Continued from previous posts….
April 6, 2017
Public discourse. In general, I see good discussions and public discourse as a shared exploration. An exploration where we all learn, grow, and change our views to find what’s more aligned with reality, and what works better for all of us. But sometimes, people act against their own interest, or they are entrenched in a certain view, and it’s more a question of reaching them at all. That’s where it can be helpful to argue using their existing worldview and values.
Using their values. Arguing using facts and rationality sometimes works, especially if they fit the existing worldview and values of the recipient. But generall, it’s not what changes people’s minds. It can even make people’s opinions even more entrenched. That’s why it can be helpful to argue using the existing worldview and values of the recipient.
(a) What is their worldview and their values? Listen to them. Ask.
(b) How does this worldview, and how do these values, fit with X? Where X is a strategy that’s inclusive and supports life at all levels and in the short and long term, for instance universal health care, free quality education at all levels, sustainability etc.
(c) How do I tell an engaging and compelling story that shows how their values match these solutions and policies? How do I make it personal to them?
For instance, why are many conservatives in the US skeptical to climate change and creating a more sustainable society? It seems to make no rational sense. Somehow, their values have been hijacked to support policies that often are against their interests – and often their values. (Policies that are in the interest of only small segments of the population, and at the expense of society as a whole, ecosystems, and future generations.)
Say their values are….. creating a good world for their children and decendants, valuing God’s creation, maintaining healthy and supportive communities. I imagine these are values among many conservatives in the US. And it’s pretty easy to show that solutions such as universal health care, free quality education at all levels, and sustainability are aligned with those values, and good strategies to achieve goals aligned with their values.
Of course, it has to be genuine. We have to find these values in ourselves and find genuine connections between these values and the world we would like to see. And it will only resonate with some conservatives. But that’s a good start.
Post-modern nightmare. Trump’s way of dealing with “facts” is nightmare taken right out of post-modernism. In post-modernism, we realize that everything is a story, including data and facts. Taken to a naive extreme, they are all equal and equally valid. And from a more grounded and mature perspective, we know that some fit our experience better and that it’s important to have a consensus reality to work with. We can know it’s a fabrication, and we can still mostly agree on it and use it in everyday life. That’s how modern democratic societies mostly work.
Trump, Fox News, Breitbart and others take the post-modern insight to an extreme. They know very well what they are doing, and they do it to confuse, mislead, and – ultimately – for profit. Of course, authoritarian rules throughout history have done this. It doesn’t require postmodernism. Just a willingness to manipulate and mislead.
And it requires people willing to be manipulated and misled. Willing because it may give them temporary satisfaction.
May 18, 2017
Update. I don’t have much more to say here. What’s unfolding is all quite predictable, at least in the big lines. Trump is reckless with information and military actions. His unpredictability makes it hard for allies and security services to trust him, and it can easily trigger a serious military conflict somewhere in the world. He doesn’t know how the government works. He repeatedly creates reasons for impeachment, and it may go that way should the Republicans decide he is too much of a liability. His supporters still support him, largely because they receive their information from him or his media allies.
And it’s hard to say exactly where it will go from here. He may decide to resign, either from frustrations with the check and balances of democracy or because he is at risk of impeachment, and then blame his “enemies” for making his job impossible. He may create a war which may give him more support due to some misguided attitude Americans have to support their leader in times of war no matter what (or he may be impeached because he is too reckless). And it’s possible he will last four years and get re-elected. It’s hard to see that he can last that long with the amount of frustration he must be experiencing, but I guess he is used to – and may even enjoy – that level of drama and frustration.
My guess is that he will resign and blame his “enemies” so he can save face and still be a “winner” in his own view.
The new world. We are invited to create and support a new world, one that’s life centered and supports life at all levels – from ecosystems to individuals of all species. We have all the solutions to have a very good start if we decide to go in that direction and support and implement these solutions on a larger scale. We have the opportunity to create a new economy that’s as innovative and successful – and creates as many jobs – as any we have seen before. We have a very attractive possibility in front of us, and the alternatives are equally unattractive. (The main alternative is to continue on the same course and keep creating a great deal of ecological problems, which then – inevitably – become social and human problems.)
I guess what’s happening now is quite predictable as well. We have the old world order, especially clearly represented by Trump and the US Republicans, which desperately try to hold onto a world that has no future. We have some that try to maintain a middle ground, represented by the US Democrats and many traditional political parties in Europe, and are only moderately successful. And we have those who envision and partly live this new approach. These are still mainly overlooked by mainstream media so they are less visible.
How will this unfold? My guess is that since most countries and political leaders still hold on to many outdated approaches, we will have to live through more of the consequences of social inequality (unrest, wars, uprisings) and ecological destruction (lack of basic resources, diseases, unrest, wars). This may go on for a few decades.
