Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 55

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.

OPINIONS AND WHAT THEY ARE ROOTED IN

Some people like to pretend that their opinions about something are equal to the views of others.

One person’s opinion is equally valid as someone else’s, right?

Wrong. This is obviously wrong even on the surface.

Yes, we have views, orientations, and opinions. Yes, none of us can know for certain our view is absolutely true. Yes, our views are always provisional and up for revision.

And no, they are not equal.

They are more or less rooted in solid data and theory.

The more it’s rooted in solid data and theory, and the more it has been examined and tested and found to hold up, the more weight a view holds.

For instance, one outlier academic study that goes against innumerable solid studies does not hold much weight. It can be interesting. It may be worth looking into it further and doing more research. And, in itself, it’s not worth much.

We also know this from daily life. If a group of people sees and touch a tree, and one insists that the tree is not there, it’s pretty safe to assume we can disregard the outlier view. There is always a very small chance the person is right, one way or another, but for practical purposes, we can set it aside.

This is basic common sense that some seem to disregard these days.

QUESTIONING THE MAINSTREAM VIEW?

Someone on social media wrote: I love Joe Rogan because the dares to question the mainstream view.

My response is: Anyone can – and often do – question the mainstream view. And if it’s rooted in bad logic and bad data, as is the case of Joe Rogan, then it’s not worth much. It’s just more noise and distraction.

FEBRUARY 24, 2022

PUTIN INVADING UKRAINE

Putin and the Russian military are invading Ukraine.

To me, this seems like incredible stupidity.

They could choose peaceful and good relationships with their neighbors and the world. They could choose mutually beneficial trade. They could choose democracy and create a country good for the people living there. They have all the resources and the opportunity to be a modern, well-functioning, and prosperous country.

Instead, they choose war. They choose to invade and eventually occupy a democratic country.

Ukraine is no threat to Russia. Except that it is a relatively well-functioning democratic country close to Russia geographically and culturally. And that’s a threat to Putin. Perhaps that’s why he chose to invade them and apparently plans on deposing (probably killing) the sitting democratically elected president and government of Ukraine.

I hope the world will take strong measures. Including the strongest sanctions possible. (Blocking international trade and travel. Confiscating Russian assets abroad. Giving Ukrainians any support they need, including after a possible occupation.) And I hope these strong sanctions will be in place as long as Putin is in power.

Of course, this is the doing of Putin and a few of his close associates. It’s not what I imagine most Russians want.

It’s incredibly risky. It creates an unstable international situation that can easily escalate into a much larger war with much larger and catastrophic consequences.

And even just in terms of Ukraine, it’s difficult to see that it can have a successful ending for anyone. It’s clearly a disaster for Ukraine. And it will likely be a disaster for Russia.

They are making themselves into an international pariah. (And deservedly so.) If they take Ukriane, it will very likely be a quagmire like Afghanistan. The Ukrainian people will never accept a Russian occupation. The young people there grew up with democracy. They will keep fighting back as long as the Russians are there. And they will likely be supported by many in the international community with weapons, training, and safe harbors.

Note: Some like to say that the possibility of Ukraine joining NATO was a reason for this invasion. To me, that seems implausible. Ukraine clearly didn’t qualify to join NATO and wouldn’t qualify for the foreseeable and indefinite future. Russia made sure of that when they invaded and occupied the Crimean peninsula some years back.

Update March 8, 2022.

It’s now a week and a half into the invasion, and I am many others are surprised.

I am not surprised by the resistance of the Ukrainian people. Of course, they’ll defend their country by any means.

I am not surprised that it is a quagmire for the Russians. That would happen even if the Russians took control over Kyiv and the country in general. The resistance would continue, as it does in just about any occupied country.

I am not surprised Putin is using this as an opportunity to repress the Russian people even further. I assume that was always part of his plan when he decided to start a war against a neighboring country.

I am not surprised most Russians support this unjust and illegal invasion since they only receive Putin-sanctioned (mis)information.

I am not surprised by the drain on Russian resources. Invasion, war, and continued resisted occupation is an inevitable and significant drain on any country’s resources.

