Psychopathy

There seems to be a great deal of information quite readily available these days regarding the rather disturbing incidence of psychopathy. I watched a documentary recently which involved a young boy of around 4 years old who has already shown frightening behavioural patterns which would seem to indicate that he is possibly a young psychopath in the making. His mother, when interviewed, said that he had already killed a kitten by microwaving the poor creature, and was constantly harming other defenceless creatures and showing no remorse whatsoever. It must be extremely unpleasant to witness this kind of behaviour in such a young person, but what is one supposed to do?

The answer is quite clearly that the parents need to get professional help as soon as such disturbing tendencies are noticed. Depending upon one’s financial circumstances, as well as the country in which one resides, this may be easier said than done.

Years ago, if a child committed any kind of act which was deemed to be anti-social or plain cruel, the parents would have most likely taken a belt to their backside and punished them with taking away any privileges. However, what we don’t know, is just what effect such punishment ultimately had on the child and if possibly it exacerbated the occurrence of the disturbing behaviour. If we take a person such as the infamous Jeffrey Dahmer it would seem that he appeared to be a normal, happy boy during his early childhood. He had surgery for a hernia and, according to his mother, his personality began to change thereafter with him becoming withdrawn and morose. However, there was also the added stress of a baby brother being born, and then his parents divorcing. So, is it possible that the surgery itself may have, through the anaesthetic having been administered, paved the way for his becoming a psychopath? Interesting thought, but has it ever been the subject of research, one wonders.

In many documented cases where a mass murderer has been arrested, tried and found guilty, there often seems to be a common thread running through the personalities of many of them. This commonality appears to indicate an innate desire to harm, torture and destroy, with a total lack of empathy, and no feelings of remorse for their actions, from a very young age.

Although psychopathy and sociopathy are both classified as mental disorders, and are both antisocial behaviours, there are differences. Psychopaths are believed to be born and their condition is theorised to be due to the underdevelopment of the area of the brain which is responsible for impulse control. Sociopaths, on the other hand may develop these behaviour patterns through physical or emotional abuse in childhood. What is concerning is the estimated percentage of people whom we are likely to come in contact with, who are possibly psychopaths. They may be in our work environment, or at social gatherings and yet we possibly view them just as unfeeling individuals or plain antisocial in their behaviour and we may tend to avoid them as much as possible. Many psychopaths will never end up in jails or psychiatric institutions, but they may still be capable of wreaking havoc on those with whom they come in close contact, such as family members.

I remember as a child picnicking on a beach one Sunday morning with my parents, and next to us was a boy of about 7 years old who was with his grandmother. He appeared to be very intense and somewhat morose and he seemed to be completely engrossed in building little humps of sand with his spade. When my father asked him what he was making, he replied in a very creepy voice  (rather unnerving in  such a young child), “I’m building a graveyard!”. His tone gave us the shivers and one has to wonder just how he turned out when he grew up. Another Jeffrey Dahmer perhaps? Or maybe another Stephen King? Who knows, but gives one something to ponder.

“People who do hideous things, do not look like people
who do hideous things.
There is no face of evil.”
– Martha Stout (American Psychologist)

Racism

Racism

The attitude one shows when dealing with another person should never be based upon the colour of their skin, or the fact that they belong to another cultural group different to one’s own.  It should be about having respect for yourself and, in turn, respecting the other person, regardless of colour or creed. Anyone who is so full of hatred towards those who are different in any way to themselves and who are prepared to call another person a disgustingly insulting name could possibly be viewed as having some kind of a major personality problem. It doesn’t take much intelligence to realise that, when one insults or humiliates another, it produces very negative feelings not only for the targeted individual, but for the perpetrator as well.

The giving of positive feedback, or the praising of another person is actually of benefit to the one who has done the praising (albeit genuine and not a case of brown-nosing, or being patronising!)  It is the same as giving an unexpected gift to another person – who is it who really benefits from the action of giving? In many cases it is the giver, due to the unexpected and delighted response of the recipient!

Children are not born with preconceived ideas about anything, including the colour of a person’s skin. That is why, when they go to multi-cultural nursery schools and their parents ask them if there are Black, Asian or Mixed-race children in their class, the child often has no idea of what to answer. They themselves are not aware of the colour of their own skin.  They will often say that they have peach coloured skins and their friends have beige skin – if they are pushed to give an answer!

