If I understand someone, it means X

 

Some folks think that if we understand why someone does something harmful, and perhaps find empathy and even love for them, it means we have to act a certain way. Basically, they think it means we’ll let them do whatever they want. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Reality is that understanding some reasons why someone behaves a certain way, and also finding empathy and genuine love for them, allows us to act less from reactivity and more from a sane and practical view. I am more able to act in a way that’s more kind and wise, and makes more practical sense.

I was reminded of this when I read about a political debate where one (Per Fuggeli) advocated understanding and empathy for refugees, and someone from a libertarian right wing party got upset about that idea. He seemed to think that understanding and empathy meant we had to accept everyone wishing to come to our country to live. That is, of course, a very naive way of looking at it. (And, as I see it, typical for people from that particular political party….!)

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Bernie Sanders

 

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I have to agree with Batman here. Sanders is polling strongly against both Clinton and Trump nationally, so why shouldn’t he win if people who favor him actually vote for him?

I see three different arguments among otherwise progressive folks: He can’t win against Clinton. He can’t win against the Republican candidate. And if he is elected, he won’t be able to implement any of his policies.

The two first arguments show a short memory since it’s what they said about Obama. The third argument seems a bit misguided. He will, of course, be able to implement put his stamp on policies during his term, as all presidents do, and he will be limited by the congress and many other factors, as all presidents are. More importantly, he will be able to highlight serious problems with the current system and a different way to organize ourselves. That in itself would be enough for me to vote for him. (Not that I can, since I am a US resident but not a citizen. A clear case of taxation without representation.)

Some also say that feminists should vote for Hillary Clinton since she is a woman. I thought feminism meant that women are able to think and chose for themselves? In any case, who is to say that not Sanders won’t do more for women – and people in general – than Clinton?

Less progressive folks argue that his policies are impractical, can’t be implemented, or will ruin the US. This is also a bit strange to me since most of Europe have functioned well on those policies for decades. In general, we know it can be done, and we also know that more egalitarian countries – where the difference between rich and poor is less – do much better on almost all measures. It benefits everyone.

P.S. For a while now I have had a sense that Bernie could win the nomination, and perhaps even the presidential election.

Ahead of our times

 

There has always been groups ahead of their times. I am obviously very biased, some of these seem pretty obvious, but here are some things I see as pointing forward in history.

A deeper respect for more of human diversity (ethnic, sexual etc.) and the unique gifts, insights and perspectives of each of these groups. This will be reflected more in media and storytelling. (Going far beyond what we see now.)

A deeper respect for all life. Including all life in the circles of “us”. A recognition that this deep respect for all life is essential for our own well being and survival. It’s good for us because it aligns with reality and what we already know.

A transformation in how we organize ourselves at all levels and areas of life. A deeper alignment with ecological realities in all areas including economy, production, architecture, engineering, transportation, education, energy use and more.

A deeper acknowledgment that we don’t know. A science that’s more integral, holistic, and inclusive. A science that has removed some of its current blinders.

A deeper sense of deep time, evolution, Big History, the Epic of Evolution, and what it means for all aspects of our lives.

A more integral and holistic approach to health. One that includes body, psyche, society, ecology, and spirituality.

A genuine and thorough scientific approach to what’s traditionally been the domain of spirituality.

A shift from policies that favor corporations and the few to policies that favor most people, ecological systems, and life.

Giving a voice and power to nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. Giving a voice to the voiceless in politics and the legal system. Simply because it’s the right thing to do, and it ultimately benefits all of us.

A shift from religions to spirituality. Holding ideas and ideologies more lightly, recognizing and emphasizing the universal core of all religions, and focusing on the practical aspects of spirituality.

Regenerative design. Design of buildings, cities, regions etc. so that we support thriving ecological and social systems.

A shift from treating animals as a resource “owned” by humans to thinking, feeling, experiencing beings with value of their own. A shift from seeing ecosystems as a resource to living systems with value on their own. A shift to giving nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future nonhuman and human generations a real voice and say in our decision and policy making. (As best as we can.)

As someone said, the future will probably not be as bad as we fear and not as good as we hope. I think the areas above will continue to develop and gain momentum but I don’t expect all of these to become mainstream to the extent I imagine they can be. They will be strands in how we humans experience the world and among many other strands. I also know that the way we see these things now will continue to develop and that our terminology and ideas about many of these things will relatively quickly be seen as obsolete. I am also hesitant even writing this because it’s just about identical to what I said and wrote about in my teens, and that suggests that I haven’t matured or developed much since then! (Which in some ways is true.)

There are many more finely grained things that probably will happen, at least among some people. For instance, it’s pretty certain that psychology will finally catch up to more of what different spiritual traditions have known about, explored, and developed over centuries and even millennia. Different states of experience. Enlightenment in the sense of what we are – that which experience happens within and as – noticing itself. The effects of body centered/inclusive practices. The effects of inquiry, and what different forms of inquiry can tell us about how the mind works. The effects of some forms of prayer such as the heart prayer.

Any scenarios about the future reflects what’s here now. It reflects my own world as I experience it. It reflects my ideas about the past and present projected into the future.

Climate change doesn’t matter

 

I have written about this before, and I remember having discussions about this back to middle and high school. (Including with a teacher who didn’t agree!)

Climate change doesn’t matter. Or, more precisely, whether climate change is happening (which it is), and whether climate change is human created (which it is), doesn’t matter. We still need to make the same changes.

There are innumerable reasons why we need to create a more deeply and genuinely sustainable way of organizing our lives, globally and locally, independent of climate change. We need to because our health and well-being is dependent on the health and well-being of the Earth as a whole. We need to because of unravelling ecosystems, which are life-support systems also for us. We need to because of environmental toxins. We need to because of dying oceans. We need to because of overuse of limited natural resources. We need to because of an economical system theoretically (but not in actuality) divorced from ecological realities. We need to because it harms us to harm non-human living beings. We need to because it harms us to harm future generations of our own and other species. We need to because of international laws and agreements benefiting multi-national corporations while harming people and nature. We need to because it just makes sense. We need to because it will be a boon to innovation and the economy. We need to because living in a way we know supports life (instead of harming it) is good for us as thinking feeling beings.

In this equation, climate change really doesn’t matter. It’s still happening. It’s still caused by us. It’s still serious, and has and will have serious consequences. And it doesn’t matter because there innumerable other reasons why we need to transform ourselves as a society and a species to live in a more deeply and genuinely life-supporting way.

Article: Have Americans gone crazy?

 

Americans who live abroad — more than six million of us worldwide (not counting those who work for the U.S. government) — often face hard questions about our country from people we live among. Europeans, Asians, and Africans ask us to explain everything that baffles them about the increasingly odd and troubling conduct of the United States.  Polite people, normally reluctant to risk offending a guest, complain that America’s trigger-happiness, cutthroat free-marketeering, and “exceptionality” have gone on for too long to be considered just an adolescent phase. Which means that we Americans abroad are regularly asked to account for the behavior of our rebranded “homeland,” now conspicuously in decline and increasingly out of step with the rest of the world.

– from Have Americans gone crazy? by Ann Jones in Salon

This article fits how I perceive the US, and also my experience with how many people around the world perceive the US. It does seem that people in the US have gone insane. And I would even use the word insane in it’s literal meaning.

I still love the US in many ways. I love the landscape, especially west of the Rockies. Many of my closest friends are from the US. (I am from Norway.) And many of the approaches I resonate with the most are from or have a strong foothold on the West Coast. And still, it does seem that many people in the US have lost their mind, especially in terms of politics.

 

 

Violence in the US

 

There are mass shootings almost daily in the US, which makes the US an anomaly among industrialized countries. Why is it so, and what can be done? My answers obviously reflect my own biases and limited understanding, and I also know that many of the solutions that make sense to me won’t have enough support to be implemented – at least not now.

