Monday, June 18, 2018

Can/Will we accept the mantle of "world citizen" and shed our tribal adolescence?


From where did the latest spate of tribalism erupt? Like a new volcano, from a previously silent, (hidden from consciousness) mountain, this new ‘hot lava’ has already swept across the political landscape, destroying careers, principles, institutions, alliances, and even a modest respect for an agreed body of facts, as the starting place for an ideological or policy discourse.

This ‘lava’ easily ‘took out’ some dozen-plus moderate, reasonable, and proven Republican candidates from the presidential primary in 2016. It then, fused to other equally if not even more toxic ‘lava’ (read Russia, Wikileaks, Stone, et al) from outside the continental U.S., swept the Democratic candidate off the political stage, leaving only the primary energy source of this lava, a kind of magnetic, enmeshing and volatile cloud of energy that can only be tentatively described as seductive and repulsive at the same time. Powerful magnets, too, depending on their position in relation to the “same pole” or the “opposite pole” will repel or attract.

One of the problems with this “magnetic lava” entry into our political petry dish is that our culture’s preponderant approach to any new influence is to categorize it as a single “entity” and not as a combination or confluence of more than one component. We have adopted a mechanistic, single-cause-effect equation which permits a kind of illusion of  control. This “bug” or that “tumor” or this “tendon” or that “eye” is causing the symptom….and if and when we address/remove/ameliorate/medicate/destroy the immediate “cause” of the presenting symptom, we will have done whatever is possible. This approach pertains to our medical theatre; it also applies to our legal system; to a large extent, it has taken root in our education system. And, to a significant degree it is also prevalent as a dominant structure in most of our “real” theatre…protagonist/antagonist conflict impelling the narrative of most of our novels, plays, films and journalism reports.

Only recently, in the west, has there begun to be a consciousness of something complementary to the mechanistic, single-cause-effect equation, at least in some circles of health care in North America….and that is a consciousness, born-out by empirical evidence, of an energy field that attends each human person. Contributing either to the healing process, or conversely, the illness “process”, depending on whether it is in balance, is flowing, is blocked, is too much or too little, this energy field is garnering a growing number of research projects, as well as a growing number of health teams comprising medical practitioners, as well as spiritual healers. We all recognize, accept and even celebrate the basic truth that no presenting “issue” has a single cause, whether that truth pertains to the human body or psyche, or to the broader cultural and political landscape.


Although “energy fields” are finding resonance among the health care profession, the rest of the culture is a long way off from accepting them as an influential component of the initiating causes of political symptoms. Political pundits, historians and political actors continue to seek out and concentrate on the tried and true “single cause” explanation for any situation. More easily managed, “message controlled” (and manipulated), and more readily assimilated by the masses in an age of waves of more information than anyone can either assimilate or digest and comprehend.

Deep thinkers tell us that when we, personally or as a culture, are experiencing anxiety, fear, discombobulation and disorientation, we revert to our default position, whatever may have taken over in what we might call the more primitive period of our lives. Simplify, simplify, simplify….in order to regain a sense of balance and perspective. Anything that appears too complex, too ambiguous and/or too threatening is “parced” into its miniscule components. And, from both the educational founts and the media factories, this kind of reduction prevails.
There are numerous signs of both anxiety and reductions flying around us, many more in the last sixteen or seventeen months. Linked to the simplify obsession is the preference to see our political “leaders” as cardboard cut-outs, mere stereotypes of stick men and women, easily drawn and easily dismissed.

Tribalism, too, needs simple, easily accessed and assimilated messages in order to sustain its power to unite, to bond, and to protect those within its boundaries.
Most of us can likely concur that complexity, that escapes glib explanation and intellectual comprehension, because it resists simplistic reductions, seems to have evaporated from our political discourse. Social media, too, depends on the minimalist ‘tweet’ that cannot and will not capture the nuances or the multiple factors that comprise the history of any public issue. In fact, the ‘tweet’ practitioners are little more than what formerly were headline writers, interested in the maximum punch to arrest the reader, and thereby to magnetize his/her attention to read the following 500+ words of copy.

If there is a surfeit of information, issuing from a plethora of mouths, magnified by a million devices, being “served” to an audience who is disoriented, disjointed, disillusioned, and increasingly desperate, there is little chance that an “informed” and critically-thinking audience will be the result of the dispersion of that motherlode of data. What previously were the macro-world problems were neither anatomized nor shared to the degree both are currently. So, the wave of existential threats, linked to succeeding tsunamis of words, pictures, tweets and choruses of cheerleaders, colliding with socio-economic forces that inordinately favour the rich over the middle and the lower income demographics make a dangerous threatening cloud in addition to the global warming, political chicanery and the institutional erosion that already face each of us.

Small towns, where the issues were common and discussed hourly in local coffee shops and pubs, were once a kind of quiet retreat from the “world” of geopolitics, globalization, global warming and public malfeasance. And small towns are the original tent for tribalism. Tribalism, the linking together of people around a few select myths, traditions, beliefs, buildings, local public figures whose lives were generally modest, and modestly conveyed among the tribe, and even local school teachers and clergy, all of whose indiosyncracies were well preserved by local oral history and lore, took root in those small towns, was the menu that raised most of us North Americans.

None of us felt anxious in our small towns, unless and until something like a major fire tore up the main street, or a plant closed, or a prominent person took his (almost always his) own life.  Nothing earth-shattering ever seemed to happen, and we did not really expect it to. Of course, we ventured into the big cities, for glimpses of the larger world. Imaginative and courageous teachers even took small groups on “school trips” as part of our development. However, we always returned to that small town, where the most complex question was, “Who is the new pharmacist on Main Street?”

There were no tablets, cell phones, or wall-to-wall news outlets, spanning the globe. There were no televisions even, when some of us were in high school. Radio was dominated by “high-brow” CBC or commercial top-ten tunes. Movies depicted the proverbial and dependable love triangle, or the western with its bad guys being chased and caught by the good guys. We never thought of ourselves as inhabiting a particulate “tribe” although, to every other small town in the area, we likely had distinctive traits as a tribe.

International influences, like multiple ethnicities, multiple languages, multiple faiths, and of course, highly distinct and varied cultural norms and diets were almost excluded from our tribe. Occasionally a “Chinese restaurant” would open with a hearty invitation to savour a new menu. Occasionally, too, a professional music soloist or small ensemble would come to town, opening the doors of our hearts and minds to a new talent and a new artistic experience.
However, the tribal norms, including the service clubs, the golf and country club, the local arena and the attendant minor and occasional provincial Juvenile or Junior team. Churches were generally filled on Sundays, and prominent local figures adopted one of the half-dozen Christian models of worship.

