Language, woke, pandemics & ecology: Snapshots vs the long view

Even if our culture often invites a snapshot view of things, a longer view can be far more informative.

LANGUAGE AND THE LONG VIEW

I remember my uncle would complain about changes to the language at family dinners.

Even as a teenager, it didn’t make sense to me. Language changes. It changes with each generation, and even decade by decade and year by year.

He has a snapshot view of language based on what he learned and was used to when he grew up. The generations that came before him would see his language as different and perhaps judge it as bad and wrong. And the generations after him will likely view his language as old-fashioned. That’s just how it is.

Our language today is the product of a language that has changed for not only centuries and millennia but over hundreds of thousands of years. I imagine even the ones who first used what we would think of as language were judged by the older generations. Why do they use these weird cryptic sounds instead of grunts and body language?

So when my uncle judged the language of young people today, and incremental changes to sounds and grammar, what would he use as a standard? What was, in his view, the correct language? Was it the one he grew up with, just because he happened to grow up with it? Does the world revolve around him and his generation? Or was it ten generations ago? A hundred? Did he want to return to a time before verbal language, when we used body language and other kinds of sounds?

For me, a long view makes more sense. It helps me be a little more informed, see things in perspective, and realize that language is supposed to change. People younger than me use a different language than me. Some would even pronounce my last name differently from how I do it. And that’s OK. It’s more than OK. That’s the nature of language. That’s how we have the language we have today. That’s how we have language in the first place.

WOKE AND THE LONG VIEW

I love woke. Why?

Because the intention behind woke – the wish for kindness and inclusivity – is remarkable in a historical context.

Many if not most cultures have not been that inclusive. Often, certain people are excluded or oppressed for things they cannot change: their ethnicity, color of skin, sexual orientation, caste or socioeconomic status, and so on. Woke seeks inclusivity and that’s remarkable and something to be applauded.

Of course, woke can take somewhat immature forms. That’s the same with everything and it doesn’t disqualify it as something remarkable and something to applaud and support.

So why do I love woke?

It’s not because of the more immature expressions of woke. I am happy to speak up against those and encourage more balanced approaches.

It’s because I take a long view. I know how unusual and remarkable woke is. Strong forces want to suppress it, now and historically. Many with privilege, including white privilege, feel threatened by such inclusivity.

It’s because I know that inclusivity helps all of us. It creates a more vibrant society and culture. It allows me to be more who I am, since I too am outside the norm in different ways. (As we all are.) It helps me be more myself and embrace more of myself.

Also, it’s because I know that the anti-woke attitudes and orientation originate on the far right, even if it’s sometimes adopted – somewhat naively and misguidedly in my view – by some of the left. Why do some on the left adopt those views? Is it because they don’t have a long perspective?

PANDEMICS AND THE LONG VIEW

When the pandemic happened, I was not surprised. I knew that another pandemic was due any time since they tend to come about once a century. (That may change now with continued human incursion into previously mostly intact ecosystems and changing climate. The first brings more human exposure to diseases previously limited to other species. A warming climate spreads previously tropical diseases to new areas.)

I was also not surprised by the pandemic measures implemented by governments around the world. Since I am familiar with epidemiology, I know what’s considered best practices in a pandemic: quarantine, limiting contact and exposure, vaccines, and so on. These are measures that have been shown to work historically. (Some went a little too far, like the Chinese government, and some didn’t do quite enough, like Trump and Bolsonaro.)

I was not surprised by the backlash to these from some. There will always be a backlash when the government implements restrictions, even if these are temporary and based on epidemiology. There are innumerable restrictions in our society that most people accept. (Laws against theft, killing, driving too fast, and so on.) Why do we accept these restrictions? Because most of them make sense and help society function better. When some reacted to the pandemic restrictions, I suspect it was largely because the restrictions were new. Many also seemed unfamiliar with epidemiology and common and effective responses to pandemics. They didn’t have the long view.

I was not surprised by the conspiracy theories that flourished in some subcultures. History shows that conspiracy theories flourish during any pandemic in just about any time and culture. That’s how people work. I assume it’s a way to deal with fear. Through conspiracy theories, some feel they have some kind of control, if only imaginary. (In reality, conspiracy theories distract from far more serious and urgent big-picture issues that we all know are happening, including global ecological overshoot.)

When it comes to vaccines, I also take a big picture and long view. We know from history and epidemiology that vaccines have had a huge and beneficial impact on our collective health in general. We also know that at an individual level, they occasionally lead to serious health problems and even death. That’s the case with all modern pharmaceutical medications. In rare cases, some individuals experience a strong reaction to a certain vaccine or medication. That’s to be expected and it’s widely known. That’s why I support vaccines in general, and why I am very selective in which ones I personally take and (often) don’t take. (Some anti-vaxxers seem to think – or pretend? – that this information is somehow hidden or not included in the equation when health authorities decide to approve or recommend certain vaccines or medications.)

ECOLOGY AND THE LONG VIEW

With nature, we also often operate on snapshots. This is called the shifting baseline syndrome.

We grow up with our ecosystem looking and functioning a certain way, and that becomes the baseline for us. We may not be aware of how much this ecosystem has changed due to human impact, and how far it is from a state not impacted by human activity.

For instance, as a kid I loved being in the forest near our house. To me, it was nature, it was wild. Later, I realized that it’s cut down regularly and the trees are replanted. That’s why the trees are all the same size. That’s why there is not more diversity and life there. This forest, like most forests in the world today, is very different from a more untouched old-growth forest. It’s close to a monoculture.

I remember the garden from childhood full of insects of all types. Badgers and hedgehogs. Swallows and many types of birds. Today, it’s very different. They’re is almost no life here. I imagine many young people don’t realize the change that happened over two or three decades. They see the absence of life as normal.

This is why it’s important to learn about how nature has changed over time, where we are, and in other places. Visualizing how it used to be and comparing it to how it is now can be a shock, and it’s a useful shock. It can encourage us to support or work on regeneration and rewilding, which benefits not only the wider ecosystem but also humanity and ourselves as individuals.

I make a practice out of imagining how nature used to be where I am (approximately), and also visualizing how it can be with some efforts into regeneration and rewilding. I do this in nature and rural areas, and also in towns and cities.

BENEFITS OF THE LONG VIEW

In all of these cases and many more, the long view helps me find a more sober, informed, and kind view.

In addition to the examples above, there is one that’s even closer to home. When I look at my own behavior, trauma, and so on, it helps to see it in terms of culture and evolution.

My trauma is not (just) mine. It comes from my parents. Much of it has likely been passed on through generations, in variations of the same essence. It’s shared, not just in my family but likely among many in my culture. The essence of it is likely shared by many around the world.

When I look at behavior patterns I may not be completely happy about, for instance the tendency for comfort eating, that’s not just from culture and family. The stage was set by evolution. I am biologically predisposed to like fatty and sweet food. In an environment where that was scarce, the ones who craved it were a little more likely to survive and have surviving offspring.

“Read more” to see what ChatGPT has to say about some of these topics.

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Harmful effects of vaccines

I saw an article on NRK – the publicly owned news source in Norway – about people organizing to bring attention to how the corona vaccine harmed their health.

That’s understandable. And it’s a complex situation.

We know that vaccines – like any medicine – can harm our health. Even the most apparently innocent medicine, like painkillers, can seriously harm our health. In a few out of a large number of cases, it does. That’s well known. The authorities and doctors need to make this clear since it seems that some are surprised by this. (I also understand they don’t want to unduly worry people or induce them to make decisions based on what happens to only a very few people.)

I assume that often, the harmful effects of the vaccine come from the body’s reaction to it. If so, that’s a parallel to what happens when our body reacts to the virus itself leading to the post-viral syndrome/CFS form of long-covid. It seems that the body can respond to either vaccines or the actual virus in a way that harms our health. (For me, an interesting question is whether these two groups are the same people. If someone’s body responds strongly to the vaccine, would their body have responded equally strongly to the actual virus? I imagine it’s difficult to figure this out.)

As many will point out, correlation is not causation. Some of the ones who think their health was damaged by the vaccine make a wrong connection. What happened with them would have happened anyway, vaccine or no vaccine. It had a different cause. We don’t know how many this applies to.

So yes, it’s important to take this group seriously. They have health issues, these need to be addressed, and it’s important to sort out what’s going on with them. (Likely a diversity of causes.) It’s also important that people understand that any medicine can cause serious health issues in rare cases, and that includes vaccines as much as any other medicine.

I imagine anti-vaccine folks and conspiracy theorists will jump on this. And, in reality, they have little to no reason to. In rare cases, any kind of medicine causes serious health problems. That’s well known. There is also the usual correlation-versus-causality discussion which is valid and important to take seriously. (It’s equally important to not use it to dismiss valid concerns.)

Image by me and Midjourney

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The pandemic, epidemiology, and the importance of historical knowledge

I have written about this several times and thought I would revisit it briefly.

MY FASCINATION WITH EPIDEMIOLOGY

Since childhood, I have been fascinated by epidemiology. I read articles and books about it growing up, I learned about it in school, and it’s one of the topics I studied at university.

I found the history of it fascinating: How people have understood diseases throughout history and in different cultures. How people have tried to prevent or lessen the impact of spreading diseases. How ships were quarantined, even centuries before we had an understanding of germs. The early modern investigations into the spread of diseases, for instance, the infected well in London spreading cholera. The initial treatment of Semmelweis and others who argued for hygiene. How simple things like clean water, hygiene, and a better diet are responsible for most of the improvements in health we have seen over the last century.

And when it comes to pandemics: What has historically worked and not worked in times of pandemics. (Limiting travel and contact, quarantine, and good hygiene.) And how people tend to react in times of pandemics. (Some groups will react by fueling blame, scapegoating, and conspiracy theories.)

