The Caribbean Tragedy

They’re Here At Las

Those of us who aren’t climate change deniers have been wondering when our number would come up for a major damaging hurricane. Well, it wasn’t one, it was three. The damage has been terrible and there is now years of hard work ahead. What has happened in the United States is tragic, but it is even worse in the Caribbean.

Breathtaking Reports

Looking at the damage in the Virgin Islands and neighboring islands is frightful but, for me, there is another dimension. It grows out of my experience in the Caribbean.

In 1990 we opened a home in St. Lucia, one of the windward islands. It stood on the top of a hill with a 250 elevation above the sea. Of course we got insurance but declined “overage from the sea” coverage. A storm surge to 250 feet was unlikely. Wind damage was another matter.

We looked deep into the history of hurricanes on the island. It turns out that St. Lucia was just below the hurricane belt. They had had a hurricane 100 years ago and only an occasional tropical disturbance since with no major damage.

Then Came a Hurricane

One time we were in the house and got word that a major hurricane was hurtling toward us and was coming past the island of Barbados. It seemed likely it would go between the southern part of St. Lucia and St. Vincent. That would have put us on the more damaging side of the hurricane. We prepared for the worst and hunkered down in a windowless concrete outbuilding and waited. The winds grew much more intense and then died off.

Later we learned the specifics. Some island friends of ours (travel agents) had been given a cruise and they were just off Barbados as the storm came in. The ship fled West and turned due north past Martinique. So did the hurricane and followed them up on the other side of Martinique. It’s not easy to go between all islands so the ship traveled north dogged by the hurricane. At last they could turn west near the Virgin islands and the storm plowed into those islands.

Then There Was Reality

Our friends were horrified by the complaints of the passengers who wanted to get off and go shopping. The news from St. Thomas was that there was no news. All communications and all power were gone. Later they learned that the island had been crushed by the storm.

And here is the meaning of this post. We think of the Caribbean as a paradise for vacations. There are villas for wealthy people and a glorious life style. But, when these kinds of storms hit, the true devastation is for the ordinary people of these islands. Foreign homeowners can take a pass on visiting that year or even next but the local people, who are anything but wealthy, have to rebuild their lives.

We Must Not Forget Them

In this time of tragedy we are looking at Florida and Texas with occasional mention of the devastated Caribbean Islands. It is not easy for these people to get supplies. There are no roads to the islands. And they had little if any wealth to help them recover. Some are lucky and have the United States or Britain to send aid. Others have no such resources.

In the months ahead we need to pay attention regarding word of their needs. We need to take advantage of possibilities to contribute as they try to rebuild their lives. The tourists are gone for the foreseeable future but the local people will struggle on and will need our help. We also have to be aware that governments will handle the near term needs but the recovery will go on long after. It is then that the contributions from the public at large will be essential.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

How Are You America? Pt. 5

Focusing the Way Ahead

How distressed are you about where we are as a country?

Two Sides to the Coin

On the one hand our country is doing fairly well. Unemployment is low and there seems to be optimism in the business community where profitability and stock prices are rising. On the other hand we are mired in partisan politics and obstruction. And it is the later that should give us substantial pause because the world is changing fast and there are increasing number of people who are left behind and being left vocationally isolated. The clock is ticking.

In “mental health” we tend to focus on pathology rather than addressing life management and what that it entails. We too often look at disability rather than need, change and adaptability. In so many areas there is a lack of vision. In opioid addiction we look at the addiction and fail to focus on the condition which led to the addiction in the first place. It is still there are needs to be addressed. The list of issues is long.

Making a Beginning

Little is heard about an assessment. In the largest picture it is apparent that capitalism is changing and there is a talk of the postcapitalism society. In fact though, we are not clear what that means or entails.

In specific issues such as coal we are failing to face the challenge. Renewable energy is becoming steadily less costly but it seems we are intent on not facing the effects of what has come before.

Detroit is diversifying and we see, in the past decades, what happens when we fail to face change. Our auto industry had serous challenges and the response came late.

It seems we may have two countries. The country which is thriving and the county peopled by people who get no assistance to foster necessary changes. These are the left behinds.

