Tuesday, March 19, 2019

A modest proposal to link private lives to public policy

How dependent we have all become on an implicit separation between the private “issues of our lives” and the public discourse of the body politic. This enmeshment, of course, blurs at best, and blinds at worst, our collective attempts to influence public policy.

Talking about recycling, even putting out those green and blue boxes, without investigating if and how their contents are being injected into processes that protect the planet and contribute to the over-all reduction in toxic emissions, is, like so many instances of the interface between private individuals and public policy. We all pay provincial and federal taxes, on goods and services, as well as on earned income and investment income, without really having a real/effective voice in how those monies are distributed, except through our five-minute marking of a ballot at election time.

Not only is there a significant time gap between our regular and conscientious discharge of our responsibility and our expression of how the municipality/province/nation should operate. There is also little effort or opportunity, except perhaps at water cooler confabs, to shape public policy. No, this is not an argument for peppering our emails with referenda! However, it seems that with the infusion of social media, and the millions (billions?) of dollars spent by aspiring politicians on advertising on Facebook, for example, and the increasing personalization of political discourse, we risk a prevalent and increasing perspective of reductionism of issues to their personality advocates. Twitter, unfortunately, is not readily amenable to the nuances of policy agendas, thought and ideology foundations, and the uber-complexity of schemes both honourable and less so to take political action by the elected representatives. With the news that some 30% of our news in garnered from Facebook and other social media, the established media and the reputable start-ups like Politico, Axios, Rabble, Huffpost, Buzzfeed, Yahoo are struggling to sustain audience concentration, and the advertising revenue that underpins them.

A division, emblematic of the divide in income inequality, seems to be giving energy to a thought/idea/policy/class divide, based on the chosen menu of the individual, in western countries.

Our appetite for complexity, and for responsible and legitimate links between our individual lives and public policy decisions, seems fenced in by the multiple demands on our time, energy, concentration and attention. Glimpsing headlines, or catching a key phrase or word about a news story, or glancing at a photo of a political actor on a screen, or even reading a tweet….these hardly qualify as insight into any complex file. Plus, the sheer number of stimuli and their constant firing into our eyes/ears/minds tend to render many people either numb or detached.

And then, some trumpet blasts a crisis, or an injustice like a murder of an innocent, or the imprisoning of helpless children seeking refuge/asylum on the U.S.-Mexican border, or a new tax is applied to a gallon of gas….and again, our attention is arrested, and we silently repeat one of our personally preferred epithets, slogans, beliefs, attitudes about the person/incident/implications in our face. Most of us are proven to be accessing information sources that confirm and comply with our personal preferences, our leaning attitudes, our earliest beliefs, and our world views. Few of us, demonstrably, shift our views of either persons on the public stage or policy options that agree/disagree with our preconceptions.

It was former Leader of the Opposition and later Prime Minister (however briefly), The Honourable John Napier Turner who coined this phrase for the work and words of the Official Opposition: “BULLSHIT THEATRE!”

Were his words tragically prophetic about the democratic process, both on the part of the opposition, and the party in power, the governing party? Are we, in fact, increasingly witnessing a kind of shouting match of the propagandists, whether in support of or in opposition to any single stimulus (tweet, speech, bill, testimony, court judgement, pandemic, headline etc.)? AND, more importantly, are we serving as complicit choirs, on one side or another, demographically, digitally, analogically, clinically, and financially parsed by those with the largest income/investment accounts/partisan sycophant list, before, during and after specific points in time like elections, deaths, new bills, public hearings, announcements of war, public tragedies like plane crashes, or food or product recalls?

Is this “bullshit theatre” a mere “entertainment” (like the Roman bread and circuses) that keeps people minimally, peripherally, superficially and ineffectually, yet obsessively “engaged” in the public process? Are we unconsciously attuned to the public torrents of words, attitudes, pleas, petitions, and cash-magnets in a mis-taken belief that our email objections to a proposed bill to privatize health care in Ontario will make an iota of difference? Sending those emails feels good; it evokes a flurry of government-member responses, creating the impression that someone is reading them and taking them into consideration. And yet we all know that before any piece of government action to privatize health care is taken, focus groups, private surveys, and personal lobbying efforts have already demonstrated how far the government in question can go to achieve the goal of privatizing health care.

