Social Justice – Kindred Media Sharing the New Story of Childhood, Parenthood, and the Human Family Sun, 17 Jan 2021 02:22:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Social Justice – Kindred Media 32 32 What Are The Characteristics Of Thriving Adults? Mon, 28 Dec 2020 21:41:45 +0000 Indigenous Worldview offers a wider view of human potential.  Humanistic and positive psychology have delved into the upside of personality. But Indigenous perspectives are wider and deeper. How has positive psychology conceived of a thriving individual? Here are three examples. Corey Keyes (2002) suggested that flourishing combines three types of well-being: emotional (positive emotion and […]]]>

Indigenous Worldview offers a wider view of human potential. 

Humanistic and positive psychology have delved into the upside of personality. But Indigenous perspectives are wider and deeper.

How has positive psychology conceived of a thriving individual? Here are three examples.

Click on the image to download a PDF of this worldview chart.

Corey Keyes (2002) suggested that flourishing combines three types of well-being: emotional (positive emotion and life satisfaction), psychological (e.g., autonomy, self-acceptance, purpose), and social (e.g., social acceptance, integration into the community, actualization, contribution to society).

Martin Seligman (2011) in his book Flourish summarized wellbeing theory using the acronym PERMA to represent the categories he found important for adult flourishing: Positive emotion (e.g., happiness, life satisfaction); Engagement (interest in life); Relationships (people care about me); Meaning (my life is meaningful); Achievement.

Felicia Huppert and Timothy So (2013) studied flourishing among Europeans using items from the European Social Survey. They identified ten characteristics, a combination of feeling and functioning:  competence, emotional stability, engagement, meaning, optimism, positive emotion, positive relationships, resilience, self-esteem, and vitality. Individuals’ scores were compared across nations. The top-ranking countries were Denmark, Switzerland, Finland and Norway and the bottom-ranking countries were Russia Federation, Portugal and Bulgaria.

Winner of the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015

None of these proposals identify how and where they obtained baselines for our species thriving. We know what thriving race horses look like and how to raise them, but social scientists typically have avoided looking for species-normal baselines for human beings (Narvaez & Witherington, 2018).

Maslow is often mentioned as the father of positive psychology with his Farther Reaches of Human Nature and discussion of self-actualization (Kaufman, 2020). It turns out that Maslow’s theory was influenced by the principles for thriving he found among Blackfoot Indians, whom he visited when he was developing his positive human psychology theory (Hoffman, 1996).

Maslow’s intuition about attending to traditional Indigenous peoples provides a good model for us today. Why? Because our ancestors had to survive, thrive and reproduce over generations for natural selection to take place. They had to live in sustainable ways for their descendants to survive. (In contrast, much of humanity today has been living outside of sustainable ways without much concern for descendants.) Many Indigenous peoples around the world continue their ancestral patterns.

Uncovering species-normal baselines for thriving is a transdisciplinary endeavor, integrating evolutionary systems theory and ethology to understand how species grow and thrive, attending to the glimpses and summaries of Indigenous peoples who raise children in our species-normal way (evolved nest) (Narvaez, 2014). Just like other animals thrive when they are raised in their evolved developmental niches, so do humans. For 99% of human genus history, humans lived in nomadic foraging bands that provided humanity’s evolved nest, the developmental system that matches up with the maturational schedule of the child (Gottlieb, 2002). Around the world, nomadic foraging communities not only have similar child raising practices (Hewlett & Lamb, 2005; evolved nest) but similar adult personalities (Ingold, 2005).

Thus, traditional Indigenous peoples, in particular hunter-gatherers, can show us what species-normal flourishing looks like and how it is fostered. Jon Young (2019) gathered a list of adult thriving characteristics from his work around the world and in particular with the Bushmen of southern Africa. Jon Young (2019) also describes the social structures and practices that support individual and group thriving.

I have expanded Young’s list with characteristics that others have experienced across hunter-gatherer groups (e.g., Darwin, 1871; Four Arrows & Narvaez, forthcoming; Ingold, 2005; Sorenson, 1998; Wolff, 2001).

Notice a key difference between what the positive psychologists measure and what Young describes. The psychologists are measuring what people think about themselves (survey of conscious self-perception). Young is describing what a person visibly displays (observation of behavior).

The Thriving Indigenous Individual Exhibits:

  • A Quiet Mind.  Presence, unbridled creativity based on sensory integration.  Attentive. Access to one’s unique genius.
  • Inner Happiness.  Childlike glee. 
  • Vitality.  Abundance of electricity in the body.
  • Being Fully Alive.  Awareness of the sacredness of life. A sense of awe, respect, and wonder.
  • Autonomy. Follows their own impulses.
  • Honesty. Truthfulness is practiced and expected.
  • Sense of humor. Focused on human foibles.
  • Outstanding memory and senses.
  • Builds habits at will.
  • Knowhow for getting along in the particular landscape.
  • Ecological attachment. Relational respect for nature.
  • Connection to Spirit. Has awareness of reality beyond the manifest.

The Thriving Individual-in-Relationship is characterized by:

  • Enjoyment being with others. Individuals enhance each other’s pleasure through play, song, jokes, dance, etc.
  • Smooth Cooperation. Relationally attuned to subtle communications of others through various senses (e.g., touch). Responsive to the needs of the group. Social fittedness.
  • Empathy given and received. Secure connection with others.
  • Unconditional Listening.  Catches others’ stories.
  • Communal orientation. Sense of connection and commitment to the local group and to the Whole.
  • Authentic Helpfulness.  Personal gifts & vision activated. Commitment to mentoring and “paying it forward.”  
  • Unconditional Love and Forgiveness.    
  • Generosity. Sharing is practiced and expected.
  • Egalitarian. Each person is their own authority. No one coerces anyone else.
  • Respect for ancestors and future generations.
  • Responsibility toward the web of life.

All the Indigenous characteristics are marinated in a kincentric worldview that includes other than humans (e.g., animals, plants, waterways, etc.). (See Four Arrows & Narvaez, forthcoming).

When we compare the lists, notice the specifics that are missing in the Indigenous Thriving lists: achievement, self-esteem, optimism, resilience. The Indigenous generally focus on wellbeing and egalitarianism, so there is little focus on personal achievementSelf-esteem is taken for granted as there is no general deficit to overcome since needs have been consistently met from birth (i.e., there is no primal wound or lack of confidence). Optimism typically refers to optimism about the future rather than happiness now, characteristic of settled communities who depend on farming. Nomadic foragers live mostly in the present, deciding what to do each day. Resilience is of course a characteristic of nomadic foragers who live in difficult physical circumstances, but it is not the resilience that is typically measured in industrialized societies where it refers to bouncing back from trauma. (Childhoods in industrialized societies like the USA are full of trauma, and routine violations of the evolved nest in early life, which distresses the baby, changing the trajectory of development; Lanius, Vermetten & Pain, 2010). Indigenous resilience means abilities to survive in the wild (e.g., find food and build shelter).

Notice the kinds of things that are missing in the psychology lists but are in the Indigenous lists: social and ecological intelligences, nature connection, spirituality, a relational web and responsibility towards ancestors and other than humans, sociopolitical attitudes of egalitarianism, individual autonomy, and communalism.

Matching up with the Indigenous list, Gleason & Narvaez (2014) point out that full flourishing among children and adults includes compassionate sociomorality, which relies on a well-functioning neurobiology, what the evolved nest supports. Cooperative sociality is a key adaptation for our species (Hrdy, 2009). Fredrickson and Losada (2005) come close to endorsing this aspect when they say that flourishing among adults means living “within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes goodness, generativity, growth, and resilience” (p. 678).

The characteristics of Indigenous thriving offer us a more holistic, detailed, and evolutionarily-grounded picture of species-normal thriving that is relationally- and earth-centered (Four Arrows & Narvaez, forthcoming). 


Cooper, T. (1998). A time before deception: Truth in communication, culture, and ethics. Santa Fe, NM: Clear Light Publications.

Darwin, C. (1871/1981). The descent of man. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Diamond, J. (2013). The world until yesterday: What can we learn from traditional societies? New York: Viking Press.

Four Arrows, & Narvaez, D. (forthcoming). Indigenous Eloquence and Kincentric Flourishing: Selected Quotes and Worldview Reflections to Rebalance the World. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.

Fredrickson, B. L., & Losada, M. F. (2005). Positive affect and complex dynamics of human flourishing. American Psychologist, 60, 678-686.

Gleason, T., & Narvaez, D. (2014). Child environments and flourishing. In D. Narvaez, K. Valentino, A., Fuentes, J., McKenna, & P. Gray, (Eds.), Ancestral Landscapes in Human Evolution: Culture, Childrearing and Social Wellbeing (pp. 335-348).  New York: Oxford University Press.

Gottlieb, G. (2002). On the epigenetic evolution of species-specific perception: The developmental manifold concept. Cognitive Development, 17, 1287–1300.

Hoffman, E. (Ed.) (1996). Future Visions: The unpublished papers of Abraham Maslow. New York: Sage.

Huppert, F. A., & So, T. T. C. (2013). Flourishing across Europe: Application of a new conceptual framework for defining well-being. Social Indicators Research, 110(3), 837–861.

Ingold, T. (2005). On the social relations of the hunter-gatherer band. In R. B. Lee & R. Daly (Eds.), The Cambridge encyclopedia of hunters and gatherers (pp. 399-410). New York: Cambridge University Press.

Kaufman, S.B (2020). Transcend: The new science of self-actualization. New York: TarcherPerigee.

Keyes, C. L. M. (2002). The mental health continuum: From languishing to flourishing in life. Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 43, 207-222.

Lanius, R. A., Vermetten, E., & Pain, C. (Eds.) (2010). The impact of early life trauma on health and disease: The hidden epidemic. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Maslow, A. H. (1971). The farther reaches of human nature. New York: Viking.

Narvaez, D. (2013). The 99%–Development and socialization within an evolutionary context: Growing up to become  “A good and useful human being.” In D. Fry (Ed.), War, Peace and Human Nature: The convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views (pp. 643-672).  New York: Oxford University Press. 

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom. New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D., & Witherington, D. (2018). Getting to baselines for human nature, development and wellbeing.. Archives of Scientific Psychology, 6 (1), 205-213. DOI: 10.1037/arc0000053

Seligman, E.P. (2011). Flourish. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Sheldon, K.M. (2004). Optimal human being: An integrated multi-level perspective. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

Sorenson, E.R. (1998). Preconquest consciousness. In H. Wautischer (Ed.), Tribal epistemologies (pp. 79-115). Aldershot, UK: Ashgate.

Wolff, R. (2001). Original wisdom. Inner Traditions, Rochester Vermont.

