This song and video just seems to be the anthem for this resource-blog-post.
I went for a run late in the day after the remnants of Hurricane Zeta had dumped her worse on Virginia. I was running with my 10 month old puppy, Pumper, who looks a lot like a spotted furry bear and acts like one too. She was thrilled to get outside after so much rain to chase blowing leaves and scampering squirrels collecting their fall harvest of acorns like drunken sailors. My husband has taught her to sneak up on big trees to find squirrels, so now we stalk big oak trees, sometimes from a block away. It’s quite exciting for a 10-month old pup who is a crazy mixture of Great Pyrenees, Pit Bull, Boxer, Chow Chow, American Bulldog, Labrador, and the list goes on.
We proceeded down our favorite path that follows a small wooded stream that ends up at the Potomac River. Pumper pays attention to every thing. I do too, enjoying the wet leaves of fall still clinging to trees along with deeply inhaling the smell of damp leaves moldering on the ground. We were going at a good pace when Pumper suddenly stopped. She was staring at a tree that had fallen over by the roots because of the rains of Zeta.
I tugged on the leash gently to urge her along, but she didn’t budge. So I looked where she was looking, and there standing inside the root ball of the fallen tree was a raccoon! I had glanced at the fallen tree as I passed it but missed the raccoon who definitely saw us and was holding a defensive stance. If Pumper had been loose, I may not have been able to override her instincts. But since I had her on the leash, I coaxed her quickly away from the possibly frightened raccoon recounting stories in my mind I have heard about encounters with raccoons. A few hundred yards ahead, I saw a man running with his Doodle, which was running loose. So I warned him of the raccoon ahead and he quickly leashed up his beautiful Doodled and thanked me for the heads up.
This is a simple story, but I tell it to illustrate that all life once shared a common reality with benefits and consequences equal to all. Plants and animals evolved complex electrical and chemical signaling systems to help them respond and/or navigate their environment in order to optimize their survival (see The New Yorker | The Intelligent Plant). Among the mobile forms of life on Earth, instincts evolved that allowed animals to respond with split second intelligence allowing them to avert danger and live a little longer.
Man evolved a little further becoming conscious of his rising instincts, allowing him to alter them before acting on them. With this awareness, he choose an action much better than what his instincts would have dedicated. But, he could also choose an action far worse than what his instincts would have ever allowed. This ability allows man to choose and bring into the world through his action something divine or something dreadfully mortal. This ability gives man the power to choose to create Heaven or Hell right here, right now on Earth. It also gives man the ability to create alternative realities in his mind.
Different civilizations conceive of mind in very different ways. For the sake of simplicity, I will refer to mind as most people immersed in Western Civilization think of it–as an unseeable place existing behind the eyes and between the ears. For the Westernized man, the magic of mind transpires somewhere between the scalawag of neurons creating the brain. This is where Western Civilization believes human beings make sense of and understand the world. For most people, they don’t care or think very much about how all this happens, happy to concede to the axiom:
“Cogito, ergo sum”— René Descartes … “I think, therefore I am”
But, if you sit quietly and simply observe your thoughts, it quickly becomes very mysterious. They seem to pop into your head out of nowhere, continuously flowing like some dark imperceptible water streaming through your head. Perhaps this is where the phrase stream of consciousness arises because it is such a common experience among Westernized humans to experience thought this way.
If you continue to watch this flow and don’t try to control, a perceptive observer will begin to experience a spreading out of consciousness with it flowing everywhere and enveloping everything (inside oneself and outside of the self). Alan Watts describes this effect as flood light consciousness. He did not come up with this idea, but rather he was a magnificent translator of Eastern practices and Pools of Knowledge passed down from one generation to the next through practices and religions such as Taoism.
Flood light consciousness is a powerful form of consciousness, but man discovered he could also concentrate and channel his individual consciousness to accomplish specific actions in the world. The more concentrated his consciousness, the more powerful his actions, allowing him to alter the natural world to suit his needs, desires, and dreams.
I remember a song my parents loved to sing to me as a child:
Recently, I heard a rebroadcast about this song on NPR: ‘This Little Light Of Mine’ Shines On, A Timeless Tool Of Resistance that has stuck with me and transformed how I think about this simple, old song. Hearing this broadcast illuminated things I have been trying to imagine as I write my story about Climate Change and Consciousness.
The NPR story says, “It might seem odd to call such an innocent-sounding song defiant. But that’s exactly how blues singer Bettie Mae Fikes says she felt when creating her classic version of “This Little Light of Mine” in 1963. She improvised the lyrics after a protest in which several of her friends had been attacked. (…) Fast forward a half-century and the song is still unifying people.”
This mysterious inner space illuminated by the consciousness we can observe is where we know everything we need to know about our world, or so we think.
Suffice it to say, we are complex products of the cultures and civilizations in which we grow up and are immersed inside and constantly bathed by the values, beliefs, and standards of behavior the collective has determined most advantageous for the survival of the group. These norms are seamlessly transferred from one generation to the next through customs, traditions, habits, conventions, procedures, protocols, as well as stories, fables, myths, and many other forms of communication used to transmit ideas and beliefs from one generation to another.
Collectives are incredibly complex things, perhaps even super beings, but they need the individuals living inside them to conduct action in the world. And, just like an individual, collectives have a dark side (the good, the bad, and the ugly).
What follows is a resource tool for another blog–a mind map, really, a collection of broadcasts, blogs, and individuals that have caught my attention and informed my thinking as I work to complete my story about Climate Change and Consciousness. I suspect this collective of resources will have little value to you (the reader), which is normal because YOU are an individual and are on your own journey through consciousness, meaning that you must discover, assemble and understandings that inform your actions in the world.
Thank you for your time and attention.
Time & attention are the most precious resources in the universe.
Time is mind.
When you tend to where you are spending your time, you are cultivating your mind.
So scan what follows, consume what you need, and leave the rest behind.
There are 3 sections to this hour long episode produced by the Ted Radio Hour, which I have highlighted with things that struck me as important or illuminating.
The first talk was given by Danielle Citron who began by telling how a deep fake video completely turned Rana Ayyub’s life upside down. Rana is a journalist in India whose work has exposed government corruption and human rights violations. But in 2018, her work and voice was cancelled by a malicious deep fake of a sex video that had her face superimposed on the female performing the sex act. A friend told Rana that she should have seen this coming saying, “After all, sex is so often used to demean and to shame women, especially minority women, and especially minority women who dare to challenge powerful men.”
Danielle says, “We’re attracted to the salacious, the provocative. We tend to believe and to share information that’s negative and novel. Researchers have found that online hoaxes spread 10 times faster than accurate stories. And, we’re drawn to information that aligns with our viewpoints. Psychologists call that tendency “confirmation bias.” And social media platforms supercharge that tendency, by allowing us to instantly and widely share information that accords with our viewpoints.“
Danielle says,”Now, deepfakes have the potential to cause grave individual and societal harm. Imagine a deepfake that shows American soldiers in Afganistan burning a Koran. You can imagine that deepfake would provoke violence against those soldiers.”
And here is how our very human beliefs transform reality. When we act in the world to defend our beliefs because we feel deep in the core of our being that our beliefs protect us from all dangerous stuff out there threatening to destroy us and the ones we love. This is how we weave our shared human reality in the modern world. And now our technology not only insulates us from the harsh realities of nature, but have been and are being used to harness our natural instincts and hijack our fragile mind-scapes to turn us, the ordinary man and woman, into the bad actors of the world. These are my conclusions of Danille’s talk. You should listen to her talk above and the Ted Radio Hour interview for yourself to draw your own conclusions.
Andrew begins his talk saying, “Now, if you’ve been online recently, you may have noticed that there’s a lot of toxic garbage out there: racist memes, misogynist propaganda, viral misinformation. So I wanted to know who was making this stuff I wanted to understand how they were spreading it. Ultimately, I wanted to know what kind of impact it might be having on our society. So in 2016, I started tracing some of these memes back to their source, back to the people who were making them or who were making them go viral. I’d approach those people and say, “Hey, I’m a journalist. Can I come watch you do what you do?” Now, often the response would be, “Why in hell would I want to talk to some low-t soy-boy Brooklyn globalist Jew cuck who’s in cahoots with the Democrat Party?” To which my response would be, “Look, man, that’s only 57 percent true.”
However, Andrew does find people doing this who are willing to talk to him. Many are well read individuals who know the real facts. Nevertheless, this is their business–the business of propaganda: spreading falsehoods, half-truths, and lies to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view: often something that will benefit them in some way. Halfway through his talk, Andrew says, “I became convinced that we cannot just look away from this stuff. We have to try to understand it, because only by understanding it can we even start to inoculate ourselves against it.”
