Friday, April 3, 2020

#66 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (exposing the "chain of command's" impunity)


Let’s take another, or a first time, look at the concept of “chain of command.”
‘Your dictionary’ defines chain of command this way: an official hierarchy of authority that dictates who is in charge of whom and of whom permission must be asked. An example of chain of command is when an employee reports to a manager who reports to a senior manager who reports to the vice president who reports to the CEO.
The website Chron says this on the importance of chain of command in business:
Companies institute a chain of command to provide workers at all levels with a supervisor to provide workers at all levels with a supervisor to whom they may ask questions or report problems. When this hierarchy is not supported and respected,  the company, and its workers may suffer.

Leadership literature denotes an organizational chart, formal line of authority,  different from the informal organization….those people and departments whose opinions, recommendations, and vision seem to have a significant impact on the organization.

Yesterday, as one of the more visible and tragic reports of the current global pandemic.
“U.S. Navy Captain Brett Crozier, the commanding officer  of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, was relieved of commend at the direction of acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly. The Navy removed Crozier after becoming increasingly convinced that he was involved in leaking the letter to the media to force3 the service to address his concerns, a defence official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.”  (Dan Lamothe and Missy Ryan, Washington Post, quoted in Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 2020)

Other reports, specially from MSNBC, indicate that Captain Crozier had previously been in contact with the Secretary’s office about his deep concern about the rampaging spread of COVID-19 among the nearly 5000 crewmen and women aboard his aircraft carrier off Guam.

If we take only a step back from this story, we can easily visualize this vessel, a highly compact structure, housing thousands of men and women, obviously in what in civilian terms have to be cramped quarters, where social distancing is almost literally impossible, and where this pandemic has already struck some 100 crew members. Uttering a public statement after attempting to get the attention of the ‘brass’ of the Navy, in an act of urgent support for his crew, and in an obviously professional, disciplined and even somewhat restrained act of ethically charged duty, nevertheless, has left Captain Crozier relieved of his duties.

Nevertheless, we all know, without doubt, that inside a military campaign, any war effort in history, (and this is certainly a war effort of epic proportions!) while there may be a degree of adherence to the “military code” including the chain of command, there are zillions of decisions taken by lower rank officers, sometimes vetted by superiors and sometimes not, that demonstrate a different level of both commitment and loyalty to the “service” on which that service depends, even if it turns a blind eye to such instances.

This decision is not retaliatory, according to the acting Navy Secretary, but as Joe Biden puts it, “he shot the messenger—a commanding officer who was  faithful to both his national security mission and his duty to care for his sailors, and who rightly focused attention on a broader concern about how to maintain military readiness during this pandemic.” (NBC News, Courtney Kube and Mosheh Gains, April 2, 2020)
This is not only an ethical, professional deportment issue in the United States Navy. It is a far broader question about how authority operates, both in and out of crisis. And how authority operates, not only in a given situation, but generally, culturally, and imaginatively, and even mythically, is of concern to many, including this scribe.

The medical model of professional ethics, including ‘do no harm,’ involves at least a theoretical diagnosis of the immediate crisis, and when time permits a far deeper analysis of the root causes of that crisis. The diagnostic process, however, is one that flows from the mind/mouth of the supervising physician, to be questioned and itself diagnosed later by a panel of peers. And the question of where the “authority” of the frontline professional intersects with the “authority” of the supervising professional is, in many cases, including this one, ambiguous. The degree of urgency, for example, simply cannot be judged accurately from an office in Washington, on an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific. This is not an apology for Modly’s decision; it is rather a clarifying contention that in such cases, Modly, and all other in his “chair” need to have far more respect and honour for the decisions of the officers in their command.
There are two different and somewhat competing fears contending in this case. The fear of Crozier is that his crews’ lives are, (not will be!) in serious danger; the fear of Modly is that the reputation of the Navy, including the ‘protection’ of the families of the crew are unprepared for such a drastic and devastating piece of news. Not incidentally, the Navy itself is not prepared for such an tragic dynamic as the one reported by Crozier. Given the concept of “chain of command,” the military, especially in times of crisis, simply cannot and will not tolerate ambiguity. And here is the rub.

Ambiguity, that gauze lens that would be well attached to each and every personal camera lens, and every iris, witnessing any situation, is quietly literally and metaphorically anathema to the “military chain of command.” In fact, training in hierarchical organizations, (that really means all organizations) involves “breaking” the recruit down, into such a level of obedience, even subservience, and sycophancy, that, for the most part, there is little if any likelihood that the new recruit will “colour outside the lines” of the strict adherence to the expected behaviour protocol. In that way, anticipating rebellion in advance, the military weeds out those it suspects of tilting toward insubordination.

And what is the risk/reward of such strict authority, discipline, and the requisite sanctions?

Well, for starters, those eventually in command know that their “battalion” will follow orders, and will “cover” for each other, in the case of friction. Maintaining a merely modest degree of tolerance of aberrant behaviour, by turning a blind eye, and invoking the “rules” and the sanctions precludes becoming entangled in too many “due process” discoveries, and legal cases. Efficiency, especially in the pursuit of national security, is a highly valued objective. And its achievement requires considerable discipline, restraint and obedience.
Another ‘price’ is that the men and women in such an hierarchy, know that if and when they are in actual combat, their peers will “have their back”….protecting, warning and even rescuing them from danger, if and when they can.

One risk is that a commander, in pursuit of personal glory, can and will order missions beyond the capability of the human, or materiel resources. Another is that alliances between commanders at a peer level, can and will plan and execute missions, strategic plans, orders of equipment and even ‘hollywood’ missions to burnish their own, and their political masters’ reputations. In such cases, what ‘private’ is going to ‘go public’ with his or her “whistleblowing”? Few if any!

In fact, the issue of whistleblowing is at the core of how effective, ethical, honourable and trustworthy organizations must operate. Simply, it seems clear that weak men (mostly men!) are more frightened by the prospect of whistleblowers than are more confident, secure and self-possessed men. The former too often discourage or dismiss whistleblowers while the latter foster and encourage their protestations.
Yet, there is no magic pill to engender confident, secure, self-possessed men. And while all mothers and fathers would and do argue that such a picture is an envisaged “goal” of their parenting of their sons, very different approaches lead to widely divergent results. (This issue of chain of command is not restricted to “parenting;” and yet, parenting is where the process begins.)

