April Showers

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          Here is a wonderful piece of digital art sent to me by my good friend and blogger Cynthia over at Simple Pleasures.  She found it on a beautiful site of poetry called Read Between The Lines where she a subscriber.
          I’ve just subscribed, and I would definitely suggest it to anyone with a heart.
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Awareness: The Social Misjustice of Prostitution

“We say that slavery has vanished from European civilization, but this is not true.
Slavery still exists, but now it applies only to women and its name is prostitution.”

Victor Hugo (1802-1885)

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Drug abuse, violence, coercion, and disease.

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These are not exactly working conditions that summons one to aspire to a career in prostitution; yet, there is never a shortage of new candidates entering the “world’s oldest profession”.  This beckons the question:

  • Why does someone use their bodies to trade sex for money,

  • When all the evidence of this lifestyle proves it as being dangerous and life-threatening?

The pimp’s only aim is to make money off the sex trade of women.


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In her book “The Prostitution of Sexuality, Kathleen Barry describes how the pimp targets women who are vulnerable enough to create an emotional dependency.  Once contact is made, the pimp must:

  • first ensure the woman is influenced by the enticement of substantial financial gain; and then,

  • she must learn to shed any moral objections to prostitution work.

Bill Shackleton in his book Protecting Prostitutes wrote,

“A pimp would use an effective and orderly method of gaining the services of women.  He would first display affection and generosity, and then carefully move to establish a sexual relationship”.

During this stage of recruitment, the woman has never been a prostitute prior to the relationship; and therefore, she needs to learn previous unknown behaviors.

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In progressive steps, the pimp:

  1. rewards her by telling her she is special and beautiful,

  2. she has worth, and

  3. he can help her overcome her difficulties.

Until she becomes skilled and exhibits the changed behaviour he requires, he would increasingly reward her until he gains her trust and cooperation.

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Annette and Graham Scambler discovered that for the prostitute, the most pervasive form of enticement is financial gain.  When she is living the “lifestyle:

  • the payoff is immediate,

  • payday is every day she is willing to work, and Immediacy becomes a way of life.

When the pimp has the prostitute under this control, he ensures Positive Reinforcement is employed through the constant and immediate rewards of getting paid for services rendered.  Free from their poverty lifestyle, he understands she will like having money in her pocket at all times – and for so little effort.

As the relationship develops,
the pimp becomes the prostitute’s father, lover, and friend.

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In her book Of Vice and Women: Shades of Prostitution” Margaretha Järvinen describes how she must work very hard to earn his respect, his love, and to keep him achieving the best in material possessions.

At this point, the pimp understands that he has her under his control. The pimp no longer needs to provide continuous immediate rewards using positive reinforcement because the prostitute is already performing; rather, he changes his tactics:

  • the pimp would reward her intermittently so she can then work even harder to achieve his financial goals, and

  • he rewards her just often enough continue the improving performance of developing into a productive object for him and to keep her satisfied.

The pimp reaches a point where he will use Punishment to maintain control over the prostitute.

He wants her to learn that he is the boss, and she is subservient to him.

He realizes that just punishing her will eventually not bring the desired result he wants (which is obedience) because she will just rebel and move on or become aggressive with him and cause him problems.  Instead, he will use punishment infrequently, and use it in conjunction with other types of rewarding reinforcement.

Prostitutes have to earn the respect of the pimp.

The pimp knows his success is dependent on fuelling two emotions in a woman:

  • love and

  • fear.

To many women,
the lifestyle can be socially fulfilling and psychologically addicting.

By the time women are ready to leave prostitution, they realize that what they have accumulated as a result of their financial dream amounted to little but:

  • a collection of arrest records,

  • a blur of experiences, and

  • a path of abandonment by those they cared about.

The woman has come to the realization there is no rewards left in the trade.

When this time comes, the woman has come to this realization: there are no rewards to be won; therefore, no reason to continue the behavior.

From the beginning to the end of a prostitute’s career,
it is clear the relationship of dependence between the woman and the pimp.

He is always in control, and for the most part is always the one with the power.  He uses every conditioning principle to manipulate the woman into changing her behavior so he can gain maximum benefit for himself alone.

Although the main goal for both parties is to make as much money as possible, his investment in the woman pales in comparison to the cost to her mind and body.

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Victor Hugo called prostitution slavery.
His words are no less valid today as they were two centuries ago.

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Awareness: TOP 10 Lies We Tell Ourselves

We all know how life is – full of constant changes and challenges, responsibilities, and a faster speed of activities.  And it can be enough to drive us crazy because sometimes we just can’t keep up with it.

.Eventually, we have to choose – to choose if we are just going to throw up our arms and give in to the rats winning the race, or get whatever I can and let others find their own way, or maybe continue working towards fulfilling the urge of our personal essence even if it requires sacrifice?

For a lot of people (given the state of the world today), I think we just end up making excuses for not doing something, or continue to put it off.

Sadly, what is sacrificed first and most often is the very things that would make our life better.  You know, the secret hobbies, the book, song, or community project that you know would be a great contribution not only to yourself (through self-expression), but also to the recipients of your work.

