Monday, September 3, 2012


We all know that bullying (or mobbing) in the workplace is a form of violence. However, bullying can sometimes lead to violence. The targets of bullies are injured, sometimes severely injured. We have a large number of veterans in this country who have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a result of their experiences in the military. Sometimes one of them will resort to violence, either against themselves, or against others. The same is true of people who have been injured on the front lines in the workplace, injured because they've been the target of a bully (or bullies). Here is documentation supporting that information. The following information is quoted from the books/sources mentioned.


Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace by Noa Davenport, Ph.D, Ruth Distler Schwartz and Gail Pursell Elliott 
Copyright 1999, 2002 
Published by Civil Society Publishing 
                       P.O.Box 1663 
                       Ames, Iowa 50010-1663

 "In 1998, the International Labour Office (ILO) published the report Violence at Work, written by Duncan Chappell and Vittorio Di Martino. In this report, mobbing and bullying behaviors are discusses along side homicide and other more commonly known violent behaviors" (Page 23).

"Extensive research conducted in Sweden in 1990 extrapolated that 3.5% of the labor force of 4.4 million persons, i.e. some 154,000, were mobbing victims at any given time. Dr Leymann also estimated that 15% of the suicides in Sweden are directly attributed to workplace mobbing" (Page 23).

"Mobbing is an emotional assault. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace. These actions escalate into abusive and terrorizing behavior. The victim feels increasingly helpless when the organization does not put a stop to the behavior or may even plan or condone it. As a result, the individual experiences increasingly distress, illness, and social misery. Frequently productivity is affected and victims begins to use sick leave to try to recover from the daily pressures and torment. Depression or accidents may occur. Resignation, termination, or early retirement, the negotiated voluntary or involuntary expulsion from the workplace, follows. For the victim, death - through illness or suicide - may be the final chapter in the mobbing story" (page 33).

"The combination of these ten major factors impacts gravely the emotional and physical well-being of the targeted individual and can result in death by illness, accident, or suicide" (Page 42).

"Despair and rage may push some people to the extremes. They commit acts of violence - directed at themselves or at the mobbers and even at innocent people. Feeling hopeless and destroyed, some individuals may take their lives" (page 94).

"Yet another option that some people consider is to take revenge through violence. Feeling depressed or angry, they direct violence at themselves or at the mobbers. To avoid acting out on impulse, seek help quickly. Violence is not a rational choice" (Page 101).

"Leymann estimated that some 10-15% of all suicides in Sweden could be attributed to workplace mobbing. Although this is somewhat uncertain, as actual data is almost impossible to come by, other researchers have confirmed that almost half the victims in their surveys have contemplated suicide. Currently there are more than 30,000 suicides annually in the U.S., about 12 per 100,000 persons, or 1 suicide every 17 minutes. If we use the conservative Swedish percentage of 10% of all suicides attributable to workplace issues, there would be some 3,000 suicides in the U.S. directly linked to the workplace. As far as workplace homicide is concerned, employers and employees are killed every year because of arguments over money, property, or other reasons. Every so often the media informs us of workplace shootings by disgruntled employees, but there is rarely a report that identifies the deeper background of these tragedies" (Page 189).


Adult Bullying: Perpetrators and Victims
By Peter Randall
Copyright 1997
Published by Routledge
                      11 New Fetter Lane
                      London, EC4P 4EE
and by           Routledge
                      29 West 35th St.
                      New York, NY 10001

"Regrettably, the frequency with which aggression is encountered in on the increase: certainly this is the case for workplace conflicts.  In the USA the problem is already extreme: for example the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, during the year ending July 1993, recorded more than 1,000 workplace murders, 6 million threats, and more than 2 million physical assaults on workers (Van Aalten, 1994).  Survey evidence from the Center for Disease Control suggest that fifteen murders occur in US workplaces each week, making it the third largest cause of death at work. Not surprisingly, given these statistics, one in four workers in the USA report being harassed, attacked, or threatened at work during a one-year period (Johnson and Indvik, 1996). These and other related facts make the USA one of the worst places in the world for homicide, currently with ten times the English rate (Olsen, 1994)" (Pages 1-2).

"Over 1 million individuals are the victims of violent crimes in the workplace each year. This figure constitutes approximately 15 percent of all violent crimes committed annually in the United States. Of these crimes 60 percent were characterized as simple assault by the Department of Justice.

"Of all workplace crimes of violence reported, over 80 percent were committed by males, 40 per cent were complete strangers to the victims, 35 per cent by casual acquaintances, 19 per cent by individuals well known to the victim and 1 per cent by relatives to the victim. It is the 19 per cent of individuals well know to the victims that are of particular concern to organizations because it is within this group that aggression between workers is to be found..."

"...It was estimated that aggression in the workplace caused some 500,000 employees to miss 1,751,000 days of work annually, or 3.5 days per incident.  This missed work equated to approximately $55 million in lost wages " (Page 47-48).
"This potential range of effects on victims is enormous. Quite apart from people giving up their chosen careers in order to avoid bullies. It is not unknown for bullying at work to cause problems in pregnancy, alcohol abuse, psychiatric illness, family problems, marital and relationship difficulties, suicide, and, most frequently of all, resignation to the superiority of the bully. As has been mentioned before, the effects of bullying have been likened to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) (Parker and Randall, 1996)..." (Page 57).

"In this context, organisational health is not a matter of financial viability, profit or loss, high versus low productivity or any other monetary indicator. In this instance organisational health refer to the commitment on the part of management to sustain a happy, healthy, and secure workplace. Such a commitment would not permit harassment of any sort and would have in place policies and procedures designed to minimize and, as far as possible, prevent it. Organisations that fail to do this are not healthy and they may ultimately become a victim of hostility and aggression experience within the workplace. It is of great importance that an organisation be as proactive in the management of aggression as it is in its marketing, production and development strategies " (Page 106) (emphasis mine).

"Employees should feel both physically safe and psychologically secure in their workplace.  Those who do not can be subjected to significant occupational stress to which they may respond aggressively by harassing others. This potential aggression can be significantly reduced by the presence of strong safety and crises management procedures. In one recent survey in relation to workplace homicide, Stuart (1972) discovered that in the Atlanta metropolitan area:
    76% of the businesses surveyed were operated by mangers who believed that crises in the workplace were inevitable;
     despite these high proportion, about the same percentage of these businesses had no crises management plan;
     73% of the businesses surveyed were operated by mangers who reported having n training in dealing with crises situations;
     additionally 72% of those businesses had no crises management team; and 50% of those surveyed reported that they were not satisfied with their crises response procedures..."

