Monday, November 19, 2018

Endorsing Canada Post workers' legitimate demands for respect, decency, and dignity...NOW!


A while back, I wrote a piece that called on Canada Post to transform dramatically, creatively and immediately the culture of its workplace, from the demeaning, insulting, archaic, and counter-intuitive “scientific management” of the early twentieth century, in which workers were distrusted, insulted, considered a “drain” (cost) only, and certainly not the back bone of the organization.

Formulae that measure kilometers, points of call, numbers of flyers, numbers of “deliver to door” with or without signatures, numbers of lock changes (on Community Mail Boxes), numbers of vacation and personal days (both of which are abused by the head office of HR), whether or not “exit” signs have been posted in small rural offices….these demonstrate a culture of anality, obsessive-compulsive and neurotic, if not psychotic orientation and culture. And, when and if anything threatens the status quo, like falling numbers of hard-copy letters, documents, bills and the like, the corporation cries loud and wide, crying the apocalypse is no longer “coming;” it is already here!

Positive, present, listening, and attentive leadership to the core resource of this highly labour-intensive operation, the workers, has to replace the kind of pre-twentieth-century attitudes and beliefs and practices. The research is unequivocal that workers who are respected, trusted and valued and supported with policies, practices and supervisory relationships that live up to such benchmarks go beyond the minimum, provide more accurate and detailed attention to their tasks, and actually cost less in the long run. Such employees are authentic good-will ambassadors for their employer, and generate positive attitudes among their clients, a factor that is needed and considered so subjective as to be excluded from calculations by both labour and management.

Current obstructions by the corporation seem to include the following items, if reports reaching the employees and the public generally are complete and valid:

·        Restricting pensions by removing a guaranteed delivery amount and replacing it with a higher employee contribution,
·        blocking pay equity between letter carriers and rural carriers,
·        refusing to acknowledge that 1 in 5 letter carriers are injured every year on the job, the highest worker injury rate of all sectors in Canada
·        refusing to enhance profit opportunities by blocking rural banking facilities (is this a genuflection to the government’s cozy relationship with the five “established” banks?)
·        scrimping on the impact of the dramatic increase in parcels, by refusing to hire additional workers, and by demanding twelve-hour days without overtime

Are these, taken together, a hidden campaign to twist the government’s hand to make a decision on significant new numbers of Community Mail Boxes in urban areas, (an initiative begun under the Harper government)? Such a move, linked to a highly sensitive and creative set of adjustments to accommodate special needs of seniors, physically and mentally challenged clients, would reduce the time required to deliver directly to urban residences, and especially to wide-spread rural mail boxes. However, additional CMB’s would also significantly reduce the “community surveillance” currently embedded in the daily life of RSMC’s* in those townships and counties currently operating with restricted or no police protection, except under special circumstances.

Is Canada Post positioning itself, through the latest conflict with workers, for a government decision to sell the entity to a private investor, thereby flushing a cataract of cash into government coffers, at the expense of workers, most of whom, if not all, would automatically be eliminated and de-certified, under private ownership. The example of the Royal Mail, recently offered on public auction, with a few share “crumbs” offered to current workers to soften the blow, could be a model upon which these fractiousness labour negotiations is being built. (It is not incidental to note that the former CEO of Canada Post, Moira Green, was appointed head of Royal Mail, a few years ago, oversaw this transition to public shares, and has more recently retired.

There are cogent and compelling arguments for pay equity changes, health and safety enhancements, stabilized pension arrangements, parcel delivery support through increased hiring. Canada Post cannot wallow along with its corporate eyes glued to the rear-view mirror of their corporate culture, nor to the historic norms of the last century. Amazon, UPS, FedEx, DHL and other parcel-sales and distribution agencies are gobbling bigger chunks of the delivery sector of the economy, Technologies, too, are changing both the methods and the budgets of message and parcel transportation. We are all aware of the significant decline in raw numbers of union members, especially driven by the fall in manufacturing jobs. Male union membership has been falling, while female memberships in sectors like health care and education, have been rising slightly.

On the shop floor level, however, union “leverage” has significantly declined in recent years, inside and outside Canada Post. Complaints, dubbed “grievances” far too often go unaddressed, even unheard, and certainly not accommodated by the corporation. It is these insidious omissions of responsibility, including the off-loading Employment Assistance Programs to private corporations, leave the company with merely a statistical account of the numbers and the relative severity of the challenges faced by postal workers. Evidence suggests, from office co-workers who have sought support from the Morneau-Shepell-Great-West-Life two-headed corporate ally administering worker assistance, that “counsellors” rotate shifts, leaving postal workers to repeat the details of their “story” to a new counsellor each time they call for assistance. Clearly, this default position does not and cannot engender confidence among workers whose experience tells them that their personal issues are so insignificant to those tasked with professional support that they are passed from one to another in a cavalier and inconsistent and thereby unsubstantial and fragile, if not defective system.
These details do not make it into the public consciousness.  Other details also never reach the public consciousness, including, but not restricted to:

·        being stuck in snow-drifts for up to five hours after calling CAA whose tow truck could not navigate through the drifts leaving only a township front-end loader the only answer to escape, or of
·        being bitten by stray dogs, or of
·        falling down un-shovelled, icy steps,  
·        trapesing through snow drifts to get a signature only to find no one home, or
·        twisting one’s back in an attempt to wrestle a full bed frame out of the delivery vehicle, and up the stairs into a customer’s apartment

While, to some, this list may sound like whining, it comprises an intimate and personal account of some of the “normal” working conditions, not to mention weather vagaries, customer anti-labour attitudes, or supervisory insouciance.

