Reflections on society, politics and nature XXIX

 

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

NORWAY’S REASON FOR NOT RECOMMENDING FACE MASKS

In the beginning of the pandemic, the Norwegian government decided to not recommend face masks to reduce the spread of the virus.

If they had said we don’t have enough high-grade masks for everyone, and they are needed for people in the health profession, that would have made somewhat sense. (Although even lower grade masks lower the viral load, which is important.)

If they had said there isn’t enough research to show their effectiveness, that would also have made sense if it was true, but it wasn’t and isn’t. Masks either protect against infection or reduce the viral load, and that reduction can make the difference between a severe infection or a moderate or mild infection.

Instead, they said they won’t recommend it because people won’t know how to use masks properly. Even on the surface, this seems a deeply idiotic flawed reason.

Let’s see how this looks if we apply that argument to other things in life. For instance, does it mean we shouldn’t take medicines since we can risk taking them wrong? Or that people shouldn’t drive cars because they may not operate them properly? Or that people shouldn’t use electricity since they may stick knitting needles in the electric outlet?

In all other areas of life, we use a simple solution: education. We educate people in how to do certain things. So why not do the same with mask wearing? People have learned all the other things, so why not also something as relatively simple as wearing a face mask?

I suspect the real reason was lack of preparedness and lack of high-grade face masks for health professionals. And instead of admitting their lack of preparedness, they instead gave a flawed reason. In some ways, I secretly admire people who are willing to look stupid in public, but in this case, it also puts people at unnecessary risk, and especially those already vulnerable.

At the very least, they could have recommended face masks for certain groups of people, for instance those at high risk if they should get infected, and those who – for whatever reason – are in contact with a lot of people.

WHAT CONSERVATIVES AND LIBERALS FEAR

What do liberals fear? And is it different from what conservatives fear?

It seems that traditional conservatives often fear too much change. They want to keep things mostly as they are because its familiar. Change requires adjustment and it comes with unintentional and unforeseen consequences. It’s good to be a bit conservative in this way.

Another thing conservatives often fear is to lose their privelege. They don’t want others to have a bite of the cake life happened to give them.

What do liberals fear? The essence may be a fear that some people and groups are seen as out-groups and their needs are not being taken care of. For this reason, they may fear bigotry, racism, intolerance, poverty, lack of education and universal healthcare, destruction of ecosystems, loss of species, and loss of opportunities for a good life for future generations.

Another difference is that conservatives tend to take care of “their” group and think others should do the same, and liberals tend to wish to take care of everyone – often including nonhumans and future generations.

Of course, it’s not always that simple. Sometimes, conservatives see all of life as their in-group, and liberals can have their own out-groups. And there are different types of conservatives and liberals. But for traditional conservatives and liberals, there may be some general truth to this.

I have my own bias which I am sure colors how I see this, but I also see the value in both general orientations. In their sane and healthy forms, they are both needed and they complement each other.

JULY 31, 2020

ADOPTING THE RELIGION OF THE OPPRESSOR

I know this is a sensitive subject and I am not the right person to talk about it when it comes to other groups, but the general topic is worth addressing.

One of the effects of colonialism – apart from slavery, extraction of resources, oppression and so on – is that the oppressed took on the religion and often general worldview of the oppressor.

We see this clearly in Africa where most now are Christians, and African-Americans in North-America who also have embraced Christianity.

Historically, it makes sense. They initially took on Christianity to survive, and then their descendants took it on because it had become normal to them. And I don’t question the sincerity of their faith today.

Still, perhaps this is something to look at. Although it was a very different situation, my ancestors took on Christianity because it was more or less forced on them, sometimes even violently. So is that a reason for me to take on Christianity?

Why should I, just because it’s part of my culture and my ancestors at some point were converted, often in very questionable circumstances?

When I decided in elementary school to call myself an atheist, this was one of the reasons. Why should I take on the religion in the culture I happened to be born into? It didn’t make sense to me.

It doesn’t make sense to assume that the religion I happened to be born into should happen to be the one right one, or even the one that was the best fit for me, or the one that would make the most sense to me.

I know there are many reasons for people to take on the religion of their community. For us, as social animals, it’s often genuinely more important to fit in and belong than examining and questioning religions more throughly. It’s natural and understandable. And yet, it’s good to be honest about it.

Click READ MORE for more brief articles on society and politics.

WHAT’S THE MOST IMPORTANT INVENTION?

When I see people answering this question, it shows how many see things in a short-term and small perspective. They may mention recent inventions that play a big role in their own life but less so in the history of humanity.

As usual, it’s natural and understandable, and it’s good that some have that way of looking at the world. And yet, in the bigger picture, there are more significant watersheds in human history – language, fire, clothes, built shelters, writing, agriculture, electricity, and so on.

