Rx 22 The Antidote to Helplessness: Action with Intention

By Dr. S.D. Shanti, ©2020 Adapted from my book The Time-Starved Woman’s Guide to Emotional Wellbeing: tools and strategies for balance.

When faced with a difficult situation, such as the one we are in at this time, think and act—don’t react. Action backed up by intention, as opposed to a knee-jerk reflex, is what social scientists call “agency.” Action with intention is your way out of helplessness. 

Keep in mind that you have the ability to act as an agent for yourself and take many courses of action. 

There are three kinds of agency: 

  1. Personal agency, where you take intentional action to help yourself. 
  2. Proxy agency, where another person acts on your behalf. An example of this would be an attorney who represents your interests in a workplace issue. 
  3. Collective agency, where you work with others toward a common goal. For instance, you and your neighbors gather signatures to get a city ordinance passed. 

The more you respond with thoughtful actions, rather than just reacting to events around you, the better you will feel about yourself and the world. 

For maximum effect, try a “Dual Dose of Antidotes.” Take intentional action and back it up with belief in your ability to manage challenges that come your way. The combination of the two antidotes makes you unstoppable.

Rx 21 The How of Lasting Change: Take the Mister Rogers Pledge

By Dr. S.D. Shanti, ©2020, Photo by  Mariana Carvalho  on  Scopio

Rx 20 discussed what are some of the things that must be done to correct structural inequalities. Yet, how can we come together to create change when people are polarized? This video offers a way for how people can come together and create lasting change: Take the Mister Rogers Pledge.

Although I created this video in 2018 on the 90th birthday of Mr. Fred Rogers, the message is still relevant today. Mr. Rogers was an American television personality who achieved iconic status. He was the producer and host of the much-loved, long-running children’s television show Mister Rogers Neighborhood, which was widely viewed by children of all backgrounds in the United States.

Note: This video has been reviewed by Mr. Joe Negri, who played played Handy Man Negri on the show and by Professor Albert Bandura at Stanford, who is also featured in the video in connection with his landmark work on how children learn aggression and violence through observation of others. Mr. Rogers was motivated to create a show for children because of the educational potential of television, and because he was unhappy about the extent of violence on television already present in the 1950’s.

Rx 20 Improve the Social Determinants of Health to Help Create Lasting Change

By Dr. S.D. Shanti, ©2020, Photo by  Mariana Carvalho  on  Scopio

People are protesting and rioting. Companies are issuing statements about diversity and inclusion. Individuals and businesses are making donations to non-profit organizations that support African-American people. And social media is trending with people stating they are allies.

But what more can be can be done if we are to create lasting change? What more must be done to correct structural inequalities?

Some of the answers to this question include ensuring access to health care and good schools for everyone. It is also important to eliminate food deserts and make grocery stores accessible to all. These solutions can be grouped under a broad category known as social determinants of health. They are essential for ensuring good health for individuals, communities and nations.

Social Determinants of Health, Image from HealthyPeople.gov

This short video below, originally intended for persons in the health care professions, describes social determinants of health. However, the message is relevant to anyone who wants to address inequalities in society. Addressing the social determinants of health will improve health outcomes and quality of life for everyone. It is also one sure way to help reduce structural inequalities.

Improving living conditions is one of the keys to creating lasting change and overcoming inequality.

Guest Post: Why Does Pigment Dominate Pride in Our Shared Humanity?

By Dr. Philip Zimbardo, © 2020 Professor Emeritus, Stanford University and Past President of the American Psychological Association

Editorial Note: Professor Zimbardo is one of the most important psychologists of our time. He is an early stage supporter of my work in violence prevention and mental health promotion. We met in 2006 when I was a Reuters Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University. He immediately understood the scope of my work and is one of my most steadfast supporters. Please share his essay widely, as it offers important insights regarding matters of discrimination.

Why does it matter what the color of our skin is?

Why does it matter what the color of our eyes are?

