Reflections on society, politics and nature XIII

Trauma-informed schools and society. There is a movement to create more trauma-informed schools. These are schools where teachers and students are aware of the symptoms of trauma and how to relate to traumatized students, and where knowledge opens for understanding, empathy, and healing. In the best case, it can help whole generations of students in all areas of life. And there is a similar movement to bring trauma awareness into some types of workplaces, including police, firefighting, and the military.

When we don’t know about trauma, we tend to react to it – in ourselves and others – in ways that may retraumatize or deepen the trauma. And when we know the symptoms and how to relate to traumatized people, we can create a safe space, invite in deeper healing, and people’s lives can change for the better in all areas of their lives. The more a whole culture – whether it’s at a school, workplace, for teachers in general – is trauma-informed, the more transformative this can be.

My wish is that we will, eventually, have more trauma-informed people, communities, and even societies. It’s already happening some places, and it will most likely spread. So much of what we see as problems in our society today is typical trauma behavior, including reactivity, recurrent or ongoing anger, anxiety or depression, extreme ideologies, dehumanization of groups of people, substance abuse and any form of addiction, violence, physical and emotional abuse, and homelessness and crime. All of these are often reactions to trauma, or rather to the pain of trauma.

Dec 24, 2018

War on Christmas? This is one of the aspects of US culture that’s baffling to me. Even on the surface, it’s absurd. Christians and Christian holidays still dominate the US culture with a wide margin. It’s still the other religions and atheism that need someone to speak up for them.

And simple things like saying “happy holidays!” is just a common sense acknowledgment that people celebrate different holidays. It’s just being a sane, informed, and kind human being.

I assume the “war on Christmas” silliness comes from white Christians realizing that soon enough they’ll be in minority in the US and they will lose the privileges that traditionally came with being white Christians in the US. They are scared and they react with the “war on Christmas” nonsense.

I am sure they know it’s nonsense, but it probably feels good for a little while. They feel they are right. They get to express their fear (through anger, intolerance). They get to feel they belong to a group with other angry Christians.

Of course, it’s not very Christian of them. It’s the opposite of what Jesus so clearly demonstrated. But that has never gotten in the way of some group of Christians in the US (who seem to take pride in racism, intolerance, and anger and fear set in system). Of course, many Christians in the US are more Christian and live from and promote tolerance, inclusivity, and being more human. I myself have belonged to groups like that.

December 28, 2018

Chess, image, and intelligence. I have been following the recent chess world championships (regular, rapid, and lightning), mainly because the current no. 1 in regular chess is Norwegian.

It’s clear how chess, and especially professional chess, relies on a certain image and how the chess community have been quite intentional in building up that image over generations. They dress in suits. They act in a gentlemanly manner (mostly). They develop the theory. They appear intelligent. Being good at chess comes with prestige and is associated with a lot of generally desired characteristics. I assume that’s the reason the Soviet Union emphasized producing excellent chess players, and China now is doing the same.

And somehow, in that process, the public got the impression that chess mastery reflects some general or pure intelligence. Yes, it does require intelligence but as with mastery of any field, it requires a combination of several types of intelligences (specific to the field) along with some general opportunities, gifts, and skills.

So what does it require to be good at chess? Since I am not a chess player, I don’t really know but I assume it includes motivation and opportunity to practice (a lot), motivation and opportunity to learn the theory and study existing games, motivation and ability to learn from mistakes and strengthen your weaknesses, good guidance and coaches, good pattern recognition, good memory, and also emotional and mental stability, physical and mental stamina, and general resilience.

What’s certain is that chess mastery does not necessarily reflect IQ. IQ measures only one type of intelligence, and really, it only measures how well you do on a very specific type of tests. It’s a skill that can be learned, as I discovered in my early teens when I and a friend set out to get better at IQ tests, developed an understanding of what they were looking for, practiced getting higher scores, and increased our scores significantly.

Mental coaching. Magnus Carlsen is famous for losing to worse players, and for sometimes needing several games before he starts to play well in a championship. Several recommend that he use a mental coach to overcome what seems to clearly be a mindset-problem, although he and others seem to dismiss it out of hand. I understand the concern of perhaps messing with a mindset that usually works very well. Although I also think that he could benefit greatly from good coaching. One obvious problem is that he often underestimates players not in the top 10 or 20 in the world. Another is that he either hasn’t warmed up sufficiently before a championship or that his nerves get the upper hand. All of this would be helpful to address with the help of someone who knows what works for other athletes.

