Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 50

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

ART HISTORY

In the early ’90s, I studied art history for a year (full time) at the University of Oslo. Since they called it “art history”, and since I was young and naive, I was looking forward to WORLD art history. The history of art from the earliest times and across all cultures. That was what I expected, hoped for, and wanted.

To my surprise and disappointment, the course turned out to be the history of WESTERN art, and really just the art of Western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I was left with several puzzling questions:

Why didn’t they have a course for WORLD art?

Why did they call a course that had such a limited scope “art history” without any qualifiers?

Why didn’t they address or acknowledge this obvious discrepancy?

The answer is probably a kind of ethnocentrism. They – consciously or not – may have seen “real” art as the art of western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I imagine that now, 30 years later, they are a little less provincial and more conscious of this. Hopefully, they include the art of the world and not just a small section of the world. Or, at the very least, they label the course accurately.

HOW CHRONIC FATIGUE FEELS

How does CFS / ME feel?

There are some variations, but here is how it is for me:

It feels like strong jet lag. Not having slept for several days. Being drugged. Having toxins through my system. Having influenza without nose and throat symptoms. Having all most or all physical strength drained out of the body. If I do any kind of physical activity: Like climbing a mountain at a very high altitude. All at the same time.

And a worsening of all of it following any activity, whether it’s cognitive or physical.

OCTOBER 20, 2021

ELECTRICITY SUPPLY

The electricity prices in Norway have been record-high for a while now, and there is no sign of it changing as the country is heading into winter. Already, there are many stories of people unable to afford electric heat.

For me, this is a reminder that all essentials – water, electricity, public transportation, etc. – needs to be publicly owned. It needs to be owned by all of us, and the primary goal is not to make money but to ensure that all of us have access to the basics of life.

As soon as profit becomes the main motive, we end up in the situation we see in Norway these days: the prices are sky high and many are unable to afford to heat their homes during a cold winter.

OCTOBER 23, 2021

WHEN SYSTEMS ARE NOT FOOLPROOF

During rehearsal for the movie Rust, two people were accidentally shot. Apparently, they used real guns and instead of blanks, there were real bullets in the chambers.

This is a reminder that if we can make a system foolproof, it makes sense to do it.

People make mistakes. They cut corners. Procedures are not followed. Unlikely combinations of circumstances eventually happen.

using real guns on movie sets will inevitably lead to people being shot. So why not use harmless fake guns? Why accept unnecessary risk for the sake of entertainment?

ANTI-VACCINE ORIENTATIONS

I understand that some are skeptical of vaccines. Personally, I avoid them unless there is a very good reason to take them. (For me, the risks with the covid vaccine seem far less than the risk of the actual infection, and I’ll also take whatever ones are required for travel. I won’t take seasonal flu vaccines since I don’t see any good reason to take them.)

At the same time, many of the arguments of those against vaccines seem odd and not so well thought out.

Some say “the government doesn’t control my body”. And yet, society and civilization is governed by a lot of rules and regulations most of us are happy to follow. We use seat belt, get a driver’s license, follow the traffic rules, pay taxes, avoid stealing and killing, and so on. And we do so because we want a society that’s relatively ordered and well functioning, and we know these rules and regulations are required for the kind of society we want to live within. We know that following these rules are for the best for all of us.

So what’s different with vaccines? It’s just one more thing we do to have a society that works reasonably well. In the case of the covid vaccine, it allows us to open society back up again and live more as we did before the pandemic. It also protects the most vulnerable among us – including the old, already sick, and the ones of us especially susceptible to the virus without knowing about it. It also reduces the number of people who will have to live with long-covid, perhaps for the rest of their lives.

Also, most of us are happy to seek advice from professionals and experts. We go to a mechanic to fix our car. We go to a hairdresser to cut our hair. We go to a computer expert to fix our computers. We rely on electronic experts to build our TVs and other electronics. We rely on engineers to build the buildings we spend time in and the planes we fly in. We go to a heart specialist if something is wrong with our heart. And so on. So why not rely on epidemiologists and doctors when we are in a pandemic?

