The GOP Would Sacrifice Us on the Altar of their Power and Profit: What if, Instead, We Created a Better World?

What if we, or I, have been looking at this all wrong? I often feel like we’re on the verge of losing almost everything. But what if we’re on the verge of⎼ well, winning. Or maybe not winning but at least making things better? Maybe we must re-think our thinking about  what’s possible.

 

The GOP, and even some Democrats, or the financially well-off financiers of some Democrats, have become totally desperate. The immorality of many GOP, their willingness to sacrifice everything and everyone for their greed and power, has become totally upfront and obvious to anyone not blinded by lies and an unwillingness to question their beliefs or recognize the humanity of those holding views different from their own.

 

Desperation is a sign of weakness, not strength. Unwillingness to change one’s views or listen to others is a weakness, not a strength.

 

On May 30th Sonali Kolhatkar, host and founder of Rising With Sonali, a tv and radio show that airs on Free Speech Radio and Pacifica stations, wrote an article for the Independent Media Institute arguing very cogently that the very rich are making a very dangerous calculation⎼ that it is worth sacrificing millions or even billions of lives in order to preserve corporate and individual profits.

 

She cites a new poll by the National Surveys on Energy and the Environment which found that “there is no longer skepticism among the public that the effects of climate change are real, as 76 percent of respondents—the highest on record since the poll started—’believe there is solid evidence that temperatures on the planet have risen over the last four decades.’”

 

Yet, despite overwhelming support for doing all we can to halt climate change, “corporate profit-based considerations have constantly dictated our energy use and climate policies, [and] we have effectively decided that major sacrifices of lives—most likely poor people of color—will be worth the pain of relying on fossil fuels for energy.”

 

And the same holds true with the pandemic. “Today, even as COVID-19 infection rates are skyrocketing, with cases having risen by 58 percent in the last two weeks alone, mask mandates are being dropped all over the country and COVID-19-related restrictions are ending. This is not because the virus is under control—it is clearly not—but because it’s no longer financially viable for corporate America to sacrifice profits for lives. So, it will sacrifice lives for profit….”

 

Greg Sargent wrote in the Washington Post back in September about how the GOP would exploit the pandemic, sacrifice lives by lying about vaccines, for example, to resurrect their power. Millions of people were tricked, made sick, and many died due to the anti-vaccine propaganda of DJT and the right.

 

*This blog was syndicated by The Good Men Project.

 

Dismantling Walls, Reducing Pain, and Rethinking Thinking

There are so many obstacles, both personal and institutional, we face in trying to improve our lives as well as the society we live in. But we too often overlook the way we think about thinking as one of those obstacles.

 

How we think, as well as what we think about or pay attention to, influences the answers we derive and our emotional state. This might be one reason why the GOP so vigorously use twisted logic to attack the search for truth⎼ about Jan 6 and DJT,  about science, public schools, and education in general, and certainly about gun violence. This is not just a dangerous political maneuver, but one that could threaten our survival as a nation and as a species, because it turns our most precious resource⎼ our minds and ability to think⎼ into an enemy to be feared and fought against.

 

We often conceptualize intelligence as our ability to learn, solve problems, or select goals and calculate how to reach them. But intelligence and thinking are not just a road to a desired end but a quality of our journey. It involves the ability to let go as well as dig deeper, not just to think but rethink our assumptions and beliefs. To know our limitations. The Greek philosopher Socrates supposedly said that what made him wise was that he knew he knew nothing.

 

Organizational psychologist Adam Grant, in his book Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, spells out how our mistaken idea of thinking can lead to distorting what we look at. And the brighter we supposedly are, the more blind we can be. What makes us intelligent, he says, is an ability to question our assumptions, and beliefs. To act like scientists testing our hypotheses.

 

We often resist rethinking, not only because of the time and energy required, but because it would mean questioning ourselves. Such questioning might add more unpredictability to an already unpredictable, often threatening world. And we’d have to admit we’re wrong, and capable of being very wrong. Our identity is tied closely to our beliefs and what we think are facts. To change our viewpoint can feel like abandoning our sense of ourselves. We might prefer the “comfort of conviction over the discomfort of doubt.”

