MDMA-assisted Psychotherapy: An interview with Ivar Goksøyr

MDMA, principle ingredient in the illegal drug ‘ecstasy’, may soon be legally administered as part of a radical new psychotherapy. We caught up with Ivar Goksøyr, clinical psychologist at Psykologvirke and board member of the Norsk Forening for Psykedelisk Vitenskap, to find out more.

tekst: Dominic Munton, Psykologi profesjon

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your professional career?

I finished my studies at the University of Oslo in 2009 and I’ve been working as a psychologist since then. I specialised in clinical psychlogy with the Norsk Psykologforening. I started working in mental health public care services, and for the last five years I’ve been working in private practice. I’m also affiliated with a unit at Sykehuset Østfold called Psykforsk, which researches into innovative treament modalities. Technically, I’m specialised in an intensive form of psychoanalysis called ISTDP, intensive short-term dynamic psychotherapy, but I also do general psychotherapy work with adults.

Foto: Ivar Goksøyr

How did you first hear about MDMA as a therapeutic tool?

My first relationship to MDMA was, like anyone else, through its identity in the media as a dangerous party drug. What opened my eyes to MDMA’s other identity, was listening to the histories of patients who had experienced its therapeutic effects. Once I started digging into the science of it, I was shocked to discover that MDMA and other psychedelics had a history of therapeutic use that no-one ever talks about.

I’ve always been interested in trying to reach the deeper levels of the psyche. Depth psychology is fascinating, and yet at the same time it is so difficult to really get access to the deep unconscious material of the mind. Throughout my career, I’ve become steadily better at working with these dimensions, and I do succeed in reaching people by conventional methods, but some patients are still really difficult to help, especially those who have been stuck for a long time or from a very early age. When I read in the literature that there were agents that could help us more readily access this unconscious material, I was more than interested.

“MDMA is like a pharmacological bridge to deep psychological landscapes which are otherwise difficult to access”

Existing medications tend to blunt or supress not only anxiety or depression, but also other feelings too. It seems like MDMA and the psychedelics offer the potential to work from the opposite direction, opening up and revealing instead of disconnecting. I really like that! This is the way that I like to work because I believe that it has the potential to yield deeper healing and more longlasting effects.

Most of us are used to hearing about MDMA or ‘ecstasy’ in the framework of recreational drug use and abuse. How did we get from potential therapeutic tool to illegal drug and now back again?

In the late 1970s, MDMA was initially used therapeutically, not in night clubs. Early use was primarily oriented towards healing and self-development; an estimated half million doses were used in this context. It wasn’t until later that MDMA was commercialised as ‘ecstasy’ and distributed as a party drug.

Up until the mid-1980s, there were dozens of therapists using MDMA together with psychotherapy in some several thousand sessions. There were no controlled scientific studies at this time, but there were some uncontrolled studies and many reports which gave indications of MDMA’s potential therapeutic value, at least within certain populations.

“Psychedelic science has moved from stigma to cutting edge within the last five years”

Then, in 1985 the US regulated against MDMA. The next year, the World Health Organisation regulated in line with US wishes for corresponding controls at a UN level. Despite classifying MDMA as a schedule I drug, the WHO noted that MDMA was of potential scientific significance and encouraged member states to continue researching into its therapeutic properties. However, since then it has been very difficult to do research, due both to difficulties in financing and in getting protocols approved. In the early 2000s one study was approved, but it was forced to shut down after only six patients had been treated due to political pressure.

2011 saw the publication of the first well controlled study on MDMA. Although the study demonstrated highly promising results, its findings were inconclusive due to its small size (twelve participants). Since then much more research has been carried out, especially into the use of MDMA-assisted psychotherapy to treat PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). So far, 107 patients have been treated in randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, and the effect size looks good. Furthermore, remission rates in long-term follow-ups are looking very good, especially in difficult to treat populations. Right now, the evidence looks highly promising, but we still need much more of it. This means that it is not currently possible to draw further conclusions about MDMA’s therapeutic value in terms of rigorous scientific standards. That said, most clinicians and patients who have experience of the drug agree that it demonstrates potential.

How does MDMA-assisted psychotherapy compare to other treatments for PTSD?

As of today, there are other good treatments for PTSD, but many patients still respond suboptimally and there is a lot of suffering. There is a general consensus that we need to improve clinical implementation of scientifically-validated treatments, but we also know that no single modality is effective for all patients at all points on their healing journeys. This means that we need a bouquet of different methods with which we can reach different people at different stages in their development.

In recent years, other medical disciplines have shown significant improvements in their treatment methods: people are dying less, and new treatments and even cures are being developed. In contrast, mental health has developed into a largely palliative discipline where treatment focuses on symptoms, not root causes of illness. There are clear indications that MDMA and other psychedelic therapies have the potential to work with core psychological issues, not just symptoms; hopefully the data will confirm these early observations.

Furthermore, although many people respond well to existing treatments, these treatments also have a high dropout rate because treatment is extremely psychologically challenging. Patients must confront their deepest fears in order to heal, and it is easy to become overwhelmed. The closer a patient gets to their trauma, the higher the risk that they dissociate or become overwhelmed.

MDMA seems to work by reducing activity in the amygdala, the brain’s fear centre, and stimulating the release of oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’. This means that patients get additional resources that increase their chances of successfully engaging with their trauma. During an MDMA-assisted therapy session, the patient can process their trauma and help their body re-experience and integrate their traumatic experiences. Once the drug effect has worn off, fear and avoidance of traumatic issues are still lessened. MDMA is like a pharmacological bridge to deep psychological landscapes which are otherwise difficult to access.

“Therapists Marcela Ot’alora and Bruce Poulter conduct MDMA-assisted psychotherapy in Boulder, Colorado.” Courtesy of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (www.maps.org)

Do you experience stigma in your professional life as a result of your interest in MDMA-assisted therapy?

Not anymore. I would say that these days, people read their journals, and they see for themselves that this is a legitimate and important area for research. We are not in a position where we can simply dismiss any promising modality on the basis of our preconceptions. In fact, I have the impression that psychedelic science has moved from stigma to cutting edge within the last five years.Nowadays, I get a lot of recognition and a big thumbs-up. Personally, I find it unethical that anyone be fundamentally against conducting research. And what we’re saying right now is not that psychedelics are ready for use in clinical practice, and certainly not in recreational settings, but that more research is called for.

