Modern Utopias and Reality

I get a couple of newsletters that are thought-provoking, including one from Jules Evans, who talked about how the liberal form of government is about to be ended.

https://julesevans.medium.com/the-end-of-liberalism-and-the-rise-of-network-states-748ac3c23ca

He cites a book by Patrick Deenen, political philosopher at the University of Notre Dame, “Why Liberalism Failed,” who says that of the three dominant ideologies of the twentieth century – fascism, communism, and liberalism – only the last remains. He shows that this has led to a curious situation in which the proponents of liberalism tend to forget that it must be an ideology rather than a natural end state of human political evolution. In his book, he shows that liberalism is built on a foundation of contradictions: It extols equal rights while promoting unparalleled material inequality; its legitimacy rests on consent but discourages civic engagement in favour of privatism; and in its pursuit of individual autonomy, it has produced the most far-reaching and comprehensive state system in human history. Deneen quotes Founding Father John Adams: “There never was a democracy that didn’t commit suicide.” This makes me also think of Brexit.

A question that arose in my mind was whether the dominant ideologies of the twentieth century are in fact gone, or whether variations have just appeared, somehow attempting to circumvent the obvious comparisons and avoid the noticeable mistakes of the past, or in some cases, dressing up as something else. Russia seems to be promoting a clear fascist message as a result of the threat they see coming from the West, and China’s communism is hardly recognisable as such, but all the authoritarian structures are still in place. The drama concerning Trump and the Insurrection is still ongoing with uncertain outcomes, and the president that ousted Trump is the least popular of all presidents, according to recent polls. Britain has pushed some very authoritarian laws through parliament recently, and opposition to human and workers rights, and even threats to boycott the European Court of Human Rights, especially chilling after the Russian parliament voted to break with Court in June, reveal a sentiment that many in Europe say is telling for the situation in Britain.

Deneen, who seems to regard America as the leader in Liberalism, “argues that American liberalism has failed in that fewer and fewer people believe in it or trust its institutions, while depression and suicides are on the rise. In his view, liberalism has failed because it has succeeded. It liberated the individual and gave him the opportunity to satisfy every material and sexual desire, every urge for freedom. But Americans have discovered that this does not really satisfy their souls. Liberalism has undermined what every religion teaches: human desire is insatiable and must be restrained. Only by limiting desire and cultivating virtue can one find true satisfaction. What America offers instead is “institutionalized discontent” – that is, capitalism.” It is also my perception that American society provides us with many contradictions, especially publicly portrayed in movies, but still the machine keeps running because no one can imagine otherwise.

It is interesting that Deenen’s book looks at the example of religious communities as prototypes for what might come next.  “He offers the Amish as an alternative by name and explains that they have a custom called Rumspringa (literally “jumping around”), in which teenage Amish can frolic in secular society for two years before deciding whether to return to Amish society and embrace its values. Supposedly, 80% of the Amish choose to return because the Amish religious community is more satisfying than the soulless mall of American liberalism, where covetousness goes unchecked.” Jules Evans is sceptical about the solutions being offered, but notes that it is not so much the overthrow of democracy that is being called for as “just” the overthrow of rampant individualism. Good luck with that! However, as Jules Evans says, it is reminiscent of the monasteries that were built with high walls against the society that was seen as “godless,” and in which people were not safe. Within those institutions much progress was made which was offered to people outside the walls, especially in medicine, agriculture, as well as reading and writing. The unfortunate fact is that they couldn’t prevent the wars and suffering going on around them, only clean up afterwards.

Jules Evans has pointed out in several newsletters that there is much analysis that says Western society is doing away with itself, but few proposed solutions that are not radical in nature. In a demographically aging society, it looks like major changes are unlikely to occur – unless they are forced upon us. My fear is that the war in Ukraine and the climate crisis, to name just two current problems, are not enough exhortations for us to work for and maintain a sustainable society, without which the breakdown of society will be difficult to stop. The dystopias that are so popular in cinema seem like prophecy – like speeding at top speed toward the end of a traffic jam. The problem is, we watch and don’t know what to do.

