Social Psych

Location: Santa Ana, California, United States

Virginia Bola operated a rehabilitation company for 20 years, developing innovative job search techniques for disabled workers, while serving as a Vocational Expert in Administrative, Civil and Workers' Compensation Courts. She is a licensed clinical psychologist with deep interests in Social Psychology and politics and an admitted diet fanatic. She has performed therapeutic services for more than 20 years and has studied the effects of cultural forces and employment on the individual. The author of two interactive workbooks, The Wolf at the Door: An Unemployment Survival Manual and Diet With An Attitude: A Weight Loss Workbook, she also publishes a monthly ezine, The Worker's Edge and various weight loss mini-courses. She can be reached at,, or

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Winning The Peace: The Lessons of Hamas and Hezbollah

An often-voiced media and political mantra is that the real fight in the war on terrorism is for the minds and hearts of the people.

So how are we doing?

We have spent 300 billion dollars to turn a society upside down, kill thousands of insurgents and civilians alike, perform atrocities from rape to murder to torture, and have likely triggered the first of who knows how many civil wars in the region.

Our focus is on the terrorists, now characterized as "Islamic Fascists," a strange term for anarchists who abhor the power of any state. We forget that for every violence-prone fanatic in Teheran or Damascus or Kabul, there are thousands more who just want to survive, take care of their families, and lead productive lives. These are the souls who are the only candidates for building a democratic nucleus that could lead to eventual peace. Are they supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah? As each month passes, the support for both groups skyrockets. Why?

It is generally, but quietly, conceded that Hamas won the Palestinian elections because of their community involvement. It was Hamas, not the western-sanctioned PLO, who picked up the garbage, set up schools, and listened to the needs of their people.

In devastated southern Lebanon, it is Hezbollah who swiftly moved in to clear away the debris, find shelter for the homeless, create jobs for the displaced, and give money to the penniless to start rebuilding their lives.

Where is the United States, or Europe, or the United Nations? They are sitting in offices in New York, Washington, London, or Geneva. If the U.S. has become the face of the enemy, then Hamas and Hezbhollah have become the friend, even if their politics of hatred are not always welcome.

Imagine the profile of the western world in the Middle East if that 300 billion had been spent on an army of Peace Corps volunteers, working among the populace, building schools and roads and bridges, or providing food, housing, electrical powers and essential services - not as the backfill to invasion but as proactive colleagues helping out fellow human beings.

"A gift from the American people," like those tremendously appreciated World War II boxes, should be associated with objects that sustain and enhance life, not with weapons and tanks and martial law.

For more than 40 years, the Cold War experts called for battles in every country that threatened to fall into Communism in the dreaded and, reportedly, inevitable "domino effect." The reality, that home-grown communism in small third world countries was merely hunger becoming articulate, was ignored.

We have no learning curve. We are reliving history, repeating the same mistakes, and wondering why we are encountering the same failures.

We can stand back, wring our hands, and hide behind political rhetoric, or we can take the fight for hearts and minds to the streets where the succor provided by Hamas and Hezbollah are drawing thousands of peaceful and apolitical citizens further and further away from the western dream of democracy and stability.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Why Terrorists Are Not Typical Murderers

We have had our fill of serial killers over the past 40 years. We have analyzed them, written books about them, made movies about them, glorified them, and vilified them. They are renegades from the human race, an aberration on the face of civilization, shunned by all of us with any modicum of intelligence and humanity.

They work secretly, often by night, and arrange their crimes to ensure that they are not captured for as long as possible.

Terrorists also kill people - many more than a lone killer ever could. But their goal is not to kill to satisfy some inner lust. They work in the brightness of daylight and the glare of media attention. The deaths are merely a sideline to their goal: to sow paralyzing fear into their targeted victims. While we shake in our shoes at the thought of someone we love falling victim to their vile plots, we must maintain our balance and objectivity in the face of naked hatred and unveiled violence.

