Mixed Salad of Thoughts

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Persecution of Baha'is

Yesterday I read Elizabeth's blog, and she linked to an article about privilege, asking people to be more aware and comment on the privileges they receive for being who they are/where they are/when they are:

I am privileged to live in a time and place where practicing my religion is not a cause for fear of prosecution or severe prejudice by my government, my friends, or society as a whole.

Unfortunately, even today this is not true in all parts of the world...


NEW YORK, 24 May 2006 (BWNS) -- Iranian officials have arrested 54 Baha'is
in the city of Shiraz, the Baha'i International Community has learned. They
are mostly youth and were all engaged in humanitarian service when they were
arrested. It is one of the largest number of Baha'is taken at once since
the 1980s. The specific charges are not clear, though in the past, Baha'is
have been arrested summarily on false charges.

The arrests occurred on Friday, 19 May, while the Baha'is, along with
several other volunteers who were not Baha'is, were teaching classes to
underprivileged children in a school as part of a UNICEF community service
activity conducted by a local non-governmental organization. At the time of
the arrests, they had in their possession a letter of permission from the
Islamic Council of Shiraz. They also carried the letter of permission in
each of their classes.

The nature of the charges against the Baha'is is unknown at this time. The
day following the arrests, a judge told family members that the detainees
would be freed soon. As of today, it appears that all of the non-Baha'is and
one Baha'i junior youth have been released without having to post bail.

The arrests coincided with raids on six Baha'i homes during which notebooks,
computers, books, and other documents were confiscated. In the last 14
months, 72 Baha'is across Iran have been arrested and held for up to several

"These new arrests in Shiraz, coming after more than a year of 'revolving
door' detentions, bring the total number of Baha'is who have been arrested
without cause to more than 125 since the beginning of 2005," said Bani
Dugal, principal representative of the Baha'i International Community to the
United Nations.

"Taken all together, this pattern of arbitrary arrests and detentions amount
to the purest form of religious persecution and reflect nothing less than a
calculated effort by the Iranian government to keep the Baha'i community
utterly off balance and in a state of terror,"
Ms. Dugal said.

The arrests come against a backdrop of increasing concern by international
human rights monitors that the Iranian Government is escalating its
25-year-long campaign of persecution against the 300,000-member Baha'i
community of Iran, the largest religious minority in that country.

In March, the UN Special Rapporteur of the Commission on Human Rights on
freedom of religion or belief released news of a secret 29 October 2005
letter from the Iranian military high command ordering police and
Revolutionary Guard units to "identify" and "monitor" members of the Baha'i
community of Iran, saying the existence of such a letter made her "highly

Moreover, since late 2005, more than 30 mostly negative and often defamatory
articles about the Baha'is and their religion have appeared in "Kayhan," the
official Tehran daily newspaper. Radio and television broadcasts have
likewise increasingly condemned the Baha'is and their beliefs.

Since January, in addition to the 54 arrested in Shiraz last Friday, seven
Baha'is have been arrested and held for periods of up to one month in
Kermanshah, Isfahan, and Tehran.

Among those arrested in January was Mrs. Roya Habibi of Kermanshah, who has
reported that she was interrogated for eight hours, with questions focused
on her role as coordinator of a program to provide religious instruction in
the Baha'i Faith.

In the court document that sets out the charges against her, Mrs. Habibi,
who is currently out on bail, "is charged with teaching the Bahaism sect and
acting in an insulting manner towards all that is holy in Islam."

"While it is often difficult to get details on the charges against Baha'is,
there is no doubt that most of them -- like the case against Mrs. Habibi --
are motivated purely by religious intolerance and prejudice," said Ms.

Last year, some 65 Baha'is were arrested and held for periods of time
ranging from a few days to more than a month.

While most were held less than a week, others were jailed for up to three
months. Some of the prisoners last year were held incommunicado, in unknown
locations, while their families desperately searched for them. Last year
also, government agents conducted prolonged searches of many of their homes,
confiscating documents, books, computers, copiers and other belongings.

