Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 51

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.

FREEDOM & RESPONSIBILITY

Some countries require proof of vaccine for entering public spaces like restaurants and movie theaters. In response, some vaccine skeptics say: “I am in control over my own body. Nobody can tell me I can’t do certain things just because I chose to be unvaccinated. It’s a violation of human rights.”

To me, it’s a weak and partly nonsensical argument.

We live in a society, and in a society, we have certain freedoms and responsibilities. That’s required for society to work reasonably well for as many as possible.

We already accept a lot of restrictions to our freedom. We accept that we shouldn’t drive drunk. Kill people. Steal. Damage other people’s property. And so on.

Requiring a proof of vaccine is just one of many restrictions. It’s temporary. And it clearly helps society as a whole, including us as individuals.

We know that those vaccinated are less likely to be infected and seriously ill. That means they are less likely to pass it on to others, and they are less likely to end up in a hospital, take up valuable spaces there, and cost society money. The more people are vaccinated, the sooner we can get through the pandemic, and the less risk there is of new and more transmittable mutations.

For me, requiring proof of vaccine for travel, entry to restaurants, and so on, is among the least we can do to limit the impact of the pandemic.

Personally, I am very happy to accept a limited (very small) personal risk by taking the vaccine, if this can help society as a whole. It’s the least I can do.

Note: It’s almost not worth mentioning, but it’s not a “human right” to enter restaurants and movie theaters. And it’s not a “violation of my body” if someone requires me to be vaccinated to enter those places.

COLLAPSE

Considering our trajectory, and the inability to find the collective will to make sufficient change, it’s likely that we are heading towards a social and ecological collapse. It doesn’t mean all life will be gone, or that humans will be gone. But it does mean that our ecosystems, the way we know them, will be gone. And that our civilization, as we know it, will be gone. It means radical ecological and social transformations, and it will be challenging.

Since the majority of people live as if this is not going to happen, it’s up to us – individually and locally – to prepare and adapt to this as best as we can. And, as usual with crisis and life in general, it’s the ones with the most resources who will be able to adapt best, and it’s the ones with the fewest resources that will be hit the hardest.

PRIVATIZATION OF ESSENTIAL RESOURCES

To me, it seems obvious that essential resources – drinking water, energy, garbage handling, public transportation, oil, and so on – should be collectively owned.

Over and over, history shows us what happens when these resources are privatized. And we see an example of it in Norway now. Energy has been privatized, which means the main goal is profit, which means the energy companies (a) sell huge amounts of energy to other countries, (b) drain the water reserves used to generate much of the energy, and (c) the electricity prices in Norway is skyrocketing to the point where a single shower costs 40-50 NOK ($5-6) and many are unable to afford to heat their homes.

Of course, the idea of owning natural resources – or anything else – in the first place is a convention. We decide that someone can own something and others agree that’s how it is.

LEARNING IN SCHOOL VS IN LIFE

I am learning a new language, and am reminded of a classic insight.

In school, we are rewarded for getting it right and for perfection. Mistakes often mean lower grades.

In real life, when we are learning anything including a new language, making mistakes is how we learn.

The more free we are to try out things outside of what we already know, and the more free we are to make mistakes, the faster and better we learn.

If we are trained to aim for perfection and avoid mistakes, it will hinder our learning. So this is one of the things some of us need to unlearn to learn new things in life.

LOSS OF INSECTS – ONE OF THE CORNERSTONES OF LIFE

DECEMBER 7, 2021

WHY SO CONCERNED ABOUT NORMAL REACTIONS TO THE VACCINE?

One of the (many) things I don’t understand is why so many seem so concerned with normal reactions to the covid vaccine. I have seen innumerable folks on social media who seem overly concerned about this, to the point where they question if they want to get the vaccine.

The vaccine mimics an actual infection, giving our system a chance to be prepared if or when we actually get infected.

The reactions we experience to the vaccine, if any, are the normal reactions the body has to actual infection. Most of our general illness symptoms come from the body’s reaction to an infection. Fever helps kill off pathogens. Feeling sick encourages us to relax, which frees up resources to take care of the infection. And so on.

If our body has a reaction to the vaccine, it’s a good sign. It shows that the vaccine works. It shows that our body responds to the vaccine as it would to an actual infection, which makes it much better prepared for a later actual infection.

ADOPTING THINGS FROM THE US

The rest of the world follows the US, whether we see it as fortunate or unfortunate.

It’s a cliche with a lot of truth to it.

And these days, we see it happening with the toxic political culture in the US and the toxic politicizing of topics that more belong to science than political wrangling.