The few city-natives, in the form of doctors, dentists, a lawyer or two and the few teachers who ventured out of their home turf added much needed cultural salsa to what was essentially a bland diet, an extremely bland (literally silent) political debate, and an occasional glimmer of industrial expansion to supplement the government jobs and the summer tourism.

And while our “tribe” was our birthplace and birthright, it also limited our range of what we would consider acceptable behaviour, thought, faith options and political philosophy. Small town tribes incubated thousands of neophyte conservatives, because conservatism was the dominant perspective, whether that applied to politics, business, leisure or religion.

There is, without doubt, no returning to such tribalism, regardless of the energy field that seems to hanker and long for its return. While we came from a tribe, and while that tribe helped to nurture us in adolescence, we are now, willingly or not, citizens of the world, bombarded by messages from all world capitals, from all refugee boats that either capsize or receive warm welcome (as in Spain last week), from all political ideologies and from all religious points of view.

Our openness, readiness, and mature assimilation of these many influences, through a discerning, and balanced filter that combines history, culture, and identity with an authentic welcome of the new and the different, from enriched imaginations that will challenge our comfort zones could be legitimately considered as the sine qua non of our shared survival.

Dividing into our respective tribes, and retaining our respective taboos, limiting our horizons by a prescription of static clinging to our respective tribal pasts, as the current lava threatens to compel us to revert to, (and the current American propaganda demands) would only erode our capacity to envision and to seek collaborative solutions to our shared exigencies.

Regression, reversion, bending into the tiny, brittle pretzels that we each were in our original tribes will serve the insatiable appetites for power and tyranny of those who have the current levers of power in several nation states. If Malala can withstand her brutal and lethal bullet, undergo transformative surgery, continue her own education and the advocacy for millions of girls who are denied access to education, and then be awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, and if the surviving students of Parkland Florida can launch a movement to achieve gun control, and if the children currently separated from their parents, and the children left as lifeless bodies on Mediterranean beaches attempting to escape the ravages of war, disease and famine….then these lights in the darkest night of the world’s soul have to have meaning in all of our lives.

The little children can and will lead us, if we will only accept their invitation! We might together learn how to accommodate the inevitable lava floes, the political chicanery and the childish regressions if we were to catch the light and the torch from the battalions of young people who are becoming our most enlightened mentors and leaders.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Today's putrified politics makes the acid rain of the 80's look like a benign cumulus cloud


There is a strong strain of reverse snobbery running through American politics   today, that threatens the very fabric of the culture. Anti-intellectual, anti-sophistication (as they define it!), anti-science, anti-research, anti-history and  anti-all things androgynous, anti-institution, anti-establishment (collated in their minds as the “swamp”), this view of the world, primarily anti-everything even they aspire to attain ironically, is at the core of the trump base.

Missing in action, however, from their angry mis-representations of truth and reality, as seen by the rest of the people on the planet, is either or both the willingness to acknowledge or the incapacity to concede their blind spot. And that blind spot can be seen in multiple holes in their black, solid putrified cheese of  narcissism. In summary, they are blind to subtle and real differences between some “code” words, and the neighbours of those words.

Like holes in Swiss cheese, blindnesses that fail to discern between such niceties as the difference between “free” speech and “hate” speech, or the difference between  “spine” and the addiction to bullying, or the difference between massive cover-ups and denials of illicit behaviour and authentic explanations of fear, neurosis, and even psychosis characterize this new world view. Failure or refusal to discern between mutual respect between and among both genders from a “right” to abuse the feminine in all of its forms is an integral component of their blindness as is a parallel process of abusing friends and allies, while slobbering infantile flattery over tyrant enemies, just two more of their “entitlements”.

And these entitlements, unlike bridges, freeways, tarmacs, sewer and water lines and fibre optic cables, will not merit a single budget line in any state or federal budget as drains on the national balance sheet. They will, however, embed their indelible ink into the hearts, minds and psyches of every American and all world citizens who happen to stay awake for a minimum of two hours daily and catch even glimpse of the American political psycho-drama. Slippery as a snake, devious as a shark, lethal as a python, and mercurial as a loon diving underwater if and when a tilt in their windmill foreshadows danger to their “brand”, this madness, (without resorting to a clinical diagnosis) not only threatens to destabilize “normal” and historic structures and patterns between and among world powers; it also threatens to destabilize the individual human psyches of all of us who happen to be ‘stationed’ on the planet, for the foreseeable future.
Who would have thought when George W. Bush uttered his now infamous line, “I do not DO Nuance!” that he would have cast such a shadow over the American political landscape, shortly after 9-11. Revenge, in the form of both the Afghan and  Iraq wars, against a declared terrorist enemy, not only failed to demonstrate “nuance” but also plunged the world into a cauldron of hate, blood, dry-ice and the bully-grease that paved the freeway for trump to ride to victory in 2016. And so that cauldron has not only expanded exponentially, but it has had poured into its lethal cocktail, a full measure of defiance, arrogance, deceit and hubris that has, is and will continue to contaminate the American reputation for decades.

While it is true that one man does not a country make or define, the cult growing around his name, and his “big bully stick”( words, gestures, lies, character assassinations and intimidations), already threatens to dislodge the American government from its foundations. Republican congress men and women, almost to a person, have sold their political, moral, ethical, intellectual and ideological souls/core/identities/reputations/and future prospects to this monster’s every whim and wish.

While it may have begun as an angry revolt against globalization, job losses, and the “effete” Harvard graduates of the eastern establishment, this outright reverse snobbery threatens to overshadow what used to be seen as dominance by the elite 1%, without in any perceivable way diminishing the wealth and the potential political power of that elite to buy its wishes in the next election. It is, in fact, the fusion of the angry mob, (and that is really what the trump base amounts to) with the top 1% that forms such a dangerous political storm on all of our horizons. Each faction, mob and uber-rich, is drunk with its own addition to power, enabled as they both are by the complicity of the mob on one hand and the hubris of the rich on the other. The slippery mostly hidden from public scrutiny donations to political operatives who will do their exclusive and specific bidding of the extremely rich is both foil and counterpoint for the bombastic, guttural growls of the trump base, comprised largely of non-college-educated, GUN-TOTING white males whose command of nuance escaped their grasp shortly after they stopped breast-feeding.