EXPECTED PANDEMIC AND RESPONSES

When the pandemic came a few years ago, I was not surprised. Pandemics typically come once a century, and this came just on schedule. (About one hundred years after the last major one, the Spanish Flu.)

I was also not surprised by the measures put in place by governments around the world. These are the typical measures put in place in times of pandemics, and the ones we know work based on what we have learned from history. Most governments followed established best practices. (WIth China and Brazil as notable exceptions.)

And I was not really surprised by the surge in conspiracy theories. That’s how some people react in times of pandemics. They want to find a scapegoat. They distrust the government. They oppose common-sense measures to prevent the impact of the pandemic. Even if these are temporary, protect vulnerable groups, and we know from history that these measures work. (I wasn’t surprised, but I was disappointed when people I personally know chose this way of reacting to the pandemic.) (1)

WHY DO SOME GO INTO CONSPIRACY THEORIES?

I also have some guesses about why some went into conspiracy theories.

They may not know much about the history of pandemics or of epidemiology. They may not know or understand – or want to understand – how and why the standard pandemic measures work.

They may not understand science and scientific methods very well. They may not know how to evaluate scientific articles and research. They may not know much about valid reasoning or how to avoid logical fallacies. (Most of the conspiracy folks I have seen use both bad data and bad logic.) (2)

Some may prioritize other things over being intellectually honest.

They may have a pre-existing distrust in governments, authority, and possibly science. (Even if just about everything that works in their lives is made possible by governments and science.)

They may want to reinforce an existing identity as an outsider and rebel. They may want to boost their self-esteem by telling themselves they know something most others don’t.

They may just have discovered something disturbing about how society works and draw exaggerated and hasty conclusions because they are not very familiar with the topic.

They may be naturally gullible. They may have heard things from people they think they should trust, and believe it.

Because of the pandemic, some found time to go into internet rabbit holes and spend time in virtual echo chambers.

Some intentionally took on the roles of trolls and fueled conspiracy theories they personally saw as ludicrous. (Some were paid to do this, others did it for more personal reasons.)

And most probably saw themselves as being on the side of truth and the good. (Even if it, in most cases, was misguided.)

WHEN WE DON’T KNOW MUCH ABOUT HISTORY

This is an example of why knowledge of history is important. It’s important for the decisions we make today.

These situations – that have to do with science and public policy – tend to look very different depending on how familiar we are with history and science. Knowing a bit about history and science vaccinates us against being misled by paranoia, weak data, and weak logic.

THE VALIDITY IN THE CRITICISM

There is, of course, a grain of truth to a lot of the criticism and the essence of some of the conspiracy theories.

Most governments winged it, with some guidance from doctors and epidemiologists. They made mistakes. They over-reacted and under-reacted at different times and in different situations. They would have done some things differently if they had more time to prepare or had known more than they did at the time. That’s to be expected. We live in an imperfect world. We all wing it, to some extent.

The medical industry is in it for the money. Medical research is often funded by big pharma. Multi-national corporations own a wide range of companies, including medical and media companies. There is a lot of money influence in politics. That’s also to be expected. It’s not news.

And, at the same time, it doesn’t mean that the measures put in place by most governments did not make sense. They did, based on history and what we know works in times of pandemics.

(1) Why did some resist taking simple common-sense measures to slow down the spread of the virus? To me, this didn’t make sense. The main purpose was to prevent hospitals from being overloaded and we saw the consequence of overloaded hospitals in certain areas of the world. Did they want hospitals to get to the point where they had to turn people away? (Including, possibly you or your close family.) Did they assume the measures didn’t work? (Even if they obviously do. None of them are perfect, but they are not meant to the perfect. They are just meant to reduce the rate of transmission. And to reduce the viral load when someone gets infected, which is one of the main predictors of how serious the illness will get.) Did they act out of ignorance, reactivity, and lack of compassion for their fellow humans? Did they allow their reactivity to override their compassion?

(2) For instance, some refer to articles published on less-than-reputable websites, often written by people with no training or expertise in the field, and present it as if it’s solid science. Or they refer to an outlier article that goes against the mainstream view and presents it as if it means something. (Outlier articles and views are found in all fields of science. They need to be backed up with a lot more research to have any real weight or meaning.)

Some set up a false dichotomy and pretended that the measures had to be perfect or rejected. None of the measures are perfect. They are not meant to be. As I mentioned above, they were meant to slow down the spread of the virus so the hospitals wouldn’t get overloaded and had to turn people away. (Including people ill for other reasons.) And they were meant to reduce the viral load when we get infected, which is one of the main predictors of how sick someone gets. (Masks, for instance, hold back the spit that naturally comes out when we talk, this reduces the viral load when someone gets infected, and that can make all the difference for some people.)

Or they pretended that common temporary measures in a pandemic were going to be permanent. Or they presented themselves as victims just because they were asked to take a few common-sense measures to help prevent the hospitals from being overloaded. (This reaction was especially weird to me since we all already take a lot of measures to help society as a whole, including paying taxes, wearing a seat belt, driving on the correct side of the road, washing our hands, and so on.)

Some talk about “rights” when they seem to conveniently forget that we also have duties. In a time of crisis, duty comes into the foreground. In this case, our duty is to be responsible citizens and do our small part in keeping the hospitals functional and reducing the risk of serious illness for other people.

The conspiracy theory crowd seemed naive to me for several reasons. Not the least because they actively fueled distractions from the major and real crisis we are in: our ecological crisis. This is the one we need to focus on and do something about. So why allow yourself to get distracted in that way?

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When we don’t know how little we know

If we are familiar with a topic, it’s often easy to recognize how little novices know or understand about it, and it’s easy to recognize their misconceptions and limitations.

And the more we are familiar with any topic, the more we tend to realize how little we know. And we tend to realize that this goes for any area of life or knowledge. We tend to find intellectual humility. (Of course, there are exceptions.)

None of us know what we don’t know. But we can know generally how little we know. We can find some intellectual humility and curiosity and even appreciation for the beauty of knowing little, no matter how much we know about something in a conventional sense.

The more mature and experienced we are, the more we tend to viscerally know how little we know.

As usual, there is a lot more to say about this.

For instance, what do I mean by knowing little? Don’t some know a lot about certain things? Yes, of course. We can have a lot of experience in certain fields and areas of life. And even then, what we think we know may not be entirely accurate. There is always more to be familiar with and learn. Our understanding will change with new insights and experiences, sometimes incrementally and sometimes dramatically. There may be other contexts to understand it within that makes as much or more sense, that will put everything in a new light, and may even turn everything upside-down and inside-out. In the bigger picture, what we are familiar with and think we know – as individuals and collectively – is a drop in the ocean compared to what there is to experience and understand. And we always think we know, we don’t actually know.

Where do I think I know a lot? Perhaps about this particular topic since it’s been of interest to me since my early teens. (Philosophy and methods of science.) Also, perhaps about the essence of awakening. (Although I am very aware that here, there is infinitely further to go and my sense of who and what I am can and likely will change dramatically as life continues to explore this through and as me.) And certainly any time I stress myself by holding any thought as true. (Stress is a sign my system holds certain thoughts and assumptions as true, and that these may not be consciously identified and certainly are not thoroughly investigated so I can find what’s already more true for me.)

What are some examples of where I tend to notice how little folks know about a topic, even if they may assume they know a lot? I sometimes notice it in news stories on topics I am relatively familiar with. I sometimes notice it in articles summarizing a field I am more familiar with than the author. I sometimes notice it in people who are exploring spirituality and awakening and have simplistic notions that betray a lack of experience or go into wishful or fearful thinking that reflects unexamined projections. I see it in some who reject the insights and expertise of professionals in a field and think they know more than them based on having read a few articles on the internet or listened to some podcasts.

Why is this important? It’s of vital importance since we need to be well informed to make good choices, both at an individual and collective level. If we are to deal with the huge challenges we are faced with these days – ecological crisis, mass migrations, pandemics, hunger, poverty – we need to be well informed and make good collective decisions. And we cannot do that if we are misled and assume we know more than people who have spent their life studying certain fields, or if a significant portion of the population misleads themselves in that way.

How do we balance knowing and knowing we don’t know? It’s not necessarily that difficult since they are two different things. We know more or less about certain topics and areas of life in a conventional sense, and this is based on data and logic that’s more or less solid and our assumptions work more or less well when tested out in practice. And no matter what, there is always more to know, our context for understanding may and probably will change, and we always think we know even when our assumptions are based on solid data and logic and work well in practice.

Are there not cases where experts are mistaken? Or intentionally mislead people? Yes, of course. Experts are human and make mistakes. Whole fields change over time and what’s taken as gospel truth today will be seen as old misconceptions a decade or century from now. And that doesn’t mean we need to wholesale reject the current content of science or mainstream views or assume we know more than experts just because we read or heard something. We need to know how little we know. In most cases, mainstream science is the best we have right now, even as we know the content of science changes with time.

Why do we sometimes like to think we know more than we do? It’s partly from a lack of experience and maturity. And there are likely also psychological dynamics at play. For instance, we may go into those ideas to compensate for a sense of lack or inferiority. The more at peace we are with ourselves, and the more psychologically healthy we are, the easier is for us to find peace with, genuinely appreciate, and live from the receptivity of not-knowing and knowing how little we know.

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Discrediting a view by calling it mainstream

I see a trend in social media where some (often conspiracy theorists?) not only criticize others for taking a mainstream view. They take it a step further and try to discredit a view by calling it mainstream.