And yet, we do have the solutions. We know what to do. One approach to this change is to make this information widely available, show that the alternatives can be very attractive, elect the right leaders, and restructure many aspects of our society so that what’s right (socially and ecologically) is also the easy and attractive options for governments, corporations, and individuals. More likely, some enlightened corporations (Tesla etc.) will lead the way and show that more life-centered solutions are more attractive all around, and people and elected officials will follow. In some regions of the world, we may also have political leaders who will restructure society in a more deep and thorough way.
Social inequality. To many of us, Trump and his supporters seem unhinged. Unhinged from reality. They appear reactive, unconcerned with reality, uncaring, irrational, acting from short-term perspectives, acting from narrow self-interest, and acting so they directly or indirectly harm themselves and others.
They don’t act like children. Children are usually far more mature and healthy, and far more caring. They act like emotionally damaged children. And, in a sense, they are since they live in a society of significant inequality that does not take care of everyone. This is how people who are harmed – through social inequality – act. Of course, that’s not new. We have seen this throughout history. It seems to be part of human life.
The best remedy may be to create a society that works for as many people as possible (the post-WW2 northern European societies may, so far, be the best examples of this). People living in a society where they feel included and cared for, where they receive good and free education, where the basics of life is taken care of, tend to know how rare and precious it is and want to maintain it, they tend to want to extend it to others, and they tend to – in general – appear a bit more mature (and less damaged).
Irrational. Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers or readers.
And all of it is from evolution. For our ancestors, it was important to pay attention to anything that stood out and anything dramatic, and they rarely needed to pay attention to the big picture or slow trends. In a democracy, we need to get people to pay more attention to the serious and slower trends, and less on shorter term drama and entertainment. And we can do just that by taking evolution and how people really function into account, instead of wishful thinking about how people “should” function.
If we have sufficiently informed political and business leaders, we can set up structures so that what’s easy and attractive is also good in the long term and in the big picture.
And we can speak to people in general in ways that works with the mechanism put into us by evolution: Tell compelling stories. Make it simple, immediate, and personal. Show how it aligns with the values and identities they already have. Make it genuinely attractive.
May 25, 2017
Abusive father. From the little I know about Trump’s father, he seems to have been quite abusive to his children. I haven’t written about it here, and it doesn’t come up so often in the media, but Trump’s behavior is typical of a defiant teenager trying to stand up to his father. Why does he do it?, a Salon article by Lucian Truscott, describes the dynamics well.
It’s a reminder that how we all operate has infinite causes. Understanding gives empathy. And that understanding and empathy are independent of standing up to ignorance, abuse, and – in this case – dangerous policies. We can easily do both.
June 1, 2017
Climate change. Trump has, predictably, withdrawn the US from the international agreements on climate change. In some ways, it may not be so bad. The money and the future is in sustainable energy and technologies as is well known by many in the business and investing world.
The change to a more sustainable world is partly driven by economics (it’s profitable) and partly by policy. On the policy side, the US pulling out means that the rest of the world is free to proceed without US interference. (Which is also why the UN security council should be made away with.)
I am still puzzled by one thing: Climate change and sustainability is an amazing business and science opportunity. Why are Republicans against it? You would think they would support something that so clearly is good for innovation, new industries, and business, and would put the US (even more) in the forefront of the future more sustainable ways of doing everything. And yet, they don’t.
The one explanation is that this has to do with connection to the petroleum industry. The petroleum industry may be supporting Republicans financially to the extent that they are willing to override any wish to do what’s good for their children and the US business world and industry. They may assume that there is still enough time for others to pick up the pieces and do something more sane.
Maybe it’s not even that rational. Maybe it’s just an instinctive reaction towards anything that reminds them of liberals and do-gooders. Maybe it has more to do with identity. (And what they don’t want to be associated with.)
For Trump, pulling out of the Paris agreement may also be an expression of his “zero-sum-game” view on the world. If something is good for the world, it cannot be good for the US. Or if the world wants it, it cannot be good for the US. And this worldview is the mark of someone who is severely emotionally damaged.
Trump replacement. I see many wishing for Trump to resign or be impeached. It’s more or less likely to happen. But he will be replaced by another Republican (for instance Pence) who will implement many of the same policies and will do so in a far more sophisticated and “invisible” way. The one very good thing with Trump is that he is completely blatant and unsophisticated so he draws a a great deal of attention to what he is doing. (Although a lot of policy changes fly under the radar due to the media’s attention to his tweets and bizarre behavior.)
Why do Trump’s family support him? From the outside, it seems a bit puzzling.
I can imagine a few reasons. (a) They know how wounded he is, and that he is damaged from how his father treated him, so they have a natural understanding and sympathy for him. (b) They themselves are caught up in the unhealthy dynamics and don’t recognize them as unhealthy. (c) They recognize what’s going on but either feel trapped or play along for strategic reasons.
