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The 7 classical virtues:
 
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The World's Best Medicine Against
the Follies of Polarisation
Short guide in 8 steps


Are you tired of the polarisation in society? Have you had enough of insults, personal attacks, stereotypes and meanness? If so, you are not alone.


This is a serious and growing problem. The unwillingness to listen to other points of view makes it difficult to find solutions to urgent problems that plague our world.


Polarisation is fuelled by hatred and contempt. It is dumbing down like nothing else. People live in different fantasy worlds and fall prey to all sorts of illusions.


Is there any counterforce to this?


Two road signs. One points to "Polarisation", the other to "Opposite Way".

Welcome to my homepage! My name is Erik Pleijel. The purpose of this website is to promote a particular idea that I feel very strongly about.

This idea is old and proven, but in our time it is almost forgotten. I will try to introduce it in the form of an 8-step guide. Keep reading and everything will become clearer! 

 

It takes 4 minutes to read this – if you read fast. But take it easy and don't rush!
Needed in our restless age:
Sloth climbing a branch.
Slowness and
perseverance.
Sloth resting on a branch.
Time for
reflection

1. Beware of Controlling Religion

One cause of polarisation is bad religion. It brings out the worst in people: fear, narrow-mindedness, selfishness, hatred, prejudice, etc. The paradox is that people claim to believe in a loving God! How does this make sense? 

One possible answer is that it is a belief in conditional love.
Setting conditions is an attempt to control people: "If you behave, you will be rewarded and not punished!" Taken too far, it can stifle human development and maturity.

 

Man training a dog.
Reward and punishment can be used to train animals. Humans should develop in a different way.
My background. Further down the page you can read about my book, where I talk about my exper­iences. From a column about the book in the Bohusl news­paper: "In fast-moving, some­times dramatic texts, he takes us to geno­cidal Rwanda, civil war Sri Lanka and an absurdly closed North Korea." From a review in KT, the Swedish church news­paper: "From his life exper­ience he reflects on aid, philo­sophy and Christ­ian faith on a Lutheran basis."

2. Take the Leap of Faith

Many people think the Christian message is strange, incomp­rehensible and outdated. For those who get the point, it is spiritual dynamite. It is the opposite of the controlling reward-and-punishment religion. The goal is not to become like a well-trained pet but to become a true human being.


Many churches speak of unconditional love. Such faith is not about control but trust. It is not based on reward and punishment, but on freedom and responsibility. This opens up a better way.


Cartoon priest looking at a road sign:  "animal training" forbidden.

Controlling religion stunts human growth. There are important things that cannot be cultivated through reward and punishment: compassion, good judgement, truthfulness, honesty, integrity, etc. Typical human qualities cannot be bought. Even less can they be forced.

The Christian message is totally underestimated in our time. It is much wiser and much more important than people realise. It liberates us from life's most dangerous trap. See points 3 and 4.

3. Manage Pleasant but Toxic Emotions

Why is social media so antisocial? Why are the posts so full of mockery, abuse and petty nastiness? The answer is really quite simple: Being nasty and mean can be a pleasure.

You laugh and make fun of others because it's amusing. Schadenfreude is a source of – joy. Even the feeling of being wronged can become a wicked pleasure. It can provide an excuse to lash out in lustful anger.


Pleasant emotions = good emotions?

They are not necessarily the same thing! It is easy to deceive oneself. 


Hatred and contempt are alluring but deeply deceptive emotions. They are "sweet-tasting poisons". They may feel good, but they damage the soul and weaken reason. They inflate the ego and give a false sense of superiority and intelligence. This illusion affects entire societies and drags the world down to ruin.

Unpleasant emotions = bad emotions?
Sometimes this is the case, but not always. There are things that are painful but healthy, like admitting your mistakes. A certain amount of healthy self-criticism is needed to grow and develop.

A primitive moral compass is quite natural for animals. They have not acquired the knowledge of good and evil. They only understand the difference between pleasant and unpleasant.


For humans, a primitive moral compass is a spiritual prison. We like toxic emotions because they feel pleasant, and we don't want to recognise the mistake because it feels embarrassing. This is life's most dangerous trap.

"Forgive us our trespasses; save us from evil", we pray in church. It's not about putting people down, but about creating a special kind of inner strength. Trust and unconditional love gives courage for self-examination.
Key
The key to freedom is faith.

"Know thyself!" said the ancient Greeks. It is important to learn to distinguish between good and bad emotions. And to create healthier mindsets and better habits. This is the way to become a true human being.

4. Have the Courage to Admit Mistakes

Understanding the world is a bit like doing a jigsaw puzzle. 

 

Putting the pieces of the puzzle together with a hammer.


Piecing things together is easy and fun! With stubbornness and poor judgement, you can create any image you want. You begin with the image you want to see – and adapt the pieces accordingly.

 

This is how conspiracy theories arise, for example. How do such ideas become popular and spread like a virus? This is a possible answer: It is flattering to think you have a sharp mind that can see through everything. It is nice to have the illusion of being smarter than others. Listening to other points of view disturbs this comfortable feeling. Admitting mistakes is embarrassing and hurts the ego. In this way reason is caught in a trap.

"Nobody is flawless", they say in the church. A faith based on trust gives you the courage to recognise your mistakes. Admitting that you can be wrong is not a weakness but a strength. It is the key to critical thinking. And to good judgement.

Faith and reason are often at odds, but they don't have to be. They can also work together.