The storm, in both physical and metaphoric terms, blows raging fires over western deserts, storm surges over tropical islands, tax evasion schemes over the eyes of reporters and legislators charged with scrutiny of the public accounts, bulldozes jerrymandering rules into neighbourhoods to restrict the vote of  poor, black and Latino communities, inflates the military budget while starving the health care and food stamp budgets to helium-corrode the ego’s of those in charge, and climbs into political “bed” with whomever (both male and female) will satisfy the insatiable lust for power that drives this machine.

And much like the crippled and negligent federal government response to the hurricane that wiped out Puerto Rico, Republican members of Congress from both houses stand, sit or run and hide, fossilized in their self-inflicted deaf-muteness. Senator Corker, in defending his bill to abrogate the tariff regime on steel and aluminum, calls it a “cult” that is afraid “to poke the bear” lest the bear will work to defeat them in November’s election. Reports indicate that some 4600 people died as a result of the calamity of the non-response in Puerto Rico. One has to wonder out loud how many Americans will die because the current administration has removed from health insurance companies all responsibility to cover individuals with pre-existing conditions. Similarly, one has to inquire how many children, potentially warehoused in a vacant Walmart in Texas, awaiting their parent’s hearing on their immigration claim, will be scarred for life, whether or not they are finally deported.

Deliberate surgical excision, under the watchful eye of the nation’s media networks, of the vaunted U.S. global “power” as the strongest, and the most honourable democracy on the planet, linked to the deliberate infusion of political steroids into the leadership of Putin, Kim Jong Un, Xi Jin Ping, not to mention Duterte, and the Saudi kingdom, along with the testosterone injection into the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu….offers a cocktail so potent and so toxic that it is casting a pall over watercooler conversations around the globe.

With American suicides up by 25% since 2016, (another piece of reliable information to which the administration turns a  deaf ear and a blind eye) and wages remaining stagnant while stock prices zoom through the ceiling and the unemployment falls to under 4% (lowest since 2003), the tourniquet that Robert Mueller is tightening around the neck of the president can not reach its tightest position too soon.

Reason, nuance, civility, morality, political ethics and more than two centuries of American growth and leadership (not always honourable, nor peaceful) are being threatened as if they constituted the “swamp” he has promised to drain. Ironically, it is the precise trump-swamp that demands draining. Everything the man tweets, speaks, touches and orders is so tainted with fundamental noxious evil; and it appears that only he and his family (in the loose political sense, including Guiliani et al) are rooted in their blindness, cheered from the “peanut gallery” of the heartland, and financed by the behemoths of the HARD RIGHT.

Sorry to be a voice “crying” like another “john” in the wilderness!

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Revisionist history, and the fantasyland of Gatsby-esque pubescence have taken hold


A new book, Fantasyland, by Kurt Anderson, editor of Spy magazine, and a new film, Shock and Awe, by Rob Reiner, both address the current American cultural black holes from different perspectives. The former expresses the development of “conspiracy theories” primarily on the political right, while the latter delves into the work of the four Knight-Ridder reporters who “got it right” about the ‘official’ lies undergirding the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Conspiracy theories, and the tsunami of media coverage that fails to let the truth penetrate the drowning wave of government lies, both of which play a significant role in American history, now and for a long time, are legitimate subjects of investigators who seek to expose the truth.

There is another, underlying, persistent and toxic theme in American culture that could be playing a significant role in nurturing, enhancing and proliferating both conspiracy theories and lies. Call it provincialism, parochialism, or the personalization of all things political, public and public policy.

Back in grade nine, we all went through the conversations about whom to vote for, for class rep, or class president. Epithets like “she’s really smart, or she’s really cool, or he’s a really nice guy, or he’s captain of the school team” are the criteria we all used to make our choice. (Let’s also acknowledge that we also used physical attractiveness of both genders as one of our most magnetic influences!) And we told our friends, including those who preferred another person, based also on their observations and assessments of their personalities, what we were going to do when we voted. And then we voted, and some of us actually watched them ‘do things’ while they held office, judging them, less on their decisions, and more on whether or not we continued to “approve” of their “person”.

Likeability, when we were thirteen, was everything. And, all of these decades later, polls still point to “likeability” as the primary quality in voters’ choices when they go to the polls. Admittedly, “likeability” now includes things like “worthy of trust” and our answer to the archetypal question emblazoned on billboards in 1960 with Richard Nixon’s face, “Would you buy a used car from this man?” Policy, however, has, for a very long time, played a very minimal role in our discernment process of our elected officials, as compared with “personality”.

As adults, we have also learned much from management guru’s about the dangers of “personalizing” our workplaces. People who are admired by the boss escape serious sanction if and when they deviate from policy or protocol. People who serve as sycophants to the boss, especially, are not merely admired, but actually encouraged, promoted and “developed” by their admiring (and self-serving) mentors.

 Bureaucracies, we all know, are rife with the toxin of obsequiousness, under the ruse and rubric of “self-protective” behaviour, given that all workers seek to protect their jobs, pave the road upward toward more responsibility with higher stipends, and even more enriched pension plans.

Just this week, the Canadian Auditor General laid the “blame” (read responsibility, accountability and professional and personal ethics) for the Phoenix pay scheme of Canadian public servants at the feet of the principle of “people refusing to bring truth to power”. Everyone in the department(s) in which this IBM-generated program was hatched, installed, and later rolled out, under both Harper and Trudeau governments, knew that it was not going to work, that it would be a disaster. And yet, those same people refused to bring that glaring insight (fact) to the attention of their bosses. The costs, in personal losses, government payouts and public confidence in public institutions are almost inconceivable, they are so exorbitant and unnecessary.

The same can be said of the costs ensuing from the debacle that was the Iraq war of 2003. The same can be said, too, of the debacle, based also on lies, of the VietNam war in the 1960’s. Scott Peck, we remember, wrote about the massacre at MyLai in People of the Lie, after searching the Pentagon in vain for the person(s) responsible for the decision to carry out this specific massacre. At that time, “group think” apparently was the best answer he could uncover.

We have become willing, compliant, sycophantic and servile accomplices to our most base instincts in our race to the bottom of our political consciousness, responsibility and final perversion of the minimal expectations and standards of democracy. We have sabotaged, sacrificed and abused the rule of law, the premise an agreed set of facts, and our willingness and commitment to elevating our perceptions, observations, judgements and evaluations of our public figures to their policy rationales and their philosophic cornerstones. Their traditional objective arguments for their proposals and their votes, both in committee and in the final votes on laws, no longer have any “authenticity” in our media, nor in our evaluations of their performance and their legitimacy, including their warrant of another affirmative vote in the next election. We have collectively, and apparently willingly and mob-like, swarmed into the “swamp” of a tabloid news outlet, possibly fitting for our grade nine mentality, maturity and the sophistication of our insights.