 

Many of us use one of 3 models for thinking: a preacher defending their sacred beliefs, a prosecutor proving the “other side” wrong, or a politician seeking approval. Instead of thinking clearly, we often “listen to opinions that make us feel good instead of ideas that make us think hard. We see disagreement as a threat… and surround ourselves with people who agree with our conclusions” instead of those who challenge our thought process.

 

The result is what’s called the Dunning Kruger Effect. This is based on studies showing that people who scored the lowest on tests of reasoning and grammar had the most inflated idea of their abilities. The less we know in a particular domain, the more we overestimate our intelligence in that domain, and the more rigidly we hold our beliefs. Instead of recognizing what we don’t know or have yet to learn, we hide from the realization. We fall easily into the bias of thinking we’re not biased.

 

We might think this doesn’t apply to us, but I saw this operate in my own life. After returning to teaching after a 10-year absence, for a few years I found myself presenting answers to students more than modeling ways to question. I held viewpoints with more conviction than I felt because I didn’t want to expose my lack of knowledge.

 

 

**To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

The Relationship of All Humans, Revisited: A Stable Society Is Like a Loving Relationship

A relationship with another person, even one of long standing, with a friend, colleague, even a spouse, can seem so strong but, in reality, be so delicate. It is important to recognize this. We expect emotional ties to bear so much, to tie people, families, groups together. But emotions are just thoughts, feelings, and sensations. They are ephemeral; like air, they can be moved or changed so easily.

 

I look at my wife, Linda, and realize how much better my life is because of her. I think more clearly and gain new perspectives because we talk so easily together. The more I feel love, appreciation, and gratitude, and the more I allow her in, the more I enjoy my day. Yet, despite all that, sometimes I lose it. I don’t feel the connection. I feel what I feel and think what I think but what she feels, or thinks is beyond me. I relate to her as if she were a means to an end, my own projection, simply the source of my own satisfaction, or pain. I mentally accuse her of being the cause of what hurts me.

 

And then I become aware of what I’m doing. I feel our separation, the fragility of our life together and how easily I could lose her. I shudder and wake up.

 

Society is also a relationship. Of course, there’s more to it than that, just like there is more to a marriage than emotion. There’s history, commitment, often there are children, homes, possessions, and for a society, institutions, buildings, roads, laws, and social processes. But what do any of these mean without the sense of relationship?

 

We spend most of our time each day in human constructed environments with other human beings. The beauty and necessity of our cooperation with others surrounds and envelops us. Yet often we lose it. We treat other people as means to our own ends. We treat cashiers like the machines they control. We treat other drivers as obstacles to pass. We treat people we barely know with the briefest of recognitions and people we don’t know are ignored or worse. There are so many people around us. How can we do anything else?

 

The more we harden our personal borders and think of ourselves as separate from others, the more pain we feel, and the easier it is to go from indifference or ignoring others, to hurting.

 

Or to lying to ourselves. Telling and recognizing the truth means getting as close as we can to what’s real, what is happening in ourselves and the world. A lie hides and distorts, pushes away what’s real, by intent. It substitutes a fiction, an idea for reality. Of course, it can get complicated. I don’t know if it’s best or not to always tell the truth. But in general, knowing and speaking the truth, or knowing as best we can what’s actually going on in ourselves and others, fosters healthy relationships. When problems arise, as they must, we can only face them if we notice them. We can only face what we allow ourselves to perceive….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

The Power that Liberates vs the Power that Corrupts: The Skills Needed to Obtain Power and Lead Effectively are the Ones Most Likely to Deteriorate Once We Have Power

What is the root of real power, power that is consistent with having a satisfying life? That inspires others? That makes us effective leaders?

The people of Ukraine especially, but really the whole world, have been suffering due to political leaders like Putin and DJT politicians whose idea of leadership is to center power on themselves alone. Too many people have this maladaptive idea that only by being selfish and ruthless can we be an effective ruler. Some even think that only by being ruthless can we succeed in making the world a better place.

I was just re-reading two articles from the May/June, 2017, Scientific American Mind that clearly show research on power proves the opposite to be true. The first is about the psychological effects of power on the powerful, and that one of many reasons the common idea of power is maladaptive is because it can undermine the motivation by ethical and empathic people to want to take political action. The second article is on self-compassion.

