Janeway: In my time, no human being would dream of endangering the future

 

In my time, Mister Starling, no human being would dream of endangering the future to gain advantage in the present.

– Captain Kathryn Janeway to Henry Starling in Star Trek Voyager, Future’s End II

Star Trek is loved by many exactly because it’s optimistic about the future. It shows a future where we have solved many of the “childhood diseases” of humanity and where society is more life-centered. As Janeway says, they wouldn’t dream of (knowingly) endangering the lives of future generations to gain advantage in the present.

To many, this is inspiring and shows us the direction we want to move in. We can make small steps in the present to live more like this in our own lives and in creating this type of society.

It’s out of fashion to talk about steady or continued social progress, and for good reasons. (What is progress? Who decides? Who says it continues indefinitely?) And yet, we have seen a gradual progress in terms of who we include in the circle of us. Outright slavery is no longer acceptable. And in the future, animals, ecosystems, and future generations of all species may very well be included in who we see as “us”. It may well have to happen for us to create a more ecologically sustainable civilization.

Most likely, it will happen through a combination of changing norms and expectations, a realization that it’s in our own enlightened self-interest, and structural changes at all levels so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term is also what supports life in the big picture.

And, of course, we may never get to that place. Or it may continue to happen within subgroups of people, as it already does. I think what’s most likely is that eventually we will collectively do the minimum to have a more ecologically sustainable civilization, and it will include some of these norms. We will, by necessity, include more of life in who we see as us. As they say, it likely won’t be as bad as we fear, nor as good as we hope.

A footnote: It seems obvious that a society where we take all life into consideration, including the welfare of future generations, is what’s best for us and everyone. Even a child knows it. And yet, it seems it’s not so obvious when we see what policies we support and implement.

This is where some forms of ecopsychology comes in. How do we present the case so people see it’s in their own interest? How do we get to the structural changes needed so that what’s easy and attractive in the short term, for individuals and groups, is also what’s life-supporting in the bigger picture and longer term? What are the practical steps we can take?

One pretty obvious step is to focus on attractive solutions, make it personal, speak to their existing values (shows how it fits into their existing values and identities), and offer concrete and practical steps we – individually and collectively – can make.

Some already do take these steps. Elon Musk comes to mind. He, almost single-handedly, made electric cars cool and attractive. People want those cars even if they have no interest in sustainability. He is developing batteries so buildings more easily can be off grid and create and store their own energy. And he is also thinking further ahead, working towards us becoming a multi-planetary species. (Which may be needed for our long-term survival, and is a way for Earth to reproduce and bring all kinds of Earth life and ecosystems to several planets. As I have written about before, with terraforming we function as the reproductive organ for the Earth.)

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Civilization and its discontents

 

A friend of mine’s profile picture on Facebook is of her snuggling with her cat. It’s very cute. And, knowing something about her background, it also reminded me of our human situation.

We have created a civilization that harms us and the Earth in some significant ways. It harms all life. And because of it, we seek comfort and healing in myriad of ways. My friend does it, partly, through reconnecting with nature and animals.

There is a lot more to say about this topic. But the main thing that struck me was just the image of her snuggling with her cat. And how that, in some ways, is such a good image of the trauma we have created for ourselves through our civilization and how we all seek comfort and healing from it in different ways.

Our civilization is partly built on an imagined disconnect from nature. That hurts us and all life. And we try to compensate for that hurt in so many ways, including seeking love, acceptance, money, power, healing, awakening, connection, and a great deal more that we see all around us and in ourselves. From our experience of disconnection comes a sense of lack and something missing, and we try to fill that hole in many different ways.

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The social and cultural benefits of genetic ancestry testing

 

I received my 23andme results a few weeks back and it has reminded me of a few things about genetic testing. Depending on how it’s used, it can definitely have some drawbacks. But it can also have many personal and social / cultural benefits.

Here are some of the possible social and cultural benefits that come to mind.

We are reminded that we are all overwhelmingly alike. Only about 0.5% of our genetic material has to do with our particular geographic or ethnic history. We are overwhelmingly alike as human beings, and as Earthlings we are also overwhelmingly alike. As human beings, we share almost all our history and ancestors, and as Earthlings we share a great deal of our history and ancestors.

