society

Romania and the Fight for and against Love

by Alexandra Denisa Neagoe

A highly debated subject in Romania these days is the revision of the article 48 of the Romanian Constitution. The article states that “family is founded on the freely consented marriage of the spouses, their full equality, as well as the right and duty of the parents to ensure the upbringing, education and instruction of their children.” The modification debated is the replacement of term “spouses” with the terms “man and woman”, because the former is thought to be too vague, making it possible for gay couples to marry, which, God forbid, would be something completely wrong.

It all started with the group “Coalition for Family” (RO: Coaliția pentru familie), gathering 3 million signatures in favor of this replacement to happen and asking for a referendum to take place in order to revise the Constitution.

They claim this revision is necessary in order to protect “the primordial role of the family”, that is essential to be formed by a man and a woman in order to “assure a proper environment to raising and educating children”. I will say, that I partly agree with their statement. It is important to assure a good environment for children in a family. However, I don’t see how it is essential for it to be formed between a man and a woman. There are countless examples of Romanian children living in poor conditions, with parents who abuse them and who are not taking care of them, leaving them to be raised by grandmothers or sometimes by themselves or each other. According to a study made in 2014, by the Ministry of Labor and the organization “Save the Children” (RO: Salvați copiii), over 60% of the children are being abused by their family.[1] How can this be okay as long as the family is formed from a man and a woman? Why wouldn’t it be acceptable for two women or two men to raise a kid together as long as the child is properly raised and educated?

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And just how there are countless examples of children not being raised properly by “normal” families, there are also countless same sex families, who raise their children in a loving and caring environments. Two of the better known LGBT+ families are the ones formed by Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka who have two twins and Sir Elton John and David Furnish, who again have two young boys that are properly cared for, surrounded by all the love they need.

Such examples happen even in our country. My mother is a kindergarten teacher where, of course, the majority of the families are formed between a man and woman. However, this year she also has a kid in her class who is raised by two women. The two are a couple and they both raise him together, even though only one of them appears in documents as his mother, since the law doesn’t permit it otherwise. He addresses them both as “mom” and he is a very well educated child. He is properly dressed, fed and has everything a kid needs to be happy and more.

Another reason behind this referendum and the replacement of the term “spouses” is the need for the family to procreate in order to perpetuate the human race. This, of course, logically speaking, it is true. You do need a man and a woman to conceive a child, or at least parts of each of them. However, in this day and age there are numerous methods through which one can have a child: in vitro fertilization, intrauterine inseminations, donor eggs and embryos, surrogate mothers and many others. People no longer have to strictly have sexual relations in order to have child, so the problem with procreation shouldn’t be considered an issue anymore. Plus, there are many children in orphanages that could be adopted but these families and be raised and educated in better environments.

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According to a study from the United States, an estimated 16.000 same sex couples raise more than 22.000 children in the US. In the same study it is shown that more than 100.000 same sex households include over 200.000 children under the age of 18 and more than 100.000 same sex couples, raise approximately 170.000 biological, step or adopted children.[2]

A concrete example in this direction is that of a boy from the United States, named Michael, who was put in the foster system at the age of 7. Most families that adopt, want babies or very young children. As the year passed the chances of him finding a home grew smaller and smaller. However, at the age of 16 he was adopted by a lesbian couple who raised him with all the love and care he didn’t have from his real parents. Now, he is attending college and went from being an isolated person to being a very friendly one. All because of a same sex couple that offered him a chance to a better life.[3]

There is, however a downside to raising children in same sex marriages or families. Living in a country like Romania where being different or loving different than the norm, is a quite the challenge. Therefore raising a child in an environment like this might result difficult, given the fact that she or he might be bullied or seen as different because of his or her family. People complain and wonder how to explain to a child why two men or two women are holding hands or kissing, but if you think about it, can you imagine how difficult it is to explain to a child why some people are against love and judge their happiness and their family? Children don’t care that your parents are two moms or two dads, unless taught otherwise. They just want to play and make friends. Sure, they might ask questions, but we shouldn’t be afraid to answer them. Isn’t it easier to explain to a child that love is love, rather than teaching them that loving different is wrong?