Making An Assessment

We have a choice to make. We can stay mired in this tiresome conflict or we can face and be energized by the challenges. Challenges can be fascinating and thrilling. Energy can be generated and the fact is that the problems we face can be challenged and affected. But we have to examine them, come together to seek mutually acceptable solutions. This is a time for liberals and conservatives to meet. Liberals can bring ideas to help us move forward and conservatives can bring a perspective of the need for functional and reasonable efforts. No one needs to be reckless and no one needs to be stuck in the mud.

Change

Change is not always easy and challenges can be difficult particularly if we fight each other. But people can change and solutions can be found. Part of it involves seeking perspective and using vision to explore possibilities.

America has a unique and interesting history. The people who came here were people who accepted challenge. Settling here was not easy and involved risk but one thing is clear, the people who came were venturesome, sought vision and faced challenges with solutions. These are traits which are passed down and those traits and the people are still with us. We just need to start exploring, setting goals and getting to work.

Where would you like to begin?

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

How Are You America – Part 4

 

What Is Intelligence?

First lets address the issue of intelligence which in some ways relates to job skills. I say in some ways because job skills also reflect personality and interest patterns. One definition of intelligence is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills” – whatever that means. What it has often meant was the score received on an intelligence test.

The most commonly used tests when I was doing testing was the Wechsler which was available for adults and children. These tests had originally been developed because people wanted ways to assess scholastic ability. Up to a point it served its purpose. Over time we also used it to assess if there were learning disabilities. Again, up to a point it helped.

Another matter is what kind of intelligence a person has. Some people are highly analytical, some suppositories of information and some can regurgitate material fed to them without any true understanding of its meaning. The latter are sometimes found among people who graduate from respected institutions but, to be blunt, seem stupid.

I think you get the point. It is highly variable and discussion cannot be simplistic if the aim is to design a remedial system.

In What We Call the Real World

The point here is to not do an in-depth presentation about intelligence. In fact, the point relates to the changes needed in our society to prepare people for the employment future. And there is evidence of that future changing rapidly.

The Wechsler tests were designed with a Verbal and a Performance section. Verbal suggests what the word means and relates most closely to academic abilities. But they also included Performance which generally seemed to reflect abilities of “working class” people. A plumber needs different abilities from an accountant.

The conventional, professional wisdom was that if the Verbal I.Q. was 20 points below the Performance I.Q. meant there was a learning disability. Well, not quite. I tested people from all walks of life and often found that discrepancy. But gradually I came to see something. The people with higher Performance skills often came from working class households. In fact what I was seeing was a pattern of talent not disability. Such a perception was very useful when job issues were considered.

The point is that we cannot approach the future of our workforce in a limited fashion.

Vocational Rehabilitation and Vocational Change

Vocational rehabilitation is at issue for a variety of reasons. People get injured in a variety of ways and need to be retrained so they can be productively employed. But we had to play some games. The counselors often came to me saying they needed a disability to develop a retraining program which they could pay for. One of the things that meant was that I had to define a disability for women who were getting a divorce and had not worked outside the home previously.

Yikes! I knew exactly what they meant. Sometimes people suddenly have a change in their lives which needs to be addressed and they may not have the expertise or money to pay for it. So we went to work.

But, of course, there are other kinds of disabilities and needs for retraining as we are presently experiencing. Job categories disappear or shrink and we have to figure out what to do with the people who are no longer needed.

But something unfortunate happened. At one point when budgets were constricting. the rehab people had to work harder to justify what they were doing and they turned to the severely disabled. Sometimes that mean spending a lot of money on people who showed little if any promise for employment.

That is just one story. What we have to do is adapt to change in productive ways.

Designing for the Future

Our national dialogue in many matters is being shaped by partisan and idealogical conflict. What we really need in a society which is facing rapid change is an eyes wide open exploration of what the people in our society need.

One of the things I saw was that the people with Performance abilities had an interesting set of abilities which might not need to be applied in plumbing or electrical work. In fact, if we broaden our scan we see that their abilities can be applied in information technology work in an office. But what we need to do now is to evaluate our viewpoint and begin to study how we can approach the needs of people to be employed in the postcapitalism world. We need vision, flexibility and new thinking.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

How Are You America? Part 2

 

Our Awakening

As the drive continued through the western mountains it was time to study and think. It seemed likely the people there in the mountains almost surely would have been the descendants of settlers long ago. For those who stopped and settled, one had to wonder why just there.

