Reifications

… essays on the Starr trek

Archive for the category “belief”

Mental Health & World View

MENTAL HEALTH & WORLD VIEW

I am coming to a conclusion about the state of humans on this planet. We are doomed to destroy ourselves unless we gain the ability to go beyond the mental health problems and extremist world views that are the cause of most conflict.

One of my favourites quotes comes from Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy: it is a sign on the desk of Salvor Hardin, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompent.” That is not to say that every use of violence is by incompetent people, but that frustration and lack of options often leads to violence. The sod who attacked and killed at Westminster this week suffered from mental health issues (detailed account here) and a misguided world view. Andrew Neil outlines the response of British people much better than I could here.

When it comes to Mental Health, we are getting smarter at diagnosing the myriad conditions that cause the human brain to become conflicted: stress, depression, split personality, paranoia, and psychosis; there is an endless list. An inability to process what is happening around us, or to us, can cause us to strike out at real or imagined enemies.

Our World View (or the more specific German word, Weltanschauung – the world view of an individual or group) causes us to accept or reject evidence in an age where information is bountiful and often fake. This crisis of truth is the death of rational thinking. Decisions are made according to a formula or the state of one’s ‘gut’ rather than what is kind, or what is best for all.

So, the enemy of our future is EXTREMISM. And our salvation shall come from UNDERSTANDING. We will not go beyond this crisis until a critical mass of humanity rejects alt-right, hard left, ideology-based thinking, intolerance, bigotry, and the hypocrisy of equating ‘all’ with ‘some’ individuals in any group that differs from what we believe to be normal. Let’s spend money to support those of us with mental health issues. Let’s focus on creating a world view that benefits all living things.

Understanding that a simple and creative life can be lived without damage to air, water, and other living things is the challenge we must face and overcome.

Heaven on earth (really?)

We live in a polarised world – not just North Pole/South Pole. There are opposites which divide humanity, and life itself:
  • Wealth and Poverty – the super-rich maintain their supremacy by the ability to influence opinion and accumulate property;
  • Health and Disease – whilst some nations maintain universal healthcare schemes, the world’s wealthiest nation, the USA, continues to avoid healthcare as a human right;
  • Power and Marginalisation – does anyone truly believe that money cannot buy power?;
  • even Religion versus Atheism – the hatred between believers and non-believers supercedes their desire for freedom and justice for all.

Some of these conflicts will be displayed in the movie, ‘Elysium’, that opens on 9th August.

I believe that the message of this film is greater than what seems to be just a ‘deprived masses fight back against utopia-for-the-few’ shoot-em-up.

In 2001, I read a paper, The Second Fall by Anatole Lievin which resembles much of what is portrayed in Elysium. It’s all there: the medical sanctuary for the rich in outer space, the greater mass of humanity imprisoned on a distopian Earth.

IMG_0136The concept of an off-planet utopia may have been inspired by the painting by Don Davis from a 1975 NASA symposium which discussed celestial cities. But, as many philosophers have reminded us – we first have to conquer inner space (our own propensity for conflict).

Professor Lievin’s depiction of a world where the super-rich can gain immortality at the expense of the rest of us is not far short of present-day reality. We merely lack the ability – at the time of writing – to build cities in space with better views and living conditions than our home planet.

IMG_0107It is said that our planet once contained an entire landmass, or panagea, where everything was connected. Did humanity evolve ‘out of Africa’ and then populate the entire earth, separating into races, tribes and clans along the way? Are we truly separated by all these beliefs and cultures and languages that we created over the millenia that disconnected us geographically and psychologically? Are the various gods that we created universal and timeless, or merely reflections of our thinking?

Agreement_of_the_People_(1647-1649)In 1647, the manifesto of the Leveller movement attempted to express the concerns that people felt in that most class-ridden society, England. By the way, this is a society that has infected many others with notions of ‘status’ and ‘nobility’ and ‘breeding’. These are notions which have enslaved people all over this planet, and have caused the near-destruction of millions of indigenous peoples, and the disenfranchisement of their lands. The Levellers were not the first free thinkers to be subsequently eliminated by those holding the reins of the nation. In 1381, leaders of the Peasants Revolt, or Wat Tyler’s Rebellion, were cut down by the ‘nobles’ accompanying Richard II. They had sought to level the inequities in society as well, using the verse:

When Adam delved and Eve span,

Who was then the gentleman?

