Friday, June 14, 2019

Toronto Raptors win NBA championship after 24-year struggle

There is a tidal wave of pride reaching across Canada, given the 59 ‘jurassic parks’ that sprang up in cities across the land, with thousands cheering for the victorious Toronto Raptors, winners of the Larry O’Brien trophy as National Basketball Association champions for 2019. Easily affordable as a school yard, even driveway, sport and as an elementary and secondary school sport for young men and women, basketball offers kids the chance to learn specific shooting, passing, dribbling, blocking-out, rebounding, defending individual skills, with the added benefit of razor-sharp decision-making at a high pace, and the gestalt of both organized and drilled offensive and defensive “plays” or strategies played on a relatively constrained court with other team mates.

After 24 years in the NBA, looking back on what seem to be too many examples of ‘coming up short’ in playoffs, and too many departures of players who were stars and became even more famous and successful elsewhere (Vince Carter, Chris Bosh, Tracey McGrady as examples), after multiple coaching changes, even the firing of “Coach-of-the-Year” winner Dwayne Casey last season, the departure of the treasured ten-year veteran DeMar DeRozan in a trade with the San Antonio Spurs for Kawai Leonard last summer, the current roster, this edition of the team finally reached the ‘finish line’. So, the road to the championship has been paved with many set-backs, pot-holes, trashed hopes and dreams and the trend-line of fair-weather band-wagon fans.

Building around the seven-year veteran, Kyle Lowry, graduate of Villanova, and best friend of DeRozan, Team Manager Masai Ujuri, himself from Nigeria and previously from the Denver Nuggets, risked the wrath of Toronto fans in trading DeRozan for Leonard, especially given the risk evident in Leonard’s history from last year’s schedule in which he played only nine games for the Spurs because of injury to his right quad. His dubious relationship with the Spurs provided additional fodder for the sceptics in the Toronto fan base.  Doubt about Leonard’s agreeing to sign with the Raptors and about his physical condition led to a new term in basketball team management, “load management” after he did indeed agreed to sign. Summoned by team trainers, the term points to the agreed need to blend Leonard’s need to practice and play in league games with his generally eroded physical health and strength. At no time during the season did Leonard play in both back-to-back games, providing opportunities for the other team members to find their performance levels in both wins and losses without his “leadership.”

Having been named Most Valuable Player in the 2014 Spurs win over the Golden State Warriors in the NBA finals, Leonard was, if healthy and in the right frame of mind about coming to Toronto, the potential “final piece” of a complex and evolving chemistry of a team desperate to emerge from the wilderness of failed play-off entries. Bonding Lowry and Leonard as a first and essential step in developing the current version of the team was clearly a prime goal of new coach, Nick Nurse, promoted from assistant following the departure of Dwayne Casey at the end of last season.

 Integrating new-comers Serge Ibaka, born in Republic of Congo, from the Orlando Magic after stints with Oklahoma Thunder and before that the Spanish national team, Danny Green, also from the Spurs in the Leonard trade, and Cameroon native, Pascal Siakim who played for New Mexico State, with Fred VanVleet from Whichita State, Marc Gasol, born in Spain and  newly arrived from the Memphis Grizzlies in mid-season, Normal Powell, formerly a UCLA Bruin and OGAnunoby previously of the Indiana Hoosiers. Also added late in the season was veteran Jeremy Lin, a member of the 2012 New York Knicks championship team and graduate of Harvard.

Basketball watchers find special magnetism among the plethora of statistical numbers that accompany each player’s performance in each game , each quarter, and each time-out…so rapid and accurate is the new software in both collection and storage, and then in obvious comparisons. Stats around the percentage of 3-point shots attempted and made, the percentage of free throws attempted and made, the percentage of field goals attempted and made, the number of turn-overs, fouls, rebounds, blocked shots, technical fouls read like a report card for each player, and for the team generally, especially in comparison to the same stats for their specific opponent.

The social demographics of those hundreds of thousands of “spectators” both inside Scotiaplace Arena in Toronto, and in those dozens of “jurrasic parks” indicate a broad range of cultural, ethnic, linguistic and racial groups. In short, basketball, much like soccer (European ‘football’), is embraced by people around the world, although it has only a single footprint at the professional level in Canada. Invented by a Canadian, James Naismith in 1891, basketball has become a long-standing Olympic sport. Naismith also wrote the original basketball rule book and founded the University of Kansas basketball program. So, there is a kind of “complete circle” in the historic moment of this 2019 NBA championship’s victory by a Canadian-based team for the first time.

Canada is the “home” of hockey, a very different game and culture from that of basketball. Played on ponds by Canadian kids from every hamlet and village, hockey’s required skating skills, hand-eye co-ordination to manipulate the round  hard rubber puck at the end of a stick and tolerance of the extreme temperatures in Canadian winters (at least for the better part of the last century), hockey embraces  a much more physical even somewhat brutal pursuit of the puck. Body-checks, both in open ice and against the surrounding boards, the occasional fist-fight (although far reduced in number in the last decade), faces cut by rising sticks, eyes grazed by flying pucks (more recently somewhat protected by visors) and serious bruising injuries from stopping 100-mph shots on parts of the body not protected by equipment are all considered normal in hockey. Also rising up the corporate (National Hockey League) and player association (NHLPA) agenda is the issue of player concussions resulting from the impact of hard shoulder pads in collision with the crania of opponents, some accidental and some deliberate.

On the other hand, basketball, played without body protection excepting stable and non-slip athletic shoes and mouth guards plus the occasional face mask following an injury to nose or jaw or cheekbone, witnesses turned ankles, torn Achilles tendons, and torn muscles of various kinds. Physical body-checks, as celebrated in hockey, are virtually precluded by the rules of basketball, although a skilled “block” of a driving dribbler, or a “charge” by a driving dribbler (depending on the timing and positioning of the encounter) can provide considerable excitement both on and off the court. Ball control, however, very different from the bouncing of a frozen chunk of vulcanized rubber, is much more in the hands and in the hand-eye co-ordination of the players. Without players assigned specifically to “guard” the basket, all basketball players have both an offensive and defensive role, whereas in hockey the “goalie” is the last line of defence, heavily padded and conscripted to a crease immediately in front of a net, framed by iron posts and cross-bar.

