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 what innumerable solid studies have found 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 see 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 plan 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 the inevitable 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.) They will obviously be able to take over Ukraine. And 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 with any means.

I am not surprised that it is a quagmire for the Russians. That would happen even if the Russian 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 of 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. 

Kowing 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.)

MARCH 4, 2022

THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE WORLD

If we put pressure on someone to get a particular result, we often end up with the opposite outcome.

This is something most of us learn early in life. Although it seems Putin may not have gotten the memo.

For instance, due to Putin’s invasion, the public support for NATO membership in Sweden and Finland has gone from weak (20% in Finland) to a clear majority. That shift happened in less than a week and it’s not likely to revert any time soon.

A predictable and almost inevitable consequence of Putin’s current aggression towards a neighboring country is that more of Russia’s neighbors will want to join the EU and NATO for their own protection.

Putin has not only created a situation where more countries are far more motivated to join NATO for their own protection. His invasion of Ukraine has also created the perfect window of opportunity for more countries to join. The Russian military is caught up in a bungled invasion and does not have capacity to invade any other country in the period between they start a membership process and they actually become members. 

WORKED UP OVER COMMON KNOWLEDGE

I have noticed several things about many conspiracy theorists.

They don’t seem to know much about history, including the long and inglorious history of conspiracy theories.

They don’t seem to know much about media literacy and examining sources.

They don’t seem to question their own thinking and stories about the world very much.

And they don’t seem to know much about how the world works. They seem to have caught glimpses of something that’s common knowledge, get very worked up about it, and reach dramatic conclusions.

For instance, some seem to get worked up about common knowledge about vaccines and the medical industry. Vaccines are not always 100% effective in preventing illness. (Although they are often good at preventing serious illness.) A very few bodies react strongly to vaccines and this can lead to serious illness and even death. (These bodies may react in a similar way to the actual virus that the vaccine mimics.) The medical industry is in it for the money. They are not humanitarians. There is a lot of sordid business and manipulation going on in the medical industry and the way it interfaces with politics and the media. (And that doesn’t mean that many of their products aren’t valuable and useful.)

I have been aware of all of this and much more since my early teens. None of it is new. It’s all been out there in the public. And as I see it, it’s not a reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater. It’s not a reason to not take a grounded and level-headed approach to all of this. It’s not a reason to not take a more nuanced view on it.

THE USE OF IDEOLOGIES

When I see people who use ideologies, I see a couple of things.

They use ideologies – of any type – as a way to feel safer.

And they often use ideologies as a kind of stepping stone to break free from old patterns from their family and culture.

After we find more familiarity with what the ideology is about, and after we have broken more free from the old patterns, we tend to not need the ideologies anymore.

For instance, I don’t need any ideologies to want to care for the land that I am now a steward of. It’s natural for me. It’s my habit. Ideologies are not needed.

I don’t need the support of ideologies to eat low on the food chain, and eat local and with the seasons. That too is natural for me after decades of living that way. (As far as practically possible.)

I don’t need ideologies to be interested in awakening and healing. This too is something I have lived with for decades. It’s the water I swim in.

And yet, sometimes, for a while, ideologies can be useful. They help us break free of old patterns. They give us a container and guideline for our new life. They allows to to explore something more in-depth. And, at some point, we may find they are not needed anymore. The life they point to is familiar to us. It’s our habit. We notice the drawbacks inherent in the ideology and belief. (They are limiting and inherently bothersome to others and ourselves.) We can find more freedom around our thoughts about it.

Note: What do I mean by ideologies here? It’s not the thoughts themselves because they can still be useful. It’s more holding onto a set of thoughts as a final or full or absolute truth, and using it to feel safe. To tell ourselves we know. We are right. It’s us, the ones who get it, versus them who don’t get it. When we hold the same thoughts more lightly, there is a lot more freedom around them. We may not feel we need to procetylize or defend the thoughts. We recognize some of the limitations of these thoughts, and the downsides of holding them as absolutely true. We are more free to find the genuine validity in the reverse views and a range of other views. We are more open to explore other contexts and ways of looking at it. We are more mentally flexible and tend to relate to it all in a way that’s slightly more kind to ourselves and perhaps others. We may even seem a bit more mature to ourselves and others.

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND PERSONAL CONNECTIONS

I suspect that many who go into conspiracy theories don’t have many personal connections with the type of people they assume are in on the conspiracies.

For instance, I have asked people who are into conspiracy theories about vaccines if they really think that the medical personnel (doctors, researchers, etc.) that they personally know would be in on the conspiracy. The response is usually absent because they don’t know any.

They are free to assume and project anything horrible onto these people, because they personally don’t know many or any of them. They don’t realize that these people are people too, just like them. And these people have as wildly diverse views as anyone. Often, they are even more critical about the medical industry than most because they know more about what’s actually going on, and their insights are grounded in experience and reality. Their criticism is typically nuanced and they don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, as many conspiracy theorists do.

Some Jungians have an interesting take on this that makes some sense to me. In our more traditional society, children typically knew and understood what their fathers were doing. They were plouging the fields, fishing, doing carpentry, or something similar. And the children often saw their fathers do these things. In our more modern society, fathers were often more absent and their work more mysterious. They worked away from home, and in an office doing difficult-to-understand things. And this created space for the children to imagine all sorts of things. Which then fueled suspicion and conspiracy theories about other authority figures, including the government.

Of course, governments sometimes do shady and even criminal things, so some skepticism is justified. And going overboard with conspiracy theories tends to happen when people are free to imagine anything onto a variety of authority figures because they don’t know them personally. And it may be fueled, to some extent, from growing up not knowing exactly what their parents were doing during the day.

RUSSIA AND DEMOCRACY

This is a very obvious view on Russia and democracy, but there may also be something to it.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia had little to no experience with democracy. They lacked democratic institutions. They lacked familiarity with democracy. They had no tradition for democracy. They lacked the knowledge about how it works that’s gained over time and through experience.

They were not prepared in any way for democracy, so there is no surprise that their democratic project failed and they got Putin instead. They reverted to their tradition of despots and authoritarian rulers. 

That doesn’t mean they can’t or won’t eventually have a well-functioning democracy. But it does mean that any future democratic project has to take all of this into account.

PUTIN’S WAR

Some conspiracy theorists seem to think that Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is staged to distract from what’s actually going on in the world, which I assume are other sinister conspiracies. 

Yes, this war does distract from very serious issues we are all facing and which just about all of us know are happening: Immense inequality in access to resources. Poverty. Hunger. Lack of water. Neo-liberal policies aimed at benefiting large corporations and the already wealthy. The collapse of ecosystems. And more important than just about anything else, an economic system we all live within that doesn’t take ecological realities into account. 

And no, there is no need to assume any sinister conspiracy behind it. Wars happen. They are routine. And when wars happen, the media focuses on it (for good reasons) and people’s attention goes there. None of that is remarkable or unusual. Our human history is riddled with wars. People get distracted by what’s dramatic and urgent and overlook very serious issues because they are familiar and ordinary, or are distant geographically or socially, or have effects still in the future.