Many of us, and especially in North America, have a far more mixed ancestry than we may expect. For instance, some who identify as “white” may have Asian, North-American, or African ancestry mixed in.

Same or similar genetic sequence-patterns are found in most or all human populations. So when the different companies assign an ethnic group based on particular patterns, they do it based on statistics and probably. Any particular pattern may be more prevalent in some groups but are found in other groups as well. So the analysis is not always accurate. Again, it’s a reminder of how similar we are.

Our official family history isn’t always the same as the genetic one. We have an official set of ancestors. We have a genetic set of ancestors. And the two are not always the same. This may help us hold our identity more lightly. We can (learn to) embrace and appreciate both.

This all makes it more difficult to justify or hold onto racism. (Although I am sure some will be able to if they really want to.) We are all Africans. We share almost all of our DNA. Many of us are more mixed than we think. Any differences are, in the big picture, very superficial.

As genetic testing becomes more common and our understanding improves, it may well have an impact on culture. And, if we want, it may help us see how closely we all are related. It may widen and deepen our sense of “us” as human beings and even as part of the Earth community.

As mentioned, there are also possible drawbacks. For instance, it’s easy to misinterpret or hold certain interpretations as more solid than they are. And some may get stressed out by certain interpretations of their health or ancestry data. They may realize one or both of their parents (or grandparents) are not the ones they thought they were. Or they may mistakenly think that’s the case based on misguided interpretation of the data. Or they may think that a slight statistical increase in likelihood of a certain illness means they are actually likely to get it (which may not be the case at all). And I guess there is some risk that employees or governments can use certain data in unfortunate ways. (I don’t think it’s happening much or at all now, but there is always the risk.)

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Spoilers?

 

Many seem concerned with wanting to avoid “spoilers” for movies, and that’s fine.

In my case, I notice that the more I know about a movie in advance, the deeper and richer my experience is. I don’t care about being surprised. I want a richer experience.

So perhaps those who enjoy the surprise prefer to avoid “spoilers”, and those who want a richer experience don’t mind advance knowledge?

Either approach is fine, of course, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s connected with personality traits. And it’s clearly influenced by culture and sub-cultures.

Life is set up so it’s a mix of likely spoilers while inherently being spoiler-free. We may have ideas about what’s likely to happen but what actually happens is a surprise – either in the details or even the main plots.

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Pastafarians

 

When I first encountered the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster several years ago, I thought it was a brilliant satire over religions. Through their own obviously absurd beliefs and rituals, they highlight the often equally absurd beliefs and rituals in different religions. And they also highlight how society often silently agrees to not point out the absurdity.

And yes, I know that religions serve many functions. They give people a community and sense of belonging. They serve to regulate behavior. They give power to small groups of people. They instill fear and/or hope in people. They create problems (f.ex. original sin) and solutions to these problems.

Some of these functions may be partially helpful and some certainly are not (apart from for the small groups of people benefiting from it in a limited way).

People sometimes complain that Pastafarians mock religion. But that’s their whole reason for being. And religions, let’s face it, often deserve to be mocked – or, at least, have their inconsistencies pointed out.

As with most things, I think religions are mostly OK and that it’s not a problem to belong to one. (I have variously been involved with Unitarians, Tibetan Buddhists, and Zen.) But it is a problem if we are not honest about what’s really going on, at least to ourselves.

For instance, if we are honest we may admit that we chose a particular religion because we were born into it. That the beliefs are just something we (try to) hold as true because we are told to. That we don’t really know. That we are involved for social reasons or emotional comfort. That parts of religions reflect a particular culture at a particular time more than any universal truth. That the purpose of any religion perhaps is to perpetuate itself more than anything else. That we are involved only to explore certain practices and their effects and don’t care about the rest (as was the case for me with Buddhism). And so on.

Are religious people delusional?

 

Are religious people delusional? That’s a question addressed by a recent article in The Guardian.

It’s a complex question and, as usual, it depends. Here are a few angles.