  • Poor social safety nets. Although Obama has done what he can to improve this, many people still live in fear of living in poverty and possibly losing their home. This creates a culture of fear which sometimes takes the form of anger, hostility, polarization, and even violence. The solution is to create better social safety nets, similar to those in most countries in western Europe.
  • Gap between wealthy and poor. Again, this tends to fuel fear, resentment, polarization, anger, and even violence. The solution is to reduce the gap, partly through increasing minimum income so it’s a livable income, perhaps reducing maximum income, and implementing policies that benefit people and nature over corporations (reverse of how it often is today).
  • Sense of powerlessness A sense of powerlessness fuels fear, resentment, anger, and violence. Access to affordable education, a stronger political voice, and more power to workers help avoid this sense of powerlessness.
  • Political polarization. The current two-party system is increasingly polarized, encouraged by much of mainstream media. A multi-party system requires collaboration to a much higher degree. Political polarization leads to a habit of us-them thinking and even dehumanization, and this can – for some – lower the threshold for using violence. (This is a less important point than the others on this list but I thought I would include it.)
  • Untreated trauma. My impression is that there is more (obvious) trauma among people in the US than in western/northern Europe. I am not sure if that’s true. In any case, there is a great deal of untreated trauma, and trauma is often behind violence. If it was up to me, trauma education would be part of regular schooling, and simple trauma release practices such as TRE would be included in schools and workplaces.
  • Poor coping strategies and self-regulation. Learning better coping strategies and self-regulation in school and at workplaces will make a big difference, at least for some. Mindfulness and physical awareness (yoga, tai chi etc.) exercises could be part of this. And “mindfulness” could include recognizing presence, noticing content of experience, heart-centered practices, and simple forms of inquiry.
  • Easy access to guns. If you are angry and have easy access to guns, you are more likely to use them. It’s a simple equation. I know that liberals tend to focus on gun control. In itself, it’s a simplistic solution, but it’s one piece of the puzzle. Reducing the political influence of gun manufacturers is part of this solution.
  • And, as I saw someone suggesting, if gun owners were required to have liability insurance, that itself may lead to changes. The insurance industry would lean on politicians to change the law and regulations around gun ownership. (Making it more difficult, requiring training, requiring gun producers to install safer locks etc.)

I am sure I am missing important pieces here. And I also know that changing these depends on political will and agreement, and both of those seem in short supply in the US today.

Dual citizenship in Norway

 

Norway is one of the few western countries that do not allow dual (or triple) citizenship. Only a few of the smaller political parties support it, while the larger do not.

I have communicated with politicians from several of the larger parties on this topic, and am baffled by their response. Their main argument for denying dual citizenship is that people “will become less patriotic”. I am unable to see how that could be the case.

For most of my adult life, I have lived abroad, and if I could have dual citizenship the main difference would be practical. It would make many things easier for me. I cannot see how it would influence my “patriotism” or lack of it. (I can think of many other things that would influence it more, to be honest.)

My guess is that their aversion to allowing dual citizenship is more rooted in xenophobia and perhaps even racism. They don’t want to make it too easy for people from other countries become Norwegian citizens. But even that argument doesn’t make sense. If foreigners live in Norway while being citizens of other countries, they are still living and working in Norway. That won’t change.

It’s possible that I am missing something essential here, but this aversion to dual citizenship does seem irrational, illogical, and based in unquestioned tradition and perhaps emotional reasons. It does not seem to be based on a thorough examination of the situation, and what makes most sense in the world today.

Dalai Lama: God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place

 

People want to lead a peaceful lives. The terrorists are short-sighted, and this is one of the causes of rampant suicide bombings.

We cannot solve this problem only through prayers. I am a Buddhist and I believe in praying. But humans have created this problem, and now we are asking God to solve it. It is illogical. God would say, solve it yourself because you created it in the first place.

We need a systematic approach to foster humanistic values, of oneness and harmony. If we start doing it now, there is hope that this century will be different from the previous one. It is in everybody’s interest.

So let us work for peace within our families and society, and not expect help from God, Buddha or the governments.

– Dalai Lama to Deutsche Welle, November 2015

The future

 

It’s difficult to predict and especially about the future.

– paraphrased and unknown source

The future will not be as bad as we fear, nor as good as we hope.

– paraphrased and unknown source

Always in motion is the future.

– Yoda

It can be very helpful to explore scenarios about the future. Not because we are trying to get it right, but because these scenarios can help us make more conscious and intentional choices which impacts our lives in the future. We may decide we don’t want to act so certain scenarios come through, and we do want to act so other scenarios come through. By exploring scenarios about the future, especially in science fiction, we can also highlight aspects of our current society.

So what are some trends we need to be aware of? I cannot really say anything apart from what others are saying, but I can mention a few things here that seem important to me:

Multinational corporations and international laws and regulations favoring these corporations over people and nature. We need to implement policies that favor people, nature, and future generations. (Seems obvious, but too often the reverse is happening these days.)

A political system where politicians do not have incentive to act from a longer time perspective. We need a political system where people are rewarded for thinking, planning, and acting with a long term and global perspective in mind.

Lack of legal rights for nature and future generations. We need to give nature and future generations legal rights and a strong voice in our society and legal system. (With people appointed to give voice to these voiceless groups.)

A worldview that sees humans apart from nature, the Earth and the universe. This leads to many unfortunate and short sighted actions and decisions, at all levels. We need a worldview where humans are seen as embedded in wider social, ecological and cosmological systems, and where this is experienced, felt, and acted from. The Universe Story, the Great Story, Big History, and Practices to Reconnect are some ways to do this.

An approach to science that’s compartmentalized and fragmented. We need a more integral approach, for instance as explored by Ken Wilber and others.

A large gap between the super wealthy and the rest, and large proportions of humans living in poverty without consistent access to food, water, and education. We know that more egalitarian societies do better in almost every way, and that this gap creates tension, fear, and violence, so we need to take this more seriously. We need policies that help reduce the gap.

Western continued economical, political, and military imperialism. We need to strengthen local economies and traditional cultures around the world, and give them a stronger voice internationally.

Some other things that come to mind: Sustainable economics, transportation, technology, buildings etc. Biomimicry. Further research into mindfulness, meditation, inquiry, heart centered practices, body-mind practices etc. Taking research into the “paranormal” more seriously, including UFOs. (We know there are phenomena we don’t understand, so why not take this research seriously?)

In terms of the future, I do think that it won’t be as bad as some fear and not as good as some hope. It will be mixed, most likely. My guess is that we’ll see a water level rise from 5-10 meters within some decades, changes in food production, and some areas where many people now live becoming inhabitable with following migrations. Multinational corporations will continue to be quite powerful, including politically, unless something happens that brings it to people’s attention more than today. We will continue to develop and implement more sustainable technologies and ways of living, just because we have to and it makes sense in so many different ways. Some folks will continue to react to their own fear with violence, bigotry, and us-them thinking. Wild cards may happen such as major wars, major natural disasters, surprising scientific or technological breakthroughs, or even things like contact with an extraterrestrial civilization.

In terms of science, we know that our current scientific worldview will seem hopelessly outdated in the future. Views we today take for granted, and some of us think will never change, will be replaced by other views – usually ones that better fit the data. (It’s interesting that some scientists act and speak as if they don’t realize this, even if they must realize it as some level.)

With education, I assume the current trend of bringing mindfulness into schools will continue to spread, again because it makes sense and works. I also hope that additional practices, such as heart centered ones and inquiry, will be included more in the future. (These things may also go out of fashion, or there may be a backlash due to religious or atheist ideologies.)

I am aware that my views are obviously quite liberal, although I also think that much of what I wrote are things many will agree are important. For me, this has very little to do with idealism or even ethics. These are practical issues. If we create a world where we act more often from the bigger picture, and in a way that supports life at all levels, it benefits all of us and humanity as a whole.

These are mostly the same things that I was passionate about in my mid-teens, as with so many other things. I sometimes wonder if I am maturing much at all!

Cartoon: What can we do to lessen the grip of fear from terrorism?

 

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This may seem like denial, but the reality is that most of us are very safe from terrorism. It’s a negligible threat compared with unhealthy habits, car use, international regulations that favor corporations over people and nature etc. It’s focused on by the media because fear sells, and it’s more easily graspable than many of the other threats that are more significant but also more hidden because they happen somewhere else, are slow acting, or we are used to them. And some politicians use terrorism and fear to push through policies they have long wanted to push through for other reasons. (As we saw very clearly in the US after 911.)

