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.
THE UPSIDE OF TRUMP
When Trump was elected, there were demonstrations in many cities in the US.
I never saw Trump’s election as “wrong”. How could it be? He was nominated through the usual process. He was elected in the usual way. It’s a democracy. Enough people wanted him as their president to get him elected.
He is a symptom as well as a problem. On one level, he is a symptom of racism, bigotry, people who feel their white privilege is threatened, and so on. On another level, he is a symptom of much deeper systemic problems.
He is a symptom of fear and despair among people who feel powerless because they feel their voice is not heard. He is a symptom of the fear and despair of people who don’t have the basics in life to help them feel more secure and safe, including universal healthcare and good social safety nets. He is a symptom of collective trauma created by a system that prioritizes profit – often for the few – over the well-being of the many. He is a symptom of news media that prioritizes profit and entertainment over social responsibility (most mainstream media). He is a symptom of news media that prioritizes political agenda and polarization over reality and what’s good for the country as a whole (Fox News). He is a symptom of a political system that allows the interest of big money take priority over the interest of the people. He is a symptom of a system where many are kept in ignorance of what’s really going on. He is a symptom of a system where kids don’t learn (enough) media literacy, critical thinking, and how to identify and address the deeper systemic problems. He is a symptom of a system where those in power are not interested in or able to address the deeper systemic problems.
Even more than this, he is a symptom of collective cultural trauma. He is a symptom of a culture that lives from power-over rather than power-with.
The upside of the Trump presidency – for all its horrors and damage – is that it highlights these deeper and more systemic problems. These were there before he was elected and will be there after he was gone.
With a more “normal” president, many can pretend that these deeper problems are not there. But we can’t do that so easily with Trump.
Cornell West recently described the US a failed social experiment. Trump is a symptom of this failed social experiment.
JUNE 6, 2020
In response to the demonstrations in the US these days against systemic racism and police brutality, the police has often responded with more racism and senseless brutality. It only shows how common it is and how certain the police officers are that there will not be consequences.
This Twitter feed has – as of this writing – more than 260 examples of police brutality and violence, mostly against peaceful protesters.
This is not only a serious problem within the police culture in the US. It’s a problem coming from militarization of the police. It’s a problem with the higher-ups in the system allowing this to happen. It’s a problem with politicians allowing it to happen. It’s a problem with voters electing politicians allowing it to happen. It’s a problem with the media allowing it to happen. It’s a problem that comes from centuries of racism and structural racism. It’s a problem that comes from a country built on colonization, theft, genocide, and slavery. It’s a problem that comes from a country that continues what it was built on and never really acknowledged it or deal with it.
Most of all, it’s a problem that comes from collective trauma. Abuse leads to abuse. Abused people abuse. Hurt people hurt.
FOCUSING ON SPECIFICS IS NECCESARY BUT CAN BE A DISTRACTION
It’s obviously necessary to focus on specific instances of police brutality, racism, and whatever else is going on. And it’s also necessary to focus on each area of social injustice.
At the same time, it’s essential to bring attention to the interconnectedness of all these issues of social justice and sustainability, and the systems creating or supporting them. If we don’t, focusing on the specifics becomes a distraction.
There is a typical pattern to culture change. First, a small group of innovators creating the seeds of the new culture. Then, a backlash from the old culture. And then adoption of the new culture by the mainstream.
This is very simplistic and there are many seeds that won’t be adapted. But when there is a culture change, it’s often something like this.
Today, we may well be in the backlash phase, especially in the US with the Trump presidency. It’s the backlash of the old way of being reacting in fear to the new. So, who knows, perhaps in five or ten years, we’ll see the early flourishing of the new. A culture that’s more life-centered. A culture that operates more within the boundaries Earth and the rich new possibilities that creates.
If we do, it’s because of the seeds sown by earlier generations. And what we see in the US is one example of the backlash. And if we don’t, it doesn’t look very good for humanity.
My best guess is that we will make it through this. Right now, we – collectively – are obviously far too complacent. But if the pandemic has shown us anything, it is that we collectively can adapt quickly when necessary. It won’t be easy but we have the solutions. What’s missing, so far, is the collective will to change.