Our focus has shifted from policy and political theory and ethical philosophy, as  articulated in political actors who have been subjected to the scrutiny of public questioning about those highly significant, and democracy-dependent criteria, to a highly toxic, cancerous and debasing mass-dialogue of what can only be called “smut”. Just this morning, we learn from Mike Brezinski, of MSNBC, that trump is even complaining, (his most prominent complaint about life in the White House) that he cannot watch pornography in the White House.

At the same time, he denies a sexual relationship with a porn actress (to whom he paid $130,000 in silence money), sends Giuliani out to diss her appearance, dodges charges from her and her attorney of collusion with her former lawyer, defames everything “female” and snatches young children from their parents at the border.

Meanwhile, this same thug evokes a revisionist history to “blame” Canada for burning the White House in the war of 1812, decades before Canada was a nation, as if to reinforce his use of the “national security” provision to justify his latest round of tariffs on steel and aluminum. His State Department spokesperson uses the anniversary of D-Day to support her assertion of a healthy and positive relationship with Germany, conflating D-Day with the Marshall Plan, as evidence of America’s “good relationships” with allies.

Even when we were in grade nine, we were able to discern the qualitative, as well  as the historic difference between D-Day and the Marshall Plan, and the confusion of his conflated equation of the KKK and white supremacists with protesters against their blatant racism. Even when we were in our early teens, we could and would call lies, “lies”, and “BS”. And even if and when such lies and distortions were erupting from the mouths of our class “leaders” we would and could be “in their face” with our push-back.

Nevertheless, the legal, ethical, moral, and adult perspective of civility, decency, honour and the submission to the “facts”, all of them requiring a degree of humility, modesty and interaction in similar terms, have been replaced with an extremely narrow, base, immature, frightened even neurotic and potentially psychotic titillation around the most base instincts of the human race. And the media, of course, dependent for its survival and growth, on the lasciviousness and the “locker-room” stench of the adolescent football team, have become not merely willing but eager enforcers of those base instincts.

We can not look forward to emerging from this shared morass, swamp and sink-hole in our consciousness and our public accountability, (shared equally between the most visible actors and the voracious appetite of the “gutter” media and its audience.

Of course, this piece is about “class” and its absence from our public discourse, from its public utterances on social media, from its discourse between national leaders, and increasingly from its justice system. There is, after all, a chasm of difference between adolescence and mature adulthood.* And that acknowledgement is made without apology, in the hope that we, collectively and privately, can and will look into our respective mirrors, and cry, “Shame on me!”

*As for Samantha Bee's deconstruction between civility as "only words" and  policy decisions and actions, like separating children from their parents, does anyone really think that the two are not connected, that a race to the bottom, in the tone and temper of our discourse and attitude will not lead inscrutably and inevitably to a race to the bottom in policy and the debased excuses on which such policy is based?




Monday, June 4, 2018

Outcasts must be given a place at the American national table


Writing in 1923, in Studies in American Classical Literature, D.J. Lawrence penned these words:

The essential American soul is hard, isolate, stoic and a killer.

Quoted by Chris Hedges, in his column in truthdig.com entitled, The Second Sight of W.E.B. DuBois, June 4, 2018, Hedges goes on to write these words:

The pillars of American capitalism are genocide and slavery. America was not blessed by God. It was blessed, if that is the word, by processing the most efficient killing machines and trained killers on the planet. It unleashed industrial vi8ooence on its enemies abroad and empowered armed white vigilante groups and gun thugs…

Hedges continues, referencing DuBois:

DuBois warned that is times of widespread unrest, this indiscriminate violence, familiar to poor people of color and those we subjugate abroad today in the Middle East, becomes the primary mechanism for internal social control. As the empire disintegrates under unfettered corporate capitalism, futile and costly military adventurism political stagnation and despotism we will learn the truth DuBois elucidated….
Outcasts are gifted, Dubois wrote, with a “second-sight”  (behind a veil) or what he called a “double-consciousness”…. of always look at one’s self through the eyes of others.”
A black intellectual, Du Bois, posited a “veil” that blinds those of privilege and the myth of whiteness from fathoming reality or understanding themselves without these outcasts. Hedges asserts, “The more the voices of these outcasts are shut out, the more collective insanity grips the country. By silencing the voices of the oppressed, we ensure our own oppression.”

As a citizen of her northern neighbour, Canada, like most Canadians, I have struggled with the level of violence, including the dependence on violence, that has poured buckets of blood and treasure onto the pages of American history, from the beginning. And while the number of mass shootings has skyrocketed in the last two decades, and the American enmeshment in military violence, against both state and non-state enemies has deepened in the same time frame, there is the obvious core behaviour that ensues in America whenever chaos threatens, to upset the norm.

And that violence is not restricted to murder, or directly to guns; it spills over to judgements made by those in positions of power, authority, and tragically given the cultural acceptance of violence, judgements that eliminate all negative voices from the corporate scene. The “killer” archetype can be found in all professional sports, in all detective movies and television dramas, in the street vernacular “he killed it,” in the propensity to resort to guns as the single answer to gun violence, the sheer intolerance of opinions that do not conform with the expectations of the establishment, clearly a “white” edifice.

White police officers “killing” innocent young black men, seemingly almost a weekly headline, is merely the only result that can be expected from a cultural history of approved, sanctioned and fostered “killing” that pervades the American streets, television sets, movies and political rhetoric.

Those thin veneers of civility, rationality, nuanced debate and inspirational addresses like Obama’s race speech in Philadelphia during the 2008 presidential campaign, or Bobby Kennedy’s spontaneous, unscripted response immediately after the assassination of Martin Luther King in April, 1968, or even King’s I have a dream speech, while intensely motivating and historic, and, at the end of the day, mere moments of hope, beauty, melody and public grief and reflection. Of course, they show America at her best, express the voices of her best angels, and raise the bar for all who aspire to public leadership.

