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On social distance, a great TED-talk and refugees

Image from allnationstranslations.com

Image from allnationstranslations.com

Nickey (check out her awesome blog here) suggested I’d do a blog entry about social distance, so that’s what I’ll do :)

First let’s clarify concepts.

You’ve got locational distance. If you’re reading this on your laptop while sitting on a beach in Egypt, first of all, damn you, you horrible braggart.  I resent you a lot and I hope you get sand in unmentionable places (<–Norway is a cold, dark place these days and I am growing increasingly bitter. I can’t wait to see what a pleasant, adorable creature I’ll be by January).  Nevertheless, If you’re in Sharm El Sheikh, and I am in Norway (>:() there would be a great locational distance between where you and I are physically located.

Then there’s social distance. There are three types; interactive, normative and affective social distance (I’ll try to make this not too boring, but bear with me).

1). Interactive social distance has to do with to which extent groups or individuals interact. That is, how often they’re in touch, and how close they are when they’re together. One can interact with someone on a frequent basis without being interactively socially close. For instance, I frequently interact with grocery store employees, but we are not very close. Not that I would mind if we were, but it just hasn’t happened yet. Colleagues and students are another example; I interact with them frequently and I feel pretty close to some of them.

2). Normative social distance has to do with how you view another individual or group; are they part of your ingroup (‘She’s just like me!!1! <3′) or part of an outgroup (“oh…Those weirdos.. I hear they brush their teeth up and down instead of from left to right, they smell funny, and they hate kittens and rainbows”). To put it into context; an individual who is far right on the political spectrum, loves Limbaugh, Ayn Rand’s teachings and hates puppies (those things frequently go together, or so I’ve heard) would be normatively distant from myself. An individual who is at the left (though not faaar left) on the political spectrum, loves puppies, and likes Chomsky, Foucault and Freud would be much closer to where I stand.  I would consider the first guy an outgroup-member, and the second, an ingroup-member.

3). Affective social distance is all about feeeeelings; how close you feel emotionally towards that other person or group. You are likely to be affectively close to your family members (i.e., you love them) while not very affectively close to the janitor of your building (though I’m sure she or he is perfectly nice and fully deserving of love and respect).

Now, a word of caution before I continue. Academics like to parse things up into discrete categories. That way you get neat little conceptual boxes. The problem is that our world is not a neat, tidy place, and nothing is as messy as our emotions, cognition and behaviour. The categories frequently accompany each other, and the presence or absence of one does not exclude the others.

What made Nickey suggest this particular topic was this TED-talk.

Did you hear those three truths Ash Beckham spoke?

1. Be authentic. If you want someone to be real to you, they need to know that you bleed too. This is extraordinarily difficult. Our lives are largely built around posturing. We are told what we should be and how to get there (Thanks a lot Women’s magazines, you guys are the worst!). There’s something odd about authenticity; the more you show that you are imperfect, the more those around you (those who matter anyway) sympathize/empathize with you. This because we all have the same emotional range (except for a tiny scary group of people). Showing vulnerability and telling others of your shortcomings may feel awful in the moment, but you’ll survive. I am, for instance, not cool. I fail to wear the right clothes, and my weight fluctuates. I like things that have never been trendy (you’ll probably find this shocking, but an interest in old maps and fossils isn’t the hallmark of coolness. Who’da thunk..)  I am horrible at sports. I have no coordination, and I cry ALL. THE. TIME. I also deal with an at-times, crippling anxiety. When people find out, they tend to say “oh, ok.” Sometimes they’re indifferent and sometimes they hug me. So far though, telling it like it is has done me no harm.

2. Be direct. Just say it. Directness is golden.  It is also easy to understand.

3. Be unapologetic. I will never master this, but I greatly admire those who do. I have faults and flaws and I keep trying to correct them. I am way too apologetic, and I would love if someone could teach me how to accept my (impossible to fix) flaws.

Anyway, back to the various kinds of social distance: What is scary is that they are all at the root of prejudice. We’re all prejudiced to some extent (see my example of the Rush-Limbaugh-loving-puppy-haters); the question is where that prejudice leads, and whether we are reasonable enough to recognize it as our own issue, and not necessarily a flaw or shortcoming in others.

The current discussion concerning refugees in Norway is illustrative of all the various forms of distance, including locational distance. It also includes a fairly hefty dose of ignorance about conditions around world, but that’s for another post.