As I see it, these conspiracies theories are part of the distraction. They distract us from focusing on the far more serious issues we are all facing, which just about all of us agree and know are happening. 

MAKE RUSSIA GREAT AGAIN?

It seems that Putin’s intention is to make Russia great again.

If by that he means making Russia into an international pariah, making it into a dictatorship with continued erosion of civil liberties and increased repression, and weakening Russia through draining resources on futile military operations, then he is doing a good job.

Of course, from my western European view, it would make more sense to make Russia great through a thriving economy, friendly and cooperative relationships with other countries, and allowing the Russian people and culture to flourish through freedom, greater economic equality, and good social safety nets.

But that’s not how he sees it, and apparently not how many Russians see it.

MARCH 13, 2022

HIGHLY VOLATILE SITUATION

The first or second day of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, I wrote that I have an unusually bad feeling about the situation. Not just because of the devastation of Ukraine and the impact on many Russians, but because it creates a highly volatile and unpredictable situation that may escalate into something that directly impacts a lot more people. 

It’s unlikely that Putin will back down. Most likely, he will continue to destroy Ukrainian cities until they are taken over by the Russians, no matter the cost in terms of lives, suffering, and material damage, and knowing that the Ukrainians will continue fighting even after a Russian takeover. And the longer this goes on, the more likely it is that the situation will escalate so neighboring countries – and possibly even NATO and the EU – gets directly involved in the war. And that that point, all bets are off. 

In terms of conventional weapons and military power, Russia is a dwarf compared to NATO and the EU. Unfortunately, that’s not all is in play here. Putin has demonstrated that he is willing to use chemical and biological weapons, and he also have nuclear weapons. 

It may be that in realizing his huge miscalculation in trying to invade Ukraine, in having no way to back down that’s acceptable to his ego, and in feeling increasingly backed into a corner, he may continue his insanity and use chemical, biological, and even nuclear weapons. And then, there is no limit to how many may be directly impacted in Europe and possibly even the rest of the world. 

THE LOGIC IN INSANITY

There is a logic in insanity. 

To most in the western world, Putin seems insane. 

His arguments for invading Ukraine seems clearly disconnected from reality. (Saying that Ukraine is run by drug-fueled fascists. Casting the western world as a threat to Russia.) And it does seem that his personality changed over the last few years, especially with his increased isolation and paranoia during the pandemic. 

At the same time, from his side, there is a logic to the apparent insanity. He has reasons for doing what he is doing, and these make sense to him. (At least until he examine them more closely and recognize the inconsistencies inherent in them.) 

And that’s how it is for all of us. Any of our hangups, wounds, emotional issues, and traumas are a kind of insanity. When we act on them or react to them, we behave in a somewhat insane manner. There is a kind of logic within the insanity. It operates on stories that, on the surface, may seem to make sense. And when we look a bit closer, we find what’s more true for us – and this can bring healing. 

MARCH 22, 2022

THE PERFECT TIME TO JOIN NATO

It’s now four weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. As I wrote at the beginning of the invasion, if Putin’s intention was to motivate his neighbors to join NATO, he couldn’t have been more successful. 

Russia’s neighbors see that they too are under a very real threat of Russian invasion. The majority of people in Sweden and Finland now support joining NATO (a minority did before the invasion), and I assume this may be the case with other neighbors as well. 

Russia’s limited military resources are now tied up in Ukraine and are shown to not be very effective in general. 

And the “don’t want to provoke Putin” argument was a dubious argument from the beginning. Don’t let a bully dictate your choices. 

HOUSE DESIGN IN WARM CLIMATES

I am currently staying in a beautiful house in the Andes mountains, designed by an architect, using traditional building techniques, and with a modern design.

What I am baffled by is how it’s clearly not designed for the climate. Many of the walls have no shade so they heat up during the day. The owners are often suffering because of the heat. And they are building a new house here where they are making the same obvious mistakes.

The answer is probably that they prioritize look over comfort, which is fair. But if they are suffering from the heat, why not reprioritize?

PUTIN FITS THE MOLD

Some like to (partially) blame NATO and the western world for Putin and his invasion of Ukraine. To me, that seems misguided for several reasons. There is never any excuse for invading another country, especially not a democratic one that posed no threat whatsoever. Also, don’t let a bully dictate your choices.

Mainly, what Putin did is what Russian leaders have done for centuries. They invade their neighbors. Putin perfectly fits the mold of Russian authoritarian rulers with empire-building ambitions. This is not new. This is not something that has been developing over the last few decades. It goes back centuries. 

And that’s exactly why Russia’s neighbors want to join NATO. They want to protect themselves from a predictable future invasion if they stand on their own. If Putin worked as a recruiting agent for NATO, he couldn’t have done a better job than invading Ukraine. His actions demonstrate perfectly why Russia’s neighbors want to protect themselves by joining a larger alliance.

If you have a bully in your neighborhood, you organize against him. And if someone wants to join for their own protection, why not let them? Anything else would be not only misguided but cruel.

NATO is not responsible for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia’s habitual invasion of its neighbors is responsible for NATO’s expansion.

Note: I am not a lover of NATO or the military industry by any measure. Starting in my teens, I have read a lot of articles and books very critical of NATO and much of what they are doing. And yet, in a crisis – and with a neighbor like Putin and Russia – it’s what makes the most sense. Even if NATO is very flawed.

“APOLITICAL” PEOPLE ENABLE HORRORS

My response to a Russian who says she is “apolitical”:

“You say you are ‘apolitical’ but everything is politics. The inaction of you and other apolitical people is what allows wars to happen. The Russian people allowed Putin to stay in power for far too long and gradually become more and more of a typical paranoid and authoritarian dictator, eventually starting this senseless war with Ukraine.”

Of course, this is not the whole picture. But it’s definitely an important side to it.

QUESTIONS

I am obviously not an expert, but when it comes to how NATO and the western countries have responded to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, I am puzzled by a few things I haven’t seen mentioned much in the media.

(a) Why are they so clear that they won’t intervene within the borders of Ukraine? Why are they giving up this opportunity to create uncertainty for Putin? Why are they showing their cards on this topic? It seems it only gives Putin more peace of mind when it comes to invading Ukraine. (Of course, I know one answer: It is aimed at calming the public in the western world.)

(b) When Ukraine asks for a NATO enforced “no-fly” zone, it’s obviously out of desperation since it would almost certainly start WW3. A smart explicit response from NATO and western countries would be to give Ukraine every means possible to establish their own informal “no-fly zone”. (They are, of course, doing this to some extent. But they could make it more explicit and put more resources into it.) 

(c) Blocking western credit cards in Russia makes it more difficult for many from escaping from Russia. Why is this not more of a debate? 