The development of the two sports in North America seems to be a mirror image of each other: hockey was more popular and played by more kids in Canada historically, while basketball experienced the reverse numbers in the United States. And the irony continues in the two championship teams in this year’s finals in both the NHL and the NBA. The St. Louis Blues won the Stanley Cup, emblematic of NHL supremacy, while the Raptors won the O’Brien trophy. Thirteen Canadian men are members of the Blues, a much higher number than the number of Canadians on their opponent, the Boston Bruins. In the NBA, however, a slowly growing number of Canadians, this year 14, are being recruited both by U.S. colleges and universities, the primary training ground for NBA aspirants. We all know that it will be some time before the Canadian National Basketball team will challenge the U.S. national team at the Olympics, given the dominance of American-born players on the American team, all of them members of professional NBA teams.

Nevertheless, for those of us Canadians who have harboured a passionate commitment to the “hoops” for most of our lives, there is a high level of both pride and national satisfaction that we are watching a significant growth curve of participation among Canadian boys and girls. And this latest win will only inject cultural and societal steroids into that wave. Who knows, some day the Raptors may have a majority of Canadian players on another NBA championship team. And then, doubtless, the American contingent of NHL teams will aspire to a full complement of U.S. born players, and a Stanley Cup win for their side.

It is not only that $2 billion in grade crosses the 49th parallel of latitude every day between our two countries. We also have a lively and contested relationship in our professional sports teams, whether their respective rosters have a preponderance of players from either country. And the fan interest, the advertiser sponsorship, the player salaries will continue to compete and to mirror each other, as the tax schemes and dollar values continue to vacillate making the work of attorneys and accountants and player agents only grow more technical, more complex and more costly.

And given that two tickets for the last game of the Stanley Cup finals in St. Louis cost $6000, and the cheapest ticket for the last home Raptor game came in at $1600, those prices will continue to price out the vast majority of fans and spectators. Hence the derivative of the “outdoor” parties, with the monster TV screen and the suds sales.
Inside is morphing into outside, and outside into inside, as American and Canadian are each morphing into the “other” whether we really like and appreciate that shift or not.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Christian roots of "plantation" and "colonization"

From the United States, we hear much talk about what has been termed “plantation” theology, while in Canada we hear much noise about something termed, colonization. In the former, blacks and whites have been locked in a cultural box of how power is exercised, deployed, and abused. Whites, being in charge of the plantation, have been boxed into their “superiority” role and mask, as blacks have been boxed into their “inferiority” even slave role and mask seemingly for centuries. And the church’s responsibility for both the theology and the resulting tragic implications has never been either acknowledged nor atoned for.

In Canada (and elsewhere), colonization, too often based on the Christian churches’ marketing (read evangelizing) objectives, has generated boxes in which indigenous people have been categorized as “savage” and “uncivilized” and “heathen” by white explorers settlers and land and governance officials.

And then, in all human cultures, including both the American and Canadian, what was at the beginning “shall be henceforth forever” not merely sacralised and stabilized but also fossilized as ‘normal’ and ‘conventional’ and the ‘status quo’. God, in whatever form and guise s/he might be conceived, was thought to, even believed to, preside over this status quo,  as if it were engraved in marble, just as the millions of tombstones were so engraved.

“Fitting in” with the “established order” of things, depended on a significant dose of both insecurity, obedience, and “freedom from anxiety” so that the stability of the society could and would be maintained. Nevertheless, just as the tennis racket’s mere shift of a miniscule degree sends the ball in directions that respond to that angle, so too the religious/ecclesial/theological/ethical tennis rackets of plantations and colonizations were very difficult to change their directions. And  the longer the “foundations” “held” sustained and proselyzed by the “establishment” (in both Canada and the United States, that means the “white” Europeans), the more rooted and permanent and resistant to change they became.

Entrapment in insecurity, neurosis, and “sin” (as Paul writes, “We have all sinned and come short of the glory of God”) has generated a myriad of social, cultural and, dare we say, economic and political tragedies, not the least of which are being enacted in the headlines on both sides of the 49th parallel.

In Canada, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, both by thousands of indigenous families, and much later and more shamedly by governments, a national commission on the Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women and Girls was established by the Trudeau government back in 2015. After several resignations, and several bruising headlines of mismanagement, a report issued from the commissioners grabbing the headline that the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls amounts to “Genocide”. Of course, such a word was inserted in what has to have been a deliberate calculation of the commissioners, so that their report would be “noticed” in the public debate.  Ironically, even paradoxically, it is the word “genocide” itself that has served to magnetize the public discussion and to divert attention from the deep and persistent reservoir of grief, loss, anger and even hopelessness that clings to each indigenous family touched by the deaths and disappearances of these over 1100 women and girls.

And yet, not a single story of who committed even one of these horrendous acts has been uncovered by the commission. It is  legitimate to bring the “stories” of the persons and their gifts to the light of day, so that that light might eventually prompt some public squirming among law enforcement, and among the public about what kind of contributing conditions are needed for these stories to have become part of our national narrative and identity. And yet, it would also be relevant, and perhaps even potentially transformative if the commission had had as part of its mandate, the project of digging into the forensics of at least a sample of these unsolved cases. We already know that racism runs through some law enforcement detachments. How significant is that cancer in preventing the needed detective work that would and could unpack many of these files? We also know that “colonization” by the white culture has been held as the normative model for centuries over the First Nations peoples across the country.

 And the sinews, the percs, the attitudes, the beliefs and the basic foundational perceptions (of colonization) by white men and women toward indigenous people, both conscious and unconscious, comprise the very nature of the ground on which we all walk.  Occasional “remediating” initiatives, in local schools, have helped to shift the perceptions of those students and teachers to a degree of enlightenment and perhaps even an enhanced sense of responsibility among those communities. Similarly, the rising tide of indigenous undergraduate and graduate students in post-secondary schools and colleges signal a significant shift in perceived potential both for those individuals and for the potential harmonizing of race relations between colonizers and the colonized.

In the U.S., too, although too many headlines carry the burden of dead black men at the hands of too many white law enforcement officials, there are peeking shoots of recognition, and acknowledged responsibility in some quarters that portend the slow even glacial erosion of the plantation mind-set, and the contemptible superiority that flows through the veins and the arteries of millions of whites. Articulate, educated and brilliant men and women of black and Hispanic heritage appear daily on national television, write daily in national publications and teach in both undergrad and grad schools across the country. They also sit on the bench of many courtrooms, even though the ratio of blacks (and Hispanics), like that of women, has a long way to go to come close to approximating their respective population percentages.

