After a while of abstinence, I wanted to revisit the topic of fragility in my blog. For some people who see themselves as strong and resilient, or at least refuse to be lumped in with the victims of the world, this may seem strange. Being called fragile is sometimes seen as a denigration of our personality, but when we do some soul-searching, it usually becomes clear that we have a chink in our armour, and that’s where we usually spend so much time compensating for it.
Fragile means that something can easily break, or that something is fragile, and of course in this context we consider it a sign of weakness. But our life on this planet is fragile, dependent on a variety of conditions such as fresh air, clean water, durable food, but also stable weather and the absence of natural disasters that have made life so difficult in the past. The planet is an oasis in an unfriendly cosmos; a blue jewel, full of life so diverse that it feels like the lavish abundance is almost wasteful. When I look into my garden and the trees behind it and fall into my spiritual thinking, I wonder about the principle of life on this planet. The trees cast so many seeds, just as we find in all of life’s creation, and some bear fruit while others do not. It is much like the well-known parable of the Sower who indiscriminately sows seed that falls on hard ground, among weeds, some of the seed is eaten by the birds, but some falls on good soil that makes up for the loss. It is a lesson in serenity when we see that not everything is thriving, and we feel that it has been wasted. We have difficulty with such an attitude when we see that life is also like that, and we see people on the street who are in a difficult situation, whose wealth is eaten up by speculators, or who are dragged down by circumstances.
Then we feel that life should be sustainable and not subject to the hardships that many people suffer. In times past, people found comfort in the idea that nothing is wasted, that everything serves a higher purpose, but today many people resist such an idea and protest the futility of existence. Some voices expressing this doubt resonate with a certain frustration, while others are more resigned and stubbornly accept that the search for meaning is futile. The accumulation of wealth seems to satisfy the influential, who follow an ideology of endless growth and profit, subjecting all people to their plans. The images of starving children move lower income people to help financially, sometimes beyond their means, while they withdraw from their neighbours and become speechless in the drudgery of working to make other people rich.
The fragility of man is a well-known fact and the subject of all religions and wisdom traditions. The unity of the human race is proclaimed, united in suffering of many kinds: poverty, hunger, thirst, impairment, oppression and imprisonment; so many people today are depressed, in a state of dysphoria and confusion and the list goes on. Ways to get out of these limitations of well-being are suggested, but few are followed. I think that the metaphors of the past no longer fit our circumstances so well, but there is a sense that the “molech” or “moloch” of the past is identifiable with the “machine” of today that is figuratively eating our children and seducing society into decadence. In this way, our fragility is used against us.
However, I think that the people who refuse to bow to the weight of all this and fight back in their own way are right. Sometimes it is pure emotion, and we beat against the metal and stone of immovable objects, and it is really in vain. Some people drown themselves in some stimulant: Food, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, whatever they can find. This is also futile and only highlights our fragility even more when we see the consequences of their behaviour. Some follow a trend or an ideology with an uncertain outcome, as a sign of resistance, looking for a sign of strength. In my opinion, it is better to reach out to others, because in all our fragility, our connectedness helps us to become more resilient. Alone we may not be able to fight the conditions we find ourselves in, but together we can.
We remain fragile, and each individual link is not strong enough on its own, but like chain mail, the combined links can withstand the pressure applied to them. We just have to learn from nature and look at the lavishness of how it spreads its seed, and feel free to be as generous with whatever we can contribute, and even a smile or a helping hand can be a lifebelt at the right moment. I feel obliged by the fact that we are fragile to seek others and unite with them. Perhaps, just perhaps, this mutual benefit was the plan from the beginning. And perhaps we have somehow always kept ourselves from it, and each generation has had to learn its necessity anew. They say that we learn best when we are confronted with a problem, and without such conflicts, we don’t learn. Perhaps that is our problem, and the reason why there are so many conflicts today.
I am convinced that we have come into this world as fragile beings to grow internally and externally and to withdraw into the cosmic consciousness that has given us life. Each of us has had our experiences and learned our lessons, even the most terrible ones, which we will end up sharing in ways we cannot imagine. That would be a meaningful existence.
If blood will flow when flesh and steel are one
Drying in the colour of the evening sun
Tomorrow’s rain will wash the stains away
But something in our minds will always stay
Perhaps this final act was meant
To clinch a lifetime’s argument
That nothing comes from violence, and nothing ever could
When you use media, do you choose the news you want to hear or see? Or does the news choose you?
If we were to travel back in time, say 100 years to 1922, your main source would have been a newspaper reporting on international events, such as the miners’ strike in Transvaal, South Africa, or the naval arms limitation pact between the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, France, and Japan. You would have heard about the release of the Dracula film Nosferatu in Germany, or the fact that Mahatma Gandhi was sentenced to six years in prison by a British judge in India for insubordination. In June 1922, you would have heard about Lenin appointing Joseph Stalin as general secretary of the Russian Communist Party, or about the Italian dictator Mussolini planning an uprising against the government. Of course, the news we glean from newspapers today is led by headlines that catch your eye as you walk past the stands, and they did in 1922, but people didn’t have the images and opinions that television and the Internet give us, and they didn’t have the feeling of being nudged and made aware of issues all the time, as they do today.
It is clear that we need information to function as a democracy, which is why the main role of the press in a democratic society is that of a watchdog. In theory, the press enjoys the freedom to observe and comment on the government without fear of reprisal and provides the people in a democracy with truthful accounts of political events. The ability to criticize government policies and give the people a voice on key political issues is the cornerstone of both press freedom and democracy itself. Protecting the independence of the press is essential if democracy is to remain strong. This is probably why people of extreme wealth tend to have an interest in owning newspapers and producing their own news media, which are used to form opinions consistent with the policies they want to promote. It is also why authoritarian governments pressure national agencies to be “fair,” which is an interpretable expression.