With increasing media focus on the therapeutic use of psychedelics, do you think there is a risk that people will get confused ideas about what these substances are and how they can be used?

Yeah, I think that there is a potential for that. What we need to do is to avoid underestimating the risks, but also avoid overestimating them. We should also be careful not to idealise these modalities as therapeutic agents. Most people that have tried psychedelics would probably agree that whilst they experienced some benefit from them, they were not a magic bullet that resolved everything. Therefore, it is important that we take care to communicate both potential benefits and risks. I want to underscore that the clinical use of MDMA or other psychedelics is clearly different from recreational use. In the clinic, we know exactly what the compound is, exactly what dose we are using, and we can control the circumstances to create a safe environment. On both MDMA and psychedelics, individuals can potentially get in touch with deep and frightening aspects of the unconscious. This can lead to destabilization, which in rare cases could be dangerous outside of a safe container.

What are the differences between the different kinds of psychedelic therapy?

Classical psychedelics such as LSD, psilocybin-containing mushrooms, mescaline and ayahuasca work by dis-integrating the brain’s standard information processing networks. When this happens, there is less of an “I” through which information is processed, and we experience less attachment to our habitual ways of perceiving ourselves and the world. Classical psychedelics could be likened to a fresh snowfall on a winter’s day: prior to the snowfall, the old snow is patterned with movements and footfalls that reflect our everyday mental behaviours. When fresh snow falls, everything is fresh and new. We can find new patterns, and we don’t fall into old ones so readily.

“I want to underscore that the clinical use of MDMA or other psychedelics is clearly different from recreational use”

However, classical psychedelics are not anxiety regulating, so whilst they can give rise to therapeutic experiences, they can also be really frightening. In recreational settings, such challenging experiences can potentially become a ‘bad trip’. In a clinical setting, such experiences need not escalate to the same extent, but there can still be a lot of anxiety to work through.

In this sense, classical psychedelics could be described as ‘mind opening’, whilst MDMA would be a ‘heart opener’, as the patient feels much less anxiety under its influence. The state of consciousness experienced on MDMA is actually not so different from what we experience every day, apart from including a greater sense of safety, love, empathy and compassion towards oneself and others. Psychotherapeutically, this is a really good state to work with.

In addition to your clinical work, you are also on the board of directors for the Norsk Forening for Psykedelisk Vitenskap (NFPV). Could you tell us a little about this organisation and its work?

We work to promote the scientific exploration of psychedelic substances because we believe that past censorship and stigma has made it difficult to do research with them. We’ve been running for about a year now. We find that there is plenty of academic interest in this area from multiple disciplines, but that researchers are often isolated. We serve primarily as a networking point so that academics can get in touch with each other, share research ideas and get their projects up and running. We also inform our colleagues and the public about the current status of psychedelic science and hope to encourage those who might be interested in a career in the field. So far, we’ve held a variety of lectures and seminars, and we have a conference planned in the near future.

We offer a significantly reduced membership fee for students who wish to participate. I would really encourage students to get involved because, due to past restrictions on research, this is an almost untouched field. Today, the field is really opening up, and there will be a lot to do over the coming years. For students interested in psychedelic science, joining the forening is a great way to start networking and get the ball rolling on a future career.

How do you see the future of psychedelic science in Norway over the next five years?

Sykehuset i Østfold just received approval for Norway’s first-ever study on the treatment of PTSD with MDMA-assisted psychotherapy; research and recruitment will start this October. Treatment of depression with ketamine is also part of this movement, and implementation in clinical practice has just begun, for example at Sykehuset i Østfold. There are more and more international psychedelic research centres popping up and psychedelic publication rates are at an alltime high, so we can expect to see many more articles over the coming years. As far as clincal use is concerned, we hope to have MDMA-assisted psychotherapy approved for clinical use here in 2024: the US is heading towards approval in 2022, and current phase 3 clinical trials in Europe are only a few years behind. Assuming that current research continues to follow the same positive trend, we can expect to see MDMA-assisted psychotherapy rolled out in Norway within five years.

Millions worldwide do not respond to standard treatments and are still suffering. We owe it to them to clarify the therapeutic potential of these agents as soon as possible, no matter what the science ultimately tells us. ■

Psykologvirke – http://www.oslopsykologvirke.no/

Norsk Forening for Psykedelisk Vitenskap – http://www.nfpv.no/

Female State Leaders: Breaking the Glass Ceiling

Finland recently made headlines for inaugurating a government consisting of five female party leaders. Female state leaders are however still relatively uncommon despite growing evidence that female leadership improves political decision-making processes.1 The following is a brief look into the world’s female heads of state and government and an outline of some central aspects affecting women’s rise to leadership.   By: Sunniva Mowatt Storm, Internasjonale studier Illustration: Victoria Hamre  Female leadership and gender … Les mer

Challenge and Opportunity: A Commentary on Uncertainty Through a Contemporary Lens

When we talk about the future, we transform into a superhuman being, where the belief that we can predict what will happen – let’s say – in twenty years, prevails. The human need for security and certainty is broken when we realize that we have no idea what will happen. Since I began … Les mer

“Hey fellow males, be critical of your gender!”

We are still all affected by gender inequality and the negative behavior that is a result of it. Even if you claim to be in favor of gender equality and women*1 liberation in a pro feminist sphere, you are still affected. Therefore, it is important to recognize the images of genders constructed by society! You just can’t ignore the effects of the social construction and norms of gender, the images connected to them and the resulting internalization of sexism.  

By: Joel Hankiewicz, Political Science  

You’re not safe from sexist behavior 

Strg_F (a journalistic team from Germany) found out that a man had installed cameras in the toilets of a festival called “Monis Rache” and uploaded the videos of women* on a porn page, so they published an article on that topic. A scandal arose as he was also part of the team organizing the event, which explicitly calls itself left-wing and pro feminist. But how did they react and how should they have reacted? The identity of the person was known even before the report, and they reacted months later, after it was published. They didn’t go to the police and didn’t ask the victims if they needed support. Some say they protected the sexual predator and thus reproduced the sexist behavior of the patriarchy. A male person (in a left-wing, feminist context) can film women* without the organizing team taking any action or being self-critical. 