In general, what’s common and shared in a culture is not seen as unusual or a problem. (Although people from another background and culture may well see it differently.) Common religious beliefs and behaviors won’t be seen as delusional, even by people who disagree or have another view. And since most human cultures accept religions, we tend to give religions and religious people more leeway than we do in other cases.

If religious views or behaviors seem too much out of the ordinary we are more likely to wonder what’s going on. The views may be stronger than usual. Their views or behavior may be out of the ordinary. Their identity may be seen as unusual. And that may be considered a disorder or delusional.

Mystical experience is a subset of what I just mentioned. Some religious traditions and cultures accept mystical experiences (Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism), and some see it as more unusual  (Protestant Christianity). In the latter, mystical experiences may be viewed with more suspicion although it depends on how the person interpret their own experiences.

In general, from a mainstream psychological view, it depends on how the person views their own beliefs and experiences. If they have a reasonably rational and mature relationship to it, and their interpretations are not too much out of the ordinary, they are likely to be seen as sane. If they seem to have unusually strong beliefs, or very unusual interpretations, they are more likely to be seen as delusional.

I understand this approach. As social and group creatures, we absorb the views and norms of our culture. And whatever is ordinary is also normal and generally seen as sane. And yet, it’s possible to take a more dispassionate view. We can take a step back and imagine we see it from the outside.

From a more dispassionate view, I would say religious beliefs are delusional. If we adopt views and beliefs (a) unsupported by our own experience and solid data, (b) just because someone else holds them, that is – in a strict sense – delusional. It may be understandable and ordinary but also delusional. It makes about as much sense as believing in Santa Claus.

So why don’t psychologists see religious beliefs as delusional? There are many reasons. Mainly, the beliefs are understandable and ordinary and they want to give people some leeway. Also, they don’t want to antagonize large groups of people. And if religious beliefs are seen as delusional, then any belief will have to be seen as delusional.

And, of course, that’s actually true. When we hold our own imagination – which our thoughts are – as representing reality in any final or absolute sense, then we are delusional. Any belief is, in a strict sense, delusional. That’s why it’s also stressful. It’s out of alignment with reality.

Fortunately, there is a way out. And that way may include many forms of explorations including various forms of meditation, heart-centered practices, body-inclusive practices, and inquiry.

Perhaps in the future or in some society somewhere else in the universe, the norm is to take thoughts for what they are. As imagination only helpful in a practical sense to help us orient and navigate in the world. And not as a pointer to any final or absolute truth or reality. In such a society, religious belief – as any other belief – may be seen as delusional. Understandable but delusional.

Just to make it clear: I am talking about religious belief here. Not necessarily spirituality. Spirituality – as anything else – can and does get mixed in with beliefs. But it can also be a more open and pragmatic exploration. It can be a reporting on direct experiences, in an as honest way as possible. It can be a practical exploration through using pointers and practices to see what we find. It can be an exploration of reality, just as (other forms of) science. And that can be done outside of or (sometimes) within a religious context.

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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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If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person

 

Oxygen and the air pressure are always being monitored. In the event of a decompression, an oxygen mask will automatically appear in front of you. To start the flow of oxygen, pull the mask towards you. Place it firmly over your nose and mouth, secure the elastic band behind your head, and breathe normally. Although the bag does not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask. If you are travelling with a child or someone who requires assistance, secure your mask on first, and then assist the other person. Keep your mask on until a uniformed crew member advises you to remove it.

This is the classic analogy, but it’s still very appropriate.

Take care of your own basic needs first, and then you’ll be in a much better position to assist others.

On the one hand, this is a dynamic balance. Sometimes, it’s appropriat to focus on taking care of our own needs. Other times, we are in a position to focus more on the needs of others. And this often changes with the roles we play over the course of a day and a lifetime.

On the other hand, they are two sides of the same coin. We may spend time taking care of our own needs, for instance when we need healing or to get basic needs taken care of, and that benefits others in the moment or later. Or we may find ways to assist others in ways that are deeply nurturing and meaningful to us, and also takes care of our own material needs.