Investigative reporting, of course, exists both as a hypothetical category and in practice. While I think it’s undeniable that investigative reporting is, by and large, good quality reporting, it has its own peculiarities. The very name refers to a deeper, more analytical approach to a news story, an issue, a phenomenon, or a person. In a highly simplified way, one could say that “normal” reporting is just a sharing of information, while investigative reporting “digs” beneath the surface. What makes investigative reporting so special is an eternal dilemma: Is the role of a reporter simply to pass information neutrally from the source to the addressee, or should journalism seek to explain, or even “correct” reality based on sound professional, ethical, and moral criteria? The investigative reporting figures I revered a few years ago were, in hindsight, biased. But the problem is that we all are. We cannot speak of ethics or morality without admitting that we are biased toward this or that ideal.
In my exchanges with people around the world, for example, we are concerned about the news we receive about the war in Ukraine. None of my interlocutors doubt that Putin is displaying strange rhetoric, especially considering the catastrophe of the 20th century, which was the bloodiest century in history, and the unprecedented introduction of weapons of mass destruction. We thought empires were dead and cooperation between sovereign states was the way forward, with trade relations providing a unifying element that ensured a sense of interdependence in securing a sustainable future. The problem, I suppose, was that this idea was born out of Western individualistic notions that were deeply critical of collectivist and authoritarian societies. However, the modern idea of a policy of approval over all else, as though opposites do not supply the kind of tension that is conducive to creativity, is not what the west has been about, nor can it be. The question is, how militant will the opposition be?
The news is often a mixture of opinions based on information of varying quality. We have to constantly verify the information we receive and are often unable to comply. In trying to comply, we either lack reliable sources, or we know that the source we have is biased, or we conclude that no one is completely correct and postpone a decision. The less conducive alternative to democracy is to turn away and find another occupation that we enjoy more, or to subscribe to a conspiracy theory based on shaky evidence that has no substance other than being someone’s opinion. So, what do we do in such a situation? Perhaps you could tell me in the comments.
I have the strategy of using various sources and basing my decisions on my own moral compass. It helps to have a partner with whom I can talk about decisions we have to make, with whom I have built a 45-year partnership and who I know like no other person. Family and friends can also contribute, especially penfriends, with whom you have a habit of exchanging views, just as the occasional acquaintance that you come across can provide a different perspective. Therefore, the news is filtered through these conversations, and provide a basis to work on. The fact remains that it still remains preliminary and a tentative approach to what will turn out to be the truth.
There has been much talk recently about “dysphoria” (from ancient Greek δύσφορος (dúsphoros) “grievous”; from δυσ- (dus-) “bad, difficult” and φέρω (phérō) “to bear”), a state of deep discomfort or dissatisfaction. It is the opposite of euphoria. In a psychiatric context, dysphoria can be accompanied by depression, anxiety, or agitation. I hadn’t thought of myself in this context until I looked into the word, but then I realized that I had suffered from mild dysphoria from an early age although it wasn’t called that, of course. I was what they called an “impressionable child,” and it meant that I was very easily guided by other children or adults, but what they really meant was that I followed ideas, asked a lot of questions, and was impressed by things that were outside my given environment. This may have to do with the fact that at an early age, due to the fact that we as a family lived in Malaysia for several years, I witnessed a lot of things outside of a typically British environment.
My dysphoria seems to have been caused by a discomfort with convention and with expectations associated with conformity, especially when returning to Britain, and a desire to break out of acceptable or fashionable behaviour. I have always felt somewhat volatile in this regard, and the expectations placed on me as the oldest son in a family of boys in a military setting, where I only received a sister when I was into puberty, added to my discomfort. I suppose my family would say that there was no tangible forced expectation on me, but there was always a situational expectation or peer pressure that was seen as something perfectly normal by the people around me. In the few circumstances when I managed to break out and express myself, I experienced people worried that I was becoming uncontrollable or even “effeminate” and I had worries of not belonging in that setting. I always tried, of course, but the discomfort had no way to express itself in most cases.
Today there is so much emphasis on the sexual aspect, but that was not the kind of pressure I felt, although sexuality certainly played a role. Having been approached by pedophiles even before puberty and loathing the masculinity that tried to exploit my weakness, I even disliked my father’s masculinity when it came into play. I later found out that my father also struggled with his role and was much more sensitive than I gave him credit for, but he had adapted to his role early on and saw it as his duty to raise my brothers and me to be “typical” men as he embodied that role. I was attracted to women primarily because they were not men, and as long as they did not play the sexualized mating game, I could relax in their company. However, my first attempts in England to socialize with women largely failed because of this, and even at school I found myself confronted with individual young women who played this game, which I found difficult to deal with. Friends who went out with me were disappointed at my lack of enthusiasm for the “mating game.”
Because of my stature, I always attracted the expectations of others, and it was probably typical of the time of the sexual revolution that everything was seen in this light. The village soccer team I occasionally played on took me to a “men’s night out,” and I felt that the deception, sexualization, and evident complicity of women that took place there made me very suspicious of women for a while. This was exacerbated when porn was sold under the table at the next job, enforcing the impression of a kind of femininity that I found repulsive. I avoided women who were suggestive in that way and struggled with the masculinity that overtook my body, and my changing appearance. Photographs taken for job applications show a shy boy, uncomfortably dressed up in a suit, who struggled to be the man he was expected to be.
Looking back many years later, you can see that it was British society that I seemed to associate with my discomfort, probably because of the conformity I experienced there, which seemed almost traditional, especially after puberty, when I was expected by both men and women to be a typical male. I was already looking for a chance to go abroad, convinced that there was a different approach out there somewhere. The Army seemed like the opportunity I needed, but it proved to be a bastion of displayed masculinity defined by adherence to traditional masculine characteristics that consequently stigmatized and limited the emotions that boys and men might express. Instead, as could be expected, other emotions like anger and aggression were encouraged and rewarded. Many young men cried at night in the barracks during basic training, and although I didn’t, I could see that I wasn’t alone. It was only when I went to Germany as an atypical soldier and left the barracks that I experienced a relaxation of these expectations, which occurred out of sight of my comrades. Until then, I conformed and played a role that didn’t fit too well and survived oddly because of a physical appearance that I wore like a costume, or a disguise, and convinced some gullible people with my performance. Of course, around the soldiers, there was still this game going on, and German girls assumed that I was part of it. It was when I had the chance to talk with them that some of them saw something else. Several still accused me of not being sincere with them, because that was what they had experienced with other soldiers. In the end, I found one girl that saw through appearances, and we married. This brought on a final struggle to break out and finally gave me the peace that has lasted, along with my marriage, 45 years.