I am writing about this very idea in my story, and I am with Andrew in his conclusion that we have to pay attention to this stuff…to try to understand it so that we can resist it. Reality is complicated. It always has been. And now, it more complicated than ever before because of what we can do with our minds and technology. But again, this is my conclusions. Yours are just as important but to make informed opinions, listen to Andrew’s talk above as well as to the interview with him on the Ted Radio Hour: Warped Reality.
Joy begins her Ted Talk saying, “Hello, I’m Joy, a poet of code, on a mission to stop an unseen force that’s rising, a force that I called “the coded gaze,” my term for algorithmic bias.” And here is the really important part of what she opens her talk with: “Algorithmic bias, like human bias, results in unfairness. However, algorithms, like viruses, can spread bias on a massive scale at a rapid pace. Algorithmic bias can also lead to exclusionary experiences and discriminatory practices.”
We lose the very Middle Ground of Reality when we allow our time and attention to be dictated and directed by algorithms. Joy goes into very specific and scary uses of our Great and Fantastic Technologies, but I will leave it to you to pursue to the level of your interest for there are many, many issues constantly pulling at our time and attention, the most precious resource on Earth. Also, the Ted Radio Hour: Warped Reality is very good to listen to as well.
Not At the Dinner Table
The Highly Involved vs The Not So Highly Involved
This is an old but timelessly funny clip because all of us can remember an uncomfortable dinner conversation. Now more than any time in recent history, talking about politics is a recipe for disaster not only at the dinner table, but pretty much everywhere in our society. This week’s Hidden Brain explored an interesting counterintuitive idea about why this is. The idea is that we are not suffering so much from a massive political divide of Left versus Right but rather between those who are highly involved in politics versus those for who are just not as interested in politics.
Shankar Vedantan explores this idea Not At The Dinner Table with Yanna Krupnikov who is a political scientist at Stony Brook University, about an alternative way to understand Americans’ political views. and filter through the Zealous Voices of the Deeply Involved. I’ll let you listen and draw your own conclusions, or you can read a transcript at the Happy Scribe.
As I listened to this piece, the idea jumped into my mind that this divide doesn’t exist simply between just individuals who are deeply involved with politics and those who are not, but it exists between any one who has become deeply involved in any issue or field of interest, which is driven by our modern societies because to do well in the human world, people are told to specialize and pursue narrow bandwidths of interests from a young age. If you don’t pick a career and become an expert in it, then it’s your fault for not being good enough, smart enough, or worked hard enough to know everything in your narrow field of knowledge.
So, just by being a modern human being trying to survive and make a living in the ways of this world, we have by necessity isolated ourselves from everyone else who has not specialized in our field of expertise. Now there certainly are humans who maintain their natural inborn curiosity and stay engaged and want to learn about things outside of their own field of expertise. But the number of these individuals seems to decline precipitously as they get older and have to pay off student loans, car loans, parking tickets and credit card debts; need to pay rent and eventually (if your lucky) mortgages; need to buy food, prescriptions, medications; need to go out and have fun; eventually get married (that can be very expensive, especially if it needs to mirror a Cinderella pinnacle of achievement), and then have children (who are very, very expensive, but they are utterly worth every penny!). It is when a person gets here that they have an opportunity to go back to the beginning of this utterly modern cycle of life and remember what is really most important, which boils down to being alive, being here, being now. But, most people continue getting buried under the cycle of buying and having more than others.
This phenomenon of becoming highly involved in an area of expertise is required by our modern society to be somebody who can contribute something of value for the good of the group, but it may also be contributing to the cracking and shattering of our shared human reality. It is a trap, a catch-22, the cycle of the ouroboros…so how do we get out of it?
Consciousness… probably… cultivating curiosity… cultivating compassion… listening to someone who is highly involved in something that you are not highly involved in thinking about or doing like a scientist! This is called sharing and understanding realms and realities of other human beings who are just like us but know something we don’t know or have come to understand yet. This is how we grow our shared reality and how we grow our own Field of Consciousness. It’s pretty important because the alternative isn’t looking so good.
Climate Problems = Limbic Problems
The following guide is written by my friend Marc Picard who is a neuroscientist and founded the Facebook group Climate Problems = Limbic Problems. Our natural born instincts (perfectly maintained by our limbic system) are absolutely part of the trap we have all found ourselves in. I will feature more of Marc’s insights in a new section of Resilience Resources, but if you are interested, you can go to Climate Problems = Limbic Problems to see more of his writing as well as others of liked mind and expertise. I have selected his guide to happiness to feature here because it fits perfectly.
A guide to happiness
1) DO NOT GIVE YOUR POWER AWAY
No one knows you as well as you know yourself. They have no idea who you truly are. Only you get to describe and define yourself. Others are always ready to use the negative of your past to judge you. Do not give them the power to belittle you or to raise you. It has begun with you, will continue with you, and end with you. Take complete responsibility of your life.At the end of the day, the only person you can 100% count on is you. Don’t make the unfortunate mistake of putting your happiness in the hands of others. We need to achieve happiness on our own before we can find someone else to share it with. Otherwise, it creates a detrimental dependency that prevents us from becoming self-sufficient.
2) ALL THAT YOU NEED CAME WITH YOU AT BIRTH
When you were born, you were gifted with every talent, every insight, and all the knowledge you need to excel in this world. You need to accept this and know it to be true. A lot of these truths won’t be obvious to you all the time, for which you need to develop patience. Your life experiences will help unveil some of those hidden truths. You have wisdom beyond your wildest imagination. Be patient and accept your beautiful self. With self-knowledge comes great responsibility. Be responsible.
3) PERFECTION IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER
What might be perfect for one person may be the furthest thing from perfection for you. Every individual has their own opinion of what perfection means to them. The Media always has an opinion of what perfection is. You have to be skinny, small waist, big muscles, and of course brilliant in school; must be a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer. As a matter of fact, marketing and the Media will make you believe one thing today and, sometimes in less than a year, the same Media will tell you the exact opposite. Nope, there is no such thing as perfection! We were robbed of all original thoughts and turned into robots after birth. All those who loved us had a hand in modeling us their way. Somehow, we got lost.Begin by trusting your intuition, strive to be excellent, have really high standards (not just material) of how you want to live and be. Love yourself with all your flaws and change them if you want. Never confuse perfection with another people’s idea of how you should be. That will cripple you.Body image: There’s only 1 person’s opinion you should be concerned with when it comes to your body and that’s you. If you’re comfortable in your own skin, and healthy, then that’s the only thing that matters. Don’t let others tell you that you’re not beautiful/handsome. It’s a state of mind.
4) TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR THOUGHTS. TAKE CHARGE OF YOUR LIFE.
Become a witness to your thoughts and not a slave to them. “Automatic” thoughts are mostly noise which keeps you from getting to know yourself. Start by observing your thoughts as though you were watching a movie on a big screen. Your thoughts create your reality, and yet most of your thoughts are unconscious. You have only few original thoughts (you will have more and more original thoughts as you become an adult); all of your unconscious thoughts were given to you as you were growing up. You are now living a life that someone else created for you (software installed by the “manufacturer”). Start distancing yourself from your everyday thoughts and begin to think the thoughts that you want to think. Become a real you (where the magic happens).
5) YOUR LIFE IS YOURS TO PROGRAM
You become what you think. What you believe is what you create. Look around you and you will see the “software installed by the manufacturer” (your comfort zone). The way to reach your happy place (where the magic happens), is by constant vigilant practice. Think of your mind as the most powerful SUPER-smart cell phone with its original apps (when you get a new phone, it comes with the default apps that everyone gets). Add and replace those apps with the new ones that fit with your true dreams. You can add as many new apps as you want. They don’t cost any money, but they require practice, practice, practice; and willpower. I know you’re not afraid of hard work.
6) THE ONLY TIME IS “NOW”
Move out of the old and into this moment we call “now”. You can’t start the next chapter of your life if you keep re-reading the last one, or if you tell yourself “I’ll do it tomorrow” (when you can do it now). “Now” is the moment you should pause, take a deep breath, and marvel about your future and how you’ll create it. Once you know what you want, you must actively work for its fulfillment. You can’t take a backseat in life and expect things to happen.Make the best of every opportunity. Commit yourself to a happy future by acting “NOW”. You deserve it!
7) YOUR JOB IN LIFE IS TO FULLY EXPRESS WHO YOU ALREADY ARE
It’s your duty to be true to yourself by being your authentic self. Do not try to be someone else. It’s good to have a mentor to learn from, but do not try to become a copy of them. There are no two people alike in this world (even identical twins have different brain architectures). You are the only model of you. Become the one you were created to be, find your purpose in life and live it fully. Never underestimate the power of truth. Honor yourself, your intuition, and inspire others to do the same. Aspire to be the best that you can be. Make it your life’s work to leave the biggest imprint of your heart on all whom you have encountered.
