Howie Jacobson headshot

“You CAN change other people!” – Howie Jacobson of Plant Yourself – Sentientism Episode 87

Find our Sentientist Conversation on the Sentientism YouTube here or on the Sentientism podcast here.

Howie (@askhowie & plantyourself.com & askhowie.com) is a coach & author. His coaching work with people & organisations focuses on leadership, values, productivity & health.

In Sentientist Conversations we talk about the two most important questions: “what’s real?” & “what matters?”

Sentientism is “evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” The audio is on our Podcast here on Apple & here on all the other platforms.

We discuss:

00:00 Welcome

02:01 Howie’s Intro

  • Coaching & writing
  • “Not a big fan of capitalism”
  • Effective altruism through organisations
  • “Helping people respond to reality”
  • Not knowing “what’s real?” or “what matters?” but let’s try to work it out

04:54 What’s Real?

  • Growing up in a conservative Jewish household in New Jersey
  • Culturally Jewish but “kind of atheist”
  • Mother’s history of the holocaust & kindertransport
  • Father’s “Jewish identity & socialism.” Needling the Rabbi: “We have to rest on the Sabbath so now I have to walk up 30 flights of stairs?!”
  • Being given “The Truth About the Bible” book. Bible inconsistencies & immorality
  • “The Jews have learned to argue & doubt & question”
  • “The Jewish people must survive” as a core commitment
  • Einstein, Marx, Freud
  • A militant zionist phase
  • “It was safe.” There was no danger to the ritual vs. sweatlodges
  • A “safe, conventional, suburban religion”
  • Attending an Ivy League college
  • “There are smart people who believe in ghosts”
  • Exploring parapsychology
  • “There were serious academics questioning my worldview which was completely materialistic”
  • Rejecting the exclusive tribalism & the simplistic narratives of religion but “There is a big effing mystery out there”
  • Shamanic practices “oh honey, it’s all bullshit”
  • Being sceptical of our own perceptions & reasoning. Be open
  • Predictive dreams
  • Contextualism… “How is this working for me?”
  • “Look for & assume positive intent… then act like it’s true”
  • Talking to trees, brambles as defences, mycorrhizal fungi as comms networks
  • Narratives of dominion vs. “consciousness in everything”
  • Arbitrary vs. narratives grounded in reality
  • “Supposedly using evidence & reason we’ve destroyed the planet”
  • Checks: 1) consistency with the natural world & 2) compassion

32:50 What Matters?

  • Be nice to people
  • Mother’s experience of Nazi occupation of Austria. “The teachers & her so called friends were wearing Nazi armbands” & “Punch a Nazi”
  • Father’s labour organising. “Fighting for the little guy” as the central moral theme
  • A story of a police horse being stabbed: “I thought ‘what a great story’ until I started considering the sentience of the horse”
  • Us vs. them ethos. I’m lucky to be on the “right side”. Realising “everyone thinks they’re on the right side!”
  • Mitchell & Webb’s Nazi sketch “are we the baddies?”
  • “I’m still a humanist in my heart… I’m a sentientist in my mind”
  • Being vegan but not suffering emotionally when thinking about animal suffering. “What’s important to me is how I act”
  • Our emotions are easily manipulated (music, contact, stories)
  • Vegan for health & env. reasons. John Robbins “Diet for a New America” (1987). Then part of the vegan community
  • Dangers of imprinting on “wise elders”
  • Gregory Bateson’s “Schismogenesis”
  • “I’m vegan now, the world hates me for it… I’m going to buy the whole thing”
  • Teaching as a rebel
  • “I”m an instrumental vegan”
  • Indigenous hunting culture. Honouring animals. “I would eat animals under some circumstances… I don’t see anything in the world that is anywhere close to that standard.”
  • Even good justifications don’t erase the harm done to victims
  • Species/biodiversity vs. individuals
  • Romance vs. reality of hunting
  • Biocentrism
  • Intrinsic/instrumental moral consideration
  • Ecocentrism: “The risk that individual sentient beings can be chewed up for the sake of the system”

55:43 A Better Future

  • It’s a problem if we have to deny our self-interest in order to be good
  • “Sand Talk – How Indigenous Thinking Can Save The World”… “Western Civilisation is a self-terminating algorithm”
  • “It’s how the game is set up”
  • “We don’t have the models we need yet”
  • Experimentation. It’s OK to make mistakes
  • Supporting vs. shaming each other (even re: Ivermectin)
  • Being OK with ourselves. Safety vs. fight/flight. Stephen Porges’ “Polyvagal Theory”
  • Narcissism
  • If I had all the power I’d change things… but I don’t… I have persuasion
  • Shame & remorse & denial
  • Critic to ally. Shared positive intent
  • Stories that make me feel good w/out dominating
  • We can’t stop w/systems that make “good people treating each other well” a privileged position
  • Tipping points

Sentientism is “Evidence, reason & compassion for all sentient beings.” More at Sentientism.info.

Join our “I’m a Sentientist” wall using this simple form.

Everyone, Sentientist or not, is welcome in our groups. The biggest so far is here on Facebook.

Thanks Graham for the post-production.

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