What specifically is being exported?

Here are a few of many examples:

Excessive polarization with roots in the two-party system in the US. This belongs far less in multi-party systems.

Politicizing of the science of climate change, epidemiology, vaccines, and so on.

Policies aimed at funneling money to the already wealthy, increasing the gap between the wealthy and those less fortunate.

Unhinged conspiracy theories, which belongs more in a country with a strong distrust of authority, polarization of science and history, and a poor education system.

I find it odd how so many in other countries adopt these things from the US culture and politics when they must realize it has its roots in peculiarities of the US system and culture and makes far less sense in other countries with a different system, culture, and educational system.

WOKE?

Woke – adjective INFORMAL•US alert to injustice in society, especially racism.

I see that certain people have successfully denigrated “woke” to the point that even many liberals don’t want to accept that label.

Why not embrace the label? Why not embrace it as it is, since the definition is clearly something desirable? And if it needs some tweaking, why not redefine it slightly so it fits?

I see myself as proudly woke. It’s one of many – innumerable – labels that fit me when I look more closely.

PANDEMIC AND GOING FROM ONE EXTREME TO THE OTHER

I have not understood the strange and somewhat extreme swings in the pandemic measures in Norway. They went from lockdown and strong measures to releasing all measures, knowing that it would lead to an upswing in cases and future restrictions and perhaps lockdown.

Why didn’t they maintain some of the moderate measures which would keep the cases at a moderate level? Why did they abandon requiring masks in public places, when they know that’s one of the simplest and most effective measures to reduce the transmission rate?

I suspect it has something to do with the election earlier in the fall. The previous government lifted just about all restrictions before the election, perhaps hoping it would give them some extra votes while knowing it would lead to a later upswing in cases. And the current government followed along until the infection rate increased to the point where they now have to impose restrictions again.

A lot of this could have been avoided if they had maintained some of the simple common-sense measures.

EVERYTHING IN CULTURE IS CREATED

Everything in culture is created.

Historically, it was made up by someone, adopted and passed on by others, modified and then adopted and passed on, and so on.

And in a more immediate sense, parts of our culture is recreated in each of us every moment. Whenever a story comes up in us from our culture, and just about all stories are from our culture, we recreate our culture.

It’s pretty obvious, and yet many of us tend to perceive and live as if what’s in our culture has a more fundamental basis or truth.

WHO DO YOU SUPPORT IN SPORTS?

I have always found mainstream focus on sports interesting, perhaps because I didn’t understand it as a child or even now.

For instance, twenty-two grown men run after a leather ball for an hour and a half. What has that to do with me? What does it mean to “support” one team or another? Can I take credit, somehow and magically, if the team I tell myself I “support” wins?

And if I watch some form of sport, who do I hope will win? Is it the ones that happen to be from the same country or location as I do? Or perhaps the underdogs?

If I watch something, I almost always hope the underdogs will win, the ones who usually don’t win very much. And that probably says something about me.

Of course, we can understand this from an adult development / spiral dynamics perspective. Are we mainly at a tribal level, and we support our own tribe? Are we more detached, and see it as a light form of entertainment? Do we support the underdogs? Are we interested in all of these dynamics?

HOW WE ARE ALL IMPACTED BY PATRIARCHY

I changed a quote from “he” to “she” in an earlier post and made a comment about patriarchy.

It reminded me of how we are all impacted by any power-over systems.

If we internalize any power-over systems, we use it against ourselves.

We live the same dynamics we have internalized from society.

We suppress whatever doesn’t fit, and elevate what does.

We create internal splits.

In our western culture, it can take several forms.

We may suppress characteristics that don’t fit gender expectations. We may suppress more feminine characteristics and elevate masculine ones. We may suppress “animal” and instinctual characteristics. And so on.

We are all impacted by this. We do it to others and nature, and we do it to ourselves.

PANDEMIC REFLECTIONS AGAIN

I keep being reminded that I, for whatever reason, have friends who are against wearing masks, taking the vaccine, and so on.

I guess it’s a symptom of how all sorts of conspiracy theories and anti-science views have infiltrated the wellness culture.

It’s still baffling to me. It seems so illogical and misinformed.

Yes, science is a tool, and like any tool, it can be misused. Scientists operate from best guesses, not “facts” or final answers. Scientists are humans with all the messiness that comes with that. And still, science clearly works. How can you be anti-science when just about every facet of your modern life has been formed by science?

