Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marriage and Cohabitation

Historically, marriage was meant to be a permanent institution only dissolved in extreme situations, by death of one of the spouses. Cohabitation was not a common practice because society viewed it as unacceptable behavior. That was the expectation for individuals who lived decades ago. Back then, marriage may have provided some sort of emotional and financial stability especially for women who were not allowed to articulate themselves so easily because they were expected to do house chores and were committed to taking care of the family. The down side of that is that as a married woman they were completely dependent on the husband for their needs.

Also the number of people who risked living together before marriage was infinitely smaller compared to today’s standards. People were literally locked in the idea that marriage was something meant for life and they would be less likely to cohabitate as it carried a negative label which would harm their reputation and compromise the ability of finding a good marriage eventually if such relationship did not work out. Even though marriage was viewed as the ideal scenario in the eyes of society, it always has had its shortcomings; especially during the early days. For the most part, women had to conform to the idea that men were in charge. They were the ones who made important decisions and the wives did not have many options in the relationship.

The husband was the breadwinner and provided for the whole family and the wife’s main role was to bear and raise children, teach them certain principles, and take care of the house. However, they were not entirely happy with such routine and at some point they decided to get organized and break away from the cycle of dependence and take more responsibility outside the home environment.

As a society, we have been through constant behavioral change and women’s liberation is just one example of it. One important event in the history of this country was women becoming engaged in industrial work in order to cover for the lack of available male workers during World War I.

 A large number of men were absent as a result of leaving this country to fight the war. During the feminist movement in the late sixties, women made a series of claims which eventually caused a variety of social and cultural changes. Such changes put women in a very privileged position.

It impacted family relations, religion, the place of women in society, the relationships between men and women and gendered language. Those were very positive developments which transcended all expectations they had in previous years.

After such developments women finally came out of seclusion and took a more active and responsible role in society. Soon they executed jobs which once were only held by male workers. They were also more engaged socially and felt they could do whatever men did. They became more liberal with regard to sex, went to bars and drank and smoked in public places with friends all without the fear of being tagged negatively. Suddenly men and women were seen as equal.
Or at least in the sense that women were doing the things which once were attributes of men only. They were equal in the sense that women suddenly had opportunities which they never imagined could be possible. They became educated, grew financially and contributed enormously to the family budget and society growth. Roles changed and suddenly women realized they could exercise the same rights men did despite the fact that they
were still considered a minority group.

Back in the sixties and seventies the instances of cohabitation were not as significant because it ruined women’s image if they lived with some guy who may or may not eventually marry them. That was not a desirable position to be in and certainly not the position a parent would like to see their daughter in.

Today people may still be uneasy about it but, in the eyes of society, it has become tremendously more acceptable because women have developed themselves and become more independent. They are professionals, have jobs and make their own money. They are capable of carrying on with their social obligations without the interaction of men in their lives if they so desire.

There may be women college students who may not be financially independent but will seek to split the costs of living while they have the benefit of sharing an intimate life. Cohabitation is a form of trial marriage in which people will have a taste of what married life is like without the prospect of staying in the situation forced by a legal document.

The number of people cohabiting has soared over the past few decades; however, so have the number of divorces and statistically, people who have cohabited before marriage have a higher likelihood of filing for divorce than people who have never cohabitated.

Trends of divorce and cohabitation relationships are inversely proportional to the rate of marriages. The number of people getting married is significantly lower compared to the number of those filing for divorce and those who cohabitate. People are definitely becoming more conservative when it comes to getting married.

Maybe one concern people have faced with the idea of marriage is that if things do not work out right they will have to spend substantial amount of money with legal fees in order to undue the marriage formality. Or maybe another concern is that they will have to split their capital and that may limit their position of power. In short, living in a complex society such as this, we are constantly bombarded with information and we face all sorts of challenges and decisions.