And, once again, both to repeat and to underline, the Christian theology of the “original sin” of the “Fall” in the Garden of Eden, following the eating of the “forbidden fruit” of the Tree of Knowledge has undercut the healthy self of literally millions of people to the detriment, and hopefully not the demise of the culture that theology spawned. Extreme unctuousness, modesty, obedience, and even servility, to the “reigning” power of the ruling class, (in both Canada and the U.S. that means the white European ethnicity) is the dominant tumor in the body politic.

And, it is not incidental to note, with shame, that the Christian “establishment” has neither acknowledge nor atoned for both the sins of commission and the attendant sins of omission that have accompanied and accumulated under the “cross” and the “altar” and the hierarchy. And, not surprisingly, nor even tragically, the Christian church, like most of the traditional institutions of state and political and economic and legal power are experiencing a significant erosion of their traditional respect, authority, power and trust. To have virtually neglected what many have called the traditions of ‘wisdom’ theology, by focusing on the depravity and sin of man, at the expense of his capacity for responsibility and the trust in the creature fashioned in the “imago dei” (the image of God) is to have led millions into a dark place of no return.

And, then to have narrowed even further the definition of “being a Christian” to such constricted and heavily enforced obedience to rules generated by the imperfect mind of humans (mostly men), and then superimposed a hierarchical and dogmatic structure for those seeking baptism, confirmation and ordination, in order to sustain the “faith” has become a narrative confounded by the sabotage of its own design. Hollow utterance of “respect” and “dignity” for all human beings, as encased in the phrase, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these  are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” (as per the U.S. Constitution), overlaid on the religious and theological premises of sin and white racial superiority, will not stand the test of rigorous and accountable application. The separation of issues of faith from those of state, too, will not stand the test of reason, critical examination nor social and political utility.

We humans live in the world, the secular world; and in that world we incarnate  certain attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and we engage in specific decisions and acts. And while we are capable of being trusted, and Wisdom theology as argued eloquently by William Brueggemann*, posits that man is indeed both trusted by God, and considered capable and worthy of that trust. Our lofty, idealistic holy towers of both cathedrals and psychological and social superiority, especially among North American Christian “whites”, the generators and perpetrators of both colonization and plantation cornerstones of the respective cultures on both side of the 49th parallel.

And without a significant seeding of wisdom theology, challenging both the reign of the fundamentalists and the ‘high church,’ and the opening of the option of bridging both the sacred and the secular in our daily lives, beliefs, attitudes and human encounters, we will continue to contend with abuses of power that continue to erupt among indigenous, blacks, Hispanics and colonized women and girls. And we will continue to attempt to shed the baggage of religious servitude while blind to its theological sources. The church has to be an integral and operating partner in this social, cultural, political and economic re-birth.
 And so long as the secular culture remains in denial, and the church hierarchy in avoidance, the bridging of these forces will remain incomplete and our division against ourselves will exacerbate.

 *Walter Brueggemann, In Man We Trust, John Knox Press, 1972

Friday, May 31, 2019

A modest memo to Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould

Modest memo to Jane Philpott and Jody Wilson-Raybould:

As both of you have honestly and sincerely sought “comment” from “the people” as opposed to the political parties, this memo comes from an ordinary Canadian septuagenarian whose interest and participation in the public life of our country continue unabated, while many personal faculties begin to atrophy.

You are both at the zenith of your political influence, given the honourable and even sacrificial approach you have delivered on the matter of a Deferred Prosecution Agreement for SNC-Lavelin. Your protracted period of reflection on your continued participation in the public debates on the future of our country, however, seem to have brought forth a decision that puts the “perfect” as an impediment to the “good”.

You both want to “do politics differently” and that is a legitimate and widely shared political aspiration. You both want to see more collaboration, co-operation and balanced decision-making in the public interest, as compared with the highly fractious, ad hominum attacks, the iron-clad party discipline and ‘whipping’ of members’ votes, and you both bring professional academic qualifications, one in law another in medicine, to the public stage. Having started out your political lives “at the top of the political influence ladder” as federal cabinet ministers, however, you may have less than a complete grasp of the status, role and influence of “private, independent members of parliament”.

Set aside the issues around raising funds for campaign expenses, although hardly incidental to your potential electoral victories. Your envisioned future “outside” the structure of political parties, eliminates your access to the several, and also significant supports that attend and accompany the political party structure in our parliamentary system. For example, if and when the Green Party should attain official “party status,” public funds start to flow for staff, for research and also for others with whom you can share the responsibility for advocation of specific policy proposals. At the core of Green Party modus operandi, as I understand it, is the specific “concensus” approach to decision-making of which Ms Wilson-Raybould speaks so fervently, as rooted in indigenous foundations.

Political “lives,” unlike “the cat with nine lives” have a predictable and historic “term limit” not so much based on law as on voter support. Given a substantial and potential decade of political contribution (depending both on voter support and on a candidate’s life choices), your likely “term” in parliament could extend to the far end of the decade beginning in 2020. And in that time, the Canadian political “glacier” is unlikely to melt as quickly as the Arctic ice cap seems to be melting. For starters, sustainable, and significant political decisions to mediate what CBC and the Liberals are now agreed to calling the “climate crisis/emergency” (leaving off the “impact on women” codicil that Minister McKenna seeks to include) could well be the best Canadians can expect to be able to look back on in 2030. Your contribution to that existential-threatening file could (and would, it says here) be significantly enhanced through your membership in the Green Party.
Collaboration, compromise, concensus, and a feminist perspective are already embedded in the Green Party culture to which you were evidently invited to join. And while the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, a cornerstone of Liberal policy and commitment, a project you must have had to accept, if not wholly endorse, would have had to be reconciled with Green Party membership, and while joining the Green’s at this time would also have made it more troublesome to return to the Liberal fold, if and when the Prime Minister is no longer leader, your “voice” in both its substance and its reach, would have been more likely to penetrate the public consciousness given the propensity of the media to engage “party” spokespersons ahead of and in place of “private members”. Your capacity to shift that paradigm, in addition to the labour of shifting the national political paradigm, from hierarchical, party-driven-and-founded to the complexity (and the richness) of multiple voices, as you both seem to envision, will be limited at best, and at worse, perhaps even negligible.

