Friday, February 23, 2024

cell913blog.com #29

Post-modernism and critical race theory, by themselves, do not fill either the vocabulary or the political ethos in which we find ourselves attempting to survive. Making sense, sorting through the turbulent intellectual, cultural, and especially religious ‘winds,’ some of them more forceful and overpowering than others, is a task or even an ambition only for ‘fools’ like this scribe, just another octogenarian flooded with views, data and a curiosity that refuses to be satiated.

Peeling onions, or layers of bark from a birch tree, or mythic sources of images that simply ‘move into’ the unconscious, or sifting through the cognitive, theoretical, dogmatic and political detritus, the loose material resulting from disintegration, is a process fraught with the inevitable failure to arrive at a ‘destination’ of statis, foundation, and another dogma or ideology. In a time of ‘disintegration’ in what Hillman calls the anima mundi,* we refer to his, and the archetypal psychologist’s perspective that the world too is a patient in need of attention. When our fantasy of the world deprives it of personality and soul, we tend to treat this inanimate world badly. We place all our psychological attention on interior events and intimate relationships, withdrawing that attention from the world. But if the world has subjectivity, we have to have a relationship with it. Therefore, as Hillman says, we can be in the world through the heart rather than the head. We can feel our congenital ties to the things of nature and of culture, discovering our actual attachments and thereby developing new intimacies with what has been previously dismissed as dead throwaway matter. …Hillman refuses to see personality in the world of things as projections of our own fantasies. While it is true that we perceive the world’s soul through a refined and strong imagination, that doesn’t mean that the world is alive only through our fantasy of it. Nature, architecture, politics, economics and even city transportation are filled with fantasy that lies beyond our projections. Archetypal psychology tries to unveil that imagery. The point is not to dissect the world’s soul for the mere pleasure of analysis and understanding, but to remember the world’s body so that we become more aware of how it affects us and relate to it as person to person. We might also find in that relationship, as we would with a human patient, areas of suffering in need of special attention. Here, Hillman’s point it that therapy on our own souls is ultimately ineffective without equal attention to the world soul…..Returning soul to the world not only attends to the world, it offers more opportunity to engage in the work of soul ourselves. (Thomas More, editor of A Blue Fire, pps. 95-96)

One of the more perplexing fogs in the collective mind (unconscious, psyche, soul) is the equating of two words that have confounded humans for centuries, soul and spirit. From catholic.com, we read: ‘a soul, on its most basic level is the ‘life principle’ or ‘animating principle’ of a body. In other world, all living bodies have a soul. While plants, animals and anything living contains a soul, the human soul is unique….In other words, man is the only bodily being whose soul is a spirit (animals are not spiritual) and the only spirit which is a soul (angels do not have a body and therefore no soul. Only in humans do we find both soul and spirit.

Hillman writes, in a chapter entitled, Polytheistic Psychology or a Psychology with Gods, Is Not a Religion, in his Re-visioning Psychology:

The psyche itself keeps psychology and religion bound to each other. Therefore our talk of Gods is not merely a trespass; nor is it merely the use of personified hyperbole for heightening the values of the archetypes,….(W)e speak of Gods because we are working toward a nonagonistic psychology, a psychology which does not have to operate in the hollow left from the separation of Sunday and weekday, church and interior state of mind…Religion in our culture derives from spirit rather than from soul, and so our culture does not a have a religion that reflects psychology or is mainly concerned with soul making. Instead we have a psychology that reflection religion,. Since the religion in our culture has been monotheistic, our psychologies are monotheistic. As we have seen, he prejudices against fragmentation, self-division, and animism are religious in their fanatical intensity. Always psychological thought enjoins the plethora of psychic phenomena to follow the laws of unified models. The monotheistic model may be overtly religious, as is Jung’s self, or disguised, as in Freud’s attempt at a comprehensive system. Organicism, holism, unified field theory, monistic materialism and other psychologies express their fundamental monism through insistence upon clarity, cohesion, or wholes. (Hillman, Re-visioning Psychology, p167-168)

All of this ‘set-up’ to begin the process of unpacking the kind of fanatical intensity of what is today raging through the corridors of power in the United States and perhaps elsewhere as well. Dominionism, based on natural law, a phenomenon of intense clarity, cohesion and a unified theory, (whose) public face is on display in the House of Representatives. This ideology,…..calls for the eradication of social ‘deviants,’ beginning with gay men and lesbians, whose sexual orientation, those in the movement say, is a curse and an illness, contaminating the American family and the country. Once these ‘deviants’ are removed, other ‘deviants,’ including Muslims, liberals feminists, intellectuals, left-wing activists, undocumented workers, poor African-Americans and those dismissed as ‘nominal’ Christians-meaning Christians who do not embrace this peculiar interpretation of the Bible—will also be ruthlessly repressed. The ‘deviant’ government bureaucrats, the ‘deviant’ media, the ‘deviant’ schools and the ‘deviant’ churches, all agents of Satan, will be crushed or radically reformed. The rights of these ‘deviants’ will be annulled. “Christian values’ and ‘family values’ will, in the new state, be propagated by all institutions. Education and social welfare will be handed over to the church, Facts and self-criticism will be replaced with relentless indoctrination…This ideology known as Dominionism or Christian Reconstructionism…calls on anointed ‘Christian’ leaders to take over the state and make the goals and laws of the nation ‘biblical.’ It seeks to reduce government to organizing little more than defense, internal security and the protection of property rights. It fuses with the Christian religion the iconography and language of American imperialism and nationalism, along with the cruelest aspects of corporate capitalism. The intellectual and moral hollowness of the ideology, its flagrant distortion and misuse of the Bible, the contradictions that abound within it- its leaders champion small government and a large military as if the military is not part of government -and its laughable pseudoscience are impervious to reason and fact. And that is why the movement is dangerous. (Chris Hedges, truthdig.com)

It is not an accident that in the midst of disintegration and chaos, warring and mutually exclusive propagation of ‘information’ (alternative facts’) and a strong-man ‘addiction’ to the saviour archetype, finds a penetrating pen and mind in the person of Ruth Ben-Ghiat, professor of history at New York University, who writes in a piece in the Washington Post, October 26, 2021:

What is driving democratic decline in America? Disinformation, election subversion, Donald Trump’s authoritarian leader cult and institutionalized racism leap out at you, But there’s another factor all the more dangerous because it’s part of our everyday reality: civilian access to lethal weapons and the mass death that enables. The scale and scope of gun violence in America doesn’t just desensitize us to violence. It also cheapens the value of life. It fosters political, social and psychological conditions that are propitious for autocracy. The omission of gun law reform from discussion of democracy protection is symptomatic of our normalization of this tragic situation….For decades we have shot each other, with Americans causing fellow Americans more harm than any foreign enemy. More than 1.5 million died of gunshots in the past 50 years vs. 1.2 million in all the wars in the country’s history. This year alone (2021) mass shooting have killed or injured more than 1,800. “More than in any other years on record, according to the latest available statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). (from the Pew Research Centre, on pewresearch.org)

Does it not make sense, from an intuitive, imaginative and soul-making perspective to note the role of personal, communal, regional, religious, and geo-political FEAR that underlies the sum of the stories, the data and the organic nature of the culture, desperately in need of attention.

And not the kind of attention that the Dominionists, nor the Trump-Bannon cultists would and are giving it!!

Just this week, Bannon was hailed as a ‘prophet’ at the CPAC convention, predicting that MAGA could rule for fifty years. The 70-year-old former Hollywood scriptwriter-turned-political-spin doctor was given a rockstar’s reception as he entered the room packed with supporters—some of whom had travelled from as far away as Romania…Bannon-mania was in full force among his supporters. One speaker compared hum to a ‘prophet,’ while another attendee described how he had been ‘right about everything.’….By far the biggest cheer came when Bannon asked the crowd, ‘Can we start off by saying, Trump won?’(Anthony Blair, from the-sun.com, February 21, 2024)

Adopting the perspective of the empathic, compassionate, and detached observer/mentor/coach, what does one ‘say’ to such a nationally and internationally troubled ‘soul’?