I am not particularly a fan of everything mainstream. Many of the major problems in our society are almost by definition mainstream. This includes an economic and other social systems that don’t take ecological realities into account, and where an ordinary life within this system inevitably is part of the problem and damages the natural systems we depend on for literally everything.

And yet, there are many problems inherent in disqualifying a view just because you see it as mainstream.

IT MUDDLES THE WATER

By doing so, you chose to focus on a label or characteristic of a view rather than the content. You bring attention away from the content of the argument. You resort to name-calling instead of presenting your case with solid logic and data.

YOU MAY HAVE YOUR OWN MAINSTREAM

Most of us have our own mainstream. We often take on the mainstream views in the subculture or subcultures we resonate and identify with.

If we criticize others for mainstream views, we may overlook that we have our own subculture that we get our information and views from. This is our own mainstream.

We are doing what we criticize others for.

In this case, when people try to discredit a view by calling it mainstream, they have adopted a rhetoric that’s mainstream in their own subculture.

HOW DO YOU DEFINE “MAINSTREAM”?

To me, it seems a fuzzy concept and it obviously depends on culture, time, and subculture.

What do you consider mainstream?

Is it anything you or your favorite subculture happen to disagree with?

What within the mainstream do you embrace? What do you reject? Why?

Do you consider Noam Chomsky mainstream? University professors and researchers who are deeply knowledgable of and critical of how society works, and yet reach different conclusions from you? Your friend who is a doctor and has a different and more informed view on vaccines than you?

THE DIVERSITY WITHIN THE MAINSTREAM

What some call “mainstream” is, in reality, wildly diverse.

It’s not at all one set of opinions and views that everyone takes on board. 

Within our culture – and within media, politics, and science – we find a range of different views and opinions. You typically don’t have to look far to find something that’s quite different from what may appear mainstream at first glance.

You may even find a different set of data than what most use. The question here is: How solid is this data? Would it hold up in court? Would it be the type of data a reputable reporter would rely on? Even in science, it’s often easy to find data that seems to go against the typical findings in the field. In 99.9% of the cases, it’s one of the inevitable occasional statistical outliers that cannot be replicated because there is nothing there. Or the result came from weak or bad methodology and cannot be replicated with better methodology.

WHAT YOU DISMISS AS MAINSTREAM MAY BE AN INFORMED VIEW

Many within the mainstream are good critical thinkers, have a solid knowledge of their field, have no illusions about how society works, may be well aware of the views and information you rely on, and still reach a different conclusion from you. 

What looks mainstream may well be founded on critical thinking, deep knowledge about a topic, and a long journey to arrive at that particular view. What looks mainstream is often not adopted wholesale or without discernment. 

HABITUAL REJECTION?

Do you habitually reject something just because you consider it mainstream?

If we habitually react to certain views by attaching to an opposing or contrarian view, there isn’t much discernment there. We are just reacting.

WHEN I DO THE SAME

When do I disqualify a view just because I consider I assume it fits a certain category?

I sometimes do it with conspiracy theories. 

If I disqualify a view just because it’s a conspiracy theory, I do the same. Although I have to admit many of these are recycled and familiar and I am aware of the flawed logic and flawed data it’s founded on. 

ADULT VS REBELLIOUS TEENAGER DYNAMIC

When people dismiss a view by referring to it as mainstream, it’s an obvious logical fallacy. 

For me, it feels a bit embarrassing to even write about this topic, although it does transfer to other areas that are more interesting. (For instance, where do I do the same?) 

Often, when people address these topics, it can sound like an annoying adult admonishing rebellious teenagers. And that’s perhaps not a coincidence. Some of the ones who habitually criticize something because it’s mainstream behave like rebellious teenagers. They seem to have recently discovered some of the many problems inherent in how our society works and react to them by rejecting whatever is mainstream without much discernment.

They act on reactivity. They lack a more nuanced understanding and approach. They often throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 56

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.

THE COMPLEXITIES OF THE WORLD

If we put pressure on someone to get a particular result, they will typically push back – either right away or after a while – and we end up with the opposite outcome.

This is something most of us learn early in life, although 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 the capacity to invade any other country in the period between they start a membership process and they actually become members. 

This is also why former Soviet republics have joined NATO since the fall of the Soviet Union. They know that Russia has a history of invading and occupying their neighbors and wants to protect themselves. They do the sane thing. (And, yes, I know there are lots of problems with NATO but that’s separate from this and another discussion.)

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 55

This is one in a series of posts with brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include short personal notes as well. Click “read more” to see all the entries.

OPINIONS AND WHAT THEY ARE ROOTED IN

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

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

Wrong. This is obviously wrong even on the surface.

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

And no, they are not equal.

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

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

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

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

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

QUESTIONING THE MAINSTREAM VIEW?

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

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

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A single swallow does not a summer make

Some folks who are against vaccines, mask-wearing, and so on refer to research papers to support their view.

PAPERS WRITTEN BY PEOPLE WITH NO CREDENTIALS IN THE FIELD

Often, these are not studies. They are theoretical papers written by folks with no credentials in the field. The only thing they have going for them is that they are presented in a format that makes them look scientific at first glance. And this trick sometimes works. If you are not used to reading and evaluating scientific papers, and you don’t have much knowledge about the field, you can be misled to think this is actually serious science.

SINGLE SWALLOW STUDIES

Occasionally, these are single studies that find something different from what was found in innumerable other studies. These studies go against the mainstream. It’s always like that in science. There will always be outliers. And, often, they are outliers because they use a small sample size or otherwise weak or bad methodology. For these outliers to have any value, their findings need to be replicated by several other studies using solid methods. A single swallow does not a summer make.

HOW SCIENCE WORKS

Medical science relies on solid methodology and replication. One or a few studies finding something doesn’t mean much. It’s only when a large number of independent researchers find the same or similar results, using methods other cannot find a serious fault with, that something is taken more seriously. And even then, it’s provisional since future research may find something else.

We cannot cherry pick from outlier studies to support our view. At most, it can be interesting information to hold very lightly. It’s clearly not anything to base our views or life choices on.

WHEN WE CHOSE BAD INFORMATION

In one sense, it’s understandable if people are misled by papers that look serious but aren’t, or take a single study and say “this is how it is and everything else is wrong”. They want something to be true and cling to any straw that can help them support it.

In another sense, it shows a lack of commitment to reality. They know they are not experts in the field. They know they are not used to reading or relating to these types of papers. They know innumerable other studies show something else. They know the view among people with solid credentials in the field is different. And yet they pretend they know the outlier view is true. They promote it to others. And they use it to promote irresponsible behavior. That is inexcusable.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 54

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.

WHY DO PEOPLE IN THE WELLNESS WORLD SO EASILY MISLEAD THEMSELVES?

Quite a few people in the wellness world buy into anti-pandemic measures views and conspiracy theories in general.

Why? Why do they seem so gullible?

I suspect it may be connected with several things.

They may not have a very solid education. They may not be trained in the history of science, logical fallacies, media literacy, and so on.

They may be a bit naive about the world. They may not previously have known about the many flaws inherent in just about anything humans do. And they don’t have a more nuanced and mature view which leads to discernment and knowing that we don’t always have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

They may have an outsider identity and they may be suspicious of the mainstream. So they automatically gravitate to any view opposed to the mainstream medical views.

They have found their own “alternative mainstream” and absorb the views held in that subculture. They want to belong. They want to assume they got it.

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Trauma & being against pandemic measures & conspiracy theories

The results showed that the more trauma people had experienced in childhood, the more likely they were to mistrust NHS Covid-19 information, to feel unfairly restricted by the government and to support the end of mandatory face masks.

– Covid vaccine hesitancy could be linked to childhood trauma, research finds, The Guardian, February 1, 2022

I have long suspected this connection, and have written about it in previous articles.

ANTI-PANDEMIC MEASURES AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Not everyone who criticises the pandemic measures is into conspiracy theories. Some rely on good data, take a reasonable and informed approach, and chose to not get vaccinated and so on, for whatever reason.

And from what I have seen, it does seem that many who are against the pandemic measures do it out of reactivity and their reasoning is rooted in bad logic and bad data and in some form of unsupported conspiracy theory. This is the group I’ll focus on below.

INDIVIDUALS VS GROUPS

It doesn’t mean that every single person opposed to the measures has a lot of trauma in their system. And it certainly doesn’t mean that everyone with trauma goes into these views.

At a group level, research suggests this tendency. And at an individual level, there is a lot of variation.

TRAUMA AND CONSPIRACY THEORIES

Several studies have found connections between trauma and conspiracy theories. (Here is one of several.)

We all deal with trauma, emotional pain, and discomfort in different ways. We can face it head-on and work on it. We can try to make it go away. Or, most commonly, we distract ourselves from it.

And one way we can distract ourselves from it is by going into ideologies. And one type of ideology is conspiracy theories.

For some people, conspiracy theories is the perfect distraction. The pandemic has given more people time to go down rabbit holes on the internet and getting into echo chambers. Conspiracy theories can be exciting since we uncover hidden information. It has good guys and bad guys. It’s global and epic. We know something others don’t. It has a lot of drama. And we can create more drama by going into conflicts with friends and family about it.

In short, it has everything for us to get completely absorbed into it and the drama in it, which creates the perfect distraction from our own pain.

HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE

When we look at history, we see that conspiracy theories tend to flourish during pandemics and other collectively challenging times. People are scared and react to that fear by distrusting authorities and trying to find someone to blame.

The conspiracy theories we see today follow the pattern we see from history. History repeats itself, which seems to be missed by many who are into conspiracy theories these days.

We also know that conspiracy theorists from history tend to see themselves as outsiders, ignored, and relatively powerless. It’s not a stretch to imagine that many of these were traumatized from a challenging life and conditions created by an unjust social system. Their reaction is understandable and misguided, and distracts from the real changes needed to change a system that only works for some.

