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Corona Philosophy

I feel disproportionally lucky, for here at my homestead the effects of the corona virus are barely noticeable. Now when most of my massage customers have their times cancelled or postponed to some maybe-later-future, I suddenly have more time to concentrate on my own projects. I visit the nearby lake on a daily basis to see if the pike spawn season is on - that is always a good time to catch some fresh pike, which would be a welcome addition to my diet. And I've been happy to see that my cellar works now - I've been storing potatoes, lingonberries and jarred zucchini, and none of them went bad during the winter. The cellar could use some improvements regarding the air circulation, for the air humidity seems to be little too high. But on the other hand - this winter was extremely wet, so many times it was liquid water pouring down from the clouds instead of proper snow. Yet, my potatoes survived, so I hope I'll be fine if the next winter is more like a proper winter with freezingly cold days. The colder it gets, the lower the air humidity, so that should help to keep the cellar dry. But, in these times of the global climate change you never know, it seems that with a baffling speed our winter is turning into a just long damp autumn. All of this makes me extra happy that I have a functional cellar - I can store food even if the society around me would collapse and there would be no more electricity available.

I can remember that already as a child I developed this feeling that 'Oh, it seems rather likely that the whole society could collapse, so better prepare for that'. For me this has been a self-evident basic idea as far as I can remember, a realistic vision which has affected the choices I've made regarding my personal life. I don't know, but sometimes I've been under the impression that some other people might find my way of thinking as paranoid, unrealistic, over-anxious or stupidly apocalyptic. Until lately, that is. Then came the corona virus outbreak, and suddenly a sense of emergency is tangible reality in the daily lives of so many people. In a matter of weeks we have seen dramatic shifts and changes in things and habits which once seemed rock-solid and non-alterable. The virus is not stopped by building a wall around ones' great country. The virus is not stopped by blaming someone else. The virus is not stopped by an arsenal of nukes. The virus doesn't stay away even if you pray for God and don't do sin. Many of the things which before seemed like ultimate guarantees of safety have proven to fail, for the virus doesn't respect any of the barriers we have attempted to build for external protection. The virus is an unseen threat, with the capability to kill a sinner and a holy person just like that. You can be an emperor or a beggar, but get the virus and the changes are that you die (unless there is high level universal health-care with professional workers there to attempt at saving you...) And, luckily enough, it seems that the mortality rate with corona virus is significantly lower than it was with The Plague. Maybe we are just lucky this time? But what if some other form of more deadly disease gets loose after a year or two?

Oh well. So, to me it seems that one thing is that the virus exposes the fragility of the status-quo. Sure, there will be a day when the virus isn't an acute crisis any more, but will that mean that the things go back to normal again? If, by 'normal' we mean the state where most of the people believe that we can plan our lives as if nothing seriously bad ever happens? That we can keep on having the market economy supply chains so built that we have supply shortages as soon as the global transport of goods slows down? That in the name of austerity we think that it is a good idea not to spend tax-payer money on universal health-care, on maintaining an emergency stock of supplies, on having a crisis fund which can quickly be used to relieve a mass of people facing sudden unemployment? In Finland our previous right-leaning government decided to cut funding of Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. Apparently, in their short-sighted right wing ideology they tought that it is evil socialism to spend tax-payer money on prevention and preparation for virus outbreaks. Now some of those same politicians are yelling at the current left-leaning government for not being prepared-enough. D'oh! (And, our populist right-wing party is angry at the leftist government spending so much tax-payer money to remedy the crisis. The populist party openly says that they'd like to see government spending cut. Let the weak die, so that the taxpayer doesn't need to bother! I have never quite understood what is the point of that breed of populism. To me it seems plain simple anti-populism in the sense that they are ready to sacrifice a portion of the population so that the survivors would be better off. That runs counter to the leave-no-friend-behind war-time mentality which has been the corner stone of the Finnish national mythology. Oh well, but this much of me venting out my personal opinion on certain political parties. Feel free to disagree, I won't hate you in person, and I'm always open for honest and respectful discussion.)

