Quote Of The Day

These days if it is what it is, then it isn’t and it’s fake.  -Me

Post#: 184-19 – Words: 1847 – Audio: N/A

The irony is that what is happening on our border is a reflection of what to expect from practicing democracy.

Some of my readers may be aware that I tend to have a human behavioral slant to some of my posts and responses to other blogs.  I’m also a bit pragmatic in trying to solve problems and issues in working to understand their origins to try and create the solutions that might work.  My formula does not always work in all aspects of life as some problems require a here-and-now solution to meet a crisis, and then hopefully introduce a longer term and more permanent solution that might work that affects the origins of the problem.  Usually many times what “muddies” problem solving are people themselves who might be motivated by a personal bias due to knee-jerk emotion, some cultural influence, politics, religion,  etc., and far less about some logic of a greater good or broader vision of a long term effect.  This is not a “bad” thing as we are all products of our total experiences in life and sometimes we are affected by such experiences first hand which can be hard to divest from our thoughts.   Admittedly, there are times when those with a bias get it right and times when pragmatists miss the mark.  That’s why compromise is so important in our democratic republic, and we are smack in the middle of a swing of the pendulum of change where compromise is a four-letter word to be avoided.

Our current immigration crisis and inability as a nation to deal with it enters the picture as such an example of what I am getting at.  A mass of desperate humanity has physically run smack against a “wall” of seemingly benevolent  humanity who is holding them back out of fear.  How interesting that both sides are being motivated in their actions by fear.   The desperate are pushing for access for fear of what was to happen to them had they stayed where they were… and they are being held back by another group of humanity fearful of letting undesirables pass  through and “polluting” the status quo.  But besides the apparent commonality of fear on both sides, even if the fear is different, the one common factor to both sides that is NOT different is that everyone involved is human.  Yet it’s also the fact that we are all human that makes us all act with some bias.  It’s who we are as a species.

I recently responded to a fellow blog-buddy  elsewhere who had presented his discussion of science and religion and I added it was a kind of manifest destiny in the nature of man to be curious and forge ahead regardless of the need for man to constantly try and control human natural urges through laws and religion.  I mentioned that we expend huge efforts through laws and religion to control our natural human instincts because of our infinite variety and the ability to reason that makes us express this variety.  How does all this relate to inhuman conditions and seemingly inhumane treatment by Customs & Border Protection personnel at our southern border?    It all goes back to the concept of humans restraining, confining, incarcerating other humans.  It’s perfectly a human response to want to “break free”.. again, our manifest destiny as a species.  On the other end, those that are doing the restraining… the CBP agents directly in the trenches doing the guarding… are experiencing a wide range of personal human emotions that translates into stress, which in itself triggers our natural human survival mechanisms of dealing with those kinds of stresses.  No amount of advance training prepared the agents for something on this scale.

As of today it’s being reported that the some CBP personnel have been posting/tweeting  some racial and openly biased opinions of the people they are responsible for containing.  The Congressional group that visited the detention centers and holding areas in the last day or so included with their views on the appalling conditions the stories of apparent inhumane verbal conduct from the guards, and the members of Congress own observations of guard conduct while visiting at these locations.  Now we are wondering why they are behaving this way toward fellow human beings whose only “crime” was trying to escape from where they thought they were going to die.  In the meantime, many contemporary opponents to the CBP organization are renewing their calls for discontinuing the department amid a growing public association with the border crisis itself and poor treatment of innocent people is beyond just poor government policy alone but also administration.


So, What’s Going On With Those Officers Anyway?

Well, this is where we try and use some common sense given we are not privy to knowing the things that are way above our pay grade.

Typically with these kinds of things there’s a number of interrelated reasons.  The first and obvious question is, where was management in all this?  Is this an issue of needing better supervision?  I’m a former management professional in another life and I can tell you firsthand that pretty much a lot of what appears to be a defect in the policy or process in most venues is just deficient management and supervision… many times from top to bottom and not just middle management.  It can be a culture, which in itself means a measure of applied apathy.  Most jobs require a team effort… not bosses acting like prima donnas, turf protectors, or blame deflectors.

