They Are Not Stupid, They Are YOU

There is a single objective reality on which each one of us construct our own individual experience of being alive. We are all given access to the same collection of molecules and their movements and are tasked with making sense out of them in such a way as to allow us remain alive using as little energy as possible.

Let me tell you two stories before I get to the point of this post.

There is a large group of people in the United States, although not a majority of the population, that cannot understand why Donald Trump’s approval rating is going up during the last full week of March 2020. They believe that he has screwed-up the response to covid-19 and are becoming increasingly alarmed at the increase in people who have tested positive for the virus along with the jump in deaths. To them, HE is the key reason why things have gone so badly off the rails. The administration was very slow to respond to the virus in a tangible way and in the main ways the scientists and epidemiologist have and had been suggesting. The key exception to this is the travel restrictions that were implements on January 31, 2020; although it is not clear that there is much agreement on what exactly this achieved and if it was in fact a travel ban.

At the same time, there is a large group of people in the United States, although not a majority of the population, that cannot understand why his approval rating is not much higher and has only recently begun to climb at a pace faster than snails. They believe that he has responded decisively, quickly, and powerfully, as a leader should in times of crisis, and that he is the one who will carry the entire country though this and back to the land of milk and honey. And they KNOW that if other leaders would start listening to him, the entire planet would be victorious over the virus and quickly be returned to the time of plenty. Until people get out of his way, things are going to continue to degrade meaning that what should only be a minor hiccup will become a major problem. One that HE is going to have fix when he gets reelected in November.

Now on to the post.

Like it or not, there is only one story here (or above). There is a single objective reality on which each one of us construct our own individual experience of being alive. We are all given access to the same collection of molecules and their movements and are tasked with making sense out of them in such a way as to allow us remain alive using as little energy as possible.

As such, there is no way that any one gets it right, and a very low probability that any two individuals share exactly the same version of things. Identical twins, for example, are as close to being the same as anything can be and their versions of the world are not exactly the same. The critical component therefore is how an individual interacts with these molecules and then in how these interactions impact the matter from which the person is constituted. With this in mind, it is clear that different people can have different experiences, or near identical ones, that will cause very similar interactions with their molecules. This will result in outcomes that are very close to the same.

Phrased another way, experience shapes outcomes MORE than biology shapes outcome. Both play a role, but given that biology doesn’t change much over time, experience does most of the heavy lifting.

This does not really map neatly on to any of the prevailing narratives being shaped by people in either of the two groups mentioned above.

Both sides say the same thing about the other side, the same things that people have been saying about the other side for as long as there have been two people who do not agree about something. What is most interesting is the most of the things they say are based on biology and NOT experience.

For example, some on the more liberal side of things will say “anyone who votes for Trump is an idiot” while some on the conservative side will say “anyone who doesn’t support Trump is an idiot.” Notice that neither side suggests anything like “people who vote for (or against) Trump have been shaped by their upbringing in such a way that they privilege certain things over others.” In fact, when you look back over the last 8 years or so for patterns in the exchanges between members from each group or from the broadcasts by members of each group, there is a lack of any agreement to respectfully disagree or to even see the other side as being a member of the same species. THEY are crazy, stupid, sheep, etc… and that is as far as it goes.

Note that I am not suggesting that no one is capable for performing this type of analysis or that there are not people who do it. I am saying that there is a tendency for people who have strong set-in-stone opinions to be much more vocal about them than those whose opinions are more loosely held and which are informed by evidence.

There is a level of unworkability in all of this, given how interconnected and mutually dependent everything is on everything else, and it is based off of the false assumption that people are different. Yes, on one very real level each person is different from every other person; the molecules from which “I” am composed are not the same molecules from which “you” are composed. You are not me and I am not you, and neither of us is anyone else. BUT we are more than just our matter. We are our matter PLUS the impact that our actions have on the physical world AND the impact that the physical world has our matter. So while it will always be true that we are not the same thing, when we view the world in terms of matter and consequences, we are no longer able to say that we are completely different. This may seem like a silly distinction but the material consequences of ones actions can become a part of another persons experience of being alive, or of that experience by many people, just as the actions of other people can materially impact us.

If we take identical twins as an example, because they are as close to being identical as human beings can be, we can easily see the divergent outcomes that are generated by having different interactions with the physical world.

