Dreams of War & Peace in Times of VUCA & FUD4 min read

VUCA: volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity

FUD: fear, uncertainty, doubt

I woke from a terrible dream this morning, a massacre.

My alarm clock was a grenade blast.

Not long before bed last night, I was reading about the various “nightmare scenarios” that are being considered by experts regarding the upcoming election. I’ve also been reading, here and there, about the various pseudo-organizations now wreaking havoc on society, or apparently preparing to do so: the Boogaloos, the Critical Race Theorists, and — of course — the President and recent revelations of his withheld knowledge related to the virus.

I awoke in my comfortable bed, not with the feeling of relief that, “Thank goodness I’m here and that was only a dream,” rather, I had all the residue of just witnessing mass murder, helplessly. (I began to run at the shooter from behind when he turned away, yet he turned around toward me again, still firing an actual fully-automatic — not an “assault rifle” — so I had to jump behind a brick wall. His ammunition ran out and he lay on the ground, so I once again ran toward him, intent on kicking his face in, only to find him grinning as he pulled the pin of a grenade.)

I haven’t had such dreams in quite a while. That is, not that I know of at least. Since quitting smoking, I’m apparently remembering them better.

They say ‘bad is stronger than good’; I think that may be, but only by default, not by necessity.

The greater power of bad events over good ones is found in everyday events, major life events (e.g., trauma), close relationship outcomes, social network patterns, interpersonal interactions, and learning processes. Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good. The self is more motivated to avoid bad self-definitions than to pursue good ones. Bad impressions and bad stereotypes are quicker to form and more resistant to disconfirmation than good ones. Various explanations such as diagnosticity and salience help explain some findings, but the greater power of bad events is still found when such variables are controlled. Hardly any exceptions (indicating greater power of good) can be found. Taken together, these findings suggest that bad is stronger than good, as a general principle across a broad range of psychological phenomena.

from Bad Is Stronger Than Good

Indeed I think that acknowledging this dynamic may feed our fires of the good.

A few years ago, there was a young man in the US who planned to shoot his classmates. He had a kill list. He had acquired his weapons. He had ensured that his sister was to stay home that day.

He turned himself in.

There was something in him to prevent it.

We don’t hear this story though. We certainly don’t hear it often.

The Wars Waged on Our Besieged Minds

It’s like Brandolini’s Law, the bullshit asymmetry principle: “The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.”

We also might say “The amount of energy needed to inspire positivity is an order of magnitude bigger than to inspire negativity.”

What apparently captures our attention, day after day, in this volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world is fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

This comes from outside ourselves, in some sense, sure; and yet we often learn to internalize it, to amplify it.

Some, like the shooters committing atrocities, the memetic sorceror’s apprentices pumping the internet with thoughts of a new “civil war”, and the various totalitarians in sheep’s clothing, they seem to internalize the fear, uncertainty, and doubt to an extremist degree — or at least set the conditions, wittingly or otherwise, so that others prone to extremism are encouraged to do so — and in an effort to control these things, generate wicked machinations that seem to further accelerate our decline.

Their methods are simplistic and ineffectual if their aim is for better days.

Yet the impulse to control, to make sense, is there.

And what ideas are on hand? A media environment of fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

It’s no wonder the most media-addicted nation in the world also produces the most mass shooters.

Dreams of Peace, Given Form in Reality

We need to provide alternatives to the fear, uncertainty, and doubt.

We need our people to see that something better is not only possible, but developing.

And unlike spreading FUD, this takes work.

It takes creativity.

It takes grit.

Yet we can build a world of peace.

We can bridge our dreams of better days to the reality of the everyday.

As we have grown more isolated, we must amplify and repeat and revise and evolve these dreams of peace, these options of betterment for our youth.

Perhaps we can pass through these straits after all.

The despair must be transmuted.

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