Several things may help us find and live these solutions that simultaneously benefit and nurture ourselves and the wider world (even if it’s in apparently small ways).

It helps when we hold the bigger picture in mind. When we seek solutions good for all, including future generations. And when we are open to solutions outside of what we expect or are familiar with.

It helps when we take care of our beliefs and identifications around either being a self-sacrificing martyr or selfish. The solutions present themselves easier the less we are identified with these, and the more we are free from them.

It helps the less substantial we take the imagined boundary between ourselves and the larger whole to be. The more we experience it as just a temporarily imagined boundary, the easier it is to act in ways good for ourselves and the wider whole.

And it helps the more healed we are as human beings. Wounds often make us act in reactive ways, including from reactive and narrow-minded self-preservation. The more healed and whole we are, the more natural it is to wish to act in a way that’s kind and informed by larger picture concerns.

And working on these is, in itself, an example of a solution that benefit ourselves and the larger whole.

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Life of Brian

 

I rewatched parts of the documentary The Secret Life of Brian about Monty Python’s Life of Brian.

And I was reminded that the controversy wasn’t about the movie making fun of Jesus (which it didn’t) but that it made fun of religious people and Christians in particular (which it very much did).

It’s interesting how both the makers and those offended seemed to buy into the “offended on behalf of Jesus” line while something else is really going on.

Those who were offended were offended because the movie made fun of them – of the flaws and misguided views and actions of many religious people – and they couldn’t take it. Most likely, it hit home too closely. And that was something they couldn’t admit.

Just to mention it: I love Jesus as he is depicted in the New Testament (whether he existed as a historical person or not), but I don’t have much fondness for much of what Christianity evolved into. I guess that’s why I, and many others, like the movie.

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My larger body

 

Some statements are often seen as poetic or romantic, but in this case, it’s a literal reality.

My larger body is nature and society. My larger body is this planet. My larger body is this solar system and universe.

My existence as a human being depends 100% on this larger body for its existence and survival. The only boundaries between this human self and the larger whole is imagined, and invested with reality only by our minds.

This is very real from a ordinary material and scientific point of view.

And going beyond that, as what I am – what all experience happens within and as – it’s all what I am.

It may seem a romantic or hippyish notion, but it has very real consequences for how we live our lives.

If I see myself as a human being mostly separate from the larger whole, I’ll act accordingly. I’ll act as if the health and well being the larger social and ecological systems matters little for my own health and well being. I’ll tend to act from a short term and narrow perspective. I’ll tend to act in a way that’s – intentionally or not – harmful for the larger whole. And we create our societies, social systems, and worlviews to reflect this. We’ll use economic models that assume that the health and well being of the larger whole doesn’t really matter. We’ll create transportation systems, production systems, food systems, water systems, energy systems, and more that reflect this world view. And we’ll reap the consequences individually and collective. That’s what we see today with a growing awareness of the consequences of toxins in our air, land, and water, diminishing ecosystems, and climate change.

If I see the larger social and ecological systems as my larger body, my view and actions will be different. I’ll act from a longer term and larger perspective. I’ll seek solutions that benefits myself as well as the whole. And we’ll collective use worldviews and systems that reflect this reality and this desire to support life at all levels.

If I see the solar systema and universe as my larger body, I’ll tend to experience a deep and profound sense of belonging and meaning. As Carl Sagan said, we are the local eyes, ears, thoughts, and feelings of the universe. We are the universe bringing itself into conscious awareness.

Of course, this has to be a lived reality for us. It may become a living reality through natural adult maturation and development. It may happen if we live in a society or group where this is a mainstream view. And it can happen through education and experiences such as the Practices to Reconnect by Joanna Macy.

I am aware that I am using the word “reality” here and it’s not really that. It’s a perception. An experience. A worldview. But “reality” works as a shorthand even if it’s not that precise.

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Dream factory

 

I saw the Hollywood Costume exhibit in LA a couple of years ago.

It was fun. And it also made the dream factory aspect of Hollywood very obvious. They are explicitly and openly in the business of (a) producing compelling dreams that (b) people will invest with emotional energy so it (c) seems real, substantial, charged, fascinating, and attractive to them, and they (d) seek it out and are willing to pay money for the experience.