I have written about this before.
Metaphors guide our perception, strategies, and actions. They create a filter for how we see something and encourage some courses of action. And they discourage other ways of perceiving and acting.
Over the last few months, I have seen several talk about the “war” against the C19 virus or the pandemic – especially among public officials in the UK and US.
The war metaphor creates an image of an enemy and the idea that we can eradicate or “conquer” this enemy – whether it’s a virus, drugs, poverty, or something else. It excludes more cooperative approaches.
The reality is often quite different. For instance, it’s rare that we can “win” over or eradicate an illness. In most cases, we need to learn to live with it and find a way to live with it that works the best for us. We need to learn to adapt more than fight. And we can do that through changes in behavior, medicines, vaccines and so on.
Similar, we can fight a “war” with drugs or poverty. We can’t eradicate drug use through laws, police and the military. And we certainly can’t eradicate poverty that way. We need to look at the deeper reasons for both and change the systems creating them.
Why are some enamored with the war metaphor? Especially considering how obviously it doesn’t fit many situations it’s applied to? I assume it’s partly because politicians want to be seen as strong and forcefully taking action. It’s a media gimmick.
And more fundamentally, it reflects something in our western culture. It reflects a world view of “othering” and making whatever into a perceived enemy – whether it’s nature, a virus, climate change, drugs, or poverty.
I wonder if the war metaphor is especially popular among politicians in the UK and the US, and if this is because of a generally militaristic culture and wanting to uphold an empire (US) or wanting to still see themselves as an empire (UK). It fits with the general orientation and ideology of much of their cultures. And to me, it looks like a media gimmick, unfortunate, and out of alignment with reality.
The upside is that professionals dealing with these issues – infectious diseases, climate crisis, drug use, poverty – tend to take a more pragmatic and adaptive approach. The know that the war metaphor is a poor fit and that other orientations are more helpful.
JUNE 8, 2020
DEFUND REFORM / DEMILITARIZE
Words matter. People in the US now talk about “defunding” the police and using that word is guaranteed to backfire. Why not call it reform or demilitarize instead? That makes a lot more sense. It’s more accurate. And it is also likely to gain far more support from the general population.
I honestly don’t understand why they would chose “defund” over reform or demilitarization. It doesn’t seem to have any benefits and it comes with some very obvious drawbacks.
A social media friend posted “I choose to not be political on social media”.
I understand. He may not want to post something potentially divisive and turn people away from his main focus which is nature and experiencing nature.
The other side of this is that everything is politics. It’s not possible to not be political if we are a living breathing human being. That ship has already sailed.
Any worldview is political, and we all have worldviews. Valuing something over something else is political, and we all value something over something else.
A deep love for nature, as he expresses and values, is – unfortunately – a very political issue in our society.
JUNE 9, 2020
RACISM AND WHITE PRIVILEGE
When racism is in our culture, we all have racism in us. Even people the racism is about often do, as research show. It’s important to acknowledge this and notice when and how it comes up, even if it’s just a fleeting thought or emotion.
Also, it’s important to acknowledge white privilege. One form of this is the privilege of not having our ethnicity or color of our skin count against us. Another is the privilege that comes from centuries of racism and colonialism benefiting Europeans and white people in general. (And hurting everyone else.)
It’s important to acknowledge the systematic harm this causes non-white people in western society and around the world. And it’s also important to acknowledge that this harms all of us.
I am obviously no expert on this, but I want to learn.
HOW DOES RACISM HARM ALL OF US?
We live in a society where groups of people systematically are abused and lack the same opportunities as other groups, only because of their ethnicity and the color of their skin. This obviously harms the people targeted by racism.
And it impacts all of us.
It harms us as individuals.
It pains us to know that this is happening. It pains us, whether we acknowledge it or not. It pains us even if we try to cover it up in overt racism.
Living with a racist psychology, as we all do in our culture, harms us. It dehumanizes and that hurts. It goes against reality. It goes against who and what we are.
And it harms society as a whole.
Many who could have contributed in important and beautiful ways to society as a whole are prevented from doing so because of racism. They are never given the opportunity.