From this desk, conditions have now morphed to a state where a middle-ground of support for both corporation and worker is no longer tenable. Compromise, moderation, a gentle and somewhat clinical and sanitized, if dispassionate, attitude to labour negotiations, in the west, no longer serve the spine, the heart and the body of the economy, the worker.

Political and economic power is stacked in favour of the corporate board rooms, and their occupants. Public attitudes are no longer modest or moderate when it comes to unions getting a fair shake. Public attitudes are contemptuous, or perhaps even worse, disinterested and detached, unless and until their “pocket-book” or their special holiday presents might be delayed, or heaven forbid, not delivered until after the big day, December 25.

I owe by former co-workers at Canada Post a deep and sincere apology for having been so milquetoast, and so dilettantish and debonair, so dispassionate and detached in the earlier blog post on this issue. This labour dispute is at the core of the future of labour rights and corporate obligations for the next decades, generations and perhaps even the rest of the century. Canadian Union of Postal Workers members are fighting for legitimate, warranted and long-overdue, yet reasonable consideration, expressed through their pay slips, their work assignments, their health and safety supports, their pension benefits and their pursuit of their emotional, physical and mental workplace health.

And the rest of us, whether or not Canada Post’s decisions did, do or will have a direct impact on our lives, owe it to our children, grandchildren and their children to take this labour dispute very seriously, far more seriously this this scribe has done heretofore.

It is the future of the labour movement that is under fire from the plethora of right-wing efforts to demonize all signs of anything that smacks of a collective, collaborative and balanced approach to workers rights. Corporations will ignore, deny, or supress their legitimate responsibilities, as long as they can get away with such contemptuous disregard of their workers. Airline pilots are expected to fly far too many hours, without rest; truck drivers are expected, even required, to drive far longer hours than their bodies can withstand; delivery couriers (UBEReats, etc) are being struck and injured and falling off their bicycles, without the benefit of legal worker protection. (Some are even classed as “phone answering services” to avoid the company payments to the Worker Compensation Boards.) Workplace injuries, especially in non-unionized shops, receive only a bare minimum of support. More work is piled on workers by management, in both unionized and non-unionized shops, without a collective push-back from workers who fear for their loss of their jobs even if they took leave under their doctor’s supervision and requirement.

We do not have to take a “hands-off” position to this labour dispute, as too many corporate leaders and government leaders are doing with global warming and climate change. We are not powerless, in that or in this dispute.

We can write to our Member of Parliament, asking for a fair settlement of this current dispute. We can express our support to our Canada Post delivery person, the one we take for granted who trudges through the elements, hot and cold, the heave and light mail days, the friendly and not-so-much customer encounters, and the supervisory indignities and insouciance.

And our support can only energize additional political activism, on behalf of the millions of silent, voiceless and non-represented workers whom we can no longer take for granted.

All workers need the support of all Canadians, especially those current and future workers at Canada Post.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Opposition to trump cannot stop with voting.. pressure on elected officials needed now


How does one respond to the mid-term vote held on Tuesday, Nov. 6 in the United States, a mere 5 days prior to the 100th anniversary of the Armistice of 1918? And while there have been multiple homages paid to the many years of relative peace following the Second World War, the notion of military danger, enhanced significantly by the $74 billion expansion to the budget of the Pentagon, the U.S. withdrawal from the Medium nuclear weapons treaty, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran Accord, the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and the threats posed to NATO by that same administration, remains unabated. There are many pieces of evidence that enhance the prospect for military violence, including:

·        the $61 billion expansion, totalling $700 billion, to the budget of the Pentagon,
·        the U.S. withdrawal from the Medium nuclear weapons treaty,
·        the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Iran Accord,
·        the huge arms sales to Saudi Arabia, and
·        the threats posed to NATO by that same administration,

Add to this list, the underlying and dramatic shift in the culture of the American society favouring and emboldening of “white supremacy”, the explosion of incidents of mass murder 12 killed just last night in a bar in Thousand Oaks, Ventura County, California) and threats to the lives of political enemies of trump, the inflated presidential rhetoric of violence, intimidation, and even threats to the newly elected Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, (“if they investigate me, I will investigate them: two can play this game and we are much better at it than they are”), the confirmation of trump-lackey Kavanaugh, and yesterday the firing of Attorney General Sessions and the appointment of another lackey in Matthew Whittaker as his replacement, the world knows that a constitutional crisis has already broken through the horizon of the American political landscape. None of these developments bodes well either for global or domestic peace and civility, given that each is dependent on the other.

Clearly, with 30% of the population (primarily rural) of the United States represented by 70% of the Senators, while 70% of the population (primarily urban and suburban) is represented by only 30% of the Senators, there is a serious imbalance of political power reducing the influence of urban and suburban voters while inordinately inflating that of rural voters, portraying and foreshadowing continuing deadlock between the House and Senate. Built into the constitution is the stipulation that each state must have the same number of senators (2), and with. trump’s stampeding rallies in those states calculated to sustain a Republican majority in the Senate (another three-dimensional chess move to protect trump from the potential damage of the Mueller report), he has effectively “bought” himself an insurance policy against ultimate impeachment. After all, the only kind of transaction known to and practiced by this president is “buy-sell” because, for him, the only things that matter is his personal/familial growth in power, wealth, influence, and indeed dominance.

“Embracing” those candidates willing to accept his “embrace”, in his mind, leads to their electoral victory, and his self-inflated chest-thumping as the primary reason for their election. Those who “gave me no love” on the other hand, are publicly disdained even scorned, as “public enemies” of the president. The only possible ‘take’ from this performance in yesterday’s press briefing is that the president divides the world into those who have drunk his koolaid, and from whom he now expects and demands unsullied loyalty, and those who have chosen to reject him and his coat-tails. In the end, everyone, whether Republican, Democratic, of Independent, is useful so long as s/he is a public sycophant to the president, and dispensable if and when that dependence is cracked or worse, shattered.