It’s a manipulative business. But since it’s so explicit it’s also honest. We know what’s going on, and we – to a large part – chose to which degree we wish to participate. (The other side of this is that we get to vicariously experience a great deal we otherwise wouldn’t, which enriches our lives and – in the best case – help us learn and grow.)

Since the dream factory function of Hollywood is so obvious and excaggerated, it’s easy to see and explore there. And that can help us see similar dynamics in other areas of human life.

The dream factory side of the entertainment industry in general is pretty clear. But it’s also there in most or all businesses. Most or all organizations. And also in all religions.

All are in the business of creating dreams that people invest with emotional energy, draw themselves into, and are willing to invest time, energy, and sometimes money to experience more of.

There is nothing inherently wrong in this. But it’s good to be aware of.

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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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Life 101

 

So much of what I write here is Life 101.

It’s very basic. Simple. Even written so it’s easier to understand.

And yet, it’s not so obvious in the context of our contemporary culture.

Perhaps it will be more obvious and mainstream in the future?

And perhaps it will be included more often in a Life 101 track through school.

It seems as important as the other basics already included in most schools: language, maths, history, sports, religions, and social studies.

Here are some ideas for what could be included in a Life 101 track:

Communication skills.

Relationship skills.

Media literacy.

Critical thinking. Rational thinking.

Training of a more stable attention. (Helpful for anything.)

And perhaps, for the especially interested:

Mind-body practices. (Yoga, tai chi, chigong.)

Basic forms of meditation.

Basic inquiry.

Parts work (subpersonalities).

And even, in some schools, basic universal spirituality. (What it’s about, typical process etc.)

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Is nuclear green?

 

As the sun shone on millions of solar panels and unseasonable gusts turned thousands of turbine blades last Sunday, something remarkable happened to Britain’s power grid.

For a brief period, a record 70% of the electricity for the UK’s homes and businesses was low-carbon, as nuclear, solar and wind crowded out coal and even gas power stations. That afternoon was a glimpse into the future, of how energy provision will look in 13 years’ time because of binding carbon targets.

– The Guardian, Record levels of green energy in UK create strange new world for generators (my emphasis)

I find it strange and disorienting when people talk about nuclear (fission) energy as “green”.

It may be that the immediate emissions are minimal. But in the bigger picture, there is a great deal of very dangerous and difficult pollution that’s created. And even worse, this is pollution that’s passed on to a great number of future generations that didn’t agree to it, don’t have a voice in the matter, and don’t even benefit from it.

So is fission energy “green”? Only from the most narrow minded perspective. Taking the full picture into account, it certainly is not.

Fusion energy is more clean so that’s a bit different, but that’s still in the future.

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.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi

 

Luke: What do you see?

Rey: Light…. darkness….. the balance….?

Luke: It’s so much bigger.

This seems to be the mainstream interpretation, and although I try to avoid topics that are covered in the mainstream, this one is too good to pass up.

In many spiritual traditions, and in our own ordinary maturing as human beings, we tend to initially split between good and bad, light and darkness. We seek the light and avoid the darkness. That’s the safer approach, initially, until we gain some more experience and reach a certain level of maturity.

And then, we realize we need to outgrow it. We see the pitfalls in splitting life in that way. We realize that we all have both in us, and if we identify with one we have to suppress the other which doesn’t work in the long run. At a social level, we end up demonizing groups, which is not good for any of us.

So we need to find both sides in us. Find a larger whole that already embraces and includes both. Find ways to live with and from both. And in that process, we find some maturity and a different and more real type of kindness. We don’t have to demonize anything in ourselves or others. We recognize ourselves in the whole world, as it is. There is a deeper and more genuine empathy.

Is that why it’s time for the Jedi to end? If the Jedi only know and use the light side, they are out of touch with life and reality. A new approach is needed. And Rey may be one of the first ones to be trained in this new approach.

Embracing both sides we find something so much bigger than either one. So much richer, fuller, more mature, and – if done with some skill – more kind in a real way.