Throwing up one’s arms leaves the field free and clear for these forces of authoritarianism, autocracy, Dominionism and the cult that has been seduced into it. Screaming ‘foul’ as if there has been a missed or a flagrantly omitted foul in a hockey or basketball game, only reverberates into the bleachers. Adopting a pedagogical perspective, is presumptuous in the extreme, and would be dismissed out of hand. Who are ‘we’ anyone from outside the United States, especially from Canada, that little ‘socialist’ northern Vermont under the ‘red’ leader Trudeau (as many have called us), even to consider observing how disintegrated, discombobulated, dysfunctional, and self-sabotaging is the United States of America, at the moment, and for the foreseeable future?

Well, we are sentient! We are not stupid or dumb, as you might have yourselves believe! And we are not disinterested dispassionate northern cousins living in our igloos!
What and how and with whom you choose to operate your nation, whether you like it or not, or whether you wish to withdraw into your fabricated silo of nationalism and isolationism or not, has ramifications everywhere people live on the planet. Ukrainians, yes and Jews and Palestinians, yes, but also the people of Taiwan, the people living under the NATO umbrella (that includes Canada by the way!), and everyone one on the planet who breathes, drinks water to survive, eats food and attempts to raise a family….is now reconsidering not only whether the United States is a trustworthy partner.

The world is actively considering that the model of nationhood, the devolution of the political process, the triumph of the gun and ‘christian’ power systems and the insistence of the money moguls on inexhaustible funding for these forces…needs not only a total reformation (not in the Bannon vision) from top to bottom. And that reconsideration is not being conducted as much in anger and disappointment as in sadness and empathy for the delusion and denial and avoidance that have contributed to this moment.

Hillman’s organic vision of the ‘soul’ of everything, including a nation, warrants more perspectives than any single one. However, from this ‘owl’s perch,’ the operative depiction of this ‘national personality’ is frightened, even terrified not so much by the outsider-prompted terrorist incursion, but from the complete volcanic eruption of the historically legendary repressed American Shadow. And, the only way ‘out’ of this disintegration is to acknowledge the layers of soot, cob-webs, cluttered and unkempt basements, and dark caves of memory that were so painful and so horrendous and so traumatic that only decades, even centuries later, could they be uncovered.

Nevertheless, although it will take more time that many of us have left, the American authentic and unalloyed ‘gold’ will emerge for all the world to see and to celebrate providing the patience and the diligence of suffering is allowed without self-immolation.

Hopefully this gold will include a release from psychological monotheism (separating religion and psycholoty) and the strictures of a developmental trajectory toward a 'more perfect union.' Such a release could offer an open receptivity of and to the multiple mythic voices, that have the country in their grasp, especially in moments like these. Being willing to release the clinging fingers of the nation to such a highly elevated expectation and demand of the personal and the national ego may help to remove much of the taut and dysfunctional ambition in favour of a more mature, less neurotic (psychotic?) self-image.

And the world would welcome any hints of these 'releases'!

Thursday, February 22, 2024

cell913blog.com #28

 Some readers may be wondering it these pieces are dedicated to some kind of harmonious, universal awakening, on a spiritual level, as if the world were suddenly imagining a climb to the top of some mythical, mysterious mountain in order to come face to face with visions ‘meeting ‘God’ who there is about to inject ‘peace, harmony, tolerance, the release of all notions of bigotry and racism, ageism, sexism, and some kind of release of the ‘power motive’. Some salvific awesome incandescent moment of transcendence, some kind of entry into the personal alchemy of transformation, as the resolution of all of the existential crises we all face is not only demonstrably unlikely, but actually specious in the extreme.

In 2005, James Hillman debated Depak Chopra at Emory University, one a subject whose title was, “War, Peace, and the American Imagination”.

“Early in the dialogue, Hillman noted that ‘unfortunately we have images of peace that are passive, nothing happening, no trouble, white doves, olive branches’…What Chopra was defining as peace in the Eastern tradition, as he put it, ‘the transcendence of opposing energies that allows one to dwell in the state of pure consciousness’….Hillman basically found ‘bloody boring'…Peace where there is something to fight for or stand to or resist or believe in or find work in (is)not simply the absence of war, that’s the incorporation of war in something.’  

When Chopra sought to draw comparisons from Buddhist traditions to the Jungian idea of psyche and ‘the sphere that differentiates into the archetypes and then into the personal development,’  Hillman responded that he would ‘like to go back to the diabolic imagination. I’d like to come down. How do we account in our culture for the fertility of a diabolical imagination?...When the imagination has lost its cultural archetypal roots, when it is no longer fed with value…then it becomes a kind of self-destructive fantasy.’ This could be seen in the video war games, and the real ‘war games’ as well.

Later, after Chopra spoke of the importance of shifting ‘our allegiance to the feminine archetypes,’ (he named Hera, Demeter, Athena, Persephone, and Aphrodite) so that we might ‘begin to tell ourselves these new stories…we will see the emergence of a new culture and use of language.’

Hillman responded: I said we were addicted to innocence we’re also addicted to newness. Every bloody thing in Amerca has to be new, why? Why are we talking about emergence, evolution…Why are we talking about what’s coming. We don’t know what the hell’s coming, let’s face that right off the bat. We know what’s here, and it’s pretty bloody serious…we are in a very serious destructive phase, and it doesn’t do us any good to be wishful and hopeful, it does us a lot more good to be faithful to what is, what really is, and to struggle with it.  (Dick Russell, The Life and Ideas of James Hillman, Vol. 1, The Making of a Psychologist, 2013, Helois Press, New York, pps. 358-359)

Doubtless, these exchanges will be read by some as an anti-feminist retort. Nothing could be further from the truth. It was the prospect that any single pathway into ‘euphoria’ and ‘new culture’ would be considered an avoidance of being faithful to the facts on the ground, as they exist that seems intended. Reading Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, (LRTF), one can turn to almost any single page, to find the writer deeply immersed in the ‘what is’ and ‘struggling with it’. While he never loses either hope or his optimism that, somehow, sometime, however, and whenever, the dismantling of apartheid will take place and the envisioned democratic state of South Africa will take its place, he is never fantasizing over the utopia of some never-never land.

His address to the court, ‘in answer to a question as to whether democracy could be achieved through gradual reforms, I suggested it could.

We demand universal adult franchise and we are prepared to exert economic pressure to attain our demands. We will launch defiance campaigns, stay-at-homes, either singly or together, until the Government should say, ‘Gentlemen, we cannot have this state of affairs, laws being defied, and this whole situation created by stay-at-homes. Let’s talk.’ In my own view I would say, ‘Yes, let us talk’ and the Government would say, ‘We thing that the Europeans at present are not ready for a type of government where they might be dominated by non-Europeans. We think we should give you 60 seats.The African population to elect 60 Africans to represent them in Parliament. We will leave the matter over for five years and we will review it at the end of five years.’ In my view, that would be a victory, My Lords; we would have taken a significant step toward the attainment of universal adult suffrage for Africans, and we would then for the five years, say, We will suspend civil disobedience. (Mandela, LWTF), p. 251.

Grounded, confrontational with respect, and committed to an epic cause… Peace where there is something to fight for or stand to or resist or believe in or find work in (is)not simply the absence of war, that’s the incorporation of war in something….When the imagination has lost its cultural archetypal roots, when it is no longer fed with value…then it becomes a kind of self-destructive fantasy.’ This could be seen in the video war games, and the real ‘war games’ as well...(Hillman from above)


It is not to suggest or to argue that innocence and diabolical imagination are twin poles of a polarity here. Rather it is to suggest that we become ensnared in rhetorical jousting that has ‘no value’….as if to move into a delusional kind of political vacuum. The American presidential election, for instance, is highly significant for the next months and years of global existence, and potentially survival. Nevertheless, the political ‘war games’ like those video war games, exude a vacuity of authenticity, integrity and ‘value’. The ‘war game’ of the election contest is empty of what Hillman might call ‘the cultural archetypal roots’ of America’s deep-rooted historical and generic roots: racism, expansionism, international engagement/isolation, modernity, rebellion against oppressive abuse of power, wealth distribution, and creative innovation. Each of these archetypes warrant legitimate, reasoned, researched and fact-based debate.
None of that is happening. In their place, we have a pseudo-war-game around the personality of a treacherous, and dangerous former president, his legal entanglements, and the ‘age’ of his opponent. The discussion, reporting, analysis and far more insidious than what previously were dubbed ‘horse-race’ coverages, have all devolved into what kids in the 1950’s referred to a ‘fake fighting’ when the wrestlers came to the local arena. The question of whether or not the populace has lost the critical capacity or the will to differentiate ‘fake’ from ‘authentic’ or whether that question applies equally or more appropriately to the political class will fill doctoral theses for decades, if not centuries.