Families have implicit “heads” the adult to “wears the pants” and every child quickly learns which parent that is, even if it differs depending on the issue. However, within families, at least modestly functioning families, a single parent’s decision can and will be appealed to the other parent. No parent is free of the immunity of absolute control, thankfully!

In the classroom, the teacher is “in charge” and when the classroom door closes, responsibility for whatever takes place inside, rests on his/her shoulders. However, there is little doubt that whatever happens will “leak” into the outside world, including the principal’s office, the rest of the school population and eventually the parents of every child in that room on that day. There is a kind of implicit circle of influence around each and every classroom, about which no teacher is unconscious. And that circle serves a highly constructive purpose. While putting every teacher in a “fish-bowl,” it also offers a generally (at least in past decades) supportive section of parents who appreciate the work the teacher is doing. And providing nothing too esoteric happens, confidence in the teacher is secure.

An anecdote, from street talk after decades of a teaching career: “We only wish he had not gone so far in the conversations he had with students,” presumably, based on stories that whatever topics leapt from the pages of the novels and poems and plays, and prompted students’ vocalizings in class. Their participation was not only permitted by actually forstered and nurtured. Mine were, after all, English classes, and communication, including the growth of the confidence and the courage to say whatever one felt or believed, was an intimate component of the process. An equal opportunity was always there for those who did not agree. And the dialogue that ensued were among the most memorable in my career.

It will come as not surprise to read that, not only in those classes from another life, but today, in reference to the Crozier relieving of office, there lies a deeply embedded conviction that a healthy culture needs more Croziers. We also need more officers in top positions, on pyramids that are leaning away from the social structure based on integrity, openness and transparency words mouthed from too many platforms followed by hollow and empty slogans that eviscerate the meaning of openness and transparency (and accountability), and thereby erode whatever trust the public (and there are many for each and every hierarchy) may have had.

Self-absorbed men, however, seem to be the inverse of self-possessed men. And there must be a “factory” either birthing or brain-washing thousands of them, in such socially insufferable traits as:

·        sycophancy, boot-licking,
·        fitting in with the establishment (even when the establishment has demonstrated the rust of its hollow convictions and practice),
·        climbing the ladder of extrinsic success (as a single, compulsive goal), selling out (on both morality and ethics) to get that promotion
·        selling out the sick and injured patient/worker to protect the corporation/employer and the security of the revenue stream, as well as the upper-class social reputation
·        generating decisions based on self-interest and not the broader public interest
·        failing to face and confront the fullness of responsibility, by reductionistic thinking and practice that narrows the “motivation” and cause of a reprehensible and demeaning human decision.
·        covering-up one’s own inadequacy
·        blaming others for failures of transparency and accountability
·        name-dropping as a method of attempting to climb in the eyes of another
·        practising a hollow, yet reverential and ritualistic religion, as a path to social acceptance and corporate respect
·        donating lavishly and dramatically to worthy causes, without believing in or even investigating their value, in order to burnish one’s, or one’s corporate reputation
And yet, all of these ‘under the radar’ kinds of behaviour, conducted by both men and women, yet engineered primarily by men, as an integral component of an agenda of transaction, engagement without authenticity and integrity, in service of a personal, as opposed to a public, common, shared agenda.

A recent real estate transaction, whose history is only very partially in the public square, finds a high-rise concrete condo development on a town’s waterfront, following the closing of a former marina. The land, allegedly, was offered to the municipality, which turned down the offer, and the current justification for the highly lucrative business operation is, “that company bought and owned the land, so they can do whatever they like with it.” Whatever public discussion, debate, and dialogue was held before the erection, is now ‘water under the bridge’ yet the demise of the local newspaper, having been bought and sold to an large urban media company with no interest in the municipality, is just another of the indices that lead to a diagnosis of the elimination of both whistleblower and due process, to which both Crozier and this town are, or have been, entitled.

After the face, however, even in a legitimate review of public decisions, most of the damage has already been done. The people in Crozier’s situation never really recover their former public trust, and the people like Modly, never have either to account for, or to experience public sanctions for their impetuous neurosis.

Hierarchical, pyramidal organizations, however, ought not to be operating without a legitimate, thorough, investigative appeal process, similar to that surrounding every classroom in the country. Parents care deeply for their kids and how their teachers treat them, as well as how well they are learning their “lessons”. Similarly, the public, although a much wider segment, and much more loosely connected and therefore less easily ‘coalesced’ into a relevant voice, still care very deeply for the cultural norms that hold our civilization together in trust, and the obedience that can only come from implicit and unreserved trust.

Where is the factory that is generating such trust? Is that the missing PPE for which we all cry?

Thursday, April 2, 2020

#65 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (searching for a new global myth)


Let’s examine the perspective humans have of nature, from different points of view. First, The Buddhist view, then the Shinto perspective, the Hindu, and finally, Chief Seattle’s view. While there is striking similarity among the three, they all diverge significantly from the ‘Christian’ view. And it is our relationship to nature, and whether or not we conceptualize nature as evil that could spell or at least draw a picture of whether or not we are willing to accept responsibility for continuing to turn nature against humanity.

All are borrowed from The Power of Myth, by Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers (Doubleday, 1988).
Here are Campbell’s words, from the interview with Moyers:

 The mind has to do with meaning. What is the meaning of a flower? There’s a Zen story about a sermon of the Buddha in which he simply lifted a flower. There was only one man who gave him a sign with his eyes that he understood what was said. Now, the Buddha himself is called ‘the one thus come.’ There is no meaning. What’s the meaning of the universe? What’s the meaning of a flea? It’s just there. That’s it. And your own meaning is that you’re there. We’re so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of outer value that we forget that the inner value, the rapture that is associated with being alive, is what it’s all about. (p. 5)

And a little later, Campbell’s words again:

The closest thing I know to a planetary mythology is Buddhism, which sees all beings as Buddha beings. The only problem is to come to the recognition of that. There is nothing to do. The task is only so know what is, and then to act in relation to the brotherhood of all of these beings. ….The biblical tradition is a socially oriented mythology. Nature is condemned. In the nineteenth century, scholars thought of mythology and ritual as an attempt to control nature. But that is magic, not, mythology or religion. Nature religions are not attempts to control nature but to help you put yourself in accord with it. But when nature is thought of as evil, you don’t put yourself in accord with it, you control it, or try to, and hence the tensions, the anxiety, the cutting down of forests, the annhiliation of native people. And the accent here separates us from nature….I will never forget the experience I had when  I was in Japan, a place that never heard of the Fall and the Garden of Eden. One of the Shinto texts says that the processes of nature cannot be evil. Every natural impulse is not to be corrected but to be sublimated, to be beautified. There is a glorious interest in the beauty of nature and cooperation with nature, so that in some of those gardens you don’t know where nature begins and art ends—this was a tremendous experience. (p.28 and 29)

The Hindus, for example, don’t believe in special revelation. They speak of a state .in which the ears have opened to the song of the universe….Once you reject the idea of the Fall in the Garden, man is not cut off from his source. (p.32)

In 1852, when the United States “inquired about buying tribal lands for the arriving people of the United States, the Chief Seattle wrote a marvelous letter in reply.