Why be against vaccines? Yes, some experience serious reactions to the vaccines. And yet, the hospitals are full of people who got seriously sick from the virus, not the vaccine. The risk is not even comparable. Personally, I am more than willing to accept the minuscule risk of taking the vaccine if it helps reduce the severity of the pandemic and shorten its span. I feel honored to be able to receive the vaccine.

Why be against wearing a mask? It’s literally one of the simplest and easiest things we can do, studies show it’s one of the most effective measures we can take, and common sense tells us the same. We all know how much spit comes out of our mouths when we speak, and masks are effective in reducing and stopping that spray.

As for the conspiracy theorists: Do you really think vast numbers of doctors, scientists, and officials in literally every single country in the world would join with a massive global conspiracy? What about the ones you personally know? Do you really think they would do it? Why would people of all backgrounds and political orientations join? Why would every single country, from the US to Norway to Cuba to North Korea join? What could possibly motivate all of these wildly diverse individuals and countries to join? If we have learned anything from history, it’s that many will speak up against injustice and mistreatment of their fellow beings, even if the consequences are severe. (And when it comes to the few loonies who do “speak up” about this today, nothing happens to them because what they speak up about is not rooted in reality.)

When it comes to the increasing polarization, it’s not created by governments taking sensible and normal pandemic measures. It comes from people spreading and taking in misinformation online.

There are serious logical flaws in just about any argument I have seen against vaccine and mask-wearing, and especially in the more extreme conspiracy camp.

Here is something I wrote to someone I know who do not want to take the vaccine, and is opposed to restrictions for the unvaccinated. She brought up the topic, and I responded.

We probably have slightly different views on the vaccine etc. so I am not sure if I should say much about it. Personally, I don't see much risk in taking it. The hospitals are full of people with covid, and hardly anyone are there because of the vaccine. And the measures the governments are taking are standard measures for pandemics. Many of them have been used for centuries because they work. It seems that many are unaware of the history of pandemics and epidemiology. Also, what's freedom for the unvaccinated is restriction of freedom for the vaccinated.
I have studied pandemics and epidemiology at the university and informally on my own since my teens (read lots of articles and books long before this pandemic, which we all knew was on schedule to come). I find it strange how so many are so opposed to measures and restrictions that are age old and are shown to work. It's as if many are not aware of the history and the science. Especially considering that these restrictions and measures are temporary. 
Even if there is a slight personal risk in taking the vaccine, I am completely happy to take that risk if it helps us collectively get through the pandemic a little bit faster. This is not about me. It's about all of us collectively.
For me, it makes no sense at all to set my own personal preferences above what helps us collectively. 

DECEMBER 25, 2021

There are a couple of interesting things about this quote.

It’s an example of how we see Jesus – and anyone and anything – through our own filters. In this case, Jesus is presented as a community organizer supporting those fighting for justice. I imagine this mirrors the author of the quote and how she would like to be seen. Also, any spirituality is (likely intentionally?) left out. A well-known person is taken out of the familiar context and presented in a slightly different way.

Was Jesus a grassroots community organizer? In a sense, yes. He did gather people around him and had a message that could be seen as threatening to the authorities.

Did he stand in solidarity with those fighting for justice? He spent time with and supported outcasts, so indirectly he did just that.

SPIRAL DYNAMICS AND THE VACCINE

I generally don’t write about Spiral Dynamics here, partly because it generalizes a bit too much for my taste and life and people are far more complex, and partly because I hesitate when I see how some groups use SD to elevate themselves and overly simplify the world.

And yet, it does shed an interesting light on how people see the Covid vaccine.

At blue level (authority oriented), people generally wish to take it because authority figures they trust say it’s a good thing for individuals and especially our community as a whole.

At orange (science-oriented), people generally take it because it makes sense from a science and epidemiological point of view. We know a few have a strong reaction to the vaccine, but in general and for most of us, taking the vaccine is far less risky than getting infected by the actual virus.

At green (early life-centered), many are skeptical to authorities and science, and seem easy prey to conspiracy theories, so several here will reject the vaccine. They throw the baby out with the bathwater. They have a relatively immature view on how society works.

At the integral level (see the validity in the other levels), we know there are problems with authorities, how science is sometimes misused, and so on, and yet we know it makes sense to take the vaccine. We balance the different aspects, know the very small risk in taking the vaccine, and happily take it because it very likely benefits us and society as a whole. It doesn’t mean we act from fear or because we gobble up the mainstream view. It means we are informed, balance the different pieces of information, and arrive at a conclusion.

In general, SD is most helpful as a mirror and as a pointer to find it all in myself.

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