It creates poverty, violence, unrest, strife, epidemics and more, and this harms all of us.
Politics in a racist society is shaped by those with privilege trying to keep their privilege. This takes energy and attention from far more important and vital issues. It can prevent us from addressing serious collective challenges. (In the US, we also see that a racist sub-culture combines racism with anti-democratic sentiments and anti-climate-crisis attitudes.)
JUNE 11, 2020
This is a topic that’s not so important in itself but points to a larger pattern.
In 1986, Olof Palme – the Swedish prime minister – was killed on the street. Since then, it seems that the police has made one blunder after another.
The most recent one happened yesterday. They were giving a press conference with updates on the investigation and presented a named person as their main suspect and the one they assume murdered Palme.
The problem is that their reasoning seemed full of holes and flaws and their reason for suspecting him didn’t seem to hold up very well. Yes, at the time it would have been reason for investigating him further, but that’s about it. It would definitely not hold up in a court.
Their main reasons for suspecting him was that he – by accident after leaving his office – had been on the scene just after the murder, that he seemed to love attention from the media, that nobody else remembered seeing him there, that he – as he described it himself – had worn clothes similar to how other witnesses described the killer, and that his neighbor (!) had some weapons.
Why would they call him the likely killer based on such flimsy evidence? Why would they name him by name? (Granted, others had before them but that’s not a reason.) Why didn’t they acknowledge other possibilities, including South-Africa? (A known South African assassin had been in Stockholm that day and left hours after the murder, and Apartheid SA had reasons to want to get rid of Palme.)
CHRISTIANS FOR TRUMP?
This is an old topic by now, but I am still curious. Why do some Christians in the US support Trump? He seems to represent the exact reverse of Jesus in just about all areas of life. There are probably many different reasons and they may not always overlap. I imagine that for some, it’s strategic. They think he’ll get them something they want, for instance support Israel or ban abortions. For some, it’s probably tied in with other issues – like racism and white supremacy. And for some, it may be more reactive – wanting to poke at the liberal “elite” and do the opposite of what this group often wants and values.
It’s still odd looking at it from the outside. How can they justify supporting someone who, in so many areas of life, is the opposite of Jesus? Instead of supporting and elevating the outcasts, he kicks them. Instead of throwing out the money-lenders he embodies the worst type of scoundrel business man. Instead of advocating loving everyone he spreads hatred.
TWO PARTY SYSTEM
One of the big problems in the US is the two-party system. I am not a specialist, but it seems to set the stage for increased polarization, zero-sum attitudes, and general dissatisfaction among voters since they often have to go for the “least of two evils” instead of voting for someone they actually agree with.
A parliamentary system has some drawbacks but the upsides seem many more. In general, we vote for parties more than individuals. We can (almost) always find a party we agree with. The public discourse is far more nuanced since it’s between several different parties and their views. We are used to coalitions and cooperation among similar parties. And people may feel a bit more empowered since almost everyone have someone in parliament representing their views.
JUNE 14, 2020
NOISE, CIVILIZATION & POWER-OVER
In my suburban neighborhood in a small town outside of Oslo, you would think it would be mostly quiet. And yet, it’s almost constantly noisy with lawn movers, edge trimmers, pressure washers, building projects, radio and music on during the day, partying at night, loud music at any time of night, loud cars at night blaring out music, and so on. With the pandemic, it got even worse and more unpredictable.
I have sensitivity to sounds in general and noise specifically so I know some of this is personal and it’s something I am working on.
At the same time, I can’t help seeing the noise of this civilization as an expression of some it’s core values and orientations.
Some of the noise may reflect an aversion to silence. It comes from a reaction to what people meet in themselves in the silence and will do a lot to not meet. And some of it comes from our civilizations obsession with machines, constructing, building, and controlling and taking over nature.
To me, a lot of the noise of civilization seems to reflect a power-over attitude. When we use noise or other means to avoid meeting scared and suffering parts of us, it’s an expression of a power-over attitude. When we subdue nature with noisy machines, it’s an expression of a power-over attitude. When we systematically value noise and machines over peace and quiet, it’s an expression of a power-over attitude.