However, the blood and careers of millions of human lives have been spilled through the blatant dependence on violence as the means to achieving “national interests”…If the Americans cannot succeed in the pursuit of what some consider their legitimate goals, through the “purchase” by cash, (and that expended without restraint or shame), they resort to violence, a process by which competition is effectively eliminated.
During the Cold War, a visiting professor from the Soviet Union, frequently joked that the Russian method of solving problems was a single word, “elimination”. Sadly, although the method has been adopted in the extreme by the current occupant of the Oval Office, the nation has a history, a dark history, of deploying similar tactics so often that it can be termed a “habit” a default position.

D.H. Lawrence, W.E.B. DuBois, and more recently Chris Hedges, have all pointed to the core of darkness that infects the American soul.

The students of Parkland, Columbine, Sandy Hook, and the millions of innocent or marginally deviant whose lives have been permanently derailed by decisions of extreme “punishment” under the ruse of the pursuit of “justice” can and do all testify to the radioactive sinew in the American psyche and soul.

Without either recognition and ownership, and the potential of repentance at the national level, this black hole will continue to sabotage the young, families, corporations, and even the nation itself, spilling its devastation far beyond the limits of the borders of the United States of America. And the world is just now beginning to acknowledge what native Americans, outsiders, and outcasts have known for centuries.

Can these previously silenced voices from the darkness of the American forest finally be acknowledged and given a place at the national debating table?

There is little to support optimism just now.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Elites are not the source of new answers to our problems

Sometimes, and right now is one of those, it is quite a reach to connect the dots when trying to curate some of the themes marching across our consciousness.

In an essay in The Atlantic, Henry Kissinger worries about the potential impact of Artificial Intelligence on human relations, as well as on international relations, especially given the two pillars of memorization and mathematical calculus that underpin the technology. He worries particularly that this new technology, unlike previous technological revolutions, is in search of a philosophy. And yet, with respect, there are loud and repeating drum beats in the U.S. and elsewhere that point to the dangerous notion that everything, including Artificial Intelligence, is based on the capitalist pursuit of profit defined as sales, dividends, and the ultimate seduction of users of technology. It is not technology in search of a philosophy, as Kissinger would like to believe. It is rather the profit motive simply and unabashedly and unashamedly following the template of unfettered capitalism as motherlode.

In another section of the current edition of The Atlantic, Matthew Stewart depicts a revised version of the new aristocracy, the 9.9% just below the 0.1%, generated, protected and sustained by “cartels” in professions, as well as in elite universities which have newly defined their “eliteness” through increased numbers of rejections of applicants. Notwithstanding that comparative salaries of graduates ranges from a super-high for those graduating from the top 50 American universities, to a medium for graduates from less “aristocratic” universities, to a considerably lower number for the more plebeian institutions, the whole movement toward making the new 9.9% the new power block deploys such rules and regulations as limiting the professional purview and “competence” of dental hygienists, in order to preserve and sustain the higher incomes of their dentist bosses.

Another cartel, according to Stewart, is found in the American medical profession through multiple tactics, almost invisible from the general public and certainly from the fourth estate. These include restricting the numbers of immigrant applicants, the number of residencies, and the number of graduates from clinical training thereby sustaining the much higher incomes of American doctors, especially compared with the inferior outcomes among their patients, as compared with other advanced countries.

And then there was former British Prime Minister, appearing as a guest on the tenth anniversary of CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria, describing the need for the progressives to learn how to build bridges to the resentful, angry and uneducated populists, for example, who are trump’s electoral trust account. His highly analytical, nuanced and articulate analysis of the need to learn how to listen to, speak with and begin to embrace the ‘other side’ in and of itself, leaves that audience shaking their heads. So far removed from the street language, the guttural emotions, the simplistic answers to highly complicated problems, (for instance, the need to regulate, supervise and mediate global economic forces, and not let them dictate the terms of their own game) and the personal lens through which this quadrant views all things political, social and even intellectual is Blair’s point of view from the same sector whom he believes it is requisite to reach that, as a beginning dissertation, it fails to shine light into the minds, hearts and ambitions of those very people in public life who are attempting to do just what he counsels.

While acknowledging that the current political scene is dominated by “cultural issues,” and acknowledging that leaders like Clinton and Blair himself failed to grasp the needs, aspirations and hopes of the ‘other side’, Blair does draw a map for future leaders as to where their research and their language and their campaigns have to move. He identifies with the group who consider themselves ‘liberal’ on social issues, while also supporting private entrepreneurs, as a political model of neither the traditional right or left.

The fluid shifting of power blocks, responding to the massive dislocations of labour, wealth and tax laws rendering the rich even richer, accompanied by the rhythm of the tsunami of new technology including Artificial Intelligence, the #metoo and #TimesUp movements, religious tensions and the fundamental disconnect creating siloes for almost all groups and interests leaves most of us in a foggy conundrum. It is the penchant for the elites always and predictably to draw on their mantra, “we must have answers” even if and when they really do not have them, that sets these people apart from ordinary people.

The words, “I (we) do not have an easy, ready or pragmatic response to that dilemma!” are simply expunged from their world view. They make promises like “You can count on me!” as pacifiers, political placebo’s, and political crumbs from their self-appointed pedestals offered with a modicum of sincerity in the midst of their political campaigns, to people so desperate that they smile in gratitude for the comfort of the moment, knowing that it is as ethereal and ephemeral as a blink of an eye.

Political theory, political demographics, political data-mongering, mathematically manipulated by algorithms dedicated to the service of their authors, and then memorized as the latest “insight” or wisdom of the segment, and then served up to the financiers obsessed with their own aggrandizement, including their assuming the role of cheque-writer for the puppet political operatives, thereby enabling additional removal of restrictive regulations, or the guarantee that none will be enacted, can and will only leave us gasping for political, ideological, ethical and conflict-resolving oxygen, as the chasm between the have’s and the have-not’s continues to erode before our eyes.

The new aristocracy, including both the 0.1% and the 9.9%, with their iron-clad recruiting and supportive systems, linked to the new money, the new technology, and the old governance models of  co-dependent, narcissistic, money-grubbing political candidates whose discipline to “read” even the talking points of any piece of legislation, compromised by their reading the relevant opinion polls almost exclusively, and compromised also by their obsequious pursuit of cash to enable them to survive is a toxic mix of dominance. Ordinary people perhaps might be granted  a five-minute interview on a specific topic, provided they can articulate that issue in 100 words or less (no office staffer will read beyond that!) and, if needed, perhaps a ride to the polling station by those political operatives. Otherwise, the blind are effectively “leading” the blind; the political class is blinded by their own personal ambition; the rest of us are apparently blinded by our cell phones, tablets, or tv’s.

