SPIN DOCTOR

Spin Doctor specializes in social and cultural issues, as well as politics, economics, history and religion. He started out as a journalist and gained notoriety by writing a treatise on the merits and pitfalls of spiral economics. 

Favorite shape – Spiral.

Favorite fruit – The fruit salad.

September 2022 – The Pros and Cons of Courage

‘Language is courage: the ability to conceive a thought, to speak it, and by doing so to make it true.’ ~ THE SATANIC VERSES by Salman Rushdie

Aside from the aphorism’s truth, one must note the overall implications, at least when considering the title of this novel: The Satanic Verses, which alludes to language of, well, questionable nature and/or dubious motives.

To put it another way, some words are suspect. Our world is prone to entropy, downturn, degeneration, degradation, exploitation and decay, and some brands of courage, outspoken as it may be, leave a lot to be desired.

How to discern between good and evil, right and wrong, righteous and entitled? You decide.

We do indeed: decide – all too readily, and sometimes without good reason. Your god is my devil, your leader is my enemy, an aberration, a symbol of suffering, and must be eliminated or made an example of, etc.… you know the drill. My cause is better than yours, my justice is finer, in the name of harrumph…

Hence our ongoing conflicts.

Our courage, it seems, i.e. our ability to give form to beliefs and ideas, underscores our ascendance as well as our demise. We carry the divine and the infernal inside us, making them real as we speak. The world is our playground and training field, both our birthright and graveyard, where we create an array of realities that reflect our nature.

Or, as it goes in Neil Gaiman’s American Gods – another massive meditation on the nature of the divine and its relationship to the mundane – the gods were (are) created in humankind’s image, and they are deeply flawed, whimsical, and ripe with vice, including the One who rules them all i.e. God Himself. (Let’s talk about monotheism as it stands for a moment. It’s the big kahuna of Supremacism, the despotism, and it dominates the human spirit to this day, underlying the majority of conflicts across the globe. More on that in future posts.)

Yes, our gods, deities and supernatural beings are made of, for, and by pure imagination, tempered daily in our bottomless courage i.e. our keenness to make them real.

Imagination: a medium capable of both nobility and atrocity, redemption and damnation, if I may say so myself. Through it we suffer the agony and ecstasy of our imperfection, subjecting each other to trials we could do without.

If only we had the courage – the real courage – to check our convictions every now and then, voicing not our righteous beliefs but our hard-earned insight on how complex this world is and what makes it function. Give form to ideas that bring the world together, creating a network of life on par with our knowledge and the universe at large.

We know enough to make a start. It’s not too late, not yet.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

August 2022 – Warning! Triggers

The notion of being ‘triggered’ is a faulty concept, as far as I’m concerned. I get how others abide by it, that it expresses what they feel, but it doesn’t encapsulate what I feel.

To me, everything is a trigger. We live in a world where things happen all the time, where we are tested at will, and thank goodness for it. To live is to be triggered, stimulated, pushed, affected.

The problem, for me, is when I get hit (by the bullet fired by the trigger, or by the current in the tripped switch), when I get burned (by the stimulus), when I fall down and smash my face after getting pushed with malice or neglect, when I get tied up in impossible little knots that hurt like hell, no longer able to function i.e. when I’m affected beyond limits, when I suffer some kind of damage from the obstacles that rise around me.

Life, in my books, is about adapting to the challenges thrown at us, and they’re endless, and they’re what makes us stronger, more capable of dealing with adversity, more creative and durable, more inventive, effective and knowledgeable.

So when I do suffer any of the above setbacks – get hit, burned, or meet the ground headfirst and am no longer able to function – I look for solutions that render me capable of dealing with what life shoots at me. Instead of looking to dumb down reality I strive to increase my amplitude and scope, my levels of tolerance and my ability to handle the vast array of events that take place, all within my ability to bounce back. I reprogram my limits and come again, ready for another round.

And when something needs to be reined in because it’s out of control, I make sure to target that specific someone or something, making an example of it in terms of how it goes overboard and how damaging it was (is) to me and people like me. It’s not about getting triggered, or triggers in general. It’s about shutting down the damage and replacing it with something that functions. It’s about calling out the culprit in terms of ‘you messed up… this is the end of the line for you because of (concrete arguments follow)…’

It’s about replacing the notion of getting ‘triggered’ with something more attuned to the live-wire nature of this reality, and about responding to the damage rather than the set-off itself.

The problem is, and always will be, the damage – not setting off the tripwires, switches or other triggers, but the trauma we suffer when things go wrong. The problem is, in real terms, how we get snared or tripped up, finding ourselves in positions where we can’t move forward, and not the hairline mechanisms that throw obstacles our way. Things go off around us all the time, it’s part of the setup, and woe betide if we jump at every noise that sounds offensive or threatening. What kind of consciousness is that?