Balaji Srinivasan’s The Network State: How To Start a New Country is another book he read.

Amazon says about the book:

“Balaji has the highest rate of output per minute of good new ideas of anybody I’ve ever met, and The Network State may be his best.” — Marc Andreessen, cofounder of Andreessen Horowitz

“We’ve started new currencies. Now The Network State shows us how to start new cities and new countries.” — Vitalik Buterin, cofounder of Ethereum

“Balaji is a visionary, and one of the most original thinkers of our time. Many have had the experience of hearing him say something, thinking it was crazy, and then a year or two later realizing ‘Balaji was right.’ I think Balaji will be right about The Network State.” — Brian Armstrong, cofounder and CEO of Coinbase

“The future convergence of networks and governments, from one of the most brilliant thinkers alive.” — Naval Ravikant, cofounder of AngelList

When the brand new is unthinkable, we fight over the old. That’s where we are today with governments, with politics, and with much of the physical world. But perhaps we can change that.

This book introduces the concept of the network state: a country you can start from your computer, a state that recruits like a startup, a nation built from the internet rather than disrupted by it.

The fundamental concept behind the network state is to assemble a digital community and organize it to crowdfund physical territory. But that territory is not in one place — it’s spread around the world, fully decentralized, hooked together by the internet for a common cause, much like Google’s offices or Bitcoin’s miners. And because every citizen has opted in, it’s a model for 100% democracy rather than the minimum threshold of consent modeled by 51% democracies.

Of course, there are countless questions that need to be answered to build something of this scope. How does a network state work socially, technically, logistically, legally, physically, financially? How could such a thing even be viable?

I agreed with Jules Evans criticism of the book, especially the fact that many of the problems of our modern society have been enabled by the very people that Balaji foresees as saviours. This seems to me to be the big problem. Those with resources to implement any of the changes suggested are those that have taken the cream off society in the first place, and perhaps to be generous “inadvertently” pushed society to breaking point. The fact that a form of eugenics is also part of the proposed solution, reminiscent of visions of the past, shows that the present populations are abandoned in such plans and those who had previously creamed society are leaving it to fend for itself. This seems to be the issue with any outlandish plans to “save humanity,” whether by terraforming Mars, or looking for inhabitable planets, and avoids a question that has been in my mind for some time: What if we are intrinsically connected with our planet? All the Star Trek generations have ever managed is to project our situation into outer space, but fundamentally avoided the fact that life outside of our bubble may be even beyond our imagination, and hostile to our organism. We overlook the complexity of our biological life and assume somehow that we can adapt positively to new circumstances. Unfortunately, our body tends to adapt negatively to changes in our environment.

When one hears or reads about the plans of these individuals, of course, as Jules Evans says, you have to try to understand them, but one should reserve excitement for reality. That may entail doing less, rather than more, and accepting that it is our overexploitation of our environment that is the problem, and a reduction is the only way in a liveable future. Like I said, I feel that I am witnessing something like cars speeding into the end of a traffic jam, rather than slowing down in time. We hear people projecting their immature thoughts into an uncertain future rather than attempting to understand what we have and how to preserve it. Thereby, we could perhaps valuate whether mankind has already found solutions that we need to rediscover.

What “Boris delivered.”

It was quite an experience for an “Ex-Pat” in Germany, when Britain voted to leave the EU. Many of us here, perhaps a large majority, never believed it would happen. Judging by the turnout to vote, many “Remainers” didn’t either. Of course, because we have lived here longer than 15 years, we didn’t have the vote, and that was a shame, because we live in Europe and experience what advantages the European Union brings, and yes, also the problems that arise when 27 sovereign nations join a political union to advance economic growth in those countries.

