I take a closer look at the systems upon which healthcare and politics function. When taking a more profound look at both them it quickly becomes clear how there is no reason for it’s players to resolve issues right its’ source. From my perspective there is too much to be gained from short term decisions in terms of money and power. However more importantly, it is that we humans are incredibly bad at dealing with pain and discomfort. This inability is being capitalized upon in a variety of ways. Read this extensive blog on the topic to learn more about my view.
It’s new to me, how much politics is influencing my thinking the previous weeks. These Brazilian elections have provoked me to research more than I ever did for Dutch elections. I have been trying to understand on a more fundamental level how, from my perspective, a destructive force is helped into power by the public. In an earlier blog I explored why long term solutions in politics are unattractive, but also how our perceived discomfort in certain situations forces us in the direction of short term solutions. Politicians are well aware of this discomfort and capitalize on this to gain popularity. However, not only in politics, but also in healthcare, business, and our private lives is this a relevant topic. I realized that a common provoker of this discomfort is an inadequate perception of time.
Our perception of time is on the one side bench-marked to the world around us, how is time culturally perceived, what is early, what is late, and where is the future and where is the past (more on that below). Secondly, I personally belief the most relevant aspect of time perception; the speed of our thoughts and emotions and the intensity with which we experience them.
Cultural Perception of Time
The first one, our cultural perception of time, has one common denominator across all cultures. Every culture uses a time-in-space metaphor. this means that all over the world people describe time related to space. However, it depends on where you live, which space-metaphor is used. In western society the future is in front of us and the past behind us. In Ayrana (native people from the Andes), the passed is in front (that what can be seen) and the future behind. The Yupno people from Papua New Guinea and the Tzeltal from Mexico think of the passed as being down hill, and the future uphill.
Culture also largely defines how you behave related to time. Where in Germany and Switzerland on time, means arriving exactly at the agreed time, because they see compartmentalization as the surest route to efficiency. In the Netherlands you can be a couple of minutes later and still be on time, nevertheless the Dutch otherwise relate to time in a similar way as Germans and the Swiss. In Brazil I have come to understand time as it’s 9 o’clock until it’s 10 o’clock. Even more “creative” with the clock they are in Colombia. I was recently told by two Colombians that agreeing to meet at 2 o’clock is okay, showing up at that time is foolish. Don’t come before 4.
Another significant difference, is if time is perceived as linear or cyclical. In my very first post on this blog I proposed a different perspective to time, and I explained my adoption of a more cyclical view. In western society this is novel, because time is generally perceived as progressing linearly. In eastern cultures though, the Japanese and the Chinese have always perceived time as progressing cyclical.
Subjective Perception of Time
Second then, the speed of our thoughts and emotions play a significant role as well. As our perception of time on the one hand is influenced by our external environment (culture, society), it is also subject to our internal environment. Are you feeling good or bad, are you doing something you like, or something you hate. The way you experience time in these cases can be totally different. That boring school assignment seems to take ages, where watching an exciting movie can pass by in seconds. Then again, once we are in severe pain it seems like time lasts forever.
Now that we are familiar with what influences our perception of time, the moment is right to become familiar with how long things objectively take. I believe this to be of essential importance because we usually adhere to our perception of time, forgetting that there is actually a lot known about the objective duration of things.
Underneath is a list of objective times as I have come to understand them from literature on history and medicine plus my own experience:
When you read this list, it is important to consider that thoughts and emotions are the only things on there, that are not in someway or another limited by time and space. At the same time they are the portal through which we experience everything else.
I believe that most discomfort and hardship that we experience comes from two things. First, to be unaware of, or failing to accept how we are objectively progressing in time. This could be failing to comprehend the time that is needed for a political situation to change or a fractured bone to heal.
Cause and Effect Can Be Hard to Connect
Second, very often cause and effect are not closely related in time and space. The burger you started eating weekly at age 25 might be the initiation of the behavior that led to your diabetes at age 45. Similarly when I start eating beans instead of beef I instantly reduce my carbon footprint. This might help turn around climate change in 15 years, saving thousands of lives of people living on islands that would have run under water otherwise. It is hard to see these connections, if not impossible. However, if you accept the possibility, there is a lot in life that you can influence from this moment on.
When you accept the possibility that your actions can have consequences that you have no way to experience or connect with each other – that leaves you with the challenge to accept that as long as you live on earth there are certain time frames you cannot evade. I often try to raise awareness to this fact with my clients. The mind jumps from past to future, and back again within seconds. However, our body acts more like a plant, and adheres to a slower and gradual time frame.
Where the objective time frame of the body, often with the support of a skilled healthcare practitioner, can be understood and experienced first hand, changes in environment, culture and politics are harder to experience objectively. As things go, they do not hurt us directly like a bone fracture does, and there are less people taking the time to explain this phenomena in full. Also because the systems underlying these changes are often very complex and hard to understand.
Nevertheless, in our private lives, in politics, in your business or regarding your personal health, there is a very simple thing you can do to deal with all the discomfort from the tension between how you experience time, and the time it takes for things to happen. Read all about that in the second part of this blog on SMART goals here.
