30% experienced stalking, and 30% experienced stalking by the same partner. Additionally, the consequences of female victimization from IPV can span a wide range, including social, economic, physical, and psychological ramifications. It’s also worth noting that IPV does not solely affect casual dating relationships; 12.1% of wives reported that they had been victims of some sort of violence (pushing, slapping, punching, etc.) from their husbands within the previous year.
    Just as this post suggests that the choices our country makes leads to a lot of systematic violence, there are multiple macrosystem factors that lead to intimate partner violence. Poverty is one of these predictors. Statistics from the DOJ show us that physical IPV against women is highest in the poorest income category, and becomes lower as income increases. Perhaps doing something to fix the income disparity in this county could indirectly alter IPV rates for this population.
    More generally, some of our country’s attitudes can lead to this type of violence, specifically those concerning traditionalism and the approval of violence against women. This approval of violence makes sense as a risk factor, but what about traditionalism? Some reasons could be that traditional and conservative beliefs lead both men and women to be less assertive with one another, which is related to IPV against women. However, the common theme of most of these IPV risk factors is stress. As HMM writes, “stress, particularly when it is combined with feelings that the marriage is unimportant (Strauss, 1990b), is one of the strongest predictors of a husband hitting his wife (O’Leary, 1988).” If we could look for the facts in the media, rather than just listening for what we want to hear, then maybe our country can learn a little more about the acceptable and unacceptable ways to treat one another. The fact that some members of our country are so tolerant of violence in this way is unacceptable.

  5. Stephanie Moses says:

    This blog post discusses the idea that people choose their own paths in life, and that too often, the choices we make are “characterized by corruption, cronyism, exploitation, violence, inequity, prison population disproportions, and the sins of influence.” People make choices based on influencers that surround them, for example mass media, as stated in the blog post. Mass media is a participant in destruction in that it invites people to take part in destruction. It informs citizens, often using gossip and misrepresentations to influence people in choosing sides on issues. Like mass media, religion influences people’s choices, guiding them in following certain paths, choosing to participate in violent behaviors, and rejecting violence.

    Connecting the influence of religion on family violence, religious groups are treated as cultural groups, because all religions are comprised of cultural values that influence how people behave. For example, Conservative Protestants are supportive of corporal punishment, with child-rearing manuals emphasizing the importance of obedience and submission of children, and religious texts demanding that children be beat. In addition to corporal punishment, there are other kinds of maltreatment associated with religion, including the withholding of medical care, abuse by people with religious authority, and attempts to rid a child of evil. Parents might use God’s name to abuse their children, saying things like “God will punish you.” Christian Scientists do not believe in medications to heal sicknesses, and there is evidence that around 10 children die a year from religion-based medical neglect. There have been many conflicts between the criminal justice system and religion, but in 90 percent of cases involving religion-based objections of medical treatment for children, courts favored the physicians.

    While religion can serve as a risk factor for family violence, most strongly in fundamentalist religions, it can also serve a positive role. A study on intimate partner violence with a Hispanic sample found that incompatibility in religious beliefs was a predictor of husband-to-wife violence. However, there is evidence that spousal abuse is lower when religious values are made a part of family life. Conservative Protestants, while supporting corporal punishment, also support hugging and praising their children more than parents of other religions. Religion can provide social support for victims of maltreatment, and help in spiritually transforming survivors.

    As stated in the blog post, we often make choices oblivious to the dangerous consequences of the actions we support, and this holds true with religion factoring into our decision-making. We must be aware of how our daily habitual actions impact our world. Religious texts can be interpreted based on different readings, and I believe that by focusing on the religious texts that shine light on nonviolent behaviors, people can reject destruction, war, killing, and violence.

  6. Courtney G says:

    In the blog the author argues that the mass media is often a destructive voice in the United States, often using analyses of critical news events to defame different viewpoints. This made me think about domestic violence within the LGBTQI relationships since until recently members of this community were reluctant to speak out about domestic violence for fear of the further stigmatization society would place on their communities (Chapter 8 pg. 261) likely with the help of the mainstream media. However, while exact prevalence rates are hard to determine due to this reluctance to disclose because of perceived stigma, research has shown that IPV in the LGBTQI relationships is just as pervasive as heterosexual relationships (Chapter 8 pg. 262). In fact, lesbians and gay men both experience physical and psychological maltreatment in their relationships, with rates in gay male couples appearing lower, however is should be noted that there are only two published studies examining gay male relationships and physical and psychological maltreatment (Chapter 8 pg. 265). Sexual maltreatment (Chapter 8 pg. 266) and stalking (Chapter 8 pg. 267) are also issues faced in this community as well. While IPV has been studied in the LGBTQI community, no research has been done on child maltreatment in LGBTQI families despite the growing number of these couples either adopting children, becoming parents through surrogacy, or raising children from previous heterosexual marriages in LGBTQI families (Chapter 8 pg. 269).

    This unique community also faces its own set of unique risk factors for IPV. One of which is highly related to the blog post. American values have long included homophobia, heterosexism, and homonegativity, which are often perpetuated by some forms of mainstream media. This attitude can have negative effects on LGBTQI individuals and even perpetuate not only violence and harassment against them, but also their own perpetration of IPV. Research (on lesbian and bisexual women) has shown that facing discrimination based on sexual orientation was linked to higher self-reports of committing acts of IPV (Chapter 8 pg. 272). LGBTQI community members may also internalize these negative attitudes of homophobia, however, research on the relationship between internalized homophobia and IPV has mixed findings (Chapter 8 pg. 273). Not surprisingly, other risk factors for the LGBTQI IPV are harassment at school and discrimination in the workplace (Chapter 8 pg. 270).

    The consequences for victims of IPV appear to be similar for both same-sex and opposite-sex intimate relationships (Chapter 8 pg. 283), however the resources available to the victims of each are not. Agencies are often ill-equipped to address the needs of LGBTQI victims of IPV (Chapter 8 pg. 284) and have been critiqued as “heterosexist and unwelcoming” (Chapter 8 pg. 285), which likely plays into the communities fears of further stigmatization accompanying disclosure of IPV in their relationships. Ultimately the heterosexist and homophobic attitude of society is one that the mainstream media has the opportunity to be, as the author states “potential voice for informing and educating citizens”, however when it comes to the LGBTQI community that is often not the case, especially with conservative news sources.

    *All citations from “Family Violence in the United States: Defining, Understanding and Combating Abuse” by Hines, Malley-Morrison, and Dutton.

  7. Barbara says:

    About the word “gay” — My mom wrote poems for children’s magazines. She couldn’t understand why her publishers’ editors made a strange request: Please don’t used the word “gay” in your verses. When she asked me to explain, I did so. Her response was, “Why can’t they use some other word?” They do, I said, and told my innocent mother that she should also avoid using the word “queer.” She found that rather odd as well.

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