The reason I tell this story is because I was fortunate in a way that young people seem not to be today. I went through a phase in which I suffered a mild dysphoria that nonetheless caused me to leave Britain and set up home elsewhere. I also had the opportunity to do so, using the Army as a steppingstone, and a widespread acceptance in Germany of British people, especially if you learn their language. I was not drawn into a discussion about gender identity, despite my discomfort with the sexualised society I was growing up in and attraction to activities that were, according to the opinions of my peers, atypical of my role as a man. At a particular phase in my life, the modern focus on gender may have disastrous, and my example shows that the discomfort of growing up may have sexual undercurrents but may have more to do with the drastic changes that puberty brings, perhaps more in girls than boys. Especially children who grow up in a privileged and protected environment often baulk at the reality they are confronted with when puberty sets in, and some suffer this conflict at an earlier age. Some speak of the shock of the first time of hearing their parents having sex, and their concern for their mothers, who they imagine to be in pain. It is a different world we enter when leaving childhood, something like being banished from Eden, entering the harsh reality of struggle in a judgemental world.
Of course, we are also all individuals with unique experiences, and no-one experiences life in exactly the same way. We also have a varying emphasis in the way we perceive or conceptualise life. Reading Iain McGilchrist’s book, The Trouble With Things, he makes a good case for people who are left- or right-hemisphere dominated having distinctly different outlooks, with left-hemisphere dominated people being particularly lingual, and rationally minded, and perhaps better able to take on the tasks of a society that emphasises these traits, as against right-hemisphere dominated people, who are more integral and “gestalt” orientated, and have an intuited perception of life within a holistic concept. The latter may be fluid in their sexuality during puberty, or even decidedly undecided, and perhaps asexual in some ways. This isn’t necessarily a permanent attribute and I have met people later in life who have clearly taken a decision towards binary identities, although they were not so clear when teenagers. There may also be others, who became same-sex-attracted after time. The point is that young people at puberty, and especially pre-puberty children, are forming and need time to sort things out. Some may need longer, like me, to come to terms with the process they are going through and make all sorts of decisions that don’t appear to be rational. The examples of “Gender Dysphoria” that have been widely spoken of and even been subject to new laws, seem to me to be displaying just this ambiguity, and a whole “industry” seems to be jumping on the opportunity to advise, medicate and even operate on young people who are in this process. In addition, a degree of hysteria has developed, which isn’t uncommon in puberty, but which is driving people to life-changing decisions that seem to me to be too early in life.
I became a nurse at forty, and I said and felt at the time that I didn’t understand why it had taken me so long to get there. I felt at home in a profession where my intuitive abilities combined with caring for people brought out aspects of my personality commonly referred to as feminine. I was congratulated on finding my “feminine side.” Oddly enough, shortly thereafter, I was required to use my masculine qualities when I became a ward-leader, which the ladies who worked with me felt was very necessary. It was the combination of these qualities that enabled me to perform this task and through which I quickly climbed the “ladder.” I was very creative in my enthusiasm and effected many changes that were quickly adopted on other wards and that greatly improved our interactions with other disciplines, especially the general practitioners, internists, neurologists, surgeons, and gynaecologists. The way this achievement was recognized was interesting, as different people attributed different attributes to its success. One said that my success was due to the fact that I was particularly a “woman-understanding” person (Frauenversteher), although I’m sure it was more due to my willingness to communicate with people and develop a vision of what could be.
My point is that even at advanced ages, people’s perceptions of “typical” female or male vary and often depend on circumstances. The advantage I had on the ward turned into a disadvantage in higher management, where empathy and compassion were pushed aside in favour of rational decision making, and I found myself forced to find ways to make a bigger profit rather than improve our services. I found that people expected this to be easier for a man than a woman, while I found that it had nothing to do with the gender of a leader. This shows me that we have many misconceptions about sexuality and gender roles, and yet there have been disturbing cases of abuse of minors and of people in an extremely unstable and ambiguous state, in promotion of an ideological position with regard to gender, and of lack of support for people who have found themselves literally amputated from their biological sex and have no way to reverse the procedures done on them. This again, is clearly in the interest of profit above concern, and companies jump at the opportunity to do harm if they think they can get away with it.
I think that in this atmosphere of predatory entrepreneurs ready to exploit weaknesses and weaken people, and in the highly sexualized society where young people are confronted with the most horrific pornographic images and adults are suspected of being sex offenders, it is easy to develop dysphoria at an age when young people are beginning to realize what adult life will bring. The former ideal of motherhood is sometimes portrayed in ways that frighten young girls today, and responsibility and trustworthiness seem to be such a burden that young people are looking for ways out. I know this because in another world I did something similar.
Like many people, I find the fact that so many children have died from gun violence in America a frightening testament to the double standards we keep hearing about from America. The only problem is that it’s not just America, is it? Granted, gun violence is a particularly American problem, but double standards are everywhere. I have yet to find anyone, myself included, who is not prone to double standards. Our problem starts to get very serious when we try to deny the fact and even justify our decisions with a moral argument.
On Twitter, I saw someone holding up a poster that said, “Let’s think about the sacrifice our children are making to ensure we can own guns.” That’s sarcastic and I’m sure it was meant to be, but isn’t that a mentality that seems to emanate from the American media? I can’t watch any more American crime stories because they are so repetitive, but also because they exemplify idiotic deception and callous disregard for the loss of human life. Just count the number of dead bodies that pile up in average crime stories, not to mention “action” movies where so many bullets are fired that it’s a miracle anyone is still alive at the end of the movie.