Je moet het ijzer smeden als het heet is – You should mold the iron when it’s hot
– come into action when you recognize the right moment. –
With the presidential elections less than two weeks away here in Brazil, I thought it time to take – what we call – politics under closer scrutiny. More than often a topic of discourse, politics is usually treated as an influential phenomenon. We like to think so at least.
So far the least worst system created that has held up on bigger scale is democracy. In this political construct every person has the ability to vote for the idea or person that he or she would like to see established in his or her country. However, is this really the case, that the voter has the power to express what he or she wants?
By comparison we stick to democracy because a dictatorship scares every person after we have seen so many vivid images of Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Mao Zedong, and others. Similarly we stick to capitalism because communism was (executed) way worse by comparison. This does not mean however, that democracy and capitalism are great systems.
Currently in Brazil, there is heavy campaigning going on between 13 presidential candidates. Main topics of discussion are the treatment of minorities, abortion, and how to deal with the sustaining violence. According to Brazilian news outlet Globo, in the years 2016 and 2017 together the Brazilian police killed almost 10.000 people. Supposedly the highest amount in the world.
Ordem e Progresso (Order and Progression) written on the Brazilian flag, far from present in everyday life however.
Now it’s definitely important that these topics get attended to, the thing is though, that they are symptoms – not origins of problems. People are more frustrated about the likelihood to be robbed in the street than the quality of education. However, when you take a moment and think, change the latter and you will alter the former. This would be a very long term plan (a lot more than 1 president can realize) and would take planning and dedication to execute.
Imagine yourself in a situation where you have to take care every time you take out your phone of your pocket, as soon as its get dark certain places are no-go-zones and you pay 40% of taxes on top of all your groceries that you never see in return in the form of quality healthcare or education (only in shiny suits, big houses, and nice cars of your politicians). In a situation like this, that is not only common in Brazil but also other Latin American Countries, nobody wants to wait 20 years before people stop robbing and assaulting.
The Candidate’s Perspective
At the same time imagine the attractiveness of this strategy as a presidential candidate who only governs for four years, and needs to explain this complex strategy to 200 million people. Conceding to shouting one-liners and emotional presentations is a lot more attractive. And that is what a lot of politicians do.
And it works! Why? Because politicians spend a lot of money understanding us, human beings, how to make our clock tick in their direction and how to tap in to our irrationality. So in this beautiful democracy, who is influencing who? Politicians know; attack is the best defense. And then, even more so: how much money and time have you recently invested in figuring out how to influence politics?
However, this does not only apply to Brazil, but to the U.S. and the Netherlands as well. Right there, we have a couple of essential flaws to the system. A 4 year period is too short to get something done for real, and every election campaign turns into a popularity contest – not a contest of the best ideas to resolve present issues. In Brazil popularity revolves around the subject violence, in the US around Mexican immigrants and terrorism, and in the Netherlands around refugees. On top of that all, by ways of the democratic system it is impossible to take every inhabitant of a country into account for any politician, regardless of which of these countries you visit.
Democracy is so overrated.
Frank Underwood (House of Cards)
I love how the Netflix hit-series House of Cards portrays the workings of politics and of democracy in this case. An interplay between dealing in favors behind the cameras, and figuring out how to make the voter do you what you want when you are in front of the camera. Even though, large parts of the series could be perceived as exaggerated, The Guardian Australia’s Political Editor, confirms the deal-making culture that is highly influenced by third party interests. A useful thing to keep in mind: politics is influenced by third party interests.
Since we have been scared by the alternatives to democracy everyone keeps discussing left, right, and center instead of if democracy, or politics is the best way to govern a country at all.
Transcending Democracy and Political Decision Taking
Transcending this discussion of left, right, and center has direct implications for your life. Are you going to wait until the party that verbalizes your desires best before you can live the way you want? Or, are you going to turn that around?
Politics will never be a solution, and because it is a glorified popularity contest to begin with, the topics you think important are nothing more than a trigger to acquire votes. Whatever subject makes it into the debates of politicians will never be what it was before. It doesn’t matter what happens with it, as long as it gains votes.
Error 155: Democracy not found
Topics to consider in this case are drugs, terrorism, Islam, refugees, guns, and abortion. These topics are present in politics across the entire planet, but when being spoken about them, how much of it is about understanding the problem, and solving it thereafter, and how much is about votes and popularity?
The moment these subjects enter the realm of politicians, information gets disguised, twisted and abused all to acquire votes. Drug laws resemble political views not actual science, otherwise alcohol would have been illegal before LSD, mushrooms, weed, amphetamines, and cocaine. If laws on terrorism would be rational than they would be far less important than fighting diabetes and hearts disease. The former “only” cost around 25.000 lives in 2016 (as published on Satistica), where diabetes and hearts disease, according to the World Health Organization, takes 18.3 MILLION lives every year. Both of the diseases are preventable in 99.9% of the cases.
A small example of what happens to subjects once they become a political theme. I am by no means arguing to abandon the current systems (before we have an alternative). However, at the very least you should be aware of the real value of what is being discussed. As with all things, if you want to make a decision that works for you and not what works for somebody else; educate yourself and never stop questioning.