Interactional social distance: I think it would be fair to assume that most Norwegians do not interact with a great number of refugees on a regular basis. If they did, they might come to see how incredibly varied the group is. They might start seeing them as individuals, and they’d likely find the idea of locking them up abhorrent.

Normative social distance: once one has been exposed to a great number of refugees, one would (usually) come to the realization that they may differ from ourselves in some respects, but that we are more alike than different. This is not a conclusion one arrives at without also having a healthy dose of respect for other human beings. When you treat others with respect, they tend to open up and return that respect. They (may) also start telling you of their passions, fears and struggles. If you empathize, you’ll likely notice that you would feel the very same emotions they feel when facing similar conditions.

If the aforementioned social distance-gaps have narrowed, that is, if you have become close with several members of the group in question,  the affective social distance is likely to be influenced. You come to no longer view the group  as a homogeneous faceless entity but rather as a group highly different of people, some of whom one likes and some of whom one may not like quite as much.

Nevertheless, treating them inhumanely is much more difficult once you see them as real people.

Now, please join this group. It is a group whose aim it is to stop those in power from locking up refugees while they’re waiting to have their application processed.

On a horribly tragic event and collective punishment

quotes-i-refuse-to-accept_9857-0

I have never once had to lie about or hide my ethnicity. I am Norwegian-Iranian (as mentioned in the bio) and I am completely comfortable with being Norwegian-Iranian. I would also be comfortable with any other constellation of mixedness; Polish-American, Kenyan-Bolivian, Israeli-Italian-Bosnian, Arab-Swede-Macedonian, Spanish-Icelandic, you name it.  The reasons why I am comfortable with my ethnicity are many. First, ethnicity is not very important in terms of my identity. I can’t deny that my background has shaped who I am, but if I run a “who am I really?” inventory, several adjectives come to mind looong before the noun(s) describing my cultural background (make of that what you want..). I also feel no shame and absolutely no guilt in terms of my heritage or the actions of the groups I am perceived to belong to. The leadership in Iran for instance; they are (largely) a collection of massive jerks. This is not only in my mind, they regularly make asses of themselves in global public fora. Remember when Ahmadinejad claimed that there are no gays in Iran? Or his ignorant and cruel Holocaust-denial? Yeah, not my fault. The guy is a tool, and I have no responsibility for his actions or words whatsoever, despite our (partially) shared ethnicity. I also have no responsibility for Breivik’s actions. Neither am I to blame for how a certain subset of Norwegians behave when they travel abroad (uhm.. Some drink. A lot. And some have been known to move to other countries and demand that the native population learn the Norwegian language…).  Again, it is not my fault, nor my responsibility. I can try to educate them or attempt to make them see how silly they appear, but it is usually a futile endeavour. Besides, it’s kinda one of those “I know what’s right for you” things that I prefer to avoid.

Now, my refusal to be held accountable for others actions is tied to my ENORMOUS PRIVILEGE (I know all-caps is annoying, but it is called for). In terms of looks, I am indistinct. You can’t look at me and decide where I am from, and in cases where I have encouraged others to guess, guesses have ranged from Norwegian, British to Russian to “maybe..Uhm….???”  I am so pale I am practically light-blue most of the year. My hair colour is brown and I have blue eyes. I (usually) breeze through customs, and I am perceived as innocent until proven otherwise. This is not the case for a great majority of people across the world, and this brings me to the point of this blog-entry.

First, let me describe the horrible event mentioned in the headline of this entry. What happened was this; an asylum-seeker hailing from a country south of the Sahara killed 3 people on a bus travelling from Valdres, central Norway. The man was psychotic. Psychosis is not exclusive to any group, and it is not unheard of that the paranoia (commonly) associated with psychosis ends up causing harm, most frequently to the individual experiencing psychosis, but sometimes also to those around him or her. The man had likely experienced hardships you and I cannot comprehend. Imagine having to flee from one country to another, aided by human smugglers. Imagine being stowed in a rickety truck and having to remain in said truck across the (incredibly dangerous) Sahara. Imagine having to travel great distances at sea in a boat that’s not really seaworthy. Said boat is also likely to  hold many more people than what it is meant to. Imagine leaving, even abandoning your friends, family, maybe also your children and spouse in the hopes that they may come after once you have found a safe place to live…The families these refugees leave behind are likely to have invested quite a bit of money in the trip  (travelling across borders while not holding papers is not cheap) thus helping, but also placing an additional burden on the refugee.

