China’s Dangerous Socioeconomic Malaise

China's Dangerous Socioeconomic Malaise

Fascinating article in the Wall Street Journal today on China’s “Left Behind Kids.”

While we hear about China as the rising Asian economic powerhouse, we do not often contemplate the socioeconomic impact of what is occurring there on Chinese families.

As China rises to economic superpower status, more than 250 million migrant workers pour from the poor rural parts of China to the cities to supply the relatively cheap labor to keep manufacturing humming and the economy brimming with growth.

Those left behind are 61 million Chinese children, who are growing up without one or both parents.

One in five Chinese children haven’t seen their parent(s) for at least 3 months.

But laws in China prevent children from coming to the cities with their parents in order to stem the flow of migration from rural areas.

Chinese parents are saying, “We’ll go wherever we can get the highest pay,”

Children are saying, “What’s the big deal of having no mother anyway? I can grow up without a mom.”

So while smog and pollution is spoiling beautiful China cities and harming people’s physical health, the greater concern is that children are missing out on the loving, bonding, caring, and guidance that comes with a regular parental presence and good sound parenting from them.

Understanding that strong parent-child relationships are critical to the formation of mental, emotional, and spiritual health of the children, the numbers and severity of Chinese children that are missing out on this is of great concern.

While some children may be okay under the care of able grandparents along with regular visits or calls by parents, many others children, who don’t have this, could end up having serious mental and emotional problems.

Already “more than 70% of children in rural China show signs of mental health problems such as anxiety and depression.”

And as is often the case, anxiety and depression turn into resentment and anger.

With tens of millions of left behind children being forced to fend for themselves and hundreds of millions of migrant parents living in “dormitories, tents, or bomb shelters” away from their families and homes, what we have here is a bonafide socioeconomic ticking time bomb.

Political pundits often point to the concern of China’s power elite that the people will rise up against them and the Communist Party,
but I think the far bigger concern is to those outside of the system altogether.

In my mind, the destruction of the core family will ultimately result in a tsunami of frustration, anger, and a weakening of social values.

Moreover, this could very well spillover and lead to a dangerous rise of militancy, where people do not want to lash out against their political system or leadership, but rather against everyone else who took the goods that left them economically richer, but poorer in just about every other way. 😉

(Source Photo: Andy Blumenthal)

Rebuild, Not Regret

Rebuild, Not Regret

The Wall Street Journal (30 July 2013) says that it takes most people at least two years to recover from a breakup or a job loss.

And longer, if the loss is abrupt, sudden–and you are in shock, disbelief, and unprepared.

When something bad happens, this is an important point in our lives to stop, take some time, and reexamine our lives–Where are we going? How did we mess up? What’s really important? How should we rebuild?

While you can’t rush the healing process, I do think that the best medicine (after some recuperative time) is to “get right back on the horse.”

When we suffer a loss, we feel traumatized, depressed, anxious, and self-absorbed.

But the best way to overcome those feelings is to take positive action.

Your feelings are important, but I don’t think that the bad feelings go away until you replace them with positive feelings.

When my wife used to get some negative people in her life, she used to say, “I need positive energy around me,” and I sort of used to laugh, but it’s funny, in a way, she was really right.

Positive energy replaces negative energy. Good feelings replace bad feelings. A good situation replaces a bad one. Rebuilding replaces regret and loss.

This doesn’t mean that when you suffer a loss that the void can ever be filled, but that the only real pain reliever is giving life meaning again–and that means doing something positive with it.

No, I don’t believe in just jumping in to something before you are ready, doing something foolhardy or not well thought out, but you will feel and become better again by coming up with a reasonable plan and working toward it.

Taking positive steps forward is a better scenario than sitting idly in the dumps–for two years or longer, forget it. 😉

(Source Photo: here with attribution to Michael Kappel)

Worry, Who Doesn’t?

Worry, Who Doesn't

Many people worry–they are afraid of all sorts of bad things that can happen.

And they ruminate on what ifs and what they can do about it–if anything.

The more people feel they have no control over a negative situation, the more they worry about it–they can feel helpless and hopeless–and this may even lead to depression.

I remember as a kid my dad telling me a story/joke about this–it went something like this:

One grandmother is talking to another.

She complains how her grandson always worries about going to school.

The other grandmother says, “Oh really, why?”

The first grandmother tells her that her grandson is worried because “The kids hate him. The teachers hate him. And everyone gives him a hard time.”

The other grandmother says, “So why doesn’t he go talk the principal?”

