Reflections on society, politics, and nature XII

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature.

One essential way Trump is no different.

But it wasn’t sane before. Obama was not sane; he was led by the same interests that put the corporate business ahead of people, with bread buttered by Goldman Sachs, only now, it is more brash” Sadier said. “For centuries the political class has been fucking poor people off.

This is a view I often hear from regular people, including most of my friends. But I don’t see it much from mainstream politicians, journalists, or social commentators. Of course, the job of the mainstream is to maintain the status quo, even if it benefits the few in the short term rather than the many in the long term. (Or perhaps just for that reason.)

Most politicians and political parties support neo-liberal capitalism, which in turn is designed to maximize profit for multi-national corporations at the expense of nearly everyone else, including nature and future generations. In this sense, Trump is no different from most other politicians, including Obama and both Clintons. He is just less subtle about it.

September 6, 2018

Strawman arguments
. This seems so obvious I haven’t mentioned it before but I wanted to say a few words. When American football players protest during the anthem, they are not disrespecting the US, they are highlighting a very real issue of racism and inequality. And when people criticize or disagree with Israeli policies, they are not anti-semitic. To say they respectively “disrespect the US” and are “anti-semitic” are strawman arguments and it’s transparent and childish. It’s an attempt to shame people into silence and deflect from the real issue by attacking the person. 

The golden rule in politics. Why should we treat others as we would like to be treated, even in politics? For me, it has to do with a couple of things. First, self-respect. If I treat others with respect, I can have respect for myself. The other is for strategic reasons. When I act and speak with respect, I invest in norms I would like myself and others to follow. I strengthen them. Also, if I don’t treat others with respect, I cannot expect others to do the same towards me (or politicians I support) and I am not in a position to ask them to do so. 

This came up for me today since the New York Times has an article about the resistance to Trump’s policies from within the administration. Some liberals seem to applaud this. And I understand the impulse to want to curtail some of Trump’s worst actions. But he is legally elected and the resistance described in the NYT article is actually a subversion of democracy. It sets a very dangerous precedence. And it’s definitely not something I would approve of if it happened in an administration I happened to personally support.

On the topic of the NYT article: The other side is that these unhappy civil servants would do better quitting and speaking out openly about their concerns, or try to get Trump removed if they think he is a danger to the country. It does seem a bit spineless, as Trump said, to anonymously complain in this way.

Politically correct? I don’t use this term unless I discuss it specifically. It seems to mean different things to different people so using it often means talking about different things while it appears, on the surface, we are talking about the same.

Some use the term to discredit people who talk about ordinary decency, inclusiveness and treating others with respect. Some use it to refer to nice sounding words meant to distract from different types of actions. And I am sure people understand the term in other ways as well. 

In the first sense, I am happy to be politically correct. I am happy to stand up for treating people with respect, inclusiveness (of people of all types of orientations and backgrounds), and actions and policies that come from ordinary human care and compassion for fellow human beings. 

Not normal? I see that some people in social media still use the “this is not normal” label on Trump’s behavior. I understand some of the reasoning behind it. For instance, it isn’t normal for a leader of a western democratic country to consistently erode democratic norms and undermine democratic institutions. It’s something that may do lasting damage. 

Apart from that, the “not normal” label misses something essential. Much of what’s normal isn’t that great. And there are some very questionable ways he is normal. He is normal in that he is in line with most of the Republican’s policies. (Apart from leaving international free trade agreements and starting a trade war). And more importantly, he is normal and in line with nearly all US politicians in that he promotes policies aimed at making the wealthy wealthier at the cost of nearly everyone else.

For the most part, the real scandal is in the ways he is normal.

September 7, 2018

What will Trump be remembered for? A few generations from now, how will people see Trump? Here is what I imagine: 

He came out of the tea party culture within or connected with the Republican party, so in that sense, there was little surprising or even new about him. In a larger historical context, we have also seen many leaders like him. 

He was in line with the rest of the Republicans on most issues and policies. (Apart from international trade.) He served as a tool for the Republican party for them to get their policies through. 

In an essential way, he followed the norm for US presidents and western or western-oriented mainstream politicians of that era. He supported policies benefiting multinational corporations and the wealthy while often harming the rest of the population, ecosystems, and future generations. 

He was a turning point OR blip in one sense. He was a democratically elected leader who intentionally set out to confuse and erode democratic norms and undermine democratic institutions. (I don’t know if this will turn out to be a turning point or a blip. I imagine he has done some lasting damage in this area.)

As a footnote, we can also mention that his presidency did to some extent mobilize people on the other end of the policy spectrums (diversity, equality, sustainability etc.) 

He represents the failure of political leaders and people in general of that era (late 1900s and early- to mid-2000s) to deal with ecological issues. He ignored climate change and rolled back environmental regulations. He was the norm in that he didn’t take the issues seriously enough, he didn’t implement sufficient measures, and he didn’t do what was needed in terms of restructuring all of society and all institutions to create a society aligned with ecological realities.

In hindsight, knowing that this restructuring could have benefited them in all areas of society and life (science, research, technology, economics, well being and more), it seems bizarre that they didn’t. Although it’s also understandable since it did require a massive restructuring and realignment, and they did operate and view the world from within the old paradigm.

September 10, 2018

Native American DNA & Synchronicity. About a year ago, I received my ancestry and health information from 23andme. Most of the results were expected (mostly Norwegian / Northern European with some British, French, and German).

But one result was surprising: a small amount of my DNA was assigned to Native American ancestry. I am not aware of any Native American ancestry, or even any pathways explaining how it could have happened. So although I was intrigued, I thought it was probably a mistake. 

I still do, but it’s interesting to me in a few different ways. I have always experienced a deep resonance with Native American cultures. As a child, I always wanted to be the “Indian” when we played cowboys and Indians. When I first came to North America (Utah) to study, I felt I arrived at a sacred land and felt deeply at home. When I first went down to southern Utah and slept out alone under the night sky, I felt more profoundly at home than I have felt anywhere else before or after. When I read books written by Native Americans (especially shamans / holy men), there is a deep sense of familiarity, resonance, and coming home. 

Two things are especially interesting to me. One is that this can be seen as a synchronicity. I have (at a deeper level) wanted to have this ancestry, was certain it wasn’t in me, and yet it shows up in my DNA ancestry report.

Another is that the DNA patterns used to identify ancestry groups are found in most or all populations in the world. It’s just that some patterns are more commonly found among certain groups. So it may be that I have DNA patterns most commonly found among Native Americans, even if I don’t have that particular ancestry. I guess that’s another form of synchronicity. 

Data collection and sharing. It’s well known that social media platforms, search engines, and apps and websites in general collect and sometimes share user data for marketing purposes, and also that this data can say a lot more about us than we may initially think. I feel I am relatively updated on and aware of this, but even I sometimes get surprised to the apparent extent of it. Over the last couple of days, I have had two telling experiences:

Two days ago, I searched for an obscure Japanese movie from the 50s on Netflix on my phone (which they didn’t have since they have a terrible collection of international classics), and when I then opened YouTube to look for it there, a clip from the movie came up as the first recommended video (before I had searched for it). Unless it was a remarkable coincidence, it means that data from my iPhone Netflix app searches somehow gets sent to YouTube (Google). 

Yesterday, I listened to the audiobook of Michael Palin’s Around the World in 80 days, which is based on the 80s BBC TV series. The 5-minute segment I listened to was from crossing the Arabian sea, and specifically about using a treacherous outboard toilet. When I later that day opened YouTube, the first recommended clip was exactly that segment from the original TV series. Again, it was a remarkable coincidence (even more remarkable considering how obscure and specific it was), or my audiobook listening data is somehow conveyed to Google and YouTube. This one went even beyond what I thought they were up to. And I have certainly not knowingly given anyone permission to gather and share this type of data. 

September 11, 2018

International Criminal Court. In the latest barrage of news from the Trump administration, I see they are threatening the ICC and will probably do what they can to delegitimize, weaken, and withdraw from it. It’s partly because they won’t acknowledge any international institutions above their own. (Which is out of step with a globally interconnected world with global problems that require global solutions and institutions.) And, as so much of what this administration does, it may be a step in preventing their own legal trouble. 

Trump’s second term? Will Trump have a second term? I wouldn’t be surprised since he likely will last his first term (unlikely to be ousted or resign), his pride will probably tell him to run again, his base (around 40%) seems unshaken by anything he says or does, after the election in November (if the Democrats get a house majority) the Republicans can blame the Democrats for everything that went wrong, and Trump serves the Republicans well in terms of getting policies through while distracting through his behavior. There is a small chance he won’t run again, and an even tinier chance he will be ousted from office. If he runs again, there is, of course, a chance – perhaps even a good chance – the Democrats will do well. In any case, this is all a blip on the arc of history, as Obama said, and it’s good to keep an eye more on the real and far more important issues. 
 
September 29, 2018

Catholic Church abuse. I see that the abuse scandal in the Catholic Church keeps unfolding. It’s a complex situation, although also quite simple. Two of the main problems are celibacy and the absence of female priests. Celibacy prevents any legitimate and open way to live out ones sexuality. And the lack of female priests removes that very needed correction in a male and patriarchal culture. By holding onto outdated rules for the priesthood, the church itself has set the stage for these problems.

Another and related problem is, of course, the lack of transparency and the desire of people higher up in the hierarchy to hush down these very serious problems. 

US Supreme Court. After the Kavanaugh hearings, it’s abundantly clear that the US supreme court is anything but a neutral institution. It’s thoroughly politicized. That makes it even more unfortunate that the judges are there for life. It’s yet another aspect of the US political system that, in its present form, is out of step with how a real democracy works. 