Sally Kohn: Muslim shooter = entire religion guilty

 

Muslim shooter = entire religion guilty
Black shooter = entire ethnic group guilty
White shooter = mentally troubled lone wolf

– Sally Kohn

This shows the mentally of much of mainstream media in the west. The media is run by white people and they know white people the best, so they also know that white shooters are an anomaly. They typically know black people less well, so tend to blame the black culture. And they typically know muslim people even less well, especially personally, so allow it to color their view on a whole religion.

It’s patently absurd even on the face of it, so as usual I am partly surprised people allow themselves to be seen as so stupid and ill informed. (That goes for some reporters and anyone voicing those views.) And still, I know people react to their own pain in myriad of ways, and bigotry is one of them. To me, that bigotry is as or more dangerous as any small group of extremists taking to violence.

Terrorism: Hurt people hurt people

 

Why terrorism? Specifically, why the Muslim terrorism we see today?

To me, the most obvious answer is that alienation, trauma, and the way the west has treated the rest of the world for centuries = terrorism.

Alienation of Muslims in the west + individual and collective trauma (individual trauma from abuse, violence and poverty, and collective trauma from war, violence, poverty, authoritarianism ) + continued western military / economic / cultural imperialism = fear, anger, hurt, reactivity = radicalization and terrorism. It’s the perfect recipe. And to reduce and prevent terrorism, we need to change the elements of that equation.

Terrorism is a crime and needs to be treated as a crime. There is no question about that. I support that wholeheartedly.

It’s also obvious that war and (amazingly childish) retaliation doesn’t solve terrorism. It only fuels anger and resentment which in turn fuels further radicalization and terrorism. War is its own form of terrorism, and often has much more to do with control of natural resources and gaining a foothold in certain regions than dealing with terrorism.

It may seem that terrorism in this case has to do with religion, but to me that’s a lazy answer. Religion in itself is pretty neutral. It’s what we do with religion that matters. And what we do with it comes from our level of health or hurt. If we are deeply hurt, we may easily use religion or any other ideology to hurt others.

And who is to say that the way the west has treated the rest of the world isn’t terrorism? It has certainly terrorized people for centuries, and it continues today.

So what’s the answer? To me, it includes reducing alienation of non-westerners in western societies. Strengthen traditional cultures and self-reliance in cultures around the world. Reducing western cultural, economic and military influence around the world. Admitting openly to the trauma created from centuries of western imperialism and abuse. Healing trauma. Giving people a real opportunity for a good life.

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My experience with Lyme in Norway

 

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In mid-May, I noticed a numbness in hands, feet, and face, and weakness in my hands. Two weeks later, I discovered a red ring on the underside of my arm, near the armpit. I went to a doctor who thought it could be Lyme disease and gave me a five-day antibiotics treatment (this was in the US). The numbness went away after one day.

Two weeks later, in Norway, the symptoms returned and were much stronger. The numbness was back in my hands, feet, and face, and now also tongue and mouth (and a bit later lower arms), along with stiff neck, very strong brain fog and grogginess, and fatigue. (The initial extremely strong fatigue and brain fog could be related to jet lag, and I also have baseline fatigue and brain fog from the CFS. Although the unusually strong grogginess remains now even after the jetlag is gone.) I also have a weak grip (things slip out of my hands), and when I get up after resting I move and feel like an old man.

I had gathered that Lyme is a controversial topic in Norway. The official position seems to be that the infection itself doesn’t last very long. (If the symptoms are longer lasting, it’s something else.) Doctors who treat this “non-existing” disease in Norway risk losing their license and one did even last year.

When I called my regular doctor, I got an appointment the same day by the receptionist. She called back within an hour and said that when the doctor had heard why I wanted to see him, he canceled the appointment and said I could possibly get an appointment two months later. A bright spot: Some days later, I was able to get an appointment. My doctor looked at the red ring, did some neurological tests, and agreed that Lyme is a probable diagnosis. He gave me a relatively mild two-week antibiotics treatment.

From what I understand, it’s important to treat it more thoroughly, especially early in the process, to prevent problems later on. I got the names of some doctors who may be more knowledgeable about Lyme and contacted several of them. The pattern was the same with all of them: When they heard why I wanted to see them, they either didn’t respond or said they possibly had an appointment about two months in the future (and to call them them to set it up).

The last one I talked with was initially friendly and welcoming, and when heard why I called responded: “that’s a controversial topic in Norway, I need to go now and will call you back later, goodbye”. And then didn’t respond to my later attempts at contacting him.

The essence is that it seems impossible to get quality treatment for Lyme disease in Norway. That’s why most Norwegians with Lyme disease go to Germany or Poland to see doctors there.

Several things come up for me around this:

I had expected Norwegian doctors to at least have the integrity to tell me they can’t treat me since they may lose their license if they do. Instead, they either cancel my appointment, don’t respond, or tell me to call back in two months. (Which seems irresponsible considering my symptoms,)

Since there is disagreement about Lyme internationally, I would expect the Norwegian doctors and government to take a precautionary approach. To treat any possible or likely Lyme disease thoroughly (initial four or six-week antibiotics treatment + anti-cyst medication). Instead, they chose to not treat it, avoid patients who may have it, or they treat it in a minimalistic way that may make it worse in the long run.

I don’t know the politics around this, but the official policy on Lyme in Norway does seem to be influenced by politics, and perhaps arrogance and wounded egos.

I should mention that I am among the more cautious when it comes to using medication and antibiotics (also to reduce the risk of creating more antibiotic-resistant strains), but in this case, the risks of leaving it untreated or wrongly treated seem serious enough so I chose to go the medical and precautionary route.

This also triggers the victim identity in me, since it comes on top of my existing struggles with CFS, and it happened just as I left the US (where I could have received the proper treatment) for Norway (where I can’t).

Update: It seems there are three possibilities when people are infected by Lyme. (a) It lasts for a relatively short period of time and then is gone, perhaps due to antibiotics treatment. (b) It can become longer-lasting, due to continued infection. (c) There may be an auto-immune response which creates problems. I am sure there are other possibilities too. I haven’t read much about it yet.

Update 2, mid-July 2015: I went to Poland to see a Lyme specialist there. It turns out that he also specializes in CFS. It’s possible that there is a weakness in my system that makes me more susceptible to both CFS and Lyme. He took a good number of tests to get an idea of what’s going on, and what the best course of treatment may be. One of the main questions is why my mitochondria seem compromised, and unable to produce as much energy as they normally would. I feel a little better, partly from what he gave me, and partly from feeling I am in good hands and that someone actually takes my case seriously and may be able to do something about it.

Update 3, July 16, 2015: I had an appointment with my regular doctor in Norway (about referral to neurologist for CFS), and he interrupted me and changed the topic as soon as I tried to give him an update about the Lyme. I still have numbness in arms, legs, and face, a stiff neck, strong headache, very strong grogginess, memory problems, diarrhea, and more, so it seems irresponsible by him to dismiss it – to the point of not even wanting to hear about it. (The symptoms are stronger some days than others, and obviously quite debilitating.)

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Processed food and hopelessness 

 

Nothing new here, but a useful reminder:

I went walking in the woods yesterday. The journey, which was intended to be brief, ended up much longer than planned, and I eventually found myself quite hungry and somewhere I hadn’t been before. There was a McDonald’s there and a bus heading back to the house, so I decided to have a meal at McDonald’s, as part of the adventure. (A meal with milk shake and ice cream.)

Predictably, I didn’t feel good for the rest of the day and the morning after. And specifically, I noticed hopelessness and sluggishness set in, along with a craving for more dairy and junk food. I usually don’t eat/drink dairy, apart from some kefir, because I feel sluggish from it. And I usually don’t eat junk food (fast food, sweets, chips etc.) because my system feels off when I do, and it does seem to bring about a sense of hopelessness for me. Another reason I mostly avoid this is that junk food creates a craving for more junk food. It feeds on itself.

