Thursday, February 26, 2009

Perceptions and Reality

What is perception and what is reality it is an age old dilemma or question. The facets of this phenomena has more to do with our experience as humans and how we view the world and less with the empirical notions of the term. It is obscure to a certain extent because it is difficult to draw the line between reality and perception.

The text book definition of reality is the quality or state of being real! In my eyes reality is the concrete entity of any type of situation. The textbook definition of perception is immediate or intuitive recognition or appreciation, as of moral, psychological, or aesthetic qualities; insight; intuition. I define perception as the concept of how an individual views the world, or how one's perspective can lead to judgment on a given situation. In addition I think reality is more of a collective truth and absolute fact on the other hand perception is more personal and entails an autonomous viewpoint. I see reality as an objective concept rather than subjective, it tends to be more empirical. The working definition of reality in a practical setting seems to be "the actual situation at hand" and it is supposed to be a concept that people visualize through an unbiased lens while not integrating any personal feelings. Theoretically, reality should be more validated by substancial evidence and it should be the most accurate and popular assessment of any experience or situation because it is indicative of the population's consensus as well as the communal viewpoint.

But the contradiction to this lies within the counterpart itself. Everything is perception. Unfortunately most perceptions tend to be negative. For example in a scenario where a male personal trainer is helping a woman do a stretching exercise and somebody behind a glass window notices that the personal trainer is touching her hips in order to get her to stretch better, one might view that as inappropriate. Now the person who viewed it as inappropriate behind the glass was not close enough to actually observe the "reality" of the situation or simply did not ask the personal trainer what he was doing, therefore he misunderstood the situation and as a result thinks the personal trainer is a pervert.

Perception is what determines how the world will view us and vise versa. But a simple example where reality's objectivity is discredited is when it comes to characterization of material things. For example lets take a car being purple for instance. A hundred people saw the car together under the same conditions on the same day at the same time and seventy of them thought it was blue but the other thirty of them thought it was purple so according to the statistics the more popular one is blue which is correct and is a fact. But for the people who said the car was purple it is factual from their view point so how can I dispute that? Another nebulous aspect to the perception-reality dichotomy is when you involve past personal experiences. A possible scenario is where a young African American male is at an interview for an internship and the interviewer who is an older white male asks him if he plays basketball then he pauses in disgust because he thinks the question is blatantly racist and uncalled for. The younger male proceeds to accuse the older guy of racism because of his biases based on his personal experiences where he encountered racism from his white counterpart. These experiences have led him to believe that the perceived conceptions are racist, although they could be misconceptions. But to him the perception is reality because this is what he sees with his own eyes and what he believes to be true. How can we defy anybody's gut feelings or convictions on any given situation? The individual is supposed to be an expert on his own feelings, insight, and perception most of all. Who am I to tell somebody that they are wrong in their own intuition? The young African American male views any questions that encompass stereotypical roles for African Americans as racist and he will continue to do so. If the alternate scenario involves a young white male who was asked the same question but he did not view it as racist, the perception is entirely different which now becomes his reality. So the conundrum becomes which is the actual reality which is a bit redundant but serves its purpose. In the scenario it turns out that the "real reality" form an objective and unbiased perspective. The "real reality" is that the white man was not racist and was just trying to start a casual conversation. This is distinct from both men's perceptions.

When I say everything is perception I meant it. The majority of the time people will cast judgements internally without knowing the whole spectrum of the situation or circumstances of any given situation. This causes a big gap of unfamiliarity between the perceptive and realistic viewpoints. One last scenario that can be applied universally is where morals and values comes into play. For example what if 1000 people fill out a survey and 800 of them think that abortion is ethically justified while 200 believe abortion to be ethically wrong. Th reality rule would tell us that the 800 of them who thought abortion was right would be the population who is theoretically right according to the reality of the situation, but when you incorporate values and morals, the 200 people who viewed abortion as wrong becomes those people's realities from a subjective perspective. Moreover if you focus on a particular group the reality will vary. For example the religious crowd's reality is that abortion is ethically wrong regardless of the survey statistics. You cannot discredit somebody else's opinions when distinguishing a perception from reality!