I think the reason I was surprised was because I saw how much the EU reinvested in the UK, which was a bigger alignment than the Tories ever did. You only have to look at the arguments for Remain that the Conservatives made before the referendum to see that Britain would lose more than it would gain, despite promises on buses. The Express quotes Ms. Truss tweeting in February 2016, “I support Remain as I believe it is in the UK’s economic interest and means we can focus on important economic and social reforms at home.” Just days before the Brexit vote, Ms. Truss tweeted, “Leave can’t name a single country we’d get a better trade deal with if we left the EU.”[i]

That was the impression many of us had, and Chris Grey wrote a book entitled, “Brexit Unfolded: How no one got what they wanted (and why they were never going to)” in which he laid out the illusions that were being spread about in the attempt to convince the public that it was in their interest to vote against staying in the EU. In fact, Brexit was about big finance and the threat of the EU to weed out the tax-dodgers, who were making billions tax-free. Britain had become a hive of financial services, which are the economic services provided by the finance industry, which encompasses a broad range of businesses that manage money, including credit unions, banks, credit-card companies, insurance companies, accountancy companies, consumer-finance companies, stock brokerages, investment funds, individual asset managers, and some government-sponsored enterprises.[ii]

These were the people who feared the consequences of the EU’s attempt to tax the wealthy. It is apparent from the outcome of Brexit, and the statements consequently made by politicians, that benefits would be long awaited – according to Jacob Rees-Mogg in 2018, it could take 50 years to reap the benefits of Brexit ‘We won’t know the full economic consequences for a very long time,’ he is quoted as saying in the Huffington Post.[iii] It wasn’t about benefits, but avoiding the dangers of taxation on financial services.

Jacob Rees-Mogg’s List Of Brexit Benefits Includes A Discount On Fish Fingers. The journalist interviewing the minister replied: “Is that the best you can do?”[iv] But he also says that “The government won’t assess whether Brexit is a success,” and dismissed a report saying quitting the EU has harmed Britain’s economy as “the regurgitation of Project Fear”.[v] This is literally a George Orwell style “Ministry of Truth” type of answer. All we need now takes is a Ministry of Truth, which concerns itself with news, entertainment, education, and the fine arts. A Ministry of Peace, which concerns itself with war. A Ministry of Love, which maintains law and order. And a Ministry of Plenty, which would be responsible for economic affairs.

The Guardian, in particular Jonathan Freedland, wrote 7.7.2022 “Dishonesty has been the one constant in [Boris] Johnson’s career – in the end the deceit proved too much to bear.”[vi] The fact that this was too much even for his allies, who by then had lined up to excuse him and lie for him, obscures the fact that the Tories are still making statements that dodge the truth, which may only come out when they are no longer able to cover it up. It is disturbing to see how people are still convinced that Johnson is a victim and not that he brought himself down, as he has always done throughout his career. He has a knack for impromptu off-the-cuff speeches that usually mask his lack of direction on the issues, can be humorous and witty, but is that what we are looking for in a leader? The 21 seasoned and respected Tory politicians who were ousted in September 2019, when they opposed him are desperately needed if the conservative party is ever to regain the respect it had.


[i] https://twitter.com/cards_london/status/1472633822495846404

[ii] Asmundson, Irena (28 March 2012). “Financial Services: Getting the Goods”. Finance and Development. IMF. Retrieved 8 September 2015.

[iii] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jacob-rees-mogg-economy-brexit_uk_5b54e3b5e4b0de86f48e3566

[iv] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/jacob-rees-mogg-on-brexit-benefits-fish-fingers_uk_62b59b68e4b06169caa567e6

[v] https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/rees-mogg-government-brexit-assessment_uk_62b338a5e4b04a61736499c5

[vi] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2022/jul/07/toxic-spell-broken-boris-johnson-trips-over-own-lies

Journalism and Dignity

Recently I started following a German journalist, Theresa Bäuerlein, on Twitter (@Bojerlanski), who writes about “Meaning and Consumerism” for “Krautreporter.” I also subscribed to her Newsletter. She linked an article from Amanda Ripley in the Washington Post, which expressed the feeling I had had for months: “I’ve been actively avoiding the news for years.” The thing is, Amanda Ripley is a journalist, something which she compares with being a wheat farmer with a gluten allergy. Theresa wrote in her tweets a short appraisal of what Amanda wrote in her article, which is linked below:

“First, people need hope. “Researchers have found that hope is associated with less depression, chronic pain, insomnia and cancer, among other things. Hopelessness, on the other hand, with anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder.”