For me, the effects of foods are most noticeable in how they affect my mind. Dairy makes me feel sluggish and drowsy. Sugar makes me feel drained and tired. Wheat makes my mind feel a bit weird and off. Junk food creates hopelessness. And so on. It seems that highly processed foods tend to fuel and activate painful beliefs, identifications, and a victim mentality, at least in my experience. Vegetables, moderate amounts of fruit, and non-wheat grains are usually fine, as are most unprocessed foods.

Now, two days later, the effects are mostly gone. I had a strong craving for more junk food yesterday (anything would have done), but didn’t indulge so it’s mostly gone today. My mind also feels more clear again.

From talking with others, it seems that I am not the only one experiencing heavily processed food in this way. It’s almost astonishing that they are allowed to sell and advertise it. Especially knowing that the food itself is designed, and intentionally so, to create more cravings for it. It’s a drug you can become addicted to. It does impact the mind (and obviously the body) quite strongly, and not in a favorable way. And it doesn’t provide any (real) value beyond that of less processed foods. To put it crudely, it’s there to line the coffers of large corporations.

Universal basic income

 

The city has paired up with the local university to establish whether the concept of ‘basic income’ can work in real life, and plans to begin the experiment at the end of the summer holidays.

Basic income is a universal, unconditional form of payment to individuals, which covers their living costs. The concept is to allow people to choose to work more flexible hours in a less regimented society, allowing more time for care, volunteering and study.

University College Utrecht has paired with the city to place people on welfare on a living income, to see if a system of welfare without requirements will be successful.

Dutch city of Utrecht to experiment with a universal, unconditional ‘basic income’, The Independent,

We don’t lack good ideas or practical solutions. Although we often lack the political willingness to implement it, or at least try it to see how it works and how to tweak it to work better.

So it’s good to see the idea of an universal basic income put into life. It will free up a lot of resources through reduced bureaucracy. It will reduce the survival fear among people and in the society.  (Which I think is a major reason for a lot of the weirdness seen in, for instance, the US today. Survival fear in itself, along with the trauma it tends to produce, creates fear driven compulsive behavior, including addictions, workaholic behavior, and political and religious fundamentalism, and this fundamentalism even includes science denial.) It will free up people to experiment and be more creative in how they make a living, and in following their dreams and passions to a greater extent. All of this will benefit society as a whole, likely even financially.

Another idea I would like to see applied in more places is instant runoff voting. That’s a system which allows people to vote for the parties or candidates they actually prefer, without having to resort to “strategic voting” and voting for the least of several evils. (Of course, this is often not in the interest of the larger parties, which I suspect is why it hasn’t been implemented in more communities or countries.)

Why do we lack the political will to implement these ideas? There are many reasons: People don’t know about it. The media ignores it, or mention these solutions in passing, or present them as slightly utopian or harebrained unpractical ideas. The media often share the interests of large corporations, and these often see themselves as having different interests from the society as a whole (they may see some of these solutions as a potential threat to their autonomy and profits). The ones in power – corporations, politicians, and media – often fear and may actively resist any change that can upset or shift the power in society. (And they can and do influence public opinion, often in a direction that’s not in the interest of the majority of the population. We see this a lot in the US today, both among democratic and republican voters.) Also, there is lethargy and wishing to stay with what’s known and familiar unless there is a very strong, obvious, and immediate reason for change.

Trauma and politics

 

I imagine there is a connection between trauma and politics.

I wonder if trauma sometimes leads to supporting more fear-based politics? More extreme politics, whether it’s left or right? Xenophobia? Harshness? Science denial? Conspiracy theories? A politics that reflects fear, blame, anger, reactiveness?

Since my (brief) exposure to Fox News, I have wondered about this connection. Maybe that type of (reactive, fear based) politics is a way of coping with the trauma, for some?

Of course, it’s not always like that. I know many with trauma who are very compassionate, and very balanced in their views.

I don’t want to oversimplify it, or make assumptions not based on research, and I especially don’t want to use the trauma explanation to dismiss people’s political views.

At the same time, it would be an interesting question for research, and perhaps it’s already being done.

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Fox News

 

I happened to watch a few minutes of Fox News the other day.

I have known about them for a while, of course. Including that Fox News viewers tend to know less about the world, and have more inaccurate factual information, than those who take in any other news source.

I was still struck by how toxic it seemed. Divisive. Angry. Humorless.

I know there is a grain of truth to their views, as there is to any view. And that the groups I tend to identify with – progressives, liberals, greens, integralists – don’t have all the answers.

And yet, I am amazed that anyone would want to take this in. It seems that it would make for a quite unhappy mindset. But perhaps many who watch it already see the world this way, so it feels familiar and comforting – in an odd way.

It’s perfectly possible to hold conservative views and still be sane, rational, and even reasonable. (Although in the US, that tends to be the type of conservatives that are less vocal and less visible these days.) I have to remind myself of that after this glimpse into the world of Fox News.

I don’t mind people with conservative views. I know there are very good evolutionary reasons why some are more liberal, and some more conservative. We need both groups to survive as a species.

And I also tend to prefer a more sane approach to politics, no matter the political orientation.

It did seem quite insane to me. Or rather, I felt a bit insane while watching it, so I projected that onto Fox News.

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Fear packaged as something else

 

I saw an interview with George Takei and Stuart Milk, the head of the Milk Foundation, about the new Indiana anti-gay “religious freedom” law. Stuart Milk said, quite accurately, that this is hatred packaged as religious freedom.

I would say that behind hatred is fear. What we call hatred is how we sometimes relate to and express fear, when that fear is not rested with. When it’s not noticed and allowed in loving presence. When the stories creating it are unquestioned. It’s a way to try to protect the me.

These days, and for as long as we know, this has been packaged in many different ways. As religion. As politics. Even, especially cleverly, as reasonable and fair questions.

Today, in the west, Muslims are often seen as a fair target for this packaging. And in the US, other targets are sometimes gay people, and non-Christians.

How do I do the same? I do it whenever I go into beliefs. Whenever I try to defend a point of view. That doesn’t mean I should try to avoid any opinions. Opinions and views are part of being human. They are part of being an engaged citizen. And at the same time, whenever I notice a charge here, and going into an us vs them way of thinking, I can take a closer look at what’s going on.

Am I packaging unloved fear, and unquestioned fearful stories, as (a little too forceful) opinions?

GMOs

 

I have seen several articles where they say that people against GMOs are anti-scientific. Some of them are from The Guardian, which seems surprising.

There are a few different reasons why I disagree with this.

One is that it’s far too early to draw a final conclusion about the impact on human and ecosystem health of GMOs. See for instance No Scientific Consensus on GMO Safety from Environmental Sciences Europe. Jane Goodall, among others, have written about this.

Another is that the ecosystem impacts from, for instance, overuse of pesticides due to pesticide-resistant GMO plants, is a very real and serious concern.

And yet another is because of the business practices behind GMOs and the impact on farmers and (especially traditional) communities. Vananda Shiva is one of several who speaks and writes about this.

There are several reasons to be skeptical or opposed to GMOs, and the human health aspect is just one of them, and – in my mind – not the most important one. For me, the ecosystem impacts and the business practices are far more important and sufficient reasons to be opposed to GMOs.

When people write or talk about those skeptical or opposed to GMOs as anti-science, they seem to describe themselves. They ignore the other – legitimate and valid – reasons to be opposed to GMOs. They seem to pretend they don’t exist.

They seem try to paint a picture of this group of people as unscientific so their arguments can be easily rejected, including the ecosystem and social justice arguments.

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Eco-fascism

 

I am ambivalent about right wing sustainability.

It’s good that sustainability is a concern across the political spectrum, and I wish to support that.

At the same time, would I really want to cooperate with eco-fascists? With fascists who happen to be into sustainability and even deep ecology? I don’t know. I guess I could if I made it clear that I don’t support many of their other views, we agree to disagree on those, and leave what we disagree on aside while focusing on practical sustainability solutions we can agree on. I see that as very possible.

It’s interesting that right wing folks in the US often are vehemently against sustainability, while right wingers in other places of the world often see sustainability as central to their orientation and views. After all, being conservative – at least in my view – means protecting our natural resources for our children, and be good stewards of God’s creation. It can also mean protecting the nature where our ancestors lived, and which formed our culture.