If the standard of public grasp of both the persons for whom they will vote and the depiction of the issues proffered as ‘serious and real’ has slid into what becomes ‘anyone’s alternative facts’…in order to appease this demonstrable false prophet….then his marketing savvy, deception, lies, pre-pubescent intellect and vocabulary, will continue to seduce millions. And his ‘cause’ has a chorus of leaders elsewhere, who have recognized the ‘political trading value’ of this kind of phoney, hollow, delusional and seductive rhetoric. Frightened people, for any number of reasons/causes/signs/attitudes/perceptions/beliefs…are among the most vulnerable and malleable and compliant of populaces. And to generate more fear and more fear, as if to add signatures to the existential threats, without doing anything to address, confront and ameliorate their threat, is the essence of a valueless ‘war game’. And we see it playing out all around us.

This kind of wave of ‘straw-men-and-women’ shouting under banners of ‘christian nationalism,’ or ‘denazifying Ukraine,’ or ‘eliminating Hamas,’ or, as in El Salvador, under a newly ‘elected leader,’ Nayib Bukele, who ‘has won a Congressional supermajority (and)…will control a staggering 54 of 60 seats in the Central American country’s legislature, empowering him to do whatever he likes….He’s already jailed nearly 2% of the adult population as part of a ferocious crackdown on gang violence, and he already got a friendly court to rule he could flout term limits. His allies even say eh aims to ‘dismantle’ democracy. And…his success at slashing the murder rate to pieces has made him incredibly popular. That’s true not 0only at home but also abroad, where some in other violence-wracked Latin American countries_-Mexico, Columbia. Ecuador, Chile—are increasingly enamored of Bukele. (GZero Daily, February 21, 2024)

The word ‘deconstruction’ has been closely aligned with the philosophical notion of postmodernism, ‘largely a reaction against the intellectual assumptions and values of the modern period in the history of Western philosophy (roughly, the 17th through the 19th century)….Postmodernists dismiss (the) “idea of objective reality, a reality whose existence and properties are logically independent on human beings- of their minds, their societies, their social practices or their investigative techniques. Postmodernists dismiss this idea, as a kind of naïve realism. Such reality as there is, according to postmodernists, is a conceptual construct, an artifact of scientific practice and language. This point also applies to the investigation of past events, by historians and to the description of social institutions, structures, or practices by social scientists. (Also, as to the descriptive and statements of explanatory scientists and historians can, in principle, be objectively true or false) The postmodern denial of this viewpoint-which follows from the rejection of an objective natural reality- is sometimes expressed by saying that there is no such thing as Truth.(Similarly as for the notion that) Through the use of reason and logic, and with the more specialized tools provided by science and technology, human begins are likely to change themselves and their societies for the better. It is reasonable to expect that future societies will be more humane, more just, more enlightened and more prosperous that they are now. Postmodernists deny this Enlightenment faith in science and technology as instruments of human progress. Indeed, many postmodernists hold that the misguided (or unguided) pursuit of scientific and technological knowledge led to the development of technologies for killing on a massive scale in World War II. Some go as far as to say that science and technology---and even reason and logic—are inherently destructive and oppressive, because they have been used by evil people, especially during the 20th century to destroy and oppress others. (britannica.com)

In a blatantly bi-polar, black-and-white, abuse of this kind of nuanced, thoughtful, introspective, critical thought, we find “anti-woke’ political rhetoric, for example, over such matters as Critical Race Theory. Defined by Britannica, CRT (is) an intellectual and social movement and loosely organized framework or legal analysis based on the premise that race is not a natural, biologically grounded feature of physically distinct subgroups of human beings but a socially constructed (culturally invented) category that is used to oppress and exploit people of colour. Critical race theorists hold that racism is inherent in the law and legal institutions of the United States insofar as they function to create and maintain social, economic and political inequalities between whites and nonwhites, especially African Americans. Critical race theorists are generally dedicated to applying their understanding of the institutional or structural nature of racism to the concrete (if distant) goal of eliminating all race-based and other unjust hierarchies.

In the social and political vortex of postmodernism and such theories as CRT, among a populace that is familiar with neither perspective, and intellectually withdrawn from the kind of debates and discussions that take place in graduate school seminars and lectures, leaders who espouse chaos, carnage, devastation and mayhem (even yesterday communism and fascism, from trump), will achieve a decibel rating that far outreaches the decibel rating of a mere moderate, modest, humble and introspective mediator of ideas, arguments, fiscal options, legal options and the stability of the nation. And such a decibel rating, stampeding over the airwaves in pursuit of advertising dollars and the equivalent of ‘click-views’ will generate much ‘heat and very little ‘light’ as the vernacular goes.

Indeed, generating ‘heat’ (call it hate, anger, contempt, revenge, pay-back, elimination of enemies, or euphemistically, political rhetoric and campaigning) among confused, alienated, under-educated, under-paid, and perhaps even under-employed is a primary propaganda technique that plays into the hearts and mind of the alienated. They think, believe, act as if, they have found their saviour. Ironically, tragically, and potentially dangerously, in such a political climate, even the thought of a potential second term of this monster makes the capitals of the world quake, not to mention the ordinary streets and towns where ordinary people live.

Mandela’s mind and heart must be pounding with apprehension given his clear-minded, determined, disciplined and truth-based fight for freedom…a freedom that, to many including this scribe, seems farther away in the first quarter of the twenty-first century that it did in the last quarter of the twentieth century.

Tuesday, February 20, 2024

cell913blog.com #27

In an historic speech  to more than 20,000 Londoners in Trafalger Square, Nelson Mandela uttered these words:

Like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural. It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings!...

And also:

As long as poverty injustice and gross inequality persist in our world, none of us can truly rest. (both quotes from freetheslaves.net)

In celebrating Nelson Mandela Day, 18, July 2020, in a piece on UN Chronical, Njabulo S. Ndebele, chairman of the Nelson Mandela Foundations, writes on July 17, 2020:

When Nelson Mandela was on trial in 1962 for leaving the country illegally and for inciting a workers’ strike, he donned the traditional dress of Thembu polities, declined legal representation and argued that he was a black man in a white man’s court. Insisting on the illegitimacy of the process, he used the platform to amplify the voice of a movement rather than to defend himself. He was clear that white supremacy was a system and that his struggle was all about dismantling it. Fifteen years later, Mandela wrote from prison a long reflection on the Black Consciousness Movement, in the course of which he said, ‘Those who help to perpetuate white supremacy are the enemies of the people irrespective of their colour. In 1997, while serving as President of a newly democratic South Africa and confronting the resilience of apartheid and colonial patterning, Mandela said, ‘We have not fallen from heaven into this new South Africa; we all come crawling from the mud of a deeply racially divided past. And as we go towards that brighter future and stumble on the way, it is incumbent upon each of us to pick the other up and mutually cleanse ourselves.’ He was signalling that oppressive systems are not manifested exclusively in the formal instruments of power, and warning that oppressive pasts will live on unless they are reckoned with tirelessly and consciously. Slavery lives on in the United States in the form of racialized predictive policing, the mass incarceration of African American men, the killing of George Floyd and many others by law enforcement officers over the years, the disproportionate vulnerability of African American communities to COVID-19, and so on. White supremacy is alive and well in the United States. It is also alive and well in South Africa. Apartheid lives on in the form of black lives not mattering to representatives and structures of the State, deepening inequality, the killing of Collins Kloza and others by law enforcement officers, the tolerance of a reality in which one in four black six-year-olds suffer from malnutrition and stunting, and so on. Racism is that apparatus of power which excludes and in other ways oppressed black people and people of colour. It is an apparatus that takes many forms; it is fluid and adaptive; it is everywhere and nowhere; it can be wielded consciously or unconsciously; and as Mandela argued, it can also be perpetuated by black people. Is so many ways, South African society8 is still crawling in the mud. The fact that the Black Lives Matter movement has found power resonances in many parts of the world in the wake of George Floyd’s killing indicates that we are not alone. The mud is ubiquitous. White supremacy is a global phenomenon and is to be found at work in every human society. The task at hand is to recognize it and find more effective ways of dismantling it, all the while, to paraphrase Mandela, picking each other up and cleansing one another.

