Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Petitioning the U.N. to take up "public financing" of elections..in member states

The world is shaking under the confluence of enhanced muscle-flexing by Russia, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, North Korea as well as significantly expanding unrests/insurgencies in countries like France, Great Britain, Egypt, as well as the ever-present threat posed by radical terrorists, cyber-crimes, movement of money under the radar of law enforcement, national borders and even international crime-fighting agencies.

In addition to all of these memes, corporations, especially behemoths, for the most part make their own rules about transparency, accountability, and the provision of safe and health products and services.

The 24-7-365 news cycle, of course, keeps as much light on the multiple hot spots, irregular interventions into individual lives, and the competing interests of different jurisdictions, nations, states, and specific tragedies like mass abductions, street terrorist incidents, market fluctuations, impacts of tariffs, incipient trade deals as well as potential epidemics like ebola.

We have access to so much specific information, without either the necessary background for comprehension or the seasoned visual and auditory literacy that enables one to make reliable decisions about the trustworthiness of those talking heads who hold public office, or who aspire to such an office. Many of these talking heads, by design, are selected for their academic, professional expertise. University job vacancies seem to be significantly tilted toward maths and sciences, including the multiple applications of digital technology and algorithms. New devices, products, pharmaceuticals, vehicles, weapons, and their potential invasion into the lives of individuals, not to mention their invasion into the legal frameworks that have been designed for different centuries. Even new national food guides attempt to integrate the most recent research into what foods comprise a healthy diet, as do new insurance policy attempts to link life-style incentives.

Amidst this storm of ubiquitous flying data, now available in real time on hand-held devices (along with all of the entertainment currently available on record, and still being written) humans are now expected to make personal decisions that pit immediate needs against the survival of the planet itself under serious threat of global warming and climate change. At every moment every human faces choices that will make a difference in the shared future of every other human.

In a capitalist, globalized market system, as well as through the lens of human rights, humans are individual entities, identities, with rights and obligations. The legal systems in many countries are focused on the acquisition of evidence pertaining to the specific actions/words/ intentions of specific individuals. Both class action legal cases against governments, corporations and public entities are extremely costly and highly complex to mount. Additionally, whistleblowers, who attempt honourably and legitimately to bring forth evidence that challenges the actions/decisions/words/intentions of governments, corporations, public entities, almost invariably suffer an avalanche of power/money/pushback from the targets of their whistle blowing.

Further, as we all know, there is a dramatic, measureable flow of recently engineered profits to those investors, executives and their political agents who in  fact, control the political, legal, economic and banking system and their accompanying agendas. In most countries, in spite of the Paris Accord, many of the leaders among the “power elite” resist significant movements to combat climate change and global warming.

Their ‘status quo’ investment incomes and accompanying status far outweigh their commitment to the land, water, air resources of the planet. For example, the impasse currently playing out in Canada,  whereby the federal government purchases a pipeline from the private sector for $4.5 billion, while indigenous and climate activists take up physical positions to stop the movement of heavy equipment that would be used to develop such a project. Even political actors, in many jurisdictions, continue to favour the short-term “jobs” agenda, at the expense of the quality of air, water and land, needed for future generations.

Clearly, not only is there a significant divide between “have’s” and “have-not’s”; there is also a significant divide between nations and governments that persist in purchasing, resourcing and deploying fossil fuels to grow their economies, almost without regard to the impact of those fuels (toxic emissions) on the atmosphere, and their investors, bankers, political leaders and political institutions and laws which emerge from their collective initiative.

Money, it says here, dictates laws. And those with the money dis-proportionally impact the speed at which laws are introduced that are necessary to defend, protect and preserve the environment.

The abuse of power, by the most wealthy, and the best “connected” in nations  operating under various political ideologies, however, is not restricted to the demise of the environment. The abuse of power also extends to political opponents, in too many situations this includes teachers, journalists, writers and activists. Those with power, tragically, regularly abuse that power with what appears to be absolute immunity. They dissemble, lie, distort, refuse to take responsibility and buy their immunity, and their impunity. And their continued various abuses obviously ennoble even those in the culture with the least to lose, to up their own game of abuse.

Bullying, whether face-to-face, or via social media has risen dramatically. In the U.S. evidence in Virginia, for example, points to a significant rise in middle-school bullying in electoral districts where trump won in 2016. Putin, Ji, Kim Jung Un, Duterte, as well as populist, right-wing political leaders in Europe, are world leaders whose actions, words, and potential frighten many observers, in what is generally considered a world in chaos.
The spectre of a “world government” is being raised in some quarters, without much evidence or thought support for its likelihood. Relinquishing jurisdiction to a wider, regional, or global governance, as demonstrated by the recent turmoil among the EU, is not a move either preferred or even available to most political leaders. Even the United Nations, a creature of the post-war adjustments, labours under the weight of limited surrender of jurisdictions, competing interests even among potential and proven allies, the angst generated by an equitable and enforceable funding formula, the absence of a police force and military force, except those formed by volunteers from participating members.

The World Health Organization, the World Trade Organization, the IMF, the World Court, individually and collectively, represent what might be possible, given the shared consciousness of a global perspective in all quarters of the planet.

Unfortunately, most elected officials, under whose signatures and legislative/executive bills these global organizations exist, have, and to some extent are pressured into, a short-term, narrow-focused agenda, on which their individual elections are dependent. Democracy, irrespective of the degree of its penetration into the various electorates, and the commitment of the people to exercise its privileges, nevertheless, depends on the many strategies, tactics and funding mechanisms that apply in the plethora of jurisdictions currently attempting to implement its provisions.

However, similar to the global climate change/global warming’s pervasive impact on each human on the planet, a common shared resolution of the abuse of power, even in democracies, and certainly in autocracies and dictatorships, a mechanism to provide public funding for all democratic elections, complete with monitoring, supervision, enforcement and even imprisonment when proven abuse is evident would go a long way toward reducing, and in the long run potentially eliminating much of the evidence of the abuse of power by public officials, corporate executives and financial manipulators.

The United Nations, along with its declarations of “rights” for indigenous peoples, and along with the designation of specific sites as world heritage sites, as well as declaring voluntary commitments to the protection of refugees and asylum-seekers, could readily prepare a study of the potential pitfalls and obstructions to public funding of elections.
(MSNBC reports this minute, that the BREXIT vote in the British Parliament, has just failed by a vote of 432 to 202. The majority opposed is the largest negative vote in British history…so we can see, immediately, in real time, in every corner of the planet, the impact of a vote on an issue which impacts millions, within the UK, the EU and around the world.)