December 30, 2018


What’s going to happen now?
I’m increasingly convinced that there will be a second referendum. The Sherlock Holmes principle is always a good one: you eliminate the impossible and whatever remains, however improbable, must be the solution. The second referendum has always been highly improbable but everything else is looking impossible. There’s just no deal that the Europeans can do that can get through the House of Commons. And no deal is so catastrophic that you have to hope that no sane parliament would allow it. So the one thing left is a second referendum.

Fintan O’Toole in Fintan O’Toole: ‘Brexit is full of hysterical self-pity’, The Guardian

January 1, 2019

Age. In traditional societies, where the skills and knowledge that’s valued stays mostly the same across generations, older age is more valued. Older people have the knowledge that’s useful for the whole society. In our modern society, where technology changes rapidly, youth is more valued. Young people tend to absorb and develop the new technology.

This is natural, although it does bring an unfortunate assumption that youth somehow is inherently “better” than older age. While the reality is that it’s an artifact of a society that values rapidly changing and developing technology.

What’s the remedy? One is to be aware of this connection. We value youth because we happen to live in a society where technology changes rapidly, and we happen to value that technology. Youth is not inherently “better” than older age.

Another is to consciously examine this, and recognize that much of what we already value is timeless and improves with age, including ordinary human wisdom and maturity.

So we can value youth for what youth is good at. And we can value older age for what older age is good at. Each age comes with it’s own gifts to the person, others, and society and humanity as a whole.

And, of course, we can stay healthy into old age if we stay mentally and physically active, eat well, and take care of our own emotional issues (so they don’t weigh us down so much).

January 15, 2019

Brexit. May’s Brexit plan was just thoroughly rejected by the parliament. Why is it so difficult for Britain to go through with Brexit? As mentioned earlier, one of the reasons for the Brexit chaos is that it’s a thoroughly bad idea. Britain is deeply interwoven in the EU and it’s hard to extract it in a way that makes sense or is better than what they have. And it’s just about impossible to have a Brexit that gives most of the leave people what they want because, for many of them, what they think they’ll get is a fantasy. The problems they are concerned about (which I am too), are global problems, they are not created by the EU. Leaving the EU doesn’t fix it.

So why did a (slim) majority vote for it? It’s perhaps an arrogant view, but it does seem that many were intentionally misled and that some are more reactive and concerned about following an ideal (e.g. “a strong, independent Britain”) than what’s sane and reasonable and actually good for Britain.

And now, after the Brexit vote and before Brexit actually happens (or is canceled), it seems that many politicians and people in the UK are delusional about what their options are. They seem to operate as if they can have anything they point at without taking reality into account. (One example is the talk about a “Norway” or “Norway+” type of deal which is off the table since Norway won’t allow Britain to be included in EFTA. And it’s not even a good deal since the members have to follow EU regulations without being able to effectively influence or shape the regulations.)

What’s most likely to happen from now on? Nobody knows since all the options (hard or soft Brexit, a no-deal Brexit, or another referendum) seem unlikely. But if I were to guess, it would be that the deadline is extended, and there is either a soft (reasonable) Brexit or a new referendum since none of the Brexit options have a majority backing in the parliament.  

January 25, 2019

Populism? This is slightly puzzling for me.

“We must now will Europe or perish beneath the waves of populism,” the document reads.

Europe ‘coming apart before our eyes’, say 30 top intellectuals, The Guardian

populism / noun

a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups.

To me, populism seems to be healthy. It’s a political movement that sets the interest of ordinary people over that of elite groups (mostly financial and power elite). Many of the problems today are because policies, rules, and regulations serve the (short term) interests of big money rather than the interests of people, ecosystems, and future generation.

Of course, some forms of populism can be damaging to society, and especially the populism of Trump and Brexiters that’s built on misleading people. But I cannot see that populism, in itself, is a problem or something to deride. Healthy forms of populism – informed and built on the long term interest of ordinary people and future generations – seem important and sorely needed.

January 29, 2019

Trump folded? Trump ended the partial government shutdown a few days ago, and although we can be grateful that government workers are back doing their vital jobs and are finally paid, it’s misguided to celebrate it as a victory over Trump. If anything, he is likely to come back with a vengeance, for instance by declaring a national emergency and still getting the money for the wall. (By taking it for money earmarked for actual emergencies.)

