Joansdatter’s Code of Ethics

Joansdatter’s ethical guide is the NASW Code of Ethics, to which she has sworn an oath to uphold.  Here are a few notable excerpts:

The Preamble

The primary mission of the social work profession is to enhance human well-being and help meet the basic human needs of all people, with particular attention to the needs and empowerment of people who are vulnerable, oppressed, and living in poverty. A historic and defining feature of social work is the profession’s focus on individual well-being in a social context and the well-being of society. Fundamental to social work is attention to the environmental forces that create, contribute to, and address problems in living.

Social workers promote social justice and social change with and on behalf of clients. “Clients” is used inclusively to refer to individuals, families, groups, organizations, and communities. Social workers are sensitive to cultural and ethnic diversity and strive to end discrimination, oppression, poverty, and other forms of social injustice. These activities may be in the form of direct practice, community organizing, supervision, consultation administration, advocacy, social and political action, policy development and implementation, education, and research and evaluation. Social workers seek to enhance the capacity of people to address their own needs. Social workers also seek to promote the responsiveness of organizations, communities, and other social institutions to individuals’ needs and social problems.

The mission of the social work profession is rooted in a set of core values. These core values, embraced by social workers throughout the profession’s history, are the foundation of social work’s unique purpose and perspective:

  • service

  • social justice

  • dignity and worth of the person

  • importance of human relationships

  • integrity

  • competence.

The Code outlines these six core values as follows:

Value: Service

Ethical Principle: Social workers’ primary goal is to help people in need and to address social problems.
Social workers elevate service to others above self-interest. Social workers draw on their knowledge, values, and skills to help people in need and to address social problems. Social workers are encouraged to volunteer some portion of their professional skills with no expectation of significant financial return (pro bono service).

Value: Social Justice

Ethical Principle: Social workers challenge social injustice.
Social workers pursue social change, particularly with and on behalf of vulnerable and oppressed individuals and groups of people. Social workers’ social change efforts are focused primarily on issues of poverty, unemployment, discrimination, and other forms of social injustice. These activities seek to promote sensitivity to and knowledge about oppression and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers strive to ensure access to needed information, services, and resources; equality of opportunity; and meaningful participation in decision making for all people.

Value: Dignity and Worth of the Person

Ethical Principle: Social workers respect the inherent dignity and worth of the person.
Social workers treat each person in a caring and respectful fashion, mindful of individual differences and cultural and ethnic diversity. Social workers promote clients’ socially responsible self-determination. Social workers seek to enhance clients’ capacity and opportunity to change and to address their own needs. Social workers are cognizant of their dual responsibility to clients and to the broader society. They seek to resolve conflicts between clients’ interests and the broader society’s interests in a socially responsible manner consistent with the values, ethical principles, and ethical standards of the profession.

Value: Importance of Human Relationships

Ethical Principle: Social workers recognize the central importance of human relationships.
Social workers understand that relationships between and among people are an important vehicle for change. Social workers engage people as partners in the helping process. Social workers seek to strengthen relationships among people in a purposeful effort to promote, restore, maintain, and enhance the well-being of individuals, families, social groups, organizations, and communities.

Value: Integrity

Ethical Principle: Social workers behave in a trustworthy manner.
Social workers are continually aware of the profession’s mission, values, ethical principles, and ethical standards and practice in a manner consistent with them. Social workers act honestly and responsibly and promote ethical practices on the part of the organizations with which they are affiliated.

Value: Competence

Ethical Principle: Social workers practice within their areas of competence and develop and enhance their professional expertise.
Social workers continually strive to increase their professional knowledge and skills and to apply them in practice. Social workers should aspire to contribute to the knowledge base of the profession.


On the way home, part 1: Nepali Sexual Politics

On my way home, part one:

I have not been able to write for a while because I have had very limited access to the internet.  Also, my last days here in Nepal have been richly complicated and busy, and I have not had the energy or ability to post.  Right now I’m sitting in a delightful garden café at the Shechen Gompa, a Tibetan Buddhist monastery near the great stupa called Boudha.