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So in that sense, raising a child in a hostile environment towards same sex couple will be a challenge for the years to come. The child might be bullied, laughed at and fought with, making life a bit harder. Still, this only proves that the problem doesn’t come from the family being different but rather from the problem we have, as a society, of accepting others who don’t fit in the norm.

All in all, I would say that such groups and actions taken against a certain group of people are discriminatory and not only do they promote intolerance but also hate crime, contributing to the oppression of LGBT+ community in Romania. And the topic of same sex marriage, although still taboo, is one that can and should be discussed by both sides of this issue, giving that there’s plenty to talk about. All people have to do is to be open to a dialogue and listen. Until then I will leave with this question: why fight against love when you can fight for love?

[1] http://www.descopera.ro/dnews/13236201-studiu-socant-in-romania-peste-60-dintre-copii-sunt-supusi-violentei-in-familie

[2] https://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/LGBT-Parenting.pdf

[3] http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/10/michael-let-love-define_n_7746696.html

Let’s not forget about the #socialvalues

We live in a world where, in my opinion, the most important things seem to be forgotten. Among these, I found that are also the social values.

Before I go to some examples, it’s good to know the definition of social value- a larger concept that includes social capital as well as the subjective aspects of the citizens’ well-being, such as their ability to participate in making decisions that affect them.

Also, in sociology, the meaning of value is different from the one in economics (=price) or philosophy. Values form an important part of the culture of the society, and account for stability and social order. In other words, social values provide the general guidelines for social conduct.

According to Peter Worsley, “Values are general conceptions of “the good”, ideas about the kind of ends that people should pursue throughout their lives and throughout the many different activities in which they engage”.

Fundamental rights, patriotism, rationality, equality, family and democracy are some of the social values that guide our behavior in many ways, day by day, generation after generation.

Though, there is a difference between these values and the norms. Norms are specific while values aren’t. Values are expected to be followed, for judging and evaluating social interaction, goals, means, ideas, feelings and the expected conduct.

Moreover, rules are accepted and followed just because embody the values that most people accept. i personally adapt the existing rules to my lifestyle and I am ruling my life after well established principles

All in all, I can say that our world is ruled by values, rules, norms and principles, which at some point do interact with each other and are indispensable for a society.

M.E.H.

The Nice Guy That Finishes First! – The Prisoner’s Dilemma

In our everyday world we know the expression “Nice guys finish last” and it’s closely tied to how we as individuals interact with others within the confines of society. Sure, there are rules and etiquettes that guide us toward doing the right thing, but often we find ourselves outmatched by other human competition that plays unfair and thus manages to get ahead of the ones that are fair.

I would now like to turn your attention toward an eye-opening experiment. It’s called The Prisoner’s Dilemma and it may just be what you, the nice guy, were looking for if you felt the need for some reassurance that playing by the rules, being ethical and rational will get you ahead.

good-guy-greg-first-meme

In this experiment we have two people that each have a set of two cards in their hands: One has Cooperate written on it and the other Defect. There are multiple rounds where each of the two people must place only one of the two cards face-down (without the other person knowing what it is). Hence, there exist multiple outcomes to each round. For every situation we offer a reward, as such:

  • Both players choose Cooperate – They both win $300
  • Both players choose Defect – They both lose $10
  • If one plays Defect and the other Cooperate -> The one who defected wins $500 and the one who cooperated loses $100

At this very point you are maybe wondering how could people that are nice and cooperate finish first, or in other words win. Surely the most amount of money is gained from screwing your opponent over by defecting and thus winning $500 (not to mention that you make him lose a lot of money as well).

Well let’s analyze it like this: If I were to play this game with you and I would play Defect the best option for you (in a monetary/mathematical term) would be to play Defect as well, because you would lose only $10, as opposed to your only other option which would have cost you $100.