The internal problems of empire. As I see it, many of the current problems in the US are internal problems of being an empire. Any empire is dependent on a large military which depletes its economy and leaves less for their own citizens (lack of good education, healthcare, social safety nets etc.). And it’s also dependent on authoritarianism, suppression, distraction, and avoiding being a well-functioning democracy. All of which are hallmarks of the US today. Although not everyone would agree, I see the toxic masculinity of US culture is one of many symptoms inherent in being an empire. 

Of course, Trump and others are doing their best to dismantle the US as an empire and it’s likely to crumble within one or two decades. (Meaning that the US as an international power will fade, not that the US as a country will fall apart.) 

Buying into chaos and drama. When I worked at a center in southern California, I was repeatedly surprised and dismayed when my two bosses would buy into the chaos and drama created by some clients (mostly young male drug addicts). These clients would say something they knew was inflammatory, or they would spread lies about others with the intent to create conflict, and the two managers so often bought into it and fueled the drama with their own emotions. The pattern seemed so obvious, and it seemed so clear and transparent what the clients intended to do, and yet the managers bought into it. (This was partly a center for addiction recovery and partly a center for spirituality.) 

The same seems to be happening in the US today. Russia has explicitly set out to create chaos, drama, and internal strife within the US (and other western countries), and the politicians and others in the US seem to wholeheartedly buy into it. They fell right into the trap.  

November 20, 2018

Political correctness? Very often, and perhaps especially clearly in the US right now due to the political split, what one side accuses the other of is what they themselves do in equal measure. Some liberals now promote undemocratic attitudes and actions just because they happen to not be in power. Conservatives disparage political correctness on the left while they themselves very much adhere to their own version of political correctness (norms, rules, expectations, attitudes).

Of course, this is just examples of what we all do. When we see something in others or the wider world, it’s because we know it from ourselves. We live with it and sometimes live it. And the attitude we have towards it in the wider world is the attitude we have towards it in ourselves.

That’s why an attitude of noticing, kindness, curiosity, and sometimes assertiveness makes sense all around. What do I notice? Can I find it in myself? How can I relate to it with kindness? Do I need to relate to it firmly to prevent harm? What can I learn about it? What does it want to show me? What do I know that I don’t want to know? 

November 22, 2018

Gratitude and perspective. Something that still surprises me (although not really), is when people who have more than 99% of everyone who has ever lived still complain about their society and life situation. Of course, there are always things that can be improved. But for most people in the western world, life is better than it has been for almost all people through history. (At least, in terms of material life and opportunities. I know a sense of lack of connection and meaning can still happen.) 

I remember when I went to a psychologist in Norway as part of my training and happened to mention how grateful I am daily for food, shelter, clothes, and family and friends. Her response was “oh, yes, that says something of the deprivation you must have grown up with”. (I grew up in an upper-middle-class family and never lacked for anything. ) To me, that illustrates the lack of perspective many live with. 

What’s the remedy? Travel. Knowing about the rest of the world. Knowing history. Taking a more sober look at life. And perhaps explore heart-centered practices, including an all-inclusive gratitude practice.

It’s really about healing and growing up, and although we can prepare the ground for it, it doesn’t come on demand. 

November 25, 2018

Trauma and politics. This is something I have written about a few times before, but I am also reminded of it daily. Some of the behavior we see in society and politics is trauma behavior, and especially that which is reactive, based in fear, one-sided, inflexible, reflects us vs them views, inhumane, and/or strongly ideological.

Trump’s behavior is mostly trauma behavior. And I cannot help thinking that electing him was trauma behavior on behalf of the segment of the US supporting him. A traumatized society elected a traumatized leader. And that’s one way trauma is passed on through the generations.

Trauma is partly passed on through the institutions, norms, and rules created by traumatized people, which often, in turn, traumatize more people. And Trump certainly fits the pattern of leaders who traumatize others through their policies (increasing economic inequality, reducing social safety nets, weakening education, creating an atmosphere of harshness and division, and so on).  

Taboos. This is something I think most of us become aware of as teenagers (one of the many weirdnesses of grown-up society), but it’s a good topic to explore. What’s taboo in a society? And why? In our western society (at least north European and North American), what’s taboo has to do with either body functions or religion. Talking about sex openly, or even reproduction in England and the US. Swearing by using the names of God or the devil. That’s about it. 

Why should body functions be taboo? They are universal. We do most of them every day (farting, pooing, peeing, and sometimes sex). We depend on all of them for our lives and existence. Why not see all of them as completely natural and beautiful? 

The answer is civilization, and specifically the Christian variety. Christianity decided to make body functions shameful and taboo, most likely for their own purposes – to have some control and stay in power. (I assume Jesus wouldn’t have any problems with ordinary body functions and activities, this is about what came after, the Christian church and how it distorted what initially was probably quite simple, beautiful, and life affirming.) 

I should mention that in Norway, it seems that the body-function taboo is mostly in the past. I see it much more in England and the US. Perhaps empires need taboos more, just like the Christian church needed them, in order to control and maintain power. 

Values vs survival. I read an article about the possibility of Norwegian oil drilling in the (very vulnerable) arctic sea. The journalist and the people he interviewed framed it as a question of values. I thought it was long obvious that this is a question of our own survival and hopefully surviving while thriving, not values. We can’t continue with what’s so clearly destroying the ecosystems we depend on for everything we have, including our lives.

I guess you could call it values. That we value surviving and providing a good life also for future generations. But it sounds feeble when what’s at stake is so much more than that. I suspect people who still frame it as values do it out of habit or tradition, or they don’t yet get the seriousness of the situation. In either case, they are not doing us any favors. 

Mocking vegetarians. It seems quite common in our society that vegetarians or vegans are mocked. I have never quite understood it, although I suspect it has to do with people feeling their self-worth threatened. They know it makes more sense – ethically and ecologically – to eat a mostly vegetarian or vegan diet. They know some others do it and they don’t. They are afraid to be seen as unethical or having low self-control. So they mock people who eat a vegetarian or vegan diet. It’s important to point out the weirdness behind this mocking, and be explicit about some of the possible reasons why. Trolls burst in daylight. 

Trump and trauma. I just wrote this as a reply to a friend’s post. It’s what I have written about in more detail here before. 

I don’t know about giving him specific diagnoses, but his behavior is definitely typical – and very extreme – trauma behavior. Most likely coming from being profoundly and ongoingly traumatized in his childhood. A traumatized leader for a traumatized nation.

The real problem is a system that traumatizes people. A system where the haves get more and the have-nots get less. A system where most are unable to lift themselves out of a life of poverty and deprivation. A system with very poor social safety nets. A system that systematically traumatizes people. Add to this a lack of education and knowledge about trauma and where many don’t have the interest or opportunity to heal from it. And you have a society where many live from and even idealize typical trauma behavior including reactivity, blame, dehumanizing, polarization, adherence to strong abstract (irrational) ideologies, and more. 

Brexit. I don’t remember if I have written about Brexit here before, but my view on it hasn’t changed. The pro-Brexiters lied through their noses, and some people seemed to believe it. It seems clearly misguided. It will be a very costly and difficult process, and won’t get anyone what they want. And Britain will return to the union at some point, so it will have been an exercise in futility. 

November 20, 2018

Male genital mutilation. When I went to the US to study, one of the biggest surprises to me was the prevalence of male genital mutilation (aka circumcision). In Norway, it doesn’t happen, so for me it naturally seemed bizarre and inexplicable. And it still does. Why would you want to mutilate your baby child? Why would you, when there are no rational or good reasons for it? Why would you, when you know it’s traumatizing? Why would you, when you know that the trauma has the potential of impacting the child for the rest of his life? It seems more than just irrational and misguided, it seems (unintentionally) heartless. 

Some suggest that the toxic masculinity that’s so common in the US has a connection with male genital mutilation. The trauma may stay with boys for the rest of their lives, and may be expressed as – among other things – toxic masculinity. It’s obviously not the whole answer, but it may be a part of it. 

Conspiracy theories. I understand there is a universal impulse to know what’s hidden, and that for some, this impulse makes them go into conspiracy theories. For me, it doesn’t make so much sense. What we know going on, and what’s going on in the open, is far worse and has a far larger impact than any specific conspiracy theory. (I am thinking about neoliberal capitalism, corporate influence on policies and governments, growing economic inequality, destruction of ecosystems, and social and economic systems not designed to take ecological realities into account.) When we know all of this is happening, and how serious it is and how much it impacts all life, why bother with weird little conspiracy theories? 

Climate change. On that topic, why bother with whether climate change is happening or if it’s human-made? We know we have to make the same changes anyway. We have to transition out of an oil-based economy and society and into a renewable one for a large number of reasons, not just because of climate change, and it needs to happen relatively quickly. 

Rationality. Although a part of me does expect people to act rationally, I know we often don’t. I think growing up in Norway, where people and politicians often do act rationally, I have a skewed expectation. And, of course, growing up in Norway, I have my own sense of what’s rational and what’s not. 

I know we are often “emotionally” motivated, or rather motivated by identities and beliefs we wish to hold onto. And that, sometimes, holding onto beliefs and identities are more important than otherwise acting in our own self-interest. 

Gnarly in Pink

 

I found this mini-documentary cute and funny, and also a sad and encouraging comment on the current “toxic masculinity” discussion. Even at that age, boys have learned to express toxic masculinity.

It’s a feature of the US culture more than the Norwegian, and I sometimes wonder if toxic masculinity and that type of harshness is an occupational hazard of an empire. Dehumanization seems to be an inherent feature of an empire, and we see it in both English and US culture. I imagine the US culture got it first from the English, and then continued to developed their own brand. And it hurts the people living within the empire as much as anyone else, whether they are women or men, wealthy or not, privileged or not.

The Norwegian culture has some of these features although to a lesser extent. Women and men are more equal and – in my experience – generally relate to each other as equals and with respect and appreciation.

Note: I would normally put this entry in one of the ongoing series of Society and Politics post but WordPress has a glitch so the video disappears whenever I save the post. So I created a separate post instead.

