Early America and Western Civilization in Historical Perspective ⋆ Politicrossing
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Early America and Western Civilization in Historical Perspective

Feel-good “history” embellishes the accomplishments of select groups while misconveying actual history.

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Archeologists find that since the dawn of civilization, no society has fully grasped what is necessary to live in harmony with its environment and for its people to live in peace with one another. In the last 10,000 years of civilization, for example, remarkably little has changed in the way in which people treat their surroundings.

The Myth of Noble Societies

Before human occupation, forests, not deserts and barren plain, covered the uplands of Arizona and New Mexico. 700 years before Columbus’ arrival in the Western Hemisphere, the mighty Mayan civilization, with a population of 200,000 in what is now Mexico and Central America, fell into ruin following human-caused depletion of the rain forests, heavy soil erosion, and internal warfare.

Misinformation about how societies developed and how their people lived often leads to erroneous conclusions about how present-day society ought to be managed. Let me explain. In my book Breathing Space: Living & Working at a Comfortable Pace in a Sped-Up Society, I discuss five “mega-realities” that simultaneously compete for one’s time and attention.

The second of these mega-reality, an expanding volume of knowledge, plays a vital role in our understanding of earlier societies. A proliferation of information invariably leads to a proliferation of misinformation. Accordingly, what we understand to be historical realities are often distortions of the truth.

The Rise of Misinformation

Predictably, the volume of contradictory information and the associated discrepancies it spawns is rising. Annually, well over 40,000 scientific journals publish more than a million new articles. “The number of scientific articles and journals published worldwide is starting to confuse researchers, overwhelm the quality-control systems of science, encourage fraud, and distort the dissemination of important findings,” says New York Times science journalist William J. Broad. Misinformation has become a major impediment to social progress.

In these “politically correct” times, in the area of social history in particular, too often pseudo-historians dispense misinformation in the form of “feel-good history,” a term referred to by noted professor and distinguished historian Dr. Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., in his award-winning book, The Disuniting of America. Feel-good history is “history” designed to accent or embellish the accomplishments or nature of select groups for purposes other than conveying what historical records objectively reveal. Such accounts cloud the accuracy of historical accounts, presenting events in ways that might not be real or complete depictions of what took place.

American history, as a case in point, has become one of the most maligned of the historical disciplines. To be sure, the U.S. government reneged on treaties and, sometimes inadvertently, sometimes not,  destroyed cultures. Nonetheless, do misinformed or overzealous teachers and leftist professors have the right to overturn decades of research and analysis in their efforts to present “the untold, untaught side of American history?” Are they justified in making wholly unfounded assertions about the origins, nature, and achievements of ethnic groups that they represent or who they feel have been slighted by “Eurocentric” versions of history?

Common Mistaken Beliefs

Consider common beliefs about Native American populations. Evidence is mounting that Europeans pre-dated them in North America, but that is the subject of a different article. Many people today believe that the arrival of Europeans from 1492 was co-terminus with the introduction of disease to native populations. The Europeans did bring with them new diseases, such as smallpox, which proved to be more deadly to North American peoples than it was to Europeans, but by no means were Native Americans free of disease beforehand.

Karl Reinhard, Ph.D., a prominent pathologist, observed that “Native Americans had already accumulated quite a spectrum of parasitic diseases before the Europeans arrived. Take the Incas. We’re looking at no less than three species of lice, not to mention different varieties of fleas, tapeworms, hookworms, the works.”

Actually, all told, American civilization, with all its strengths and weakness, was as good and decent a society under Donald Trump as it likely had ever been. Many Americans, however, believe that Native American cultures historically were superior in interacting with one another and in maintaining a harmonious balance with the environment. However, this view is naive at best and classically demonstrative of the perils of misinformation.

Masters of the Environment?

Dr. William K. Tabb, one of my economics professors in college, remarked to our class that economics in essence was the “allocation of scarce resources.” Only when a society has to manage limited resources is it an “economic” society. Let’s apply this to the case at hand. Some Native American nations starved during harsh winters. Some could not care for all their members.