"Although crises is generally about saving lives, minimizing injuries and protecting organizational property and production lines, it is also about the prevention of large problems by the early identification of small problems. This definitely includes aggression in the workplace, which, fortunately on rare occasions, can explode into serious physical assaults and even murder. It is clear, therefore, that safety officers and personnel officers should work closely together on crises management procedures such that safety rules contain specific reference to those contained within anti-harassment procedures. This is particularly necessary where staff may interact with the general public, some of whom may use bullying tactics to secure what they may believe to be their rights.
In establishing a crises management team the organisation should include within it those who can deal with traumatized staff or refer them on to other agencies.  This is obviously necessary in the case of debriefing staff who have been traumatised by explosions, fires, and other major incidents, but should also include a facility for those who have been traumatised by bullying behavior from within the workforce" (Page 109-110).


Stalking the Soul: Emotional Abuse and the Erosion of Identity
By Marie-France Hirigoyen
Published 1998 by Edition La Decouverte & Syros, Paris.

"A person who has undergone psychic aggression such as emotional abuse is truly a victim because his or her psyche has been, to a greater or lesser degree, permanently altered. Even if a victim's reactions to emotional abuse contribute to a sustained, even seemingly equal, relationship with the aggressor, one must not forget that this person suffers from a situation for which he or she is not responsible. When victims of this insidious form of violence do consult a psychotherapist, it is generally for the treatment of a self-contained problem such as mental inhibition and lack of confidence and assertiveness; it can also be a state of permanent depression that is unresponsive to medication, or a more intense depression potentially leading to suicide. If they sometimes complain about their "partner" or those around them, they may also seem unaware of the terrible subterranean violence that threatens them.  This pre-existing state of psychic confusion can make even the psychotherapist gloss over the question of objective violence. These situations share a common unthinkable element: the victims, while recognizing their suffering, cannot really imagine that violence and abuse have taken place. Sometime doubt persists: " Am I making it all up, as others have suggested?" When and if they dare to complain about what is happening, they feel inadequate to describe it and therefore assume they are misunderstood.
I have deliberately chose the terms "perverse abuser" and "victim" because this is a case of hidden but authentic violence" (Pages 9-10).

"Psychiatrists generally encounter victims at the decompensation stage.  They suffer from pervasive anxiety, depression, or psychosomatic illnesses. Decompensation can lead to violence in more impulsive patients. Abusers often take this as justification for their behavior..."

"....Depression is linked to exhaustion and too much stress. Victims feel empty, tired ,and without energy. Nothing interests them. They can't think about and concentrate on even the most mundane subjects. They will sometimes contemplate suicide. The risk of suicide becomes greater during the period when they suddenly realize they've been cheated and their damages will never be compensated" (Pages 159-160).

A direct result of abusive provocation for still others is behavior in nature. Hysterics in public or attack on the abuser are vain attempts to be heard which instead will be turned against the victim..."
"Impulsive as well as predatory abuse can lead to violent crime, although it's more likely in the former. Emotional abuses, in order to prove the victims are bad, will go so far as arouse violent reactions in them. In the movie Passage a l'Acte (1996) by Francis Girod, a perverse abuser makes his psychiatrist kill him. He has played the game out to its fullest extent. Sometimes the victim turns the violence against himself and commits suicide because it's the only way to get rid of his aggressor" (Page 161). 


The Bully at Work: What You Can Do to Stop the Hurt and Reclaim Your Dignity On the Job.
By Gary Namie, PhD, and Ruth Namie PhD
Copyright 2000, 2003
Published by Sourcebooks, Inc.
Napierville, IL 60567-4410

"Workplace violence certainly grabs headlines, but they are misleading. Workers face the greatest risks of assault from customers, clients, robbers, scorned lovers, and strangers. Violence between workers, of the same or different rank, accounted for only 11 percent of workplace homicides, according to the University of California-Berkeley Labor Occupational Health Program's 1997 findings..."

"...There is a highly profitable workplace violence "industry" created by management consultants who don't want employers to hear the 11 percent figure.  They want employers to fear employees. That illogical fear convinces employers to pay huge fees for psychological testing of non-supervisory employees and of pre-hire job applicants.  Testing is wrong for two reasons. First, an uncritical acceptance of testing places a premium on personality as the cause of all action.  In reality, hostile workplaces, in other words, situations and circumstances coerce people to do strange things.  A second  error is to omit testing mangers, who comprise 81 percent of the pool of bullies according to our research. Therefore the perpetrators are exempt from having their own aggressive impulses detected..."

"...Are bullied Targets a violence risk?  In the rarest of circumstances, a Target , after years of mistreatment at the hands of a tyrant and inaction by the employer, saw no alternative and turned to violence..."
"...Post- shooting analysts carefully have to dissect each episode of workplace violence.  If the shooter selects certain people, then we at the institute are reasonable sure that those victims had previously frustrated the person by ignoring or denying repeated complaints about mistreatment at work..  That is, when the victims are an EEO officer, a human resource staffer, or the boss of the bully, then we can contribute the violence to unaddressed bullying.  Sadly the knee-jerk, simplistic story told is that the shooter was a wacko.  Reporters interview the bullying supervisor who defames the employee as a poor performer "with troubles" as the body is being loaded into the coroner's wagon.  It is more likely that Targets direct the violence inward and commit suicide.  Given the roles shame and humiliation play in their lives, Targets have great difficulty getting out of bed and often suffer from depression.  By the time they kill themselves they have lost their marriages, their homes, their children, and all hope of surviving economically.  It was bullying that probably drove them out of their job and started the decline in the quality of their lives in the first place..  Unfortunately, the link between the suicide and the cruel mistreatment and subsequent loss of job is less obvious than the trail of bodies in a public shooting rampage.  A federal agency union representative knew of nine suicides in one year in her region directly attributable to bullying " (Page 8-10).


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Invisible Injury  (2005 editon)
By David Kinchin
Pub. 2004 by Success Unlimited
            P.O. Box 67
            Oxfordshire OX11 9YS, UK

"After seeing so many traumatized Vietnam veterans, the medical profession recognized that all victims of extremely traumatic events tended to exhibit similar behaviour and symptoms.  Significant numbers of Vietnam veterans were displaying signs that all was not well with their lives. Their traumatic wartime experiences were adversely affecting their state of health. Upon returning  home they were not welcomed as heroes. Civilians just did not want to know.  The combination of suffering severe trauma and experiencing such a negative reaction back home led some veterans to resort to drink, drugs, and violence" (Page 3).

"The spiral of events may lead to feelings of depression and anxiety.  Untreated, this can have dangerous and far-reaching consequences.  Resultant poor attendance at the workplace may result in unemployment, and irritability often adds strain to all personal relationships.  All this, combined with possible uncontrollable and violent outbursts during periods when the victim is re-experiencing the trauma, can add up to an unbearable life. Things cannot continue in this way for long" (Page 11).

NOTE: In chapter 3, entitled "Symptoms of PTSD," on page 46 included with a list of the symptoms of PTSD is "violent outbursts."