Of course, the ancestors of white conservatives in the US didn’t live in the US, and their culture was not formed by this landscape. Maybe that’s part of the reason for this disconnect. Maybe that’s why they see it as more OK to ravage it, while people living where their ancestors lived – and where their culture was formed – are more inclined to protect it.

I also realize there are many ways of being conservative, and I agree with many of the views of traditional conservatives. (At least in terms of being a good steward and caring for our families, communities, and culture.)

It seems that it’s more the neo-liberals who feel threatened by the idea of sustainability. They see it as impinging on the freedom of businesses and corporations to do what they want to make more money. Which is true. Although they sometimes overlook the huge business opportunities in sustainability and our transition to a more sustainable society.

I suspect that in the (near?) future, neo-liberals or their ideological heirs will embrace sustainability exactly for that reason. It means new and amazing business opportunities, the possibility of big profits, and even the possibility to channel public money to corporations (now) working with sustainability.

Anti-science attitudes

 

Anti-science attitudes are on the rise these days, also in the western world, and many wonder why. These anti-science views include creationism, climate-change rejection, religious fundamentalism, some of the more ungrounded conspiracy theories, and some liberal and new age views (hardcore anti-vaccination).

I am no expert, although I find this topic fascinating. I wouldn’t mind studying and learning more about it.

Here are some thoughts for now:

It may be a form of protest. Perhaps a protest against a certain group of people.

For some, this group may be the intellectual elite in the western world, such as scientists and academics. For others, it may be westerners in general.

In each case, those promoting anti-science views may intentionally be rejecting values and views central to the group they want to distance themselves from.

And they may do that, in part, because they feel powerless. It may come from pain.

Non-westerns may wish to reject western imperialism in it’s many forms, including in the form of culture, religion, economics, and military power. They feel threatened. Their traditional way of life is threatened. Their autonomy is threatened. Their control over their own country and resources is threatened. (I support this, by the way, although I would have chosen another strategy than this, or violence.)

So in wishing to reject western imperialism, they reject core western values and views. They may do it partly in an attempt to reject the whole western imperialist package. They may do it as a way of dealing with their own hurt and pain. They may do it because they know it’s exasperating and frustrating to westerners and those holding western values. And they may not even know exactly why they do it, they are just compelled to do it.

Within the western world, many also feel disempowered, and may experience resentment towards those in power – including the intellectual elite. So they too chose to express it through rejecting core values and views of this group. They wish to distance themselves from them. They wish to create and maintain an identity that’s different from the elite in essential ways. And what’s better than rejecting science, and perhaps embracing certain new age views or religious fundamentalism. That sets them apart. That’s a way to say to oneself I am right, they are wrong. (As the elite does towards them.) It’s a way to frustrate the elite and watch them squirm.

What’s the solution to this? It seems simple: Take them seriously. Take their (perceived) disempowerment seriously. Take their pain seriously. Listen to them. Do something about it.

Update: After writing this, I saw a post on Facebook that relates to this topic. It was a post about “US aggression against Russia in Ukraine” from an organization that works against neo-liberal corporate globalization. It seems another example of the dynamic I explored here. These folks may be frustrated about the US role in promoting corporate globalization (I agree on that point), see the US government as an enemy, so they go too far and see “the enemy of my enemy as a friend”. They take a situation where it seems clear that Russia – against all international agreements and laws – invaded and occupied parts of Ukraine, and where Western Europe and the US have shown remarkable restraint, and turn it upside down and inside out in order to make it the fault of the US. To me, it seems absurd, although I may also miss something here.

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Religion is politics

 

In a recent letter to the editor in a Norwegian news outlet, a conservative politician is upset about a pro-sustainability statement from the Norwegian church. She says that religion should have nothing to do with politics.

For me, it seems clear that religion is politics. All religions I am aware of are – at their heart – socially engaged, and on the side of the weak, the voiceless, nature, and future generations. And sometimes this gets watered down, or ignored, or even reversed if it’s in the interest of people higher up in the religious hierarchy.

Also, as the New Testament shows, Jesus was a radical. He repeatedly spoke out against the establishment, and for the outcast, downtrodden, weak, voiceless, and those looked down upon by the establishment. He spent his time with prostitutes, lepers, tax collectors, and others typically avoided by mainstream society. Today, he would most likely speak out for transsexuals, Muslims, the poor, and also nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations.

Of course, this reflects my own bias. I cast religion, and Jesus, in my own image. Religions do have traditionally conservative elements too, such as emphasis on family and stability.

But none of them prescribe silence in the face of injustice, discrimination, or harm to living being.

On the contrary, they prescribe action. And action is political.

When this conservative politician is upset about a pro-sustainability statement from the church, it’s perhaps because it (a) goes against the policies of her own party, and (b) highlights a cognitive dissonance for her between the heart of Christianity and those policies. Again, I know that view reflects my own bias. If I talked with her, I would probably get a more nuanced – and understanding – view.

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Conspiracies

 

I sometimes run into people who have strong feelings about certain possible conspiracies.

A couple of things strike me about this:

If there is a charge around it for the person, it’s a sign of projections. (AKA velcro, identifications.) That’s fine, but good to notice. And I can use it as a mirror for myself in two ways: (a) How am I doing the same, perhaps even in my view of them? (b) What does it say about me? What does it say about me that I sometimes have to endure such people?

The conspiracies many are focused on often seem (a) questionable and unsubstantiated, and (b) minor. Why not instead focus on the conspiracies that are (a) undeniable, and (b) major? Why not focus on the influence multi-national corporations have on international and national policies? Why not focus on wars started, for a large part, to benefit corporations? (Such as the Iraq war.) Why not focus on the influence of money on politics? Why not focus on the fact that we all participate in destroying our own life support system? Why not focus on how our current ways of organizing society is harming future generations?

I realize that there are answers to these questions. Some just want an outlet for their frustration, and quirky conspiracy theories does that. In some cases, there may be a grain of truth -or more – in their views. Many don’t resonate with a bigger picture view – one that includes the Earth as a whole and a timeline that span generations. Essentially, going into conspiracy theories – with a charge behind it, comes from attempting to not feel what’s here.

Islam?

 

After the fall of the Soviet Union, Islam has become the new scapegoat – and favorite shadow projection object – for some in the west.

A lot of what’s going on seems so obvious that it’s hardly worth even mentioning. But if it was that obvious, I guess there wouldn’t be so much (apparently unquestioned) projection.

Here are some things that comes to mind:

Islam has become a favorite projection object for the shadow, for that in ourselves we don’t acknowledge and consciously embrace and own. We see it out there, and not “in here”. In reality, it’s very easy to make a list of all the “bad” things some see in Islam or Islamic cultures today, and find how we do the same – as individuals, nations, and a culture.

Religions may tend to be more or less peaceful in their expression. Buddhism tends to be more at the peaceful end, and the theistic (and Abrahamic) traditions less so. And yet, there is plenty of exceptions. Nothing is inevitable. Religions are, in a sense, tools, and it all depends on how we use them.

Islam isn’t inherently or inevitably less peaceful than, for instance, Christianity. For instance, during the golden age of Islam, Christian cultures tended be be far more barbaric and uncivilized than Islamic cultures. And many Muslims are far more peaceful and mature than many Christians (and vice versa).

The actions of western cultures goes a long way to explain why some in Islamic (and other) cultures are angry, feel powerless, and take to violence. We have acted in a very violent way towards them – economically, culturally, and militarily – so they are just doing the same thing back against us. It’s very understandable, even if a strategy of violence may not work very well. (It seems more a way of letting out frustration and anger.)

Similarly, some western politicians may – intentionally or not – fuel the scapegoating of Islam to distract from more local problems, and what they – and we – are doing that’s equally or more damaging or questionable.

I assume that in some years, when this is part of history and the history books, people will wonder how we – in the west – could have been so blind. How could we have been so blind to the obvious shadow projections? How could we have been so blind to our role in the dynamic? And yet, that’s what we humans tend to do. It’s part of being human.