There are magnolia and mango trees, and swooping bushy hot pink and orange bougainvillea vines, hibiscus bushes, marigolds, impatiens and countless other shade and sun flowers I cannot name.  I have spent a lot of time here in the last week.

There is much to report, much to record, and much more to consider.  For now I’m going to upload some thoughts that I wrote during my transition from the last post to today.  During that period bedbugs drove me out of Sugandha’s house and into what Sugandha called a palace.  It was a nice, upper middle-class Nepali house.  I lasted less than a week and ended up here.  Brendan moved over with me a few days ago.  We’re sharing a well-appointed room at the Tharlam gompa and have had many adventures and conversations.

25 July, 2011

I’m having a difficult time adjusting to the new house.  First of all, I miss Brendan.  I don’t like having breakfast and dinner without him, and I liked getting to say goodnight.   Second of all, I have a lot less privacy here.  Every move is scrutinized.  Not so much by the wife, Nirmala, as by the husband, Kalidas, a traditional Nepali man.  When trying to make conversation on the first day, I asked Nirmala what she liked to do.  Did she like to garden?  Yes.  She told me about her garden.  Did she like to cook?  She hesitated, and then Kalidas interrupted, practically shouting, “Cooking is her duty!”  It didn’t matter to him whether or not she liked it.   He asked lots of personal questions, as Nepalis tend to do, and quickly discerned that I was divorced, a status that most Nepalis find disgraceful.  He makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t have the nice view from the room that I had at Sugandha’s house, and I can’t hear the frogs chirping in the fields at night.  I can’t sleep because the bed is super-hard and the machine that recharges the battery intermittently fires off a round of zaps like a machine gun.  This noise goes on from about 9 pm to 2 am.

Kalidas does not approve that I get up at 7 in the morning.  He likes to inform me that he gets up at 5.  He plays badminton with three other Nepali businessmen, who come over afterwards and drink tea on the front porch.  They keep the front door wide open so when I come out to take a shower they are all there gaping.

At meal times, Nirmala serves Kalidas, then me, and hovers at the table to see if we want any more vegetable curry or rice.  I am so sick of dal bhat. Somehow I have got to persuade her not to pile the rice into a mountain on my plate.  If I say “pugyo,” or “I am full,” when she wants to give me more, Kalidas suggests that I do not like the food.  Nirmala sits only after Kalidas has had his second or third helping.  I want to wait for her to finish her food before leaving the table, but Kalidas gets impatient and wants me to bring my dishes to the sink as soon as possible.  He barks at me to get up, so I do.  He is used to ordering women around.  I find this unsettling.  I like Nirmala and am willing to like Kalidas.

Nepali sexual politics are difficult for me.  There are four ways to address a person in the language: the very, very formal “You” (hajur) used for kings and magistrates; the ordinarily formal “You” (tapaai); the very familiar “timi” used for children and between friends; and the very low “ta” which is used for dogs, lower beings and between intimates.  Kalidas says “ta” to his wife but she says “tapaai” to him.  He addresses her by her first name.  She always and only says “tapaai” to him.  “The husband dominates the wife,” he explains to me as she sits beside him smiling and agreeing.  Nirmala never leaves the house.  Her sister-in-law comes over with her 18 month-old during the day and they watch t.v..  Nirmala keeps a relatively clean house—but the bathrooms are not nearly as clean as mine back home.

They are Brahmin and not particularly religious, which is somewhat of a relief after Sova’s morning puja, which began loudly at 5 with the same version of “Om Nama Shivaya” on the stereo, and concluded at about six with a long and vigorous ringing of a bell and the blowing of a horn.  I will try to adjust to this new dwelling.

