politics

Here’s how the western intelligence community should respond.

The western intelligence community should respond with their own wikileaks style dump of data they have on the matter.

One of the great appeals of the Russian propaganda outlet Wikileaks, is the open data nature of the documents.

For example, in regards to the DNC hack, the data surrounding how it was ascertained that Russian hackers were responsible, should be released.

Donald Trump’s entire tax history should be released.

The CIA etc wouldn’t necessarily have to publish the data themselves. Who knows what the level of direct collusion between Putin and Assange is, but the CIA could similarly leak data to a friendly hactivist type organisation. Or directly to the Washington Post I suppose.

 

It’s apparent that you can use data leaking and data manipulation (eg. Twitter bots, paid trolls) to quite an effect. The Western intelligence community should perhaps consider responding in kind. After all, intelligence warfare is quite a peaceful kind of warfare. If all conflicts were just releasing embarrassing data about each other, that could be awful in its own right, but apparently better than dying a bloody death.

 

 

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politics · wellbeing

Is ignoring politics a reasonable course of action?

I’m sure I’m not alone in being in a fairly perpetual state of anxiety about incoming Trump presidency.

Take a look at this Google trends chart:

trump 1.png

However, for balance – the search volume for anxiety doesn’t appear to have particularly spiked, it just has a continuing steady upward trend.

t2.png

I find myself spending a lot of time thinking, and watching news commentary about whether this means Russia is going to invade its neighbours, what’s going to happen to the economy in the light of Trump protectionism, etc.

Thing is – there have been plenty of political crises in my lifetime, and even before I was born. The Cuban Missile Crisis, the Thatcher government, the collapse of the Soviet Union, September 11.

While all of these events have clearly shaped the world we live in, it’s reasonable to say that my paying attention to them or not hasn’t had any effect on how they’ve played out.

If paying attention to and engaging with the current climate of politics is causing me anxiety and is disrupting my life, then perhaps the best individual course of action is for me to quit engaging.

But: Lack of voter engagement and uninformed voters seems to be precisely one of the things that got us into this mess in the first place.

While the Trump phenomena can’t be explained by any single dynamic – I think that out of touch politicians doing what they want to do without regard for their voter base, and disenfranchised voters is one of the key contributing factors that elected Trump.

It would seem that me dropping my engagement would indicate a further exasperation of this dynamic. That’s concerning.

One positive is that this does increase my empathy for low-engagement voters. When potential voters say ‘I don’t really pay attention to politics’ or vote along the lines of a single buzzword, or say ‘voting doesn’t change anything’ – I’m a lot more sympathetic – because it seems true – whatever happens is going to happen anyway – I might as well spend my effort worrying about something I can change.

 

 

 

politics

A redrawing of political lines.

The election of Donald Trump and the subsequent discourse demonstrates a radical redrawing of political lines.

Previously, I think we could have drawn political divide the following way:

Left Right
Socially progressive (pro LGBT+ rights, minority rights, pro abortion rights) Socially conservative. ‘Traditional values’, pro-life
Believes climate change Climate change deniers
More athiestic More religious (Christian)
Rationality based reasoning Values based reasoning
Suspicious of ‘corporate America’ Corporate America an example of American values

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, I’ve noticed a radical divergence from this model – where people who I’d previously put on the left of the spectrum, now appear to either support or apologise (defend) for Donald Trump.

On the other hand – the pro-trump community takes pride in being a pro-LGBT community.

The Skeptic Community

The skeptic community is one that is typically atheistic, rational, and tends to be liberal leaning. What we see now is members of the skeptic community supporting or apologising for Trump primarily  out of a reaction to the SJW community, or because they believe that Hillary is worse than Trump.

This tends to be justified with ‘science isn’t the most important thing’

Conspiracy Theorists

Conspiracy theorists like Alex Jones, (full disclosure: I don’t follow Alex Jones, so my research for this section is just a few google searches I’ve made now) haven’t ever been particularly supportive of any government.

For example, look at this old article from when George W. Bush was in power.

Now have a look at this video of Alex Jones talking about Donald Trump:

Alex Jones appears to like Donald Trump – because he’s an anti-establishment politician, I guess.

It’s an interesting pivot – from always being critical of those in power, to now supporting the current government.

Trump supporters aren’t just idiot rednecks.