In the 1980s, some 200 Baha'is were killed or executed. Thousands were
arrested and hundreds were imprisoned, many for long periods. In recent
years, in the face of international monitoring, the executions and long-term
imprisonments have stopped.

For more information go to: http://www.bahai.org/persecution/iran

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Friday, May 19, 2006

What I know is that I think of commission as being my salary. It's what I get paid for the work I do. I do not think of myself as a Customer Service Professional, I think of myself as a Sales Professional. I know that my ability to sell is what pays my rent, and will continue to do so probably through a few more jobs and companies. And yet, I have a love/hate relationship with commission. I do not get paid more for problem customers, or difficult to close sales...but I DO get paid more overall the better I am at dealing with ALL customers and closing as many sales as possible. But there are times, and there are customers with whom I have to deal sometimes that I feel it just isn't worth it, I feel like I'm not paid enough to deal with this customer, or that the amount I get paid will never balance out with the amount of work those customers are going to present. (Ask anyone in retail and they'll tell you that unhappy people are unhappy customers and will make it be known before, during and LONG after the sale).

It is these times that I question the idea of sales, and my position in it. Customers should not receive lesser service because I'm not getting paid enough off of their sale, and I shouldn't get paid less to serve certain customers, and yet each is (when I dig down to analytical layers of my brain that my boss shouldn't hear about) true.

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But is it FAIR?

I don't know how many times in my life I will have to run into seemingly different personal obstacles and then later realize they fall under the same category of Justice & Fairness, but it seems to be never ending.

I analyze everything.

That seemed to need to be a paragraph all on its own... It is that important to understand, if one is to understand me.

I analyze everything and I believe that a good deal of my success in life is because of it. I believe that the reason I am good at art, the reason I'm a quick learner, the reason I can solve problems better than the next guy, and the reason I am so good in sales is because I am good at analyzing.

I analyze my personal habits, my emotions, my plans, my surroundings, my reactions, and just about anything that I can.

Other people don't analyze as much as I do....It's hard for me to realize this all the time, but I know it to be true. And I've even tried analyzing whether this is a good thing or a bad thing; I haven't come to a definitive answer, but what I have decided is that:

a. People who don't analyze are much easier to brainwash (and often seem much happier because of it).
b. One should not try to explain how one came to the outcome of analysis to people who don't analyze.
c. It is better to NOT tell people (especially one's boss, professor, or mother) about the shortcomings you've discovered in yourself through self-analysis and are currently working on.

Keeping these three things in mind is important for me, and yet I seem to slip up ALL the time.

Now a smart person doesn't point out their difficulties and shortcomings to their boss.

I'm highly intelligent....I make no claims to being smart.

I know you are not supposed to talk about your job on blogs, but again...I make no claims to being smart. I'll JUST say that I slipped up on point "c" this week and not only had (what I thought was going to be just a discussion) a massive debate with my boss, but a seriously catastrophic collision wherein my boss now believes that I "purposefully" give bad service to certain customers-- simply because I've analyzed my techniques enough to recognize that my feelings (about certain issues in the company that I think are not fair) effect my sales ability and tried discussing the issue itself and its resulting effect. He now feels it necessary to tell me that if I can't give fair, equal, and identical service to ALL customers then I can no longer work for the company....ouch!

I let him know that I always give fair service, but I NEVER give identical service because EACH customer is different and receives their own individualized service. I feel that I am fair, and I try my best to be equal, and I am working to not to let my feelings effect me, but often it requires a conscious effort to overcome unconscious reactions.

No one else would probably even recognize their unconscious reactions, much less try to discuss ethical issues with their boss.

[rainman voice] "Def...def...definitely not that smart, definitely not that smart [/rainman voice]Perhaps I should go back to analyzing "safe" things-- like how to get people to jump out of a plane.