Young, J. (2019). Connection modeling metrics for deep nature-connection, mentoring and culture repair. In D. Narvaez, Four Arrows, E. Halton, B. Collier, G. Enderle (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing (pp. 219-243). New York: Peter Lang.

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Russell Brand Asks: Is The Pandemic Being Used To Mask A Wealth And Power Transfer? Thu, 17 Dec 2020 22:39:57 +0000 Russell Brand is an award-winning comedian, actor, author, public thought leader, and a passionate activist for mental health and drug rehabilitation. Health secretary Matt Hancock “cried” on GMTV this week, but was it genuine and more importantly how does it relate to the expansion of government powers and transfer of wealth during COVID? Check out […]]]>

Russell Brand is an award-winning comedian, actor, author, public thought leader, and a passionate activist for mental health and drug rehabilitation.

Health secretary Matt Hancock “cried” on GMTV this week, but was it genuine and more importantly how does it relate to the expansion of government powers and transfer of wealth during COVID?

Check out Brand’s Politics playlist here:…

Produced by Jenny May Finn (Instagram: @jennymayfinn)

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Capitalism Is A Parasite On Motherhood And The Earth: The Maternal Gift Economy Movement, Video Thu, 10 Dec 2020 23:56:55 +0000 About the Video The video above is from the Maternal Gift Economy’s international gathering and online conference on November 27, 2020. Darcia Narvaez, PhD, presented in this conference, and video. Narvaez is a contributing editor to Kindred Media and the new president of Kindred World. About the Conference Drawing on Maternal Gift Economy theory, the […]]]>

About the Video

The video above is from the Maternal Gift Economy’s international gathering and online conference on November 27, 2020. Darcia Narvaez, PhD, presented in this conference, and video. Narvaez is a contributing editor to Kindred Media and the new president of Kindred World.

About the Conference

Drawing on Maternal Gift Economy theory, the suppressed wisdom of women, and the traditions and ethics of Indigenous societies, this integrated programme of presentations sponsored by the International Feminists for a Gift Economy Network will offer new insights, perspectives, and challenges to the underlying market-based mentality of the dominant world order. 

In this time of crisis and systemic upheaval, the model of the Maternal Gift Economy on which our survival depends at the beginning of life, is being revealed and celebrated. The interdependence of all living beings can now be made visible and honored. Mother Earth provides the model of an economy based on gifting that we receive as young children from our nurturers—before we are alienated into market exchange. We must make the transition from the exploitive Euro-American patriarchal/dominating and capitalistic ideology to a gift-based economy and culture grounded in the values of nurturing and care rather than competition and greed.

The conference featured Vandana Shiva (India), Darcia Narvaez (USA), Heide Goettner-Abendroth (Germany), Sherri Mitchell (Penobscot Nation), Mary Condren (Ireland), and Genevieve Vaughan (USA/Italy).

Moderated by Letecia Layson (USA)

About the Gift Economy

We are born into a Gift Economy practiced by those who mother us, enabling us to survive. The economy of exchange, quid pro quo, separates us from each other and makes us adversarial, while gift giving and receiving creates mutuality and trust. 

Two basic economic paradigms coexist in the world today. They are logically contradictory and conflictual but also complementary. They are connected with patriarchy, the construction of gender and the way we form our concepts. They permeate the culture.What we need to do is validate the one connected with satisfying needs and diminish the one based on the market, causing a basic shift in the values by which we direct our lives and policies.

From Genevieve Vaughan, “The present economic system, which is made to seem natural and too widespread to change, is based upon a simple operation in which individuals participate at many different levels and at many different times. This operation is exchange, which can be described as giving in order to receive. The motivation is self-oriented since what is given returns under a different form to the giver to satisfy her or his need. The satisfaction of the need of the other person is a means to thc satisfaction of one’s own need. Exchange requires identification of the things exchanged, as well as their measurement and an assertion of their equivalence to the satisfaction of the exchangers that neither is giving more than she or he is receiving. It therefore requires visibility, attracting attention even though it is done so often that the visibility is commonplace. Money enters the exchange, taking the place of products reflecting their quantitative evaluation.

“This seemingly simple human interaction of exchange, since it is done so often, becomes a sort of archetype or magnet for other human interactions, making itself-and whatever looks like it-seem normal, while anything else is crazy. For example, we talk about exchanges of love, conversations, glances, favors, ideas.”

Genevieve Vaughan (born November 21, 1939) is an American expatriate semioticianpeace activistfeminist, and philanthropist, whose ideas and work have been influential in the intellectual movements around the Gift Economy and Matriarchal Studies. Her support also contributed heavily to the development of the global women’s movement.

Read more about the Gift Economy here.

Read more about the Caring Economy here.

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“Decolonization” and “Indigenization” A Brief Argument for Their Urgent Implementation Tue, 24 Nov 2020 22:28:11 +0000 Editor’s Note: Four Arrows refers to the Worldview Chart found here in this article. Feel free to download it and share. What fundamental view of the universe will guide and direct America’s future, especially in the realms of politics, economics, science, technology and education? –David Naugle  Colonization and its problematics began with a new worldview around 9,000 years […]]]>

Editor’s Note: Four Arrows refers to the Worldview Chart found here in this article. Feel free to download it and share.

What fundamental view of the universe will guide and direct America’s future, especially in the realms of politics, economics, science, technology and education? –David Naugle 

Colonization and its problematics began with a new worldview around 9,000 years ago in Central Europe. According to current research, it began with an intensification of agriculture and social hierarchy. Later, it was carried on by the Romans and Greeks. Early Greek philosophy, the foundation of Western thought, supported the emergent worldview. Then, from 711 to 1492, Black-skinned North African Muslims (Moors) who controlled the Iberian Peninsula used the “advantages” of such thinking to advance civilization in many ways. At the same time, however, they strengthened the hierarchal way of social order. They also made slaves out of Caucasian women. In these times, there was no such thing as “racism” relating to people of color. Hierarchal systems merely demarcated humans through selected differences to assign power to certain groups. Class and wealth were the main divisions in the polarized hierarchies. Constant imperialistic wars and colonization of new territories created ever-changing hierarchies. 

In addition to the low status of women and anyone else not in the aristocracy, medieval Europe was not a pleasant place to live. Poor hygiene, inadequate medicines, filthy water, constant war, rampant deforestation, gross inequality, etc. Eventually, the deforestation and wars led to the Black Death that wiped out nearly 40% of Europe’s population before 1492. (Heikkinen, 2015).

By 1492, Ferdinand and then Isabella expelled the Moors from Spain. Hierarchy continued of course, with medieval aristocrats and Catholic rulers viewing themselves as superior people and most others bowing to them. This of course is also the famous year that Columbus bumped into an island in the Bahamas. Genocide and slavery followed, setting the stage for African slavery. (They were easier to identify, did not know the land as well as “Indians” and some probably thought they were exacting revenge on the Moors. In any case, colonizing went into full swing in 1493 with the Doctrine of Discovery. Issued by Pope Alexander VI as a Papal Bull in 1493, it offered religious justification for the genocide and subsequent colonization that is still woven into the laws and constitution of United States, beginning with words in the Declaration of Independence. After asserting “all men are created equal,” a later paragraph, describing the actions of the King of England, says: “He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions” (July 4, 1776).

So, we have a picture of the poor quality of life in medieval Europe prior to 1492, but what was it like in the Americas? Did they deserve the demeaning reference placed in the Declaration of 1776? If we cut through the romantic, generalized notions, while at the same time remain critical of hegemonic, white-washed literature, media, and flawed scholarship, I propose the picture is worth considering if we have a choice between the two worldviews. (Many contemporary scholars and great thinkers have come to this conclusion, by the way, including David Suzuki, Vandanna Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Bill McKibben, Thom Hartman, Edgar Mitchell, and many more.) Historically, and this applies to the relatively few Indigenous cultures that have managed against all odds to hold on to their worldview, here are some facts about the very diverse traditional Indigenous cultures before contact. They had 

  • Similar ways of being in the world such as matrilineal systems and high respect for women; kinship relations aligned with land and other-than-human life forms; good health due to active gathering, hunting and “gardening” lifestyles 
  • Healthy, balanced diets, and clean water 
  • Good health overall (even in the mid-1800s, Plains Indians were the tallest of human beings at the time, according to one study at Ohio State University (2001). 
  • Good hygiene, bathing in rivers and using Sweat Houses 
  • Excellent care of teeth (especially in contrast to European pilgrims) 
  • Remarkable knowledge of plant medicines and shamanic healing techniques 
  • Strong spiritual beliefs emphasize a Great Mysterious Creator, the interconnectedness of all life, a sense of life’s continuance after death, and a belief in humans’ good nature of humans 
  • Philosophical concern for future generations 
  • Autonomous, independent focus on freedom and non-hierarchal egalitarianism, with community welfare as the primary goal 
  • Relatively peaceful societies (Nolan, 2003, van der Dennen, 2004, Gat, 2006, Four Arrows, 2008, Fry, 2013) 
  • Sustainable ecological systems (Klinger, L. 2008), (Magni, G. 2016) (Note, the largest ecological study ever done with 50 countries, 450 research authors, 15,000 peer reviewed papers, on extinction rates shows that extinction rates on lands under control of traditional Indigenous Peoples who still have their language and traditional knowledge and have control of their territory have managed to avoid the dismal extinction rate statistics describing the rest of the planet. 80% of Earth’s biodiversity is on the 20% of land managed by Indigenous Nations. (See Sneed, A. May 29, 2019, “What Conservation Efforts Can Learn from Indigenous Communities” in Scientific American or Four Arrows (May, 2019 “The Media Have Missed a Crucial Message of the UN’s Biodiversity Report” in The Nation click here

There is a third picture we must also include in our short history. It must be of how our originally colonized people are faring under the continual colonization that most of us continue to support, even if inadvertently. This picture is not pretty. Although Indigenous People are on the front lines of environmental battles and many success stories exist, generally the genocide continues. Rape of Indigenous women, pollution of Indigenous Reserves, blatant hate crimes, unfair justice, forces assimilationist governments and education and more are rampant and largely invisible. Environmental movements largely ignore both Indigenous People and the knowledge of local wisdom keepers. Also, a number of Indigenous People have “joined the other side,” so to speak, for all the reasons you can imagine. 

With this three pictures in mind we can now get to the title of this brief document. “Decolonization” is the process of rethinking our acceptance of the colonial ways of being in the world that are based on the anthropocentric, materialistic, Western worldview that caused them to happen when civilizations emerged in Europe around 9,000 years ago. It is about deconstructing the hegemonic maintenance of hierarchal, anti-Nature, unequal, individualistic, greedy systems that have created much of the existential situation we now face in the world. These systems include education, corporatism, governments, media, and religious orthodoxy that supports such hegemony. It involves learning about the truth relating to how we all lived for 99% of human history. 