It can also be a dangerous transition. We go from a safer and more immature identification with the good, to getting to know and embracing both sides. We often make mistakes in this transition, and that’s how we learn and mature. That’s how we find the deeper form of kindness that can come from embracing and befriending both.

There is nothing new here. This is part of any relatively mature spiritual tradition, and it’s what we realize growing up – at least most of us. It’s also not new in literature, mythology, or even movies. But if this is the theme of the new Star Wars movie, it’s certainly good that it comes into mainstream culture in this way. It is a message that can be helpful to many, especially younger ones, and especially in the US.

It may not be popular, but I still have to say that the US culture tends to be more obsessed with the good/bad split than many other cultures and has a more immature take on it. Evangelical Christians, and any form of Christian or religious fundamentalism, is an example of that more immature view. Other examples are, unfortunatly, how the US media tends to frame issues, and aspects of US foreign policy.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this approach although it does create some suffering and is dangerous if taken too far. And it’s also a stepping stone. One of an infinite number of stepping stones. Each one with its own drawbacks that we eventually discover, take to heart, and partially resolve with the next more inclusive approach.

And the Last Jedi movie poster is awesome. A great take on classic 50s sci-fi art.

Note: When Rey says “light” there is an image of Leia and a rebellion control room (I assume), when she says “darkness” we see Kylo Ren’s charred helmet (I assume), and when she says “the balance?” we see some books perhaps symbolizing wisdom and maturity.

Note II: I see that people talk about “grey Jedi” as a term for those who embrace the larger and more inclusive wholeness of the light and the dark. I don’t like the term since it sounds bland and as if the light and dark blend together. It’s much more about including both, the full spectrum. Maybe “full spectrum Jedi” is more accurate but obviously less catchy.

Note III: As mentioned above, there is an apparently safe simplicity in dividing the world into good and bad, and identifying with the good. It seems safe, and it’s also a bit naive since that’s not how the world works. We all have both in us, and identifying with parts within that split leads to scapegoating, dehumanization, us-them attitudes, and struggles with others and oneself. So eventually we realize we need to include both. We need to find both in ourselves, and learn to befriend both and live with and from both. And in that, there is a deeper and more mature kindness and compassion towards ourselves and others.

The simple dualism is a stepping stone. And the exploration of a more inclusive wholeness is also a series of stepping stones.

There is a slight risk here: the initial exploration of wholeness can be used to justify living from parts of ourselves in an unkind and less wise way. We can tell ourselves that “it’s good to embrace all of me, and that means it’s OK to be mean” or greedy, or hateful, or whatever it may be. I certainly saw that with some of the senior students at K. Zen Center. They used the wholeness principle to justify being jerks.

That too, of course, comes with consequences, and those consequences invite us to find a kinder and more mature path.

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.

(more…)

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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Why wolves?

 

There is an ongoing debate in norway about whether we should have wolves or not, and how many. The fault lines – as so often these days – seem to go between the urban and/or more educated, and the rural and/or less educated.

Here are some of the arguments against wolves, and my comments.

They take livestock. They do, but they take far fewer than trains, traffic, and disease. And the farmers receive compensation from the state if any are taken.

They are a risk to humans. No, they are virtually no risk to humans. The real risks are what we all know about, including traffic, suicide, poor lifestyle and food choices, and much more.

They are evil and scary. Yes, we may culturally have learned to see them as evil and project our shadow onto them, and they may trigger fear in us. That’s no reason to get rid of them. (I suspect this is what’s really going on since the apparently rational arguments are not very strong.)

And here are some arguments for having wolves.

For the benefit of the wolves. They have as much right to be here as we do. They are sentient beings just as us and wish to live.

For the ecosystems. Our ecosystems evolved with large predators, and healthy and thriving ecosystems depend on large predators.

For our benefit. Just as ecosystems, we need the wild. We evolved with and in the wild, and with high level predators. We need it for our own health and well being. We need it as a reminder of who we are, in an evolutionary context. We need it to feel alive.