(d) Many are saying that Putin was misinformed by his advisors. To me, that seems a dangerous assumption. Seen from the outside, it seems equally or more likely that he had all the information he needed, still trusted himself and his own worldview more, and that he assumed that powering through – and throwing more resources and human lives into the effort – would give him what he wanted. If that’s true, it seems misguided and dangerous to assume he is mostly rational and did what he did mainly based on bad information. It seems dangerously naive.

(e) I keep seeing wishful thinking from many when it comes to how the war is going, where Putin will stop, and that he will somehow be removed from power. Wishful thinking is dangerous in this type of situation. I understand it can make some people feel better in the short run, but it can lead to poor decision-making and is misguided in such a critical situation.

Putin is a bully, and giving in to a bully is never smart. In his mind, it’s a permission for him to continue to do whatever he wants. He seems to only understand a strong response. Fortunately, that’s what he is largely getting, although it may not be enough to stop him. 

MARCH 29, 2022

THE WOBBLY SELF-IMAGE OF PUTIN AND RUSSIA

From Putin’s words and actions, he seems a deeply insecure man caught up in victim issues. Only someone with deep issues, and who is actively reacting to these issues, would speak and act as he does.

It’s ironic that by trying to appear strong and powerful, and by trying a bit too much, we reveal what’s behind it.

These issues also seem to run through Russian history. They seem to have a wobbly self-image and respond to it by trying to invade and occupy their neighbors. And they often justify it in a way only those who see themselves as victims justify their words and actions. (Of course, not even close to all Russians are like that. But it does seem to be a thread through much of Russian history.) 

WHY NO WOMEN IN THE NEGOTIATIONS?

The negotiations between Ukraine and Russia are mostly a sham. Russia likely has no desire to negotiate anything. They only want to give the appearance of being reasonable, and they wish to muddle the water to confuse their opponent.

That said, I am surprised to see the apparently total male dominance among the negotiators. Why not include women? It would certainly give the negotiations a different flavor. And if they really were serious about the negotiations, both parties would likely at least fifty percent women. 

APRIL 10, 2022

SURVIVOR BIAS 

I listened to an old interview with a Norwegian saboteur from WW2 and his story was of one amazing lucky escape after another. I have heard similar stories from other surviving saboteurs from WW2.

Why this apparently amazing series of lucky turns?

It’s an example of survivor bias. The ones who survived did so because they were lucky in all the situations that mattered. And those who died were not so lucky when it mattered. 

MAY 9, 2022

DICTATORSHIPS ARE CRAZY

Dictatorships and authoritarian organizations are generally crazy, one way or another, whether we talk about a country, a business, or a family.

They don’t accept open feedback. People are scared of speaking up. The validity of other views is not acknowledged.

So they, by necessity, are out of touch with reality. And they make bad decisions.

Being out of touch with reality is one definition of craziness, and acting on views or information out of touch with reality will tend to look crazy to others.

These days, we see this with Putin and his war against Ukraine. His decision to invade was out of touch with reality in the first place. The Ukrainians were never going to accept Russian rule. The best he could hope for was an uneasy occupation similar to the Nazi occupation of several countries during WW2. And his arguments for the war seem patently crazy. Ukraine has a Jewish president, and only 2% there – as in most western countries – vote for right-wing parties. Why would you de-nazify a country without Nazis?

THE UKRAINE WAR AND THE BIGGER PICTURE

I have no great love for NATO for many different reasons. It’s too influenced by the US and US interests. There is no lack of questionable history and operations.

And I also see when it serves a function.

There is a reason why some former Soviet countries have joined NATO. They do it for their own protection. They know that Russia has a centuries-long tradition of invading their neighbors and trying to include them in their empire. If Ukraine was a NATO member, Russia would never have invaded them.

And now is the perfect time for more countries to join NATO for their own protection. Putin has shown that none of Russia’s neighbors are safe against a Russian invasion. He has revealed to the whole world the terrible condition of the Russian military. And they are now busy in Ukraine and don’t have the capacity for any more engagements.

That’s why Finland now wants to join NATO, and Sweden likely will follow. Before the Russian war against Ukraine, a clear majority in both countries was against NATO membership. Now, a clear majority in both countries support membership. Putin gave them the perfect motivation and opportunity to join. (In Finland, 25% supported NATO membership before the invasion, compared with 75% now.)

Another side to this is what will happen with Russia after this war. It’s clear that their military is weak and they are weakened more by the day. The Russian economy will suffer due to the sanctions, although it will take time. And they find themselves more isolated than they have been for a very long time.

And it won’t be like that always. They will wise up about their military and try to change the military culture (getting rid of corruption would be a good start), recruit more soldiers, and improve their material.

If they feel too humiliated by Putin’s failed war, blame the west, continue on their authoritarian path, and improve their military, it can create a very dangerous future situation. (Just look at what happened with Germany after WW1 and how it created the conditions for WW2.)

So what’s the solution?

One answer is to…

Continue supporting Ukraine so they can stand up to Russia and perhaps even get them out of the country.

Stay out of any direct confrontations so we avoid WW3.

Treat Russians with respect and not give ammunition to the Russian propaganda that the west is trying to eradicate Russia. (The way Russia tries to eradicate Ukraine.) We have to live up to our liberal and democratic values. (These are flawed and we often don’t live up to them, but they are certainly better than the authoritarian and oppressive values of Putin’s Russia.)

And see if there is a solution that will give Putin a way out. One that doesn’t require any concessions on Ukraine’s part while Putin feels he has some dignity left. I don’t know if that’s possible. Putin seems to have painted himself thoroughly into a corner.

SOME DANGERS INHERENT IN THE RUSSIAN INVASION OF UKRAINE

As far as I can tell, as a regular human being, there are a few main dangers in the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Letting Putin and Russia get away with what they are trying to do, which is to invade and annex peaceful democratic neighboring countries and re-create some kind of a Russian empire. Fortunately, it seems that western countries are not going to allow that to happen.

An accidental direct confrontation between NATO and Russia could lead to WW3. In terms of the conventional military, this is not so much of a problem. It seems that the Russian army isn’t even a match for the Ukrainians. But since Russia has biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons, and its leadership may be willing to use them as a last option, it may be a real danger to Europe and humanity.

A thorough humiliation of Russia, sparking a future military buildup combined with an equally crazy leadership as we see today. Putin And Russia set themselves up for this humiliation, and it’s perhaps inevitable, but it does create a dangerous situation for the next few decades. I am also not sure that whoever replaces Putin will be any better than him. Authoritarian and totalitarian regimes tend to survive through a few different leaders before they eventually fall. (We saw this dynamic in Germany following WW1, and Putin and others in Russia already seem to indulge in inferiority complexes, victimhood, and paranoia and use it as an excuse for internal oppression and external wars.)

And, of course, the very predictable distraction this war provides from the most serious issue of our world: How to create a sustainable civilization. One that consciously works within and with the ecosystems of Earth, where what’s easy and attractive to do is also good for Earth and society and future generations, and where those least fortunate have good safety nets have have the conditions for a dignified and meaningful life. Althogh this war is not necessary as a distraction. We are very good at collectively distract oursleves from this anyway. The main question is, will we be shaken out of our complacency in time to prevent some of the most diasterous effects of climate change, unraveling ecosystems, and social disruptions?