Back to the more philosophical level. Let's image there are two long boats, powered by pairs of rowers. One boat is fast, and it goes quickly from a place to another, trading with people at coastal marketplaces, and the people in the boat grow wealthier and wealthier rather quickly. Then the another boat is somewhat slower. They also do the trading, but it seems that their wealth doesn't accumulate anything like the other people in the first boat. Now, you are given a choice to join either of the boats - which one would you'd like to choose? Are you ready to choose right away, or would you like to ask some further questions? Either way, let me tell you a bit more of the details: At a closer inspection it turns out that the first boat has a leaking hole in it. But they never stop to fix the hole, their reply is "that would be a waste of time - and everyone wants to get rich quick!". And in case you'd ask if they are not worried about the boat eventually sinking because it leaks, their answer is: "That is just a necessary incentive to keep us rowing fast. With a high enough speed the boat floats better and draws in less water. If we get lazy the boat will sink. So we can't get lazy, we need to keep on rowing fast. That way we become richer fast. The hole is good for us, it keeps us bold and morally strong!". If you decide to choose this boat, I can't judge you. Their explanation makes sense, there is a certain logic to their line of thinking. But, just for the sake of the story, let us suppose that someone still wants to go check the another boat, the slow one. No holes in their boat - no wonder they are lazy rowers! So let's ask if they are not ashamed to be that way, aren't they interested in poking a hole in their boat so that they'd get richer just like the people of the first boat? Everyone wants to get richer and richer, faster and faster, right? "Nah. We have enough experience to know that you can't row at full speed all the time. What if some of your crew members catch a disease and can't row, then the boat speed will slow down and everyone will drown when the boat sinks. We think that is a realistic possibility, so we prefer to keep our boat fixed. We don't row at maximum speed all the time so that we don't get exhausted, and we have reserve stamina for sudden sprints when needed. Also, we spend some time maintaining the boat so that we get fractures fixed before they develop to holes. And when we trade we constantly spend a portion of our profits on materials and services needed to maintain and to improve the boat. We are aware that our life depends on the boat, so we prefer to keep the boat in good condition and prepared for storms and diseases." I'm not here to judge. But, personally, I'd prefer to join the second boat, for I think that it is only natural and unavoidable that sooner or later there will be circumstances which make it impossible to row at full speed all the time. And if the very existence of a boat is based on the assumption that "it is always full speed or nothing", that seems simply unsustainable to me. Such a philosophy spells its own demise in the very fundamental level, it is like deliberately choosing to party hard until you collapse and die. Sure, one can choose that in ones own private life, but is it okay to force the entire boat in such a situation that everyone will drown because some of the rowers choose not to fix a hole?

And this, my friends, is the way I've seen the modern world. A leaky boat which stays afloat only if it moves at full speed all the time. The economical system which is in instant trouble as soon as there isn't a constant annual financial growth of 2% or more. The political system which assumes that we all need to be in this boat - everyone needs to row at full speed all the time, otherwise you are a free-loader, a traitor, a potential cause of the boat sinking. For some reason those who would like to spend some time fixing the holes and maintaining the boat before it gets fractured - they are seen as the ones who will cause the boat to sink, for they are not contributing to the mantra of "everyone row at the full speed all the time, otherwise we will sink!". In my earlier post about relativism I said that different stories can be equally true, as it depends on the way you see the situation. But, personally, I must admit that I've always seen this "everyone row at full speed all the time, despise those who attempt to waste time fixing a hole, the boat needs to be leaky!" more like a horror story instead of a recipe to success. Yet, this is the story deliberately chosen by the Western economical world. And The West won The Cold War so the Western ideology must be good, right? Good, until a virus outbreak makes it so that not everyone can row at full speed. Good, until some big bankers make bad decisions and economic recession sweeps the world. Good, as long as we can just keep on utilizing more and more of natural resources. Good, until the effects of local pollution or the global climate change get so heavy that our boat slows down and we sink. Just think what the virus has done in a matter of weeks? Now imagine the economical turmoil if it some year so happens that because of the effects of the climate change crops get destroyed on several major agricultural areas of the world, for two years in a row? Where do the people of Market Economy get their food when the supermarket shelves run dry, or there is only little of super expensive food left? Do we, educated adult people, really want to maintain such a system which is highly vulnerable and unsustainable? Do we? Why do we? Oh sorry, I forgot - that is because we want that few people are able to get richer and richer all the time while the rest stay more or less afloat, for that is Freedom For All, right? I'm sorry but I'm having hard time trying to comprehend the rationale of this story.

