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Myopia Epidemic: Get Outside and Play

This morning twitter gifted me with a fascinating study published this year in Nature magazine entitled, “The myopia boom: Short-sightedness is reaching epidemic proportions. Some scientists think they have found a reason why.”

Myopia2The study reports alarming and very dramatic increases in myopia (the scientific term for near-sightedness/short-sightedness) worldwide with Asian myopia rates now well over 90% compared to 10-20% just sixty years ago.

Intriguing in the analysis is the finding that time spent outside correlates with myopia with the highest risk for developing myopia among children and adolescents spending the greatest amount of time indoors and the lowest risk experienced by those spending the most time out of doors.  Activity level was surprisingly not a factor, but light exposure is.

Our eyes need light, especially unfiltered, natural sunlight in order to be healthy.  We need to get out of doors and play.  And on nice days we need to move our classrooms out of doors, something I am pleased to say my teachers did from time to time, especially in springtime.

So get outside — even when the weather is a less than ideal — and help preserve and protect your sight.  You deserve nothing less than healthy eyes.

Going at it alone: more lessons from Josh Duggar

josh-duggar-reason-for-abuseRecently the Duggar family went on the record in an effort to lay to rest the scandal concerning Josh Duggar’s molestation of his sisters when he was fourteen years old.

In the interview the Duggar parents admit that Josh informed them of his behaviour three times across 2002 and 2003 and that each time the family decided it was best to deal with it from within the family boundaries instead of going outside of it.  When that did not work on the first attempt, they went to their church for help.  On the third time in 2003 they sent Josh to a faith-based camp for help.  But in all three cases it was dealt with entirely from the tiny confines of their close-knit community instead of informing the law and allowing the state to step in.

In 2012 I wrote a report for Yahoo Voices concerning rape and incest within the insular orthodox Jewish communities, a report that was re-posted into this blog before Yahoo dismantled Yahoo Voices.  In that report I called for an end to victim-blaming in religious communities.  Sadly with the Duggars his victims are also defending his behaviour, no doubt partially because the Duggar parents are in denial themselves regarding just how serious sexual violence is.

Until we start treating sexual crimes as serious, until we stop making excuses for those who violate the physical integrity of other people, and until we genuinely punish the perpetrators of these crimes while providing a strong and protective support system for those hurt by them then of course we cannot expect to stem this epidemic of violence and sexual violence.  Even in 2015 we treat rape as “no big deal.”  Women and men both do this, including victims of assault and sexual assault.  We keep making excuses and telling those hurt to shut up and “get over it.”

Now as a healed survivor, I am the first to say that experiencing assault and sexual assault does NOT BREAK YOU.  It doesn’t taint you.  It doesn’t make you less of anything.  In fact it becomes an opportunity for transcendence, to grow into something greater and be a better person — no different than any other form of hardship.  This isn’t lessening the horror of the experience; what I suffered WAS HORRIFYING.  A healthy human being MUST BE HORRIFIED by violence and especially sexual violence.  At the same time, our societies have this habit of not only dismissing survivors when we speak up (been there!), but also treating us as the walking dead.  So we are dismissed first for daring to speak up and second when the wounds heal — as they must heal.

It’s a culture that favours those who rape, beat, and kill and treats those who receive this treatment as surplus population who had better just die off quickly so our societies can pretend there’s not a problem.

Most alarming to me is the matter of the insular community.  Why?  Because I see its danger as someone whose insular community made it easy to continue these acts of violence and to continue dismissing me when I sought help.  Yet, unlike the Duggar girls, I went to adults for help — but they wouldn’t  help because of the insular community.  It was easier to call me “evil sorceress” or “seductress” (right because four year old girls instinctively know how to seduce men 10x their age into sex?) than place that phone call to social services that would have taken me to safety.

The larger problem is therefore not Josh Duggar — a man who doesn’t deserve to have his children grow up with him — but the communities themselves.  We can only help people in need when we go beyond our castle walls and allow the larger secular community to intervene, to enforce laws written to protect children and provide safe home environments for everyone.