It’s clear to me that Trump supporters, or Trump apologists aren’t just idiots who couldn’t see through his lies. There are clearly quite a few Trump supporters or apologists who are capable of reasoned debate.

I think the difference between a rational person who opposes Trump, and a rational person who supports Trump (over Hillary) comes down to values. Note I stop short of saying ‘I don’t think all Trump supporters are hateful’, because I think that that is the essence of it.

I think rational Trump supporters don’t mind watching the world burn. 

Perhaps this is a reflection of my own privilege. I think the world has been becoming a better place. People are more educated, people are more informed (or perhaps not?), we have more freedom over our careers, we are healthier and living longer, we’re more comfortable. Climate change is concerning, but we appear to be making progress.

But of course, I say that as an educated, middle class white man, who works in IT. I can see my career progressing. If I a working class man in the manufacturing industry, not knowing whether I was going to have a job next year – I might not share my optimism.

It’s my optimism that has me dispelling the idea that Hillary Clinton would be awful. Sure, Hillary Clinton might be the status quo, but the status quo has been serving us OK.

I get the argument that Trump might shake up the political establishment, and cause more radical change, but I don’t think things are so desperately bad that they warrant electing someone with such hateful and alarming rhetoric.

I can accept the argument that the disenfranchisement  of white lower or middle class voters caused the election of Donald Trump, but that doesn’t make it right or a good result.

Sure, the election of Donald Trump shows that there are issues societal disenfranchisement, but the election of Donald Trump is not the right solution.

On ‘Trump is a reaction to social justice warriors’

I agree that the left has a problem with letting SJWs run unchecked. In my opinion, a lot of what is labelled as SJWry is people finding reasons to hate others, in the guise of social justice.

However, there are extremists on all ends of political spectrums, I don’t think SJWs are a problem with left itself. I do think think that the left needs to take bigger efforts to shut it down.

I don’t buy the argument that ‘feminism is redundant’ for example. Glass ceilings still exist, our dating culture can be improved, and certainly in the US, several states make it difficult to get abortions. I make a distinction between feminism that is aimed at improving our dating culture, getting consent being added to the sexual health curriculum, and feminism that is aimed at shaming men for the way they sit on a bus.

However, I don’t buy the argument that SJWs are so bad, that you’d elect someone who thinks we should bomb terrorists’ families, or questions why we can’t use nukes. Instead I would suggest viewing SJWs as a concerning bubble, which should be addressed isolation, just as we address anti-vaxxers or 9/11 conspiracy theorists. That is – address them for sure, but don’t throw out your whole political ideology to do so.

observation · politics · wellbeing

Dealing with Trump president related anxiety.

I’m generally optimistic about the future of the world – and I disagree with arguments that ‘the world is getting worse’. People are more literate than ever, health care is improving around the world, people are more free to choose there career and so on. The 2014 Annual Letter from Bill and Melinda Gates reflects this sentiment.

However, like many people I was surprised by the result of the US 2016 Presidential Election, and experienced a range of anxiety, cynicism and worry about both the future of the world and the current state of society.

What’s to worry about?

I’d divide this in to two categories:

Worry for the future.

  • Causing a global war.
  • Causing an economic recession.
  • Increasing risk of terrorism.

Cynicism about society now.

It’s a little disturbing that so many people weren’t put off by some of Trump’s more awful remarks (‘We should bomb the terrorists familys’, ‘I’d bring back waterboarding and worse’).

The election result demonstrates that there’s more deep rooted hate than we’d perhaps anticipated.

A case against optimism.

It’s tempting to say ‘She’ll be right, things always work out in the end, look at the world now’.

I think we should be a bit careful here. Life isn’t a movie that always has a happy ending. And while our society right now is pretty good, there have been periods of turmoil in the past.

For example,  let’s take the the election of Adolf Hitler to power in 1933. Although 80 years later things have turned out OK for us now, things were not OK for the people living in Europe at the time, and saying ‘she’ll be right’ in that context, seems misguided.

So that’s my first warning – it’s not a foregone conclusion that everything will be alright – though of course that wouldn’t be the case had Hillary been elected either.

With that said – it’s valuable to make the most of your life, regardless of what the election results are. Generally stress and anxiety are disruptive or distracting (though presumably someone could use them as a positive to launch their political career or similar), so it’s good to be in a frame of mind where one proceeds with their life.