TRAUMA BEHAVIOR & CONSPIRACY THEORIES

What is trauma behavior?

When we experience strong emotional pain or discomfort, we find ways to deal with it.

In general, we have two options. We may meet it, befriend it, find peace with it, heal our relationship with it, invite in healing for the issue, and so on. We may try to distract ourselves from it or make it go away. Or we shift between both.

If we try to distract ourselves from it, we tend to do it in a slightly obsessive way, whether we chose food, sex, entertainment, work, exercise, drugs, nature, spirituality, ideologies, or something else.

And if we try to make it go away, that too can take on a slightly obsessive flavor, whether we try to make it go away through healing, spirituality, or something else.

It seems that for some, conspiracy theories is the perfect distraction from emotional pain.

They may have an outsider identity, and conspiracy theories fits their outsider identity. They may have a victim identity, and conspiracy theories feed into their victim identity. They may get caught up in the entertainment and excitement of discovering new and previously hidden things. They may get to fuel their image of themselves as people on the side of the good and against some evil conspiracy. They may get to feel smart. They get caught up in the drama of the conspiracy theories, and the drama between those into conspiracy theories and those who are not into them. And so on. And all of this serves as a perfect distraction.

PERSONAL OBSERVATION

As mentioned, I have long suspected the trauma-conspiracy theory connection.

Why?

One reason is what I mentioned above. We all deal with our pain, trauma, and discomfort in different ways. And one way is to get into ideologies and things like conspiracy theories.

I also see typical trauma behavior among many who are into conspiracy theories. They seem reactive. Defensive. Procetylizing. Wanting others to understand and agree. Feel like and outsider. Go into a victim position. Become obsessive about it. Use bad logic and bad data to support their views. Resort to name calling. Act like a somewhat immature or even damaged child or teenager. And so on.

What do I base this on?

Partly, it comes from working on my own trauma and emotional pain, and seeing the many ways I have dealt with it. I have done, and sometimes do, what I see in them.

Partly, it’s from history and historical patterns repeating themselves.

Partly, it’s from current research on trauma and conspiracy theories.

And partly, it’s from having worked as a trauma therapists and seeing a lot of the many ways people deal with trauma.

BEING DISCERNING IN HOW TO USE THIS INFORMATION

It’s important to do solid research on these connections, and that research is still in its infancy.

It’s also important to know how to use, and how NOT to use, this information.

We can use it when we discuss anti-pandemic views and conspiracy theories at a group level. We can use it as yet another argument for trauma-informed schools and institutions in general, and working to prevent and heal trauma.

And when it comes to discussing specifics – around vaccines, masks, and so on – it’s better to stay on topic and avoid using it against someone. (In that context, it’s an ad hominem argument).

ADDITIONAL REFLECTIONS….

This is more related to the bigger picture of conspiracy theories.

THE SEED OF TRUTH IN CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a seed of truth in many conspiracy theories. Some have a strong reaction to vaccines and get seriously ill or even die. (This is their own body’s reaction to the vaccine, and some react to the virus in a similar way.) The medical industry is in it for the money, not primarily to help people. The multinational corporations have a way too strong influence on policies and some media.

Most conspiracy theories take these seeds of truth to the extreme without supporting it in good data and without too much nuance and maturity.

In rare cases, conspiracy theories are true. When these have been revealed through history, it’s typically because of the work of journalists, historians, or even government agencies. Not because of some people on YouTube or a podcast.

And, in general, the problems we see in the world today are systemic. They are a natural consequence of the system we have. They don’t require or depend on some secret and sinister conspiracy of certain people or groups. (Although, of course, it is in the short-term interest of some groups that the current systemic problems continue.)

“I AM NOT A CONSPIRACY THEORIST, YOU ARE IDIOTS”

I saw someone posting this on social media, apparently in all seriousness.

Of course, from the perspective of conspiracy theorists, what I write here is nonsense.

They are not conspiracy theorists. They have just uncovered the truth.

It’s the rest of us who have bought into the mainstream narrative.

In fairness, from their own perspective, their reactions make sense. They get frustrated, angry, defensive, and reactive. Not because they are caught up in trauma but because they have uncovered a terrible truth that most are oblivious to.

THE PEACE IN TRUTH

When we are very honest with ourselves, we tend to find peace.

What would that look like for me?

Of course, I cannot know anything for certain. For all I know, what these people are saying is true.

And yet, it’s not very likely.

The mRNA vaccine seems relatively safe based on twenty years of testing and research, what we see in the world so far, and knowing how it works. Vaccines reduce the risk of infection, which in term reduces the rate of transmission. And vaccines reduce the risk of hospitalization and death. And, of course, it’s possible we’ll see more problems with the vaccine down the road. That’s always possible with any medication.

Masks definitely work in reducing the risk of transmission from droplets. They often reduce the viral load when someone gets infected, and that makes a big difference. And research show they are effective in reducing transmission.

Some folks refer to single studies showing something different from the mainstream view. There will always be outliers. That’s statistics. For the results to have any value, it needs to be replicated several times – by reputable researchers using solid methodology. A single outlier, in itself, means nothing.

And when it comes to the more grand conspiracy theories, is it really likely that a large and very diverse group of people around the world – with widely different political views and orientations –would be in on it?

I cannot know for certain. And that doesn’t mean that I cannot know with a relatively high degree of certainty in a conventional sense, especially when it’s based on history, science, and logic.

For me, this is the most accurate and honest.

What would be more honest for them? I cannot know, of course. But I assume it may be that they too cannot know for certain. And perhaps, somewhere, they know their data and logic doesn’t always hold up.

When I come from reactivity and defensiveness, it’s because I am holding onto a story that I know is not true the way I pretend it is. I assume it’s the same for them. They know they cannot know, and they may suspect their logic and data are flimsy, so they get reactive and defensive when they see their views as threatened.

MATURING OUT OF IT?

To me, conspiracy theorists often appear without too much nuance and maturity, especially when they have the zeal of the newly converted.

So will they mature out of it?

I am not sure.

Some will if they are open to it feel they have the space to do.

And some may not. They may have built an identity and community around conspiracy theoris. They may have burnt intellectual and social bridges. They may feel too much backed into a corner by the reaction of family and friends. And if they have specific predictions that don’t come true, they may go into explanations that fit their existing worldview.

SUMMARY

This is a topic that’s both relatively simple and complex.

The pandemic-related conspiracy theories we see today follow what we have seen in other pandemics. They follow a historic pattern and were predictable even before the pandemic happened.

The people who get into these conspiracy theories tend to have an outsider identity, sometimes a victim identity, and may have more-than-average trauma in their system.

There are often seeds of truth in conspiracy theories, and these seeds are typically more connected to systemic problems than any intentional or coordinated conspiracy.

Knowing about the trauma connection is important at a social level, and it reinforces the need for a more trauma-informed society and institutions, and a better system for helping people with their pain and trauma. Mainly, it reminds us of the need for deep systemic changes.

When discussing these issues, it’s most helpful to stay on the topic and avoid ad hominem arguments.

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Pandemic-related conspiracy theories: Why do we repeat history?

From history, we know that pandemics and times of crises, in general, tend to fuel a lot of conspiracy theories. And from the many pandemics in the past, we know some of how this played itself out and what type of conspiracy theories flourished.

In general, it seems that people get scared, don’t trust authorities, and make up their own stories about what’s going on – which often involves blaming certain people or groups. And the people who get into these conspiracy theories are often the ones who already have an outsider identity, feel left out from the mainstream and/or the elite, and feel generally powerless.

In hindsight, these conspiracy theories seem a bit silly and misguided. It’s clearly something scared people engaged in to make sense of a confusing situation.

Knowing this, why do some repeat history? Why do they engage in the same types of conspiracy theories that some did during past pandemics?

Why do they, knowing that their views will likely seem equally silly and misguided?

One answer is that this is a natural expression of some dynamics in the collective and individual psychology.

Another answer is that these people likely don’t know much history. If they did, I imagine they would hesitate to engage in the same type of conspiracy theories we know from history.

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Do people really believe the more extreme conspiracy theories?

Of course, we never really believe any story. Somewhere in us is more sanity. We know we cannot know anything for certain. We know what’s happening when we hold a story as true. We latch onto the story and pretend – to ourselves and others – it’s true in order to find a sense of safety.

That aside, and in a more conventional sense, do people really believe conspiracy theories? And especially the more extreme ones?

I am sure there are individual differences. And I suspect many don’t actually really, honestly, believe them.

They hold onto them more as a form of reactivity. It may be more an expression of pain and a kind of tantrum.

To test this, I have offered some who hold more extreme conspiracy theory views a bet. For instance, you say that the vaccine is intended to kill off people. Within how many years? And how many? Would you be willing to take a bet, where you set the conditions for whether it goes one way or the other? If this does happen, I give you $10,000 (and put it in my testament in case I die before). If it doesn’t, you give me $10,000.

So far, nobody has taken me up on it. And that tells me they may not really believe it.

Somewhere, they know they cannot know. Somewhere, they know it’s likely nonsense.

Somewhere, they know it’s more an expression of reactivity.

Somewhere, they may even know it’s a bit immature.

And all of this mirrors me, of course. I do all of this too. Not with conspiracy theories, but anytime I hold a story as the final, or full, or absolute truth. Or any time a part of me holds a story as true, which happens more often and sometimes without me consciously noticing.

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Correlation is not causation and the pandemic

I sometimes see or hear statements that I take as a joke, and then realize is meant seriously.

For instance, a friend has an uncle with cancer, he received the Covid vaccine, and at the next check it turned out that his cancer was worse. My friend was certain the vaccine somehow, as if through a miracle, caused the cancer to worsen, so she decided to not get the vaccine.

