Keep It Real & Authentic 12/11/13


“And what sort of lives do these people, who pose as being moral, lead themselves? My dear fellow, you forget that we are in the native land of the hypocrite.” 

Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray

by Laura Finley, Ph.D.

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Authenticity is one of the most important qualities to teach young people. To be truly who you are, to be comfortable in your own skin and to walk your talk, is essential to not just personal happiness but is also requisite for building a better, more just and humane world. Unfortunately, teaching authenticity is challenging in a society that is dominated by hypocrisy. Politicians manipulate, deceive and outright lie with such regularity it is almost amazing when one does not do so. Celebrities demonstrate to children and youth that it is acceptable to say one thing and do the complete opposite Below is a short list of recent hypocrisy by leaders and celebrities.

Although nowhere near exhaustive, here is a smattering of the political hypocrisy of 2013.  Republicans claimed they wanted to avoid the government shutdown in the fall, yet many openly embraced the idea as a way of stymieing President Obama in general and of opposing Obamacare.  Republican Presidential nominee Mitt Romney derided Obamacare, yet it was very clearly based in large part on the model Romney introduced as Governor of Massachusetts. Then there is the Cheney sisters, who want to be “personally” fine with gay people but not politically so.  And what about Florida Republican Trey Radel, who supported Governor Scott’s initiative to drug test welfare recipients yet is a cocaine addict?

It is clear, however, that the hypocrisy bug has infected Democrats as well. President Obama, for example, pledged to usher in an era of transparency yet the revelations made by Edward Snowden make it abundantly obvious that he has authorized and continues to support privacy invasions previously unheard of. And, of course, there are Obama’s pledges about health insurance that were, quite simply, either signs of complete ineptitude or willful deception.

Supposedly assigned to protect and serve, many of the law enforcement officers in my home of South Florida seem to do anything but. In just one example of a litany, Miami Gardens police stopped and harassed 27-year-old Earl Sampson 258 times in the last few years while he was on the clock (yes, you read that right, he was at work) at a convenience store. They searched him more than 100 times, much of which is captured on camera because the store owner, Alex  Saleh, realized that the threat to his business did not come so much from local thugs but rather from the police themselves.

Not exactly a reliable source, Fox News has, however, shed some light on the hypocrisy of celebrities who speak out against various social ills while visibly perpetrating the same behaviors. Perhaps most notable was the star-laden Demand A Plan initiative, in which a series of celebrities, after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings, lined up to film PSAs requesting gun control. These same celebrities—Jamie Foxx, for instance—are often featured in violent films that glorify gun culture. Both Jay Z and Kanye West have faced hypocrisy accusations for their failing to admonish or withdraw their products from companies, like Barney’s, that are said to racially profile.  Not to be outdone, evidently just days ago, the supposedly vegan Beyonce showed up at an event wearing a fur coat and suede shoes. Ummm…maybe not.

Among the many nonviolent principles along which Mahatma Gandhi operated, the concepts of truth and authenticity rank near the top. Gandhi recognized that even his detractors might soften their positions if his actions echoed his words, his diet followed his espoused beliefs, and his consumption patterns were consistent with what he preached. In short, living what you believe is an essential component of nonviolent social change.

 I believe the world would be a better place were authenticity to be widely valued and taught.  Although we are all works in progress, I call on all adults to work diligently to be those role models—in both what we say and what we do—that our youth so desperately crave.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.


Essential Disagreement 11/27/13

Disagreement without the Hate

Laura Finley, Ph.D.

Laura Finley

Laura Finley

Disagreement is an essential component of a healthy relationship, a healthy workplace, and a healthy democracy. Much research documents the dangers of surrounding ourselves with so-called “yes men” who always concur. Workplace echo chambers stifle innovation and reify bad policy decisions. Disagreement stimulates creative thinking and prompts innovation.

Yet, there is indeed a peaceful, even collaborative, way to disagree.  And, I contend, that it never involves personal insults, ad hominem attacks, and strings of epithets and curse words.

Unfortunately, it seems as though few in the U.S are taught how to disagree peacefully and constructively. Instead, if we read, hear or see something that bothers us, we tend to get all pissy about it and, rather than present our case, resort to the lowest blows we can. This behavior is, of course, modeled at nearly every turn.

It is difficult to remember any politician in the recent past who has not decided that the way to offer a contrasting view is to rip the crap out of his or her opponent.  As bad (sometimes worse) is media, where television pundits (and I note, both conservative and liberal) seem to love nothing more than to invite guests onto their shows to interrupt them, yell at them, berate them, and otherwise set them up to look foolish. In professional sports, having the best trash-talker on your team is often viewed as an asset. K-12 schools reinforce the normalcy of mean-spirited disagreement when they fail to hold accountable those who denigrate those with whom they disagree. Popular culture encourages the “othering” of the alleged opposition.  For just one example, the t-shirt company David and Goliath offers a shirt that says, “Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them.”

My recent experience authoring op-eds illustrates the issue perfectly. I authored a piece about the bureaucratic stifling of activism. In the op-ed, I encouraged folks who disagree with my positions to share their viewpoints, as dialogue and disagreement can lead to amazingly creative social change from the synthesis of the best parts of different arguments. While I did receive some pleasant feedback, I also received one very disturbing piece of hate email.

Not only did this anonymous emailer attack me personally, using hateful slurs, but s/he also failed to see the point I was making, which was precisely that we should not all agree but should not stifle those who do not see things our way.

I implore those who are reading this to understand what I am saying: I do not have all the answers. I never suggested I did. No one does. And I think it is amazing when people get worked up about an issue or a cause and take that passion to the streets, to the airwaves, to the print media and anywhere else they can find an audience. But please, do so in a peaceful, respectful manner. We really can learn from one another if we discuss and debate, rather than attack.

Laura Finley, Ph.D., teaches in the Barry University Department of Sociology & Criminology and is syndicated by PeaceVoice.


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