Similarly, in geopolitics, this president has neither authentic allies nor friends, in other chief executive offices, only items on a chess-board, for his personal (certainly not national or international) ambitions, needs, whims and headlines. If the ‘other’ leader buys/accepts American arms, steel, aluminum, coal with tonnes of carbon emissions and trade deals, and complies with the threats and the imposition of tariffs issuing from the Oval Office, he walks under the radar of the president’s wrath. If not, then s/he instantly becomes a public target. And within the nation, those who bear the burden of being black, Latino, are in even more danger. Dubbed as “unable” and “unfit” and “uneducated” (see the references to both Stacey Abrams, and Andrew Gillum, candidates for Governor in Georgia and Florida respectively), they are thrown under the bus for their person, race and identity.

And so, while the public debate so conventionally focuses on the “bread and butter” issues of health, education and social safety net, justifiably, and trump wants the world to measure his success in stock prices, unemployment figures and conservative judges to the Supreme Court, there are, under trump, two other deep, destabilizing and converging political cruise missiles ripping through the United States political culture:white racist supremacy and shredding the legal framework of the constitution!
Charlottesville is the historic metaphor for the rise and triumph of White Supremacy, and even yesterday, another white supremacist was welcomed to the White House.

It is the shredding of the legal framework that underpins the governmental structure, creating what Neal Katyal, former Solicitor General under the Obama administration, and Geoffrey Conway (spouse of Kelly Anne Conway, and himself a constitutional scholar) writing in the New York Times, call a constitutional crisis that is no longer on the horizon, it has become a full-blown sun in the political sky of the United States. The “appointment” of Wittaker to the Attorney General’s post in the Department of Justice, according to Katyal and Conway, is unconstitutional, given the clear legal requirement that all who serve in such a position must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate. The “line of succession” from the Deputy Attorney General, to the Assistant Deputy Attorney General would be the “legal” path to a replacement for fired Attorney General Sessions.

It could well be, according to Katyal, appearing this morning on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, that Whittaker has already turned over Mueller’s files to trump. It could also be that he has followed through on his public declaration on CNN, recorded and replayed for posterity, to vacuum all funding out of the Mueller investigation thereby foreclosing on the biggest thorn in the president’s side. These public declarations, linked to his denial of any Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election, and now his appointment as interim Attorney General that, taken individually and/or collectively, provide empirical evidence for those seeking more proof of the “obstruction of justice” charge into which Mueller is delving.

·        Profiting from the spoils of presidential victory through the tidal wave of slush funds pouring into the trump hotel in Washington from geopolitical and national political sycophants seeking the pleasures of the trump administration (contravening the emoluments clause),
·        appointing his son-in-law to a full national security clearance,
·        padding the investment accounts of the most affluent men and women in the nation,
·        de-stabilizing the EPA,
·        gutting the department of Education,
·        firing James Comey,

·    firing of Sessions and plunking an obviously protective of presidential immunity to subpoena, prosecution and all other legal impinging constraints including impeachment…..**

And all of these items do not encompass the 307 (that is not a typo!) mass shootings in the last year in the United States, the voter suppression of minority voters by elected officials, the flaunting of all historic and traditional norms of governance.
How much more evidence do the people of the United States need to call, write, email, text or confront face-to-face their representatives in Washington, current and newly elected, to shout from the roof-tops, “We have had enough!”

Appearing in Toronto only last week, in a debate framed, safely under Canadian parameters, about the future prospects of populism throughout the world, Steve Bannon trumped his proud declaration that trump is an historic and transformative president who will be in our lives for decades. Already proven true, given the appointments of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh (and potentially a third, should Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s recent fall and breaking of three ribs), conservative strict constructionist opinion will dominate Supreme Court decisions for decades, Bannon fears no forceful contradiction. However, it is the demise of the American pursuit and achievement of many of the better cornerstone foundations of democracy, and the atrophy of the American reputation on the world stage, and the removal of the American potential to lead international efforts to spare the environment, all of them included in the costs already accumulated under this administration.

Tom Steyer, whether or not he is running for president in 2020, is not wasting his millions on advertisements calling for public support for the removal of this chief executive.

Will the public demand the termination of this political, social, cultural, legal and historic rampage? The world cannot wait for the Electoral College to be eliminated, nor for the Senate representation imbalance to be levelled, nor for the multiple state laws that repress and impede voting rights to be removed from the law books. The crisis, no matter how we frame it, demands reining in now!

**another heinous and illegal and deplorable culpability of the administration: the separation of families of refugees and asylum-seekers, and the incarceration of separated children from their families

Monday, November 5, 2018

Anger, the mask of fear (Chuck Lorre)


Appearing on CBS’s Sunday Morning, yesterday, Chuck Lorre, the creator of The Big Bang Theory, uttered words that merit echoing reverberating, vibrating and pulsating across the globe. Commenting on his reputation of being “quick to anger” Lorre said:

But fear for me exhibits as anger," Lorre said. "'Cause I'm not gonna show you fear. I'm gonna show you anger because that's just how I grew up. And that's what you present to the world. And that maybe becomes your reputation." 

Men, for decades have been stereotyped as “angry” in a judgemental interpretation of something we are not (also stereotypically) permitted to show, vulnerability of any kind, and that includes “fear”. Identifying with Lorre, along with millions of other males, I am confident that if we peel back the layers of emotion that erupt when we display anger, will we undoubtedly discover that at its root is our deepest fear.
A bill is overdue, and we raise our voice in “anger” because we fear that our credit rating will be eroded.
A situation is so inhumane, so degrading and so demeaning that we shout, “I cannot take this any more!” at three a.m. into a phone to the head office of our community development organization, because we fear for the loss of our sanity.
A relationship founders on pettiness, into which net we become enmeshed, and our anger erupts because we fear the loss of the relationship into which we have already invested years of commitment.