Another friend got the vaccine, later got a frozen shoulder, and is now convinced the vaccine caused the frozen shoulder and said he will never get another vaccine again.

My response is…

Correlation is not causation. Just because something happens close in time doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other. Innumerable things happen close together in time and have no causal relationship at all.

It’s the nature of cancers to get worse. It’s what cancers do. It’s their job. It doesn’t need any vaccine to get worse. And there is no known connection between vaccines or cancer, and no known mechanism for how there could be a connection.

A lot of people get frozen shoulders. Again, no vaccine is required. It’s what bodies do. Innumerable people get frozen shoulders without having taken any vaccine. Innumerable people take the vaccine and have no frozen shoulder or any other symptoms.

To find causality between the vaccine and anything at all, we need several large-scale studies. We need to look at the large-scale patterns using solid data and good statistics.

It’s very easy to find a large number of stories apparently “proving” anything if we assume correlation equals causation. We can collect thousands of stories of people eating strawberries, and then shortly after being diagnosed with cancer or something else. Or people going for a swim, and one of their relatives dying the following day. That doesn’t prove anything. It just shows that life is immensely rich and varied and anything can follow anything, and often does. It says nothing about causality.

For me, the correlation = causality thinking is lazy logic, intellectual dishonesty, superstitious thinking, and also unnecessarily fearful thinking.

Yes, there is a very small possibility there is a connection. It’s far more likely there isn’t. These patterns inevitably happen in life, and it’s all about what we look for and how we interpret it. And to find actual causality, we need science and several large-scale solid studies.

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Maturity and the pandemic

Sometimes, I see the pandemic as a maturity test. 

Do we take it as all about us and our individual rights and freedom?

Or do we recognize that we live in a society and that others matter as much as we do? (And especially the more vulnerable.)

Do we act from reactivity and focus on ourselves?

Or do we act from compassion and a desire to do our part to get us through the pandemic in the best way possible, and protect others including those more vulnerable than us? 

Do we assume we know that masks and vaccines don’t work? (And how can we, if we are honest with ourselves? Especially considering that history, common sense, and vast amounts of research showing otherwise.)

Or do we act with some humility and use masks and take the vaccine because there is a chance it will protect others and help us get through the pandemic faster? (If we look at history, epidemiology, and research, we see that the chance is pretty high.) 

This is about maturity. It’s about compassion and the ability to imagine how it is for someone else, especially the more vulnerable, and act in a way that has a chance of protecting them. It’s about placing the safety and well-being of others equal to our own freedom and rights. It’s about receptivity and intellectual honesty. It’s about acting from kindness and wisdom and not just reactivity. And it has to do with taking the responsibility to learn about epidemiology and the long history of pandemics, and what history tells us works and doesn’t work in terms of limiting the impact of pandemics on individuals and society as a whole.

WHY DO I WEAR A MASK AND TAKE THE VACCINE?

It’s not because I am unfamiliar with the views of vaccine skeptics and conspiracy theorists. I have looked into these and find they are almost exclusively founded on poor logic and poor data.

It’s not because of fear. (Although, sometimes, it’s wise to listen to and respond to fear.)

It’s because I am familiar with the history of epidemics and what history shows us is most effective in limiting their impact.

It’s because I want to do my part in protecting the more vulnerable in society.

It’s because I want to do my part in helping us move through this pandemic in a way that limits the impact on individuals and society as a whole.

It’s because of the following and similar stories. I want to minimize my chances of infecting others, so I won’t be part of this happening.

Within 24 hours, 18-year-old Myles Daniel and 15-year-old Marina Daniel lost their parents to COVID-19. Martin Daniel was 53 when he died and Trina Daniel was 49….

Martin and Trina Daniel were not vaccinated at the time of their deaths. The couple was hesitant about the vaccine but had finally scheduled their first doses when they got sick.

An overlooked consequence of COVID-19: The hundreds of thousands of orphans left behind

The newness factor and the pandemic

Why do some react to common sense pandemic measures? Why do they react to them when we, from epidemiology and history, long have known they work in terms of limiting the individual and collective impact of the pandemic?

I am not sure, but I suspect a big reason why some react to pandemic measures is that it’s new to them.

WE ALREADY ACCEPT A LOT OF RESTRICITONS

One aspect is that we already accept a lot of restrictions and regulations. It’s part of society and what makes it work. It’s an essential aspect of civilization. We accept all this because we know it makes sense and because we are used to and familiar with it.

So why react so strongly to a few temporary ones that, for most of us, is just a mild inconvenience?

Perhaps new restrictions seem scary to some just because they are new? Perhaps they are unable to see it in perspective?

THE HISTORY OF PANDEMICS

Also, perhaps they are not familiar with the history and regularity of pandemics? Or epidemiology and what we know works to limit the individual and collective impact of pandemics? Or what can happen if we collectively don’t organize ourselves in certain ways to limit its impact?

If they were, I assume they would see that the measures make sense and that none of it is made up now. It may seem new to us because we haven’t experienced it before as individuals. But it’s not at all new from the perspective of history.

REACTIVITY IS NOT RATIONAL

It is a bit baffling to me.

Why react so strongly to a few temporary measures that, for most of us, is just a mild inconvenience?

And why react to the pandemic measures as if it’s what someone made up now? Don’t you know that these have been tested out for decades and centuries? As humanity, we have gone through it many times and we know what works.

I suspect it’s baffling because the reactivity is not all that rational, just like any reactivity.

The body reacts to the vaccine as it does to the virus

There are many arguments from vaccine skeptics and anti-vaccine folks that are baffling to me.

Among these is the possible side effects of the vaccine.

We know serious reactions to a vaccine happen, although it’s rare. Just about everyone already accepts far greater risks in daily life, like getting into a car. So why not also accept this very small risk when our individual and collective benefits are so great?

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

The vaccine mimics the virus. The body’s reaction to the vaccine mimics its reaction to the virus. And in rare cases, for whatever reason, that reaction can be severe.

So if you are afraid of the body’s reaction to the vaccine, shouldn’t you be as or more scared of how the body may react to the actual virus?

Human rights and human responsibilities

Some cite human rights when they refuse to take the vaccine or wear a mask.

For me, human responsibility is equally important.

I chose to take the vaccine and wear a mask because I want to protect others. I want us all to move through the pandemic as fast as possible. I want to be part of our collective solution and not contribute to the problem.

That’s my human responsibility.

Also, human rights are not just for me. Other people have their own human rights. They have the right to expect me to do my part. They have the right to expect me to take the vaccine, wear a mask, and do whatever else I can to protect them.

The question is: Do I value the human rights of others as much as my own? Do I value my human responsibilities as much as I value my human rights?

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 53

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.

THE TRUTH IN THE SEEDS OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There are several relatively obvious truths in the seed of many conspiracy theories.

The medical industry is in it for profit. (Obviously, since we live in a capitalist world and generating profit for the shareholders is the main aim of any business.) The medical industry is corrupt. (Of course, since they are powerful and in it for the profit.) Multinational corporations influence and partly control politicians and media. (Again, obviously, since they can and it helps them in generating profit.) When power is removed from people, and the bottom-up vs top-down balance is too far in the latter direction, it’s obviously not good. (And it happens because there is always a shift between the two.) The current system is rigged to benefit the already powerful. (It was set up that way, so it obviously works that way.)

All of this is obvious. It’s what any moderately informed young teenager knows.

I easily agree with all of this and more. I have known about it for almost my whole life, apart from the very first years.

And yet, I don’t agree with the conclusions of conspiracy theorists.

I know all of this and more, and I still agree with the pandemic measures. They are common-sense measures that history shows works. They are what epidemiologists have studied and found works for decades. They are not something anyone made up now.

I know this and more, and see it as systemic and not something that requires sinister scheming from any one group of people.

WILLING TO SACRIFICE OTHERS TO BE A REBELLIOUS TEENAGER

When I see people who have anti-mask and anti-vaccination views, I often see people willing to sacrifice others in order to make a point. They are willing to sacrifice others so they can be rebellious teenagers.

Yes, I agree with a lot of their reasons. (The ones grounded in reality, not the conspiracy theories). And I don’t agree at all with their conclusion.

I know the medical industry is corrupt. Media is owned by multinational corporations. Politicians are influenced by the interests of big money. Even a moderately well-informed teenager knows that.

At the same time, I know the history of pandemics. I know what history shows us is working and not working in terms of limiting the impact of pandemics. I know something about epidemiology. I know that the pandemic measures we see today are not at all invented now. They are well tested, make sense, and are aimed at limiting the impact of the pandemics. I know that in a time of crisis, the government – which is not “other” but us collectively – needs to take stronger control.

So even knowing all the things I know about the system we live within, I chose to wear a mask and take the vaccine and do the other things. I do it because it’s the responsible thing to do. I do it to protect the most vulnerable among us. I do it because not doing it is not going to help the situation in any way at all.

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European in Latin America during the pandemic

I am currently in a small village in Latin America and notice to my dismay that most of the other Europeans here have bought into the harebrained anti-mask, anti-vaccine ideas related to the pandemic.

It means that Europeans tend to have a deservedly bad reputation among the locals. And it means I feel ashamed of being European here.

No matter what my personal opinion on mask-wearing and vaccines is, I would always use a mask and take the vaccine out of respect for the country I am in and the people living here. It’s the least I can do in terms of being a respectful visitor. It’s the least I can do to be a good citizen, no matter where I am.

Certain things are far more important than my own personal idiosyncratic views and opinions on things like mask-wearing, vaccines, and the pandemic in general. And one of these is to be respectful to others and a responsible citizen in whatever society I find myself in.