Why are people really against wolves? I suspect primal fear of wolves is one aspect. Specifically, fear of losing animals to wolves may trigger a more primal fear than losing them to illness or trains. Another may be instinctual competition. Humans and wolves are both large predators, and it’s natural to try to eliminate the competition.

In my view, the arguments against don’t hold up well. And the arguments for are far more important – for them, for us, for nature as a whole.

As usual, I can add that this view is very predictable for someone with my background. I grew up in a well educated urban family. I love nature. I want to consider the rights and needs of other beings, including nonhuman species. I am liberal in terms of politics. If I had grown up as a sheep farmer in an area with wolves, my views may well have been different. And that doesn’t mean I won’t speak up for wolves. They need someone to speak for them.

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Being more mature than what your culture requires

 

… you have to think about what it means to actually be more complex than what your culture is currently demanding. You have to have a name for that, too. It’s almost something beyond maturity, and it’s usually a very risky state to be in. I mean, we loved Jesus, Socrates, and Gandhi—after we murdered them. While they were alive, they were a tremendous pain in the ass. Jesus, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr.—these people died relatively young. You don’t often live a long life being too far out ahead of your culture.

– Robert Keegan in an interview with What Is Enlightenment? Magazine, cited in Robert Kegan’s Awesome Theory Of Social Maturity by Mark Dombeck

I would add that those who are far ahead of mainstream and publicly seek social change, risk not living a very long life. There are certainly many who are far ahead of mainstream and foucses on facilitating change in other areas of life, such as Adyasanti, and they don’t run the same risk.

Keeping the big picture in mind

 

A recent survey asked “All things considered, do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”. In Sweden 10% thought things are getting better, in the US they were only 6%, and in Germany only 4%. Very few people think that the world is getting better.

What is the evidence that we need to consider when answering this question? The question is about how the world has changed and so we must take a historical perspective. And the question is about the world as a whole and the answer must therefore consider everybody. The answer must consider the history of global living conditions – a history of everyone.

– from A history of global living conditions in 5 charts by Max Roser

It’s important to keep the big picture in mind, especially with a media that tends to narrowly focus on what doesn’t work. In this case, the bigger picture is how the human condition has changed over the last two centuries. It’s equally important to make decisions for future generations, and

It’s equally important to make decisions for future generations. And to see ourselves in the context of the history of the Universe as a whole. We are – quite literally – the universe expressing, experiencing and exploring itself. Remembering that gives a sense of awe and is amazing, exciting, and sobering.

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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Insulted by reality

 

A friend asked on Facebook: “Why are some insulted by ‘happy holidays’?”.

As far as I understand, some Christians are insulted by any acknowledgment that others don’t share their religion. In other words, they are insulted by reality. That’s putting it harshly but also – as far as I can tell – accurately.

He should know better

 

Research shows the people who score lower on intelligence tend to judge others based on what they are born into (gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion) while people who score higher tend to judge based on “they should know better”.

Is it true, they should know better? Let’s try a couple of examples.

Trump should know better. What are some examples of the reverse? He may be mislead by Fox News, Breitbart, and similar sources. He may do what he does as a conscious strategy or even an accidental strategy that has worked for him in the past. (To distract, appeal to reactive emotions etc.) He may act from a reckless personality. He may act from wounds and trauma. He may not be put together quite right from birth.

Trump supporters should know better. Again, they may be mislead by Fox News, Breitbart, Trump, friends, and family. They may be less informed. Their education may not be very good or thorough. They may agree with some or all of what he says, for whatever reason. They may think that what he says will reflect what he does. (In reality, he speaks as if he is for the “ordinary guy” while he is in it for himself and his wealthy friends.) From biology or experience, they may not be so interested in the big picture or in doing thorough research before making a decision. And they too may act from hurt and trauma.

I can find many reasons why they shouldn’t know better. There are infinite reasons for why they see the world and act the way they do. I can always find one more reason. In that sense, it’s the universe as a whole acting through them and as them.

That’s the case for me too. When I look at them and myself, I can find understanding and empathy by seeing these infinite causes. And at the same time, in the case of myself, I am also completely responsible for my own views and actions.

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