Let’s say this time I play Cooperate, but for you the same monetary/mathematical option would remain viable – play Defect. Why? Because you win $500 and I lose $100. Your other option would be to have Cooperated as well, but that would mean that you would only get $300 and I would get the same amount. You’re surely much more interested in the $500, right?

So from the above two examples we can state that for ‘you’ the best logical move would be to play Defect, because that will earn you the most amount of money. But here is where the individual has to take a step back and think about the other individuals in the equation. You are not the only intelligent person trying to “win” in society. What would happen if I would also follow this logic when playing this game?

Take the same you and I from the previous example and let’s assume that we both know that playing Defect would constitute in the “smartest” move in order to get money. What would we get? Well if we both play Defect over and over again we would both lose $10 again and again. So it may be the smartest move when you consider it from one individual’s standpoint, but it does not work between multiple individuals who share the same knowledge.

If we have simply Cooperated we could have both won $300 instead of losing $10.

villain

The link to “nice guys” as I have mentioned is linked to analysis done by sever scientist that calculated the total amount of money that different people scored during the experiment. People that generally are considered nice mostly started by cooperating, they were forgiving when others were trying to defect on them and were non-envious when the opponent also won money. These cooperative people scored higher than the ones that were trying to be devious and tricky defecting more often.

So the bottom line that the Prisoner’s Dilemma shows us is that cooperating with other members of society instead of trying to trick them for your own gain will have great benefits in the long run. We can see how society is actually a reflection of nature (as we have evolved from it): we see a bird that helps remove parasites from hard to reach areas of another bird and thus they both benefit by living in a helpful community, but if they do not cooperate they are easily rejected and will not receive help in the future.

From a human’s standpoint this example remains the same. While you may feel that some cutthroat or envious people may get the best of you temporarily, science shows that in the long run the persons that are altruistic and nice will definitely get ahead in life. Evolution even confers that individuals with nice behavior are more likely to integrate into society and have offsprings.

 

T.S.

 

References:

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/prisoner-dilemma/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rr6lsTgZKAQ

Being Awkward….

How many times did you come across social actions that embarrassed either you or the people next to you? Let’s give a few examples: Going for a hug and receiving a handshake instead; Saying goodbye to someone before the bus arrives at its station, but realizing that you have to wait another minute before it comes to a full stop so you stare at each other not knowing what to say; Forgetting someone’s name; and many other situations which we consider awkward.

So what is it about this uncomfortable feeling that exists in our society that give it so much importance? On a day-to-day basis we struggle not to fall into the pit of awkwardness. I tend to think that this knowledge about what to do or not do in public is a positive thing; in other words: Feeling awkwardness is good for society.

We have to start by thinking about social behavior, about what we, as humans, do in everyday life. With the following graph I will explain how we mold our actions and how our actions are molded by several characteristics.

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Let’s look at it from the bottom up. Firstly we have the Laws of Science that are pretty self-explanatory: we, as humans, can’t fly, achieve light speed or breathe underwater. We grow hair, not feathers, are warm blooded, eat and sleep. In other words we have learned either through our instincts or through our parents that we can’t mess with physics or biology, so we act accordingly.

Another factor that shapes our behavior lies within the laws and rules of your society. We know that stealing, assault or murder are deemed illegal and, as such, present grave risks for people that undertake such actions. The risks are of course fines or prison sentences and many times outweigh the benefits. So people generally follow these conducts in society:

Untitled2

 

Now we are left with etiquette or with what some consider to be manners. These are the unwritten rules of society that mark a person as being polite or impolite. They are customs/mores/traditions that guide us towards living together without conflict. It is not illegal, for example, to chew with your mouth open, to pick your nose in public or to turn your back on somebody when they are talking, but it is considered disgraceful. The risks that are present here are not like the ones mentioned before; instead a disrespectful person hazards being shunned out by society and being labeled as being rude, annoying or gross.

At the very top of this social behavior pyramid we have awkwardness, or self-consciousness. A process that finalizes our social mold. It smooths down social dynamics in places where laws and manners do not reach. There are no rules that state how long a hug should last and nobody could point you to a custom that states a duration clearly. The process of hugging can have so many variables that only the people involved can guess when to let go. When you hug your friend for longer than they expected it certainly is not illegal or impolite, but it is awkward.