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Every now and again racism raises its ugly head worldwide, however, it is practically a pandemic in South Africa. This situation is obviously a smoke screen fanned by political parties to disguise the real issues which need to be addressed. These include unqualified, inept as well as corrupt government ministers and employees in various government run departments throughout the country, poverty, unemployment, ongoing corruption, a failing educational system, a totally inadequate government health service, an almost non-existent power utility as well as crime, horrendous numbers of road deaths due to the many unlicensed drivers, illegal immigrants – the list goes on and on, ad infinitum! Where politicians and the ruling party in general realise that they are failing in their duties, it is a way of trying to avoid any responsibility when they constantly relive the past and try to blame minority groups for all the country’s woes.

There will always be unpleasant people in the world, and it is almost impossible to avoid coming in contact with some of them. So, the fact that a person of another colour scowls and acts rudely might be part of their general make-up. We should perhaps look at the times when people of our own cultural group are rude to us and realise that we couldn’t label such behaviour as racism! We need to try to stop using the word “racism”, and face the fact that people by nature gravitate to spending time with others with similar backgrounds or points of view, or even those who speak the same language. Whether these groups of people happen to have the same colour of skin doesn’t mean that they are deliberately alienating other racial groups.

We should take a step backwards and observe small children in a playground setting who, as mentioned previously, give no thought to the colour of the skin of their playmates. They seem to gravitate to other children for various reasons, and it definitely is not due to their racial group. It could be that they feel comfortable around another child, because they enjoy playing with the same toys, have similar temperaments and do not feel threatened.

Perhaps we should follow the lead of our children and forget about colour and creed and enjoy interactions with other people based on commonalities such as interests and belief systems and finding the other person attractive in one way or another. Such attraction can be anything from admiring something they are wearing, their hairstyle, the friendliness of their smile, the tone of their voice or their body language, with no thought as to whether or not they have the same skin colour as we do. Much good could come of it and South Africans need to make a concerted effort to truly become that rainbow nation envisaged by the late, Nelson Mandela. However, it is a sad fact that the correct behaviour and attitudes in any kind of business or establishment come from the top downwards. This is a serious problem in this country right now due to the many uneducated, ignorant and often arrogant politicians supposedly leading the country who, by making unintelligent comments, are constantly setting unsavoury and totally unacceptable examples when it comes to cross cultural interactions.

One can only hope that all South Africans will eventually have a much less divided country once the current bunch of politicians become history and things change for the better. The country’s citizens can but try to stay positive despite all the negativity with which they are bombarded, via the media, on a day to day basis.

“If tolerance, respect and equity permeate family life, they will
translate into values that shape societies, nations and the
world.” – Kofi Annan

Update and Comments: 20 March 2020

Confusion reigns

We all believe that we are invincible and that anything which is happening in another part of the world is not going to affect us in any way. How wrong can we be, as this Corona Virus (Covid-19) virus is proving to us all. The fact that we are able, through all the technological advances at our finger tips, to follow the lives of fellow humans all over the globe, can cause mass panic and fear amongst us and this is becoming more and more evident as the number of diagnosed cases increases.

Somehow, we have all been led to believe that the government and its policies will look after us when disaster strikes. We forget that every one of these so called “leaders” are just mere mortals like the rest of us. They have a tremendous task, when unforeseen events occur, to try to convince the population at large that they, the so-called people in charge, are aware of the problems and are in a position to offer solutions.  I suppose this is their way of attempting to prevent us all from going stark staring mad due to fear and panic. The trouble is that they are often spouting promises with little actual facts at their fingertips as to how to solve the problem at hand.

All one is hearing right now is how shelves in retail stores are stripped of items such as toilet rolls and hand sanitizer! For goodness sake, what happened to good old soap and water? It is a sad fact of life however that for many people in South Africa, as well as many other parts of the world, the availability of running water is a pipe dream (rather an unthinking pun, for which I sincerely apologise!) and those same people are not in a financial position to purchase expensive hand sanitizers. When you live in a crowded environment and have to queue up to use communal toilets, I hardly think you can afford to buy economy packs of 2 ply loo paper either. So, the more clued up you are about health and safety, sometimes the more idiotically you behave. One would have thought that, if you can afford to bulk buy in order to protect yourself, you would be in a reasonably good financial position which should surely be linked to a certain level of education and/or intelligence? Apparently not, if all the hooliganism surrounding the purchasing of toilet paper is to be taken seriously.