8) OPPORTUNITIES COME IN THE SHAPE OF A CHALLENGE
Don’t look at challenges with fear and anger. All things that look like obstacles are truly an opportunity to grow. It is your experience in life, more so the difficult over the easy ones which will shape you into being the best that you can be. All things difficult are an opening of a new door to make a more powerful and courageous entrance. Know that you are a diamond in the making. Look at me and how I reacted to my latest challenge. I wrote a book for you and your brother. The challenge I faced became an opportunity.
— By Marc Picard
Interview with Nicholas Christakis
Also, see AMANPOUR AND COMPANY interview with Christakis: Yale Sociologist on Humanity’s Innate Instinct For Good.
Denial And Lies Are ‘Almost An Intrinsic Part Of An Epidemic,’ Doctor Says
Heard on Fresh Air — October 29, 2020
I heard Nicholas Christakis on Fresh Air yesterday where he goes into much greater detail and depth about how plagues are not new to the human condition, they are just new to us, living here and now. His depth of knowledge as a scientist and public health expert I find reassuring and hopeful. We can learn about these new pathogens that have been with us since the very emergence of life on Earth. We can see things our ancestors could not see and know how to buy essential time so that we can collectively take a safer off-ramp to get to the other side of this pandemic. I would rather take action on science and medical expertise rather than denial and political narratives designed to mislead rather than inform the collective to survive something humans have had to survive since becoming humans.I would rather take action on science and medical expertise rather than denial and political narratives designed to mislead rather than inform the collective to survive something humans have had to survive since becoming humans. Listening to his interview on FreshAir is well worth one’s time, of course reading his book is the most effective way to become informed and take effective action to keep oneself safe as well as others safe.
Several moments from the FreshAir interview that jumped out to me are highlighted below, but you should listen or read for yourself because these are my simple weavings to understand our shared reality.
CHRISTAKIS: Well, amongst my colleagues, everyone was greatly alarmed in February. Now, why our political leaders didn’t respond, I don’t know. And it’s the case that many political leaders around the world failed to take this seriously.
One of the arguments that I like to make about epidemics is that it’s almost in the nature of epidemics that denial and lies about the — about what’s happening is itself almost an intrinsic part of an epidemic, that in other words, everywhere you see the spread of germs for the last few thousand years, you see right behind it the spread of lies. And partly, that’s because the person on the street wants to deny what’s happening. And partly, it’s because our political leaders don’t want to take it seriously either. But it’s their job to do so.
CHRISTAKIS: Yeah. So I think what’s important to understand about this pathogen or about epidemics in general is that no single intervention is typically enough to stop an epidemic. And what I – the way I like to think about this and the way many epidemiologists think about this is something known as the Swiss cheese model. So imagine you have pieces of Swiss cheese that you’re stacking up, and each of them has some holes in it. And they’re random pieces of Swiss cheese, like you’re making a sandwich and you’re piling up pieces of Swiss cheese.
If each piece of Swiss cheese represents a defense, a layer of defense – for example, one piece is wearing masks, and another piece is closing schools, and another piece is banning gatherings, and another piece is washing your hands, and another piece is, you know, restricting travel or something. If each of those pieces represents some intervention and each of the holes is sort of randomly positioned in each slice, by the time you stacked up two or three or four slices, none of the holes overlap. And so a virus can’t get through. It can’t penetrate all the layers of defenses. So if you just use masks, you stop a lot of viral transmission, but you don’t completely stop the epidemic. You also need to do something else.
And incidentally, this is why there was a super-spreader event at the White House. They relied on just one line of defense, which was testing. Testing was not enough. You need to do testing, let’s say, plus masking or testing plus masking plus physical distancing. And this Swiss cheese model also helps us understand why different countries have succeeded in combating the virus using different mixes of interventions. You don’t all need to use the same intervention. You can – each country or each region can use a different mix of interventions and still have success.
So, for example, in New Zealand, you know, they had border closures plus testing and quarantining. And in Greece, they had school closures and mask wearing and contact tracing and so on. So this is why masks are helpful, but they’re not enough and also why we can understand a great variety of other ways in which our response to the virus among us can and should be optimized.
CHRISTAKIS: Oh, I mean, I think we clearly needed a national response. I mean, you know, having a patchwork of responses is like designating one part of the swimming pool as suitable for urination, but not the other parts. I mean, we are a whole nation that’s bound together. And so we clearly need, in my view, a national response.
In fact, in some ways, you could argue we need an international response. But certainly from our own parochial point of view, we needed a national response. And even though it’s the case that many other leaders in European countries made similar mistakes to our leadership, I don’t think that lets our leaders off the hook. We’re the United States of America. I expect more from us. We have the CDC. We spend 17.7% of our GDP on health care, and this is our level of preparedness? I mean, this is how our great nation is brought this low by this pathogen? You know, I think it’s awful, frankly. It’s incompetent. And it was, in many ways, unnecessary. We could’ve done and we should’ve done, in my view, much better. Why – when the Chinese shut down their country on January 24, why we weren’t preparing to manufacture PPE and ventilators is mind-boggling to me. It was as if we were trying to wish the pathogen away.
CHRISTAKIS: It is a bummer. But, see, this is the thing. You know, plagues are also a time of grief. You know, we’re grieving not just the loss of people we know, you know, who died or our health, we’re grieving our loss of a way of life. We’re grieving the fact that we can’t have dinner parties with our friends. We can’t go to movie theaters. I mean, this – just like we were earlier discussing how plagues are a time of lies, they’re also a time of fear and they’re a time of grief. And I think, in some ways, as a nation, we just need to – I won’t say grow up. That sounds too flippant. I mean, we need to accept this unpleasant reality.
And this is, again, where I think leadership is so important. I mean, one of the things that’s crucial is public health messaging credibility, you know, people who get up and tell it to us even if it’s uncertain. Say, I’m not sure of exactly what’s happening. But I think this is most likely and here’s the data, because we need to prepare the nation, in my view, for this reality. I mean, what makes us think that we’re so different, you know, that we Americans in the 21st century, in our wealthy country, will be spared this fate? There’s no reason we should be spared. And I think that preparing the nation to come to grips with this unfortunate reality is crucial.
And, you know, we will see the other side of it. I mean, one of the things that’s also important to recognize is that plagues do end. They have always ended. Even the bubonic plague ended. It’s rare that there are so severe that the society is entirely annihilated. Although, that has happened, too. But that’s not the situation we’re facing. So there is also grounds for optimism in ways we can talk about.
CHRISTAKIS: Well, let me explain why that’s not a good idea in a very direct way. So if you had gotten this pathogen back in March, you would have had a higher chance of dying from it than if you get it today. Why is that? Well, because in the last nine months, we’ve learned how to take care of you. And in fact, we have discovered that a drug called dexamethasone, which is a simple steroid – which incidentally, the president also got – if given to you, if you’re seriously ill, can prevent you can reduce your risk of death by 20%. In other words, if you got seriously ill from coronavirus in March, you would have a certain chance of dying. Let’s say 25% chance of dying. But if you get it now, you might have, let’s say, only a 20% chance of dying. That’s a – seriously ill. That is to say now you would only have a 20% chance of dying. That is a big difference, and that’s why we flatten the curve. So that’s why not to go for the rapid herd immunity strategy right now.
That’s one illustration of the reason is that by getting – by postponing the illnesses until a later point in time, we allow our scientists and our health care system to function better. If you get sick from this condition like that’s happening now, for example, in Utah and in Idaho and in parts of Texas and in Oklahoma that are – where many of their hospitals in many cities are being overrun, when would you rather go to a hospital, when it’s packed to the gills and the doctors are exhausted and the nurses are sick from the condition, or would you rather go when the hospitals are operating normally? Obviously, the latter. So this is why not to let the virus just run loose in our society.
CHRISTAKIS: I think both of those are true. I think there is – on the one hand, you would, you know, there’s this – when there’s a serious threat afoot, you can have a kind of temptation to have sort of every man for himself. But it’s also in the nature of contagious diseases that we need – that we’re sharing a common enemy, so the impetus to band together to confront the common enemy is heightened. And it’s in the nature of this enemy that collaborative work is necessary.
You know, if there was an invading army on our frontier, each individual citizen can’t do anything about that. I mean, you can, you know, grab your gun and go to the frontier, but you can’t stop the invading army. And even if every citizen independently grabbed their gun and went to the frontier, that’s not very effective either. You need coordination. You need leadership. You need a way of working together to repel the invader. And that’s the kind of invader that we have. That’s the kind of adversary we have in this virus. We must and we are – slowly but, you know – working together to confront the virus. And this working together includes things like collectively implementing the non-pharmaceutical interventions. It’s almost an oxymoron. You know, we have to work together to live apart.
