Powered By Blogger

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Write another law?....tragically insufficient in U.S. culture

 

write another law?

Every time there is a mass shooting in the U.S., there are long and loud cries for new laws to control access to guns, to lock triggers, to limit magazines, to ......
Rarely, if ever, is there a cry for the country's violent political and entertainment culture to be reined in.


Paradoxically in fact, it seems that the more and the louder are the cries for new "gun laws", the more the political and entertainment language and culture extend to extremes in both.


The superficial description of this widening divide points to the chasm between Republicans and Democrats including, but not restricted to, the former's obstruction of any and all proposed legislation from the latter. Just yesterday, Senator McConnell openly announced that Republicans were not going even to come up with a platform for their plans for 2022 as they face the favourable opinion polls pointing to Republican majority wins in both Senate and House.


Zero-sum games in a culture saturated with both guns and radioactive language and attitudes, aided and abetted by the deliberate denial and avoidance of empirical and indisputable facts, is a political, cultural, psychological, ethical and moral recipe for disaster.


The perceived antidote of writing and passing new laws as a prescription for the depth and the savagery of such a terminal, and apparently irreversible, cultural cancer is reminiscent of the mosquito scratching itself to death when sprayed with insecticide dust particles lodged in the crevices of its wings.


Ultimately and predictably ineffectual and thereby lethal!


Self-sabotage, however, is not foreign or alien to American, and likely many other, cultures. Hourly magnification of trend lines on stories of violence, through a lens that demands a hero and a victim, a winner and a loser, feeding an insatiable appetite of voyeurism addicted to violence, offers a steady diet that feeds this hunger.


And when the "cultural heroes" who serve as icons, if not actual idols, pursue wealth and status and power through whatever means at their disposal, everything that supports the national legendary metaphysic where cash and greed reign, how can the world expect something different.


Paradoxically too, food and nutrition insecurity, social security deficits, blocked access to health care and broadband, eroding roads, bridges, ports and airports parallel a tsunami of guns and lies.


Back in 2008, where Ms Palin was a vice-presidential candidate, the phrase "mascara on pig" surfaced to capture the aphorism that make-up cannot remove or erase the animal's identity.


Archetypes of horse-races, disgraced and fallen men, oscillating competitions with geopolitical enemies like Iran,  China, Russia in a  vain and limp comparative "balance" with CNN Heroes, or the anecdotal stories of "good news", do not  a nutritious or even sustainable diet describe or prescribe to inculcate a healthy, mature, balanced and hopeful citizenry.


Religious voices disciplined in narratives and theory and praxis of hope and regeneration and rebirth, while melodic and harmonic and welcome, cannot and will not be heard and appreciated in a culture so deeply enmeshed in the angst of literalisms, immediate gratification and individual supremacy over the needs and aspirations of the community.


Reducing "the community" to a town or village, or even to "a state" (States Rights) and thus eliminating the common weal of national needs, aspirations and culture.
Stereotypical "warm and fuzzy" dramas like Hallmark movies, while illustrative of the human drama of romance, serve also as a "float" of icecream and soda pop hardly adequate to offset the deeper and nefarious addiction to violence and deception.
When a law in Wisconsin depicting a specific number of inches for an assault weapon to be banned as illegal justifies the dismissal of a charge against a seventeen-year-old self-proclaimed "protector" of law and order, we see the limit of trying to limit access to those weapons.


When a mother and father comport to buy and give a high-powered handgun to a fifteen-year-old, obviously deeply troubled son as a Christmas gift, we see the blood tragedy of four dead classmates and four others wounded including a teacher in an Oxford Michigan high school.


Chasing and joining a public debate about ideological positions on individual liberty versus government over-reach fails to capture or address the far more profound social and political, cultural, racial, economic and public health crises that, taken together as they both warrant and require, pose. It reminds me of a conversation with a former, now alienated colleague, who, upon learning of my displeasure with his behaviour and actions, protested vociferously, “I will counter each and every argument you present with my own!” To which I replied, “For God’s Sakes, X, it is not about winning an argument, it is a matter of trust and I do not trust you!”


In medical protocol, rarely is a full biographic workup given the time and attention in a professional culture that is designed on symptomatic interventions. Similarly, a symptomatic fixation pervades much of public discourse, legal system modus operandi, political debate and the most social service interventions.


Cultural "Gestalts" are complex and extremely difficult to untangle. Professionals trained in their respective disciplines and their concomitant language and definitions, while essential for objectivity and clarity, rarely cross boundaries into other disciplines. Indeed, the outsourcing of "expert" opinion and witnesses is a well-established pattern of the various processes involved.


A specific "cause" or issue, when investigated by interested parties, will predictably illuminate evidence that includes a variety of sources, as they purport to support the position of the advocate. Such initiatives lead to literary works, political campaigns, advertising campaigns and treatises both academic and public.
Too many events currently fall into a catch basin that demonstrates a failure to connect the multiple active "dots" and "forces" that, taken together, justify a willful blindness, denial and defiance of how the multiple factors coagulate into a picture demonstrative of a need for a significant and dramatic transformation of social attitudes underlying the culture.


Token adoption of "good" causes by corporations and/or philanthropics, even incentivized by tax concessions, are not adequate to compensate for the overriding negative energies of violence, deception and narcissistic greed.
Ecclesial voices, too, for their part, are invariably drowned out by the cacophony of the public noise and expectations.


Two young boys, one as self-appointed public defender, and another "whose life was worthless," illustrate far more serious social and cultural malaise than any single attempt to amend statutes can address.


