Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 60

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.

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 that 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 a 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 our 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 a lack of intellectual honesty.

For instance, when it comes to the covid vaccine some take the inevitable examples of a 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 do 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 mimic the 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.

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