"Families can suffer if they are unable to approach the issues correctly. Families with trauma victims may be more inclined to outbursts of anger and violence.  Their care skills and ability to be intimate may dwindle as poor communication leads to lack of trust and feelings of insecurity.  A general dissatisfaction with life may become the predominant family mood.  Victims are hard to cheer up, and can be prone to repeated re-occurrences of crises and panic.  Substance abuse and sexual dissatisfaction are problems which may occur" (Page 63).

NOTE: In chapter 5 entitled, "Complications, " on page 70 under a list of  "common symptoms of depression that are linked to PTSD" is: "recurrent thoughts of death/suicide."

NOTE: In chapter 10 entitled "People Who Can Help" on page 111 under a list of the reminders of  "the symptoms of PTSD, " is "violent outbursts."

"Sleeplessness, irritability, poor memory, out bursts of violence and other physical symptoms can all be linked to the way we feel.  There are several ways of relieving these symptoms.  Some involve conventional treatments while others resort to natural remedies.  All of them have been found to help ease the situations" (Page 112).


Bully in Sight: How to Predict, Resist, Challenge, and Combat Workplace Bullying.
By Tim Field
Pub. 1996 by Success Unlimited
                       P.O. Box 67
                       Oxfordshire OX11 9YS, UK

:Acculturation: this is the greatest danger - over time, through acculturation and becoming accustomed to the company culture, bullying comes to be seen as normal.  It then requires an event of significant magnitude - such as legal action, violence, or even suicide - to shake the workplace - at all levels - out of its complacency, acquiescence and denial" (Page 11).

NOTE: In Chapter 8 on "Symptoms and Effects" on page 130 under a list of  "psychological symptoms of stress from bullying" is "thoughts of suicide."  Personal note:  There are 47 items on this list.  I suffered from 27 of those symptoms as a result of the bullying I was subjected to at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center (SARMC), bullying which to this day St. Alphonsus management refuses to take responsibility for or even acknowledge.  Also note that  "thoughts of suicide" was NOT one of the symptoms I experienced.  I publicly stated that when I reported why I left SARMC  to many former co-workers, but management lied and said that it was, and used that lie and others to justify a punitive psychiatric admission to their own hospital.

NOTE: IN Chapter 8 on "Symptoms and Effect" on page 133 under a list of "behavioural symptoms of stress from bullying," is "suicide - real, attempted, or contemplated."

"The effects of personality are harder to define, but no less real to the sufferer.  Indeed the English language lacks appropriate words to describe the feelings of a shattered self-confidence, other than by listening the possible consequences of those sensations.  The ultimate conclusion is suicide, although many victims have a behaviour pattern which includes a strong sense of injustice" (pages 137-138).


From the "Los Angeles Lawyers Mesriani Law Group" at

Under the title "Workplace Bullying and Its Victims" "Meanwhile several studies found that victims of workplace bullying experience severe stress, depression, sleep deprivation, chronic headache and stomach ache, and low self-esteem.  There are also reported cases in which workers had committed suicide after experiencing workplace bullying."


Going Postal: Rage. Murder. and Rebellion: From Reagan's Workplace to Clinton's Columbine and Beyond
By Mark Ames
Published 2005 by Soft Skull Press
                               55 Washington Street, 804
                               Brooklyn, NY 11201

NOTE: On of the chief points of Ames' book is to point out that the workplace and school shootings which have occurred with increasing frequency in this country have one thing in common, and only one thing in common. All the shooters involved were the targets of chronic bullying and harassment: if in school from other students and/or administration; if at the workplace, from co-workers and/or management.  This is true from the Sept. 14, 1989 killing of seven people and wounding twenty by Joseph (Rocky) Wesbecker at Standard Gravure in Louisville, Kentucky, one of the first workplace/school massacres, to the much better known Columbine school shootings in Colorado, and since including the Virginia Tech massacre which is not included in this book because it occurred after the book was published. These following quotes are included here with that information in mind. 

"To add to all these pressures, Wesbecker had to put up with the kind of toxic bullying which is common in the workplace, yet until recently, rarely considered" (Page 27).                                  

"Everyone today agrees that slavery caused slave violence. and that inner-city poverty and pressures breed violent crime. Why is it so awful to suggest that offices, such as they are today, breed office massacres" (page 67)?

"Every massacre is followed by one of these disingenuous whys, and each time, the larger cultural tendency is to move on. Yet Uyesugi's massacre (Xerox Co. Honolulu, Nov. 2, 1999) suggested that rage had a context.  Something in modern America that was hard to frame was causing them to break out only in America and only in our very recent history.  These weren't just any old murders, they were part of something hard to define.  Yet they were all related, Xerox, Columbine, post offices, fact, it seems to me obvious that school and office massacres had to be linked - the story-lines were almost identical including duffel bags, quiet types, and shooting at random, and the community reaction that followed always repeated itself.  Incapable of even conceiving an explanation, the public would ask why and then blame the most convenient villain it could drag out of he rigged lineup, lax gun control laws, video games, people who just snap..." (Page 85).

"Rather than looking outside of the office for an explanation for these shootings sprees  - rather than blaming violent films, gun proliferation, the break-up of the family, the lack of God, or a fear-mongering media-  why not consider the changes within America's corporate culture itself?  We avoid this topic in mainstream discourse, and there are powerful reasons for self-censorship: if the workplace is responsible, then that means every working American is potentially in peril, living in unbearable circumstances, yet too deluded, or too beaten down to recognize it" (Page 87).

Information compiled by Leonard Nolt.
Responses Welcome 


Saturday, March 17, 2012

"...the hugh investments flowing from China, Europe, and Japan are intended not just to transform their energy sectors, but also to transform their economies by wresting technological and production leadership from the United States. "...the continuing quagmire of U.S. political fighting over energy policies and climate change and the hostility of the Republican Party toward renewable energy are discouraging continued investment here and threatening our long-term prospects."

"It is striking that our primary industrial competitors - Europe, China, and Japan - not only accept the reality of climate change and the need to transition toward a low-carbon economy, but they embrace and seek to dominate this transiton as a source of jobs and economic growth. Only in the United States are ideology and oil money impeding this transition. Even those who question climate change should embrace our renewable energy and energy-efficiency industries as economic drivers that can help pull the United States out of its economic doldrums."

by Douglas A. Ruley, from the Nov/Dec. issue of Solar Today, Page 33.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Note from July 12, 2011

At breakfast this moring at a Bob Evans Restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia, Zach (our 8-year-old grandson), while munching a chocolate chip pancake drowning in syrup, said, "I kinda wish I was younger, because it sucks getting old." Then he added, "I want to enjoy the ride as long as it lasts."
From August 5, 2011

Today Zach and I were biking home from downtown along the Greenbelt which is about 5-8 miles. About 35 minutes into the ride the following conversation took place.
Leonard: Zach, I'm surprised your not whining about your legs getting tired.
Zach: I'm saving my whines until we get home.
The following conversation took place back in August:
After unloading the clothes dryer, filled with Zach's clothes, he, Kate, and I had this conversation:

Papa: Zach, you need to fold your clean clothes and put them away.
Kate: Yes, Zach, get to it
Papa: From now on it will be your job to fold your clothes and put them away. Helping to take care of yourself by folding your clothes and putting them where they belong will make you a happier kid.
Zach (with a dour or gloomy tone in his voice): I'm already too happy.
I recommend this article which addresses the issue of workplace bullying, a problem in many businesses, especially health care.
On Oct 20 Zach and I were making Christmas cards together from scratch using recycled Christmas cards from previous years. Zach picked up one I made years ago with the words "Peace on Earth," on it and announced that this was a good birthday care for Jackson. I pointed out that that particular phrase applies to Christmas, not to a regular birthday, and Zach promptly responded by saying that since Jackson was born on April 22, which is Earth Day, it applies as much to his birthday as to Christmas. Although he thought of it first, I immediately recognized the accuracy of his insight and complimented him for it.
Zach, commenting on the new, expensive, but very disappointing LED light bulb I recently put in a lamp in our living room: "It's so bad the bugs won't even fly to it."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

When we're listening to political candidates talk about immigration, it's important and helpful to remember this information:

Thursday, August 25, 2011

"If all U.S. residents reduced their consumption of animal products by half, the nation's total dietary water requirements in 2025 would drop by 261 billion cubic meters per year, a savings equal to the annual flow of 14 Colorado Rivers."

Sandra Postel, Director of Global Water Policy Project; author of "Last Oasis: Facing Water Scarcity." in Yes! Magazine, Summer, 2010 issue, page 23.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

For those familiar with his work, the theologian Gordon Kaufman, died recently. Here's an article about him by Ted Grimsrud.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"Curtis White in The Middle Mind argues that most Americans are aware of the brutality and injustice used to maintain the excesses of their consumer society and empire. He suspects they do not care. They don't want to see what is done in their name. They do not want to look at the rows of flag-draped coffins or the horribly maimed bodies and faces of the veterans who return home, or the hundreds and thousands we have killed in Iraq. It is too upsetting. They do not want to read about the nation's growing legions of under-employed and poor, or the child laborers in sweat shops who make our clothing and our shoes. Government and media censorship - increasingly common since the attack of 2001 - are appreciated. Most prefer to be entertained."
From "I Don't Believe in Atheists" by Chris Hedges; Pages 85-86.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

The NRA: Couriers of Death

The irresponsible National Rifle Association (NRA) has done an enormous amount of damage to the people of this country, making our homeland a more dangerous place for children as well as adults and turning our neighborhood into places characterized by hostility rather than hospitality. The over-population of firearms, especially those designed primarily to shoot people, results in many more successful suicide attempts than would take place if firearms were not so prevalent. It also makes it far easier for arguments and conflicts to turn deadly. Unfortunately the nefarious influence of the NRA also extends to victimizing birds and other creatures as pointed out in this article.

Monday, May 30, 2011

"My job was to give them faith in their own voice, and let them know that a friend was listening."
A beautiful line from the movie, "The King's Speech,"

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"The afternoon is an unmade bed you can't crawl into."

from "Milkdress" poems by
Nicole Cooley, Pub. 2010
by Alice James Books
page 58.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Language and Life

Note: This essay/review, with some slight changes, was written in 1995 for the Psycholinguistics class I was taking at Boise State University, taught by Mary Ellen Ryder.
Ryder, one of the two or three best professors I had in college, died in a wildfire that consumed her home and several others in east Boise on Aug, 25, 2008.

For over twenty-five years I've worked in hospitals and medical centers mostly as a respiratory therapist, but also as a nurse aide and orderly. I've been intrigued by the kind of communication which takes place between patients and health care workers. Frequently I've heard nurses and others involved in health care refer to patients with words like "honey," "luv," "darling," and "dear." Usually the people they're addressing are older, smaller in stature, and in a weaker physical condition. They may be male or female. They are also strangers, people they've had no contact with outside of their place of employment. Often they are new admissions who have just arrived at the hospital. It's always bothered me to hear others use those terms in addressing strangers. I have to wonder what terms they use to address those they are intimate with, spouses, children, and other family members, and loved ones. If words normally used for that purpose are used on strangers, what kind of language remains for their loved ones?

Robin Lakoff toward the end of her book Language and Woman's Place addresses the same concern. Lakoff claims that women who are socially subordinate, especially saleswomen and waitresses, are inclined to talk like this. Probably that would also include most health care workers, since they, like waitresses and saleswomen have never been included in the upper echelons of society. I've heard women speak like that to male and female patients and I've heard some men use these terms when speaking to a female patient, but I've never heard a heterosexual man speak that way to a male patient. Lakoff reports the same observation.

Lakoff claims that speaking in condescending terms of endearment (as to a child) toward another adult, who does not respond in a similar manner, is evidence that a nonparallel relationship exists. In other words it's a relationship in which one person is seen as being subordinate to another. Lakoff is accurate in her assessment of the situation. In the hospital a patient is "under" the care and to some extent, also under the power and control of the physicians, nurses, aides, therapists, and technicians caring for him or her. Today patients have more rights and more control over the care they receive so the discrepancy is not as great as it was a couple decades ago, but it's still significant. This nonparallel relationship impacts the language people use. However not every health care worker speaks to patients in such a manner. Are those who refrain from addressing patients with intimate terms, when no intimacy exists between them, showing more respect and granting more control to the patient?

Lakoff starts her book with the following sentence, "Language uses us as much as we use language." Language and Woman's Place is a short, but powerful treatise proving that point. Unfortunately a large segment of our society is misused by the language they've been taught, and have to hear. Recently I saw the movie Dangerous Minds, and in one scene the teacher, played by Michele Peiffer, tells her class that they have to have a vocabulary in order to think. Lakoff maintains that the vocabularies taught to boys and girls differ, and they differ in ways which oppress women and make it more difficult for them to succeed, and to be taken seriously by others when they are adults. The way we use words directs our thinking, and it sends our thoughts down paths that support mistreating others with language, and ultimately also with action or inaction. We are told and taught to think before we speak in order to avoid saying something foolish. The reverse is also true. The words we select and the way we arrange them in sentences can also mislead our thinking.

The language people speak reflect social inequalities which make succeeding in life more difficult for women. Language also helps perpetuate those same inequalities which it reflects. Some language considered appropriate for men to use is seen as being too strong for female usage which, according to Lakoff, reinforces male positions of strength in society while denying women equal access to those same positions.

