Reflections on society, politics and nature XIX

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Trump as the shadow. Trump represents shadow material for many people in the US and the rest of the world. He is one of the few leaders who happily and wholeheartedly seem to embrace qualities most of us see as undesirable. Qualities many of us try to avoid acting on (which is healthy), and perhaps exclude from how we see ourselves (less healthy).

That’s one of the golden opportunities with the Trump presidency. We can’t avoid seeing despicable behaviors from him. And that’s an invitation to find the same in ourselves. What do I see in him? (Make a list.) When and how do those descriptions fit my behavior? (Use specific examples.) Take it in. Allow it to change how I see myself.

The test for how much shadow material I have worked through – recognized in myself and included in how I see myself – is how I react when I see Trump. Do I react with reactivity, contempt, disgust, and so on? Do I see a human being like myself? (Although I don’t agree with his words and actions. If I see him with more empathy and perhaps as a confused and wounded human being, can I find that too in myself?

One of the best ways I have found to work with projections and shadow material is The Work of Byron Katie. The Living Inquiries is also good.

December 27, 2019

Praised for being authentic. A Norwegian author (Ari B. who was previously married to the princess) died recently. I see that he is praised for being authentic. And yet, from the little I know about him, it seems that his authenticity was more of the reactive sort. He was authentically reactive (angry, sad, unfiltered, wanting to live up to an image). There is another way of being authentic, which is to go beyond the surface reactivity to something more real as a human being and Spirit. Perhaps he was authentic in that way too. I don’t know. But that’s the type of authenticity that’s more interesting to me.

What is behind the surface reactivity? What’s behind the anger? The sadness? The want or need to be something or someone in particular? The identities we try to live up to or avoid? What’s the beliefs? The (unmet) fears? Who and how are we when we find more the wholeness we are as a human being? How is life when we live from the inner guidance, the quiet inner voice, even if it’s scary? How is life when what we are discovers itself and lives through this human life?

December 28, 2019

Best year and decade ever? I have seen some articles about how the previous year and/or decade was the best ever in history of humanity. Yes, I agree that one some measures, it may be better. (At least since the beginning of agriculture and civilization.)

But in the context of the ecological crisis we are in, it seems weird – and irresponsible – to make a general statement like that without taking the bigger picture into account. In the bigger picture, we are actively creating the biggest crisis humanity has ever faced. We are screwed. We are in the first phases of an ecological crisis that will impact us all.

Many species are gone forever. Most ecosystems are dramatically impacted, fragmented, and have lost key species and the size they need to maintain themselves. Many humans are severely impacted already, and many more will be in the coming years and decades.

Even those of us in peaceful and wealthy parts of the world will be severely impacted. We cannot escape the mass migrations coming in the near future. We cannot escape the ripple effects of unraveling ecosystems and people (and animals) losing their home. Some of these ripples may even turn into tsunamis.

So was it the best year and/or decade? Only if we are willfully blind. It was a time of actively creating a huge ecological crisis. It was a time of us doing almost nothing to stop or change it. It was a time of people talking about piecemeal solutions that are not real solutions. It was a time of people arguing about details when we all know the big picture.

January 2, 2020

Unable to visualize? Some people say they are unable to visualize. I am sure there must be research on this, for instance where they look at which parts of the brain lights up when people perform different tasks that typically require some form of visualization. But I haven’t (yet) looked it up to see what they have found.

My suspicion is that these people can visualize but are unaware of their visualizations. If they couldn’t visualize, how could they recognize anything visually? How could they visually recognize their spouse or children or parents? How could they make even the simplest of drawings from their imagination?

When I recognize people or anything visually, it’s because my mind has mental images it compares the visual impressions with. And when I make even the simplest drawings from my imagination – for instance of a stick figure or a mountain or the sun – it’s based on my mental images. These images may not be consciously produced, and my attention may not consciously be on these images, but they are there.