If there was only (a) it would make sense for them to stand up to him more. What we see are family members who seem a bit more sane than him, but also enabling and supporting him in his follies and insanities. That makes me think it’s either (b) or (c) or a mix of the two.
June 3, 2017
Media caught up in a system that rewards gore. On the one hand, it’s puzzling how the media chose to focus on immediate and dramatic issues rather than the far more serious and longer term ones. How can journalists live with themselves knowing their work serves as a distraction from what really needs our attention? (Of course, most of them just do what they are expected to do so they can put food on the table for their families.)
One the other hand, it’s very understandable. Most media organizations are for-profit organizations and sensationalism and gore sells. They are in the business of making money. And to do so most effectively, they intentionally tap into our tendency to be drawn to what’s unusual and dramatic.
That’s a tendency that has served our ancestors and species well. In small tribes, it pays to notice anything that’s unusual and dramatic. And most of the time, there is little need to pay attention to longer term trends. Life tends to go on as it did for our parents, their parents, and their parents before them.
The problem is that today more than ever, we need to focus on the big picture and the longer trends. So we are far better served by a media that gives us accurate information on just that, and is leaves the drama and sensationalism to the side. So the question is, how can we create a system where this is rewarded? Where this is the easy and attractive thing to do for the media?
One place to start is media literacy in schools, starting in elementary school. The more aware of how media works people are, the more incentive the media will have to function in a way that serves people’s real needs better. At the very least, we may see a greater demand for media that focuses on the real issues, the underlying causes of these, and real and practical solutions.
So what are the real issues? To me, they include increasing inequality within and between countries, and all the problems this creates. The large number of people dying of hunger and lack of clean water each day. (Far more than people dying from terrorism or violence in any form.) The large number of people crippled or dying from preventable diseases. Our need to organize ourselves collectively in a way that takes ecological realities into account.
A few words about reporting on terrorism. It does seem bizarre that the media choses to focus so much on small instances of terrorism. Typically, only a handful of people die which – of course – is tragic for those close to them. But for the vast majority of people, other issues are far more important. And these tend to be issues that the media either ignore or only pay attention to occasionally.
Also, by over-reporting on terrorism they are giving the terrorists exactly what they want. They give them attention. And through their blood-and-gore reporting they stoke fear in the population, and that too is exactly what they terrorists want. The media – and many politicians – play right into the hands of the terrorists. And that seems incredibly naive.
We can even say that it’s the way media reports on terrorism that makes it worthwhile for terrorists to commit acts of terrorism. No reporting, very little reason for terrorism. As it is today, media fuels terrorism.
Double vote for young people? Apart from instant run-off voting, mandatory voting, and other voting reforms, I wonder if not double votes for young(ish) people would make sense. In the Brexit vote last year, old people largely voted to leave the union while younger voted to stay, and – to put it bluntly – older people screwed over young people. It makes sense to give a double vote to the 50% younger people since these have a longer term perspective. Of course, the drawback is that younger people may not take the needs of the older into consideration.
Working for Trump. Trump has a history of screwing over those working with him. (Including suing and not paying contractors). I assume most people working with Trump will – at least at times – have to go against their own integrity and better judgment. And by being associated with him, they will – most likely – not be judged kindly by history. So it is somewhat surprising that some chose to work with him.
Of course, they may see it as a stepping stone to something else. They may hope they won’t get screwed or tainted too badly. They may think that it happens to others and they will be the exception. They may plan on writing an insiders view of how it was to work with him. They may hope to influence him one way or the other. Some may not care too much about integrity or how they may be seen by history. And some, I guess, may actually share some of his politics and be willing to put up with a great deal to help see it through.
NRK and hidden Islamophobia. NRK is the national broadcaster in Norway and normally relatively good. Although recently, they have had articles that (a) are unnesserary and (b) easily fuel anti-muslim sentiments.
A few days ago, a white guy in a van ran down people outside a mosque in London. And today, NRK has an article about the “murky past” of this mosque and why the killer had reasons for doing what he did. This is a type of reporting that can be justified by “only reporting the facts”, but the effect is to fuel up under anti-muslim sentiment.
Rationality vs intelligence. There is obviously a difference between rationality and intelligence. Only the most basic level of intelligence is required for rational thinking, and rational thinking can be learned and trained. Of course, rationality can be set aside if we are in the grips of strong emotions (for instance if our identity is threatened). And that happens in politics as well, especially when people vote against their own interests.
Identity and politcs. Identity plays a big role in politics. Some will vote for a particular party just because they always have, their parents have, and their friends do. Some are identified with a particular issue and vote for whatever party agree with them on that one issue, even if much else of their policies are against their interests. (I am thinking specifically about the weird politics around abortion in the US.) Identity sometimes trumps sanity and rationality.