But as we know this issue is very enigmatic and a good metaphor to compare it to would be a dog chasing its tail. I use this metaphor because it identifies a revolving door where you end up right where you started! The dichotomy between fact and opinion, subjective and objective, and perception and reality is going to be one that is perpetually puzzling in its nature however it is a topic that is very thought provoking. I hope this leads to more discussion on this abstract facet of everyday life.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cities and attitudes

This past weekend I spoke to a friend abut New York City and she told me that she would never live in New York because people have these bad attitudes, but she love to visit. I quickly defended my city and told her that its just a FRONT!

Depending on the city you live in the general vibe, lifestyle, personality is going to vary. I find it to be shaped by the environment and location of the city, the population, and its history. In NYC people wear "mean muggs" and are hustlers. In LA everybody is super laid back. Down south everybody is so hospitable. Evey region has its signature personality.

In NYC the reason why people have this austere and stone cold outlook is because of the social climate. If you walk down the street with a permanent smile on your face there is the possibility that you will either get conned or held up. It is the harsh reality. Also we are in a city of hustlers, nobody wants to look gullible or naive. Apart form that the hustlers mentality makes us work hard and we live a fast paced life because of that. Also the extremely dense population promotes the hustler mentality and makes it a dog eat dog atmosphere thus the harsh attitudes; you become a product of your environment. We are always in a rush because there are so many people in the city so when other people are in a rush or hustling and bustling to get somewhere you have to make the necessary adjustments in order to survive, after a while the lifestyle rubs off on you. But beneath the "frown" of the average new yorker is a radiant smile and horizon of happiness. There is a particular swag that is unique to New York. We never sleep and there are tons of places to go in the NYC. You will never get bored, I guarantee that. We have a certain swag that is misconceived as egotistical and pompous. This is exactly why some people hate on us. I think the swag emanates from the notion that we think we are the best or from the adage that says "if you make it in New York you can make it anywhere." The cultural dynamic in New York makes it interesting, with so many ethnicities it is an eclectic city, it is the place to live for everybody who wants to live here and can adapt. New York also has the latest in fashion trends and slang because of its innovative culture. New York residents usually tell it like it is. In New York everything is raw and organic, what you see is what you get and that is the bottom line!

As far as LA, I have not been there but I can tell from secondhand accounts that it is very laid back. My logic behind this is that it is so spread out. It is easier to be laid back and maneuver when your environment is spread out. This allows for everybody to have their personal space without having to compete for air or for privacy. Another factor that contributes to this is that it was and still is a hipster type of city and has a tolerant culture because of the amalgamation of so many different musical tastes, ethnicities, and cultures. I think the drug usage which dates back to the 60s has a historical impact on the culture and makes the culture more tolerant and freethinkerish. Nice beaches, the sun, and what could be considered pleasurable weather to most makes the social climate more lax. The cars that they ride also enable them to be more" laid back" as they take their time to cruise in the low riders.The city's residents are so laid back and happy because of the weather and the stress free environment. It is also described as being more on the superficial side because of Hollywood and all the name brand clothing. Also LA residents say that people are not as confrontational as they are in New York in general. LA is definitely a place to be if you want to be around the glitz, and the glamour, while having fun and chilling out at the same time.

The third place I am going to talk about is the South because I have been there several times but mostly just passing by. First of all Atlanta is really mellow and hospitable. I think the reason it is like that is because of the rural environment that surrounds it. This rural environment allows a very open and welcoming type of vibe. It is also the most polarized with NYC in terms of pace. It has a very slow pace. Usually people in the South take their time with everything especially in the grocery store. Some parts of the South still stuck in the 1800s in terms of attitude towards race and very much still segregated. But there are urban areas in the South such as Atlanta that are really nice and self sufficient in terms of black businesses and self empowerment. For me the south is reminiscent of a big happy family. The city of Atlanta has some of the most beautiful women and some of the most talented artists in the world. The sweet attitude of the city's residents makes you feel right at home!

All of these cities are special in their own way. The beauty of it is to able to learn about the different cultures and to be respectful of one another's cities!

Single moms in the Black and Latino community

I have pondered over this for a while. I have observed and made mental note of all of the male acquaintances and friends I know that have turned out to be successful and who haven't had any encounters with the law. Then I have observed the friends and acquaintances that have had run ins with the law or have been rebellious. The single most important factor seems to be whether or not he comes from a household where he had his father around when he was growing up. In 2007 3,138 black males sentenced prisoners per 100,000 1,259 Hispanic male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 Hispanic males compared to 481 white male sentenced prisoners per 100,000 white males. Now this is definitely indicative of a biased judicial system. This means that in 2007 there were roughly three percent of black males incarcerated, this number is likely to increase because of the significant increase in the amount of prisons being built.