‘The president in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land. But how can you buy or sell the sky? The land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of the earth if sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every meadow, every humming insect. All are holy in the memory and experience of my people. We know the sap which courses through the trees as we know the blood that courses through our veins. We are part of the earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters. The Bear, the deer, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadow, the body heat of the pony, and man, all belong to the same family….We love the earth as a newborn loves its mother’s heartbeat. So if we sell you or land, love it as we have loved it. Care for it as we have cared for it…As we are part of the land, you too are part of the land. This earth is precious to us. It is also precious to you. One thing we know: there is only one God. No man, be he Red Man of White Man, can be apart. We are brothers after all. (p.42-43)

While these passages are part of the introduction to mythology and its relevance to human life, with Campbell as tutor and Moyers as surrogate student, they offer a significant glimpse into the differences in culture, including mythology, that warrant being re-considered in the light of our current pandemic crisis.

If we, humans, led primarily by males, continue to perceive, conceive and practice a view that nature is either or both evil and a resource for our unbridled plundering, for our unbridled greed and profit, rather than embracing the universe’s song, and accepting our fundamental unity with its bounty (including the cycles of death and rebirth), we risk our own survival.

Of course, that sounds apocalyptic and melodramatic to all those corporate business tycoons to whom trump listens in his daily phone calls, looking for counsel about how to manage this crisis. Nevertheless, if mythology is, as it has for the long lineage of centuries, and ethnicities, and religions and ideologies, a teacher for how humans might live, then, at the vortex of time when the pandemic of COVID-19 and global warming and climate change converge on every city and hamlet, in every corner of the planet, it seems that we not only need a new mythology but a new vision of how humans and nature are to be “seen” and “heard” and “related with”….

Traditionally, myths have emerged from the fire-pit in a tribe, a family, a community, and then merged with other myths from other communities, indicating the things of value, the culmination of the human imagination and spirit, the potential of experiencing the fullness of life, as conceived by the originators of the single myth. Today, in mythological terms, we have lost much of the essence of those fire-pits, those tribes, and those unifying and inspiring myths that held various cultures together. In geopolitical terms, we have both dived into the deep waters of globalization, while at the same time, recoiled from its worst threats like mass movements of millions of  displaced immigrants, refugees and essentially homeless people. In the short term, we are likely to withdraw from a total immersion in globalization, leaving the production of special needed goods and processes to our own national, provincial countrymen and women.

However, from a wider perspective, we know cognitively, based on a tidal wave of data, the cliché that we really are all ‘in this together’ while we continue to compete, to the death, for every inch of space, every last dollar, every last vote, every last headline, and every last morsel of food. We have not only democratized communication and commerce, putting a digital business machine in hands on every continent. 

Transactions, in real time, take place every second, from continent to continent. Unless and until there is a dispute when we sometimes refer to the World Trade Organization, for resolution, between signatory nations. However, in trade agreements, the rights of the corporations tend to take precedence over the rights of the nations with whom those corporations trade, in the event of a dispute. So, consequently, national sovereignty has been supplanted by corporate tyranny. Not only are we facing, today, dysfunctional competitions for profoundly needed medical supplies, for health care professionals, for health care accommodations and for research professionals and laboratories in pursuit of vaccines, and remedies, including antibodies to ward off this pandemic.

On the face of it, we are at war on several fronts: management of the virus, procuring the professionals and the equipment for the war, sustaining those displaced and unpaid by the pandemic and the regulations to control its spread and prevent additional viruses, as well as the over-riding complexities of cultures that feed on wild animals, and the incursion of capitalism into the previously untouched habitats of those wild animals and birds as well as attempting to sustain displaced and fiscally threatened workers and corporations.

 Given the resistance of individual political leaders even to engage in minimal “control measures” to limit the spread of the virus in their own jurisdictions, and the spotty evidence of sharing between nations, and the political/legal resistance to the full disclosure of the facts of this virus, and the millions in the “pipeline” to come, there are merely glimmers of hope and light from the single exemplary health care professionals, whose expertise includes, in fact depends upon, sharing of information with their global partners.

Could it be that a new myth that shines some light into the current coal mine, farther into the mine than the canary of New York, and Italy and South Korea, could emerge from the mergers of the scientific scholarship with the poetic imagination that has fed previous myths.

Bill Moyers utters these words, to Campbell at one point in the conversation in The Power of Myth:
…(W)e moderns are stripping the world of its natural revelations, of nature itself. I thing of that pygmy legend of the little boy who find the bird with the beautiful song in the forest and brings it home.
Campbell replies: He asks his father to bring food for the bird, and the father doesn’t want to feed a mere bird, so he kills it. And the legend says the man killed the bird, and with the bird he killed the song, and with the song, himself. He dropped dead, completely dead, and was dead forever. (op. cit. p. 27)

Are we in danger of living out that legend?

Are we in danger of not even wanting to spend the time reading and ruminating on the legend?

Are we in danger of simply rendering such utterly simplistic and child-like stories disposable like so much we have shoved into the trash bin of avoidance/denial because it does not ‘fit’ with our compulsive need for domination, control and effective rape and pillage of our planet, at our own peril?

I heard a local mechanic this week utter these words about the pandemic, “I sure hope the right people are paying attention to how we are treating the planet!
On reflection, I believe that the “right people” are no longer the experts, and certainly not the politicians, or the economists, the bankers, or the corporations. The RIGHT PEOPLE now are comprised by every single human being on the planet.

