Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXIV

 

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.

WHAT DO CONSERVATIVES CONSERVE?

Politics doesn’t interest you because you have no interest in changing a world that suits you so well

– Edith to Sherlock Holmes in Enola Holmes

A question I often ask myself is: what do conservatives want to conserve?

It’s of course many things depending on the person and the brand of conservatism.

Some of which I personally wholeheartedly agree with: Conserving nature and God’s creation. Conserving our world so future generations can have a good life. Conserving some traditional elements of our culture. (Which doesn’t mean to exclude anything else.) Conserving freedom of speech and religion. Conserving – and ideally improving – our democracy. And so on.

And some of which I don’t at all support. Mainly, anything that has to do with conserving privilege for the few at the cost of other groups.

This includes different variations of overt or subtle racism, bigotry, and prejudice, and also preserving unjust economic, political, and social structures.

And it includes preserving the privilege of humans at the cost of ecosystems and other species, and preserving the privilege of the current generation at the cost of future generations.

From my perspective, policies that don’t take the big picture into account – and the interests of all life – seem profoundly and inherently flawed.

THE 2016 US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FORECAST WAS WRONG?

I have written about this in 2016 and earlier this year, but it feels worth mentioning again: Some folks still say that the polling or forecast for the 2016 US presidential election was wrong.

I mostly listened to the 538 podcast in the lead-up to that election, and I usually avoid US mainstream media, so I don’t know what they all wrote and said.

But when it comes to what I have seen, it seems that the problem has to do with people not understanding even the basics of statistics more than the polling itself.

538 said (as far as I remember) that there was a 1 to 4 or 1 to 5 chance of Trump winning the election (25-20 percent). Those are not bad odds at all. It means that 1 out of 4 or 5 times the polling numbers looks like this, Trump will win. Nobody should be surprised that he won the presidency.

This year, most – two weeks before the election – say there is a 90% chance Biden will win, which means there is a 1 to 10 chance Trump will win. Out of ten times the polling looks like this, Trump will win once. Even that’s not terrible odds. (Nate Silver at 538 says Trump has between 1 to 5 and 1 to 20 chance.)

How can you be surprised when Trump’s odds are in a reasonably good range? Again, I assume it has to do with reporters and other people not understanding even the most basic statistics – the type of thing everyone should have learned the first few years in school.

And that, in turn, may say something about the US education system.

There is also an over-arching question here: Why are polls important? Why not wait and see the result after the election. I understand polls are important for the candidates to target their campaigns, but why is it important for regular folks? To me, it seems more like entertainment than anything very useful.

CORNEL WEST: NEVER FORGET THAT JUSTICE IS WHAT LOVE LOOKS LIKE

Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.

– Cornell West

TRUMP LEAVING THE US?

Yesterday, Trump said that if he loses the election, he’ll move abroad. As president, he has immunity – and staff and other Republican politicians enabling him – so he can get away with whatever. After his presidency, he is not as well protected against the innumerable court cases waiting for him. So it makes sense for him to leave the US and perhaps never return. It’s interesting to imagine where he would go. Maybe he’ll also start up his TV channel.

OCTOBER 20, 2020

C19 & RUSSIAN ROULETTE

From early on in the pandemic, it was clear that people’s systems responded to the C19 virus differently. Most had no or mild symptoms. Some got it as a medium cold or flu. Some died. And now we also know that some – predictably based on what we know from CFS – have long term health challenges.

C19 is like Russian roulette. We don’t know in advance which category we will fall in. There are some indications – like weight, previous health conditions, age, amount of virus exposure, and so on. But we don’t really know in advance.

To me, the main social argument for being personally cautious is to reduce the rate of the spread of the disease and be a good citizen and fellow human being. And the main personal argument for being cautious is the Russian roulette factor. If I get it, I have no way of knowing for certain which category I’ll fall under.

C19 & HUMAN EVOLUTION

Since people’s systems respond differently to C19, it may be that this virus is one of many factors in human evolution. Those whose systems are able to deal with the virus more effectively generally survive, and those whose systems – for whatever reason – don’t, don’t tend to survive. So we end up with one of the innumerable smaller and larger bottlenecks in human evolution. It probably won’t be very significant outside of the context of how we deal with this particular virus, but it’s interesting to note.