 

Racism and poverty are so intertwined, that it is not only feasible, but almost imperceptible to many, that to concentrate on the distribution of wealth is and can forever be separated from racism. Those who make tax policies, or land use policies, or health care policies, or even education policies, can and do bury racist attitudes, beliefs and bigotry under their ‘euphemistic’ and highly ‘intellectual’ strategies and tactics. Malcolm Gladwell has pointed out that many Americans claimed to be free of racist attitudes, following their casting a vote for Barack Obama, when, in fact, such a single act merely ‘masked’ and denied a deep and profound racism that has been a hallmark (original sin) of America from the inception of the nation. Canada, for its part, is certainly neither oblivious to nor innocent of deep and profound racism at all levels of government and the prevailing culture, including its faith institutions.

Today, in his Substack essay, entitled, ‘The poster child for the perils of dynastic wealth,’ Robert Reich, former Labour Secretary in the Clinton Administration connects the dots in the theme of the relation between trump’s potential victory in November and the richest Americans alive in 1920.

Reich’s words:

I am talking about the Pittsburgh banker and industrialist Andrew Mellon, who as treasury secretary for Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge and Herbert Hoover, changed the U.S. tax code in ways that allowed—more than a century later—part of her personal fortune to bankroll Donald Trump’s re-election campaign. Andrew’s grandson, Timothy has so far contributed $20 million to Trump’s MAGA Inc. super PAC. Since 2018, Timothy Mellon has also donated $30 million to the House Republicans’ super PAC for electing Republicans to the House. In 2020, he gave $30 million to the Senate Republicans’ super PAC. Timothy has so far donated $15 million to Robert F. Kennedy Junior’s super PAC—showing just how important RFK Junior’s candidacy is to Trump’s strategy6 of siphoning votes from Biden. Timothy is also responsible for nearly all the donations to Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s $54 million border wall fund. Forbes estimated Timothy Mellon to be worth almost $1 billion in 2014, and in 2024, the magazine estimated the Mellon family was worth $14.1 billion. But Timothy didn’t earn his money. He inherited it. The money trail spans four generations. IT began with Thomas Mellon, who started his own bank in Pittsburgh in 1869. Thomas’ bank attracted the deposits of robber barons like Andrew Carnegie and Henry Frick, and within a relatively short time it became the largest private bank between New York and Chicago. Steeped in social Darwinism, Thomas Mellon promoted suicide as decency: If criminals were sufficiently public-spirited, he argued, they would ‘manfully rid the world of their presence, and society of the expense and trouble of their trial and punishment.’ Thomas viewed the acquisition of wealth as a mark of merit and poverty as a failure of character. Thomas wrote in his autobiography that voting rights were responsible for many of society’s ills, driving higher spending, borrowing and taxes. After the Civil War, Thoman toured the South, where he was disgusted to see Louisiana’s Legislature captured by what he called ‘stolid, stupid, rude and awkward field negroes, lolling on the seats or crunching peanuts.’ He wrote that these representatives were puppets of white Northerners who were using ‘corrupt schemes to rob the property owners and taxpayers.’…Andrew knew how to use his wealth for political advantage. He supplied such a large portion of the campaign dollars that helped Warren G. Harding become president in 1920 that Harding made Andrew secretary of the treasury. Andrew held the position for the next 11 years, from 1921 to 1932—longer than anyone in the history of the country (or as Nebraska Senator George Norris once acidly put it, ‘three presidents served under Mellon.’) Andrew was intent on cutting taxes. He was an early prophet of ‘trickle-down’ economics, arguing that lowering taxes on companies and the wealthiest would spur investment that would lead to prosperity for the nation. ‘Taxex which area inherently excessive are not paid,’ Andrew wrote in a book on taxation published which he was treasury secretary. Andrew especially hated the estate tax. ‘The social necessity for breaking up large fortunes in this country does not exist,’ he wrote. Andrew ended up cutting the estate tax by half. He also whittled down the top income tax rate from 73 percent to 25 percent and eliminated the gift tax. These changes enabled Andrew to shift much of his personal fortune—estimated to be $600 million, or about $9 billion today—tax-free to his heirs…..Timothy Mellon, the fourth generation….like his forebears (and like Donald Trump)Timothy Mellon rages against only handouts that go to those born without silver spoons. In his self-published autobiography, Timothy argues that expanded social programs have only made Black people ‘ever more belligerent’. ‘For delivering their votes in the Federal Elections, they are awarded with yet more and more freebies; food stamps, cell phones, WIC payments, Obamacare, and on, and on, and on. The largess is funded by hardworking folks, fewer and fewer in number, who are too honest or too proud to allow themselves to sink more into this morass.’

Whatever the dynastic, white, rich, supremacist ‘system’ and structure are called; whether it is Social Darwinism, or trickle-down economics, or apartheid, or ‘the reservation treaty system’ or the ‘indigenous school system, or the land-grab, or…or…or…economic dispossession…the effect is still racism, inequality, inequity, bigotry and the abuse of power. And these conditions, while inherent to apartheid in South Africa, as well as to the slavery and ensuing racism, (policies, laws, practices, attitudes and segregations) in the United States, as well as Canada, continue to pervade, infest, infect and inhibit the evolution of societies and cultures that not merely tolerate difference, but actually promote welcome.

The narratives underlying both the policies and the names of the actors in each jurisdiction may be different; yet the impact, whether it is on Jews, Palestinians, Ukrainians, Indigenous, Blacks, Asians, (name your victim, and claim your perpetrator, by looking in the mirror!). The abuse of power, seemingly inherent to the human psyche, needs others to be ‘less than’ especially in a time when ‘less than’ is so easily recognized, (and growing in clear view on our streets, and in our families without access to medical care, or in those whose access to education, clean water, safety and security from law enforcement has either vanished or never appeared).  

We simply cannot afford, or even tolerate, the many ruses, euphemisms, sophistications, rationalizations, and excuses, mostly designed and imposed by majorities, or representatives of majorities, in their (our) shared pursuit of our own personal, family, corporate or national ‘security’….We are not only living in an ethos in which denial, avoidance, sugar-coating, and deception for the purpose of dominance and control, are engineered and then fostered and encouraged by parents, schools and teachers, churches and clergy, and eminently and highly successfully by both political class and media, for their own narcissistic purposes we are also aiding and abetting through both conscious and unconscious complicity. The conflict(s) among ourselves and between “us” and our “enemies” are both fashioned and founded on premises that are potentially impermanent and changeable.

To think and to believe that the foundational principles of capitalism, white supremacy, the ‘superior’ race, religion, language, culture, are ‘baked into the cake’ is to willfully put on a thick blinder both to the illusion of the immutability of those principles, and to the illusion that ‘as a single man or woman, I cannot really accomplish any meaningful change’…We are complicit in thinking, believing and especially in acting as if the “powers that be” are there because ‘they know best’ or because ‘they have all the money, the connections and the pathways to securing power’….

Apartheid, while formally extinguished, nevertheless, remains in the dark corners of South African society. Similarly, racial segregation and slavery have officially been removed from the law books and the official persona of the United States. The national official positions, however, cannot and will not provide adequate camouflage to offer intellectual, ethical, moral or even pragmatic ‘cover’ for the white supremacists, (whether they are in Budapest, Moscow, Tel Aviv, Pyongyang, Bejing, Washington, Ottawa, London, Paris, Berlin or Rome).

Clean air, free of both chemical toxins as well as military missiles, drones and bombs, as well as access to health care, clean water, education and personal safety and security, as well as a legitimate roof over the head, and sanitary facilities…these are not only reasonable minimal expectations of each human being on the planet….and although both reasonable and justifiable, and aspirationally attainable and beneficial to all individuals as well as all governments irrespective of the political ideology, will for the foreseeable future require the kind of political courage, conviction and community that birthed, nurtured and supported the work of Nelson Mandela for the people of his country.

We are all part of a human community, and our differences, while notable and worthy of respect, cannot and must not prevent our collaboration, co-operation and defiance of the power structures and the persons desperately clinging to those power levers. If took defiance, defiance, and the refusal to deny the oppression of his people to both motivate Mandela and to commit him and his colleagues to their shared objectives.