The world’s sense of discombobulation, epitomized by the vote in the British House of Commons, continues, unabated. Will violence ensue? Will there be a second vote? Will Europe and the UK work together to bring some order out of this chaos? Will the rest of the world support both parties in their search for a resolution? Will Russia celebrate jubilantly, having allegedly influenced the original vote?

The rise of “strong-man” rule, while seemingly so appealing in the short run to millions, so confused and fed up with the impending uncertainties on so many fronts, is clearly an immanent threat to good governance in many countries, supported as it currently is by wannabe ‘strong men’ even in nations like the United States. The restoration of the voices of ordinary people, in even hamlet and village, through enhanced communication access, including fibre optics, and especially through public financing of municipal, provincial and national elections.

And the voices of ordinary people, at the centre of the process, while not a guarantee of perfect and reasonable governance, could offer some confidence that the abuses of the oligarchs will be reduced, if not eliminated. The obvious restoration of public institutions for all citizens in each jurisdiction, like hospitals, schools, prisons, and transportation and communication facilities would more likely receive a favourable hearing and supportive legislation with the majority of ordinary people having and majority of the representatives.

We simply have to commit, individually, and collectively to follow the former head of U.S. counter-intelligence tweeting of the famous history typing exercise:

It is time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of their country.”

Replace "country" with "countries".....in order to bring as wide and pervasive an application as possible of public financing of elections.

Monday, January 14, 2019

"private government" corporations rule American workers (Hedges/Anderson)

In today’s edition of truthdig.com, Chris Hedges decries what he calls “private government” by the American corporation(s), borrowing a phrase from philosophy professor, Elizabeth Anderson* at the University of Michigan. Dictatorship, as practiced by the corporations, freed from the constrictions of union membership of their workers (11% of workers in private corporations, only, belong to unions), includes intolerable working conditions, monitoring of off-duty political expression, firings for all those who complain, and even, requiring all workers to sign a “non-compete” contract prohibiting them from finding and securing work in their field, following termination, regardless of the reason for the termination.

Hedges quotes Anderson: “Employers’ authority over workers outside of collective bargaining and a few other contexts, such as university professors’ tenure, is sweeping, arbitrary and unaccountable—not subject to notice, process, or appeal.  The state has established the constitution of the government of the workplace; it is a form of private government.” These corporations, by law, can “impose a far more minute, exacting and sweeping regulation of employees than democratic states do in any domain outside of prisons and the military.”

Lest anyone consider that these conditions pertain only to for-profit corporations in the United States, let me drop a few pieces of data, painting a picture of at least one worker’s experience over four years in an American mainline protestant church, the Episcopal Church.

Failing to inform the candidate, who innocently submitted a resume while visiting from the north side of the 49th parallel, that the hierarchy had advertised for two years in the national media looking for a candidate to take a vacant position, these same men (of course an all male hierarchy prevailed), also refused to detail the precise circumstances of the situation. “Go and love the people!” was the simple and solitary response when I asked about what I might find upon entering the situation. This response was uttered by a Korean war veteran whose austere demeanour did not yet disclose his cunning and deceitful modus operandi, inside the hierarchy. More about this later.

Upon arriving “on the scene” I learned that a mere half-dozen people were clinging to a thread of survival, tolerating a rotation of interim clergy, expecting only a minimal provision of Sunday services, so parsimonious was their attitude, and their theology. This attitude was expressed by the autocratic treasurer, a reality that prevails in many small churches, expressing and enforcing a degree of fiscal control to which all sycophants submit. There were discussions about my refusal to accept a position as mere “celebrant” as I proffered the notion that, if they wanted a full-time incumbent, I would be interested, even though the stipend might have to be lower than the norm. Within the first week or two, I heard from one interim clergy who warned, “You will need a completely new cast of characters if you are to be successful,” he told me privately. Another clergy from a neighbouring town reinforced that notion by reporting that he had already told the hierarchy the church in that town needed to be closed for five years, before any attempt to reopen its doors.

Not incidentally, and without a single minute of negotiation, I was instructed to take residence in the private home of a church adherent, obviously, in retrospection, another of the many ways these people had designed to spare expense. Although the accommodations were acceptable, given the space and the cleanliness, and the available “board”. (They were apparently treating this part of the assignment as a “B & B” arrangement), without disclosing the chasm of difference between the Roman Catholic male spouse and the Episcopal female.

No recounting of this story is complete without painting a picture of the small town/region of some 10K people, many of whom worked as coal-fired electricity unionized plant operators, or Basque/Latino sheep farmers. A flat, tumble-weed table of hard, dry sand circled small scrub-pine and spruce-dotted hills dubbed  ‘mountains’ over which strong persistent winds blew in all seasons, just east of the territory made famous by the movie Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. A single river flowed through the county which proudly hosted some 23 religious denominations, paradoxically attempting to demonstrate an independence of opinion that characterized what the ‘locals’ called, “The Real Wild West” (words painted on the sign at the town’s entrance). Souped-up four-wheeled, half-ton trucks roamed the town and the surrounding countryside, trumpeting bumper stickers announcing “this vehicle insured by Smith and Wesson,” as a rack of rifles hung in the rear cab window. Alcohol, the adult lubricant/medication flowed freely from noon onwards in most restaurants, while non-prescriptions drugs were available and accessed by a young adult demographic.

A knock on the door of the vicarage into which I was finally installed, after nearly a year in the fake B & B, prompted me to open the door to find a twenty-five-year- old young man, clearly under the influence of street drugs. He was asking for help which I attempted to secure, from a professional clinic, whose intake worker told me to repeat this instruction to the young man: “You have two choices: to enter treatment, or to die, because that is the likely outcome if you fail to seek treatment!” I passed along the edict, without ever learning the outcome. I did ascertain that, without work, the young man still lived in his parents’ home. When I commented to a parishioner that the young man symbolized much of the town culture, from my perspective, she became enraged, insulted and vehemently denied even the possibility.