JK RAWLING AND SEX & GENDER
There is currently a tempest in a bottle about JK Rowling and she saying that people with female organs should be called women.
This may be an example of how some are easily offended (sometimes on behalf of others) and how the media likes to make something out of not so much. And yet, it’s also an important topic. It does impact the lives of some people, and especially transgendered, a great deal. It’s a great opportunity to raise awareness and educate people on this topic.
Personally, I imagine JK Rowling’s view mostly reflect a lack of education on the topic, and perhaps the views of an older generation.
Update: I was only aware of her infamous tween when I wrote this. I wasn’t aware of her longer article supporting her argument. So, yes, I am among those surprised by her views and I disagree with her. And I understand the attention this has drawn, which is good since it may educate more people on the topic.
JUNE 15, 2020
NORWAY IS THE LEAST RACIST COUNTRY?
I see that the leader of the libertarian-populist party (FrP) in Norway wrote an op-ed saying that Norway is among the least racist countries in the world.
She is obviously missing the point. It’s not about which country is more or least racist. It’s about all of us addressing the racism in us and our community and country and the world.
Many – including me – see her and her party as covertly racist. And that fits. She may be unable to see or acknowledge her own racism so she can’t see it in her own country. Or she is aware of it but pretends it’s not there.
I find the anti-antifa sentiment among some conservative in the US amusing. Antifa just means anti-fascist and it’s not an organization. Most of the people I know are Antifa, whether they call themselves that or not, including almost all of the oldest generation in Europe who personally suffered one way or another because of fascism.
JULY 19, 2020
Humans tend to make God into their own image, and Jesus is – at least nowadays – often represented as belonging to whatever ethnic group depicts him.
So it was probably quite innocent when white Europeans initially represented a Middle-Eastern Jew as white. It made sense to them. They may not even ever have seen a Middle-Eastern Jew.
What happened next was not so innocent, although I don’t know how explicitly intentional it was. When Europeans branched out and started colonizing other parts of the world (stealing land, stealing natural resources, stealing labor etc.), they also wanted to take over and control the culture in these places. One of the ways to control the culture and get some “buy in” from the locals was through Christianizing them. And, of course, they presented Jesus as white. Just as they were the lords of the local people, Jesus was the lord of their soul. And the lords all happened to be white.
This may have been an “accident” since Europeans already were used to a white Jesus. But it certainly was convenient for their colonization project.
2ND US CIVIL WAR?
Empires come and go. Countries come and go.
And so also with the US. I am sure that to most Romans, it seemed like the Roman Empire would last forever. And that’s how it probably seems to many in the US, perhaps even today even if all the signs of the crumbling of the empire are here.
In the ‘80s and ‘90s, Johan Galtung and others who study the fall of empires saw clear signs that the US empire would fall within a few decades and GH Bush and now Trump were doing their best to hasten that fall. Others have predicted increased polarization, strife, and crumbling of social cohesion within the US, and we see that too.
Any country where the few wealthy do everything they can to preserve and increase their wealth – as we have seen in the US for decades and especially since Reagan – will find themselves in that situation. We see a country where the few wealthy dramatically increase their wealth, where a new-liberal ideology aimed at just that has become a kind of religion, where access to basics like healthcare and higher education is restricted, where many gets their information from hugely biased news sources (a recent study found that only 10% of the information from Fox News was factually correct), with a president using a scorched earth tactic to further divisions, and where modern social media further increases the polarization.
So there is no wonder that some who study these things not only see the crumbling of the social cohesion with in the US but also the contours of a possible new civil war. The country is a powder keg, and the president sit on top of it with a lit match. One turning point in this continued unraveling may be Trump proclaiming his victory was stolen in this year’s election.
I personally see the possibility of a new civil war as a stretch. It probably won’t happen, at least not on a large scale. But that it’s even part of the discussion among serious political researchers says something about the current state of the US.
It may be more likely that a new president is able to hold it all together to some extent. And if the unraveling continues, that some states leave the union – for instance California, Oregon, and Washington. But as it looks now, I also won’t exclude anything.