We all breath the same air, risk the same air particles from the same virus, drink the same water, plant seeds and harvest from the same land, and to varying degrees  have assimilated many of the same myths, that speak to the depth and the endurance and the invincibility of the human spirit. Each in our own way, in our own village, we can begin to tell the stories of how we are dependent on that air, water, land preserved and protected by both rules and habits.

Our personal habits are expressions of our capacity and willingness, even our sense of responsibility to ourselves, our families and each other. However, lectures, homilies, and political harangues are never going to generate the new mythologies that inject the pure oxygen of the human imagination and spirit into the lungs, minds and hearts of people of every ethnicity, nationality, language and faith.

And while the digital concerts of the musicians, and the street art of the painters, and the digital dance recitals of the ballerinas and modern dancers can and will lift our spirits this day and in the days to come, we need a poetic imagination akin to that of Stephen Hawking to tell a new story of how humans can re-birth a relationship with nature that wraps our arms around its shoulders, and embraces its smile, and feeds its appetites, and listens to its song.

The cacophony of our self-imposed alienation and separation from and our deaf-and-blind disdain for nature’s universal bounty not only denigrates nature, but foretells our own potential silence.

Recalling the prophetic voice of Paul Simon in Sounds of Silence:

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said, “The words of the prophets
Are written on the subway walls
And the tenement halls”
And whispered in the sounds of silence.

Those people in the tenements “get it” as do the people riding the subways, (when they are permitted)….are the rest of us prepared to open our ears to the song of the universe crying out for our care, compassion, empathy and respect?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

#64, Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Is God perhaps speaking to humanity, not just individuals?)


There has been considerable work dedicated to theme of “redeeming masculinities” over the last few decades, including a ground-breaking work edited by Stephen B. Boyd and W. Merle Longwood and Mark Muesse, Redeeming Men, Religion and Masculinities, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY, 1996).
It is from this text that I wish to borrow, all these twenty-four years later:

Patriarchy is set up and run not for men as a gender or for masculinity in its fullness or in its mature expressions but rather by men who are fundamentally immature. It is really the rule of boys, often cruel and abusive boys. For the most part, we believe that human societies have always consisted of boys and girls more or less unconsciously acting out their immature and grandiose fantasies. Our  planetary home more of than not has resembled the island world in William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. Thus our societies have, on the whole opposed the realization and expression of both mature feminine and masculine psyches. We feel it is wrong to view patriarchy as the expression of mature masculinity or of masculinity in its essence. Patriarchal societies are out of balance partly because at their helm are unbalanced men. And while we abhor the often horrific abuses of patriarchal systems, we also remember that males helped generate, from earlier urban neolithic cultures, all the higher civilizations we know from recorded history. (Robert Moore and Douglass Gillette, Initiation and the Male Spiritual Quest, in Redeeming Men, Religion and Masculinities, op cit. p. 188)

Let’s begin to unpack this passage:

“Immature masculinity”…”cruel and abusive boys,”…“immature and grandiose fantasies”… “unbalanced men”……
For several pages, in this space, we have been exploring how men sabotage ourselves, demonstrate a level of emotional illiteracy, often find ourselves reduced (primarily by women) to only two principle emotions, anger and sadness, resort to violence and/or passive aggression when confronted, fail to negotiate health relationships, fall into “teams/gangs/groups” in which loyalty to the “team” often tilts into blind ambition, obsequiousness, gratuitous ‘brown-nosing’ and compromise of both truth and courage.

We have noted how history, religion, philosophy, science, medicine, law and commerce are all based on ideas, principles, concepts, beliefs and codes that emerged from the mouth/axe/knife/quill/pen/mind/worship of men. So dominant has the masculine heavy hand been that for centuries, women were literally forbidden from publishing, voting, learning, and all levels of community leadership. Whether or not these men were “immature,” we can likely agree that for centuries, they seem to have been operating with limited empirical information while still expressing the highest of their imaginative visions, aspirations, and beliefs. Perhaps we might speculate that “protecting” the mothers of their children from the potential ravages of enemy attacks could have helped to shape some of their thoughts, habits and conventions. We might also speculate that hunting, warring, exploring and building (literally) were more congruent with male attributes. The compliance of women in such systems naturally varied depending on the nuances of any culture, but we have all heard and read stories about how women “took it for granted,” that they were “supportive” to their men.

There is, however, likely very little disputing the competitive, even aggressive tendencies that are hard-wired into the male psyche.  Some of this unbridled energy found expression in battles of empires, for pride, honour, and legacy of the most ambitious among the men. Some of this male energy wreaked havoc in vengeance and jealousy over a prospective or current female partner. Other expressions of male energy found their way into the assumption of power over others including children, labourers, competitors, neighbouring tribes, especially in instances when fear drove the male ego.

Were all abusive deployments of masculine power “immature”?
Were all wars the result of immature men pursuing “immature and grandiose fantasies”?
Were all attacks on other men to protect/ward off enemy captors undertaken by immature men?
Were the expressions of profound awe/fear/wonderment/insecurity in the face of “gods, God, Allah, Jehovah,” merely expressions of immature men pursuing grandiose fantasies?
Were the myths of creation, the lists of kings and kingdoms, the loving relationships and the hymns and songs of love expressions of immature men pursuing grandiose fantasies?
Were the soaring pieces of rhetoric delivered in the Roman Senate merely expressions of immature men pursuing grandiose fantasies?
Were the Greek tragedies, the Shakespearean tragedies, histories and comedies the work of immature men pursuing grandiose fantasies?
Were there large blind spots in the peripheral/immediate screen of vision among those planting the seeds of our foundational philosophies, religions, mythologies, agricultural discoveries, transportation engineering accomplishments like aqua ducts? Of course, but that hardly renders their conceptions and their delivery and executions those of immature men.

Let’s look more closely at the island from William Golding’s Lord of the Flies where a choir of young boys has survived a plane crash, attempted to build a community using the shell, the vegetation and the various ‘skills and talents’ of each boy, only to be rescued eventually and ironically by a warship looming offshore. Certainly, throughout human history, military conflict, natural disaster, plagues, draughts, floods, fires and starvation have been among the more endurable and predictable menus/diets/narratives of human evolution. In the most direct causative manner, men have perpetrated war, while we have also been the target/victim of many of the other human ravages. Not all, however, are without human influence. Golding’s view that “man” is destined to and forever embedded in violence, is fundamentally at issue, both in his work, and in the assumptions of both Moore and Gillette.