We are put to the test every single day and sometimes the pressure is too great to bear. We change our moods, may become off centered and that may affect our partners and subsequently our marriages. Big problems may cause serious disagreements in the life of a married couple and potentially lead to divorce. It seems that some people are not too optimistic and anticipate high odds of a marriage ending in divorce. It is sad that more do not grasp the romantic view that marriage is something which can last their entire life.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Class Conflict and How to Fish

The gap between the rich and the poor in Brazil, one of the most promising of emerging economies today, is so vast that the population representing the middle class becomes an insignificant statistic. For the most part the individual is either filthy rich and controls much of society or he is dirt poor and lives in conformity with the established system.

Among the “have nots” there are different kinds. One could be simply poor and trade his services for a certain level of comfort. Those who earn minimum wages struggle to meet basic needs and on the very bottom of the ladder are those who are extremely poor. Those usually do not make any wage and live in extreme misery and abandonment.

Growing up in a big city like Sao Paulo, it was not uncommon to be in close contact with people in such circumstances. They lived completely disengaged from society and roamed all over the place, especially in downtown areas. It was literally impossible not to notice them. The shocking reality is that most of those people were children of both sexes.

Some of them were begging others trying to sell all kinds of stuff to drivers at the traffic lights as their vehicles came to a full stop. Not surprisingly a few of them were just preying on people and waiting for an opportunity to steal their belongings. That was a very sad and scary picture. What led them to end up living on the streets like that is one thing that I could not help thinking about.

Almost three decades have passed since I left Brazil and the situation has not gotten any better. I see it on the news sometimes. Yes, it is true that Brazil has become an attractive market for foreign investment and the country is much better off today economically compared to decades ago; however, that status does not impress me. The country’s wealth is still retained by a very select group of people and the poverty rate is astonishing.

That trend translates into more people roaming the city streets, begging or hassling drivers at stop lights or waiting for an opportunity to steal someone’s watch or a pair of sneakers. That sounds awful and it kind of hurt my pride but it is a fact and it happens more often than one can imagine.

During my younger years I do not remember things being so bad. I had never heard of people scavenging dumpsters looking for leftover foods. Maybe there was but because the media was not as efficient back then those things were not as visible to the public eye as it is today.

Recently I saw a scene on the news in which a few people defended their space in a landfill as if they were in a goldmine. They looked for anything that may be converted to money, such as, scrap of metal, soda cans, corrugated boxes, and anything which appeared to be useful to them.

In other scene, individuals were scavenging the garbage in search of food. To get to the point, it is obvious that these people either did not have choices in life or did not have the strength to fight for something better. While lack of opportunities leads some people to do unimaginable acts such as this to survive, others simply follow a path of illegality in order to get the things they want.

People are generally considered a given society’s best asset, provided they are educated and have good support from the system. However, how can society expect anything good from an individual who has a bad start in life? It is possible that such an individual will lead an antagonistic life and pose a serious threat to the community. The probability that an individual with such a profile will turn to crime is actually quite high. One way or another he will eventually become a charge to the state.

Who is to blame? According to Karl Marx the roots of human misery lay in class conflict. And class conflict is the very essence of society. Throughout the course of history we have learned that smarter people manage to establish themselves in life and build economic mobility for themselves and their generation much easier than a person who has fewer resources. We all know that historically, inequality is what makes society what it is. This will never change.

However, an ignorant individual with no family struture roaming around the city will serve no purpose to society either. On the contrary, it creates an environment of instability because when people have nothing to lose they will endanger the lives of themselves and others and create an environment of fear. They will turn to deviance in the blink of an eye and will not hesitate to take someone’s life for very little.

With regard to the situation of children being exploited and marginalized, especially in cities such as Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and others, there is not much that can be done on the part of federal government to minimize the problem. It is primarily an issue which needs to be dealt by local authorities and affected communities.

Society should mobilize itself and become more proactive in educating and supporting individuals to exercise their rights of citizenship. The state should be more forceful and educate people to have a better planing when the subject is bringing children to this world. There is a chance such measures might minimize the problem of children roaming on the streets and end up being a public charge.

Education is one factor which will motivate and help people to have a sense of purpose in life. While it helps boots one’s morals it also pushes individuals to become part of solution and not the problem. Eventually they will be engaged in society’s growth process and not simply be considered as a bad statistic.