There was also another similar scandal, but with a different behavior from the organizing team. Last year at the Fusion festival (the biggest left-wing and pro feminist festival in Germany), a camera was installed in the showers and the videos where uploaded to a porn page. The Fusion festival’s organizing committee only found out due to an anonymous e-mail. They went directly to the police to file a lawsuit and created an e-mail domain to which affected people and victims could write to. Furthermore, they deleted all the videos and want to create a support meeting where they try to help the victims. Also, they tried everything to stop this toxic behavior and the sexual assaults. It is not yet known if the offender of both incidents is the same person.  

But it shows that sexual assault and toxic masculinity take place everywhere and can be perpetrated by anyone, and that is why we should support the feminist movement and be critical of our own masculinity and behavior! 

Still a male dominated world 

We live in a male dominated society, also known as patriarchy. In a world where hegemonic power is based on masculinity and the representation of it. There are many examples to prove it, like women* often still earning less money than their male coworkers (gender pay gap) or the dominance of males working in executive positions. But it is not just about the public sphere: it starts with men not taking women* seriously in discussion, because they think they’re “hysterical”. Furthermore, men often feel entitled to judge a woman* by her* looks. What about a night out? I have never been harassed in a club and I party a lot, but if I go out with female* friends, there is always at least one creep trying to approach them in an uncomfortable way, either by touching her or with sexist remarks. And what happens after a woman* has been sexually assaulted? Many voices in society blame her and not the predator! “The personal is political” is a common phrase from second-wave feminist groups to differentiate themselves from a liberal understanding of feminism, where equality is achieved only in the public sphere. If you understand gender as a social construct, it is important to understand the interdependence between the public sphere, the private sphere and the impact on your daily life. We are all socialized in our gender roles and thus internalize some attributes connected to them. However, these attributes are not natural or unchangeable! The term “doing gender” by Candace West and Don Zimmermann describes gender not as an attribute you have, but as an act you do daily. The dichotomous differentiation between male and female* is everywhere and influences every aspect of life. 

Why you shouldn’t claim feminism while being male 

One big paradox that should not be underestimated is the feminist discourse for itself. Male domination is seen by society as something “neutral” and “objective” that doesn’t need any explanation. Therefore, we subconsciously connote gender with certain attributes. Those “male attributes” are for example to be strong, powerful and justified. On the other hand, “female* attributes” are submissive. When I’m talking about masculinity and “male attributes” I’m not talking about the accumulation of all men, I’m talking about the idealization and an image of what it means to be a man and what you need to be seen as “manly”. The power shift constructs itself in the social relation between the genders. These relations have led to the fact that society values the opinion of the male over the female*, even in feminist discourse. 

There is a big need to support alternative perceptions on masculinity and to reduce sexist behavior. 

If a male considers himself as a “feminist” or “pro feminist” he is most likely more accepted or even applauded by society, than if a woman* does it, thus a sexist way of thinking is reproduced. Even though it isn’t their fault, this is the reason why males shouldn’t claim feminism for themselves. Also, males tend to talk themselves out of their toxic behavior by claiming to be feminists. There are other ways to be supportive: help women* articulate their interests, support their needs, but don’t try to speak for them or be in the frontline if not asked to do so. Equality in history meant seeing the man as a norm, but I think this is unfair. So, we should all be critical about our own gender and about our own behavior and the privileges that come with being male. 

Critical masculinity to support Feminism 

To start off, we must understand what it “means to be a man”. There is a strict definition of this and the images of it as described in the previous paragraph. Of course, these “attributes” differ from context to context, but they share one important similarity: the “guidelines” on how to be a man. Therefore, they naturalize these ways of behaving, which in turn harm men as well as other genders! Masculinity creates a form of hierarchy to differentiate itself from other genders, but also within a group of men. This structure creates the phenomenon called toxic masculinity. Because of this, men are not allowed to share their weaknesses and they must compensate with violence against themselves, or towards other men and women*.  

Therefore, we need a critical approach to this topic which is called “critical masculinity”. First, it is important to make those images of masculinity, those instructions and the resulting toxic behavior visible. There is a big need to support alternative perceptions on masculinity and to reduce sexist behavior. To achieve that, we have to be critical of ourselves, our friends and of male behavior in general, because every male has toxic aspects. But this isn’t about guilt! It is about recognition, and the learning process reduces sexist behavior. As I already said, there is no power free space in our society, because we’re all socialized by social norms and thus it is even more important to start in one’s own environment. This could mean calling out a friend if he is doing something wrong, criticizing your group of friends or another association if you have the feeling it is toxic or just talking to a person if you see they have a problematic behavior. But the most important part is to protect the victim and not the predator of a sexual assault! It can happen everywhere at any time – we’re all affected by toxic masculinity. 

Further readings: 

Bourdieu, Pierre (2005): Die männliche Herrschaft. Suhrkamp. Frankfurt am Main. 

Moser, A. (2010). Kampfzone Geschlechterwissen: Kritische Analyse populärwissenschaftlicher Konzepte von Männlichkeit und Weiblichkeit. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften / GWV Fachverlage GmbH, Wiesbaden. 

Lindahl, Björn (2019): Norway: Gender pay gap remains, but influence is slightly up, 12.04.2019. in Nordic Labour Journal. Verfügbar unter: http://www.nordiclabourjournal.org/nyheter/news-2019/article.2019-04-11.3066164563 [14.02.2020].  

o.V.: Was ist kritische Männlichkeit? Verfügbar unter:https://kritische-maennlichkeit.de/was-ist-kritische-maennlichkeit/ [14.02.2020]. 

Schwarz, Carolina (2020): (K)ein Ort für sexualisierte Gewalt, 04.02.2020. in TAZ. Verfügbar unter: https://taz.de/Spannervideos-bei-Fusion-Festival/!5658019/ [14.02.2020]. 


Samfunnsviter’n er en politisk uavhengig avis, og er derfor ikke ansvarlig for innhold i meningsartikler. Eventuelle henvendelser tas direkte med skribenten.