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Reflections on society, politics, and nature XI

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general. For this one, I added nature as a theme.

Nature & Norway. Nature is an important part of Norwegian culture, and there is a certain culture about how to be in and relate to nature. In terms of sustainability, Norway isn’t that much different from or better than other industrialized countries (think of the oil industry etc.). But I do very much resonate with and appreciate the traditional Norwegian culture of how to be in nature.

My parents passed it on to me, and their parents passed it on to them, and as it must have been passed on through generations. They took me out skiing, hiking, berry picking, swimming and more throughout my childhood.

And almost invisibly, certain norms were passed on to me: Leave no traces. Use only dead wood for fires. Be quiet in nature. (To not disturb the animals, so you are more likely to see animals, and to not disrupt the peace for other people.) Take time. (There is usually no need to get somewhere quickly.) Be respectful. (To nature, animals, plants, other people.) Enjoy. (There is a deep enjoyment in being in nature – the sounds, sights, smells, sensations, and there is a profound enjoyment and nourishment in experiencing ourselves as part of nature, as not separate at all… whether we are in nature or in urban areas.) Maintain good spirits. (Set stressful thoughts aside and focus on the privilege and enjoyment of being in nature.)

Although not many would put it this way, nature is – in many ways – the cathedral for Norwegians. It’s the sacred place. The place where we are reminded of who and what we are, and our intimate connection to the larger natural world.

Loss of insects. When I started spending more time in Norway again, about ten years ago, one of the first things I noticed was the loss of insects. It seemed that my parent’s garden, which I remember as brimming with insects and life in general as a kid, now is mostly barren with just the occasional bumblebee or other winged creature. I considered that it could be because of the usual quirks of memory, but realized it must be something more. For instance, as a kid, I often saw crickets of all sizes in the yard, and now I haven’t seen any – not a single one – for years. Similarly, some types of birds seem completely gone. If that’s not a wake-up call close to home, I don’t know what is.

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Childish Gambino: This is America

 

Donald Glover’s new music video feels iconic and is understandably receiving a great deal of attention.

Why does it feel so iconic? And what is it about?

To me, it feels iconic because of its simplicity, depth, and universal archetypal themes grounded in a specific time and place. There is a strong contrast between the violence and the joyful song and dance. There is a simplicity in that it’s in one setting and mostly shot in one take. It has sincerity, depth, and urgency. The theme is clear but it leaves the interpretation and reflection up to the viewer.

And what is it about? Most obviously, both the violence and the joyful song and dance reflect Black history in the US, and also the current Black experience in the US. Both are part of their history and lives. Beyond that, it’s part of the US culture as a whole, human civilization, and each of us as individuals. It reflects our human experience. We contain and experience both.

It’s interesting that the sequential nature of the video suggests different ways of relating to this. We can bring fleeting attention to the drama of violence and then move on as if nothing happened. (As US society and media seem to do with the current gun violence, and as we as individuals sometimes do in our own lives.) Or we can acknowledge both as part of our history, our lives, humanity as a whole, and us as individuals, and engage with it more intentionally and responsibly and do something about it. Both of these are relatively privileged ways of relating to it.

There is also a third way of relating to it, which is – I imagine – is the reality of many black people in the US. They live with both and compartmentalize the violence and pain so they can move on with their lives.

Again, it’s a very simple theme. We all know that humans are capable of terrible things and wonderful things. We know both are part of our lives collectively and individually. We know that we often ignore the unpleasant things and move on to the pleasant ones. We know that can be fine in the short run but it creates problems in the long run. And yet, we often act and live as if we don’t quite know. And that’s why these reminders are so important, especially as they ignite reflection and discussion as this video is doing right now.

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Reflections on society and politics X

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general.

Burnout. Burnout is often presented and approached as an individual problem. Someone burnt out because of marriage problems, health issues, depression, and so on. And the approaches are often presented as individual as well, whether it’s exercise, counseling, mindfulness, yoga or something similar. There is a focus on the individual whether it’s the individual themselves doing something to prevent burnout, or the organization sets up an employee program.

And yet, it seems obvious that burnout is a systemic issue. It has to do with how we organize our society and organizations. It has to do with our collective worldview, our economic system, and organizational and business values and culture.

For instance, the more an organization sees it’s employees as disposable and something to squeeze as much work out of as possible, sometimes supported by a culture idealizing overwork, the more likely people are to burn out. And the more an organization sees it’s employees as human beings, take them seriously and listen to their feedback and concerns, sees them a resource to invest in and support, and aims for mutual benefit, then people are less likely to burn out.

The current focus on individual approaches to burnout is an example of systems acting to preserve themselves. We have a system – especially in the US and in certain professions such as the medical profession – that often leads to burnout.

The real causes are at the social, cultural, and organizational levels. And yet, the focus is typically on individual approaches for preventing burnout, perhaps because that’s the approach that involves the least change and effort. To take the systemic causes seriously is more effective, but does involve significant change to society, culture, and the organization. And not everyone is willing to go there.

Other things take priority. And that’s OK but it’s good to be honest, open, and explicit about it. We know that burnout has to do with the larger systems, but we chose to focus on the individuals since it takes less effort and requires the least change. Of course, that honesty would – eventually – require a change so that’s perhaps why most chose to not be quite that open about it.

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Shared secrets out in the open

 

Shared secrets of this kind is the norm for certain issues, and I assume one reason most people don’t speak about it because others don’t speak about it. Also, many don’t like to have their inconsistencies pointed out and in the open because it means they (or we) would have to do something about it.

The quote is from a previous post.

I think there are a great number of shared secrets in our culture. We know but don’t speak about it because it would rock the boat. We know but, for whatever reason, don’t want to know so we don’t speak about it. Or we would know if we paid attention to it, but since we haven’t yet we don’t have anything to say about it.

If we know but don’t speak about it, it may be for several different reasons. Others don’t so we would go against norms and taboos. We may not want to hurt someone’s feelings. It would put the spotlight on us and make us vulnerable to uncomfortable attention. We may be expected to do something about it.

Here are a few examples of these types of shared secrets:

We accept certain ingroup behavior more readily than similar outgroup behavior.

We give reasons that are not the real reasons for our behavior. (To appear better to ourselves and others, to not hurt ourselves and others.)

We pretend we know when we don’t know. (And that we can’t know anything for sure.)

News in the media is not so much about news as entertainment. They sell a product. It’s not about shedding light on the really important issues in our society and culture. (There are some exceptions, such as The Guardian.)

We pretend it’s ethical to imprison other beings, use them as slaves, eat them etc. We justify doing medical research on them bc they are similar to us while justifying enslaving and eating them because they are different from us.

We pretend it’s ethical or OK (or wise) to not take the interests of future generations, nonhuman beings, ecosystems etc. into consideration in our policies and decisions

Some accept a religion just because they are born into it. Not because it makes more sense than anything else. They do it for social reasons.

Some go into a religion for emotional comfort.

And things I noticed later….

International and national policies are often aimed at lining the pockets of the wealthy.

We pretend that an economic system and ideology (in our time, neoliberalism) aimed at benefiting the wealthy is in the interest of everyone.

None of these are necessarily bad or wrong, but it’s better to be open about it. To admit to ourselves and others what we already know and see the inconsistencies in it. That’s when change can happen.

Is it true we pretend? Yes and no. In many cases, we may know but not know that we know. We need to be reminded or have it pointed out, sometimes by life itself. And I am also very aware that these reflect my own experience of the world and may seem different to others.  (more…)

Trump reflections IX – aka reflections on society and politics

 

Continued from previous posts…. These posts started out about Trump but have morphed into brief notes about society and politics in general.

Emotionally motivated reasoning. A good portion of our reasoning is emotionally motivated. I sometimes think that in a Life 101 track for young people, learning to recognize emotionally motivated reasoning (EMR) – and it’s strengths and pitfalls – would be included. It seems a basic and useful life skill.

Emotionally motivated reasoning is reasoning based on emotions. We use thoughts to match our emotions, or to justify and support our emotions. We feel empathy so have a view of egalitarian inclusiveness. We feel angry, so we come up with a reason we are angry and perhaps why someone else is to blame. We are afraid, and do the same. And this influences our political views and reasoning.

What are some of the signs of EMR? Reactivity. Defensiveness. Blame. Appearing unreasonable. Uninterested in alternate views. Discounting data that doesn’t fit.

We can learn to recognize this in ourselves and in others. When we recognize it in ourselves, it’s a reminder to stop. Notice our emotions. Be honest with ourselves what we feel. (Perhaps anger on the surface masking fear.) And reconsider our view. It can be difficult, but it has many rewards. It’s a practice in honesty. And it’s a practice in being more interested in reality than our cherished views and identities. We will always operate from EMR in some situations and areas of life, but we can learn to recognize and be more honest about it.

And when we recognize it in others, we will then be more able to use a similar process. Sometimes, it’s  appropriate to directly address reactivity and irrationality, but it can also make positions more entrenched. Another way is to approach it with genuine curiosity. What are the emotions behind it? What’s the fear? What do they really want and need? Perhaps there are other strategies for them to have their needs met? (This is similar to Nonviolent Communications.)

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Trump reflections VIII

 

Continued from previous posts….

August 5, 2017

Trauma. What we see in Trump is typical trauma behavior. It’s not how everyone, or even most people, respond to or live out their trauma. But when we see that type of behavior (anger, reactivity, bigotry, impulsive behavior), it’s often rooted in trauma, in deep wounds.

Of course, it’s important to address the political issues, and it’s important to address the need for respect and a fact-based discourse in a democracy.

And it can also be helpful to remind ourselves that this is trauma behavior. It can be a spring board to look at how we respond to and live out our own trauma (whether it’s big or small), take it as an opportunity for trauma education, and also use it to look at how we can prevent and treat trauma in our society.