The British politician and historian, Lord John Acton, has often been quoted as saying: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power to corrupt absolutely.” He was mostly speaking of Popes, Roman Emperors, and absolute monarchs, but he could be speaking of Presidents.

In an article called Power Moves: Success Changes How People Think and Act—Often, But Not Always, For the Worse, psychologist and science writer Theodor Schaarschmidt asks if the corrupting influences of power are real and attributable to the mere fact of having power? Or is it that ruthless people are the ones most likely to search for power to begin with? The article discusses psychologist Susan Fiske’s research—as people gain influence, they change. They act with less empathy and with a reduced concern for details.

In general, those in powerful positions tend to overestimate their skills, take greater risks, think in terms of stereotypes, and ignore outside viewpoints. The more power they get, the fewer social norms they tend to follow. They can become “Machiavellian” and disregard moral or even legal limits and feel free to use others in the pursuit of their own status and advantage. Schaarschmidt cites research by psychologist Kibeom Lee showing that when Machiavellian traits combine with narcissism and psychopathy, people act with less honesty and humility.

At first glance, it might seem from this research that empathy is somehow in opposition to the sense of agency and motivation to assume power. However, in his book The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence, psychologist Dacher Keltner says it is social intelligence, or the power to understand, value and advance the goals of others, that yields true power; and it is involved in every relationship and interaction. Without this social intelligence we tend to act like patients who have damaged their brain’s orbitofrontal lobes (the parts of the brain critical to empathy and socially appropriate behavior)….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

**This article is an update and re-write of an earlier piece I wrote, https://irarabois.com/power-liberates-vs-power-corrupts/

https://archetypeinaction.com/index.php/en/more-tools-to-change-society/162-politics-a-rhetoric2/political-psychology/4770-the-power-that-liberates-vs-the-power-that-corrupts

Imagining the Space to be Ourselves

There have been too many days lately when the world seems to be changing too fast. So much of the human world screams at us to be on guard that we can feel crowded out of our own lives. We can feel there’s no room for us to be ourselves. To enjoy. To breathe. So, how do we give ourselves the space we need to breathe and be ourselves?

 

Sometimes, I find myself rushing out of an unformed now to an already completed idea of later. I wake with the ring of an alarm and I’m on my way someplace before I even remove the quilt covering my body. The day already belongs to the past. Or instead of being in bed in the morning in my sleep clothes, I am already dressed in a costume to play a role someone else wrote. To leave my bed is to step onto a stage. Or I feel myself driven by an expectation or self-judgement that is so old I don’t even remember where or how it began.

 

This is how anxiety can arise with me in the morning and continue through the day. It is how we can both fear the future and want the present already over with. When we concentrate solely on how others will see us, we are never seen. If the day is already determined, we have little say in it.

 

Recently, before getting out of bed in the morning, I‘ve been reminding myself⎼ This is my life. I even put up reminders, a photo, artwork, saying, or just the word⎼ ‘remember.’ As much as I can, I stop for a moment to imagine what I do that helps me stay open. That adds to my feeling of strength and agency. That allows me, right now, to learn from and deepen my awareness. To enjoy living. To meet others as more like friends or at least unknown beings rich in possibility. It is my life. So, why not sit for a moment remembering that?

 

And throughout the day, if I’m driving myself and rushing too quickly, I stop and breathe. I question the voices in my head and notice the movement in my body. Judgmental words are visualized as birds flying off toward the sun. I notice them, learn from them, and let them go.

 

This first practice re-affirms what I was already doing⎼ remembering how to take it easy on myself and not let fear or anxiety take control. The second is inspired by a book I am reading about learning different forms of attention. The way we focus, or the quality of our attention, can either increase or decrease the pain we feel. This is equally true with emotional and physical pain.

 

We could do this anywhere, except not right after a meal. For now, imagine we take a seat in a quiet spot. When ready, and with eyes open, we ask ourselves: “Can you let your mind and body naturally and effortlessly respond to the following questions?” 15 seconds later, we continue: “Can you imagine paying attention to the feeling of space that the whole room occupies?”