Sending an email opposing a proposed government decision, albeit, is more than NOT sending that email. Yet, the cynic would have to question how that email will be used. Would it be used to draft legislation that goes even further than originally proposed, given that the main source of opposition is coming from a “demographic” that will never support the government anyway? How far does the pawn metaphor extend?
How is one to bring one’s voice into the public discourse? How is one to impel the political class to take action on global warming and climate change?

The nine-year-old Swedish girl who has defied her parents by taking successive Friday’s off from school to incarnate a human body-and-placard protest against the inaction by various national governments on global warming has found one way. The 95-year-old WWII veteran who is walking from east to west coasts in the U.S. to bring attention to a retired warship has found another way.

The thousands of young people who have erected foundations to bring philanthropic funds to various worthy causes in the developing world have found another.
And yesterday’s blog noted Steve Chase’s bus to bring venture capital to previously unnoticed entrepreneurial ventures in middle America has found another.

What if, in a dream-world utopia, not only would all democratic elections be funded through the public purse, there by levelling the playing field, and hopefully offering authentic opportunities to access the levers of power to those previously denied access because of lack of funds…

WHAT IF public funds were to be set aside, and then allotted to public foundations that seek to implement a social awareness, a public education, and a social movement to achieve worthy public policy for which we all are so desperate.

Private money, while useful, cannot not continue to be the primary resource for social policy institutes. In that world, that private money will naturally seek initiatives that comport with their ideological, ideational, and ethical preferences. That is why some think tanks struggle for funds because they refuse to accept money from governments, corporations or labour unions.

Surely, if we are able to separate national “order” awards from the purview of the government of the moment, we could also establish a separate, yet public, philanthropic account, with a supervising body of impartial jurors, like the Canada Council has done for the arts for decades, to judge the various applications from proposed social policy institutes, think tanks, dedicated to the pursuit of worthy and notable public policy awareness and education, without regard to a political party or its ideology.

Monday, March 18, 2019

Decrying scarcity, parsimony, seniority and resistance

Deeply embedded, to the point of becoming imperceptible, in our Canadian, and  other political cultures, are two qualities that serve conflicting purposes:
The two qualities are “tightfistedness” and “pay your dues” (read seniority trumps integration and acceptance)

Coming from a deep vein of cultural parsimony (in public relations terms: frugality) and status (in real terms: control), these two qualities have their root in scarcity, fear, anxiety and obsession with control. Those in charge, in power at the top, in every organization, school, church, town, city, province and corporation consider their “position” as more valued and valuable than those over whom they preside. They do, however, scrupulously and blatantly try to hide this belief, pretending to be “comrades” or “buddies” or “friends” with those for whom they are responsible. The worst cliché of this pattern is the parent who surrenders, abdicates, abandons his/her parental responsibilities to acquire a “buddy-buddy” relationship with the child(ren).
Ingratiation by “leaders” is so unbecoming and so abhorrent as to be considered reprehensible; it smacks of weakness, co-dependence, obsequiousness and manipulation. Taking many forms, such as flattery, exaggerated cheer-leading, anticipation of the most base desires of the “child” and then going out of the way to meet those desires, as well as refusing to confront when appropriate….these are just  of some of the subtle expressions of abdication.

And then, at the other extreme, is the person in leadership who abuses the post, by demeaning, denigrating, dismissing, ignoring, distorting and otherwise reducing the supervisees into oblivion. However, between the opposite ends of the continuum, are many much more subtle, yet just as nefarious, expressions of contempt, disdain, “challenging and testing” as most male leaders like to phrase it…(read: make him earn a spot on the team).

Imagine, for a brief moment, dear reader, if this kind of culture were to dominate in the classrooms of the nation. No new student would ever be permitted to “cross the threshold of “proving” himself worthy of the teacher’s respect given the brief time allotted to a school year. Tests, designed to demonstrate the student’s grasp of concepts (and probably still data) would be designed and administered to “fail” the student. (Recall the pride of the Economics prof. who announced to his freshman class: “look to the right, then to the left….3 of you 5 will fail this course!”) Opportunities for leadership, too, would be curtailed, restricted only to those who are seniors or at least juniors. Similarly, with new teachers, most of whom have some of the best and most innovative and creative thoughts and strategies just jumping to try them out. They would be held back from taking positions of leadership, while those with seniority, often simply because they have it, are considered the “cultural and thought leaders in the school. I am hearing not to silent whispers, “Schools are different from corporations, town councils, service clubs and churches, and the analogy does not apply!”