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Thursday, May 18, 2006

Jumping for Joy!

So...I'm letting it out: I'm turning 30! I know, I know, it's a shock and a suprise to me too. But I'm looking forward to it....actually I'm looking forward to the day after it; I'm looking forward to the 17th of June.

On June 17th, I'm planning on going skydiving. I've invited my friends, and their friends, and my family, and anyone else who would like to go to join me for the day to come down to Ottawa Illinois (just west of Chicago) and either go sky diving, or spend the day picnicing/horseback riding/canoeing, or hanging around while I go through training and go on my first jump. There's also the option of camping for the night, or staying in the bunk houses.

Let me know if you'd like to come!

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Sunday, May 14, 2006

A tipping point?

I took a college course on Italian Art History from the 1400s-1600s several years ago, and as many interesting things as I learned about artists, and frescos, and technique, nothing stuck with me as much as the idea of the values of an Italian city. The city was formed and held three important positions: it provided protection, it provided city services (roads, water, etc.) and it provided for the beauty of the city. A city's pride was based on it's beauty and you could not get permission to construct something new without first having a panel of people evaluate the plans and agree that it would add to the beauty of the city. It was believed that the beauty of a city would lead it to greater peace and prosperity. I have felt since then that this is an overlooked aspect of urban planning and city government. I have always hated people who disrespect the environment around them by littering or defacing property. I have believed that the more rundown a place looks, the more people will treat it disrespectfully and believed in the value of art to elevate a place and the people that use that place. I've often thought government implemented mixed income housing must be so much more successful than low-income housing in single structures, or that is all grouped together; and it seems they are moving in this direction. Although it was often the city that got the blame for poor maintenance of public housing, I think it had more to do with the "tipping point" at which a certain amount of decline in the facilities (which could occur for any number of reasons) became a dramatic factor in the lack of pride or respect that people had in/for that property and led to an exponential decline in the safety, cleanliness, and livability of those areas.

I just listened to (an abridged version) of Malcolm Gladwell's The Tipping Point and found it very interesting. In the book Gladwell talks about how epidemics are started--epidemics of style, thought, crime, and disease. He talks about how a single, or a small number of factors can become the "tipping point" that allows an epidemic to break out and spread more rapidly than anyone looking at one of those individual factors would ever imagine.

He discussed how New York City's crime rate in the transit system took a dramatic turn for the better when they began diligently removing grafitti and cracking down on farejumpers. Although those small factors seemed incredibly unimportant and a waste of time to many of the transit police at the time, changing the way they handled it and the seriousness with which they took it led to a change in the way people saw transit stations, trains and transit police, and the way they subsequently treated and acted in the system. These changes led to changes in the overall policing of the city, and eventually to dramatic drop in the murder rate in NYC.

Although it seems amazing that removing grafitti could contribute to a drop in murder rates, it is a definite contributor to the end result. We tend to put certain "logical" and "big picture" things much higher on the list when thinking about creating change, but more often than we realize it is the small changes that make the difference between something spreading one-by-one and something spreading exponentially.

These ideas are so interesting to me, and I've been cycling through different ideas that fit within this model, and thinking about change and how it works/can work. Expect a few more posts on this subject when I get those thoughts collected. :)

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Monday, May 08, 2006

More discussion on beauty

I've been on a discussion board that's been discussing some of the same issues with women and beauty and society and have been having some interesting discussion.

As someone there said:
My points thus far have been made to point out what I believe to be a comparison of the amount of direct influence males have over a woman's inadequacy (and thus her need to feel beautiful, etc) vs the amount of influence females have over the same sense of inadequacy.

I think that through a woman's lifetime, her female associations have more of an effect on her self image than her male associations.