Empathising with Trump voters.

Empathising is the act of imaging yourself in the shoes of someone else – understanding what their thought processes are and what they’re feeling.

Empathising humanises a person, makes them more familiar, and thus less scary. I think it’s often the not understanding why someone acts a certain way, that we find frightening.

Let’s try an empathising exercise now. All this involves is engaging our imagination. Ask yourself, what is it like First, let’s acknowledge that Trump voters aren’t a monolith – people have voted for Trump for a variety of reasons.

  • Disenfranchised and relatively less privileged whites. Working class whites who relatively speaking have fallen behind in society. For example less educated people in manufacturing jobs, who have been laid off or their wages haven’t kept up with more modern occupations like IT. Combine this with increasing ethnic diversity and the awareness that they’re not being paid much more than a social group (people of colour) they’ve typically seen themselves as significantly higher than, and you see how someone would want someone to take action to give them their social status back.
  • Children of hateful parents. Imagine if you’ve grown up surrounded with racist and sexist rhetoric, and then more recently there’s been more attention to people calling this out as hate speech. Your very way of life is under attack! When a candidate appears that opposes these now long present forces, you like the guy who is batting for you team!
  • Bored people. Your life is unsatisfying and a bit overwhelming. You expect Donald Trump to cause trouble, and that’s going to stir things up.
  • Protest voters. I imagine that lot of people who voted for Trump, never expected him to win. People who were frustrated at the lack of options in the election – not trusting that Hillary Clinton had their interests at heart, and voted for Trump more to make a point, rather than genuinely preferring him as president.

When you think about things this way – how Trump came about is a lot more understandable – and for me, the feeling changes more from anxiety to sadness. It’s sad that so many people have lives like this that voting for Trump seems like a good move.

Accepting that we live in a world of assholes.

One of the disheartening things about the election result, is that it appears that a lot of people are gleeful, bitter, hateful or ignorant.

This may feel depressing, as the world isn’t full of the happy, loving, intelligent people we’d like a utopia to be.

But – instead of feeling like you’ve lost something, just accept that that’s actually how it is. Imagine you are a buffalo on the African Savannah. There really are lions out there want to eat you. Being depressed about this isn’t going to help – what’s going to help is being aware of it, and being strong in the face of it.

Or similarly – imagine that it’s discovered that in the forest near your park resides real genuine monsters, who’ll pop out at night and eat people. Instead of being terrified, or despairing that the world is worse than you thought it was,  accept it and change your lifestyle to suit. Start carrying a weapon, and avoiding the forest at night.

What this attitude means practically, is in your day to day interactions, perhaps being a bit more emotionally standoffish with people you don’t know – after all – they could be bitter or selfish. It also means looking out for the people who are intelligent, loving and full of life and actively seeking them out and appreciating them!

Life does go on.

Even if something bad happens, it may have long term consequences, but we still deal with it, and still move on. For example 9/11 really did happen, and it end up causing chaos in the middle east, and there was a global economic recession – yet we’re still here, things are still alright.

Now of course – for people who did die as the result of a terrorist attack or in one of the wars – things weren’t alright – so we should quite rightly be concerned about personally becoming a victim. But that said – every time you drive in a car, you also risk dying in a car crash. Personally – I don’t like driving for this reason, but in the wider context of things – and depending where you live, on the balance of probability, you can probably keep doing what you’re doing.

But if, in your assessment, you do need to take action – then take action! Become a doomsday prepper, or move to a safer neighborhood or whatever.

Blame social media/the media.

I think a large part of Trump’s success was that he sold headlines with the outrageous things he said. The media would report those things, knowing that people would click the headline to indulge their desire to be outraged. Whether it’s the responsibility of the media for producing the headlines, or the consumers for reading them, is a discussion for another time.

I think it’s a philosophy that’s worth considering – the reason that someone so outrageous has risen to power, is partly because we’re addicted to outrage and we feed it. Perhaps it time we get more choosey about the media we consume.

Conclusion.

Ultimately, I think the right response is a mix of optimism and agitation. Keep feeling positive and enjoying your life (we do live in a pretty golden age, after all), but also use this as an opportunity to be more inspired and motivated, and do your part to improve our culture.