Nepal: Microcredit, Politics, and the Professor

Temples to Shiva at Pashupatinath

13 June  2011 Around 8pm. Well! What an astonishing day.  After I wrote the bit above I went to the women’s center, where I mostly observed Dalina, a volunteer from the Czech republic, teaching a small group of women to write and speak some English words.  Their English is rudimentary but still better than my Nepali, and I think that the experience will be mutually beneficial.  After Dalina finished her lesson, we started a conversational role-playing game which brought us all to the floor laughing.  Then I met with Tej, the director of VSN, to discuss how I can best use my time here.  He would like me to teach in their school because of my credentials, but I prefer to spend my time developing and expanding their women’s program.  I have proposed that we set up a microcredit loan program for poor, unattached women.

Because family connections are everything in this society, a woman who has no husband and who has somehow become disconnected from her relations almost always finds herself in a very vulnerable economic situation.  Laxmi, for example, our cook, has never been married, has no children, and no family or village connections to help her.  She was living with some relatives, but, as best as I can understand, they moved to American and left her homeless.  She came to Sugandha, who arranged for her to live nearby and to cook for the family.  He does not know much more of her story because she has worked for him for a little more than a month.  He has promised to sit down with both us to translate while I ask her questions about her life.

Laxmi is precisely the sort of women whom I would like to help.  There are many women in similar situations—some of them have fled abusive husbands, others have been disowned for some act that the family considers dishonorable, and others have fallen on hard times through other means.  Tej seems to be quite excited about this project.  Obviously, we have much more to discuss, since neither of us has any experience with microfinance.  I welcome any suggestions from you, my readers.  I will be researching the topic and making an effort to learn as much as I can.

There is so much for me to learn here, my brain sometimes feels as though it will explode. Today, for example, began and ended with a lecture from two different men, Sugandha and a professor of American literature, philosophy, and religion, whom I met in a local shop, about Hindu cosmology and the caste system.  Both of them emphasized what must be an elementary concept, namely that there can be no life, no generation, without death and destruction.  The Mahadeva, or great god, manifested himself in three forms, Brahma, the creator, Vishnu, the protector, and Mahesora, sometimes also known as Shiva, the destroyer.  Shiva is by far the most popular god, as far as I can tell.   He is figured with snakes and a trident-like staff.  There must be thousands of temples to Shiva in Kathmandu, and in every one of them Shiva is represented by a ligna, or phallic stone.  So, the bringer of death and destruction is also the god of the sex act that brings life into being.

Linga in temple to Shiva at Pashupatinath

Shiva is often seen with Parvati, his wife or lover, sometimes in an explicit sexual embrace.

Vishnu and Parbati at their temple in Durbar Square, Kathmandu

The apparent contradiction between life and death is also seen in the important goddess Kali, who is a manifestation of Durga, the great mother goddess.

Kimberly Kali

The delightful professor whom I met in what we call the general store is called Baikuntha, which means “heaven,” Poudel.  He looks to be about 58 or 60, with short, steel-colored hair, tan skin, high cheekbones and large, dark eyes.  He is smaller than I am, about 5’ 4, sturdily built and still quite fit.  We struck up a conversation about his studies of Native American mythology, and I gave him my card.  He  invited me to his home, where his wife served us some cucumber slices and banana.  She brought us sweet lemon tea when we went up to his study, which was a light-filled room at the top of the house, where there were three single beds pushed against the wall.  One of them was covered with stacks of books, the others were scattered with pillows and were obviously designed for lounging and reading.  There were more books on shelves in an adjoining room.  We knelt in on cushions on the floor, directly facing one another, and talked about yoga, his current fascination with Chinese culture and language, and  the current political situation in Nepal, which is very uncertain and flammable.