The fact is that we are much more likely to get killed in a car accident on the way to the airport than to be blown out of the skies. Should we be cautious and aware? Of course we should. Should we be so afraid that we are willing to trade personal liberties and hard won civil rights to increase our sense of safety? In the 1930s, people were so tired of the uncertainties and confusion of democracy that they handed themselves over to fascists who brought order, calm, and made the trains run on time.

Terrorists don't win when they kill people - murders happen all the time. They win when we become so terrified that we are willing to trade anything for a sense of security.

We have spent 300 billion in Iraq towards, we are so often told, establishing a dream of democracy and freedom. Even supposing that it worked, what is it worth if we lose our freedoms at home?

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Creating An Unsafe World

President Wilson entered World War I to make the world "Safe for democracy." The rise of the Fascists and World War II shattered his dream and the hopes of civilization that cataclysmic upheavals could be forever avoided. The long Cold War created a perilous world where major powers jockeyed for control with the threat of weapons that could destroy every living thing on earth. The fear of communism exerting a domino effect on small poverty-stricken countries led to the quagmire of Vietnam and the embarrassment of the Contra affair.

With the demise of the Soviet Union, the world breathed easier, believing that, at last, human efforts could concentrate on growth, space exploration, and scientific advance, rather than pressuring its greatest minds into developing new means of destruction.

Throughout history, there have always been regional conflicts, ethnic discord, and religious clashes. The super powers of each era have eventually stepped in and calmed the storms through diplomacy, cultural pressure, or an armed presence.

Iraq was undoubtedly a crude, cruel, despotic regime under Saddam, killing its own citizens, brutalizing and maltreating its minorities, and rattling defiant sabers at a world that failed to grant it the dignity and respect it felt it deserved. Its value to the world defined primarily by the black gold pooled beneath its deserts, it was one more unsettled region like Rwanda, Liberia, or Somalia. It demanded the same kind of response: unwavering political efforts to assert human rights, economic pressure from the world community and condemnation from its neighbors.

Instead, the greatest superpower in the world shunned continued diplomacy and invaded. The same dream of creating peace and democracy was verbalized at every opportunity. The lessons of unrestrained aggression and ignoring ethnic/religious diversity, first learned centuries ago in ill-fated crusades, were ignored. When you know you're right, it's hard to concede that everyone else isn't wrong.

What have we created -- a more unstable, troubled, and violence-prone world; an earth that shudders at the armed convulsions racing across its brittle, fragile surface. As new fires flare across the entire Middle East, we hear rumors that an attack on Iran is in the planning stages. From the world's model of a democracy forged out of the wilderness and renowned for its desire for peace, prosperity, and humanity, we have become the hated face of the enemy, an imperialistic throwback to the 19th Century. We have become the all-powerful but hated Rome of the ancient world.

Despite its grandeur, Rome fell. Not to another superpower, but to the ceaseless raids of uncivilized savages who used their own brand of violence to defeat a culture that knew only violence to maintain itself and made no effort towards exploring peaceful options.

Are we doomed to repeat the past?

Monday, August 14, 2006

Private Problems

The Middle East is in flames, another tsunami swamps Indonesia, Iran pursues its nuclear options, and Korea fires missiles that threaten the entire Pacific. The world is in shambles, an unstable and dangerous mess.

Yet somehow we have to get along with our lives. With one eye peeled to the dangers of international politics, we tend to the problems closest to home, the things that directly affect ourselves and our loved ones. It is in this private world that disasters really strike us down: divorce, financial stresses, children on drugs, the death of a loved one, or the loss of a worthwhile job.

It is hard to get excited about what is happening on the other side of the globe, unless we have family or friends in harm's way. It takes all our energy to sort out our own problems that are just as challenging for us as the stories that make it to the front page.

With the continued improvement in the employment outlook, we finally have the opportunity to solve one of our pressing problems. However, if unemployment has been prolonged, special barriers arise that we must navigate with care.