If that is correct in factual terms, then the “status-seniority-hierarchy-trust-worthiness” thing has been allowed to take over. New ideas, on the other hand, are the life-blood of individuals, classrooms, shop floors, board rooms, ER’s, OR’s, court rooms, and especially sanctuaries, whether we are open to acknowledging it or not. And the exercise of power, in its most healthy, effective and humane manner, has to do more than give “token” or lip-service validation to both new people and new ideas. There is a bibliography of material being spewed out of publishing presses, laptops, television and computer screens, and over phones and tablets that demonstrate conclusively the threat from the abuses of power, by those wielding it. Their personal, professional reputations are being deeply wounded by their own acts of co-and-omission. Their attitude of “entitlement” is and will continue to damage the immediate potential for real, far-sighted, well-informed and researched policies in a plethora of sectors, but also to the development of trust and confidence, and “obedience” through loyalty to our institutional structures in our young people.

Call it arrogance, impertinence, insouciance, deviousness, downright absolutism or merely chicanery; this rusting out of the reasonable expectations of ordinary people in how power has been, should be and even must be exercised, through the willful acts, statements, attitudes and even beliefs of many in positions of leadership will, inevitably, (and not because it says so here) bite the culprits. Yet that is not the biggest problem. It has and will continue to bite all of us, given the abdication of reasonable responsibility for the discharge of power and leadership in all sectors.

Of course, the headlines shout the abuses of political power. Nevertheless, we must not let those headlines hide the abuses of power, much less noticeable and less nefarious perhaps, but still imitating “higher” abuses and thereby contributing to a culture of both impotence and dereliction of duty. Whether this dereliction of duty is to the small social club, the small business operation, the public organization or the governance of a jurisdiction (over which there are fewer and less courageous reporters digging into malfeasance, injustice and arrogance, thereby normalizing abuses, through silence and default).

Entitlements, of all kinds, demand exposure, even if they are mere social irritants, like gnats in our soup on the patio. The former executive who demands a head-table seat, supplanting a current executive, so s/he can introduce a guest from the head table (an introduction just as readily and acceptably done from the floor) is abusing his position in the organization. The teacher who takes 90 students back forty-five minutes into a lecture, to bring his principal up to date, is abusing his power, for his own political ambition.

The long-term office holder in an organization, (and this is especially flagrant in churches!) who thinks, and believes that s/he is the gate-keeper on church membership, policy, teaching curricula, bill-paying, renovation and re-decorating is abusing the organization, as well as the individual people in the pews. No self-respecting person, new or old, can or should tolerate such abuse, and yet it happens everyday, right under our noses. And the normal response: “Well, s/he has been here for a very long time, and knows how things are done here!”

Similarly, in corporations, political parties, and most other organizations, long tenures accumulate territories and files of influence just because of durability, and often not because of ingenuity, creativity or adaptability or healthy leadership. And then we all throw up our hands when a new and relatively substantial and obviously worthy idea peeps through our consciousness, as if such an idea would overthrow “the established” tradition/culture/habit/modus operandi. Intellectually, we know and accept that conditions in all situations, circumstances are constantly changing; this is not a trait only of schools where children themselves are growing, developing and changing right before our eyes. It may be more obvious there, because it is in our faces every day. Voices, bodies, faces and even attitudes are in such flux that change is the only reliable constant.

And adapting, riding, surfing, dancing, championing and enjoying the changes are options available to educators, all of them making the profession both enjoyable and rewarding. Why then, following schools, colleges and universities, do we slide back into an attitude that sacralizes permanence, tradition, status, seniority, tenure and then equate those attributes to trust, acceptance, dependability, reliability and trustworthiness.

Are we so repulsed by, frightened by, resistant to, and troubled by new ideas, change, an impertinent question or observation, a new piece of information that challenges our “mind-set” and belief system that, as we do with death, we put it out of our minds, our faces, and our readiness to open and listen?