Whilst I may appear to be flippant about this pandemic, it is certainly not the case. One is constantly second guessing just how to carry on when making a living is all important. Being surrounded by others who are losing their jobs, having functions cancelled upon which their livelihood depends is very distressing, and it’s not easy to remain positive right now. We have abundant challenges world-wide every single day, even without the threat of coming down with the virus, but we just have to try to band together (from a distance, and after sanitizing our hands!) and offer emotional support if possible. Doesn’t the old adage say that what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger? Well, we can only hope that this proves to be the case right now.

As I am writing this, the sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and all is well in my little neck of the woods. The gate, which was hit by lightening a month ago has finally been repaired, my flat tyre on my indispensable little Hyundai i10 has been fixed, and I managed to get my doctor to issue a repeat of my prescription without having to spend time sitting in a waiting room which was jam packed with coughing and sick looking individuals.

So, all is well in this neck of the woods for the time being at least. Hope all who read this missive are taking the right precautions, and if you are quarantined, read all those books which you have been stockpiling for that elusive day when you have some time on your hands.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Update and Comments: 8 March 2020

Wouldn’t it be great if …?

The whole world seems to be completely obsessed and paranoid regarding this rather frightening Coronavirus (Covid-19), and it might be a good idea just to change topics for a brief moment. Hence my latest, possibly rather frivolous, update which I hope lets you forget the doom and gloom of a possible impending annihilation of the entire human race as well as the endless discussions of the need for facemasks  and hand sanitiser which have dominated the media over the past few days.

With all the incredible inventions, as well as technological advances which surround us and seem to be racing ahead on a day to day basis, why hasn’t someone managed to invent a way of eliminating dust once and for all? It would be amazing, and a wonderful time saver, if once the mindless job of dusting was completed, it did not need to be repeated ad infinitum throughout one’s lifetime. Removing dust from every nook and cranny is just one of those irritating and necessary chores which never goes away. It’s fine if you are someone who can ignore that murky looking film, covering every possible surface, which arrives out of nowhere just when you have the least time and so many important matters which need your attention.  Now for your own sanity as well as your sinuses, you have to drop what you are doing and dust! What a pain!

Another thought is that it would be ideal if one were able to slow down hair growth when time and money are important factors in one’s life.  When you finally find a hairdresser who does exactly what you want after you have spent valuable hours sitting in the salon and the expensive result makes you look quite amazing, why can’t you slow down your hair growth for several months so that you can have time to really enjoy your new look? What happens? Two weeks down the line and that fringe needs a trim, the colour you paid a fortune to achieve is fading and your roots are beginning to show.  You have hardly managed to get used to the “new you” and you are rapidly heading back to the “old you”!

I am not wanting to create even more unemployment than is currently the case and dusting does create jobs, but it would be nice sometimes to be able to slow certain things down such as cleaning as well as hair growth (apologies here for those who are trying so hard to speed up the work of the follicles – nothing personal meant at all). If anyone is desperately planning on becoming an inventor, well maybe these are two avenues you could consider exploring. I won’t even ask for a commission for giving you the idea!

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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Jjampong – Korean Seafood Soup

Ingredients

  • 6 cloves garlic crushed
  • 2 Tblsp chopped ginger
  • 5 spring onions chopped, including the green part
  • ½ white cabbage chopped
  • 1 large brown onion sliced
  • 1 medium carrot cut into matchstick slices (Julienne)
  • 1 red chilli chopped
  • 200g finely sliced pork loin chop
  • 4 Tblsp gochugaru (Korean chili powder or flakes)
  • 1 Tblsp smoked paprika
  • 2 Tblsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp oyster sauce
  • 1 ½ litres chicken stock
  • 70ml Shaoxing wine
  • Mixed seafood – I used raw calamari, raw prawns and cooked mussels
  • Cooked egg noodles, drained and rinsed off in cold water (or you can use spaghetti as a good substitute)

Method

  • Gently fry garlic, ginger and spring onion in about 2 Tblsp vegetable oil
  • Add the pork and fry for about 1 minute stirring constantly
  • Add cabbage, carrot, chilli and onion and cook for 1 minute
  • Add gochugaru and stir through
  • Add smoked paprika, soy and oyster sauce and stir through
  • Add chicken stock and Shaoxing wine. Bring to the boil and simmer on low for about 5 minutes
  • Add the raw seafood and cook for about 2-3 minutes and then add the cooked mussels. Simmer for a further minute or so until all the seafood in cooked through.
  • Spoon noodles into a bowl and ladle soup over the top ensuring you get vegetables and seafood.

