Reflections on society, politics and nature XXV

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

Who is it for?

I watched Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a 2018 documentary about Mr. Rogers. A few times during the interviews, the question came up of whether his TV show had an impact on society as a whole and if it was worth it. He even seemed to have that question when he was asked to say something after 911.

To me, that’s the wrong question. For me, the question is: Does it have an impact on one person? And perhaps several people? That, in itself, makes it worth it. And that’s how society as a whole change, even if it’s just a little. Changed individuals changes society. And, who knows, his show may have impacted several of the people who later came – or will come – in the position to make larger changes.

That’s how I see this website as well. I write mostly for my own sake and that’s enough. And if just one person gets something out of something here, that’s icing on the cake. That too, in itself, would make it worth it.

April 25, 2020

End of the oil era

All eras end, and so also the petroleum era. And it may happen abruptly. It may even happen as a consequence of the current pandemic.

Ever since I was a kid, it has baffled me that Norway didn’t used the oil money to develop renewable technologies and expertise. If they had thought just a little ahead, they could have become leading in the world. They could have used the resources from the oil era to be at the forefront in the post-oil / renewable energy era. But they didn’t for some reason that is beyond me.

Perhaps it’s the same reason as for why they were not prepared for the pandemic. We know pandemics will come. We know the oil era will end, and sooner rather than later. And yet they – politicians, voters, the industry – found it most convenient to continue with business as usual.

Russian roulette

The pandemic is like a game of Russian roulette. Yes, most people who get it have mild or no symptoms. More people survive than die even in high risk groups. And most people who are middle aged or younger do fine. BUT some die or get very sick even in the low-risk groups.

When I take precautions to not be infected, it’s because I don’t want to infect others. I am not particularly interested in even the mild symptoms. And I am very aware of the Russian roulette factor.

At the same time, life itself is Russian roulette. Getting in a car. Walking down the street. Waking up in the morning. Risk behaviors like drinking, smoking, eating unhealthy foods. All of it is Russian roulette. Even doing everything “right” in terms of lifestyle and diet is still a game of Russian roulette. Eventually, for all of us, the bullet is in the chamber.

That’s not a reason to not take reasonable precautions. But it does put it in perspective.

How we talk about statistics

The previous post reminds me of how we talk about statistics. Often, people will say things like “if you are older than 70, you have a 30% risk of dying from the virus”.

But that’s clearly not correct. We can’t apply statistics to individuals. Statistics only applies to groups.

It’s more correct to say that three out of 10 dies. Out of a group of 10, seven survives and three dies.

At an individual level, it looks different. If you have additional risk factors, you are more likely to be among the three. If you are generally healthy, then you are more likely to be among the seven.

April 26, 2020

Likes in reverse proportion to importance

When I post things in social media, I notice that the likes typically are in reverse proportion to the importance of the post.

I see that in general too. If someone posts a pretty picture, or a joke, or an inspiring quote, or an overly simplistic reaction to someone whose viewpoint they don’t agree with, it tends to get a lot of likes. If it’s something that addresses serious issues and goes deeper, it tends to get fewer.

Why? Perhaps because people want something easy and simple. Perhaps their lives are difficult and complicated enough. Perhaps social media is a place they go for escape. Perhaps it’s easier to take in and respond to something small and limited rather than complex, systemic, and big picture views. Perhaps likes does not reflect how important they see the topic or what they got out of the post.

Media literacy from personal experience

The two times I have been interviewed by a newspaper, they got essential things wrong. One from – I assume – an innocent mistake. (They reversed what I had said.) The other from an intentional “angling” where they misquoted me and gave the impression of opposition and drama where there was none. (I was the coordinator for a sustainability organization and one of our closest partners was the local power company. We had a very good relationship and the reporter made it sound as if it was adversarial. He did email me and apologized for “needing” to make it sound more juicy and dramatic.)

For a while, I wrote for different newspapers. And in one of the articles, the editor inserted a completely made-up paragraph in the middle of the article that again gave a completely misleading angling of the story. (She said she needed it to be a little longer and instead of asking me to add a paragraph, she decided to make something up on her own.)

Also, when I read stories about topics I happen to have personal knowledge of, it’s clear how the stories often miss out important or essential information or give a weird angle to it.

The upside of all this is that I take all news and magazine articles with a big grain of salt. I know it’s most likely misleading, either on the details or the big picture of the story.

What has value?