Why is this important? Why is it important that we accept the possibility of even a civil war? For me, it’s a reminder that our personal views and actions are important. Does how I am contribute to the polarization? Or does it bring us a small step in the direction of finding common ground?
HOW DO I SEE TRUMP?
I see Trump as a very damaged man supported by very damaged people.
It’s not that I am not damaged, or that people who don’t support Trump are not damaged. It’s more that he and his supporters chose to act on their traumas in ways that harms others – and themselves whether they realize it or not.
If someone supports him because they want to protect their white privilege, they act on their fears and wounds in ways that harms others. If they support him for some misguided reason with a Christian label, they act on their fears and wounds in ways that harms others. If they support him for some strategic reason – in order to make more money or get their pet project through – they act on their fears and wounds in ways that harms people.
These are the behaviors of damaged people. And it damages others in turn. It damages us all.
Of course, I know this is biased of me. I have a more liberal/progressive/green view on politics. But I also recognize healthy conservatism and encourage and support it. What I cannot support is policies that so clearly damages so many people, nature (which we depend on for our own life, quality of life, and resources), and future generations.
JUNE 24, 2020
Some people say we have to stop economic growth in order to create an ecologically sustainable society. To me, that has seemed misguided from when I first heard it.
Yes, within our current economic system – which does not take ecological realities into account – economic growth speeds up the destruction of ecosystems. So limiting it or stopping it helps a little.
But it’s just a band-aid solution. What we need is an economic system that does take ecological realities into account, and where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and corporations – is also what’s ecologically sustainable. Within this type of system, economic growth is no problem. It’s not a problem because it won’t come from continued extraction of natural resources, or ignoring the ecological costs of our activities. It comes from activities that at minimum does not harm our ecosystems, and at best helps restore and make them thrive.
It’s very possible to create such a system. We created our current one and we will create our new one. It’s mostly a matter of collective will and intention.
There is nothing inevitable about our current system. It just happened to be something we created at a time when we didn’t need to take ecological realities into account. A time when we were not nearly as many and our technology not nearly as advanced.
This hasn’t really changed since March when the pandemic took foothold in the western world. We don’t know when or if we’ll ever develop a vaccine. We don’t know if any immunity gained from an infection or vaccine will hold for very long. We don’t know if we’ll find or develop very effective medicines. (The best one so far cuts mortality by a third, which is actually quite good.) We don’t know how the virus will mutate or how fast. (Viruses tend to mutate to become milder, and that may already have happened in some countries, including Norway and Italy.)
We’ll probably live with the virus indefinitely, as we do with a wide range of other illnesses. And who knows for how long we’ll live with the pandemic. In the best case, the pandemic may lift next year or within a few years. The less optimistic views say several years or decades without vaccine, effective medicines, or herd immunity.
For all the challenges and tragedies, there are some upsides to this pandemic. More people have found ways to work from home. Nature has had a slight break. More and more events are held online so people around the world – and people with disabilities – can more easily join.
We have seen very clearly that if there is collective will, we can change our way of life collectively and quickly. This is encouraging in view of our current ecological crisis which also requires a collective and fast response. (At least one part of the equation is shown to be possible and it’s more a question of the collective will.)
It has reminded or shown some of us that collective needs are our collective responsibility. For me, this means that essential social services must be publicly owned (water, electricity, public transportation, healthcare etc.) and that we need good universal healthcare and good social safety nets. (Yes, I know I am using the pandemic to support my existing view, but this is a situation that highlights the need for us collectively – in the form of our government – to be responsible for providing for our own collective and universal basic needs. This is too important to be handed over to private for-profit companies.)
There will probably be quite a few who’ll need months to recover from the infection, and some may develop long term post-viral syndrome (CFS/ME). Chronic Fatigue Syndrome may be taken more seriously since the cause and effect is shown on a larger scale, and there may be more funding for research into CFS/ME. This will benefit all of us who have already lived with it for a while.
We already have examples of artificial intelligence writing stories, and although the results haven’t been too impressive so far, we may soon see More coherent and higher quality results.