Why are men, historically far more than women, dependent on violence? Rather than immaturity, an attribution that insults, that demeans and that raises the ire and the hair on the neck and back of men, perhaps we might see our dependence on violence as a weakness, an insecurity, a fear and a blindness to our own better angels. We think we must be strong; we are told, instructed, and modelled strong behaviour. We imitate heroes who have exemplified strength, including violent expressions of strength. We also hear, see and resist masculinities that seem “weak, feminine, collaborative, collegial and negotiable. Masculinity, in many instances, has been too narrowly defined, not incidentally by men, as the expression of the warrior, the heroic warrior who engages in battle to win his trophy, whether that trophy be the surrender of an enemy, or the marriage of a bride. And while strength, physical at least, is one of the biological traits of men, it is certainly not our only feature, and not necessarily our most appropriate feature, depending on the situation.
Here, perhaps, in the tolerance, complicity and transmission of rugged, warrior-masculinity by both men and women, lies one of the most obvious intersections of the observations of Moore and Gillette with those here. However, is that convergence, complicity and transmission based on a level of immaturity of men and women?
Women, traditionally, have served as the ‘grease’ in the gears of the family; they keep it running when nothing else either can or will. Amid the tempests, the diphtherias, the small poxes, the draughts and the bankruptcies, our women have held our male hands, shed their tears, even screamed their venom. Nevertheless, they have stabilized many domestic ‘ships’ from floundering on rocky cliffs, shoals and torrential winds. Was that too immaturity? Was their intimate compliance with their masculine partners, including their strength and endurance, evidence of immaturity? Hardly.

Words like unbalanced, immature, neurotic, even psychotic (although the last two do not appear in the quote) tend to emerge from a framework of evangelical conversion, one of the principal frames of a sector of Christian thought and praxis. One of the principles behind the conversion is that man is inherently evil, and in desperate need of forgiveness. The events of Holy Week, the Crucifixion and Resurrection are theologically framed as the ‘answer’ to human evil, disobedience and human willfulness. “Christ died for my sins!” and my redemption issues from a complete and total, unsullied acceptance of that truth….these are the cornerstones of the Easter message as propagated for centuries. Even the title of the work quoted embeds the words “redeeming men.” However, there are other ways to examine the convergence of male immaturity, unbalance and in need of redemption.

The essence of how evil is portrayed lies at the centre of this dilemma. Are men evil when we behave in an immature manner? Are we unbalanced when we act out our frustrations? Would these behaviours evaporate through a complete acceptance of and belief in the redeeming quality of the Cross and Resurrection? Doubtful.
What seems like a more effective, reasonable and transformative framing seems to emerge from a shared, cultural shift in priorities, in order to transform western culture. Given that the foundations, and the instruments of both archiving and propagating cultural norms have been primarily in the hands. minds, hearts of men for centuries, it would seem only reasonable to envision a significant yet gradual, enlightening consciousness that we men have fallen into “fitting” into a role, and a set of expectations that neither conform with our natural character, nor do they serve the best interests of our families, our schools, our communities and our planet.
Some obvious examples:

Collapsing time into a mere game measured by the tickers on stock exchanges, or the white flag of military victory, or the promotion to the executive suite, or the Super Bowl victory, or even the Oval Office, is one guaranteed way to ensure that millions of others will have to be left in the ditches of our ambition. And our radically focused pursuit of personal goals, at the expense of family, community and global needs elevates the individual far above the common good. Paradoxically, much of Christian thought says that God speaks directly only to individuals, and not groups, while elevating the prophetic and even the mystical words, meditations, visions and prophecies of the mystics and the saints, there is no reason that such reverence for mysticism needs to exclude God’s ‘speaking’ to groups.

If for example, we could agree that at the centre of our own identity lies a kernel of conviction in the value of all life, as a gift from a deity, beyond our cognition and beyond our scientific consciousness, then our deviation from that ‘north star’ in the sky of the universe, is easily seen to be self-sabotage. (Please do not reduce this to advocacy for the Right to Life movement!) If is, by its very existence, worthy of preservation, then our own life cannot be reduced to the pursuit of personal or corporate profit at the expense of the abundant life of the universe. Surely, we are not so cognitively nor psychologically nor spiritually constricted as to fall into Darwin’s survival of the fittest, the norm in the wild, as the model for human’s to follow. Just because the fox slithers the rodent from his hole to survive, that does not mean, or imply, that such a model, human versus human, is in our interest. And it is not merely a matter of logic. It is a matter of commitment to the imaginative, creative capacity of humans to share, to care to our brothers and sisters, to (oh no, here comes that defamed word!) “love” one another.

And once again, shared, mutual and reciprocal love, while clearly not restricted to humans, (animals and birds do exhibit monogamy and life-long commitment) demonstrates our ‘best angels’ and such an ideal will not be achieved through any religious “rules” or the punishments that some impose. In fact, here is another abuse of the ethic of shared power. It is not for a church, or especially a hierarchy of churchmen to use what can only be a limited human conception of the abundance and universality of the love of God, (or the mind, or the heart, or the parenting). Anthropocentric depictions of God, however, easily grasped, can only be reductions of any deity worthy of the name. So, attempting to “please” a God who is to be feared, (another mistranslation of the original “awe”) have theologians imposed a kind of neurosis even psychosis, should humans not comply with their version of the will of God.

The pursuit of personal, and by extension, organizational power, in the name of God, is another of the reasons why the human spirit has been and continues to be so constricted by religious teachings and practice. Gate-keepers, pompous figure-heads, little Lord Fauntelroy’s, both men and women now, abound in ecclesial culture. And their “parishioners” in far too many cases, fawn over them. Some even worship as a way to arrange their heavenly reward, so deeply and intimately embedded are the many parent-child directives of the church.

Is it merely masculine immaturity, and unbalance that allocates such power into the hands of a few? Is it a deeply embedded need to create a metaphysic and a structure of “security” about a relationship between man and God, that could potentially explode the ‘roof’ of human cognition, human caring, human creativity, and human hope.
Tithing, that loathsome one-tenth, is another of the human impositions of “value” on spirituality, framed as a legitimate need to pay the heat, repair the windows, pay the salaries, and grow the investment portfolio. And while kindness, generosity, compassion and sharing are deeply and intimately included in all expressions of human spirituality that gives and sustains life, in all of its complexities, monuments of human architecture, while beautiful and inspiring, are neither the purpose nor the means of discipleship. In fact, it is our human dependence on the immediacy of our senses, and our need for such a degree of control in our lives that shapes much of our traditional theology.