An economy that relies for its survival on a 75% consumer-driven purchase ratio also demonstrates the personal acquisition of things drowns the public and legitimate need for environmental protections, universal health care, access to public education, and a national commitment to acknowledge basic facts and honourable, transparent and open collective responsibility.


A national budget that pours the largest allotment of national funds into the largest military establishment in world history demonstrates a dependency on hard power at the expense of legitimate human needs and aspirations. As importantly, the recruitment and training in that military and the para-military of millions in the use of weapons, in such a climate and culture, foreshadows and even predicts a deployment if those armed skills against whatever perceived opponents might arise.


The currently unregulated social media facilitates the worst and most dangerous nefarious attitudes, providing enhanced opportunities for coalescing into armed militia gangs determined to enforce their "victim" ideology on the culture.
Sacred kids, suicidal veterans, unemployed refugees from economic downturns, young people learning distrust of their personal and institutional mentors....and everyone running frightened of an out-of-reach mutating virus....


"the horse has already left the barn"...
only to find billions of dollars and millions of people aimed at and purposed for building stronger barn doors...

This gestalt is a recipe for epic tragedy.

Thursday, December 2, 2021

The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation..neither has the church

 

the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation

Pierre Trudeau's historic insight demands recall in the face of the current U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the potential limiting or erasure of the protections for women under Roe v. Wade.


Trudeau's statement focused on decrimilizing homosexuality; it also has relevance to the abortion debate.


Before your pitch your phone/laptop to the wall, hear me out.


My argument is based on the premise that not all aspects of human existence can be, should be, ever reduced to a statement of law.
At the heart of that premise lies the ubiquitous, inescapable feature we commonly call "love"...agreeably the most complex, evasive and yet indisputable sine qua non of our individual and our shared existence.


The church has tried, and failed abysmally, to put a moral "fence" around the experience and expression of love in the vain pursuit of staking out exclusive territory for their control and management under the umbrella of "sacred theology". Marriage, traditionally exclusive to members of the opposite gender, is the most prominent liturgical feature of this "theology" which also embraces the exclusive right and responsibility of procreation and parenting.


Not only has that "man/woman" law fallen into the warranted trashcan it deserves, but the whole premise that the church "fathers" had/have/can prophecy.. the veracity of the mind and will of God is pretentious and invalid.


Even through an intellectual/academic/epistemological definitional parsing of agape, Platonic, storge and sexual intimacy, we are still  left with a "domain" of human existence (including its discernment and comprehension) that defies embodiment in any kind of regulatory premise, save and except the obvious exclusion of all forms of abuse.


And it says here that the radioactivity of the experience of "love" is exacerbated in part by and through its inclusion in and reinforcement of the constrictions of church and state (The state, if course, can and will fall into the "perceived halo" of religious and sacred premises.)


Removing  intimate loving relationships from the supervision and sanction of the church, first, and the state, second, offers the prospect of a degree of integrity and authenticity to the limits of the powers of those institutions...and the implications of such a limitation are potentially bountiful for the ordinary people.


We all know the history of "banned books" listed for the ostensible reason that they were "filthy" and that meant sexual references that the church considered unfit for consumption by their lay and clergy members and employees respectively. Sales and secret reading if those titles rocketed through the roof.


Sex, through the church's commandeering and sanctioning of its use and expression, has sabotaged the healthy life of both the institution and millions of its adherents. Celibate clergy is only the most visible and tragic piece of evidence of that tragic appropriation of human nature. Exclusion of divorcees from receiving the Mass is another. Papal concurrence for divorce and the manipulation if the justifications for marriage failure are two more.


It is, however, the dominant impact on a culture that is, has been and will continue to be the most tragic impact of the masculine-based interpretation of the mind)will of God.
Seen from the perspective of male theologians, monks, scholars and the "fathers" and administrators of the church, the pursuit of order and control and the elimination of all evidence of the "savage" bifurcated and imposed a colonial, domineering and rigid rule on individual humans.


Oscillating far past a medium, balanced and sustainable ethic into the extremes of purported perfection, the church has reached beyond its legitimacy.
And the conception, gestation and delivery of that perfectionism is in effect a metaphoric abortion in that it infantalizes believers and renders ecclesial "blessing" and forgiveness through the Crucifixion and Resurrection the atonement for sin and its concomitant shame, through grace, the ineffable and undeserved gift of God.


However, transactionalism is not the business of a deity worthy of the name. Classical conditioning, critical parenting and the imposition of such moral and ethical power is itself a perversion if the "holy".


At the heart of Christian belief is the love of each human being, in ways and in words and depictions far beyond human capacity to explain or to comprehend.
Colliding with that ineffability and the continuing "revelation" and  discovery and disclosure of the deity is the incontestable absolutism that lies embedded, ensnared, in the dogmatics of the church's sustainability.


Of course, the theology of the church argues that we live "in the between" between the secular and the sacred. It says here, we are and have been far to fearful of the "not-knowing" and the mystery of the holy, and have clung to those tangible and extrinsic pieces of evidence that provide what Eliot calls the "objective correlative" if the novel or poem in which the poet hangs his/her words.


Freedom is not reducible to protections under the law. Freedom exists when the state openly acknowledges its natural limitations and trusts the better angels of the people, trusting that an ethical and moral and spiritual incubator embracing limits to state and ecclesial power can and will open the door to the other sine qua non of a healthy culture, authentic respect of each by all.

Reliance on institutional overreach, whether that overreach is by the state or the church infantalizes too many.

Let's tell each other the hard truth that those masculine conceptions of God's mind and will which have brutalized millions in God's name, is inexcusably hubristic and unjustifiable.

And whatever ruling comes down from Mount Olympus (U.S. Supreme Court) cannot and will not change that legitimate hope and goal

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Tyrants and their appeasers...