The country is still reeling from a ten-year civil war between the Maoists, who rose to power in the hills, and the Nepali army, which owed it allegiance to the King.   The war ended in 2006, after more than 14,000 people died.   In 2008 the Maoists won an astounding victory in the Constituent Assembly elections, winning over a third of the total seats and forming a bloc larger than either of the other political powers, the Congress party and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML).  A Hindu monarchy was declared a secular republic.  Since then feuding between the former adversaries, the Royal National Army and the People’s Army, as well as party in-fighting and corruption all around, has prevented the government from writing a new constitution.  The deadline for a final constitution was set for 28 May 2010 came and went and still the politicians could not cease fighting amongst themselves.   A crisis about this dire situation was recently averted when lawmakers agreed to extend the deadline for yet another three months.  I will still be here when that dates arrives.  Since I have been reading about this stiutation online and in the newspapers, it made me happy to find someone knowledgeable with whom to discuss it.

What I like best about Baikuntha, perhaps, was that he is the first Nepali person who had the nerve to complain about the infernally loud music that has been blasting into the neighborhood for the past eight days.  It was an enormous relief to meet someone else whom the noise was driving insane.  He was also humorously disdainful of the priest and all the “ridiculous activities” that have been going on at the makeshift temple.  He said that the priest was preaching a narrow and imprecise interpretion of the Vedas that could appeal only to the most uneducated Hindu people who think that, in order to be good Hindus, they need do nothing more than dumbly listen to Sanskrit verses that they cannot understand, cover themselves with red powder, dance a bit and go home.  This confirmed my own sense, when I sat for an hour or so among the priest’s swaying acolytes, that they were alarmingly glassy-eyed.

According to the professor, true spirituality requires a great deal of thought and questioning, and does not consist in blindly following a dogma.  I agreed with him, but he did most of the talking.  He also very generously invited me to stop by his house at any time to visit him, or to share meals with his family.  He even said that I could live with them if I wanted to.  I very politely thanked him and said that I was happy at Sugandha’s house.

After our conversation in his airy study, he invited me to Nepali tea at the local tea shop, and that is where he answered my questions about Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and the caste system.  I found everything he had to say very interesting.  As he explained it, uneducated Hindus believe that caste is a permanent, inherent condition, but in fact a person born into a Brahmin caste who does not act like a Brahmin can easily degenerate into a Dalit, or untouchable, whereas a person born into the Dalit caste who behaves ethically and strives to do good in the world, to work on behalf of others, will be reborn as a Brahmin.  Nevertheless, he also said some to my ears uncharitable things about the fourth caste, the Shudra, to which my very generous and kind hosts, Sugandha and Sova, as well as the director of VSN, Tej, belong.  He naturally was born a Brahmin, as his surname indicates.

This conversation took place in the café, which sits on a corner and open on all sides to the street.  As we perched on stools and drank our hot tea in the humid afternoon, Nepali children passing by would interrupt the professor’s lecture to say “Hello!  How are you? What is your name?” to me.  I get this greeting nearly everywhere I go.  It always comes with large smiles and usually with a hand or two, or four, outstretched to shake, and I always stop to talk.  Baikuntha didn’t seem to mind, and picked up everytime exactly where we left off.  One little boy simply stood and stared at me for about 10 minutes.  Perhaps he was trying to understand our conversation.  Nepalis are unabashedly curious, and do not hesitate to ask strangers their age, marital status, and weight.

At any rate, I am tremendously happy to have met Baikuntha, because I know that I will learn a lot about Nepali culture and politics from him.  He has already lent me one book, on the “art of tantra,” which is a serious spiritual practice and nothing like what most Westerners assume.  I want to read it to understand the discrepancy between the highly erotic art on many of the mandirs, or temples, and palaces, and the sexually repressed contemporary society.  He has offered to lend me more so that I can learn about the multitude of Hindu gods and goddesses and better comprehend how Hinduism and Buddhism coexist in Nepali society.  He has also promised to bring me to the university and has also invited me to give a lecture in one of his literature classes.  The only thing that displeases me were his rather prejudiced opinions about the Shudra caste, which contradicted all that he had said about the fluidity of character.  Since I had just met him, and he had been so kind, I did not challenge him when he disparaged all Shudras.  I will have to ask more pointed questions the next time we meet.