But I am surprised by the apparent incompetence of the Russians. Their huge 50+ kilometer convoy has been stuck in more or less the same place for days. They have not been able to take Kyiv and several other important cities. The morale of their soldiers seems low.

The predictable quagmire and mess started a lot sooner than I expected.

A BAD FEELING

Over the decades, I have noticed I often have a relatively accurate intuition about how situations in the world may unfold.

In the case of Ukraine, I have an unusually bad feeling about it. When I tune in, I see more countries involved than just Russia and Ukraine and a very difficult situation. (I see an image of Europe with that general region dark.)

I hope it’s wrong.

This also ties in with a feeling I have had for a while now that it’s better for me to not be in the US or Europe. This may just be my own journey and not be connected with larger world events. But it may also tie into just that. (It’s a small part of the reason I am now in Latin America.)

At the level of what we all know about current world events, it’s obvious is that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine creates a very unstable and risky situation that easily can escalate into a war that involves far more parties (including NATO, EU, USA). And it’s equally obvious that the US is very polarized which also creates an unstable and risky situation. As many point out, it even increases the risk of some kind of civil war. (Likely between right-wing and white supremacists and the police and military, with others getting caught up in it.)

FEBRUARY 26, 2022

FOLK REMEDIES AND CAUSALITY

I have had a (mild) cough for a couple of weeks, and my wife is giving me a traditional folk remedy of onion and honey. The folks who came up with these folk remedies seem to assume that bad-tasting medicine works better.

Also, she said that two of her friends recently got much better with their cough after using this medicine.

For me, it’s important to be honest with myself about this.

There is no reason to assume that bad-tasting medicine works any better than pleasant medicine.

And there is not necessarily any causality between taking this medicine and getting better from a cough. Almost all illnesses and symptoms get better on their own anyway.

I’ll still take it since it makes her happy and there is a chance it will help, and mainly because I can’t see any harm in it – apart from a brief unpleasant experience from having to drink the honey seeped in onion.

BLAME THE VICTIM

I see that some like to point out things NATO, the west, and Ukraine did that apparently explain or justify Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.

It’s good to have a nuanced view and look at different sides of the situation.

And these things obviously never justify one country invading another.

To imply that something justifies an invasion is to play the “blame the victim” game.

It’s the same logic as saying: She wore a short skirt, so she asked to be raped.

Short skirts never justify rape. Nothing ever justifies invading another country.

Whatever NATO, the west, and Ukraine have done doesn’t make Russia’s invasion of Ukraine any less wrong, terrible, and unjustifiable.

In general, nothing ever justifies behavior that harms others. We can understand it, to some extent. We can look at the trauma behind it. And nothing justifies it. 

And, of course, we sometimes do harm. We live in a world where beings are harmed by our life. We live in a system that inherently harms life by the way it’s set up. As Albert Schweizer said, we are in debt to life.

Note: The rape analogy is even more bizarre in this situation. Woman A wears a sexy outfit. A man rapes woman B. And people blame woman A for making the man rape woman B. 

The countries that joined NATO did so because they wanted to join. Why shouldn’t they if they want to? 

Also, if part of the supposed blame for NATO is that they allowed former Soviet republics to join, then Russia’s invasion of Ukraine shows very clearly why they wanted – and needed – to join NATO. They are doing it to protect their country and their democracy. 

What makes the Russian invasion of Ukraine even more bizarre is that Ukraine didn’t qualify for NATO membership and would’t for the foreseeable future. Russia made sure of that when they invaded Crimea several years ago. (A country with border disputes etc. is automatically disqualified for joining NATO.) 

WHY ARE SOME TAKEN IN BY PUTIN’S PROPAGANDA?

Why are some taken in by Putin’s propaganda? Especially when much of it is obvious and easily disproven lies, for instance, that Ukraine is led by drug-fueled Nazis, etc.?

In Russia, a few may support him and even (pretend to) take on his view because it’s in their own interest. It endears them to him, they benefit financially, they get to keep their job and personal advantages, and so on.

In Russia, the state controls most of the media so the official and easily available channels present Putin’s view. The ones who rely on these channels are not exposed to much else.

The ones who speak English, have lived abroad, and are generally internet savvy, have much easier access to other sources.