I remember not too long ago, people were protesting that old western movies were still being shown. There were several reasons for this; one was the portrayal of Native Americans; another was the theme of white supremacy and the underrepresentation of the contribution of the black population to the rise of America. In comparison, the number of Asians or Semitic people regularly killed in action films is far higher, but this does not elicit protest. These films normalize the use of weapons, some even glorify it. Hardly a wonder then, that particularly in America, people flock to guns shows.
In other countries, people had to give up their guns because a police force was set up that had the sole right to bear arms. This had an immediate effect, and the number of homicides dropped drastically. To this day, the countries that have implemented this policy have far fewer deaths by firearms compared to America, where the right to bear arms is enforced almost religiously and the gun industry financially support politicians at will to keep the situation from changing. The curious aspect of this is the fact that evangelical Christians belong to the groups of people who are almost 100% in favour of the right to carry firearms.
The problem with just looking at it and getting upset about it is that we ourselves have a double standard that probably doesn’t have the kind of impact that firearms have on society but undermines the free society that we all cherish. In the name of freedom, we allow things that hurt people; in the name of inclusivity, we ignore the dangers that exclusivity sometimes protects us from; in the name of free speech, lies, slander, deception, and fraud are allowed in through the back door. This undermines the trust we need to maintain a society in which freedom is guaranteed.
There is, for example, the protection of minorities, which is undoubtedly important. However, when those minorities include the few people who harm others, and their protection actually puts them in places where they can do harm, there is always a victim. An example is a prison service that now has to accept that a male prisoner who “identifies” as a woman (whatever that means), despite having no discernible differences from a man, can be moved to a women’s prison. Women do get raped and/or pregnant in prison because of this, but that is somehow considered collateral damage. Some say that they are “just criminals,” whether male or female, which is a callous assertion that just illustrates the insensitivity of the situation.
Since the proliferation of social media, which allows anonymity, we have become even more of a verbally abusive society. Anyone can have an “opinion” that is limited only by laws that prohibit incitement to violence. Certain words or phrases are banned on platforms, but a quick look at Twitter or Facebook shows how people get around that. I am myself sometimes appalled by the behaviour of public figures and could easily lapse into the use of profanities, but I try to limit the use of such expressions, whether on social media or in conversation, although I am not free of it. Some people just take advantage of the opportunities they are given and attack anyone they can find. The problem is not just the bullying and mental health issues some people suffer because of it, but the fact that it has become normal. We’ve become so used to the fact that populist politicians can claim anything these days, and claim things that are clearly untrue, and we accept it as “banter.” People who have a real problem are told to “man up” and “move on.” It is ignored until someone actually dies, and then everyone is surprised.
Social media has also become the platform for radicalising young people, and so we come around to the issues I spoke about at the beginning of this piece. It doesn’t matter what the group is, whether it is political or religious, whether in the name of activism or protest, whatever the cause, people have become radicalised on social media. It doesn’t have to be a mass murder in a school, or a beating up on the street, it could be ‘cancel culture,’ whereby people are denounced to their employers, or their publishers, for saying something that isn’t regarded as politically correct. This has a taste of a time when people were denounced for being “agitators”, just because they were Jews, or in the communist regimes for being counterrevolutionaries, because someone wanted their jobs. Really, anyone who has a problem with someone else can make their lives uncomfortable by denouncing them as an undesirable for some reason. Too many people have already become victims of this behaviour – especially amongst academics.
This has something of mob behaviour, when employers, publishers or even friends and acquaintances withdraw from someone because they are accused of something that is not even criminal in itself, but because it is deemed unacceptable. People have been hanged by mobs because no one had the courage to stand up to it, for fear of joining the victims hanging from the tree. Is this the way we are going, back to times we thought were behind us? Is this the society for which people in Ukraine are fighting and dying? Is this the society that can make the moral claim against other countries?
I have been in contact with several people in nursing in Germany, who seem disappointed and hurt and wondering why they should continue to use their life energy for others. I understand their disappointment because I have been through the same thing, even in management, and I could do little to change the situation. It is indeed the case that nursing in Germany, in which reliability and compassion are important qualities, has been made into a profession like any other, and in the process the authorities overlook (or ignore) the complexity of the task as well as the strain on the body and mind. This is especially the case when it comes to caring for people with degenerative diseases. These seems to be a problem internationally.
Many young people enter this profession and find that the little bit of extra money they earn as a Licensed Practical Nurse over the auxiliary nurse is not motivation enough to take on the stress of the task. In my experience, the demands of the profession are assessed academically, even though the vast majority of professionals are not academics. The problem is not keeping sick people satiated and clean, that is basically the easiest thing to do, but the problem is caring for them appropriately. By appropriate care I mean holistic nursing, taking into account all their needs – which is a very difficult task. It’s not just manual work, or writing extensive care-planning, it’s also relationship work, and for that you need time and tact.
From my experience, if you want to fulfil this task, you have to accept that you cannot provide optimal care in the full sense of the word, because the conditions are not optimal. So, an optimum is not a benchmark, but a goal to strive for. In order to achieve this goal to some extent, it is necessary to have coherent teamwork and a division of tasks that respects the special role of the registered colleagues. Auxiliary nurses must take their cues from the licensed nurses and work towards their declared goals, and these should in turn value that work, without which they achieve their aims.
In Germany, there are many people in nursing who are burned out, and this isn’t just because of the pandemic, which only served to deepen the divide between goals and resources. Often it is not only the tiring work, but the fact that they are under multiple pressures (children, elderly parents, and sometime a reliant husband) that make their lives difficult. I have known many female employees who have (or had) so much to carry in their lives that they no longer had energy for the job. When you carry a life situation like that long enough, you dull down and distribute what energy you have left to tasks.
In Germany, temp work has become widespread, and many licensed nurses have realised that they can have the full pay through temp work, without the full responsibility of resident nurses. Then it’s clear where people are going if they don’t value continuity and a permanent contract. That is demotivating for the professionals in the facilities, and in the end, it can happen that you can only get professionals from temporary employment agencies. This can quickly develop to a facility having to close because it no longer meets the requirements of the authorities.