This is relevant to my argument because the people that end up in these jails are products of single mom homes. The dominant reason for them being in jail seems to be that they have a fatherless background. I actually met several people that said that they suffered because their father was not around and ended up disobeying their mother. One particular case is a young kid that I spoke to I believe he was in his early 20s was paralyzed from the waste down. He caught a stray bullet in his back and it hit his spine. He said he was just hanging out with his boys creating mischief as all young kids do when one day this targedy occurred. He said that he didn't have a father around so he was not able to be monitored or disciplined properly. The US Census Bureau said that "Father absence contributes to crime and delinquency. Violent criminals are overwhelmingly males who grew up without fathers." This is not to say that moms who raise kids on their own do not deserve all the merit and praise in the world but it is really difficult to raise a kid when the father is not around. Neither am I saying that a kid who grows up in a wholesome household with both parents will not get into trouble and eventually become incarcerated, but the chances are more likely if they come from a single mom home. The absence of a father is socially, mentally, economically, emotionally and most of all psychologically detrimental to the child especially if he is a male. I was speaking to a 30 year old mom the other day and she said that her 8 year old kid's biological father is not in the picture, but then she got married to a man who is now his stepfather. She would give her son advice and he would disregard it as opposed to when his stepfather told him the same thing he responded better. This means that there is a certain connection between father and son that cannot be duplicated.

The motif here seems to be that there needs to be more accountability in terms of fathering children in this country or just being there for your kid. A father is more than just a father: he is a confidant, a friend, a role model , a teacher, a provider. Kids who end up growing up in these backgrounds are devoid of fathers form the beginning. They basically have no standard to follow. There is nobody to show them how to treat a woman , how to shoot basketball, how to stay focused in school, how to avoid drugs, how to be a good citizen, and finally how to be a good father. Another aspect to this is that they can also have a strong male relative such as an uncle or grandfather that can keep the child in line which is just as conducive to a male's growth (especially in the adolescent and teen years when boys are just trying to figure out who they are)as a biological father. What I am saying is that you need a positive male role model who can show his son or surrogate son the ropes.

I have cousins who have gone down the wrong path because their father was not around. I am a staunch listener to Hip Hop, and different rappers will rap about how they were raised in single parent (mom) homes. These kids are getting incarcerated more because they do not have their father to show them the way and to discipline them. Another man in his 40s told me how he got arrested when he was 12. He was acting out in school, was rebellious and got into trouble in the streets. He said that all his actions were a cry for paternal attention. He was just so frustrated and angry that he did not have a father so he took it out on the world.

As you can see not having a father can lead you towards jail or a life of crime. When these kids become vulnerable because dad is not there to show him the right thing to do then is at risk for incarceration criminal activities, joining gangs and much more. During the tumultuous teenage years a kid needs a father to console him, support and and most of all set a positive example. I thank God for having a father who has been a good role model and has showed me alot by example. Having a father at home is an integral and crucial part of rearing a male child especially in a Black and Latino urban household where we are at higher risks for incarceration.

In conclusion fathers need to step up and start taking care of their children before their kid grows up deprived and is not given a fair chance!


Hello Hello I am sorry I have been away for so long but I am back now! I was thinking the other day as I was texting like a maniac, I text a lot! Right then and there I had an epiphany; I am not the only one. Texting has become the primary form of contact for everybody across the world. It has reduced the amount of phone calls and more importantly decreased a more direct and personalized form of communication. The texting epidemic has become preposterous to the point that someone will be right next to you and you would rather text than just speak to them. This is symbolic and indicative of an even bigger problem:the evolution of technology is making our society more and more impersonal! Not only that but it is making us dumber to a certain extent.

I know what you are thinking there are two sides to this issue. Technology has improved our society in many ways. It has allowed global communication to become more feasible. It has also generated a space where information is infinitely available with a superfluous amounts of sources. It has also accommodated everyday life so that it facilitates daily tasks and makes life easier overall. In addition, it has helped us bridge gaps of unfamiliarity but has also widened them. We have become very impersonal and it has stunted social growth, personalization and interdependence that once dominated our planet. As a result it has also cultivated a culture of misunderstanding because when communication is reduced the understanding between one another and unity also declines. It has also lead to a phenomenon of alienation. We have isolated ourselves more because of technology for example, I am typing right now but I could be talking to my brother face to face. This a prototypical scenario that exemplifies how technology is cutting down our personal face to face contact.