Then you’re likely to be rejected from one country after another. You’ll arrive one place, get thrown into an awful detention centre, then shipped back to the place you last came from. This can go on for years and years, and unsurprisingly, many lives have been lost. Keep in mind that the people making this journey have no fault in their own misfortune, they were simply born in the wrong place. These are places where paperwork and official records are shoddy at best, and non-existent at worst.

Upon arrival in Norway, refugees are placed in a ‘mottak’, another kind of detention centre. The conditions in some of these are awful to say the least. Many are for-profit, and refugees from all across the world are placed together. There’s nothing for them to do and most have horrible trauma in their background. You might wait for months or years while someone in a far-away location decides your fate. You have no idea how long it will take, and you have no idea of the outcome. You are at the mercy of a public official, and the uncertainty is overwhelming..

Pretty grim, no?

Our man had recently had his asylum-application rejected and was set to be shipped out.  He was to be sent to Spain, back to another detention centre. He snapped. He killed. Innocent lives were lost, including his own (he is alive and in a psychiatric ward, but if or when he comes to, what kind of existence and reality will he be facing?). The survivors on the bus will have to deal with the trauma for years to come. The families of those killed will never get back their loved ones. It couldn’t possibly be more tragic.

What is worse is the fallout. Politicians are calling for locked detention centres. That is, innocent refugees will be treated like criminals, because once you lock someone up and deny them freedom of movement, you’re effectively placing them in jail. The bus-company that owned the bus on which the incident occurred has decided that they will not allow refugees on their buses for a while. So one tragic event has led to a whole group of people being punished. What more is the fear many of his countrymen face. I was told as recently as today (by people from the same region) that they now attempt to conceal where they hail from in order not to be associated with either the man or the event. People who belong to visible minorities have it rough enough as it is, it seems awfully unfair that they should live in fear that the general populace might find out that they were born ‘in the wrong place’..  Most have done nothing wrong, but still have to live in fear. All because we as humans frequently view those who are dissimilar from us as a coherent group, not as differing individuals with different experiences, different psyches, different lives;  yet, with the exact same emotional range as ourselves. We stereotype and assume based on very limited information. Any time you hear the words “people from X are like Y”, you’re witnessing stereotyping. It is not so bad when the stereotypes are innocuous (“Norwegians are docile and for the most part friendly”)  but it is outright dangerous when the qualities superimposed on a group has elements of “this is why these people are dangerous”-reasoning. People are frequently killed because they are perceived to belong to a group believed to be dangerous.. (There were several cases of Sikhs being killed or badly beaten post 9/11, simply for having beards and wearing turbans…Yeah, ignorance is very very dangerous).

I (again) can’t come up with a good/useful conclusion, but I sure hope people come to their senses. I hope they do remember  that one should never judge all the people from a given group because of what one single (very sick) person did. Let us not forget that if the shoe was on the other foot, we might all have been judged based on what our resident terrorist Anders Behring Breivik did.

Image from wikipedia.com

On my ineptitude, travel and IQ tests.

I’m going to Toronto tomorrow morning. My dog Niko is moving to a whole new continent, and I’m going with him, just to make sure he makes it there safely. I’m a little nervous, not because I am in any way afraid of flying; I was only 6 weeks old when I took my first flight, and have taken hundreds of flights since then. Nothing remarkable has ever happened. There have been a few drunken and belligerent people, but there’s drunken belligerent people pretty much everywhere.  Anyway, I am worried for Nick though. I’m sure he’ll be safe, but I worry that he will stress and/or freak out. I also worry because I was the one to put together his travel-cage.

There are some things I am pretty good at. There are many more that I am absolutely useless at. For instance, I have a degree in agriculture, and if there is one thing I know virtually nothing about, it is agriculture. I somehow managed to get through three years of schooling without learning much of anything, and I think it says something about myself, the educational system, and the (sorry to all of those who find agriculture thrilling) boring nature of agriculture.

I am also (as previously mentioned) completely  unable to comprehend instruction manuals, no matter how simply written. Just look at the abomination below:

This is the instruction manual. My mind cannot process or even begin to comprehend what it wants me to do.

This is the instruction manual. My mind could not process or even begin to comprehend what it wanted me to do.

It took me about an hour and a half to put the thing together, and at one point, I had several parts I didn’t know the function of. I put them where the instruction manual told me to, but I am still not sure what they do.