- A woman will usually interact first with female peers regarding gender issues, even before 'first contact' with a member of the opposite sex.
- In the early stages, issues such as who's ugly, who's cute, who's hot, who's a whore, etc etc are discussed with her female friends. At this point, she learns how to act, how to feel, how not to dress prior to any interaction with males.
- In the early stages, males are goofy. Period. If you're claiming that they are consciously attempting to shape the female psyche in order to maintain a stranglehold of control of the unliberated female psyche, you're on crack. Males at this age snort milk through their nose, and momentarily lose motor control when they *think* they can see a girl's undies.
- Women go to the bathroom together. This happens ALL the time. This. Does. Not. Happen. With. Guys. Ever. And if it does, it is not discussed. Ever.

Humour aside (it's 2 in the morning. I'm weak.) women spend a whole lot of time convincing each other about why other women are beautiful and why they're ugly before they ever get any kind of commentary from a guy. This happens in their early years all the way through to first contact. The issues are discussed at length in slumber parties, between classes, in teen magazines and women's magazines. I mean, you've got publications that are allegedly written BY women FOR women about 'health' and 'Beauty', and you've had that for generations prior to the very first GQ.

You talked about the "early stages" but I think you're skipping ahead of the real "early stages". I'm sorry I don't have the actual study, but I know I've read about it too:
I keep thinking about that study a few years ago where the researchers took a bunch of babies and dressed them all like girls. Then they asked strangers to interact with them. The adults assumed (because of the clothes) that the babies were all girls. When the handled them they did so gently, and used words like "pretty" and "fragile". Then the researchers took the same babies, dressed them as boys and repeated the experiment. This time, the adults played rougher games with the babies and called them things like "strong" and "smart". Overall, the adults assessed the "boy" babies (who were really boys and girls) as healthy and competent, and the "girl" babies as "tiny" (even though they were the same babies) and "beautiful". It made me wonder how many assessments I make about babies based on their gender, and how I treat them without even thinking about it.

We are told what we are and how we should behave and look from our infancy by both Men and Women. Children pick up on the traits that are most desired and accepted. Boys are guided towards being "tough" and a "big boy" and girls are encouraged to be "sweet" and "pretty" by encouragement of every adult they meet who either lavishes attention on these positives or scolds them for their opposites.

Studies also show that uglier children get less attention from their parents and others than their more attractive counterparts, so just as a two year old has already figured out exactly how to manipulate their parents into giving them popsicles for dinner, how much do little girls also figure out that the prettier they make themselves the more love and attention they will receive as a reward?

By the time we reach slumber parties it's more like we're comparing "trade secrets" and "marketing strategies" than just encouraging our friends to buy into the concepts.
Can't you all just exist without putting yourselves in the context of a man?
I don't have a fully formed thought on it, but it does seem interesting to me that when there is a large enough community of homosexuals a certain culture develops and that the gay male culture seems quite based on looks and physique, and the lesbian cultures seem far less focused on physical attributes. Could it be that we all market ourselves in the way we find most effective for our prospective mates, and when women no longer need to market themselves to men the physical aspects are of less importance?

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Friday, May 05, 2006

Gender, Beauty and Self-Worth

Today Stephanie said something that touched a few ideas that have been aggressively tangoing about in my head. While knitting baby sweaters she wondered about whether to use a particular pattern on an infant boy's sweater:
I keep thinking about that study a few years ago where the researchers took a bunch of babies and dressed them all like girls. Then they asked strangers to interact with them. The adults assumed (because of the clothes) that the babies were all girls. When the handled them they did so gently, and used words like "pretty" and "fragile". Then the researchers took the same babies, dressed them as boys and repeated the experiment. This time, the adults played rougher games with the babies and called them things like "strong" and "smart". Overall, the adults assessed the "boy" babies (who were really boys and girls) as healthy and competent, and the "girl" babies as "tiny" (even though they were the same babies) and "beautiful". It made me wonder how many assessments I make about babies based on their gender, and how I treat them without even thinking about it.
I have been thinking a lot lately about gender roles, sexism, and our percieved sense of value/self-worth in regards to gender lately.