Look at the following image of identical twins:

Image from

Both of them were exposed to the same pathogen – the smallpox virus – and the outcomes were very different. The twin on the right had been exposed to the smallpox vaccine while the brother on the left was not. The results are very different.

My point is that being genetically identical is not sufficient enough to ensure the same outcome. What is also needed is to have the same experiences, at a very similar time, in the same order, consistently for years. With reference to the image above, it is easy to imagine the similarity between two people who both received the smallpox vaccine and the difference in appearance between the two vaccinated people and the unvaccinated one.

When you are susceptible to and get exposed to smallpox, there will be a particular outcome. However, when you have had the experience of being exposed to a similar but much less severe virus before getting exposed to the smallpox virus, the outcome is completely different.

In the event it seems like I am comparing liberalism or conservationism to a virus be aware that I am doing EXACTLY that. Both of those political approaches, along with every other approach, is a collection of ideas that come together to form a view. There are merits to all of them just as their are shortcoming. When you take the time to consider each of them it can become very difficult to make a determination about which one is best, which one is the worst, and if any of them were designed to allow evil to flourish over good. The truth is that the world is much more complicated than what a simple binary “good” “evil” dichotomy is able to capture.

Context is critical, and without context we lose our ability to know what is going on and why things are occurring. Cell death, for example, is viewed as a bad thing – you really do not want your healthy cells to get killed or to die – and we take extra care to avoid things that will kill tissue. However, chemo therapy works because it KILLS cells; ideally it kills a small number of healthy cell but when battling cancer the death of healthy tissue can be viewed as collateral damage. IF the tumor is destroyed and the death of the person is prevented, it is viewed as a win regardless of the destruction to the surrounding tissue.

This is the point. The context in which one is exposed to an idea will contribute considerably to the impact that the idea will have on them. It is therefore very easy to imagine how the same idea can cause a very different outcome.

It would be a mistake to believe that any outcome is certain, even if we were to assume that we were able to control the nature, ordering and timing of every experience. Equally erroneous would be the belief that ALL liberally minded people believe exactly the same things just as it would be wrong to believe the same of conservative leaning people. In fact, MOST of what people believe is the same and while we tend to get fixated on the differences, most of the principles of political theory are shared between all of the different approaches. There are leaders, citizens, wealth, revenue, commerce, industry, and labour, as examples.

The most valuable thing we can take out of all of this is that we really do not know why people are the way they are other than being certain that biology and experience play a role to some extent. Given this, it is impossible to know that you would not hold the same views as someone on the other side of an issue had you not been exposed to different things than you were while you were growing up. The evidence for this is the fact that my great grand parents never learned how to used a smart phone while I did. Their lack of ability in this realm was not a consequence of their intelligence level, it was the outcome of their lack of experience with smart phones – given that the technology did not exist during their life time. We have every reason to believe that they would have learned how to use them had they been invented before or during their life time.

So what?

Consider leading with compassion and kindness before transitioning to the examination of experience. Being a human being is not easy. Life can serve-up one insult after another for you and for everyone. Just because we live through the ones life inflicts upon us does not mean that we will ever have any appreciate of the ones dealt to others. Take a breath and respond to others with less venom and force than seems appropriate.

Consider the possibility that the only thing that prevented you from holding the same views as those you disagree with is the luck of your birth. Had you been born into their body and them into yours, there is no reason to believe that you would believe the same things that you currently do.

Accept that every person has nearly exactly the same biology and the same brain as everyone else. There are very few actual outliers on the planet. Difference in talent and intellectual horsepower can make a big difference but when compared to any other species, human beings have effectively the same talent and brain power.

Finally, when considering making a value judgment about someone who does not hold the same opinion as you, stop yourself from making it. THEY are YOU and YOU are them; at least you would be if you had had the same experiences. We’re in this together and the longer we spend in a state of alignment with others, the great the contribution we will make to the quality of life for ourselves and for those who come after us.

Generational Events – 12/3 Is The Next Regardless Of The Name We Eventually Settle On

Some people in North America had identified that things had changed a few months ago and were subsequently labelled “chicken-littlers,” crazy, or fear mongers. What are the chances that a virus that is impacting China could have any consequence on the rest of the world, plus, what party are these whiners from?