Another factor to consider is that the elite do not run the country by themselves. They dominate because they own the capital and industrial processes. However, they are very much dependent on the support of people of technical expertise who meet a certain level education and professional training in order for them to generate revenues and grow their capital.

People with no family structure, lack education and do not have any kind of guidance in a competitive society like the one we live in, are counterproductive and more likely to become dependent on others and on the system. The odds that individuals with such profile will be involved in wrongdoing and become a charge to the state are much greater.

I tend to believe that individuals who are engaged in a path which gives them hope they will become motivated enough to keep doing whatever they need to do to improve their quality of life. If they feel they have a shot there is a stronger possibility they will embrace the cause and be less tempted to turn to deviance.

The price of ignorance is very high indeed and society suffers when large portions of its population live in poverty and illiteracy. Teaching the least privileged “how to fish” and letting them hold a place in society may be a positive alternative in which it would be beneficial to everyone.

Maybe as a result crime statistics would be reduced. Maybe there would be fewer children living on the streets. Maybe there would be no reason for extreme measures of repression. Who knows one day children may even be treated more like children and not viewed as potential offenders of the elite’s established order.

Work Cited:
Henslin, James M., Sociology “A Down-to-Earth Approach” - Thinking Critically – Open Season: Children as Prey

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Friday, November 5, 2010

Heredity or Environment? How much influence does each have?


It is unquestionable that heredity plays an important role in dictating many aspects of who we are. That is particularly true in regard to our physical characteristics and genetic predisposition. But such a role falls short compared to how powerful the environment is in the process of a person’s development in the course of their life. The environment is responsible for shaping and defining an individual’s perception of one’s self and the world around them.

Besides influencing one’s behavior, external factors can also affect an individual’s health and interfere with their natural biologic course, potentially leading them down a totally different path. For example, people who develop a drinking pattern during youth may eventually suffer from alcoholism. Such conditions may cause their biological clock to tick faster and cascade into an early death, compared to an individual who has moderate habits and lives more conservatively. The way in which one is exposed to their environment will definitely affect their quality of life in later years.
This reasoning also holds true when we take into consideration the environmental aspect on the impact of social behavior. Being connected with other individuals in a social setting is important as it reflects on our ability to think, express emotions, and react to situations on a daily basis. Without this kind of interaction with social groups it would literally be impossible for us to acquire knowledge, incorporate certain basic concepts necessary to our survival, and developing language skills. In other words, we would live just like animals responding only to instincts.. Socialization is the very essence of humankind existence.

Despite the fact that researchers have struggled for years to pinpoint to what degree or percentage heredity and the environment influence an individual’s life, there is no question that heredity alone would not make us what we are today if it was not for the influence of our surroundings. Our lives would be dull without the values and meanings of the symbols we have created for ourselves as part of a group and society.

Individuals are also influenced by undesirable external factors for which they may or may not always have control. The climate, pollution in the air, highly processed foods, chemicals in the food chain and living in a highly demanding society are examples of factors which can affect one’s behavior and well being to some degree throughout the years. It is quite possible that a combination of these factors may throw one’s health off balance over the course of their life. Despite the great ability that one has to adapt to certain changes, to what extent can one overcome the pressures imposed by the complexities of modern society? These are questions which do not have easy answers.

When an individual’s health is off balance for a long time it could lead to a chronic condition and depending on that condition could potentially influence heredity too. Allergies are typical example of how the human body can become weak over time. It has turned into such a common condition that millions of people worldwide suffer from it. In contrast to that, human beings are also living much longer than ever before as a result of new technological discoveries.