We had learned a lesson in Montana near Glacier Park. The summer could be sunny and glorious. People were enchanted, purchased homes and moved in. And then came the season when the clouds moved in for the winter and it was cold and dark. It seemed likely it might have been similar there in the mountains. Surely there were many interesting stories.

Limited Promise

In the end it was not a promising environment. We could see that the fields were not rich and grazing opportunities were limited. Anything which could be produced would have to be shipped out over long distances. And, as we could see, most of the year there was little travel except probably in the height of summer.

Who knows for how long this kind of area was largely cut off from the rest of the country? One hundred years ago they might have begun to receive radio broadcasts. Suddenly there was more information about the rest of the world but it was still limited.

Communications From the World

When I was in college in Michigan and vacation came, it was time to fill the car with other easterners and drive all night toward New York. It was a long, tiring trip but we were young and listened to the radio. There were stations from Texas, across the border in Mexico and so many areas of the country coming to us on AM from hundreds to a thousand of miles away. At night this was what the people of the mountains were getting.

And then surely came the day when there was some television beamed down into the valleys. First from transits in the mountains and then from satellites. At last they got a more detailed glimpse of the country at large and the lives of other Americans. Now they became aware of what the lives of others were like and the limitations of their world.

What Happens Now?

When I looked at this environment, I couldn’t imagine they would welcome immigrants. Life was hard, opportunities limited and they needed whatever jobs they could get. It suggested they would respond to the manipulative political statements from the recent campaign.

It seemed likely that this kind off awakening was difficult. What it means for their future and ours is open to question. And the other question relates to how we need to reach out.

Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Stepfamilies: Professionals and Stepcouples in Partnership

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

The Overlords in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy

 

Universal Struggle

Struggle is universal among the animals of Earth. Competition presses their development. And we see that competition in the interactions of protagonists and antagonists. In this series the antagonists are called Overlords. One of the essential struggles is against their greed and domination.

People are predators who had their origins in the sea. The Tethyans were some of those who developed in the sea but were charged to contain their predation. There were other predators who emerged and they remained thoroughly committed to greed and power. Those are the Overlords. Given the mission of the Tethyans for stewardship, the conflict between these two groups was inevitable.

Not An Invention

In fact these antagonists are not strangers to us. There are many forms of rule and that rule amy be benevolent or oppressive. Looking back at European history we see a ruling class which was composed of intertwined royal families. Some were more benevolent than others. Royalty finally bowed to a new form of government but the existence of powerful intertwined groups did not disappear.

In some way it is appropriate to say that royalty has been replaced by the oligarchy. In each country we see wealthy families dominating business and they have great governmental influence. In Russia the oligarchs have been fleecing the people. Their grasp on power is deep. In America we are clear wealth heavily influences our government. Oligarchs are among us as well.

Benefitting the Many

The Overlords in this trilogy are a devise. They were not meant to be a truly substantive part of the work. Certainly they have a role, but in the end they yield to a more fundamental theme. As with royalty, times change and different kinds of influence come into being.

A core theme in these works relates to the end of the subjugation of women and their empowerment. And as that occurs there is broader benefit and prosperity. And even better, there is the reality of them forming strong partnerships with men.

In the end wouldn’t it be wonderful if we replaced the rule of the oligarch with the benevolence of women and men in partnership. Of course it’s a dream, but the power of the empowerment movement and its benefits are already flowering. So it may not be just a dream.

What do you think of this dream?
Gaia’s Majesty-Mission Called: Women in Power by Roger B. Burt

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B. Burt

Echoes From the Past

Life’s Promise

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Somehow we have a dream that a stable and glorious future will open before us. It is unlikely. Our lives are not ours alone because we share it with family and intimates, but also must share it with the world at large which is not under our control. But the past has a way of reaching out to us which is not necessarily a bad thing. It may tell us about how the world is and such things as the variability of opportunity.

From My Past

In 1967 (yikes that’s a long time ago) I took a job in the inner city of Baltimore. I was one of the first people hired in one of the first community mental health programs in the country. I was just leaving Duke with my doctorate in hand and I was definitely ready to depart academia. The whole idea of community mental health was to bring mental health services to the public using a public health model. It was a marvelous idea.