Journalists often believe that the best way to avert disaster is to make people aware of the potential for disaster, 24/7. That doesn’t work anymore.

Second, people need to feel that they can do something. “…Even if it’s just something small. That’s how we transform anger into action and frustration into invention. This self-efficacy is essential for a functioning democracy.”

Third, people need dignity. That requires really listening to them, not just reporting on them. Like my colleague @BentFreiwald when he writes about children and young people, or @martingommel about people with mental illness. “There’s a way to deliver news – even very bad news – in a way that makes us better off as a result. A way to trigger anger and action. Empathy alongside dignity. Hope alongside fear,” Ripley writes.” https://twitter.com/Bojerlanski/status/1546857726604615681

I couldn’t find anything that spoke to me more after suffering a breakdown with depression a few years ago, and it made me realize that Western society is making itself sick, and that journalists are supporting this trend while assuming they are doing something important to help. We seem to be on an assembly line that is pulling us down a chute with no control over speed or direction. It’s also the repetitiveness of news coverage, especially on television, but also through endless retweets or shares on social media. Statements go “viral” without verification that they are true. People are pilloried and slandered many times over before anyone points out that it is a misquote. The apology is often overlooked because it is not posted with the same vigour.

We need people to start being journalists, as Amanda Ripley and Theresa Bäuerlein intend to do, but the question is whether the public will honour that commitment, because not only do we need such journalists, but we also need people who are willing to look for and pay for them and their articles. We seem to be a public that, having been fed sensationalism, finds everything boring as soon as it points to reality. Of course, it’s not just journalism that leads us down this path; the entertainment industry also tries to captivate us with increasingly shrill and shocking entertainment, ranging from superheroes to merciless military men wading through piles of corpses and showing a sickening scene of mourning for single heroes who fall along the way. When our entertainment doesn’t reach us emotionally in this way, we tune out, but it’s artificial and simulated, leaving out the real emotions that such tragedies would evoke. But that’s the superficiality and comic mentality trying to captivate their audience week after week. Meaningful stories take longer.

Theresa’s subjects, meaning and consumerism, hit home because journalism and entertainment have largely become consumerism devoid of meaning if we take the best-selling newspapers and the so-called “blockbusters” of entertainment as our benchmark. When the only goal of a headline is to sell a newspaper or get clicks on the Internet, our choices are all about emotionality and no longer about the truth or meaning of an issue. In the wake of this development, we have young people who seem to be just waiting to be emotionalized, often in the form of taking offense at some statement, with artificial outrage in an effort to impress their peers, which they inherited from the previous generation, and which was hyped only to make them “cool.” Social media supports this unnatural outrage, which takes on hysterical proportions and is enabled by people with cell phones who are so fascinated by what they read that they block out the reality around them.

Amanda Ripley writes, “the news crept into every crevice of life. I couldn’t avoid exposure — in my email inbox, on social media, in text messages from friends. I tried to toughen up. I gave myself stern lectures: “This is real life, and real life is depressing! There is a pandemic happening, for God’s sake. Plus: Racism! Also: Climate change! And inflation! Things are depressing. You should be depressed!”

Other people have different subjects that affect them in the same way, causing distress in all areas of life, virtually taking them over as though possessed by some demon that whispers in their ear. However, many feel this transform into paralysis instead of the ability to engage with the issues, and they become dysfunctional, and despair takes over. Amanda heard from so many people that they were going through similar issues and discovered that news-avoidance was increasing vastly.

This felt so much like the breakdown I had, although on the outside for different reasons, it had to do with lack of hope and perspective. If you end up in a situation in which you are (or feel) responsible for a multitude of things you can’t influence, although you are permanently pushed to find solutions (“be innovative” is what my boss said), in which you worry about the consequences of inaction whilst at the same time finding nothing meaningful to do about a situation, the body at some point takes over and switches off in some way. This is what many people go through just by being glued to whatever screens are available.