Heredity or the environment, how much influence does each have? Each individual’s genetic makeup or genetic predisposition is unique and may encompass the temperament, gender and color of one’s hair, etc. Other characteristics are theorized to be shared by all humans. Such shared characteristics are the main ones that differentiate humans from other species. Heredity not only reveals many aspects of an individual’s identity, it is also the starting point of a journey called life and it is the knowledge acquired as a result of the interacting within a group or within society which makes all individuals unique and special.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Cultural Diversity in the Workplace

As the world has become increasingly globalized, diversity in the workplace has become a dominant subject in our society. One of the reasons for that is because people and services are moving at a very fast pace around the globe. Companies have broken all frontiers and gone long distances to make their products available to consumers. They also seek ways to reduce costs by transferring some operations and key people overseas.
The constant flow of professionals and services to and from different countries and, the growing diversity of staffing prompts organizations to recognize the value and the need for maximizing and capitalizing on a multicultural workforce in order to match the competition and succeed as a business. [Gorham, 2009] The bottom line is, the workplace is changing, evolving and diversifying very quickly and managers seek to educate themselves in order to follow such trends. [Green, 2002.
Businesswise, a well trained professional would take great advantage from understanding basic aspects of differing cultures, beliefs, and behaviors of employees and of potential customers. That understanding may give an edge in terms of communicating more effectively [Gorham, 2009]. Being aware of diversity aspects may help one to treat people more fairly and manage potential conflicts related to diversity more wisely. A well managed diversity workforce has the potential to yield higher productivity and competitiveness, prompting an organization to increase its ability to capture new market opportunities and, ultimately, lead the company to increase its margin of revenues [Green, 2002]. With that in mind, companies have become more proactive in terms of managing a workforce with multicultural differences to ensure that everyone is treated fairly with respect and dignity. [Green, 2002].

In a broad sense, diversity means acknowledging, respecting, accepting and valuing the differences people have with respect to factors such as gender, race, age, sexual preferences, religion, and physical and mental capabilities [Green, 2002]. In a society like ours in which we are constantly in contact with people from different origins and unique backgrounds, we are all touched by the subject of diversity both at a personal and professional level. Diversity is a concept that has gone far beyond the scope of moral or legal aspects and has become a business necessity. [Gorham, 2009]. The presence of women and minorities in the workforce has become remarkably large in American society. That is an example that illustrates the important role that cultural identities have played and further shows that these identities must not be ignore [Esty, 1995]

An organization may be in a position of some competitive advantages if it manages to overcome any internal issues related to diversity. Some of those advantages are: increased productivity, fewer lawsuits, and retention of business, increased market capabilities, creating a pool of talents and becoming an employer of choice. All of these are possible when employees feel they are respected, included and valuable contributors to the company’s goals. In other words, there is a strong possibility that people may be at their best in terms of creativity and productivity if they feel they fit and are considered an important asset to the organization regardless of their position or duty . Treating people right may be a key factor to boost both the organizations and the employee’s morals. The chances of meeting company’s goals will increase dramatically [Esty, 1995]

Despite of all the positive aspects, diversity also has its drawbacks because managers and supervisors do not always succeed in creating a healthy and productive environment in the workplace. Despite the desire to create an atmosphere in which everyone is happy and feels appreciated and valued, that task is not always an easy thing to accomplish. There are many questions posed by the subject of diversity that are not always easy to answer. Some of those questions are: What is considered fair? Is it fair to treat people who are different exactly the same way? Or, because they are different should they be treated by different standards? What would those standards be in the first place? A number of questions such as these have been addressed by government regulations of equal opportunity and affirmative action in trying to get to a common ground which would be satisfactory to everyone. In short, there is no easy answer to these questions. Satisfying every individual needs and expectation while at the same time meeting the organization’s goals might represent the greatest challenge for supervisors and managers to overcome [Esty, 1995]

Regardless of the area of work, developing some degree of cultural competence has become essential for any individual. Demographics have shown that there is a rapid change in our society and according to census data, nearly half of all those in the United States will be from a non-white, non-anglo culture by 2050 [Kier, 2010]. Those who have the knowledge and ability to work within an increasingly diverse society will be in the best position to compete for employment. Cultural knowledge and awareness, multi-lingual ability and a true skill in working with people from other cultures will be sought after. It is important for all of us to read about the many cultures that make up our communities, to get to know people of other cultures, to ask questions in order to learn more and to develop an honest interest in becoming culturally knowledgeable. Diversity in the workplace has proven to be a challenge to manage from both a business and an individual perspective, but it can also be very rewarding for the organizations of the world as well as their employees in the long run.