In general, people who are against mask-wearing and vaccines seem to not care about the illness and suffering of others, including the many who will get long-covid (the pandemic within and after this pandemic), and the many healthcare workers who sacrifice an enormous amount to care for the sick.

They prioritize immature reactivity and their own opinions over the life and well-being of others.

Personally, if there is even the smallest chance that wearing a mask in public and taking the vaccine would prevent long-covid for even one person, or the indirect death of someone, or overflowing hospitals and overworked healthcare workers, I would do it. Even if it’s slightly uncomfortable (masks), or a slight risk (vaccine), or it goes against my personal preferences. Those considerations pale in comparison to what using a mask and taking the vaccine can do for others.

This is all about the precautionary principle, not for me but for others and society as a whole.

As an aside: Many of the Europeans here have some kind of hippie orientation. And although it’s early life-centered, it also tends to be quite immature in many areas of life. It’s a view that often prioritizes oneself over others and society, and one’s own harebrained opinions over those of people who have devoted their lives to study and work within a particular field. It’s an orientation that often lacks nuance and throws the baby out with the bathwater. It’s an orientation less open to the validity in any orientation and view, and is often unable to include it all into an overall and more mature orientation.

Just because an article looks and sounds scientific doesn’t make it so

A friend on social media referred to scientific-sounding articles going against the consensus view on vaccines, mask-wearing, and other pandemic-related topics.

Here is my response:

In any area of science, there are published articles that don’t fit the mainstream view. In most cases, the findings are not grounded in reality. This is just part of science, and – as I said – you’ll find this in any science and on just about any topic. Just because something is published doesn’t make it valid or something that reflects reality.

Especially these days, there are lots of online journals that, at first glance, look serious and scientific. They use the language and format of reputable publications. But the content is very weak and would likely never be published in serious and respected journals.

Personally, I have seen several articles on pandemic-related topics, published in these types of journals, that are almost laughably bad in terms of data and logic. And, often, the articles are written by people with some sort of credentials, just not in the area they are writing about. Which means they have no credentials at all. They have close to zero credibility.

For the findings and views to be taken seriously, it has to be published in reputable journals, the findings need to be replicated by independent researchers several times, there has to be a sound theory behind it, and competing theories and approaches have to be thoroughly disproven.

Note: The image is a screenshot of one of many articles that look and sound scientific and serious, but is published in a less-than-reputable journal and the authors have zero credentials in the field.

A Vortex Healing view on Covid

I thought I would mention a few words on the most common view on Covid in the Vortex Healing community.

Here are a few highlights.

(a) The initial virus could be treated relatively easily with the VH infection protocol. This means a dramatic shortening of the duration of the illness, and often a lessening of the severity.

(b) The delta virus is much more difficult to treat with VH, likely because it multiplies in the system far more rapidly. (I imagine the same is the case with the newish omicron.)

(c) If you are vaccinated, the delta virus can be treated as effectively as the initial variant. Again, this is likely the same with the omicron variant.

(d) The mRNA vaccines are safe for the vast majority of people and highly recommended. As with any vaccine, it gives the immune system a chance to train itself to deal with the real virus and be far more effective if or when it is exposed to the real virus. (The background here is that the mRNA vaccines have been developed and tested for twenty years so we know how it works, and – of course – as with any vaccine, a few will have serious reactions to the vaccine. Still, the vaccine is far preferable to the actual illness.)

This view is shared among the teachers and most of the students. It’s based on direct sensing and experience in treating innumerable people with Covid using VH tools.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 52

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.

THE BIGGER PICTURE ON CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a relatively obvious (?) bigger picture on conspiracy theories.

And that is the life, the universe, existence, the divine seems to wish to express, explore, and experience itself in always new ways and in as many ways possible.

All beings live in their own world, and often these worlds intersect to some degree. Especially within the same species and community, beings tend to experience the world in similar ways.

In our age of online echo chambers, a huge amount of smaller global communities are formed. Some of these are formed around a shared passion for something within culture or nature. Some are learning communities. And some are conspiracy communities.

Conspiracy theories are one of many ways life or the divine explores, expresses, and experiences itself.

It’s part of the diversity of perception and mental guidelines for life within humanity right now.

It doesn’t mean the views are grounded in reality. It doesn’t mean they are logically very sound. And it doesn’t mean these folks are not sometimes a danger to democracy.

But it does mean it’s all happening within a bigger picture.

PUBLISHED SCIENCE ARTICLES – ON VACCINES, MASKS, THE PANDEMIC ETC.

A friend on social media referred to very weak articles published in less than reputable journals online.

Here is my response:

In any area of science, there are published articles that don’t fit the mainstream view. In most cases, the findings are not grounded in reality. This is just part of science, and – as I said – you’ll find this in any science and on just about any topic. Just because something is published doesn’t make it valid or something that reflects reality.

Especially these days, there are lots of online journals that, at first glance, look serious and scientific. They use the language and format of reputable publications. But the content is very weak and would likely never be published in serious and respected journals.

Personally, I have seen several articles on pandemic-related topics, published in these types of journals, that are almost laughably bad in terms of data and logic. And, often, the articles are written by people with some sort of credentials, just not in the area they are writing about. Which means they have no credentials at all. They have close to zero credibility.

For the findings and views to be taken seriously, it has to be published in reputable journals, the findings have to be replicated several times, there has to be a sound theory behind it, and competing theories and approaches have to be thoroughly disproven.

This is science 101 and I assume just about anyone learns about this in school.

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Freedom and responsibility in the context of the pandemic

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

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

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

We already accept a lot of restrictions to our freedom. We accept laws against driving drunk. Killing people. Stealing. Damaging other people’s property. And so on. We accept these restrictions because we know they benefit society as a whole.

Requiring proof of vaccine is one of many of these restrictions. In this case, it’s temporary. And it benefits society as a whole in moving through the pandemic and avoiding some of the worst consequences of the pandemic.

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

Requiring proof of vaccine for travel, entry to restaurants, and so on, is one of the least invasive measures we can take to limit the impact of the pandemic.

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

Note: It’s almost not worth mentioning, but it’s not a “human right” to enter restaurants and movie theaters. And it’s not a “violation of my body” if someone requires me to be vaccinated to enter those places. Even if a vaccine is mandatory, it’s not a violation of one’s body since we still have a choice. We can choose not to take it, and instead take the consequences.

Reflections on society, politics and nature – vol. 50

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.

ART HISTORY

In the early ’90s, I studied art history for a year (full time) at the University of Oslo. Since they called it “art history”, and since I was young and naive, I was looking forward to WORLD art history. The history of art from the earliest times and across all cultures. That was what I expected, hoped for, and wanted.

To my surprise and disappointment, the course turned out to be the history of WESTERN art, and really just the art of Western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I was left with several puzzling questions:

Why didn’t they have a course for WORLD art?

Why did they call a course that had such a limited scope “art history” without any qualifiers?

Why didn’t they address or acknowledge this obvious discrepancy?

The answer is probably a kind of ethnocentrism. They – consciously or not – may have seen “real” art as the art of western Europe and the European culture in North America.

I imagine that now, 30 years later, they are a little less provincial and more conscious of this. Hopefully, they include the art of the world and not just a small section of the world. Or, at the very least, they label the course accurately.

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A few thoughts on the pandemic and vaccines

I thought I would revisit some points about the pandemic and vaccines, and especially vaccine skepticism.

Fear. I see some vaccine skeptics say that the pro-vaccine people are driven by fear. I see as much fear in the anti-vaccine people, and especially in the more extreme conspiracy theories. And it’s equally true that the pro-vaccine view is just epidemiology. It’s a sane approach designed to end the pandemic, and the pandemic-related restrictions, as quickly as possible. (I chose to use a seatbelt because it makes sense, not primarily because of fear.)

Pandemic measures evolved over centuries. The measures we collectively use to deal with the pandemic – quarantine, isolation, social restrictions, vaccines – is what we collectively have arrived at through centuries of trials and errors.

We have seen what works, and that’s what we use to deal with the current pandemic. None of it is new or what someone came up with on the fly in response to this particular pandemic.

Collective view. Also, we need to take a collective view on this. We need to look at what works best for us as a society and species. If I am personally inconvenienced, so be it. It doesn’t matter much as long as we, collectively, do the best we can. I have certainly had a lot of restrictions in my life due to the pandemic, but I don’t complain because I know it’s for our collective good.

Taking personal risk vs putting others and society at risk. If we take the vaccine, the risk is only our own. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk. Not taking the vaccine, unless it’s for valid medical reasons, is supremely selfish and short-sighted.

Two decades of vaccine testing. Some say that the mRNA vaccines are not tested very well. It’s not quite true since they have been tested for two decades. The general vaccine is well known, it has just been programmed for this specific virus. See for instance this article from The Guardian.

Cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. Some have fringe ideas about the virus, remedies, and so on. That’s fine, but we cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. Public policies have to be based on science, and that’s fortunately mostly what we see in this pandemic. (Apart from leaders like Trump who disregard the science and the advice from epidemiologists, and we have seen the consequences of that approach.)

Following specialist medical advice. I assume many or most of the people who are anti-vaccine, or don’t like the standard epidemiological measures used in this pandemic, are the same who would be very happy to follow the advice of other medical specialists. If they have a heart problem, they go to a heart specialist. If they have a broken bone, they go to a doctor who can set it and help it heal. So in a pandemic, why not listen to epidemiologists? Why not follow the best practices established – often long ago – in epidemiology in dealing with pandemics, just as we follow best practices in other fields of medicine?