It did not take long to learn that a frequent blot on the history of the county were the car accidents and deaths among high school graduates who were under the influence of alcohol/drugs following their prom each spring. The 10 alcohol stores, open for what to this Ontario native seemed like extensive hours, provided access to any with cash, including well known alcoholics. The owner/manager of the local McDonalds was empathic and supportive when approached with a notion of an anonymous telephone hot-line, modelled on the national model that has served Canadian young people for decades. In this setting, however, the line, staffed as it was with trained volunteers for approximately half-dozen hours each week, after the target population had been adequately informed of the existence of the line, received not a single call. The reason, as we learned later, was that no young person believed their call would be kept confidential.

When I suggested to a small group of high school students might consider performing the musical “Jesus Christ Superstar”, one sixteen-year-old retorted, “We can’t do that! We could maybe do a single scene from the play, but not more than that!” If one wanted to research glass ceilings among adolescents, this county would be a prime research laboratory.

Ministry in this desert ranged from hospital visits, prison visits to a young adult charged with theft from a county hotel where she had worked, conversations about alcohol dependence, a formal intervention with an elderly female alcoholic who had showed up for Sunday service so drunk two of us had to hold her up, as she tried to move from her car to the church door, (about 50-75 feet). Also on the calendar were visits with octogenarians who were convinced that they were going to die in a state they considered totally unworthy of God, as they perceived “Him” to be, pot luck suppers, shared church education program with two other churches, confirmation classes for aspiring confirmands ranging in age from twelve through 60, and with IQ ranging from very low to quite high.

Whenever I attempted to invite clergy from outside the town to visit and celebrate, as a way to bring “new voices and new ideas and new ways of perceiving the world, the church and the theology,” I encountered silence, and a total rejection of the invitation. When I protested that “conversion therapy” for gays and lesbians, to a long-term clergy in an urban, college town, I received a note with the words, “Obviously we cannot work together. I will pray for you.” When I wrote a detailed and disappointed piece about failing to complete a self-designed assignment for a training in rural ministry, I heard this comment from a supervisor who had read it, “You wrote that only to suck up to and impress your supervisor!” That same supervisor later called to inform me that he had received “word” that I had been the subject of a Driving Under the Influence (DUI), I had to inform him that I did not drink, and that the infraction he might be referring to was a mere speeding ticket.

Upon the news of the Columbine massacre, I immediately volunteered to help, without every hearing a single word of acknowledgement, or invitation to participate. Upon learning of the city-wide religious service designed to bring some community healing, to which leaders of all main denominations were invited to participate, I asked why the bishop did not attend. The answer, from the Korean war vet, “I told him not to go, because that was only a public relations stunt on the part of the Roman Catholics!”

At a clergy conference, that same Korean vet privately asked me to meet with the bishop. When I asked, “Why?” he responded, “I have been trying to get through to him for nine years, without success; I thought you might be able to get through.”  When I showed up for the scheduled meeting, the bishop asked, “What do you want with this meeting?” And only at that moment did I learn that the Korean vet had set me up, without informing the bishop of the origin of the meeting. To this day, I believe the bishop (now retired) is unaware of the origin of that meeting. Only after spending two years in the position did I learn that, under church rules, no pension was available for any clergy, until five years of employment had been completed. This information would, I believed then, and still do today, have been normally available to a new hire at the inception of the assignment. So too, would a complete orientation to the special circumstances of the assignment have been a normal, expected and even required responsibility on the part of the employer.

Continuing with the hierarchy, in the late stages of my term, nearing the expiration of the R1 Visa, I called the hierarchy in the middle of the night, having not slept for some time, asking to be moved from the situation, now with some 50 people on the rolls, with a budget of $50k, and new organ and stained-glass window. I had confronted several of the original half dozen, over things like their inordinate need for control, their parsimonious attitude to parish revenue, their refusal to engage in enhanced ministry, their supercilious attitudes in serving at the altar, their rejection of a variety of liturgical music (they wanted only charismatic, and/or country/gospel music), their racism (“Can my grand-daughter’s black boyfriend attend Christmas Eve services in our church?”) and also, the indictment from a senior parish member, “You would never have been offered this job if you had  come here with a black wife!”…

With the onslaught of insults, slights, impertinences, racism, parsimony, tight-assed attitudes, insularity, parochialism and the kind of superceding arrogance that attempts to “cover” profound insecurity on the part of individuals and the community itself,  I found myself distraught, effectively imprisoned in the cage of the vicarage, without support from the hierarchy. Over many months, in both daytime and in the middle of many nights, I literally drove my fist through the walls and the doors inside the building, over nearly the whole of the forty-odd months of my stay. In a needed retreat in which I sought spiritual guidance, from a Benedictine sister in Kansas, in the middle of my stay in this circumstance, I learned from her of her own experience in a similar small town in the same the geographic region: “Get out of there as soon as you can; that place will destroy you, as I know from my own experience!” This wonderful spiritual director, a doctoral graduate, was gifted with a highly functioning intelligence, a deep and profound empathy, and a disciplined spiritual faith. My regret is that I was unable to live up to her supportive guidance soon enough.

I should never have been placed in that assignment; at the same time, in hindsight, I should never have accepted that assignment. I also failed to secure a supportive group to guide and caution and support the many decisions that were required. Of course, there is no union among clergy, then or now. Of course, also, my liberal theology and my Canadian identity were both anathema to the people in this parish. I was dubbed “too eastern” (meaning too preppy and too much like New England) for these people. In a brief attempt to escape this assignment, I applied and was interviewed for another rural parish in Nebraska, where I was called a “pinko communist” in the same language poured by Nixon onto Pierre Trudeau.

*Anderson’s book is, Private Government: How Employers Rule our Lives (and Why We Don’t Talk About It)

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Reflecting on Augustine's legacy to the Christian church

Words like accountability and transparency have become “de rigeur” in contemporary culture. Individuals are expected to perform, in their workplace, at a level that is both anatomized and monitored more deeply and persistently than at any time in history.

 The vestiges of scientific management, by which tasks are measured in time and productivity is assessed on every work shift, not only remain; they have been exacerbated through at least two primary forces. One force is the ubiquitous effort to squeeze every last ounce of productivity out of every worker in order to reduce costs and maximize profit; another is the technological capacity to “monitor” (a polite word for “spy”) on workers, lest, God forbid, they might “goof off” and cost the employer a few pennies of wages.

