Your Ancestors Have Power

22/02/2011 § Leave a comment

Many people enjoy thinking about their ancestors. Now new research published in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests it’s not just pleasurable, it may actually make you more clever. Peter Fischer studied what happened when people thought about their forefathers just before taking an intelligence test and found that those who thought about the past members of their families were more likely to do well in the tests. He believes people are more motivated to succeed when they think about their ancestors.

BBC Health Check 24/01/11 Listen here.


Professor Peter Fischer, Social Psychology, University of Graz (


Should racist words be rehabilitated?

12/02/2011 § Leave a comment

As New York bans the use of the word nigger, the BBC’s Kari Browne finds that when it comes to the small word with a long legacy, there are even divides within her own family.Nigger, or “nigga” as most young people pronounce and spell it these days, has been banned by the largest city in America.

In a historic move, the New York City Council has publicly called on all residents, young and old, rich or poor, black, white, Asian and Latino to voluntarily stop using the word.

The ban is a symbolic one, a plea for the public to stand in solidarity to re-stigmatise the word.

For years the “n-word” has carried a stigma which is so strong that most American journalists and writers have chosen not only to refrain from saying it, but also to refrain from writing it.

Taboo word

I actually am a reformed n-word user.

As a product of a mixed-marriage – my mother is African American and my father white – I grew up in an extremely racially diverse community near San Francisco.

I used the n-word among friends, at school, singing along to songs. I used it carelessly without thinking much about it. It wasn’t uncommon to hear my Filipino friends say to my Korean friends “what’s up nigga”.

Even among white kids, it was used ironically as a term of respect to one another… a way to fit in or identify with friends of other races.

Thinking of it now, our ancestors (both black and white) would be rolling in their graves as they listen to black kids greet their white friends with “what’s up my nigga”, or whites doing the same to their black friends.

Indeed it’s become a part of our language, and sadly I don’t remember feeling ashamed of using the word. Actually, that’s not entirely true. I would never have said it around my parents or family. And perhaps that’s the key.

I suppose the hope is to shame people out of using the word in a very public effort.


But are young people even listening?

Words are multidimensional. And they mean different things to different people. But how can a word used to categorically dehumanise an entire race of people ever be flipped around to be used as a term of endearment?

Some African-Americans argue that by reclaiming the word, by owning it for themselves, the word can take on whatever meaning they ascribe to it.

In other words, they argue it is possible to reinvent the n-word and change its connotation.

Words can be painful and incredibly emotional. The n-word was born in the context of American slavery.

The first written documentation of it in print form was in 1786. It was used by white slave masters to label their black slaves.

Centuries later, it has enjoyed a rebirth among mostly young folks who have never known the context in which it was once spoken. And this is the problem.

We do not hear our elders saying: “Hello my n…, how are you today?”

My grandfather, raised in part by his grandmother – a freed slave – doesn’t greet his friends with the word.

In fact I have never heard him, or anyone else in my family use it. So why did I?

Generational perhaps? And that is exactly what young people say today.

Different perceptions

My great-grandmother once asked me if I knew what the term “cracker” meant. Cracker is often used in a derogatory context to describe white people.

It too has had a rebirth among some whites who jokingly refer to themselves as “white trash” or “crackers”.


For all I knew, the term cracker referred to the white colour of saltine crackers we eat. So I always thought we called white people crackers because they were the colour of crackers. End of story.

Apparently not so. My great-grandmother told me that the term “cracker” was used by slaves to refer to their white slave owners as the man who “cracks the whip”.

Crackers were the masters who beat their slaves.

Words carry weight.

Perhaps the gesture by the city council is to encourage people to be more considerate and sensitive to the legacy of the word.

So the debate continues. Though New Yorkers will not face fines or penalties for using the word, those on the New York City Council hope that people will consider carefully the context and connotation of the n-word and make an empowered decision to stop using it.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2007/03/01 15:45:53 GMT

© BBC 2011


Cultural jet lag

15/10/2010 § Leave a comment

Cultural shizophrenia / Cultural jet lag

The expression cultural jet lag (or cultural jetlag or CJL) was first coined by Marc Perraud during his research into cross-cultural psychology.[1] He describes the expression as thephenomenon of partial socialization in adults born from bi-cultural/national unions and whose childhood was characterized by nomadic displacement during key personality developmental stagesJet symbolically designates international travel as the cause, cultural lag the resulting disconnect observed in these patients.