“Indigenization” is about returning to our collective, original worldview before it is too late. It also means valuing place-based knowledge. And, of course, it is about defending Indigenous People against further destruction. Indigenous rights and cultures, while fully supporting their efforts toward regaining sovereignty. It is about being an ally that understands treaty violations and the repercussions of state policies. Such “Indigenization” is thus a collaborative effort to re-embrace sustainable, egalitarian relationships with all of life, focusing on those suffering the greatest damange.

I have mentioned “worldview” often. I conclude by saying that worldview reflection in consideration of the two existing worldviews, the dominant one and the Indigenous one, holds the solution to bring our world back into balance. With this in mind, I offer a contrasting worldview chart that can help us replace the beliefs that are killing us with those that can save us. The more individuals who move from the left side to the right side, the closer we get to a critical mass. When this happens, the worldview will take over our institutions and social systems. Whether we can accomplish in this life time or not, we must continue so we can be thought of as “good ancestors” by those who may survive or by future generations.

Click on this image to download a PDF of the worldview chart.
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How Food Sovereignty Supports Indigenous Healing: Gather, the Film Series Sun, 22 Nov 2020 19:15:36 +0000 Gather is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide. Gather follows Nephi Craig, a chef from the White Mountain Apache Nation (Arizona), opening an indigenous café as a nutritional recovery clinic; Elsie Dubray, […]]]>

Gather is an intimate portrait of the growing movement amongst Native Americans to reclaim their spiritual, political and cultural identities through food sovereignty, while battling the trauma of centuries of genocide.

Gather follows Nephi Craig, a chef from the White Mountain Apache Nation (Arizona), opening an indigenous café as a nutritional recovery clinic; Elsie Dubray, a young scientist from the Cheyenne River Sioux Nation (South Dakota), conducting landmark studies on bison; and the Ancestral Guard, a group of environmental activists from the Yurok Nation (Northern California), trying to save the Klamath river.

Gather will be available for virtual community screenings beginning in the Fall of 2020. We have an option to screen via an online platform to classes, colleagues, constituents and other types of audiences and conduct post-screening Zoom chats. We will have a DVD option for organizations in Indian Country that prefer to give DVDs to their members.

How the Series Began

In 2017, 2018, and 2019, Gather hired a number of Native American journalists and photographers to report on key issues of food sovereignty in Indian Country. The project was helmed by Kim Baca (former Interim Director of the Native American Journalists Association). We then pitched these stories to publications inside and outside Indian Country to great success.

Topics were as varied as Native Hawaiian fish ponds to Navajo Beef, truly showcasing the spectrum of amazing work on Native food sovereignty.

Watch the full series here.

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The Life of a Social Activist This Election Wed, 28 Oct 2020 18:16:38 +0000 Late afternoon on a lovely autumn day I went to our now open public rec center to swim in the warm circulating pool. Me, a petite 76-year-old white woman with two artificial hips, progressive, a fan of Marianne Williamson, devotee of Bernie and supporter of Biden and Harris and any effort to make Congress reflect […]]]>

Late afternoon on a lovely autumn day I went to our now open public rec center to swim in the warm circulating pool. Me, a petite 76-year-old white woman with two artificial hips, progressive, a fan of Marianne Williamson, devotee of Bernie and supporter of Biden and Harris and any effort to make Congress reflect the diverse population of this country.

I’m a social activist. I make my voice heard through writing, public speaking and photojournalism. I have been a social activist, without receiving any training or pay for it, since my early 20s, when I lived in San Francisco, was part of a small modern dance company, taught pre-school and joined the local group working to end the war in Vietnam. I played a small part in organizing San Francisco’s Spring Mobilization for Peace, talking a company out of a printer and using it to print up posters and flyers that I an others put up around the city.

At the urging of friends and folks who’d read my most well-known book, I started a nonprofit in 2003 and run it without pay. My time is my own, and how I use it. I must take care of my body, mind and spirit and balance what I do to stay healthy with what I do to improve the quality of life on this planet. As a lone activist who doesn’t work for an organization – either paid or as a volunteer – I must be self-motivated and self-organized. Other than my 2 months heading a small HeadStart program, I received a paycheck for just two brief periods in the past 55 years. Looking back, I don’t know how I’ve survived; for sure, I have angels watching out for me, and friends urging me on.

My time is my own. Translation: no security, no savings, only a tiny social security check, and the support of some folks who, inspired by my passion, believe in my work and the hippie ability to piece things together and donate to my nonprofit when I ask for help.

I work on a variety of projects and at any one time there might be 2 things getting most of attention and 3 or 4 others on a back burner: books, articles, white papers, films. When the energy disappears from a particular project or progress is blocked for very long, that’s when I put it on a back burner. I’m always pleasantly surprised to find, when I open up something that’s been on a back burner, just how far along I’d gotten. 

I was homeless briefly, with my then 2-year-old daughter, after her father disappeared. I packed our few belongings into baskets in the back seat of the car I’d managed to talk myself into getting a lease on without any source of income, and for a month we moved around, staying overnight with older friends of mine, such as parents of the young girls I’d taught dancing on the beach to. Molly and I moved dozens of times before she turned 5, renting rooms, me doing freelance feature articles for our local progressive weekly paper.

It’s always been my vision of a better world that’s kept me going, that and the outrage I have at injustice and cruelty.

My main challenge, other than money, has been having  to cope with the bi-polar condition I’ve had ever since college, meaning I have long periods of enthusiasm and high energy (hypo-mania) interspersed with shorter periods of acute anxiety-depression, despondency, being unable to find words or string them together into sentences, and shrinking from social contact. I wouldn’t have survived without the many forms of therapy I’ve made use of and all the friends I have around this country and abroad, relationships I nurture.

This election season, with Covid-forced isolation and lack of physical contact, plus ongoing killings of black men and women, the climate of divisiveness and fear-based, social media-hyped, shallow rigid thinking, and the shadow of climate disaster and extinctions hanging over us all –  but hardly ever mentioned in the news – has brought many progressives like me to a state of near hysteria. I carefully monitor the amount of news I take in, lest I start yelling and cursing at the screen or radio.

“Falling into cynicism and despair are the twin dangers for idealists. Finding things to laugh at or escape into only goes so far.”


Falling into cynicism and despair are the twin dangers for idealists. Finding things to laugh at or escape into only goes so far. I can only contribute small donations for a dozen of the many nonprofits I want to support, can only sign so many petitions and attend so many demonstrations. So I seek out good news and do a newsletter of bits and pieces I find hopeful and inspiring and send a new issue out every few weeks to 800 people I know. Many write me that they find it valuable.  

I am heartened that our Town Council allows a Black Lives Matter memorial to stay up at the main town park, and by the increasing numbers of BLM and 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage banners Biden-Harris signs appearing on houses and lawns around town. But there has to be more we can do. Joining one of the letter-writing campaigns to inspire registered Democrats residing in far away counties who haven’t recently voted to do is something I’ve signed up for but have yet to do. Instead, I’ve been walking round my 10 block by 5 block neighborhood, knocking on doors wearing my mask, seeking out liberals and progressives and asking if they’d be willing to be on a mailing list and possibly come to a gathering before the election, to share contact information, start a phone tree and be of support to one another. I’ve been heartened by how many folks have thanked me for doing this; one woman has offered to help get a gathering to happen at a nearby park. I’m best when it comes to starting something and inspiring folks. I need to find others to work with who are better at sustaining energy.

I moved to this town of 25,000 in rural SW Colorado believing I would be able to make a difference, participate in authentic, grass roots democracy. I was shocked to discover people here didn’t want to talk about meaningful issues with neighbors, much less strangers who came to their door, canvassing to get out the vote on one issue or another. It’s a churchy county I’ve lived in for the past 30 years, with lots of ranchers and farmers, and most folks don’t want to talk to a stranger, even one who smiles warmly when she knocks on your door and introduces herself. And this was true long before Covid.

So, last week, I decided to strike up conversations with strangers in conversations in 2 different places: my neighborhood, and in the pool at the public recreation center. My goal: to get people thinking about the importance of this particular election, to inspire them to vote if they haven’t been planning to, and hopefully to lift my spirits by finding others who give a damn.


Slipped into the warm water and looked around for my first target: a young native-looking woman, Navajo as it turned out (Dine, they call themselves – pronounced dee nay – “the people”). “I’m doing an informal survey. Can I ask you a few questions?” “Sure.” She grew up on a reservation and recently graduated in physics from our local 4-year “land grant” college – meaning it offers free tuition to any native person in the country.

Yes, she’s registered to vote and this is her first election. And she is voting for Biden/Harris, though she didn’t appear enthusiastic about it. , mentioning the race for president is between 2 old white guys. Yes, but  how different they are with regard to issues that matter to Natives and young voters. Were her friends voting? Half of them, the rest didn’t feel the choice between two old white men didn’t made much of a difference.

When I hear people planning not to vote, I always mention that, though both parties may be controlled by big money, their platforms differ greatly and that whomever is President will appoint hundreds of federal judges who are lifetime appointees and whose decisions could directly hurt them. I urged her to remind her friends of this. I felt she was glad for our conversation, smiled and thanked her for talking with me, and for voting.

Before our conversation ended, at my mention of the nightmare of having T for another for years, and what that would do to the environment, from across the pool a middle-aged white woman called out,  “I like Trump. I think he’s been a greatpresident!” I started to swim towards her and called out, “What issues do you think he’s been good on?” “National security!” How, I wanted to ask, did she think his pulling out of all international agreements and treaties could do anything but decrease U.S. national security. But before I could say anything, she announced she wasn’t at the pool to talk politics. We ended on a smile, after her saying she hoped I believed in her right to her opinions, and me affirming of course I did. I was churning inside and it took a few minutes to recover my confidence in talking to anyone else.

I spotted two portly, middle-aged white men and made my way over to one, grinning and announced: “Make my day! Tell me you’re not voting for Trump!” “Well,” he said, eyeing me, “As a matter of fact, I am.” What ensued was an intense but cordial conversation that must have lasted 5 minutes. I started by asking whether he was a lifelong Republican. “Nope. Independent.” I told him I’m a socialist Democrat who believes strongly in democracy and that got his curiosity. He wanted to know how I could believe in socialism. I starting by mentioning the importance of a strong social safety net, went on to mention wealth sharing, and the need to close the enormous gap between the ultra rich and the very poor, which I said doesn’t serve a democracy, and the need for everyone to earn a living wage. He didn’t agree. He pushed me on the issue of socialist, clearly finding even the word distasteful. I mentioned  that we in have a number of services and institutions that are “socialist” in nature, in that everyone can make use of them, regardless of one’s ability to pay: libraries, fire and police departments, emergency rooms. He paused, thinking, then agreed they were valuable services. But, he asked, why should anyone be forced to pay 70% of their income in taxes, just because they earn a lot of money. Several times he stated there’s nothing wrong with a guy like Jeff Bezos making huge amounts of money. “Bezos worked for it, earned it and deserves to do what he wants with it.”