This feeling that we generally associate with something bad or undesirable is one of the factors involved in having better cooperation between individuals in a society. It is a feeling that our brains have evolved into having so that we can get nudged into avoiding certain actions and live together peacefully. As humans we learn not to put our hand in fire; As citizens we understand that it is illegal to kill somebody; As members of society we know that it’s impolite to caught in another person’s direction; and as empathetic beings we now know what to avoid doing in public thanks to awkwardness.

anigif_enhanced-18303-1401890553-10

 

T.S.

Special Thanks:

Vsauce, The Science of Awkwardness, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o268qbb_0BM

References:

Matthew Feinberg, Robb Willer, and Dacher Keltner, Flustered and Faithful: Embarrassment as a Signal of Prosociality, http://ist-socrates.berkeley.edu/~keltner/publications/FeinbergWillerKeltner2012.pdf

Reddit, Cringe, http://www.reddit.com/r/cringe

Maia Szalavitz, Why Your Embarrassment Causes Me So Much Pain, http://healthland.time.com/2011/05/05/why-your-embarassment-causes-me-so-much-pain/

Kirsten Weir, Oh no you didn’t!, http://www.apa.org/monitor/2012/11/embarrassment.aspx

Ethan Kross, Marc G. Berman, Walter Mischel, Edward E. Smith, Tor D. Wager, Social rejection shares somatosensory representations with physical pain, http://www.pnas.org/content/108/15/6270.full?tab=author-info

Michael Torrice, Socially Awkward? Check Your Genes, http://news.sciencemag.org/social-sciences/2009/11/socially-awkward-check-your-genes

Diaper Changing Stations © All rights reserved to women

Although we don’t like to admit it, simply complaining about a problem won’t solve it. That happens to us, mere ordinary people. But when a celebrity raises a question, it suddenly becomes of interest for quite a large number of people. This is what Ashton Kutcher (a moment of silence for all of our secret hopes of marrying him one day…) managed to do with a simple tweet.

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Ashton Kutcher (36), together with his wife, actress Mila Kunis, are the parents of Wyatt. According to Ashton’s statement in Ellen DeGeneres’ show, the couple is fully involved into the upbringing of their daughter, raising her by themselves, without the help of a nanny. Thus, this brings a good dose of credibility to Ashton’s message.

In the whole context of the International Women’s Day and the never-ending feminism and gender roles discussion, he couldn’t find a better moment to send his Tweet out into the world. He raises quite some important question to be answered by us, the ones living in this modern but really awkward society.

Does the role of a women still is to get married and have children? Is the men still supposed to be the one taking care of the family and supporting it? To what extend is the father expected to be involved in the upbringing of the child? To what extend is this said father LET (by the society) to be involved in the upbringing of the child? And one really obvious question that is a bit less-philosophical than the previous ones: where the hell do gay couples are expected to change their kids’ diapers?

It is quite fascinating that we, now, in 2015, got to really question this outdated practice. I’m curious if his message did indeed each the right people (as in restaurant owners and so on) and I hope I’ll still be alive to see this change taking place in our lovely traditional Romanian society.

Written by IRP

Mongolian nomads and globalization

By Larisa Rusu

With the advent of capitalism and the free flow of people and goods there has been an intensifying globalization which has made possible certain changes, prominently in the fields of world trade, international policy agreements, and politics. In this turmoil fueled by low-cost air transportation, the on-growing tourism industry, multinational companies and the Western supremacy, something called the “clash of civilizations” has been given birth to.

Harvard professor Samuel Huntington predicts that “The fundamental source of conflict in this new world will not be primarily ideological or primarily economic. The great divisions among humankind and the dominating source of conflict will be cultural. Nation states will remain the most powerful actors in world affairs, but the principal conflicts of global politics will occur between nations and groups of different civilizations. The clash of civilizations will dominate global politics”.
In this gap between cultural identity and globalization, national identity, the preservation of one’s own states’ values and war-leading national pride collide with the principles of no boundaries and worldwide acceptance of the same life principles.

