Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXI

 

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.

POST-COVID ILLNESS & CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME

Mainstream doctors and media seem to acknowledge occasional long term effects of C19 infection, including fatigue, brain fog, post-exertion malaise (PEM), and damage to lungs and other organs.

These core symptoms of fatigue, brain fog, and PEM are the usual symptoms of post-viral syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). The physical damage to lungs and other organs seem more specific to C19.

Since CFS is a marginalized and often misunderstood illness, the C19 pandemic has the potential of being a turning point for CFS patients. The patients may be taken more seriously. CFS may be recognized as a mainly physical illness. And there may be more research into what causes CFS, what prevents recovery, and possible treatments.

It all depends on how mainstream doctors and media present it. Will they see the post-C19 problems as a subcategory of post-viral syndrome and CFS? Or will they see the two as separate and attribute the post-C19 challenges to damage to lungs, heart, and so on?

To me, it’s seems most reasonable to put it in the general category of post-viral syndrome and CFS, with some possibly unique problems like damage to organs. That’s also what will help the CFS situation the most.

BREXIT WOULDN’T BE DIFFICULT?

In a Norwegian article about Brexit, one of the experts interviewed said: nobody knew it would be this difficult.

Nobody could have guessed the specifics of what happened, but one of the supporting arguments against Brexit was exactly that it would be immensely difficult.

The EU rules are deeply interwoven with the British rules and regulations at all levels of government. It will take a long time to disentangle it all and redo it as they wish it to be.

Negotiating separate deals with – in theory – just about every single country in the world will be difficult and time consuming and will take years. (And they will be in a much weaker negotiating position than they were as members of the EU.)

And finally, as they have discovered, EU protects its own interests and they are not interested in making leaving EU easy or attractive.

The problems we have seen with Brexit isn’t so much from incompetence or political squabbles. It’s inherent in Brexit itself.

So far, they have mostly dealt just with the third of these points. After that’s done, they’ll still have the first and second to deal with.

TIMING OF BREXIT

I have written about Brexit several times before, and still see it much as I did when the vote happened. In a world that is so uncertain – where the US as a global power is crumbling, where an authoritarian country like China is gaining prominence, and where Russia is led by a mafia – it seems profoundly unwise for Britain to leave the European Union.

This is a time for strengthening the position of Europe, not eroding it.

Brexit seems especially unfortunate since many of the pro-Brexit arguments were so clearly false and misleading.

RUSH TO APPROVE VACCINES

It seems that there is a rush to approve covid vaccines. It’s understandable, but it’s also risky. Vaccines need to be tested over some time for efficacy and risks before they are approved. It sets a dangerous precedent if inferior vaccines are approved and used just because people are impatient.

It can be harmful now. People may think they are better protected than they are. It can give a sense of false confidence to society. And the vaccines themselves may be harmful in ways we are not aware of yet.

And it’s harmful later since it lowers the bar for future vaccines.

THE SWEDISH APPROACH TO THE PANDEMIC CANNOT BE EXPORTET EVERYWHERE

Since the beginning of the pandemic in Europe, I have favored the Swedish approach. They seemed to be the one country that took a realistic approach considering that the pandemic will most likely last a long time, at the very least well into 2021.

They take it seriously. They do a lot to minimize the spread of the virus. And at the same time, they don’t close down everything as many other countries have done. They can do this because people in Sweden tend to trust and follow the recommendations of the authorities, they have a well functioning and universal healthcare system, and – apart from some cities – the population density is lower than in many other countries.

Later on, I saw right-wingers in the US and other places speak highly of the Swedish approach. And I have to admit, I have felt a little uneasy favoring a solution also favored by this group of people. And yet, there are differences.

For me, it’s about a realistic approach to a long-term situation, I know that the Swedish approach works well for the reasons mentioned above (compliance, healthcare system, density), and I don’t see it as appropriate for every other country. For instance, it does not seem appropriate to the US since none of the three factors that makes it work in Sweden applies to them. (They don’t have much trust or compliance, they don’t have a well functioning healthcare system, and they have a high population density.)

So, yes, I am curious about and generally like the Swedish approach.

And, no, I do not necessarily see it as appropriate to, for instance, the US.

Also, we don’t know yet. We won’t know for a long time which approach seemed most reasonable and effective in the long term and big picture. And different places and different circumstances need different solutions.