On a continent as large as North America, most of the Native American nations were blessed with vast stretches of land, in some cases more than they could use. In that sense they were not “economic” societies. In comparison to today, natural resources were plentiful. Because they did not live in economic societies, it is hard to determine to what degree many Native American nations practiced sound environmental policy.

It is known that vast sections of the southwestern United States, for example, were completely decimated by over-cutting. Dr. Charles Redman, an anthropologist at Arizona State University, says, “The idea of the primordial paradise, that pre-European societies were somehow great environmentalists, is romantic history.”

The cliff-dwellers, with their elaborate wooden structures, may have sealed the ecological fate of their region for all the centuries that have followed. In the Eastern U.S., the Cherokee removed such large swaths of forest along riverbanks  — not coincidentally, some of the areas now most carefully protected by environmental legislation — that Europeans entering some areas thought there were no trees.

Illness and injury were treated with natural remedies, many of which worked and are still viable solutions for health problems today. It would be unwise, however, to surmise that all Native American nations at all times were populated by wise dispensers of health information that uniformly fortified their people. For acute illnesses, major injury, and rare disorders, most nations could do little for the afflicted and, if they attempted to do anything, would do more harm than good.

Operations were crude. Medical hygiene was all but unknown. Many “treatments” hastened the death of the patient rather than alleviating the condition.

Human Rights or Tribal Mythology?

Many contemporary Americans maintain the notion that Native American nations were exemplary in their homage to human rights. This issue cannot be summarily concluded. Some groups were effective in upholding human rights; some were not. Many people within nations paid homage to human and individual rights; many people did not.

In some  nations, elders were cast out of the tribe to die on their own once it was believed that their final days were near. Some nations, and many individuals within many nations, were intolerant of homosexual behavior or other sexual and personal orientations that deviated from the norm.

Many nations maintained rituals and customs that forced individuals into predetermined roles independent of their individual aspirations or aptitudes. As cited previously, some nations maintained elaborate rituals and rites of passage whereby young men were summarily cast into battle. Or, young men had to fight and kill a wild animal, perhaps with nothing more than a knife or a spear. They then would have to return with the animal’s vital organs to prove their “manhood.”

Nowhere Near Paradise

In many nations, everyone was expected to pull his own weight-not necessarily a bad idea, as societies go-but what fate befell those who proved to be less physically endowed?

Some nations permitted polygamy, whereby one man was permitted many wives, usually with no say on the part of the maidens thrust into service.

Still, many Native Americans loved the earth, lived in harmony with it, and lived in harmony with each other. Their poetry and chants often reveal the kinship they felt with the earth. Let us avoid the trap, however, of sanctifying those who were here before us because some of them, in some respects, embodied environmentally and socially redeeming virtues needed today.

Let’s not paint in our minds and post in our literature exalted, vague notions of environmentally and morally superior peoples whose ageless wisdom is somehow quintessential to our survival today.

Every Group Qualifies

The lesser-known side of Native American history is one example of how history can be skewed to reflect a certain set of ideas. There are, of course, other examples throughout world history. It is important that we draw what we can from the knowledge of such cultures and be respectful of their heritage.

Let’s forsake the counterproductive mythology that seeks to rewrite history to match the flawed ideology of a few. Instead, let’s learn what we can from the actual lessons and experiences of history, and use that knowledge to improve as a society.