 

both-and...again

Disclosure of one's early life carries some weighty risks. There is the inevitable charge of "blaming" parents for our failures and shortcomings. There is also the risk that memory will be partial and partially distorted rendering the disclosure only partly true and verifiable. And there is the significant risk that exposing family secrets that caused deep pain is another exercise in self-pity partying.


Nevertheless, such disclosure can be (usually is), clarifying in "healing"  those emotional and psychic wounds. It can also uncover the parallel processes that surround all of us from the perspective of 'newly' warranted options. Mostly though the newness is relative only to the individual since there really is nothing "new" on the radar of how humans live our lives.


So....under a paper umbrella of superficial "cover" of consciousness of the grenades that are going to explode spontaneously I hesitatingly and timidly and also uneqivocally put a toe in the water of disclosure.


My father's pithy observation that my sister and I were "raised by Hitler and Chamberlain" continues to echo and reverberate in my head.


He considered himself the appeaser in his insight, with his spouse as the tyrant.
For decades, I have predictably vacillated in anger and hurt feelings directed focused on each parent. Toward mother, I felt and resented her domination, manipulation and compulsive and overt physical and emotional abuse. Toward father, I found his passive-aggressive "peace-maker" archetype indicative of his spinelessness and his failure to assert his inherent value to employer and family.


The details of the incidents and dramas through which this drama unfolded are far less important than the cumulative impact they have had on someone embedded as "fly-on-the-wall" in that home.


Overt exercise of power, from agents whose righteous indignation spawns critiques of others appears to be the "instigator" of conflicts that seem to be reconcileable. Much attention, social and political scorn, including many laws are dedicated to sanctioning this aggressive behaviour including judgemental words and invective. Tyrants are universally driven by an insatiable need for power and control, and are invariably both competent and creative in the methods they choose to "control" the situation.


On the other hand, their insight never ignores or denies their penetrating insight into how far they can go before  "all hell erupts" in their face, however they envision that "hell".
Our attention now turns to those who are responsible for setting boundaries to limit, perhaps neutralize or potentially eliminate the scourge of the despot.


In our family, that "actor" was male. Models of masculinity abound in the vein of the conflict-averse, diplomatic, diversion tactics-rich appraiser. Often this archetype considers itself more tolerant and generous and accommodating than the "other side" who appear to them to incarnate aggressive and clear notions of right and wrong, saving as opposed to spending, a resistance to ambiguity and a self-righteousness too often founded on some kind of religious purity.


The dichotomy of overt aggressive exercise of power by one side encountering and depending on the silent and polite and somewhat sterile appeasement of the other fills volumes of history books, literary works and philosophic treatises.
Hegel's thesis-antithesis-synthesis is one model of diagnosing and interpreting the dynamic.


On the public stage in U.S. and global geopolitics, we are watching what, at least in part, is another series of the reiterations of this simplistic formula.


My own vacillation from anger and frustration to one side only to be immediately challenger by an equal, if different, frustration to the other side is no longer adequate. Synthesizing the benefits from both sides is also only a partial balm. It is rather an embrace of the fears of both that shows more promise.


Mother feared social and political and economic inferiority and professional and parental failure. Father feared disturbing the rabid bear whenever and wherever he "found" it. As a result, the playing field was literally left unencumbered by opposition or limits to her.


Simultaneously, father avoided finding his voice/spine/authentic integrity and his spirit slipped away long before his death at 91.


Over the 63 years of the marriage, however,  a facade of public performance closeted a volcano of potential emotional, judgemental and contemptuous conflict, a war that could and would erupt seemingly without notice.


Astride that potential as an integral component of the cover-up were dramatic displays of sumptuous and excessive food, excessive hygiene, gardens that eclipsed those within sight, religiosity of church attendance and moral superiority always compared to the "demented debaucherie" or laziness and irresponsibility of others, the puritanical penny-pinching versus the extravagant display of wealth of others (even with the family).


Performing to avoid the "wrath" was surrogate for an exploration of truth and multiple perspectives on any and all issues. Maturity, ambiguity and the needed unfolding of shared uncertainties and the inevitable "growth" for those at the table were abandoned as sacrifice to the public performance.
Children were pawns in the service of a maternal obsession with magnetizing applause. And at the end, immediately following the death of the appraiser, he was judged "no good" by the despot.


Was such an assessment inevitable?
Was it warranted?
Did it say more about the "judge" or the "judged"?
Perhaps it says all we need to know.

Where does this fly on the wall find a figure to trust, or, does one withdraw and withhold trust from nearly all situations and persons one encounters?

Or, alternatively, does one reframe the question of trust from one focused on their respective deficits, to being able to trust their defects….

I know that I can trust that one will continue to dominate

I know that the other will continue to appease.


The strength/power of one (side, party, cult, gang, parent) will eventually erase the impotence if the other side (party, cult, gang, parent) in pursuit of whatever goals and purposes it deems necessary...even if those purposes are inherently evil and soul or state-destroying.


There are no perceived (or warranted) limits to the ambition of the tyrant without the conscious and deliberate and disciplined spinal-replacement of the other.
It is long past time for our culture to start paying attention to the dark spaces on the various landscapes. Our addiction to the glitter of tyranny does not and cannot serve to empower any of us.

When will the forces/nations purporting to be democracies of free people cease their appeasement of the powers of the growing numbers of tyrants from Bejing,
Moscow, Brazil, North Korea, Hungary, Turkey?

Or….

Is it not more feasible that only a strategy of ambiguous containment is achievable, given the unlimited aspirations of the tyrants and the meagre and soft coalition of the democrats?