If that’s how we operate, our odds of making it through the day are pretty thin.

Part of the problem, in other words, is how too many people these days speak about triggers as the problem. Their concept of ‘getting triggered’ creates a society even more prone to damage and setback. Everyone screams bloody murder at all times, at everything, and that’s a huge problem, an attitude that renders us increasingly vulnerable, adding to the hurt.

And the damage grows, and so does our sensitivity, until we can’t deal with anything that isn’t 100% in line with our expectations.

I know, I mentioned earlier that ‘I get how people are triggered,’ and I do, but only to a point. I think the overuse of their favorite term is an abuse of a valuable check mechanism, and here we are.

The end result: our check mechanisms backfire, and we find ourselves spinning in a vicious circle. Society has turned neurotic, incapable of functioning in the supercharged setup of high technology and mass organization. It demands we corral human experience to make things okay for everyone, a formula that’s not sustainable. Organized religion tried time and again to restrict the human condition to a narrow set of parameters and failed every time – you can’t dumb down one’s mind, heart and spirit i.e. the way people think and interact, not without grave repercussions – and so did political regimes on the left and right. All of them tried to level the field and make things work according to a narrow and rigid interpretation of what was acceptable, and all of them failed.

The triggers, in fact, are part of the problem, not because they trigger us but because the concept of ‘getting triggered’ is overused/abused. We need a more adaptive approach to the problems we face, a more durable way to deal with what hurts us. We’ve come a long way and deserve better than this.

It’s not easy. I get it how any given slur can set someone off – some words enrage me, too, as do some actions – but the way forward is through those triggers, past the damage they cause and into something better. Point out the hurt, trauma and fallout to shut down the culprits, not the notion of a supercharged world. Create a better reality full of triggers and stimuli, all kinds of challenging events that we can handle, and crack down on those who hurt others intentionally. Demonize the damage, not the trigger, and we get to live in a world where we manage adversity without falling prey to it, pushing ourselves to greater heights and lengths, solving problems with creativity, not grinch-like neuroticism.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

July 2022 – Change

He couldn’t predict her reactions these days.

It bothered him.

You’ve changed, he said to her.

What do you mean? she replied.

You’re not the person I knew, he repeated. You’ve changed.

I don’t know what you mean, she said.

He went down a list, pointing out what bothered him about her.

She didn’t agree with him. He was making a big deal out of nothing. She was positive and energized, she said, not overconfident like he claimed. She had plans and would no longer let others put her down. He replied that she was arrogant and no longer listened to others, but it was he who refused to listen, she said, to understand that all she did was reclaim her agency to set out on a path that fulfilled her.

He retorted that she was stubborn so she brought out a mirror and told him to stare into it. He called her glib and arrogant and she smirked, aware of the irony in her reaction, but what else could she do but smirk at – and make fun of – his claims? She wasn’t worried about how she came across, not anymore, not like before. Perhaps he was right, to a degree – she was a little cocky – but she felt good about it. In a world of pricks, cockiness wasn’t all bad. It got the job done, especially when combined with a healthy dose of self-awareness, which pricks usually lack, which is what makes them what they are and separates them from people like her whose focus was to stop others from bursting her balloon.

Playing with words like that wouldn’t win her any friends, he said.

She told him to go catch a falling star, and he didn’t get it, and it didn’t surprise her.

And so it went from then on. The effort to put her back in her rightful place, the place he was accustomed to, had begun, and she resisted it with all her might.

Meanwhile, in a town far away, or close by, or maybe even in the same district or even the same town, the same story played out between two other people, the only difference being that it was he who had ‘changed’, according to her, a problem she addressed by going over a list she’d made – on all the ways he’d changed – and so on and so forth.

And the same thing happened between two women who knew each other well; one came after the other’s transformation in the name of what was good for her.

It happened between two men, too. And between two non-binary people. And between a man and a gender-fluid person. And…

You get the drift.

It’s a human thing, and pretty inhumane, when you think about it – how we strive to drag people back into the confines of our expectations, all in the name of love, care, truth, commitment, one’s wellbeing – the list of justifications is as long as the lists we compile – and the world goes round the same old arguments, making progress while nothing changes. Everyone accuses someone they know of having changed too much, too fast, too radically for one’s liking, and then we wonder why the same tragedies play out over the millennia, why we persecute and destroy each other like always, in the name of humanity and all things good.

Love, like everything, is loving and nurturing only in carefully applied doses.

Too much of it is toxic.

The same applies for everything on our long and noble-sounding lists. Less is definitely more. Learning how to lay off when necessary is necessary. Let our loved ones be so they can let us be in turn, and the truly good stuff comes alive.

I believe this with all my heart so I share my views with friends and family, but I don’t get the reaction I expect. Most of them nod politely but have little to add to the conversation. Some of them shake their heads and change the subject. A few scrutinize me as if they don’t know me. Others take me aside and tell me they’re worried about me. You’ve changed, they say.