“My dream is to have an own hotel in Bali”: a fascinating talk of how to be a successful hostel manager and professional mentor with Jorge Lopez

Jorge is a manger of Rodamón Hostel in Lisbon and Budapest. He started at the company 5 years ago in his hometown Barcelona. 3 years ago Jorges started as an opening manager in Marakkesh. Last year he relocated to Lisbon to control all constraction works, hiring and training a team to open the doors of a new hostel in Portugal’s capital.  By: Alexandra PonomarevaPhotos: @rodamonhostels, Instagram Aleksandra: What does it mean to be an opening manager?  Jorge: Opening manager postitions require you to stay in a country for opening a new venue and manage all processes. For instance, I was here five months before opening. Only the building was here. It’s quite tricky for a person to relocate every six months or a year. I have only a work life, no personal life.   Aleksandra: I have a set of particular questions about the interview process and team. What are your criteria for team and managers?  Jorge: Here I have a one person who is the boss of the reception, but I don’t have any assistant manager for the reception, restaurant, cleaning, and kitchen. None for maintenance either.   Aleksandra:  How do you maintain interviews for the reception?   Jorge: For the reception, the most essential thing is that the person can be friendly. I can see it from the first minutes of the discussion. I don’t need that big CV to hire. I need to be with … Les mer

The Big Illusion

We try find our fulfilment in our workplace. It is not just a job anymore, your job is part of your identity, part of your self-expression Now it is time that we change the way we think about work. It’s time to start seeing our past illusions and into the future. 

Text: Zoé Volkmann, History
Illustration: Grace Wiegand

With the turn of the new century, Western society attributed a new meaning to work. When your job is part of your personality, you are ready to sacrifice your personal life for your job. Now, when we are approaching the potential „Roaring Twenties” of the 21st century, more and more people are struggling to find a job at all, never mind good working conditions. No vacation? Sure thing. Working overtime? Mandatory, after all you really care about this working project and want to come to see it to life. Very soon the job is not that much of self-fulfilment anymore. 

Nowadays we can find start-ups for everything, evermore young people try to become entrepreneurs and put their big dreams to practice. But can your work be the key to a happy life? And even if, should it really be this way?  

It is time that we change the way we think about work. It’s time to ditch our illusions and think radically different about our future – because only then we will be brave enough to fight for a better one. 

The Big Betrayal   

Agnoli once wrote in his essay on the transformation of democracy that freedom and equality is not secured in democratic states. In fact, in a capitalist world, democracies tend to „involute “, turn backwards. Instead of ever-growing liberty all over the world you will be able to observe states cutting liberties (which of course you only enjoyed in the first place when you had the according passport to be recognized as state citizen).  

As compensation for less political rights, people are seemingly getting a say in their working places – which means that employees aren’t actually given any real power in the direction of the companies or get a share of the surplus value that is being extracted from their work. But they feel like they are being listened to and identify with the company more strongly. You start to empathize because you feel more involved. But as soon as it gets rough and the company needs to cut staff or take other difficult choices the owners of the company will make the decisions without asking the people working for them first. 

This has nothing to do with neoliberalism 

The start-up culture and gradual cutting of social benefits and working rights all over the world is a phenomenon that started at the end of the 20th century and turned into a harsh reality in the 21st century – a period of time that is usually identified as the age of neoliberalism. After the end of the Cold War capitalist societies didn’t have a reason to pretend that capitalist economy is more humane than a socialist one. The role the welfare state played during the Cold War now became dispensable. But if neoliberal policies led us into this mess – does this mean we only have to embrace the politics of old, and Keynesian economic policies will bring us into a happier life? Unfortunately, the solution is not that easy. First of all, working conditions were bleak already in times of a roaring economy. Especially work without formal qualification which is often unhealthy and stressful. Such jobs are often so demanding that they leave the workers so exhausted, meaning that they will need their whole free time to recover again for work. But this is a pattern that you can find for every job, with varying intensity. Even if we implement more socially friendly policies the system that dictates of the way we produce will not change – and harsh working conditions and the coercion to work will stay. 

The purpose of a job 

As Marx explained, the vast majority is dependent to sell their workforce. Only when we work, we are getting paid a wage that allows us to cover the cost for our basic needs, and at best gives us access to „luxury” goods in a limited way. We, all the people needing to work, are offering our workforce as commodity to the companies on the labour market. Since everyone wants to enjoy decent living conditions everyone needs a job. Thus, we are all competing against each other involuntarily. To avoid being kicked out of companies or not being considered at a job interview we are ready to work for longer hours, being paid less, refrain from certain privileges (sick leave, vacations, …). At the same time, we think that getting a good job is wholly dependent on us as single persons, our creativity, our passion, our knowledge. This is what businesses and society suggest to you. Study hard as a kid in school, get top grades in university, do more unpaid internships than you can count, follow specific tips at job interviews etc. But this approach takes economic and social power hierarchies out of consideration. No, in this society you will hardly ever be able to escape the social class you have been born into. And this is the reason your chances to become an entrepreneur are relatively low if your parents are not rich. But having the mindset leads you to think that if you only work on yourself to gain money, status and a good life, lets you accept this reality as a seemingly good one. You submit yourself to living with hardly any say about the way you want to live, because maybe you will become one of the people exploiting their workers and living a luxury life (most likely not). 

It is time that we change the way we think about work. It’s time to ditch our illusions and think radically different about our future – because only then we will be brave enough to fight for a better one

In reality you will sell your workforce for a certain amount of time and the company rewards money for this time. Imagine you work for 8 hours and get 800kr, but in this time you created value for the company of 1600kr (by making toothbrushes or selling cake at a café). This difference between the value you created and the time you’ve been paid for working is the surplus value. This is essential, because it is this profit that the company derives from your and everyone else’s work. This phenomenon is the basis of capitalism. Every entrepreneur relies on creating profit whether they want to or not. This has nothing to do with bad character traits, the system requires them to take part in the game to gain profit or go bust very fast. And in the ever-changing market they are always required to adapt. Cut staff, cut wages, buy new machines that do more work in less time. The basis of capitalism is the basis of a shitty job we are all going to need. 

A brighter outlook? 

