If I understand someone, it means X

 

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

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

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

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Bernie Sanders

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ahead of our times

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Climate change doesn’t matter

 

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

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

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

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

Article: Have Americans gone crazy?

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Violence in the US

 

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

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

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

Dual citizenship in Norway

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

– Dalai Lama to Deutsche Welle, November 2015

The future

 

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

– paraphrased and unknown source

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

– paraphrased and unknown source

Always in motion is the future.

– Yoda

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Sally Kohn: Muslim shooter = entire religion guilty

 

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

– Sally Kohn

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

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

Terrorism: Hurt people hurt people

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My experience with Lyme in Norway

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Several things come up for me around this:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Processed food and hopelessness 

 

Nothing new here, but a useful reminder:

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

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

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

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

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

Universal basic income

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Historical perspectives: Including nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations

 

I just listened to the Revisionist History episode of Stuff You Should Know.

As they suggest, all history is by nature revisionist. We always change how we see and interpret the past, based on what’s important to us now (and sometimes just new information).

For a while now, historians have looked more at economy and class, gender, ethnicity, religion, and more. They have used these as filters, and looked at history from the perspective of groups previously left out such as women, children, non-European ethnic groups, the working class and poor, and religious minorities.

Two things were not mentioned in the podcast:

First, the difference between focusing on “ordinary” people vs. extraordinary people in history. Both has it’s value, and more historians are now focusing on the history of the ordinary people. How was their life and conditions? (This was a big part of my history classes in school.)

The other is looking at history through the filter of nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations. If history is, at least partly, about giving voice to the voiceless, and giving focus to the previously invisible, then this has to be included. How has our actions through history impacted nonhuman species and ecosystems, and also future generations? How have we treated these? How have they been ignored, or included and valued, in our decision process? 

A Green History of the World by Clive Pointing is an example from the 90s, and many people in the Deep Ecology and ecopsychology world have addressed the topic, but it’s still not included in mainstream history. It will, most likely, and perhaps sooner rather than later as ecological and sustainability issues become more and more obviously important to us.

Some green history questions that come to mind:

How have we (humans, at different places and times through history) treated the nonhuman world? How have we treated nonhuman species, nature, ecosystems? How have we treated future generations? (Both human and nonhuman.)

Have they been ignored? Included in our decision making? Respected? Have we been blind to them? Have we justified mistreatment of them, and how?

And why? How has our world view, values, fears, survival needs and more influenced this?

What can we learn from this? How does it apply to our current situation? What are the lessons?

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Trauma and police brutality

 

There has been many stories of police brutality in the US recently, and it’s clearly a serious problem.

I can’t help wondering if it’s partly related to trauma. Many police officers have experienced trauma, either from specific instances or accumulated over time. And trauma leads people to act in a reactive way, from fear, sometimes with violence, and out of proportion with what seems appropriate to the situation. And that’s what we are seeing from the many reports of police officers abusing their power, using excessive force, and even killing unarmed people.

One remedy is to offer trauma education and healing modalities in the police departments across the US. I know this is partly done, although it often happens in a police culture that doesn’t take trauma seriously, so this may not be the whole solution but it can’t hurt.

One possibility is to make Tension & Trauma Release Exercises (TRE) mandatory once or twice a week, for even just half an hour. That would make a tangible difference, independent of how seriously they otherwise take trauma. With the support of current research on TRE and trauma, it may be possible to start this in one or a few sympathetic police departments, and it may then spread.

Another aspect of this is the militarization of the police, although I assume that’s more connected political and financial interests (including profits for those selling the equipment).

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Trauma and politics

 

I imagine there is a connection between trauma and politics.

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

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

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

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

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

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Fox News

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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John Travolta and Going Clear

 

I’ve been so happy with my [Scientology] experience in the last 40 years that I really don’t have anything to say that would shed light on [a documentary] so decidedly negative,” he told the Tampa Bay Times. “I’ve been brought through storms that were insurmountable, and [Scientology has] been so beautiful for me, that I can’t even imagine attacking it.

– John Travolta cited in Huffington Post

I understand where he is coming from, to some extent. As he says, his experience has been good so why bite the hand that [comforts?] him?

At the same time, it seems profoundly irresponsible. If someone are nice to me, but not to others, it’s my duty to learn what’s going on and speak up about it. As Desmond Tutu said: If you are neutral on situations of injustice, you are on the side of the oppressor. 

The Scientology organization obviously treats him well, and it may well be part of an intentional strategy on their part. He is famous, and it’s in their interest to have famous people on their side.

That doesn’t mean that others are treated equally well. Going Clear most likely gets a lot right, partly because a large group of lawyers made sure they can back up their claims. And also since what it describes fits with what so many have reported, perhaps especially after they got a new leader a couple of decades ago.