Below is the Top Ten Lies we tell  ourselves and qualify them as legitimate reasons to continue the same old path wish and hope would change.

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10 – I am going to die someday – way off in the distant future.

Does this gives me excuses to not get started on the things I want to do?

9 – I have total control over my life; and if I don’t, I can.

“I’ve got it all handled.” Hmmmmmm.

.8 – Life is supposed to be fair.

We’re told over and over the opposite. What am I to expect?

7 – Only the strongest or smartest succeed.

Well, I’m neither … so, help me find a rock to crawl under.

6 – Money is the ultimate root of the world’s evil.

… and who wants to be evil, right?

5 – I need money to make money.

If I want to make money, does that mean I am evil?

4 – It only happens to other people.

There are a lot of messed up people out there, right?

3 – It’s someone else’s fault.

They have all the money, looks, strength, and control (and luck).  Don’t they?

2 – I am not worthy (or deserving, or I am bad, etc)

When I was 6, I …

When I was 10, I …

When I was 14, I …

When I was 19, I …

… and on, and on, and on …

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1 – I’m OK! Really!!!

I’m just having a bad hair day.

(Ya, right!)

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How many of the above lies have You used to not be an expression of yourself?

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Values & Beliefs: How Do We Make Decisions? – pt 1

Have you ever noticed that the longer we travel along this journey called life, there are moments from our past we can now distinguish as significant turning points in the direction our path leads.

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     In hindsight, I get the sense that we can see crystal clear how such seemingly meaningless events and its ensuing decisions can significantly alter not only our focus, but also the created thoughts and meanings otherwise leading to different possible life-altering actions and results.

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Except for the time I heard the Backstreet Boys’ angelic voices when I was rushed to ICU for my heart surgery, no trumpets or violins are heard to tempt the moment, no kind of aural sign to put the instant in perspective – just a somewhat nondescript decision to do ‘this’ instead of ‘that’. Those quiet moments, without fanfare or forewarning. Yet, as we become aware of those defining moments; we etch them in our mind for future references. (This is where my “Meaning-Making Machine” takes over.)

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We generally tend not to give much thought to our many decisions we make, don’t you think? And here’s where I think we get ourselves into trouble – not always a bad trouble, but a trouble none the less.

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So, now I am faced with a lot of questions that may challenge my current value/belief system I hold so dearly and strongly to my heart. Some things I now pose is:

1.   What does this say about fate or destiny? Does it negate these?
2.   Is there anything we can do about it?
3.   Can we benefit from knowing about this?
4.   So what?

In this post, I first want to look at the “so what” because it may help me/us understand the answers to the others.

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We make thousands of decisions a day – from deciding to turn left or right at a corner to deciding whether to pee now or hold it for later. For the most part, these are small decisions that make little or no difference in our everyday efforts.

Still, these decisions are based on our priority goal of that moment.

So, sometimes subconsciously through habit of pre-defined thought and action, or trust, or because you are fulfilling your goal, we decide which way to turn on the street because you have to buy something before you can get home to pee.

Therefore, we decide to hold our bladder. You see, quite trivial and seemingly meaningless (sounds funny, huh?); yet they are based on what and how we make all of our decisions. Yes – the small ones and the BIG ONES!

If we consider that we don’t pay attention (having awareness) to own decision-making process, we can lose the power to make better and healthier decisions, and then miss out on making those decisions that further our life in a positive way.

To be continued …

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Awareness: Youth & Poverty in Toronto

Twenty years ago, Child Poverty was declared as a goal to be eliminated.  While much has been said, not much has been done.  Child poverty is more prevalent today than it ever has been.

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In Canada, 50% of children still live in poverty; and food banks – a temporary measure – still thrives to help keep families fed.

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Homelessness has become a major issue with youth.  Toronto proposed an action plan to deal with this proble;, but again, priorities shift (government to cut investing in youth and business not giving youth a fair deal).  The statistics from several social service agencies still bear it’s urgency:

  • girls are younger than boys when homeless,

  • there is an increase of drug abuse with over ½ of both boys and girls addicted (to deal with their problems).

  • Prostitution is a way for girls to survive, and

  • Theft is the major crime for boys.

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Aside from this, at-risk youth in general is a major concern.  With an unemployment rate of 20% among youth, it is not surprising anger has risen as a venting opportunity leading to more than double the number of youth gangs in the past 10 years.  The government is trying desperately to catch up and save these individuals by implement a few different programs.

What are some of the recurring problems that still make it an issue?

  • Are young people blocked from achieving goals?

  • Are they are deprived of opportunities employment and education needs?

  • Do they tend to be profiled in the media and other institutions in a negative light?

  • This conditioning can lower opportunities.

There are some possible factors that influence these issues:

  • Youth are struggling with their own personal identity on who they want to become to fully express themselves,

  • Young people are caught between two worlds (child and adulthood) as they start accepting responsibility,

  • they are often at odds as to how and who they should be in society as it is often portrayed in media in many misleading and confusing ways, and

  • Youth are often poor.

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Poverty is the major contributor to these issues.