Could we but take off the false humility, and the crass commercialism, and the opportunistic sycophancy, as well as the hollow religious piety, and the unnatural totem of the images of power and success that impale much of western culture, as men (and women) we might begin to see further than the ends of our noses, further than the stock ticker, and further into the life of things that so inspired poets like Wordsworth.
Se have reduced ourselves to slaves to our own scarcity, when our abundance cries out for reverence, respect, compassion and an ethic of sustainability. Currently, the planet, and all humans living on it are endangered by a pandemic virus, unleashed by a combination of factors of greed, narcissism and hubris. And those “drivers” are neither being confronted by our panic to save lives, nor are they being serious considered by men and women whose power to bring them to the light of day is also constricted by the immediate and tragic panic.

It is not merely that we are not prepared to fight this latest threat to human lives. It is much more that we will return to our myopic, even blind hubris, greed, narcissism and zero-sum framing of our circumstances, just as the right-wing tyrants like Hungary’s Viktor Orban is already doing today. The European Union is under threat for similar isolated nationalistic interests. Americans are competing with each other for absolutely critical medical equipment, as if the infection wears the colours of competing political parties. Our public officials, (with exceptional comparisons, like Cuomo) are too much interested in their own political success, while human lives are bagged and loaded into refrigerated tractor trailers, because of their negligence, narcissism and potentially fear.

Seeing ourselves differently, as equal sharing participants in the bounty that is planet earth, rather than as warriors seeking to eliminate our human enemy, especially at a time when all humans face a common, invisible and unpredictable, invisible and nefarious enemy, seems ludicrous, even insane. And if now is not a time to come to our senses, then when will that time be, if ever?

And, looking for the voice of God in this deepening crisis, we might consider opening our shared, equal, and receptive ear of all humanity to hearing that voice, should we wish to shift our thinking, our attitudes, and our beliefs.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

#63 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (ferreting hidden backstories)



Some things that perplex, annoy and frighten us are visible, audible and provable, especially if we can find witnesses. Others are kept out of sight, and thereby out of mind. Much of our world is flooded with empirical evidence, available to the senses of both the originator and the recipient. It can be interpreted as “fact” (if we are so disposed) and shared in different communities.

Other “things” remain out of reach of our “senses” and thereby render themselves, especially by those who chose to live in a world of miasmic, ephemeral and unprovable occurences, at least from the perspective of the available organs of collection, collation and dissemination, news, academic journals, legal transcripts, and accounting/banking documents.

Back, way back in college, I found an insightful piece about Ernest Hemingway in Playboy and quoted it in an essay on the writer, as an assignment in English 20. Today, I borrow from another piece in Playboy, excerpted by Globe and Mail columnist Sarah Kendzior, cohost of the podcast Gaslit Nation and author of the coming book, hiding in Plain Sight, in today’s edition.

‘Life is what you do while you’re waiting to die,’ Donald Trump, then a real estate tycoon bound for bankruptcy, told Playboy magazine in 1990. ‘You know, it is all a rather sad situation.’
“Life?’ the interviewer asked. ‘Or death?’
‘Both. We’re her and we live our 60, 70, por 80 years and we’re gone. You win, you win and in the end, its doesn’t mean a hell of a lot. But iti is something to do—to keep you interested.’
Ms Kendzior then intervenes:

For his entire life Mr. Trump has been a self-described fatalist. He has called himself a fatalist in interviews spanning nearly 30 years. This admission sis a rare
expression of consistent honesty for a man infamous for lying about everything –his fortune, his criminal ties, objective reality. It’s the outlook he hints at when jhe does things such as retweeting a meme of himself fiddling like Nero, while the novel coronavirus spreads across the United States.
Nothing seems to matter to Mr. Trump—not only in the sense that things that matter to other people, like love and loss, do not matter to him. Nothingness itself matters: Destruction and annihilation are what he craves. ‘When bad times come, then I’ll get whatever I want,’ he told Barbara Walters in a 1980’s interview. His initial reaction to 9/11 was that the collapse of the World Trade Center made his own buildings look taller., His initial reaction to the 2008 economic collapse was joy at his potential to profit. Everything to Mr. Trump is transactional, and you, all of you—are the transaction.
In February 2014, when asked about the direction of the United States, Mr. Trump rooted for its demise.
‘You know what solves it?’ Mr. Trump told Fox News. ‘When the economy crashes, when the country goes to total hell and everything is a disaster. Then you’ll have a (laughs), you know, you’ll have riots to go back to where we used to be when we were great.’
Kendzior again: 

Everything Mr. Trump has done since taking office has served to fulfill this goal, from appointing Steve Bannon, who also called for the collapse of the government, as an adviser; to gutting departments that protect national security and public health; to his disdain for slain soldiers and their widows, to his horrific handling of natural disasters such as Hurricane Maria.
For months, Mr. Trump has done little to stop the coronavirus from spreading throughout the U.S, creating a death toll that grows rapidly every day. As citizens self-isolate, he refuses to supply federal funds to states for the much needed medical equipment, such as masks or ventilators…..
What makes Mr. Trump particularly dangerous is that he is not acting alone. He is backed by the Republican Party, which translates his natural apathy to suffering in to malicious policies. Mr. Trump is surrounded by brutal  plutocrats such as Steve Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross, who, like Mr. Trump, are proteges of the infamous corporate raider and former White House adviser Carl Icahn, who set the standard of destroying companies for profit.
Mr. Trump is also flanked by a number of religious extremists, such as William Barr, Mike Pompeo and Mike Pence, who use biblical imagery to cloak their brutal goals. The overall effect is a group that will sacrifice human lives to lift the stock market. Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick of Texas stated that grandparents should die for the U.S. economy. In that mentality, the U.S. exists to be raided and razed, its citizens disposable and inconvenient….
Maybe it is because the world finally exists as it has in his fantasies: Everything is collapsing, yet he remains untouchable. No GOP member has denounced Mr. Trump, just as they refused to impeach him; because Mr. Trump is still in office, public officials are struggling to contain the virus.
Mr. Trump is untouchable in a world where human touch literally kills. If the U.S> is to survive the pandemic, we need more than medical intervention. WE need to get rid of the host.