In Russia and in the west, some like authoritarian leaders.

They may see Putin as a savior. They may resonate with his bullying behavior. They don’t care much what he does as long as he is authoritarian and a bully. To paraphrase what many have said about Trump, Putin is the weak man’s idea of a strong man.

People who see weakness as a personal threat like leaders who appear strong, even if it’s a flawed and dangerous form of strength.

They see weakness or strength as defining features of themselves and others. They see them as binary. They abhor weakness in themselves and others. They often have a superficial and traditional view on what strength looks like. So they gravitate towards people who are authoritarian and display the kind of strength that feels safe to them.

So some follow Trump and others who like Putin because he is authoritarian, cracks down on liberal views and lifestyle, limits democracy because it’s a threat to him and others like him, and is a bully. 

And some in the west, including some who see themselves as liberal and progressive, are taken in by Putin’s propaganda because it’s anti-western.

They have a critical view of much in the western world. (As do I.) They resonate with Putin’s critique of the west. And from there they make the inexplicable and illogical leap to support Putin including in his invasion of Ukraine. They set aside their humanity so they can agree with an authoritarian dictator in his bloodthirsty and clearly illegal and anti-democratic endeavors.

Often, their information comes from Putin’s Russia Today (RT) and similar sources.

FOLLOWING THE MAINSTREAM?

I see some people criticizing others for taking a mainstream view on something.

What they often overlook is that they do the same.

They take on the mainstream view in the subculture they identify with.

They tend to overlook that the “mainstream” is wildly diverse. It’s not at all one set of opinions and views that everyone takes on board.

And if they habitually react to any mainstream view on certain topics by attaching to an an opposing view, they are overlooking that there isn’t much discernment there. They are just reacting. 

PSYCHOLOGY 101: PERSON VS SITUATION

One common fallacy is to assume that a person’s behavior has more to do with who they are than the situation they are in.

Of course, both play a role. We may act grumpy. That may be a pattern for us or not. And it very likely has to do with the situation we are in as well. In other situations, we may not act grumpy.

When it comes to ourselves, it’s easier to recognize the impact of the situation. We know we behave differently in other situations.

And when it comes to others, it’s easy to overlook the role of the situation. We may not know them well enough to see that they behave differently in other situations, and we may not even know the current situation that triggers the behavior we are seeing.

Of course, there is an interplay between the two. We have our own tendencies, hangups, beliefs, and emotional issues. One or more of these may be triggered by one or more types of situations. And others in the same external situation may have a different behavior triggered. 

And we are always responsible for our own behavior. 

Knowing the role of the situation helps us be a little kinder to ourselves and others. And whatever comes up in us is something we can take responsibility for, and explore, find healing for our relationship to, and invite in healing for. 

Ultimately, it’s always about the situation in a wider sense. 

Our behavior comes from what in our inner situation (including hangups, emotional issues, painful beliefs, and identities) is triggered by the outer situation. 

SATISFYING THE INSANITY OF ONE PERSON

The Russian war against Ukraine is, in a sense, satisfying the insanity of one person. There was never any threat. (Apart from that a well-functioning democracy close to Russia in terms of geography and culture is inherently a threat to Putin’s authoritarian regime.) And that’s one of many reasons why authoritarian regimes are a bad idea, and why having any leader sit in that position for more than a few years is a very bad idea. (They tend to go crazier – more authoritarian and more detached from reality – over time.)

…….

[DRAFT]

AWAKENING AND SCIENCE

What’s the connection between awakening and science?

It obviously depends on what we mean by awakening.

If we see it as something connected with the divine and all sorts of weird and mysterious things, then the best we can do is record testimonials and analyze and compare these.

If we see it as something we all can explore for ourselves, and something that has real-life implications, we have more tools for studying it.

  • awakening and science
    • first person exploration / phenomenology (temporarily out of fashion but will likely return)
    • analyzing first person repports
    • scans etc. of the brain
    • theory
    • will be more common in the future, is definetely within the realm of science

PUTIN’S INFERIORITY COMPLEX / RUSSIAN VICTIM IDENTITY

[…]

THE ZEAL AND IMMATURITY OF THE NEWLY CONVERTED

When I see conspiracy theorists, I often see the zeal and immaturity of the newly converted.

