Tag Archives: voting

The Ballot and the Bible: How Voting Can Be a Sacred Act | The Nation

25 Sep

Many people agree with Lewis that voting is a sacred act, and some are organizing their religious communities—their brothers and sisters—to defend what’s previous. One of them is Nelson Pierce Jr. A doctoral candidate in the Micah program at New York Theological Seminary, he’s also the pastor of Beloved Community Church Cincinnati, and the lead organizer with The AMOS Project. As Nelson explains, for him, voting rights are a matter of faith.

via The Ballot and the Bible: How Voting Can Be a Sacred Act | The Nation.

Learned Helplessness and Voter Apathy

24 Jul

There are things that are important to us, and things that are not. There are things that we can control, and things that we cannot. Our ability, or not, to control unimportant things is of little consequence. It is otherwise with our ability to control important things.

We cannot control the weather, for example, not very much. Nor can we control the fact that we, and everyone we know, is going to die. Yes, we may have some limited control over the timing and circumstances but the fact of death itself is beyond our control.

So how do we deal with those things that are enormously important to us, but which we cannot control?

Learned Helplessness

I want to come back to that, but for now let’s set it aside and think about learned helplessness, a phenomenon identified by Martin Seligman and his colleagues in the late 1960s. Here’s a typical experiment as explained in the Wikipedia entry:

In Part 1 of Seligman and Steve Maier’s experiment, three groups of dogs were placed in harnesses. Group 1 dogs were simply put in the harnesses for a period of time and later released. Groups 2 and 3 consisted of “yoked pairs.” A dog in Group 2 would be intentionally subjected to pain by being given electric shocks, which the dog could end by pressing a lever. A Group 3 dog was wired in series with a Group 2 dog, receiving shocks of identical intensity and duration, but his lever didn’t stop the electric shocks. To a dog in Group 3, it seemed that the shock ended at random, because it was his paired dog in Group 2 that was causing it to stop. For Group 3 dogs, the shock was apparently “inescapable.” Group 1 and Group 2 dogs quickly recovered from the experience, but Group 3 dogs learned to be helpless, and exhibited symptoms similar to chronic clinical depression.

That is to say, the dogs in Groups 1 and 2 did not appear to be depressed. The experiment had a second part:

In Part 2 of the Seligman and Maier experiment, these three groups of dogs were tested in a shuttle-box apparatus, in which the dogs could escape electric shocks by jumping over a low partition. For the most part, the Group 3 dogs, who had previously learned that nothing they did had any effect on the shocks, simply lay down passively and whined. Even though they could have easily escaped the shocks, the dogs didn’t try. Continue reading