The most prominent North American “independent” political actor, Bernie Sanders, a democratic socialist by choice and by definition for the full length of his political life, including his term as Mayor of Burlington Vermont, has macheted his way through the political everglades of the American media, and Congress, to emerge in 2019 facing a phalanx of echoes, especially Elizabeth Warren, in his most recent campaign to win the Democratic Party nomination for the presidency. Of course, the American political system and ethos is different from the Canadian system and ethos. The “star” meme (or archetype, or icon) “enjoys” a much higher “profile” in the public consciousness in the U.S. than it does in Canada. Sander’s political ideology has driven his every political utterance, vote and policy choice. By comparison, at this time, together your (Ms Philpott and Wilson-Raybould) political agenda reads as “process” over “policy” and process is a much more abstract and more difficult to “inculcate” in the public mind and consciousness (except for the penetration of gross ethic malfeasance) than the policy decisions which can be delineated, debated, compared and tweeked as the public becomes more and more familiar and either supportive or opposed to their import. Personal, private identity, too, is not nearly so relevant to the public discourse as are the political “positions” or policy preferences of the “players” unless or until a private indiscretion rises like escaping crude to the top of the “swamp” of the political theatre.

Furthermore, there is and will always be the tension between the abstraction of a “process” debate” on governance and a debate on policy. For example, the interest and discipline to investigate and to assess public policy is far less intense than the public interest in personalities and process, witness the numbers in the votes on proportional representation already completed, even though the measure has received considerable public debate, and considerable research, not to mention successful introduction and operation in other jurisdictions.

Each of you share and articulate your wish and goal to “listen” to the wishes, opinions, attitudes and preferences of your “constituents”. And while that is highly honourable, and even noble of purpose, those voices, depending on their “access” to your “ears” will emit louder and more penetrating sounds and influence, even if they will not command the power and influence of the mega-donors to national political campaigns.

And, having critically observed and evaluated urban politics at a northern Ontario city hall for a dozen years, I am more than conscious, and thereby highly sceptical, of the power and influence of private money on political decisions, even on issues like retail mall development in the local community. The manner and discipline by which you establish and maintain systems/processes/personnel to discern the “value” and “impact” of each voice seeking to intervene in your political decisions, should you become an independent member of parliament will more than determine your success in modelling this new paradigm in our national culture.

It is not that the “ideal” is unworthy of authentic aspiration. It is, however, begging for highly disciplined and rigorous boundaries, and supports in order to avoid or at least minimize the mere repetition of “local” politics on the national stage. Each of you must be conscious of how political actors are “manipulated” by forces that may or may not have a political party affiliation. Developers, for example, are not reputed to have undue political influence because they are innocent of the charge. Contract bids, in response to RFP’s, whether from city hall or Parliament Hill, magnetize actors and actions that seek their own self interest. And while as an independent, private member, the assumption “going in” is that because your’s is a lonely and sole vote, it is hardly worth spending motivational money to secure its being cast in the “right way” to appease larger, corporate interests.

The recent town hall in Grand Rapids, Michigan, held by Republican Congressman Justin Amash, on the issue of his advocacy for impeachment of the American president, found him uttering these words, when confronted with the challenge from an audience member to express the wishes of his voters: “ I am not elected merely to express the wishes of my voters, but I am expected to uphold the Constitution.” And while the last chapter of your respective political lives closed on the question of a matter of principal and law, those occasions are irregular, intermittent and unpredictable, especially when compared with the public exposure of specific public files and issues each of which beg for reflection by the political class.

Nevertheless, you will have to reconcile highly conflicted opinions of your neighbours, your local politicians, your local business operators, and your circle of influence, just as you have had to do up to now. Only, up to now, the party’s policy position provided guide-posts for your “talking points” and as independent members you will need to acquire and absorb much more research data on which to base your public statements on public policy, in your town halls. Your role as “listeners” will need to be balanced with your role as “leaders” and “innovators” and “trend-setters” with respect to policy and vision. And your focus on “process” will satisfy a segment of your voters; that segment, however, might well not include either the local media, nor the local coffee-shop conversations.

The public consciousness of the political process hardly holds politicians in high regard. One of the principle reasons for this shared gestalt of indictment of the political class is that the “herd” mentality of the party system has such a strong hold on the participants. On this cornerstone, you both have grounded your decision to run for a seat in parliament in October, 2019. The concomitant hollowness of the debate, from all sides, begs the interjection of much more nuanced, complex and visionary views, research and policy options than the elementary school-yard shouting match permits. However, supporting this “shouting match” is a public so disillusioned, and also so divided, and also so reductionistic and even simplistic in its political cognition, understanding and  tolerance of highly sophisticated, even if relevant and applicable, solutions to  public issues.

There can be no doubt about the capacity of each of you to evolve highly sophisticated, nuanced, practical and relevant policy options, irrespective of their potential colouration of a political party’s identity. And your ambition and vision to bridge the chasm between the political parties and their respective identities, however obscured and diffuse and even over-lapping they are, warrants considerable reflection by the local and national media, as well as by the leadership of the national political parties, and to be sure, the local electorate whose engagement, digestion and endorsement of various policy options will become somewhat more evident on the morning after the October vote.

It is the capacity of the political “establishment” including the national media, the political parties, the political leadership, and the national donors to open their eyes, their ears and most importantly their minds and attitudes to  what might become a duet of refreshing, if somewhat “LaMancha-esque” voices. Your injection of the archetype of the “artist” into what seems to be a highly corporate, self-interested, profit-driven (both cash and votes) and ultimately parched political landscape bodes ill should your voices be lost from that landscape.

And, to be sure, your decision to have joined the Green’s would not and could not have assured you or the nation of your continued participation and contribution to the serious needs of our people and our country. What is not debatable is that your passion, and your principled advocacy, your ethics and your willingness to undergo the rigours and the personal debasement of offering your name for re-election are commendable, honourable and worthy of emulation.

Too bad all of those platinum qualities that you bring to the table could not be an integral part of all political parties.

Thursday, May 23, 2019

A global wake-up call: titanium dioxide, Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), and plutonium 239

Three news stories yesterday caught my eyes, and, when the dots are connected, offer a piercing siren sound warning on the state of our world. Each story focused on a specific chemical compound, the new anti-human arsenal of stealth foes (non-improvised explosive devices) against which our culture, and certainly our governments are unprepared to protect us.

The three compounds are respectively: titanium dioxide, Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11), plutonium 239.

The first, titanium oxide, is a food additive in many of our processed foods (including the tooth paste I used this morning), the second a chemical used in the production of foam, and the third, the radioactive element in nuclear waste with a half-life of 24,000-plus years.

Bobby Hristova, reporting in National Post (22 05 19) writes:

Titanium oxide is behind the sheen on sweets and the bleach0-white colour of toothpaste and chewing gums, but new research shows it may also be behind colorectal cancer, colitis and other stomach problems….

