Reflections on society, politics and nature XXX

 

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.

The only white people in the Bible are the ones who executed Jesus.

John Fuglesang

For Christians who hold racist views, there must be some cognitive dissonance. And perhaps especially for white Christians, as John Fuglesang points out in that quote.

One dissonance comes from the content of the teachings of Jesus where he – in words and actions – clearly spoke about love for everyone and actively supported the minorities, outcasts, and oppressed.

The other is that Jesus was obviously a dark skinned Jew, and the only Europeans in the Bible are the ones who executed Jesus, in addition to oppressing the Jews and other people in the area, stealing their resources, and occupying their land.

As usual, the question is how this applies to me. Where in me do I find this type of cognitive dissonance? Where do I generalize to whole groups of people and subtly – or overtly – dehumanize them?

Perhaps I am doing it towards the ones I see as racists and bigots? Perhaps I am overlooking the trauma it may come from? That their views may be a way for them to cope with their own pain? Or that they just adopted views from those around them without questioning these views or having life experiences that helped them question these views?

None of that justifies racism and bigotry. None of it makes the harm from it any less real. But it helps me see them as humans as you and me. It helps me see how we are all in the same boat.

AUGUST 22, 2020

IDEALISTIC VS PRAGMATIC IN US VOTING

One of the oldest polarities in politics is probably pragmatism versus idealism. And this is heightened in an odd way in the US with its two-party system. Instead of voting for the Democratic candidate, some progressives chose to not vote or vote for a third-party candidate.

As some say, this is a way to display ones privilege and disregard for the most vulnerable in society. People who vote this way, in reality, says that they would rather have a Republican president than have to vote for a less-than-ideal Democratic candidate, and they don’t care much for the people who will be impacted by the policies of a Republican president. (With Trump, the deaths and cruelty coming from his presidency is very real – through putting immigrants in cages, separating children from their families, mishandling the pandemic, attempting to do away with social safety nets etc.)

Another way to talk about this is to say that voting is less like a marriage and more like taking the bus. You can vote for someone without loving that person or their policies. As long as you go in a better direction than where you are, or a better direction than the alternative, that’s good enough. That is, in fact, very good.

The main problem here is the weird and less-than-democratic two-party system in the US. In most other democracies, we have the choice among a wide rang of political parties. There is always one or a few that fit our own views and values relatively closely, and these – most often – have a very real possibility of being included in a coalition government.

AUGUST 24, 2020

COMING OUT?

I am listening to Sandy Toksvig’s memoir Between the Stops, and in the preface, she mentions that she will write about coming out.

This is probably obvious, and especially in gay circles, but I thought I would mention it here. If there was no need to be in the closet, there would be no need to come out of it. It seems that the idea of coming out as an event is – at least partly – a product of living in a traditionally homophobic culture.

I imagine that in a culture that’s deeply gay and sex friendly, the process of discovering our sexuality and orientations would be more organic, seamless, and fluid. Most of the time, there wouldn’t be a need to “come out” since the process would be more open in the first place.

There are so many signs and reflections of the historical bigotry and narrow-mindedness of our culture, and – to some extent – the idea of coming out may be one of these.

WILDFIRES

This is another summer with wildfires in California and other places.

The problems isn’t so much wildfires in themselves. They are a natural and healthy part of the life of many ecosystems.

The problems is more that modern humans have suppressed wildfires so they are more devastating when they first happen.

BLACK VS NATIVE LIVES MATTER

The Black Lives Matter movement has gained a lot of traction in the US over the recent weeks, which is very good and necessary. And it’s of course completely fine and sometimes necessary to focus on one particular group, in this case African Americans.

At the same time, there is an obvious question: what about the Native Americans? Where is the Native American Lives Matter movement?

They were not treated any better than the Africans brought to North America. They too lost their land, lives, culture, and more. They too have been systematically mistreated for centuries. Their causes and concerns also need attention from the mainstream culture. They too need allies.

I sometimes wonder if it’s easier to acknowledge the concerns of African Americans by mainstream culture because the Europeans and Africans came together to North America (although in very different circumstances).