The present turns bleak when you realise that work is not going to bring you fulfilment but will only wear you down. You don’t have an actual say in the company you’re working in, but you are stuck competing for the rest of your life. And you always have to prove that you are stronger, smarter and better than everyone else. In the end it is a very lonely life. And what is your reward? If you are lucky you can hopefully afford a decent life, and if you are one of the few really lucky ones you can buy luxury goods on a more or less regular basis. Then why should we change the way we think about working conditions in the 21st century?  

We should change the way we think because our way of working is deeply ingrained in the system. If we do not want to affirm our own submission, we need to realize that this is not a society where everyone or even a fraction can live up to their full potential. All the side effects of the working conditions and the economic system cannot be fully explained here (even Marx wasn’t nearly finished after three thick books). There is not enough space to give a definite answer on a concrete solution. As Adorno once argued, theory doesn’t necessarily have to offer a step-by-step plan to utopia but state the negative conditions of life in a capitalist society.  A theory that rages against injustice is often countered by the question of the alternatives. It is a way to silence the critique by demanding positivity.  

However, it has to be said, that it won’t be enough to organize together to fight for better working conditions. This is just a mere starting point to think radically different by pointing out oppression. We cannot stop there. Once Herbert Marcuse tried to sketch a utopian vision on a liberated society, he was clear that a concrete construction cannot be developed today but will evolve in the process of change. Yet he still states that freedom “would become the environment of an organism which is no longer capable of adapting to the competitive performances required for well-being under domination, no longer capable of tolerating the aggressiveness, brutality, and ugliness of the established way of life.” If we really want to shift from a bleak present to a bright future, where every single person can live a life worth living, we need to dismantle an economic mode of production that puts heavy strains on society. Only if we criticise the inherent injustice of the capitalist system, we can pave the way for a future where finally everyone is free. 

Illustration by Grace Wiegand.

We are one

By Helena Held: Master in Visual Anthropology and Environmental Studies   It seems like pure nature  But where is pure nature? The humans appropriate the world for themselves  There aren’t so many places „untouched“ There aren’t so many places where humans haven’t shaped nature And nature has always shaped humans But what is nature?  Is it the outside? Is it them? Is it something separate from us?  Aren’t we nature as well?  Yes, we are nature We are them, we are the outside  We are entities in … Les mer

Planet Earth Belongs in an Intensive Care Unit

A medicine student reflects on the effects that climate change will have on our health In 2018 the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that “Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year.” According to their calculations the direct costs that result from effects of climate change on our health are estimated to be between two to … Les mer

Fra arkivet: The busy bees of Oslo

Could some of the keys to saving the bees be a pollinator passage, urban beehives and a ‘beebus’? I sat down with Tora Fougner-Økland from ByBi, an environmental beekeeping organisation working towards a pollinator-friendly Oslo.  By: Evert Whitehouse Photos: Tora Fougner-Økland, Ragna Riebe Jørgensen, Marie Skjelbred Evert: What is Bybi?  – Tora: Bybi is so much all at once: it started as a … Les mer

Pia Rudolfsson Goyer

Pia Rudolfsson Goyer is a fantastic example of a woman with a spectacular career, a healthy family, and a beautiful personality. Currently, Pia runs her own consulting company and contributes to the Norwegian Forum of Responsible Investment (NORSIF).  By: Aleksandra Ponomareva, Economics and Management. Aleksandra: You’re a very experienced, strong, and smart woman, but also seem well-balanced and … Les mer

LSD: The real story

After over fifty years as an outlawed intoxicant, LSD is making an unlikely comeback as a panacea of mental health.   By: Dominic Munton, Historie-Engelsk Lektorgrad Picture: Alex Rhek Usow / Rhek Creative  If you’ve kept an eye on the news over the past year, you’ve probably seen a few surprising claims: “Psychedelics can have beneficial effects on mental health”, or “Ecstasy being … Les mer

Vengeance

By: Anton Lymarev, English BA Illustration: Stellar Leunar. “The witch!” – they cried in terror, – “She’s coming back for us!” Blam! Flood of scarlet, hemorrhage From scattered body parts.  A feast of rot abundance That used to be a town Has formed a deadly aura Around her sullied gown.  They ran, they sobbed and tried to hide, But … Les mer

The Overkilling of Feminism

Hollywood is flooding the world’s cinemas with blockbusters featuring all-powerful female replicas of iconic, male characters. While the industry seems to have run out of interesting stories to tell, this trend does little to make popular cinema a valuable contribution to gender equality or society in general. Rather, it is rendering itself irrelevant as a field of social commentary and tool of social evolution. 

By: Cecilie Lilleaas, Master in Peace and Conflict Studies 

Can you think of someone who did not enjoy Ocean’s 1112 and 13? Probably not, unless they really do not like heist movies at all. Most of us have, however conflicted it may be, a relationship to James Bond. If someone mentions Terminator, we know they are talking about a monstrously large bodybuilder turned governor by the name of Arnold Schwarzenegger. Batman and SupermanGhostbusters and Karate Kid amaze new and old generations still. What are their common denominators? They are films that have impacted on the popular definitions of ‘hero’ and ‘genius’ – traditionally meaning men with above average muscle power and/or ingenious skills, who sooner or later employ that skillset to do something cool, admirable and/or brave. 

Obvious Recycling 

Eventually, an awareness that the women in these movies played the parts of more or less attractive and cumbersome accessories must have registered with someone behind the wheel. This realization has over time led to an increased attention, even in male-dominated Hollywood, to how one presents female characters on screen. For some, this may have presented itself as an opportunity to explore a whole new set of themes and for others, provided newfound inspiration to produce new movies for cinema. But alas, some clever clogs figured it would be much more profitable to remake all those male-led classics with women instead. Add on the label of finally aiming for long sought-after equality in a film industry overrun by white, balding men in all their departments, and it could even be advertised as ‘female empowerment’.  

There has been surprisingly little critical evaluation of what it entails to force women into male roles and label it ‘gender equality’.

Thus, the audience were offered Ocean’s 8, another Ghostbusters, the tv-series Supergirl

Terminator: Dark Fate, and so on. And we can look forward to a female James Bond and Band of Brothers. Many have applauded this evolution of events. Post-#metoo, few are left with any illusions about this industry’s relationship to its female workforce, and any improvement can be seen as positive. On the other hand, there has been surprisingly little critical evaluation of what it entails to force women into male roles and label it ‘gender equality’. 