People pretending it’s a victory over Trump either does it against their better judgment, or have learned very little about Trump.

One glass of wine a day? For a long time, people have cited the “one glass of wine a day” research saying it’s good for the heart and health and so on. I have always been skeptical of that statement. It sounds like what people would like to think so they can give themselves permission to drink. Alcohol is a toxin and plenty of research shows just that.

Personally, I mostly stay away from alcohol because it doesn’t feel good in my body. It really feels like a toxin.

I expect the public attitudes towards alcohol will change as it did for cigarettes and tobacco. It’s clear that it wouldn’t be allowed or at least that it would be heavily regulated if it was introduced today. So it’s likely just a matter of time until we catch up as a society.

February 7, 2019

Maturity in movies. I have noticed that in some recent US TV series and movies, the people in it act in a surprisingly immature way. I guess it’s always been that way, in some cases, but it seems to be especially prevalent now. People unnecessarily bicker and are petty. People in professions with a strict selection process and people in central positions in society behave in a surprisingly unprofessional way (Gravity) or like reactive and damaged children (Star Trek Discovery). I wonder if there is a trend in the TV and movie industry in the US to see childish bickering as a way to create tension. (It doesn’t for me, it just seems weird.) Or, it may be that a society that elects a child-king for president consists of quite a few people who themselves are like traumatized children. Fortunately, in the majority of TV-series and movies, and especially internationally, most of the characters are normally mature.

February 12, 2019

Brexit, Trump, War, Putin. We know that what we have can easily be lost and cannot be taken for granted. And we know what historically has led to wars. And yet, many seems to ignore this. They act as if what we have as a society is something we can take for granted. They act as if it won’t easily be lost. They act as if they don’t know what historically leads to wars.

That’s what I see in Brexit and the Trump presidency. People seem reckless. They act in ways that may lead us to lose what we have. They act in ways that move us in the direction of war. They also act in ways that, most likely, pleases Putin since he wants to see the western world divided against itself and acting against its own interest.

The European Union was mainly created to tie the European countries closer together and reduce the likelihood of another devastating war. I imagine many who support Brexit don’t have that in mind. The previous war was too long ago for them to remember. They have experienced peace through their lifetime so they assume that will continue. And it can, but only if we consistently and intentionally work for peace. Brexit is a step in the wrong direction and much of what’s behind Brexit – including misinformation and xenophobia – is what traditionally has led us away from peace.

February 18, 2019

Truth-telling humor.

“I’ll immediately be sued and the ruling will not go in my favour and then it will end up in the supreme court and then I’ll call my buddy Kavanaugh and I’ll say ‘It’s time to repay the Donny’ and he’ll say, ‘New phone, who dis?’ And by then the Mueller report will be released, crumbling my house of cards and I can plead insanity and do a few months in the puzzle factory and my personal hell of playing president will finally be over.”

Alec Baldwin as Trump in SNL, as quoted in The Guardian, Donald Trump talks of ‘retribution’ after Alec Baldwin sketch on SNL

To me, good humor often tells truth. It tells the truth we often gloss over and pretend is not there, or the truth it’s difficult to tell. I think that’s why Alec Baldwin as Trump tends to hit home, even with Trump.

March 7, 2019

Conspiracy theories. I am rarely drawn to conspiracy theories. Many of them are quite hare-brained and reflect a poor grasp on reality. And people seem to go into them for emotional reasons and not because they are backed up by good data.

Mainly, I am not into them because what we KNOW is happening is so much worse and serious. The unraveling of ecosystems, toxins and plastic particles throughout Earth’s living systems, loss of insects and an increasing number of species, climate change, sea levels rising 5-10+ meters within the next few decades, an ecological footprint of humanity that’s far beyond what’s sustainable, international policies and unwritten norms rigged to profit the already very wealthy at the cost of everyone else – including nonhuman species, ecosystems, and future generations, and much more.

Conspiracy theories often distract from the actual and serious issues that we all (or most of us) agree on. They often speak to immaturity in people, and perhaps an emotional need to feel that we know something others don’t, we are let in on a secret, we can “stick it to the man”, and we are somehow superior to others for that reason. And, in reality, we often delude ourselves and miss the actual big picture.