Ask those who were killed in the many revolts of the Middle Ages, the Chartist Riots of the 1840s, the Paris Commune, the Occupy Movements of the 21st century – does it pay to challenge the power of the status quo? I submit that one answer lies in a quote from Isaac Asimov:

Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.

I propose that the answer to the grievances of all of us peasants is to continually assert that power is only valid if it is shared. The accumulation of wealth and power needs to be capped and the excess utilised for the benefit of all living things. Then we shall have peace and the meek will have inherited the earth.

Now is the time.

Postscript (and tribute to Anatole Lievin)

In 2050 the population of earth split in two, those who believed in god and fighting for what they believe were consigned to the American continents, the rest of the world determined to live in peace.

Being An Introvert

Susan cain at TED, with her 'suitcase' containing special books

I’ve just watched Susan Cain’s talk at TED on “the power of introverts.” Perhaps ‘the power of introversion’ might sit better with me. In my case the subtitle is, ‘the power of introversion, whilst dealing with obsessive compulsion, ADHD, solipsism and goodness knows what else.’

Her three key points unlocked understanding about the part of me that thrives on introversion. I phrase it like that because I acknowledge that we are not ‘either/or’, we are all ‘both’ on the extrovert/introvert spectrum.

1. Stop the madness for constant group work. My italics, because she rightly explains that chatty exchanges of ideas benefit both extroverts and introverts, but introverts need time and privacy to finalize their opinions. He-he <grins self-indulgently>. This validated a stand that I took in the last semester of my Masters degree at Griffith. They kept wanting us to work ‘collaboratively/collegially’ with other students. I kicked back against this and refused in one project because: i) I felt it was a sop to students who wanted to cadge off hard-working, highly graded others (yeah, me); ii) who works like that in journalism?; and iii) being me, I didn’t get accepted into the group where the cool kids were (two cute women and a French guy [stop judging me!]). It made for some good drama in our tutorial group. The tutor gave in, but I had to do three times as much work to get my usual ‘A.’ So, thank you Susan Cain, I’ll take justification for my scratchy persona where I can find it. She’s right ‘tho.

 2. Go to the wilderness. This time she’s really right. Whether it be forty days and forty nights, meditating under a Bodhi tree, meeting Gabriel in a cave, all great wisdom comes from some sort of connection with nature. OK, there are exceptions. Karl Marx spent a lot of time in the British Museum Reading Room and bonking the maid (allegedly) and Freud listened to people who were lying (telling the truth?) on his couch. Whatever. It’s good to get into a forest, walk along a beach, climb up high and get an overall view. My analytical mind says that it is simply engaging that part of the brain that goes deeply in search of truth, what neurologists call the ‘God spot.’ My hypnosis training whispers that by turning our eyes upwards at forty-five degrees we access Alpha brain waves. Memo to self: the real power is the physical experience of being in nature – keep in mind Henry David Thoreau and ‘Walden.’

3. Take a good look at what is inside your own suitcase. “… the world needs you and the things that you carry.” Susan comes on stage with a bag of books that epitomize her world, a world that she created and found inside herself. She began her talk by explaining that, as a child, she thought it was natural for people to sit around together reading books. Being thrust into the world of extroverts was viscerally unsettling. It’s good for both extroverts and introverts to share who they really are, what their influences are, what they truly believe. Being open frees us all from the chains of ‘normality’ and ‘conformity.’ This is about being vulnerable and facing our inner shame. For more on vulnerabilty, watch Brené Brown and Google her talk on Shame.

When I was a child, around nine I think, I came down with a sickness that kept me away from school for perhaps two to three months. During that time, my mother made sure that I had lots of books. My reading improved incredibly and when I returned to school, I was ahead of the rest of my cohort (been wanting to use that in a sentence for some time). Wherever we went, I used to read out aloud the signs and adverts (this was the 1950s, not so much neon). Now I’m glad that I had that time on my own and that my mother encouraged me to use it in the way that I did. Interestingly, shortly after I won a scholarship to a grammar school. When this was announced, the males in my primary class used to bail me up after school and intimidate me. I learned to run, up to a track that ran along the base of the Quantock Hills. The guys tried to follow me but always gave up as they got further away from their homes and closer to mine. I guess this was partly because of my introversion and newfound studious demeanour, partly because I lived outside the village. Later, I became one of the class clowns, seeking to win approval through humour (I’m not much of a runner). Susan Cain has helped me understand that early immersion into my own world and to forgive those who feel threatened by inner space. Her book is ‘Quiet: The Power of Introverts.’

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