Of course language isn't the only part of our society which oppresses women, but it's the only topic of this book. Lakoff comments on the traditional conclusion of the marriage ceremony, "I now pronounce you man and wife," a conclusion which probably isn't used much any more. She doesn't mention the equally discriminatory and much more alive tradition of a woman having to wait until a man asks her for a date, and also the tradition of using the bride's father to "give her away" to the groom at the wedding. If when they started dating, a woman was given the power of making the initial choice by asking a man for a date, a big step would be taken toward equality of the sexes. I have four daughters and I have, at times, encouraged them to ask a boy for a date, but tradition and peer pressure have always been much stronger than a father's suggestion, a suggestion that's trying to change a deeply ingrained cultural habit. None of my daughters are married but I've informed them that I wouldn't give them away when they got married unless the groom's mother does the same to the groom. That tradition, which I find revolting, implies that the bride is the property of her father until she becomes the property of her husband. If Lakoff had tied more of her observations about language to examples of customs like this, she might have been more convincing to doubting readers. Of course then she would have a much longer book. I found her arguments and observations very insightful and convincing, but I was a believer before I read it.

The words we use oppress or liberate, not just others, but us also. It's impossible to legislate a different way of talking. The status of women in society will only improve when the accomplishments of women are given equal recognition. According to Lakoff unequal language and communication reflects inequalities in society. Only by being aware of society's inequalities and the ways in which they are supported linguistically will someone gain the power to change and gradually help attain a better, more equitable society. Lakoff's book is a gift which raises awareness of these inequalities in speech. That can make a positive difference.

from Oct. 9, 1995

Leonard Nolt

Monday, February 28, 2011

"In the end we will remember, not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."
Martin Luther King

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

"It's easier to learn to do without some of the things than money can buy than to earn the money to buy them." Dolly Freed from the book "Possum Living;" quoted from the Jan, 2010 issue of Oprah, Page 103.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Health Care: Canada vs USA

There a lot of controversy about US and Canadian health care systems. Many US citizens criticize the Canadian system, painting horror stories about health care in our neighbor to the north. Others say we would do well to copy the Canadian system. Sara Robinson regularly sees doctors on both sides of the border and is therefore better qualified than most to see the pros and cons of both systems. She writes about her experiences in the following two-part article:

Mythbusting Canadian Health care -- Part 1


Mythbusting Canadian Health Care, Part 11: Debunking the Free Marketeers
Papa and Zachary on the way to school this morning, about a ten-minute walk.
Papa: "Look, it's clear outside! Sunshine!!" (a pause)
"Do you know what moonshine is, Zachary?"
Zach: "Yes, it's light from the moon."
Papa: "That's right, but the word moonshine is also used to describe home-made whiskey."
Zach: "Wow! Two entirely different definitions. Just like stool."

Sunday, January 9, 2011


1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

From the book "Leavings" by Wendell Berry
pages 14, 15. Pub. by Counterpoint,
Berkley, CA

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

"War is the sum of all evils wrapped up in one."

Leonard Nolt

Monday, January 3, 2011

A few days ago my 7-year-old grandson, Zachary, constructed with legos, a 12 inch structure that looked very similar to a cross like the one used to crucify Jesus. However he had a mysterious shape on the back of the cross close to where the veterical and horizontal sections crossed. I asked him about his creation and he said. "This is Jesus on the cross," hesitated a moment then added, "Luckily Jesus has a jet pack."
"Fame is underwritten by those who want it to be there when it is their turn to have it"

from "By the Numbers: Poems and Aphorisms" by James Richardson (Page 50).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Here's a good song for today - or any day. Just a reminder: Christine Kane's No Such Thing As Girls Like That.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Here's a column that says what needs to be said about the ongoing US response to 9/11:

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Mobbing Syndrome

Two of the most important pages in Noa Davenport's valuable book, "Mobbing: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, are pages 40 and 41. The information on these two pages is also a description of what happened to me at St. Alphonsus Regional Medical Center. The "ganging up" mentioned on Page 40, although begun by a co-worker, was actually carried out by management, and to some extent is continuing to this day by management's ongoing refusal to acknowledge what was done, to be honest, accountable, and demonstrate a commitment to health care and healing.
The "Ten Key Factors of the Mobbing Syndrome" listed on Page 41 is exactly what I experienced at St. Alphonsus. I couldn't have written a more accurate list of my experience from January, 2004 until August, 2006 at St. Alphonsus myself. An unknown number of other former employees have suffered the same traumatic experience there, and probably at other Trinity Health facilities also.


"The Mobbing Syndrome"

"In the following paragraphs we describe the elements of the mobbing process and how it manifests itself in more detail. As mobbing comprises numerous factors that occur in combination and severely affect an individual's health, we chose to call it the mobbing syndrome. We define it as follows."

"The mobbing syndrome is a malicious attempt to force a person out of the work-
place through unjustified accusations, humiliation, general harassment, emotional abuse, and/or terror."

"It is a "ganging up' by the leader(s) - organization, superior, co-worker, sub-ordinate - who rallies others into systematic and frequent "mob-like" behavior."

"Because the organization ignores, condones, or even instigates the behavior, it can be said that the victim, seemingly helpless against the powerful and many, is indeed "mobbed." The result is always injury - physical or mental distress or illness and social misery and, most often, expulsion from the workplace."

Page 40


"The Ten Key Factors of the Mobbing Syndrome"

"The mobbing syndrome contains ten distinctive factors that occur in various combinations, systematically, and frequently. The impact of these factors on the targeted person then becomes the major element of the mobbing syndrome.

1. Assaults on the dignity, integrity, credibility, and professional competence of employees.

2. Negative, humiliating, intimidating, abusive, malevolent, and controlling communication.

3. Committed directly, or indirectly, in subtle and obvious ways.

4. Perpetrated by one or more staff members -"vulturing."

5. Occurring in a continual, multiple, and systematic fashion, over some time.

6. Portraying the victimized person as being at fault.

7. Engineered to discredit, confuse, intimidate, isolate, and force the person into submission.

8. Committed with the intent to force the person out.

9. Representing the removal from the workplace as the victim's choice.

10. Not recognized, misinterpreted, ignored, tolerated, encouraged, or even instigated by the management of the organization."

Page 41


Tuesday, September 28, 2010

"The Civil War left the South a graveyard of ashes and poverty. Clouds of smoke clung to smoldering cities while people in rags foraged for food in the country-side, drifting down dirt roads lined with the bloated carcasses of farm animals the Yankees had shot to starve the Confederates. The war wounded so many people that in 1866 one-fifth of Mississippi's total income was spent on artificial arms and legs."
from The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, by Philip Hoose page 29.

" In pioneer days. it was said that there were so many trees in Ohio that a squirrel could travel from the Ohio River to Lake Erie without ever touching the ground. The settlers made up their minds to rid the land not only of fierce beasts like bears and wolves, but of any other animal that might eat their crops."
"In 1807 Ohio passed a law requiring each taxpayer to turn in between one and one hundred squirrel scalps each year along with his taxes."
from The Race to Save the Lord God Bird, by Philip Hoose page 30

Monday, September 20, 2010

"Well, while all that is going down, I'm in the hospital drooling all over myself. One morning I'm in this One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest group therapy shit, and some crazy guy tells me all I need to get myself cured is a mission. I got to thinking about that, and realized he wasn't as crazy as everyone thought." He looked at Kate. "So I found a mission."

from Sworn to Silence, by Linda Castillo, Page 266

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Today is the anniversary of the deaths of app 3,000 people killed in the 9/11 terrorist attack on the United States. May it remind us of the preciousness of human life and that people were not created to be sacrificed for political or nationalistic causes. May we remember that all humans are created in the image of God and that human life is sacred. To keep this tragic event and all terrorism in perspective, here are a few reminders of other acts of terrorism in human and US history.