The era of protechnology is a conondrum because it has reduced our personal communication however, we are able to communicate more often due to the propagation of technology. I think there are more pros than cons but the intimacy of the human race is suffering because of technology without a doubt. This has also contributed to the decline in gestures of love, appreciation, and expression of emotions overall. Nobody writes cards anymore or goes to somebody's house to wish them happy birthday, everything is either computerized or technologically oriented. This causes us to blanket our emotions and masquerades our facial and physical expressions and also distances what could be a close relationship.

Technology has also impaired our intellectual capabilities. A common everyday example is little kids on the train and bus with sidekicks ( popular cellular phone) and no books in their hands. Where did the concept of reading and becoming more knowledgeable go, is all kids know is MTV and youtube? Nowadays Everybody is attached to a technological device at every moment. The idea of skateboarding, playing board games, going to the library, or engaging people has become obsolete. Intelligence and the appetite for knowledge is diminishing at an astonishing rate. People are also controlled by technology through the channeled media (pun intended). Technology has dumbed down the masses and made people less of critical thinkers and more of "yes people" (people that believe everything they see or hear). They accept everything they hear for true. I will digress for a brief moment. I've heard this adage in several places: believe none of what you hear none of what you read and only have of what you see!!!!! Technology has made it easier to believe things that we see or hear because it is conveyed through technology rather than face to face or in a more personal manner. But I want to throw a controversial topic out there: does it benefit the government to keep people uneducated and ignorant and have ongoing proliferation of technology? Also in a society dominated by capitalism if we started to use technology less and make less purchases on technology the economy would take a hit, which would not make the government happy! Another question is how much better of a world would this be if we were smarter? For example in urban areas if you do not have the latest technology or are caught reading a book you are ostracized and not accepted. This demonstrates a culture of poverty and ignorance that has been perpetuated and therefore has made us dumber. So coming back from the digression, technology has shown to be an oppressing force much more than empowering. If we were to detach ourselves from our cell phone, internet or video games we would be much smarter (especially Americans). At least in the suburbs the kids come from priviledged backgrounds and have better educations so technology is not that much of a handicap but this concept is the most significant to kids from urban neighborhoods who would be able to go further in their education if they put the games and tv away. This ideology displays the utmost veracity in the Ben Carson story where a young black kid in Detroit's inner city who got bad grades in elementary school became the top scholar in his class after reading books outside of his class material and abstaining from watching tv. Instead of being idle or just settling for menial jobs the urban nucleus can ameliorate their chances of succeeding by educating themselves inside and outside of the classroom. I have the firm conviction that technology hampers the intellectual growth of our youth especially in urban communities where they are deprived of a good education as far as schooling is concerned and on top of that they lack the self education outside of school which adds insult to injury.

In closing I would like to say that technology is a remarkable asset to modern society but I will also say that it has its drawbacks that can become harmful if they are not regulated. If we are not careful, sooner or later We WILL BECOME ROBOTS

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Plastic Surgery

Today I saw a show that was holding a focus group and the topic for the day was on plastic surgery. A black plastic surgeon was on the show and he talked a little bit about what he saw on the job. He said that most of his patients are blacks and Latinos even in predominantly white areas such as the Upper East Side. This ignited some thoughts in my head. Again I do not mean to offend anybody. This is a very controversial topic but these are just my thoughts.