Faith – Symbol: Jerusalem; Reason – Symbol: Athens.

In symbolic terms: Jerusalem can form an alliance with Athens.

5. Develop an Interest in Classical Education

In the polarised debate there are often simplistic answers to complex problems. There is one thing that can counteract this and that is classical education.


Classical education is about exploring life and broadening your horizons. This could mean, for example, studying history. Humanity's collective experience is a huge treasure trove of knowledge.

A jigsaw puzzle.

We need to learn how to put the puzzle of the world together more wisely.

6. Develop a Healthy Inner Strength

We need more antidotes to polarisation. Yoda in Star Wars said:

Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.

Of course it is important to be able to feel fear and anger. It could be a matter of survival. Anger can be an important driving force in some situations. But there is a risk.  

Fear can create delusions.
Anger can create tunnel vision.
Hatred can create blindness.
Many people today live in a state of almost chronic anger. They do not realise that they are corrupting their intellect.

 The superpowers of Christianity: Faith, Hope, Love. Greek cardinal virtues: Wisdom, Justice, Moderation, Courage.
Jerusalem and Athens – an alliance against the dark side.


Courage means not allowing fear to rule over reason. It is about keeping a cool head in order to see more clearly.


Justice is about creating inner order, according to Plato. For example, it means being able to resist the temptations of power.


Hope (in the Christian sense) is an inner force that is "not of this world". It is independent of the ups and downs of life. It is a source of strength even when the future looks bleak.

7. Develop Practical Wisdom

Solving the problems of our time requires practical wisdom, common sense and good judgement. Polarised debate undermines this. This is because many people are drawn to extremes and have unbalanced views. 

 

Practical wisdom, according to Aristotle, is related to moderation. We often need to find the golden mean and not go too far in either direction. In decision-making situations, it is important not to overreact or underreact.

 

It is often a matter of finding the right balance between two opposing poles. For example:

  • Idealism and realism.

  • Unity and diversity.

  • Collectivism and individualism.

  • Order and freedom. 

8. Develop the Capacity to Integrate

The public debate is often characterised by political correctness and political incorrectness.

  • Politically correct means being respectful but not sincere. It easily leads to hypocrisy.

  • Politically incorrect means saying what you think without showing respect. It easily leads to bullying.

Those who are well integrated have the ability to hold two opposing ideas in their minds at the same time. It is possible to be both truthful and considerate.

Integration means bringing together different aspects of ourselves into a coherent whole. It is also about being able to understand different and opposite perspectives of the world.
Cartoon boy looking at two road signs:, Polarisation. Integration

Our plagued and tormented world needs more people who choose the path to integration.


All wise women and men who have ever lived have understood this: In order to contribute to a better society, there must first be an inner integration of the soul. This was the philosophy of Plato, for example. It is ancient wisdom and it is just as relevant today.

Remember:
Toxic emotions divide the soul and polarise society.
Classical virtues integrate the soul and unite society.


This is the crucial issue of our time: Why do so many people today sympathise with unscrupulous politicians with no moral compass? Why are they happy when these leaders corrupt democracies and destroy vital partnerships? Why do they find ruthlessness and shamelessness particularly attractive qualities? The reason may be that it creates a sense of power that is enticing och thrilling. At the same time, it is embarrassing and painful to recognise the mistake.

Do you think more people should reflect on this issue? To start the discussion, you could ask your friends to read the 8-step guide. Here is an easy way to share:
Press the Copy button.
Please read this: The world's best medicine against the follies of polar­isation. Short guide in 8 steps. Follow the link ErikPleijel.se/eng
Paste into messages to your friends.
Paste into posts on social media.
A gold star star to you if you go the extra mile to spread the word! The more people who get a reading tip, the better!

Sign: Keep calm and carry on! The gloomy state of the world makes it easy to feel powerless. The daily news feed is full of things that can kill our faith in the future. Some people panic, others become paralysed. It is important to stay calm and keep going and do what you can.

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A Classic Cure for the Follies of Polar­isation (the book). The 8-step guide is also available in a longer version. All points are covered again, but more thoroughly.
The book ends with a chapter on faith and science. It begins with a terrifying experience I had a long time ago.

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Order here!

Kindle ebook
Paperback
Do you want to read about the experiences that inspired me to write this? In the book Adventures and Reflections I share my stories. Here are extracts from newspapers that have written about the book:
In fast-moving, sometimes dramatic texts , he takes us to genocidal Rwanda, civil war Sri Lanka and an absurdly closed North Korea. ... But he is not an ordinary technology nerd, rather a humanist, philosopher and theologian. Who thrives on human diversity, listens, learns, reflects and tries to empathise with the history and identity of other individuals and cultures. ... [Swedish prime minister], give this book to your minister for international development! Column in Bohusl newspaper (6 Oct 2014), by Stefan Edman.
Based on his life experience, he reflects on aid, philosophy and Christian faith on a Lutheran basis. It is a wise man who writes and his wisdom is often easily transferable to everyday life in Sweden. Review in KT, the Swedish church newspaper (34-2014), by Mikael Mogren (Bishop).
Want to read some chapters? See the window below. Use the buttons.
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ErikPleijel.se/eng
Faith as adventure


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Texts by Erik Pleijel, published on this website, are licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 Cartoon boy: VectorStock; Sloth: FriendlyStock; Cartoon priest: Copyright Brad Fitzpatrick; Other illustrations: CC0 Erik Pleijel.

Contact: email