What is this? What function does it serve?

What is this? What function does it serve?

I finally got the cage/box together though, and it looks like this:

uh-oh...

uh-oh…

It may very well collapse mid-flight and I sure hope Niko will be ok when it does..

Anyway, that brings me to the topic of IQ-tests.

I would likely receive a  high-ish score, both because I am somewhat academically inclined, but also because I know how they work (knowing what I know, I would cheat. It is a sad realization, but let’s be honest. I would TOTALLY likely cheat and I’d probably feel pretty smug about it too). I am nevertheless useless at tasks an average 9 year old would have no problems carrying out.

I have, as previously mentioned, tested IQ in a research setting. And, if there is one thing testing IQ teaches you, it is the uselessness of IQ-tests. Case in point: the two highest scoring individuals I tested were (long-term) unemployed, and one of them was homeless. I don’t mean to carve on the homeless or the unemployed, but people seem to assume that a high IQ is linked to great success. It is not. IQ-tests tap into how you may do academically. That is,  if you’ve been taught to think like a westerner; if you have had access to resources (read, money/education) and most importantly, if you have the motivation and drive to do well.  Motivation is key Without it, you’ll get nowhere (unless you’re one of those who were born into money. Some people make money simply by existing and having a recognizable name, but they don’t count. Or, they shouldn’t anyway). Regardless, the homeless guy had plenty of intellectual ability, he just wasn’t motivated or moneyed. Someone with an IQ considerably lower than his, but with higher motivation, would likely do much much better in life.

Another problem is that the tests are timed, and I find this to be problematic stupid. Who cares if it takes you 2 minutes, 20 minutes or 2 days to arrive at an adequate answer, as long as you eventually arrive at said answer? I bet it took Galileo, Descartes, Curie (did you know she was Polish? She was! I always assumed she was French), Somerville  and Einstein quite a while to come up with their respective theories/research findings.  ”Hey dummy, why so slow?” doesn’t really apply in those cases. So, timing intellect seems pretty silly and thoughtless when placed in context, no?

IQ tests are also culturally biased. They have been used to oppress and marginalize people who deserved better, and I personally think they should be made away with. But that’s just me.

Thanks for reading, I really appreciate it :)

 

My Prof/Boss's book- he was brilliant! (yet terrifying).

On spam, my (awesome) subscribers and schizophrenia

 

 

I keep getting spam in the comments section, and it is all for make-up, cosmetic surgery and weight loss products (what are you insinuating spam-bots? If you relied on my search history, you’d find me stuff/products that gets dog-vomit out of carpets and books on how to learn all the rules of Norwegian grammar (preferably “in 15 minutes or less”). That’d be useful, but instead I’m bombarded with ‘hey fatty, you’re kinda hideous‘- type spam. Sigh.

A very cool thing though, is that my subscriber-list has almost doubled, I now have 22 subscribers!  (myself and Sufi included, but still, that 20 people want to read my blog is incredibly flattering  (I <3 you subscribers)).

Over to the schizophrenia-thing. One of the most interesting jobs  I have had (besides the one I have now)was in schizophrenia research. Schizophrenia is not (as many believe) ‘multiple personality disorder’ (or ‘dissociative  identity disorder’; a diagnosis that many, myself included, have serious doubts about). It is a disorder characterized by delusions (beliefs that are not true and who are at times outlandish; think Aliens/CIA/FBI/CSIS/PST monitoring thoughts through microchips implanted in the patients brain (paranoid delusions); the belief that one has killed someone without having done so; the belief that one is Really special (called ‘delusions of grandeur’; think historical figures like Jesus Christ or likewise). There are also hallucinations (you see, hear, feel, taste, smell or otherwise perceive sensations that are not present). And finally, general disorganization (you’re not able to distinguish/sort impressions).

We split symptoms into groups. There are positive symptoms (hallucinations, delusions etc); negative symptoms (flat affect/withdrawal/immobility (catatonia)), and disorganized symptoms (difficulties in organizing thoughts/speech/etc).

I’ll probably write several posts on schizophrenia, so I won’t go too in-depth here. If you’re particularly interested in the disorder, please buy my former honours thesis-professor and boss’s book, “In Search of Madness; Schizophrenia & Neuroscience”.