I assume this technology will mostly be used to support traditional writing. Perhaps it can produce something that can serve as a starting point. Or it can generate a number of plot ideas – ranging from the overarching story idea to subplots and what happens next within the story – to chose from or be inspired by. Or it can suggest different phrasing for a sentence or a paragraph, and perhaps even transform writing from one style or genre to another. Sometimes, AI generated writing may be used as is, whether as a novelty or for more prosaic writing that doesn’t need the human touch.
And, of course, it will evolve beyond whatever ideas we currently have. It will take on its own life and something will emerge that will surprise us.
JUNE 27, 2020
I listened to an interview with Robert S., a Norwegian dog-sled racer who won Iditarod this year. He spent some weeks in Alaska due to the pandemic, and said that after talking with people there he had a different – and implied a more positive – view on Trump and realized how biased Norwegian media is.
This seems to show a classic lack of awareness of our sources. Of course many white people in Alaska likes Trump. They are his base. They are not the ones most obviously harmed by his policies. Why not instead talk to the children in detention centers separated from their parents? Why not talk with the families of the black people killed by the police? Why not talk to people who see the impact of his destructive environmental policies? Why not talk to those who are at risk of losing their healthcare? Why not talk with the Native Americans who are ignored by all US presidents and left out of just about any public discourse?
THE GREEN SHIFT IS FOR SPECIAL INTEREST GROUPS?
In an op-ed from a central politician in Norway (SP), he mentions that the green shift is for special interest groups. I am surprised and not surprised.
Many have a narrow and short term view on politics. And some don’t seem to realize that a green shift will revitalize the economy and produce a great number of new jobs and opportunities for people to make a good and meaningful living.
LOCKDOWN IS OVER [is not equal to] THE VIRUS IS OVER
This seems the most simple and obvious of anything. The lockdown may be over many places, but it does not mean the virus is over. It just means they have place in the ICU for you if or when you get sick.
And yet, many seems to live as if the virus is over. They fill up the beaches. Party. Mingle in crowded places.
The virus is no less dangerous now than in March. (It may have mutated in some regions and become slightly milder but not significantly.) If you were cautious in March and April, why not be as cautious now?
Seeing how people behave – as if the virus is not as dangerous now as it was in March, and as if they have learned nothing from the second wave of the 1918 pandemic – makes we wonder about the future of humanity. If we can’t grasp basics like these, can we grasp the seriousness of the ecological crisis we are in the middle of and do something about it?
THE EARTH IS FLAT?
Some say the Earth is flat.
For a large number of reasons, this is clearly wrong and idiotic. Which is why I suspect people who say it are trolling. They do it mainly to poke at the people they see as the elite. They know it makes people who are more sincere frustrated and exasperated.
Why do these people find it enjoyable to make the “elite” frustrated? Probably because they themselves are frustrated.
And why is that? Perhaps because of systemic problems: lack of opportunities, jobs not paying enough to get people out of poverty, lack of good social safety nets, costly higher education, and so on.
Finally, although it feels weird to even have to address it: Why is it so obvious that the Earth is not flat? There is a very long list of reasons.
When we see a ship move further away, the bottom gradually “disappears” from view and into the ocean and we see the top of the ship last. That wouldn’t happen if the Earth’s surface wasn’t curved.
When we go up high – on a mountain or airplane – we see the curvature of the Earth. When regular people send up weather-balloons with a camera, it’s obvious that the Earth is round. The same is the case for photos from space. As we go higher up, there is a gradation from apparent flatness when we are at ground level to seeing the Earth as a ball in space and this gradation has no gaps or jumps.
A vertical stick in the ground in two different geographical locations has different length shadow at the same time of day. This would only happen if the sun is very close to the Earth or if the Earth’s surface is curved. (Even the ancient Greeks knew this and calculated the diameter of the Earth through this method.)
Ocean and flight navigation has to take into the roundness of Earth to work. The fastest route between two spots looks curved on a flat map because a straight line on a globe looks curved on a flat map. This is basic navigational knowledge.
Gravity makes large bodies round. The Earth is certainly big enough for gravity to make it round.