I asked whether he thought it fair that some pursuits or work in a capitalist economy are valued more than others – say, being a real estate investor versus a school janitor in an inner city school who is a mentor to the kids, or a working artist or a mother. Did I really think mothers should be paid? And if so, who should pay them and out of what money? I had responses, but he’d already moved on in his argument, saying how good a system capitalism has been. We saw eye-to-eye on nothing; yet he was willing to stay engaged with me. My parting shot, as headed toward the hot tub, was “Remember, democracy is a form of governance. Capitalism and socialism are forms of economy. Democracy isn’t wedded to capitalism.” Perhaps he’d think about that. I felt grateful he’d spent the time with me.

I went on with my swim, thinking about his statement that requiring people to pay taxes is a form of violence, and the forcible taking of money from the wealthy in countries with very high taxes on the rich is blatantly wrong.

He’d said, “You can’t treat all people alike because they’re not and they don’t therefore deserve to be treated the same.” My mention of the phrase sharing the wealth had caused him to ask what that would look like in practice. Good question. I wished we’d had more time to get into more details, more nuance. He asked whether I believed everyone should be paid the same, no matter how intelligent or how hard they worked or how valuable their work was. My attempt to get him to consider that a school janitor in an inner city school who formed good relationships with students was valuable and a woman doing a great job parenting kids was doing something that should to be worth as much as a land developer might have left him thinking.

I did get to mention the concept of equal pay for comparable work and creating a system where the our country’s gross national product included valuable unpaid labor like parenting or caring for elders. I mentioned the book written back in the 1988 by a female member of the New Zealand Parliament – Marilyn Waring – If Women Counted: A feminist economics. His response to that was to say that women actually earn more than men in many jobs, 17% more. I said I didn’t know where he got that figure but but we didn’t go further And more conversation about socialism. I felt good about the entire interaction, despite his politics.

I approached the middle-aged white man, treaded water alongside him, smiled and announced, “Make my day! Please, tell me you’re not voting for Trump.” I couldn’t have predicted it by his appearance, but his response was, “Of course not.” I thanked him and flashed him big smile. Being friendly, cordial and smiling are essential parts of engaging strangers. 

A few minutes later I left the pool. In the changing room, standing naked as I reached for my clothes, I asked the woman next to me whether she was voting. “Yes. Definitely.” I dared ask for whom. “Biden, of course”. 

On my way out of the rec center I spotted four young people, 1 boy and 3 girls, sitting on a low wall and talking to each other. I walked over to them, asked, “Could I interrupt your conversation and ask you a couple questions. “Sure.” “So, who would vote for in the election if you were old enough to vote?” None had given it any thought. One said, “We’re in middle school,” as if that’s reason enough to hold no opinions and not be curious. “It’s your generation who will bear the brunt of the rotten decisions we older folks have made or will make.” and making eye contact with one after the other of them, I urged them to get involved, suggesting they help register people to vote, even though they can’t vote, referring them to the local Democratic headquarters to volunteer. I doubted they’d do it; but it was worth planting a seed.  

Just then, the guy I’d had the longish conversation with in the pool emerged from the rec center and walked toward us, stopped and told the kids he and I had just had a great conversation, and said it meant a lot to him that we could talk, even though we hold opposite views. Good role modeling for these young people, I thought.

That morning I’d gone over to my 84-year old retired engineer friend, who’s also a fine musician, and we’d gotten into one of our heated arguments, this time over the issue of people at Black Lives Matter  protests burning down property, how it sullied the whole movement,  and what to do to stopping that. I didn’t want the conversation to go there, because to me it’s a marginal question, with the real issue being white entitlement, white supremacy, police brutality against blacks, especially young black men. My friend gave me the same worn-out platitude that isn’t born out by fact, that it’s just a few rotten apples doing the killings of black men among the many thousands of police in this country. He also didn’t understand why I, after I mentioned I was immersing myself in the history of racism in the U.S., I was spending so much of my time doing that, saying it’s enough to know it’s wrong and refute it and get on with other issues. My friend is white, wealthy and, although now going almost totally blind and dealing with his own emotional anguish, clearly doesn’t feel there’s any compelling reason for him to address his inner sense of entitlement and, surely also racism, since all of us whites have it. I have undertaken to uncover and root out the inner racist in me, including being part of an ongoing group at my Unitarian Universalist congregation, reading White Fragility and facing up to it.

My friend votes liberal and attends the same Unitarian Universalist congregation as I, which engages in a lot of social activism; yet he isn’t willing to consider how the privilege of his life negatively impacts the lives of Black Americans. I allowed my voice to rise to a shout and did some swearing and he responded by yelling at me to calm down. He’s right; yelling gets nowhere, simply indulges my childish raging side. We ended, as we always do, on a calmer note and I later called to apologize for my bad behavior on such a beautiful fall day.


It took me five minutes in the pool before I got up the courage to speak to a mid-30ish LatinX man happily playing in the warm pool with his wife/partner and three young kids. Elaborate tattoos on his back, chest and arms. I slowed my pace til I was alongside him and asked if I could ask him a few questions for an informal survey I’m doing. “Sure.” “Are you registered to vote?” “Yes.” “Are you voting?” “Yes.” “Would you mind telling me for whom, for president.”  “Biden. We have to get Trump out.” I asked if most of his friends were voting, but he told me he and his family have just recently moved to Colorado from California and don’t have friends out here yet. I thanked him with a smiling, “You’ve made my day.”

After my swim I wrapped myself in a towel and went over to a petite LatinX female lifeguard, and ask whether she’s old enough to vote. “Yes.” “Will you vote?” “Yes.” “Trump or Biden?” “Biden.” “How about your friends?” She didn’t know. I urged her to talk about it with her friends and do her best to get them to vote and again mentioned the lifetime  judicial appointees.

On my way to the changing room I approached a young early 20-ish Anglo-looking woman standing with a man and 2 young kids. I asked if she has registered to vote? “No.” I expressed surprise and asked whether she planned to vote? “No”. “Don’t think it matters?” “Yeah.” I told her I was a strong Bernie supporter and that Bernie is pleading with all his supporters to first vote for Biden and get Trump gone and then push Biden to the left. She’s smiled when I said Bernie’s name and said she’s a Bernie supporter too. I told her the critical importance of the power the next president will have regarding climate change and, again, also the appointment of hundreds of federal judges, lifetime appointees, whose decisions will greatly affect her generation. She nodded, thoughtful. As I left, I once more urged her to reconsider voting and thanked her and smiled. She actually looked at me as if she might do it.

I asked another lifeguard, male, long hair, whom I’ve seen teaching  swimming to preschoolers,”Gonna vote?” “Yes.” For Biden?” “Yes.” “How about your friends and other lifeguards?” He didn’t know. I urged him to initiate conversations with as many of his friends and other lifeguards as. He said he would and then thanked me for what I was doing.

On the way out, I stopped at the front desk and spoke to the Native-looking guy with the long dark hair in a ponytail, to whom I always say hi. Turns out he’s 100% Native, half Apache, half Navajo. “Yes,” not only was he voting, andDemocratic, but he’d already voted. He volunteered that his mother was the one who’d impressed on him the idea that voting is very important. I thanked him and headed out the door for home, feeling hopeful. 

How many people had I influenced in a positive way? Two or three at least. And I’d lifted my own spirits in the process. Job well done.


Conversed with a woman in the changing room at the rec center, Anglo, youngish senior. Happy to talk about the election and her support of Biden/Harris. In the oval warm circulating pool I was the only person.

I went over to the female lifeguard I’d not seen before. Turns out she’s Samoan, adopted at three by an Anglo couple in the U.S., after spending her first years in the care of her grandparents. We talked about politics and adoption, and I told her I’ve written two books on the subject and she perked up at the mention of them, saying she’d read them and go on my nonprofit site that I told her was all about wiring the human brain for trust rather than fear, and the importance of the mother-baby bond. 

This is her 1st chance to vote; she’s a student at the college, studying adventure exercise and had planned to go into the Navy to be an Air Rescue Swimmer, but not if Trump remains in office.

All the students she knows are voting and she enlightened me about a social media site called TikTok and the fact that she’s run into many folks her age who’ve actually changed their political beliefs and affiliations from Republican and conservative to Democrat and liberal, as a result of what they’ve been exposed to on TikTok, youth from around the world sharing thoughts and feelings. She’s also just watched the new film on Netflix my husband and I watched, called The Social Dilemma, about the pros and unexpected frightening cons of social media and its harmful impact on our lives.

We talked for a while, Isak and I, and we’re planning to meet up to talk more, including about adoption.

There was by now one other person in the warm pool, white, longish hair and, from looking at his upper torso and arms, pretty well covered with fading tattoos. A vet? “How’d you like to make my day?” When he mumbled something that sounded affirmative, I asked “Tell me you’re not voting for Trump!” “I’m not voting,” he said. Never, not since the election where Ralph Nader was running for president on the Green ticket, and hadn’t been permitted to be in the debates, he said “Screw it!” “It’s all rigged.” I agreed, but said I feel it’s our best shot, voting, and then we need to get rid of the Electoral College and get all money out of elections. He is firmly sticking to his belief that there’s no point to it. And some days I agree.

But right now, I’m back home and feeling grateful and optimistic.

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Dangers Of Separating Children From Caregivers: A Podcast With Darcia Narvaez Sat, 24 Oct 2020 20:43:55 +0000 What are the dangers of separating children from their caregivers? How does this early trauma impact lifelong wellness, or illness, for all homo sapiens? Visit Kindred’s sister nonprofit initiative, The Evolved Nest, at Dangers of Separating Children from Caregivers: TRANSCRIPT Mary Tarsha: Hello, thank you again for joining us. I’m Mary Tarsha. I have here Dr. […]]]>

What are the dangers of separating children from their caregivers? How does this early trauma impact lifelong wellness, or illness, for all homo sapiens?

Visit Kindred’s sister nonprofit initiative, The Evolved Nest, at

Dangers of Separating Children from Caregivers: TRANSCRIPT

Mary Tarsha: Hello, thank you again for joining us. I’m Mary Tarsha. I have here Dr. Darcia Narvaez. Thank you, Dr. Narvaez, for being here with us today.