TRUMP RE-ELECTION?

Some Democrats seem confident in a win for Biden based on the polls and indicators like the worsening economy (which is generally bad for the current president). And yet, Nate Silver and FiveThirtyEight say it’s about one in four chance of a win for Trump, as it was in the previous election.

And there are a lot of other factors at play here. Trump may be able to convince some of his potential voters that the current problems in the US as caused by the Democrats (as crazy as that sounds) and that he is the only one who can save the US. Republicans do what they can to limit the possibility to vote for as many as possible (since this tends to favor them). There may again be election interference from other countries. And things can and will happen between now and the election. Already, Trump is using protests and small-scale riots to cast himself as the savior of the US.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he is re-elected. He is using every trick in the book, and specifically the fascist book. And enough people seem more than willing to buy it.

Update: I have seen people pointing to Trump’s contradictory arguments as a downside to his campaign. To me, that’s missing the point. His arguments resonates emotionally with some people and that’s enough. (More specifically, it resonates with several flavors of bigotry.) If they were concerned with logic and reason, they likely wouldn’t consider supporting him in the first place.

THE CONSPIRACY BEHIND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I have written about this before, and it’s pretty obvious.

Conspiracy theories distract people from the real and serious problems in the world that just about everyone agree on: unravelling of our ecological life-support systems, an economic system that doesn’t take ecological realities into account, an economic and political system rigged to benefit the few wealthy, political ideologies rigged to benefit the already powerful, unraveling of democracy, huge and increasing gaps between the few wealthy and the rest, large number of people living without healthcare and clean water and food, and so on. These are the real and big issues we are facing.

The seriousness of just about any conspiracy theory I have seen, even if it was true, pales in comparison. People who are into conspiracy theories waste their time. Conspiracy theories function as something shiny and addictive that distract people from the real and serious issues in the world.

Also, the real problems are often systemic. They are not created by small groups of people coordinating all sorts of things. Those who benefit from these systems don’t need to. The system does it for them.

Conspiracy theories thrive on and reinforce poor thinking. What’s the source? What’s the evidence? Is the evidence solid enough so it would hold up in a court? Or so a serious journalist or historian would be satisfied? If not, it may not be worth your time.

Conspiracy theories serve emotional needs for some people. It helps them feel that they know something others don’t, that they have a community of likeminded people, that they are on the side of the good, and so on. It is also often rooted in emotional issues around authorities and being a victim. When people use conspiracy theories to feel better about themselves, they distract themselves from their own real issues. They miss an opportunity to notice and take care of what’s going on in their own life.

We all sometimes go into conspiracy theories. We think there is some evil masterplan behind what’s happening when – most of the time – it’s just the random chaos of life, universal events, people acting from hangups, projections, and life mirroring back to us our own issues.

So there is an – often accidental and sometimes intentional – real conspiracy behind conspiracy theories. And that is that they serve to distract people from the real and serious issues in the world. They also miss out of an opportunity to take care issues in their own life.

It’s not really a conspiracy, of course, since the people behind it may not intentionally set out to do just this. But it functions as a conspiracy. It serves to distract people from what’s going on.

People into conspiracy theories see themselves as smart and insightful, while in reality they let themselves be duped and distracted.

MEASURING THE ECONOMY BY HOW WELL THE RICH ARE DOING

This is well known but not taken seriously by governments and most media.

The typical measures of how well the economy is doing – GDP, the stock market, and employment levels – are all flawed.

The GPD measures everything happening in the economy, including a lot we don’t want more of. (For instance, war and cleaning up pollution increases the GDP.)

The stock market largely measures how well the wealthy are doing.

And employment numbers says nothing about the income levels of those working. In the US, many work full time and live well below the poverty line.

PRESSURE TO DRINK IN NORWAY

Norway famously has a culture where people are, in some situations, pressured to drink. Since I rarely drink alcohol, and then only a small amount of wine with food, I have experienced this too.

What’s behind it? I don’t know for certain, but I suspect it’s a combination of a few things. One is that some use intoxiacation as a (poor) excuse to behave in ways they normally wouldn’t. And the second is that having sober observers ruins the strategy. So they then try to get everyone drunk so they can happily act in ways they normally wouldn’t without the sober view present.

Because from the sober view, using alcohol as an excuse to act outside of the norms just looks silly.

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