In our shared obsession with individual behaviour, we have followed our power and control needs down the rabbit hole of micromanagement, often to the exclusion of very deep and seemingly permanent cultural, historical influences that may get a pass from our scrutiny.

One of the cultural forces that inhabits every breeze, tornado, tsunami, earthquake and volcano on every continent is the issue of sex. How “sex” informs our perceptions about gender relations, power symbols, cultural enlightenment, power politics, and even such intimate issues as self-esteem and self-image, is borne out in the literature of the centuries, the mores of each region, and the conception, gestation and birth of all forms of life of all flora and fauna including humans.

Central to this dynamic “energy force” is the theatre of the human being, both genders bring a sexual presence, identity, need and fantasy into each room we enter, at all ages, after puberty, in our lives.

And in those geographic regions colonized and inhabited by “Christian” missionaries, evangelists, ethicists, theologians and adherents to the Christian faith irrespective of the sect or denomination, a profound dependence (as opposed to debt) is due to the bishop of Hippo in North Africa, Augustine (354-430). Assessing that God was unknowable, Augustine wrote in the Confessions:

Late have I loved you Beauty, so ancient and so new, late have I loved you! Behold you were within and I was without; and there I sought you, plunging unformed as I was into the fair things that you have formed and made. You were with me, and I was not with you, I was kept from you by the things that I would not have been, were they not in you. (Confessions, quoted in Karen Armstrong, The Case for God, 2009, p.119)
Augustine separates himself from God, and borrows a spiritual/ethical/moral insight from St. Paul, another Christian evangelist/founder, from Romans (7:15-20):

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law id good. As it is it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do. It is not longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Augustine ‘claimed that the sin of Adam has condemned all his descendants to eternal damnation.’ (Armstrong, p.122) (Neither Jews nor Muslims accept this ultimately theological interpretation of the first two Chapters of Genesis which clearly sabotages humans from the start.) Needing that fatal flaw of original sin, Augustine offered that
“despite the salvation wrought by Christ, humanity was still weakened by what Augustine called “concupiscence,” the irrational desire to take pleasure in beings instead of God itself. It was experienced most acutely in the sexual act, when our reasoning powers are swamped by passion, God is forgotten and creatures revel shamelessly in one another…..Born in grief and fear this doctrine has left Western Christians with a difficulty legacy that linked sexuality indissolubly with sin and helped alienate men and women from their humanity. (Armstrong, p. 122) (Not to mention how it has alienated men and women from each other!)

And that legacy haunts every parish, mission and cathedral in every corner of the planet in which Christianity has planted its footprint. It is embedded in every legal code in western nations, and the courtrooms continue to be filled with a theological/ethical/moral pandemic virus that continues to serve as the definition of the moral character, how one behaves sexually. Young women, for example, are still raised on the cultural dichotomy of self-perception (as well as the social choice) as either a “virgin or a whore” (sometimes dubbed “angel or whore”)_ retaining a kind of depiction of reality that can only terrorize a pre-pubescent young girl. While there may be a modest “relaxing” of the most strict application of the sexual purity rules and expectations, nevertheless, the many instances of the Christian church are still living under the pervasive, dark, storm-threatening cultural cloud of shame and evil, around sexuality, for all who profess the Christian faith.

And the legacy, even if it were intellectually and spiritually appropriate back in the 4th century, has lost both its relevance and its foundational grounding in the nature on which so much of early church theology was alleged to have based; they called it natural law back then. In fact, many have written theological treatises denouncing Augustine’s narrow, frightened and life-defying heavy-handedness. So far from “not knowing the mind of God”, paradoxically, Augustine has openly and shamelessly pontificated what he believed was the sinister nature of all of the human creatures, “created in the image of God”.

The problem of sin, especially as it pertains to human sexuality, has plagued the Christian church from the 4th century, to a greater or lesser extent, depending on the attitude, perception and critical parent factor in all bishops and church leaders. Seeking measures to secure and maintain control over members and adherents, the church abrogated the celebration of marriage to its purview, and to its parameters. Forbidding sexual relations in any relationships between men and women outside of marriage, the church effectively constructed a monstrous wall separating those who complied with their ruling and those who did not, for whatever reason, circumstance and motive. (Even in 2018, Trinity Western University in British Columbia has had to drop its previously announced requirement of all law students that they sign and commit to a covenant forbidding sexual relations outside of marriage, as a consequence of a ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada.)

The fact that the impetus, urge, drive, fantasy for intimate sexual relations, not to mention the hard wiring to procreate in our DNA is incompatible with the “love of God for humanity” and the notion of humans being created in the image of God, twists both the mind and the spirit of anyone attempting to reconcile the two.
 Mentioned earlier in this space, Lionel Tiger, the American/Canadian anthropologist, writes in The Manufacture of Evil (1987), the following:

It is possible that we have been systematically misled about our morality from the beginning. Why should God have interfered with Eden as he did, evidently8 fort the dual offenses of sexual awareness and empirical scepticism, that forbidden fruit? And why blame poor Adam, whom after all God made? And why was what happened in Eden the “Fall”? And why were Adam and Eve so harshly and disproportionately ridiculed for their sexual frisson? Were not those perplexingly pleasurable nerve endings in their genitalia there for a purpose? Was orgasm an accidental spasm, which happened to be so mightily pleasing that, (later on, when churches got going) its occurrence or not could be held up as a measure of obedience to God?
This is mad. No wonder practitioners of the morality trades have so enthusiastically separated man from animal, culture from nature, devotion from innocence. If morality is natural, then you don’t need priests as much as you’re likely to enjoy being informed by scientists. If morality is a biological phenomenon, then it is mere insulting to harass mankind for its current condition because of an historic Fall in the past and a putative Heaven in the future. When spirituality became a special flavour and ceased being fun, when mystical congregation and speculation became instead a matter of bare knees on cold stone and varying renunciations: when involvement with the seasons and the other subtle rhythms of nature became formalized into arbitrary rituals governed by functionaries, then the classical impulse for moral affiliation became translated into something else: into a calculation of ethical profit and lose supervised by an accountant Church and a demanding God. A new tax was born. The Tithe. Ten percent for the first agents. (Tiger, p.32-33)

Many would argue that pitting Augustine and Tiger against one another on the same page is unfair, unwarranted and specious, given that there are some 1500 years of human history separating them, and that Tiger espouses his Jewish tribe, whereas Augustine was writing without the benefit of centuries of philosophy, theological insight and reflection, psychological consciousness and research, and scientific evidence. That argument has considerable merit, were it not for the fact that too many Christian churches continue to cling to the church’s regimen  that restricts sexual relations (between men and women) to the institution of marriage, especially performed by the church itself. Divorce, for example, continues to plague the British crown, likely to impede any attempt at coronation for the Prince of Wales.