So, you say, “Well, the context is everything! We can accept a new idea if the project stage is in its infancy, if we are just brainstorming for new ideas, and if we are facing some kind of crisis. Yet, we would quickly become exhausted if we were to face a new idea every day. And how could any new idea really be evaluated, implemented and tested if we were to be open to them all. We have to filter, and discuss and debate the relative merits of each new idea; otherwise we will be failing to do what we have been charged with accomplishing.”

And it says here that each situation, in every country, town, city, village and hamlet is changing so fast, with new information, and new ways of calculating new equations and new expectations of all persons, tools, machines and organizations that our clinging to “how we have always done it” can no longer be called acceptable. We are lagging behind in our willingness, and our ability to tackle the most pressing problems facing each of us: inequality, planetary survival, poverty, resistance to anti-biotics, species eradication, access to education, health care, opportunity and purpose and meaning.

Oh, there are zillions of ideas, many of them siloed on a single bus, or in a single lab, or in a seminar, or in a pub-debate, or in a movie or television script, like little fresh-water springs shooting out from the earth, right in front of our eyes. And, yet, it says here, one of the main reasons they are not gathering public support, especially in our political and corporate board rooms, is that those in power see them as threats to their personal, entitled positions of power.

Steve Case, venture capitalist, was featured on CBS’ 60 minutes, last night, riding his “Rise of the Rest” red bus into the heartland of America, in search of new business ideas. With a jury of his peers, Case reviews submissions, (in Canada, CBC’s Dragon’s Den attempts a similar approach) and award seed money to the most promising business venture. When asked why he spends 20 hours/day riding a bus, he responds, “I love these entrepreneurs and I want to get everyone on the bus! Believing that the east and west coasts of America have received all the attention, developed the new ideas, grown the large percentage of new business ventures, while the middle of the country has been left behind, Case is putting up his own money (and that of other venture capitalists) to try to right the imbalance, not only of business opportunities but also of community hope and optimism.

Of course, it is far easier for a venture capitalist to hire and paint a bus and ride into the hinterland looking for new ideas than it is for a state or national government to do the same thing.


There are more resources, and more options for a state, or federal government to roll up their sleeves and mount similar venture support systems, if there was a political will to do it. Unconventional? Perhaps. Radical? maybe. Inappropriate? Certainly not! Shaming the various levels of government? Could be.

And yet, governments and many of our institutions are so mired in their own cement perceptions, attitudes, beliefs and habits (most of them directed to serving the private interests of those in charge) that the world is beginning to “burn” while  Washington, London, Paris, Berlin, Ottawa, Bejing, Mumbai, Rome “fiddle.”

Only this time, that old adage is less metaphorical than literal, for the first time in human history.

And of course, those in power, clinging to their “rungs” on the ladder of social and political status, defer to the “cost” argument as their default position on any new idea. It will cost too much; it is an unproven concept that needs much more study so that we get it absolutely right (“after all, we will not allow ourselves to make a mistake!”) We build bridges to take the traffic of the last decades, not to accommodate the traffic flows of the next two decades. We envision new ‘systems’ by deconstructing the old ones, to suit the political class of the day. (Example, the demolition of the Ontario health delivery system, in order to remove the salaries of administrators, whether or not the system was working effectively. The political class ideology of cost-cutting (euphemistically labelled frugality, putting money in the pockets of citizens, and leaner administration) will only have to be confronted by a future government willing to face the challenges of the omissions and the delays and the decline in services that the cost-cutting will impose.

Frugality, too, imposes a template on the purchase of retired military submarines, fighter jets, (all in need of refurbishment), as it does on payroll cost-cutting like the imposition of the Phoenix system. Known to be inoperable prior to its installation by those civil servants charged with its implementation, only they refused to bring that fact to the attention of their superiors, refusing to bring truth to power, in order to protect their own jobs, reputations and careers. Thousands of ordinary public servants working under this system have received no pay, overpay, or intermittent pay for at least three years, leading to lost careers, internships, houses, families and reputations, through no fault of the federal government workers. Designed as a way to reduce costs, the boondoggle has resulted in budget over-runs of millions of dollars, at last estimate some $50 million more to fix it, if it is ever truly fixed.