Nice! and Tasty – Chris

Update and Comments: 14 February 2020

Pavlov and the salivating dog scenario

Well, our dear Kelly, who is now 16 months old and an almost fully grown, very spoilt and rather bolshy German Shepherd, has finally decided that the pool can be a lot of fun. It has been a bit of an effort to get her to realise that, if she gets in on the top step, she can stand quite comfortably. Ever since she was a young puppy, she has had an obsession with water. She was the only member of her puppy socialisation class who raced straight over to the large bowl of water in the middle of their cordoned off area and proceeded to splash around like a lunatic. Here at home, being sprayed all over whilst the garden is being watered, is the fun activity on a hot afternoon, but this summer she has been reticent about getting into our pool.

Allthough last summer we did manage to encourage her to venture into the pool on two occasions, she made sure to get as far away as possible from me each time I had a swim. Obviously dreading my trying to get her to join me. So, last week, we decided that it was time to get her over that barrier of avoidance and try to coax her into the water. After all, we are heading towards the end of summer, so it’s now or never. My better half (so named for this article at least!) put the chain on Kelly and she soon decided to slide onto the top step of the pool. That first day we didn’t force any swimming, but she seemed to enjoy the wading around for several minutes, before trying to clamber out on her own. She has serious hip dysplasia (which was never revealed to us by the breeder) and swimming is highly recommended for her.

On day two, as soon as she had the chain around her neck, it did the trick and she didn’t need to be chased around the garden. I removed the chain as soon as she was in the pool and that day, I actually pulled her off the top step and she swam like an Olympic athlete and appeared to be very proud of her achievement. We had decided that we should put a few layers of bricks on the top step to assist her so that, instead of her having to struggle with her weak back legs, she is able to clamber out with her dignity intact.

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The point I am making here is that, when one looks at how relatively easy it is to teach a young dog, then Pavlov’s theory of Classical Conditioning is certainly what it’s all about. She associates the chain with the fun of getting into the water. Fortunately, there is no food involved in Kelly’s swimming training, so it is far more pleasant to see her doing her strong strokes in the water than salivating all over the place! Maybe I will soon be able to show her the chain without actually putting it around her neck, and she will get into the pool with no encouragement so she can have her daily swim. It makes one feel a bit more comfortable knowing that, if she were to fall in the water, she now recognizes that she has to swim to the shallow end in order to be able to get out.

It is much easier to waterproof a dog than a child, but the responsibility of ensuring that there are no unforeseen occurrences is something which one has to be aware of in order to prevent a tragedy. Taking responsibility is part and parcel of life, whether we like it or not.  Therefore, it is with a certain degree of relief that we now know that Kelly is a good swimmer and knows how to get both in and out of the water without any discomfort.  In fact, today she didn’t need to use the bricks at all and clambered out with total ease. Success!

I am off now to get the canine family member back in the pool, as rainy weather could arrive unexpectedly judging by the rather threatening clouds I can see from my office window.

“I’m trying to do the best I can
– Michael Phelps

Oh, nearly forgot – for those of you who are romantics – A very Happy Valentine’s Day for 14 February.

Bye for now and see you on the Magic Roundabout!

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The Changing Face of Television

If you are a South African then do you remember how excited we all were in 1975 when we had an hour or so each day of television? It was thrilling to actually see the multi coloured tuning pattern on the screen, even if there was nothing else to view! We were catching up at long last with the rest of the world. Crazy that the Nationalist government had managed to prevent South Africans from being able to see what was going on in the rest of the world for so long. As a child in the U.K. I remember watching Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men, Muffin the Mule, Children’s Hour and so many more kiddies’ programmes (albeit in black and white) in the 1950’s. We were all told by our parents that we couldn’t watch too much tv or we would all end up with square eyeballs! In the 1960’s we suddenly saw the advent of ITV with its regular advert breaks.  Now mum had time to dash to the kitchen to make a brew of that British necessity – tea! By the early 1970’s colour televisions were the norm and no-one seemed to be walking around with square eye balls!

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Arriving in South Africa in the early 1960’s was a real culture shock which included the lack of television. People moving down to South Africa from Northern Rhodesia, as it was then called, brought their television sets down with them, to no avail! At least nowadays we are able to keep in touch with world affairs and because of that, the world would seem to be a far smaller place. Could be due in part to the size of the people who inhabit it these days, as well as a worldwide overpopulation problem!