Dr. Narvaez: You’re welcome. 

Mary Tarsha: Today we’re talking about something that has been present in our era now for several months. I’m talking about the issue on the border of separating children from their parents, as we see prospective immigrants are being separated from their children. We’re talking about the psychological effects of what happens when you separate children from their caregivers. So, thank you, Dr. Narvaez. How would you begin talking about this very relevant issue for today?

Dr. Narvaez: Sure, I’m happy to talk about this. It is really a critical issue for today’s world. Let me just say that the primary caregiver isn’t necessarily a parent but could be a grandparent or an aunt, uncle or even a friend. So what I’ll talk about is primary caregivers rather than a parent in my discussion. 

Winner of the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015

First, I think we have to step back a little bit and understand what human beings are, who we are, what we need to grow and flourish. We’re animals– we need nourishment and warmth and so that means food, we need to be kept warm and in shelters, but that’s hardly enough to grow well, it’s just to keep you alive. We’re also mammals and mammals need lots of affection, lots of touch positive touch and play, playing with others in self-directed ways. But we’re also social mammals which means we need bonding with the community, not only with our primary caregiver but also with others who make us feel like we belong, like are accepted, loved and appreciated.

MT: Interesting. Yes, so these are all things that are important in order just to not only survive but to develop well and to flourish. It applies here because before we can begin talking about the effects of being separated as a child from a caregiver, we need to be talking about infants and children need, what humans need.

DN: If we zero in on early childhood, that’s zero to six essentially. That’s when a child is constructed or co-constructed by experience in the caregiving environment. Our biology is constructed by our social environment. Then later, as we express our social capacities, they are reflective of how well our biology was constructed in the early years.

MT: That is so profound. That is just a jam-packed statement–that we are biosocially constructed. So we don’t develop in a vacuum but experience really influences our biology for years to come. 

DN: That’s right. So we have to pay attention to those early days, months, years of a child’s life because they are actually putting the child on their trajectory towards better or worse health. When you undermine early experience for the things I’m going to talk about, then you’re kind of undermining who the child’s going to be for the rest of their life. They might have problems with their immune system or with depression or anxiety because they had the rug pulled out from under them in early childhood.

MT: That’s interesting.

DN: So when we talk about what is it that humans really need, we must understand that we have a nest like all animals. We have a nest that evolved to optimize normal development. We call that a developmental system. If you provide this developmental system, you’re going to have a very good outcome; you will have a normal outcome for that species and you’ll have a smart and effective creature. 

Let me go through the nest for young children. We study this in my lab because it’s so vital for how that life course is going to go for that child for the rest of their lives. 

MT: And you’ve said before that we’re talking about the things that are most critical in order to develop properly and have a child flourish. But these things are provisioned by the community so that means that it’s provided by everyone involved. It’s not just putting more emphasis on what mom or dad or that one primary caretaker should do, right?

DN: That’s right. So the evolved nest involves multiple components: 

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

(1) having a soothing perinatal experience. That means mom is supported and feels relaxed during pregnancy because if she doesn’t there’s all sorts of things that can misdirect development. It also means that she and baby have a soothing birth experience, not one that’s stressful, like separating baby from mother or introduces painful procedures and things like that. 

(2) Another one is touch. We need touch to grow well. That’s affectionate touch, not punishment, not corporal punishment, which actually misdirects development in various ways. 

(3) Responsiveness means meeting the needs of the young child, the baby, promptly, before they get upset and distressed. It means following their signals of their face, or voice, or their wiggling before they start crying.

(4) Then there is breastfeeding. We are called mammals because of mammary glands. Mothers provide species-typical milk which for us is a thin variety of milk. This means it should be ingested frequently also because it’s full of hormones and all the building blocks of the brain and body. As babies, we expect to be nursed frequently two or three times an hour initially–when we’re very young, our stomachs are so tiny. Our species expects to be breast fed for two to five years on average, according to the studies around the world looking are small-band hunter gatherers, the kind of societies that represents 99% of human history.

(5) Alloparents or allomothers. It’s not just mom, as you’ve mentioned already, that cares for the baby but other adults fathers, grandmothers in particular that are also providing the touch and responsiveness and the soothing kind of experience that babies need to grow well

(6) And then there is play. Social, self-directed free play in the natural world with lots of different aged playmates which also grows the individual’s brain and body well.

All these characteristics are neuroscientifically shown to matter for mammal development.

(7) And finally, social support–feeling highly socially embedded in the community, having a sense of belonging, a sense of being appreciated, where you can be yourself. 

So let me just mention them quickly again: soothing perinatal experiences, positive touch and affection, responsiveness, breastfeeding, allomothers or alloparents, social free play, and social support.

MT: That can seem overwhelming when you hear all of them together but when you are reminded that this is a community that is coming together that is caring for the needs of this child then it becomes much more understandable. It’s an experience where the needs of the child are being met from many people surrounding the child so then they grow up feeling, as you said, very deeply embedded within society and connected and their needs are very satiated going forward.

DN: When their basic needs are met, then their body and brain develop well.

All these factors are related to self-regulatory systems that come on line, that are their setting parameters, how they are going to function, during early sensitive periods.

Let’s just talk about one: touch. When you separate a mom and a baby or a caregiver and a child ,that child’s not going to get the touch they need. When you separate a mammal baby in particular, but also children, it’s going to dysregulate multiple systems, causing lifelong changes in stress responsiveness, causing deficits that will contribute to violent and antisocial behavior and also to depression, even later in life. 

MT: It’s really interesting because when we’re talking about separating child from the caregiver, this is immediately just a no brainer right of what they’re going to be deprived of—physical closeness and affectionate touch. The literature is converging on this. We see this over and over again and different studies, both human studies and animal studies, that when you’re depriving physical touch it’s really having an effect neurobiologically for years to come.

DN: Yes, and we know that when you’re separated from your mother, baby’s pain responses increase, and endogenous opioids—those things that make you feel good that are internal to your body and that actually are fostered by touch and being with your parents—those things diminish. Your oxytocin, which is the so-called cuddle hormone, decreases and so on. If these things happen during a sensitive period, it can have lasting epigenetic effects on that child. For example, we know if in the first six months you need lots of touch, affectionate touch, for turning on the controls of anxiety. If you don’t get enough touch at the right times in the right way, you’re likely to have an anxious personality for the rest of your life, unless you take drugs and medicate your anxiety. You will find the ways to medicate yourself with drugs, alcohol, addictions.

MT: It all goes back to physical closeness and affectionate touch. 

DN: And we know that close physical positive touch affects your stress response, your immune system, your endocrine systems, such as the oxytocin system, neurotransmitters—how many you have and how well they function. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that’s linked to intelligence but also to wellbeing. Emotion systems and various other things are affected that can be undermined if you are separated or don’t have enough touch. 

The child who is not provided with the evolved nest feels very deep down that something is not right. The feeling of what the child should have a sense of was well described by Jean Liedloff in The Continuum Concept, a book she wrote after she was sort of an accidental anthropologist, and tried to contrast what was going on– why are these kids and adults here in this Amazon jungle so happy and so well, and I go home to the States and, boy, everyone is so unhappy and sick: 

“The feeling appropriate to an infant in arms is his feeling of rightness, or essential goodness, the premise that he is right, good, and welcome. Without that conviction, the human being of any age is crippled by a lack of confidence, of full sense of self, of spontaneity, of grace.”

MT: Oh my goodness, what a quote It is really beautiful. 

DN: So when we undermine nest provision, all those characteristics that I mentioned and we’re focusing here on touch,  that child’s sense of confidence and wellbeing in the world is undermined. She talked about that babies were meant to fall asleep in arms, in someone’s arms, to be carried around all day long, sleeping, awake whatever it is and that gives you this sense, of rightness.

MT: Even in that quote you see the full sense of self confidence, spontaneity, of grace. Very profound. You can just see that when a child is being held and cuddled in that right, ordered relationship, responsive parenting, that it provides a foundation for the rest of his life.

DN: Sensitive, responsive care in general provides a sense of well-functioning psyche and physiology. So what do we mean by responsive care? It is that synchrony between you and the child, the adult and the child, where you’re able to communicate back and forth and understand each other’s nonverbal communication, to coordinate to get along well, and have a sense of being connected with an external umbilical cord. You co-regulate one another. That’s we mean by responsive care 

MT: Almost like a dance, right? 

DN: Yes, an interpersonal dance is a nice way to say it. So, both of these, responsiveness and positive touch, are affecting various physiological systems, including how well the vagus nerve works. It’s the 10th cranial nerve that’s connected to all the major systems of the body: cardiac system, respiratory, immune system, emotional systems, digestive systems. And these are critical connections because they are established in early life. If you don’t have the responsive and affectionate care, the vagus nerve can be mis- or under-developed and then any one of these systems can be dysregulated as a result.

MT:  I think you might talk about this later but also the social engagement system–how the vagus nerve is very much part of that social engagement system. When you are undercared for in early life and you develop a compromised vagus nerve, the 10th cranial nerve, then that really hinders you for the rest of your life going forward in how you engage with others, in the ease with which you engage with others.

DN: Right. Vagal tone, which is what we call it when the vagus nerve is functioning well, if you have a good vagal tone it allows you to be intimate with others because you’re able to calm yourself down to keep the sympathetic system from taking over, or the parasympathetic system, and instead the social engagement capacities are there. And so you can respond to others in intimate ways, but also with compassion if they’re in distress or need.

One of the critical things that’s happening in these early years is the right hemisphere development, zero to three in particular. Many things are right lateralized in those early years so the vagus nerve, for example, is related to self regulation, self control, and there’s so many systems that are involved in this– we kind of talk at the very general level here. But they all contribute to your ability to be who you are, as your unique self, being guided by your intuition, well developed intuitions and emotions, being able to be empathic towards others, to be present in the moment, to be receptively intelligent, so you can pick up signals from others. All these things are governed, initially at least, by the right hemisphere and that needs to develop well in the early years.

MT: Yes, and what you’re saying is that the right hemisphere is dominant in the early years, meaning that there’s more development in the right side of the brain that is taking place, but is controlling all of these very important aspects of empathy, beingness and receptive intelligence and higher conscious compared to the left side which will then develop later on in life.

DN: Right, throughout childhood it is the right hemisphere that should be dominating. That’s the time period for it to be developing from experience, from whole body experience. Left hemisphere is more of that conscious mind that we educate in school. That’s fine for adolescents, but before then, as much as possible, you want to have your child immersed in whole body experience.