An Imitation Game 

The values and behaviour so prized in the traditional, gritty action movies are usually a reflection of a particular form of strength; the no-nonsense (read: feelings and such uncomfortable, feminine stuff), physical, aggressive, controlled and rational kind.  The fact that women were being offered these roles was a true change. It showed that just the idea of women being capable of violence and aggression was not ridiculous anymore. However, this was about all that changed. Those who expected a deeper change, maybe even blockbusters that showed other kinds of strength in both male and female characters, must remain disappointed.  

Somehow, the only change that took place was the sex of the character, and any portrayal of how both men and women may be more multidimensional than the classic strong-man-who-struggles-with-feelings-but-is-a-cool-killing-machine stayed conspicuously absent. Women were allowed to adopt a range of characteristics usually reserved for the male gender, and state that: ‘finally, we’re strong too – finally we’re equal’. However, feminism is the belief in equal rights and opportunities for men and women, not in equal results. Hollywood seem to be under the impression that feminism is about replacing the patriarchy with a matriarchy – or, perhaps more simply they have reached the creative limits of white, male Hollywood-directors pushing 70, and found that recycling was a better option than innovation. 

Elusive Complexity 

These female characters who shoot, punch and kill their way to the end of the plot can be entertaining enough to watch, and the point is not that women cannot or should not have roles like these – there are just so many of them, and so few of those stories tell something different. Not to mention countless examples of how the complexity and strength of female characters from books are butchered in the movie adaptations. Cinema will probably never go back to a time in which the quality and originality of the film decides whether it makes it to the big screen. The primary motivations behind what movies are made, where they are distributed and how they are advertised are concerned most with dollars, and least with creativity, art and social enlightenment. In other words, there are obvious and legitimate grounds to question whether the sudden enthusiasm among Hollywood-producers for women with big guns and jiujitsu moves represents any substantial form of female empowerment. 

There is at least a general agreement among those who care that feminism, equality and female empowerment is about creating space for more diversity. A creative industry with a wish to improve on these dimensions would then do well to come up with a more broad set of cultural products reflecting a range of different experiences, feelings and predicaments, with a range of different women and men – regarding gender, class and race, but also with a variety of values, behaviours, thoughts, dreams and needs. Is the old boys’ club of filmmaking open to recruitment only to those women who agree with their take on equality, feminism and what constitutes an exciting movie? 

Clearly struggling to make independent movies about women, movies that do not have to place women on the shoulders of or in the shadow of male icons, the film industry signals that a story about women independent of men is unsellable, uninteresting and unworthy of cinema screens.

All in all, the goal of improving gender equality by the film industry’s leaders and power holders should indicate a substantial effort to give their audience complex, multidimensional characters – male and female alike. Contrary to present efforts, it should entail a halt to the recycling of old formulas and instead embrace the creation of new ones to a larger extent. Cringy, all-too-obvious powerpuff scenes (ref. Avengers: Endgame) where women fight the way men have traditionally been thought to fight, or creating female copies of a male character who carries an even bigger gun than the original – of course, to save another damsel in distress – is not going to cut it.  

The Missing Link 

Equality could mean re-defining strength and developing a more reflected view of heroism and courage. History does not lack sources of inspiration when it comes to stories of strong, heroic or ingenious women, even if they do not fit into the limited ‘male’ blueprint. And as for that blueprint, it leaves much to desire when it comes to presenting men as beings with more than three feelings and two hard-hitting fists.  

Clearly struggling to make independent movies about women, movies that do not have to place women on the shoulders of or in the shadow of male icons, the film industry signals that a story about women independent of men is unsellable, uninteresting and unworthy of cinema screens. This devaluation of ‘feminine’ experiences comes at the expense of both genders, as it limits presentations of men with broader physical, emotional and mental skillsets. Arguably, it deprives the audience of valuable learning too, as many defining moments in history have involved ‘invisible’ women – especially in violent conflicts.  

Without portraits with more depth, this ‘revolution’ will be little more than a shallow, artificial form of political correctness. Quite contrary to the stated aim of empowering women, it disempowers all. Popular cinema’s potential is reduced to reinforcing outdated stereotypes about male and female abilities and qualities. The overkilling of feminism alienates both the female audience, who are offered distant ideals, and a male audience, who are offered the same characters as always – just with the rather minor difference of an alternative set of reproductive organs. 

The unlikely case for a second Brexit referendum

Britain’s exit from the European Union appears complex, uncertain and downright chaotic. The aftermath of the first referendum has led to a flurry of arguments about a second referendum, but an often-ignored argument is the exclusion of British expats.  By: Evert Whitehouse, English BAIllustration: Asbjørn Oddane Gundersen With the Brexit deadline fast approaching, the hotly debated question has appeared once more: … Les mer

Mazégue, Arrien-en-Bethmale, 09800, ARIEGE

In 1762, Jean-Jacques Rousseau posited the existence of ancestral aboriginals who lived happy and free in the forest, centuries before their descendants succumbed to a modern nightmare of urban alienation. Ten years ago, in headlong flight from my own metropolitan misery, I sought the shade of the trees to rediscover what we’d lost so long ago.  Text and photos: Dominic Munton, Historie-Engelsk Lektorgrad  Through a glass darkly  At the … Les mer

The Great On-li(e)-ne

Why we need to talk about filter bubbles, algorithms and trolls before it is too late and what these have to do with the surge of hate speech, right-wing populism and climate change denialism.  Text: Sandra Schober, Journalism & Media ManagmentIllustration: The Electome, MIT Media Lab It is the 15th of October 2017. With only … Les mer

Shades of Grey: the relationship between digital personality and fashion sense

By: Alexandra Ponomareva, Economics and ManagementPhoto: Azamat Zhanisov, unsplash.com The brain is perhaps the most fantastic part of the body. Occupying only a small space in the skull and weighting less than 2% of the total body mass, it controls our emotions, habits and actions. In short, it controls everything that we consider to be our personality. In addition, the brain is a smart machine which … Les mer

?..

Tekst: Anton Lymarev Illustration: Ingrid Hopen, @hopeni A state of eternal confusion  Is mixed with a cunning delusion  Of world being fake and the truth being fragile   Which makes you be always suspicious and edgy  You scare yourself, you’re scared of others,   You’re scared of innate, ubiquitous bias  You can’t be … Les mer

Who is listening when the children are crying for change?