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From the tiny black and white sets, to the cabinet model, and now to the huge flat and curved screen, smart state of the art tv’s, which are operated by remote control – television has most certainly changed its look from its humble beginnings. Now it is very often a statement purchase. The bigger the screen, the wealthier or more of a trend follower one is perceived to be. Furniture has to be purchased taking into account the position and size of the tv! Houses need to have enough windowless walls to enable families to have television sets in rooms other than the lounge. No-one wants to be left out of being able to view favourite programmes just because it’s time to cook dinner. So most homes have a smallish set suspended on a bracket in the kitchen. Useful too if you don’t know how to cook, as there are loads of so-called experts showing off their culinary expertise. Not all of these lessons take place in a traditional kitchen setting. Now you can even learn to prepare a gourmet meal on the banks of a river with elephants and giraffe wandering around in the background! After watching that, you dare not dish up fish fingers and chips without feeling guilty.

There are those people who have decided, for whatever reason, not to own a television set. I once met a very educated health worker who refused to have either a television or even a radio, and never read the newspapers at all as she was afraid of being the recipient of potentially negative information. I somehow think that this ostrich-like head in the sand attitude to life is quite inadvisable when one has an occupation which involves people interaction on a permanent basis. It really is important to be up to date with world affairs to a certain degree or run the risk of coming across as an absolute dinosaur with no current general knowledge whatsoever. Yes, try to avoid stress in your life if that’s the most important factor but, there really are limits!

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Owning a tv can be an expensive item especially when one is almost forced to pay a monthly fee to have cable tv because of poor local content. However, if one is circumspect about what one watches, television can be a form of relaxation, as well as often proving to be extremely informative. One may not be able to afford to take costly overseas trips, but by tuning into a geographic channel it is almost as good as the real thing. Armchair travel can take you wherever your heart desires, at the click of a button! No waiting at airports, no fear of airline crashes, or Isis attacks, just a totally stress-free experience!

It is also a wonderful way for children to learn about the world by having televised lessons. Instead of sitting through boring geography lessons, with a possibly disinterested teacher droning on and on, how much more fun is it to go on a visual exploration and to almost lose oneself in the journey. As far as the old-style classroom learning is concerned, does one really ever need to know where sugar beet is grown, or the names of all the lakes in Canada just to regurgitate such facts at exam time. (Deviating slightly, I just wonder, as an example, how many of us have used Pythagoras’ theorem since leaving school? Engineers or architects maybe?  It certainly doesn’t seem to apply when buying a home or raising children).

Since the introduction of music videos there have been studies which would seem to indicate that, if one uses more than one sense whilst receiving any form of information, there is a much better chance of such information being retained. Therefore, visual school lessons seem to make a lot of sense.  By all accounts there are many classrooms around the world which rely on televised programmes in combination, in most cases, with the traditional teacher in the classroom scenario. This is obviously linked to the availability of connectivity as well as the occurrence being mainly in the more affluent areas (when one is talking about developing countries). I would like to investigate the schooling scenario which is in place nowadays in remote places such as in the outback of Australia. Could make for an interesting future article perhaps? I am pleased to have read several articles recently, written by experts in the educational arena, stating that the teaching methods will have to change drastically in the next 10 to 20 years to prepare children for a constantly changing world.

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Hospital stays may be made less traumatic if, when a patient is recovering from illness, they are able to watch a televised programme whilst lying in bed. By using the mandatory headphones this could be a way to avoid constant chitchat with the patient in the next bed, if that is the choice. Watching tv might also prove to be less exhausting than trying to read the books or magazines brought in by well-meaning relatives.

Even standing in a long queue at the bank, or reclining in the dentist’s chair, are occasions where it is no longer unusual to see a television set suspended on the wall, or above your head (in the case of the dentist) showing wild life videos, or a live  cricket match. In the case of the dentist, it is always rather nerve wracking when the practitioner appears to be more involved with the action on the screen than with what is going on inside your mouth! What is meant, with all the best intentions, to relax the patient may have the opposite effect entirely!

However, when all is said and done, that good old goggle box may have its critics, but it has certainly come a long way from its humble beginnings. The benefits, when viewing time is limited and programmes chosen with care, (especially in the case of young children and the kind of content to which they are exposed), can certainly outweigh the negatives. For those who live alone or those confined to their homes due to illness or lack of mobility, the difference a television set can make may be immeasurable and life without out it would indeed be pretty dull and lonely.

“Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained
in your living room by people you wouldn’t
have in your home”
– Late David Frost (British Television Host)