MAY 12, 2022

SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT PUTIN’S STRATEGY

Many people have questions about Putin’s strategy.

Why didn’t he choose an approach of friendship and cooperation with other countries? That’s what creates prosperity and what would have secured a good legacy for him.

Why did he invade a sovereign country when he knew that, at best, it would be a quagmire? The Ukrainian people would never accept a Russian occupation.

Why is it so difficult for him to end the war? It’s obviously not going well for him, it’s difficult to see any successful outcome for Russia, and it’s a sign of intelligence and maturity to give up on dead-end projects.

Why did he treathen Finalnd with nuclear weapons when they announced they wanted to join NATO? That only reinforces why they need to join NATO. They don’t have nuclear weapons, but NATO allies do.

And a question about the Russian soldiers: Why don’t they resign and go home en masse? It’s not a war. Putin has said so himself. This means that leaving the military has no consequences for them, apart from being officially fired. Would they rather make a little money and become likely cannon fodder? Or go home, do something else, and have a future? It seems many choose to become cannon fodder.

And, yes, I know this comes from my own western liberal values. Putin has a different mindset, as do – apparently – many of his soldiers.

REGENERATION AND CULTURE

My wife and I became stewards of some beautiful land in the Andes mountains. It’s been heavily grazed in some areas, so we wish to help the land return to a flourishing and vibrant state. And that includes allowing a natural succession of native plants until – over some decades – the ecosystem reaches more maturity.

We hired some locals to clear paths through the land and gave them very clear instructions of only clear walking paths, wide enough for one person to pass. What they instead did was to clear-cut one large area, leaving only the more mature trees. This is apparently what the locals do, and our instructions probably didn’t make much sense to them.

Although it was a painful lesson, we also learned that we need to be present to oversee these kinds of projects. And we need to find local people to work with who understand what we wish to do with the land. (This happened back in February or March this year.)

PUTIN AS VICTIM AND SAVIOR

Putin seems to identify with at least two archetypes: victim and savior.

He sees himself as a victim of just about everyone around him, and imagines himself as the victim the west and NATO.

He also sees himself as a kind of savior, as the new great leader of Russia and a Russian empire.

Victims can be quite violent. And saviors can be ruthless. In his case, it’s a very toxic combination.

ZERO-SUM VS WIN-WIN

In general, we can say that western countries take a win-win approach to their policies. They wish to cooperate with other countries to their mutual benefit. Cooperation helps us stay more safe and prosperous and tackle international and global issues more effectively.

And some others, like Trump and Putin, seem to operate from a zero-sum orientation. What’s bad for others is good for us. And they project this mindset on others: “They want what’s bad for us since it’s good for them.”

There are obviously many exceptions to this, but it does seem to reflect a difference in their general orientation.

If Putin had more of a win-win mindset, he would focus far more on international cooperation, creating bonds with other countries, and seeking cooperative solutions to shared and international problems. He would seek to benefit Russia in a way that also benefits others since that – ultimately –is what benefits Russia the most.

Instead, he has chosen a zero-sum mindset. And the problem with zero-sum mindsets is that you may be the one who loses. Eventually, you will be the one who loses.

By adopting it, you have – in a sense – already lost.

MAY 23, 2022

ENGLISH LANGUAGE OR COLONIALISM?

English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary

– James D. Nicoll

I listened to a podcast where they repeated this idea: The English language is especially good at adopting words from other languages.

This has nothing to do with the English language and all to do with history and colonialism.

This has to do with the British empire and to a lesser extent the US empire. In the process of colonizing countries around the world, English-speaking people encountered other languages, and people with other languages had to learn English. That’s why English absorbed words from other languages.

It has very little to do with English, and everything to do with a history of colonialism.

A more accurate version of the quote would be:

Some English speaking countries have pursued other countries down metaphorical alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for valuables, and picked up some words from their language in their process

– MoE

When people repeat that “Engish as a language is good at absorbing words from other languages”, it’s a kind of whitewashing of history. They make it sound as if it has to do with something as innocent as language, while it in reality has to do with a history of theft, oppression, and colonialism.

NO CONSTANTS?

I have been fascinated by astronomy since childhood, and especially after watching Cosmos by Carl Sagan which was life-changing for me.

And since I started thinking about things in a more conscious way, sometimes in my early to mid teens, I have thought that it seems odd to assume that what they call “constants” are constant. Why wouldn’t that too change, like everything else within the universe? Why wouldn’t it change as the universe matures and evolves? Or why wouldn’t at least some of these “constants” change?

What we see today is just a snapshot of a process that unfolds over billions of years. And we are always learning more.

If I remember correctly, from when I used to read books, Rupert Sheldrake talks about it as habits of the universe, and these may well change over time.

MAY 26, 2022

DEATHS FROM FIREARMS IN THE US

A majority of children who die in the US die from being shot, either self-inflicted or by others.

Why is the US such an outlier when it comes to this?

I don’t have anything original to contribute here.

It’s likely a combination of access and culture.

Easy access to firearms makes it easy for people to use them if they get caught up in intense anger or wish to die. If there is easy access, it’s easier to act on those impulses before they wane.

And several things in the US culture lower the threshold for using firearms: It’s already happening relatively frequently. Weapons are glorified. Violence in US history is often glorified. Some have created an ideology around access to and use of firearms. And the judicial system is too often absurdly lenient when it comes to gun violence.

Note: Several mass shootings have been committed by right-wing and white supremacist folks. If the polarization in the US evolves into a kind of civil war, it may be between this group of people and the police and the military. And if that happens, then these mass shootings may be seen as the early start of the civil war.

PUTIN’S WAR?

At the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, I called it Putin’s war.

And after a while, I was not so sure anymore.

I assume many at the top levels of the government and the military support it and would continue the war even without him.

A majority of people in Russia apparently voted for Putin. (Yes, I know the elections in Russia are likely partially rigged. And Putin has changed over the years.)

These days, a vast majority of Russians say they support Putin and the war. (Yes, I know there is strong media censorship in Russia. And some may be afraid of saying anything else.)

I assume many of the Russian soldiers support the war. (Otherwise, they could just leave since it’s not officially a “war” and the main consequence of leaving is that they’ll get fired from the army.)

Russian history is riddled with invasions of their neighbors and attempts to (re)create a Russian empire. What we are seeing today is part of that pattern.

So is it really just Putin’s war? Yes, in that it may not have happened without him. And no in that many Russians appear to actively support it.

JUNE 3, 2022

THE ZEAL AND IMMATURITY OF THE NEWLY CONVERTED I: CONSPIRACY THEORIES

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

Often, these are people who may have discovered some grains of truth that anyone who is moderately well informed would have known since their teens. And then they go overboard with it without understanding much of the history, context, or how to use this information in a more nuanced and reasoned manner.

