lørdag 30. januar 2016

Constellar bear (poem) EN

Constellar bear

Oh, glittering galaxy in my headbanging coat
Constellar bear in dreamy forests
running through cottoned rain,
jumping over spruce tops,
growing snow nuts in paw prints
oh, hear how the crows converse
oh, secret bending of trees!
He turns into snow.

Bo-Nicolai Gjerpen Hansen 

Ordforbruk (dikt)


Da siste løgn var sagt,
gjenstod bare sannhet.
Du forandret talen
og - overraskende -
var den nå om kjærlighet
så jeg krøp inn i den myke, dype stemmen din

og bad deg holde fred.

Bo-Nicolai Gjerpen Hansen

mandag 11. januar 2016

The imperative to love yourself

What is a person's prime duty?

Is it to be kind to his others? Is it to serve a god? Is it to take responsibility for his closest companions? Is it to follow a principle of justice? Or is it to serve society? 

What's known as the ethics of closeness, associated with philosophers such as Buber, Løgstrup and Levinas, posits that a person owes himself to his others. He recognizes himself first after meeting them. He gains his own face before the face of the other. To a high extent the quality of his life depends on the way his closest treats him. Does he meet love and acceptance or is he rejected? 

On the face of it, the ethics of closeness might seem individualist in the sense that it speaks of relations and relationships, capturing situations with people you can actually see. The emphasis is not as much on society as it is on close and actual existing bonds. Thus it might seem more realistic and down-to-earth than certain other ethical theories that tend to posit universal answers, trying to capture what's right at all times at all places, though perhaps taking givens into account. This allows it to be more flexible. A person practicing it can be present in the situation, relying more on empathy and communication with his others, than just running to his book of laws (or straightjacket ethical platform). Instead of running through principles in his head, he can be open to perceive the actual person in front of him. 

I'm no expert on this theory and it does have its pros. 

However, I don't buy into it. 

It is true that our existence to a certain extent depends on others. We needed parents to be born. We needed someone to take care of us in our earliest years. And both then, and after, someone could at any time hurt us or even kill us. You might have a brain unique to yourself. You might have your own, unique genetical make-up. Noone is quite like you, biologically. But still, also your ideas are at least affected by your surrounding. Be as original as you want, what you think is formed in interaction with your surroundings. You can distance yourself, you can be the first to realize something is unjust. You can be the first to come up with an idea. But this idea will, at least in most cases, be formed in reaction to the given. 

This, however, doesn't mean your primary obligation is to others. Your life story is unique. Your face is unique. Noone is quite like you. Noone will never understand you completely. Why? Because they are not you. And they have not walked your path. They didn't share your story. And even though you could be a good narrator, you don't have the time to narrate all your life, and your memory is imperfect. No matter how you try to turn yourself inside out, noone will ever know you completely. You might not know yourself completely, either, but these facts mean you will win any arms race for knowledge of your self. Therefore, you will also be in a better position to assess your own needs. And likewise, the other has better cards at hand for understanding himself. To prioritize the other over yourself leads to less than optimal providing for needs, when compared to attending to oneself first and foremost. 

But most importantly, you were born with a survival instinct. If you didn't want to live, you wouldn't live. You could be careless or severely depressed and survive almost by chance. But you could also succumb to outright self-hatred and in the end commit suicide. This happens. All too often. But still, relatively few among the population, when the whole is taken together, succumb to such extreme self-hatred. It seems like the inborn survival instinct offers some protection from that. However, language is a strong tool. Sadly, our great cognitive capacities can be gravely abused. Thus a person can be made to hold ideals that ground him down, ideals he can not possibly ever come close to, because his nature keeps him from it. A person can also be made to dislike himself through internalizing bullying for example, or society's prejudices. Typical here is of course racism, homophobia, discrimination of people with disabilities, hatred of people deviating from social customs. The individual might be unable to succumb to society's conformist ideals. Therefore he ends up with the choice of accepting the prejudice and then seeing himself as inferior, or alternatively; reject it. He has an imperative to reject it. 