INTOLERANT TOWARDS INTOLERANCE

For a democracy to survive, we have to be intolerant towards a few different things, including intolerance.

The best cure is prevention. And, in this case, the best prevention is to have social structures in place that allows people to have a good life. To have access to healthcare and education, have good social safety nets, and avoid poverty.

If there is still extremism and intolerance in society, it’s important to address it and not allow it to flourish or be acted on.

WORDS ARE MADE UP

Our words and language are made up. Someone first made up each of the words we use and what they refer to, and a series of others have later modified the words and what they refer to.

Language is made up and always changes, and remembering this helps us hold language a little lighter. In addition, it helps us hold the meaning a little lighter. It creates a slight gap between the word and what we take it to mean, and that’s always helpful.

OCTOBER 24, 2020

IS THE US DISINTEGRATING?

A few thoughts about the US:

The US was founded on violence (genocide, theft, slavery, racism, oppression, disenfranchisement), and that thread of violence has continued. We see it today in the weird obsession some in the US have with weapons, and we see it in the many right-wing militias.

Trump was always a symptom of what’s already there in the US culture: The rule of the wealthy. Polarization. Bigotry. Misinformation. Lack of education.

There is a 1 in 10 or 1 in five chance he’ll be re-elected, which are not good odds but also not terrible.

Whether he is or not, what he is a symptom of persists and may even have gotten stronger over the last few years (at least, more visible).

Also, the US as empire is slowly crumbling, as it has for a long time. And the internal social cohesion also seems to be crumbling and continuing to crumble. (Over the last few years aided by Russia, Trump, Trump voters, and others.)

Will there be a civil war following this election? Not in the sense we usually think of it, but it may be a kind of civil war – one fought on social media, in politics, and occasionally on the streets.

Note: People who rely on other indicators than polls say different things about Trump’s re-election chances. One who studies indicators says Biden has a slim advantage over Trump. Another, who uses Big Data from social media says it looks like Trump will win.

GOVERNMENT PANDEMIC RULES PROTECT SOCIETY, NOT INDIVIDUALS

In Norway, the government recommends cleaning your hands and keeping one (!) meter distance in order to prevent the spread of the C19 virus. For whatever reason, they don’t recommend wearing masks in public or in gatherings, they don’t recommend further distance, and it’s fine to mingle and have gatherings and parties that are below a certain number of people.

The primary role of these government pandemic rules is to prevent hospitals and the medical system from being overloaded. They are not meant to protect individuals.

If we are to protect ourselves and those around us, we have to adopt our own rules and guidelines. And these will often be more strict than the government rules and guidelines.

Note: I am writing about this since members of my birth family insist that it’s sufficient to follow these rules to stay safe. This is obviously wrong. Government guidelines are only meant to slow the spread of the virus sufficiently so hospitals won’t be overloaded. They are not meant to protect individuals. If we are at risk and want to prevent being infected, we need to adopt stricter rules for ourselves.

IS CFS A RISK FACTOR?

Is Chronic Fatigue Syndrome a risk factor when it comes to C19? This has been a question within the CFS community from the beginning of the pandemic.

Officially, CFS is not considered a risk factor. There are no numbers that show that people with CFS have a higher risk of dying from C19. (If CFS is a risk factor, it’s not detected since it hasn’t been studied.)

What we do know is that it can take a very long time for people with CFS to recover from any stress on the system, and this includes infections. So in that sense, CFS is a risk factor. The infection may impact people with CFS more severely than many others, and if it does, it may take a very long time to get back to the level we were at before the infection.

USING “QUESTION EVERYTHING” AS AN EXCUSE FOR UNFUNDED CONSPIRACY THEORIES

I keep seeing conspiracy theorists respond with “question everything” when they are faced with information that goes against their views.

For instance, someone posted a conspiracy theory based on the premise that people infected with C19 will only have immunity for a few months while officials promoting vaccines say it will give lasting immunity. This is, of course, patently wrong. For months, WHO and other officials, along with articles in mainstream media, have been saying that vaccines are no magic bullet and that it may only give temporary immunity. The premise for that particular conspiracy theory is obviously wrong.

When faced with that information, the poster’s response was “question everything”.

Yes, it’s good to question everything. And yet, it’s good to stay grounded in critical thinking, good information, and reality.