PROMOTES OTHERS AND EVERYONE BENEFITS

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND COGNITIVE DISSONANCE

FOLLOW THE FASCINATION

HUMANS VS OTHER SPECIES

…..

DRAFTS

Of course, the idea of owning something in the first place is a convention. We decide that someone can own something, for instance a piece of land, and others agree that’s how it is.

…..

As we all learn in school, civilization hinges on freedom and responsibility. We have certain individual freedoms. And we have certain responsibilities to society.

These days, it seems that some have forgotten about the responsibility side of the equation.

They 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.”

To me, that’s a weak argument. You are free to not get vaccinated, and society is then free to limit what you can do. Also, we all know there already are similar restrictions in place, including laws against drunk driving.

In a pandemic, it’s natural to temporarily limit some personal freedoms and emphasize the responsibility side. Most societies have done so. And, of course, there is a valid discussion around exactly what restrictions are most useful, and the upsides and downsides of each.

One of the reasons I support restrictions is the most obvious and immediate one: We don’t want the hospitals to be overloaded and people who desperately need care to be turned away.

In a very real sense, those who want to do away with pandemic-related restrictions are saying: We want the hospitals to be overloaded. We want people to be turned away when they desperately need care, whether it’s for covid or other medical emergencies.

Personally, I am happy to receive the vaccine and accept some personal risk. I know it’s for the best of society. I am doing it because I want to be part of the solution.

…..

I posted it mostly because this quote is a funny/interesting example of how people see Jesus – and anything else – through their own filters. In this case, presenting him primarily as a community organizer and (intentionally?) leaving out any mention of spirituality. The community organizing activities were not covered in the gospels. What the Jesus of the gospels did was to spend time with the outcasts, so I imagine that’s the seed of the quote above. Maybe that is, in a way, standing in solidarity with those fighting for justice?

…..

The other is that the serious side effects of vaccines typically mimic what can happen when we have the real infection. It comes from the body’s reaction to the virus and the vaccine.

….

MAY 8, 2022

WHEN TRUTH DOESN’T MATTER, FAILURE IS FINE

Tomorrow is May 9, which apparently is a big day in Russia. It’s their WW2 victory day celebration.

According to many commentators, it’s important for Putin to be able to show some kind of military victory on this day. It’s interesting if current military goals and strategies should be dictated by something that happened decades ago. If that’s the case, it says something about the apparently deranged mindset of Putin.

He does seem obsessed with WW2 and appears to see the current situation through those glasses. At least, that’s how he presents it. Russia is threatened by nazis, just like back then. Even if Russia, in reality, is not threatened by anyone except internally by Putin himself and the rampant corruption in Russia.

Also, it’s clear that truth and reality don’t matter much to I’m. A sovereign country is not allowed to exist. A democratic country where 2% vote for right-wing parties, and where a Jew is president, is neo-Nazi and needs to be “denazified”. Invasion and war is a “special military operation”.

When truth and reality don’t matter, a military, strategic, and political failure is a success, and he may present it that way tomorrow. The alternative is to declare war, which is likely to be an even worse failure than what we have seen so far. The war was doomed from the beginning since it was obvious to anyone that Ukrainians would never accept a Russian occupation. And it has gone worse for Russia than most predicted – largely because of their military structure and corruption at all levels.

If anyone acts like a fascist here, who is it? It seems like a classic case of projection. Putin has cast himself in the role of a fascist dictator. Is that why he is so obsessed with Nazis and sees them everywhere? Is that why he tries to eradicate imaginary Nazis while overlooking that he himself is acting like one?

THE STUPIDITY OF AUTHORITARIAN REGIMES

There is a obvious problem with authoritarian regimes: The leaders typically act on unnecessarily limited information and feedback, so they make bad decisions. People are afraid of giving them the information they don’t want to hear. The leaders cut themselves off from essential feedback from a variety of sources. This gives them bad data to make decisions on. And as it is in science, garbage in means garbage out. (China may be an exception to this since they have softened the edges of their authoritarian regime, although they still maintain the control they want.)

EMPIRES DESTROY OTHERS AND THEN THEMSELVES

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.