Works Cited

Esty, Katharine, Richard Griffin, and Marcie Schorr Hirsch, “WORKPLACE DIVERSITY – A Manager’s Guide to Solving Problems and Turning Diversity into a Competitive Advantage, 1995

Green, Kelli A., Mayra Lopez, Allen Winsock, Karl Kepner, “Diversity in the Workplace: Benefits, Challenges, and Required Managerial Tools” Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL, Publication #HR022, June 2002,

Gorham, Richard, “Cultural Diversity in the Workplace”, Strength in Diversity!

Kier, Mary, “The Diversity Edge”, Cook Associates, Inc., Executive Search,

Additional Reading Material:

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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Harsh Conditions Prompt a Large Number of Brazilians to Return Home

For more than two decades a growing number of Brazilians have made America their home away from home and Massachusetts has become a predominant arrival destination for many of them [Ludden]. For the past few years; however, that cycle has changed and a significant number of that population have decided to leave this country and head back home. Even though there is a combination of factors which have prompted them to go back, the most significant one was the decision of homeland security to crack down on illegal immigration.

Towns largely populated by Brazilians, such as Framingham and Marlborough [Mineo], were affected by this crack down right after federal lawmakers killed the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act bill [Wikipedia] presented to Congress in May 2007. This bill would have favored thousands of illegal immigrants around the country including a large number of Brazilians settled in the New England region. The bill caused many disagreements and it was never voted on by members of congress which caused great disappointment amongst the undocumented Brazilian population [Mineo].

Other factors which are believed to have contributed to such reversal migratory phenomenon were lack of employment opportunities in a slowing American economy, devaluation of the American currency compared to the Brazilian Real, widespread anti-illegal immigrant sentiment and signs that the Brazilian economy has been improving consistently over the past few years [Rocha]. The latter may have been favorable to returning immigrants who would improve their chances of getting established as business owners or of finding positions in the construction industry or putting to good use their other acquired qualifications. Many people were convinced that the positive economy indicators in Brazil may have translated into better opportunities for them and their families in the long run [Pina].

According to Fausto da Rocha, an executive director of the Brazilian Immigration Center based in Allston, MA, it is estimated that about 3,000 Brazilians headed back home in 2006 and about 5,000 to 7,000 in 2007. “In Brazil the economy is booming. There are 160, 000 new jobs being created every month and the cost to live in the United States is too high”, says Rocha. The reality is that the cost of living in America has increased dramatically over the past few years which has made life more difficult for both documented and undocumented immigrants alike [Ballou]. Brazilian consul general in Boston, Mario Saade, also agrees with the fact that a number of people have left the country and one explanation for that trend may be the failure of the immigration reform bill in 2007 combined with a stable Brazilian economy [Ballou].

Even though there is no statistically significant evidence which would validate the claim of a Brazilian Exodus, different sources such as, the Brazilian consulate, immigration and church officials, business owners and many professionals in the service industry, in and around the Boston area, all agree that such migratory reversal phenomenon has in fact occurred. Their daily experience and interaction with large numbers of people from the Brazilian community over the years has made this apparent.

One factor which has contributed to the discouragement felt by Brazilians living in the Framingham area, and may have contributed to the decision for some to leave the country, is the fact that there is a widespread anti-illegal sentiment among some groups of individuals in the community. For one reason or another people seem to be bothered with the overwhelming Brazilian presence in the area. According to Ms.Ilma Paixao, a Brazilian American Association Head based in Framingham, these groups are set out to intimidate the Brazilians not just because of their residence status but mainly because of their success. “As long as we Brazilians were just cleaning houses or working with construction, no one seemed to mind” says Paixao, as reported by NPR radio staff, Jennifer Ludden in coverage on Brazilian Immigrants in October, 2005 [Ludden].