How many times have each of us “appeased” a bully, consciously or not, and then, on reflection wished we had found our voice to speak up and put a stop to the abuse?

 
It is the appeaser in each of us that needs, even silently demands, formal recognition and nurture. And when the appeaser fails and sabotages itself, perhaps then it will find its voice.


Can and will the Democrats find their spine in the face of the anarchy being slowly and silently and blatantly imposed by the trump cult?

Or….

Will the United States continue to vacillate from frustration with the trump, QAnon cult to the frustration with the limp, wet-noodle Democratic response?

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Reflections on time....

 Time


"I never have enough time...to be the best father, husband etc...."

Let's try to unpack (translate, interpret) this universal cry that we all hear, may even have uttered at moments of frustration. Physicists describe time as the measure of the movement of things in space...Rovelli defines time as an illusion.

It is the question of our unique "take" on our own particular situation that matters most on this question as on so many others.
We "create" our own world, in terms of how we integrate, interpret and respond to people, events, theories and even god.
 
In a "Christian" culture, a penetrating foundational premise is the "fall" as depicted in Genesis. And as some cogent writing is appearing advocating for the cultural abandonment of "Genesis" ( a reasonable and provocative premise), I offer a slightly different notion: that "the fall" must not be conflated with personal unworthiness, scarcity, inadequacy. And yet, in our cultural and conventional habit (proclivity,) to use words in a very general and imprecise way...And we have monstrous machines reinforcing that tendency: think law enforcement, incarceration, news about bad behaviour and the constant barrage of comparisons of "good" and "bad" people.

Truthfully, we are all capable of both good and "not-good" deeds, words, thoughts....And while we have e experienced both kinds from others we also have "done" both....

Nevertheless, as in so many instances, we do not serve our best interests and tendencies (as the "flowers" and the gifts of our life) through an excessive concentration on our inadequacies.
We are not likely to become better fathers or husbands or colleagues by issuing a "stream" of critical parent judgements to ourselves...whether we believe we are "short" of time of money or social status or friends or...or...or ..

We caution our children in that manner. Our parents deployed the same approach in our lives...and too often those very voices haunt us long after their owners have died.
Indeed, much of adult life for many consists of shedding those projections of "fear" and judgement that far exceeded the dimensions of the moment they were uttered.

Back to the perplexing "time deficit"...
The clock and calendar will continue to march regardless of how we "perceive" that process. We can control, manage and rely on only our own way of adapting to the hands of our watches or the number on our calendars.

And if course there will always and inevitably develop "things" like deaths, sickness, market shifts, broken alliances and friendships, injuries and even very unsettling information from "outside" that rock our personal equilibrium..however we have both created and rested in that state.
Those "traumas" too will take emotional time and serve as distractions and interruptions to our previously developed plans.

And yet, like the cliche lyrics have it, "life is what happens we you are making plans".
Henri Nouwen wrote that, while he was preparing and delivering lectures, marking papers and attending meetings was always being interrupted. When he reflected back he concluded what the song lyrics declare...that his real-life was in those interruptions.

Under classical management theory and praxis, work is organized by task and time. Efficiencies in business and the marketplace depend on the equation: time is money. And inevitably most of us comply with that equation, given the "carrots and sticks" of classical conditioning that management design and deliver.

And then, we slide into a similar, if not precisely identical, process of "managing" our self-talk...
And that leads us back to the opening line of this piece.

If we could/can see how we came to the place where we were frustrated by our perceived "deficit" of whatever it is we have to "make up" in order to come to respect ourselves, then we can detoxify the criticism. Only then can we re-evaluate how we arrange our schedule, or our finances or our .....(fill the blank) to restore our confidence and trust in ourself.

Whether time is illusion or not, like death it  is a finite "thing" meted out to all equally. So if our critical parent really cares beyond issuing "accusations"  or "charges or at least when we begin to neutralize the poison in at those "hot-buttons" their might be feasible for us to change both our own affairs and then listen differently when others make similar sounds in our life.

Often, colleagues too unconsciously throw around critical judgements of our deficit  (as they see it) only to serve the purpose of elevating their view of their own worth...and we have to become aware of those unjustified slights. They may have been motivated by some kind of parental concern that we improve how we behave. However too often they say much more about their spokesperson than the target.

Again, recognizing how pervasive is this cultural addiction to criticism and put-down really is, and the depth of the hurt and injury and emotional wounds this habit inflicts, we could) can then begin to withdraw from using it as either our rationalization or our unwarranted critical parent again beating a drum worn thin from overuse.

We can and do construct our world view of our self in relation to our deficits...and not our assets.
And becoming aware of this tendency can lead to new insights of both ourselves and our colleagues.

There really is hope....within!

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Applebaum: The bad guys are winning....are we complicit?

 Vaclav Havel is reported to have penned these words  on hopelessness:

Isn’t it the moment of most profound doubt that gives birth to new certainties? Perhaps hopelessness is the very soil that nourishes human hope: perhaps one could never find sense in life without first experiencing its absurdity.

Havel also wrote:

Hope is a dimension of the soul, an orientation of the spirit, and orientation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizon. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense regardless of how it turns out.

We are all living in the swirl of so many forces that seem to be so dramatic, even violent and certainly outside of any apparent attempt to rein them in, that the turbulence itself is unsettling. Hunkering down, as if in our own bunker, as if the ‘enemy’ is everywhere outside our bunker, renders only a faux-security.  Whether we are watching prices stretch beyond our capacity to pay, or the earth’s atmosphere shrivelling beyond our capacity to prevent, or the political rhetoric and actions of uncivilized, autocratic men shatter the bounds of civil society without a concerted, aligned and committed resistance except from highly motivated individuals…

we are all now engaged as full attendees in a theatre whose drama envelops us all. The days of enclosed walls, proscenium arches, theatre-in-the-round, and even appointment television of some favourite sit-com, or western, or spy mystery, those limits and frames that “package” the story and the characters who play out the story have all disappeared.