In a way, you can look at it like this: Basically, no matter what team sport you play or what tasks a team has to accomplish, you need a reasonable game plan that everyone has to stick to. This includes being clear as a team about what the overall task is, what the difficulties are, and how to avoid conceding goals. Of course, it’s also about scoring “scorer points,” but you have to be clear in the workspace what those are. In soccer, it’s easy to define: Putting the ball in the opponent’s goal as often as possible, but the strikers need to keep an eye on the whole game and provide support when needed so that the whole team produces a satisfactory work performance.
With any defined role or task, a team is only as successful as the team effort makes it. It does no good to devise great tactics if no one sticks to them. It’s also no use scoring goals but conceding more of them. If we concede goals, we have to do more unnecessary work. Every member of the team must be clear about their role and do it well, but also follow the “play” and iron out problems with the rest of the team. In our age of individualism, we tend more and more to put our own performance above the performance of the team, but as a team you win and as a team you lose.
In geriatric care in Germany, the residents and family members, as well as the reviewing authorities, are the spectators and referees, and as we know, there are whistles and boos and point deductions when we consistently perform poorly. As in sports, we also get attacked by a sensationalist press when we perform very poorly. We have to perform every day, which makes geriatric care look worse than sports teams that only have to play once or twice a week. Our playing time is also longer than 90 minutes, which means we have to think very carefully about how we perform as a team and look for improvement every day.
Leaders also need to keep a good connection with their teams and not put themselves above the team, but the team also needs to respect the work of the leadership and honour agreements. The moment the process doesn’t work, it’s often the leadership that gets the criticism. This makes it all the more important to clarify what position one takes on the process, what expectations one is overwhelmed with, but also how the team’s expectations can be met. The discussion should be open, but once an agreement has been reached, it must be honoured. It’s better to argue up front than when doing the work.
I believe if you don’t have that attitude towards the task, the job can’t get done, and we all have to work to stay fit for the game. Unfortunately, if you’re not willing to do that, you’re not fit for the task. As in sports, it may be the body that is not up to the task, possibly due to a strong performance in the past. It is noticeable that in nursing there are always typical sports injuries that increase with age.
So, the question is, are you ready to approach the job that way? I wish there were times when these demands weren’t made, but I also know of times when I’ve walked down the ward with my team after work is done and had “We are the champions” on my lips.
Douglas Murray’s book and the interview he did with Jordan Peterson made me think a lot. Every word of his statement in the interview was true. I could tell that he had done very good research for his material, and it was well presented. We live in a time when unreason prevails, not least in the violence of Putin’s war on Ukraine, but also in the conflicts within society where accusations of inherent racism are made, even among people known to have been active in overcoming racism – and have been white. We live in a time when facts matter less than feelings, when mob rule has become respectable and doublespeak normal.
Murray sees a war against the West from within the West. He calls this a capitulation in the fight for freedom of speech, democracy, and a liberal society that can only lead to a worse future for young people. I agree with him. The current atmosphere among young academics is worrisome, and although we baby boomers have been bad enough, the future responsible generation is approaching chaos and anarchy. If there is no group of people in the younger generation willing to implement with their hands what the brains have come up with, everything will dissolve into nothingness, and a vacuum will be created. What will then be sucked into this vacuum will determine the future.
But there is also another side. There are the problems in our Western society that are named by the activists, even if they are perhaps overemphasized. Racism is a problem that will not go away until white people overcome their prejudices. Violence against women, gay people and trans people will not go away until men curb their aggression. There are numerous problems highlighted by activists, and they are the reason for the younger generations’ self-criticism of the West. It is the moral arrogance of the West and its criticism of others that makes it vulnerable to criticism itself. One cannot claim the moral high ground and call for trust if one cannot prove oneself trustworthy. This seems to be the real crisis facing the West.
The problem Murray rightly points out is that self-abuse is not the way to solve the problem. If we tear our society apart, we will have nothing to fight the problems anywhere, and we would prove unreliable to those currently fighting a despotic enemy who wants to destroy any chance of an open, liberal society. It is true that if the West wants to lead people to a better future, it must embody that ideal itself. But the way to get there must be a joint effort by all political parties in a democratic discussion based on truth and evidence for the arguments put forward. Mistakes have always been made and will always be made. The context of actions taken throughout history must be considered, and we must be aware that also our well-meant decisions are likely to be criticized in the future.
As I have said in the past, the importance of credible politics, including the will to defend our society against those who see our way of life as a challenge and are willing to undermine it and even take up arms, as we have seen, cannot be underestimated. The peace marches in Germany on Mayday showed that they lack realism when it comes to cynical people like Putin. They like to imagine that he was “only provoked,” but those who are ready to destroy a country and wipe out a nation do not need to be provoked. His disregard for life, including the lives of his own soldiers, betrays his obsessive character. He hates the West, manipulates the West, undermines the West wherever he can. Every visitor from European countries was cynically put to the test by Putin, trying to cause as much discomfort as possible without it being obvious to the press.
We must focus on the real problems in the world and overcome the loss of trust in our societies. If the people in power are incompetent, they must be voted out. If they manipulate the truth themselves and find illegal ways to keep themselves in power, we must find ways to take power away from them. But trustworthiness must be restored if we are to defend our society against those authoritarian forces in the world who argue that democracy corrodes our values, leads to chaos, and that autocratic rule is better. Otherwise, we just fuel their argument.
In the days leading up to this week we have been inundated with bad news, and I, for one, was in need of a different outlook, even if the bad news won’t go away, just because we are looking in a different direction. All the same, the drive across the border and through the Netherlands was fortunately uneventful, and we arrived without delay in Bergan aan Zee in bright sunshine. Despite the temperature around 14°C and a cool wind, we had a pleasant walk through the small village and a stretch of the beach, where treading in dry sand was a bit of a struggle. Stopping off in a busy beach restaurant for a Hamburger and Coke, it occurred to me that, whereas in other countries, people have expressed concerns about loss of cultural heritage due to immigration, in the Netherlands, people were talking in various languages, and the waitress reacted with a familiar multilinguistic ability. It wasn’t just the tourists, like us, but those speaking Dutch were visibly from diverse cultural heritages.