The world changed on March 12, 2020. Yes, this is a North American centred view of the world given that the world changed for China 2 months ago, Iran and Italy changed two weeks ago, and it has not yet changed for most of the African continent, but that is personal relativity for you.

Psychologist coined the term “flashbulb memories” to reference events that are so experientially profound that they are remembered with vivid clarity and significance. Since memory is an individual thing, the term does not speak directly to the collective or shared memories of a group of people or a culture; although many of the flashbulb memories a person has are shared with larger groups of people.

For example, I remember where I was and what I was doing when I heard that a plane had hit the North Tower of the World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001. I can also remember very clearly where I was when I found out that my father had died and I am certain that most people have no idea where they where or what they were doing at at 8 am on January 29, 2012.

Generally speaking, these types of events have such a profound impact on ones identity that they end-up toggling “the way it is” to “the way it was” creating a new beginning. Other examples are the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the end of the second world war, the assignations of JFK and MLK, and the Challenger explosion.

12/3 is different for a few reasons. As mentioned above, China, Iran and Italy were dealing with it well before Donald Trump had his 9 PM press conference on the second Thursday of March.. This indicates that belief / subjective reality has more to do with crossing the threshold into the new “now” than objective reality. This makes pin pointing a specific date and time for this moment more challenging. Unlike a crash or death, the instant ones brain flips a belief switch will be determined by things other than demonstrable facts.

Some people in North America had identified that things had changed a few months ago and were subsequently labelled “chicken-littlers,” crazy, or fear mongers. What are the chances that a virus that is impacting China could have any consequence on the rest of the world, plus, what party are these whiners from? Well, the chances are high because there are so many people and so much travel from almost anywhere to almost anywhere else, and political beliefs are not relevant when it comes to listening and hearing what professional risk managers have to say.

And yet, here we are.

My biggest concern is not that I will die because of this, nor that Heather or anyone in my family will die. I have had to accepted that there is a small chance that someone I know and care about will not see the other side of this. That sucks for lack of a better way to describe it, but it has always been true that as we age our chances of seeing next year drop. People are born, people live, and people die. The cycle of life is just one of the unpleasant things about being born and accepting the temporary nature of being alive is something that we all have to come to terms with.

What I am most concerned about is the lack of alignment that 12/3 demonstrates. It is one thing to be 6 weeks behind the tone or mood of the people in China, given the late onset of the viruses impact on the day to day life of people in North America, it is an entirely different thing to be unaligned with other people who are being drawn into the event at the exact same time.

With generation events that have a singular cause contained to a single moment of time, this misalignment does not happen. There will be latency between the event and when an individual person becomes aware of it which will cause a wave of enlightenment to roll through society, but all of the people will agree that a specific thing happened at a specific moment in time. This will remain true even when people believe the event was caused by different things and when different meanings are given to the surrounding events. No matter what else they might think, the common thread among all people will be the shared agreement that a specific thing occurred at a specific date and time. Great leaders will leverage this collective understandings to get their people moving forward in unison towards uncovering and establishing a new normal.

What we are in middle of right now is very different. While nearly all people will be impacted by 12/3 to some degree over the next year, we will not be unified by it being a singular event or an agreement that of what exactly happened. Instead, we will break off into faction who share only a belief of who is responsible and who to blame. And that is the biggest problem that humanity is going to face when it comes to getting our stride back.

Counter factuals will be promoted and whataboutism will be used to justify or vilify the actions that were or were not taken. All of it will amount to talking fiction with the aim of sustaining the narrative that puts the blame and responsibility onto someone else.

“They broke it so they need to fix it” or “they didn’t do enough to prevent it from happening” or “well thank God the BLANK party wasn’t in power when this happened because things could have been so much worse” will get tweeted and posted endlessly as people sit around waiting for someone else to make the world whole again.

The fact that the entire planet is completely dependent upon everything else to maintain the complex and fragile system that makes possible life as we know it and life in general is in risk of being overshadowed by the lack of agreement on what happened and the role that each one of us played in causing it. Until we unite around something, take responsibility for our future, and begin to move in one direction together for the good of our species and all living beings, we are going to continue to stumble and fall.