Due to the fact that many of new immigrants send money back home to support their families, the devaluation of the dollar also played a role in the decision for many to return home. According to Francisco Neto of Marlborough in an interview with the Globe in 2008 [Ballou], the decline of the dollar has cut in half the value of the money he sent home on a monthly basis. He estimated that in 2003 the $700 he wired to his family was worth 2,450 Brazilian reais and as of as January 2008 that amount was cut down to 1,225 reais [Ballou]. By today’s exchange rate, that same 700 dollars would be worth 1,238 reais. These numbers show that for the past two years there has not been any significant change in the dollar value. The exchange rate for the Brazilian Real was last updated on April 2, 2010 by The International Monetary Fund. [CoinMill]

Any immigrant who lands in the United States without proper authorization papers will face harsh conditions here because number one, he or she cannot roam freely looking for work throughout the city and two, he has to forget his area of expertise and accept whatever he is offered for at least some time in order to survive. In most cases those people rely on the various connections they may have and will do a lot of activities that the mainstream population would naturally refuse to do.

Those activities may include, house cleaning, work in restaurant kitchens, nursing homes, construction and landscaping. Most of those working illegally accept that they are here just passing through and they make every effort to save every penny in order to secure a better condition back home. They are usually uneasy and live with the expectation that at any point they may be caught by the police at a routine traffic incident and eventually end up detained and deported by immigration authorities. That is likely the profile of most Brazilian people who have left the country.

The population of Brazilian people in Massachusetts is not entirely made up of illegal immigrants. According to the 2000 census, there was a population of 212,636 Brazilian people living in the United States at the time, which represented 0.7 % of the entire foreign-born population of 31 million [Lima]. That number, of course, did not take into account a large number of Brazilians that may have neglected to respond to the census. It is however a measure which demonstrates the presence of the Brazilian population in the State of Massachusetts, even today.

 According to the census Brazilians contributed more than $ 1 billion to the regional product in their annual spending and over $ 295 million in state and federal taxes. That includes the revenue collected from a large number of undocumented immigrants who are unable to claim a return because in most cases they do not have a valid social security number. Such contributions translate into more than 9,500 indirect jobs for the local economy. Brazilian businesses also account for annual sales of more than $ 272 million and directly employ 2,756 people and create another 1,756 indirect jobs [Lima].

Economics is usually the single most important factor driving a sequence of events to take place. Tougher immigration policies, lack of opportunities and a declining local economy added to other difficulties forced many newcomers to reassess their situation. Many reached the conclusion that it was not worth continuing to live under those circumstances. Also, because the majority of these people did not really have time to create roots here, it become easier for them to decide to go back as they wished. In the end the economy very soon will become stable again and a few thousand people leaving the country today will very soon be replaced by other people determined to live the “American Dream” at any cost.


Work Cited

Pina, Michael. “Once Eager for U.S., Brazilians Going Home.” Posted Aug 20 2008.
Gate House News Service. http://www.wickedlocal.com/woburn/news/x1669088191/Once- eager-For- U-S-Brazilians-going-home

Ballou, Brian R. “Hardships in Massachusetts spur Brazilian Exodus”, posted Jan 8 2008.
Boston.Com
(Maria Sacchetti of the Globe staff contributed to this report).
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2008/01/08/hardships_in_mass_spur_brazilian_exodus/?

Elizondo, Gabriel. “Living the American Dream in Brazil.” Posted Aug 2008. Al Jajeera.net.
http://english.aljazeera.net/focus/2008/08/200881884358873790.html

Mineo, Liz. “Brazilians Getting One-way Ticket Home” posted Sep 30 2007. Wicked Local
Framingham.
http://www.wickedlocal.com/framingham/homepage/x428370669Wikipedia,

Wikipedia. “Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act of 2007”.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comprehensive_Immigration_Reform_Act_of_2007

Ludden, Jennifer. “Brazilian Immigrants Face Anger in Boston”, posted October 23, 2005.
npr.org,
http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4970801

CoinMill.com - The Currency Converter, Brazilian Reais (BRL) and United States Dollars
(USD) Currency Exchange Rate Conversion Calculator,
http://coinmill.com/BRL_USD.html#USD=700

Lima, Alvaro. “Brazilians in the U.S. and Massachusetts: A Demographic and Economic Profile”
Posted November 2007. The Mauricio Gaston Institute, University of Massachusetts Boston
http://www.gaston.umb.edu/articles/Lima_&_Siquiera_demo_braz_2008.pdf

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