Wait a Minute!

But there was not just one problem. Communities are different, and because of that the whole idea of applying the medical model to our inner lives was flawed and established practice is not so easily changed.

I was given an office and told to give service. But there was no one there except for a woman social worker. She led me out into the city and steadily the staff grew. Young professionals learned about the community and what it needed. It was tumultuous and fascinating.

Wait Another Minute!

But in some ways the least of our problem was adapting services to a poverty environment in chaos. An even larger problem proved to be the conservatism of the mental health establishment. All they wanted was the grant money and the glory of having landed funding for a “glamorous” enterprise. They had been providing services by psychiatric residents and medical students on six week rotations. We dug in our heels. The people of that community needed reliable ongoing services, not a series of inexperienced people passing out medication. Granted, our group of twenty somethings were inexperienced, but we were dedicated as a group to learning fast and meeting real needs.

What We Concluded

What we found was a need for life management in a form of partnership. Many “mental health” problems were an outgrowth of the dynamics of the poverty environment more than anything else. Of course, it was much more complicated than that but that is a rough outline. But we had found that a highly beneficial set of services and programs could have been focused.

In the End

At last though, those in power are in power after all. In time the bright eyed, groundbreaking young people moved on and the higher powers invoked a retrenchment. The community based clinics were closed, staff was withdrawn to a central building and business as usual restored.

Across the country the reform movement of that era was coming to an end. And with its end came the end of community mental health. I tell the whole story in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health.

Now the Lesson

Yes, community mental health came too soon and its time is still not yet at least until we get through our present upheaval when a younger generation with vision may take power.

But, looking back we can see something. On the street we learned a huge amount about such communities, but all the data was kept in our heads and used to formulate a highly focused, problem solving service system. If a system with managers of more vision were to be devised now, the information technology at our fingertips could help us sift, store, integrate and develop data for a viable system. And it could be adapted to fit the community at hand—whatever its form. Then we would truly have a community mental health system, but probably with a more refined name. And if we had had information technology we could have documented and built.

Coming back to one of my original points, I can see that something from the past can be brought forward to a much more adapted use at a future time when new tools and vision are available.

What recognitions are you bringing forward?

Roger B. Burt’s Amazon home page

Creating Characters and Plots by Roger B. Burt

Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health by Roger B . Burt

Stewardship in All Regards

Understanding Essential Obligations

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In the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy stewardship is an underlying theme. We are facing an issue of stewardship in regard to our fellow humans and our planet. There are so many levels of stewardship and the people in this story are facing central issues in defense of the future of humankind. Attention to the needs of stewardship often prove deeply inspirational.

After World War II we collectively took a deep breath. Not only were there whole countries that had to be rebuilt, but there were many millions of people who had put their dreams and their futures on hold. We got to work. About twenty years later things began to change.

Beyond Normalcy to Change

For me high school ended and I entered college innocently. Suddenly sputnik was lofted by the Russians and there was a new mission. Almost simultaneously the civil rights movement opened and we began to focus on preserving the planet on which we live. Amidst it all the women’s liberation movement was born. The dawning of this movement seems to have been related to the availability of effective birth control but it meant a whole new potential and form for our relationships.

While I was in graduate school mental health took on a new dimension with the advent of community mental health. It was not just a matter of mental health. We began to look at interacting with whole communities. I wrote about it in my book Whatever Happened to Community Mental Health. We weren’t just treating mental illness. We were responding to the needs of communities.
Recognizing Stewardship

For me there was one word which characterized all of these events. Stewardship. And to this day it continues to hold our attention but is most often heard in regard to stewardship of our home planet.

But for me it holds a broader connotation. We are stewards in all regards. Whether it is in the civil rights movement, in the relationship between men and women or our planet, it is all a matter of stewardship. Anything can be lost or impaired if we do not become thoughtful managers. It was this underlying recognition which fed a great deal of what I was to come to write in the Gaia’s Majesty Trilogy. I actually had no idea what it was fomenting deep inside of me. We have broad responsibilities to tend to each other and our home. And it just might be that we are seeing something even more fundamental. We seem to be taking ourselves to a new dimension.

To what do you devote yourself?

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