This reminded me of an encounter many years ago when I visited the Netherlands and ordered a drink in German. I was immediately reprimanded sternly, though not in an unfriendly way, and told that the waiter knew I was not German, so why was I speaking German in the Netherlands. I corrected myself and said in English that I unfortunately did not speak his language, and was politely served by the waiter, who told me that it did not matter, few visitors did. In his words resonated a certain pride that his language is rarely mastered by foreigners and that he was able to serve the guests in their language. I think that this is an example of a justifiable pride, perhaps it has a certain national aspect, but I experienced a similar encounter in Belgium, where I also found the people there just as multilingual. Obviously, this example has limits, and neither the Dutch, nor the Belgians are so multilingual and culturally multi-facetted that they can compensate for everybody, but they don’t need to. It is already impressive.
Our evening walk was eventful, and we found many attractions, especially for children, hidden in the green area behind the house where we were staying. The houses here are interesting, with unusual shapes that made it clear that we were in a different country. Between the normal houses you see everywhere in the Netherlands, there are many round roofs and buildings that vaguely look like ships on end. Some things also remind me of the coast in southern England, like Devon, where I grew up – especially the dunes and the long sandy beaches.
The whole village is very relaxed and if the temperature had not dropped, we could have sat outside for a while. When you listen to the melody of people talking, you also notice the difference from people speaking in German, and it is more like English. I often listened more to that melody than to the words people spoke when I walked in foreign countries, the hum of the crowds, but also breathing in the smell of the land, which is different even in various parts of a country. The night was pleasant, and we have often slept in worse beds. After watching a few episodes of the Amazon series “Starling” and listening to some sounds around us in the house, we finally slept soundly.
Unfortunately, the temperature drop will remain until we leave, which is something we have experienced on other holidays and led to us leaving earlier. We’ll wait and see how this develops. There are plenty of things to see, and we have sunshine at home, so we’re not looking for a tan.
Fully aware that in today’s world, especially young people, a white, straight man has nothing to say, I am going to say something that is perhaps increasingly controverse, but which was for most of my life the most accepted norm for me:
Women are adult human females. Typically, women have two X chromosomes and are capable of pregnancy and giving birth from puberty until menopause. Female anatomy is distinguishable from male anatomy by the female reproductive system, which includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, and vulva. The adult female pelvis is wider, the hips broader, and the breasts larger than that of adult males. Women have significantly less facial and other body hair, have a higher body fat composition, and are on average shorter and less muscular than men.
The reason this is considered controversial in some places is the growing lobbying by trans activists who claim that anyone can be a woman. The only requirement is a man’s “self-identification” as a woman, without having to meet the physiological or hormonal characteristics mentioned above. It should be a matter of common sense to realize that this ideology brings problems, especially for women. The special rights of women protect them from exploitation and abuse by misogynistic men, but obviously do not protect them enough.
From a fact sheet from the WHO, I judge this to be true:
Violence against women – particularly intimate partner violence and sexual violence – is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights.
Estimates published by WHO indicate that globally about 1 in 3 (30%) of women worldwide have been subjected to either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.
Most of this violence is intimate partner violence. Worldwide, almost one third (27%) of women aged 15-49 years who have been in a relationship report that they have been subjected to some form of physical and/or sexual violence by their intimate partner.
Violence can negatively affect women’s physical, mental, sexual, and reproductive health, and may increase the risk of acquiring HIV in some settings.
In the report “Violence Against Women Prevalence Estimates” from 2018, it was found that “Overall, there were 54 countries where the estimates of past 12 months physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence among ever-married/partnered women were above the world average of 13% (UI 10–16%).”
Factors specifically associated with the perpetration of sexual violence include beliefs in family honour and sexual purity, ideologies of male sexual entitlement, and weak legal sanctions for sexual violence. Gender inequality and norms about the acceptability of violence against women are a major cause of violence against women.
Another report states that “Studies of men in Western society reveal marked individual differences in their self-reported proclivity to rape, their sexual arousability to rape descriptions, and their attitudes towards rape. Rapists themselves often engage in other criminal activities, are more sexually aroused by descriptions of rape, and frequently have other sexual deviations. Sadistic rapists are commonly obsessed with aggressive sexual imagery and exhibit marked sexual arousal to descriptions of rape. There is evidence that violent sexual pornography may be conducive to the development of an interest in sexual aggression.” (https://www.academia.edu/55073957/Sexual_aggression_Studies_of_offenders_against_women )
The fact that there are “marked individual differences” amongst men raises the question of why one group of men is receptive to violent images while others are abhorred by such images. The last report suggests that it is a learned behaviour that leads to either appropriate or aggressive behaviour, certainly due to experiences at a younger age, whether in the family or in other settings where the behaviour of elders or “respected persons” influences the attitudes of pubescent boys. Acceptance or toleration of violence in a sexual setting can have both effects, depending on an adolescent’s psychological outlook, and can produce aggressive behaviour toward women.
Unfortunately, individual women sometimes also accept a certain amount of violence, which may be reflected in the behaviour of their sons, but this is not the norm. It is sometimes seen in courtship rituals where women test the masculinity of their suitors, or by teasing the men for not being demonstrably masculine, or suggesting “rough sex,” which would have been considered deeply inappropriate fifty years ago but is now a symbol of liberated femininity for some people.
The widespread availability of pornography, which is decidedly directed at a male audience, is another source of misinformation and influences the factors that cause excitability in young men. Many women find this situation a major influence on the objectification of women and indeed gender dysphoria. As Mary Harrington, who calls herself a “Reactionary Feminist” said in a conversation on Rebel Wisdom recently:
“I have come gradually to the conclusion that in actually gender ideology, in particularly transgender children are being instrumentalized. You know there are some seriously distressed people, who are for all a number a range of different, often quite complicated, personally very painful reasons, deeply unhappy in their bodies and in the world as it is. And I think that is often a rational response to finding themselves in a very in an absolutely intolerable place. Particularly adolescent women who find themselves in a world so saturated with porn, that actually to me, it seems a completely reasonable response to take hormones that make them resemble a male and cut off your breasts. I mean, I would probably be tempted if I were 14 today. So, you know from that point of view you know I have no beef with people who are trying to find some relief in an embodied condition that they find intolerable.”