Yes, our governments are not perfect; there has never been a truly perfect government.  But when we fail to trust others beyond the boundaries of our small communities we set ourselves up for exactly the epidemic of violence and sexual violence plaguing our societies.  Protecting the community becomes more important than what is right and just for the people being hurt.  This was the case at Penn State and it is the case with the Duggar family.

What is your take on the Josh Duggar matter?  Reply to this post with your comments below and let’s get a serious conversation going!

Does being a sinner make you above the law? Issues raised by the Josh Duggar defence.

19 kidsIn May 2015 a tabloid reported that twelve years ago Josh Duggar of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” reality show molested five girls twelve years ago.  When his parents found out, they refused to report the crimes to the police, even though Josh molested his own sisters.

This is, rightfully, creating a scandal and cries for TLC to cancel the programme — which as of this date they refuse to do, even with corporate sponsors pulling out.

The Duggars and their allies have a defence they use time and time again:  Josh is a sinner who needs forgiveness and is entitled to forgiveness.

If a Christian (which I am no longer) admits to sinning that this is, in essence, a free pass with the law. Josh Duggar’s family doesn’t believe that Josh should be punished because he admitted it was a sin to molest his sisters (never mind their mental/spiritual wounds here; HE is the victim). Another Quiverfull leader named Rick Boyer is repeating the same idea in a story published this morning: that since being human makes you a sinner that any efforts to prosecute these crimes is a conspiracy by pagans and “guillible christians” to destroy more godly people.

So the problem isn’t the crimes these people commit — it’s the rest of us who say that when you commit a crime THERE ARE CONSEQUENCES UNDER THE LAW.

Of course one might say that there is a fundamental belief that secular law and secular government is itself evil — the devil is in charge.

So I must ask: what are they really going for? Should we simply eliminate all secular institutions and put religious institutions in charge of our lives?

How is that any different than what people are facing in Iraq or Syria where religious extremists have replaced the law? Where heinous torture, sexual violence, and murder happen daily? Where the only religious expression or lifestyle allowed is their radical one — and if you disagree or just deviate from their harsh rules, you can expect to lose your life or worse?

Liberty only exists through secular government, through the rule of laws. Religions must not be allowed to hold the powers of life or death over anyone.

And remember if you are fine with one religious group ruling the people by their sense of what is moral or right you damn yourself to be on the receiving end of another group you disagree with. Would you want to live that way?

http://www.rawstory.com/2015/05/quiverfull-author-delivers-melodramatic-defense-of-duggars-against-pagans-and-gullible-christians/

Helicopter parenting, abortion, and childlessness: an ounce of prevention too often absent in America.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,”  is one of those tried and true axioms that underscore common sense.  It costs less money to build a sturdy house than it does to rescue a family trapped in a poorly built one that collapses during a storm (see data on this in American Poverty:  Why America’s Treatment of the Poor Undermines Its Authority as a World Power). It costs less to vaccinate your children than it does to treat a life-threatening and highly preventable disease like polio or measles.  It costs less to abstain from smoking than it does to treat smoking-related diseases.

We all know this axiom.  Yet sadly in the United States, common sense is lacking on some of the most important decisions of our lives.  Let’s start with the Pope Francis’ recent comments regarding couples who consciously decide not to have children.  On the 11th February 2015 UK’s The Guardian reported Pope Francis’ remarks, “A society with a greedy generation, that doesn’t want to surround itself with children, that considers them above all worrisome, a weight, a risk, is a depressed society…. The choice to not have children is selfish. Life rejuvenates and acquires energy when it multiplies: It is enriched, not impoverished.”

So deciding not to have children is selfish according to the pope.  But is it really?  In making his universal claim that deciding not to have children is selfish, the pope ignores that there are many very solid reasons for delaying or foregoing childbearing.  Economics is a key consideration.  Children cost money to raise.  This should be obvious and common sense.  Bringing a child into the world is not free — not before birth, not during birth, and not after birth. The physical needs of children must be attended to and provided for by their parents on a daily basis along with their educational, intellectual, and social needs.  Most if not all of this costs money and resources which are not easy to provide even under the best of circumstances.  Calling someone selfish and belittling someone for recognizing this is not only uncalled for, but it punishes those who are most responsible.