But it also includes, you know, all this scientific and medical and other advances and public health advances that we’re making. You know, we are working together as a species to develop knowledge that we can then use to fight the virus. So I, you know, I’m optimistic in this regard. Like I said, you know, we’re going to see the other side of this. I think Americans are going to see that they – that collaborative effort is required. I think as deaths mount in the coming winter, I think the motivation to do this will rise. And, you know, I have hope and expectation that we will do a better job than we have in fighting the virus.
Interview with Mike Giglio
The point italicized above (in red) dovetail in a terrifying way with the FreshAir interview I listened to the day before this one. The interview below occurred last year, but it gives you an idea who Mike Giglio is and his years of experience covering complex situations and civil wars, including being kidnapped in Ukraine by pro-Soviet rebels.
Heard on Fresh Air — October 28, 2020
These are excerpts from the FreshAir interview that really struck me as extremely important Now. Reality is complicated. And human reality is the most complicated because there are so many versions of it exiting inside our minds, individually and collectively. But, natural reality has never gone away. When we stray too far off the narrow-bandwidth of a good and sustainable shared reality, we fall onto the hard rock of natural reality.
GIGLIO: You know, there is a stereotype of the regular, let’s say, militia member in America – someone who’s an armchair warrior, probably has no experience in the military. They talk about civil war because they’ve seen movies about it, and they think it’s this amazing, glorious thing. I was interested in the Oath Keepers because they advertise it. They actually had people who were veterans of police and military in their ranks and who understood what violence really means and how ugly it is.
And what I found was – I did connect with some members who had actually seen combat and, because of that, were actually among those who were most afraid of violence and trying to be – in this context at least, trying to be most careful about whether they might provoke it through what they were doing. A lot of those people, I should note, had left the group by now because it has – the founder has become more radical in the things that he says.
And then there are people who served in the military but never saw combat or who didn’t serve at all, and I think they were a little bit more immature about really understanding what it means when they talk about violence and may be more inclined to be more aggressive in their posturing.
GIGLIO: You know, it’s true. He never did see combat. And he wanted to be in the Special Forces, which is this elite part of the U.S. military that goes overseas. And one of their core missions is actually going out among local populations and training Indigenous forces and getting populations ready to support U.S. intervention or foreign policy. And, actually, that’s how he sees himself with the Oath Keepers. He says, like, they’re on a Special Forces mission but just in America. They want to train the population. They want to go out and bring people into their ideology.
So I do think he’s found a way to live out what his military dreams used to be when he was younger in the American context. And I think that that’s a thread that is really common in this movement. And I do think it raises questions. Like, you know, we as Americans are so comfortable with the idea of sending people out into foreign wars, and now they’re starting to look at America itself as part of that battle space.
GIGLIO: They are most famous for having a team of people who went to the protests in Ferguson, Mo., after Michael Brown’s killing. And they went with their AR-15-style rifles, and they patrolled the crowds, and they stood guard on the roofs of – the rooftops of local businesses. And, you know, to them, they were protecting businesses from looting and arson and rioting. To the protesters, it was a provocation. You know, it was portrayed as, you know, them being there to intimidate the protesters. But, really, you know, this – it was also kind of like a coming-out party for the group. It was all over the media.
And, actually, I was overseas at the time, but that was the first that I ever heard of the Oath Keepers. I remember seeing a news image of an Oath Keeper standing on a rooftop with his rifle and kind of staring out into the distance and just the hair on the back of my neck standing up and just wondering, what is happening in America? You know, it was interesting for me actually to, over the course of reporting this story, connect with that same person and talk with him about, you know, what he saw, you know, through his own eyes while he was doing that.
GIGLIO: I think what the president says and what his allies say really means a lot. And one thing I found is that the Oath Keepers and the part of the militant right that they represent are listening very closely to what the president is saying. And they believe him. You know, they think he’s a truth teller. And, you know, one example of that is I asked – I spoke to dozens of people over the course of reporting this article this year, and I asked almost every single one of them, what will you do if the president says that the vote was stolen, if he’s declared the loser of the election, but he says that there was fraud and it was stolen? And almost every one of them said, well, we all know that there was massive fraud by Democrats in 2016. They just take that as fact. And it’s because Trump has been saying it for four years and also because parts of the conservative media establishment and Republican politicians have in different ways been supporting him and that idea, that voter fraud is this real problem and that maybe it did happen in some massive way, like the president says, in 2016. But they’re very attuned to that. And they’re listening very closely when he’s saying it’s already happening for 2020.
GIGLIO: One thing that I learned overseas covering civil wars is that the first step down that path is convincing yourself that the other side is bent on your destruction, is convincing yourself that they do not have good intentions, that the arguments that you have with your neighbors are not political alone, that they’re also existential. And, you know, I only moved back to America a few years ago. And I was just really struck by the fact that that is how people in America are portraying the political divide right now to a large degree – just the level of polarization and division. And, you know, actually, on all sides of the political spectrum right now, you know, the level to which people are convinced that the other side is out to destroy them is really jarring to me.
And I think that’s the fundamental anxiety that I – you know, that I really honed in on while I was reporting this piece. And if you look at how President Trump portrays his reelection bid, how – even look at the first speech he gave when he announced that he was running for reelection. It’s the other side is out to destroy you and your way of life. These are the stakes. And I’m the last thing that’s standing in their way. You know, he’s obviously tapped into a very deep-seeded anxiety that he’s able to exist politically while and gain traction while speaking in really dire terms like that.
GIGLIO: So I was kidnapped at a checkpoint. And I was put in a bus – I think it was a school bus – and blindfolded. And there were a number of these rebels around on the bus. And they were driving me and some other journalists who had been kidnapped to a place where they planned to interrogate us. And I remember just listening, because I couldn’t see anything, and feeling the bus slow down to go through a checkpoint that I knew was on the road – and it was a rebel checkpoint – and then hearing them cock their weapons.
Like, they were so scared themselves and so clueless as to what was going on, even though they were the ones kidnapping us and, supposedly, in charge, that they were cocking their weapons even as they rolled through their own checkpoints. And it was just, like, a reminder of the fact that when a war breaks out, and especially a civil conflict, like, it is just confusion. It is just people running blindly around and, really, not knowing what to do and just that chaos itself sort of perpetuating.
And I think that that’s fundamental to understanding, like, what civil conflict really is. It’s just – it is not directed clearly. Whatever side you think you’re on, you might end up, you know, shooting them by accident, shooting them on purpose. It’s just chaos. I can’t – it’s just suffering and confusion.
And, you know, that is what ended up playing out. That was at the very beginning of that war, and, I mean, that’s what ended up playing out. Like, it’s just a senseless war that’s gone on for years where everyone suffers. There’s no clear political end. And I’m sure if you went back and reinterviewed every single one of those people that I was with back at the early days when they were starting the war, they would say in a second that they wish that they never had done it.
Disposable Income to Spend on Fun
‘Dunes and Deplorables’: A Trump rally in the sand that took place in Winchester Bay, Oregon, where a group of Trump supporters gathered for a dune buggy rally in support of the president. CNN’s Elle Reeve talked to them about why they think Trump is the best man for the job.
Why Are We So Susceptible To Misinformation
Moments that jumped out to me from this very intelligent reporting
Dannagal Young: The people who are susceptible to misinformation includes anyone who has a preexisting opinion about anything, so anyone.
When you think about this in terms of evolutionary psychology, we are hard-wired for survival, especially when we are under conditions that mimic fear and threat.
So, you know if you are encountering a tiger in the jungle or something, you’re not going to do a slow pro/con list of the different courses of action that you might take. Instead, you’re actually just going to make a decision quickly based on emotions and intuition. And the person who writes the pro/con list will be eaten by the tiger.
Kell Bales: If Biden were to win the presidency, seems to be clear, pretty clear evidence of fraud. We’re all skewed, right? My particular Facebook feed is — it’s blown up with conservative, with like-minded individuals. We’re all going to do that. We’re going to surround ourselves with circles of like believers, like thinkers.
Arlene Lehew: I go online to Newsmax, Parler. I follow Dan Bongino. Yes, I don’t agree with that. I just feel it’s truthful. I don’t — I don’t know if it’s conservative or not. I think people that are on the Democratic side — and I used to be a Democrat. So, people that are on the Democratic side don’t really want to hear the truth sometimes.
Dannagal Young: If you can connect on the very needs and desires that are driving people to hold these beliefs in the first place, right, create those connections, that’s where we create an inroad.
It’s hard, because we’re asking you to have empathy for individuals who might be holding beliefs that could undermine your own freedom or undermine certain aspects of social justice. But this — if the goal is to correct misperceptions and — then those relationships have to come first.