1. The destruction of hundreds of Native American tribes, their languages, cultures, and the stealing of their land.

2. The kidnapping of Africans for use as slaves. In 1860, only 150 years ago, the population of the United States included 3,950,528 slaves, 13% of the total population.

3. The Nazi killing of app. 6 million Jews and others with a total death toll in the 10 to 17 million range.

4.The dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima killing 135,000 people instantly and over half a million eventually from injuries and cancers caused by the radiation.

5. The dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki killing 64,000 people instantly and, like Hiroshima, many more from injuries and radiation poisoning. Both the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were deliberate attacks on civilian populations.

6. The Vietnam War, which resulted in the deaths of 3-4 million Vietnamese plus 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians. As in all wars since World War 2, 75 to 90 % of the victims were innocent civilians. Such a high percentage of civilian causalities makes all contemporary wars acts of terrorism.

7. The first Gulf War, often called Desert Storm, which killed 100,000 Iraqis.

8. The current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan which has killed and injured hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and as in all terrorist attacks, they were killed and injured with no regard for individual guilt or innocence and no due process of law. Millions of Iraqi and Afghanistan families have been damaged or destroyed and many people have become refugees as a result of these wars.

There are many more acts of terrorism now going on around the world. Although US citizens were victimized on 9/11, history shows that, in past acts of terrorism, frequently we were the terrorists. Let us pray that we will not be so blinded by idolatrous devotion to a political entity, or to trust in military violence, that we are willing to engage in acts of terrorism against others. Our security as a nation is intimately connected to the security of other countries and peoples around the world. We can never be secure if we are threatening the safety and security of others.

Leonard Nolt

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Here's an article that provides one reason for many of the problems this nation is currently having...

Heritage Foundation: Solutions for America (Part 2 - Looking at the Introduction)

On Page vi of the Solutions for America we find a two-page "Introduction. " (Note that my responses will not necessarily be in the same order found in the Solutions for America). In the "Introduction" the authors attempt to briefly state the problem. They begin with the following sentence: "America has reached a tipping point."

It's their perception that the problems facing America are primarily caused by the government. In the introduction to Solutions for America the following phrases, "government policies," "excessive government intervention," "federal grasp and reach," and "Government now intrudes," and others convey this perception. Is the government really that much of a problem? Let's see how well the Heritage Foundation checked the facts.

In the first paragraph the writers of "Solutions for America" later called "...a team of Heritage experts," complain about the government dictating; "..the mix of fuel we can put in our cars, to the kind of light bulb we use." Let's look at a few of the substances the government regulates. Is it possible that the Heritage Foundation would like us to still use leaded fuel in our cars, considering that lead in the environment adversely impacts the health of children interfering with brain development and learning ability? What about asbestos, which was used in building materials as insulation from temperature and sound, and is know to cause asbestosis and mesothelioma, both fatal diseases for which there is no effective treatment? Mercury is another toxic substance that can harm the brain, heart, and lungs of people of all ages, but is especially toxic to pregnant women. The Heritage Foundation, in the Solutions for America, seems to think that the federal government should not be regulating businesses, but if they didn't would the the oil companies have voluntarily taken the lead out of their gasoline? Would the construction industry still be using asbestos in buildings? Certainly the government is bigger than it used to be, and is probably bigger than it needs to be, or should be. But the country is also much bigger in terms of population. Is the over growth of the federal government really a problem when it comes to protecting citizens from toxic substances that otherwise would end up in the environment? Or is the federal government overgrown in some other area? Would it have been realistic and effective to expect state and local government to impose their regulations on these toxins? We all know that discharges of poisonous substances into the environment is still a problem throughout this country, indicating that perhaps more regulation is needed. Mercury is one toxic substance that needs more regulation since power plants that burn coal still release mercury into the environment.

In the "Introduction" the Heritage Foundation complains about government funding of alternative energy sources. They write "Government policies have stifled domestic energy production while pouring billions of dollars into alternative energy subsidies..." The countries that are leading the world in alternative clean energy production, Germany and Spain, are doing so precisely because their government have poured "...dollars into alternative energy subsidies."

According to "Renewable Energy in Germany" at, "The renewable energy sector was aided especially by the law that required businesses to buy energy generated from renewable sources first, before buying energy from non-renewable sources." Also "People who produce energy in their own homes have a guarantee from the government that they can sell their 'product' at fixed prices for a period of 20 years." In a corresponding article about Spain is found: "In 2005 Spain became the first country in the world to require the installation of photovoltaic electricity in new buildings, and the second in the world (after Israel) to require the installation of solar hot water systems." Note that the reason these two countries are leaders in developing clean alternative energy thereby reducing their dependence on foreign oil, is because the government passed laws requiring changes to be made. There should be similar laws in the US including laws encouraging and facilitating home and small business owners installing clean energy sources. These laws should be so attractive with funding and financing options that people would be lining up at the doors of solar and wind production business to purchase their own production systems. If we can select, embrace, and fund a crash program to put a person on the moon in a given period of time, we can also do the same to eliminate or significantly reduce our dependence on foreign oil. The Heritage Foundation complains about energy being too expensive even though a gallon/liter of gasoline in Europe costs much more that the same in the US. Keep in mind that the cost of gasoline in the US includes the cost of both US military attacks on Iraq and also on Afghanistan.

At the end of page 1 of the Introduction the "Index of Dependence on Government" is quoted as showing that Americans' dependency on government - "increased last year at the fastest rate in over three decades." No where do they mention that this "Index" is determined by the Heritage Foundation.

The Heritage Foundation emphasises the need for government to be smaller and seems to prefer local and state government actions to decisions made by the feds. They write, "The closer a government is to the citizen, the more effectively it will spend the citizen's tax dollars; i.e., the federal government wastes the most, state governments somewhat less, and local governments waste the smallest portion of each tax dollar" (Page iv). However I don't see them advocating turning the nation's defense over to state and local governments. Since our sources of energy (pipelines and power lines; domestic and imported oil) also cross state lines, as does polluted air and contaminated rivers, isn't it just as ridiculous and un-workable to suggest that environmental regulation and energy policy be developed at state or local levels of government? Since citizens frequently travel and relocate, moving from one part of the country, crossing state and local boundaries, naturally taking their health issues with them where ever they go, isn't it also better for the federal government to address the issue of health care, providing a single payer plan, independent of drug and insurance company input. Such a plan would be cheaper and more efficient, resulting in less overhead and paperwork, and providing more consistent care, compared to each employer or state having different plans which threaten citizens with tons of paperwork and loss of coverage every time they change employers or living locations.