AUGUST 2, 2020

COMMUNISM IS NOT RADICAL ENOUGH

I was just asked if I am communist, and answered that communism is not radical enough.

Neither traditional capitalism or communism take ecological realities into account. They are both based on the fantasy that we have unlimited natural resources and the Earth has unlimited capacity to absorb our waste. They are both too idealistic and miss something fundamental that’s part of our reality.

There are many good intentions and insights in communism, and many terrible ways it has been implemented – mostly because it’s been combined with authoritarianism. And in terms of sustainability and taking ecological realities into account, it’s not nearly radical enough.

Taking ecological realities into account is, of course, not really radical at all. It’s just being responsible and realistic, and taking care of ourselves, society, and future generations. It’s the only way forward for us.

REDUCING VIRAL LOAD

When I read about face masks, physical distancing, washing hands and so on, it’s often framed as avoiding getting infected.

That’s certainly an important part of it. But for me, something else is equally important, and that is to reduce the viral load.

From early on in the pandemic, it was clear that the viral load plays a big role in how sick someone gets. A small viral load is more likely to be better managed by our system, and a large viral load is more likely to overwhelm our system.

For example, consumer quality and homemade masks may not be as good as the professional ones, but they can reduce the viral load. And that can be the difference between severe and moderate or mild illness.

So for me, washing hands, keeping physical distance, wearing masks (which few in Norway does), and getting in and out of potential disease-transmitting situations quickly, is not just about avoiding infection. It’s equally about reducing the viral load.

AUGUST 5, 2020

HOW WE CHOSE TO RESPOND

After the horrific – and likely accidental – explosion in Beirut, the response of the PM was to emphasize that they would find and punish the guilty. This may be taken out of context, but it is a bit surprising if that was his first response.

On the surface, it looks like the PM’s response is an attempt to deflect from his own responsibility. If this happened because of lax safety rules and regulations and implementations of these, he and his government is at least partly responsible. So perhaps he wanted to nip any legitimate criticism of him and his government in the bud in this way.

His response may also reflect the culture. And at a personal level, it’s possible that the PM’s response was an automatic reaction aimed at alleviating his own stress and pain. Instead of allowing and acknowledging it, he tries to deal with it through wanting to find someone guilty and punishing that person.

A more sane response would perhaps be: We’ll help the ones impacted by this as much as possible. We’ll help rebuild. We’ll ask for help and support from the international community. We can get through this together. We will investigate so we know how this could have happened. We will do all we can so this does not happen again.

AUGUST 8, 2020

THE DUMB LEFT

A friend of my used the expression “left dumb dumbs” and I have to admit there is something to the description.

On the left, as on the right, and probably other places on any political map, there are dumb dumbs.

Currently, and especially in the US, the left dumb dumbs are the ones who believe in any harebrained conspiracy theory, have naive and simplistic ideas about how politics and change works, and may be stuck in an us vs them orientation.

These are the people into 5G and anti-vacination conspiracies, who every few days assume that “this is the final straw for the Trump supporters”, think that everyone should be vegetarian, emphasize differences more than our shared humanity and common ground, subtly and not-so-subtly dehumanize the political “others”, or a combination of these.

REPUBLICANS, RACISM, AND CHANGING DEMOGRAPHICS

It’s probably obvious to just about anyone that the Republican embrace of racism and bigotry is not a good long term strategy in a country that’s becoming increasingly ethnically diverse.

So why do they embrace it? And why did they embrace Trump who demonstrates this bigotry and racism in a very obvious way?

Perhaps they can’t help it?

Perhaps they know it’s a winning strategy in the short term?

Perhaps they assume that voters have a short memory (which is probably right) and they know they can appear to turn around in the future and appeal to more diverse voters then?

I assume it is a short term strategy that works to some extent since a certain segment in the US have racist views, and they know they can always pretend to be less racist in the future when that’s neccesary.

AUGUST 13, 2020

EASING INTO BLACK LEADERS

Obama had a father from Africa and a North-American mother of European decent. Kamala Harris – Biden’s (probably smart) choice for Vice President, has a mother from India and father from Jamaica.

Is it just a coincidence that out of the millions of black people in the US, the two who have had / may have the most prominent political positions in the US happen to have black parents from outside of the US?

I have a feeling that this too is an expression of the racism in the US. Not enough people may be ready for a president or Vice President with black slave ancestors from North America. Perhaps it’s easier if they have a more mixed background, and if their black parents are from outside of the US. Perhaps that’s less threatening.

It may be a stepping stone. A way for the US to ease into and get used to black and mixed-ethnicity leadership.

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