What we can do is to bring it more into awareness. Be honest with ourselves. Take responsibility for our part of the dance. Perhaps explore this through inquiry, tonglen, ho’oponopono, and other practices.

Doing what’s easy and attractive

 

I watched the climate change episode of the new Cosmos series with Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and was surprised that he named “greed” as the main reason for the problems we are facing.

That may be a small part of it. But it’s not the main part, and it’s also not a helpful orientation if we want a change. We have tried shaming and blaming, and it doesn’t work very well.

To me, it’s mainly structural. And it’s also about identity.

We have an economical system  that’s not aligned with ecological realities. It’s created as if there is unlimited natural resources, and unlimited capacity to absorb waste and toxins. And the same goes for how we have organized ourselves in terms of transportation, energy, waste, politics, education, and more. None of these systems have been designed with ecological realities in mind.

And there is a good reason why: they didn’t need to. When they were designed, or when they evolved into what we have today, ecological concerns were peripheral at best. Other concerns were far more salient and important. Ecology wasn’t important, since we didn’t have the technology to wreak the kind of havoc we can today, and we also didn’t have the numbers to make it add up the way it does today. Our current systems were designed in a very different situation than we have today, and they are outdated, and have been for a while now.

These systems were designed, unintentionally, so that what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and societies – often happens to be what’s destructive for the living systems we are part of, and depend on for our well beings and lives. It doesn’t make sense, but that’s how it is right now. More and more people are waking up to this.

And we cannot fix it by patching here and there. We need to redesign these systems at a very basic level. We need to redesign them so that what’s easy and attractive to do, is what’s most supportive – or even restorative – for the Earth’s living systems, for ourselves and our families, for the global society, for non-human species, and for future generations.

We know quite a few solutions. One is to tax what we don’t want, and subsidize what we want more of. Another is to set product prices so they reflect an approximation of the real ecological, health, and human costs of the product.

This is also about identity.

If we see ourselves as an integral part of the Earth’s living systems, we are more likely to be concerned with this and support the solutions.

And if we are faced with (a) reasons to support these changes that fit into our existing values and identity, and (b) solutions that do the same, we are also much more likely to see this as important, and actively support it – through voting and how we live our lives.

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Conservative identity, climate change, and framing

 

Conservatives who reject the science of climate change aren’t necessarily reacting to the science, according to a new study from researchers at Duke University. They’re reacting to the fact that they don’t like proposed solutions more strongly identified with liberals.

– from Conservatives Don’t Hate Climate Change, They Hate The Proposed Solutions: Study in Huffington Post

There may be a scientific answer for why conservatives and liberals disagree so vehemently over the existence of issues like climate change and specific types of crime.

A new study from Duke University finds that people will evaluate scientific evidence based on whether they view its policy implications as politically desirable. If they don’t, then they tend to deny the problem even exists.

– from Denying Problems When We Don’t Like The Solutions, Duke University

This can be understood through the lens of identity. Conservatives assume that the solutions to climate change don’t fit with their conservative identity, so they deny the problem even exists.

My uncle is a good example. He deeply loved nature and even taught biology at the university. At the same time, he deeply despised hippies and environmentalists. So he would take a position against sustainability and anything else he associated with dirty hippies and dangerously naive environmentalists. This included the reality and importance of climate change. It’s possible that the thought of agreeing with dirty hippies was too much for him, even if he loved nature and was an environmentalist at heart.

How can we use this understanding? For instance, how can  we frame the topic so it’s less threatening to the conservative identity, or so it fits well into and is attractive to the conservative identity?

Here are some ideas for framing and communication:

Highlight reasons for supporting sustainability that match conservative values and identity. It allows us to maintain our society and traditions. It’s good for business. (Opens for new business opportunities.) It’s good for our families and children, and their children. We take care of God’s creation. We are better stewards of God’s creation. 

Highlight solutions that fit into conservative values and identity. (See that there are solutions that are non-threatening, or even attractive, from a conservative view.) Reduce taxes on sustainable technology, products and energy. Subsidize businesses that move strongly in a sustainable direction, in how they operate and the services and products they offer. Emphasize business opportunities. Support innovation in sustainable products and services.

Highlight conservative business and political leaders who (a) acknowledge the need for sustainability, (b) support sustainability, and (c) embrace solutions to sustainability that fits into the conservative values and identity. (See that it’s possible.)

 And some research ideas:

Divide up in two, three or four conservative groups: cultural conservatives, old fashioned business conservatives, free-market liberals, libertarians.

Offer differently framed messages, and see if how they respond.

Different messages: (a) Connect it with traditional environmentalists and their message. (This would be a control group of sorts, and is likely to get an averse reaction from many.) (b) Highlight how it fits conservative values. (c) Highlight solutions that fit conservative values. (d) Highlight conservatives who actively support sustainability. (e) Combine b-d. (f) Possibly target the different types of conservatives within b-d.

The control group would receive an unrelated message before answering these questions. The other groups would receive the messages outlined above.

Outcomes: How important they see sustainability. If they see sustainability as desirable and supportive of families, communities, and business. Their support of solutions aligned with their values. How important it is that the solutions and approaches align with their (conservative) values.

Do preliminary studies and interviews to (a) identify types of conservatives, and (b) which types of messages seem to resonate the most for each of these types.

The message can be written, or audio or video.

It’s important to note that this is coming from an honest place. By framing the message so it fits conservative values and identities, it’s just made available to another group of people. They get to see that sustainability very well can fit their values. And, possibly, that it’s something they can support more wholeheartedly through voting, words and actions.

Note: What are the values of a green conservative? It will depend on the type of conservative, and there are probably books on the topic, and groups out there who define as green conservatives. And, of course, as with any greens, there are light (small steps) and deep (deep restructuring) variations, and also green-washing (sustainability in name only).

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Climate change

 

When it comes to climate change, it’s interesting how the public discourse has been derailed, and especially in the US.

It’s been derailed in a couple of different ways. First, through confusion about the science. And then, through framing it in terms of cost.

To me, another approach makes much more sense:

We need to align with ecological realities anyway, climate change or no climate change. We need to restructure our systems – in economy, production, energy, food, transportation and more – so they reflect ecological realities. And the sooner we do it, the easier the transition will be, and the less it will cost us. (Waiting costs us in terms of health, quality of life, natural disasters, ecological degradation.)

And this is an amazing opportunity. It will fuel innovation and new industries on a scale rivaling and surpassing the industrial revolution. The green revolution is an opportunity for us to intentionally redesign how we organize ourselves at all levels and in all sectors of society, in a way that improves quality of life, benefits our health, is deeply democratic, requires creativity and innovation, and fuels technology and industry. We have an opportunity to redesign our systems so that what’s easy and attractive to do for individuals and corporations is also what’s good for the larger social and ecological systems, nonhuman species, and future generations.

Why has the public discourse been derailed? There may be several reasons.

The petroleum industry is intentionally muddling the water. One example is paying scientists from non-climate fields to pose as climate experts.

The topics may appear as a threat to those with a strong free-market ideology. They fear, perhaps rightly so, that the necessary changes will require strong political leadership and public institutions.

The topic may trigger anti-authoritarian or anti-elitist responses.

More generally, the topic doesn’t fit some people’s identity. They associate it with earlier generation environmentalists and hippies, and they don’t want to be like them.

There is a general misperception in several areas. There is a perception of….. (a) Disagreement among scientists, where in reality 99% agree it’s happening, it’s human caused, and the sooner we do something the better. (b) There being more climate deniers than there actually is. The reality is typically 8-5% or less. (c) It costing us and being a drawback, instead of an amazing and unique opportunity.

The topic may seem distant. It may seem overwhelming. It may trigger fear and guilt.

For me, climate change has been two things since I first heard about it. (a) A focal point for the changes we need to make anyway, for those concerned with climate change. And (b) an irrelevant distraction since we need to make the changes anyway. Which one I emphasize depends on the situation and audience.

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Throwing away the umbrella in the rain

 

Throwing away the umbrella in a rainstorm because you are dry. 

That’s one of the things we do when we lose perspective.

