Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Assistance Inequality

Sorry for the delay, folks! Technical difficulties...


My mother, for all intents and purposes, works in social health. The organization she works for is an umbrella of social programs that study and target everything from prisoner rehabilitation, foster care, mental illness, addiction, homelessness, suicide prevention, and a variety of other mental and emotional health services. Over the course of my early adolescence, I've been fortuitously privy to an extensive volume of information regarding human behavior, in realms that Richard Wilkinson would describe as "worse ends" of health and social issues.  In fact, I'd say I get an e-mail every other week from my mom describing how another "social issue" affects human behavior on the micro and macro levels (individual and societal manifestations).

What I continue to gather from this onslaught of information is that the effects of such issues are strikingly more powerful and far-reaching than societies of the past readily anticipated. Part of this seems to be due to the fact that such intensive studies and outreach programs are a relatively new injection into our society; that is to say, much of what we know today about health and social issues and how we approach them has only recently been given appropriate attention.

To really analyze the data is to get a sobering look at how strongly different "stresses" (in their many, aforementioned forms) affect human behavior on biologically fundamental levels. The evidence suggests that the neural effects of stress (whether they originate prenatally or from environmental stimuli) on human behavior and "success/survival" in society can be rather severe, and have overwhelming potential to isolate an individuals experiencing such stress from being functional participants in society. It seems that every new article my mom sends me bursts with urgency on how the paradigm must shift in order to begin accommodating and assisting people experiencing such stresses.

On a slight segue, it is important to note that our societal structure (and infrastructure) continues to be based on outdated societal needs. Education, for example (as we have definitely discussed in SWEET), is a relic of an instution; designed to cater to an entirely different society. And yet, we still use the archaic structure; not for lack of insight into better options, but rather (as I continue to hear and personally maintain) a incapability of society as a whole to shift away from tradition towards something better (which, somewhat understandably, requires taking the risk of adopting the unknown).

The consequence of our stubbornness, for lack of a better word, is that we have an massive infrastructure of institutions that are uncompromising in their output. What we seem to have in place are institutions that cater to a very small percentage of our population, and can only positively serve that small percentage that can conform to the structure of the institution (take for example, education and drop-out rates: Those who drop out are, for the most part, not "made" to function properly in the institution, nor is the institution "made" to function properly for those dropouts. This seems to apply to many similar institutions). There is also a more sizable portion of the population that is capable of conforming, but can only do so in ways that are uncomfortable, less efficient, or less effective. Overall, the result is that the rigidity of our institutions impede their ability to achieve the goals they were intended to reach.

To tie it back into health and social issues, much of what my mom strives to do in her work is to bridge the gap in "assistance inequality" for those who experience such stress. As she is well aware, those who have more neurological stresses tend to be, more or less, unable to function "properly" in an archaic system that serves the "non-stressed." And the effects of this are, as Richard Wilkinson demonstrated, economically alive and poignant.

I like to think of it as all individuals are naturally oscillating at different frequencies (eat your heart out, Elliot). We have systems in place that help reassign people to oscillate at one agreed-upon level, in the hopes that we may all one day oscillate on a collective frequency, but as it stands, our systems to do so are extremely inefficient, and tend not to work. Therefore, we have an immense number of oscillating chaos that is desperately trying to achieve goals dependent on the mass subscription to the collective frequency. So, until then, we'll be knee-deep in a little chaos. On the bright side, we have our work cut out for us


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