Why does it matter what the color of our hair is?

These are each external characteristics that vary widely among people from different nations.

Should any of them matter more than our intelligence, our morality, our compassion, or our wonder and delight at our common human nature?

This question obviously contrasts the core of our Inner Being with physical elements of our external being, that are used too often, and wrongly, as social constructions of our self-worth.

Our list could readily be expanded to include what differences does our height or weight matter, or size of our nose really matter?

All of these facial and bodily characteristics mattered very much to the Nazi Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, in his vision of Germany as the perfect Aryan nation, filled with blue-eyed blondes with petite noses! Those external features were characteristic of Nazis as the superior race who had the right to dominate and destroy everyone in every nation that was inferior to those in his Third Reich. Nazi propaganda visualized these mythical perfect Hitler youth as contrasted with dark skin, big nosed Jews—as the enemy—to be destroyed.


April 4, 1968: Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. is murdered by a white gunman in Memphis, Tennessee. Riots of protest rock America. Chicago’s Mayor Daly orders police to “shoot to kill.”

April 5, 1968:  Mrs. Jane Elliott, a 3rd grade elementary school teacher in the farming town of Riceville, Iowa, population of about 850, all white, all Christian, is preparing her class exercise on Brotherhood. She plans to focus on the plight of Native Americans. But changes her mind and her lesson as she reflects on the significance of Rev. King’s murder. She wonders how she could teach her beloved 28 students to experience personally the power of arbitrary discrimination. Mrs. Elliott choose “eye color” as her demonic device.

She informs the class that she has just learned that brown-eyed people are inferior to blue-eyed people and gives a number of examples to validate that distinction.  Then she adds action consequences, such as brown-eyed children have to wear collars, to be put on by their classmates with blue eyes, so they will be more distinguishable. They are forced to sit at desks in the back of the class, and they must also not go to lunch until the blue-eyed, superior children have finished.

Amazingly, these children who had grown up knowing each other very well from earlier classes and family contacts, immediately began to be hostile toward their now “inferior” buddies and playmates. They abused them with derogatory accusations and in physical confrontations. “It was the worst day in my life”, a crying Brown Eye girl proclaimed.

But it got better for her the next day when Mrs. Elliott explained that she had made a mistake; that it was blue eyes who were inferior and brown eyes who were superior.

Did the suffering of the brown eyes on the previous day create a tolerance for their blue-eyed buddies? NOT AT ALL!

Arbitrary discrimination reared its ugliness as they immediately gave what they had gotten—angry abuse at classmates who now were clearly inferior and deserved to be punished for having the wrong eye color.

Mrs. Elliott’s brilliant demonstration of the ease and rapidity of arbitrary discrimination inflicting all in its sphere of influence –

like our current Covid-19 Pandemic is inflicting millions globally with its deadly new virus—

is even more significant now in 2020 than it was nearly 40 years ago.

Please view the powerful documentary of this class exercise in prejudice, A Class Divided, on PBS.Org, a Frontline drama.

All links are included in the post below.

An updated postscript.

Immediately after I became aware of her powerful social psychological experiment, I invited Jane to share her brilliant insights with my Stanford University students and faculty.

Jane Elliott has gone on in her new career as “Discrimination Awareness Warden” with adults from various backgrounds and careers. She demonstrates the ease and rapidity with which discrimination dominates common sense based on any random arbitrary physical characteristic, such as if you can curl your tongue or not. Those who can are the Superior Class, those who can’t obviously belong to the Inferior Class.

To see more about this now 87 year- old dynamo in action view her via these following links.

Here Jane Elliott is talking with Jimmy Fallon recently

(note her sweatshirt proclaiming:


All links are included in the post below.

And check out a recent Blue Eyes / Brown Eyes experiment Jane did in Britain.

All links are included in the post below.

And here is a powerful documentary about her life’s mission.

All links are included in the post below.

Thanks for your caring concern now and forever more in our uncertain future.