And so it goes.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

June 2022 – THUGGING V. INTERFACING

Opinion doesn’t refute facts. Science does. Solid arguments make a stronger case than wishful thinking, allowing new information to replace the old, thrusting us forward. The status quo gives way to the updated, the accurate and relevant. Something timely for something dated, is how it works. A sharper take on the world is how the picture clears up.

For example, we can’t go around saying that earth is flat, or that vaccines were designed by Bill Gates to replace our DNA with Windows programming that will turn us into slaves. We can’t make stuff up and call them facts, or level the field to accommodate our point of view and, by the way, screw the world’s axioms. (We could, but it would be a disaster.) We owe it to ourselves to stand up to old prejudices, lest we become yesterday’s prisoners. Shutting down all those who scream bloody blasphemy, be they religious and acting in the name of a deity, or zealous and acting in the name of a political creed, or unwilling to hear out a person simply because they’re offended, is imperative. Anyone who strangles the conversation in the name of propriety is a manipulator, as bad as the bigots one rails against, and ought not get away with it. Hurt feelings and taking offense are a zealot’s excuse to persecute others, an attitude we can’t afford to live with.

Imagine my surprise when I realized that many of the people I knew were, in fact, zealots. All it took was running into pressure, a tight spot, and boom! — the lid explodes.

The problem isn’t the outburst. We all lose our temper and falter on way forward. The difference is, many people refuse to make amends. They’re happy to let things go on, discounting what happened, pretending it’s all good, refusing to reset, sticking to what was gained through righteous indignation.

That is the real-life description of a zealot — a person who pushes for what isn’t right / what doesn’t work no matter what.

It’s also the definition of a thug.

Most humans are, in fact, thugs. It doesn’t matter how good we are in certain aspects of our lives, how much we care for some people, what we contribute in given situations, how deeply we abide by certain rules. At some point or other, most people have been, are, and will be thugs.

‘Thug’ has a positive connotation nowadays, and I can see how. In a cynical and brutal world, one has to be something thuggish to get ahead. As simple as that.

But let’s not forget the other aspect of the term, the part that does damage. It would be wise not to glorify the approach. Resting on poisonous laurels is dangerous. Better scale back the situation, own the outburst, undo the damage and reset the stage in a manner that establishes trust across the board, sending a clear message: the best things happen when people work together, not when we’re at each other’s throats or dancing over each other’s graves.

Dancing over each other’s graves has its uses, too, of course. The emotions that come with it lead to exceptional repercussions, a few of which lead to great change, the key term in this case being ‘exceptional.’

Let such dancing be the exception then, and come together to smooth things out. As a rule, that is the sounder course. Thugging has its place, but interfacing is where the future is at.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

June 2022 – THE FATHER RAISES TOUGH QUESTIONS

I finally got around to watching The Father.

Make no mistake, it’s a horror film, made from the real stuff that plays out daily across the world.

It’s a terrible way to go – to send off people into the sunset like that.

It seems to me that it should be clear to us by now: longevity comes with novel issues and challenges, to which we have yet to respond substantially. Caught between our new knowledge and yesterday’s preconceptions of how to deal with life, we condemn those who suffer from dementia to limbo, all in the name of doing the right thing, which somehow fails to play out right, time and again. It’s time we amended our entire ethics to match the new realities of life, lest we suffer in hells of our own making.

Let me put it this way: our palliative approaches are, to a large extent, excruciatingly awful, more so because we confuse decency and compassion with tradition and sanctimony, condemning people to a destiny of suffering, all in the name of compassion unable to deliver.

Kudos to the producers for portraying this important issue from an angle that highlights the problem. It’s an ingenious piece of work (note how the late 80s-early 90s psychological thriller model was applied to a drama story) that works like a charm, showcasing the importance of getting it right for those who suffer from the terrible condition of dementia, the prolonging of which can only be compared to a life sentence spent inside a bad trip / a dissociative split, which is hardly humane, dare I say.

I don’t have answers, but I have questions, and I would hope that most people do by now. Asking the right questions might help us reach a new understanding of dementia and other such conditions in due course, dismantling the degenerative hell experienced by so many people around the world.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

May 2022 – WE FIGHT OPPRESSION

‘The oppressor would not be so strong if he did not have accomplices among the oppressed.’ ~ SIMONE DE BEAUVOIR

Yes, and neither would the oppressed… be so strong if they didn’t have accomplices among them.

Let that sink in.

The point is that what needs fighting is oppression, not the oppressors.

It’s all about perspective.

We fight ignorance with education, not by demonizing the educated. We fight injustice by eliminating injustice, not those who have experienced justice.

We don’t solve poverty by fighting wealth, and when we do, it doesn’t work.

