Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 62

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.

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 have a judgmental part in 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, still having to align with EU regulations to facilitate trade, and so on.) And now, when what was predicted is happening, a majority in the UK wants 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.

Most importantly, I see 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 an 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 minds. 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 the 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 prosperity that comes with cooperation and partnerships?

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.

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