Acknowledging the concerns of Native Americans may be more difficult because it will require an acknowledgment that North America is their land. They never invited Europeans to come. They never wanted to lose their land. It’s their land. They belong there in a way nobody else does.

Perhaps there will be a movement in the future that’s as big and visible as BLM and is a coalition of non-whites – black, native, latino, asian, and so on.

MASK WEARING & HUMAN CONNECTION

I see some friends in social media posting about mask wearing, how it depersonalizes and alienates us from each other, and how they lose empathy for people who wear masks.

For me, it’s the opposite. When I see someone wearing a mask, I feel a deepening empathy and connection with them. We are all in the same boat. And by wearing mask, they show they have empathy for themselves and others, so it’s natural for me to feel empathy for them.

If someone is losing empathy for those wearing masks, it’s not because of the mask. It’s because of the thoughts they have about masks and the people wearing them.

AUGUST 27, 2020

THE GRAIN OF TRUTH IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES

It seems that there is often a grain of truth in conspiracy theories, although usually not in the obvious literal sense.

For instance, some folks are strongly anti-vaccine, to the extent they assume it has to do with mind control, exterminating a portion of the population, or something else. In reality, vaccines have helped us control a wide range of illnesses, and they also sometimes come with some drawbacks.

The truth in the anti-vaccine view is that vaccines – as so much else in life – are not perfect and sometimes create problems. Although this is widely known and open information, it’s a side of vaccines often downplayed or glossed over by doctors and governments. It seems that there is some manipulation at play, and the anti-vaccine views may be a(n over-)reaction to this manipulation.

I also wonder if not more openness about the downsides of vaccines would vaccinate the population against over-the-top anti-vaccine views and conspiracies.

If there was an open discussion about the upsides and downsides of vaccines, it would be more based in reality and data, and most of us would probably agree that – on balance – vaccines are useful. Although we need to have some discernment about how and when and for what they are used.

In general, most conspiracy theories are about small groups of powerful people manipulating the rest of us to have their way. In a literal sense, most of these conspiracy theories are not true. But the essence of it is certainly true.

For instance, neoliberal ideologies have been strongly promoted by the few who gain from them, they have been adopted by many politicians and voters, and this has had a huge impact on national and international policies. And in more direct ways, mega-corporations and the most wealthy individuals in the world influence the media (since they own much of it) and policies (through financial support of politicians, lobbying etc.), and this influences policies around the world.

There is plenty of corruption in the word. Along with systemic problems. And incompetence and random unfortunate events.

WHAT’S ADYA’S STANCE ON VOTING?

In a social media group for Adyashanti, someone asked: What’s Adya’s stance on voting?

I don’t know how Adya sees this, and it doesn’t seem important. But when Adya says “be a good steward of your life”, I hear: vote.

THE POLLS ARE NOT RIGHT?

I keep seeing journalists and others saying that the polls before the 2016 US presidential election were wrong or misleading.

The only problem is that it’s not true. It may be that some reporters presented the polls in a biased way. But the polls themselves were accurate enough. As FiveThirtyEight and Nate Silver said before the election, the polls suggested it was a one in four chance that Trump would win. And that one in four chance came through. That’s not very high odds.

––– DRAFT ––– 

For me, it seems that the idea of coming out reflects living in a largely non-gay and partly homophobic culture. In a culture where being gay was completely accepted and ordinary, would the idea of “coming out” be as prominent? Probably not. The process of discovering ones sexual and human preferences and identity may be more organic, seamless, and fluid, and coming out as an event would be less necessary.

I am not so well versed in the conversations within the gay community but I assume this is one of the themes. Yes, it’s good to come out and openly be your authentic self and it’s something to celebrate. And perhaps the necessity of coming out as an event – announcing it to family and friends – is tinged with knowing it partly reflects living in a somewhat homophobic culture where many feel it’s not OK to be more open and fluid about it.

The point of this post is that in a culture with such a history of narrow-mindedness, bigotry, and power-over orientation, many things are “normal” and even celebrated even if it reflects these elements of our culture.

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