Abortion. Having mention the politics around abortion, I’ll say a few more words about it. It has become a strangely polarized issue in the US, along with many other issues. To me, the most rational approach would be to (a) allow abortions since people will do it anyway and it’s safer to have it legal and regulated, and (b) implement policies and strategies shown by research to reduce the number of abortions (good sex education, easy access to free birth control etc.). I guess part of the reason I see this as the most sane approach is because I grew up in and still partially live in a country that takes this approach and it seems to work well.
Of course, sometimes a more rational approach is set aside in favor of ideology, and that happens on both sides of any issue.
June 9, 2017
Vaccines. This is a more general social and political issue. The debate about vaccines is strangely polarized, and there is little responsible, balanced, and sane public debate around it. Which is a shame since it’s an important topic. There is no doubt that vaccines – for instance for polio and small pox – has made a huge difference and saved a great number of lives.
There is also little doubt that the pharmaceutical industry has hijacked the policies to a large extent. It became especially obvious when the World Health Organization a few years ago called the current flu a “pandemic” and said everyone had to be vaccinated. That was so clearly something orchestrated by the pharmaceutical industry and not based on sound and rational medical advice.
To me, a more balanced view is to acknowledge that vaccines can and do save lives. The issue is not about vaccines in themselves but the toxins mixed in with the vaccines. Vaccines are sometimes recommended based on pressure from the pharmaceutical industry and not on a more balanced and down-to-earth medical advice. They do sometimes cause serious health problems in people. And one solutions is to find another way to do it that does not involve toxins.
July 29, 2017
Some people just want to watch the world burn. Sometimes, I imagine that Trump supporters, Brexiters, and others, just want to watch the world burn. They feel they have nothing to lose (even if they do), or – perhaps more to the point – they realize that others have more to lose, and they are willing to sit back and watch as society turns in a direction that doesn’t really benefit anyone. Equally likely, many live in a very different info-world from me, and they actually think that Trump and Brexit will do something good – as they see it. Or there is a mix.
The upside. Not much has changed in how I see Trump and the Trump situation. There are a few possible upsides:
(a) Many of his policies are similar to those of Republicans in general (with some honorable exceptions). And he reveals the Republican agenda in a crass and open way, without the typical sophistication. He brings it out in the open.
(b) He has triggered a public discourse and awareness (at least among some) about the value of fact checking, media literacy, a strong democracy, following the written and unwritten rules of a functioning democracy, and the general value – for a society and as individuals – of treating others with respect and acting with some dignity.
(c) He has revealed and brought awareness to how damaged many in the US seem to be. Damaged from lack of education and lack of opportunities in general. (It’s hard to imagine that many supporting him if this wasn’t the case.) Significant social inequality – and the anger and frustration it creates – is what brings people like Trump into political leadership positions.
Of course, he is also doing the opposite. His outrageous behavior distracts from many of the policies pushed through by Republicans in congress. He has made disrespectful and unhinged behavior acceptable – to some – by his example. And his policies will only deepen the social inequality within the US society.
August 4, 2017
Trump and the grand jury. They are setting up a grand jury to investigate the Russian connection, and Trump may well have to testify. It will be an interesting spectacle. It’s possible someone will write his testimony for him and he’ll be able to read it out loud without straying. But as a compulsive teller of non-truths and strayer from the script (as far as he ever has one), it’s likely he can’t help himself from lying under oath. And that’s one possible way his presidency ends.
How it will unfold. There are still many ways for his presidency to unfold, and right now none of them seem especially more likely than some of the others. He may be on course to be impeached, and will likely resign before that happens – blaming others and leaving the presidency to Pence. He may start a war so people will (misguidedly) rally around him and he’ll boost his popularity. He may muddle through his period, gain some political victories, and not run for re-election, lose, or possibly even be re-elected. Right now, anything seems possible.
Damaged and entitled. What explains Trump’s behavior? I can find a few things.
One is that he is damaged, most likely through a form of developmental (ongoing childhood) trauma, perhaps from how he was treated by his father. He is an example of how hurt people hurt people.
Another is entitlement and privilege. He has been sufficiently wealthy and privileged (and, I should add, unprincipled) to avoid the normal consequences and push-backs of behavior that gives most of us some self-awareness and helps us mature and grow as human beings.
A third is that he learned, through experience and perhaps examples, that his behavior works. It gets him what he (think he) wants. He gets to fire anyone troublesome to him. He gets adoration (however fake). He gets to feel important. He gets to boost his own ego (even if he knows the hollowness of it). He gets to be king in his own world.
This can sound like a put-down, but it’s also something that can help us see him more clearly and deal with him more effectively. It can even give us some empathy.
A dumb person’s idea of a smart person. As many have pointed out, Trump is a dump person’s idea of a smart person. A poor person’s idea of a rich person. A weak person’s idea of a strong person. It’s harsh but there is some truth to it.