Conspiracies. To me, it seems that going into conspiracy theories is often a trauma response. The reasons why people go into it may be complex, from trauma-behavior, going into internet rabbit-holes and echo-chambers, wanting to feel included, wanting to feel they know something others don’t, lack of source-examination, lack of critical thinking skills, and so on. What surprises me the most is the mindset that has to be behind assuming that a large number of people in the world – researchers, universities, medical doctors, media, governments, and so on – are in on a globally coordinated conspiracy to harm people.

In general, the anti-vaccine view seems to come from (a) lack of understanding of epidemiology and lack of a historical perspective, (b) misunderstandings about the vaccine, and perhaps (c) a narrow me-first view instead of a collective view.

Our personal experiences color how we see the pandemic and other social issues

Our personal experiences often color our views and life, and we see this play out now with the pandemic, social restrictions, and vaccines.

In my case, I got post-viral syndrome after a viral infection in my teens (CFS following mononucleosis), I have lived with it since, I have two close friends who got covid at the very beginning of the pandemic (February andf March 2020) and still struggle with long-covid. I studied epidemiology at the university and have always had an interest in it and read academic books and popular books and articles. My survival is not dependent on in-person work. My parents are in a high-risk group if they get infected. And so on.

So it makes sense that I take a generally cautious approach to the pandemic, and generally support the guidelines from epidemiologists. I personally avoid taking much risk, and I support most of the social restrictions and I see it as important that a majority of people get vaccinated.

I have apparently impersonal reasons for why I support this. If I have a heart problem, I go to a heart specialist. If I need my car repaired, I go to a mechanic. And in a pandemic, I listen to epidemiologists. After all, they have studied the history of pandemics, they know what works and doesn’t work, and they know what measures will reduce the impact of the pandemic and help us get through it as fast as possible. I personally know researchers and people in healthcare, so I generally trust them. The vaccines have been tested for ten years, and just programmed for this particular virus. It’s not as untested as many want to make it look. Based on the data, the actual infection is far more risky than the vaccine. Mass-vaccination is the quickest way through the pandemic and into a life with fewer or no social restrictions. And the more people who don’t want to get the vaccine, the longer the pandemic will last, the longer the social restrictions will last, the more it will cost society, and the higher the risk for dangerous mutations that may impact all of us.

And I obviously have personal reasons for these views, mentioned above. These are likely equally important to me, even if I don’t always bring them up.

Other people have different personal experiences, so they may see it differently. They may not know anyone who have post-viral infections so they don’t know how debilitating it can be. They may not be in a risk group or have people close to them in a risk group. They may have had difficult experiences with authority figures early in life, and be suspicious of authorities. They may not have had much personal experience with academica or research. They may not be very familiar with epidemiology and the history of pandemics and infections diseases. They may not know many researchers or people in the healthcare industry. They may live in a place where the pandemic hasn’t been so serious, and don’t know people from other areas of the world more impacted. They may have work that depends on in-person interactions. And so on.

If this is the case, they may well see the pandemic – and the social restrictions and the vaccine – differently. They arrive at different conclusions.

We all know that our personal experiences color our social views. And at the same time, many of us keep this quiet in our conversations and instead use more impersonal arguments. This keeps the discussion about impersonal abstractions while it’s, at least partially, fueled by something far more personal.

And that tends to keep the discussion spinning without anyone feeling heard or understood (since where it comes from is hidden), without really listening, and without much possibility to learn from each other and modify our views.

That’s why it’s good medicine to be more transparent about this. My views are partially founded on my own personal experiences. As are yours, more than likely. It doesn’t mean “it’s all relative”, it just reminds us that there are reasons why we have the views we do.

And this helps us hold all of the views a little more lightly. We can more easily differentiate needs and strategies to meet those needs. (A key part of Non-Violent Communication/NVC.) And we have a better chance to expore and find solutions that meet the needs of each of us.

My need here is for safety. Yours may be for independence. So what strategies can we find that meet both of these, and the needs of others as well?

Living in Norway, I have to say I feel that the government in general has been good at including these different needs. (Even if I don’t agree with their politics in other areas.)

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Pandemic & vaccine perspectives

I thought I would briefly address two specific anti-pandemic-measures views, and then mention a few general things.

Someone I know is strongly against wearing masks, with the rationale that they don’t work as well as some assume. Another is against taking the vaccine because it can have side effects. 

I understand and see it differently. Perhaps because I have different priorities and may see it from a different perspective.

MASKS

Masks may not filter the air very well, and a lot of the air goes in and out in the gaps between the mask and the face.

At the same time, we all spit when we talk, and often more than we are aware of. (Look at some high-speed footage and it will be obvious.) And these drops easily transmit the virus, so it makes sense to wear a mask.

It’s low cost. It’s easy to put on. And it prevents droplet transmission.

VACCINES

It’s the same with vaccines. We know they have serious side effects for some. They don’t prevent illness in all cases. And some even contract the virus and die even if they are fully vaccinated.

We also know that serious side effects are very rare. (It’s far more dangerous to do a lot of the things most people happily do in daily life, like driving a car.) It does prevent serious illness, in the vast majority of cases. And the ones who die while being fully vaccinated are typically very old or have a serious pre-existing illness.

IF WE DON’T MASS VACCINATE

At a collective level, the alternative to mass vaccinations is not very attractive. If we don’t vaccinate and don’t maintain the social restrictions, we’ll have large numbers of people dying, full hospitals, and people turned away from hospitals who desperately need help.

If we don’t vaccinate and don’t want to overload our healthcare system, we’ll have to keep the social restrictions indefinitely and likely for years.

In both cases, the only end of the pandemic is when most people have been infected. And that means a large number of people dying. A large number of people with long-term effects following the infection. And new virus mutations which may well include some that are far more dangerous than what we have seen so far.

AS A MEMBER OF SOCIETY

At a personal level, as a member of society and humanity, I can choose to not vaccinate and be part of the group that delays a return to normal and puts us all at risk through continuing the pandemic and increasing the risk of dangerous mutations.

Or I vaccinate, and am part of bringing society back to normal, the pandemic to an end, and reducing the risk of dangerous mutations.

AT A PERSONAL LEVEL

Also, at a personal level, it’s understandable to be a bit hesitant about vaccines. I don’t take them unless I have a very good reason to do so. But with the new mutations (currently the delta variant), and with likely coming mutations, it’s too much of Russian roulette for me to not take the vaccine.

We will all eventually be exposed to the virus, and we’ll get infected unless our system happens to know how to deal with it. (And it will only know that from previous exposure, which is the purpose of vaccines.)

A significant portion of those infected will have long-lasting and sometimes serious effects from the infection.

And, mainly, I don’t want to be responsible for infecting others, including people who can get seriously sick and die.

NATURAL SELECTION AT WORK

If none of this is convincing, we may look at what’s happening in the world today.

The majority of those dying from covid (mostly the delta variant) are unvaccinated.

In a sense, we are seeing natural selection at work here. Of the two groups, those who choose to vaccinate and not to vaccinate, life is weeding out more people in the second group.

The virus doesn’t care about our ideology. And at the same time, from now on, the survival rate in the two groups will likely be quite different.

A FEW GENERAL NOTES

I see some vaccine skeptics say that the pro-vaccine people are driven by fear. I see as much fear in the anti-vaccine people. And it’s equally true that the pro-vaccine view is just epidemiology.

The measures we collectively use to deal with the pandemic – quarantine, isolation, social restrictions, vaccines – is what we collectively have arrived at through centuries of trials and errors.

We have seen what works, and that’s what we use to deal with the current pandemic. None of it is new or what someone came up with on the fly in response to this particular pandemic.

Also, we need to take a collective view on this. We need to look at what works best for us as a society and species. If I am personally inconvenienced, so be it. It doesn’t matter much as long as we, collectively, do the best we can.

If we take the vaccine, the risk is only our own. If we don’t, we put everyone at risk. Not taking the vaccine, unless it’s for valid medical reasons, is supremely selfish and short-sighted.

Some say that the RNA vaccines are not tested very well. It’s not accurate since they have been tested for two decades. The general vaccine is well known, it has just been programmed for this specific virus. See for instance this article from The Guardian.

Some have fringe ideas about the virus, remedies, and so on. That’s fine, but we cannot base public policies on fringe ideas. Public policies have to be based on science, and that’s fortunately mostly what we see in this pandemic. (Apart from leaders like Trump who disregard the science and the advice from epidemiologists, and we have seen the consequences of that approach.)

And finally, I assume many or most of the people who are anti-vaccine, or don’t like the standard epidemiological measures used in this pandemic, are the same who would be very happy to follow the advice of other medical specialists. If they have a heart problem, they go to a heart specialist. If they have a broken bone, they go to a doctor who can set it and help it heal. So in a pandemic, why not listen to epidemiologists? Why not follow the best practices established – often long ago – in epidemiology in dealing with pandemics, just as we follow best practices in other fields of medicine.

In general, the anti-vaccine view seems to come from (a) lack of understanding of epidemiology and lack of a historical perspective, (b) misunderstandings about the vaccine, and perhaps (c) a narrow me-first view instead of a collective view.

Pandemic irrationality: not trusting experts, and opposing rules because they are unfamiliar

In these pandemic days, some oppose the government rules and guidelines put in place to control the pandemic. (Fortunately, less in Norway than in some other countries.)

There are several things about that opposition that puzzles me.

Trusting experts

For instance, most of those opposed to these rules and guidelines are not epidemiologists. Why wouldn’t you trust someone who has spent their life studying what works in a pandemic? Why would you instead trust some random people on the internet?

If I have a health problem, I’ll trust a specialist in the medical profession, not some random person on the street. If I want a haircut, I’ll go to a hairdresser and not a fisherman. If I have trouble with my car, I’ll go to a mechanic and not a manicurist. If I want to build a bridge, I’ll go to an engineer and not a surgeon.