American Selfie: One Nation Shoots Itself
I listened to an interview with Alexandra Peloi on American Selfie on WBUR, Here and Now (October 29, 2020), and two things really struck me.
From the social fabric of family and public life to democracy, phones are “destroying us as human beings,” she says. “The thing about a gun is you can decide to pull the trigger,” she says. “But with a phone, someone else is pulling the trigger and sending little bullets to your brain that make you happy or sad or anxious or depressed.”
Unafraid to push back on her subjects, Pelosi asked one man in Las Vegas why he was a drug addict. When he said drugs make life more tolerable, Pelosi responded with, “You’re a white man. The world is set up for you.” The man said no, the world is set up for the rich.
Guns and Elections
Listening to this episode on The Daily, which aired on Oct. 29, 2020, it was abundantly clear both, the Left and Right, are imagining specters of violence conducted by the other side. Each side is projecting their anxiety and worst fears upon the other. The irony is both sides just want to feel secure and safe. The reporting by Andy Mills and Alix Spiegel puts each side into human terms — they are people who are afraid right now, so what do we do? How do we get back to a more peaceful, secure, and safe reality for everyone? Is carrying a gun really the way to safety for all?
The Daily: The Field: The Specter of Political Violence
This episode contains strong language.
With an election in which uncertainty may abound, concerns are swirling around the possibility of political violence. Experts and officials — including those charged with the security of polling stations and ballot counting facilities — have been taking extra precautions.
Americans across the political spectrum appear to be preparing themselves for this possibility, too: Eight of the 10 biggest weeks for gun sales since the late 1990s took place since March this year. Many of those sales were to people buying guns for the first time.
Today’s episode examines these anxieties from two perspectives.
Andy Mills, a senior audio producer for The New York Times, speaks to patrons of gun stores in Washington State about their motivations and sits down with a first-time gun owner who relays his anxiety, ignited by the unrest and protests in Seattle over the summer.
And Alix Spiegel, a senior audio editor for The Times, visits three women of color in North Carolina, one of whom says the scenes in Charlottesville, the killing of Black people at the hands of the police and the threat of white militias have encouraged her to shift her anti-gun stance.
For the full article as reported in the New York Times (10/27/20), see: A Divided Nation Agrees on One Thing: Many People Want a Gun
Unreality of Now
This American Life: The Unreality of Now
This episode is covered through 3 acts that include:
Would You Like to Come Up to First Class? The journalist E. Jean Carroll is one of dozens of women who’ve accused the president of sexual assault or harassment. These stories have been so widely covered and everyone’s so used to them that to Carroll, it felt like at this point they were just being ignored. Which seemed sort of incredible to her. She has a frank conversation with another one of the president’s accusers, Jessica Leeds. (16 minutes)
The Gun Reality of Now: The statistics on first time gun ownership are higher than ever in America. Producer Lilly Sullivan wants to know: What inspired people to buy a gun right now? What are people afraid of? (16 minutes) Lilly ends saying: “The United States of America is united in fear of each other…”
Second Time’s the Charm: Reporter Johnny Kaufman embeds with the election staff in Georgia’s most populated county to find out if the staff—who had a horrible go of it during the primary election—can possibly do better this time. (14 minutes) The election manager who Johnny interviews says at the end that he recently heard someone say: “I’ve lived through the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s, 90’s, and now every month of 2020!“
Aired on WAMU: Friday, October 30, 2020 at 1:00pm
This was a riveting hour long show that takes the listener all the way back to the days of George Washington and how we voted in America. I grew up thinking voting has always been the way I’ve experienced. I couldn’t be more wrong.
“Drunken brawls, coercion, and lace curtains. Believe it or not, how regular people vote was not something the founding fathers thought much about, or planned for. Americans went from casting votes at drunken parties in the town square to private booths behind a drawn curtain. In this special presentation of NPR’s Throughline podcast, a look at the process of voting: how it was originally designed, who it was intended for, moments in our country’s history when we reimagined it altogether, and what we’re left with today.“
How Whiteness Affected The Election
This is an important conversation because it deconstructs the monolithic myth about we create about voters. Eddie Glaude Jr. who is the author, Begin Again: James Baldwin’s America and Its Urgent Lessons for our Own, talks about the role of selfishness in shaping who a person votes for, believing that this or that person will better guarantee their interests. He points out selfishness is not confined to a single race, any one can be selfish.
They also discuss what Code Switch’s Gene Demby said in a conversation about the white vote on All Things Considered:
“But, you know, we in the media have a million euphemisms for the white vote. We have a lot of ways to say white without saying white. We say evangelical, soccer moms, suburban women, NASCAR dads, etc. Never mind that, you know, plenty of people of color overindex on things like church attendance or that, you know, the suburbs all over the country are becoming browner all the time. White is kind of implied in U.S. politics, and because it’s left implied, there tends to be this hyperfocus after elections on the way that nonwhite voters behave.
So right now we’re hearing a lot about Biden’s underperformance among Latino voters in Florida, for example, but far less about the fact that Trump won 60% of white voters in Florida. And white voters make up nearly two-thirds of the electorate in Florida this year, at least according to The New York Times. So Trump’s viability relies almost entirely on his consistently strong white support. But because we don’t talk about white people that way, we tend to focus on these sort of marginal shifts with people of color.”
What You Expect From The Biden-Harris Administration
This is a thoughtful discussion of where we go from here, especially in light of so many alternative realities believed by and clung to by millions of people. Excerpt at 18 minutes, 30 seconds: What do you do about the millions of people who do not believe that Biden was elected fairly?
Dale Ho: “… I’m glad to hear a few voices in the Republican Party who have acknowledged the reality of the election results. I think it is very troubling for the health of our democracy that we have so many voices that are calling into question the integrity of this election in absence of any credible evidence of any widespread tampering with ballots or ballots unlawful cast. It is a microcosm of the the different kind of Fact Spheres that people right now inhabit, but when it comes to basic machinery of democracy when so many people have so many unfounded beliefs, it is something that is going to have to be confronted.“
Founding Fathers Expected Today’s Political State
This was a fascinating interview about the long arc of history. Yes, bad men and ignorance have a long and deadly arch on human history, but so too do good men, commonsense, and basic human decency and compassion.
Excerpt: On whether the founders anticipated the sort of political circumstances we’ve had the last several years
“Absolutely. Thomas Jefferson, at one point, said bad men will get into power. And Madison says himself he’s not a memorable writer, Madison, but he has one memorable phrase I can think of, which is that if men were angels, we would not need government. Government is intended to restrain the bad impulses of people, so, yes, they saw that one day we’d have a president like Donald Trump. The Donald Trump of their day was Aaron Burr. Aaron Burr very nearly became president in 1800, 1801. In just a few years later, he goes on and he shoots Alexander Hamilton and then he is indicted for treason against the United States, for a murky conspiracy he was involved in. He was a bad guy, Aaron Burr. And the system was designed to check and balance people. And check is not an easy thing. Think of a hockey check. That’s a rough hit. Well, they wanted those checks to happen.”
This is an absolutely beautiful report! My parents live in this area of MN, and I could not understand for the life of me why they voted for Trump. But this reporting helps me understand. They voted for him because they are standing with their community. At our core as human beings, we want to be accepted and belong to the communities that we live within. To go against the grain or against the flow of the popular beliefs, opinions, and needs being felt by one’s community is to risk being ostracized–sometimes, shunning is a fate worse than death.
I am putting this resource here because half way through when James Morrison is speaking with two young people living in Winona, MN, which is a beautiful little city located in spectacular bluff country along the Mississippi River. Winoa’s most noticeable picturesque landmark is Sugar Loaf–a bluff on the Mississippi River topped by a rock pinnacle that looks like a miniature Devils Tower. The city is named after legendary figure Winona who is said to have been the first-born daughter of Chief Wapasha III.
As they hike up Sugar Loaf, they talk about everyone having their own reality and how everyone is playing their own game in life. As we can clearly see in this Moment of Now, too many alternative realities all playing for the same small physical stage in the bigger game called life can have adverse consequences.
That is all I will say about this piece. If it interests you, you should listen to the full report and see what sparkles for you in your journey of understanding.
‘How To Make A Slave’ Author On The Advice That Changed His Writing Career
Heard on Fresh Air— November 3, 2020
The above video does not come from the interview Jerald Walker did with Terry Gross; however, he is a great thinkers and distilled his craft of writing into something polished and worth paying attention precisely because his life experiences are so different than those of us living in the mainstream of American society, which by default denies realities such as what Walker writes about.
The following excerpt of Walker and Gross conversation whopped me, especially what Walker learned from this experience he recounts to Terry.
GROSS: Let’s start with a turning point in your life. You were in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and submitted a story that you thought was quite good. It was about growing up on Chicago’s South Side. Describe the story or personal essay that you had turned in.