The first grandmother answers, “Because he is the principal!”

The moral of the story is that everyone has problems, and has worries, and it doesn’t matter who you are–whether you’re a kid in school or the principal in charge, a worker in the company or the CEO, and so on.

I think sometimes we lose sight of the frailty of all human beings and we think mistakingly that just because someone is successful or high up on the totem pole of life that they don’t have worries and problems.

Which reminds me of something else my grandfather used to say: “G-d doesn’t let any tree grow into the heavens.”

No matter how big a person gets, G-d reminds us of who is really boss–so chop chop on the tree and watch that big ego–we’re just people. 😉

(Source Photo of picture: Andy Blumenthal)

Sorry Amanda Todd

Just watched this video with my daughter about Amanda Todd, the 15 year old girl from Canada who hung herself on Wednesday.

She made some mistakes with some guys–looks like she was taken advantage of–and then she was ruthlessly bullied, tormented, tagged, shamed, followed, beaten, and encouraged to kill herself.

After depression, anxiety, drugs, alcohol, cutting, and drinking bleach, she finally hung herself and is gone.

To those horrible people that pursued this young women and essentially murdered her–you are vile and disgusting and G-d will one day bring you to final judgment.

To the family of Amanda Todd, our heart, prayers, and sympathy goes out to you–your daughter and all decent people like her deserve better from society.

If we can only learn from this tragedy, perhaps her death will not have been in vain.

She wrote: “I have nobody. I need somebody. :(”

Hopefully, she is now with the heavenly father–and has not just somebody, but the one that matters the most.

Let People Feel

Dr. Ben Bissell has a terrific presentation on Managing Change and Transitions.

Basically Bissell explains that when we face Significant Emotional Events (SEEs)–major life changes (personally in our lives or professionally)–we go through 5 stages:

– Shock (i.e. Denial)–I Can’t Believe it!

– Emotions (e.g. Anger)–How could this happen to me?

– Bargaining–Do we have to do it today?

– Depression (i.e. grief)—I can’t take it anymore!

– Acceptance–1) Intellectual–If that’s what they want! 2) Emotional–Ride the train or be run over by it.

When we have major life change, we can experience loss in terms of control, influence, respect, freedom, security, identity, competence, direction, relationship and resources–in essence, we are forced out of our comfort zone and must transition.

Since according to Biseell “all change produces loss (and fear), and all loss must be grieved, it is understandable why these stages of transition track to the Kubler-Ross model of the 5 stages of grief.

Bissell explains that getting through these stages is not quick and takes a minimum of one and a half years to make it all the way through the 5 stages–during which time, it’s normal to feel abnormal.

The problem is when you get stuck in one of these five stages, then you either:

– Get burned out and quit

– Act out and get difficult

– Become sick, physically or emotionally (e.g. migraines, chronic depression, etc.)

Some ways we can help people get through changes is to:

– Recognize and accept that these stages are normal and necessary.

– Give people a safe place to vent their feelings (i.e. low morale = unresolved anger).

– Increase information flow–when people are undergoing severe life change, you need to counter the tendency for distorted perceptions and help them see where they are going and how they will get there.

– Maintain other elements of stability and familiarity in the person’s life–this gives comfort.

– Protect your health–your body, your breathing, your pace of eating and living, and your sleep.

– Give yourself time and space to play, be silly, be foolish, unwind (or else you will pop).

Bissell recognizes that the pace of change is continually increasing and “technology is seeing to that.”

Therefore, there is an increased urgency to help people deal with change in healthy ways–working through the stages of transition.

However, from my perspective, when people suffer huge losses in their lives, they never really get over it. The loss is always there, even if it’s just behind the scenes rather than out front like the first year or so.

When it comes to loss, people can experience enormous pain, which gets engraved in their consciousness and memories, and we should not expect them to just get over it.

In other words, it’s okay to incorporate feelings of loss and grief into who we are–it is part of us and that is nothing to run from or fear.

Just like good events can having lasting positive impacts in our lives, so do severe disruptions and grief.

People will progress and continue to heal, but they will always feel what they feel–good and bad–and we should never take that away from them.

(Source Photo: here with attribution to LiquidNight)

>"Sexual Healing"–Marvin Gaye Wasn’t Kidding

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Ok, so the only topic that can compete with the killing of Osama Bin Laden (OBL) this week is an an article about sex–what???

No, I am not trying to be crude or vulgar. The Wall Street Journal, 3 May 2011, in the Health Journal reports that research show numerous health benefits to sex.