We are not approaching environmental breakdown, we are in the midst of it. Fearing environmental apocalypse, children are now taking to the streets to fight for their future. Will this lead to productive action, or create unnecessary fear and panic?   

By: Johannes R. Volden, Tverrfaglig master i miljø og bærekraftig utvikling
Illustrasjon: Asbjørn Oddane Gundersen

A sense of panic seemed to be reflected in the messages sprawled across thousands of banners raised into the air on Friday March 15th, as a whole world of concerned youth joined Greta Thunberg in climate protests: “There is no Planet B”, “Our house is on fire”, “You are stealing our future”, they read. Championed by the Swedish 16-year-old, the children’s climate strikes which have swept across the globe in the last few months have demonstrated that the young generation – the segment of the current living population that climate change will affect most adversely – cares and is willing to make sacrifices in order to create change.  

The youth’s concern for the future signifies a desperate self-reflection; a reluctant realisation that the lifestyle hitherto led by themselves and their peers – as cogs in the wheel of modern, fossil-fuelled consumerist societies – is unsustainable in the face of fast-paced climate change and apocalyptically dimensioned environmental degradation. This notion of desperate urgency was resounded in Greta’s words and demeanour as she spoke to political leaders in Davos earlier this year: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act”. But does this trope of environmental apocalypse entail a real threat, or is it merely a fear-mongering tactic for overly worried youth to persuade overly pragmatic politicians? 

It is too easy to dismiss the climate children’s apocalyptic rhetoric as a fanatic and sensationalist interpretation of the state of affairs – as many already have done. Indeed, the strikers have been criticised for being not only unorderly and ungrateful for their privileges, but for blowing climate change out of proportions. But this criticism falls increasingly short when we consider the data from an objective standpoint. The latest IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report suggests that even a warming of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels will have dire consequences – and the prospect of reaching anything south of twice that within the Paris Agreement timeframe seems to dwindle away. Moreover, to limit warming to less than two degrees, the report shows, unprecedented change (“rapid and far-reaching transitions in energy, land, urban and infrastructure, and industrial systems”) will be needed – which is, as it happens, exactly what the climate protesters are demanding. While the children who are privileged enough to be able to take part in the strikes have not yet suffered from climate change themselves, poor people in many parts of the world are already suffering from extreme weather conditions and depletion of natural resources. When the data are this clear, refuting requests for major systemic change becomes an exercise not in pragmatism, but in denialism.  

It is not maleficent acts of individuals which drive our climate crisis, it is the structures which allow and promote unsustainable ways of living. 

“It is worse, much worse, than you think” reads the opening line of The Uninhabitable Earthwritten by environmental journalist David Wallace-Wells; “The slowness of climate change is a fairy tale”. While the commonly mentioned consequences of climate change – such as sea-level rise, intensified extreme weather, and increased temperatures – can seem drastic enough, Wallace-Wells draws attention to those that we rarely acknowledge. These include remnants of both modern and prehistoric plagues frozen deep within our ice-caps being released into the world as the ice melts, and the heightened chances of war and conflict correlating with warmer weather. “You’d think that a culture woven through with intimations of apocalypse would know how to receive news of environmental alarm”, Wallace-Wells writes, “But instead we have responded to scientists channelling the planet’s cries for mercy as though they were simply crying wolf”.  

While such claims build on alarmist rhetoric – from an author who surely wishes to catch readers’ attentions and sell his book – there is no doubt that we are in some trouble. Although it might be speculative to cast every natural disaster as a climate change event (although we do know that there is a causal link between the two), we need only look at the gradual changes in our environment across time to fathom the seriousness of environmental degradation. A recent report from Nature found that glaciers worldwide are melting 18% faster than previously believed, at a rate of 369 billion tons a year. Many of Norway’s glaciers are now shrinking in periods where they ought to be growing. Acceleration of ice melting in general means three things: rising sea levels, which has its own set of ramifications, the release of greenhouse gases trapped in the ice, and further warming, as there is less ice to reflect solar radiation and more ocean to absorb it. In addition to these gradual changes, more sudden and catastrophic events could also occur within the next centuries, such as the complete disintegration of the West-Antarctic ice-sheet. It already seems to be crumbling: In 2017, a trillion-tonne iceberg twice the size of Luxembourg broke off the shelf.   

The steady decline in Earth’s species is another, potentially more disheartening, warning sign. In fact, we are in the midst of a sixth mass-extinction. The Anthropocene extinction, caused by human activity, is a scientific fact. Warmer climates, in addition to habitat loss, pollution, and the spreading of pathogens wreak havoc on insect populations. This ongoing “insect apocalypse” warns us that many other lifeforms are under environmental threat as well, as insects are essential parts of all ecosystems. No insects, no life. And surely, animal species, too, are going extinct at increasing rates: The World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) 2018 Living Planet Report estimated that, from 1970 to 2014, the Earth’s total population of wild vertebrate species (mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish) had declined by 60%. While wildlife documentaries such as BBC’s much-loved Blue Planet and Planet Earth series have romanticised the natural world, raw nature is rendered increasingly inaccessible and wild animals are becoming increasingly rare. Unless we change our ways, there might be more plastic than fish in the oceans by 2050, and most of the Earth’s rainforests – home to 10 million species of plants, animals, and insects – might be gone by the end of the century. 

Meanwhile, as the wild animals happily portrayed in children’s films and books are being driven towards extinction, we keep billions of domesticated animals for food. “Consider the fact”, Sir David Attenborough requested in his speech at the premiere of the film Our Planet this year, “that 96% of the mass of the mammals on the planet today are us, and the livestock we have domesticated. Only 4% is everything else”. The artificial landscapes created by human infrastructures and industrial food production systems threaten to disrupt the interconnected symbiosis of vast natural ecosystems, threatening their capacity for life. Plants, animals, and insects are dying at the hands of humans, and due to the degradation of rainforests, coral reefs and other hotspots for biodiversity, many species disappear altogether before we manage to document their existence. We don’t even know what we are losing. Sometimes alarm seems to be the correct response.  