A penetrating insult crosses the table at an elegant restaurant, and we immediately go silent, this time in disappointment and ultimately fear, although we are unable  to grasp the significance of that emotional element at the moment. Instantly, we feel hurt, and only later, upon reflection are we able to discern our anger that someone we previously believed was trustworthy and “safe” has betrayed that previous trust. And then the fullness of the implications of the biting criticism unfolds into the “fear” that somehow both partners in that other relationship do not share a common acceptance and support of the relationship we have with one of them.

A family member forwards an email forbidding further contact on the pretext that the initial overture to build a bridge over the many degrees of separation was merely a manipulation on some other issue, to compel their joining a conspiracy completely and totally unimagined. And we become enraged because we fear that, not only will the bridge never be begin, but the reality being characterized as a conspirator undermines an identity, and additional relationships.

While tidying up an estate, a family member proffers an item, as an act of apparent kindness and generosity, only to discover that a similar item, of far greater significance and value has already been placed on the pile of her “inheritance” and anger erupts in the veins, not because the original offer was so desired or desireable, but because the blatant narcissism and hypocrisy of the “offer”  seriously erode previous placed trust in the family member. And the “fear” that is operative is that of shame that a family member is so blatantly crass and opportunistic.

When confronted by a former colleague who has become aware of a rift in the relationship and who wants to seek revenge for the rift by offering, “put all your arguments on the table and I will combat each of them”….only to hear from my voice, “For God’s sake, this is not about winning an argument; it is about trust, and I no longer trust you!” Anger, then, is the fear that a long-standing professional relationship was all along really hollow, vapid and based exclusively on power, essentially exposing the emptiness of any previous perception of collegiality, and the innocence and naivety of my perspective.

All experiences of loss of innocence, it would seem, fall into a similar experience category, exposing anger both at the other and ultimately at the self, for having been so trusting, so na├»ve and so “uncanny”. And the anger (read fear) can at times be overwhelming.

Near death a very elderly woman declares to her daughter, “Your brother would never have care for me as you have!” in a deeply penetrating statement of anger and resentment. Obviously fearful that long ago, without perhaps fully grasping the import, she had already shredded the relationship with the brother, her son, and had been extremely jealous of the time spent by the brother/son during the father’s palliative stage prior to his death. Now, near the end of her own life, she feels free to utter her vindictive truth.

Projections, too, carry the weight of deep and profound anger, coming as they do from our unconscious, as we portray our individual Shadow, the storage vault for our deepest fears. And, it is not incidental to wonder how the contemporary culture would shift if what we hear as anger were to be recognized as fear. The angry “cover-up” is so much more destructive, not to mention demeaning, and so regularly dismissed as unprofessional, when, recognizing it as fear would connote a very different meaning, prompt a very different response and attitude.

Think of the workplaces that have literally sanitized “anger” from their premises, in all forms. Would they be so eager and determined to spend the same dollars, energy, policy-writing and enforcing efforts if they came to the position Lorre already has, that the anger they witness is much more likely a deep expression of fear? Would the corporate establishment that governs these large organizations, including governments and social agencies, be so quick to outlaw all expressions of anger if they came to the realization that most, if not all of the anger were really a cover-up for fear, both superficial and deep-seated?

Another question, “Is anger a trait more fundamental and basic to the DNA of the male species, as compared with the female? How far removed from the Lorre perspective is the women’s movement that anger is really an expression of repressed, vaulted and hidden, fear?

And as the public discourse becomes replete with anger, on all sides on all issues, are we ready to listen to Lorre’s personal story, that he is not “going to show you fear” but resorts to anger instead, and pays the price of an angry reputation?
Trump incarnates the same deep and profound fear(s) and covers it/them with his persistent anger, obviously riding a wave of similarly repressed fear, screamed out as anger over anything and everything from his frightened cult.

Entertaining this anger may be; it is certainly is not illuminating of anything resembling a serious public debate about the issues, their implications and their gasping voracious appetite for address. And if the most “powerful” nation on earth is drowning in the anger of its public “leaders” (while masking both personal and national fear) can the rest of us trust any crumb of hope for creative, responsible collaborative and pro-active resolutions to the serious problems of race, military conflict, environmental protection, immigration, and income disparity?

In a word, NO!

And that NO expresses both fear and anger, on the part of this scribe!  

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Scratching the surface of misandry and other insecurities


Paul Morel, the young man in D.H. Lawrence’s novel, Sons and Lovers, caught between his mother’s possessiveness and fear of losing him to Miriam and his own feelings of inadequacy, struggles mightily with his feelings and his decision about whether or not to marry Miriam.

Lawrence writes these words:

With the spring came again the old madness and battle. Now he knew he would have to go to Miriam. But what was his reluctance? He told himself it was only a sort of overstrong virginity in her and him which neither could break through. He might have married her; but his circumstances at home made it difficult, and moreover, he did not want to marry. Marriage was for life, and because they had become close companions, he and she, he did not see that it should inevitably follow they should be man and wife. He did not feel that he wanted marriage with Miriam. He wished he did. He would have given his head to have felt a joyous desire to marry her and to have her. Then why couldn’t he bring it off? There was some obstacle; and what was that obstacle? It lay in the physical bondage. He shrank from the physical contact. But why? With her he felt bound up inside himself. He could not go out to her. Something struggled in him but he could not get to her. Why? She loved him….Why , when she put her arm in his timidly, as they walked, did he feel he would burst forth in brutality and recoil? He owed himself to her; he wanted to belong to her. Perhaps the recoil and the shrinking from her was love in its first fierce modesty. He had no aversion for her. No, it was the opposite; it was a strong desire battling with a still stronger shyness and virginity. It seemed as if virginity were a positive force, which fought and won in both of them. And with her he felt it so hard to overcome; yet he was nearest to her, and with her alone could he deliberately break through. And he owed himself to her. Then, if they could get things right, they could marry; but he would not marry unless he could feel strong in the joy of it---never. He could not have faced his mother. It seemed to him that to sacrifice himself in a marriage he did not want would be degrading, and would undo all his life, make it a nullity. He would try what he could do.