I am one of them.  At the time of writing this blog post, I do not have the material resources to properly provide for a child.  Though I think I have the potential to become a good parent someday, I recognize that right now I am not able to properly provide for a child.

To me this is being responsible.  This is me caring about quality of life over the quantity of life.  The pope should not be calling those of us who make the responsible choice selfish; he should be praising us for caring about the quality of life for every child that comes into this world.

Contraception and abortion also feed into this.  The child that is not born is the one that does not need to be provided for.  While in general I do not like abortion, I know that it is not for me to decide for anyone else how that person should live nor do I want anyone else deciding for me what I can or should do.  These are personal choices that touch upon the most intimate part of our lives; in a free society no one intrudes into our private lives unless we are somehow jeopardizing the lives of another (hence I do believe in mandatory vaccination for diseases like polio and measles).  Whether I take a pill or a fellow I am intimate with uses a condom or not is for him and I, not the state, not my neighbours, not some religious group or business to decide.

It is common sense that all pregnancies should be planned for, that all children born should be born with a reasonable expectation of living in a loving family where every need is met and where the child can grow up in safety.  And if this is not possible for an individual or couple at any given time, it is common sense for them to take precautions to prevent the pregnancy without interference or pressure from anyone else.

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One final area of common sense and parenting I see sorely lacking:  “free range” parenting.  Free range parenting is what our hyper-protective society now calls common sense parenting.  For some very bizarre reason we now consider helicopter parenting normal in the United States, that tendency to perpetually treat anyone under the age of 18 as a helpless infant who needs to be wrapped in bubble wrap and never exposed to anything that could potentially cause injury, disease, or danger of any sort.

There are two major problems with helicopter parenting.  Firstly, it creates dependency.  Children never learn to do for themselves because they are never expected to do anything for themselves.  The purpose of childhood is to learn the skills needed to survive as adults from a position of reasonable safety.  A human child is not born running nor does a baby bird come out of the egg flying.  For every living being there is a process of learning.  You learn by doing.  Helicopter parenting destroys this process; children never get to do anything because there is a risk something bad might happen.  Therefore children never learn to do anything.

Story Which brings us to point two:  helicopter parenting destroys competence. If you never experience the discomfort of trial and error, never experience failure or stress, you never learn anything and never learn how to do anything.  The child who is never expected to set the table or clean her room or cook for the family never learns how to do these things for herself at the time when it is easiest to teach these life skills.  When she turns eighteen (legal adulthood in the United States) she enters university and her own home having absolutely no idea how to do the most mundane tasks like cooking, cleaning, washing clothing, and managing her time effectively.  She does not know how to study.  She does not know how to fulfill the obligations of the work place.  She does not know how to be self responsible.

She fails.  Only since she is a legal adult, there is no help for her.  Society says “too bad; here are the consequences for your failure.”    Often she knows of only one solution:  move back in with mom and dad where she expects to receive everything she received when she was younger.

She never learns how to survive on her own.

Rather than punishing people for responsible choices, we need to praise them.  We need to praise the couple working two jobs who knows that they cannot provide properly for a child and chooses to not have children.  We need to facilitate use of contraception and respect those who choose to end existing pregnancies for making what is usually a very hard decision.  And we especially need to encourage “free range” parenting, the parenting style that facilitates competence in children by expecting them to do for themselves and giving them the space to learn from experience.

I want to make it clear that there is a line between negligence and free range parenting.  Negligence is not caring.  It is ignoring the child when s/he asks for help or brings a problem to the parent’s attention.  It is making excuses for ignoring the child’s request for help.   Free range parenting is caring so much about the child that the parent lets the child practice independence and develop competence.  Not one expert in anything started out that way.  To me a good parent allows her or his child to work through the learning process.  Experience is the best teacher of all.  Instead of hovering, we need to keep a safe but proper distance that shows we love our children and we care without smothering, without creating dependency.  Good parents let their children do for themselves.  Good parents trust their children and gradually let go as the child matures.  Teach your children properly and there is no reason to hover.

This is what I call common sense.  This is the ounce of prevention that is worth a pound of cure.