 

Just some quick facts about schizophrenia:

Anyway, the reason I am posting this is because I came across this video on facebook. It is a heartwarming story of a woman who lives with a schizophrenia diagnosis. It is not representative though. Many, if not most patients do not have insight into their own condition (“I’m not crazy!”) and many suffer a great deal. Patients with schizophrenia frequently end up homeless, incarcerated, and though they might be violent (in rare cases. Besides, we can all be violent, it is part of our nature) they are much more frequently victims of violence than perpetrators. Anyway, this This video is more representative of how schizophrenia may look.

This is one of those posts I can’t come up with a clever conclusion for. I guess I could say that there is very little reason to be afraid of patients with schizophrenia? In encounters with people suffering from schizophrenia, displaying compassion and respect usually works very well- I have yet to be attacked anyway, and I have been around schizophrenia-patients for quite some time.

Because in times of financial struggles, what we need is…

Norge

 

the conservatives to get in to power…

I have been miserable all day due to the election results here in Norway (the conservatives won. There’s a coalition-thing going on, but the “hey-let’s-get drunk-of-off-cornerstore-booze-while-not-collecting-taxes-yet-somehow-building-more-nursing-homes-and-better-roads” people are now able to dictate what happens in my life. And, I resent it.  Back in my youth (when the grass was greener, the sky was bluer and the youth were polite) these guys were marginal. Now they’re mainstream. I am old enough to remember Thatcher and Reagan, but I am also young enough to have seen the consequences of their decision-making. This development worries me, specifically because of the two groups I care for the most; those who suffer from mental illness and migrants.

Migrants get a bum rap. I have met more intelligent, hard-working, upstanding and wonderful people among migrants/refugees than in the general pop.  And in terms of those suffering mental illness? Under right wing/conservative govts., they frequently end up on the street or in prison (google “thatcherism/mental health/reform” and you’ll find more than enough material). It is a horrible fate for those who are already facing a struggle most of us can’t imagine the extent of.

Ugh. I should probably just go to bed and try to forget about it all.

I went to another conference; on the Nazi Genocide of the Roma

So, another Saturday night, another blog-post (written Saturday, posted Sunday for proof-reading purposes. I do know (I’m pretty sure anyways) which day it is).

I feel like I have been super-productive the last couple of days; I had the loveliest possible day yesterday (Friday). I went to work (I love my work, colleagues and the students). I voted! (My party (SV) will get nowhere, but at least I made an effort) and I went for a super-lovely and very interesting walk through the botanical gardens at Tøyen.

Villa Grande. The Holocaust-center is located in a building in which Vidkun Quisling once lived. The building is beautiful but somewhat creepy.

Villa Grande. The Holocaust-center is located in a building in which Vidkun Quisling once lived. The building is beautiful but somewhat creepy.

Today I attended a conference. The conference was on the WW2 Genocide of the Roma and the Sinti. The conference was named “The Nazi (…)” but that wouldn’t be entirely accurate, as the talks also covered Croatian fascists and others (is it weird that I am this nit-picky when it comes to wording, yet I willingly link to Wikipedia? Yes it is).  It is not exactly the cheeriest of topics, but it is an incredibly important one. I have spoken/written a little about the current situation of the Roma in Norway and Europe, but it is not a field I am super-familiar with, so the conference was very enlightening. I was bracing for the emotional impact before going. I am a wee bit soft, and I cry really easily (it is ridiculous at times), but I had forgotten about the blessed ability of academics to talk about the grimmest of topics without allowing for emotionality (it’s been one looong  year since I finished my M.A).

Anyway, I was already aware that the estimated number of Roma/Sinti killed during the Holocaust is foggy at best. I tried finding accurate numbers when I wrote the prior article/blog-post (and if there’s one thing in this world I do think I am pretty good at, it is finding accurate info) but in the case of Roma/Sinti, it is virtually impossible. The estimates of people killed during the Holocaust  are a fairly good indicator of how muddled it is; it ranges from 96000 to well over 500.000 according to Anton Weiss-Wendt, one of the speakers at the conference. Others were guesstimating 1.5 million.