Bravo Ms Kendzior…

And then there is this, as if to demonstrate the prophetic nature of Ms Kenbdzior’s piece:

From Reuters, By Marisa Taylor, in the Globe and Mail, March 25, 2020:
The Trump administration cut staff by more than two-thirds at a key U.S. public health agency operating inside China, as part of a larger rollback of U.S.-funded health and science experts on the ground there leading up to the coronavirus outbreak, Reuters has learned….

The CDC’s China head count has shrunk to around 14 staffers, down from approximately 47 people since President Donald Trump took office in January 2017, the documents show. The four people, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the losses included epidemiologists and other health professionals….
Reductions at the U.S. agencies sidelines health experts, scientists and other professionals who might have been able to help China mount an earlier response to the novel coronavirus, as well as provide the U.S. government with more information about what was coming, according to the people who spoke with Reuters. The Trump administration in February chastised China forf censoring information about the outbreak and for keeping U.S. experts from entering the country to assist.

Not only is the “host” (using Ms Kendzior’s word for trump) despicably detached and autonomic about the current pandemic, he is apparently so lobotomized as to be able to shrug as if it were occurring in a manner of his prediction, and also of his indirect engineering and potential profit/winning.

Covering up malignant behaviour is only the surface aspect of the issue. Deeply embedded and endemic to the trump administration’s guiding approach is the destruction of everything the U.S. holds in honour, and now also the people whose lives are threatened.

And, just as from the impeachment trial, narrow and rifle-focussed and ineffective as it was, trump will walk away unscathed and even emboldened, as the American people suffer what is turning out to be the worse health/economic crisis of at least a century. And, right in the middle of its nefarious grip on millions, around the world, stands and trumpets “no responsibility” even for his direct impact in the insurgency.
Troubling masculine behaviour is only a tepid way to characterize this tragedy. Troubling and then covering up, scape-goating, and even gloating as thousands die is comparable to Joseph Goebbels.

 In 2016  the film, A German Life, portrays the life of Goebbels secretary, Brunhilde Pomsel. In an interview at the time of the film’s release, Pomsel is quoted in The Guardian, ( Joseph Geobbels; 105-year-old secretary: ‘No one believes me now, but I knew nothing’ by Kate Connolly, August 15, 2016)…These are Pomel’s words from the Guardian:

Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis - I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have. (After the rise of the Nazi party, ‘the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell’ she insists. ‘I: could open myself up to the accusations that I wasn’t interested in politics but the truth is, the idealism of youth might easily have led to you having your neck broken.’

This is not to insinuate or imply that trump is doing what Geobbels did. What is at issue is the degree of scepticism, even cynicism and outright defiance (or lack) of a president whose attitudes, beliefs, actions and deceptions defy both integrity and credibility.

Referring all policy and public announcements to his forthcoming election, which trump declares the Democrats are determined to undermine by using COVID-19, is nothing more nor less than radioactive narcissism. And its radioactivity, like the lethal virus, cannot be contained, neutralized, or repressed, as it spreads its ugly ego across the globe and into our homes and lives.

Are we all not as frightened of those things we cannot and do not see, as we clearly are of those things we can see?

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

#62 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (speaking our truth)


There are times when an incisive nugget of wisdom goes a long way to helping sort out rejection, alienation and disappointment.

Dr. Seuss: Be who you are and say how you feel because those who mind don’t matter. And those who matter don’t mind. You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes, you can steer yourself in any direction you choose. A person’s a person, no matter how small.

When both political correctness and social and cultural cohesion are both constricting imagination, and elevating “process” to the top of the totem pole in too many conversations, there is a real danger that we will fall on our own swords, victims of our own clinging to something we like to call perfection, really just a kind of snobbery and elitism that one can witness and certainly smell in polite company.

I have read dozens of pages of “do’s and don’t’s” in an offer for a position that simply provoked an immediate rejection of the offer. Those preparing  and offering immediately responded by declaring that they had sent the ‘wrong’ draft of the proposal. It didn’t matter; to associate with, and to comply with and to agree to serve under conditions that first insulted the candidate, second, covered the ass of every person on the ‘board’ of that agency, and third tied anyone compliant enough to sign on into knots simply trying to figure out what one “could” or “could not” do.

Tying up too many of our thoughts, policies, dreams and ambitions into both the language and the attitudes that befit only the lawyers and the accountants is like a grade one teacher telling a fit six-year-old boy to stop running around the playground. We need lawyers and accountants. And we also need to keep them in their place….not at the front of the line in determining cultural norms, not at the front of the line in setting the parameters for our thinking, our discussions, and our planning and leading. Aiding and abetting the “legal/accounting mindset, is the cultural norm of seniority, rendering all ‘new’ ideas, and especially those new people who might dare to utter them, or merely to ask why something is being done this way both irrelevant and worse, dismissive. Gate-keepers, “old boys,” or any of the many other self-appointed custodians of propriety, including the hierarchies in the most insignificant social club to the behemoths are not idols to be worshipped. They are not privy to the best and the brightest ideas, neither of what is to be done, nor of how best it might be done.

And so often, if not in a vast majority of instances, it is the “off-the-wall” comment or question, from the least expected voice that puts things into a perspective previously unconsidered. Colouring inside the lines, is another of the phrases that teachers use to decide whether or not a young boy (and mostly it is the boys who find themselves restrained by those lines) is comporting with the instructions and the desired behaviour. I know that this story has been told before; nevertheless, it bears repeating. A professional psychologist father of a six-year-old asked his son how school went one day, a habit he repeated each and every day. He was especially curious this day because the boy had a star on his art work, very different from any other day. His son’s reply is both memorable and merits billboard signage:

It was fine. The teacher always wants us to colour inside the lines so today, I drew my picture first and then drew the lines.

There is no doubt that such a young boy has already become a worthy, likely somewhat creative, and still curious adult who finds  a way to circumvent the walls that he and all of us find whenever we try to do something, anything, with others.

Just today, in another example of how the world has lost sight of the wisdom in Dr. Seuss’s line above, we learned that South Africa has allotted $3 BILLION to a wall on its border with Zimbabwe, in order to protect itself from COVID-19. There are no recorded cases of COVID-19 in Zimbabwe. And even if there were, those microbes cannot and will not be impeded in their march to infect anyone and everyone within range, by a $300 Billion wall.

