Nov 12, 2020


 How do we individually cope, keep our sanity in a spiraling crisis, and help others?  

 Girls exploring nature at the Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability

It is almost a year since the start of this global pandemic with over 50 million who were infected and over one million died from. Everyone of us can count personal loss economic and human. Countries like India, Brazil, and the US were especially hit hard because of their corrupt leadership. But every country and region in the world suffered. Here in Palestine as an example, the viral infection rates are still on the rise especially in Gaza. Many Gaza Palestinians lost hope. Many young people are committing suicide. It is not only a pandemic of a virus but the pandemic of systematic racism and colonialism that spread. While Zionists spread hate and divisiveness to advance its goals around the world (via Hollywood, Bloomberg and Fox News etc), even they are starting to rethink what world are they making and will it be livable even for the billionaires. The stock market watched by the rich and powerful like Trump and Netanyahu went up because of the supposed potential vaccine. But this vaccine is no magic bullet. Its distribution will be a nightmare since it must be shipped on dry ice and stay very cold (freezer facilities of that kind are not found in most areas). The virus is also mutating and there will be new viruses. As a biologist and medical geneticist I can tell you there are simply too many humans and lots of viruses around us evolving.  Everyone also knows that the current economic system (capitalism/consumerism) is not only unable to deal with the new realities (pandemics, climate change, catastrophic wars) BUT IS ACTUALLY THE CAUSE OF THESE. Hence the challenge for common people: how to survive and create a better world to ensure our neighbors, friends, and children also live decent lives? 

Most people of course at the most basic instinct want to survive as individuals and try to adapt as best as they could in times of crisis. I have seen people previously with decent jobs reduced to begging on the streets to survive. Debts are rising (individual, corporate, government) around the world. Few are doing well either by exploiting other people (I call it parasitic) or by having learned self sustenance (like intentional communities, farming to produce our own food etc). There are lessons to learn from indiginous/native people. Even in places that have forgotten their ancient ways, these can be revived. For example our Canaanitic ancestors and even my own ancestors as recent as 3 generations back were able to sustain themselves fully from the land (their immediate surrounding). This even when the green season is but 3-4 months of the year in Palestine.  I know it is doable. We developed a community garden and with few simple (permaculture techniques) we produce >70-80% of our (including volunteer) food. Very little waste is produced. This brings us satisfaction and a sense of control (keys to what is called happiness). Yet this is not sufficient because all around us people are unable to have decent jobs, feed their families, support themselves or feel a sense of empowerment. Personal satisfaction of even creating a team success (as at still seems deficient when our ecosystem is falling apart. A small batch of healthy forest cannot really survive long term when the rest of the forest is being destroyed. In this case it is even the rest of the global ecosystem.

As I started to write this on a sleepless night I was not sure where to go with it. But then I thought the best  is merely to ask readers for their thoughts. There is so much negativity in this world (justifiable by the state of our world). There are few positive foci doing good things (and we should be proud of those). We do want to promote the latter while realistically dealing with the former. Psychology plays a great factor in that as anyone realizes: you cannot help yourself, or others if you are depressed. The motto we came up with for our Palestine Institute for Biodiversity and Sustainability is "Respect: for ourselves, for others, for our environment". This is not easy. Many (including me who are still unsure of direction) would be curious to hear how different people help each other to develop these three levels of respect. We all are learning.  We all need emotional and intellectual feedback/support especially in these difficult (actually existential to our species) times. Homo sapiens is a social species. The (western) capitalist world system while packing us into urban areas (increasing urbanization) has ironically also isolated us in separate compartments/ apartments (physically and mentally). COVID-19 exacerbated this isolation. How do we cope with that? How do we support each other? How do we connect and communicate even more (online)? What is the new economic and social system that we should be building to replace the decaying/failing system we inherited? Please put your thoughts in the comments section of this blog or email me and I will post them.


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  2. Dear all:
    My own reflections after I posted this amnd received some emails back is that there are so many activist groups and individuals doing remarkable positive things. Maybe we need to network and share more.
    Here is a message from Lesley which I agree with:

    Nobody has all the answers but most think they do! You speak a lot of wisdom as always. I have been to Palestine 4 times but never to Gaza and at 67 maybe I never will. They suffer a double lock down there. I write to the Foreign Secretary and my MP but UK do not seem to want to get involved. Will Biden be better than Trump. I pray it might be so.

    Numbers continue to rise here and we are under lockdown two. This means I cannot visit my grandchildren or go to church. I live with my husband but still we get very lonely and depressed. I worry about my eldest grand daughter aged 7 who is having counselling for anxiety. I don't tend to worry too much for myself though I know I should.