March 12, 2019

Vy? I woke up to news that NSB – Norwegian railways – is changing name to Vy. It seemed like it had to be a joke, but it’s not April 1st. The name is meaningless, silly, and sounds more like the name of an ad agency. But there is, of course, a reason behind the name change. It’s not to make it sound more modern or hip, although that will probably be what they say about it. It’s so they can keep privatizing more and more of their services. It’s an old and respected company owned by all of us, and that was reflected in the old name (statsbaner – state railroad). Removing that part of the name and making it sound like a private company will make it easier to keep privatizing. (Which, as I see it, is a bad idea for so many reasons. Mainly, it’s a public service so is a service that should be owned by all of us.)

April 8, 2019

Star Wars and subverting expectations. This is not an important topic in itself, but it does highlight the balance between being in the service of something larger versus going after own pet impulses and ideas.

Like many others, I grew up with and love Star Wars. I was moved when I saw the original three characters in The Force Awakens and thought it was an OK movie that promised well for the next two sequels. But I was, as many others, disappointed in The Last Jedi. There were far too many loose ends from the first sequel that were not addressed, Luke acted dramatically out of character in a way that wasn’t properly set up, and Rey (again, a very promising character from the first sequel) didn’t have much of an arc and didn’t show much growth – for instance through youthful folly, misjudgments, and mistakes. And that lack of development, to me, made her less interesting.

In general, it felt like the director of The Last Jedi wanted to subvert expectations rather than being at the service of the larger story and developing it organically in a way that felt consistent with what had been set up through the earlier movies. It’s fine to subvert expectations, but it does have to feel consistent with the universe and the characters.

Perhaps even more importantly, it felt like whoever oversees the sequels hadn’t decided on an overall story arc and themes. (Although you would think that would be the first thing they did.) The two first sequels feel disjointed. And that, of course, is why many old fans are a little disappointed.

An additional note: The way The Last Jedi subverted expectations felt a bit immature to me. It’s easy to subvert expectations, and it can be important and a good twist to the story if it grows organically out of the characters and the universe they live in. But in this case, it felt like it was done for its own sake and it didn’t feel organic and something that grew naturally from the people and their world.

There is nothing wrong with giving fans what they want, especially when they – as in this case – want a story that highlights the characters they know and love, that feels right and organic, is adventurous and suspenseful, and smart and with surprising twists that make sense within the universe. And, perhaps most important, a story that feels epic, real in an emotional and human sense, and speaks to archetypes we all know and live – whether we know it or not. That’s what made the initial trilogy great.

They could easily have given the fans what they wanted in the last Skywalker trilogy, and in the process made epic, thrilling, and smart movies. They could have saved the “subvert expectations” pet projects to the many additional Star Wars movies. Instead, they chose to make a second movie that makes the last trilogy feel disjointed and – at least for me and many others – less satisfying than we had hoped for.

June 3, 2019

Road toll? There is a movement in Norway to reduce or remove all road toll for cars, and they even have their own political party just for that one topic. I find it baffling that something like that can be the focus for people when we are facing a whole range of far more serious issues, including the loss and unraveling of ecosystems worldwide. The living systems we are a part of and 100% dependent on are disappearing fast, and they spend their time and energy on wanting to remove road toll?

Of course, it’s just how the human mind sometimes works. Focusing on what’s near and immediate and ignoring what’s global although far more important. And the Earth as a living system will be fine and keep on adapting and evolving, even if what’s happening may be devastating to many species including humans. And in the even bigger picture, it’s all Lila, the play of life. It’s the universe expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself, even as this.

June 15, 2019

British politics. It seems baffling – and either stupid or admirable – that Tory politicians compete to be the next British prime minister, and also that Corbyn keeps saying he wants a new general election. They are competing to lead a process (Brexit) that’s doomed to make whoever is leading it very unpopular among large portions of the population, perhaps even a majority, no matter the outcome. They are, most likely, doomed to fail and to take their political party with them. It’s either very stupid or it comes from a sense of duty and is (a tiny bit) admirable in a tragic way.

June 17, 2019

Trump supporters. I and the people I know keep being baffled by how anyone can support Trump (unless you are very wealthy and have no conscience). The answer may be simple and is what we have seen historically over and over: Combine poor education (schooling, media) with a difficult life situation for enough people, and you have a situation where many will support anyone with simple solutions, especially if those solutions include blaming, dehumanizing, and scapegoating certain groups of people (those with different political orientation, religious belonging, ethic background etc.).

It is weird that people keep falling for it, but it’s perhaps not so weird because the poor schooling makes them unaware that that’s what they are doing.

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