I learned that the French authorities (Vichy) attempted to assimilate/make Roma conform to an unnatural (to them) way of life way back in the 30′s and 40′s. I learned that the French distinguished between those who had a permanent residence and those who were labelled “Nomads/travellers”. “Nomads” had to carry very specific identity cards, and were frequently detained and sent to camps. They were subjected to surveillance, arbitrary arrests and efforts at “rehabilitation”. The attempts at “rehabilitation” were in reality persecutory assimilation-attempts. I learned that Govt’s, both in Norway and in most other European nations were complicit, but to my surprise, Muslim clergy did make a serious effort to protect the Roma in their ranks (We can see a parallel today; the Clergy here in Norway have been stellar in speaking out on the behalf of the Roma). I learned that Roma belong to several of the major religions (including Islam); I had this weird misconception that they were largely catholic and orthodox (or of a  intersect of religions). I learned that (as usual in subjugation/persecution of minorities), humiliation was used as a tool (in this case, by Croatian Ustaša) ; the Roma were forced to remove their clothes, and then dance for their executioners (this makes me feel sick to my stomach. I can’t even…) before being killed sequentially. That is, they got to witness their impending fate..

 

20130907_104616

Narratives of the Ustaša’s complicity in the atrocities; one labelled them puppets of the Nazi-regime, the other presented them as monsters with own agency.

I learned that one of the most prominent psychiatrists in Norwegian history belonged to the Eugenics movement. I found out that Roma in Norway were sent to forced labour-camps faaaar north in the country; how many died is uncertain (again..) because there were no records of women and children, only men (there was, according to eyewitnesses, no doubt that there were women and children present.

 

Johan Scharffenberg was a Norwegian psychiatrist and criminologist, he was also a member of the Eugenics movement...

Johan Scharffenberg was a Norwegian psychiatrist and criminologist, he was also a member of the Eugenics movement…

There was also a visit from one of the most prominent Roma-families in Norway. They were not happy. They felt that the focus on past-events was misguided, and were pretty adamant that people, and certainly so academics, should be focusing on their current plight. I do believe they had a pretty inaccurate perspective of what life is like in academia though, and I  don’t think they understand how important it is to recognize/remember history in order to understand and (hopefully) rectify current conditions. Yelling at those who try to help you is certainly not the way to go. But that’s just my opinion.

Nevertheless, the people on the panel handled the situation in the best way possible, I can’t even begin to express how impressed I was.

Dr. Grieg Fry and his (obnoxiously long) list of published scientific works.

Sometimes I feel inadequate. Other times I feel more inadequate (<–I fluctuate between the two states. My emotional spectrum is quite complex). When I see someone, roughly the same age as myself (whom I have known online for over a decade), who has contributed to (or has been the sole author of) 66 published scientific articles, I don’t even know what to say. Except, ‘you should probably stop it. Cause it makes the rest of us feel bad about ourselves’.

Bryan’s page is nevertheless a great read; for those of you interested in science, venom(s) and (in a way) human rights, read Bryan’s “Zamzama” text. It is excellent.

Zamzama gas fields

Here’s the list of scientific publications. 

 

:)

Oslo again (miscellaneous pics taken at different times :)).

 

So, I’ve amassed an impressive number of pics on my phone. I just get carried away when I see something neat or distinctly Oslo-ian. I teach (adults) about Norwegian society and culture, so these pics come in handy at times (also, some of the students are aware of this blog; I am not sure if they read it though). Some of the pics are kinda pointless and only interesting or funny to me, so bear with me :)

 

Anyway, here goes:

 

This is just by my place. I took it cause it perfectly illustrates my rebellious, daring nature – I totally walk down that road All The Time! (there’s not even a proper sidewalk!).

This is just by my place. I took it cause it perfectly illustrates my rebellious, daring nature – I totally walk down that road All The Time! (there’s not even a proper sidewalk!).

 

This is the scary part of town (no seriously..People frequently make a point of talking about Tøyen as dangerous. I must be unusually brave because I have never once been afraid). *High-fives self*

This is the scary part of town (no seriously..People frequently make a point of talking about Tøyen as dangerous. I must be unusually brave because I have never once been afraid). *High-fives self*

 

One of my favourite stores; they sell fossils here, and I recently bought a tooth of an extinct mackerel shark (Odotus obliquus) that is a staggering 60 million years old. The tooth was found in Morocco and is in excellent shape :) At some point I'll post pics of my fossil and map-collection.

One of my favourite stores; they sell fossils here, and I recently bought a tooth of an extinct mackerel shark (Odotus obliquus) that is a staggering 60 million years old. The tooth was found in Morocco and is in excellent shape :) At some point I’ll post pics of my fossil and map-collection.