Trauma II. Similarly, I can’t help to wonder if not some Trump supporters are reacting to and living out their trauma in their support of him. Again, it’s important to address the political and social issues. But it can also be helpful to explore the possible trauma connections.

For instance, I wouldn’t be surprised if large portions of the US population are traumatized – directly and indirectly – by the significant social and economic inequality in the US. Which means they are traumatized by the policies coming out of neo-liberalism (which has become almost a religion in the US and most of the western world). And that’s why they support Trump because he, on the surface, seems to offer a way to deal with it. (Of course, he doesn’t.) His anger and bigotry plays to the trauma, and his words – at least during the campaign – spoke to the knowing of many of his supporters that neoliberalism is a cause of many of their problems.

In what way are people traumatized by social inequality? They are traumatized by lack of opportunities: lack of schooling, lack of good jobs, lack of money. And that, in turn, creates a life that creates more trauma (through drug use, illness, anger, depression etc.)

In what way is that connected to neo-liberalism? Neo-liberalism creates and deepens social and economic inequality. It’s built in. The wealthy get more wealth. The less wealthy tend to get even less wealthy, especially when the government doesn’t step in to moderate the worst effects of neo-liberalism.

In what way has neo-liberalism become a religion? It’s treated as sacred by many politicians and social commentators. It’s unquestioned. They tend to not address its inherent problems or any alternatives. (The best alternatives are known, but not by many and not implemented yet.)

In what way does Trump’s anger and bigotry play to the trauma? Some react to trauma with anger and bigotry. And to them, it feels like a relief to have someone like Trump in charge and visible in the media. He makes it OK to live out that particular reaction to trauma.

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Lawn vs meadow or food garden

 

Here is another topic that’s relatively insignificant in itself but points to a larger issue.

Lawns.

Why do so many of us have lawns when other options make more sense?

Lawns require a lot of work. Most people use noisy machines to maintain them and this bothers neighbors and is stressful. And they create a desert-like mono-culture that is not good for most insects and animals.

The alternatives make so much more sense. A meadow is beautiful, low maintenance (just need to mow and remove the plant matter in the fall), and creates habitat for a great number of insects and animals that sorely need it. An intelligently designed food garden (using permaculture principles) can be created to be multi-level, low maintenance, and produce wonderful fruits, berries, and nuts.

The answer to the why question is, of course, conformity and convenience.  It takes time and effort to create something else, especially when most people don’t know how to do it. And it goes against the expectations and behavior of neighbors.

And sometimes, lawns can be useful for certain sports and games. But there is no reason why we can’t have a spot of lawn for dinners and sports, and the rest as a meadow and/or a multi-story food garden.

So much is like this, these days. What most of us do makes little sense, apart from being convenient and conforming with the way things have been done in recent times. We have very good alternatives that are attractive at many levels. And we just need to shift.

And that shifting requires an avant-garde that experiments and shows that it works and is attractive (happening), and eventually structural changes so it’s easy for others to make the transition (somewhat happening but not quite yet at a larger scale).

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Mindfulness to deal with burnout?

 

I usually don’t write about mainstream psychology here since it’s covered well many other places. But the topic of burnout has been on my mind lately as I have helped with a thesis on the topic and it illustrates a more general point.

In the mindfulness world, mindfulness is sometimes promoted as an antidote to burnout. And that’s true enough. It can certainly help individuals to be more resilient and reduce the chances of burnout.

At the same time, mindfulness is an individual solution to a more systemic problem. In most cases of workplace burnout, the problems lies with the structures and the system. It has to do with how the business is organized and operated. It has to do with the owner and management.

And beyond that, it has to do with how we have organized ourselves collectively. It has to do with our current social and economic system, and especially the very obvious downsides to neoliberalism.

Beyond that again, it has to do with our most basic worldview. We currently have a worldview that separates humans from nature, values the material over the immaterial, the human over rest of life, and too often values profit over people.

As individuals we function in a larger social and ecological system, and that’s where most of the causes and solutions to burnout – and a range of other apparently individual problems – lie.

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Evil?

 

Some people like to use the word evil.

It’s easy to understand why.

It’s part of our culture. Christianity likes to do the same. (Even if it initially was to discredit competing religions.)

It makes it simple.

We don’t have to look for complex answers to why people behave the way they do.

We can use simplistic solutions. We can tell ourselves that everything will be good if we just get rid of the evil people.

We can put it on others and keep ourselves safely on the good side.

And yet, it is an overly simplistic term. It robs us of the opportunity to a more real understanding which can help us deal with it in a more constructive way.

And that too seems very obvious, but it apparently isn’t to everyone yet.

So what’s behind what looks like evil?

One answer is trauma. When we are traumatized – whether it’s from social conditions or personal interactions – one way to deal with it is to react to it through dehumanizing others and using verbal or physical violence. And that can certainly appear as “evil”.

So what’s the solution? In some ways, the solution is also simple. It is to create a society where people’s basic needs are taken care of. Where food, shelter, education, and health is taken care of. Where there is less inequality globally and within regions. Where people who suffer receive help to heal and get back on their feet.

This is already in place in some countries, mainly in Northern Europe, although there is always room for improvement. To have this happen globally is a taller order, partly because many are opposed to it.

Some are opposed to it since it benefits some to have a great deal of inequality. The current neoliberal ideology, adopted by many in industrialized countries, ensures continued and perhaps widening inequality.

And ironically, some who are traumatized adopt a strong us vs. them ideology which prevents them from supporting policies benefiting everyone – including themselves. (We see this in the US, including among many current Trump supporters.)

Note: I am not blind to the irony in calling “evil” an overly simple label and then proceed to give a relatively simple answer and solution…

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Making use of how people already are

 

Human behavior is often irrational. We tend to focus on what’s immediate, dramatic, and emotional. We are drawn to what’s shocking and unusual rather than long-term trends. We are more interested in this morning’s dramatic death than the thousands dying of hunger each day. We are more interested in what Trump tweeted at 5am than increasing social inequality.

The media knows that and plays into it by making news into entertainment and drama. That’s how they get viewers and readers. That’s how they maximize profit. They too act in their short-term interest.

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. It’s how we, as a species, survived.

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 work with the mechanisms 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.

There are two more facets to this. Some of us seem wired to look more at the big picture and think about things in a more dispassionate way. That too makes sense from an evolutionary perspective. As a species and community, we generally need many who are drawn to the immediate and a few drawn to the bigger picture.

And there is another reason why many tend to avoid thinking about the big picture: they feel they are unable to do anything about it. So we can add one more element to how to work with how people already function: Show that their actions do make a real difference. And make that too immediate, personal, and emotional.

Trump Reflections VII

 

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.

Trump reflections VI

 

Continued from previous posts…

The right side of history. It can seem a bit arrogant to say that something is on the right or wrong side of history. After all, some will disagree, and who am I to make such a judgment?

At the same time, I feel it’s something we are allowed to say. What generally is supportive of life and people is on the right side of history. Policies that aim to support life and people, and especially the weakest ones and the ones with no voice, are on the right side of history. Why is that? It’s partly because the weakest and those with no voice includes future generations.

It’s also because these more inclusive policies tend to be the most beneficial to everyone in the big picture and over time.

Everything is politics. Everything is politics. We all have preferences, and those preferences are politics. They intersect with policies at a social level.

If we see something as not political, it’s often because the preferences built into it – whether it’s a religion, activity, or way of life – tend to be accepted or mirrored by the larger society. As soon as this is no longer the case, it becomes clear to us how political it really is.

Privilege. As many point out, saying that we are not interested in politics, or don’t want to get involved, comes from a position of privilege. It’s what we can say if life for us and those close to us is relatively good. It’s what we say if we ignore the situation of those less fortunate than us.

Why are spiritual people often more liberal? It’s completely possible to be into spirituality and still have a generally conservative view, especially if it’s a more kind and sane version of conservatism. And yet, spiritual people tend to be more liberal. I think there are several reasons.

One is that spirituality tends to come with a natural concern for the welfare of all beings. We realize, and it’s often an alive and lived realization, that we are all one. We are all expressions of Spirit. We are all connected as part of this living planet. And that concern is best reflected in more liberal policies.

Another is that religions have conservative elements built into them. Religions seek to preserve themselves and not change too much. And that fits a conservative mindset. Spirituality tends to be more open and experimental, and that fits a more liberal mindset. Of course, these are just general tendencies. Some branches of religion are quite liberal, and some traditions have spiritual elements that can be quite conservative.

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Shepard Fairey posters, Amplify Foundation.

Trump reflections V

 

Continued from previous posts.

Policies and democracy. Trump worries me and many others, and our main concerns are in two areas:

Policy content. He – supported by his cabinet and the Republican congress – are likely to implement policies that erode social safety nets, transfer what’s now publicly and collectively owned to private corporations, and tends to benefit people like them (billionaires) at the cost of regular people.

Democracy. Trump’s m.o. is to (a) deny the truth of something easily verifiable, and (b) turning it back on the other (blame, name calling). This erodes the democratic process, norms, and unwritten rules built up over decades and centuries. His authoritarian and bullying tactics belong to the world of old-fashioned kings and dictators, not a democracy.

What we can do. So what can we do? We need to be what we want to see in the world:

Emphasize facts and reality.

Act with integrity and uphold democratic norms and processes. Support order instead of his chaos.

Support forward-looking policies and what we want to see in our society. Remember and develop our visions of the society we want to have.

Remember that a majority of people in the US support liberal policies – when these are presented outside of party politics. Remember that Trump got only a quarter of the votes, and less than half of the votes cast.

Focus on the issues and not his personality. Hold the media to a high standard of accountable reporting. Act with sanity and maturity.