We fight FOR something – as opposed to fighting only the opponent – and, by default, the opponent is taken care of.

But when we fight the opponent alone, we don’t solve much because we fail to address the core problem.

It’s not enough to fight the ‘villain’; what it does is kick the can down the road, and chances are we become the villains in turn, down the line.

We fight oppression by fighting oppression, not just the oppressors, and the oppressors go down by default. Oppression is both a phenomenon and a state of mind. Address the condition and we contain those who would keep us under their thumb, those who weaponize oppression by either pushing down on others or by selling their goods on the so-called platform of ‘fighting oppressors.’ They’re just as manipulative, the latter, misery merchants of a special kind, thriving in ideologies that hinge on a world divided into the oppressive and the oppressed, their emphasis on tearing down totems rather than lifting people up, which is a twisted way of making a positive impact.

Fight the strong if you’re weak, they say, and that works, true, because by fighting the strong we develop strength. To fight the strong is to up our game and do away with our weaknesses, replacing our liabilities with advantages, playing into our strengths to fend off what preys on us.

We also fight prejudice, making sure that discrimination is identified and eliminated. Do that, and we eliminate – or undermine – the prejudiced by default, and, as a bonus, our capacity to discriminate against others.

Think of it as mountaineering. It’s all about moving out of our predicaments, on to a higher plane i.e. overcoming the obstacles. (Not obsessing over them.) It’s all about moving on and reaching summit after summit. We don’t fight those who have reached the top, even if they set up barriers to make it harder for us to progress. We simply push on, fighting the trail, and things take care of themselves.

Too Ayn Rand-y? I’ve never read Ayn Rand, at least not AS and TheF.

But I do appreciate the importance of setting positive goals. Positive goals are more effective in the long term, not the short term, which is why most causes settle for less, pointing at villains and scapegoats. The reward is faster and more expedient, but the end result, although quick to arrive, falls short, recycling old problems.

Fight the condition, not the villains, and everything takes care of itself.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

March 2022 – BREAD AND GAMES AGAIN

‘Cut the mustard: Wisconsin’s National Mustard Museum removes Russian mustards from its display collection.’

So goes the caption of an online article (see link below), and it’s not the only one. There are many more like it, encapsulating the public’s approach – at least in the West – to the war in Ukraine.

One gets the sentiment, kind of, but the end result is nonsense.

It reminds me of the time France refused to back the Iraq War and people started calling French fries ‘freedom fries’… different era, same old paroxysms, glossing over the issue in the name of impressions, appearances and other forms of grandstanding.

One thing: I remember reading reports on the Iraq War later on that explained in clear terms how the major impact of the sanctions was on ordinary people, especially the vulnerable. And the pundits got on the bandwagon and highlighted the point.

Yes, I get how sanctions are at the moment the only serious economic weapon at the West’s disposal – short of risking nuclear war with Russia – but it doesn’t change the fact that many of these sanctions and the hysteria that underscores a major chunk of them harm none other than ordinary people, again.

Or is this something one shouldn’t say these days?

These are complex times. In the struggle against brutality one ought to take hard measures and dish out tough love etc. (pick your metaphors), no doubt about it, but it would also be great to retain a minimum amount of sanity.

I see very little sanity at work right now. The way it goes, it’s just another day in today’s Colosseum, driven by bread and games.

Yes, our bread and games is more benign and functional than ‘their’ bread and games, but it’s still a spectacle, and it can carry on for only so long before it loses all legitimacy.

Perhaps we should help Ukraine by not promising support we can’t give (no one likes sloppy seconds), meaning: let’s put aside the hot potato ideology and broker a system of governance in Ukraine that leads to stability and functionality.

There, a sounder cause for the public to get behind, more substantial in every way – though nowhere near as exciting as our kneejerk sanctions.

As we all know, what makes the web go click-click these days are flashy spectacles and loud self-righteousness, so it’s bad news for efficacy after all.

In other words, we’re not going to cut the mustard, not this way. Our impact is not positive. As we say bye-bye to Russian condiments and other products, the reality eludes us, and we’re stuck with nonsense while Ukraine goes down the drain.

But, to finish on a brighter note – and a caveat – let me highlight the need for a sound policy, now, while there’s still time. Keep up the kneejerk reactions and this issue will remain an issue till the next elections, and voters will vote for the opposition, and we all know what a shit show the opposition was when it had power, and will be again. It’s time to get serious and commit to a workable solution for Ukraine, now, while saner people are in office, not just for Ukraine’s sake but also ours. Address the Ukraine situation in a sound manner and not only do we solve a number of global problems, the shit show on our turf loses momentum, too.

Focus, y’all, on both sides of the pond.

From your socratic Spin Doctor,

Eyes open, mind sharp.

National Mustard Museum Banishes Russian Mustards