    So what do I do? I do a lot of zoom - church, politics, Palestine issues, Amos Trust and I sing in two virtual choirs. Singing and walking in the freshair have been my saviour. Also I have been learning Arabic everyday with duolingo since March. This is good for my brain as it is a really difficult language for an English speaker and I don't retain it very easily!
    Many thanks for all your wisdom. Lesley

    1. Dear Lesley. I wanted to reply to you as I identified so much with what you said. I, too, am a 67 year old woman from the UK (the NW) & do all the things you mentioned - apart from the singing! I started learning Arabic in March using BBC's 'Talk Arabic'. I have been on 2 pilgrimages to Palestine with Amos Trust. I thought their webinar last night about the cyclist in Gaza -Alaa- who had his leg amputated after being shot at by Israeli soldiers was profound & what he said at the end of the film about him 'you've slaughtered us, you've amputated our limbs, but you haven't taken our determination, or our dreams' is a lesson to us all. Lynn

  3. from Hani AbuDayyah
    One has to do Justice to oneself to be at Peace within oneself.
    One has to do Justice to ones family to be able to have Peace within the family.
    One has to do Justice to his neighbor to be at Peace with his neighbor.
    There must be Justice within ones nation to have Peace within the nation.
    There must be Justice between nations to have Peace between the nations.
    There must be Justice between religions to have Peace between the religions
    There must be justice to the environment to be at Peace with the environment
    There must be Justice across generations to be at peace across the generations.


  5. Dear Mazin, I love it that you reach out to your readers for more ideas. And that you don’t get stuck in academic or scientific mind-set even though you are an academic and a scientist. And that you prioritize human connections and caring at the same time that you are initiating many practical projects on the ground.
    A few of your sentences stand out for me. I copied them here.
    The “healthy forest” that you have created at the Museum is so inspiring because it exists in spite of the odds stacked against it by the occupation and all its evil structures. But how long can it hold out against imperialism, colonialism and climate disasters?
    Depressing thoughts. But as you say, we cannot let ourselves fall into depression. Or, as a quote I recently found, “Don’t let the wall of fear fall on you.” Our antidote is to keep creating until our last breath.
    And besides being a social species, home sapiens need to interrelate with the natural world, starting with the land. Our separation from the land caused by industry and urbanization has sapped our strength and warped our intelligence.
    How to keep going when so many forces conspire to squash us? By connecting, connecting, connecting - with each other, between all causes for justice, and with Mother Earth. I am beginning to accept that Good may not triumph over Evil, but the struggle for the Good is what gives my life meaning, and I am in the company of many millions of other humans doing the same work.
    I think a new social system has to get back to caring for the natural world that sustains us. Mother Earth gives, and we have to give back, but we have forgotten how.

    Thanks for asking and listening! Peace and persistence, Sherrill

  6. Note from Sylvia
    What I say to all my friends and clients is to keep staying awake and alert, and try to wake other people up, as many as we can.
    Let’s focus on nourishing our body, strenghtening our immune system naturally, getting rid of toxins in our diets and stay above stress, which especially now is at very high levels and can be the real killer.
    Let’s try to spend as much time as we can in nature, even though we are told to be indoors. Sun is medicine, as nature is. Let’s breath in oxygen, let’s clear our minds, let’s stay together and help each other. Let’s talk, let our voices be heard and not muted by a face-nappy!
    Let’s build up communities of like minded people, let’s grow our vegetables and get rid of Netflix, Facebook and tablets. Let’s say no to the fearmongers, let’s walk with our heads straight, let’s say no to Gates-founded injections, let’s be free in our minds and souls. Who has the guts to do it?
    All the best,

  7. Yet another response
    Hope you are well. We met briefly at a bookstore in Saugerties, NY., USA, a couple of years ago. I am responding to your request for stories of coping and hope. Before the pandemic, I had been visiting, for almost six years, our local hospitals to play flute music for patients and staff. This came to a sudden halt due to the pandemic. I miss this amazing opportunity and all the people I met. As an artist and musician I still feel a strong need to connect with people and serve humanity through Beauty.
    Since 2013 I have been inspired by this poem: “I can never see enough Beauty,
    for if I saw it all,
    I would be seeing you, again.”
    I am challenged by this idea that if I could gaze upon another person without criticizing and judging, I would be able to truly see their true Beauty. Since January 1st, 2020, I have been taking photographs of flowing creek waters through a teleidoscope. The enclosed photograph is an example. I feel strongly that water has teachings to offer us if we approach the water with respect. After over 7000 photographs, the water continues to surprise and inspire me. Recently I have begun to create very short videos that incorporate these photographs, music, and recordings made in nature. As a way of connecting, given the pandemic, I have begun to post these photographs on a Facebook site, David Levy. Each morning and evening I post a photograph as a form of prayer. Also, if you visit You Tube: Water Prayer Songs by David Levy, I have posted, so far, twelve short videos. These are offerings to humanity; a very humble gift to celebrate Beauty and life.
    So, please forgive all these words. I cannot resist the responsibility to serve life through Beauty and hope. Best, David