All other bodies we see in space are round. Even the ones far smaller than Earth. Why would Earth be different? (This is not a clear cut example but something to ponder.)
If the Earth was not round, there would have to be a vast conspiracy involving a huge amount of people and professions over centuries going back to the ancient civilizations.
And so on. There is no lack of examples, many of which we can test out for ourselves.
There is also a pragmatic side to this. It works to assume the Earth is round. And it’s much less stressful than imagining that millions of people through history have been and are actively promoting a conspiracy, that billions are duped by it, and you are one of the very few who can see through it.
PERFORMANCES IN THE AGE OF A PANDEMIC
Many performers struggle in the pandemic. And the situation is also opening up for new opportunities – and many haven’t made full use of these yet.
For instance, they can do live performances online – perhaps for the price of a movie ticket. They can set up a Patreon or similar and give behind-the-scenes glimpses to their supporters. They can offer small groups of people an opportunity to talk with the performers online. They can give classes and lessons online. All of this are things that people would pay for and would help the performers stay connected with their audience.
I understand it can be difficult to change and adapt, but I am honestly a bit surprised that not more theater groups, orchestras, and so on are doing this. It will probably happen more in the future as the pandemic goes on.
June 30, 2020
US AND THE PANDEMIC: DIVIDED THEY FALL
I haven’t followed the pandemic debacle in the US very closely, but it’s clear that the increasing polarization and “culture war” is making it difficult if not impossible for the US and many states to deal with the pandemic effectively.
From my perspective, I see the right wing people as misguided, and I know they see liberals the same way. That’s part of the division and polarization.
At the same time, there is a medically and epidemiologically sane way of dealing with the epidemic, and some of the right-wingers chose to ignore this and sometimes do the exact opposite.
The mask debate captures this in a nutshell. Yes, some countries – like Norway – do well without mandating masks. They rely more on people following the other advices and behaving in a generally responsible way. At the same time, it’s clear that if people wear masks, it does cut down on the transmission (depending on the quality of the masks and so on).
As the situation now is in the US, it makes sense for people to wear masks. It’s easy to do and protects ourselves, those close to us, others we are in contact with, and all of us. When right-wingers refuse to wear masks, it seems that it’s more out of reactivity (to the “liberal elite”, to the government) than an informed decision. It shows how reactivity can lead to stupidity.
BREXIT AND DOING AWAY WITH REGULATIONS
I wrote about this several times when Brexit was a more hot topic, but it’s worth mentioning again: For many who promoted Brexit, Brexit was never about what they said it was about. For them, Brexit is primarily a way to do away with pesky EU regulations. Regulations that protect people, animals, nature, and future generations. And who benefits from that in the short term? The already very wealthy. Who benefits from it in the longer term? Nobody.
THE PANDEMIC AND SWINGS BETWEEN EXTREMES
When people starting getting the seriousness of the pandemic, some countries and people perhaps went a bit overboard in taking strong and sometimes ineffective (spraying sidewalks!) measures. It’s understandable since we didn’t know much about the virus back then (and still don’t), it’s better to be cautious than sorry, and some governments were as much concerned with image as taking sane and reasonable measures.
Now, when things start opening up again – at least in Europe – it seems that some go far in the other direction. Many seems to have forgotten that the virus is here and does about the same to you now as it did back then. They gather, party, go to large events, and so on. In my neighborhood near Oslo, it seems that people have gone a bit insane in terms of the gathering and partying, as if there is nothing to worry about. (It used to be that the party noise was only on weekends but now it’s through the week.)
This is one of the things that makes me worry about humanity. Why not take a sober approach through it all? Why not take the necessary precautions – hand hygiene, keep physical distance, avoid gatherings, work from home if possible, use stricter precautions for risk groups etc. – without going too far into one extreme or the other?
What we see now is almost guaranteed to create a second wave, and – as with the Spanish Flu – it may get as bad or worse than the first.
Of course, many do take more of a middle ground and it’s easy to notice the extremes since they stick out. But it does seem that a lot of people now are throwing caution to the wind and putting us all – collectively and individually – at higher risk.