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Jeff Davidson is the world's only holder of the title "The Work-Life Balance Expert®" as awarded by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. He is the premier thought leader on work-life balance, integration, and harmony. Jeff speaks to organizations that seek to enhance their overall productivity by improving the effectiveness of their people. He is the author of Breathing Space, Simpler Living, Dial it Down, and Everyday Project Management. Visit www.BreathingSpace.com for more information on Jeff's keynote speeches and seminars, including: Managing the Pace with Grace® * Achieving Work-Life Balance™ * Managing Information and Communication Overload®



 
 
 

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Business

Work-Life Balance in Your Life

It the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life

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Work-life balance (WLB) is the ability to experience a sense of control and to stay productive and competitive at work while maintaining a happy, healthy home-life with sufficient leisure. WLB, also referred to by some as work-life harmony, work-life shift, work-life blend, work-life effectiveness, or work-life integration, requires focus and awareness despite seemingly endless tasks and activities competing for our time and attention.

Work-life balance entails having what I call “breathing space” for yourself each day, feeling a sense of accomplishment while not being consumed by work, and having an enjoyable domestic life without short-changing career obligations. WLB is rooted in whatever fulfillment means to you within the course of a day and a week, and however many years you have left in your life.

Supporting Disciplines

Several disciplines support work-life balance though, individually, none are synonymous with work-life balance:

1) Self Management

Sufficiently managing one’s self can be challenging, particularly in getting proper sleep, exercise, and nutrition. Self-management is the recognition that effectively using the spaces in our lives is vital, and that life, time, and available resources are finite. It means becoming captain of our own ship; no one is coming to steer for us.

2) Time Management

Effective time management involves making optimal use of your day and the supporting resources that can be summoned – you can only keep pace when your resources match your challenges. Time management is enhanced through appropriate goals and discerning what is both important and urgent, versus important OR urgent. It entails understanding what you do best and when, and assembling the appropriate tools to accomplish specific tasks.

3) Stress Management

By nature, societies tend to become more complex over time. In the face of increasing complexity, stress on the individual is inevitable. More people, noise, and distractions, independent of one’s individual circumstances, require each of us to become more adept at maintaining tranquility and being able to work ourselves out of pressure-filled situations. Most forms of multi-tasking ultimately increase our stress, while focusing on one thing at a time helps decrease stress.

4) Change Management

In our fast-paced world, change is virtually the only constant. Continually adopting new methods, adapting old, and re-adapting all methods is vital to a successful career and a happy home life. Effective change management involves offering periodic and concerted efforts so that the volume and rate of change at work and at home does not overwhelm or defeat you.

5) Technology Management

Effectively managing technology requires ensuring that technology serves you, rather than abuses you. Technology has always been with us, since the first walking stick, spear, flint, and wheel. Today, the rate of technological change is accelerating, brought on by vendors seeking expanding market share. Often you have no choice but to keep up with the technological Joneses, but rule technology, don’t let it rule you.

6) Leisure Management

The most overlooked of the work-life balance supporting disciplines, leisure management acknowledges 1) the importance of rest and relaxation, 2) that “time off” is a vital component of the human experience, and 3) that one can’t indefinitely short-change leisure without repercussions. Curiously, too much of the same leisure activity, however enjoyable, can lead to monotony. Thus, effective leisure management requires varying one’s activities.

Entirely Achievable

Achieving work-life balance does not require radical changes in what you do. It is about developing fresh perspectives and sensible, actionable solutions that are appropriate for you. It is fully engaging in life with what you have, right where you are, smack dab in the ever-changing dynamics of your existence.

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Business

Work-life Balance: The Enduring Quest

Organizations today recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity

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Thank goodness that organizations today increasingly recognize the importance of supporting employees’ well-being while maintaining productivity. As such, the corporate quest for work-life balance, harmony, and integration has gained great prominence.

Key Aspects

Here are 12 key aspects of this pursuit gleaned from a variety of programs:

1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements: Offering flexible work schedules, remote work options, and part-time opportunities allows employees to better balance their professional and personal lives.

2. Have Clear Policies: Establishing clear policies and guidelines regarding work hours, overtime, and expectations helps employees manage their time effectively.

3. Support Mental Health: Providing access to mental health resources, counseling, and stress management programs can address employees’ emotional well-being.

4. Give Leave: Offering generous paid time off, including vacation, sick leave, and parental leave, allows employees to address personal and family needs without fear of repercussions.