And then they want to educate others about it. They become self-appointed missionaries.

They display the zeal and immaturity of the newly converted.

THE ZEAL AND IMMATURITY OF THE NEWLY CONVERTED II: HEALING & SPIRITUAL PRACTICES

This can obviously also happen when we find healing modalities and approaches to spirituality that works for us. (Not so much for me since I have “always” known that what works is individual, and I don’t assume that what works for me necessarily works for others.)

STORY ARCS

Stories, at least in our European-influenced world, have a certain format. We have a beginning, middle, and end. We get to know the characters and setting, there is struggle and conflict in some form, and then resolution. And so on.

Most stories in our mainstream culture follow this format.

And I understand why. These types of stories feel satisfying. They feel complete. And they mirror inner processes when they reach a temporary completion.

And yet, it does get boring when most stories have to reach a kind of resolution and completion. When most or all loose ends have to be tied up. Why not leave some mystery? Why not leave it more open-ended?

This comes to mind since we are in the next-to-final season of Stranger Things. (Which I love.) I suspect the story is reaching a kind of resolution with more and more loose ends tied up. That’s fine. But I suspect I would have enjoyed it even more if they left more unresolved. The resolution to many stories is often a bit disappointing. And leaving it open leaves more room for imagination.

CIVILIZED AND BARBARIANS

This is an old classic and sometimes worth repeating.

When people see themselves as civilized and others as barbarians, it’s often so they can dehumanize them and do terrible things to them – rape, pillaging, genocide, theft of land and natural resources, and so on.

Who are the real barbarians here? Who are acting as barbarians?

In this case, calling someone a barbarian is clearly a projection. They call others barbarians to dehumanize them and justify injustice, and they themselves act as barbarians.

And instead of barbarians, we may use similar words like uncivilized, brutes, heathens, and so on.

JUDGING A SYSTEM BASED ON THE LEAST FORTUNATE

This is another classic that is sometimes worth repeating.

How do we judge a society or political system?

I judge it based on how the least fortunate are treated and live.

If a system mainly works to the benefit of those who already have what they need, and leaves the rest to live in poverty and struggle, it has already failed.

And if it provides good safety nets and real opportunities for the least fortunate, then it has some merit.

LONG COVID

As many others in the CFS world, I thought one of the worst consequences of the covid pandemic would be post-viral syndromes, now known as long covid.

I assume this will keep getting attention as we are more aware of its prevalence and seriousness.

There are several reasons to be cautious here. For instance, it seems that even with vaccines and having had covid and recovered, it’s still possible to get long covid from a new infection. And there is always a chance of new mutations that increases this risk.

Personally, I have been relatively lucky. I had covid in February (four months ago), and still have covid brain – especially when it comes to memory. Of course, most recover fine. And I also know a couple of who still struggle with relatively serious and debilitating after-effects of their covid infection at the beginning of the pandemic (almost two-and-a-half years ago).

BROTHARIAN?

I find that when I have bone broth regularly, I feel deeply nourished and my cravings in general are diminished or fall away. I have a much reduced craving for sugar and often feel a slight aversion to it. And the same for meat.

It seems that my ideal diet may be bone broth with an otherwise mostly vegetarian food.

What should I call this? Maybe brotharian?

JUNE 18, 2022

VOTING ON BEHALF OF THE NON-HUMAN SPECIES

There was just a presidential election where I am, and the one elected has the interest of the less-privileged at heart.

For me, when I vote, I vote on behalf of the less privileged. (Who often vote against their own interests based on identity.) And I especially vote on behalf of non-human species and future generations.

JULY 30, 2022

JUSTIFYING INJUSTICE WITH SPIRITUALITY

Religion and spirituality have always been used to justify injustice.

The most recent one I heard was from a wealthy woman in a country with many living in poverty. She justified her wealth, and her inaction and support of conservative politicians that wants to keep people in poverty, with karma. The poor are just reaping what they sowed in past lives. And she also added that they chose that life to learn something. So she doesn’t have to do anything to help or to righten the injustice.

To me, it’s very different. Yes, it’s possible there is something like karma that continues across lives, but it’s more about mind patterns, and if there is some kind of karma as she talked about, it would mean we all have infinite amounts of an infinite variety of karma.

And what it comes down it is how I relate to the lives of others. I don’t justify my own relative wealth and I certainly don’t justify poverty. I know it all comes from what we happen to be born into in an unjust system. And I do what I can to change that system, including by supporting policies and politicians working for that change.

ADOPTING THE MINDSET OF THE COLONIZERS

Some modern societies pat themselves on the back for giving indigenous people some autonomy and for honoring, to some degree, their culture.

That is, of course, a step in the right direction. But it’s good to keep the larger picture in mind.

The larger picture is that colonizers and the mainstream western culture have oppressed the indigenous culture for centuries – through genocide and violence, and by banning their religion, forcing Christianity on them, separating children from parents, and so on.

Now, they have lost so much of their original culture that the little that’s left is not a threat anymore. So it costs almost nothing to allow them some autonomy and allow them to have the little that’s left of their culture.

The oppressed have adopted the mindset of the oppressor. They have internalized the western culture sufficiently to no longer be a threat.

DISTRACTIONS AT A CRUCIAL TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY

We are in the middle of a huge ecological crisis which will – and already is – impacting the whole of humanity, and especially the ones with the least resources. This crisis is created by human systems that don’t take ecological realities into account, and this especially applies to our economic and related (production, transportation etc.) systems. And the solution is either a profound systems change brought about by collective realization of what’s going on and a will to change, or a massive die-off of humans along with many other species.

This is undeniable. We have know for decades that this would happen. We know this is without comparison the major issue of our time.

And yet, it’s not prioritized. Media have occasional stories on this topic, but don’t weave it into just about every single story as they should considering its importance. People still vote for politicians and policies that don’t prioritize this shift. Most continue to live their life as if nothing is happening. (Partly because they may now know what to do.)

And some actively chose distractions and try to get others involved in the same distractions. One of these meaningless distractions is conspiracy theories and anti-science views. Why on Earth spend time and energy on this what we KNOW is happening is far worse and more dramatic than any conspiracy theory? Why spend time on it when we know that the major challenges in our time – ecology, poverty, and so on – are systemic and the consequences of systems that made sense, to some extent, when they were created and now absolutely don’t anymore.

When I see this lack of action, and the active distractions by some, I have to admit I feel less encouraged. Will enough of us come to their senses in time? Will we identify the systemic causes and what needs to be done? Will we take the actions needed?

CONSPIRACY THEORIES AND LACK OF INTELLECTUAL HONESTY

It’s no surprise that the conspiracy world is riddled with lack of intellectual honesty.

For instance, when it comes to the covid vaccine some take the inevitable examples of few who have a serious reaction to the vaccine and use that to discredit the vaccine in general. We know some bodies react to certain vaccines strongly, that’s not a secret. This is about the bigger picture.