January 4, 2020

Trump, war, and elections. As soon as Trump won the presidential election a little over three years ago, it seemed obvious that he was someone who would start a war to win the next election. For someone who does not have the welfare of people at heart, it makes sense to start a war right now – a few months before the next election.

For some incomprehensible reason, the US population seem to support their president during wars, no matter how insane and indefensible the war is. And this is the perfect timing since the war will be in full force before the election, and the failure and tragedy of it won’t be clear – for the majority of people – until much later.

I have never understood how people can back and support leaders who make terrible decisions, including starting wars. Isn’t that the exact time to withdraw your support? To do anything you can to stop what’s happening?

On the one hand, I understand that many – and perhaps most – Trump supporters are misinformed, perhaps traumatized (by their culture and situation), and under pressure from how society works in the US. It’s possible to understand that they would support him and an unjust and tragic war that’s also a huge strategic misstep (apart from getting Trump re-elected).

On the other hand, it’s hard to for me to not see them as complete idiots. They have clearly not done their homework about Trump and the consequences of his policies. They don’t seem to realize that he does not – in any way – have their interest at heart (unless they happen to be very wealthy and very shortsighted). If they have any heart, they clearly go against their own heart by supporting someone who is bigoted, sexist, and implements policies that are hugely harmful for a large number of people.

January 8, 2020

Authoritarian sustainability. Although (you would think) it’s in everyone’s interest to live so we can preserve this planet that gives us life, it’s mostly been those on the left of the political spectrum who has been concerned about taking care of our ecosystems. As more people wake up to the necessity of sustainability, we’ll see different approaches.

It’s obviously essential to have a wider agreement on the importance of sustainability. But it also means we’ll see approaches to sustainability that are cruel, inhumane, and breaks with human rights and social justice concerns. We may see cruelty, perhaps on a large scale, in the name of sustainability and preserving ecosystems.

An obvious example is how wealthy countries treat climate refugees from other parts of the world. We’ll most likely see larger and larger numbers of people fleeing from their home regions because they become unliveable – because of drought, fire, flooding, extreme weather, and more. We’ll see people in wealthy and more climate-lucky countries wanting to close their borders, leaving refugees to suffer and perhaps die.

And one argument for this cruelty and inhumanity will be sustainability. We can’t have more people here because it would impact our ecosystems too much. It’s not wrong, but it’s also inhumane, cruel, short sighted, and it doesn’t offer any real solution to our collective challenges.

We can call this authoritarian (and cruel) sustainability. Or me-first sustainability. Or short-sighted sustainability. Or lack-of-empathy sustainability. And it’s not really sustainable since any real sustainability must include social justice and human rights to be stable.

January 10, 2020

State-sponsored assassinations. This is something that seems obvious, has an explanation, and is also puzzling. When states sponsor or carry out assassinations of people from other countries, why is it not always seen as a crime?

For instance, when the US now carried out an assassination of an Iranian general, why does not everyone – other countries, reporters, US politicians – speak out about it? Why is it not reported as the crime it is? Why is it OK that a state carry out murders but not OK if individuals do it? Why is it OK if our allies do it but not OK if others do it?

I understand why, to some extent. People agree to these things, for one reason or another. They agree it’s OK if a state commit murder but it’s not OK if an individual does it. They agree it’s OK if “we” do it but not OK if “they” do it. They agree to use language to pretend it’s not what it is – murder.

Perhaps they agree because they are habituated to doing it from a culture where it’s common? Or because it seems patriotic? Or because they are afraid of the consequences of speaking the truth?

And yet, why do people really agree to this? None of those reasons hold up to scrutiny. Why do not more people speak up about it? Why do they not call a murder a murder and demand that the people involved – from the top to the ones carrying it out – are sent to murder trail? And then to prison for murder? They are all, undeniably, murderers. There is no other honest name for it. How can people justify keeping silent about this? Or using weasel-words to pretend it’s not a murder?

I know these are questions teenagers ask. And perhaps it’s time we all do it no matter our age.

Good stories require conflict? Some say that any good and engaging story needs conflict. And some – in particular some screenwriters – seem to take this to mean small-minded (bickering) conflict between people.