If I want to know what to do in a pandemic, I’ll go to an epidemiologist and not some random people on the internet.

These people who are so opposed to the pandemic rules and guidelines, do they go to a mechanic when they want a haircut? Do they go to a gardener when they have a serious health problem? Do they ask a nurse to fix the mechanical problem with their car? Do they go to a doctor to design a bridge?

If they don’t, why don’t they trust epidemiologists in a pandemic?

Opposing the guidelines because they are new and unfamiliar?

I also wonder if some of those who oppose the pandemic guidelines do so because the guidelines are unfamiliar to them. After all, these people likely follow a large number of other rules and guidelines put in place to protect us all and benefit society.

Most of them are probably happy to use a seat belt. Follow traffic rules. Pay their taxes. Avoid killing someone. Pay for the products they want in stores. And so on.

Society has a huge number of written and unwritten rules in place, and most are happy to follow them either because these rules are familiar, or also because they know these rules are in place to benefit all of us and so we can have a well-functioning society.

If this is so obvious, why do they still oppose the guidelines?

Both of these seem completely obvious. We go to experts to get something done, and we generally trust them. And we already follow a huge number of rules in society, so what do these temporary ones matter? After all, it’s only for a short period of time and they are put in place to protect us all.

I am not sure. Perhaps it’s because people are not used to thinking logically about things? Or that they prefer to engage in their reactivity rather than what’s more reasoned?

Real-life test cases

We also have real-life test cases, both from history and in the current epidemic.

From history, we know that masks, quarantine, lock-downs, and so on work.

And we see the same in the world today. The countries with leaders who largely minimized and ignored the advice from epidemiologists, like the US (Trump) and Brazil (Bolsonaro), have not fared well. While the countries that did follow the advice have largely done much better.

Reasonable discussion

Of course, there is a reasonable discussion to be had on these topics. For instance, I often think that the Norwegian government is strangely behind the science. They didn’t recommend masks until many months into the pandemic, and they still assume that young people are not very affected by the virus (in spite of a great deal of evidence to the contrary). It’s also clear that masks need to be close-fitting and high-quality to function properly, and that’s often left out in the discussion about masks.

There are many things open to reasonable discussion, although these tend to revolve around the details and the specifics, not the general benefit of masks, temporary lock-downs, and so on.

Epidemiologists know what works, and they agree on what works. So why not follow their recommendations? Why not follow the government recommendations when these largely follow the recommendations of epidemiologists?

Epstein-Barr vaccine for ME/CFS?

We’ve been sort of chipping away at this [long COVID] by treating each symptom,” he says. “If it’s really true that at least 40% of people have significant recovery with a therapeutic vaccination, then, to date, this is the most effective intervention we have for long COVID.

Mysterious Ailment, Mysterious Relief: Vaccines Help Some COVID Long-Haulers, NPR

Quite a few who have Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) got it after an Epstein-Barr infection (mononucleosis), just like some got long-Covid following a Covid 19 infection.

Both are classic post-viral syndromes, so I wonder if an Epstein-Barr vaccine would help some of those CFS patients? Although most promising leads in medicine go nowhere, it would be worth testing.

Unfortunately, there is no approved vaccine for Epstein-Barr yet, but it may come. I assume it’s not a priority to develop this type of vaccine.

If this turns out to work for EB-related CFS, why would it? The trigger of CFS may be a low-grade chronic EB infection. So an EB vaccine may kick the immune system into better detecting and going after EB virus previously “invisible” to the immune system.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXVII

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.

SOME LAYERS I USE WHEN I LOOK AT SOCIETY

When I write posts here, I write from one or a few perspectives.

These perspectives reflect my biases and conditioning as a male from a northern European country, university educated, and so on. And they reflect my own hangups, wounds, emotional issues, beliefs, identifications, and perceived lack.

There are many perspectives out there that are equally valid and important, and I leave them out to make it simpler (and easier for myself), and also because I am aware of only a small subset of all the existing and possible perspectives.

So what’s the bigger and more general picture for social issues?

My world – the world as it appears to me – happens within and as what I am. All my experiences happen within and as what I am.

The world appears the way it does to me because of my own mental overlay. This overlay consists of mental images and words, and it puts labels, meaning, and stories on my world. I am responsible for my own stories about the world, including the most basic assumptions about the world, others, and myself.

The stories I have about the world reflect me as a human being. Whatever stories I have about the world or others also fit me, and I can find very specific examples of how each one fits me.

Each person perceives and acts from their own filters and biases, including me. We cannot escape this but we can be a little more aware of this happening and some of the specific filters and biases.

Each person has valuable perspectives and views, especially when we drill down to the essence of what these are about.

Everything is a whole and part. What we see happening here and now are expressions of movements within the whole – going back to beginning of time and stretching out to the widest extent of existence.

It’s all lila. The world as it appears to me is the play of this consciousness. Or, we can say it’s the play of life – or the divine. It’s consciousness, life, or the divine expressing, exploring, and experiencing itself in always new ways.

I cannot know anything for certain. I am operating from a huge number of questioned and unquestioned assumptions.

When I write, I typically highlight one or a few of these even if all of them are there in the background.

A SAD IRONY OF CONSPIRACY THEORIES

There is a sad irony in the conspiracy theory world.

I suspect some – or many? – who get into conspiracy theories do partly to feel they know something others don’t and to feel special, smart, and perhaps even powerful. They may try to compensate for feeling like an outsider, a failure, rejected, and powerless.

Although they may find a sense of belonging in the conspiracy subculture, they may also separate themselves from friends and relatives. To the extent they get identified with the conspiracy world, they may isolate themselves from those who are not into it. In that way, they create for themselves even more of what they try to escape.

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Reflections on society, politics and nature XXXVI

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.

POLITICAL DIMENSIONS I FIND USEFUL

There are some political dimensions I find as useful as the conventional ones.

The main one may be inclusiveness. Is this policy aimed at benefiting all life, as far as possible? Or is it aimed at benefiting one particular group at the expense of others? Of course, we may not be able to find policies that always benefit everyone, but we can do our best. And when I say all life, I mean all life – including non-human species and future generations.

Another is reality orientation. Is this view or policy grounded in reality? Is it grounded in science? Or is it based on ideology, logical fallacies, misinformation, or conspiracy theories?

And yet another is democracy. Does this policy, party, or politician aim to deepen and strengthen democracy? Or does it aim to undermine it?

The first one has been important to me since my mid-teens. The second has become more salient and relevant in our post-truth era. And the third has similarly become relevant due to anti-democracy forces that are both unintentional (social media, echo chambers) and intentional (weaponized fake news, conspiracy theories, troll farms), and leaders of democracies that actively undermine these democracies like Trump and Putin.

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Pandemic dream: out among people as before and thinking I need to be more careful

I am out among people, talking with them, and being physically close to several. During these interactions, I keep thinking to myself: It’s a pandemic, I need to be more careful. How is it possible that I am so close to these people and none of us seem to remember the pandemic precautions?

I remember two or three of these types of dreams since the pandemic precautions started in Europe in March. I haven’t written them down here since they seem relatively self-explanatory.

In waking life, I am cautious about preventing spread of the infection, and the dream reflects some natural cautiousness and slight worry in me around it. It seems similar to the classic going-out-of-the-house-without-pants type of dreams.

Although the dream itself is perhaps not so interesting, I thought I would write it down here in case someone after the pandemic is curious about pandemic dreams. Or perhaps someone out there now or later is searching out pandemic dreams for some research purpose! It would be an interesting topic for research.

Reducing the viral load

This is something I have written about since early in the pandemic as I feel it’s an often overlooked point.

When it comes to protecting ourselves against the C19 virus, an important factor is to reduce the viral load.

Sometimes, we may be able to avoid getting infected in the first place – through physical distancing, good hygiene, facemasks and so on.

And in case we do get infected, the same measures helps us reduce the viral load. The fewer viruses we get into our system, the better chance our system have to deal with it.

Pandemic and chronic fatigue

An infection with the new-to-humans C19 (corona, covid 19) virus may lead to chronic fatigue. Although Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) often comes after mononucleosis (Epstein-Barr virus), it can follow other infections which is why it’s sometimes is called a post-viral syndrome.

So in two or three years, we may see a significant increase in people with CFS. And although I don’t wish it for anyone, I also realize that this can come with some upsides. It can increase awareness of CFS in general. It can help increase acceptance of CFS as a serious biological illness. And it can spur more research into CFS and its causes and possible treatments and cures.

The pandemic has already had some upsides for people with CFS and other disabilities or chronic illnesses. It has opened up the world through increased use of virtual meetings, socializing, and public offerings (talks, concerts, performances). I personally am very grateful for that shift and feel more included.

Reflections on society, politics and nature XXII

Continued from previous posts…. These posts are collections of brief notes on society, politics, and nature. I sometimes include a few short personal notes as well.

Why I love science fiction

I have loved science fiction since I was little, reading Jules Verne, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and others.

Why do I love it? Probably for the same reason as others love it.

It gives us an opportunity to think about different possibilities for the future. It highlights what can happen if we take different paths. It gives us visions for what’s possible – both of what we want and what we don’t want.

It mirrors back to us our own society, mindset, and worldview. It can show us ourselves by reversing roles – for instance by having humans treated as we treat other species. It’s a great setting for exploring different ethical dilemmas. And by setting the story in the future and/or another place in the universe, it creates a slight distance that makes this mirror more palpable to us than if it’s more direct, literal, and heavy handed

Science fiction may seem like an escape, and it often does have that element. And at the same time, it can be deadly serious – in showing us possibilities for the future, and showing us ourselves as we are now.

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