This does not mean, however, that no progress has been made. Quite to the contrary – many countries are phasing out coal mining and fossil-fuel vehicles, the production and consumption of renewable energy is increasing globally, the provision of plastics is being more strictly regulated, and so on. But when it comes to environmental “progress”, there is often more than one side to the story. Indeed, most technological solutions still have environmental ramifications, as effective strategies to create renewable energy sources often require some form of environmental harm. The sustainability of wind and solar energy, for instance, is a recurring debate among environmentalists: while the energy created is far less polluting than that from the petroleum industry, it requires massive disturbance of natural ecosystems. While electric vehicles produce much less emissions than conventional ones (depending on its source of energy), the production of batteries requires extraction of relatively scarce non-renewable materials and contributes to indirect pollution and toxic waste leaks. The potential for carbon storage technologies is speculative at best and could only be a temporary solution to a permanent (and growing) challenge. Despite all our efforts, the total amount of global greenhouse gas emissions is still increasing year by year. Taking these factors into consideration suggests that technological innovation might not be enough to mitigate climate change and environmental degradation – we might have to change our way of life in a broader sense. 

Many species disappear altogether before we manage to document their existence. We don’t even know what we are losing.

A lot of responsibility for this change is still put on individuals and their behaviours. In the neoliberal market economy, the focus tends be on the responsibility of individuals to reduce their own environmental impacts. In other words, climate change mitigation is market driven. And indeed, all actors are pieces in the climate change mega jigsaw, yet climate change is more than the sum of its parts: it’s the consequence of a system in which individual actions are allowed to be carried out. It’s not the maleficent acts of individuals that drive our climate crisis, but the structures which allow and promote unsustainable ways of living. Individuals can choose to use less electricity, but (in most cases) they cannot choose where their electricity comes from. Individuals can choose not to engage in long-distance travel, but it’s up to politicians to create sustainable alternatives to aviation. Individuals can be selective as to what they eat, but they cannot be held responsible for the unsustainability of industrial meat production and agriculture practices. Energy use and emissions are often “invisible”, predominantly occurring during the production processes of the products consumed. If consumer agency – our capacity to consciously create change through our choices and habits – is to be the driving force of climate change mitigation, we are (probably) doomed.   

This is what the climate protesters have realised: It’s no longer the individuals but rather the system which is the target. Gone are the days when two-minute showers and leftover dinners could save the environment. The current climate protests are a sign that people are increasingly concerned about climate change, increasingly willing to make sacrifices to save the environment, but also unaccepting of being handed the responsibility to do this alone. In an open letter to the climate protesters, The Guardian’s environmental writer George Monbiot puts his faith in the youth who, he confesses, have given him a glimmer of hope for climate change reversal for the first time in years. The youth striking “gives me more hope than I have felt in 30 years of campaigning”, he writes. The dynamics of environmentalism might be changing.   

Perhaps it’s not so important whether Greta Thunberg’s rhetoric is sensationalist, reductionist, or apocalyptic – so long as it creates enthusiasm and breeds mobilisation for, and action on, climate change. While we ought to be concerned about fake news and science scepticism, Greta and the climate protesters have the science on their side. And where they lack pragmatism, politicians lack determination: as of March 2019, few countries are on track to meet the Paris Agreement targets, according to the Climate Action Tracker – a goal which one could argue, on the grounds of the latest IPCC rapport, is far from ambitious enough to counter some of the devastating effects of climate change. In the end, it’s not the climate protesters’ sensationalism we ought to worry about, but the major emitters who deny their responsibility for enabling climate change and carry out their “business as usual”. When the climate is warming, the ice is melting, the sea levels are rising, and wildlife is disappearing, it is better to be too worried than not to be worried at all.  

Don’t shoot the messenger. When children become the bearers of bad news, we ought to listen to them; take them seriously and act on their message – not dismiss them as alarmist hypocrites. 

So, don’t shoot the messenger. When children become the bearers of bad news, we ought to listen to them; take them seriously and act on their message – not dismiss them as alarmist hypocrites. As Sir Attenborough concluded his aforementioned speech, “what we do in the next few years will profoundly affect the next few thousand years”. In the coming years, facilitating an understanding of climate change and promoting climate science literacy ought to be prioritised, and the imperative for doing so needs to start with real engagement and enthusiasm among the younger generation(s). When the youth are worried about their future, politicians ought to take them seriously. Individual citizens should be able to live their lives with a vision of a bright future for themselves, their children and grandchildren. Politicians and policymakers, on the other hand, ought to think more carefully – perhaps more apocalyptically – about worst-case scenarios, and steer away from them through action and legislation. This time words will not be sufficient to console the climate protesters – ambitious strategies and hard numbers showing improvements will be needed. The fact that it is children who now are pushing for change is alarming, yet also promising for the future.  

I for one welcome our new robot overlords

The year is 2119  Text: Dominic Munton, Bachelor in EnglishIllustration: Ingvild Andersen.   The average global temperature is 3 degrees higher than it was at the dawn of the previous century. The ice caps have melted and barren sand dunes now mark the site of the Amazon rainforest, yet human civilisation survives, forever evolving to meet the … Les mer

Cyclical Revolution

Revolutions are portrayed as rapid and chaotic events, but more often than not they’re slow processes, and they tend to repeat themselves.  Text: Evert Whitehouse, English studies  The author Terry Pratchett once wrote: “Don’t put your trust in revolutions. They always come around again. That’s why they’re called revolutions.” This opinion, expressed by one … Les mer

The Artistic Revolution

Pokras Lampas is a calligraffitist from Russia who thinks that all languages will inevitably blend together over the coming centuries. He believes we will all be much more exposed to various ethno-cultural experiences through the digital space.  Text: Anton Lymarev, Bachelor program in English LanguagePhoto: Pokras, @pokraslampas Globalization is here. There is no way to hide from or … Les mer

Iran at 40: The Iran Deal

11th February 2019 marked the 40th anniversary for the Iranian Revolution. The US withdrew from the Iran Deal on the 8th May 2018, leaving Iran’s future uncertain. Text: Knut Joachim Tanderø Berglyd, Bachelor i Internationale StudierPhoto: Tasnim News Agency  The Iran Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is an agreement concerning Iran’s nuclear program established between Iran, the … Les mer