Oh, but I promised to stay on more philosophical level. So let's steer away from political metaphors. Instead, let us imagine a person who would make his living by selling wooden chips. A stream of people keeps on buying the chips, I don't know why, probably for the sake of this story. Usually people get a handful of chips, pay for them and leave. But one day a customer didn't leave right away, but lingered around watching the chip-seller work. The chip-seller sat in a tree, on a thick branch, with a knife in his hand. And when there were no customers he used his knife to carve chips from the very branch he was sitting on, in between he and the tree trunk. The customer watched and noticed that the chip-seller has already made a dent half the diameter of the branch. So, the customer asked: "Hey, mr. Chip-seller! Have you ever considered that if you keep on carving deeper and deeper one day the branch will collapse and you will fall down?". The chip-seller gave the customer an angry look and told: "Do you think that I'm a stupid! I'm up here, I have absolutely no intention to fall down!". The customer didn't give up, saying: "See, it is that branch which supports your weight. If you cut the branch the branch will break. And if the branch won't be there to support your weight you'll fall down. You are cutting the very branch you depend on, why?". The chip-seller was not amused: "What an insult! You say that I depend on the branch, that is nonsense! I'm the master here, and the branch is nothing but a renewable natural resource. I have the right to utilize my local resources as I wish, no hippie has right to insult me because of me being industrious!". The customer tried one more time: "It is not about you being industrious. It is about you being aware of, and admitting the laws of physics. To recognize the situation you are in. If you deny the facts, you run the risk of a serious accident." The chip-seller has had enough: "What! Are you lousy hippie threatening me with a serious accident!" The chip-seller drew his throwing knives, aiming at the customer. The customer didn't stay to fight, but decided to run.

As I might have written in some of my early blog posts, I remember when I was 5 or 6 years old, and I was deeply bothered by the notion that our current society depends on goods produced by factories, and clean air and water provided by nature, but the pollution from factories threaten to destroy nature. I saw this as a Contradiction. No sustainable system can depend on both A and B, if A is eventually going to destroy B. Any such system in unsustainable, on a way to unavoidable collapse. As a child I reasoned that we, as human beings, can't stay alive without clean air and water, so if we have to choose either factories or nature, better choose nature. Although, as I grew up, I started to think that maybe it isn't "EITHER / OR", as it would be philosophically, theoretically and technically possible to design such factories and such forms of production which are sustainable. Only that those who have the economical and political power never seemed to be that interested in such solutions. Why would be row slower wasting our time fixing holes, when we can just keep on rowing at full speed all the time getting richer and richer faster and faster? Yes, why? Really, why? Let me ask: why? Maybe because we want to survive? Maybe because we want the future generations to survive? Because we want the forests, the eagles, the blackbirds, the ladybirds, the ants, the tigers, the earthworms, the dolphins and the plankton and the world-wide fungal network to survive? Maybe because we don't want to bake the planet? Maybe.

In her 2002 book "Environmental Culture : The ecological crisis of reason" philosopher Val Plumwood writes: "The inability to see humans as ecological and embodied beings that permeates western culture is one of the major legacies of this aspect of rationalism. It means that the ecological support base of our societies is relied on but denied in the same way as the sphere of materiality and the body is denied in the classical rationalist philosophy." She goes on to explore different aspects of this strange dilemma, this way of believing that Rationality is when you deny and neglect and take for granted all those things your very existence deeply depends on. If you were born sitting on a branch, and have been sitting on a branch for your entire life, that doesn't mean that you are up in the air just automatically - not because you have always been there, not because you have never seen things change, not because you are entitled to that position you were born into. You are there because the tree and the branch supports your weight. If you deny that, you deny the foundations of your own existence. (No, Val Plumwood doesn't suggest that we should abandonRationality or Western Culture because they have had some flaws. He suggest we try to fix and to improve them.)

One central aspect of this "Hey, let's deny those things we essentially depend on!" is and has been the systematic neglect of those contributions to the society which traditionally has been and is contributed mostly by women and girls. Raising up the children, taking care of the elderly, cooking food and washing the laundry. Traditionally that kind of work is taken for granted - it takes place at home, so no-one pays for doing that work. Money is only for those works when you go out and do something for someone else, that is paid for. (Like, the children, the elderly, the sick and those family members who go to work - if you provide an endless stream of services for them, that is not considered productive work, because those people usually don't pay for you. You are supposed to provide that work for free, for you are following your natural instinct to take care and to nurture.) But suppose what would happen if all the women and girls in the world went to strike, they'd sit down to sing and tell stories and say that they'll get back to work only when their work is compensated in fair proportion. How long would it take until the billionaires in their mansions would notice the effect and start to suffer? Pretty soon, I'd guess, for the people who work at factories, fields, fisheries, mines and stock markets often depend on someone else cooking food for them. If they have to stay at home cooking food for themselves, the global supply chains would grind to halt just as quickly as they did with the corona outbreak. Or, to be honest, even faster, for during the corona many factories and a lot of logistics is still up and running. Should the women and the girls of the world refuse to contribute, the global economical effect would be many times bigger than we have seen with the corona virus. To me this seems just another example of how our current political and economical system is so built that we assume far too many things for granted, we expect certain things to never happen and we expect some things to always be there for free, no matter how deep a dent we carve into the very branch we are sitting on.