 

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GMOs

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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US and Norwegian cultures

 

I am in the US now, and however much I love the US – and especially the landscape in the West, and the culture in the Northwest – there are things I still struggle with.

Here is a brief list:

Lack of good public transportation, except in large cities, and especially lack of good, comfortable, and fast trains. In Norway, public transportation is very often the most comfortable, fast and attractive mode of transportation.

Over-reliance of cars. Difficult if you don’t buy into the car use lifestyle. (Which I am reluctant to.) In Norway, you can easily live without a car.

Treating poor people poorly, so they live in an undignified way. Large differences between the wealthy and the poor. In Norway, there is much more of an attitude of taking care of the weakest in society, also so they can live a dignified life.

In Norway, people tend to be quiet and considerate of others, both at home and in public. In the US, more people tend to be loud, noisy, and far less considerate of others.

In Norway, public servants – including politicians and the police – are just that, public servants. They are in the service of the people. In the US, I often don’t get that impression. It seems that they often forget that their role is to be in service of the people, and people as individuals.

In Norway, people tend to care for their homes more, and make them cozy and comfortable. They also value natural materials, nature and fresh air. In the US, fewer people seem to do this. The indoor air quality in the US, especially in offices, tend to be quite poor (more toxic materials, more VOCs, poor indoor air quality). I have also noticed that in some areas of the US, people tend to close windows and doors and use air conditioning, even when the outside air is fresh and has a comfortable temperature.

Also, in California these days they seem oblivious to the upcoming water crisis. People still water lawns in areas where there would be no natural green grass. They fill their pools. They maintain large golf courses. They waste water in innumerable ways. In Norway, there has been water rationing well in advance to avoid future water shortage.

I realize that these are all assumptions and beliefs, and not the whole picture. That’s why these things still bother me. At the same time, it’s good to notice that I have a clear preference. And that’s what often has created some ambivalence in me.

I love the landscape of the Western US, the weather everywhere apart from the Pacific Northwest rain season, and the culture in the Northwest. (Especially the Bay Area.) I love the leading edge of the alternative culture on the West Coast. At the same time, I really like the Norwegian landscape, and feel very comfortable in the mainstream Norwegian culture, and also feel that it’s very provincial when it comes to many of my main interests.

In a nutshell, I feel very comfortable with the mainstream Norwegian culture, but am disappointed about their alternative culture. And I love the leading edge of the US West Coast alternative culture, while feeling very uncomfortable with the US mainstream culture.

It’s something that’s stretching me, and I have more to explore in myself around this, especially fears around missing out when I am in Norway, and discomfort around aspects of US culture when I am in the US.

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Anti-science attitudes

 

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

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

Here are some thoughts for now:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Future of spirituality

 

It can be fun to wonder about the future of spirituality. Or, really, how I imagine it can be, based on what I am currently familiar with and interested in, and what I would like to see.

I am in the Bay Area now, and I imagine that what’s happening here does say something about the future of spirituality. What’s happening here is what we may see in some other places in the relatively near future.

It’s a more grounded and practical approach to spirituality, one that’s closely connected to human healing and growth, social engagement, and even spirituality. To me, those cannot really be separated in lived life. They are expressions of a recognition of oneness – in immediate experience (all as awareness Spirit), through science (astronomy, Big History, ecology, systems views), and even through the “paranormal” (ESP, synchronicities etc.).

Since it’s a practical approach to spirituality, it’s compatible with most worldviews – including most or all religions and even atheism.

Also, since it’s a practical approach, it can be applied to many areas of life, including schools, health care, hospitals, prisons, workplaces, and more.

Since it’s a practical approach, it’s also subject of research. What are the effects of different practices, for different groups of people? (Physiologically, psychologically, health wise, socially etc.). What mediates these changes? What works best for whom and when? What are the risks? How do we minimize these risks?

Since it’s a practical approach, it’s also more widely accepted and respected by mainstream society.

And since it’s a practical approach, teachers are – as Adyashanti suggests – more like coaches. They share their experience, and give practical suggestions. That’s about it. (There will inevitably be some projections, as in any human relationships, but a practical emphasis may typically reduce this.)

We already see all of this.

I also imagine more organizations, businesses, and centers where they explore the intersection of practical spirituality with a range of other areas, including business, education, healthcare, science, ecology, city and regional planning, sustainability and more.

I imagine more centers where people can devote themselves to exploring this area of themselves and life. (Often not affiliated with existing traditions, although drawing upon their experience and wisdom.)

And I imagine centers where people who are going through spiritual emergencies can find rest, guidance, and support. (I have sometimes wished for that for myself, especially during the initial phase of the awakening, where there were intense energies and I felt quite alone at a human level, and my current dark night phase. This is, and has been, especially close to my heart. It’s something I can see myself working with, if life goes in that direction for me.