Secure in our respective complacencies, and our respective “ignorances” (and they are multiple and growing), we make a dissonant choir of disinterest, dispassion, disillusion and insouciance that threatens to enable the clarion call of a delusional strong man (ala trump) to seduce too many of us into believing his midway barker promises. Trouble with that picture is that we are not ambling through a midway looking for cheap thrills. We are not sidling up to a cotton candy confectioner to purchase another gut-full of pink sugar. We are not on a first date with an out-of-town girl from the farm, attempting to generate a few electric sparks, to ignite the spark of a new relationship, as if we were fifteen again.

Our churches have succumbed to the capitalist profit bait; our universities have fallen “in” on the same parade square; our public institutions, including our arts councils, our public scientific research centres, our unions, and our public health institutes have been partially if not fully fund-starved; our role models have morphed into sports and entertainment billionaires; the four most chosen career paths for the new aristocracy are finance, management consulting, medicine and law; the liberal arts, including the English, Philosophy and History departments have been succeeded in their recruitment successes by technological training and business skills.

No, Mr. Kissinger, the Artificial Intelligence cabal is not looking for a philosophy; no Mr. Blair, the neo-liberals have demonstrated their comfort with their own self-declared elitism; and as for Mr. Stewart, your piece linked with both Blair’s interview and Kissinger’s essay, offers only a strong kick in the pants to the 90% most of whom will be unlikely to discover your piece, built as it is on a summary and collaboration of multiple sources of statistical data, which taken together could be a wake-up call. 

Likely it will be tragically only another piece of articulate, intelligent and provocative reading for the 10% at the top.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Reflections on gender issues


In a period of history so fixated on misogyny, it seems more than a little appropriate to mention its opposite, misandry. Nobody seems to want to discuss the ways by which mostly women, but certainly too many men, defame, degrade, disdain, trivialize and trash males and all forms of masculinity.

The most obvious example of males demonstrating contempt for males is highly visible and even more audible in the Oval Office. Obama is, persistently and contemptuously portrayed by the current occupant as effete, weak, spineless, and even effeminate by a president so paranoid in his masculinity that he has set a course to undue everything that Obama accomplished on behalf of the American (and world’s) people. Hawks, like John Bolton, are also engaged in a dangerous display of neurotic masculinity, on behalf of America, through their overt and aggressive push for war with Iran including regime change, and potentially also with North Korea. Life-long military generals who actually know something about the ravages of war take a much more balanced and moderate and mature perspective.

Does trump think of what he is doing as misandry? Of course not! Yet, does trump think beyond the superficial impact on his personal ratings of anything he says or does? No!

Pervasive among red-neck males is another aspect of misandry: contempt, hatred and bigotry of the LGBTQ community, and especially of gay men. Red-necks really don’t give much thought to how they feel and think about whether females are lesbians, or which gender is claimed by transgenders. About homosexual men, however, red-necks consider them an affront to all forms and expressions of masculinity. (And before we go any further, let’s not confuse pedophilia with homosexuality. Pedophilia is dangerous and criminal! Last time I checked, being gay is not a crime in western countries, as it is in some African nations.)

There are other less obvious and less overt examples of misandry among red-neck sports talking heads. The preference for fighting in athletic competitions like hockey, football, baseball, basketball, as an incentive to crowd arousal, as opposed to skillful, balletic, choreographed, and disciplined play, is just another indication of the rub against the skilled players, who, by the way, as a group, do not suffer from a fragile masculinity, as perhaps the red-necks so.

There is a much more subtle and less obvious form of pandering to the violent among the news media, believing, (somewhat supported by the cultural evidence that conflict sells while compromise, collaboration and resolution does not generate high ratings), that real leaders have to be engaged in hard language and the growth of hard power if they are to be embraced a legitimate leaders. This stereotyping of hard power, elevating it, through such budget lines as the Pentagon that gobbles as much cash as all other departments combined, supported by the fixation with conflict, especially violent conflict, is another of the many distortions of healthy masculinity.

The universal disdain for anything emotional among many men, too, illustrates both a profound irony, and a tragic blindness. Naturally, in the execution of public debate and the strategizing around public policy, the factual evidence must hold a significantly higher priority than a person’s or a group’s emotional responses to the issue at hand. However, to deny the presence and impact of those emotions is to risk having them play an even more significant role than they would if they were acknowledged. None of us goes into any activity, including all professional activities like the court room, the operating room, the emergency room, the board room, the classroom, the sanctuary, the laboratory, and even the delivery truck, or the garbage truck, or the factory, without taking our emotional DNA, (linked to an agenda, whether conscious or not) with us.*

The masculine proclivity for public disdain of anything resembling human emotions in literature, film, television and, while a denial of our fragility in dealing effectively with those very emotions (especially as compared with our female partners, sisters, mothers, aunts and grandmothers), also renders us less open to learning both about their respective identities and their power, and about their subtlety and sophistication. Such a masculine umbrella over-riding the culture is a shameful indication of our deep and relenting inferiority, as passed on from our male ancestors, and effectively cripples, if not actually destroys, many relationships with our female partners. It says here that for men to learn to identify our emotions is neither feminizing nor weakening us; rather it is to enter into a world so complex and so turbulent and so awakening that our perception of ourselves, and our place in the universe can and will change dramatically, for the better.

Emotions do not have to be relegated to a functional factor in marketing (something men seem to want to do and to do rather well). And to participate inside our own emotions, and to regard them as just another facet of our identities that can be developed, grown, enriched and celebrated (in a positive manner), rather than waiting until they explode and sabotage our very lives, is a potential gift that many men will never accept, appreciate or engage.

We do not have to “work” at being different from our female partners; that is not something the universe (and especially women) have no trouble identifying. In fact working at it only demonstrates our unique and sad mis-perception and neurosis. Neither gender is “better” than the other; you will not find women today considering that they are, by definition, “less than” any man, and yet the world is replete with evidence that men consider ourselves much “less” and “less acceptable” than our female colleagues.

It is our very own responsibility to acknowledge that men and women, while different, are complimentary to each other, and not in some competition with the other gender. And while the emotional aspect of that responsibility might come more readily and easily to some women, there is the glaringly obvious that women collectively seem to be in an obsessive competition for wages, positions of responsibility and corporate and political power. So, it might be very difficult, if not impossible to parse the emotional from the political/corporate/pecuniary.

And, when we come to the off-hand, almost comedic, yet highly pejorative comments from women, the culture is flooded with them.