 

This is the beginning of a practice from a fascinating book called Dissolving Pain: Simple Brain Training Exercises for Overcoming Chronic Pain, by Les Fehmi and Jim Robbins. It comes with a CD of guided exercises. Doing the exercises, in my opinion, is no replacement for the depth of meditation. But they are a wonderful complement to it. They teach open-focus attention and how to discern and use whichever form of awareness is appropriate to a situation….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

Somedays, Everything Feels Synchronous: The Quiet Underbelly of Everything is Everything

I was walking down our rural road yesterday afternoon, just approaching a pine forest, and I heard the trees shake, then a gentle boom in the air, and looked up to see the white-tan underside of a huge bird, a snowy owl maybe, fly about 40 feet over my head.

 

And today, while walking I remembered and looked around for that bird. And I thought of asking my neighbor, who knows a great deal more than I do about the local animal population, what kind of bird it might be. Just a minute later, off to the side of the road, was the neighbor. He lived nearby and was removing old tires and other garbage people had thrown there. I greeted him, told him about the bird and asked if he thought it had been an owl.

 

He wasn’t sure. Owls, he said, are usually silent. Eagles change colors for the first four years of their lives, and there are increasing numbers in the area, so maybe it was a young eagle. And after I thanked him and left, I felt grateful for my neighbor, and realized how wonderful and weird it was that I had thought of him, and suddenly there he stood.

 

When I returned home, I started thinking about coincidences.

 

Zen teacher Thich Nhat Hanh used the term inter-being to explain the Buddhist teaching on interdependence. We all inter-are, in the sense that without the air, what could I breathe? Without the solidity of the earth, what could I walk on? Without the fertile soil, what food could grow? Without other people, would I know who I was? Thich Nhat Hanh said if we look at a sheet of paper, we can see a cloud in it, sunshine, rain, the tree that supplied the pulp for the paper, the loggers who cut the tree, the bread they ate that day, the wheat that went into the bread, the logger’s partner, their children, and finally ourselves.

 

But I don’t always feel this. I don’t always feel the soul of the world or that the world is alive or I’m part of it or it is me. I don’t always feel a connection. I don’t usually look at a stream flowing alongside the road and feel its waters as the blood of my veins.

 

And then, from the bookshelf next to where I was sitting, I picked up Devotions, a collection of poems by Mary Oliver. I randomly opened the book to a poem titled, “Some Questions You Might Ask.” The poem starts with the line, “Is the soul solid, like iron?” And later, “Who has it, and who doesn’t?” Does an anteater have a soul, she asked, a camel, or maple tree? A blue iris? A rose, lemon, or the grass?

 

Or the world itself? And I thought of my cats—and I felt such closeness to them. But do they have a soul, whatever that is? Do they feel they’re connected to the quiet underbelly of everything? And is that quiet underbelly soul?…

 

To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project. Enjoy.

Are We the Masked Species? What Can Wearing a Mask Teach Us About Ourselves?

What can wearing a COVID-mask teach us about ourselves and how we look at others? After almost two years of living in a pandemic, we could benefit by thinking not only about how wearing a mask can protect others from us, or us from a deadly disease, but about what mask wearing can teach us about ourselves, and relating to others.

 

We use the word person to refer to what we are and say we have a personality. The root word here is Latin, persona, meaning a social role, image, or a theatrical mask or appearance we wear in public. Psychologist Carl Jung used the term to mean the social face we present to others, a mask or image we create, or way to hide elements of ourselves. So, in a way we were the masked species even before the pandemic.

 

From antiquity, masks have been an important element of possibly all cultures. Most staged dramas began with performers wearing masks. In Ancient Greece, for example, the legendary poet, Thespis, was supposedly the first to put an actor on a stage and turn choral recitation into drama. He created larger than life masks that also acted like a megaphone. The first written stories were myths with existential and religious themes, about creation, life and death, heroes, and heroines. The first dramas were enacted myths, so drama emerged from religious ceremonies. But what happens when we wear an actual medical mask in public while doing everyday tasks?

 

Of course, politics also enters the picture, as the right-wing in the US and elsewhere have turned a medical necessity into a political statement, thus undermining the effectiveness of masks as simply a practical way to prevent the spread of a deadly disease. This influences how we respond to masks and perceive those who wear them, as well as undermines the value of rational, factual based decision-making. It purposefully turns the social sphere, the public commons into a stage for enacting a political and possibly even a religious drama.