The removal of all of the chicaneries, deceptions, denials and avoidances that block the urgent work of dismantling the people and the structures of oppression (under any ruse) is a task that beset the whole human species. And it will take the whole human species to come together to remove the names, the systems and the phoney rationales that hold the abusive power structures in place.

Zaporizhzhya NPP, the nuclear plant in Ukraine, formerly operated by 1100 Ukrainian technicians, is now under Russian control, with only 400 personnel to operate it. The electric power needed to cool the reactors, formerly from four sources, now has only one source, and it is hanging on by a thread. The chair of the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) says that Zporizhzhya is the single most dangerous ‘red flag’ on his watch. Should the plant suffer a melt-down, millions of people, as far as Istanbul, will be impacted for at least one hundred years.

Is it a pipe-dream to envision Zaporizhzhya as the most urgent canary in our shared coal-mine, in order to bring about the needed end of the war in Ukraine, and the beginning of further negotiations on Gaza, and the urgent global need to confront our shared ‘spectre’ of the equivalent of intubation, should we succumb to the convergence of environmental, political and ethical/moral somnambulance and the insouciance that enables it? 

Friday, February 16, 2024

cell913blog.com #26

 Throughout his autobiography, Nelson Mandela demonstrated a highly nuanced, yet extremely forthright consciousness and conviction of when to set boundaries. Although he never lost sight of the over-arching purpose (far beyond the image of a “goal”) of demolishing forever the cancer of apartheid, and of freeing his people and establishing a one-person-one-vote democracy in which all South Africans would have not a token voice, but a full participating voice in the decisions of the government.

Many times, in the last three-quarters of a century, we have all heard the model, the image and the name of Winston Churchill whenever leaders, not only military leaders and quasi-military leaders, but also corporate and academic and social service agency leaders, and especially parents, evoke Churchill’s name as a model of courage, decisiveness, inspiring men and women to take up the challenge of both fighting and of supporting and resisting and of hunkering down in the face of the Nazi threat from the Third Reich. Clear-headed, dispassionate, apparently fearless and resonating in balanced phrases, sentences, epithets and what today we would call ‘bumper-stickers,’ The British bull-dog is revered perhaps more today as a twentieth century mythological hero who led the fight to preserve democracy, freedom, and to defeat the Nazi juggernaut

His, and the West’s, enemy was the Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler and his SS troops. Blatant, unabashed determination to rule the whole of Europe, not only represented by the various nations but also by the millions of people, and especially those people who did not conform to the alien-race-depiction of the best and the brightest, the Jews and those whom today we would include in the LGBTQT+ demographic. Racist-motivated tyranny had a demonic face and leader, a thwarted artist who exuded what today we call charisma and the capacity to hold hundreds of thousands’ attention and awe in personal appearances, and millions more through radio and reputation. Much of political propaganda theory and practice was birthed by the Nazis. Disinformation, deception, trickery, schmoozing and manipulation of men like Chamberlain, for one, and thousands, if not millions of others, worked so well that the American military juggernaut had to be dragged into the war on the side of the allies following the attack by the Japanese at Pearl Harbour. Anyone who has watched Reni Riefenstahl’s movie, Triumph of the Will, can attest to the magnitude and magnificence of the Fuhrer’s captivation of his troops in the square in Nuremburg in 1934. The shadow of the plane carrying the Fuhrer into the city, as the opening scene is both haunting and horrendous, especially given the tortuous and deadly impact of the regime.

This brief and incomplete depiction of the challenges facing Churchill, including having to twist the arm of both FDR and his American isolationist people, like the giant iceberg that felled the Titanic, marks the twentieth century’s ‘story’ and the implications in its ripples henceforth, right up to today. A ship ‘that could and would not sink’ and a ‘West’ ‘that could and would not yield’ to Fascism, the former a tragedy, the latter a triumph. Both chapters of twentieth century history serve today, and forever, as graphic relief of each other, having left their indelible imprint on the psyche of the world, and especially on the West, in all military academies, governments and especially on the people and the Bundestag of Germany and the people and government of Japan. The vernacular adage, bandied about in North America, that ‘the Pentagon is forever fighting the last war,’ while cliché, is inescapable. None of us wonder at the inordinate popularity of both films, The Titanic and Oppenheimer, another pair of book-ends on the twentieth century myth.

In another twentieth-century coliseum of conflict and foment, on a scale that also foreshadows latter developments in  the public consciousness of human rights, a profound refinement on ‘democracy’ and ‘freedom’ from fascist government, Mandela and the ANC were busy designing, executing, re-designing, re-evaluating and re-executing their various strategies and tactics to fight and defeat a more ‘contained’ and more focused, yet no less determined enemy, the apartheid, white supremacy governments of South Africa. Comparisons of Mandela and Churchill have pointed to significant differences in both the scope of the conflicts as well as the leadership ‘styles’ of both men.

The African Journal of Emerging Issues (ajoejournals.org), carries a piece by Joyce J.C. Kiplimo, entitled, A Comparative Analysis of Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela’s Self-Leadership Styles: Impact on their Nations and the World. In this highly articulate and timely piece, we read:

The study found that both Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela practiced self-leadership to varying degrees. Churchill was more of a traditional leader who relied on his charisma and willpower to motivate his followers. However, he also demonstrated self-leadership skills such as self-awareness, goal-setting, and adaptability. Mandela, on the other hand, was a more transformational leader who focused on inspiring and empowering his followers. He also demonstrated strong self-leadership skills, such as self-awareness, goal-setting, and emotional intelligence.

Defeating a military enemy, whose determination is to run roughshod over Europe and a very different, both qualitatively and quantitatively, engagement and demands a very different kind of leadership. Also, traditional leadership of the alpha-male variety, in the Herculean archetype, is a very different chapter of western history, as compared with a Protean (Proteus, Greek God of change and transformation) archetype. Although transformation in the Proteus model involves the god himself changing from one animal image to another, from study.com, we read:

Proteus was said to have been able to see the past, present and future. However, this was an ability he did his best to keep to himself. He would only reveal his prophecies to people once they had bound him, and this was incredibly difficult to do because of his ability to shapeshift into many different forms….Proteus’ ability to shapeshift and his role as a shepherd of seals are explored in Homer’s Odyssey…He is also notable because of his relationship with Poseidon. His name and ability to shapeshift have given rise to the English word protean, which refers to someone or something that changes easily. This ability to shapeshift could tell about the Greek’s beliefs about the sea. The sea changes constantly and can make objects look different as they sink and waves appear. This is similar to the ways in which the Old Man of the Sea, Proteus, could change shapes.

Traditional as compared with transformational, while not seeking to capture the whole comparison of these two historic heroes, leads to a very different posture for the former than the latter. The positions of both men, Churchill and Mandela, were, for a start, very different. Churchill represented His/Her Majesty’s Government as Prime Minister, while Mandela was not elected until after the defeat of de Klerk’s apartheid. The ‘job description’ for Churchill demanded a rigorous and tenacious adherence to both tradition and protocol. He spoke for the government and people of Great Britain, whereas Mandela spoke as a member of the leadership of the ANC, often under arrest, incarceration, in criminal court as defendant, ‘on the ground’ in his own country without an elector mandate of any kind. Churchill’s ability to establish a highly profiled military general/rhetorician, crafter of highly sophisticated prose was integral to his appeal and his capacity to convey and to share confidence and conviction to the British people, especially in the Blitz on London. His ‘cast’ of wartime leaders included the King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. Mandela, on the other hand, was surrounded by a shifting band of freedom fighters, lawyers, thinkers, representatives of multiple demographics and tribes and varying interests in how to proceed. The barrage of Third Reich bombs as compared with the eruption of police shootings and arrests, imprisonments, paint very different landscapes, ethos and mood and impact. Mandela was a man of the same nation as his political/legal/ethical/moral enemy and also of the same ordinary suppressed, repressed and enslaved native people of South Africa. Churchill, as compared with Chamberlain, was a “Brit” in a fight with a Germany and a German leader, whose shadow on his nation, the German people have been attempting to shed for decades.