A 2015 study in the U.S. showed some of the products with the most titanium dioxide include Mentos Freshmint Gum, Kool Aid Blue Raspberry, M&M’s Chocolate Candy and Betty Crocker Whipped Cream Frosting….

Research from Queen’s University showed when pregnant mice consumed a conservative amount of titanium dioxide nanoparticles,, their babies were born with deformities, while fruit flies exposed to the whitener had fertility issues….

France is banning titanium dioxide in 2020 after being unable to guarantee it is safe, with other studies linking it to obesity and diabetes….

Dr. Emma Allen-Vercoe, a professor of molecular and cellular biology at the University of Guelph, says the stomach’s microbiota has 100 times more genes than human genomes, and researchers have missed these microbiota for years. Not looking at the genes means not getting a full understanding of how the additives impact the body….

I don’t see that in my lifetime we would ever be able to do all the experiments using the plethora of nanoparticles and all different chemical str4uctures, Virginia Walker, a professor of molecular genetics at Queen’s University says.

Also in the National Post, (22-05-19) Jacob Dube writes:

…scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association found that global emissions of Trichlorofluoromethane (CFC-11) have actually been increasing since 2013. The increase implied that someone was secretly violating the Montreal Protocol (signed by 197 countries around the world, including Canada, the U.S. and China. As the ozone layer in our upper atmosphere slowly depleted—letting in an increasing amount of the sun’s ultraviolet rays—the protocol contributed to a significant reduction in harmful CFCs, which then allowed for a slow healing of the ozone layer.)…
Now in a new study published in Nature on May 22, scientists from the University of Bristol, Kyungpook National University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found that between 40 and 60 per cent of total global CFC-11 emissions originate from eastern China…

Manufacturers (in China) told the EIA (Environmental Investigation Agency) they continued to use the banned product because of its better quality and cheaper price. The New York Times reported that some factories were producing the gas in secret, while other manufacturers said the local governments turned a blind eye….

Matthew Rigby, (Reader in Atmospheric Chemistry in the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol), said scientists and watchdogs didn’t know just how much manufacturers in China were emitting---about 7000 tonnes of CFC-11 since 2013…more than double the emissions we were expected from China at that time…
Rigby also mentioned that CFC-11 is a greenhouse gas, about 5000 times more potent than carbon dioxide at warming the climate…
Also in the National Post, (21-05-19), we find this headline:

The U.S. stuffed  waste from nuclear bomb tests under a dome on a Pacific island. Now, the dome is cracking open

The report continues:

At 6:45 a.m. on March 1, 1054, the blue sky stretching over the south Pacific Ocean was split open by an enormous red flash. Within seconds, a mushroom cloud towered seven kilometers high over Bikini Atoll in the Marshall Islands. The explosion, the U.S. government’s first weaponized hydrogen bomb, was 1000 times more powerful than the “Little Boy” atomic bomb blast that flattened Hiroshima—and a complete miscalculation…Radioactive ash dropped more than 7,000 square miles from the bomb site, caking the nearby inhabited islands. “Within hours, the atoll was covered with a fine, white powder-like substance,” the Marshall Islands health minister would later testify, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation. “No one knew it was radioactive fallout, The children played in the ‘snow.’ They ate it.”…

Beginning in 1977, the (U.S.) Defense Agency began a sustained cleanup of the nuclear debris left over on Enewetak Atoll, a slender archipelago in the Marshall Islands’s northwest corner. The material was then transported to Runit Island, where a 328-foot crater remained from a May 1958 test explosion. For three years the American military dumped the material into the crater. Six men reported died during the  work. Locals took to calling it, “The Tomb,” the Guardian reported….

In 1980, a massive concrete dome—18 inches think and shaped  like a flying saucer—was placed over the fallout debris, sealing off the material on Runit. But the $218 million project was only supposed to be temporary until a more permanent site was developed, according to the Guardian, However, no further plans were ever hatched….

According to a 2017 report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, among the fallout material was plutonium-239, an isotope that is one of the world’s most toxic substances, and one with a radioactive half-life of 24,100 years. The staying power of that material is the problem.. It’s still there, only 18 inches of concrete from waters that are rising.
“That dome is the connection between the nuclear age and the climate change age,” climate change activist Alson Kelen told the Australian broadcaster….

Cracks reportedly have started to appear in the dome. Part of the threat is that the crater was never properly lined, meaning rising seawater could breach the structural integrity. “The Bottom of the dome is just what was left behind by the nuclear weapons explosion,” Michael Gerrard, the chair of Columbia University’s Earth Institute, told the ABC. “It’s permeable soil. There was no effort to line it, And therefore, the seawater is inside the dome….

The Marshallese government…does not have the money to shore up the structure, leaving it vulnerable to both rising tides and typhoons. “It’s clear as day that the local government will neither have the expertise or funds to fix the problem it is needs a particular fix,” a Marshallese official told the Guardian.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Rage viewed from a world without soul

Television dramas seem replete with rage….angry victims perpetrating unlawful acts of rage linked inextricably to law enforcement agents pouring intense physical and emotional rage in their pursuit and capture. Pitting both extremes against each other, as a moral epic, however, too often misses the interstacies of the backgrounds of both victims and power brokers.

Why do people erupt in rage?

This is a question, in many different faces, I have pondered for decades. It was rage that seemed to trigger violence in the form of demeaning verbiage and bruising thrusts of a heavy right arm both erupting from a seemingly unleashed mother, whenever a trigger of imperfection ignited the roiling furnace of her rage. As a youngster, I lived in both fear and anticipation of the “next episode” and learned, without conscious awareness, to scout, to reconnoiter, to smell, and to intuit the danger signals whenever I entered our house. Whistling, the bottom false-teeth plate stuck out of the mouth, seated at the end of the kitchen counter smoking a duMaurier cigarette, frenetic cleaning, huge heaves of fatigued breathing while hanging the washing on the line from the back porch, and the basic withdrawal into the bedroom for days and weeks while the rest of the family ate the evening meal…these were the barlines in a raucous, untempered, unpredictable  score of rage the origins of which condition remain a mystery decades after her actual death.

Was it boredom, servility, perfectionism, the pursuit of the holy, revenge against her father, self-loathing at having married “beneath” her entitled state, competition of the Hollywood mother, volcanic eruptions of a deep-seated devaluing from an  early life of isolation, alienation and depravity??????....who knows. Some might  even diagnose it as a legacy of desperate and pervasive inadequacy and the fear of being “disclosed” especially in comparison with her highly talented, valued, appreciated and even honoured mother.