The Heritage Foundation laments over, "Our burgeoning welfare state now dispenses a trillion dollars annually to tens of millions of Americans without asking for anything in return." Doesn't the Foundation realize that this trillion dollars being dispensed to Americans each year are tax dollars that came from Americans in the first place? Who does the Heritage Foundation think this money should be going to? Should they be going to finance the bombing of people in Iraq and Afghanistan? Should they be used for corporate welfare at the expense of individual and family support? Conservative decisions during the recent Bush Administration, which included cutting funds for education and veterans, as well as funding two questionable wars and bailing out the bankrupt banking industry, would lead us to believe that the Heritage Foundation might just think this trillion dollars should go to people other than the ones who earned the money in the first place, that is the US taxpayer!

Leonard Nolt

Friday, August 27, 2010

Heritage Foundation: Solutions for America (Part 1- Changing America's Course)

The Heritage Foundation, according to their website, is "a think tank - whose mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." They go on to write that "Our vision is to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish."

The Heritage Foundation was founded in 1973 and have more than 684,000 members who pay an annual fee of $25. so they are very well funded. Members include well-known conservative such as Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and also many not so well known, such as my father, who was much more conservative than I am. Unfortunately he died in 1995.

On their website the Heritage Foundation has a section called "Solutions for America," which is over 50 pages of their ideas of how to solve many of the problems facing this country today.

In the coming weeks I intend to look at some of the solutions offered by the Heritage Foundation and respond to them. Stay tuned

Here's my first response

Page 1 of Solutions for America is entitled "Changing America's Course. The authors seem to have an exaggerated idea of US uniqueness in the world. The first sentence says; "The United States is the world's strongest, most prosperous, most just, and freest nation."

Is that really a truthful statement? Let's examine it starting with strength. Strength can be measured in many different ways. If the Heritage Foundation means military strength, or our ability to attack and destroy other countries, we probably are the strongest. But strength also has to do with the possibilities available to each individual in this nation. If people are hungry, do we as a nation have the strength to provide them with food? If they are unemployed or homeless, is it possible for those needs to be met? If people are sick or injured and cannot find affordable health care, we certainly aren't a very strong nation. Sick, injured, hungry, homeless, and unemployed citizens do not make for a strong nation. I'm not necessarily saying that the government should automatically meet those needs. But if opportunities are not available for people to help themselves, then changes need to be made so people can have hope. When unemployed young men and women cannot find a job anywhere except by joining the military, we certainly have a very weak country. It probably means that we have devoted so many resources to the military that we are starving the other necessary parts of our economy, such as education, business, and health care.

The strength of a country can just as accurately be determined by its ability to respond to the needs of its citizens, as it's ability to attack another nation, or respond to an attack from another country.

Is the US the most prosperous nation? A study researched by Jane's Information Services and published in the British Sunday Times on March 25, 2008 addressed that very question. On the list of the top 50 most prosperous nations, the US was, NO NOT # 1, much to the dismay of the Heritage Foundation, but # 24 behind such notorious countries as Canada, France, Andorra, Iceland, Ireland, Malta, and Sweden.

Is the US the most just country? Or to put it another way, is the US the country with the most justice. Justice has to do with fairness, especially in the judicial system. If we believe that all people "..are created equal and endowed by their Creator with unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" (Page 1 of the Solutions for America), than justice is certainly an important issue.

The Equal Justice Initiative at states that the United States is the most punitive country in the world. "Mass incarceration in the United States continues at record high level despite outsized costs. According to recent data reported in The Economist, the United States has the world's highest incarceration rate, locking up five times more people per capita than Britain, nine times more than Germany, and 12 times more than Japan."

"Recent reports have documented the magnitude of the increase in mass incarceration in the United States. In 1970, one in 400 Americans were incarcerated, compared with today's rate of one in 100. Counting people on parole or probation, one adult American in 31 in under correctional supervision."

Does this mean that there are simply more criminals in the United States? Of course not. It means that our criminal and judicial systems are essentially unjust, especially when you take into consideration that the portion of minorities incarcerated is out of proportion to their populations. Is this a just system? No way.

Is the United States the freest nation in the world as the Heritage Foundation wants us to believe? Any country in which the citizens have access to universal health care coverage is a country with more freedom than the US. This is especially true if there is a single payer plan. Then citizens have the freedom to change employers and living locations without losing their health insurance, or worrying about being unable to get insurance elsewhere especially if they have a pre-existing condition. Thankfully Pres. Obama has taken some successful steps to correct this problem with the passage of the Health Care Reform Act, but we still fall far short of nearly every other industrialized nation. Some countries like Canada are so far ahead of the US in this area that they've had coverage for over 60 years and we're just beginning to work at getting it.

In the US workplace freedoms have been disappearing for the past several decades. Mark Ames in "Going Postal" writes, "In Soviet times, workers often had to show an ID to enter their factories, which usually had a security entrance, but once a worker was inside they were never subject to the degree of full spectrum dominance as today's American workforce." Ames goes on to say that: "The strangest thing about all of this is that if you were to tell an American that his workplace is more Soviet than what the Soviets ever created, he would think you're simply a nutcase or a troublemaker" (Page 107-108).

According to Lewis Maltby in "Can They Do That: Retaking Our Fundamental Rights in the Workplace," your freedom "... disappears every morning when you go to work" (Page 1). Professor Bruce Barry from Vanderbilt University said, "Your boss can fire you for your politics, the books you read, or even the baseball team you root for, and there's usually nothing you can do about it" (Page 5).

Maltby writes, "Glen Hillier lost his job because he asked a presidential candidate an embarrassing question at a public political rally. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Hillier, who worked at an advertising and design company, attended a rally for President Bush in West Virginia. He attempted to ask Bush a challenging question about the war in Iraq. One of his company's customers, also at the rally, was offended by the implied criticism of Bush and told Hillier's boss. When Hillier came to work the next day, he was fired. When Hillier called his lawyer he was told that his boss had done nothing illegal."

"What happened to Hillier's freedom of speech? What Hillier didn't know is that, where his employer is concerned, he has no freedom of speech. The United States Constitution, (including the Bill of Rights) applies only to the government. It does not apply to private businesses. A corporation can legally ignore the constitutional rights of its employees"(Page 5).

As you can see the trend in this nation is loss of freedoms. Certainly employees who have union representation, a pension, paid vacations, and cost-of -living raises have more freedoms than those who do not, but those benefits are some the benefits that have been disappearing from the workplace during the past three conservative administrations (That includes the Reagan, Clinton, and Bush Administrations. Although Clinton was not as conservative as the other two, he was an accomplice to conservative regulation including welfare reform and NAFTA and was certainly more conservative than the Republican Nixon Administration) .