Collapse. Many have predicted the end of the US empire and Trump is actively engaged in making it happen. It doesn’t take much to predict it right now, it’s happening right in front of our eyes. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

What’s more concerning is the possible collapse of western civilization as we know it. The current version of our civilization is, as we all know, profoundly unsustainable. It can’t continue. The only question is how it will end and what will come instead.

If we take it seriously – far more than we have up to now – we can still create a relatively graceful transition to a more sustainable civilization. If we continue on our current path, and Trump even wants to reverse it, the transition may be in the form of a far more harsh collapse.

Trump as a useful idiot for Republicans. Many, including me, think that the Republicans will keep Trump for as long as he is useful to them. As soon as he becomes too troublesome – either in terms of damaging the Republican brand or by being too unpredictable and unruly – they’ll get rid of him. A Pence president won’t do the public any favors, but to the Republicans, he is far more predictable and in line with the Republican agenda. Robert Reich posted about this earlier today.

The upside. The possible upside of Trump and a Republican congress is that more people will wake up to what’s really going on. The Republican agenda is to line the pockets of the wealthy at the cost of ordinary people. And that’s what Trump is in the process of doing as well.

Even better would be if more people also wake up to the need and great benefit all around from creating a culture that’s aligned with ecological realities, but I doubt if the Trump situation can do that. Someone like Elon Musk are more likely to open people’s eyes.

A test. The Trump presidency is a test of sorts. It’s a test of our character. Again, it’s an invitation for us to be what we want to see in the world.

A mirror. At a more psychological level, Trump serves as a mirror. He serves as a mirror of what lurks in the US population. And he serves as a mirror for each of us. There is a simple way of exploring this.

Write a list of what you see in him. (He is… He should…)

Turn each statement around to yourself. (I am…. I should….)

Find three or more specific examples of how each statement is true for yourself – in this situation and other situations.

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Norway and oil

 

Since my teens, it’s been obvious to me that Norway needs to invest money from oil into research and development in renewable energy technology. That way, Norway has (had?) a chance to be at the forefront also in the age of renewable energy. They didn’t, and the age of oil is really already over. It’s not too late, although the current government don’t seem to be very reality based on this topic.

It’s hard for me to understand. They have the opportunity to create a graceful transition from an oil-based economy to a renewable technology one. They have the opportunity to let Norway be in the forefront of the new age of renewable energy. And they don’t. Instead, they pretend we are still in the age of oil and they miss a golden opportunity.

Trump reflections IV

 

Continued from previous posts.

Inclusiveness. I tend to judge policies and politicians less in terms of how liberal or conservative they are, and more on how inclusive and life-centered they are. There are policies and politicians of any flavor that take a more inclusive and life-centered approach. They sincerely wish society as a whole, and all segments within it, to flourish. And if they have a larger perspective, they also include nature and future generations. (Also because that’s enlightened self-interest. It’s to our benefit here and now to do so.)

That’s why it’s so hard for me to understand why people would support Trump. He is someone who so obviously is in it for himself and to increase profit for people like himself, at the expense of everyone else – including the less wealthy, nature, and future generations.

Of course, people may be mislead, and they may have wanted to vote for him out of reactiveness and pain. And still, from the beginning, it was so clear that he is in it for himself and that a vote for him was a vote for policies not in their own interest. At least not in the short term. Who knows what will come out of it in the longer term. His term may be such a blatant disaster that enough people come to their senses and support more sensible solutions.

Solution focus. I have always favored a partner-oriented and solution focused approach to our serious problems. It’s the only approach that makes sense to me. It’s what exciting and energizing, and what creates a life we want to live – for ourselves and society as a whole.

Of course, we need to focus on the problems in order to understand them and find a strategy to create what we want. But if we focus only or mainly on the problems, it tends to be very discouraging and lead to burn-out.

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Brian Eno: 2016/2017

 

2016/2017

The consensus among most of my friends seems to be that 2016 was a terrible year, and the beginning of a long decline into something we don’t even want to imagine.

2016 was indeed a pretty rough year, but I wonder if it’s the end – not the beginning – of a long decline. Or at least the beginning of the end….for I think we’ve been in decline for about 40 years, enduring a slow process of de-civilisation, but not really quite noticing it until now. I’m reminded of that thing about the frog placed in a pan of slowly heating water…

This decline includes the transition from secure employment to precarious employment, the destruction of unions and the shrinkage of workers’ rights, zero hour contracts, the dismantling of local government, a health service falling apart, an underfunded education system ruled by meaningless exam results and league tables, the increasingly acceptable stigmatisation of immigrants, knee-jerk nationalism, and the concentration of prejudice enabled by social media and the internet.

This process of decivilisation grew out of an ideology which sneered at social generosity and championed a sort of righteous selfishness. (Thatcher: “Poverty is a personality defect”. Ayn Rand: “Altruism is evil”). The emphasis on unrestrained individualism has had two effects: the creation of a huge amount of wealth, and the funnelling of it into fewer and fewer hands. Right now the 62 richest people in the world are as wealthy as the bottom half of its population combined. The Thatcher/Reagan fantasy that all this wealth would ‘trickle down’ and enrich everybody else simply hasn’t transpired. In fact the reverse has happened: the real wages of most people have been in decline for at least two decades, while at the same time their prospects – and the prospects for their children – look dimmer and dimmer. No wonder people are angry, and turning away from business-as-usual government for solutions. When governments pay most attention to whoever has most money, the huge wealth inequalities we now see make a mockery of the idea of democracy. As George Monbiot said: “The pen may be mightier than the sword, but the purse is mightier than the pen”.

Last year people started waking up to this. A lot of them, in their anger, grabbed the nearest Trump-like object and hit the Establishment over the head with it. But those were just the most conspicuous, media-tasty awakenings. Meanwhile there’s been a quieter but equally powerful stirring: people are rethinking what democracy means, what society means and what we need to do to make them work again. People are thinking hard, and, most importantly, thinking out loud, together. I think we underwent a mass disillusionment in 2016, and finally realised it’s time to jump out of the saucepan.

This is the start of something big. It will involve engagement: not just tweets and likes and swipes, but thoughtful and creative social and political action too. It will involve realising that some things we’ve taken for granted – some semblance of truth in reporting, for example – can no longer be expected for free. If we want good reporting and good analysis, we’ll have to pay for it. That means MONEY: direct financial support for the publications and websites struggling to tell the non-corporate, non-establishment side of the story. In the same way if we want happy and creative children we need to take charge of education, not leave it to ideologues and bottom-liners. If we want social generosity, then we must pay our taxes and get rid of our tax havens. And if we want thoughtful politicians, we should stop supporting merely charismatic ones.

Inequality eats away at the heart of a society, breeding disdain, resentment, envy, suspicion, bullying, arrogance and callousness. If we want any decent kind of future we have to push away from that, and I think we’re starting to.

There’s so much to do, so many possibilities. 2017 should be a surprising year.

– Brian

Trump reflections III

 

Continued from two previous posts.

Short memory. I can’t help thinking that what we see today – Trump becoming president and what he promotes gaining momentum in the western world – is allowed to happen only because people have short memories. They have already forgotten, or perhaps not really learned, about Hitler and WW2. They don’t know what mass scale intolerance, leaders acting on emotional reactivity, and rule by the financial elite, leads to. Only the oldest still have a personal memory, and in countries with poor education – such as the US – people haven’t learned the lessons thoroughly enough through school or the media.

That’s also why some of his supporters said “what do we have to lose?” when what they have to lose is a great deal. At least from the outside, it seems they don’t realize what they have to lose, or are educated well enough to know it viscerally. They don’t seem to have the larger historical picture.

This not the reason it happened, but it’s the reason it was allowed to happen: Those who still personally remember are too few to have a significant impact, and past lessons are too remote for a large enough segment of the population.

Diagnosing. I am not a fan of diagnosing anyone in public or at a distance. It’s unprofessional and can too easily be used to attack the person rather than addressing the issues. In Trump’s case, his very public behavior is enough to disqualify him from any position of leadership.

In a political context, there is no need to try to figure out the deeper why’s and how’s of his behavior. It’s only a distraction.

Trauma behavior. Still, in a psychological context, it can be interesting to explore what may be going on, knowing that it’s not really possible to diagnose at a distance. Being familiar with trauma behavior from working with clients and studies, I recognize what seems like trauma behavior. (Reacitvity, impulsivity, intolerance, dehumanizing others, recklessness, thin skinned, vengeance, short sightedness, not caring if what he says is true or not as long as he gets what he wants.) Trump seems to have made living from these trauma symptoms a badge of honor which only makes it more dangerous.

Repeating traumas. People who are traumatized tend to get themselves into situations where they repeat the trauma. They get themselves into those situations because it’s a familiar pattern. (It feels familiar and comfortable at some level, and they act from the trauma which creates similar situations as the initial traumatic situation.) And it’s also an invitation to recognize the trauma and seek healing for it. Some of Trump’s supporters may support him because his trauma behavior is familiar to them from their families and their own life.

More importantly, they may support him because they have had to suppress their own most destructive reactive trauma behavior due to social pressure and expectation, and here is someone who acts it out in public and, in essence, says “it’s OK to live and act from destructive reactive trauma behavior”. It can feel liberating for them to see it, and then use it to allow themselves to live more openly from their own trauma pain. Or, more precisely, act from their reactivity to their trauma pain which can take the form of anger, blame, bigotry, overly simplistic solutions, not caring about facts, and so on. It can feel good in the short run, but it’s definitely destructive in the longer run. In this case, it’s destructive on a large scale.

Said another way, it can feel good for them to say “fuck you” to the elite, but in this case, they only hurt themselves.

Action and compassion. This is pretty obvious. We can strongly oppose Trump’s policies, call him out when he is spreading untruths, and support what we want to see in the world. At the same time, it’s fully possible to have compassion for him and his pain. His pain is quite evident. He wouldn’t act the way he does if he wasn’t acting on his own pain. And we can have compassion and seek to understand his supporters. The two go hand in hand. They even support each other. (Strong action makes it easier to find compassion, and compassion leads to more clear and strong action.)