The violence of the third Reich’s attacks negated any discussion or consideration of the question of method of defence. Of course, Britain and the Allies would use military combat techniques, strategies and tactics. Mandela’s and the ANC’s campaign resisted vehemently the urge to engage in violence, and only after it appeared that all other less invasive and destructive measures had fallen on deaf ears, did the ANC revert to violent tactics and strategies.

The ‘fight’ against the Third Reich, for Britain and for Churchill provided a singular, historic, ‘echo’ of a previous conflict in 1914-18, also with Germany. War tactics, strategies, and public support in so many ways were the focus of Churchill’s leadership. Negotiating with FDR, Stalin and other allied leaders provided cohesion and support for the allied cause. In South Africa, on the other hand, the oppression of blacks, Afrikaners, Indians, and Coloureds had been going on for decades, if not centuries. In this case the ‘enemy’ was a system, not a national enemy with a highly charismatic and demented leader. Although geographically bounded, while WWII was an international conflict, the fight to oppose and to dismantle the apartheid system, along with the attitudes and denial of human rights that embodied that system, was less a military conflict than a social, political, ethical, moral and human rights conflict.

Essentially, the dismantling of apartheid through the efforts of the ANC and eventually the international community, was a foreshadowing of the social conflicts over human rights that has dominated the last half of the twentieth century and the first quarter of the twenty-first century. Human rights, inherent to all human beings, irrespective of race, gender, nationality, ethnicity, religion, language or any other status, include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education and many more. International human rights law lays down the obligations of Governments to act in certain ways or refrain from certain acts, in order to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms of individuals or groups….One of the great achievements of the United Nations is he creation of a comprehensive body of human rights law-a universal and internationally protected code to which all nations can subscribe and all people aspire…..The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is a milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10 1948…It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected and is has been translated into over ews500 languages.  (un.org)

It is not incidental to note the “Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 did not specifically refer to prisoners, although the rights it laid out-including the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial and the presumption of innocence-implicitly covered them. Sever years later, in 1955, the first United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders adopted the Standard minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners. This was an important start and in 2015, the United Nations General Assembly adopted expanded rules known as the “Nelson Mandela Rules,” in honour of arguably the most celebrated prisoner of the twentieth century. (The) Mandela Rules provide States with detailed guidelines for protecting the rights of persons deprived of their liberty from pre-trial detainees to sentenced prisoners….The Rules restrict the use of solitary confinement as a measure of last resort, to be used only in exceptional circumstances. Mandela found solitary confinement to be ‘the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There was no end and no beginning; there’s only one’s own mind which can begin to play tricks.’ At the Robben Island prison in South Africa, Mandela led a movement of civil disobedience that led to better conditions for inmates. His autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, described how the food improved, short trousers were replaced with long ones, newspapers were permitted and manual labour was discontinued. The Nelson Mandela Rules emphasize that the provision of health care for prisoners is a state responsibility, and that the relationship between health-care professionals and prisoners is governed by the same ethifcal and professional standards as those applicable to patients in the community. Moreover, the Rules oblige prison health-care services to evaluate and care fort eh physical and mental health of prisoners, including those with special needs. ‘The minimum requirements contained in the Nelson Mandela Rules are more relevant today than ever. ((UN Chronical, un.org)

Clearly, on this sixteenth day of February, when the world has just learned of the death of Alexei Novalny, in a Siberian prison, the Kremlin, and Putin and his cohorts have either never read or never subscribed to, or have read and totally avoided any responsibility for adhering to, the Nelson Mandela Rules.

Honouring Mandela, as these posts are attempting to do, and as the United Nations has also already attempted to do in so many ways, has not resulted in what might be expected as compliance with the Rules, in the case of the most celebrated political prisoner on today’s world news. Navalny’s death is not only a testament to the cruelty-with-impunity-modus-operandi in which Putin operates, it is a shot over the bow of ‘state’ for the world that demonstrates the risks of the current geopolitical climate, ethos and apparent negligence of all the world powers and their leaders. The security agreement signed today between Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and German Chancellor Sholtz, while necessary and offering a glint of solidarity in the Ukrainian efforts to withstand the Putin juggernaut, nevertheless demonstrates the far too high level of national autonomy and impunity that permits nations to default on what are obviously clear and present responsibilities (read especially the U.S. Republicans in the House of Representatives).

Mandela’s cause and that of the people of South Africa, would not have been resolved without the world’s taking notice, supportive sanctions and ultimately United Nations endorsement. The international world needs, today, even more international collaboration and co-operation in confronting demonic initiatives in both Gaza and Ukraine. Words alone do not and will not ‘cut it.’

Tuesday, February 13, 2024

cell913blog.com #25

 There are complex and competing forces working in the South Africa that greeted Nelson Mandela on his release from prison, after twenty-seven years. The government, for its part, wanted to delay negotiations with the ANC; ‘they were counting on the euphoria that greeted my release to die down. They wanted time to allow for me to fall on my face and show that the former prisoner hailed as a savior was a highly fallible man who had lost touch with the present situation…Despite his seemingly progressive actions, Mr. De Klerk was by no means the great emancipator. He was a gradualist, a careful pragmatist. He did not make any of his reforms with the intentions of putting himself out of power. He made them for precisely the opposite reason: to ensure power for the Afrikaner in a dew dispensation. He was not yet prepared to negotiate the end of white rule….His goal was to create a system of power-sharing based on group rights, which would preserve a modified form of minority power in Sough Africa. He was decidedly o0pposed to majority rule, or ‘simple majoritarianism’ as he sometimes called it, because that would end white domination in a single stroke. We knew early on that the government was fiercely opposed top a winner-takes-all Westminster parliamentary system,  and advocated instead a system of proportional representation with built-in structural guaranteed for the white minority. Although he was prepared to allow the black majority to vote and create legislation, he wanted to retain a minority veto. From the start, I would have no truck with this plan, I described it to Mr. de Klerk as apartheid in disguise, a ‘loser-takes-all’ system.

The Nationalists long-term strategy to overcome our strength was to build an anti-ANC alliance with the Inkatha Freedom Party and to lure the Coloured Afrikaans-speaking voters of the Cape to a new National Party. From the moment of my release, they began wooing both Buthelezi and the Coloured voters of the Cape. The government attempted to scare the Coloured population into thinking the ANC was anti-Coloured. They supported Chief Buthelezi’s desire to retain Zulu power and identity in a new Sought Africa by preaching to him the doctrine of group rights and federalism. (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, pp. 577-578)

This set of dynamics followed a series of violent incidents in which the Inkatha Freedom Party, with the support both materially and philosophically, of the South African police forces, had slaughtered dozens of ANC members after each of which horrendous incidents, de Klerk’s government and the Prime Minister personally remained silent, confirming the suspicion of their collaboration. Insights into the fullness of the complexity of the situation facing the ANC, and in particular Mr. Mandela, ostensibly peel the onion(s) of the duplicity of his opponents, viewed from the outside of their actions and the inferred motivations. Mandela’s ‘depth perception’ married to his forceful advocacy for the cause of the removal of apartheid, and has clear-eyed resilience in the face of both overt violence from what could legitimately be considered the ‘inside’ of the African anti-apartheid movement.