If we hadn’t seen it before, the pandemic has shown us what’s essential in life. For instance, preparing for future crises, creating an ecologically sustainable society, universal health care, and good social safety nets. It has helped us reprioritize at individual and collective levels.

Another thing it has shown us is what jobs and functions in society are essential: food production, healthcare, teaching, taking care of families and children, and other jobs that deal with the basics of human life.

April 27. 2020

Appearance of certainty

This is a timeless and universal (?) observation. If people don’t know much about a topic, and perhaps are unfamiliar with media literacy, they are more likely to be impressed and swayed by people who appear very certain and confident about their position. And they are more likely to dismiss or discount people who may be more informed and/or more skilled and who are honest about the actual uncertainty in everything.

I have seen that in the art world in Norway. One naturalistic artist has gone to great fame, largely because he appears very confident about his art. And other artists who paint in a similar style and have far more skill are relatively unknown.

It’s not surprising and nothing wrong in it. If we are relatively new to something, we may seek out the ones who seem the most certain and confident. And as we gain more familiarity, we may adjust our approach. We see that the real gold may come in humble packages.

April 28, 2020

Identifying unquestioned assumptions

I have a tendency to identify unquestioned assumptions in whatever group I am and then question it. Even if I do it gently, and as a question, it’s not always popular. (Often, there is a reason why these assumptions are not questioned.) And I hope I have softened a bit with time.

Scenarios about the future

When it comes to the future, I tend to remind myself of a few different things. None us know anything for certain about the future. And although some things may seem more likely than other, just about anything can happen. Also, the future tends to not be as bad as we fear, and not as good as we hope.

April 29, 2020

Post-modernism

I still occasionally see people complaining about post-modernism. I don’t quite see the problem with it. It’s one of many perspectives with some value and truth to it. (And if that sounds like a joke, it’s partly because it is, but it’s also true.)

How is post-modernism true? It is true in that each viewpoint has some validity and truth to it, one way or another. And finding how it has validity and truth in it can be fun and interesting. It doesn’t mean there is a consensus reality that we mostly can agree on and relate to.

And it doesn’t mean that some things are not more “objectively” true in a conventional sense. Basic mathematics is an example of something that’s relatively objectively true. As are a lot of things in daily life.

And that, in turn, doesn’t mean we can question basic assumptions about reality and gain new insights and discover something that’s even more true and valid for us.

Inquiry – through, for instance, The Work and Living Inquiries – is an example of how we may – just about all of us – arrive at a general consensus that comes from questioning basic assumptions.

True crime

When I read about true crime cases, I sometimes see people – both investigators and others – talk about how suspects appear as if that’s going to give them clues. An accused seem a certain way in the court and that means something. Or a suspect seems sincere so he can’t have done it. It’s perhaps forgivable that civilians jump to conclusions in that way. But it’s not forgivable when investigators do the same.

We all know that the way we act doesn’t always reflect what we think it does. An accused may seem “cold” in the court room but it may just be because they go into a freeze response.

We all also know that some are good actors. We have all seen movies where people play a role or an emotion or some reaction in a very convincing way.

Noise and masculinity?

I have a neighbor who seems to love to make noise. He trims motorcycles in his yard. Spends hours moving his lawn and trimming edges with the most noisy machines. Shouts and screams loudly when playing with his kids. And often does this on days when it’s supposed to be quiet in Norway. He shows me my own hangups around noise.

I am very sensitive to noise. This is a common symptom of CFS although I also know there is a remaining emotional issue in there for me. And some of that issue has to do with a certain form of masculinity. In this case, men who seems to love noisy machines. Perhaps this is unfair, but it also seems to be men who revel in the humans and machines over nature dynamic.

Why does he want to get rid of every blade of grass when we all know how important long grass is for insects and how precarious the situation is for insects these days? Why does he want lawn instead of wild flowers or bushes and trees that produce berries and fruits?

This is also coming up because another young macho man has bought the house next door. Although the house is in perfectly good shape, he is going to tear it down and build another. As I write this, I see four macho men going around the property in preparation for this. Again, more noise for reasons that seem completely unnecessary.

Another side of this is that where I mostly have lived the last several years is what you would think is a quiet suburban neighborhood. But there has been a constant construction activity from one neighbor after another. As soon as one finishes (in this case one neighbor who has worked for half a year building another building on this property), another starts (tearing down and building another house). So in this normally quiet neighborhood, it’s been almost constantly noisy for years.

Since I have health issues, I spend most of the time in bed resting and I am often unable to get out of the house.

What it brings up for me is a combination of issues: Noise. Macho men. And feeling powerless, not seen, and a victim.