At the same time, however, the voices which have commandeered the microphones, and the airwaves, and the advertising dollars, and the contracts that once were somewhat defined, monitored and sanctioned by law have been loosed on the landscape. Rather than a somewhat massaged and managed message, shaped and written and delivered under some guidelines and protocols that included and demanded veracity, trust, reliability and civility, the old “frontier” of lawlessness has exploded into what we call the ‘metaverse’….or at least that’s what Zuckerberg calls it, as he, along with many others, prepare to stake claim to it.

It is the universe of the autocrat, the oligarch, the plutocrat (how outmoded and sanitized is that word!), and the funding sources of those mostly men, supported and abetted however, by many ambitious women, that appears to be winning.

Anne Applebaum, in her most recent piece in The Atlantic, writes under a headline

“The Bad Guys are Winning”…referencing the several prominent and dangerous autocrats who not only dominate their own nation and people, but are now working together, trading, banking and setting their own trends of action, propaganda and manipulative control…to satisfy their own deep and insatiable need indeed quest for absolute power.

They care only about retaining power, and care less and less about the needs, aspirations, hopes and dreams of the people living under their rule. And, because the instruments of democracy were never designed for a world in which such power in so many capitals would be permitted to reside in so many different hands, the necessary counter-point to such demagoguery and tyranny seems limited if not actually futile.

And yet, is the same kind of mentality not riding herd on the digital landscape, where seduction machines (algorithms) seduce innocent minds, eyes, and ears into a digital world where civility, veracity, reliability and trust have been trashed on the landfill of history?

And, are there not similar motives and methods being deployed every day in corporate executive suites responsible for producing products under the express purpose of “healing” human pain while knowingly generating hundreds of thousands, if not millions of premature deaths. (Think opiods! Think Thalidmoide! Think tobacco! Think fossil fuels! Think excess sugars and salts! Think alcohol!)

And also “think weapons” and the vast empire that manufactures, markets and then deploys the most lethal, most secretive, most hypersonic and most ubiquitous hardware to every corner of the world, under the rubric of safety and security, and of course the profit of those profiteers at the core of the business.

Are we not, as a race, becoming more and more aware each day of the certainties of how power, in all of its many forms and faces, is shifting into the hands of a very few, at the expense of a very many, whose voices and counter-point fades into street protests in Glasgow and other cities around the globe, after another wet-noodle climate conference? Is our sense doubt and hopelessness not birthing a consciousness among the young and some iconoclastic grey-beards that what we are witnessing, in the actions of the tyrants, and the terrorists, and the under-belly of the dark internet, as well as in the open in the crowded ports of, for example, Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Scammers, drug lords, internet moguls, morally bankrupt political operatives, and even medical professionals who serve their own narcissism through profiting from their ‘take’ in each prescription….also serve the oligarchs even while attempting to evade the legal authorities charged with their capture and arrest.

Who is going to capture and arrest the oligarchs? Who is going to capture and arrest the ‘deconstructionists’ otherwise known as obstructionists, or self-proclaimed insurrectionists, like the thousands of  Steve Bannon’s who have informally and surreptitiously joined a kind of tidal wave of insurrection, deconstruction…including the undermining of veracity, reliability, respect and trust?

In a word, no system is either large enough or has the capability to rein in the plethora of voices for whom extremism has become their modus operandi. Just yesterday, Michael Flynn, formerly infamous National Intelligence Director in the trump administration, spoke publicly about the need for the United States to adopt a single religion. The notion of a unitarian (not the sect but the concept of absolute one-man-rule) state, morphing into a theocracy, as some nations like Iran have already, seems on the surface to be irreconcilable with democracy.

And yet, most would have thought that a president and a presidency like the one that held power in Washington from 2016 through 2020, was also unthinkable and irreconcilable with democracy.

Presidential historian Jon Meacham, appearing on The Beat with Ari Melber on MSNBC, commented that there never was an ‘edenic period’ in American history. When Melber asked, by stretching the metaphor, “Who would the snake be in that Eden?” Meacham replied, “Our ambition!”

While there is an inherent innate ambition in each of us, to achieve, to move forward, to live the ‘good life’ however we might define that, the line of acceptable intersection of our ambition with the ambition of another seems to have moved away from a line that all parties acknowledge and respect, into a kind of haze of deliberate and defining obscurity leading to the take-over by the most unscrupulous, the most driven, the most ambitious and the most unconscious of the public good. We have, in our complicit silence, insouciance, and withdrawal from the fray of public service, exponentially demonstrated with the spikes in threats to school board members who seek to protect the children in their schools by voting for mask mandates, vaccine mandates and the like, permitted the unscrupulous men (and it is mostly men who have rushed into the vacuum) to take over the field known as the public square.

Additionally, there is no likelihood that Biden can or will lecture Xi Jinping on the incarceration of Uyghurs in China, only to be countered with the hundreds of years of slavery of black Americans in the United States. Similarly, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has little “room” for self-righteous lectures of nations where human rights are under threat, given our own history of apartheid for the First Nations, and the recent discovery of hundreds of unmarked graves of children imprisoned in residential schools. Similar stories play out in various regions and among various “tribes” in and out of power in developing nations.