In search for a speaking example of the clash between tradition and the growing globalization I found the Mongolian nomads. They are one of the last remaining nomadic cultures nowadays. Tradition of thousands of years of wandering the Mongolian steppe is now at risk as a consequence of the changing economic and environmental landscape. Sitting on a vast gold, coal and copper resources, Mongolia has seen an increasing westernization after the fall of the communist regime in ’92. Many of the traditional pastoral herders and cattlemen have chosen to give up the nomadic lifestyle and move to Ulaanbaatar’s impoverished yurt slums.

The following short documentary by the Journeyman Pictures shows how ancient nomadic practices are swapped with the more Western style of life.

Herders often chose to sell their belongings and live off underpaid coal mining jobs. The risk is the abandonment of millennia-old traditions. As Dagvadorj, one of Mongolia’s richest businessmen and sustainer of their culture sai about children born and/or raised in towns: “They seem less and less to know about the 5 ‘muzzles’ (horses, cows, goats, sheep, camels). The Westernization and increasing stagnation of our recent times are a real concern in our nomadic culture”

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/photo-essays/mongolias-nomads

Young nomad herds by motorcycle

eagle hunter

Eagle hunter- Asher Svidensky

http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/photo-essays/mongolias-nomads

Naadam Mongolian Festival

 

References:

http://www.e-mongol.com/mongolia_nomadiclife.htm
Samuel P. Huntington- The Clash of Civilizations
http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-26969150
http://www.globalonenessproject.org/library/photo-essays/mongolias-nomads

Re: HOMOSEXUALITY 1, CONTESTERS 0

by Dan Dracea

As the title already suggests, this is a reply to the article written by Mircea yesterday. You can find it here.

Indeed, the Internet has exploded amid the fact that Austria won the Eurovision Song Contest. And rightfully so, since it was a thing that would definitely be marked “out of the ordinary”. I’m not going to talk about the contest and whether the winner rightfully deserved it, but about the human being that won.

conchita-wurst-bearded-drag-queen-wins-eurovision

Now, the aim of this article is to settle things straight, because I think there is a lot of misunderstanding going on. As Mircea stated in his first paragraph, Thomas Neuwirth (or as “she” is more commonly known as, Conchita Wurst) is indeed, a transsexual. A transsexual is, by definition, a person that identifies himself or herself with a gender opposite to his actual sex. In this case, Miss Sausage (as “wurst” is German for “sausage”) is a man that identifies himself with female culture, thus changing his appearance and coming up with his stage name and behavior. He makes use of makeup, dresses as a woman on stage, but incidentally, wears a beard. He is effectively, a drag queen. This is in no way ordinary, but it is neither ultra-rare.

Notice the fact that I didn’t use “sexual orientation” in any way up until this point. That, my friends, is another concept, totally unrelated to the ones I’ve talked about until now. Sexual orientation has to do with sexual attraction, and the four big types of sexual orientation are heterosexuality (in which a human feels attraction to the opposite gender/sex he/she is) homosexuality (attraction to the same gender/sex), bisexuality (attraction to both genders/sexes) and asexuality (in which case there is no attraction whatsoever; poor chaps).

Having said this and coming back to Conchita Wurst itself, one is wrong to judge him as homosexual, because we have no idea what he is attracted to. The title of Mircea’s article should have been “Trangender 1, Contestants 0,” if you wish.

Today’s society is changing pretty quickly, and it is quite common for these, let’s call them “sexual minorities”, to make themselves heard and noticed. Their numbers are growing as well, and Conchita herself is a prime example of their movement. She stands for “tolerance against a different life style, sexual orientation, or any kind of being away from the norm,” as she said in an interview back in 2012.

The night of the Eurovision Song Contest was “dedicated to everyone who believes in a future of peace and freedom.”

Good for you guys and gals!

This little chap is going to dedicate this night to beer and football.

 

Dan Dracea is a sports journalist based in Romania. You can follow him on Twitter @DDracea.