April 30, 2020

Questionnaires

One of my pet peeves is psychological questionnaires. Often, the wording is imprecise. The options don’t always apply to my situation. And there is little or no opportunity to explain ones answers.

I just filled out a questionnaire about the psychological effects of the pandemic. One page had questions to check for delusions (schizophrenia). I said “no” to all the questions since I know what they are looking for. But if I had answered accurately, I would have fallen into the “delusion” category even if that doesn’t really fit.

Here are some examples:

Do you ever feel as if people seem to drop hints about you or say things with a double meaning? Yes, it has happened. I remember times when I have experienced people communicating in an indirect manner.

Do you ever feel as if some people are not what they seem to be? Yes. Our impressions of others are never complete or completely accurate. Also, not everything is on the surface for any of us. There are always surprises and even some secrets.

Do you ever see objects, people or animals that other people cannot see? Yes, all the time. Right now, I am alone in a room so I am seeing lots of things others cannot see.

Do you ever hear voices when you are alone? Yes. Whenever I think or write, I imagine a voice saying the words.

Do you ever feel that people look at you oddly because of your appearance? Yes. When I was in Nepal, I noticed people looking at me since I am white and obviously was from somewhere else.

Do you ever feel that you are a very special or unusual person? Yes, in the sense that everyone is special and unusual.

These are my honest answers. And if I had answered “yes” to all these questions, I would have falling into the “clearly bonkers” category.

May 1, 2020

What are my thoughts on Donald Trump?

I see there is a video where people around the world answer this topic. Before watching it, here is my answer.

What comes to mind first is that he is a very damaged human being. And that many in the US must be damaged as well to vote him into office. The Trump presidency is a result of unprocessed collective trauma.

Why do they have collective trauma in the US? Perhaps because of their sometimes harsh and unkind culture, and specifically one-sided emphasis on individualism, lack of good social safety nets, lack of universal healthcare, widespread poverty, and lack in trust in life because of this generally uncertain existence.

Of course, some (many?) vote for Trump for strategic reasons. They may not like him as a person and may disagree with him on many issues. But they see him as a way for them to get what they want, whether it’s removing obstructions for businesses to profit while harming nature and society, getting conservative judges into the supreme court, making it more difficult for non-whites to live in the US, abolishing abortion, or whatever it may be.

They are willing to support a president who actively undermines democracy, implements cruel and harsh policies harming out-groups, undermines any effort to lessen the ecological crisis we are in the middle of, and creates a worse world for future generations.

Although this may not look like trauma behavior, to me it is. This too is the behavior of damaged people.

Quantum physics and spirituality

In my teens and twenties, I read just about any book I could order written by scientists on the connection between quantum physics and spirituality. (Fritjof Capra, David Bohm, and others.)

It’s fascinating, interesting, and perhaps even illuminating. But the content of science changes over time. Right now, the interpretations of quantum physics seem to connect to the perennial wisdom in several different ways.

And yet, that can change. Perhaps the next agreed on interpretation – which fits the data as well or better – does not match up with the essential insights from spirituality?

It’s a good guess that it will since science and spirituality is an exploration of the same reality. But it may not. So it’s good to sober up a bit when it comes to possible connections between quantum physics and spirituality.

May 4, 2020

Greed or structures?

I keep seeing people talking about “greed and lack of respect for nature” as the reason we are in an ecological crisis. If that was the case, there would be no hope for us. Those human characteristics are not going to change.

Fortunately, it’s not greed or any other human quality that’s the problem. (Apart from perhaps lack of big picture and long term thinking.) It’s social and economic structures.

We live within a system created in the 1800s when natural resources were – for all practical purposes – infinite. They didn’t have to take ecological limits into account back then (because of smaller population and less advanced technology), so they created a system that leaves it out.

There is nothing magical about this or any other system. If it seems that it has to be the way it currently is, it’s just because we have lived within it for generations. But another system is possible. We have changed it many times before.

The solution is to create another system. One that takes ecological realities into account. One that makes what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and corporations – what’s good for ecosystems, society, people, and future generations. And that’s very possible. It’s more than just possible, it’s necessary for our own survival.

It has nothing to do with ideologies. It’s about taking care of the essentials needed for the survival of humanity, and for creating a thriving civilization.

…..

Simple language. There is a good guideline for writing: If you want to be understood, write simply. If you want to be create an image of yourself as smart, use unnecessarily complicated language. (And it’s usually seen through.)

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