So what happens if you’re undermining development in early life from undercare? Your survival systems that you’re born with, which are integrated with the stress response, take over,  easily, your mind, and control how your whole brain functions. That kind of wipes out your ability to think very well, think very openly, think very good heartedly, and those things can then undermine who you are. You are almost conditioned to be stress reactive and then go into this fight-flight-fight-freeze-faint or anger, fear or panic easily.

MT: They are very activated.  Under care is provided, or in this situation, separation from the caregiver ,then you’re going to have an increase in the stress response and an undermining of right hemisphere development leading to this exaggerated exponentiated fight-flight-freeze-faint.

DN: That’s right and so then you will have a personality that’s more oriented to being socially oppositional, distrustful of others, or just withdrawn in fear and passivity, and kind of shut down too. In both cases you’re trying to feel safe and because your brain did not develop properly you only know this way of functioning, either dominating and opposing, and you know, standing on the hill over others, or withdrawing and hiding out of fear. 

So when you separate a child from a parent or caregiver you are, in effect, encouraging this kind of personality to develop. And you can see this fight or social opposition in terrorists who have been traumatized in their own childhoods and then grow up to take on perspective of the world that they’re going to ‘defeat those people who hurt them.’

MT:  The enemy, the enemy.

DN: Right, whomever you are told the enemy is. That will vary by culture and by what kind of environment you put yourself into. But you will take up an enemy. And you will want to defeat that enemy and you’ll be always oriented to enemies and crises. This is not our heritage as human beings. Our heritage is to be cooperative with others, to be open and hospitable to others, wherever they’re from.

MT: Right, so then we see as you’re talking about both of these different reactions being having behavior that’s socially oppositional or socially withdrawn, that basically these are two outcomes or two types of behavior that that stem kind of from a similar trajectory, a similar developmental path with under care. 

DN: That’s right. And so I think we have to be cautious now when we think about separating children from parents no matter where they are, if they’re going to jail, if they’re at the border, wherever you are in the society, whatever level within any community: if you separate the child from the parent, expect trauma. And we should avoid trauma.

MT: Even with high social economic status.

DN: Yes, no matter who you are. Young children especially, but throughout childhood. We need to be with our caregivers. We need lots of affection. We need responsiveness. Putting kids into jail or camps or tents by themselves, without their caregivers is highly traumatic.

MT: Highly traumatic, right.

Thank you so much Dr. Narvaez. It is really helpful to have you explain to us the effects of separating a child from the caregiver. Thank you again for joining us and we look forward to being with you next time.

About the Evolved Nest

Every animal has a nest for its young that matches up with the maturational schedule of the offspring (Gottlieb, 1997). Humans too! The Evolved Nest (or Evolved Developmental Niche; EDN) refers to the nest for young children that humans inherit from their ancestors. It’s one of our adaptations, meaning that it helped our ancestors survive. Most characteristics of the evolved nest emerged with social mammals more than 30 million years ago.

Humans are distinctive in that babies are born highly immature (only 25% of adult-sized brain at full-term birth) and should be in the womb another 18 months to even resemble newborns of other species! As a result, the brain/body of a child is highly influenced by early life experience.

Multiple epigenetic effects occur in the first months and years based on the timing and type of early experience. Humanity’s evolved nest was first identified by Melvin Konner (2005) as the “hunter-gatherer childhood model” and includes breastfeeding 2-5 years, nearly constant touch, responsiveness to baby’s needs, multiple responsive adult caregivers, free play with multiple-aged playmates, positive social support for mom and baby.

Calling these components the Evolved Nest or Evolved Developmental Niche, Narvaez and colleagues add to the list soothing perinatal experience (before, during, after birth) and a positive, welcoming social climate. All these are characteristic of the type of environment in which the human genus lived for 99% of its existence. Below are publications and a powerpoint about the evolved nest.

Why does the evolved nest matter? Early years are when virtually all neurobiological systems are completing their development. They form the foundation for the rest of life, including getting along with others, sociality and morality.

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It’s Not Your Fault – Some Things Are So Much Bigger Than You And Your Choices Fri, 23 Oct 2020 19:00:41 +0000 One late evening in 1999, Daniel Schneider and his wife were awakened by two police officers knocking at their door. Their 22-year-old son Danny was shot and killed in his vehicle, they informed the couple. Earlier that night upon heading out of his family home, Danny had told his parents he was going to a […]]]>

One late evening in 1999, Daniel Schneider and his wife were awakened by two police officers knocking at their door. Their 22-year-old son Danny was shot and killed in his vehicle, they informed the couple. Earlier that night upon heading out of his family home, Danny had told his parents he was going to a friend’s to study. Instead, he drove his little red truck to another part of town to buy opioids.

It’s the kind of thing we think would never happen to us. We imagine stories of opioid addiction or death by drug dealers only happen inside marginalized families with extreme disfunction. Yet the picture of Danny’s family is anything but that.

The Pharmacist,one of Netflix’s newest documentaries, follows the murder of Danny as told via the narrative of his father, Daniel, a pharmacist from Louisiana. Not only did he investigate the death of his son, but he went on to discover the disturbing truth about the scourge of opioid use in America.

Besides the main story, what The Pharmacist reveals is that a child raised in a good, kind, connected, solid family can end up a statistic. More importantly, it reveals a flaw in the nature versus nurture debate. The polarity of nature-nurture misses an essential third element…culture. Culture is a very influential aspect of our lives that shapes the people we are and the people we become. In Danny’s case, his stable family life was no match to the other cultures surrounding him—school culture, pharmaceutical, medical and American culture.

Why is this important to know? Because unwittingly, every day, each one of us—our choices, our beliefs, our perceptions, and our actions—is influenced by culture. We may think we are independent and critical thinkers, we may imagine ourselves emancipated from public opinion and sway, and yet like the proverbial fish in the water swims inside something he barely recognizes, we don’t see its influence upon us. Often, the most obvious, ubiquitous, essential realities are the ones that are the hardest to see and discuss.

Society points the finger at the individual—to raise a good kid, to be healthy, to recycle, to reduce carbon emissions, to succeed financially—but it’s a deflection to keep us engaged in our own personal choices rather than hold the society at large—our leaders, our institutions our policies—responsible for creating a culture that supports us to thrive.

If eating at McDonald’s is cheaper than eating a home-cooked meal using locally grown and sourced ingredients, how does that support the public to stay healthy? If companies insist we work at offices rather than from home, how does that support the public to consume less gas? If the education system remains entrenched in old ideologies and structures to educate a 21st-century child, how does that support us to raise confident and fulfilled young adults?

If states, cities, and national policies are not aligned in how to respond to a pandemic, how does that support the public to be unified in wearing masks and social distancing? And if doctors can dole out prescriptions for a drug in the same class as heroin for something as minor as a headache without so much as a word as to how addictive it is from the very first pill, how does that support people to avoid addiction?

Helena Norberg-Hodge, author of Ancient Futures: Learning from Ladakh, and producer of the film The Economics of Happiness argues that if policy shifts to support people to make the right choice easily, people, on the whole, tend to follow. “People down deep are good,” she said to me once over dinner. “They are not greedy, unkind, or selfish. What brings out the worst in people are policies that provoke fear, division, and insufficiency.”

She writes, “Increasingly distanced from the institutions which make decisions that affect their lives, and insecure about their economic livelihoods, people around the world are becoming frustrated, angry, and disillusioned. Because the bigger picture has remained largely hidden, few people blame the de factogovernment of deregulated banks and corporations; instead, they point the finger of blame elsewhere.”

People blame themselves. They blame each other. They blame particular political parties, immigrants, or residents who are ethnically or racially different. They blame the guy in the grocery store not wearing a mask, and he blames them for being angry about it. If you stop to think about this, what a perfect set up for the larger powers. Keep the people distracted by pointing fingers so institutions can carry on with their larger agenda unnoticed. The perfect divide and conquer.

I believe we need to be very careful right now with our well-meaning intent to assume over-responsibility for our choices, absent holding our leaders and our society at large accountable. I also believe we need to be careful with where we point the finger at individual others. As a people, we’d be wise to shift our view from changing ourselves and the ‘other’, to influencing the re-shaping of a society and culture to support all beings—humans and otherwise—to thrive.

In his book, The Mind-Body Code–How to Change Your Beliefs That Limit Your Health, Longevity, and Success,neuropsychologist Dr. Mario Martinez demonstrates how our thoughts and their biological expression co-merge within cultural influences. His language of biocognition—how our culture affects our biology—provides a powerful basis for insights into health and success.

If dysfunctional lifestyles and toxic behaviors could change simply by our making a cognitive decision to do so based on our learning the facts about the issue, then smokers would simply and immediately quit smoking, and women would leave violent homes, poses Martinez. “True sustainable change requires gaining access to the cultural beliefs that deny you the rewards of your courageous commitment to change,” he says. But even then, the journey is not an easy one. “All cultures, East and West, have their own unique ways of punishing those whose ideas and behaviors run contrary to established beliefs,” he warns.

Lots of cultures around us influence us: corporate culture, medical culture, family, state, church, and country culture, just to name a few. Take for example our cultural narratives about age. In America, age is a cage. Turning twenty-nine sends youngsters into anxiety about becoming the dreaded thirty. And at the ‘retirement age’ of sixty-five, we are meant to stop everything and play golf, when in fact this is a time in your life when you are arriving at the culmination of your greatest mastery. Many of my clients are in the sixty to sixty-eight-year-old age bracket, and they are embarking on new and exciting careers. Yet all of them face the critically raised eyebrow of friends and family, “Why would you want to start that now?!”

The dangerous age narrative not only embeds biological information into our tissues, and actually influences how we feel each day. It influences our thoughts and actions. In fact, every cultural narrative influences us in that way. Which ones influence you? Think about it for a moment. Think about how, for example, you might blame yourself for being too busy and stressed. Yet your company culture expects you to be available and responsive to your email seven days a week. It’s not your stress or your choices within that organization that are the problem, it’s the culture.

There are so many narratives once you start looking. And most, if not all of them, are arbitrarily created and have no factual basis. Here are some: Homework is an essential part of a good education—studies showhomework diminishes outcomes. Staying married is better for the kids—not if the marriage is toxic. Breast cancer early detection saves lives—in the thirty yearssince a mammogram company transformed that campaign into a ‘medical fact’, 1.3 million women were overdiagnosed and their lives placed at risk. While eight cases per hundred thousand were helped by screening, 114 per hundred thousand were overdiagnosed.