Keeping to the “tradition” also raises its ugly head in the testimony of Gerald Butts, he of the Prime Minister’s Office, when he told Trudeau that if he accepted a declined Cabinet appointment from a prospective Minister (Jody Wilson-Raybould, to Indian Affairs, for legitimate and publicly declared reasons of opposition to the hated Indian Act), he would find himself facing interminable refusals from others. How presumptuous! How inappropriate! How arrogant!

Another sign that what “has been” has become sacred, from a process perspective, unless and until, of course, there is a political “need” that overrides the proscribed legal process (as in the political interference with the Attorney General’s refusal to intervene in the Prosecutor’s decision to refuse a Deferred Prosecution Agreement, previously enshrined in law, to please the corporate benefactor of the Liberals, SNC-Lavalin.

We vacillate between occasional bursts of “damn-the-costs” to “frugality in the extreme” as if our governments were careening between two lethal political threats, a crashing rock of public humiliation at spending too flagrantly, and the equally demeaning prospect of parsimony, as if we are unable to envision a balanced approach.
As with our exercise of power, we careen between superficial unctuousness (false modesty) and obsequiousness on the one hand, and overweening abuse even in the most private and intimate exchanges. It is not only the middle of America that has been and continues to be left behind. We are all being left behind in terms of our relegation to the back of the proverbial public bus, many of us clinging to the rear bumper, like so many of those freedom riders in the civil rights movement in the 1960’s.

Trouble is, many of us have not quite cottoned onto the full implications of  the ways by which power is being abused by even the most “likeable” people, in our clubs, churches, town councils, chambers of commerce, school boards, banks, financial institutions, corporations and of course, provincial, state and national governments, including our national security apparatus, our military and our judicial systems.    

Friday, March 15, 2019

"Falling" a word-play documentary

into a rock garden
                             off a five-foot concrete wall
                                                                          on my stomach
apparently set off a movie
                                                     in the unconscious
introducing the body to the v
was it a trap or an invitation?
                                      was it an opportunity or a sentence?
or more likely a pseudonym
                               in spiritual terms
a loss of ego, self, a dissolving
                                                  into something “greater?”
                                                                                       than ‘me’
or a foreshadowing
                                 of “falling” in love….with
                                                                                          the etereal?
repeated when falling from a two-wheeler
                                                         crashing into a car sneaking
                                                                                                   from an angle-park
                                            into my path
                          while the biker gawked at Shannon a passing co-ed
and later, this time falling  u  p   the stage stairs  and landing face    d
                                                                                                          on the stage
                    in Steelworkers’ Hall
                                                       in front of five-hundred laughing adults
 while earnestly and immaturely pursuing the “star” trophy in the
                                   1951 Kiwanis Music Festival… playing John Thompson’s
                       Three Blind Mice

reinforced by an accidental slip on soap,
                                mischievously rubbed
                                             into the rope rug
                                                                       on the diving board
secured by a rusted bolt that
                                                     pierced the shin, leaving the bone exposed…

as if the universe needed more reinforcement
                                         this innocent was coached by a best “friend”
in the proper stance for firing a twelve-gauge shot-gun for the
                                                                                                   first time
“hold it loose from your shoulder, to avoid its kick”
                                          was his instruction before he backed away
                                into uproarious laughter as I
                                                                                landed on my derrier

and then, at sixteen returning from the YWCA camp
                                                          in the half-ton, with the three-ton engine,
                             we slid into the ditch and struck a large boulder,
           tipping the truck onto its left side
                                                              pinning the red leather jacket I was wearing
                                                                            to the road out the driver’s window
another fall,
                    this time,
                                    in a machine
                                                         outdone by the
embarrassment when the town saw the
                                                              crippled Dodge
                                                                                with its Dad-sign
on the tow-truck’s lot hours later
                                                            on Sunday morning

still relentlessly trying to tame the green-broke filly
                                       the envelop with piano exam results
from the Conservatory
                                                         exposed a 63, when a 70
was needed to pass
     and the darkened car that jammed into
                  the right-front “bug” fender, on a sloppy snowy intersection
at Richmond and Central as this sophomore turned in
                             pursuit of a pizza after a day of
              reading Milton’s Paradise Lost
                                                   in prep. for finals at Western

and then falling into the recently thawed
                                  Rosseau River,
                                                          out of a twelve-foot canoe,
                                                             while shepherding an outdoor class of teens..