5. Prevent Burnout: Encouraging employees to disconnect from work-related technology after hours helps prevent burnout and supports work-life separation.

6. Support Workload Management: Ensuring that employees have manageable workloads and realistic deadlines prevents excessive stress and long working hours.

7. Provide Wellness Programs: Implementing wellness initiatives, such as fitness facilities, nutrition programs, and health screenings, promotes a healthier work-life balance.

8. Enable Employee Assistance Programs: Such programs provide confidential counseling and support services for employees facing personal challenges.

9. Promote a Culture of Balance: Company culture plays a significant role in work-life balance. Leaders should model a balanced lifestyle, and the organization should celebrate accomplishments beyond work.

10. Maintain Continuous Communication: Engaging in open dialogues with employees about their needs and concerns regarding work-life balance fosters a supportive and responsive corporate culture.

11. Empower Workers with Training and Education: Providing training on time management, stress reduction, and resilience equips employees with the skills to better balance their lives.

12. Leverage Remote Work Policies: Crafting clear remote work policies and expectations ensures that remote employees have a structured work-life balance.

Bringing in the Hired Gun

As the world’s only holder of the title, “The Work-Life Balance Expert®,” as issued by the USPTO,  I am often summoned by organizations to enhance work-life balance for their troops. In all, I’ve delivered programs and spoken to 960 groups. Below depicts an encounter with a company who shall remain nameless for reasons of confidentiality. See if this squares up with your experience in your organization.

The following responses were derived as a result of my sending a questionnaire to the conference meeting planner where I was to be their keynote speaker. I requested the names of 10 people who would be in the audience. I called each of them to discuss their current challenges. Here are their actual replies to three of my questions:

1) If you could magically resolve a work-life balance issue, what would it be?

* Have more breathing room between high-level projects.
* Accomplish more during the workday and leave mentally free.
* Hire more staff!
* Take vacations and time off with no big pile ups when returning.

* Be allowed to take some Fridays off and catch up on much needed appointments.
* Reduce the number of pop-up requests and questions flying at me all day long so that I could ACTUALLY do what I need to do each day.
* Be approved to work from home or adjust my hours. My personal time isn’t respected.

2) What do you seek to derive from attending a session such as mine?

* Manage my time more effectively.
* Gain tools to embrace life while living it
* Develop stronger skills.
* Make work-life balance a reality in our company’s work-first culture.

* Acquire strategies, tips, or ideas to re-think my approach.
* Learn to change my focus, to be more productive, balanced, and focused.
* Be able to balance the few things that I do control during my day.
* Discover tips for keeping my staff in balance.

* Gain a realistic expectation of what we can achieve or experience.
* Develop a more positive outlook for the group.

3) Are there any observations you could offer?

* Work-life balance is a huge topic organization-wide. We are high performers who want to do a good job. We compromise our personal lives to meet work demands. We have to keep pace with the leaders and teams we support. If we don’t, we’ll be deemed unresponsive.

* A frenetic pace seems to be inherent in this company. Our team does a good job of emphasizing work-life balance; the problem lies with the surrounding divisions that thrive on working all the time, for no good reason. Yes, we are in a global space, working in different time zones, but some of these people are beyond the pale.

* What I love about this organization are the people. They are dedicated to the cause and truly want to deliver reliable, affordable, dynamic, and versatile solutions to our customers. However, our frenetic pace isn’t necessary. Not every project is the most vital. Not every problem is an emergency. Not every request has to be filled now.

* If in charge, I’d implement a more efficient, logical pace organization-wide. If we all took a breath and reevaluated how we work, in a more focused environment, we might find that we could produce better results with less stress.

Resonates Strongly

As you can see, the topic of work-life balance resonates strongly among today’s career professionals. Going forward, may more organization recognize and acknowledge the critical role that employee wellness and work-life balance has on the organization’s overall effectiveness.

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