But here is how he left me today.  He said that it was remarkable that I had given up my job as a professor and come to Nepal to volunteer.  And that if I stayed and studied the culture and the language that this a alone would be a great achievement.  It was nice to hear.

Extreme Plastic Surgery, "Artificial" Sex, and the Insane Death of Carolin Berger

Today’s post began as a response to ECHIDNE of the snakes. who brought Carolin Berger to my attention

She was a German erotic actor who died in her sixth breast enlargement surgery, at the age of 23:

She went under the knife for the last time at the Alster Clinic and was having 800g (28oz) of silicon injected into each breast.  But her heart stopped beating during the operation. She suffered brain damage and was put into an induced coma.The tabloid’s headline read: “The senseless death of Big Brother star Cora shocks the whole of Germany. “(Her) frail, 48kg (106lb) body struggled against death for 224 hours. She lost. Cora is dead. …Her previous five operations were reportedly done at a private clinic in Poland which refused to admit her for a sixth time.

I kept going over those weight numbers, the amount of silicone to be injected into her and her body weight. Then I started thinking about the widespread impact of heterosexual pron on what women’s breasts should look like and how we now regard artificial breasts as really the natural ones, how seeing a very thin woman with very large breasts on television now looks normal, in the sense of averages. Porn has also affected the shaving of the pubic hair.

If it has done all that, surely it must have had some impact on general interpretations of sexuality and on the roles women and men take in sex?

I think that the cultural turn towards increasingly artificial bodies would indeed affect sexual habits and roles.

Women who are willing to alter their bodies dramatically are likely to engage in degrading and humiliating acts that do not sensually stimulate themselves, but, rather, their partners.  Of course, being able to excite their partners would theoretically also get them off.  Presumably, they would be more stimulated by partners who fit the roles that they have learned to find exciting–wealthy, powerful, dominant.  These are the very men for whom they are mutating their bodies, after all, the men for whom they (think they) live, presumably.

Or would it be more accurate to say that these women live entirely in the Gaze, permanently disconnected from themselves as subjects, and utterly and only aware of themselves as objects?

I think that porn alters the mind and sexual experience because the culture has prepared the mind to alter.  We are all subject to deep and long patterns of dominant-submissive  behavior that are not at all “natural” in the sense of being permanent and unalterable.

In other words, it has not always been this way.  We have been humanoid, Homo Sapiens, upright, intelligent, and communal, for approximately 100,000 years.  Only about 10,000 years ago did human males begin to figure out how to dominate human females. Human females learned how to cope with that arbitrary and unnatural situation in various and often freakish ways.

Sexual desire is very malleable, easily manipulated–we know this.

But at what point does the subject who is experiencing sex as an object, and nothing but an object, utterly lose herself (or himself)?  At what point does the long-objectified self break down completely, in severe depression, catastrophic phobias, or addictions, or bizarre, disfiguring and self-destructive behaviors?

Coralin Berger seems to have broken down in the last sort of way.  We can imagine that she at one time had a sense of herself as a person, a girl, a young woman, before she became obsessed with her body, or, rather obsessed with the notion of herself as a body, a body that needed, in her eyes, continually to be improved.

We can speculate about the forces that influenced the way that she came to think of herself.  They are the forces that influence all of us: the family, the church, the schools, the juridical system, the economy.  There is also the increasing power of the media that manipulates our sense of ourselves as women, as men  (for some good examples, check out About Face and the film Generation M).  Each one of us resists these forces to the best of our abilities.

My question is: at what point do these forces drive us completely insane?  At what point does the self who struggles to think independently break down so completely that there is nothing left but a shell, thin, brittle, and driven to the operating table for the sixth and final fix?