Here’s another juicy one. Mothers often take the blame for almost everything that happens wrong to a child. Let’s take school shootings. Where does the collective mind point? To the mother mostly. She must have been a terrible one. But a teenager does not grow up to be a school shooter inside a vacuum of his mother’s arms. And he doesn’t just wake up one day in a bad mood and kill people. He was forged day after day, year after year, in an intricate web of various cultural conditions. So instead of blaming the mom, we could explore the school culture—his school’s response to bullying (most shooters were badly bullied throughout middle school and high school). Or we could explore the medical culture—the impact of psychostimulant and antidepressant drugs on developing brains (there is a link between shooters and these prescriptions). Or American culture—gun rights.

Overweight? Stop blaming your low self-esteem, your inability to restrain yourself. Our fruits and vegetables are far less nutritious than they were decades ago. We eat, we’re still hungry because our bodies are nutrition-starved. We eat more. The number on our personal scale is directly influenced by agribusiness, government policy, and corporate culture. Not to mention our cultural obsession with extreme thinness and all the narratives that go with that.

I’ll get some push back on calling out some of these narratives. That’s ok. As Dr. Martinez points out, that’s what cultures do. As you wake up from your own cultural trances and start to do things differently, you’ll get pushback too, or worse. Know that the pushback is not because your freedom or your choices are wrong, but because collectively the culture fears change. “We used to have so much time together,” says a friend subtly shaming you because they’re threatened by you finally writing your book.

Lockdown revealed a whole lot of narratives that simply were not true…narratives about working from home, about school, obligations and how we use our time, or how much ‘stuff’ we actually need. So get ready to be gaslighted by a culture that does not want you to wake up from the trance. As a recent cartoon showing two advertising executives read, “We can no longer make them think they really need this stuff.”

Many of us are asking ourselves who we want to be in this new world that is emerging as a result of the pandemic. I think it is a powerful and important question to ask ourselves. And with it, I wish to encourage each of you to ask what do you want your culture(s) to be? What narratives do you want to end? What influence can you wield over your friend culture, your family culture, your government, your company? What narratives do you wish to eliminate by not participating…ie, by not telling anyone your age anymore, by showing your school the facts about homework (or homeschooling if they don’t listen), by refusing to adhere to obligations that do not serve you, by no longer trading in your dreams in exchange for belonging and acceptance.

Flux and disruption provide the best conditions to create change because unlike other times when things are embedded and concretized, everything is moving, dissolving, and shifting. With a new election looming and a society in utter upheaval, we have a huge opportunity. Now is the time we want to look at what we want to shape in all the cultures that surround us. Complain to the manager, debate with your doctor, argue with the principal. Vote, influence, refuse, speak out, model, share, and inform. A new way, that is better for everyone is possible.

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The Psychology of Domestic Terrorists: Eliminationism Tue, 13 Oct 2020 01:10:39 +0000 We live in a soup of extremist attitudes.  The FBI uncovered and derailed a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The ideas held by the militia group planning the crime are not unusual in these divisive times, nor in Michigan which has a history of militia-type extremist groups.  But there is a longer history to notice. I […]]]>

We live in a soup of extremist attitudes. 

The FBI uncovered and derailed a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The ideas held by the militia group planning the crime are not unusual in these divisive times, nor in Michigan which has a history of militia-type extremist groups.  But there is a longer history to notice.

I grew up with the radio on most of the time, tuned into a university radio station with educational shows on the arts, public affairs, cooking, gardening. The shows expanded imagination, for example, providing insights about foreign lands and people from those lands—building empathy and understanding. It was an introduction to a type of cosmopolitanism welcoming Otherness.

Winner of the William James Book Award from the American Psychological Association in 2015

But what happens if the radio listened to builds prejudices instead of taking them down? What if the shows you hear make you suspicious towards the Other instead of welcoming? What if the shows make you feel threatened by difference and even superior to the Other? Unfortunately, millions of people listen to radio that has these effects.

John F. Kennedy noted right-wing radio’s effects in the 1960s and used federal powers to curtail it (never to be forgotten by right-wing hosts); but after President Reagan dismantled the Fairness Doctrine (requiring alternative views to be presented on the same program), conservative radio took off and provides most radio entertainment in “red” America(Matzko, 2020).

David Neiwert (2009, 2017) describes the decades-long history of how talking points from the extreme right infiltrated mainstream conservatism via the whitewashing of talk radio, specifically, conservative radio. Hosts like Rush Limbaugh, who were considered to be bona fide conservatives, brought in cleaned-up extremist ideas (e.g., “feminazis”) and made them sound conservative. A key feature of right-wing radio is to scapegoat and demonize “enemies.”

After several decades of extremist view seepage into the discourse of conservative-credentialed pundits, extremist ideas are now central to Republican discourse. For example, David Duke, infamous former Klu Klux Klan leader, noted that the Republican Party’s platform in 1996 was very similar to his 1988 platform when he ran for president: antigay, antiimmigrant, antiabortion, antiwelfare, anti-affirmative action. Neiwert explains how this took place.

Right-wing extremism represents a “conservatism movement” in the USA, distinguishable from conservatism per se, which is about conserving tradition and making change slowly and carefully. The conservatism movement focuses on threat and exclusion, demonizing and dehumanizing those who don’t follow the party line. It manipulates the emotions and perceptions of listeners/viewers who are lured in with entertaining stories and susceptible to threat cues (recall that this susceptibility is often shaped by early life stress, contra the evolved nest, which undermines healthy development of the stress response system; Lupien et al., 2009).

The focus on hating those outside the sanctioned fold, even as infotainment, enables harmful action when the opportunity arises. As philosopher Iris Murdoch (2001) pointed out, if one routinely imagines harming someone perceived to be a threat just by their very existence, when the enabling situation arises it is much easier to take the harmful action because it has been imagined so many times. Neiwert writes that “small acts of meanness” (e.g., through words or shunning) can become pervasive and can turn into large acts. He notes:

[Incidents such as] nesting personal encounters, the ugliness at campaign rallies, the violent acts of “lone wolf” gunmen—are anything but rare….what motivates this kind of talk and behavior is called eliminationism: a politics and a culture that shuns dialogue and the democratic exchange of ideas in favor of the pursuit of outright elimination of the opposing side, either through suppression, exile, and ejection, or extermination.

Rhetorically, eliminationism takes on certain distinctive shapes. It always depicts its opposition as beyond the pale, the embodiment of evil itself, unfit for participation in their vision of society, and thus worthy of elimination. It often further depicts its designated Enemy as vermin (especially rats and cockroaches or diseases, and disease-like cancers on the body politic. A close corollary—but not as nakedly eliminationist—is the claim that opponents are traitors or criminals and that they pose a threat to our national security.” (p. 11)

In Neiwert’s account, the two key characteristics that distinguish eliminationist rhetoric from other political discourse is the focus on an enemy within the society, which targets whole groups of people as “vermin,” “animals, “monsters,” and the advocacy of eliminating those people through civil or violent means. In the USA, eliminationists hate the idea of an inclusive America.

In 2009, Neiwert argued that movement conservatism was not fascism –which would be openly revolutionary, dictatorial, reliant on intimidation and violence. However, he perceived “para-fascism” because although they threatened with bluster, movement conservatives lacked “the visceral, paranoid anger that animates so many actual fascists. They try to talk and walk like a fascist, but underneath, they lack the street violence and thuggery, the actual eliminationist enterprise that is the true fascist’s hallmark” (p. 27). Neiwert credited these distinctions for a situation then that was not irretrievable, remarking: “It is by small steps of meanness and viciousness that we lose our humanity” (p. 28). Eliminationism gives permission for people to act out their violence toward condoned targets. (One has to wonder if, with the plot to kidnap, try and possibly execute Governor Whitmer, we have moved past para-fascism.)

History of Eliminationism in the “New World”

Eliminationism in the broad sense was brought to the Americas by the European invaders. Nature was perceived as dead and dumb to be dominated and subdued for human ends (contrary to the Indigenous perspective that Nature is full of other-than-human persons to be respected and partnered with) (Merchant, 2003). Over time, America’s paradise of old growth forests across much of the continent, billions of birds flying around in droves, rivers full of otters and salmon was decimated to look a lot like the European landscape left behind; as we see today with hardly any of the original richness left (Narvaez et al. 2019; Sale, 1990; Turner, 1994). Even today US officials and citizens think nothing of killing animals they consider pests rather than partners.

When the Europeans arrived, Native peoples of the world were considered subhuman so killing them, as Columbus and the Spanish did, was not a sin until a papal edict declared that they were human and could be converted to Christianity; if they did not comply (with conversion rituals they did not understand), then they could justifiably be killed as infidels (McPherson & Rabb, 2011).

The culture brought to the Americas by White Europeans was characterized by superiority to and distrust of non-European and nature’s entities. In fact, they brought most of the “dangerous ideas” that are associated with conflict and violence: superiority, distrust, vulnerability, helplessness, injustice (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2000). Fear of vulnerability and helplessness was countered with control (instead of hospitality) towards Nature and non-Europeans. The European sense of superiority leads to a sense of injustice if their superior position is not maintained. Enslaving Africans added to the certainty of White-European superiority. Thus, there are deep roots of white supremacy in the country. In fact, Southern culture, rooted in slavery and oligarchic plantation society, is considered by some to have won the civil war as exclusionary attitudes and practices and misshapen historical accounts have pervaded the whole country (Richardson, 2020).

Growth or Fixed Orientation to Life?

Eliminationism is stuck in rigid categorization—fixed, black-and-white thinking. In right-wing radio world, instead of encouraging growing compassion (and a growth mindset; Dweck, 2006), individuals are encouraged to perceive the world in fixed categories—in both themselves and others (a factor related to less achievement and creativity, ibid). This, of course, tends to encourage shutting down openness to change or difference, a characteristic of authoritarianism (Stenner, 2009). In fact, a growth orientation improves flexibility and perspective taking, signals of intelligence (Piaget, 1952).

Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First-Nation Know-How for Global Flourishing: Edited by Darcia Narvaez, PhD

The major religions of the world traditionally considered spiritual growth to be necessary aspect of a religious life (Western Christianity mostly dropped the growth aspect and made religion an identity rather than a following of daily practices toward self-transformation; Wilber, 2006). Part of spiritual growth was decreasing egoism and increasing compassion towards others. Historically and traditionally, hospitality towards the stranger and the needy are part of the nature of a religiously driven good life (Marty, 2005, 2010).