Matthew Fox, in Original Blessing, has written that the teaching of original sin, has served empire-builders very well but that original blessing—the awareness of the goodness of creation must take precedence. The sacredness of creation, as the starting point of a new direction for Christian spirituality, for Fox, rendering all of us as mystics and prophets. Naturally, his perspective threatens the patriarchal corps of Christianity where anthropocentrism, control, pessimism and original sin ideology still hold sway.

Starting with Augustine’s negativity or with a problem, linked to a punitive, critical, exclusionary God, it would surprise no one that the crucifixion would be considered a “substitutionary atonement” in which Jesus takes the punishment that this angry God intended for humanity.

Imagine a twelve-year-old candidate for confirmation in a Christian church, wondering out loud if she is “good enough” to be confirmed by a visiting bishop! How incompatible is that insecurity and anxiety with the process of confirmation, the acceptance of that innocent young girl into the faith community of her parents’ and family church community! Imagine someone living outside of marriage, yet inside a common law union, because of any of a variety of reasons, (the church’s refusal to grant annulment, an unending divorce procedure etcetera) having a moment of epiphany that nudges him or her toward a conversation with a clergy, about the possibility of either or both a first or renewal of baptism, and then a confirmation. Without even picking up the phone, to make the call, that person feels the impulse of inadequacy and sinfulness, as the opening emotion, reflection and impediment to the proposition of making the call.

And then, pulling our camera lens back a little, to survey the landscape of a parish community on a Sunday morning just prior to an announced Eucharist… we see an individual clad in ripped pants, sole-less shoes, unshaven, with a tarpaulin-like worn winter coat clinging to his back and his unclean hair drooping over his coat collar…and then our camera pans across to the other side of the sanctuary, to a couple of women seated one in front of the other, heads locked in a private conversation, the occasional finger pointing toward the dishevelled man opposite.

It is not a stretch to almost hear the venom in the whisper:

“WHO is THAT? And WHAT is HE doing here? We simply cannot have that kind ruining the reputation of our little church! He obviously has nothing to contribute to our coffers!”

A few pews ahead of the two gossips, a young pregnant woman is listening to this diatribe, fully aware that her pregnancy is “out of wedlock” and she instantly grasps the kind of culture that pervades this parish. She was thinking before entering the church for the very first time, that maybe, just maybe, there might a sympathetic ear and shoulder in “God’s house” where she might be able to have her newborn baptized, in the hope that the father, who until now has shown no interest in his child, might wish to attend the ceremony. Perhaps, too, the ceremony might bring her parents around, both of whom are so far showing mere contempt for her irresponsibility in “getting pregnant” in the first place, that that “good-for-nothing-guy” caused.

It is in these rubber-meet-the-road situations that thousands of clergy are currently facing, even tomorrow morning across North America, Europe and parts of South America and Africa. And Augustine’s negative impact continues to ride roughshod over spiritual healing, family-relationship-rebuilding, parish development, and even the likely ignored aspect of addressing the bigotry, and the contempt of the two “sophisticates” on their rejection of the dishevelled man. After all, ranking the priorities in this single scenario demands a sensibility, a sensitivity and a maturity of judgement that has to include a consciousness that raising “cane” with the two gossips could result in their impulsive departure from the parish to the thunder of additional recriminations from the church “elders” and the termination of the regular cheques from those two women.

Nearly fifteen hundreds years have passed, and the length and breadth of millions of pages and gallons of ink have been committed to the perpetuation of the Augustine theology, itself a severe injustice not only to millions of men and women, but also to the prospect of a renewed Christian faith based on creation, beauty, love, co-creation and honest, forgiving acknowledgement of all the pain we each have caused and that has been meted out on us.

Tradition, stability, and permanence can and often are signs of evil begging for release, and new life.

Can and will that new life come within the walls of the Christian church? 

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kierkegaard: Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced

Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced. (Kierkegaard)

Think about the deep wisdom contained in that epithet.

We have grown a rather large culture of “problem solvers” whose expectations of developing an expertise, and then proceeding into the deepest wells of that speciality in order to unearth new problems, themselves, begging for solution. And the more “value” the culture places on the speciality, and the more public attention and adulation it magnetizes, the relatively higher the social and political status of the “expert”.

There is no doubt that everyone comes upon problems that require a resourceful, creative and pragmatic approach in their resolution. And, there is also no denying that, through the succession of increasingly complex problems solved, an individual matures in ways that render him/her indispensable to family, community and planet. Agency, that sine qua non of the definition of “identity” for many, has some integral features: the expectation of success/failure in the process of “solving” the problem, the confidence to accomplish, the resilience to approach the difficult and the intractable situation with a kind of calm composure, and the potential that “fixing” the problem will evoke applause and public endorsement.

It is, however, also feasible, even likely, that beginning with the notion of “agency” comes to define how life works for many. “Doing” and “solving” and then “doing” and “solving” again, and again, becomes a pattern that lends itself so seductively into a repeating, expected and even needed pathway, for the individual, the family, and the organization to which one becomes attached in adulthood. Yet, rather than applying the mantra to one’s life, one readily and almost imperceptibly falls into the application of the mantra to one’s occupation, and not one’s life.

For many, the two concepts, life/work have elided into an existence that frequently sees the latter flow like a tsunami into the psyche of one’s life. One’s “work” where agency, productivity, measureable value (and compensation), standard of performance, graduating proficiencies and responsibilities, and the development/acquisition of the requisite skills in order to “fit” have a very strong tendency, if not inevitability, of swamping that other side of one’s existence, one’s life.