They pretend that vaccines should prevent illness and say they don’t work since they don’t, and dismiss the real reason for taking the vaccine which is to prevent serious illness and death. (Which it does well.)

They talk as if vaccines are mandatory while they obviously are not. You are perfectly free to not take them.

They pretend that since masks don’t work 100% it means we shouldn’t use them. And I am sure they too know perfectly well that here too, life is imperfect. Nobody says masks should work 100%. That’s not their purpose. Their purpose is to reduce viral load, which they do well and which is crucial for how severe the illness becomes. Also, they obviously reduce transmission from the inevitable spit that comes out of our mouths when we talk. And the good ones does prevent transmission well. (I use the best ones from 3M.)

They pretend that the common-sense pandemic measures taken by many democratic countries not only unduly restrict their freedom, but is a step in some conspiracy to keep restricting their freedom. To me, this seems childish to the point that I am baffled that adults would want to appear so stupid. We already live with a large number of restrictions and responsibilities that helps society function, and most people are happy with it because we are used to it and we know it works. And there is absolutely no reason to assume that this is a step in keeping restricting freedom. When it comes to pandemics, we know what works and what doesn’t from history and epidemiology. And the vast majority of the measures we see in democratic countries follow what we know works. And to me, responsibility is as or more important, especially in these types of situations. I am happy to change my life if that means the more vulnerable among us are more protected. This is not about me, it’s about the more vulnerable.

We know that harebrained conspiracy theories flourish in pandemics. So why repeat history? The conspiracy theorists in pandemics in the past now look pretty stupid to us. Or, rather, uninformed and scared and reacting to their fears by trying to find safety through conspiracy theories. (By going into these conspiracy theories, they feel they know, they have human scapegoats instead of living with the inherent unpredictability of life, they have something to distract themselves from their discomfort, and so on.) So why do these people willingly mimick these people of the past? Probably because their need to escape into a sense of knowing and having someone to blame is greater than their interest in intellectual honesty.

SEPTEMBER 21, 2022

MAKING A HORRIBLE COMPROMISE?

I saw a western commentator saying that we’ll need to make a “horrible compromise” so Putin won’t escalate the war. I understand the concern about Putin resorting to biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons in desperation. Especially since his army is weak, disorganized, and lacks modern equipment. And I also see it as a somewhat absurd comment.

According to most sober military analysts, Ukraine is winning provided they continue to receive support from the west. (Especially long-range missiles.) They may well push Russia out of the newly occupied areas, and even Crimea.

It’s up to Ukraine to decide whether or not they want to compromise. (And they clearly don’t.) Not this commentator or anyone else.

And one good guideline is to never give in to bullies. It only encourages them and other bullies and leads to worse things in the future. The west allowed far too many horrors from Putin already, both internally in Russia (oppression) and externally (invasions).

Yes, the west often makes buddies with dictatorships, especially when money and oil are in the picture. And that doesn’t mean we can’t do the right thing now, and that we can’t support and encourage it.

SEPTEMBER 22, 2022

NOT AT RISK?

I follow a few young Russian YouTubers who are western-oriented and critical of Putin and his war. This morning, Putin announced a partial mobilization, and one of the young male YouTubers said he isn’t concerned since he doesn’t belong to the category Putin said they would mobilize for the war. I am surprised anyone would take Putin on his word, especially Russians.

No relatively fit Russian men seem safe from being sent to the front lines. According to news reports, protesters, students, and random people in the subway are being drafted. Maybe officials need to fill quotas so they randomly draft people? I also assume Putin and some of those who follow him love the idea of punishing critics by sending them to the front lines. They may not be good or motivated soldiers, but it’s an effective way to get rid of them. (And, I would think, a clear security risk and an unwise strategy, but Putin’s Russia seems to specialize in just that.)

If they draft random passers-by, then any male from teens up to retirement age are at risk. And if they forcibly draft protesters as a kind of punishment, it would be a small step to draft semi-public critics of the regime and send them too to the front lines.

Also, with any mobilization, it’s likely that Putin will close the borders for anyone who may get mobilized now or in the future, i.e. any adult male. Why would he allow a good percentage of potential soldiers to leave the country? Even Ukraine, where the population is highly motivated to fight, has done that.

Another side of this is the lack of wisdom in drafting between 300,000 and a million people. The Russian army is already lacking weapons and equipment, so what are these new soldiers going to use? Most if not nearly all of these new soldiers will lack motivation. Some will strongly be against the war. The Russian army has lost a large number of officers in the war so far, so who is going to train and lead these new soldiers? How are they going to be supplied with food and other essentials? Who in their right mind thinks they can be good and effective soldiers with only (I assume) a few months of training? Quantity does not equal quality or effectiveness.

There is yet another predictable absurdity here, and that is that many Russians seemed perfectly OK with the war until this point, and now suddenly are concerned since the mobilization will impact them personally or the ones close to them. In earlier interviews of people on the street about the war, a surprising amount of people seem shockingly blaze or uninvolved about it, as if they have very little empathy or concern for what’s happening outside of their own life, and as if they don’t realize that it does and will impact them and the ones close to them.

PUTIN’S PROJECTIONS

This is almost too obvious, but I’ll mention it anyway.

We all project in different ways. We create an overlay of mental representations on the world to make sense of it, and that’s a projection. (Essential for orienting, navigating, and functioning in the world.) Any any story we have about others or the world can be turned back to ourselves and we can find genuine and specific examples of how it’s true.

We can be aware of our projections, to different extent. And it can be instructive to first see blind projections in others, and then find it in ourselves.

Putin is a good example of apaprently blind projections.

He assumes NATO wants to eradicate Russia, which is absurd since NATO consists of democratic and neo-liberal countries who mostly beenfit from trade with similar countires. There would be no benefit to NATO in eradicating Russia, or wanting a conflict with Russia. The one who has empire ambitions is Putin.

He sees the west as imperialistic, while he invades and occupies sovereign nations and wishes to recreate a Russian empire.

He sees Nazis everywhere in Ukraine, which also is absurd. Ukraine is a democracy, and less than 2% of the population vote for far-right parties. The one with more obvious fascist tendencies is Putin.

THE STUPIDITY OF AUTHORITARIAN SYSTEMS

Authoritarian systems are inherently stupid, whether they happen in society or within ourselves.

Why? Mainly because they lack good feedback mechanisms.

Authoritarian leaders typically create an environment that limits the information and views they encounter. People are afraid to speak up and may be hesitant to share views or information that don’t fit the views and plans of the leader. That, in itself, makes for poor decisions.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is a good example. To anyone but him, it seemed obvious that Ukraine would fight back, and also that they would receive support from the western world. After all, there is a big difference between losing one part of your country (Crimea in 2014) and your whole country, along with your democracy, your independence, and your freedom of speech. Especially when you know it will be exchanged for an authoritarian and oppressive rule.

At the very best, even if Russia managed to occupy the whole of Ukraine, it would lead to endless resistance – including assassinations of Russian-friendly leaders and collaborators – until Ukraine was freed again.