And he had a great tenderness for Miriam. Always, she was sad dreaming her religion; and he was nearly a religion for her. He could not bear to fail her. It would come out alright if they tried.

He looked round. A good many of the nicest men he knew were like himself, bound in by their own virginity, which they could not break out of. They were so sensitive to their women that they would go without them for ever rather than do them a hurt, an injustice. Being the sons of mothers whose husbands had blundered rather brutally through their feminine sanctities, they were themselves too diffident and shy. They could easier deny themselves than incur any reproach from a woman; for a woman was like their mother, and they were full of the sense of their mother. They preferred themselves to suffer the misery of celibacy, rather than risk the other person. ( D.H. Lawrence, Sons and Lovers, from three great novels, JG Press, 1933p. 703-4)

The ‘Oedipus Complex’ constitutes a psychological problem and this forms the nucleus of the novels, Sons and Lovers. The possessive character of Mrs. Morel was great stumbling block in the life of Paul, the hero of the piece. She was terribly dissatisfied with her married life and then subsequently. She exerted her influence on the life of Paul who could not liberate himself from the mother-fixation. Mother’s influence was so preponderant and so overweening assertive that Paul could not get a balanced emotional life. He failed to establish a becoming relationship both with Miriam and Clara. The mother-image was deterrent to the emotional life of Paul who himself was also a highly sensitive person and in his attachment with mother we notice the warmth and passion of a lover. This complex psychological problem has been treated or delineated by Lawrence with the consummate art of a poet and an unfailing observation and insight of a true psychologist.  (From A.D.’s Literature website)

It is not a physical attraction of Paul to his mother that is at issue in this novel, although that may have been one of the interpretations emerging from the novel. It is the overweening influence of the despondent, dependent and even desperate mother on the son that blocks his achievement of a balanced emotional life. And the resulting dependence on the mother’s tyrannical emotional imprint leaves the young son wallowing, if not actually drowning in the murky waters of his mother’s own imbalance and unfinished emotional work. Wrestling with what seems like a spider’s web of enmeshment with the mother, Paul vacillates between a healthy impulse of “wanting” and moving toward Miriam, and an unhealthy impulse of avoiding and withdrawing from Miriam, in his early twenties. His vacillation signals a kind of impotence, powerlessness, indecision and emotional limbo. Others, caught in a similar web might, and often do, fall into the trap of over-compensating violence and bullying. Excessive deference and/or excessive bullying, two inappropriate emotional and psychological impulses on the part of men, in their relationship with women, play an inordinate role in contemporary culture, to the detriment of both genders, and certainly to the demise of many relationships.

For twenty-first century readers, this whole story may seem as if it belongs in the ash-heap of ancient history. After all, there is no mother of sons today whose dependence on her son, given her desperation in her own unfulfilled, and unfulfilling marriage, distorts the son’s capacity to understand his own complex emotions, and to penetrate them into an enlightened and confident sense of his self! 

Right?

Wrong!

There is, today, a mountain of narrative evidence of women who complain, justifiably, about the abuse they experience at the hands of inappropriate men. And there is a concomitantly inordinate number of men whose imbalance in their emotional development, especially as it regards the complexities of choosing a female life partner, impedes their healthy emotional development.

Are these the men who are and have been perpetrating injustices on women? Is Paul a clairvoyant, if fictional, canary in the coal mine of gender issues? Is his mother, while never mentioned in the front-page stories that saturate the current debate over relationships between men and women, casting a dark shadow over these fractured and fractious, debilitating and demeaning encounters of powerlessness/overpowering among men and their women colleagues and former friends, especially of those men in the public telescope?

While the #MeToo and the #Time’sUp initiatives are diagnosing and exposing the experiences of demeaned women, much of it outside the bounds of a legal framework, men continue to refuse (not merely refrain!) to seek help in the conundrum of their emotional and professional and domestic vortex. Who, after all, would contest that emotional eunuchs, especially those who do not, or cannot, comprehend their emotional DNA, would be the most likely perpetrators of sexual abuse?

And while it seems paradoxical, and to the women complainants irrelevant, to attempt to parse the male’s emotional DNA, especially as it can deliver only inappropriate attitudes and behaviour (see pornography, strip clubs, locker room talk, and the current U.S. president) we can most likely also agree that powerlessness, and the feeling of impotence, no matter how it is incarnated or seeded, will very likely generate inappropriate behaviour, both for the agent and the victim. Mothers of young boys clearly have a responsibility for their own emotional health, including the management of their marriages, and the culture of the family in which they are attempting to raise, educate and launch a healthy son.

Any notion of beginning from the point of view that it is “pointless” for a wife/mother to begin a conversation with a male spouse who is not living up to the expectations of his wife, on any matter, be it fiscal, physical, sexual, intellectual, social, parental or even spiritual, is a non-starter, sabotaging itself from the get-go! “He won’t (doesn’t) get it!” is a phrase uttered at this moment in thousands of rooms across this continent. And the voices in that choir are exclusively female!