  8. Yet another
    In reply to your request for comments about a brighter system for the future, I thought no-one would ever ask me ! I firmly believe anarchism is the only answer. Not the bomb-throwers in macintoshes beloved by cartoonists, but radical democrats like Joe Hill. You can see radical democracy at work in the Mondragon factories in Spain, controlled by workers - going strong for decades but the best kept secret in the capitalist world. Meanwhile if you want a cheerful little story you might look at a short sequence of photos on Instagram: #gazasurfies. A group of Palestinian supporters brought two young men out from Gaza to train as surf lifesavers at North Steyne Surf club, Manly beach, Sydney. When this COVID thing is over they plan to help the Gazans set up an Australian-type surf club at Gaza beach. If you do find the photos, the narrative begins from the last photo and goes up from there, just because I don’t know how to reverse the sequence. At least it’s a positive narrative and an antidote for these dark days ...meanwhile as an Australian I apologise to the world for Rupert Murdoch.

  9. Yet one more (from Roger)
    Idealism and simple solutions are much easier to proclaim, than the hard work of making the changes necessary.

    Too many powerful people have too much to say, and don’t listen or are too convinced about the “progress” they think is being made with “civilisation”.

    My travels to places where there is poverty (including increasingly in my own country -UK), and the increasing despair that goes with it, show me how much the Western Imperial (neoliberal economic) systems have gone astray, particularly in respect of large scale agri-business farming urbanisation and land use. It has also shown me the expertise and hope, in so many so called poor places where we see communities working so hard and ingeniously together to sustain and improve life. We the wealthy countries we have had it far too easy for too long and have unrealistic expectations about life and death. All this you express so well.

    Where I live, I am involved in a “Poverty Truth Commission”, which involves professionals from the various agencies which dispense help and resources for “ poor and marginalised” people ( with mental health, economic, refugee/asylum seekers – Civic commissioners - meeting regularly (once a month) and LISTEN to the obstacles these people’s way ( representative Community Commissioners) to accessing what they need – after all they are all individuals with different stories and life experience and expertise. There is so much to learn from ordinary peoples’ lived experience and expertise – and those who have suffered usually have the most empathy with others and creativity about solutions if they have the resources. Resources are wasted on the waging of war which has changed so much in the last 100 years, or even the last 70, and on “management consultants”. Help needs to be universally available, not following a residual model.

    One thing Trump has achieved is the bringing to light of many long held prejudices, ignorance and self- centredness which has persisted “underground”, as it were. Biden’s collaborative style might offer more hope, but he will be opposed by the followers of Trump and all the self-centredness, corruption and deceit he stands for. There is much more darkness and corruption going on in the world than is brought to light. Very depressing, and very much Israel’s modus operandum it seems to me.

    Some of the statements from countries which are demonised here ( Iran, China) seem to point to part of the way in terms of collaboration to deal with the serious crisis which humanity faces. ( eg. China seems to have been wise to restrict family size, perhaps ?) It is seems unlikely the necessary urgent steps needing to be taken can be without some readjustment of our notions about human rights, and it may take some more totalitarian, but benign form of world government to save life on this planet.

    The UN has tried ineffectually and needs replacing, or empowering to fulfil its original purpose and ideals. Too dominated by the powers that be