the movie reaches a turning point
                                                     in a conversation in Callander
with a poet, who quietly asks, after reading some attempts at poems,
                            “when are you going to jump off the cliff?”

had the universe been shouting “Lucifer,” that angel of pride
                              who fell from heaven….into deaf ears?
                 had the universe been trying to get my attention?
                                    had these many “falls” been the universe’s
call to awaken a sleeping,
                                                                                        psyche and soul?
without consciousness, was this another archetype of the
                                                       Chosen Frozen?

little wonder, when confronted by choirs, guilds, and committees, as well as
                                        Bishops and Archdeacons
                                                                                  from inside
I experienced a bucket-full of “cubes”
                                                        needing their own
                                                                            in silence  

Friday, March 8, 2019

A Knight Errant's 'take' on hate

 James Hillman notes that the difference between religion and psychology is that religion treats Gods as literal, while psychology treats them as imagined, “formulated ambiguously as metaphors for modes of experience and as numinous borderline persons.”(Hillman RVP: 169*) For those of us raised as “Christians,” we have assimilated a narrative of a perfect being, an incarnated Son of God, who, according to the Easter story, was crucified, died and was buried, and then rose again from the dead and ascended into heaven, as redemption for our sins. Our role, so the story went, is to emulate, imitate and strive to replicate that story in our own lives, as the pre-condition for an eternal life, after our own death.

Resurrection and redemption and forgiveness are the sine qua non’s of the life of the Christian disciple. Evil is the “enemy” to be fought against daily, hourly, minute by minute, as part of the “perfecting” of our existence.

Forgiving the self, in that context, becomes one of the heroic principles, along with forgiving the other. Becoming “better,” “more perfect” and “more acceptable to God” are the guiding beacons in the darkness of what we all know and experience as life on this planet, heaven being the opposite and the ultimate goal.

On the other hand, Jews are much more oriented to the truth of the ugliness, the pain, and the endless darkness that besets human existence. Not steeped in an “epic” journey and mandate toward perfection, it would seem that they are free(er) to deal with the existing realities of their own lives without the spectre of a “judgement” at the end of time, for their pre-existing condition of “sin” with which all Christians are struggling.
For Hillman, the human psyche “predates Christianity, so the return to the soul is a return to a source that predates Christianity: “the merging of psychology and religion is less the confluence of two different streams than the result of their single source- the soul.” (Hillman, RVP 167)

Borrowing from the Greeks, the Christian is steeped in, and expected to live by what has become known as the Apollonian way, and to avoid, defer from, reject the Dionysian way. Apollo, god of sun, light and knowledge, music, prophecy, healing was also known as the god of divine distance making men aware of their guilt, the averter of evil. The god associated with law, constitutions and with the protection of crops and herds, Apollo, clearly embodies many of the attributes to be espoused and incarnated by those calling themselves Christians.

Dionysius, on the other hand, the god of wine, fertility, ritual madness, irrationality and chaos, emotions and instincts, for the Christian mind, is a pattern and a lifestyle to be avoided.

If for Hillman gods are to be considered metaphors, then western culture (primarily Christian) can be initiated into what was heretofore forbidden, the Dionysian voice, perspective, ethos and culture. Dionysius is thereby released from his previous encasement in the human shadow, that unconscious that lies buried out of sight, out of mind and out of respect, as considered by the Christian.

The life of the psyche and soul, from this “enlightened perspective” can be relieved of the repression, suppression of having to exist in a “place” where darkness is relegated to the unconscious, the feared, the repressed, the denied and the avoided. Freed from the shackles of Apollo, and from the denial/avoidance/repression of Dionysius, the human is potentially open to the adventure of living in the “in-between” where repressions and perfections do not rule in an either-or conflict in the human psyche.
Both-and, as the replacement for “either-or” is both freeing and frightening. Hillman’s “soul”, that non-scientific, a-rational living in the realm of imagination and the symbolic. And for Hillman, the patron saint of soul work is  the medieval Knight Errant wandering to and fro between and among both the Apollo and the Dionysius realms.