I had to admit to myself that contrary to popular belief more blacks and Latinos in New York City are getting surgeries than any other population. So why are more blacks and Latinos getting plastic surgery now, especially since they have been procedures that are usually done by the wealthy and collectively people of color do not have the money. In addition, it has been a predominantly white activity for a very long time. I personally think that getting plastic surgery done is just absurd. If plastic surgery is being done to rectify some kind of physical abnormality that is dramatically affecting your health or if it is a reconstructive surgery that is deemed a necessary operation by your doctor then thats fine. But to do a surgery in order to inflate your lips or to augment or reduce your breasts or gluteus maximus is preposterous to me. The African Doctor who was on the show said that the two top surgeries that Blacks and Latinos get done are the butt augmentation and the tummy tuck. How ironic, right!!!!! One of the women in the group said that people need to do exercise and consider changing their lifestyle before they consult somebody to do perform plastic surgery. To add to that, the other day my mom was watching the Tyra Banks talk show and a few darker skinned black females were trying to get some sort of skin lightener cream and it turned out to be a hoax. So Tyra asked why they wanted this cream?. They answered and it was discovered that the majority of them had complexes and really wanted to be light skinned because they thought people would view them as more beautiful in turn they would view themselves as more beautiful. This is reflective of self hatred!

I see a trend here and my opinion on plastic surgery is that people do it to feel better about themselves. This goes for everybody be you Black, Asian, White, or Latino. I think it is unnecessary if it is purely based on aesthetics. If you have to get a surgery done to feel better about what you look like or who you are then the problem is deeper and it lies internally. It is a common symptom of low self esteem and low confidence. I believe the solution to this complex is loving yourself for who you truly are. I know, I know, easier said than done. But little by little you have to start loving yourself for who you are and be comfortable in your own skin. You have to have feel good about yourself. What your fans think, what your mom thinks, what your best friend thinks, what the opposite sex thinks, what society thinks, none of that matters. But I will tell you what matters: who you think you are. Most of our thoughts are reflected in our actions; either consciously or subconsciously. So if you have a low self esteem it will be reverberated in the things you do for example getting plastic surgery done. If you do not believe it, read up on a powerful subject named Psychology. We as a people have to accept ourselves for how we are born. For a long time we had to live with what God gave us and could not change that. Now we have the power to change ourselves and I think it takes away from the beautiful diversity that the world has to offer. How blaze would life be if everybody looked the same. It would be a tragedy and an epic insult to the genetic variety of the human race.

I think we must all respect each other for being who we are because God made us all different for a reason; none of us should be entitled to change the way we look unless it is a serious health condition that requires us to alter the way we look physically. We as a human race have yet to come to terms with the fact that we are heterogeneous for a reason. Another aspect to this problem is that if you don't love yourself for who you are prior to the surgery what makes you think you will love yourself after the surgery. The surgery serves as instant gratification, nothing more nothing less, and it is a superficial way of attaining self confidence and affirming your self worth. People that get plastic surgery will probably find something else wrong with themselves so they are more likely to get another operation. That means they temporarily felt good about themselves after a surgery but found another imperfection and honed in on that. Then they will most likely get another surgery done to feel better about themselves. This means that plastic surgery did not get to the root of the problem it just grazed the surface, literally. The surgery did not give them that perpetual confidence they might have been expecting, it just served as another temporary high to superficially inflate their self esteem. The insecurities are still prevalent, but they are just masqueraded by the surgeries.

An underlying reason for why certain groups of people don't find themselves beautiful is because of the standards for beauty that society has set. One common group that struggles with self esteem issues and have a lot of insecurities are the dark-skinned black females. I blame most of the media for feeding the subliminal messages that thinner and lighter skinned females have the ideal body type. The darker skinned females succumb to societal pressure and peer pressure that lead them to think they are not beautiful. "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder". Everybody has a different taste; who am I to say that you are not attractive and vice versa. In turn darker women observe that the thin and fair skinned women get more love, attention, are more widely accepted and more popular. The darker women will go the distance in order to obtain everything I just mentioned particularly attention. Most people see the plastic surgery as a way of altering their physical structure and will take that extreme measure in order to get the approval that they feel they lack. Men generally speaking like lighter skinned girls more. The darker girls feel like they are inadequate and wonder why guys do not want to court them (I have dark skinned friends and this is what some of them tell me). But THEY ARE NOT WORTHLESS THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL! This supports my theory: in order to find true beauty you have to search deeply within then you can focus on your outward appearance. You cannot base your own feelings and thoughts on other peoples' perceptions of you. If that was the case everybody would drive themselves crazy.

In closing I would like to say that each and every one of us has to build our self concept and improve what our self worth is despite our insecurities; you do not need surgery to accomplish that. We need to start realizing that everybody has something good to offer in their own light, whether it be physical, intellectual or spiritual etc. Everybody is beautiful: black, brown, heavy tall, short. Well this Alex signing off its been real!