Yet, as we see the politically conservative mindset flood us with a wave of slash and burn opportunities working against young people, (after all, we are in a recession), the poverty reduction strategy by various levels of governments appear to forget about their moral and ethical commitments (for which they were elected) and put this on the back burner.

Sadly, this doesn’t bring us one step closer to resolving the terrible situations youth have to face today.

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Can we realistically expect any substantial change to really take place?

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10 Reasons NOT to Marry in Royalty

.Crown Royal

Life changes when one decides to marry up into royalty!
We’ve seen what happened to England’s Diana.

I’ve decided to write a Top Ten warning list for anybody considering this route.  Don’t say you weren’t forewarned!  (Not in any particular order of importance.)

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1 – Paparazzi know more about your life than you do.

2 – You need a key to your own bathroom.

3 – You can’t wear your bathrobe and wander about the house.

4 – You can’t pawn any possessions in case of hard times.

5 – You can’t sneak off for a quickie.

6 – Food fights are out of the question.

7 – Everyone wants a baby more than you do.

8 – You have to like the in-laws.

9 – She has to wear those gaudy hats.

10 – There’s more than one tunnel in Paris.

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Values & Beliefs: Humanism As A Religion?

I read an article on the American Humanist Association blog “Brainstormin” about God coming to Earth and finally showing himself to humankind.

I was really confused how the conversation centred around
how atheists and believers (religious people) would have quite a go.

I didn’t quite understand all the rukus about someone else’s beliefs – especially since we Humanists tend to not bother with those kind of problems and just love people regardless.  Anyway, the following is my response to the article (and some other people’s comments):

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As a recent self-discovered Humanist, I am confused.  I am (and always have forever been) a lover of people – regardless of who they are.  I almost get a sense there is a bigger question (with very interesting answers) this article brings that may need to be addressed – if we truly are Humanists.

Keep in mind that, as mentioned, I recently discovered my philosophical leanings towards Humanism; so I may raise a very basic ‘tenet’ of Humanism. For the past 30 years, I had always considered myself exclusively an Existentialist (without knowing it) operating in the world as a lapsed Catholic using all the good parts of Christianity without believing the magic.  I have worked in several industries, including government and the military; and I always found myself coming back to social and human services.

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My most recent college studies as a community developer, I found Humanism; and I realized I had a philosophy with which I could identify and consider part of my ‘belief system’.  And what made Humanism even better was the implicit understanding that we love and believe in each other as human beings – regardless of our personal foibles, problems, and ways of expressing ourselves.

The more I am cognitively aware of my Humanistic practices in my everyday doings and beings, the more I realize how difficult it is to live the philosophy.  I sometimes have a private chuckle to myself when I make the comparison between Christianity and Humanism in my daily activities.  When I am doing something easy (such as being friendly to someone I want to speak with), I congratulate myself for my Humanism and openness with others.  When it is a difficult decision (such as choosing not to speak with someone because they have a shady past), I catalogue it under my former Christianity because I could easily excuse it for some kind of reason – any reason that sounds plausible intellectually.

Yet, in my Humanism, I feel empty.

          I have come to understand that as a Humanist, we love people.  Regardless of ugliness of humanity we are fed every day (media, entertainment, etc) and conditioned to accept as the default behaviour of people as a whole, I always thought we moved beyond the noise of civilization and stayed focused on what mattered – people and life and living and loving – without conditions.

So please forgive my ignorance for the following questions:

Why are we concerned with “what” others believe in?

Wouldn’t it be more fruitful and in line with our Humanism to try and understand what it is about the magic of religion that have them believe in the unbelievable?

When I think about the above scenario, my first thought is “so what?”.  I am not going to go gaga over a spiritual being who has a reputation of being all powerful and loving yet lets the world go to hell.  If anything, I would question his motives.  My second thought would be to try and figure out how to persuade him/her (if in human form) to cure the human physical illnesses of the world as the first priority.  The pain and suffering of cancers, etc are truly ‘ungod-like’ and sinister.

The next, and most important thought I would have, is to be in dialogue with God to have her/him convince the world of how organized religion has ruined his/her intentions in giving us this ‘love moral’.  The God would convince the world that S/he is actually a Humanist and used that philosophy as the blueprint and purpose of all Humanity from the outset

S/he would have to convince the world that when religion became organized (because the founding leaders discovered the power of belief), it became bastardized.  As soon as the human frailty, paternalism, and powerlessness emerging civilizations got added, the goals and results of their teachings became part of the problem of civilization – not the solution.  Hence, we have different religions that all purport to have the answers with ‘their’ solutions.  Sad, isn’t it?

As I said above, religion IS a Humanism.

Only when it is used as a religious practice does it become skewed because it takes the focus away from loving and praising all there is that another human can offer to focusing on worshipping ancient objects and metaphors that were meant for teaching purposes only.

I stay away from religion as a belief system, but it doesn’t mean I stay away from the people who worship Gods.  Heck, I sing in a church choir (and not even from the denomination of my past) for the sole purpose of singing. I don’t participate in the service.  I just love singing.  I like the people because they love singing too.

To end this diatribe, I would ask this:

As Humanists, can we forget about the noise of what people are doing and just love them?

Can we get beyond dealing with the results of actions and focus on the causes?