Fundamentalist ideologies are crisis-oriented movements that flourish when the followers are convinced that their way of life is under threat (Almond et al., 1995). It subverts the individual to group needs, a group always headed by a male leader whose instincts are considered superior to reason or expertise.  A form of “stranger danger” becomes pervasive, and “dangerous ideas” flourish: superiority, distrust, vulnerability, helplessness and a sense of injustice or victimization (Eidelson & Eidelson, 2000) as well as conspiracies (Neiwert, 2009). Because the drives toward fundamentalism and authoritarianism are emotional and mostly subconscious, fact-based counter evidence is taken as just more evidence for the truth of a conspiracy (see QAnon).   In a black-and-white world, people feel unsafe and disconnected from the Other, with a pervasive sense of dread. A neo-Darwinian struggle (competitive survival of the fittest) is assumed necessary. Self-protectionism becomes predominant in one’s moral life (Narvaez, 2014).

The Draw of a Key Basic Need: Belonging

A sense of belonging is a key component of human flourishing. Babies feel like they belong to the community when their needs are met quickly, keeping them in a growth state (Narvaez, 2014). Harsh treatment puts them in a self-protective state which can become a trait (Milburn & Conrad, 2016). A welcoming social climate– the hospitality provided even to strangers that most traditional societies practiced– helps children and adults feel welcome and better able to be themselves (Marty, 2005). But there is a huge gap between western ideas of belonging and the approach in traditional societies. In Indigenous societies, a sense of belonging to the natural world and the universe is fundamental. Vision quests form a regular part of child development in Native American communities. One learns to trust oneself to the guidance the universe provides. This requires the society to trust the universe also, to allow the (presumably well raised) individual to follow their muses (spirit guides). Non-interference in the life course of the child is fundamental. A broader and deeper sense of belonging helps alleviate the temptations to feel superior, vulnerable, helpless, or distrustful, which are known to foster harmful behavior. Instead, one learns to practice openness to the guidance from the other than human.

When people are raised outside of a sense of belonging (e.g., basic needs not met as a child through the evolved nest) they will keep searching for reassurance and likely take up a version that inflates the underfed insecure ego, one that emphasizes their superiority, much like the conservatism movement has done for Americans who feel abandoned by family and community.

Taking up Self-Direction

As those who study intuition development understand, one’s intuitions and worldview are shaped by the environments one experiences (Hogarth, 2001). To have control over what intuitions you develop, you must choose relationships and environments carefully, as Aristotle noted. Whatever is repeated in the environments where you spend time—either in words, role models or experiences—is shaping what you think is true about the world. To move away from places and people that inflate your ego and give you dangerous ideas, you must select and build discourses and social environments that encourage openness and practical skilled receptivity (Marty, 2010). As major religions’ spiritual practices advise, as soon as your ego starts to get inflated, take action to move away from that idea and return to a sense of relational connection and humility. Sometimes a revamping of neurobiological capacities to self-calm is required (Mines, 2020; Narvaez, 2014).


Almond, Gabriel A., Sivan, Emmanuel and Appleby, R. Scott  (1995). Fundamentalism: Genus and Species. In M. E. Marty & R. S. Appleby (Eds.), Fundamentalisms Comprehended (pp.399–424). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.

Dweck, C.S. (2006). Mindset. New York: Random House.  

Eidelson, R. J., & Eidelson, J. I. (2003). Dangerous ideas: Five beliefs that propel groups toward conflict. American Psychologist, 58, 182-192

Goldhagen, D.J. (1996). Hitler’s willing executioners: ordinary Germans and the holocaust. New York, NY, USA: Alfred A Knopf.

Hogarth, R. M. (2001). Educating Intuition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Lupien, S.J., McEwen, B.S., Gunnar, M.R., & Heim, C. (2009). Effects of stress throughout the lifespan on the brain, behaviour and cognition, Nature Reviews Neuroscience, 10(6), 434-445.

Marty, M. (2005). When faiths collide. New York: Wiley-Blackwell.

Marty, M. (2010). Building cultures of trust. Grand Rapids, MI:  Eerdmans.

Matzko, P. (2020). The radio right: How a band of broadcasters took on the federal government and built the modern conservative movement. New York: Oxford University Press.

McPherson, D.H., & Rabb, J.D. (2011). Indian from the inside: Native American philosophy and cultural renewal, 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: MacFarland & Co.

Merchant, C. (2003). Reinventing Eden: The fate of nature in Western culture. New York, NY: Routledge.

Milburn, M.A., & Conrad, S.D. (1996). The Politics of Denial. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Mines, S. (2020). We are all in shock: Energy healing for traumatic times. Newburyport, MA: New Page.

Murdoch, I. (2001). The sovereignty of good. London: Routledge Classics.

Narvaez, D. (2014). Neurobiology and the development of human morality: Evolution, culture and wisdom.New York, NY: W.W. Norton.

Narvaez, D., Four Arrows, Halton, E., Collier, B., Enderle, G. (Eds.) (2019). Indigenous Sustainable Wisdom: First Nation Know-how for Global Flourishing. New York: Peter Lang.

Neiwert, D. (2009). Eliminationists: How Hate Talk Radicalized the American Right

Neiwert, D. (2017). Alt-right: The rise of the radical right in the age of Trump. London: Verso.

Piaget, J. (1952). The origin of intelligence in children. New York: International University Press.

Richardson, H.C. (2020). How the South won the civil war: Oligarchy, democracy, and the continuing fight for the soul of America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Sale, K. (1990) The conquest of paradise: Christopher Columbus and the Columbian Legacy. New York, NY: Penguin Plume.

Stenner, Karen (2009). Three Kinds of “Conservatism. Psychological Inquiry. 20 (2–3): 142–159. doi:10.1080/10478400903028615.

Turner, F. (1994). Beyond geography: The Western spirit against the wilderness. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

Wilber, K. (2006). Integral spirituality: A startling new role for religion in the modern and postmodern world. Boulder: Shambala.

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Seven Million American Women of Childbearing Age Live in Counties with Limited or No Maternity Care, Contributing to Maternal and Infant Health Crisis, Finds New Report Thu, 24 Sep 2020 01:42:39 +0000 Nearly half of women who face maternity care access challenges live in urban areas Organizations nationwide support #BlanketChange by demanding equity, access and prevention to improve the health of moms & babies ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — March of Dimes, the nonprofit organization leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies, today released […]]]>
  • Nearly half of women who face maternity care access challenges live in urban areas
  • Organizations nationwide support #BlanketChange by demanding equity, access and prevention to improve the health of moms & babies

ARLINGTON, Va., Sept. 23, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — March of Dimes, the nonprofit organization leading the fight for the health of all moms and babies, today released a new report entitled Nowhere to Go: Maternity Care Deserts Across the U.S. The report, published with the support of partners at RB’s Enfa portfolio of brands through our joint Better Starts for All initiative, finds that seven million American women of childbearing age, 35 percent of which are women of color, live in counties without access or with severely limited access to vital maternity care where 500,000 babies are born each year. More than 2 million women live in maternity care deserts, counties with no access to maternity care, facing additional barriers to care. Without access to routine, quality health care these moms and babies have an increased risk of serious health complications, including maternal and infant mortality and morbidity, as well as low birth weight and preterm.

“Maternity care deserts expose the serious and sometimes deadly issues that can result from lack of access to care for moms and babies,” said Stacey D. Stewart, President and CEO of March of Dimes. “This situation is unacceptable, especially when considering that COVID-19 has put additional strain on our healthcare system and potentially forced the closure of additional maternity wards. We must work to address the systemic health disparities that exist in our nation and find real solutions for these seven million women living without full access and mobilize virtual services, including telehealth and peer-to-peer support services, to provide aide to women living in these deserts.”

The 2020 report showcases the maternity care desert status of all counties across the U.S. based on the most recent data on availability of hospitals, birth centers, OB providers and health insurance. It also includes new sections on COVID-19 and pregnancy, telemedicine and information on the role of doulas in maternity care. Due to the impact of COVID-19, health systems and/or hospital-based maternity care centers located in both urban and rural areas are facing unpresented financial declines that could necessitate the increased closure of maternity care centers, further contributing to the troubling gap.

Additional key findings of the report include:

  • 54% of counties across the U.S. have limited or no access to maternity care and 35% of these counties are considered deserts.
  • More than 2 million women of reproductive age live in one of 1,095 maternity care desert counties, with no hospital offering obstetric (OB) care, no birth center, and no OB provider.
  • An additional 4.8 million women of reproductive age live in counties with limited access to maternity care.
  • An urban environment does not equate to better care. 3.3 million women (47.5%) live in urban counties, yet still lack full access to maternity care. 740,000 of these women live in maternity care deserts with no access to maternity care.
  • Women of color represent 35% of the women of childbearing age in areas of no or very limited access to maternity care.
  • Since the last Maternity Care Deserts report in 2018, March of Dimes found six percent of counties had shifted, with equal percentages achieving higher and lower levels of care and three counties moving out of the maternity care desert classification.

Policymakers and advocates must come to together to tackle the impossible gaps so many of our mothers are facing through a coordinated series of policies demanding equity, access and prevention – an agenda March of Dimes calls #BlanketChange.

Through the #BlanketChange agenda, March of Dimes and its partners are calling on candidates and elected official to protect and improve maternal and infant health by:

  • Eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities and driving economic, social and health equity by focusing on prevention, treatment and social determinants of health.
  • Improving access to care through expanding critical health programs and closing gaps in coverage.
  • Addressing preventable health conditions through expanding research and improving maternal morbidity and mortality data collection.

“This is not a rural issue or urban issue – this is an American issue. Just as you can’t separate the health of moms and babies, you can’t take moms and babies out of their economic and social environment – the community where they live and the larger systems that guide our health care, housing, education, and employment systems. This is why it is critical to adopt a holistic and comprehensive agenda to support moms and babies,” said Dr. Rahul Gupta, Chief Medical and Health Officer, Senior Vice President and Interim Chief Scientific Officer at March of Dimes. “In this election year, March of Dimes is calling on candidates and policymakers at all levels – federal, state and local – to take the steps to address the maternal and infant health crisis.”

In the U.S., significant racial and ethnic disparities exist in maternal care with communities of color disproportionately impacted by the maternal and infant health crisis. Ensuring access to maternity care for all women has the potential to reduce disparities and improve birth outcomes for all.

“The United States is in the grips of a national maternal and infant health crisis, and it’s well-beyond the point that our country should treat it like one,” said Olympian and March of Dimes advocate Allyson Felix. “This crisis is disproportionately impacting moms and babies of color and we urgently need blanket policy change that can improve access to care, eliminate health disparities, address preventable conditions, and drive health and social equity. It’s time for communities, candidates, and policymakers to address these issues with the attention and action they deserve.”

Visit to learn more and join the following organizations that have already signed on to support the #BlanketChange campaign to date.


See Kindred’s Birth and Pregnancy Resources Page

See Kindred’s Black Mothers and Fathers Resource Page

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