WALKER: Pretty much everything I wrote back then was about how white society had pretty much ruined the lives of Black people, and we were miserable, angry, bitter and poised for absolute failure as a result. That was pretty much my theme at the time. And I submitted it to workshop, quite proud of myself for really capturing what it meant to be a Black person in America.
And my professor, James Alan McPherson, had a different view. And he – when he began to critique the piece, he prefaced it by talking about how Black gangsta rappers often use similar themes and tropes in their lyrics, but often these rappers don’t live those lifestyles and, in fact, are quite successful and wealthy. And then McPherson, to my absolute horror, accused me of doing the exact same thing.
GROSS: And you were really angry, and you confronted him about it. What did he tell you about staying away from cliches about being Black in America and about growing up in the ghetto? ‘Cause you had told him, like, everything I wrote in this is true and, like – describe what you told him when you got really angry with him.
WALKER: Well, I didn’t sleep after workshop because I was so upset. And I called him the next morning and demanded a conference, and he agreed to meet with me. And when we met in his office, I went through the characters one by one, and I pointed out that they’re real people. These are my siblings. These are my friends. We live in this community. I’m not making this stuff up. I’m not simply using these tropes for the enjoyment of a white audience, which is what he accused me of. And I demanded that he apologize.
And he was so stunned, I think, by my response that he stormed out of the room, and he ran into the hallway. And then the director came chasing him in one direction, and someone else chased him. And I sat there for maybe five minutes watching these people run back and forth, seeing my future career as a writer go right down the drain because I was a huge, huge fan of McPherson, and I felt that he had somehow misread me, misread my story. And if this man, this Black man who I so admired, saw no value in my stories, then I felt that there was no hope for me.
GROSS: I’ll interject here that he was the first African American writer to win a Pulitzer Prize for writing. So, I mean, you not only admired him; he had real stature in the world of writers. But you thought about it and then talked to him again. And he gave you some advice, which is very interesting advice, and I’d like you to describe what he told you.
WALKER: Well, I think one of the things that cause us to sort of not see each other in the proper light is that what he thought that I was doing was trafficking in stereotypes. And I was. I don’t deny that. But I was also, you know, a young writer, and I simply didn’t have a handle on my material. But he said something to me that was so valuable that it did change the trajectory of my entire writing career. He told me that stereotypes are valuable but only as a way to entice readers into the text because what they are presented with at the beginning is familiar territory, but once they’re in the text, he told me, you have to show them what’s real. And I asked him, what’s real? And he said, you.
And I didn’t know what he meant by that, but I reflected on it for about a year. And I went back, and I asked him to do a directed study with me because I wanted to study myself to figure out what is real. And the thing that I came to realize after working with him for several years was that the philosophy that I had adopted, that Black people were primarily victims of white racism, was false by the very fact that I had overcome these obstacles to even be in the writers’ workshop. And we’re talking about a place with a 3% acceptance rate, and yet there I was standing there, proclaiming that Blacks had no future in anything because we couldn’t overcome our obstacles.
And so he made me see that I was focusing too much on the obstacles in the Black person’s life, too much on racism, too much on oppression, but not on the very qualities that made it possible for me to find myself standing before him.
GROSS: So he wanted you to write about the strengths of Black people and the things they’ve overcome, even if they’re not having a successful career as a writer or getting into the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
WALKER: Exactly. It’s not the victory; it’s the fight. And I think that he made it clear to me that I was failing to talk about the fight. And he made the point that for people who could endure the brutalization of slavery and its aftermath, by necessity had to be more than the sum of that brutalization.
GROSS: And just to be clear, he wasn’t saying, you know, like, Black people can just pull themselves up by their bootstraps and nothing else is standing in their way; you could achieve whatever you want to. He wasn’t taking that approach.
WALKER: Absolutely not. What he was simply saying is that we don’t come from a tradition of defeat; we come from a tradition of resistance and fight and struggle and that these are the qualities that make it possible for people to have success. But they’re also the qualities that simply make it possible for you to situate yourself in the whole span of humanity, that we are people, like all people, who do not simply identify themselves solely as victims of some oppression or some obstacle.
You are real, you are real, you are real. This is what hit me hard from this interview. As we attempt to understand our individual circumstances, our fate, our reality as individuals… we must start with ourself first. But not in an artificial, unnatural, hollow, shallow, contrived, or superficial way (more about that with Watts below). As Walker ends this excerpt from the interview with Terry Gross that I have included above, he is absolutely right in saying: “No, Black people can not just pull themselves up by the bootstraps…” …nobody can… it’s impossible.
“Telling someone to pull themselves up by their bootstraps just makes you sound like a jerk to normal people, and an idiot to super geniuses.”
This is part of the transcript for this video marked by minutes into the lecture.
2:43: “We aren’t better because we want to be; because the road to hell is paved with good intentions; because all the do-gooders in the world whether they’re doing good for others or doing it to themselves are troublemakers.
3:01: On the basis of kindly let me help you or you’ll drown said the monkey putting the fish safely up a tree. We white Anglo-Saxon Protestants British German American have been on a rampage for the past hundred or more years to improve the world. We have given the benefits of our culture our religion our technology to everybody, except perhaps the Australian Aborigines. And we have insisted that they receive the benefits of our culture and even our political styles our democracy–you better be democratic or we’ll shoot you! And having conferred these blessings all over the place, we wondered why everybody hates us! See because sometimes doing good to others and even doing good to oneself is amazingly destructive. [This is] because it’s full of conceit.
4:10: How do you know what’s good for other people?! How do you know what’s good for you?!!
4:16: If you say you want to improve, then you want to know what’s good for you, but obviously you don’t [know] because if you did you would be improved! So, we don’t know!!
4:39: So, what instead therefore, if we see that you can’t outwit yourself; you can’t be, shall I say: ‘self-conscious’ unselfconscious on purpose; you can’t be designitaly spontaneous; and you cannot be genuinely loving by intending to love. Either you love someone or you don’t.
5:12: If you pretend to love a person, you deceive them and build up reasons for resentment. They say, ‘Well, I ought to be honest.’
5:26: That’s the beginning of oh so many lies you can’t imagine… like when I hear a lot said about love… the big love thing on me… everybody’s got a love everybody, but it sings songs about love. Do you know what I do? I buy a gun and bar my door because I know there’s a storm of hypocrisy brewing.
5:48: So, let’s look at this thing from another point of view, which you will at first think highly depressing. [Let’s] suppose we can’t do anything to change ourselves; suppose we’re stuck with [how we are]. Now, that is the the worst thing an American audience can hear there’s no way of improving yourself because every kind of culture in this country is dedicated to self-improvement!
6:29: So, you see, you went out to do a self-improvement, making money. You see [this thing going out and making money] is a measure of improvement, a measure of your economic worthwhileness. At least that’s what it’s supposed to be. It isn’t anything of the kind. But you went out in other words for the status instead of for the actuality.
6:50: So, if in other words, you do an art (such as) you’re a musician. Why do you play music? The only great reason for playing music is to enjoy. If you play music to impress an audience, to be… read about yourself in the newspaper, you are not interested in music. So in the same way, why do I come and talk to you? Because I enjoy. I like the sound of my own voice. I’m interested in what I’m talking about. I get paid for it, and that’s smart in this life is to get paid for what you enjoy.
7:25: So, here’s the situation, you see, there is no… that the… the whole idea of self-improvement is a is a will of the wisp and a hoax. That’s not what it’s about.
7:37: Let’s begin where we are.
7:43: What happens if you know? If you know beyond any shadow of doubt that there is nothing you could do to be better.
7:55: Well, it’s kind of a relief isn’t?!
7:59: Now, you say: ‘Well, now what will I do?‘
8:07: See, there’s a little fidget comes up because we’re so used to making things better… leave the world a better place than when you found it sort of thing.
8:20: And, so we think does…there’s that little itch still… but supposing instead of that seeing that there isn’t really anything we can do to improve ourselves or to improve the world. If we realize that that is so… it gives us a little breather. In the course of which we may simply watch what is going on, watch what happens.
8:53: Nobody ever does this, you see. Therefore, it sounds terribly simple. It sounds so simple that is almost looks as if it isn’t worth doing. But ever just watched watch? Watched what’s happening and watch what you are doing by way of reaction to it?
9:11: Just, watch it happen. And don’t be in a hurry to think you know what it is.
9:20: In other words, people look at it and say, ‘Oh, that’s the external world.‘
9:27: ‘Oh how do you know?‘ The whole thing from a neurological point of view is a happening in your head.
9:32: That you think there is something outside the skull is a notion in your nervous system–there may or may not be, but it’s a notion in your nervous.