“All men are jerks!” comes quickly to mind, especially from women who have been painfully hurt by men.

“All men want is one thing,” is another of the proliferating stereotypes.

“No man listens to anything I say,” slides off the lips of women, especially among a group of women where there are no men to raise an eyebrow. And even if there were men present, it is unlikely that a single eyebrow would be raised, fearing the prospect of being labelled, misogynist.

“That dog has to be male; just look at the way he jumps around uncontrollably!” is another of the now-expected “jokes” that attempt to ridicule masculinity, however such ridicule might flow, both consciously and unconsciously from women.

And then there is the “no raised voices” mandate in the new workplace, since, it is believed, and universally accepted that “raised voices” are a form of bullying, verging on assault. We are to comport in a many fitting to the most anal fourth-grade class, commanded by an insecure, neurotic and repressive female pedagogue. It was a great surprise, and an unforgettable moment in my young life, when, as a friend and neighbour passed by desk, in such a grade four class, I reached out and gave Roger a gentle, and eminently friendly poke in the shoulder, saying “Hi” only to be commanded to the front of the room, where two lashes of the strap were administered on each hand, along with a lifetime of ridiculous, unmerited and unjust embarrassment.
 This was only exacerbated when, returning the joke, Roger appeared in our yard, and asked, in front of my mother, “What did your mother say when she heard you got the strap?” Naturally, hearing of this for the first time, she dished out an unforgettable unjust bar-soap mouth-washing over the kitchen sink.

And yet, upon reflection, after decades of voluntary and involuntary review, counselling, therapy and journaling on my part, it was that mother’s contempt for her father, transferred to her husband and her children that so shaped my early perceptions. Dangerous, malicious, vindictive and passionately inflamed women, ranging from the sneaky and deceitful to the blatant and proud have found all attempts to listen, to empathize, to “enter the shoes” and to support women, both in minor and in major turbulence that have backfired.

Some women have found their need for absolute control, especially in public, and openly collaborative situations, so gripping that when words like “I feel parented”  at their imposed, enforced agenda on the group, shot through their bodies like a electric shock. They picked up their papers, exited, and then sought blind revenge through manipulation of other compliant females.

Some have even gone so far as to send cards reading, “You destroy my image of men!” as if to say that my “masculinity” is so upsetting because it does not conform with the stereotype. Others, after opening up and disclosing some important and personal feelings, and then realizing what they had done, were so anxious that they turned on me, as if I were the problem. They had never before been so ‘open’ with a male, found the experience simultaneously supportive and scary, and preferred the latter as their ultimate interpretation. It was not, I believe, that they feared public disclosure of their emotions through a breach of confidence, but that they had been put under a light with a male. And yet, that may well have been part of their discomfort.

Others have openly sought relationships, who, when those attempts went unreciprocated, then turned on me in a vindictive revengeful manner, as if to punish me for what I considered my honest and professional “No”. Other women whose desperation and fear and aloneness became evident only after months of a very different “presentation” of their personality, became so viscious that they even openly declared, “I want to destroy men, and have become very good at it!”

We all must refuse to be content with the headline stories of men abusing women, without also wondering about what has become known as the “back story”. My father endured decades of abuse silently for the most part, and also passive aggressively, given that he either feared his spouse, or considered himself “less” than the other, a position from which too many men begin their private understanding of their relationship with women.

Only if and when men drop their need to be heroic, and need to rescue, and begin to assert our legitimate needs and desires, in open, honest, non-manipulative ways might we expect to see some move toward levelling the playing field between the genders.  (Women too might consider their part in the patronizing rescuing dramas with “weak men” in their view, in which they become enmeshed!) Patronizing,  trashing, dominating or competing at the emotional level will only exacerbate the relations between the genders. And, acting upon belief and perceptions of stereotypes (especially ones based on the other’s neurosis, thereby ironically and paradoxically exhibiting our own), by both genders will render each mere stick-persons, or cardboard cut-outs of their humanity.

Only through a process of becoming emotionally, psychologically, intellectually, physically and spiritually healthy, whole, well and self-respecting will both confront our respective fears, traumas, broken relationships (and we all have them!) and begin to break down the walls of both misogyny and misandry that threaten to imprison millions around the world. And only if and when we “are” fully able and willing to accept, respect and honour ourselves, will we begin to accept, respect and honour the other gender. This open war between our “shadows” cannot end well.


*In fact, the sanitizing of the emotional realities, (and there are many!) from the workplace has done much to exacerbate the tensions there. In this instance, we have willy-nilly thrown the baby out with the bathwater. While not all comedic exchanges in the past among co-workers was free of gender bias against women, much of it was simply good fun. And its removal as the result of a kind of scorched-earth cultural complicity, as if we are all supposed to imitate lawyers before judges, has rendered much workplace conversation stuffed into the box of technical competence, and safety rules and regs. This depersonalizes and eviscerates all “humanity” from the workplace, as if it were both dangerous and enmeshing by definition. What a boom we have complicitly generated for the “employee assistance barons” and their clinically certified minions!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Right-wing evangelicals....the scourge of the Christian faith


It is the black and white picture of the universe that characterizes the world view of many right-wing conservatives. An abhorrence for subtlety, ambiguity, and all the grey’s of the palate, means that they can and do express views that shout clarity, certainty, and absolute rightness, without so much as a glance toward the many other positions between their position, the middle and the left.

The “right” also holds to a portrait of power as “top-down” emanating from a single source. Those who fall in line with their views, too, subscribe to a notion of party affiliation that smacks of fawning, except that they call it loyalty. End results, as in trump’s wall, or his throwing out the children of undocumented immigrants, or his “decisive” move of the American Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem…..they all fall on the ears of his obsequious and fawning devotees like manna from the sky. “Power” to them, it seems, comes only in bombs that shake the universe, even if the shaking is dangerous, without contextual strategic planning, and without a collaborative process that undergirds both the “act” and the support for the act. Anything that even hints of a process, that involves the complexity of measured steps, carefully planned, carefully orchestrated among allies, and announced as the culmination of a complex set of conversations, debates, multiple options and a “best” among many potential decisions is anathema to their notion of how the world works.