Oh well. Let me conclude by saying that my intention is not to be a doom-sayer. My purpose is not to preach fire and brimstone. As, I do believe that another way is possible. That we can adjust both our factories, our economical and our political system so that it better recognizes the essentials we all depend on. We can decide to row slower, to allocate more resources on fixing and maintaining the boat. The virus outbreak has shown us that when the situation is urgent we can take action, and that big changes can happen quickly. Now we just need to steer the direction of the process of change. Do we want to steer back to the "Let's sacrifice some of your own population so that we can keep on rowing faster!", or are we ready to steer towards "Woah, we have learned a lesson! Let's row slower and spend more time fixing the holes!" And, the way I see it, on the grass-roots level "fixing the holes" can be something as simple as cooking a meal for others and seeing it as the foundation pillar of the society - and if you are the one who receives the meal cooked by someone else, remember to see it and appreciate it as one of the most valuable services. We need to readjust the way we see "success" and "worth". The greatest worth often lies in those things the mainstream economical system has been neglecting for all too long. So we need to be the ones who realign our values.

A couple of swans at my local lake. Just because I'd like to see them survive, too.
A couple of swans at my local lake. Just because I'd like to see them survive, too.
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Wow, Erkka. You said it all. Applauses. So good to read it. Feels right and straightforward and I'm glad you wrote it and I read it. Thanks!

Gotta say that if the world went mostly vegan (respecting by not eating all animals in the world) things like this would much less likely to happen. I think... It seems so easy to change, as the change will happen by what you put in your mouth...

PS: I loved the swans too. ;)


I agree - increasing consumption of meat (fish included) on the global level is a good example of "things are well as long as we keep on rowing at full speed". Or, to be more precise - "as long as we can keep on rowing at full speed, and increasing our speed all the time." The more land area is harnessed to farming cattle, and the more ocean fisheries are over-fished, the sooner we approach a tipping point, when the dent in the branch becomes so big that it can't support our weight any more.

So, to make things more sustainable, it would be better to turn to local, sustainable, small-scale well-farmed food supply chains. Luckily, this is something that many of us can do in our personal lives, without a need to launch a full-scale political revolution to re-shape the global political system. Although, for the sake of realism, it must be said that small individual choices might easily seem to be in vain as long as the financial and political elites are running the way they do. But that must not fool us into passive mentality; we can also think that the combined effect of personal choices add up to a global momentum driving the shift towards more sustainable future.

Thanks, Erkka. True. I don't know how to reason more intellectually, unfortunately. But for me normally the solutions almost always seem right there, easy, simple, therefore I struggle to understand why things completely avoidable happen all the time in the world. I might be too simplistic, I don't know. But I truly believe in the simple solutions for virtually everything, or almost. I dont know.


I don't know for sure - but to me it seems that a lot of problems arise because different people see "simple solutions" and "completely avoidable" in so different ways. Continuing on the metaphor I used in the blog; from my point of view, the way I see things, it appears simple and self-evident that a hole in the boat is something avoidable, something which is best to be fixed as soon as detected. But, no matter how self-evident this truth seems to me, there will be just so many other people who feel that the plain simple natural self-evident fact is that a hole in the boat is good to have, because otherwise rowers be lazy and slacking.

People can often discuss on this and that, share opinions, and some people can even change their mind after a thoughtful discussion, or after having a sudden emotionally inspired insight, or after facing enough evidence, or some other such process. But, the more simple and self-evident things appear and feel on the gut level, the harder it is to change ones mind on those views.

So we keep on having leaky boats and all other kinds of smaller or bigger conflicts and confusions, simply because this individual/group/leader feels that going Straight is the simple self-evident solution, while the other individual/group/leader feels that going Spirals is the simple self-evident solution, and then they can't agree.

So, the big question is: Should they agree? Should they compromise? Should they keep on debating until the other realises that this or that view is True while the other is False, so that one is led to abandon ones own earlier view in favour of the view promoted by the other? On the somewhat vague general level of metaphors, personally I tend to feel that some sort of thesis-antithesis-synthesis process would be the most beneficial. A honest thought process, where everyone involved is equally committed to trying to understand the point of view of the other, and ready to question ones own views, and adventurous enough to expand ones horizons, to discover uncharted territories. Such process can lead to a synthesis which often is different from watered-down-compromise; something genuinely new can be born out of such process, so that all parties abandon their earlier views and adopt a new view which is broader and more elaborate than anything they had before the deep open honest thought process.