What does one mean, in uttering the word “life”? Different from “agency” and “means” and “making a living” and being and remaining an agent for one’s livelihood, and also for the goals and objectives of a larger entity, “life” entails the inner processes that seek to grasp, or tolerate, to examine, to question and to wonder.. Larger questions, usually considered imponderable, and unlikely to be easily or finally answered come into focus under the rubric of “life”…. such “why am I here?” and “Is there life in space?” and “Is there another realm after this life?” and “What comprises beauty for me?” and “What is the meaning of ‘evil’ in the world?” and “Is there even a God?” and “How have genetics and my environment impacted my choices?” and “How have the existentialists, the fatalists, the empiricists, the visionaries, the poets and the philosophers impacted my life?” And “Would/Do I choose to implement a different equation among the role models?” and “What has been, is and will continue to be the impact of archetypes like the apocalypse in our thinking, planning and survival?” and “Is there a way out of/around/through/without war and large-scale violence?” And then there are other more intimate questions like, “How have others seen, experienced, interpreted and judged my person and my life?” and “To what extent have my activities been congruent with my identity?” and “What have I learned by making the choices I have made?” and “Upon reflection, if given the opportunity, what changes would I have made in the choices I exercised?”

The meanings of “work” and “life,” while never exclusive or independent of each other, require space, time, energy and a deliberate and disciplined process for reflection. However, given that “work” brings immediate gratification (and the potential of loss) whereas “life” just seems to roll along like the interminable waters of an adjacent river, whether it is being noticed, or reflected upon, evaluated or not, there is little wonder that much of our “time” while awake is taken up with those things we have to “DO”!

How many busy people, when asked, “What would you be doing with your life, if you had an empty canvas on which to paint it today?” look up, askance, at the questioner in disbelief. It is as if the questioner has lost his marbles, the question seems to absurd. The subject being asked is so deeply engrossed, even consumed, with the list of “to-do’s” for the day, the week, the month and even the year that such questions have literally no meaning, no purpose and no value for most people.

And yet…..like the volcanic rumble of the human heart (as the metaphor for the range of human emotions) busy people are wont to ignore, deny or dismiss the sounds and the rhythms of their own internal volcanic stirrings. Identity, given the current political obsession with sexual identity, or ethic identity, or linguistic identity, or political ideologic identity, all of them reductions when taken individually, cannot and never will come to grips with the really complex, chemical, and ecological, anatomical, physiological, psychological, spiritual dimensions of one’s person.

And humans are sidled with the proposition that, at one and the same time, we are both subject and object (reminded of this dichotomy by Rollo May), the agent of our actions (singly or collaboratively) and the subject of our reflections (on our actions and our persons, including our relationships).

It is true that we all reflect when and subsequently to viewing a moving film or piece of theatre, reading a text with layers of language and meaning, listening to a symphony or Beethoven Sonata, or meeting an interesting person who actually ‘shows up’ in our presence, invoking our full participation in the encounter.

A significant malaise of the “agency” problem-solving perspective is that it leaves the locus of control outside one’s person, in terms of “fixing” the problem. Extrinsic control, also by its very nature, provides escape from the often difficult and treacherous gaze into the mirror of our inner lives, where we are invited, if not compelled to come face to face with everything we have done, been, said, and even thought or believed.

And here is where the notion of “experienced” (not solved) comes into vigorous and inexorable play. Although the Christian church wants us to “pray for forgiveness” and to offer forgiveness to those who have injured us in any way, the far more challenging prospect is to be open to, receptive to and humble enough to receive a degree of forgiveness through a “new-life” kind of conscious perception of a far wider and deeper picture of the many chapters of our lives, from the vantage of decades of distance.

Not having been either conscious or unconscious of the notion that we are  “worthy” and “valued” and “loveable” and “honourable” and potentially even kind and generous, altruistic and humble, if and when we live in a place where those perceptions and attitudes hold sway, we have all done/said/believed/perceived/ attitudes and actions that did not then, and would not today, comport with our expectations of our best angels. And to the extent that those best angels were absent, silent, muzzled, distorted or even over-powered by our potential for revenge, for pay-back, for getting even, for destroying, for bursting the balloon of another….for whatever inadequacy, insecurity, malice and fear that had taken hold of our persons….we nevertheless did what we have to now consider our best.

And in that process, we can then grant to the others whose incidents of “crossing” our paths generated such pain and woundedness, the same kind of tolerance, empathy and acceptance.

Existing inside the flow our own interior rivers of unconscious, just like the rivers that cascade down our hills and valleys, our rivers will stir up memories, like silt, and uncover boulders permitting new light to shine where once ignorance, intolerance and judgement reigned. And that process is more likely if we have begun to entertain the notion of a “life” to be experienced, while simultaneously attempting to make a living, by solving problems.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Embracing synaesthesia in a world of "fake news"

In his remarkable book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, Yuval Noah Harari, writes:

A cursory look at history reveals that propaganda and disinformation are nothing new, and even the habit of denying entire nations and creating fake countries has a long pedigree. In 1931, the Japanese army staged  mock attacks on itself to justify its invasion of China, and then created the fake country of Manchukuo to legitimate its conquests. China itself has long denied that Tibet ever existed as an independent country. British settlement in Australia was justified by the legal doctrine of terra nullis (nobody’s land in Latin), which effectively erased fifty thousand years of Aboriginal history.

In the twentieth century, a favourite Zionist slogan spoke of the return of “a people without a land (the Jews) to a land without a people (Palestine). The existence of the local Arab population was conveniently ignored. In 1969 Israeli prime minister Golda Meir famously said that there is no Palestinian people and never was. Such views are still very common in Israel even today, despite decades of armed conflicts against something that doesn’t exist. For example, in February 2016 Knesset member Anat Berko gave a speech to her fellow parliamentarians, in which she doubted the reality of the Palestinian people. Her Proof? The letter p does not even exist in Arabic. So how can there be a Palestinian people? (In Arabic, f stands for what in other languages is pronounced p, and the Arabic name for Palestine is Falastin.)

And then he also writes:

So if you blame Facebook Trump or Putin for ushering in a new and frightening era of post-truth, remind yourself that centuries ago millions of Christians locked themselves inside a self-reinforcing mythological bubble, never daring to question the factual veracity of the Bible, while millions of Muslims put their unquestioning faith in the Quran. For millennia, much of what passed for “news” and “facts” in human social networks were stories about miracles, angels demons, and witches, with bold reporters giving live coverage straight from the deepest pits of the underworld. We have zero scientific evidence that Eve was tempted by the serpent, that the souls of all infidels burn in hell after they die, or that the creator of the universe doesn’t like it when a Brahmin marries a Dalit—yet billions of people have believed in these stories for thousand of years. Some fake news lasts forever. (p.237-238)

Harari goes on to defend the use of mythology and its extensive repetition over centuries as a significant and highly instrumental approach for the purpose of inculcating a faith by bringing large numbers of people together.