Misandry, a dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against men or boys, unfortunately takes many shapes and forms. And while the contemporary culture is fixated on the empirical, the physical evidence in any matter, there are other signs and “substantial” pieces of evidence of misandry in the debate. Emotional withdrawal, that “passive aggressive” charge for which men are infamous, can and is also a potential attitude from disaffected women. Even an emotional “stance” that positions the woman as “knowing” and “discerning” and  having “superior, emotional intelligence” as compared with men is a mean-spirited face, voice, arms and heart of misandry. Even hugs engaged in such a mental state are meaningless, for both the man and the woman. And anything beyond hugs, under an umbrella of female “emotional superiority,” is merely another play-acting, with ultimately dire consequences.

And men, whether they come from emotionally domineering mothers, or cheer-leading mothers, or insecure mothers of any sort, and also whether they come from dominating fathers, emotionally frozen and/or absent fathers, or ‘driven’ fathers, or other forms of male insecurity, will in too many cases be unable (that is very different from unwilling!) to discern their complex emotions, and how they impact their female partners, especially when those relationships get “serious” and “intimate”.

Is it not past time for this century’s enlightened and sophisticated, educated and informed, sensitive and sensible men and women to remove the mask of fear and insecurity, in whatever form it manifests itself,  and to acknowledge our vulnerability as individual human beings, to open to the possibility that we are deeper, more worthy, more open to see new insights even if they might be at first threatening and frightening (to both genders)?

Perhaps a re-reading of Lawrence’s Sons and Lovers might help even those who hate reading, in a century in which (reading) literacy is another of those species threatened into extinction (along with emotional literacy), like the 60% of the animal world that has disappeared, according to the World Wildlife Fund.


  

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Religious "right" the supporting cast(e) to the trump cult


In his most recent column in truthdig.com , Chris Hedges points out that removing trump from power would leave the “yearning of millions of people, many conditioned by the Christian right for a cult leader.” Let’s look at the evidence of a close and causal link between the Christian “right” and the trump cult, making no mistake that the followers of the current president comprise a full-blown cult.

The most obvious link is the massive and charismatic composition of the two leaders. Even with specific names (Swaggart et al) we can all point to times and places in our lives when such captivating public speakers held sway over crowds of almost literally mesmerized fans. In my own life, such an evangelist came to our little town from the Northern Ireland town of Balleymena, near Belfast. Evoking, and undoubtedly mimicking his own idol, Ian Paisley, this little man, clad in his black Nehru jacket framing his clergy collar and bands, filled the pews for several years in a previously modest, quiet, reflective, warm and friendly church with his homiletic rhetoric. Always outlined in three pivotal points, (evoking the Trinity to make what he said seem more holy), this man spewed venom against the Roman Catholic church, (just as Paisley did for decades in Northern Ireland), spurned make-up for women, dancing for adolescents, movies for all, and wine and alcohol for adults.

Impeccably combed neat grey-black curls lay on his rubric forehead, while “ten-dollar” words poured from his silver tongue, as he glided from behind the large pulpit raised on a six-foot dias elevated above another two-foot raised platform from which he served communion, first to his right in full view, and alternatively to his left. His five-foot frame was a commanding presence with a presentation style that vacuumed cheques from wallets and purses, clarion chimes from one affluent newcomer, fresh paint from a cadre of willing volunteers, dock-side fleets of cars for Sunday summer evening theatrics and testimonials. “Saved,” “born-again” and “turning your life over to Christ as your personal Lord and Saviour” were his three rallying cries….and the muscle and larynx he interjected into his conversion “calls” were intimidating to some, shaming to others, spiritual medication to others for the pain of “sin” in whatever form it had been committed.

Little did he know, or more tellingly, would he have cared, to learn that Roman Catholic adolescent boys hurled stones at the heads of the youth who attended his church as they swan at the town beach, so penetrating and denigrating was his religious bigotry, in the name of Jesus Christ, as he understood Him. It would have been impossible for anyone, young or old, living in the town at that time, mid-fifties to late sixties, not to be fully aware of the division this little martinet was sewing in our little town. He very quickly magnetized four men to his Session, the church council’s designation at the time, where they joined others, including my father, who had served for decades previously.

In the only incidence in memory in which my father ever uttered an unkind word about another person, I once heard him quietly strip the spiritual, holy garments from those four men, calling them, “The Four Just Men!” in his dry and biting ironic sarcasm. Who knows their motives for rallying around this cult leader, but clearly, church growth in both dollars and adherents had to be one of their primary impulses; all four were (are?) engaged in business in the little town and were building those empires as the cornerstones of their legacy. Others, also private businessmen, joined later, underlining the strong enmeshment between the business culture and the church model.

Charismatic leaders, no matter what they are peddling, are renowned for their magnetic presence before a crowd. And when they are peddling a theology of sin, fear, hate and a kind of righteousness that wreaks of superiority and perfectionism, setting the “Saved” apart and above the “unsaved,” they are dangerous not only to those “saved” but also to all the rest. “Cult” wears a few faces, all of them smelling of the abuse of power:
·        a system of religious veneration and devotion directed toward a particular figure or object
·        a misplaced or excessive admiration for a particular person or thing, a cult of personality surrounding the leader(s)