Expressions of fear, no matter how legitimate, have to be both uttered and heard. And they also have to be metered by minds, hearts and imaginations that share the fear and seek to address it in compassion, empathy and effective measures based on empirical evidence and the best options available.

Just as the U.S. administration is not merely ruminating, but actually planning to lift the self-isolating measures to mitigate against COVID-19 far too soon, so too is that same administration failing in all of the really significant and legitimate responsibilities it alone holds, in what should be a national effort to minimize the impact of the virus.

And the public performances of people like Drs. Fauci and Berks, while never directly taking aim at the absurdity of the president’s “unhealthy” comments, nevertheless, offer clear and unequivocal guidance and moderation of his comments. Unfortunately, already his misguided “invocation” of a malaria drug, taken in a fatal mistake by a couple in Arizona, has resulted in the death of the husband of that couple and the wife becoming critically ill. Already, the president of the United States, by his irresponsibility, has indirectly generated one documented death, and threatened the life of another. Through his inaction, and his folding his hands of any responsibility, as well as the molasses-like movement of needed ventilators to New York, potentially endangered the lives of hundreds or perhaps even thousands of others.

It is not only by what one says or does, but by what was doesn’t do or doesn’t say that one must be judged. There is literally no bruise or black eye on a man or woman whose spouse has never laid a hand on them, while at the same time, scrupulously remaining withdrawn, hidden, shielded, and cocooned in the relationship. Such “absence” while not legally condemnable, nevertheless  has the impact of eroding the relationship over time. Living with a ghost, as Gordon Lightfoot’s song reminds us, is in a word untenable. And being unable to “see” a ghost in a relationship makes that situation equally unsustainable.

Seeking to emerge from the ghost’s covering sheet, or to try to remove that sheet from another, is a process that only the ghost can achieve. Of course, saying what one truly feels, thinks, believes is risky. It could mean that a dialogue might ensue, in and through which both partners actually get to know each other. It could also risk the foundations of the relationship, built as it might very well be, on phantom images of illusory and ephemeral attractiveness, ambition, responsibility and play-acting. And, in that case, discovering the illusion could well endanger the relationship. Built as it might be on the mirage of duty, for example, and being mired in the details of excessive activity, the underlying “truth” might go undetected for decades, if not a whole lifetime.

That game of appearances, keeping up with the Joneses, or climbing the corporate, academic, medical, legal, accounting, political career ladder, can consume most if not all of one’s energies, in what looks like a highly responsible, and certainly socially respectable manner. Underneath that frenetic pace, however, could lie a frenzy of a very different kind, that kind that, like the white noise or ringing of a tinnitus, refuses to be silent, repeating in its own inimitable pitch, “I am living alone among others. No one knows who I am, or even cares to get to know who I am. And I am going nuts in my own isolation. This is a dessert, parched, dry, and highly demanding, without an ounce of the oasis of being really known.”

Saying such words to oneself, however, is very different from uttering them to another, any other, but especially to THE other with whom one is in relationship. And, thereby, it is almost inescapable that one can become caught between a rock and a hard place: disclosing one’s inner truth and risking total rejection, or repressing one’s truth and risking something a nuanced as “quitting and staying”…going on indefinitely without actually showing up emotionally, or even cognitively.

So, it is not only for young children that Dr. Seuss wrote. His words have an even deeper potential impact on many adults caught in a vortex of duties, responsibilities, expectations, and self-imposed (“perhaps other-implied-and enforced) silences. Most of us are not “stupid” enough to be unaware of the complexities of our situations. We know, for example, if and when a significant other is “showing up” or when s/he is going through the motions of doing all the appropriate things, without fully engaging either in the activities or in the relationships inside the home. And there is also the case when the individual making the loudest noises, doing the most “work” is masking a deep and malevolent contempt for the other partner, without disclosing such contempt, until, for example, after the burial of that other. Silence cannot be assumed to be a sign of absence; absence might just as well be conveyed through whirlwinds of busyness, especially if that busyness is covered in self-declared martyrdom. “No one ever helps around here!” is one of the favourite lines of a ghost lost in his or her own sheet of blindness, especially when all hands are already on deck for whatever chores need to be done.

Most of us have, at one time or another, been in situations when it seemed that a ghost was the other person in the relationship. Also, in some situations, we have become Lightfoot’s ghost, as our only perceived way to endure the ice.

Speaking up, saying what we truly feel, these are not the things that men, especially are either trained or proficient in doing. We are trained, indoctrinated, in the matters of how to fix things, how to accomplish things, how to make things happen, how to score a goal, shoot a basket, catch a ball, chop a tree, carve a piece of wood, change the oil, fix a tire, even wash the dishes. And all of that stuff about how we “feel” has for centuries been allocated, at least in our masculine world, to the mothers, sisters, aunts, daughters, grandmothers, wives and girl-friends in our lives. We almost unconsciously exhibit our emotions in how we carry our bodies, how we lift our eyebrows, how we wrinkle our lips, or tilt our heads. Slow movement, while often illustrative of fatigue, can be a sure sign of depression, without our sometimes even being aware of that.
There are men reading this who might take offence at having Dr. Seuss as a healthy reference for an evolved masculinity. There may even be women who are similarly offended. No offence is either contemplated nor projected.

In a sophisticated world of millions of new scientific discoveries, environmental projections, political and cultural winds vectoring around and through each of us, it seems timely to reflect on some of the ways by which we, especially as men, sabotage ourselves, our families, our neighbourhoods, and our world.

This is no time for us to be engaging in either conscious or unconscious sabotage. It is a time, as Governor Andrew Cuomo is demonstrating, for us to tell our full truths, and for us to grow even more fulsome in the telling, in order that our immediate, as well as our medium and long-term exigencies profit from our best minds, our deepest hearts and our most courageous examples.

It is not only through our words, but through our unique observations, perceptions and recommendations that we generate the “gross national products” of our lives….and they can certainly not be reduced to a single number that indicates the health of our economy. Underlying every piece of machinery, every laptop, every Vocera device, every television camera, and every piece of “recovery” legislation, there are voices seeking to be found, heard and respected.

And because we all have a voice, none of us can be silenced, except by our own surrender.

And we must never surrender to a microbe, to a tyrant, or to a ghost, inside us or sitting at the kitchen table.