For more tips, visit:

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Katrina: The Lessons Unlearned

For the past year, the administration has been playing catch-up for the fallout of their infamously slow and undeniably inadequate response to the devastation and human suffering caused by Hurricane Katrina. Staff resigned, were transferred, or fired, and we were assured that now all emergency services were coordinated and response time in the future would be immediate for any perceived threat to American citizens.

Less than one year after the Gulf disaster, open warfare broke out in the Middle East. Americans in Lebanon, cowering under artillery shells, rocket attacks, and the loss of basic amenities including electricity, water, food, and medicine screamed for help to make their escape.

Again, the red tape, the lack of willingness to step forward, to take responsibility, to make decisions or to issue orders, prevailed. As Italy, France, and other nations quickly moved to get their people out, the most powerful and rich nation on earth dithered.

Embassy staff had no answers for the frantic incoming calls. Tourists, students, and employees were told "We're working on it." Seven days after hostilities began, a cruise ship started to evacuate, taking out 1400 of the more than 8000 people begging for a route out. Embarking passengers were required to sign an affidavit agreeing to reimburse the government for their travel - rescinded only after a public outcry.

The lessons of Katrina were clear and simple: any response must be expeditious or it is worthless. Despite the hundred of stump speeches and the endless public posturing, the government has again proved to be disorganized and helpless in the face of a humanitarian threat.

The lessons have been ignored. We forget that at our peril.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

The Ascendancy of The Hogs

They seem to be everywhere. The lone driver in the enormous SUV next to you at the gas station, pouring gallons of increasingly scarce gas into a seemingly limitless tank; vehicles the size of ancient sailing ships forcing themselves in compact parking spaces and reducing available spaces and garage capacity by 20 to 30%; the co-worker at the next cubicle who refuses to re-label folders and consumes an entire box every week; the buffet grazers who overload their plates, leave half the food, and then go back for more; the neighborhood eyesores of huge mansions erected to the lot lines of once simple working class homes; the folks who pump out children into the world, willy-nilly, consuming dwindling resources and overburdening limited social services; the CEOs who earn four hundred and fifty times their median workers, focusing their energy on their own retirement provisions; and the oil companies with their rapacious designs on any untapped, pristine lands to increase their already obscene profits.

We have created an atmosphere where the hogs can thrive -those who look at the world with an attitude of entitlement and privilege. We cruise unaware through a pathless universe on this oh-so-fragile spaceship earth only to watch it abused by those who believe they have a prerogative on finite resources and deserve it all.

We rightfully bemoan war, gas prices, political corruption and the state of world affairs. But as we gird up to fight the major evils we see on the horizon, maybe it is time to turn our eye inward and closer to home. One individual who takes responsibility for their part in preserving the only planet we've got has little meaning. Conservation and a mutually supportive outlook by 200 million individuals would change the future.

Roast pork anyone?

Friday, April 28, 2006

Is Pizza Spiraling Out Of Control?

The campaigns are on: extra large pizza, a third bigger than the already obscene super jumbo pie; Kong pizza, the size of a fantastic great ape. Where are we going?

We already eat muffins, bagels, and croissants that are four times the size of those standard 30 years ago. We buy family packs to save money but only end up overflowing our plates. Our restaurant meals are super sized and bloated on enormous platters. Our expansive salad bowls have buried their greens under croutons, cheese, fruit, nuts, fried strips, and heavy cream dressings, and nouvelle cuisine has been laughed off the stage with hoots of derision at its paltry offerings.

The nutrition experts may debate about the best foods to eat, the balance we need in our daily intake, and the ratio of proteins to carbs to fats, but the growing paunch of America clearly reveals our real national problem.

It's not what we eat - it's HOW MUCH. If we ate exactly the same food we are scarfing now, but only a third as much, think of the thousands of pounds we would collectively lose!

If we can ignore the commercials and wrap our minds around the true concept of under eating, we'll be slimmer, healthier, and back in control.