Abortion is evil; war is good; profit is always good; the world is composed of enemies all of whom will take advantage if permitted; communism is from the Devil; Muslims are bad and dangerous; blacks are mostly lazy and uneducated (if not outright incapable of being educated!); the cops need more power and more weapons; the sentences need to longer and the punishments more demeaning; the future is out of control, unless we return to a more “stable” and “dependable” past where whites dominated….the left wants only a “nanny” state, with high taxes and lots of government bureaucracy; gays are obscene and psychologically unbalanced and should never be allowed in the classroom as teachers or permitted to adopt children; God’s word in the Bible is “holy writ” and Darwin’s theory of evolution is a denial of Genesis; capital punishment is the only “justice” for capital crimes; the opioid crisis is the work of  drug lords and gangs, supported by cartels from Mexico and Central America….The zealots of the evangelical fringe (now edging toward 30% in America) turn both a deaf ear and a blind eye to the moral turpitude that cascades from the Oval Office, so that they can champion the transformation of the judicial system into one controlled by far-right justices, especially at the Appeal Court level, (some 25 already confirmed, since trump was elected, while Obama was able to have only 8 confirmed by this time in his first term) most of whom will be serving for at least the next two decades if not longer.

Critical thought, for the right, is translated as “dogma” whether it be political ideology, theology, race relations, immigration, gun control (guns make us all safer), or food stamps (only make people more lazy and dependent on the state).

There is literally no crack of light, to permit even a brief thought that negotiations with these people are possible. Even the Roman Catholic chaplain of the Congress, previously undeterred by a single complaint, is threatened with removal, (and replacement by a born-again evangelical) to appease that cadre of voters.

Attached to this “belief system” as if it were an integral and essential component, is the belief that “salvation” is a single act, occurring once and thereby relieving one of all sin, along with the corollary that others who do not subscribe to a single “apocalyptic” moment of “salvation” must be excluded from the faith community. Also grafted onto their position, are such things as curricula for children, who also have the requirement to be “born again” and, if not, then teachers must patronize them into compliance. Hell is no metaphor for these people; it is a real place, to which all who are not saved (by their definition) will be condemned to an eternal damnation. Clearly, the “saved” will be rewarded by an eternal life in a place called heaven where the streets are paved with gold and there is no strife or enmity.

The fact that all of this concoction, cocktail, or menagerie, is constructed on a footing of absolute paranoia, of course, has no place in their epistemology. Their’s is the most confident, assured and dependable of positions: just ask them and they will concur. Whether their leaders are in the pulpit, (far too many are), on church committees (even more seek such seats, as gatekeepers) or in the pews (writing cheques to advance their agenda), or even in the higher ecclesial offices of bishops, archdeacons or primates, they are a formidable force, loud, brash, bold, secure in their piety, (and the requisite judgements of all others who do not conform…which really means the rest of us).

And they are extremely venomous, dangerous, and lethal. It is not that they shoot people, and leave them dying in the street. That would be criminal and open to charges, trials and the potential of jail terms. No, here is where their deviousness can be found. They boast of their shared capacity and “power” to ingratiate themselves to church leaders, and then to take prominent seats on hiring and firing committees, and block those who are not sufficiently “spiritual” in their definition, or dismiss those same kind of clergy, if they have managed to be deployed prior to the arrival of these insurgents.

 There is a format for what evangelicals call “spiritual”. It entails rousing gospel music, testimonials of those recently “saved”, a kind of exuberance inflated by a kind of metaphoric helium that inflates many encounters, and a recruitment program to “bring in more converts” and to grow, grow, grow. Some of these congregations are regularly “speaking in tongues” and most are engaged in avid and heated prayer. And while there is a time for scripture reading, the interpretative sources are selected with the utmost care, in order to fall inside the parameters of this conservative, right-wing theology.

After all, for these people, their religion is much more than a pale imitation of their concept of a business model: it is the business model that serves as the blueprint of their organization. Of course, profits and dividends are counted as people in pews, and cash in the coffers, and the growth of those numbers demonstrates to those attending and to those in positions of supervision, too often, that this church is growing exponentially, to the benefit of the leadership, and presumably the benefit of those sitting in the pews.

Now whether or not such a religious operation qualifies as a path to an enriched spiritual experience is an open question. It has great difficulty in wrapping its group “arms” around the outcast, and in fact, puts up electrified gates keeping the outcasts out, for fear that they will contaminate the “community” and drive the upper-classes out, draining the church of the primary source(s) of financial support. Whether such an operation is even capable of entertaining cogent and penetrating  questions from young adolescents or young adults, or especially from newcomers who just might have had a painful encounter in another church, and have summoned the strength and the motivation to try again, seems doubtful. Yet, the capacity to provide quick, easily accessible and cogent “advice” to someone whose life has fallen into the ditch, seems, on the surface, to be evident in the extreme. Instant transformations, of the kind that are based on desperation, the need for an immediate “life-saver” to a drowning man, may well be within the purview of such a social ministry. And yet, the long-term personal spiritual growth, that depends on the inevitable confrontation with impenetrable spiritual questions, most of which, it we are to be really honest, leave us all in the face of outright and sacred mystery, might have to find a different locus and a very different intellectual and spiritual model.

Answers, it seems, especially, black and white, correct and absolutely indisputable answers, to questions of what does God want, and what is the purpose and meaning of my life, and how does a person who seeks God go about that search, and who are the most helpful mentors for such a pilgrimage…these are some of the more challenging questions always seeking answers even after preliminary responses emerge.

For nearly seventy years, I have been in direct or indirect conflict with the evangelical approach to the Christian faith, as a school boy, as a college undergrad, as a absentee, as a church volunteer, and as a practising clergy. Everywhere I have tried to worship, I have been confronted by the spectre of these “born-again’s” who have openly expressed their dismay at my incorrigibility, sought to pray for me, sought to remove me from their midst, painted me as the ‘anti-christ’, labelled me as a heretic, as a new-age sinner, as a heathen, and as one who refuses to submit to ecclesial authority.

As the vice(s) of narrow and exclusive superiority in religious matters among the so-called Christian world tighten and threaten to strangle the windpipe of a healthy, exploring and expansive and poetic search for ultimate reality, aiming deliberately to silence all such windpipes, (because only in silence can the most frightened be relieved of their fear) and the “right” voices threaten to take control of the word “Christian”, the liberals among us have to find new energy and new strategies and new approaches to engage in a relevant way with the millions of young people who, themselves, find absolutes much more attractive than the more challenging and creative ambiguities.

After all, the questions, and the pondering of the questions, even without final answers, give those who choose a path that energizes further reflection, further engagement and further (and deeper) exploration of the deepest mysteries still awaiting and welcoming our encounter. Ultimate reality, after all, is a little difficult to enclose in some fear-induced mental, intellectual, political ideological box.