George Santayana: Depression is rage spread thin.

Paul Tillich: Boredom is rage spread thin.

Tina Brown: Servility always curdles into rage in the end.

What is the difference between the passion of soul and the soul of passion? How can we appreciate the relationship between rage and the conditions of the world in which rage seems to erupt? Is there a relation, given our highly conventional cultural fixation on the depravity of the individual, to the blindness of the social anatomy in which the individual exists? The nature vs. nurture discussion has often taken the form of a painting the different aspects of individual genetics on a canvas of the social laboratory as depicted by sociologists and historians and anthropologists. Are there more nuanced, perhaps refined, perspectives through which to examine rage?

Does the human imagination, for instance, include a conscious or unconscious vision of how things might be in any circumstance in which a human finds him or herself? Does this vision impel both emotions and actions toward fulfilment of that vision? Does this vision also potentially impel/compel thoughts, strategies, plans and even actions that “rebel” against the “what is” when compared with the “what might be or have been”? Is rage one of the potential outcomes of the perceived “deficit” in one’s feeling/experience of emptiness, given the perception of the ethos in which s/he exists?
Let’s look at some of the potential landscapes/streetscapes/kitchenscapes/bedroomscapes/officescapes/boardroomscapes that might potentially evoke, provoke, trigger, motivate rage!

Suffering, in its many forms and faces, pain, illness, scarcity, loneliness, abandonment, impotence, anger …..these are normally associated with an incident, another person, a workplace, and often generate feelings of retribution, revenge, jealousy. Often associated with Mars, masculinity, is painted with the brush of anger. And in a culture in which “talking it out” with and through the professional services of a therapist, a social worker, a coach, counsellor or even a psychiatrist is the preferred approach to healing. Included in this approach, too, is the potential of pharma-therapies. Currently, for example, in the western world, relationships, sex, alcoholism, and excessive emotional outbursts like rage, are considered
illnesses, disease, each requiring “treatment”. We will often hear or read about those who commit violent acts as “mentally disturbed” psychotic, perhaps even as sociopaths or psychopaths. And we are not either apologizing for nor excusing acts of rage that destroy the lives of other people. This argument is trying to shift the lens away from the pathologizing of the illness to the lens of the “world” or the culture as the subject of our perspective. Could it be that the world, itself, incarnates many forms of “disease” that impact the individual personal lives of millions of our colleagues?

Based on early science that discovered “germs” at the root of disease, the term theory “holds that disease in an invasion of the body from the outside by bacteria, each disease being characterized by a distinct malignant biological entity.” (Robert Sardello,
Facing the World with Soul, p.66)

On the other hand, if we were to take a more prescient, insightful, penetrating lens to the “world” and the contemporary culture, we would pay more attention to the conditions of the world that might be negatively impacting human health and well-being:

The present age is characterized by a physical deteriorating of the structure of culture and by a loss of soul. Anonymity abounds with a pervasive incapacity to experience individuality…Emotional life becomes shallow, the will absent, the interior life lost. These disappearing qualities belonged first to the world; the world’s suffering and the neglect of that suffering are secondarily manifested through the microcosmic world of the individual body. (Sardello, p. 71, in his analysis of the roots of AIDS)

When confronting the ubiquitous malaise of cancer, Sardello writes:

Cancer is the most substantial, most concrete, instance of the suffering of the things of the world, a suffering belonging to the body of the world before it belongs to the body of the individual. While actual cancer is pervasive, cancerphobia is now universal, producing morbid fear of everything in the world. Which is to say that everything in the world is in fear….The belief that medicine will conquer this disease brings about forgetfulness of the world conditions that express cancer while it simultaneously enlarges individual fears to neurotic proportions…(ibid, p.72)

After listing carcinogens, made from synthetic inorganic chemicals, Sardello writes:

(T)hey do not belong to nature and they make possible the proliferation of mass-produced objects on a scale unheard of before. These synthetic substances possess a peculiar kind of immortality, because they are incapable of entering into the organic cycle of life and death, and when discarded they do not return to dust because from dust they did not come; they came from chemical factories. As such, they lack the true individuality of things and bear no mark of handiwork. Without exception, the world of cancer is the world of mass objects that individual things. Cancer appear in the body as the uprising of masses of undifferentiated cells destroying the individual structure of the body. Cancer goes together with mass society. (Ibid, p. 72-3)

Through Sardello’s lens, if disease can be interpreted as the impact of a soul-less culture and world, would it also be feasible to posit a credible apology for rage, based on the lack of soul, the absence of beauty and the failure to acknowledge the “dearth” both so requisite to the healthy imagination of the well-being of each human being.
Paying inordinate attention to the performance of the “garden stage,” the “church-stage” of mandatory attendance and literal readings of scripture, the jack-booted rigour of three-hour-piano-practice appointments every Saturday morning for nearly twelve years, the kitchen-based performance of competitive meals larger, more endowed with calories, and officiously served to humbled and overwhelmed guests….perhaps these were some of the conditions that were causative of a mother’s and a wife’s rage. Was she attempting to do more than was either needed or appropriate? Was she compensating for her hidden (and even unconscious) inadequacy in light of her mother’s generosity and equanimity? Did these “world” conditions approximate a soul-less and ‘ill” culture, which could and would generate different psychic ripples and waves in future generations?

Similarly, a rural, isolated and isolating village, in which child abuse was never reported because “everyone ‘covered’ in silence for everyone else” (the authentic Children’s Aid Society’s assessment), in which more literal, evangelical fundamentalist ideology, essentially a weaponizing of that theology against a moderate, liberal, poetic scriptural reading and interpretation, prevailed, where guns and violence substituted for reason and discussion, especially when fears of inadequacy and illiteracy reared their heads, where alcohol was the medication of preference for the repressed anger and rage and where socializing focused on commerce, materialism, and land prices…does this comprise another example of a soul-less world?

Another example comes to mind from an upper-income, elevated social class hub in a parish church proud of its half-million trust fund while street people went starving only a few blocks away, proud of its list of professional memberships, and its so-carved homilies fashioned specifically for various “types” following the Myers-Briggs test administration, hollowed out by an uber-ambitious female priest’s military, power-driven management threatened by an internal assessment that the part-time surrogate was a “real leader and you are not”….urban focus on maintaining the façade of superiority, of superficiality, and a fixation on function and performance….is this just another iteration of a soul-less world, ironically and paradoxically constructed and purposed to “birth, nurture, elevate, develop and sustain the “soul” of the parishoners?