 

Completely different spot; this is at Ekeberg. We're about to get a much contested sculpture-park. The anger has been over the fact that some of the sculptures will be portraying women (I'm not sure if they'll be with or without clothes); I saw one sign that read something that I am way too uptight to write- but think along the lines of "No to an inappropriate touching path at Ekeberg". What I think is waaaay worse is that many, some historians even (Holy What?) wanted to bury and forget a part of Norwegian history; that is, the fact that some Norwegians did indeed sympathize with the Nazis. There's a graveyard where Nazi officials were buried during WW2 near where this pic was taken, and when it was decided that a memorial of sorts was to be erected, all these people were up in arms. Gotta say, the old "Those who forget history are bound to repeat it" comes to mind.

Completely different spot; this is at Ekeberg. We’re about to get a much contested sculpture-park. The anger has been over the fact that some of the sculptures will be portraying women (I’m not sure if they’ll be with or without clothes); I saw one sign that read something that I am way too uptight to write- but think along the lines of “No to an inappropriate touching path at Ekeberg”. What I think is waaaay worse is that many, some historians even (Holy What?) wanted to bury and forget a part of Norwegian history; that is, the fact that some Norwegians did indeed sympathize with the Nazis. There’s a graveyard where Nazi officials were buried during WW2 near where this pic was taken, and when it was decided that a memorial of sorts was to be erected, all these people were up in arms. Gotta say, the old “Those who forget history are bound to repeat it” comes to mind.

 

One of the statues. I am aware that this is sideways, but I have no idea as to how to correct it here; you could try tilting your head maybe? The statue depicts intertwined women.

One of the statues. I am aware that this is sideways, but I have no idea as to how to correct it here; you could try tilting your head maybe? The statue depicts intertwined women.

 

This is at Groenland again; this statue is a symbol of the social democratic movement in Oslo/Norway. I think it is so cool!

This is at Groenland again; this (very cool) statue is a symbol of the social democratic movement in Oslo/Norway.

Same statue, different view/angle.

Same statue, different view/angle.

 

Good to know!

Good to know!

 

Oslo has a lot of neat backstreets and adorable wooden houses.

Oslo has a lot of neat backstreets and adorable wooden houses.

 

More cool wooden houses. Oslo has burned to the ground several times, so at one point they decided to start building brick houses.

More cool wooden houses. Oslo has burned to the ground several times, so at one point they decided to start building brick houses.

 

"Oslo West has seven hospitals, Oslo East has none". Campaign poster from "Rødt", a faaar-left political party.

“Oslo West has seven hospitals, Oslo East has none”. Campaign poster from “Rødt”, a faaar-left political party.

 

This is a weird thing; the beggars are now specifying their Norwegian ethnicity (I've blurred the name in order to keep the man's identity hidden. I haven't used photo-editing programs in 15 years so the result is pretty bad). I feel the need to mention that I never take pics of possibly sensitive stuff without permission. He was totally o.k. with my taking this (I also gave him 20 NOK). Curiously, he had considerably more money in his cup than what I see the Roma have. The Roma are also given useless currency like 0.20 Euro (which can't be used in Norway)

This is a weird thing; the beggars are now specifying their Norwegian ethnicity (I’ve blurred the name in order to keep the man’s identity hidden. I haven’t used photo-editing programs in 15 years so the result is pretty bad). I feel the need to mention that I never take pics of possibly sensitive stuff without permission. He was totally o.k. with my taking this (I also gave him 20 NOK). Curiously, he had considerably more money in his cup than what I see the Roma have. The Roma are also given useless currency like 0.20 Euro (which can’t be used in Norway)

The back of an ice cream truck. The ice cream from the truck is slightly crappier compared to the store-bought stuff.

The back of an ice cream truck. The ice cream from the truck is slightly crappier compared to the store-bought stuff.

 

Well, that was about it :)

On randomness, cognition, the Law of Attraction and Rumsfeld/Cheney

 

This image is in no way related to the post. I just like Shetland ponies, and I think it is cute how they're wearing jumpers (I bet they hate them, though in this pic they look quite happy). I just didn't want the featured image to be one of Cheney or Rumsfeld. (The pic.is from www.telegraph.co.uk).

This image is in no way related to the post. I just like Shetland ponies, and I think it is cute how they’re wearing jumpers (I bet they hate them, though in this pic they look quite happy). I just didn’t want the featured image to be one of Cheney or Rumsfeld. (The pic.is from www.telegraph.co.uk).