During some of the presentations of his research, Marc Perraud also coined the term cultural schizophrenia to explain the elements of confusion in children constantly exposed to changing cultural and moral environments.This expression is to be seen only as an attempt at vulgarization using popular imagery and does not refer to the actual accepted psychological definition, diagnosis or symptoms of clinical schizophrenia.
view source

Hidden Layers

01/07/2010 § Leave a comment

According to this there is noticeable difference in people’s willingness to take on risk depending on whether they went to daycare or not. Isn’t it amazing how such a thing can have such an underlying but profound influence on our core operation and with that the course of our entire lives.

Judge for yourself. Click here to read ‘Want a Risky Life?’ article

Links Found Between Autism and Migration

19/05/2010 § 1 Comment

Autism and migration. Claudia finds out why leaving your country of birth to live elsewhere could pose a health risk to any children you later have in your new adoptive country. For the first time a large-scale study has shown that the risk of autism could be as much as five times higher in children whose mothers migrated to the UK from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia. She discusses this with Daphne Keen consultant paediatrician at St George’s Hospital in London.

Health Check on BBC World Service 17th May 2010

Listen here

First study to look at more than 400 children.

Following up on sporadic reports over the years, one study from Austialia in mid 1970’s which noticed an increase in autism in children born to German and Greek immigrants.

Looking at 400 children born in UK. Found an increased risk if parents had migrated from the Caribbean, Africa or Asia but not from other European counties.

The size of the increase of the risk, was greatest for the Caribbean population which was at least 5 times. the risk was significant but a bit less for the African population and a much smaller but still elevated fro those the Asian population.

Is ethnicity the factor then?  No. When the children whose parents had migrated from the Caribbean and Africa, were compared to those children who were born also born to parents from Caribbean and Africa but in UK. When analysed together the risk fell considerably, therefore it suggested that immigration is the major factor and ethnicity was just possibly a factor.

An idea to consider: the residual effect is in fact and attenuated risk observed in second and third generation, but has not been studied.

Could it be a by product of the stresses of migration?  – Although it is unkown what causes autism, it is not considered to be linked with adversity or  socio economic factors. However some links have been suggested between those kind of stress factors and social isolations and the on set of schizophrenia.

It was observed in this study that the child with autism was not always the first child to be born in the family following the migration.

A Distinguished Race

18/03/2010 § Leave a comment

Part One. Presented by Evolutionary Biologist Steve Jones
BBC World Service, Programe: Discovery
Aired 11/4/2010 (audio fail no longer availiable)

“if we were to talke a walk , a long walk from England over the channel, though europe into western asia, into eastern asia, and then were to double back on ourselves and to travel though the mediteraninan region into africa. What we would see are gradual changes from one human population to another. So yes, we see diffeneces from one extreme to another but those diffences grade gradually from one another, differences in skin pigmentation and other physical features. And so this clearly indicates that this veriation is like a gradient, its clinal in its distribution and there are very few if any abrupt discontinueties that would allow us to erect any distinct ratial or other named categories.”

Nina Cheblonski, Pincelvania University

“We shade into eachother, its there more or less black and white.”
Melononin is what what is mostly responsible for our colour and there is some eveidence that there has been three populations which have lost this independantly of eachother thoughout our long history.
1. well over 100 000 year ago – an extinct race of humanity
2. western uropeans
3. eastern asians
Why did we go light coloured? – to capture precious uvb to produce Vitamin D  and make us reproductively productive.
Not getting enough Vitamin D has similar affects to rickets in children, bowing of legs and deformation of pelvis. In adults it means softening of bones and longterm depression of immune system and can include hightend suseptability to some cancers.

“Western Europeans clearly had this mutation but equally lightly pigmented eastern asians did not. the conclussion then was: people in aisia had lost pigment independantly, so this has now happned twice then in modern population.”

When talking about eyes, they split into only two groups: blue eye colour and non-blue eye colour. ie. all non-blue eye colours, apart from appearance are the same.
Eyes that appear blue in colour, let in more light than brown or hazel. The idea is, that living up north with long and extremeley dark winter months, populations evolved, one hypothesis is that the amount of sunlight that is able to enter the eye has an influence on the likleyhood of depression, wich seems to have an amazing impact on the natural selection that occured in order to create eyes with this quality, wich appear to us as blue in colour.

My Notes from the Refugee Wellbeing Conference

14/12/2009 § Leave a comment

Refugee Health and Wellbeing Conference

November 18-20, 2009

Finding a mention of this amazing gathering somewhere on the net only at 3am on the morning of the last day, did not stop me from trying to catch what I could. So here are the points I found most interesting from the program of the 3rd day. The whole programme can be viewed here.