One example is vaccinations. We live in a society where several illnesses are rare, much because of vaccinations. So a chain of events sometimes happen: People benefit from living in this situation. They think they don’t need to vaccinate their kids. And the illnesses return. (I am aware of some of the concerns about vaccines, and share many of them. But for me, the solution is not to discard vaccines altogether. It’s rather to improve the safety of vaccines, and reduce or remove the influence of money on policy decisions.)

Another is libertarians, and even economic neoliberalism. In our society, we benefit amazingly and in innumerable ways from socially conscious policies implemented over the last few generations. (Often through great social struggles.) And again, a chain of events take place: People benefit from these policies, often in ways they are not even aware of or think about. They think they don’t need these policies, and perhaps only see the cost. So they support changing or removing these policies. Which in turn may have dramatic consequences for certain groups of people, and society as a whole. (It may even harm the ones who supported the changes.)

In Norway these days, we see the latter among those who support FrP…..

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Greed?

 

Some say “greed” is the cause of our current ecological problems.

That may be a tiny part of the answer, but not the most helpful one, and perhaps also not the most important one.

Another answer is that we have a system – in our economy, transportation, energy, production and more – that does not take ecological realities into account. It’s a system that made sense when it was created, and no longer makes much sense. It’s also a system where what’s easy and attractive in short term is destructive of our life support system, for regional and global ecosystems, for nonhuman species, for future generations, and ultimately for ourselves.

The answer is simple. We need to redesign our systems so what’s easy and attractive to do is not only good for ourselves and our families, but also for our wider social and ecological systems. We know how to do it. We have the solutions. What we are lacking, so far, is the sense of urgency needed to actually make it happen.

That urgency will come. And the work that’s done today – both theoretically and practically – in creating solutions and a new way of organizing ourselves is vital. It’s what the new system will (or may) grow out of.

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Islam, fundamentalism and scapegoating

 

It’s very clear that Islam in general, and Islamic fundamentalism in particular, serve as the main scapegoat in western culture these days. It’s a favorite shadow projection object for many, and it tends to cloud rationality and reason – as it has historically in similar situations.

It’s equally clear that the threat from Islamic fundamentalists, although real and needs to be addressed, is very small. It completely pales in comparison with so many other things, including that we still live in and propagate social systems – in economy, production, transportation, food production and more – that are not aligned with ecological realities. By living within these, we are destroying our own life support system. If we were to be upset about something, and pour great amounts of resources into something, that’s it. And there are so many other areas more important than the threat from small groups of terrorists. (For instance, more people die in traffic accidents in North America each week than died in 911.)

And, although I am no expert here, it does seem that Islamic fundamentalism has one main cause, and that’s how the west has treated the rest of the world over the last several centuries. It seems to be a very understandable reaction to imperialism of all sorts – military, economic, cultural and more. And yet, that’s not something we hear much about from politicians and media.

I realize there are good reasons for this. More generally, shadow projection is very common at individual and group levels. And in this case, as so often before, this tendency is harnessed and channeled by some who have the means to do so, and gain from doing so. It’s in many people’s interest that we have an “external” scapegoat. It distracts from what’s happening here. It galvanizes people. It scares people so it’s easier to push through policies and military interventions that it otherwise would be difficult to get support for. It is also good for the media, since fear sells newspapers and news shows. I also realize that most people are not very rational when it comes to assessing and ranking threats. What’s dramatic and immediate, and what the media and politicians focus on, is what many will perceive as the biggest threat. And I realize that if the media and politicians would acknowledge and address our own role in the rise of Islamic fundamentalism, however indirect it is, that wont’ be very popular amongst a certain segment of the population (the more conservative, mostly).

P.S. Some articles do address this, as this article I just came across.

Economic growth?

 

I listened to a talk on limits to economic growth, suggesting that we need zero growth or “degrowth”. I know that these ideas were popular several decades ago, and am surprised to see it presented in that way today.

We have an economical system that’s not aligned with ecological realities, and is terrible – for people, the Earth and future generations – no matter what type of growth we have, whether it’s the usual growth, zero growth or degrowth.

We need an economical system that is aligned with ecological realities, where what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals and corporations – is good for people, the Earth and future generations.

And that is very much possible. We created our current economical system. It made sense, to some extent, at the time it was initially developed. And we can develop a quite different system. A good question here is: if we were to create an economic system today, with our current knowledge and values, how would it look?

A few things are clear: We need strong institutions to regulate it so corporations don’t take over the policy process. And, for instance…….. Strong taxes on what we don’t want or want less of, such as use of fossil fuels and natural resources, and relatively useless activities such as trading stocks. And incentives for what we do want more of, such as renewable energy use, local trading, worker owned businesses, rengenerative design and more.

We can also say that we need an economical system that supports certain types of growth (quality of life, well being, knowledge), more – for a time – of other types of growth (renewable energy, sustainable technology, regenerative design), and far less of other types of “growth” (use of fossil fuel, release of harmful chemicals, extraction of non-renewable resources).

 

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Scottish independence

 

I have followed the Scottish independence debate a bit, and a few things stand out.

The English seem to want union for two main reasons: to benefit from Scottish oil money, and to maintain their British identity and what little grandeur is left after their empire crumbled.

The English attitude seems patronizing, and their arguments intentionally fear based. Both suggest that they don’t have many real or solid arguments in their favor.

If the situation was the reverse – if Scotland was independent and considered union with England – how many would vote for union? Probably not many.

The yes and no sides are about equal right now. I assume many will vote “no” to independence out of a (understandable, if misguided) fear of change.

If they do vote “yes” to independence, the process will happen gradually and over time. It won’t happen overnight. There will be time to work out practical and good solutions.

If they vote “yes”, it will encourage others in Europe to seek independence, which is what England, Spain and others fear.

As of now, a few days before the vote, the two sides are about equal with a slight advantage to the “no” side. Unfortunately (?), that means the “no” side will probably get the majority of votes since many will go for what they perceive as the “safe” choice, which is status quo.

The Guardian: Tuberculosis threat requires mass cull of cattle, not badgers, study reveals

 

A mass cull of cattle, not badgers, is the only large-scale action that can end the scourge of tuberculosis in England’s livestock, according to new scientific research that represents a heavy blow to the government’s current policy.

The work is the first national-scale model of how the disease spreads and also found that more rigorous cattle testing and cattle vaccination would significantly curb the disease. But it concluded that the impact of the government’s favoured option of a widespread badger cull would fail to prevent the epidemic growing.

The research was published on Wednesday in Nature, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific journals, and is a heavy blow to environment secretary Owen Paterson and his ministers, who have resolutely backed the badger cull as an essential part of tackling the disease. The study was immediately rejected by farming minister George Eustice, who said a mass cull of cattle would kill the industry.

– from Tuberculosis threat requires mass cull of cattle, not badgers, study reveals, The Guardian

A classic example of knowing what to do, not wanting to do it, so doing something else instead that doesn’t really work. From the beginning, it’s looked as if they focus on the badgers to (a) appear to do something, and (b) chose an option that doesn’t upset the farmers too much. (I am not saying in I necessarily in favor of a mass cull of cattle, only that the badger option makes no sense at all.)

 

 

John Oliver on the climate change debate

 

John Oliver points out something I am repeatedly puzzled over, especially in the US media. Instead of reporting surveys as “one in four US citizens are wrong about climate change” or “don’t get climate change”, they say “one in four don’t believe in climate change”. And perhaps in the interest of creating drama and debate where there really isn’t one, they make it appear as if there is a debate to be had on that topic. The real debate is what do we do about it, and why are some dragging their feet? In other words, the US media play right into the hands of the corporations who think they have something to gain short term by confusing the debate. Shouldn’t the role of the media be to cut through that nonsense? Of course, the mainstream media is largely owned by the same who think they have something to gain by confusing the topic, so that may be a simple explanation of what’s going on.

Since I was a schoolboy in the ’80s, I have thought this whole debate is nonsense. It doesn’t matter if climate change is happening or if it’s human made (although there isn’t much doubt about either). We still have to shift from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy sources. We still have to dramatically change our economical system and thinking to take ecological realities into account. We still have to create systemic changes so what’s easy and attractive to do – for individuals, corporations, and society – is also what’s good for life in the short and long term. We still have to change how we do transportation, waste, food production, and more. We still have to change our worldview and how we see ourselves in relation to the rest of nature and the Earth. There is no debate there. It has to happen. It’s a matter of our own survival. (Independent of the whole climate change topic.)