The distress that the current sexualised situation of young people today causes, is enough to drive an increasing number of them to extreme measures. In some cases, they abhor their femininity, because it makes them vulnerable to advances from men. Mary Harrington also mentioned a friend of hers, Louise Perry, who has recently authored a book about the case against the sexual revolution:
“Her background is as a broadly left liberal feminist, who has worked in a rape shelter, which in fact left her questioning a lot of what she had internalized about what the sexual revolution meant, who it was for, and what it was actually doing. So, she has written a whole book about her perspective on this with chapter titles that I would think would have been, as you say, five years ago very difficult to argue with. Like love and sex is not empowering, people are not commodities, listen to your mother… All sort of fairly sensible, you would think, straightforward statements to make. Somebody within the academy posted the screenshot of her chapter headings today, saying, “this is a real mask off moment, look at this, look at the horrors, which are coming forth from…” the various other sort of imputations of the f [fascism] word. But then received quite a lot of replies to the effect of ‘which bit of “people are not commodities” are you objecting to?’ Really the response was though, “there is nothing here that any of us disagrees with, this all sounds very sensible,” which indeed it does. Love and sex are not empowering, certainly not to women anyway, but what I am trying to say is, there are a lot of people out there, who see this stuff and feel endlessly wordlessly frustrated with this stuff. And they just are not really sure how to mobilize against this stuff, because it is the sort of integrated messagingapparatus, which is transmitting. It seems very well articulated and very all-encompassing, but actually it is not.”
Another well-known victim of offensive behaviour is J. K. Rowling, who is concerned about reinterpreting (or abolishing) the term “woman” and dismantling measures to protect women, such as allowing men who identify as women into their spaces. By saying that only women can bear children, which is the most important criterion for defining a woman, she triggered a landslide of protest from all the probably well-meaning activists who accused her of being “transphobic,” when all she wants to do is protect women’s rights.
We really must get a grip on a situation that is getting out of control, and which the politically left seem to be embracing, and which is pushing people into the far right of politics, because these people object to it, amongst their otherwise right-wing policies. It is also a part of a larger problem, which the conversation entitled “The War On Reality” listed above between Mary Harrington, Paul Kingsnorth, and David Fuller from Rebel Wisdom, points out. Mary Harrington again:
“… there are limits to how much women will tolerate being told that a woman is anybody who says they’re a woman, for example, which is the most egregious and the most “in your face” battlefront in the push for no limits whatsoever. In terms of individual self-actualization or on any terms whatsoever, that is the most egregious front in that particular… There are many others, but it’s also the one which is mobilizing the most sort of cross-party resistance, because if you’ve grown a new human inside your literal uterus, you know what a woman is, and it’s also notable how many of the people, how many of the men who pay lip service to this idea, that a woman is anybody who says they are one, immediately knows what a woman is the moment they want to rent a uterus.
All this stuff is full of slippages, and it is full of bad faith, and it is full of inconsistency, and everybody knows that to be the case, because at the end of the day, it is the liquefaction of everything. I have just been writing a chapter about this actually. The liquefaction of everything does not actually work, because it is premised on the idea that there is no such thing as nature, and no such thing as human nature, and that is not actually true. So, what it does in the end is it successfully liquefies all the norms, or all of these established structures, but because human nature continues to exist, it then simply reframes that, as a set of supply and demand problems. So, instead of having courtship rituals, you have the sexual marketplace, and that is a straightforward reordering of the sex differences between men and women, which had quite elaborate social codes ordered around them in order to balance the interests of men and women under particular economic circumstances.
You liquefy that. You blow it all out of the water and say, no actually, everybody can just do what they want now. But what happens is not that everybody does what they want exactly, because people still have urges, which are not rational and some of those are connected to reproductive roles. They just are. But instead, and because this stuff goes on existing, it just it just gets reabsorbed into the marketplace, and it becomes a set of supply and demand problems. And the same is now happening with biological sex. It is either the desire to be one sex or another, which is being reimagined as a set of supply and demand problems. There are already medical papers out there. We are talking about uterus transplants into men who identify as women. I do not know where they are going to get the uteruses from, but presumably from women who identify as men. I mean, who knows? Anyway, there is this, it is being imagined as a set of Lego parts that could just be swapped, so that they are in the right place, presumably through some sort of marketplace, and the same goes against the babies. Women are still the only people who can gestate new humans, so here again, because we we’re in the process of liquefying all of the norms, but we haven’t in the process successfully managed to abolish the underlying material facts on which those norms are built, we just end up reimagining them as a set of supply and demand problems. So, now if you need a uterus you just go and rent one, but the point is, the liquefaction doesn’t work, and so my sense is, there’s a kind of frustration there among the “automated luxury Gnostics”, because every time they try and get to the bottom, to the point where actually we have just attained full grey goo satanism, it just never quite works, because there’s always another level of materiality, which has its patterns and continues to be what it is. It is a very depressing, very pessimistic sort of a hope, but I do have some, you know. If I have hope, it is in the fact that nature persists, it just is, and it does not matter how many times you try and liquefy, it continues.”
Paul Kingsnorth commented:
“I think that is really a great summary of it all. I‘ve written quite a few times in these essays I am doing at the moment, about the how revolutions effectively – especially progressive revolutions – always clear the ground for the machine. They think they’re creating a utopia, and what actually happens from the French revolution onwards, is you destroy all the customary structures, you destroy the traditions, you destroy the structures from families to community level, structures up to church level, you literally burn down the churches, and you try to destroy the family, and you redistribute the land, and what happens then, is you just create a void, and into the void commerce rushes.