It is his discernment of the literalism from the mythic, that merits serious and deep reflection in a world in which the west seems bound by obsession to the nano-second, and the most base and literal “reading” of all language. Instant gratification, no matter the theatre in which it operates, remains a dangerous and self-sabotaging perspective. And yet, that is where we seem to be living.

The reduction of language to the most base expression exclusively of “facts” that are either “believable” or “lies” not only ignores the many other levels of language, but reduces the culture to a battle of “he said”-“she said” in each and every situation. The kind of highly nuanced and sensitive decision, and ethical value, demonstrated by Queen Elizabeth II, by permitting the Churchill family to enter Westminster Abbey after the royal party, (an authentic sign of deference to Sir Winston Churchill, her first Prime Minster, and also her mentor) would likely go unnoticed or unappreciated today.*

Even the word “believe” has to be addressed today, as to whether or not it too has been reduced apply only to a kind of “legal, empirical, verifiable, extrinsic piece of information” as opposed to a piece of philosophical, spiritual or theological reflection. This separation between the categories of “legal evidence” and something else, like poetry, or song lyrics, or speculations, or provocative ideas, reducing the media and the public to a stringent, unforgiving and relentless moral and ethical critical parent of every word uttered, of every action in all situations, inevitably takes un on the road to an unsustainable and non-existent universe.

In his highly sensitive and provocative book, The Spell of the Sensuous, David Adam, details the kind of separation from nature that occurred with the advent of the alphabet. He writes:

Without a formal writing system, the language of an oral culture cannot be objectified as a separable entity by those who speak it, and this lack of objectification influence not only8 the way in which oral cultures experience the field of discursive meanings, but also the very character and structure of that field. In the absence of any written analogue to speech, the sensible, natural environment  remains the primary visual counterpart of spoken utterance, the visible accompaniment of all spoken meaning.

The land, in other words, is the sensible site or matrix wherein meaning occurs and proliferates. In the absence of writing, we find ourselves situated in the field of discourse as we are embedded in the natural landscape; indeed the two matrices are not separable. We can no more stabilize the langauge and render its meanings determinate than we can freeze all motion and metamorphosis within the land. (p.139-140)
If, as David Adam posits, we live in an animate environment, and deploy language that imitates the sounds and deep character of that natural universe, we are, by definition, then in an intimate and even conjoined relationship with that environment.

Acknowledging that most of us, raised as we have been, in a “culture that asks us to distrust our immediate sensory experience and to orient ourselves instead on the basis of an abstract “objective” reality known only through quantitative measurement, technological instrumentation and other exclusively human involvements. But for those indigenous cultures still participant with the more-than-human life-world, for those peoples that have no yet shifted their synaesthetic# focus from the animate earth to a purely human set of signs, the riddles of the under-the-ground and beyond-the-horizon (the inside of things and the other side of things) are felt as vast and powerful mysteries, the principal realms from whence beings enter the animate world, and into which they depart.

For instance, among most native tribes of the American Southwest, where I live,--the people believe that they came into the world from  under the ground.” (Adam, p. 217)
Clearly, there is a wide and potentially permanent chasm between the tight, anal, and restrictive literalism of the world of “fake news” and the judgemental energies that cling to that world view and the more liberating, inclusive, connective and fulsome energies that attend a world view encompassing synaesthesia.

And rather than adopt a perspective that rejects either perspective, we would hope to embrace both in our imaginations, first, and then in through expanding our tolerance and wonder and awe at the complexity not only of the universe, but also of the human species of which we are a part. Refusing to reduce our perspective in any way could well turn out to be a sine qua non of our full embrace of our responsibility, individually and collectively, for the future of the planet that provides the essential elements for our life.

The full embrace of science includes and embraces the full engagement with the poetic, the mystic and the synaesthetic, as well as the embrace of the plethora of exciting and varied cultures, ethnicities, faiths, academies and traditions. We live in a veritable garden of world views, each with their unique and scintillating ways of mimicking the natural world. And, we are also the only gardeners in that garden, charged with attending to its perpetuity.

Are we really up to the task and the hope and the dream the task incarnates?
*The protocol for state funerals, also historically reserved for the royal family, and not for parliamentarians, required the monarch to be the last to enter the funeral.

#synaesthesia: Although contemporary neuroscientists study “synaesthesia-the overlap and blending of the senses, as though it were a rare or pathological experience to which only certain persons are prone (those who report “seeing sounds,” “hearing colors,” and the like), our primordial, preconceptual experience…in inherently synaesthetic. The intertwining of sensory modalities seems unusual to us only to the extent that we have become estranged from our direct experience. (Adam, p. 60)

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Do we "have" emotions, or do emotions "have" us?

If James Hillman is on point that “emotions have us” not the other way round, then they can be ‘framed’ as searching for, expressing or painting something hidden, lost or repressed such as our imagination.

Most of us have suffered public contempt for “being too emotional,” or for “being too intense” or for “being too much” or for “being unstable” because of our emotional expression. To many, our emotions have defined us almost exclusively negatively.
Public criticism of the expression of emotion, unless contained and restricted to novels, plays, poems, movies and canvases or dances or musical manuscripts, is rampant in the public discourse.

For men in particular, the expression of anger and rage is especially dangerous in places not designated as “boxing rings” or “padded rooms” or forests where we flail branches of trees, baseball bats, or some other instrument against the trunks of large trees. And there is also the social ‘habit’ of ‘drowning’ sorrow/anger/rage/rejection/abandonment in some alcoholic beverage (or drug whether prescribed or not), in the hope either that the “medication” will take the pain away, or alternatively, that our inebriated state will give cover and explanation for our most profound emotional pain.

Therapy, traditionally, attempts to parse the nature, the source, the impacts and the “price” of intense emotions, whether through a return to childhood memories, or through some activity like art therapy. In his initial assessment of cancer patients seeking his help, Bernie Segal asks them to draw a picture of their life. Too often, the picture that emerges is one of a kitchen sink, giving public vent to the notion that the patient sees his/her life as the place where all the “garbage” gets dumped. He also asks those patients, “What do you need with this disease? Or “Why do you need this disease?” And, “Do you really want to be free from it?”