One more! please be patient, dear reader!

This time, the introduction came through the windshield of a mid-nineties burgundy Subaru, loaded with things that would be required for a stay of years potentially. Rolling, dry, sand-covered hills, dotted with the occasional herd of cattle, and a few lines of skimpy pines and cedars, interrupted by the overwhelming beauty of high-wire curve bordering a mountain cliff over-looking a meandering stream reflecting the afternoon sun….comprised the greeting of nature.

Immediately, upon entering the main street, with the tumble-weed blowing up and down the deserted street, the sun-baked store-fronts evoking images of western movie-sets, merely facades almost unconsciously forcing a shift of the head, to the right to catch a glimpse of the sand-rock outcrop that bordered the north edge of the town. An adventure into the American outlier-wilderness, only admissible to the innocent Canadian romantic as a “new challenge” in a foreign place demanding a dramatic shift in what had been an established “picture of the U.S. big-brother” borne of summers of carrying out groceries from the local Dominion store for wealthy American tourists, and earlier Thursday afternoon penny-scrambles on the town dock for the local “poor kids” patronizing performed by the blue-rinse set from Duluth.

And then, the faces and the perspectives of the small tribe of six people still pleading for survival as a mission church in a town with twenty-two other places of worship started to flow in the first few days. Money, that barometer of soul-less-ness, was and remained the core issue in negotiations with this “Canadian alien.” They wanted what apparently amounted to a mere “sacramentalist” for Sunday mornings, funerals, weddings and, most importantly, no threat to their constricted budget and the even more constricted parameters of their individual and shared expectations.

“We can afford to pay for someone to meet only basic needs,” came from the shrivelled and controlling treasurer. “We have been struggling with supply priests for the last while and we have certainly not been growing.”

To which I responded, “If you want only a sacramentalist, I did not drive 3000 miles to fill that role! Either we will engage in a full-time relationship, or I will return to Canada!”

Protests in frowns, shifting bottoms, darting eyes and silence greeted my retort.

For nearly forty months, after securing a minimal commitment, we struggled, screamed, performed and rehearsed a form of ministry that could only be considered a mere placebo, if the growth and development of individual spiritual lives is the measure. Throughout, I not infrequently drove my fist through the giprock walls in the bathroom, bedroom and hallway of the vicarage in a rage that I am convinced has to have its roots both in the repressed rage of my youth and in the impact of the emotional, psychological, spiritual and social desert of this lost and forgotten town on the west side of the continental divide. I recall sitting on a loaned pink sofa many mornings bemoaning the truth that if I were to venture out into the parish community, by visiting or even by phoning just to “visit,” I knew that I would be considered “invasive” and “gushing” because I would be invading the privacy of their frozen and private and isolated and controlling lives.

There is a phrase in jewish lore, “tsim tsum”…translated as presence through absence, a phrase that was brought to my attention in conversations with classmates in theology, as a positive “take” on the tragedy of my factured family and marriage, brought on by my own decisions. While it never soothed my broken heart and spirit, I only hoped my absence in the lives of three daughters would afford them enhanced opportunity and space for their rich imaginations to flourish in their own lives. In that desert western town, however, I could and did only despair that the impact of my ‘withdrawal’ would be to deepen the isolation and the entrapment of the uroborus snake’s head-in-the-tail repetition of their circular, private, isolated and alienated and anonymous lives.

Perhaps, it is long past time for each of us to re-examine the circumstances, conditions and the attitudes and habits and perceptions of the “world” in which we live and breathe and find our meaning and purpose…asking ourselves to what extent we are conscious of our seeding, watering and weeding the world’s soul…and asking how we can cultivate, each in our own way, an acceptance and adoption of that perspective among our peers.

Rage, at least the rage that I punched into those many holes in that vicarage, is a social and a political embarrassment and, also, importantly a scream coming from  a sick soul of the world….and my failure to plant seeds of world soul in that little community is one of the most glaring failures of a long life.

Monday, May 13, 2019

An modest introduction to Robert Sardello's, Facing the World with Soul

There are so many reasons why humans consider the planet, the family, the culture, disease, and all of the images of both success and failure as out there, needing our control and manipulation to demonstrate both our “values” and our purpose. In order to keep up the illusion that ‘we are in control’ of our circumstances, we build in rewards and sanctions to perpetuate this picture of reality.

Some would consider this approach to be “Alice-in-wonderland,” topsey-turvey. For some, the “world” has its own soul, meaning, purpose and message, and in order to us to approximate a more realistic and sustainable stance we need to develop the capacity, the willingness, the sensibility and the metaphoric “ear” and perspective that is open to, receptive to, willing to comprehend and vulnerable to integrate what the world is telling us. We are, after all, part of, and not separate from, the things in the world that are trying to get their messages into our psyches. The writer who introduced this scribe to the notion of the world’s soul, and our need to begin to stay quiet and listen to what messages might emit from that ‘world’s soul,’ is Robert Sardello, co-founder of the School of Spiritual Psychology in North Carolina, formerly head of the psychology department and the Institute of Philosophic Studies at the University of Dallas.
Sardello’s book, Facing the World with Soul, (Lindisfarne Press, 1992) includes this passage:

We are accustomed to taking concentration, meditation, picture-making (or imaging) and contemplation as belonging to individual consciousness when they are, it seems to me, a giving over of individual consciousness to the consciousness that is the soul of the world. Concentration is the art of forgetting our own subjectivity in order to be fully available, to what presents itself. When the activities of personal thinking and personal feeling are stilled, the subjectivity of the outer world expresses itself. Meditation is a new kind of thinking, not going off to an ashram or a private room to ah and om, but leaving behind the physical brain, which can only reflect the material world in its outer aspect, in order to enter into the intelligence of things. Thus, meditation is the intensification of intelligence, the warmth and light within things. Picture-making or imaging unfold from the action of meditation. Images are reflections of the warmth of meditation, they are a reflective intelligence. But this intelligence must maintain intimate connection with concentration and meditation; alone, imaging focuses only on the product and picturing becomes looking at pictures. And then contemplation-the call to contemplative life no longer implies removal from the world, but the exact opposite, constant mobile relation with the movement of the soul of the world. (p.25-6)

A continuous “flow” between the human being and the “world” is based on the notion that, at a very profound level, we are intimately connected to the world, and not separate from, detached from, isolated from or even abandoned by the world.
The implications of this reversed perspective are monumental. Let’s look at a few of them, starting with disease and medicine.