OCTOBER 25, 2021

DENSE ENERGY IN A SMALL LATIN AMERICAN COLONIAL TOWN

When I first arrived in Barichara, I noticed an unusually dense energy in the house where we are staying. I initially thought my sense of the denseness was exaggerated, and that the dense energy mainly had to do with the house. It felt like centuries of colonial denseness stored in the ground. The contrast to living in the countryside of Villa de Leyva, with its lighter and more spiritual (in a conventional sense) energy, was dramatic.

It soon became clear that the dense energy seems to be in the ground throughout the town. And from what I have learned about this history of the town, it makes sense. For instance, there is a story of the indigenous people living here committing mass suicide by throwing themselves from the cliffs to prevent being raped, tortured, and killed by the Europeans. The streets are paved through forced prison labor. And so on.

We cleared most of the denseness from the house during the first one or two days. And we have now started to clear the town itself. I imagine it will be a longish and ongoing project.

OBSESSION WITH AGE IN NORWEGIAN MEDIA

Norwegian print media seems obsessed with the age of the ones they write about. Just about anyone gets their age listed after their name. I found this very odd when I lived in Norway, and even more odd after living in other countries where they don’t do this to the same degree.

Why do they find it necessary or important to include the age? Why does just about any news outlet do it? Why in Norway and not nearly as much in other countries?

As I see it, humans are humans regardless of age. And the specific age of someone is only relevant in a few cases.

NOVEMBER 18, 2021

THE CHANGES WE KNEW WE HAD TO MAKE

For several decades, we have known that our basic systems – economic, production, water, energy, transportation, and so on – were unsustainable. They did not take ecological realities into account, and just by living normal lives within these systems, we are destroying ecosystems and what we depend on for our own lives.

This is not controversial. It’s obvious. Even without climate change, we would have to make profound and thorough changes to these systems.

So why didn’t we? Why didn’t we in the 50s? Or 70s? Or 90s?

Why has it taken so long for people to wake up to the self-made ecological crisis we are in?

The main answer is probably that most people, and especially those in wealthier countries, didn’t notice it in their own life. (Along with thoughts that we have time and can wait, automatic dismissal of this information because it was uncomfortable and didn’t fit people’s identity, and so on.)

Now, people are starting to notice it in their own life. So now, there is at least some mainstream discussion of this, although many still pretend the answers lie in what others need to do, or in making smaller changes within the existing systems.

That’s obviously not going to work. Our systems are what created this situation, so it’s our systems that need to change.

How much worse does it need to get before more people start to acknowledge this? And much worse, beyond that, does it need to be before enough people find the will to make the necessary changes?

We don’t lack technology. We don’t lack knowledge. What we currently lack is (a) mainstream acknowledgment of the real problem, and (b) collective willingness to make the actual changes.

UNNECESSARY WAR METAPHORS

A NY Times opinion piece is titled “When can the US declare victory over Covid?”

I find the war metaphor odd. The virus is something we need to learn to live with, as we are living with a range of other infectious diseases. The question is more what the trajectory will be and how it will eventually stabilize.

Why the war metaphor? Perhaps because it sounds more catchy and dramatic? Perhaps because the US is an empire and has an empire mentality, which includes glorifying war and using war metaphors even if they are not very accurate?

CULTURAL BIAS IN FAVOR OF BEING OUTGOING

There are several things to explore here.

First, when Jung used the words introverted and extraverted, he meant where we tend to place our attention. It has very little to do with being outgoing or quiet in social settings.

Also, this highlights an obvious bias in our culture. We tend to see being outgoing as good, and being quiet as sometimes a problem.

In reality, both are fine and have their strengths and weaknesses. We all have both sides in us. And the only problem may be if we get “stuck” in one or the other due to identities, wounds, reactivity to our own discomfort, and so on.

The more healthy we are, the more fluid we can be in how we access our outgoing sides or more quiet, receptive, and contemplative sides.

Why do we have this bias in our western culture? It may be connected to patriarchy and a tendency to see traditionally “masculine” characteristics (outgoing) as more desirable than traditionally “feminine” characteristics (receptive, quiet). And this tendency may be even stronger in empires (Britain, US), with their glorification of traditional patriarchal ideas of strength, power, and so on.

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