“Question everything” is not an invitation to promote harebrained views disconnected from reality.

Note: I am aware that some of what I write about in these articles may seem questionable from a mainstream view. At the same time, I make an effort to keep it grounded in reality, critical thinking, and what anyone can check out for themselves. For instance, when it comes to awakening, I point out that it can be understood from a small or psychological interpretation. (Awakening says something about our own true nature, not necessarily the true nature of everything.) We don’t need to go to the big or spiritual interpretation. (Awakening says something about the true nature of everything.)

ANTIFA?

The right-wing anti-Antifa movement in the US is both unsurprising and baffling to me, along with much in US culture and politics.

Antifa means anti-fascist. It’s right there in the name. Any sane person is anti-fascist. Antifa is a label that fits most people in this world, fortunately.

If you are anti-antifa, what does that make you?

OCTOBER 31, 2020

TEACHING NON-HUMAN ANIMALS TO SPEAK USING HUMAN LANGUAGE

SOCIALISM AND THE US

People in the US often have a misguided idea of socialism, which is understandable. After all, they have been subject to decades of systematic misinformation and vilifying of socialism.

For me, socialism has several very good and important elements. But it doesn’t go far enough. In its classic form, like traditional capitalism, it doesn’t take ecological realities into account.

When young people in the US these days talk about socialism, I get the sense they mean social democracy – as we know from Northern Europe and a few other places. For them, it means universal healthcare, “free” (tax paid) higher education, good social safety nets, and so on.

I completely support this, especially when it’s combined with a green economy.

NOVEMBER 1, 2020

POLLS, WHAT ARE THEY GOOD FOR?

I enjoy the 538 podcasts, but often ask myself this question.

I understand why politicians and political parties want polls. It helps them target their campaign and hone their strategies.

But what are polls good for besides that? Why so much focus on polls in the media? Why a whole independent organization (538) devoted solely to analyzing polls?

There are, of course, some lessons to be learned about the nature of statistics and how people’s views and inclinations shift over time and in response to certain events.

Beyond that, the answer seems to mostly be entertainment. The media wants something to write about. People want something to read about. And many want to feel they can know something about what will happen, even if they really can’t. In other words, as with so much of the news, the essence is entertainment.

There is nothing wrong with entertainment. But it’s good to acknowledge that that’s what it mostly is about.

A PREDICTION FOR THE US ELECTION

I get my information about the US election from the media, and much of it mainstream media, so I see it mostly the way it’s presented to me.

Trump has a one in ten chance of winning, which is not great but also not terrible. Out of ten times the polling numbers look the way they do right now, Trump will win.

Most likely, if the election is fair, Biden will win. And most likely, Trump will do everything he can to cast doubt on the election result and cast himself as the real winner.

At election night, if he is ahead at any point, he’ll pronounce himself the winner. He and the ones around him are already saying that all the advance votes don’t count (since they are mostly votes for Democrats), even if that’s blatantly absurd. He will likely take several things to court, and he will likely not get very far.

No matter who wins, or if there is enough doubt to throw it all into chaos, it’s likely there will be some social unrest. If Trump wins, there will be massive demonstrations. If Biden wins, some of the many pro-Trump militia groups may feel entitled to intimidate and perhaps even engage in direct violence.

In the best case, the election and transition will be relatively orderly and peaceful. In the worst case, Trump will do what he can to sow confusion and there will be some unrest.

If Biden wins, and the Democrats have only one house in congress, it’s limited what they can do. But if they get the presidency and both houses, they can reverse a lot of what happened during the Trump presidency.

Four years ago, I predicted that the worst legacy of the Trump presidency would be an erosion of democracy, democratic institutions, and democratic processes. I still see it that way. He created a shift in culture, which was one of his main goals, and it will be difficult to undo that.

Note: It’s now five days after the election and Trump has been uncharacteristically silent. I assume he is reorienting and will get back to do as much damage as he can while he is still president, and then become some sort of “president in exile” after that with a sizable group of followers.

THE US SPLITTING UP?

After Brexit, there is a fair chance parts of Great Britain will split off (Scotland etc.). And I can’t help wondering if something similar will happen with the US over some decades. Perhaps we will see a new country made up of the west coast states? It’s not a new idea, but the reality of it seems a little more likely now than it did in the past.

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