Amanda Ripley says we need hope, agency, and dignity in our lives. Hope as a reason to get up in the morning, something to believe in and motivate us. Agency as a sense of being able to do something, however small, so that “anger converts into action” (Ripley), and that society is looking for that something that we can do. Dignity is something that takes us out of our feeling of being powerless and irrelevant, and finding validation in what I am. These are not new, I learnt about these needs in my basic training as a nurse, which apply just as much to people with dementia as to you and I. The care we offered to people lacking their cognitive abilities involved validation, gentle guidance and humour, enabling them to have a sense of managing their lives, although they obviously couldn’t. If we can enhance such people in their crisis, surely people with cognitive abilities would also be receptive to something similar.

For me, this whole issue has to do with the lack of context in people’s lives. We have managed to cut lives up into cubicles of attention, in which people go from one cubicle to another without seeing the whole picture. Their focus is too often like a spotlight, rather than a floodlight. This is increased by screentime, glaring at cell-phone screens, instead of engaging with the world around us. It has to do with what Iain McGilchrist calls “left-hemispheric” vision, in which particulars are dominant and not the overall picture. The therapy in many cases involves slowing down, taking our eyes off what has made us sick, and a re-evaluation of what life is, of what nature has to offer, and how we operate in our environment. It is re-assessing the broadness of life and rejecting a narrow-minded view.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/07/08/how-to-fix-news-media/

Boris Johnson – the clowning is over?

It has been an interesting time in politics, albeit disastrous for Britain, and quite disastrous for the conservative party, considering the fact that the majority they had achieved has been whittled down in Polls due to events around the leadership of Boris Johnson. The problems are manifold, and centre on a Prime Minister who brought his most loyal MP’s together to form a government after expelling 21 time-honoured and experienced conservative MPs from the party for disagreeing with him, including Winston Churchill’s grandson. The senior MPs, almost all of whom are former Conservative government ministers, included former chancellors and secretaries of state, had admittedly joined with opposition parties to vote for a plan that could delay the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union and prevent a no-deal Brexit. Nonetheless, it signalled a jolting change of leadership.

But that was in 2019, and now in 2022, something like 47 MPs have expressed their lack of confidence in Boris Johnson by resigning the positions they had, some of them in government, so that on the day after this historical 24 hours, government was no longer able to function. Having already had a vote of confidence shortly before, there are MPs now jostling about trying to make a vote of no confidence possible at short notice. Of course, the whole issue is not doing the reputation of British democracy much good and reminds one of the aspirations of the 45th American President to stay in power after a majority of the American electorate made an extra effort to have him removed from office. As we know, that also didn’t happen without incidents that raised concerns about the state of the American democracy.

Boris Johnson, in his last PMQs before the move by his party to encourage him to leave, tried to brave the surge that was already in the air, having lost his chancellor and minister for health. His smiling face and banter with the opposition was obviously not taken well. Probably the statement, that he “probably” met with a former KGB Agent Alexander Lebedev without officials as Foreign Secretary, that he gave to the select committee was the final straw for many more MPs, who then followed suit and called for his resignation by resigning themselves. It is worth mentioning that their salary for the positions held is paid in arrears. As at the moment, he is reportedly resigning as Party leader, but remaining Prime Minister until a replacement is found, which could take until well into autumn.

The Wikipedia entry on Johnson states:

Johnson is a controversial figure in British politics.[i]/[ii] Supporters have praised him as humorous, witty and entertaining,[iii] with an appeal stretching beyond traditional Conservative voters.[iv]/[v] Conversely his critics have accused him of lying, elitism, cronyism, bigotry, and amorality.[vi]/[vii]/[viii] Johnson’s political positions generally follow one-nation conservatism, and commentators have described his political style as opportunistic, populist, and pragmatic.[ix]/[x]/[xi]/[xii] [Endnotes included]

Boris Johnson, despite his obvious success, has always been a bluffer, if you take the quotes from the Wikipedia entry at face value, and it seems that he has always had a privileged position from which to be so. It has been interesting to follow his incredulous rise from Germany and to observe the reactions of Europeans to his appearances. The connection to Trump was quickly made by European observers, and the clowning, which was often portrayed as some sort of affinity for ordinary people, was seen only as blunt populism, and presumably traditional conservatives also thought it was a “bad show.” The fact that my family addressed him as “Boris” showed that his showmanship had paid off to some extent, and the demonization of Jeremy Corbyn helped him on his way to power.