Yet, again, I'm perfectly aware that this is just the way I see. For somehow I grew up being constantly engaged in such a deep thought process, although for me it has always been more like an inner dialogue; me observing and listening to others and reading books, and observing my own thought patterns, and being on ever-lasting quest to broaden my horizons. For me this happens naturally, and it feels easy and simple to me. So it is easy for me to think that this kind of exploration would be a simple solution. But maybe many other people find this a stupid idea, for questioning ones own beliefs or honestly listening to others appears as a painful tedious and dangerous thing to do, for some people find their peace of mind in being firmly fortified in their prejudices which appear as self-evident facts for them. And who am I to judge? I'm not going to preach that someone else should adopt the solutions which have worked for me. Maybe there are other solutions for other people, and they can find something I'm completely unaware of =)

So .... there will be no end, no solution ever... =( Sad...
could you write about the authoritarianism during this pandemic ?


Well, I often think back the history of mankind, how big dramatic changes there have already been. Let us imagine how the world felt before the invention of maths, writing and reading. Let us imagine a village idiot at those times, preaching a prophecy that there will be time in the future when information can be passed on pieces of birch-bark, on tablets made of stone, on sheets made of grass blades. Probably such prophecy would've been judged as insane and impossible =)

Yet, here we are, communicating by writing, about instantly, to the other side of the globe.

And I remember when I was a kid, "a pocket TV" and "telephone calls with a video view" were sci-fi fantasies we laughed at, yet secretly dreamed of, although those dreams felt completely impossible. How could a TV possibly fit into a pocket-sized device? That was just 30 years ago, and today pocket TVs appear perfectly normal to the kids.

I wish, I do hope, that some 30 years from now on more and more people would feel that the plain simple solution is to prefer co-operation instead of conflict.

Oh, well, but authoritarianism is a big theme. I'll think about it, if I feel like saying anything more elaborate than "personally I dislike it =)"

heheh thanks Erkka!

I just had watched an interview with Snowden and an American journalist based in Brazil - Glenn greenwald about pandemic and authoritarism and piublic information online.... things like that. Here if you are interested : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nd7exbDzU1c


I think what I meant was: is authoritarianism EVER justifiable? (like now in a pandemic)


That's a good clarification! Hehe, I think my problem is that questions like these make my mind bubble - and after a minute I have so many thoughts, further questions and comments that writing it all out would make three blog posts, and I feel that writing that would consume the entire day at hand. So, maybe I need to let my thoughts simmer a bit, hoping that the bubbly boiling soup of thoughts will cook to a manageable portion of stew =)

Hey Erkka, good to see you doing well. Have you run across 'forest bathing'? There are some Japanese research studies on it and its effect on immune systems. (We could all use walks in the forest taking deep breaths of the bounty the trees have to offer) I'm all for decentralization politically which your lifestyle seems to personify. Kudos.

Hello! I wish life is good - or at least manageable - in Your corner of Southern Oregon!

Yes, the term 'forest bathing' has popped up in Finnish mainstream news every now and then. And related studies on the health benefits of being in nature. But inspired by your comment I googled Forest Bathing and read an article by Dr. Qing Li. Very interesting, and I wish the scientific research will keep on evolving on those fields.

Forest Bathing sounds like something which - luckily enough - still is a natural element of lifestyle for a lot of Finnish people. Berry picking, gathering mushroom, just sitting quietly on sauna porch after the sauna bath - I'd guess these activities offer an easy way to be present in nature. Especially if one is not so goal-oriented ; for example, when picking berries some people seem to be mostly interested in harvesting maximum amount of berries in minimum time. Or same with fishing; some people like to brag about the size of their catch. Personally for me that kind of mentality feels somewhat alien, for I feel that simply being-in-nature is the main thing, and fishing or picking berries is just the side activity which helps one to focus, to lose sense of time and to get absorbed in the moment.

Hehe, on a more general level, I feel that we can't simply say that "these are the health benefits of this or that activity", for the effects will vary widely based on how one approaches the activity. The mental state is likely to affect the outcome, altering the physiological and mental processes. Like, I know people who think that hunting is a cruel activity to do. And, equally, I know active hunters who say that killing a prey is just a minor side-effect, for the main thing is to be fully present with all the senses focused in the moment. And to sit by the camp-fire drinking coffee thinking nothing but just sensing the peace all around.

Oh well. The political leaders might be doing what they do, but here at the grass-roots we can keep on decentralizing which ever way we find best suiting in ones local situation =) And, certainly, any form of Forest Bathing seems to be good for that; helping is stay healthy, independent of pills and injections provided by the big pharma companies.


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