9:51: You think this that exists is the material world. Well that’s somebody’s philosophical idea. Or maybe you think it’s spiritual. That too is somebody’s philosophical idea. This real world is not spiritual, it is not material, the real world is simply [Watt’s claps his hands]…
10:05: So could we look at things in that way? Without as it were fixing labels and names and gradations and judgments on everything but watch what happens? Watch what we do?
10:33: Now, you see if you do that, you do at least give yourself a chance. And, it may be that when you are in this way freed from busy-body-ness and being out to improve everything that your own nature will begin to take care of itself. Because you’re not getting in the way of yourself all the time. You will begin to find out that the great things that you do are really happenings.
11:12: For example, no great genius can explain how he does it. “Yes,” he says, “I have learned a technique to express myself because I had something in me that had to come out. I had to know how to get it out.”
11:36: So, if I were a musician, I had to learn how music is produced. That means learning to use an instrument or learning a technique of musical notation or whatever it may be. If I want to describe something, I have to learn a language so that others can understand me. I need a technique. But then beyond that… I’m afraid I can’t tell you how it was that I used that technique to express this mysterious thing I wanted to show you.
12:04: If we could tell people that, we would have schools where we would infallibly train musical geniuses, scientific miracle minds, and there would be so many of who we wouldn’t know what to do with them. Geniuses would be a dime a dozen and then we would say well these people are after all not very ingenious, you know, PhDs how many of them are there?
12:35: Because what is fascinating always about genius is the fellow does something we can’t understand. He surprises us.
12:45: But you see, just in the same way we cannot understand our own brains, neurology knows relatively little about the brain, which is only to say that the brain is a lot smarter than neurology.
12:58: Yes, yet there is this [thing]… which can perform all these extraordinary intellectual and cultural miracles, but we don’t know how we do it, but we did.
13:14: We didn’t have some campaign to have an improved brain over the monkeys or whatever maybe our ancestors, it happened. Then, all growth you see is fundamentally something that happens.
13:28: But for it to happen, two things are important.
13:34: The first is, as I said, you must have the technical ability to express what happens. Secondly, you must get out of your own way.
13:50: But right at the bottom of the whole problem of control is how am I to get out of my own way?
13:58: And if I showed you a system–let’s all practice getting out of our own way–it would turn into another form of self-improvement.
14:06: Here is the dynamics of this thing. And we find this problem, you see, repeatedly throughout the entire history of human spirituality.
14:19: In the phraseology of Zen Buddhism: You cannot get this by thinking. You cannot attain to it by not thinking.
14:36: It is only, you see, as you… as getting out of your own way ceases to be a matter of choice. When you see that there’s nothing else for you to do. When you see…in other words, that doing something about your situation is not going to help you. When you see equally that trying not to do anything about it is not going to help you. Where are you? Where do you stand? You’re nonplussed, and you are simply reduced to watching.
Oddly, as I finish this transcript, I also just watched ‘The Crown’ Season 4: Episode 4: “Favourites” [Don’t click this link if you are watching the Crown and have not gotten to Season 4: Episode 4 yet.]
This trailer sets up the conflict perfectly between the Queen and Margaret Thatcher…in an exciting way. If you have been following this series, then you know the Queen has had to learn the art of doing nothing. And many, many times, it has worked for her in spectacular ways. But, things are changing… as they always do… and there is a new fish in the tank… a woman of action. Hmmm… I wonder what’s going to happen?!!
Ram Dass & RELATIVE REALITIES
“You have at this moment many constellations of thought, each composing an identity: sexual, social, cultural, educational, economic, intellectual, historical, philosophical, spiritual, among others. One or another of these identities takes over as the situation demands. Usually you are lost into that identity when it dominates your thoughts. At the moment of being a mother, a father, a student, or a lover, the rest are lost.” – Ram Dass
There is more if you go to the embed link to Relative Realities.
Dan P. McAdams
The Mind of Donald Trump — Narcissism, disagreeableness, grandiosity—a psychologist investigates how Trump’s extraordinary personality might shape his possible presidency.
I found this older article in writing my previous blog: We Are Running Out of Time. I thought I had heard this on the radio recently, but I found it doing research on this recent blog. And then my good and trusted friends in Germany, Michael and Sonka, sent me a translation of a recent interview Dan McAdams that is featured on NTV: Politik, which they translated for me.
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 30, 2020: US psychologist on Donald Trump “The best analogy is the chimpanzee”
“It’s like watching a primal force or a wild animal.” Donald Trump at a campaign rally in Arizona, one of the swing states.”
Donald Trump is obviously a narcissist, but that only partly explains him. US psychologist Dan McAdams calls Trump an “episodic man” who lives exclusively in the here and now. “He wakes up every morning ready to fight to win.”
In 2016, before the then presidential election, you wrote an article in “Atlantic” about the narcissistic traits of Donald Trump. In a more recent piece you point out that narcissists tend to attract people, but that these fans usually turn away from their hero at some point disappointed or annoyed. Before we talk about why his fans don’t do this: Is this the reason for the constant changes among White House staff?
Dan McAdams: I think so. Staff turnover in the White House is higher under Trump than under any other president in recent history. There are a number of reasons for this. One of the most important is that Trump is extremely volatile. It is difficult to predict what he will do from one day to the next. Working for such a person is almost impossible. Looking at my 2016 article, I now think there is something deeper than Trump’s narcissism – something that explains it completely. Trump is what I call the episodic man. I think this also explains the high staff turnover of his government.
What do you mean by “episodic man”?
That is the central thesis of my new book about Donald Trump, “The Strange Case of Donald J. Trump. Episodic Man means that Trump lives exclusively in the immediate episode, in this moment, in the here and now. He wakes up every morning and is ready to fight to win. For that he does everything: lie, cheat – everything that is necessary. Then he goes back to bed, wakes up the next day and starts fighting and winning all over again. Yet every day is a different episode for him. They do not fit together to form any story or narrative. He does not live continuously from day to day like most of us do.
It must actually be hard to work for someone like that.
When you deal with such a person, you never know what will happen next. Maybe everything goes well on Tuesday because you did something that helped him win on that particular day. But on Thursday he might have to win in a different way. And if you can’t do that, you’re out. It’s not possible to adjust to Trump because, unlike most of us, he hardly remembers what happened yesterday or the day before, and he doesn’t think about the future, as almost everyone else does. Most of us develop the story of our lives while living. Trump not. That’s why he can’t devise any long-term strategies.
But he does pursue political goals, for example in the occupation of the Supreme Court.
There is only one goal for Trump: to win. That is all he cares about. Of course he knows that the election is coming up. In this way, he can certainly take a longer-term perspective. But he is not in a position to develop a sustainable plan for political strategies. Take the Covid crisis, the biggest health emergency in generations for the United States and the world. Trump is unable to address this challenge because it would require a long-term plan. That is why Trump said in February and March, when the crisis hit the United States, that tomorrow it would all be over. “This is only a temporary moment” – he really said that. This is how he sees life, as a temporary moment, and you have to fight to win today. But when you are dealing with the virus, you need long-term concepts that work not just from one day to the next, but from month to month, maybe from year to year. He can’t do that. He has no idea how to do it. Nor does he let his experts and his employees work like that. Instead, he disempowers them all and fights to win on this one day.
For your book you asked yourself what it is like to be Trump. What is it like?
I tried to get inside his head. It’s not just the narcissism. He’s all wrapped up in himself and thinks only of himself all the time – but that’s only one aspect. For him, life is like a boxing match. The boxer gets up for the first round and fights for three minutes as if his life is at stake. Then the bell rings, he goes back to his corner, rests for a minute and gets up again for the second round. That is Trump’s life. This is probably how he has lived his whole life since his school days. He wakes up in the morning for the first round and will do anything to win. Anyone else would be devastated by such a life – not him. He loves to fight, he wants to eliminate his opponents over and over again. But you can’t solve long-term problems like this.
Then why on earth do 40 percent of Americans have a positive opinion of him, no matter what he does?
You’re right, it doesn’t matter what he does, and it’s probably more than 40 percent. Those 40 percent or more stick by him all the time. His approval ratings haven’t really risen much in the years he has been in office, but they don’t fall significantly below that mark either. Part of the reason is that Trump gives them what they want.
Trump’s constant fighting is simply a spectacle. It is like watching a primal force or a wild animal. Many of these 40 percent feel disenfranchised. This is a population group that tends to be less educated, older, white and male – not only, but predominantly. In a way, it is for them as if they were also in this boxing ring. And it is their last chance, because the United States is becoming more and more multicultural, multi-ethnic and increasingly post-industrial. The world simply leaves these old, uneducated white boys behind. They too are fighting a fight. But it is a hopeless endeavor. This population group is dying out. In a way, Trump is the last great white hope for them.
Do Trump’s fans actually see him as a real person or is he something like a fictional character for them?