It was also clear that on international conferences, Johnson stuck out like a sore thumb and didn’t have the recognition he had at home. It reminded some of the presence of Trump at his first international conference, though without the blundering attempt to get to the front of the queue, that showed Trump to be what he is. It seemed to me to show that the attempt of the far right to subdue Europe, and show it its considered place in history, was recognised by European politicians and not appreciated. The calling cards of Trump and Johnson embodied the exceptionalism their countries had always displayed, and Brexit was a glaring example.

The curious thing about Johnson, however, is his position towards the Ukraine, especially considering the connections and the payments that have been revealed made by Russian sources to the conservative party and his connections with the Lebedev family. The delivery of military equipment and weapons for €120 million in January 2022, which were transported on RAF C-17 planes that flew to Ukraine, as well as the sanctions on Russian assets, raised several eyebrows, and his position has been, other than Trump, critical of Russia. Additionally, Wolodymyr Selenskyj wants to belong to the EU, which Johnson has always treated with contempt. This apparent ambiguity suggests that somewhere there may be a skeleton in a closet somewhere.

What happens to privileged people who are shown the door? Well, they often don’t go away, so it will be interesting to see if he manages to make a new appearance at some time.


[i] Davies, Guy (23 July 2019). “Meet Boris Johnson: The UK’s controversial new prime minister” (https://abcnews.go.com/International/meet-boris-johnson-controversial-figure-uksprime-minister/story?id=63861394). ABC News. Retrieved 8 May 2021.

[ii] Blitz, James (23 July 2019). “Why is Boris Johnson such a divisive figure?” (https://www.ft.com/content/bd03b736-ac7d-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2). Financial Times. Archived (https://archive.today/20190724054418/https://www.ft.com/content/bd03b736-ac7d-11e9-8030-530adfa879c2) from the original on 24 July 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2021.

[iii] Gimson 2012, p. 20

[iv] Kirkup, James (7 January 2015). “Boris Johnson goes looking for Conservative friends in the north” (https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11329569/Boris-Johnson-goes-looking-for-Conservative-friends-in-the-north.html). The Telegraph. London. Archived (https://ghostarchive.org/archive/20220110/https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/11329569/Boris-Johnson-goes-looking-for-Conservative-friends-in-the-north.html) fromthe original on 10 January 2022. Retrieved 5 May 2021

[v] Purnell 2011, p. 327

[vi] Edwards & Isaby 2008, p. 110

[vii] Conn, David; Pegg, David; Evans, Rob; Garside, Juliette; Lawrence, Felicity (15 November 2020). ” ‘Chumocracy’: how Covid revealed the new shape of the Tory establishment” (https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/15/chumocracy-covid-revealed-shape-tory-establishment). The Observer. Retrieved 15 November 2020.

[viii] Purnell 2011, p. 365.

[ix] Purnell 2011, p. 121

[x] Staunton, Denis (23 June 2019). “Boris Johnson: The UK’s deeply polarising next prime minister” (https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/uk/boris-johnson-the-uk-s-deeply-polarising-next-prime-minister-1.3933181). The Irish Times. Retrieved 8 May 2021

[xi] Berend, T. Iván (2020). A century of populist demagogues: Eighteen European portraits, 1918–2018. Budapest: Central European University Press. p. 239. ISBN 978-963-386-334-3. JSTOR 10.7829/j.ctv16f6cn2.1 (https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7829/j.ctv16f6cn2.1).