But is that true? Does a good story require conflict? And does it have to be of the bickering interpersonal type?

I agree that many good stories do involve conflict if we understand it in a very broad sense. There is often a challenge to be overcome, whether that challenge comes from oneself (someone in oneself to overcome) or life (something in life to overcome). It certainly does not have to be interpersonal conflict, although it sometimes is.

Out of many examples, I’ll mention just a few. The Kon Tiki movie – which I otherwise enjoyed since I have loved the book and Thor Heyerdahl’s adventurous life since my childhood – is one I won’t rewatch or recommend to others for a simple reason. They added completely unnecessary interpersonal conflict in order to make it more interesting. As if the story in itself is not larger-than-life and more than fascinating in itself, and as if there isn’t enough challenges and conflicts otherwise in the story – they faced a huge amount of opposition and skepticism from others, and they faced a lot of challenges from the ocean and untested (by them or anyone else alive) technology.

Also, adding interpersonal conflict among the crew undermines something central to Thor Heyerdahl and his mission: For obvious pragmatic reasons, he was very careful to select a crew that will get along. And – following a devastating world war – he wanted to create an example of diverse people and an international crew getting along well.

Star Trek Discovery is another example of an otherwise good story ruined – for me – by unnecessary interpersonal conflict. The crew bickered and were petty to the extent that I initially thought the story was set in the mirror universe, and I stopped watching after two or three episodes. The petty interpersonal conflicts went against the whole idea of Star Trek and why the fans love Star Trek, and it made it into a run-of-the mill sci-fi story without much more to it.

January 21, 2020

Rogue One & The Mandalorian. Some say that Star Wars fans have a “toxic fan culture” and are hard if not impossible to please. (George Lukas, Disney, some reporters who buy into that narrative.) I find this odd for at least two reasons.

When the Star Wars creators say it, as they do, they alienate their own fans. (They also don’t assume responsibility for their own bad story writing and other mistakes, which makes them look stubborn and lack insight.) Who would think it’s a good idea to blame and alienate their own customers? The ones who give them money for their products? The ones they depend on and require to even exist?

And it’s clearly not true. Most if not nearly all Star Wars fans love Rogue One and The Mandalorian. I am no exception. I loved and love the initial trilogy. I was less pleased with the next trilogy. I find the most recent trilogy a weird mess – apparently without any initial overarching story outline or plan. I loved Rogue One. And I love even more The Mandalorian.

Rogue One and The Mandalorian show that Star Wars fans (which obviously is a very diverse group of people with many different views and opinions) are not hard to please. They just want good storytelling and stories that feel like Star Wars. And as opposed to the recent Star Wars trilogy, Rogue One and The Mandalorian both do that. They are well written. Well made. And feel like Star Wars.

January 25, 2020

Science and speculation. I listened to a podcast where the host – Mike Clelland – said (paraphrased): I am going to speculate, which is something scientists hate. This reflects a basic misconception about science (and perhaps the state of the US educational system?).

Without speculation, there would be no science. Speculation is at the core of science and research. It’s essential for developing ideas about why something is happening, and ideas for new and innovative research.

Of course, these ideas needs to be tested and retested by others. Speculation alone is (usually) not enough, but speculation is essential to science.

Just like in life in general, it’s important to differentiate and be clear about what’s speculation, what we have heard from others, what our own experience is, and so on. And also to be clear that when we describe anything – even our own experiences – the way we talk about it inevitably reflects our own biases, assumptions, and worldview. That’s the scientific approach.

Imagination and speculation are as essential to science as anything.

Integral perspective on politics. I don’t know much about the integral (Ken Wilber) perspective on politics, but saw a post on FB about it and wanted to explore it a bit for myself.

This is just my naive ideas, but I assume it means:

Be sane and civil. Address the issues and not the person. Respectful dialog. Engage in dialog to learn and not just to reinforce your own views. Seek to understand where other people are coming from. Be willing to question your most cherished ideas.