Led by Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi (who) was ‘descended from the great Zulu king Cetawayo, who had defeated the British at the Battle of Isandhlwana in 1879. As a young man, he attended Fort Hare and then joined the ANC Youth League. I saw him as one of the movement’s up-coming young leaders. He had become chief minister of the KwaZulu homeland with the tacit support of the ANC, and even his launching of Inkatha as a Zulu cultural organization was un-opposed by the organization. But over the years, Chief Buthelezi drifted away from the ANC. Though he resolutely opposed apartheid and refused to allow KwaZulu to become an ‘independent’ homeland as the government wished, he was a thorn in the side of the democratic movement. He opposed the armed struggle. He criticized the 1976b Soweto uprising. He campaigned against international sanctions. He challenged the idea of a unitary state of South Africa. Yet. Chief Buthelezi had consistently called for my release and refused to negotiate with the government until I hand other political prisoners were liberated. (LWTF, p. 575)

While Mandela was attempting to develop a relationship with the Zulu king, separated from Buthelezi, Natal became a killing ground. Heavily armed Inkatha supporters had in effect declared war on ANC strongholds across the Natal Midlands region and around Pietermaritzburg. Entire villages were set alight, dozens of people were killed, hundreds were wounded, and thousands became refugees. In March 1990 alone, 230 people lost their lives in this internecine violence. In Natal, Zulu was murdering Zulu, for Inkatha members and ANC partisans are Zulus. In February, only two weeks after my release, I went to Durban and spoke to a crowd of over 100,000 people at King’s Park, almost all of whom were Zulus. I pleaded with them to lay down their arms, to take each other’s hands in peace: ‘Take your guns, your knives, and your pangas, and throw them into the sea! Close down these death factories. End this war now!’ But my call fell on deaf ears. The fighting and dying continued. (LWTF. P 576)

The ‘big’ picture, attempting to get  the official government of South Africa to refrain from both arresting and imprisoning ANC leadership, as well as confronting the government’s under the table support for the Inkatha Freedom Party,  designed to erode ANC solidarity, while negotiating some kind of agreement with Buthelezi, after at least three such signed ententes failed to bring about an end to the violence…in addition to discerning the private motives, moves and goals of both de Klerk and men like Buthelezi, not to mention their associates like the cabinet ministers in de Klerk’s government…even just listing these complex and competing forces and energies is both exhausting and confusing…amounts to a monumental job description. And yet not only did Mandela navigate his and the ANC’s path forward, and recount the drama(s) in excruciating detail, not only is his writing style not flamboyant, so too is his personal demeanour, in a word, unflappable.

Too often, those who are interested in the history of some period of time in a foreign land, even if they have read and studied the biographies of leaders in specific historic transformations, are familiar with a scattering of specifics, and a broad and general sketch of the kind of leaders whose names epitomize their historic accomplishments. Perhaps that observation is especially relevant to this scribe, who, after re-reading the Long Walk to Freedom, became a fervent and committed student of Mandela. Call it heroism, or call it a private search for something to renew hope in a world seemingly hurling headlong to the edge of a very deep, dark and unforgiving chasm of senseless, hopeless doom.

The grist and sinew of Mandela’s being, the struggles and commitment to endure, to forge on especially when the clouds of weariness, exhaustion, desperation, alienation, isolation and scepticism of his comrades would and could have withered Mandela’s commitment are, at least in the view of this scribe, nothing short of epic.

Heroes are the stuff on which we can and must hang our hopes on. We live in a time when popularity, wealth, public high profiles, and a culture of both meanness and vengeance seem to haunt our public discourse. Not only are we oppressed by the ethos of the public arena, but we are losing (or have lost) trust and confidence in the leaders who remain on the public stage. We are a restive, impatient, dissatisfied and obstreperous populace. We are frightened, anxious, irritable, and depressed, as a general depiction of the ‘times’. We watch those whose ambition for power eclipses their motives to address the issues confronting ordinary men and women. We listen as hollow words of domination, elimination of Hamas, for example, ‘removal of fascism’ from Ukraine, and acts of both intransigent deprival of education, of food, of homes, of welcome of refugees, of the ravages of rising temperatures are wantonly either ignored or assuaged  in ‘newspeak’… We seemed to have outlived and gone beyond the dangers envisioned by Orwell in his 1984, and what was once considered stable, legitimate and ordered among nations is dissolving into what appears like chaos. This week, former Secretary of Labour in the Clinton administration, Robert Reich, in his Substack post exposing the vacuity and danger of Robert F. Kennedy Junior, discloses a cancerous financial tumor in the Kennedy campaign for the presidency:

Robert F. Kennedy Junior has apologized to relatives after his Super Bowl ad last Sunday, which mirrored an ad broadcast by his uncle John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960. The Super Bowl ad included images of RFK Jr. spiced into the original 1960 ad and a jaunty jingle that repeated the Kennedy surname 15 times in 30 seconds. RFK Junior said the ad was the work of his SuperPAC and he had nothing to do with it. Rubbish. Junior placed the ad at the top of his X feed, and it remained there Monday. The ad cost $7 million. Timothy Mellon—grandson of Andrew Mellon and heir to the Mello banking fortune- gave RFK Junior’s SuperPAC $156 million. Hmmm. Mellon is also a major donor to PACs supporting Trump. RFK Junior’s candidacy is backed by a PAC that also funds Majorie Taylor Green. No one should doubt that Trump and Trump donors are behind RFK Junior’s campaign, with the goal of siphoning off enough votes from Biden to ensure a Trump victory.

Reich ends his piece this way: If Junior had any respect for the principles his father fought and ultimately died for, he would withdraw his candidacy immediately.

Lies about vaccines causing autism, others about Fauci performing ‘genocidal experiments,’ others about COVID vaccine killing more than it saved…and the list goes on, all of them originating from the RFK Junior campaign cannot be discounted or trivialized. However, the very fact that he is eagerly allowing his name to be suckered into the Trump campaign and orbit signify his unworthiness for the Oval Office. We already know that his indirect benefactor (and direct beneficiary), Trump, must never be permitted even close to the Oval Office again, borrowing a sentiment from ousted Republican Liz Cheney.

It is not reasonable or even worthy of imagining that any single leader, such as a Mandela, could confront the multiple forces of destruction, embedded in the narcissism and desperate need for power of the most weak and heinous who seek public office, in too many quarters. It is in his spirit, commitment, courage, integrity, authenticity, perspective, attitude, beliefs and tolerance of the others, many of whom he did not agree with on deep issues, that we might take some inspiration, some motivation, some courage to begin to seek out the ways we might, individually, without headlines, without personal gain, and without the assurance that we will eventually succeed completely in eradicating those forces that would gladly and glibly surgically remove what human rights we have attained. We are never going to be able to achieve the singular, demonstrable and measurable victory over those forces that would and do seek to dominate, to tyrannize, to terrorize and to rule.

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing (Edmund Burke)

The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything (Einstein).

The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by good people. (Martin Luther King)

Jut this morning, on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, former Chairman of the Republican National Committed, Michael Steel, used profanity twice in his attempt to awaken both his former party and the people of America, (and by extension the people of the West) to the serious dangers and threat that are embodied in the Republican Party’s isolation, nationalism and in the most recent nefarious comment by the disgraced former president to the effect that he would encourage Russia to attack any and all NATO members who had paid their 2% of GDP into NATO. His determination to destroy NATO, and thereby give free reign to Putin’s expansionism into the rest of Europe is an existential threat not only to the people of Western Europe but also to democracy, and the principles of an old and  hackneyed phrase, “peaceful co-existence,” long ago out of favour in diplomatic circles.

Friday, February 9, 2024

cell913blog.com #24

 There is not only a triumphal and heroic public reporting of the struggles of Nelson Mandela and the ANC to replace apartheid with a democratic South Africa in which racial equality prevailed. There is a ‘backstory’ that has received less public attention and acclaim in the manner in which Mandela consistently assessed whatever proposals, offers, attempts to divide and conquer the ‘freedom movement’ and to respond to the repeated drumming of the deception drum beat of the government.

One of the incarceration locations in which Mandela was held, after Robben Island, was called Pollsmoor Maximum Security Prison. In his own words:

The prison itself is set amidst the strikingly beautiful scenery of the Cape, between the mountains of Constantiaberge to the north and hundreds of acres of vineyards to the south. But this natural beauty was invisible to us behind Poolsmore’s high concrete walls.  At Pollsmore I first understood the truth of Oscar Wilde’s haunting line about the tent of blue that prisoners call the sky.

Pollsmore had a modern face but a primitive heart. The buildings, particularly the ones for the prison staff, were clean and contemporary: but the housing for the prisoners was archaic and dirty. With the exception of ourselves, all men at Pollsmore were common-law prisoners, and their treatment was backward. We were kept separately from them and treated differently, (Mandela, Long Walk To Freedom, p.513)

Not incidentally, Mandela’s keen and poetic observation, “Pollsmore had a modern face and a primitive heart,’ shines throughout his autobiography, and gives evidence of what James Hillman calls the ‘soul’ of a building, from the perspective of a highly insightful, creative, intuitive and imaginative prisoner. His creative imagination, especially one that is and has undergone profound abuse, illegitimate charges, reputational defamation, state and government violence on himself and his family, and essentially lives in a state of trauma, without succumbing to its tyranny, sees and “appreciates” (from a critical perspective) the ‘primitive heart’ even of a prison. Appearances versus reality, and the insightful and nuanced perception both to ‘see’ and to ‘discern’ the chasm between, served Mandela well, although this was certainly not his only unique talent.