Disruption. In a bigger picture, who knows what will come out of this. In an evolutionary context, disruption often leads to new traits in existing species, new species gaining momentum, and a new course for evolution. The early oxygen crisis led to new opportunities for life. Dinosaurs dying out created space for mammals to flourish. Who knows what a Trump presidency will lead to in the bigger picture. It may or may not be what many of us wish for or would have chosen, but it may be something we can appreciate the gifts in.

Integral view. Life is a whole and we look at it from different angles. That means it’s good to look at anything from multiple angles to get a fuller picture, while also knowing that none, nor all of them together, is a final or absolute truth. If we want to be more systematic about it, we can use an integral model or map such as Ken Wilber’s. This is also true when we look at the Trump situation. Some of the “default” angles for me include: (a) The big picture. Lila. It’s the play of life or the divine.

Some of the “default” angles for me include:

(a) The big picture.

(i) Lila. It’s the play of life or the divine.

(ii) We don’t know what will come out of it. Historically and evolutionarily, disruptions often lead to something we find valuable and attractive, at least in the longer run. (iii) It’s an opportunity for each of us to live what we want to see in the world.

(iii) It’s an opportunity for each of us to live what we want to see in the world.

(b) Social/political. One of the reasons we have Brexit and Trump is neoliberal corporate globalization, international agreements aimed at maximizing profit for multinational corporations at the expense of people, nature, and future generations. People see this and know it’s wrong. And, unfortunately, the Democrats chose a candidate that embodies this misguided approach.

(c) Psychological. Trump and some of his supporters seem to act from reactivity to trauma pain. Their views and behavior are classic trauma symptoms. Hurt people can be reckless and hurt themselves and other people.

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Trump is the healer

 

Trump is the healer.

As anyone pushing our buttons, he shows us what’s left. He shows us our wounds, traumas, and hangups.

And that can be very healing if we let it. In this case, it’s specifically an invitation to see where we stop ourselves from speaking up and acting to prevent harm from happening to others.

Some more things that come to mind:

I would never want him as a leader of anything, but now that he is…. how can I make the best out of it?

How am I like him? What do I see in him? (A bully, bigot, racist, xenophobe, habitual liar.) Where can I find that in my own life, with specific examples?

How do I let other bully me into being inauthentic? What are the fears? What do I find when I explore these? (Using The Work, Living Inquiries etc.)

When I use ho’oponopono, tonglen, loving kindness practice or similar on him, those supporting him, those harmed by his actions, and myself, what do I notice? Where is there resistance? What’s the fear? How is it to meet and inquire into that fear?

Trump may not last long, but while he is president, he can be a great healer…. if we allow him to be. He can mobilize many of us to action on behalf of dignity, life, earth, and future generations. He can be a mirror for ourselves, showing us what’s left.

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Trump reflections II

 

Continued from a previous post.

Focus on the issues, not the person. A lesson from Italy and other places is to focus on the issues, not the person. Focusing on Trump’s insanity (a) distracts from the real issues, and (b) galvanizes the Trump supporters and makes their position even more entrenched. The issues are real and important enough. There is no reason to dilute it by focusing on Trump himself, no matter how tempting it may be.

Why is he so fascinating? That said, there is a huge temptation to focus on Trump’s personality. The media certainly gave him a huge amount of free airtime, and they did so because of his outrageous statements and behavior, and the drama and chaos he creates.

A deeper reason why people are drawn to focusing on his personality is that he reflects something in all of us. He is an outrageous caricature of some of the worst sides in all humans. He shows us our shadow. And that is inherently fascinating.

In that fascination is wisdom. There is an invitation for all of us to find ourselves in him. How would I describe him? (Write it down.) How does that apply to me? Find specific examples. (It may be that what I find in myself is much less strong, and appears in a different way. After all, he often functions as a caricature of these sides in us.)

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Trump reflections

 

I think the biggest lesson of this election is this: People love a good story way more than they like reality. Trump lied constantly, and had neither the temperament, the experience, nor the plans to change American lives for the better… but he knows how to spin an enthralling yarn.

Everything he promised is objectively bullshit. People with actual experience in economics, immigration, constitutional law, etc. said as much. Experts in every area came out against him, but America didn’t care. They liked his stories where other people were to blame for their problems and everything had a simple, intuitive fix. The blatant lies didn’t matter, as long as the story made them feel good.

America didn’t just give the middle finger to the elites. They said “fuck you” to everyone with expertise, to everyone in positions of earned authority, everyone who was trying to tell them what to do. America said, “You’re not the boss of me, I’m going to vote for an authoritarian who will tell YOU what to do.”

– S.O’B

Written by a friend of mine on Facebook.

I have had many reactions to the Trump popularity and now election. Here are a few:

From this spring on, I – and others I know – had an intuitive knowing he would be elected. From this morning of, the morning of the election and even before any results came in – I had a sickening feeling in my body.

He is insane. He may be literally insane. His level of projection, bigotry, sexism, islamophobia, vengefulness etc. is off the charts.

He seems to take delight in creating chaos. That’s a very dangerous quality of a leader of any country.

He seems to take delight in denying reality. He repeats and indulges in dangerous lies even if they are easily shown to be lies.

Trump is not really fit to be the leader of anything, apart from perhaps some crazy reality TV show.

He speaks to very legitimate fears and concerns many people have, especially how politics often serve corporate interests over those of people (neoliberal globalization etc.) The bail-out of the banks, instead of jailing the ones responsible, is one of many examples of why people are rightfully distrustful of politicians. And yet, his solutions are uninformed, misguided, and ranging from terrible to disastrous.

Some people compare him to Hitler, and others say he is not nearly as bad. Hitler wasn’t nearly as bad either at the time he was elected. The parallels are, at the very least, scary.

I feel sad Bernie Sanders did not become the Democratic nominee. Polls at the time showed that he was much stronger against Trump (clear advantage) than Clinton (much closer). Bernie speaks to many of the same concerns as Trump but has sane, proven, and inclusive solutions.

I would have voted for Hillary Clinton if I could, but I am not at all enthusiastic about her. She is far too aligned with corporate interests. (I know that’s partly strategic on her part, but still…. it’s a poor strategy when corporate interests so often are not the interests of people, ecosystems, and future generations.)

What will happen now? I am not sure. Personally, I have had a sense for a few months that I would leave the US for a while. I would find it easier to deal with Trump watching him from another country.

Hopefully, the democratic party will reform and address the very real issues and concerns that got Trump elected. I also suspect that the Republican partly will be torn apart to some extent, with pro- and anti-Trump segments (that’s already happening).

Trump is notoriously unpredictable, so just about anything could happen. He’ll likely try to get as much through of his campaign promises as possible. There is no reason to think he will be much different from the person we saw during the campaign. The republican congress will support much of it, and may oppose or block some of his more extreme policies.

He will set a new low standard in public discourse and politics, and this will be a model for others to follow.

He will most likely undo a great deal of social and environmental progress made over the previous several decades. His presidency will set back any efforts to reduce the severity of climate change (already on track to be severe).

He is likely to cause rifts with other countries. In the worst case, we’ll see his vengefulness and unpredictability cause very dangerous international situations and conflicts.

Trump doesn’t have the experience – and perhaps not the inclination – to lead the country. So his advisors will probably do a lot of the work, as they did with G.W. Bush. And these advisors may be as or more dangerous – socially and environmentally – than Trump himself.

It’s possible that he’ll resign or lose his presidency within a year or two and we’ll get another Republican president. Someone a bit more level headed and predictable, but still one who can do a great deal of harm, especially in the social and environmental areas.

It’s also possible something good will come out of the destruction. He may motivate life-centered engagement more than anyone else. Out of the ashes, something new and more life-affirming may emerge. We’ll see.

Most likely, what happens will be a mix of several of these things. Typically, things won’t be as bad as we fear or as good as we hope, although Trump has a way of go outside of the norm.

My hunch: He will go after his enemies (and will be partially stopped by courts and the law). He will try to get as many things done in as short a period as possible. He’ll get nearly full support of some Republicans, although many will oppose some of his more extreme projects. He will resign within one or two years, giving a reason that allows him to save face. (That he wants to focus on his family and/or TV network or another business project.) Another Republican will take over and continue some of his more regressive social and environmental policies but in a more professional manner. (Which, in some ways, is more dangerous.) A Democrat will be elected in 2020. This person will be slightly more in the Bernie Sanders camp. It could be Elizabeth Warren, but I think it will be someone else who is slightly more mainstream in their views. (Elon Musk would have been an exciting possibility, but he is not born a US citizen.)

Here is a post from early on the election day from another friend of mine:

If Trump wins, it is my belief that he will bring forth the movement, the revolution, faster than Clinton would because people will be much more motivated to do so. So fret not, if he wins, if the dark worker wins, (and dark workers are just as important in history as light workers) there will be revolutionary change even faster, but with more unfortunate consequences, drama, and maybe even fatalities. With Clinton in place, the movement will be slower going, safer and boring in comparison, but either way the Bernie movement will happen! I KNOW it in my bones that in my lifetime I will see the World fall apart and put itself back together again.”

My prayer now: Let the falling apart be as swift and light and easy as possible for all involved. Let curiosity diffuse fear and show everyone the magic that’s possible when anger expressed is met with an innocent heart. Anger is more fear after all, it’s just bigger looking and sounding. It’s scarier and hence creates more fear.

In the coming days and weeks and months I will strive to continue to grow my capacity to deal with fear and anger in myself and anyone who expresses it around me. When I feel it or see it, I will use it as my cue to get curious as much as possible. To find beauty in the moment as much as possible with everyone I meet.