So, as Mary says, everything becomes commodified and so the result of your grand utopian progressive revolution is not a fairer world, it is effectively a world that is more commodified, more individualistic and more prey to the machine. And that brings us to the point, after about two hundred years, that we’ve got to now, where everything is a commodity, but there are a lot of people who consider themselves to be progressive, who have confused that with liberation. This is really what liberation has come down to, as Mary is also saying, better than me, it is liberation from nature at all levels, liberation from the body, liberation from everything around you, and this I think explains the kind of people who scream about fascism, and the people who are so committed to this, they genuinely think – well, effectively, they’re blank-slateists – they genuinely believe that if you can remove all of the supposed change that ties down from the reality of biological sex, to the existence of family, to national culture, to whatever it is that you think is getting in the way of equality and utopia, then we’re all the same and we can indeed all choose to have babies, or to be men not to be women, or to live anywhere, or to be whatever we want. But that is not true, because we are hefted and we are rooted in in whatever culture, or background, or biology we have and there are some things you cannot get away from – but also you should not want to, because they actually make you human. And that is the thing!
There is this notion that these structures that have in most societies and in most times been customary, from the family to the village, to the religious institution, whatever it is, that they are bad things, which limit us. As opposed to the possibility that they are actually things, which enrich us, and which structure our urges in useful ways, and that is the point. We are going to have to probably painfully rediscover that we built these structures for a reason, and we lived in certain ways for a reason, and however imperfect those ways might have been for lots of people, and they’re hardly unimprovable, they still are probably built on a knowledge of human nature that we’re now pretending isn’t there anymore. And yes, we are getting to the point where we have deconstructed almost everything, and as Mary said, there is a grinning face at the bottom of it. It is not looking good!”
In the background is of course the Ukraine war and all its repercussions, and the response it draws from the press, which tends to overwhelm us. The position of Germany is especially highlighted in the current crisis, and its hesitancy in severing ties with Russia completely. The government stresses that such a complete cut off of the supply of gas would have severe consequences for German industry, and not, as implied by national and international press, only on the warmth of homes. Considering its role as leading industrial nation in Europe, this could lead to a even greater recession in Germany than in Russia, which would be self-defeating from the perspective of German policy makers.
Another issue is the supply of heavy weaponry, and the handover to the Ukraine of German Marder infantry fighting vehicle (SPz), a product of Rheinmetall Landsysteme, which was for a long time the main weapon system of the German Army’s armoured infantry. The Ukrainian ambassador Melnyk has claimed repeatedly on television that Germany has 400 of them and yet could easily hand over 100. Inspector General Eberhard Zorn as well as his deputy Markus Laubenthal have said “You have to be serious about this if you want to be successful,” and have contrasted the desirable with the reality: Namely, that there are fewer tanks than Melnyk says or is told by the industry. In fact, Germany has continually neglected the requirements of its Bundeswehr and is at the moment refurbishing its ability to present a credible defence force.
There was another issue involving, among other things, Leopard 1 A5 tanks. However, one thing that was overlooked until recently, even on the part of Ukraine, was that no one knew that the vehicles had little ammunition. According to government sources, Rheinmetall was only able to supply 4,000 rounds of 105mm ammunition, and little more until weeks later. In the background, the German government was asking other nations whether they could supply ammunition: Turkey, Greece, Israel, Brazil and several other countries that drive or have driven the tank. But all of them declined – they did not want to or could not deliver. The same applies to old Gepard anti-aircraft gun tanks, the delivery of which has also been discussed behind the scenes. But again, the lack of ammunition makes the battle tanks useless. The fact that this wasn’t publicly made known is probably down to discretion on the part of the government.
For the few consistent readers of my blog, I must apologise for the lack of content over the past week, especially since there has been a lot going on, but I was preoccupied with another side of my writing, discussing issues on a discussion forum. What has come to my attention though are a few books that I find interesting.
In which a physicist discusses how to make a universe, of what would you make it? And how would you put together what you need in order to make it? The recipe that she comes up with is very interesting and, as she points out, inspired by an ancient numinous image of the Cosmos that was first expressed in the sacred Indian text of the Atharvaveda and termed Indra’s net. She informs us of a “twenty-first-century revolution [that] is being led by cutting-edge science, [and] its empowering implications will profoundly affect all of us. For it’s about to transform not only what we thought we knew about the physical Universe but also our perception of ourselves and the nature of reality itself.”
Her informed account is spread across a multitude of pages and covers numerous topics that are pertinent to a theory of cosmic reality, and I can thoroughly recommend it.
A Secret History Of Christianity sounds very conspiracy related, but Mark Vernon is making a point of showing how Christianity fits into the paradigm changes of the era, showing how Christ and Socrates had a similar fate due to causing similar irritation amongst the authorities. Their revolutionary way of thinking was seen as heresy, but they were influential because they helped people break out of the limitations of what Owen Barfield (once the last of a celebrated group with CS Lewis and JRR Tolkien, the “Oxford Inklings”) called “original participation”. This refers to an attitude by which people have little distinction between what is felt to be inside someone, and what is outside of someone, in the way we take for granted today. He quotes Barfield as saying, “Early man did not observe nature in our detached way, he participated mentally and physically in his inner and outer processes.”
“A second phase away from original participation is marked by what he called a “withdrawal of participation.” It happens when there’s a shift from the sense of being immersed in the life of others, nature and the gods. An awareness of separation, even isolation, is felt. A person will begin to sense that they have an inner life that is, relatively speaking, their own.” Vernon, Mark. A Secret History of Christianity (S.3). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.
The third phase was called “reciprocal participation” says Vernon, and as he says …
“This is, in fact, standard mystical theology. It follows from the discernment that God is not another being, like you and me, but is the ground of being itself. God is known implicitly as the poetry in the poem, the fire in the equations, the life in the living, the pulse of the cosmos. And it’s a truth that must be inhabited to be understood.” Vernon, Mark. A Secret History of Christianity (S.2). John Hunt Publishing. Kindle-Version.
The book is interesting for its comparison between the traditions of Israel and the surrounding cultures, leading up to Christianity and the time afterwards.
Consequently, with so much reading and discussion, which also implies following through on hints and suggestions, I spent a lot of time at my desk, and (next to the standard chores) the remaining time in the garden, where the weather has been inviting.