It was during these conservative administrations that many of our freedoms have been lost and not just the one I focused on, freedom of speech in the workplace. Now the conservative Heritage Foundation foolishly and inaccurately claims that we are the freest nation in the world. This ethereal platitude by the Heritage Foundation that I just dissected indicates that we have some problems with their approach. If they are going to make initial outlandish statements with no documentation, can we really expect them to offer credible sincere solutions to the problems facing America?

Stay tuned for Part 2.

Leonard Nolt

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Trauma and Recovery

I'm reading Judith Herman's fine book "Trauma and Recovery: The Aftermath of Violence - from Domestic Abuse to Political Terror" published in 1992 by Basic Books.

Here's an important quote from page 58: "Restoration of the breach between the traumatized person and the community depends first, upon public acknowledgement of the traumatized event and second, upon some form of community action."

Victims of crimes may get the public acknowledgement and community action they need through the legal process of apprehending the criminal and prosecuting him/her, but that alone is rarely adequate. They also need support from family and friends and many need opportunities to express themselves. Unfortunately those who are the victims of acts of violence that may not be criminal in the legal sense are often not granted any public acknowledgement or community action. This would include, but is not limited to, victims of warfare (since war is usually "legal"), sexual harassment and abuse and physical harassment and abuse since those behaviors are only infrequently publicized and prosecuted; bullying and mobbing, both at school and in the workplace; whistleblowers; plus any form of discrimination. It's true that there are laws and policies addressing some forms of harassment and also laws and policies protecting whistleblowers. Unfortunately these laws are very weak and designed to protect the companies and corporations who otherwise might be liable for what happens to people on their campuses.
Any student or employee taking legal action against an institution or company due to their failure to provide protectection from some form of discrimination, harassment, or abuse is taking a very risky step. Virtually no individual has access to the unlimited financial and legal resources possessed by a large company or educational institution. In my own experience of being the target of a workplace bully for over two and a half years at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center, and injured with PTSD (See "Workplace Psychological Abuse" on this blog for more information), I've made numerous attempts to address the problem with those involved by requesting a professional mediated conflict resolution process. My requests have been denied even though such a process would have the following advantages over litigation:

1. Cheaper
2. Quicker
3. Access to more information
4. Everyone could come out a winner
5. Not a punitive process
6. Open communication
7. More possibility of preventing similar injuries in the future
8. Increased possibility of publicity, thereby increasing awareness which
would make the community and region safer
9. Financial and other resources directed toward prevention, not retaliation
10. Would include possibility of hearing everyone point of view,
not just those who were most directly involved.
11. Better educational opportunities
12. More flexible option
13. No gag rule

A few of these overlap, but the point remains. This would be a much more efficient and inexpensive way to resolve conflicts. In spite of these advantages, management at St. Als adamantly refuses to consider this option. The reasons are obvious. Selecting a venue or process for addressing a problem that does not utilize their legal department and is not a conflict they can win while inflicting a loss on the other party, is outside their comfort area. Also their legal department would advise against choosing such a resolution because it minimizes or eliminates the role attorneys play in resolving conflicts and thereby reduces their need for attorneys. Unfortunately the losers are the citizens of this region as well as all St. Alphonsus employees.

A medical center ignoring a request to be heard from a victim violates everything that a responsible health care employer represents. It blocks healing; it foolishly implies that the company cannot make mistakes and that it has no responsibility for those mistakes when they are made, and it also makes the leaders and members of upper management look very uncivilized in their unwillingness to acknowledge the trauma. I watched the film "Food, Inc." last evening and it includes the story of a small boy who died as a result of eating a Jack-in-the-Box burger contaminated with e-coli. The boy's mother expressed her grief and disdain at the appalling behavior of those individuals who were responsible for the contaminated meat that killed her son, and their refusal to listen to her grief, to apologize, or to in any way be personally accountable. Certainly the first lesson of Civilization 101 that we should have learned in kindergarten is the lesson that when we hurt someone, we offer a sincere, public, and official "I'm sorry." Are those who refuse to do that really civilized?

Herman writes on Page 8 and 9:

"The study of psychological trauma must constantly contend with this tendency to discredit the victim or to render her invisible. Throughout the history of the field, dispute has raged over whether patients with post-traumatic conditions are entitled to care and respect or deserving of contempt. whether they are genuinely suffering or malingering, whether their histories are true or false and, if false, whether imagined or maliciously fabricated. In spite of a vast literature documenting the phenomena of psychological trauma, debate still center on the basic question of whether these phenomena are credible and real. "

"It is not only the patients but also the investigators of post-traumatic condition whose credibility is repeatedly challenged. Clinicians who listen too long and too carefully to traumatized patient often become suspect among their colleagues, as though contaminated by contact. Investigators who pursue the field too far beyond the bounds of conventional belief are often subjected to a kind of professional isolation."

" To hold traumatic reality in consciousness requires a social context that affirms and protects the victim and that joins victim and witness in a common alliance. For the individual victim, this social context is by relationships with friends, lovers, and families. For the larger society, the social context is created by political movements that give voice to the disempowered."

"The systematic study of psychological trauma therefore depends on the support of a political movement. Indeed, whether such study can be pursued or discussed in public is itself a political question. The study of war trauma becomes legitimate only in a context that challenges the sacrifice of young men in war. The study of trauma in sexual and domestic life become legitimate only in a context that challenges the subordination of women and children..."

I would like to add here that the study of psychological trauma from bullying and mobbing in the workplace only becomes legitimate if discussed in the context of employees and customers/patients at a place of employment. Does management have the right to ignore their own standards? Do they have the right to threaten someone with termination for reporting an on-the-job disabling injury as the Employee Relations Manager did to me in July, 2005? It's about how management treats their employees - everything from refusing to enforce or even follow their own standards, to the absence of unions whose presence would help protect employees and patients from injury. It's a human rights issue as well as a safety and health problem.

Herman goes on to say: "Advances in the field occur only when they are supported by a political movement powerful enough to legitimate an alliance between investigators and patients and to counteract the ordinary social processes of silencing and denial. In the absence of strong political movements for human rights, the active process of bearing witness inevitably gives way to the active process of forgetting. Repression, dissociation, and denial are phenomena of social as well as individual consciousness."

"Three times over the past century, a particular form of psychological trauma has surfaced into public consciousness. Each time, the investigation of that trauma has flourished in affiliation with a political movement. The first to emerge was hysteria, the archetypal psychological disorder of women. Its study grew out of the republican, anticlerical political movement of the late nineteenth century in France. The second was shell shock or combat neurosis. Its study began in England and the United States after the First World War. and reached a peak after the Vietnam War. Its political context was the collapse of a cult of war and the growth of a antiwar movement. The last and most recent trauma to come into public awareness is sexual and domestic violence. Its political context is the feminist movement in Western Europe and North America. Our contemporary understanding of psychological trauma is built upon a synthesis of these three separate lines of investigation."

The next form of psychological trauma that needs to addressed by society and that also needs a political movement to support the actions taken, is the very common and serious problem of workplace psychological abuse, commonly called bullying or mobbing.

Leonard Nolt