Now, Putin is backed up into a corner with very few if any good options. Right now, it seems unlikely that Russia will have any significant military success. A nuclear attack seems suicidal. Admitting defeat doesn’t seem to be within the realm of possibility for Putin. (Because of playing a role as an authoritarian leader.) And it’s very possible he will be disposed of and perhaps replaced with someone even more hawkish. It’s even possible that some republics will take the opportunity of a weakened Russia to gain their independence.

DIFFERENTIATION

Differentiation is important. Healing, awakening, and maturing has a lot to do with differentiation.

So also in politics.

Some dislike a lot of what the US and NATO are doing in the world, as do I.

And that doesn’t mean that when Putin invades the sovereign nation of Ukraine, that’s somehow right or that any excuse would justify it. It also doesn’t mean that the support western countries give Ukraine to resist the invasion is wrong.

For me, any form of aggressive imperialism is wrong. And I support any sovereign country defending itself from invasion.

Why am I writing this, even if it seems so obvious? Because some – including some liberals and progressives in the west – seem to think that what the US and the west are doing is always wrong and that what Putin is doing these days is right. That’s not at all how I see it.

OCTOBER 7, 2022

OVERLOOKING A MORE LIKELY SCENARIO

Over the last few months, there has occasionally been criticism of the war in Russia in state-run media. Western reporters like to present it as dissent, cracks in the apparently unified support for Putin, and a sign that Putin is losing control.

Maybe all of that is happening, but there is another side to this. And that is that these dissenting voices are intentionally allowed to say what they say, that it’s explicitly allowed and encouraged by Putin, and that it’s part of Putin’s plan to give him an advantage now and room to maneuver in the future. In a country where the state media is so carefully controlled, that’s a far more likely scenario.

For instance, there has been recent criticism of Putin’s chief of defense (Shoigu) by people talking on state-controlled media. To me, it makes sense that this criticism is allowed and perhaps even encouraged by Putin since it creates a scapegoat for their military failures in Ukraine. It sets Shoigu up to take the blame, and at a later point be removed. (Not yet since he is still useful as a scapegoat.)

Again, most reporters in the west present this as a sign that Putin is losing control. Why don’t they include the far more likely scenario that it’s part of Putin’s strategy? Are they naive? Do they prefer the wishful thinking scenario? Don’t they understand the level of control Putin has over the state-run media in Russia? I am not sure.

OCTOBER 11, 2022

PUTIN’S STUPIDITY

Putin is a good example of what happens when we (a) are out of touch with reality and (b) are caught up in ideologies.

Invading Ukraine is an example of both. It was an act that could never go well for Russia. At the very best, the Russians would be caught up in an endless guerilla war until they eventually left Ukraine. And the invasion was fueled by a desire to recreate the Russian empire. If Putin had the best interests of Russia in mind, he would have strengthened ties with his neighbors, allowed for a democratic and diverse Russia, and focused on trade instead of war.

Russia could never “win” an occupation of Ukraine. And as it looks now, and if the international community continues to support Ukraine, it seems that Russia is incapable of winning the war. The sane approach for Putin would be to end it and try to create better ties with the rest of the world. It seems that in his particular form of insanity, ending the war is not a possibility. And creating better ties with the rest of the world won’t be possible as long as he is in power. So what will happen? It’s not easy to tell.

It’s possible he will keep going until Russia’s military resources are sufficiently exhausted so continuing is no longer possible. Or until Ukraine has pushed the Russians out of Ukraine, including Crimea. At that point, Putin’s days as a leader in Russia are over. And, hopefully, someone will take over who has a slightly more sane and wise approach.

It may also be that Putin will keep going to see if the Republicans will win the mid-term election in the US, and if Trump or a Trump-like candidate will become president in two years. At that point, Ukraine will lose vital support and Putin has a chance to at least occupy Ukraine.

PRETENDING TO BE APOLITICAL

Some people like to pretend they are apolitical. And it is a pretense.

Everything is politics. Politics is about what we value. Everything in society reflects our collective values. And everything we individually chose and do reflects what we value.

Everything happening in society impacts us one way or another.

And when something happens in society that strongly goes against what we value, the pretense of being apolitical falls apart.

We can see this in Russia these days. According to some sources, about a quarter actively support Putin and the war, about a quarter disagree with Putin and the war, and about half are indifferent. As long as it doesn’t impact them, it’s fine.

That’s not how the world works. The war and the other Putin policies will and do impact you. You live in that society. You live in an authoritarian system. You live in a system based partly on corruption. You live in a system where people are not allowed to publicly speak their minds. You live in a system where political opponents to Putin are imprisoned or killed. You live in a society that goes to war against a democratic and sovereign neighbor. You live in a society where people are randomly drafted to be cannon fodder on the front. This impacts you. And it either matches or goes against what you value.

[Made into regular article]

WE ARE GOOD, THEY ARE BAD

I saw one of the old-fashioned stone age stereotypes this morning and was reminded of the “we are good, they are bad” or “we are superior, they are inferior” attitude.

Of course, stone age people were just like us. They were as smart, kind, sensitive, stupid, cruel, and so on as we are. They just had different technology and different understanding of the world. They lived within their own culture, just as we live within ours.

COMMON FORMS OF STUPIDITY

I definitely has a judgmental part of me.

I saw people supporting Brexit for somewhat absurd reasons, ignoring what we knew would very likely be the outcome. (UK businesses moving to the EU, weaker bargaining position with other countries, trade barriers of several kinds, loss of subsidies from the EU, problems with the Irish border, and so on.) And now, when what was predicted is happening, a vast majority in the UK want to join the EU again. To me, that whole process seems like stupidity. A waste of time, attention, and resources, and something that was brainless from the beginning.

I see people wanting Ukraine to accept Russian occupation so we can avoid a nuclear war. Who are you to decide that? That’s only for Ukraine to decide. And would you accept an occupation and foreign authoritarian leadership without a fight? Very likely not. And judging from Putin’s words and actions, it’s very unlikely that he will stop with Ukraine. If he is not stopped, there is no reason for him to not continue invasions of former Soviet countries. He is trying to recreate a Russian empire from the past. To me, the appeasement attitude in this case seems incredibly short-sighted and naive.

I see people claiming that vaccines cause a large number and a wide range of illnesses. Where is your data? Is it just anecdotal? You know that correlation is not causality. Lots of things happen after something else all the time without having any causal connection. To show causality you need large data sets, solid methodology, and replication of the findings. Again, this seems like incredible stupidity.

Most people operate on a business-as-usual mindset, knowing full well that just about every climate scientist is saying we are heading full speed into an almost unimaginable ecological disaster. A disaster that will be the end of our civilization as we know it. How can they do that? How can they continue to vote for politicians who don’t take this seriously? How can they continue to live their lives as if nothing is happening? How can they keep prioritizing as if this is not happening?

TRANSGENDER ETC.