For many of his fans he is not a real person. Even more: I believe that Donald Trump does not see himself as a real person. Of course his followers know that Trump is a flesh and blood person. But he has certain things about him that make him more than just a human being, as if he were a superhero or a mythical force. White evangelical Christians in the USA seriously believe that he is an instrument of God. To them, God’s will is manifested through him, although Trump himself is obviously not religious in any way.
Whether you see him as God’s instrument or as a wild animal fighting for you, or whether you see him as a little boy who is innocent in a crazy way, as some people think, the point is that he is above us. Trump does not have to play by the rules. As he once said himself, he could shoot someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue and he wouldn’t lose voters. To a certain extent, that’s probably true. For him, the rules don’t apply because he is more than a human being. From the point of view of his followers and from his own perspective, he is stronger, smarter, bigger. At the same time, he is also less than human because he lacks things that the rest of us have.
What does he lack?
He has no inner life. He has no doubts at all. He believes that he has never made a mistake. He does not just say that. He really believes that. He really believes that he is “a stable genius. There is something “non-human” about him. He has no empathy. If a tragedy happened, he wouldn’t think of cheering people up. As someone who is more than a human being in the sense that he is like a superhero and at the same time less than a human being in the sense that he has no inner conflicts, no doubts, no moral perspective and no empathy, he forms a category of his own. He can do anything, no matter how crazy it is. I believe that Trump sees himself that way too. He does not believe that the rules apply to him. And he doesn’t understand many things that others understand by nature. He fails to acknowledge the fact that more than 225,000 Americans have died of Corona. He just doesn’t grasp it, he can’t get a feeling for it either. There are not many people who are like that. He doesn’t hide it either. Trump isn’t hiding anything, it’s all on the surface.
So instead of being a real person, he plays the role of Donald Trump all the time. He has played the same role all his life, even as president. It’s really fascinating to watch that. It’s impressive, but it’s completely inadequate when it comes to the challenges we are currently facing.
You said he really believes he has never made a mistake. Is it true that narcissists often don’t think they are perfect at all? Is he different in that respect?
Trump is not your average narcissist. Narcissism is an important aspect of Trump, but this is. But there are many narcissists who see themselves as real people. For example, most narcissists can tell a story about their lives, about how they might have made a mistake once, but then got better and better. Or about how they got help from others or how they overcame problems and doubts. Narcissists tend to have stories like the one about going from dishwasher to millionaire, American dream stories.
Trump has no story about how he became what he is or how his life will evolve. Again, the comparison fits a wild animal. The alpha chimpanzee is not expected to have a story about how he became what he is and how he overcame difficulties. It is not expected to have a long-term plan for the future. It is not expected to think strategically. A monkey alpha male is expected to be intimidating and strong and powerful and to make deals to stay on top.
You compare Trump with a chimpanzee?
Well, he really behaves like a chimpanzee. He thinks he is powerful and forceful. He’s authentic and in many ways the opposite of most politicians – Joe Biden for example, but actually that’s true for everyone except Trump. They think strategically, they think long-term, they talk about things that will affect us in the future. Trump just wants to show everyone.
Could it be that Trump is a kind of projection screen for his supporters?
In a way, yes, they project wishes onto him. This whole fantasy of making America great again, of bringing it back to the way it used to be, whatever that might be – that’s a projection. But not in the sense that they see themselves in Trump. Donald Trump is admired by his fans, but they do not want to be like him. They are in awe of him. They see him as a tool for their salvation. But nobody says: I want to be like Donald Trump. Nobody says: When I grow up, I want to be God. Or: I want to be an alpha chimpanzee or a giant animal like King Kong. That is also the reason why his approval is so constant: He does not belong in the same category as the rest of mankind.
If Trump is so unique, who could follow him as a politician?
No one. He is unique. There is no legitimate successor. At the moment he cannot imagine not being president. If he wins the election – it won’t happen, and if it does happen, it will be because votes have been suppressed – he will probably want another term, even if that would be unconstitutional. He just has to win every time.
When we spoke four years ago, you said Trump was an imminent threat to American democracy because he delegitimizes the political system.
Things have turned out much worse than I predicted. I thought he was working to undermine democracy, but I could not imagine that he would succeed. Today I think he has succeeded to a certain extent in weakening our institutions. He has gone further than anyone could have predicted. Trump does not understand how a democracy works. The idea that power is shared between the institutions in a democracy is completely foreign to him.
NO DIAGNOSIS: Prof. McAdam is a psychologist, not a psychiatrist. In an earlier interview with ntv.de, he described his assessments of Donald Trump as “a kind of psychological commentary”.
His view on the work of a government is ultimately feudal. The best analogy is again the chimpanzee. The alpha male is the boss, the supreme leader, and he remains in power until there is an uprising against him and he is replaced by a new alpha male. This is how authoritarian states work, and Trump sees no problem with that. Trump says he will not lose the election. He has refused to commit himself to a peaceful transfer of power. Jesus Christ! Since George Washington, we have had peaceful transfers of power in the United States. Never, never, have Americans questioned this. Some people may not like an election result, they may demonstrate against it, they may even resort to violence. But no one has ever questioned that a president relinquishes power when he loses a damn election. We are facing a constitutional crisis. He could carry out all kinds of maneuvers that no one ever expected, because so far the norms of our system have kept presidents in check. But Trump does not respect norms.
Hubertus Volmer spoke with Dan McAdams
We Have To Choose Our Hard
CNN: Chris Cuomo’s Opening Statement on the Eve of Halloween 2020 — 10/30/2020
From CNN.com — Transcripts
Anderson Cooper: CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: You are our Iron Man. Anderson, I’ll be watching, and then I’d be at the ready for you until this end. Get some rest, when you can.
Chris Cuomo: I am Chris Cuomo. Welcome to PRIME TIME.
Happy Hallowe’eve! Not that reality isn’t spooky enough, right?
We do have a real monster in our midst this year. It’s the virus. It’s on the move. It’s in the shadows. It’s in the light of day. The sense of foreboding that we all feel is very real. And yet, this is no boogeyman. It’s no figment of our imagination. It’s not true because somebody just tells you it is. And it’s not just in your head.
This has been the worst week ever for Coronavirus cases in the United States. We broke the daily case record again today. We have now surpassed 90,000 infections in one day.
I know the President keeps saying “We are rounding the corner.” But be honest. Rounding the corner feels a hell of a lot more like spiraling into this complete hell of a hopscotching virus and more hospitalizations.
The five worst days we have had have been basically in the last week. Five of the last eight days have been the highest five days we’ve seen. Not rounding the corner. Not going to disappear. There is no need for a jump scare in this story. The virus is no surprise, only Trump’s inaction is surprising.
And yet, there is good news. The monster only haunts us if we allow it to. We know what to wear and how to live. But too many, in places with spread, are being told that they don’t have to, and they’re choosing to believe. That’s why the scariest people, this Halloween, ironically, will be the ones not wearing masks.
Everywhere we look, from the pandemic, to protests, depressed economy, to our growing depression in our ranks, we are in a bad place. We have to be better than this. We must do better than this. And I believe we can.
We’re treating one another as monsters. And these are polarizing times. But we’re making them that way. We could put the same energy into figuring out what we agree on, how to be together, and how to fight together. Why? It’s the same energy.
At the end of the day, living angry is hard. Living to be kind is hard. We need to choose our hard. Dividing is hard. Uniting is hard. Maintaining lies is hard. Sometimes telling people the painful truth is hard. Being sick is hard. Doing what you have to do to stay healthy is hard.
As individuals, and as one country, we have to choose our hard. Now, one choice is going to take us in a direction that’s going to feel like a trick. Another is sweeter. It’s better. It’s more who we’re supposed to be. And that is much more akin to a treat.
We’re not built for harshness. We’re built for sweet strength. We have always been, in this country, in a battle to get to a better place. We always have been.
The question is, will that continue after Tuesday? That’s what this election is about. Both campaigns know it. They’re both focused in the places that matter. Today, the Midwest, and COVID is exploding all over. And you literally have a complete set of opposites in their final message.
Yes we are, Chris, yes we are: We are built for sweet strength and choosing this, living this, embodying this, especially now, is really hard. But we have to do it!
Some extra reports that resonated and reinforces why we need to work harder Now more than any other time to understand our shared reality.
Chilling Report on Meat Being Shipped to the US during the Pandemic
Judy Woodruff opens this report saying, “When outbreaks of COVID-19 at meat processing plants in the U.S. slowed production, American wholesalers and grocery chains turned to foreign beef suppliers. Producers in the small country of Nicaragua were happy to fulfill U.S. demand — but doing so has come at a high cost for local communities. Nate Halverson of the Center for Investigative Reporting’s Reveal has the story.”