As if the mere act of procreation wasn’t enough already…research now shows that sex:

– “Relieves stress” (“there’s a relaxation response and a satiation response”)–what’s new there?
– “Improves sleep and burns calories“–ok, more no brainers as it “burns an estimated five calories per minute”–did anyone say competition with Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig? 🙂
– “Reduces pain” (“you lie there and life is great”)–who has time to think about pain?
– “Eases depression…improves mood“–ditto with the above
– “Strengthen blood vessels“–it’s good exercise!
– “Boosts the immune system“–a perk up all around.
– “Lowers the risk of prostate and breast cancer“–Thank G-d!

Of course, there are chemical explanations for pretty much all these things: hormones, neurotransmitters, endorphins, testosterone, estrogen, prostaglandins, dopamine, prolactin…(OMG, no wonder, I never went to medical school).

But maybe the greatest gift of all, aside from the pure love and intimacy are several studies which suggest that “sex extends life in general”–almost like the holy grail of health benefits:

For men, those “who had sex less than once per month were twice as likely to die in the next 10 years than those who had sex once per week.” While for women, those “who said they enjoyed their sex lives lived 7-8 years longer than those who were indifferent.”

Like I said, maybe the only story of the week that can compete with the U.S. dealing the final blow to OBL.

Oh, what a week. 😉

>Internet Addiction—The Real Thing

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Yes, people talk about having an Internet addiction and chuckle. But this is becoming the real thing!

AP (3 September 2009) reports that ReSTART, the first U.S. residential treatment center for Internet addiction opened near Redmond (home of Microsoft).

The center offers a 45-day program costing $14,000 to treat pathological computer use.

This includes “obsessive use of video games, texting, Facebook, eBay, Twitter” and more.

So far only one patient is in treatment, but more are sure to be coming.

“There are many such treatment centers in China, South Korea, and Taiwan—where Internet addiction is taken very seriously—and many psychiatric experts say it is clear that Internet addiction is real and harmful.

How does using the Internet or computer harm people?

The effects of addiction are no joke. They range from loss of a job or marriage to car accidents for those who can’t stop texting while driving. Some people have did after playing video games for days without a break, generally stemming from a blood clot associated with being sedentary.”

Experts are debating whether to include Internet Addiction in the next version of the Diagnostic Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders 2012.

“’Internet addicts’ are folks who have severe depression, anxiety, disorders, or social symptoms that make it hard for them to live a full, balanced life and deal face-to-face with other people.”

What are the warning signs (according to AP)?

  • Preoccupied thinking about computers and the Internet
  • Using it longer than intended
  • Using it for increasing amounts of time
  • Repeatedly making unsuccessful efforts to control use
  • Jeopardizing relationships, school or work to spend time online
  • Lying to cover the extent of use
  • Using it to escape problems or feelings of depressions

I suppose everything can be taken to an extreme even computer use. In which case, even highly useful, productive, and transformative information technology can be misused and abused.

Oddly enough, we seem to be feeding the addiction like a glutton—there is an almost endless array of new computer gadgets and applications giving almost endless reason to get online and soak up all the information, social media, e-commerce, and entertainment available. It’s all very alluring and compelling.

Seems pretty easy for people to go of the deep end with this.

So when was the last time you stayed off the Internet for more than 24 hours? How many of you are compulsively checking email, Blackberrys, Facebook, Twitter, IM, texting, and surfing the net? I would even throw in compulsively on the cell phone—yap, yap, yap.

Will there come a time when people reject this 24/7/365 e-lifestyle and push for greater online moderation?

Looking at other types of addictions, at one time people smoked like chimneys and then the realization of the negative side effects led to people putting on the nicotine patches or otherwise going cold turkey, either kicking the habit or greatly cutting back.

The same occurred with a period in society of heavy drinking/alcoholism followed by prohibition and then a more moderate acceptance of social drinking.

It seems that the addiction line gets crossed when people can no longer control their behavior and it results in them hurting themselves or others.

The problem is that we don’t have very good foresight with any of this and we only tend to see the negative consequences of overuse/abuse only after some time—that the empirical nature of science.

So will we wait for a higher prevalence of socio/psychological disorders from Internet addiction, greater numbers of burnt out workers, higher divorce rates, more child neglect, further accidents because people can’t stop their darn texting while driving OR will we be able to foresee the unintended, but certain effects of doing too much of a good, Internet thing?