Use an integral and big picture approach. Find the value in each view and adopt what makes sense in a bigger perspective. Use a short- and long-term view in deciding on priorities and approaches. Base approaches in science and historical examples, when possible.

Step out of your own narrow personal interests and adopt the interests of the larger community. Give voice to the voiceless – the ones not yet born, non-human species, ecosystems, Earth as a whole.

Speak the truth as you see it, and know there is always a deeper truth. Be authentic. Be real. Be honest.

I don’t always do all of this, especially not in the moment when I am caught in my own hangups. But, at the very least, I know that’s happening and I know how a more sane approach would be. And when things calm down, I am mostly able to adopt a little more sane approach.

Personally, I notice I get worked up (hangups and emotional issues gets triggered) when I see people being clearly misinformed and acting on it, or acting from bigotry and devaluing the lives of others.

National park. On that topic, I had a conversation earlier today about the proposed national park east of Oslo. (Where my cabin is.) I strongly support the national park and see no good reasons to not implement it. The person I talked with was opposed to it because he was concerned they would demolish all the roads etc. so it wouldn’t be possible to get to the cabin anymore.

This did trigger me a bit because it seems so – as I told myself – stupid. The government has explicitly said that all existing infrastructure – including buildings and roads – will remain and the roads will be maintained as before. And historically, that’s exactly what has happened when other national parks were created. Why would it be different now? Why would something so bizarre and unlikely happen?

Why be opposed to something that’s so crucial to nature and future generations just because you got such a weird idea – clearly not based in reality or anything at all – into your head?

I didn’t say this, of course. I tried to be civil. But I did notice I got frustrated and that frustration probably showed in the conversation.

January 26, 2020

Animals vs humans. It’s weird to me to live in a culture where we tend to see ourselves as not animals, at least in daily life and conversation. (About as weird as British people differentiating themselves from “Europeans”.)

Of course we are animals. We are animals who feel, think, have a culture, and so on. And many other animals have one or two or three of the same. We are both a little different – because of our language, technology, and relative dominance right now – and we are very much the same as other animals.

It’s convenient to see ourselves as inherently different from other animals. It allows us to “dehumanize” them (for lack of a better word). It allows us to enslave them. Imprison them. Eat them for their flesh. Experiment on them. Destroy their habitat. Eradicate entire species.

In short, by creating an us vs them attitude, we can treat them as we could never justify treating other humans.

This not only harms huge numbers of non-human animals. It harms ourselves. It damages us to operate from this view. It damages us because we naturally suffer when we treat other living beings in cruel ways. (Even when the cruelty is apparently removed from us, we know what happens.) It damages us to see ourselves as not animals. It damages us to “dehumanize” fellow living beings. It damages us to alienate ourselves from our inherent (and often beautiful) animal nature. It damages us to eradicate ecosystems and whole species. It not our damages our own psyche, it puts our future existence at risk.

A part of this is our ideas of humans vs animals and what we associate with each. In our western culture, we often – apparently inexplicably – associate humans with being civilized, intelligent, and noble. And we associate animals with wildness, cruelty, and unhinged passions. We sometimes even assume animals have no feelings, thoughts, or culture.

All of this is patently and obviously false. Wild animals are often deeply caring and their “cruelty” is limited and in service of their own survival. The real and massive examples of unbridled cruelty is found in human civilization, and we are flooded with daily examples. (The short sighted, cruel, and inhumane Trump policies – supported by large segments of the US society – is one example.)

Many words reflect this weird polarization in our western worldview. For instance, bestiality, animalistic, humane, civilized and so on. I have even used some of them in this article.

Why did this polarization happen? One answer may be the transition to agriculture, accumulation of wealth, hierarchy, patriarchy, and a general power-over attitude. (It may be that the previous more nomadic gather-hunter culture had – by necessity – a more power-with attitude.) This power-over attitude was then applied to animals, nature in general, women, children, other groups and ethnic groups, our own animal nature, our bodies, and so on.

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