Finding the blessings and beauty in any tense situation diffuses it immediately. Try it yourself. Next time you see someone angry or afraid, find anything to compliment them about genuinely. See what happens. Let me know if you do it. I’m so curious!

– MB

Update the following morning: for the last several months, my thoughts have sometimes said “he can’t possibly be voted in” but my knowing has said otherwise. Now, my thoughts try out “it won’t be that bad” but again there is a sense in me saying otherwise. It may be as bad as we fear, or worse.

With regular democrats and republicans, there is a regular level of craziness. They may go to war for oil or to get a regional foothold, or even to line the pockets of contractors. They may change some social and environmental policies. But in general, they keep things pretty stable. With Trump, it’s easy to imagine that it can spiral out of control. He is Loki, a chaos maker, and someone who seems to delight in chaos. It may lead to a situation beyond what most people are currently willing to imagine, as this historical analysis points out.

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Norway’s decades long fascination with oil

 

I read a story about possible large untapped oil reserves in the Barents sea outside of Norway. The implication is that Norway’s economy can continue to float on pumping and selling oil to the world. This is obviously a naive assumption. As someone said, the stone age didn’t end because of lack of oil, and the fossil fuel age will not end due to lack of fossil fuel. It will end because a better technology comes along, and that technology is already here and is continually being developed.

We have known that for decades, and we have also known that Norway needs to channel oil money into developing renewable technologies. With the wealth currently generated by oil money, Norway is in a unique position to be on the forefront of this field, and continue to be on the forefront of the global shift into renewable energy. And yet, that’s not what they do. Politicians, media, and people in general, still seem transfixed by a path that’s already outdated. And there is still time to make this shift.

 

Trump and dominance rituals

 

“In many ways the performances of Donald Trump remind me of male chimpanzees and their dominance rituals,” Jane Goodall, the anthropologist, told me shortly before Trump won the GOP nomination. “In order to impress rivals, males seeking to rise in the dominance hierarchy perform spectacular displays: stamping, slapping the ground, dragging branches, throwing rocks. The more vigorous and imaginative the display, the faster the individual is likely to rise in the hierarchy, and the longer he is likely to maintain that position.”

In her book My Life With the Chimpanzees, Goodall told the story of “Mike,” a chimp who maintained his dominance by kicking a series of kerosene cans ahead of him as he moved down a road, creating confusion and noise that made his rivals flee and cower. She told me she would be thinking of Mike as she watched the upcoming debates.

– from When Donald Meets Hillary in The Atlantic

That’s one reason why rationally “winning” the debate (Clinton) may not translate directly into votes. And why telling the most lies and interrupting the most may even be to Trump’s advantage. History has shown that before. Trump is tapping into the anger and frustration of many in the US, and although his solutions are either nonexistent or terrible, these emotions bypass rationality for some voters.

Imagining the future

 

Here is an idea for a project that may already be in existence:

Anyone from around the world can submit a short story or artwork about a day 30, 50, or 100 years into the future. It will be set in a world they would like to live in. The story can lean in a more realistic (nuanced) or utopian (idealized) direction. And it can focus more on social and technological changes, or a more personal view, or both. This may especially be a good project for school kids or students at any level.

Creating and reading stories about possible desired futures helps us mentally explore what type of future we would like to live in, and may support us in creating that future for ourselves.

When we think about the future, it’s easy to take what’s in existence and project it into the future, and perhaps also to polarize and think in terms of best (utopian) or worst (dystopian) scenarios. That’s natural and unavoidable. What’s more likely is that there will be shifts and changes we couldn’t predict (or very few predicted) and that it won’t be as good as we hope or as bad as we fear.

Some also tend to think in terms of technology rather than social changes, while the two go hand in hand, and social changes often bring about a deeper transformation. (Women’s rights, democracy etc.)

Here is a brief framework if I were to write such a story. I’ll write it as if written from the future, around the turn of the next century (2080-2120), sometimes looking back.

Global and regional

We have a combination of regional and local governance for most issues, and global governance on the big picture issues (long term survival of humanity). Nation states are less important and only a few are left, although many current regions correspond to the smaller nation states of the past.

Regional differences

Some individuals, groups, and regions are strongly devoted to thrivability (sustainability) and the bigger picture, and other groups are less big picture oriented. People tend to move to areas of like-minded people, and this helps us test out ideas on a regional scale and we get to see what works and what works less well.

Sustainability baseline

There is a regional and global sustainability baseline. We have organized ourselves individually and collectively according to ecological realities, and this is ongoing and keeps being refined. There has been a reorganization and realignment in all areas of human life (economy, production, transportation, energy, etc.) and also reflected in health care, education, and even our entertainment and religion. Ecological and big picture awareness is, by necessity, reflected in all areas of human life.

For most of us, this is just to the extent required and they do it just because the systems they live within have changed. For some of us, it’s a much deeper and more all-encompassing alignment.

Structural changes leading the way

Structural changes have led the way. We have structures in place so that what’s good for the social and ecological whole is also what’s the easiest, most convenient, and most desirable in terms of individual behavior. For most people, living in a more sustainable way happens effortlessly and almost invisibly. We just do what’s easiest for us to do, within these new ecologically informed structures.

For instance, since inexpensive energy is available from solar, that’s what most of us use. And since most products available are made to last and be repaired, and are modular so we can update components rather than the whole thing, then that’s what people we buy and use. And since we have various forms of collective and individual forms of transportation that are nonpollution (including in terms of noise), and these are readily available, that’s what we use.

All of this has been put in place through structural changes, and largely through incentives. These incentives make it attractive for companies of all types to do what’s ecologically sound and that in turn makes it easy for regular people to do the same.

Realizing the benefits all around

It’s a given that we mostly seek out, create, and use solutions attractive at all levels. Including for the larger social and ecological whole, for future generations, and for our communities, families, and ourselves. I know that in the early history of sustainability, many people saw a dichotomy between these but that’s long in the past.

More inclusive sense of us

Policies and worldviews reflect a more inclusive sense of us. More of us realize that including all of Earth into our sense of us is good all around. It’s good for us since it gives us a sense of belonging to a wider community and to the Earth. It’s good for the Earth as a whole, for ecosystems and nonhuman species, and for future generations. And that, in turn, is also good for us, it creates an environment that allows us to thrive. Many of our stories reflect this more inclusive us, as do much of our philosophy and religion.

More integral

Variations of a more integral view are common. These place all areas of human life and experience within an overall framework.  (Ken Wilber’s integral model is an early example, one that seems quaint now.) People still specialize, but they tend to do so within these larger integral frameworks. That allows for research and thinking that’s more free of the old artificial boundaries between academic disciplines.

Gratitude for past generations

Our heroes today include many of the sustainability pioneers of the past, both groups and individuals. These went against the mainstream view of their day (which was very narrow and quite misguided in many ways), and made it possible for us to have the world we have now. One that does take ecological realities into consideration and has created a better life for most of us. It’s still now perfect, by any means, but many of us today are working on it.

Social challenges

Many challenges of the past are less current today, but we do have our own. Overall, we are much more allowing of minorities – in terms of gender, sexual orientation, ethnic background and more. More and more of our regions have good social safety nets so people won’t have to fear for their basic survival. (We realize this makes for much better societies overall, and better lives for all of us.) The problems of the past with large multi-national corporations is mostly in the past  with our current system supporting smaller and more regional worker owned companies. (It made a big difference when we got rid of the old stock market system.)

Our main challenges are regions where they don’t have social safety nets and where society is in general disarray. We also have groups not devoted to an ecologically informed way of life. And we do, of course, have natural and man-made disasters in different regions. I doubt that will change very soon if ever.

Health and spirituality

We see health in a larger picture than you did. The old divisions between society and individual health, and mind and body, are largely gone. When we look at individual health, we also look at the social and ecological system the individual functions within, and we also look at both mind and body. These are all parts of the same system. As mentioned above, people specialize but they do so within different integral frameworks taking the larger picture into account.

More people today use spirituality in a more pragmatic way, free of the old religions and traditions. At the same time, we do also have people nourishing and continuing the traditions since they realize there is value there. And we do also have some fundamentalists within the different old religions, trying to hold onto what was.

Science and technology

We keep exploring space and have bases on some of the closer planets and moons. Although our main focus is on the long-term survival of humanity and the Earth, most of us recognize that we need to become a multi-planet species for our long-term survival. (As many did in the past as well.)

Technology is more seamlessly a part of everyday life. We have found a sort of balance between technology and our natural human life. As before, some are more into technology and some prefer a more un-assisted and natural life.

The rights of nonhumans, ecosystems, and future generations

At some point, more of us realized that nonhuman beings, ecosystems, and future generations needed to have a voice in our political and legal systems. So we gave them a voice. We did this for their sake since they are living beings and gradually were seen more as us. And we did it for our sake since their well-being is intertwined with ours. Giving them a political and legal voice informs us about the bigger picture in a different way. We now have university training and degrees for people who wish to make this a career. In some regions, companies are required to have these roles filled, and many do anyway since it benefits their decision-making process and position in the market.

Adult development

This is still a slightly, sensitive issue, although it doesn’t really need to be. There has been a great deal of research on adult development, especially in terms of social and ecological orientation. We know that it’s common to deepen in appreciation for the interconnectedness of all life as we mature, and also that this orientation is stronger tendency some people – even early in life – and less so for others. All of that is fine. And we also want to nurture this orientation and deepening in people in general, and we do that through education, entertainment and more.

Surprises

As always, there have been surprises. We have had surprising developments in science and technology, things none or few predicted. And in our social changes, things have happened – both good and bad – that were similarly surprising and not expected by many. I won’t give many details here since I don’t want to give it away to you from the past 😉

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In the regions that take care of people and life more intentionally, people live until about 100 and tend to stay healthy much longer than in the past.