It started in a variety of ways, but I think I voiced it (which somehow is how I come to more concrete thoughts) when I read a post of Lacey's where she was complaining about being whistled at while walking down the street. A guy had responded that we are all narcissistic to some degree and that we enjoy feeling attractive. I replied (basically, but I've added stuff later):
I think the men who believe or say that they are complimenting women by accepting or participating in these behaviors also have to have the underlying idea that a woman's self-worth is based (only?) on her attractiveness to men. That somehow, her person is made to feel more worthy by having outside attention placed upon its beauty. Not only is this a misguided sense of worth, but is very one-sided, as the same cannot be said about men. Men are rarely given this type of attention for their physical bodies, and we don't see a beautiful man and believe him to be a success and an ugly man and assume he is a failure, as is often the case when people judge women. We have words like "gold-digger" and "cougar" as derogatory terms for women who place a man's worth according to his pocketbook or his youth, but there are no words for men like this...we seem to just accept that the universal judging of women according to looks alone is okay.

I'd prefer someone to compliment me on my style, my attitude, my intelligence, my choices, my accomplishments,or my hard work over my body or looks ANY day!
Lacey responded to the thread of comments by saying:
What I'm learning is if I want to "blend" and just become part of the woodwork (which is GENUINELY what I want when walking to get coffee), I have to purposely make myself look less attractive.

I wish I could say that I was unaffected by what people around me do, but it gets to me. There are some things that I couldn't care less what someone thought of me, but when it comes to me physically, it bugs me. They point out the good as well as the bad. I don't want to hear either.
And I agree, I don't want to hear it either. Whether I feel good about myself should have little to nothing to do with what my physical body looks like. If I'm bathed and dressed in clean clothes that should be sufficient physically. It should be about the life I choose to live and how I've lived it that determines my self-confidence & pride.

I've just become really sick of our society and media telling us/showing us that women have to be beautiful to be successful and confident and to realize our full potential. I feel like I'm unable to fully voice all the ways this is done, and how different this is than the way men are treated. My brain swims with examples, but finds very few that I can hammer down and say "here, look, this is IT"... especially since women seem so willing to accept it and buy into it, and participate and further its cause. How can I say that we should not be subjected to it, and then turn around, put on make-up, wear a form-fitting outfit and help my friends pick out outfits to "better flatter" their figures? Is this the Overeaters Anonymous paradox? The paradox wherein one must break the addiction and yet cannot completely give up the errant/addictive/unwanted activity? How we say that beauty is unimportant and somehow NOT base our worth upon it, but still take part in things meant to achieve it?

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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Trader Joe is my new crush


Trader Joe's has apparently been tracking me for years and stocking up on everything I buy or am likely to buy...EVER!

I hit the first aisle and knew I was in trouble. Item after Item was something I wanted and I immediately found myself holding back in a way I usually reserve for tool stores, knitting stores and chocolate shops. I don't think I've ever had this kind of experience at a grocery store!

Perhaps I should explain that my normal grocery store experience entails searching every aisle for the few things in it that I will eat, and enjoy, and can afford, and then having to do a second round when, after I finish the first round, I realize I don't have enough food in my cart.

In a size less than 1/4 that of my normal grocery store was almost everything I ever buy. I was there just before close, so the produce was a little bit low, but that didn't phase me at all, especially when I got to the frozen food section and found vegetables galore, with mixes I've never even seen at my store.

They had the Tofutti Cuties Ice Cream sandwiches that my Dominick's quit carrying a couple of months ago, they had an awesome selection of nuts--roasted, raw, salted, unsalted, They had Indian ready meals for $1.99. They had Frozen Nan and Garlic Nan!
They had, be still my heart... GELATTO!!!! I love Trader Joe....no, really, where is he? Get him over here, I want at least a hug!

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