 

I am no longer miserable. It is Saturday night, and I will spend it on the couch, with the dog and my computer. My day has otherwise been filled with fun and games; I have visited my parents (which was nice); dropped by work to correct a few more tests (DEAR LORD THERE ARE SO MANY OF THEM!!1!); walked Nik (a few times) and have pondered sending an email, but decided against it after careful consideration. I then reconsidered and ended up sending a very poorly worded email. I am not entirely sure why). I have also returned a borrowed stereo (farewell stereo, I’ll miss you. We all know I’ll never get around to getting one of my own). And, I am currently listening to a bunch of girls (outside) loudly yelling WOOOOOOO!!!  I am not certain why they yell WOOOOO!!!, but I suspect it might make partying more fun? (Someone should probably conduct an experiment/write an article on it; “A quantitative investigation of perceived fun-ness as measured by the frequency of WOOO’s in a social setting” or somesuch. You could measure decibels, the frequency of WOOO’s and subsequent fun-ratings on likert scales; contact me if you’re interested and I’ll gladly help design the experiment).

Anyway, Sufi suggested I write a post on “the Law of Attraction” so I’ll do exactly that.

Now, keep in mind that I am a skeptic and that I may be completely wrong in my beliefs (as previously mentioned, I am frequently wrong).

The Law of Attraction (simplified and as I understand it) states that what you think (to a certain extent) determines how your life turns out. There’s this cosmic energy thing; good thoughts bring positive things into your life and bad/negative thoughts bring negative things into your life (…”Things”… I am so very eloquent…). You can read more about it here.

I don’t believe in it. I may change my mind, but it is doubtful. First, I believe that there’s a whole lot of randomness going on in the universe, and that we as humans feel a strong urge to impose structure where there’s none. We want things to be orderly, connected and predictable. We also like ranking things. Something has to be best, and something has to be the worst.  We want to know what follows a given event, and we have a hard time dealing with uncertainty and the indeterminable.  We’re ‘meaning-makers’, so randomness and unpredictability makes us uncomfortable. This applies to almost everything and everyone we encounter. Now, for an example, please look at the figures below:

 

Image taken from film110sp12.pbworks.com

Image taken from film110sp12.pbworks.com

If we see only  the parts/components in isolation, the thing you perceive as a square (or the circle for that matter) are not really a square or a circle. They are composed of a series of irregular lines, but your mind perceives them as recognizable figures, because it fills in the blank areas with perceived (but not present) lines. Your mind imposes structure and orderliness. The term “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” fits perfectly in this context (did you know it was Aristotle who first said that? I didn’t until I googled it. I <3 Google). So, we like to see things and even events as connected somehow. We seek causal explanations for pretty much everything. If we then believe in the Law of Attraction, we may/will interpret these various events as being caused by our thinking. Instead of interpreting an accident as being brought about by random bad luck, we find an instance of prior “bad thoughts” and attribute the accident to those. We create a link between the thought and the event. The same goes for good luck. We may think that good things happen because we have been particularly positive/thought ‘good thoughts’, not because we’ve just been incredibly lucky. Mind you, I am not saying that a positive outlook on life will not alter it dramatically. By being (somewhat) positive, you’re likely to not turn people completely off. When others find you to be happy, maybe even delightful, they are more likely to want to help you, be around you and so forth. But I don’t think it is cosmic energy, I think it is that it is just nicer to be around someone who is happy than someone who is sad (note how most people withdraw, and only the noblest and sweetest of your friends are there for you when you feel horrible? Yeah. Remember to treat those people in the best way possible, they are golden).

Nevertheless, I think I have a couple of (excellent if I may say so myself) cases who illustrate that positive thoughts do not equal positive outcomes/ negative thoughts do not equal negative outcomes: namely Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld (or Rush Limbaugh. Or Carl I Hagen. Or Putin. Or any evil warmonger out there. I could bring up countless of other examples, but I have to keep this thing somewhat manageable). Both Cheney and Rumsfeld  are verified pricks. I doubt any of them get up in the morning and think positive happy thoughts, yet they are incredibly successful. They have amassed wealth, power and great success; they’ve lived long lives and they’re seemingly still going to keep going strong for a while.

 

Really bad guy. (image taken from wikipedia.com).

Really bad guy.
(image taken from wikipedia.com).

Really REALLY bad guy! (wikipedia again).

Really REALLY bad guy!
(wikipedia again).

Why? Cause life is random and unfair.

So, those are my thoughts on the law of attraction. Please don’t be offended.