Awakening will save us?

 

Being in the Bay Area, I find an interesting mix of “my tribe” and sometimes feeling that some folks are a bit naive and create a spiritual ideology. Of course, that happens anywhere people are into spirituality, and is often a part of our process of maturing.

Some folks seem to think that a larger scale awakening will save humanity, or perhaps that it’s the only thing that will save us.

First, I see this as a projection. It may be true or not, and in any case, it’s pointing to something that’s right here and now. Can I find that?

Second, I am not sure if I see it the same way.

To me, healing, kindness, and engagement seems more important. Of course, those things can come through an awakening process, but it’s not guaranteed, and awakening is certainly not necessary for that healing to happen.

Healing is all about who we are as this human self. Awakening is more about what we are noticing and recognizing itself. As mentioned above, an awakening can certainly support healing, but not necessarily, and it’s not necessary for healing.

The single most effective way to allow this healing may be through schools. For instance, by offering basic life skills as part of a regular schooling, starting as early as possible. This may include meditation, communication skills, parts work, heart-centered practices, self-love, and similar. It can be done in a way that’s sensitive to local culture and compatible with atheism as well as a range of religions and spiritual orientations.

It is, after all, just basic life skills. Life skills that can make a huge difference for individuals, the school community, families, and also impact the wider local and even global community.

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Constructive news

 

There are at least three ways of reporting news.

Today’s news tends to be drama and problem focused. They report on accidents, wars, and generally things that go wrong. (There is, of course, an evolutionary reason why that’s interesting to many, and why it sells.)

Another option is to focus on light entertainment. Something vaguely interesting, but without much substance or importance. The current media is quite good at this too.

The third option is much more interesting to me. News that focuses on practical and real-life solutions to serious problems. Yes! Magazine is a good example of this type of journalism, and it is occasionally found in mainstream media as well. (Today, perhaps especially renewable energy stories.)

Perhaps future media will balance these three more. We of course need to know what’s happening in the world, even if it’s not (yet) solution oriented. Entertainment sells, so that will probably be there too. And why not include solution-focused news? Why not include stories about real life, practical solutions to local and global challenges?

I once contacted an editor of a major newspaper in Norway, suggesting they have more constructive and solution focused news. He replied saying, in essence, that’s fluff, we are a serious news outlet. If that’s their view, I understand why that type of reporting is often ignored.

But it also seems obviously and patently wrong. It’s easy enough to do news stories on practical solutions to real problems, and do it all with seriousness and substance. Many do sometimes, and some do all the time. And I wouldn’t be surprised if it won’t become the norm at some point in the future.

Looking at it from another angle: The drama and problem focused news tends to play into our evolutionary predisposition to focus on drama and problems. It has aided, and does aid, our survival.

The gossip or entertainment stories also play into an evolutionary tendency to want to know what’s going on, and rest when we can.

The solution focused news may play more into higher brain functions, more related to planning and long term views. That’s perhaps why it’s been more in the background, so far. At the same time, we are living in a world where that’s sorely needed, as is becoming more and more clear to more and more people. Solution focused news offers information about practical solutions, potentially making them help spread. It may also feed a more optimistic outlook among people, creating a sense that – yes – much good is happening in the world, and we do have the solutions we need to the challenges we face today.

Religion is politics

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Sustainability and profit

 

It’s still puzzling to me, and has been since my teens, that some present sustainability as “expensive”. There are so many reasons why that doesn’t make sense.

First, the long term view: what’s really expensive is to continue as we do now. The consequences will be hugely costly in terms of loss of ecosystems, human lives, quality of life, clean up, a very late and essential course adjustment, and more. It is far less costly to change now.

Also, if done right, moving in the direction of a sustainable civilization can be profitable in the short run. It can be done so it’s good for business, communities, science, technological innovation, health, quality of life, and more. There is no reason it should be costly even in the short term. There are many very good solutions that are inexpensive and even saves money. And there are many solutions that are very good for business. (Although often “new” businesses, rather than the established ones.)

The latter is perhaps why this myth has been created or maintained. For established businesses, “business as usual” may seem more profitable in the short run. To them, it may seem that they benefit from it, and from maintaining the myth of “expensive sustainability”. Of course, they overlook the huge potential profit in this area, and that doing a course correction now will benefit them in the mid- to long-term. (And perhaps even short term, again if done right.)

Another reason for this myth may be identity. For some, especially politically or culturally conservative, sustainability is associate with a certain group of people, and this is a group they don’t want to be associated with. So instead of exploring the topic and see that there are ways to do sustainability that fits their existing identity, they reject it altogether.