The blurring of “veneration” for a saint, for example, with the excessive enmeshment (admiration, adulation, sycophancy) with another person illustrates the complexity and the ambiguity and the “cover” implicit in many words in our language. And it is to the elimination, avoidance, denial and betrayal of all ambiguities that this evangelist dedicated his professional ministry, all in the name of “saving” the heathens in our little town. At sixteen, after what I then considered his most odious homily (bigoted and narrow, without any supporting evidence from scripture) I departed, and never returned, except for a wedding to my first wife. (My parents had struggled to remain!)
Whether this decade-plus long experience when I was especially impressionable was designed to equip me for a later chapter inside the church or not, it clearly shaped my attitudes, perceptions, beliefs and practice of ministry. My “DNA” has been in a conflict with all of the hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of Christian “born-again’s,” if for no other reason than I never have accepted the notion that God, in and through His Son, Jesus Christ Resurrected, never wanted, expected, demanded or rewarded a permanent infantilizing of those who choose to worship as disciples. Uncertainty, acceptance of ambiguity, puzzling over meanings, both textual and experiential, reading, praying, reflecting, conversing, singing, weeping, rejoicing, learning and growing in all of the ways that we are capable of developing…..these seem a more grounded, perplexing, challenging, and loving set of guideposts for anyone searching for God. And without any cognitive, atmospheric, metaphysic, philosophic, psychologic, political, historic or liturgical mapping to “point” the way into the mind and the heart of God, I prefer the process, and the accompanying humility and even desperation of the search in and through the dark nights of the soul, the dark caves of the Shadow, the dark wounds of inevitable, persistent and toxic enemies, and the unbelievable joys that surprise us at every turn in our pilgrimage to a relationship with the ineffable.

Jonestown, and the massacre there, was devoid of uncertainty, ambiguity, puzzling. Similarly, the trump iteration of “cult” is devoid of uncertainty, ambiguity, puzzling, reflection and collaboration, not to mention the humility that necessarily and inevitably accompanies the approaches the spring from such uncertainty. Similarly, a loud voice, perhaps charismatic to some, singularly ‘convicted’ of the righteousness of its pontifications, totally immune to and alienated from all sensibilities of others, especially those others who do not ‘drink the kool-aid’ being served, or who do not advance the “cause,” narcissistic in the extreme, of its high priest strides the globe like a colossus, exclusively in its own mind.

And for every cult, there is the essential component of a willing, compliant, child-like and ignorant (in the ignosco, I do not know, sense) army of followers. So easy and almost facile to depict a “cult” leader; the army of followers, on the other hand, is not so readily captured. Idealistic, aspiring, often angry, unconscious of their Shadow and its projection onto the leader, disdainful of all opponents who cannot and do not see the world “as we do” and therefore are almost to be pitied, certainly scorned, and often shown little more than contempt. How else could a cluster of alienated outsiders, willing to shed all vestiges of their scepticism, while burying themselves in their contempt for the “other,” manage to agree on membership in the cult? Requiring little if any “supportive” dogma, ideological pillars, or theological tenets, these people are more like moths to a lamp, effervescently eager to rush to the “light” whereupon they almost immediately “die” in the dark below. Their’s is not so much a conscious sacrifice as a blind devotion to an image. Like Tristan and Isolde, two lovers addicted to the idea of love, cult conscripts have fallen in “love” with the idea of the power they believe they have inherited through their joining. Not knowing of the concept of enmeshment, they are vulnerable to their own blindness and the magnetism of their chosen leader.

 Some might call them desperate, each in their unique and individual way for their own emptiness to be filled, they are satisfied by their coherence and membership, their shared activities, and their constant and repeated exposure to their leader who is above reproach, in their eyes.

Having lived in the shadow of their own self-loathing, they emerge into the light of the leader, believing that he (and history is almost, if not totally, devoid of female cult leaders) provides the missing light, hope, promise and deliverance they crave. The complex causes, reasons and cultural themes that put them in their own darkness remain outside both their understanding and their curiosity. Immediate gratification of the kind that collapses time in their search for a kind of panacea, or nirvana, is a compelling force that drives them into the fold of the cult. New recruits to a new movement, gang, group of specially saved or newly protective club, too, have a frenzy about their devotion to the cult. And they want to evangelize their friends and colleagues with an energy and an enthusiasm that overwhelms many of their prospective convert.

Ironically, given the feeling of strength and conviction of their membership in the cult, they are paradoxically anxious, insecure and defensive when they are challenged, and especially when their leader is defamed. It is as if the centrifuge of the criticism’s pull draws them even closer to the leader and to an even deeper and firmer commitment to the cult, unless and until…

Like the frog in the boiling water, unaware of the danger it faces, until it is too late, they often “come to their senses” in that they see how hollow are the cult culture and code and even the depth of character of their leader. And as history discloses, they eventually unravel, sometimes after prolonged propping by the leader and the resources he can command, also often quite prodigious, given the desire of benefactors to be part of something “big” and different and successful, at least on the surface.
Similar to a diet craze, there is an initial loss of weight, accompanied by exuberance, or in the case of the religious cult, an emotional high, a spiritual rebirth of sorts, leading to the “born-again” application and the commitment to recruit new converts. In the case of the trump cult, there is an entertaining fascination with how unscripted and out of the box his rhetoric, his defiance, his disdain for the establishment, the power of the his person and a kind of euphoria that seems to be “freeing”. And in the American context, where “freedom” is the license plate on every car, (although only New Hampshire’s reads, “Life Free or Die”), there is a desperate consuming aspiration (really an hollow emptiness) for throwing off all vestiges of constraint, government control, and hot-button words that epitomize such body-constraints like socialism, globalism, scientific evidence, and filing the void with a wild-west frontier-like lawlessness. And if the leader is prepared to appear to be promising an archetypal freeing from the “Egypt” of their enslavement (especially and ironically with the demographic numbers turning their white history into a brown future) millions are more than willing and eager to climb aboard the freedom train.

“Manifest Destiny” is one of the more notable memes in American history, needing both a new frontier and a willing army of seekers, whether it be to the west coast, originally, to the moon, or to the promised land, dependent on the latest Barnum and Bailey huckster. Just like that Balleymena evangelist, trump epitomizes the latest iteration of the huckster, propped up by a new band of “just men” (and a cadre of women) who need him as much or more then he needs them.

And unless and until their respective needs atrophy, dissipate morph into a new mature individuation, their enmeshment will only drag both leader and cult further into the slough of personal and, in this case, national, history.