Knowing if and when to ‘confront’ authorities, in a manner that did, and could only, generate respect from the authorities at least for his ‘cool’ under fire. With the conflict between the ANC and the government heating up, while he was in Pollsmore, Mandela writes about the government strategy:

Both the government and the ANC were working on two tracks: military and political. On the political front, the government was pursuing its standard divide-and-rule strategy in attempting to separate Africans from Coloured and Indians. In a referendum of November 1983, the white electorate endorsed P.W. Botha’s plan to create a so-called tricameral Parliament, with Indian and Coloured chambers in addition to the white Parliament. This was an effort to lure Indians and Coloured into the system, and divide them from Africans. But the offer was a ‘toy telephone,’ as all parliamentary action by Indians and Coloureds was subject to a white veto. It was also a way of fooling the outside world into thinking that the government was reforming apartheid. Botha’s ruse did not fool the people, as more than 80 percent of eligible Indian and Coloured voters boycotted the election to the new houses of Parliament in 1984. (Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, p.518-519)

A documentation of a similar ruse comes from the government’s ‘efforts to persuade me to move to the Transkei. These were not efforts to negotiate, but attempts to isolate me from my organization. On several occasions, Kruger (government minister) said tome: ‘Mandela, we can work with you, but not your colleagues. Be reasonable.’ Although I did not respond to these overtures, the mere fact that they were talking rather than attacking could be seen as a prelude to genuine negotiations. (LWTF, p. 519)

About this time Mandela received visits from British statesmen, Lord Bethell of the House of Lords and Samuel Dash, professor of Law at Georgetown University and former counsel to the U.S. Senate Watergate Committee. Both visits were authorized by the new minister of justice, Kobie Coetsee, who appeared to be a new sort of Afrikan leader….Bethell was a jovial, rotund man and when I first met him, I teased his about his stoutness, ‘You look like you are related to Winston Churchill,’ I said as we both shook hands, and he laughed. Lord Bethell wanted to know about our conditions at Pollsmore and I told him. We discussed the armed struggle and I explained to his it was not up to us to renounce violence, but the government. I reaffirmed that e aimed for hard military targets, not people. ‘I would not want our men to assassinate, for instance, the major here,’ I said, pointing to Major Fritz van Sittert, who was monitoring the talks. Van Sittert was a good-natured fellow who did not say much, but he started at my remark.

In my visit with Professor Dash,… I laid out what I saw as the minimum for a future nonracial South Africa: a unitary state without homelands; nonracial elections for the central Parliament; and one-person-one-vote. Professor Dash asked me whether I took any encouragement from the government’s stated intention of repealing the mixed-marriage laws and certain other apartheid statues. ‘This is a pinprick,’ I said. ‘It is not my ambition to marry a white woman or swim in a white pool. It is political equality that we want.’ I told Dash quite candidly that at the moment we could not defeat the government on the battlefield, but could make governing difficult for them.

I had a not-so-pleasant visit from two Americans, editors of the conservative newspaper the Washington Times. They seemed less intent on finding out my views than on proving that I was a Communist and a terrorist. All of their questions were slanted in that direction and when I reiterated that I was neither a Communist nor a terrorist, they attempted to show that I was not Christian either by asserting that the Reverend Martin Luther King never resorted to violence. I told them that the conditions in which Martin Luther King struggle were totally different from my own: the United States was a democracy with constitutional guarantees of equal rights that protected nonviolent protest (though there was still prejudice against blacks); South Africa was a police state with a constitution that enshrined inequality and an army that responded to nonviolence with force. I told them that I was a Christian and had always been a Christian. Even Christ, I said, when he was left with no alternative, used force to expel the moneylenders from the temple. He was not a man of violence, but had no choice but to use force against evil. I do not think I persuaded them.(LWTF, p 520-521)

Prime Minster Botha, in Parliament, offered Mandela his freedom, in a tepid halfway measure,…if I unconditionally rejected violence as a political instrument’  on January 31,1985. This offer was extended to all political prisoners. Then, as if he were staking me to a public challenge, he added, ‘It is therefore not the South Africa government which now stands in the way of Mr. Mandel’s freedom. It is he himself…..By my reckoning, it was the sixth conditional offer the government had made for me release in the past ten years…..Botha wanted the onus of violence to rest on my shoulders and I wanted to reaffirm to the world that we were only responding to the violence done to us. I intended to make it clear that if I emerged from prison into the same circumstances in which I was arrested, I would be forced to resume the same activities for which I was arrested. (LWTF, p.521-522)

Mandela’s sense of humour, even under extreme duress and also while visiting with foreign dignitaries, his laser-focused intellect and perception, his balance of noticing a ‘good fellow’ as his warder and his incisive clarity around both the motives and the methods of the government, leave no doubt that he instilled deep and profound and lasting trust in his colleagues, as well as his enemies. And he did all this in a manner and a spirit of almost detached nonchalance, or at least self-possession.

Courage, confidence, integrity, steadfastness to both his people and the cause of removing apartheid, are all deeply embedded in the speech his daughter, Zindzi, delivered in his (incarcerated) absence, at a UDF (United Democratic Front) rally, in Soweto’s Jabulani Stadium on Sunday February 10, 1985:

I am a member of the African National Congress. I have always been a member of the African National Congress and I will remain a member of the African National Congress until the day I die. Oliver Tambo is more than a brother to me. He is my greatest friend and comrade for nearly fifty years. If there is one amongst you who cherishes my freedom, Oliver Tambo cherishes it more, and I know that he would give his life to see me free…

I am surprised at the conditions that the government wants to impose on me..I am not a violent man….It was only then, when all other forms of resistance were no longer open to us, that we turned to armed struggle. Let Botha show that he is different to Malan, Strijdom and Verwoerd. Let him renounce violence. Let him say that he will dismantle apartheid. Let him unban the people’s organisation, the African National Congress. Let him free all who have been imprisoned, banished or exiled for their opposition to apartheid. Let him guarantee free political activity so that people may decide who will govern them.

I cherish my own freedom dearly, but I care even more for your freedom. Too many have died since I went to prison. Too many have suffered for the love of freedom. I owe it to their widows, to their orphans, to their mothers, and to their fathers who have grieved and wept for them. Not only have I suffered during these long, lonely, wasted years. I am not less life-loving than you are. But I cannot sell my birthright, nor am I prepared to sell the birthright of the people to be free…

What freedom am I being offered while the organization of the people remains banned? What freedom am I being offered when I may be arrested on a pass offence? What freedom am I being offered to live in life as a family with my dear wife who remains in banishment in Brandfort? What freedom am I being offered when I must ask for permission to live in an urban area?....What freedom am I being offered when my very South African citizenship is not respected?

Only free men can negotiate. Prisoners cannot enter into contracts…I cannot and will not give any undertaking at a time when I and you, the people, are not free. Your freedom and mine cannot be separated. I will return.

Some documents in history, while they have a life and a meaning at the moment of their utterance or their signing, have enduring energy that continues to ripple throughout the ensuing decades, if not centuries. This highly personal, highly provocative, highly arresting and even more highly courageous and embracing speech, delivered also in a tragically epic manner and forum by his adult daughter, continues to resound in the mind and the imagination and in the ears of those who encounter it nearly a half-century later.

Of course, it has repercussions and implications for the Western world today when we watch the sweep of lies, distortions, disinformation, deception and outright manipulations of ordinary and generally respected men and women in various parts of the world whose words from Mandela sound the notes of a different, and wholly authentic kind of political, cultural, ethical, and revolutionary leader.

Can the words and the actions, the beliefs and the attitudes and the perceptions and the imaginative and aspirational beacon of light penetrate the darkness that is descending over the waters of state in many quarters? Can the insight, to see through the chicanery, the ruses, the trickeries, the tyrannies and the autocracies of the majority of people in America, in Europe, in China, in North Korea, in Chile and Hungary and in Russia? Can the courage of Mandela be injected into the minds, the hearts and the bodies of millions of men and women in order that his light not merely inspires them to confront the lies and the hatred and the manipulations, but to overcome a force that is at least equal to, if not even more destructive and deceptive than both apartheid the governments that clung to it?