The Knight Errant follows fantasy, riding the vehicle of his emotions, he loiters and pursues the anima with his eros, regarding desire as also holy; and he listens to the deviant discourse of the imagination…For the Knight Errant of psychology is partly picaresque rogue of the underworld, a shadow hero of unknown paternity, who sees through the hierarchies from below. He is a mediator betwixt and between, homeless, of no fixed abode. Or his home, like that of Eros, is in the realm of the daemons, of the metaxy (the middle region), in between, back and forth (Hillman, RVP 161)

It is from this perspective of the Knight Errant that this scribe is seeing the current explosion of the latest volcano of racism, bigotry, hatred, contempt, alienation and venomous conflict. A U.S. congresswoman utters anti-Semitic rhetoric under a cloud of Islamophobia spewing from the White House, adjacent to a spike in White Supremacist rhetoric in places like Charlottesville VA,  and dangerous voting patterns in Europe. Experimental psychologists use MRI images to record brain/biological responses to images selected for their ability to invoke “disgust” (thereby enabling experimenters to predict “conservative” (strong brain responses) and “liberal” ideological preferences with considerable accuracy.

So, living between the biological and the symbolic/metaphorical, one sees that we are in part hard wired, and in part, reactive to our deepest fears and anxieties. We live, in our imaginations circling between our apollonian impulses for order, peace, music, aware of our own guilt and open to being purified, and our Dionysian madness, irrationality, chaos, emotions and instincts.

And from both impulses, we derive energy, our stimulation to create something different, without being forged into a cast-iron leg-iron of needing perfection, or even of expecting perfection.

Unleashing, metaphorically, such restrictive, oppressive and condemnatory images as “bad boy”, “thug,” “slut,” “whore,” “sick,” “tyrant,” “superior,” “inferior,” “predator” first from our need to ‘fit’ into a narrative of religion, ideology, or even race, gender or ethnicity, and also from our imaginative constructs of how we belong in the universe, we might be more able to and also more likely to begin to open our psychic vision (soul) to see the other (whatever and whomever that “other” might be in our world view) as less toxic, less dangerous, and less threatening.

In order to move in that direction, we could, and might be able to, remove the bear-trap on our perceptions of ourselves, spewed forth from the projections of those who saw us as unacceptable, unworthy, useless, less than, evil, dangerous and contemptible….based on their own unconscious projections of their deepest fears, anxieties and phobias.

A prominent cliché is that we are not defined by our worst moments, decisions, mistakes or defaults. That may be true; however, neither are they immovable, eradicable, from our memories or from our psyches. How they occurred, how we made decisions of self-sabotage, how we, only much later, uncovered our underlying worries and anticipated rejections based on patterns deeply embedded into our neophyte and malleable young impressions is a path open to each of us. And embarking on that path, from Hillman’s perspective, is not to overturn our past, nor to smash everything we were offered in our formative development, including our Christian or Jewish or Muslim faiths, or even our atheism or agnosticism.

Transcending the prisons, the repressions, the constrictions, the forbidden’s and the unforgiven’s of our early lives, may not depend on freeing our minds/psyches/souls from Apollo/Dionysius. It may have a different ethnic or religious metaphysic and a different set of holy writ from that of Christians. Nevertheless, remaining trapped in a locked cage of repressed stereotypes, including our own identities, seems like an ideal prescription for continued and even mounting hatreds.

Tribes, while providing security and safety, along with tradition, menus, rituals and metaphors (gods), also have a way of injecting serum of contempt, bigotry, hubris and savagery. Whether this serum is to ward of prospective enemies or not, we live on an increasingly threatened planet, regardless of our ethnicity, our geography, religion or specific fears. And in order to begin the urgent process of addressing our shared, collective and imminent dangers, we have to open to “other” ways of moving toward a picture that includes health, fairness, justice and a measure of equality for each of our children and grandchildren.

That picture cannot be encased in leg-irons of any race, ethnicity, religion, or ideology….and moving out of our unique and “special” identity encasements (entombments) might just forecast a kind of planetary “resurrection” that transcends every epoch of history.

*RVP: Re-visioning Psychology