I have an idea a fair amount of the CBP problems in this area could be the recent massive hirings over the years of new agents.  Of course they get trained, but it also takes the mentoring of existing veteran staff who have had the job for years and can pass down what they have learned along the way.  This also includes the addition of  supervision and management.  One of my true pet peeves is this idea that a business or department acquires it’s management staff by promoting from the ranks.  If you have a staff that requires supervision or management you promote on their talent to lead and motivate and train and inspire… not because they’ve been in the trenches for 15 years and expect a promotion with the idea of more money and getting the corner office so they sluff off and take longer lunches.

But honestly I think most of the problems have originated from the stresses of the job they’ve been expected to perform.  The sheer numbers of people trying to enter the country, the public pressures and political blame, being the scapegoats and not overly appreciated for what they do, seeming to have no or little support to fix the clear and obvious problems in dealing with the mass of humanity, unable to let anyone know just how bad things are, and here’s the important element…. CBP are human also and are just as repulsed as any pissed off member of Congress.  So each guard learns to compartmentalize their feelings and over time it ends up disassociating the agent from the people he is guarding.  They are compelled to work because they themselves have family and support obligations.  They sit and try to deal with it and end up despising the people they are there to actually help.  Consider this study.


The Stanford Prison Experiment

Rather than me typing it all out here’s the Wiki description of what this was all about.

The Stanford Prison Experiment (SPE) was a social psychology experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It was conducted at Stanford University on the days of August 14–20, 1971, by a research group led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students.[1] In the study, volunteers were randomly assigned to be either “guards” or “prisoners” in a mock prison, with Zimbardo himself serving as the superintendent. Several “prisoners” left mid-experiment, and the whole experiment was abandoned after six days. Early reports on experimental results claimed that students quickly embraced their assigned roles, with some guards enforcing authoritarian measures and ultimately subjecting some prisoners to psychological torture, while many prisoners passively accepted psychological abuse and, by the officers’ request, actively harassed other prisoners who tried to stop it. The experiment has been described in many introductory social psychology textbooks,[2] although some have chosen to exclude it because its methodology is sometimes questioned.[3]

The U.S. Office of Naval Research[4] funded the experiment as an investigation into the causes of difficulties between guards and prisoners in the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps. Certain portions of it were filmed, and excerpts of footage are publicly available.

Note the last paragraph… and then recall the shock & awe people felt with the Abu Grave incident when the military guards there went a bit overboard in treating imprisoned Iraqis during that war.  By time Abu Grave occurred Americans were embarrassed how U.S. soldiers could do such a thing.  Well, I certainly understood the problem.  But the overriding question is… why do we keep presuming we can ignore human response when certain jobs are performed?  Many high stress jobs, to be performed with a measure of accountability and acceptability to the goal, you’d think would require some interface with expected human reactions, and from that develop plans for adequate performance expectations.  In other words.. someone has to not only do research, like Stanford way back in 1971, but figure out a way to apply the knowledge.

Maybe it’s as simple as having agents spend two hours on duty and one hour off… or two hours on and rotate to another duty.  Maybe it’s making mandatory a periodic job psych review as part of an employee health program.  This idea that certain jobs, like police, fire, prison guards, CBP agents, FBI, etc. have these subliminal cultures where you are supposed to “just suck it up and not be a pussy” with your stress feelings just creates or adds to the problems.

I challenge any “normal” person to have a job where you are forced to tend to non-violent people and children being held in cages, inside buildings that stink of body odor, urine, excrement, and keep your sanity.  In fact… if I were a member of Congress and walked into such a building and just smelled that combination… that is enough to tell me there is gross health negligence and an avoidance of human dignity.  I don’t need to go further and test the plumbing, check the floors for filth, or listen to stories of abuse.

I leave you with a quote that most everyone knows but no one pays any attention to it… by Dostoevsky..

“The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.”



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