  10. From John
    Covid 19:
    here in switzerland we had a quiet summer, almost normal, then came the second wave and the restrictions came back with obligation for wearing masks and limitations on gatherings ( 10 people or less in private !). the while event industry is lamed. gastronomy works with social distancing. all meetings and congresses are virtual. last year on the occasion of the european society of neurology in lisbon we were 7000 partcipents. for the virtual meeting this year about 30000 registered ! free of charge, no costs for travelling and hotels, but it lacks the vividness of personal contact and discussions. economy reacts quickly and finds ways out.
    Numbers govern, fear and suspition are hallmarks of distress syndrom in societies. 99,9% of the people are not affected, but all are suspects. neighbours become aliens. still hope for merry christmas this year. in some countries people rebell and protest asking for freedom. democratic governments can for the first time execute authority over the sovereign, the people ! they seem to like it ( don’t go out, stay at home...). some normal people also like to play police against their fellow citizens. But in the whole we manage and can live withe the restrictions and there is also a gap for hopeما اضيق العيش لولا فسحة الأملِ but when „waves“ keep coming there will be no reversibility of the distress and it will go in the subconscious mind. so far there are no investigations at least to my knowledge on this aspect. me and my family are thank‘s God healthy and also everyone in relaives and friends, as well as among my patients.

  11. From Robert (US)
    I feel guilty even responding to your request to do so. I am an older Jewish American human rights lawyer. When I reflect on the state of my country and people and world, it is hard to avoid despair and find the respect of which you speak, especially when I contemplate the oppression and associated evils we have inflicted on others. By accident of birth and education, I am in a better position than most to survive the pandemic, but my progeny will ultimately be living in the same soiled environment of Mother Earth if we do not quickly change our ways. I so admire you and others who have found ways to cope in much less favorable circumstances.
    I believe there is only one way to maintain our sanity in these circumstances -- to continue the struggle, to try to make our small voices heard, through the despair and disappointments, until we can rally all those of good will to create a modern, international progressive movement that will amplify those voices into a mighty stream that can provide a social democratic alternative to the rotten oligarchical, capitalist, autocratic systems that oppress us today, and which are largely responsible for leaving most of us around the world hurt, angry, fearful and insecure, even in the highly-developed economies like those in the US and UK.
    As we used to say here in the 1960's, keep the faith!

  12. and another from J.T.
    These are marvellous thoughts, inspiring, philosophical and Worldly. They are even more commendable for their dispassionate reasonableness, from a Palestinian suffering under the most cruel and unjust repressive regime on the Planet, yet without recrimination. Your recommendation for self-sufficiency as well as respect for others and the environment is admirable. I designed a self-sufficient house in the '70's but it was too ahead of its time for the head of Cambridge School of Architecture and was scrapped!

    We do need to reform the current system. I liked Qaddafy's Universal Theory in his 'Green Book' which shared out wealth, greened the deserts, gave everyone a voice in governments and encouraged individual initiatives. But how do we get there when the "causes" of our plight hold the strings of power, media, finance, law, trade and nearly everything else? Justice will prevail when Humanity wakes up to calls such as yours.

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  14. From Jerry
    The ways I cope are multiple and diverse. I maintain a good relationship with my wife, family, and neighbors (immediate). I am involved in Rotary (president of our evening Rotary Davis Sunset group). I balance the good news with the bad news being careful to not let it get out of balance and have multiple variable sources.for information. Relating with mutual respect to others with vastly differing opinions than mine. Thinking globally and acting locally. We can do no great things, only small things with great love. Work to help others especially youth be safe; grow in health, wisdom, learn to appreciate the beauty of this world and work to encourage others,especially youth,to engage in positive change and growth. The longer I live the more I become aware of the tremendous pain of the world around me juxtaposed against the tremendous potential for growing beauty and love. I am an optimistic realist simultaneously despairing from the overpowering evil I see all round me while ecstatically reveling in the beauty of life and love in the creation in which I am immersed. It is a delicate balance but one in which each of us must ultimately engage. As we engage in this struggle we must realize that none of us strive alone but are part of the same effort that millions of people are engaged in and that ultimately must succeed as it has positive aspirations for the future of creation.