 

Other people are no longer perceived as persons very much like us, but as characters in a drama. And when political leaders of one party threaten and call for violence against another party or against anyone who disagrees with them, that drama can too easily become deadly.

 

According to a research article by Frontiers in Psychology, COVID masks cover about 60-70% of the area of the face responsible for emotional expression. This makes identification of others or any social interaction more difficult. It limits the ability of other people to read our emotions and hear what we say, as the sound of our words is usually augmented by the sight of our lips moving and changes in facing expression. Consciously reading subtle emotional cues as well as the trustworthiness or honesty of others can be difficult enough for many of us without a mask. A mask obviously diminishes this ability.

 

How much does a mask become a blank slate for us to project our own personal dramas? We all know how deeply important how our face looks is to most of us. Especially today, with so many suffering from anxiety and trauma, we can feel extremely sensitive, self-judgmental about how we look, afraid of the tiniest “imperfections.” …

 

**To read the whole article, please click on this link to The Good Men Project.

How Do We Face What We Believe is Unfaceable?

How do we face a fact or situation we believe we cannot face? Or respond skillfully to a personal or collective crisis?

 

In the Winter 2021 issue of Tricycle Magazine: The Buddhist Review, there is an article by environmentalist Paul Hawken adapted from his new book Regeneration: Ending the Climate Crisis in One Generation. Hawken says we live on a planet dying due to severed connections between human beings and the natural world that sustains and contains us. The decline of the earth is its’ adaptation to what we are doing to it.

 

72% of Americans know that the consensus of scientists is that climate change is human caused. A U. N. panel recently labeled the situation a climate emergency. But Hawken says that if we stop making the mistakes we’re making, if we end the disconnection, if we cease the production of fossil fuels, redirect the economy to stop overconsumption, deforestation, wars, etc. the earth will come back to life. This is difficult but possible. But many don’t, won’t or can’t allow this to even be a possibility in their mind.

 

Many have come to think we have already gone too far, or it would take generations to stop catastrophic global warming. But Hawken says, if we can reduce carbon gain and achieve zero net carbon emissions by 2050, we can regenerate the planet in one or two decades.

 

It is easier to not-think about it. To not consider the possibility that the planet, or human life on it, can be saved. For some of us, to bring the earth’s future back to life inside our heart and mind brings the hurt back to life. Pain. It can feel easier to fashion scabs of anger or ig-norance than face pain.

 

I think of two friends and neighbors who say they have given up. They usually vote. Maybe this is a sign that vestiges of hope or commitment remain⎼ or of love. But they won’t do anything more. Won’t help get out the vote or call politicians or take to the streets. They say it will do no good. Maybe the grief they feel over the dying earth has immobilized them.

 

And I understand this response. I too feel the grief for what and whom we’ve lost, for the losses from the pandemic, for an easier time when I did not feel the earth itself was on the way to the emergency room, or that white nationalists might once again inhabit the White House like they did just a year ago. I, too, yearn for comfort.

 

In a recent blog, I described how it’s less the situation we face, or the sensations we feel, that determine our emotional state, but our response to the situation and feelings. We often think of fear as what readies us to act to protect ourselves. But as psychologist William James pointed out over a hundred years ago, we don’t have an emotion and then act. We don’t see a bear in the woods, or maybe a domestic terrorist on the street, and then feel fear, and run.

 

Instead, our response is constructed in stages. We feel fear as our body begins to sweat, our heartbeat speeds up, our legs twitch. Fear is an interpretation added to sensations. The sensations themselves are the same as a stress response or emotions like excitement. The interpretation includes thoughts such as labeling a threat as unmanageable as well as an inclination to act, for example, by hiding….

 

**To read the whole article, please click on the link for the Good Men Project, who first published the piece.

Why Is It So Hard to Develop Intimate Relationships? A Mystery Meeting A Mystery

In a recent blog, I wrote about feeling intimacy with the world around us and was asked about human, loving relationships. And why is intimacy often so difficult? I was at first reluctant to answer. It is such a personal subject, and no one has it all together. There are psychological and ethical guidelines but no mapquest.