Colonization, the domination of one group by another group, is another of the “realizations” that is screaming out of headlines around the globe. Whether it takes a historical form, or a more contemporary form in the intersection of refugees, immigrants forced from their native lands into the barbed-wire borders of other lands, there is a human cry of not only a profound imbalance of wealth, education, opportunity, health care, but also of sheer brute force. By whatever name, and whether it is exercised by a state, a military force, a tyrant, a president, or even a mother or a father, it is still abuse…the abuse of a single human being by another…whether by another single human being or a group.

And whenever and wherever we see such attitudes, actions words and abuse, even in our own homes, schools, churches, social service non-profits, evidence of the bully has to be exposed. And whether the bully is living under the reputation of status in the community, or not, each encounter has to be considered on its own merit. We are not going to remove, eliminate or even moderate the human proclivity to seek and deploy power, whether within the bounds of conventional social grace, or the limits of legal constriction, or the shared commitment to respect for each other (long ago evaporated from the political rhetoric in the U.S.) if we do not share a commitment to identify its ugly attitude, voice, action or even insult when we encounter it.

And the risk to such an identification, for each of us, is considerable. After all, who wants or expects to eliminate all insults, all differences of opinion, all ideologies, all religions and all debates. After all, debate and difference, when conducted under a modicum of conventional expectations, generates better collaborative decisions.

However, it is in the manner in which these debates are conducted that the danger lurks. The presumption of power and status, among those with wealth, formal education, titles, official positions of power, including judges, doctors, lawyers, accountants, professors, principals, and even those with more wealth than many in their own communities cannot and must not be justification for assuming prominent, priority, and power over those who appear to ‘have less”…especially of the symbols of power and status.

There is not a single person in any of our circles who has not experienced the abuse of power by others who took advantage of them, abused them, betrayed them, or even injured them without cause. Some such experiences were so shocking both because of their severity and their unexpected source (perhaps a parent, or a clergy, or a teacher,) that they have left scars that never fully heal. Lives are spent reckoning with such abuse. And yet, while the incidents of such abuse occur to those in the public eye generate considerable attention, the millions of lesser abuses, inflicted in the anonymity of secrecy, like the thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women, remain social secrets.

In this era of extremes, exaggerated hopelessness, perhaps it is unsurprising that we are becoming conscious of the many previously undisclosed abuses that collectively, if unconsciously, we have permitted to be kept hidden.

The risk is that, in removing the scabs and exposing the wounds, we will simultaneously embolden other abusers so devoid of self, and so in need of attention that we will provide the very magnet for their need to be exercised. A similar approach accompanies hostage taking incidents….we will not negotiate because that will embolden others to imitate the abuse.

On the other side of the abuse of power is the ubiquitous victim, and our culture is becoming inured to the story of the victim, given the tidal wave of stories at the individual level. We risk missing the forest of international political abuse of power, for example, in permitting nations and leaders to opt out of obligations to preserve and to protect the planet, while we fret over the stories of individual victims’ stories of their abuse.

Self-righteous, idolatrous religion, and the dependency it has on charismatic again mostly men, is a prevalent form of the abuse of power, rendering many of its converts to a state of infantilism. And while the abusers are the men in charge, the victims are somewhat complicit, in that they are willing and too often eager to surrender their own boundaries to escape the pain of their whatever…loneliness, unworthiness, alienation, self-perceived sin and shame, illiteracy, lack of education, poverty….the list is endless.

In the political arena, too, it is shame, fear, need to escape these demons that can lead millions to the false security of a false promising prophet. Tyrants do not erupt from a vacuum. They are an integral component of a culture, a Petrie dish in which their venomous tyranny is seeded. And that dish is both individual and social, both attributable to the traits and ambition of a single person, and to the “green house” of the political culture in which that ambition can and will grow.

Personal responsibility does not stop at the property fence of our abode. Public responsibility does not stop there either. Both are intertwined, intermingled and mutually supportive….both for the negative and the positive.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Introducing Zemmour, Fascist Jew, as symbol of hate, bigotry, racism and French Populism

Bernard-Henri Levy, the French intellectual, speaking on Fareed Zarakia’s GPS on CNN last Sunday, dubbed the far-right television talk show host, Eric Zemmour, who is now running ahead of Marie Le Pen in public opinion polls ahead of the French presidential election, both a Jew and a Fascist. When I heard these two words in the same sentence describing a single person, I was shocked, incredulous and angry. Have we actually come to this, that a single person of Jewish heritage could even consider attitudes, beliefs and actions that would warrant the appellation, Fascist? Twisting oneself into such a political, ideological and even theological pretzel, it would seem, should be, if not must be, impossible. And yet here we are!

Writing in tabletmag.com, Levy uses these words:

I see him (Zemmour) trampling on everything in the French Jewish legacy that pertains to responsibility for others, or the noble effort to embrace strangers, love thy neighbour, and offer hospitality toward immigrants. In this transgression there is something that chills the blood….and

People should also reflect on the dark ideas this pugilistic candidate is hatching, the poisons he is serving up, and the shrunken, pitiful version of France he is promoting when he declares that we have ‘no business’ getting involved in the fate of Afghan women, or that we ‘will never know’ the truth about the Dreyfus affair* or that we should disapprove of the innocent souls murdered by Mohammed Merah in 2012, whose parents ‘buried their bones’ in Jerusalem. (tabletmag.com)

Robert Zaretsky, writing in haaretz.com, October 25, 2021, under the headline, “Eric Zemmour Isn’t Donald Trump. He’s Far Worse”, pens these words:

A far right pundit, vile misogynist, racial conspiratist and potential contender for the presidency, Zemmour is the Jewish heir to a particularly vicious French brand of antisemitic nationalism-repurposed to target other minorities…..During his long career as a  prophet of France’s decline, Zemmour keeps returning to the same words. Take, for example, his “grand replacement.” Coined by the extreme thinker Renaud Camus, the term distills the conspiracy theory that, with the connivance of a cosmopolitan and urban elite, the nation’s original population is being replaced with non-white peoples. Obsessed by this notion, Zemmour points to the case of Seine-Saint-Denis. T
His Parisian borough, “long the historical heart of France, where the tombs of our kings are located,” is becoming a “Muslim enclave subject to the rule of Allah.”: Seine-Saint-Denis, he predicts, will become the French Kosovo, a battleground between opposing religious communities.” This “Demographic inversion” is a fact, Zemmour affirms, not a myth. How could it be otherwise? After all, the “only young men authorized by French feminists to maintain this once traditional, now scorned, code of virility are young blacks and Arabs.” France is thus doomed since these same women refuse to accept that their duty is to “give themselves without shame” to their (authentically French) men who “need to sexually dominate them.”

How myopic, even perhaps neurotic, and dangerous!

It reminds me of a conversation at a dinner table with a teacher-colleague, back in the early eighties, when the question of the “preservation of the English language” was the topic of much debate in Northern Ontario. A group calling itself APEC, (The Alliance for the Preservation of English), had gained a meagre foothold in the town of some 50,000 concurrent with the growing acceptance of many of bilingual education in the public schools. “You are going to lose your job as an English teacher, by sending your daughters to “French Immersion”! was the cry of a guest at our table. My response, then, and would still be today, “Well, on this we will have to agree to disagree.” The topic was then dropped from the conversation, although, months later, my then spouse revisited it in these words, “You embarrass me because you do not and will not engage in small talk, in reference to our dispute over that dinner. As a footnote to the story, all three of our daughters graduated from that French Immersion program, two later graduated with French degrees from university and the third teaches French in the French Immersion program in her former high school.

The rise in popularity of right-wing populists like Zemmour, (Orban, trump, Bolsonaro) is a dangerous fire in the political landscape and rhetoric. It is not only dangerous for its own sake in the respective countries; it also emboldens attitudes and behaviours that lead to and foreshadow future ‘insurrections’ like the one on January 6 at the U.S. Capitol.

Fear, as a device to be manipulated by charismatic, if vacuous, political aspirants, acts like a toxic injection into the waters of public debate: spreading through those waters contaminating them as it spreads. It then ensnares people who refuse to wear masks, who refuse to become vaccinated against the COVID-19 Delta variant, who believe that government is going to take over personal decisions, who use Critical Race Theory as a radioactive “lure” to entice voters who fear public discussion of the depth to which racism has become embedded in public institutions, presumably because such discussion will lead to black dominance….or at the spectre of such a threat.

Many people who live in North America will likely consider any discussion of the rise of Zemmour to be outside the reasonable concerns of people living on this side of the Atlantic. After all, only Tucker Carlson dedicated his show on FOX TV to Orban’s right-wing propaganda, and that for wholly heinous and self-serving ends.

There is also some conventional “attitude” and “perception” that with all of the many threats to human civilization, the pandemic, endemic racism, global warming and climate change, the widening gap in income and wealth, the supply-shortages, rising inflation, a new language of symbols* that none of us have fully grasped, (and some of us even wonder about its legitimacy)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

*Just this week a grade twelve co-ed in Hamilton, on a co-op placement, for which her instructor commemorated and celebrated with an Instagram photo of the group of students, raised her thumb-index finger in a celebratory explanation mark, only to be dismissed from the co-op program for inciting racism and hatred. She was totally unaware (as am I and millions of others) that such a symbol carried that message. Called the “OK hand gesture, the Anti-Defamation League has not listed it as a symbol of hate. The npr.org website reports: Oren Segal, director of the ADL’s Centre on Extremism. Told NPR that for years on fringe online message boards such as 4chan and 8chan, the “OK” sign has been deployed in memes and other images promoting hate. Given the number of white supremacists who have adopted it, he said it can now carry a nefarious message…

Clearly this co-ed was unaware of the ‘new’ interpretation of the OK gesture. And also, clearly, it is time we refrained from being seduced into adopting the posture, position and purpose of white supremacists. Indeed, the decision to remove this innocent, aspiring co-ed from her chosen co-op program for such an ‘indiscretion’ is not only abominable, it is inexcusable. Context clearly has been sanitized from the situation, from the photo, and from the mind of those making the decision, on the strength of a single phone call of complaint. Racial perfection, language perfection, and absolutisms are not the way to “teach” or even to “transform” a culture that is becoming a wet-noodle to the forces of hate….humans everywhere are reeling under the weight of the “what’s next” to hit us, or even to destroy us.

Bernard Henri Levy predicts that Zemmour will evaporate like a bubble, given that he has no intellectual or ethical foundation. However, various forms and faces of fascism, white supremacy, racism, and deep-seated hatred verging toward violence is a growing phenomenon in many venues. None of us can say we are fully free from its potential.

This week it might be Zemmour’s name, or Orbans’, or Bosonaro’s (permitting the rape and ravage of the Amazon Rainforest, refusing to mandate vaccinations, leaving his people in deep jeopardy)….but similar forces are operating in the open in Florida, for example. Just this week, a new Surgeon General (Dr. Joseph Ladapo) was appointed after only two days of vetting, (normally it take up to 6 months) a part of the American Frontier Doctors, who have been prescribing ivermectin as a remedy for COVID, while creaming a ”take” from the prescriptions (according to the Rachel Maddow show on MSNBC). School board trustees in Brevard County, Florida, who have stood strong for masks for their children, are experiencing death threats, as are trump opponents in the Republican party, specifically Adam Kinzinger.