I love that the younger generation seems more flexible and open when it comes to gender identities and sexual orientations. They allow themselves to explore and be more fluid and less restricted by labels and tradition. That seems very healthy.

I also just had a conversation that touched on transgender issues. A friend of my wife is a writer who explored what it means to be a woman in her writings, and apparently some of that has triggered some in the transgender community. I don’t know more about that situation so cannot say much more about it, and I’ll certainly not take sides. (I suspect the author may have been a bit insensitive in her language, and that the reaction may be a bit over the top, but even that may be wrong.)

Here are a few of my own thoughts on the transgender topic.

First, it’s not something I have first-hand experience in so these are obviously, in some sense, an uninformed outsider perspective. I’ll be the first to admit that, and leave the insider perspective to those who have that experience.

And as a member of society, and someone who has explored my inner world, I have a few things I can share.

We all have what we label feminine and masculine characteristics, and they are labels. The wholeness we are seeks to know itself as that wholeness, and that includes embracing and getting to know and live from our feminine and masculine characteristics. This is something far more universal than any of the labels we may use. For all of us, no matter labels or age or whether we feel we are biologically man or woman, it can be very healing and freeing to get to know and embrace both our feminine and masculine characteristics.

We can also embrace and express whatever gender we like, independent of our biological sex, and this may change over time and situations and phases in life.

And if someone wants to change their biological sex, that’s up to them. Although I also think that such a relatively profound change needs both support and a few restrictions. For instance, it makes sense if someone has to be legally adult before doing it. And it makes sense that there is a process in place where people get to explore more in-depth their desire and find what it’s really about before they go through with the change. Clarifying can only help. It will either strengthen their clarity and resolve for the change. Or they may find they can better meet their need in a different way, or that it’s really about something else. And sometimes, the genuinely best strategy to meet that need may be to change their biological sex.

Why such a process? Because doing it on an impulse may lead to regrets later. And because it’s always good to clarify our intention and needs before doing anything that involves a major and lasting change.

This is also a situation where there is a lot of cultural baggage, much of it unhelpful. There will be a lot of opinions from friends, family, and inside our own mind. And there are money interests. All of this muddles the water. So it’s good to go through a process where we clarify our intention, motivation, and needs, and how to best meet our needs.

HOMESCHOOLING AND SOCIALIZATION

A few times, I have heard the classic misconception about homeschooled kids that they are not well-socialized.

I find that argument strange both based on common sense and real-life examples.

Through normal life, homeschooled kids inevitably learn to socialize with people of all ages, including kids their own age. Isn’t that good enough for socialization? If anything, they get a more rounded socialization.

In an evolutionary and historical perspective, we see that homeschooled kids are socialized the way the vast majority of humans have been socialized. It’s the way we are designed – through evolution – to socialize. To put kids in with a large number of kids their same age is enormously artificial and not the way we are evolved to socialize, and it’s something that has happened only over the most recent couple of hundred years.

The homeschooled people I personally know are typically very kind people who are themselves and original and unusually good at socializing. If one setting generally makes for bad socialization it’s the artificial school setting that tends to amplify the worst in inexperienced and growing humans.

There are, of course, exceptions. I am sure some homeschooled kids are traumatized, and many who go through regular schooling enjoy the experience and leave without scars.

NOVEMBER 26, 2022

TYPES OF HUMOR

What types of humor is typical in a certain time and culture? What types of humor do I like? And what does it say about us?

One thing I have noticed about humor in the US is that it’s often cruel. It’s often at the expense of someone else. For instance, the internet seems to be full of prank videos that involve scaring someone else or fail videos where you are supposed to laugh at someone getting hurt. (A part of me sometimes finds these funny although I also cringe and mostly find them uncomfortable.) I have noticed that the culture of empires tends to lean towards cruelty, and I can’t help wondering if it’s not the humor of an empire.

Personally, I like humor that exposes a shared human truth, or the absurdity of certain things in society, or targets abuse of power, or that’s just plain silly. Mostly, I like humor that reveals something about all of us, often in a sharp way, although with a good heart.

JANUARY 7, 2023

VIEWS ON PUTIN AND GEOGRAPHY

I am still baffled by how some outside of Russia view Putin. He is an authoritarian leader suppressing his own people. He is brutally invading other countries. He squashes any real opposition by jailing or killing people. From the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine, I have seen people blaming NATO for the war, supporting the invasion, or suggesting we should just let Putin get what he wants.

For me, this is all clearly absurd.

Yes, some former Soviet states have joined NATO. They wanted to join for their own safety since they know that Russia regularly invade their neighbors and have done so for centuries. NATO has never been a threat to Russia. Putin most likely invaded Ukraine since it’s seen as a brother country to Russia, and they have a somewhat functional democracy. That’s far more of a real threat to Putin. It’s a threat to his authoritarian project.

Similarly, if you give in to a bully, the bully will keep going. If the rest of the world allows Putin to take Ukraine, why would he stop there?

It’s also absurd to me that some seem to have sympathy for Putin just because he criticizes the west. Yes, there is no lack of things to criticize the west for, and NATO, the US, and the EU, and I do so frequently. But that’s no reason to buy into Putin’s view of the world or to support how he treats his own people and his neighbors. It doesn’t make what he does any more right.

With some exceptions, it seems that those who view Putin with sympathy either live in Russia (absorbing the official news and views) or are far away from Russia (and removed from direct risk). I am from a country directly bordering Russia, and I don’t have that luxury. I know Russian history. I know that Russia habitually invades its neighbors and has done it throughout history. I know what Putin has done even before the Ukraine war. I know that my own country would be at risk if it wasn’t for being a member of NATO. (And, as mentioned above, I know there are a lot of problems with NATO.)

When things are closer to home, you don’t have the luxury of being intellectually dishonest.

JANUARY 27, 2023

IS PUTIN INSANE?

Many folks say that Putin is not insane, he is just acting on different values, ideologies, and information than most of us. (At least, most of us in the western world.)

That’s probably true, in one sense. He is a product of KGB and his experiences in the Soviet Union and Russia following the disintegration of that particular empire. He seems to have ambitions on behalf of Russia to rebuild some kind of Russian empire. He doesn’t acknowledge the right of former Soviet republics to be their own country. He is willing to say whatever to get support from the Russian people.

And most likely, he wanted to get rid of a sister nation (Ukraine) that was increasingly oriented towards the west and showed Russians there is another way. He didn’t want a democratic and western-oriented sister nation on the border of Russia.

At the same time, there is also a kind of insanity there, at least as it looks to me with my background.

Why choose the path of war and occupation, and all the problems that inevitably bring, when you could choose the path of peace, cooperation, and the prosperity that brings?

Why choose to invade Ukraine when you know that would never be acceptable to the Ukrainians and would lead to unending conflict, even if Russia somehow were able to take Ukraine?

Why continue the war when it so obviously cannot work? Why continue on a path that’s so clearly destructive to Russia?

To me, there is clearly insanity there.

[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.)

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