 

Yes, we often use the word ‘intimate’ as a synonym for sex, as if “I was intimate with so and so” meant, “I had sex with so and so.” As if the sex was the most important part of the relation. But that often obscures the reality.

 

And I say this not just because I am an older man who thinks of sex very differently than I used to. I didn’t always realize that the desire for sex can mask a desire for something more than pleasure, for a way to get close or stay close, to pull down the separation we often feel and just be there with another person. To let go. To see into another life. Because being totally with another being so we see how they see and feel even a little bit what they feel is better than good sex. Or maybe it is the heart of good sex. Or maybe it’s the heart, period. A type of, or aspect of, love. It is what makes long term relationships not only work but be exciting.

 

In this sense, sex can even be a roadblock. It can be so intensely focused on our physical pleasure that we lose sight of this deeper desire we have, the deeper fulfillment we can experience.

 

If intimacy is “what we truly desire,” is it so difficult to create because it is unusual? Do we have a fear of getting what we truly desire? Or a fear of what being intimate might lead to? Or of how intimacy might change our sense of ourselves? Or has our trust been shattered by some violation in the past so we can’t risk such a moment ever happening again?

 

To pull down the walls and end the sense of separation we often feel means allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and to notice and feel even the smallest emotional movements in another person. Clearly, vulnerability can be scary. We can be hurt. To truly know another, to feel our way into another person’s sense of life is best accomplished when we allow ourselves to also be known.

 

It is to let go of our images of who we are. This is the most complicated part. We often need a meditative practice or a guide to help with this. We often think of a self as having permanent characteristics that distinguish us from others; and think of what distinguishes us as what separates us. We are here, they are there. Never the two shall meet. So, if the two never shall meet, intimacy is impossible. Trust is difficult. So is real joy. Life becomes a continual pretense or acting a part. We act the part of whatever we imagine the self is or someone else wants or needs. And we feel fake or ungrounded….

 

*To read the whole article, please go to The Good Men Project.

 

We All Need A Break Sometimes: A Place of Ease and Beauty

Unbelievably, it’s almost mid-August, and I can feel the end of warm weather approaching, the nearness of fall and winter. Considering how tough the last two, or five winters have been, we might have an added dread of the season. So, the end of summer can be a good opportunity to reflect on what we want or need from this time of year, and this time in our lives. And to try to make it reality before it’s gone.

 

Last night, I woke up at 5:15 and got out of bed. The moment was delicate, and not only because I was barely awake. Outside, light fell on the grass and trees like mist, like a mist of color, lighter than moonlight but not as deep as midday sun.

 

It was delicate, fragile because it felt so new, like a newborn. And I seemed to have the moment all to myself. I could hear no other person in the house or on the street. No cars on the road. If we don’t have to get up early for work, or don’t do it naturally, we don’t see the earth like this, just emerging from darkness, as if it were trying to figure out “how do I do this?”

 

There were birds awake outside singing loudly. One could not contain itself. I don’t know if it was berating the sun for having previously left the world to the dark, or if it just couldn’t find its mate. Or maybe it was telling the universe the story of morning; and every song it sang, every note or exclamation sprang single-mindedly from its mouth.

 

We often fear the fragile, fear it could too easily become hurt, especially after this last year and a half, or four years and a half. We all carry hurt. It is the nature of being human, or the nature of being alive. We have the scars and memory of pain, and some have way too much. Being delicate is vulnerable. But it can also be the strongest part of us. It can teach us not only what to avoid or fight, but how. It can shield us or release us.

 

When the world feels delicate, we notice the tiniest of changes in our surroundings and ourselves. If we don’t retreat into thoughts or get lost in memories, our awareness is heightened. We feel the tiniest tug on our heart. We notice changes in the posture of people we speak with, the quick inhalation, the deceptive movement in the eyes or incipient smile of joy in the lips. And we have the opportunity, if we can allow ourselves to feel it, to move with it. Move in-between the cries of pain, the calls to pleasure, the enticements, or dangers of memory and let all of these teach us the steps in a healing dance….

 

*To read the whole piece, please go to The Good Men Project.