    1. Actually from Richard sent by his brother Jerry :-)

  15. Dear Mazim and others,
    I had not read your blog until today. A friend in an email group sent it to me. I am unqualified to reflect or comment on the plight of Palestinians or other oppressed people and would not claim to understand the depth of despair and misery experienced.
    I've asked the same questions many times of others and never expected real answers, and received none. None that shifted my world view or enhanced my own coping mechanisms anyway. There is an element of controlling our own thoughts though.
    What has helped was realizing the commonness we all share in seeking answers and trying to cope with life's myriad struggles and injustices. Just the simple fact of our common fate of life on earth in the 21st Century. I(we)are not alone.
    I strongly urge folks to walk away from religion. The organized variety that needs your money and obedience. When political power mixes with religious beliefs we get the sad open air prison that is Palestine and other horrors such as ethnic or religious cleansing.
    Read Spinoza. American's must read Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States. Or Eduardo Galeano's books.
    You mentioned online connections increasing and helping the feeling of being with others. I disagree with this as really helpful. This has had and will ultimately make us easier to manipulate. To divide and confuse. The technology ADDS to isolation, power consumption(data centers), consumer lifestyle(increasing/supporting capitalist creations), keeps demand high for rare earth minerals and resources which create power struggles for control over access of said resources. It also increases falsehoods being swallowed up by millions, making the newly fabricated beliefs obstacles for change. It makes life more complicated. Simplicity helps with coping. Less on one's plate.
    Coping comes with belief in possibility.
    A wish list of goals with no visible paths to achieve them makes coping ever more difficult. So I find it best to keep the wish list small and attainable.
    We Americans must want great change to our government and it's violent foreign policies bad enough. Currently most are not yet willing to protest change at the expense of their health and safety. Law enforcement is part of the problem. Our collective need for change is not great enough yet as Americans, but we're getting there.
    The earth helps me cope. Growing food. But with populations located in urban settings this is not feasible for the majority of humans.
    Conscious mindful breaths, and somber truthful dialogue with others, helps me cope. I also strive to do daily what I call "reconciling". To acknowledge the suffering of many at the hands of others, to honor them all, and walk with that horror as opposed to being dismayed and depressed by our miserable behaviors to others. If I do not face it, acknowledge it, and permit it to walk beside me, then later I often find these realities pushing, bludgeoning,or paralyzing me.
    Occasionally I just look at us as closer to the end of our life cycle as a species like all living things, weep, and get back to living the day.

  16. Yet one more: Between Chaos and Commonwealth
    Some reflections from decades of contemplating the rich, the poor, and the conviviality that comes with common purpose. by Greg Wilkinson

  17. Occupiers need insanity to continue, while occupied need the contrary, generally speaking.
    In this case the insanity from the occupier is double: it is not only irrational towards the Palestinian people. It is intentional to subject the own occupying people to the zionist project so as to perpetuate its dependance from and collaboration with the powers that govern the JNC. In addition it is intentional to ascertain a climate of fear among the non-zionist part of the Jews in the world.

    JNC and their predecessors have a long record of under cover or open prosecution of independently thinking Jews, who they almost regard as traitors to their case. That appears to be the common thread in zionism inside and outside Israel. This comes quite obviously forward when comparing 'The Jewish State' from Theodor Herzl with its application in the acts and properties of the zionist movement. Theodor Herzl himself did not see anything wrong in describing the struggle for an own piece of earth for the Jewish community as a state-colonial project, assuming that the colonization would occur as a peaceful process in mutual prosperity and at the same time describing the own people as impossible and unwanted neighbours either due to inadaptated identity or due to over-successfull adaptation, that is in the believe and under the assumption that the incompatibility between Jews and non-Jews (btw a completely insane assumption) is due to the own character and can consequently not be avoided.
    The entire project, as formulated by Herzl is bound to end up in warfare. Aside from that the project assumes the unlimited cooperation between social classes streamlined by something like JNC, which also is just a corporation- state taught, in agreement with the nationalist view of state such as implemented by what became western dictators.
    So all of the social impossibilities of the zionist project are put upon the neck of the Palestinian people who is at the same time occupied, economically abused by the israelic upper class, robbed from its assets and exposed to the insanity of the subjects of the zionist state, insanity that arises from zionist need for a dictatorial society also towards the 'own' people.

    To some extent one can even say that nazi prosecution of Jewish 'race' and efforts to apply genocide to Jew-like people was instrumentally used by zionist leaders in order to force Jewish refugees to Palestine instead of offering an escape to the lands of their own choice. Testimonies that those refusing to escape to Palestine were refused any help by zionist representatives in nazi-occuped territory come only forward in several biographies, but seem otherwise to be banned from zionist perception of the past.
    It is only when discussing religious matters and cultural-ideological matters by non-zionist people that consider themselves as having Jewish background, that there is a stronger voice claiming zionism is in reality a further self-mutilation and in that sense a complement to the holocaust against the specific Jewish or Jiddish culture, traditions or religion.
    One result of the occupation of Palestine by Israel is therefore the silent extermination of the kind of persons the nazis particularly had problems with, those that try to think free.

    So cultivating the ability to think free is perhaps the strongest asset of the earth people's movement, for a free Palestine (and for a free Israel as well - if it is possible for the inhabitants to agree on that). The ability to think free, both by those who are occupied as by those who are in some way even still supporting the occupier.

    From this viewpoint, zionist Israel has no future in a human sense: it has only a past.