If he doesn't, he lets injustice get the upper hand. And at worst his perceived inferiority will lead him to self-hatred and isolation. 

Because you have the ability to commit suicide, and it can be done in a burst of anger, in a few seconds, in the spur of a moment, you must love yourself. Your life depends on your self-image. Once you realize this, you understand that lots of society's expectations of you must be rejected. You understand that social codes that repress your nature and labels it as wrong, must be fought against. My realization of this is part experience, having both struggled with impulsive, physical self-harm, been part suicidal myself and having lost a friend to suicide. 

There would be no humanity if noone liked himself to a certain degree. There can be no other, if the other refuses to exist. If all refused, there'd be no society for the one remaining. The last to go, is the one. 

All that follows from the one, depends on the one's choice to remain alive. 

You might say this means we need to build up the self-image of the other, and gives us a strong reason to condemn bullying. This might look like it can be accounted for by the ethics of closeness. However, that means that we must let the other be as he wishes. We must leave him be. Don't mold him, lest he molds you. 

Thus we end up in some form of ethical individualism. 

“To say ‘I love you’ one must first know how to say the ‘I.’", said Ayn Rand. 

And in order to exist, you must choose your own existence, I say. 

I hope you take this for what it is, a fast written blog entry, not an academic paper or text. I have so many things I want to write about. I don't have time for a tenth of them. If I should write academically about every subject that could be academic, I'd end up writing even less. This text could be expanded indefinitely. I encourage the reader to familarize yourself with the positions mentioned, as my coverage of them because of small space, is by necessity simplistic. My central point here is the primary necessity of loving oneself, so that one will choose to live. 

fredag 8. januar 2016

Understanding - my New Year Resolution

My New Year resolution for this year is to be more understanding, or forgiving, if you prefer. This for the sake of my own happiness.

Humankind has disappointed me over and over again. True enough, those who hurt me personally and directly are few. However it is also true that far too many among the world's human population fail to appreciate an individual's right to his own life and body, with what I consider awful consequences. At worst, people are outright killed. For gain, for having commited a crime themselves, for claiming the right to believe what they want or just for choosing a sex partner not to the killer's liking (by being gay, for example). This I consider evil. And it doesn't just happen incidentally. It is outright propagated by twisted moral systems and political ideologies, disguising quest for power and domination in coats of beautiful words. 

Some people disrespecting others' right to their own lives wouldn't kill anyone. They would just insist on making the decisions for others, on ruling them, that is. Substituting their own judgment for the judgment of the other. Considering themselves more knowledgeable of the other, than the other himself. This is disrespect. And most people are guilty of it, thinking their own way of life is the right one for all. Defend yourself, call it necessary, call it what you want. It's not worthy of praise. 

In the name of tradition and for the sake of farmers' profits, people cage up animals, depriving them of the space and freedom to act according to their impulses, instincts and urges. In the name of the same traditions, the animals end up slaughtered and eaten, even though there is plenty of evidence showing that it is unnecessary and even detrimental to the eater's health. 

I have trouble breathing in this polluted global village of madhouses. When I'm walking in a crowded street, I am most probably walking amongst perpetrators of the greatest evils there are. 

The only way I can deal with this is to remember they don't think like me. They act on different information. They cling to other standards of morality. They didn't live my life. They might never have heard any of these things discussed or debated. One cannot act in a space one isn't located in.  

I believe in information. I believe in knowledge. I believe in understanding. 

When not informed, how can you be judged from making decisions on the wrong premises? 

Jesus reportedly said: "Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing" (Luk 23:34). That is what I intend on doing (without being anyone's father). I intend on forgiving. Most have no idea what they do, or don't share my perspective. They don't mean to mean. They just happen to be. 

It's not personal. It's not intended. It's not a quality of the victim that causes evil. It's a lack of understanding and information on the part of the oppressor, of the abilitiy to stand in another's shoes. 

Bad actions might not be the offspring of hatred, they might just be the products of ignorance. 

Things can change.