[xii] Letters (13 December 2021). “Boris Johnson’s amorality has been proven beyond doubt | Letters” (https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/dec/13/boris-johnsons-amorality-has-been-proven-beyond-doubt). the Guardian. Retrieved 6 July 2022

Inclusion and Vigilance

Inclusion is first a positive term that I grew up believing meant including someone or something, but today it means including everyone or everything. As a sociological term, the concept of inclusion describes a society in which everyone is accepted and can participate on an equal and self-determined basis – regardless of gender, age or background, religious affiliation or education, any disabilities or other individual characteristics. The word became a buzzword when children with disabilities were included in classes of children without disabilities to create social awareness and acceptance of disabilities as something normal without stigma. All minorities or marginalized people have an interest in gaining the same acceptance, and soon it was all kinds of behaviours that claimed the right to be accepted as a social norm, and some of them were not accepted. However, the concept meant the inclusion of certain behaviours that had previously been outlawed, and homosexuality was accepted as a normal sexual preference, and though flamboyant behaviour became common for a time, it dried up after a while. It was clear that any form of sexual abuse with minors and animals was unacceptable, but so was anything that was not mutually consensual, posed a health risk, or in any way violated the rights of others. However, behaviour previously considered “outrageous” was accepted to a certain extent and under certain conditions.

However, social integration means participation, not just presence. One example I experienced was a woman with dementia who completely undressed during a church service, or a man with dementia who urinated in the corner. These are examples of people who no longer know what is going on and cannot behave appropriately. They are also examples of people who are more stigmatized by trying to include them in activities than if they had stayed in their own comfort zone. Participation also requires some identification with the activity, and people who cannot identify with it tend to hide in the corner or make themselves the centre of attention, which runs counter to inclusion. It is also difficult when minorities take over activities in which they are included but which are directed at the majority. A certain amount of modesty enhances social activities, while traditionally pride, arrogance and vanity are the opposite of this and tend to be a hindrance.

What is disturbing is that promoting liberality has always opened the doors for abuse by some small groups of people towards people who are already vulnerable. It seems as though the relaxation of control immediately releases the elements of society to exploit the situation and in that way undermines the belief in a liberal society and gives fuel into the fires of those who fear such a misuse of freedom. This means that any general relaxation of scrutiny paradoxically has to increase scrutiny in certain areas, which can only be resolved by a society that is alert to the dangers. I am increasingly worried that we are lacking this vigilance in current issues.

The loosening of self-identification, for example, has already led to situations in countries such as Canada (as well as others) that call into question the radical nature of the determination behind it. In some cases, traumatized women who had escaped an abusive relationship and fled to a women’s shelter were confronted with self-identifying women openly displaying their male genitalia or verbally assaulting vulnerable women with booming male voices. “Common sense” says that this situation is counterproductive at best and at worst provides abusive men a place to continue abusing women where they should be protected. You don’t have to be an abused woman to know this. Every man who is honest knows men who have been misogynistic or abusive in some way. Of course, it’s not something men openly flaunt, but the so-called “locker rooms” and bars provide enough examples. The respect men show for women is flawed and too often reduced to sexual preference. Often the sexual innuendo is mild and humorous and is seen only as banter between the sexes. But too often the intent of the abuse is clear.

I think that the problem is that the sexual aspect of interaction between people is underplayed and isn’t taken into account. I used to ask people, especially women who said or showed they wanted to appear “sexy” whether they were aware of what they were doing, or of what subliminal signals they were sending. Some said it was only about feeling good and confident. Asked what the measure for that was, they often said it was about being “attractive,” which is admittedly an expectancy that society places on women if they want to be in some way successful – but it is exactly the point. If we are not aware of what we are doing, or we have no idea of what signals we are sending, we end up being surprised or even shocked at the results. Additionally, the acceptance of pornography and its influence on young people, does a lot of damage – one prominent example is Billie Eilish – and the wrong ideas that young men get about sexuality are often the reason for abusive relationships.

We have become a very indulgent society, and recent studies suggest that indulgence leads to negative feelings such as regret, guilt, shame, or embarrassment in consumerism. These negative feelings, in turn, cause a reversal of preferences that now align with long-term goals, leading consumers to wish they had behaved more responsibly (Kivetz and Keinan 2006). But also, complacency, greed, and reluctance are the consequences of abundance. It seems that the increase in overindulgence is because we live in the age of abundance. The parents who raised their children 50 years ago did not have the resources available to parents today, and indulgence affects people’s awareness and ultimately their vigilance with regard to potential harm. We must hope that the widespread indulgence and inclusive atmosphere in society do not later lead to regret, guilt, shame, or embarrassment, when consequences of the lack of vigilance become apparent.