The intelligence and emotional life of animals are more fully acknowledged than in the past. There is much more sense of kinship of all life. (The idea that humans are in a special category compared with other life is seen as belonging to the past and a bit misguided.) This means that even animals in captivity are treated much better than in the past, and given a more natural life.

Some regions have set aside relatively large areas for nonhuman life. Human interventions in these areas are quite restricted.

The idea or realization that all life has intrinsic value (or value to itself) is much more common today than it was for previous generations. It informs policies and human activities to a greater extent.

Fewer people belong to traditional religions. Especially in some regions, it’s very common to use insights and tools from a wide range of spiritual traditions in a pragmatic and practical way. Research into these approaches has been going on for a long time now, and we know much more about how and why and for whom these work.

In general, our view of the world is a bit more open and inclusive compared to the early modern and scientific era. It’s more accepted to do research into topics that previously were shunned.

Since most regions have a decent social safety net for its people, fewer people are radicalized and disgruntled compared to the past. This is not universal since some fall through the cracks, some regions have less of a safety net, and there are occasional social or ecological disruptions that bring out the best and worst in people.

Artificial intelligence in different forms is used in many areas of life, often quite seamlessly and as a support that feels quite natural. The fears that some people had about AI in the past is seen as belonging to an early period of AI where people feared what they didn’t understand.

Biomimicry is a natural part of just about any design process, whether it’s buildings, transportation, or even production. The aim is to enhance and enrich ecosystems through human activity, including travel, housing, and production.

We are much more cautious with toxic chemicals than in the past. We see the early modern period as quite misguided in this area, and going overboard in using toxic chemicals in everyday products.

Oil is used sparingly and only as needed today. Most of our energy is from the sun, wind, ocean, fusion, and a couple of sources not known to earlier generations. Most regions use a mix of these, and also a mix of centrally produced energy and energy produced very locally.

We are not living in a utopia, although certain aspects of our lives would certainly seem that way to past generations. We have solved some of the core problems of a hundred years ago, mainly in terms of living a life – at all levels – more aligned with ecological realities. Many problems remain, and our solutions have created their own problems. And really, we wouldn’t want it differently since challenges are part of what makes us grow and thrive.

We intentionally nurture a sense of connection to the larger social and ecological whole, to future and past generations, and to the universe as a whole. We know how important this is for a sense of meaning and well-being, and also in informing our actions and choices as a society and individuals. (Past generations called this the Universe Story, the Epic of Evolution, Big History, Practices to Reconnect, and similar things.)

Since more have a more pragmatic approach to spirituality, using tools and insights from a range of traditions, science and spirituality are seen as going hand in hand. We use science to explore these tools and the states and experiences traditionally seen as belonging to spirituality, and the insights from this research inform our application of these tools. Science and spirituality are just two ways to explore reality, and they often converge.

I guess I should say something about climate change since I know you from the past are interested in it. Yes, there has been climate change, and yes, we know it was largely human created (just as you knew). We have had to adapt to rising sea levels and regional shifts in climate. And, of course, we have aligned our life with ecological realities to a much greater extent than you did. We would have needed to do that anyway, climate change or not.

In terms of healthcare, there is a stronger emphasis on prevention informed by the mind-body-larger-whole connections. As mentioned earlier – there is more of an integral and systems view on health, and we know that prevention is the most effective use of our focus and resources.

One of the major problems in the past was the inequality of income and access to essential resources. That’s still a problem today, especially between regions and within some regions. There is a much better undertanding today that our lives are interconnected in very real and noticeable ways. (Especially global ecosystem health, migrations, and spread of diseases.) Some regions have a strong emphasis on this work, and most acknowledge its importance. It has helped greatly to curb the power of multinational corporations, and have them follow basic international social justice and sustainability regulations.

Another major problem was overpopulation, and that was one past generations were reluctant to address. In less developed countries, overpopulation was a problem in terms of access to basic resources. In more developed countries, it was a problem because of over-use of natural resources. The former was very obvious and directly impacted the people living there, the latter was no less of a problem but more hidden – at least for a while. Today, addressing overpopulation is taken for granted because we know and have seen how important it is. And as we have known for a long time, education and good social safety nets are the most effective ways to reduce or prevent overpopulation.

In the past, taxes were used in a somewhat misguided way. Now, most regions are much more intentional about taxing what we want less of (use of virgin natural resources, pollution), and not taxing or subsidicing what we want to encourage (including work). Also, many regions focus on a deeper form of democracy than in the past, with citizen councils, instant runoff voting, more thorough and instant fact checking of politicians, and mandatory voting.

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Pamela Wible: How the word “burnout” perpetuates a cycle of abuse

 

“Burnout” and similar labels are dangerous to the individual and also distract from the real diagnosis—human rights abuse. (FYI: Meditation, yoga, and taking deep breaths are not treatments for human rights violations.)

Pamela Wible, MD

This is an article written by my medical doctor in Oregon. She is saying the obvious: burnout is very often a symptom of abuse and human rights violations inherent in the workplace system. In this case, it’s the hospital system, but it’s also found in many other types of workplaces. We can do meditation, yoga, and many other things to try to cope with it, but that doesn’t deal with the abuse inherent in the system.

When it’s unethical to vote your conscience

 

Imagine you are in 1930s Germany. There are two opposing candidates to Hitler, one you like very much and one you don’t like so much. The one you like is out of the race, so you have the option of voting for the one you like not as much (who is opposing Hitler) or not voting. You chose to not vote. Hitler wins. In hindsight, how does your decision look? Wise and mature, or short-sighted and even dangerous?

I know it’s somewhat unfair to compare Trump to Hitler, but sometimes it’s good to amplify a situation – in this case through a thought experiment – to make a point. The point here is that, in some situations, it can be unethical to vote (or, in this case, not to vote) your conscience.

Voting is not really about ideology or having the perfect candidate, it’s about having a practical effect on society. And in this case, the practical effect of not voting can harm other groups in society far more than your own. Most of the “Bernie or bust” people are white, educated, and privileged. And the ones who will be most hurt by his candidacy are non-whites, immigrants, Muslims, and other minorities.

I understand it can feel good to take a “Bernie or bust” position. You may feel hurt by not being able to vote for your candidate, and sometimes it feels good to act reactively to hurt. If I can’t get what I want, I won’t participate at all, I won’t give you what you want. There may also be good reasons to justify such a position.

Still, reality is that voting or not voting has a very real and pragmatic effect on society. And in this case, if Trump is elected – perhaps partly due to people choosing to not vote – it will harm others far more than you. In this case, not voting is a lack of solidarity. It can even be dangerous.

Personally, I would have loved to see Bernie win. As it is now, I would vote for Clinton without hesitation, and mainly for the reasons above. Mainly out of solidarity with those who would be most harmed by a Trump presidency.

Note: I know that a big part of the problem in the US is the – quite undemocratic – two-party system. Germany in the early 1930s had a large number of parties so people could, in fact, vote their conscience. And a majority did vote for Hitler, largely out of fear and despair coming from their own personal situation.

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Trump as Loki

 

And if you have the sickening feeling this is only the beginning, you’re not alone. Trump, I’ve often said, is a manifestation of Loki, the god of misrule. Misrule breeds chaos. Chaos breeds violence. A political party that chooses Loki for its leader is a political party with a rank-and-file choosing chaos.

– from Trump is Loki in Commentary Magazine

This is from a few weeks ago, and it’s only one facet, but it’s still a good point.

Trump seems to delight in creating chaos, and he is more than willing to say untruths in order to create chaos. It gets people riled up, whether they latch onto what he says out of their own anger, or whether they react to it in disbelief and anger.

Trump embodying Loki is also why his campaign keeps baffling level headed people. He’ll say or do something outrageous, commenters assume he will alienate voters, and yet it either brings more support for him or has no discernable impact. That’s one reason why it’s conceivable that he may win the election. (In addition to Republicans voting republican, people voting to keep Clinton out of office, and the justified anger, frustration, and hopelessness many in the US experience which bring them to vote for someone speaking to their anger even if is solutions are nonsensical, uninformed, and absurd.)

Decline of the US empire

 

Military over-extension marks the decline of many empires. Currently, the US is a good example.

At the beginning of the Iraq war, Johan Galtung said the war would shorten the life of the US empire with a decade or more, and that may well be true if it’s not an under-estimate. Of course, the decline is and will probably be gradual and somewhat slow with no one obvious ending point.

It’s interesting how many in the US seem to be in denial that the US is an empire, which also means they are in denial of the current decline and inevitable fall of the US empire.

Just to be clear, this is about the US losing its international significance, not the immediate breakdown of the US as a nation. Although given enough time, that too is inevitable, as it is for everything and everyone.

Listen to an interview with Alfred McCoy, editor of Endless Empire, from University of the Air.

I also wrote about this in my “rants” blog around the time of the GW Bush version of the Iraq war.

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Brexit and Trump

 

Yes, the Brexit “leave” side has been marked by a lot of misinformation and emotional reactivity. And it may well be that many voted without knowing enough about the consequences. At the same time, there are very real reasons why people are scared, angry, and reactive. It’s a natural reaction to decades of policies that has weakened and harmed ordinary people and the working and middle classes. Neo-liberal globalization, privatization, austerity measures and more are all designed to benefit multi-national corporations, and they do so at the cost of the well-being of people, nature, and future generations.

People know and have to live with the consequences of this, and are understandably scared and angry. That’s why we get these types of votes, and also support for presidential candidates like Donald Trump. In my mind, the fear and anger is natural and understandable, and can even be healthy if channeled in constructive ways. But these more reactive and uninformed solutions, exemplified by Donald Trump, are very much misguided.

As I see it, Bernie Sanders is an example of someone who has a more sober and clear understanding of the problem and has constructive solutions that may actually benefit ordinary people, nature, and future generations. And I know very well that’s my bias and a product of my own background and experiences.

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