Those Republican congressmen and women (thirteen in all) who voted for the Biden infrastructure bill, have received threats to remove them from their committee assignments, in an effort to keep alive and thriving the beat of the trump drum of the big lie, the threat of retaliation, the even greater threat of his candidacy in 2024, and his continuing efforts to implant stooges in positions of power in as many states as possible.

The spread of populist hate, most of it anchored in white supremacy, threatens, either directly or indirectly, the equal voting rights legislation lying dormant in the U.S. Senate. It also threatens to kill the John Lewis voting rights bill; bills in over thirty states are on track to restrict voting among blacks and minority voters, as the spread of white “hate” and “fear” similar to, if not precisely identical to the hate of Muslims being spread by Zemmour in France.

Just when the world’s population needs common, collaborative and decisive and urgent action to combat global warming and climate change, to stem the tide of rising billionaires who don’t (or refuse) to pay taxes, to assist developing countries facing the ravages of global warming already, to stem the tide of pollution among coal and fossil fuel production facilities, we are watching the cracks in the institutional “foundations” and walls and offices, and board rooms veering toward actual fissions, analogous to the sheering blocks of tons of ice from the walls of the largest icebergs.

Little ordinary people, it seems, have no voice, in the cacophony of despair, hate, narcissism, irrational populism and ideological purity and independence in quarters like Bejing and Moscow and Delhi.

And yet the size of the chorus of ordinary people is growing, so one can only hope that those voices will eventually claim at least partial success, so that our survival is no longer in doubt. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Advocating for closing the gap between perception and reality...

 where do perception and reality meet?


We each hear comments daily that indicate barely a superficial awareness of the subject under discussion. Some of us scoff while others of us let them pass, move on and likely never give those comments another nano-second of thought.
While the "superiority-inferiority" dynamic is predictable, there may be more to this "moment" in time than  the personal level.
Writers have traditionally explored the frontier between "appearance and reality" conscious that at the intersection there is a predictable moment of tension, drama, new insight and perhaps even tragedy.
Question: Are we all enmeshed in a cultural/perceptual current in which we all contribute to the threats implicit in this collision? And, if so, can we transform our participation and thereby shift the culture forward?
Recently, I overheard a comment from a business operator about the location of his sibling's workplace: "Well, you work at a community hospital right?" The responding answer, after the deep swallow of self-restraint, followed: Well, not really,  more like a large tertiary hospital attached to a prominent university serving a large geographic and demographic base with a staff of several thousand."
The "swallow" came from some incredulity (that the full reality was not  known after many years) and also some irritation that s/he was not better known by/to the family member.
Of course, we protect much of our personal information especially in this new digital/hacking/cyber insecurity era. At the same time, there is a tsunami of personal information awash on the internet.
It is the "gap" between these two family members that is at issue.
The time apart, the geographic separation, the difference in career preparation, the age gap and the personal "interest" program and resulting significant perceptions of two individuals explain much of this "gap".
However, relationships that work grow and develop when some relevant information is shared by both parties.Career data, one assumes, might qualify as "shareable" and "relevant" to both.
And yet, even between family members this gap of "unknowing" exists and, coming out of this moment, likely grows through increased emotional distancing by the responding sibling.
Think about this "gap" as a layer of fog that lies deep between various communicators, corporate, political, geo-political and even between professional counsellors and clients.
The "gap" results from both participants, not only the first observer. Indeed, are we not all operating with a fog over our consciousness? And is that fog extant partly by conscious choice?
Eliot reminded us we cannot 'stand' too much reality, perhaps at least in part because the fullness of the reality surrounding us is too "heavy" to bear. And yet, is Eliot on to something far more significant: that we are so self-absorbed in our own bubble that we prefer the faux-comfort-and-safety of that innocence/ignorance.?
The family "protects" us from the threat of interior relationships that are "skating on thin ice" and from "black sheep" of an aberrant uncle, and from the threat of impending fiscal disaster for as long as possible. In fact, without such secrets, many families might well atrophy or even dissolve.
Schools, too, shape "hard news" in the least painful way to help protect the child. Churches, too, emphasize the comfort and safety of agape love while, paradoxically and mostly secretly, engage in the.most venemous gossip and character assassination of selected 'targets' whose behaviour magnetizes their voyeuristic attention and self-assured moral superiority.
This dynamic forces other questions into the table:
* How serious is the Chinese military and nuclear arsenal build-up? And how will we know before it might be too late?
* How serious is the growing supply of  Iranian fissionable material and how will we ever learn the answers?
* How serious is the anti-vaxxer protest to the prospect of reining in the pandemic?
* How serious is the human capacity/ choice of detachment/ignorance/blocking of self from painful truths both personal and public?
* Is there any correlation (if not causation) of chosen conscious blind deafness to hard and painful reality and a rise in specific human illnesses?
* Is there a correlation ( if not causation again) between willful blind ignorance and the resistance to taking  dramatic and pro-active collaborative steps to stem the treat of global warming and climate change?
* Is the question of human responsibility (both personally and globally) shielded by our own paradoxical and willful "ostrich head-in-sand" stance?
Being accused of "reading too much" into that moment of exchange between those two siblings ("community hospital") would seem natural and predictable, after decades of such a charge, for your scribe.
The kind of detachment I choose is to separate from as much "fog" as possible; the price of that choice, however, is usually and predictably isolation, alienation and loneliness.
Please, hold your patronizing pity!
I invite readers to consider opening to your own opportunities to "lift the fog"....simply by noticing it's faux-security.
Cheers!