 

Article: Glenn Greenwald: from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys”

 

Don’t believe the argument that mass surveillance is only a problem for wrongdoers. Governments have repeatedly spied on anyone who challenges their power, says Glenn Greenwald in an extract from his book about Edward Snowden and the NSA, No Place to Hide. [….]

The document then lays out what it calls the “Disruption Operational Playbook”. This includes “infiltration operation”, “ruse operation”, “false flag operation”, and “sting operation”. It vows a “full roll out” of the disruption programme “by early 2013” as “150+ staff [are] fully trained”.

Under the title Magic Techniques & Experiment, the document references “Legitimisation of violence”, “Constructing experience in mind of targets which should be accepted so they don’t realise”, and “Optimising deception channels”.

Such government plans to monitor and influence internet communications and disseminate false information online have long been a source of speculation. The GCHQ documents show for the first time that these controversial techniques have moved from the proposal stage to implementation.

All of the evidence highlights the implicit bargain that is offered to citizens: pose no challenge and you have nothing to worry about. Mind your own business, and support or at least tolerate what we do, and you’ll be fine. Put differently, you must refrain from provoking the authority that wields surveillance powers if you wish to be deemed free of wrongdoing.

This is a deal that invites passivity, obedience and conformity. The safest course, the way to ensure being “left alone”, is to remain quiet, unthreatening and compliant.

Glenn Greenwald: from Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the state targets dissenters not just “bad guys”, The Guardian

Nothing new, but still important and worth a read. Is this the type of society we want to live in? For me, the answer is a clear “no”.

Spirituality and the political spectrum

 

Why do westerners into spirituality tend to be on the left end (liberal, progressive) of the political spectrum?

I see a few possible reasons:

There is an historical reason. Modern western spirituality was “born” on the US west coast (especially the Bay Area), partly because of it’s large Asian influence, and this is also a center for a liberal and progressive orientation. This connection is then perpetuated.

More liberal people tend to be more open to new experiences, new cultures etc., which may also give an openness to spirituality outside of traditional religion.

People into spirituality tend to be more concerned about the health and well-being of all life, which fits a more liberal/progressive orientation.

For westerners, I also assume that most of those with an interest in spirituality would land in the bottom left quadrant of the political compass. That is, to the left and less authoritarian. (I ended up to the left of and somewhat less authoritarian than Dalai Lama.) Where spirituality is combined with religion, and traditional religious structures, it’s possible that more people will end up in the more authoritarian quadrant. And if we did a survey of people into spirituality in the west, we would probably find dots everywhere in each quadrant (even if there is possibly an emphasis on the bottom left).

And, I assume that as people into spirituality mature, they tend to arrive at a more integral approach to politics, appreciating the value of approaches from the whole political spectrum, and finding more freedom to apply any political tool depending on what seems most helpful in the situation.

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UFO Reflections II

 

Some reflections on UFOs and related phenomena.

See part one of this post for more. (I decided to split it since the first post became longer than expected.) This second part is started on May 18, 2016, although I back-dated it so it would show up next to the initial post.

Magic wand. If I could wave a magic wand, how would I like the UFO topic to be approached? Not so different from what most would like to see, I think. Taken seriously by scientists, media, and politicians. Approached in a sober way using scientific methods. Open minded.  Open to a wide range of possible answers and findings, and actively practicing generating and exploring multiple possibilities. Being comfortable with knowing we don’t know. (Until we do know more.) Studying the phenomenon from multiple angles and within and across multiple disciplines.

As it is now, the topic is taboo in mainstream science, media, and politics in many countries, perhaps especially the US.  That leaves a vacuum that’s filled by amateurs (which is OK since most professionals currently won’t touch it) and by people with a less than sober and scientific approach (which understandably tends to further scare off the mainstream).

It does seem odd that we (a) know something is out there we don’t understand (from a few seemingly good cases), and (b) the answers are possibly very important and may change our worldview dramatically. And at the same time, the field is shunned by most professionals. It’s a strange situation we find ourselves in.

Aliens that look like us. I was very interested in astronomy as a kid and also the possibility of alien life. I read a good deal of books on the topic (mostly by Carl Sagan) and watched sci-fi movies as I still like to do. Even early on, it didn’t make sense to me that aliens were depicted as very similar to us. Why would they be? Of course, in fiction it makes sense. As someone said, central casting is short on actual aliens so in older movies humans in costume had to do. We find it easier to relate to stories about humanoids not too different from us. And even alien infections, which requires them to be similar to us to be plausible, do make for good fiction stories (Andromeda Strain).

But outside of fiction, why would anyone think that aliens would be anything similar to us? It seems extremely improbable that they would be similar to us in real life. They developed in an environment that’s likely to be different from ours in significant ways. They developed among other creatures likely to be very different from the creates we co-developed with. The innumerable accidents of evolution, and their particular path of evolution, must have been quite different from ours. So why would they end up so similar? It really doesn’t make sense. And the possibility of being infected by their infections seems close to zero. Our biology would have to be extremely similar to that to be within the realm of the possible. (Even among closely related mammals, only some germs infect across species.)

Only a few answers make some sense to me. (a) The aliens visiting, if they exist, are created specifically to visit our planet and us. They are bio-engineered for that purpose. (b) There are so many different ones out there that some of them happen to look like us, and these are the only ones visiting us. (Seems very implausible.) (c) There is some galactic panspermia going on where the seeds of life are spread among planets in different solar systems. (Seems unlikely, and evolution is still likely to be very divergent.) Or (d) they are all created for us in some other way, which includes through human imagination.

To me, this is one of the big questions in ufology and one that’s not addressed nearly often or seriously enough. Among those who do address it is Richard Dolan who suggests the bio-engineering possibility, and Jaques Vallee who talks about it as possibly a display or performance created for us for an unknown reason. Of course, the easiest answer is that it’s all created by human imagination, but that doesn’t account for the stories that do seem to have some basis in reality.

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UFO reflections – long

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have been interested in UFOs off and on since my childhood. It’s part of my general curiosity about the world, and I like to take a mostly scientific approach to it. Here are some brief thoughts on the topic:

(a) There seems to be something going on that we cannot explain from our current mainstream worldview. Leslie Kean and others have documented several cases with multiple apparently reliable witnesses and multiple sources of data. It seems that some of these cannot very easily be explained away as something known, imaginations, hoaxes, or disinformation. (Although some of the apparently reliable cases very well may be.)

(b) Mainstream media and science tend to dismiss the topic without taking a closer look first. Especially in the US, and partly in Europe and perhaps other places too. This is a very unjournalistic and unscientific approach. Why does this happen?

(i) It may be due to an existing culture of dismissing and ridiculing this topic. Many journalists and scientists may buy into and accept this culture, without questioning it.

(ii) It may come from a fear of being associated with something that doesn’t fit into our current mainstream worldview. As we know, there is sometimes a cost to go outside of and question the mainstream views. It may lead to opposition and criticism, and possibly being seen or treated as an outcast. For scientists, it may reduce their funding opportunities.

That’s how it is, sometimes, even if we know the mainstream views are provisional. They will be replaced by other views. And any view is ultimately wrong. If there is one thing history – and common sense – tells us, it’s that our current worldview will be replaced with another, and will in the future be seen as limited and even misguided. We don’t know exactly how, but we know it will.

We also know that humanity – and our civilization and science – is still in its very early infancy. And what we don’t know is always and inevitably infinitely more than what we do know, and what we “know” is always and inevitably up for revision.

(iii) How was this culture of dismissing the topic created in the first place? Some say it was an intentional policy by the US government. Initially, in the 40s and partly the 50s, they – and the media – did take the topic seriously. Then, there was a shift towards dismissing and ridiculing it .This may have created a culture which has been continued and is partly self-perpetuating.

In any case, it’s often strange to see scientists taking the decidedly unscientific approach of dismissing the topic without first seriously looking into it.

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