What if we were able to paint the picture of that rage that seems to have us in its grip? What if our bodies (headaches, stomach pains, stiff necks, diarrhea, sleeplessness, stammer, involuntary tears, or other visible symptoms) were telling us what we weren’t “hearing” or “grasping” or “comprehending” or “facing” or “unwilling to tolerate” and those symptoms were the voices of our gods, angels and interior mentors?

Rather than adopting the conventional, derisive and judgemental perspective on these physical symptoms, even among mature adults as well as among the young, what if we were to be able and willing to provide a safe space (where one does not  and cannot do harm to self or to another), a tolerant and empathic ear, and importantly, a patient and unfrightened and unfrightening imagination? A question like, “What is this “god” or “demon” trying to say?” might be a very different approach not only for the person who is in the throes of his emotion, but also for the person presently providing supportive safety.

From personal experience, it seems that, when in the grip of a strong emotion, I am not necessarily clear or confident in the precise “voice” or “lesson” or “picture” that the emotion is trying to utter. And, of course, there is a potential conflict if a supportive ‘other’ invades the space being filled by the emotion by asking any question, regardless of the helpful motive s/he might bring.

De-toxifying intense emotion, however, as natural, and potentially even beneficial to the individual in its “basinet” seems, however we look at it, to be a far more temperate, supportive, clarifying and genuinely creative voice, and reduce both the perceived need for, and demand for punitive judgement. Seeing intense emotion as legitimate, natural, innate and even essential to the health and wellness of the human psyche, (obviously only in situations in which no harm is inflicted to anyone), could and likely would open many doors that are currently closed to public discourse.*

My family of origin, as one example, witnessed intense emotions being thrust like paint-balls against the walls of the minds, ears and psyches of the rest of the family. Many of those “paint-balls” were venomous judgements of others by one member of the family. And, for the most part, these paint-balls were greeted with silence, confusion, and withdrawal. They also aroused anger among the targets, each of us unaware of how the anger was more indicative of the “self-loathing” of their source than it was a legitimate judgement of the targets. Self-loathing, as a well-spring of deep emotions, often conflicted and conflicting, merits a far different response than silence and withdrawal.

It warrants a kind of compassion and empathy for the “soul” of the person obviously writhing in pain, and apparently unable to express the real message of the emotion, or to participate in options that would amend the situation in which the emotions erupted. Seeing and hearing those deeply hurtful “cuts” from the tongue of a member of the family as “the troubles” of that person demanding “treatment” that was apparently unavailable, rather than a potential gift for the person and potentially even for the rest of the family, resulted in decades of angst without evoking the imagination either of the source of the emotions or of the rest of the family. Intimacy, care, collaboration and compassion do not walk away from the expression of intense emotions, unless those walking away consider those emotions to be dangerous, immature, psychically ill, or even demonic.

Likely we have all had moments in which our emotions “seemed to get the better of us” as the vernacular puts it. And, similarly, those moments have likely resulted in witnessing the walking away, the silence, and the distancing of others from their expression. And there is a range of other emotions that accompany that alienation, separation and abandonment.

If we were to be asked, upon reflection, what those moments of intense emotions were trying to “say” we could most likely put words and pictures to the root cause and source of those emotions. And those words/pictures would be worthy of encoding, especially upon the initial release of the energy that accompanied them.

I recall being told I was no longer either needed or wanted in a specific situation, by a person for whom I had deep respect. After driving for several hours through the night, immediately after receiving the news, I recall falling to the floor of the basement of a friend’s house, and weeping inconsolably for two or three hours. Those “attending” to me, in my grief and anger were gentle, kind and somewhat confused. They were also withdrawn, leaving me to the cauldron of my loss of pride, the loss of my self-respect and the devastation of the experience of abandonment.

Abandonment, that word that beats loudly in the unconscious, raising the spectre of the orphan, comes in many different faces and voices. It comes in an overt trigger to evoke the work needed by the orphan to grow and to develop and evolve. Carol Pearson reminds us (in Awakening the Heroes Within) that the orphan’s goal is to regain safety, and that its gift is interdependence and realism.

And how and when one is permitted to “hear” and to “adopt” and to “embrace” the orphan, for example, or one of the other archetypes that can be given voice through turning points that can be found in the signposts of strong emotions, is unique to each of us. Nevertheless, there is little doubt that we can find clues in those moments when we find ourselves in the “throes” of our deep, authentic and warranted emotions (not manipulative, or manipulated, or deployed to achieve a deceptive end or goal).
When we lose a love, a job, a friend, or even a pet, we grieve, and learn to recover our commitment and passion, as the ultimate gift of the loss.

How we perceive our own emotions, and the authentic emotions of another, is a subject that has received gallons of ink throughout the centuries, from individuals with different backgrounds: philosophy, psychology, politics, medicine, theology, and even economics and biology. The theme that runs through their pages is often considered to be confused and confusing. This piece is not attempting to write the last word on the question of human emotions.

It is, however, determined to confront the far too prevalent convention that emotion unpacked, and released is too dangerous, and must be repressed, controlled and kept under wraps. It is also determined to push back on the convention of applying pharmaceutical prescriptions to each and every experience of emotions that might include discomfort, unease, worry, shame, embarrassment, and many of the other “life” experiences that will dot our path through our lifetime. The separation of reason from emotion, is another of the myths needing de-mythologizing, as is the experience of faith, love and life choices.

First, emotion accompanies, so intimately and so imperceptibly, every breath we take, and every perception we ‘hold’ and every value we incarnate. Second, the chemistry, and the physiology and the neurology and the anatomy of each emotion remains something of a sacred mystery, much like the far edge of the solar system whose edges the satellite Horizon is only now beginning to plumb.

This piece also invites an open-eyed, open-minded, open-book and open-attitude to the process of getting to know, to embrace and to discern the meaning and the purpose of this “force of nature” that comes into every room into which each human being walks.

Looking at the plethora of ways by which we deny, avoid, repress, treat, and judge this integral aspect of human life, throughout history, one is prompted to inquire: “How is the current approach working for us?”

*This is not a justification for the trump-venom, distortion and compulsive “enemizing” of all people who might disagree with him. And it does require a highly sensitive and empathic discernment of potential manipulation, another of the means to which strong emotion is deployed.