INTRO (Gary Poole)

Themes Emerged from 1st 2 days:

The strenghths are: Human Rights

– a basic rights of citizenship

– pursuit of a life worth living

problem: people brought in as individuals to build a community. [this seems to be replicating the community back home – therefore independent of/isolated from the host country]

non-western cultures are collectivist cultures – only effective when operating together – they are only just reaching enough numbers for to function properly

(see ‘Standards for Engagement’ document from ChangeMakers which talks about a “common humanity”)

western/nz cultures are individualist cultures – members need only take responsibility for themselves.

Mental health in nz operates on individualist ideas rather than collectivist. “As a result” Adam says “They mess with our Mana.”

Common goal: the full participation of former refugees in NZ society.
Refugees social templates are close to Maori social templates.
__(Maori word that sounds like pouhuri)___ ideas of leadership are different Adam’s vision: powerful white experts trained by ex refugees
there is much potential to those of refugee background working within the sector.The opinion is growing that nothing should be done for refugees without refugee involvement.

Pouhuri (or sound similar(working to find the exact word)):
power of accepting all that you are.

My Questions/Notes: Do you think NZ accepts your previous cultural identity?Im interested in the sucess/faluer of ways immigrants finding a NZ identity.

Youth Stream


Triple R: Culturally responsive services to work with refugee youths recovering from mental health problems
Chaykham Choummanivong

What I though was excellent phrasing: “perhaps I haven’t faced some of what the other refugee children have but having been close to them, I have gained insight.”

Regarding the research into the mental wellbeing of newcomers youth:
there is a spectrum of experience there is good and there is bad and there is everything in between.
Quote from participant: “its hard but once you learn the language it is like you’re born again”

Discussion. Points covered: Engagement Difficulties Challenges in setting culturally acceptable goals, Liasing with other agencies, Poorly matched interpreters, Lack of clutural awareness.

” it is a 3-legged race – vision of mental health, public health and other aggencies struggling together.”

Psychological problems often reflect a poor fit between the requirements of the settings in which people live and work and the adaptive resources to which they have access.
Prevention needs to be prioritised.

“…capacity building but according to which paradime?”

Refugee youth in NZ: How well are they doing?
Dr Amritha Sobrun-Maharaj, Associate Professor Samson Tse, Dr Ekramul Hoque, Dr Fiona Rossen

Socail racism through personal attitudes leads to institutional racism (most damaging).
Miss understanding of concepts leads to assumptions and those lead to prejudice.
Training in cultural compliance is needed.
The greater the differences in phisical appearance generally the greter the negative impact.
Lack of family support for youth
Mental health: developmental changes->to become what they are -> problems in retaining clutural identity -> identity conflict.
Internalising notions of inferiority (eg. young black men)

Immigrant youth – self harm study (particularly interesting results)

Empowerment of refugee communities is needed.
They needs to be SHOWN how to deal the process of immigration & reassurance that it is good to take from both sides.
Youth come to NZ with very high resilience it has to be developed further and adopted to its use in NZ.

Functional coping stratergies have to be taught.

Effects of pre-migration and post-migration factors on adaptation experiences of war-affected refugee children and youth in Winnipeg Society
Md. Mahmudur Rahman Bhuiyan

Youth refugees living in South Australia: An exploratory study of help seeking for social, emotional, behavioural and mental health problems
Helena de Anstiss

Emotional wellbeing of children and adolescents of refugee background settled in South Australia
Dr. Tahereh Ziaian, Helena De Anstiss, Lynda Caudel, A/Prof Peter Baghurst, Prof Mi-chael Sawyer, A/Prof, Nicholas Procter.

Engagement and autonomy
Zaif Kahn, Jennifer Janif, Ailsa Wilson, Hassan Husaini



I was left wondering why is it a “Refugee Wellbeing Conference”? As Zaif Kahn/Hassan Husaini pointed out when talking about how to discuss family violence with refugee families or communities to them it is not a concern, what is a concern is their children achiving good academic standars, keeping true to their culture – therefore THAT is the turms it has to be discussed in. In a similar spirit I think; what are we trying to do? – how to best intergrate, often vunerable newcomers to the country into the New Zealand society and culture. A lot of these ARE refugees, but im not sure how much good the constant use of the term is doing. Some of these newcomers are here for over a decade, their childeren have been born here, or were very small, yet they are still refugees… surely we should be aiming to stop labelling at some point.

“The foreigner isolated from his fellow countrymen and his family should be a subject of greater love on the part of men and the Gods.” – Plato

– if they are not allowed to obtain new countrymen we are standing in the way of the human capacity to adapt.  – Adam Awad (ChangeMakers Refugee forum)

Notes still to be expanded:

1st 2nd
budist’s research
what did the ethiopians think?
Book and media workshop in wellington – Samson
Why was I there?

Links of Interest:

ChangeMakers Refugee Forum –

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