The religious ‘right’ is ironically named, given its venal and heinous toxicity, in its own name and in its profound influence on the trump cult. It is not now, and never was ‘right’ in the righteous sense, except in its own mind. Pat Robertson’s recent prioritizing of the $110 billion immediately and $350 billion over ten years in arms sales to Saudi Arabia over the deliberate and premeditated murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi-defected opponent by the Saudi regime, is only the latest manifestation of the vacuity of their faith.

Thursday, October 25, 2018

RAGE unleashed and unbridled


If trump’s rage is the personification of his rampant ID, it has unleashed the individual and the collective ID upon a nation drowning in narcissistic RAGE.

Born in revolution, nurtured in civil war, fed a diet over-stuffed with competition, individualism, and the meme of success or failure in all conflicts, personal, athletic, corporate, academic, political, religious and moral/ethical, the United States is reaping the harvest of their own history. There is no putting this “toothpaste” back into the tube. It is a social, cultural, psychological and even religious substance that is designed to inflame all whose ears and eyes are confronted by its malignant toxicity. Violence, no matter how thickly “masked” in professional civility, legal debate decorum, lecture hall professionalism, has a deeply embedded tomb in the soul of the American history and culture.

While it is true that trump exceeds all previous presidents in his abandon of civility and his excessive reliance on blame and invective of anything and anyone who utters a whisper of criticism and

·        the nation itself tolerates hate speech, under the guise of liberty,
·        tolerates racism under the guise of free speech,
·        tolerates poverty in the guise of “pull up your socks and get with the program,”
·        tolerates and even endorses the largest and most heinous military killing machine in the history of the world under the guise of “protecting the national security of the nation and its people,”
·        tolerates and enhances the growing number of billionaires under the guise of the “American Dream” that shining beacon on a hill of private, for-profit cannibalism that “eats” all competitors weak enough to be victimized,
·        tolerates the charging, arresting, imprisoning and shooting of minority males at a rate exceeding the rate in all other countries combined, under the guise of “sending a message of warning and deterrence to other miscreants
·        tolerates a definition of human beings without wealth as “sad, unfortunate, misguided, unworthy, dismissive, and a monstrous toll on civic, state and national budgets”
·        tolerates the strategies and tactics of white supremacists, including the current president, under the guise of “free speech” and the unleashing of rage heretofore repressed under the previous neoliberal administrations of both parties.

It is rage that is the ubiquitous venom of the dragon viper haunting the psyches of each of us, ready to erupt and shower volcanic fire and ash on whatever perpetrator happens to provide a trigger. And a national history surrounded by the picket-fence of rifles, AK-47’s, cruise missiles, A and H-Bombs and the air and water-borne vehicles and vessels that launch them, emboldened by a narcissistic “bar” of “being special” and the pressures that come with that built-in parental expectation, and an ethic that calls “greed good”, is unlikely to move beyond that latest round of “ten” (at 10:00 a.m. EST, October 25/18) Improvised Explosive Devices designed, crafted and sent by American agent(s) either quickly or easily.

trump’s cult rages against all people who are concerned about the devastation of the planet
they rage against the nuanced “eunuch-like” approach of Obama to the use of chemical weapons by the leader of Syria
they rage against the consulate burning and loss of life under then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s watch in Benghazi on September 11, 2012 in the midst of the Arab Spring
they rage against the regulations that impeded the profits of coal mines, and other mammoth polluters imposed by the Obama administration
they rage against the Affordable Health Care Act (Obamacare) because it imposed a “government-controlled” “socialist” regime on personal health insurance and access
they rage against the Clinton ambition to write and to speak, for fees, and to fundraise for the Clinton Global Foundation, following their two respective terms of public service
they rage against the right to vote being extended to minority groups of blacks and Latino’s,
they rage against all forms of the social safety net, as a monster that impedes the freedom of the individual to “make it” on their own
they rage against the rise in undergraduate and graduate degrees that have been earned by students previously barred from access to higher education through their own poverty and family history
they rage against the loss of jobs under the devil, “globalization” that has resulted in labour, technology and income disparities, while also eliminating extreme poverty for millions around the world
they rage against the “snobbery” and the sophistication of “Harvard” (or Yale, of Columbia, or Princeton) educated politicians, presidents, writers, thinkers and leaders including Senators
they rage against the international agreements and treaties like the Medium Nuclear Treaty of 1989, NATO, World Bank, The International Criminal Court, the TPP, the former NAFTA, and all forms of “Foreign Aid”
they rage against the “caravan” of refugees and asylum-seekers crossing from Central America’s dangerous threats to family and life itself into Mexico as evidence of the march of terrorism from “Muslims” and MI-13 gangs

they rage…and they rage….and they rage….

And the primary megaphone of their rage is the very larynx of the occupant of the Oval Office on twitter, on the campaign trail, on Fox and when and wherever he can attract a network microphone and a camera.

And when the enemies of this rage, this ubiquitous rage, this vacuous rage, this haunting and savage rage, this uncivilized and uncivilizing rage speak out in their own chorus of protest, then the lives, families, and communities of these Democratic opponents are threatened with Improvised Explosive Devices reminiscent of the hundreds of American and allied soldiers who have lost life and limbs in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq/Syria/Libya/Yemen.

Destabilizing and deconstructing the “established order” as the state goal of the Breitbart gang, and their prophet, Bannon, now includes the violent threats to pillars of a former “Washington inside” political class. Ironically, the world was much more civilized, and moving toward a more just and equal sharing of the resources and rewards of a mixed economy under those perceived as “dangerous” by the most dangerous gang in the American history.

Projection explodes in any psyche(s) in denial, in a state of intoxication brought on by the aphrodisiac of political power….and the trump gang is the most vulnerable to and needy of that drug in memory.