Sardello writes:

I want to speak of disease, letting disease tell the condition of soul in the world. In order for disease to speak in this way, the modern medical attitude must be suspended. There are many aspects to this modern outlook: the viewing of the body as a conglomeration of parts, of disease as the invasion of the body be destructive entities, of the physician as heroic warrior; the assumption that death is evil; the optimism that the marriage between science and technology will produce cures of all diseases, disease itself being seen as evil. This outlook now extends far beyond the bounds of medicine and constitutes a way of looking upon everything in the world that we now find uncomfortable or do not like. Everything from drinking to sex to relationships that are difficult now counts as disease and thus as being in need of medical treatment. I want to approach disease from an entirely different standpoint, to give it a hearing as a presentation of the soul of the world. (p. 65)

Without exception, the world of cancer is the world of mass objects rather than individual things. Cancer appears in the body as the uprising of masses of undifferentiated cells destroying the individual structure of the body, Cancer goes together with mass society.
Sardello here references Victor Bott, who posits two invariable pre-indicators of cancer. The first is the onset of fatigue that will not go away, a particular kind of fatigue unlike exhaustion from work and also unlike depression. The fatigue can be described as more like a lack of animation, an inability to feel engaged in the world. The second symptom is insomnia. Bott says, ‘One could even say that any insomnia beginning without evident cause must make one suspect latent cancer.’ Only to the materialist eye do these symptoms appear assigns of the body under attack by a deadly enemy; by some unknown virus. The fatigue of the natural body, the stressed-out body, that no longer find the wold a home, calls for a different kind of engagement with the world—an engagement alert to all that is unnatural in the world, alert to the dying body of the world, committed to enlivening the world, the reclothing it with acts of imagination. The inability to sleep, to enter into the dream world, suggests the necessity of seeing the world through the spontaneous act of image making characteristic of dreaming. (Op Cit., p.73- 74)

Sardello offers a similar perspective on heart attack.

Heart attack relates to the world in panic, the world that has lost rhythm, pace, tone, the world in anxiety. The Greek word for anxiety is mermeros, meaning division of an entity into smaller and smaller portions—dismemberment, that it. The Latin word for anxiety is angor, meaning strangling. I suspect that we have received our word “anger” from this source, as well as the world “angina,” the narrowing of the arteries, the anxiety of the heart no longer connected to the flow of time. Smoking, drinking, overeating, lack of exercise—these behaviours cannot be taken as reasons for heart failure, for they serve merely as means to cover deep anxiety, anxiety that belongs first to the dismembered, angry, narrow world in which there is no connection between one thing and another. Does not anxiety come when there are too many things to pay attention to, when there are too many disconnected demands, producing limitation in the field of attention, an underlying apathy, depression of spirit, a wish to keep the world with all its demands at bay through excessive control? Anxiety, then connects with the attempt to keep the anxious world away from the body. Ironically, a culture that keeps the wor5ld separate from the body produced the artificial heart, the heart that locates the world-as-object right at the centre of the body. Thus far, such a procedure ha snot been able to sustain life, while borrowing the hearts of others has prolonged it…
Before the onset of the metaphor of the heart as a pump, heart was felt throughout the body as the rhythmic activity of the body. The pump changes rhythm into mechanical circulation, as activity in the world as also viewed as mechanical circulation—of money, goods, ideas, traffic water. The idea of circulation goes together with the idea of progress; progress does not advance culture, but keeps the same old things circulating in more and more mechanical, automated ways while no substantial transformation over takes place. With progress what begins as heart becomes more and more brain; the activity fo the brain now determines life and death. (p. 75)

For each of us to begin to open to what appears as the inverse of everything we have been taught in a world dominated by the notion of the separation between the human being and the “world” as compared with the persistent, inevitable, and highly impactful flow of “soul-sounds” from the world would open up a much more enriched, “connected” and interdependent, if complex, relationship between our lives and the culture of the world. It would also serve to render much more modest the role of the physician, the machines, the medicines, and the objectification and disconnection between us and all things.

What a  poetic prospect!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Despotism itself qualifies as "high crimes and misdemeanours"

Memo to Nancy Pelosi and Chick Schumer:

Despotism qualifies as “high crimes and misdemeanours”

It does not take a Philadelphia lawyer to discern the malfeasance that corrodes the Oval Office, and all branches of the government touched by its occupant. (And this scribe is no lawyer!)

However, for Democrats to take the “tortoise (versus hare) approach to impeachment, even if the face of the iceberg facing their ‘titanic’ struggle in the form of the Republican-dominate Senate, and concentrate their “investigation of the facts” to the legal minutiae uncovered by Mueller, and then putting their trust in the capacity of their multiple investigations by House Committees of the trump administration, campaign, business dealings, bank relationships, inauguration committee, and potential for compromise by foreign powers is to wander blindly into the midnight forest looking through a microscope at the legal reasons (leaves) for impeachment.

This moment in history, however, demands more muscle, insight, imagination, team discipline and courage than required by a “legally defined” approach. If it were to be a legal approach, then this president would have/should have been impeached on day one of his presidency, just based on his flaunting of the emoluments clause. The world, not only the American people, need and demand the removal of this presidency, at the earliest possible moment. And, it is not the first time the world has faced the prospect of a despot operating in a so-called enlightened and developed nation.

Inspiration from history is a well from which the Democrats can drink the waters of hope, courage, and imagination. De Toqueville coined the term  “soft depotism” describing a country overrun by a network of small complicated rules” might degrade.

 Soft despotism gives people the illusion that they are in control, when in fact they have very little influence over their government. (Wikipedia) Historically, soft despotism has been considered to be most likely held by the aristocracy, in a democratic nation.

In the current state of the union in the United States, there is a wannabe Casesar, upheld by a cult of obsequious mandarins, comprising a new and different class of iconoclasts, bent on using the unitary executive (theory and practice) to thwart the will of the people, or at least a majority of the people. Fear of the remaining sycophants, that 35-38% of trump red-necks, cannot and must not be the determining factor in mitigating, circumscribing, or mediating, in any way, the approach of the Democrats in their discharge of their constitutional obligations. The fact that Republicans in both houses of Congress bear the same constitutional responsibility, while currently hidden, denied or avoided by those blinded by their desperate need for power, is an obvious and unburied political mine field, around which the nation, led by the Democrats, has to navigate. Democracy itself is founded on the notion that eventually the will of the people will subdue the nefarious, malevolent, malicious and destructive tendencies of those upholding cancerous power-brokers. It is for the push, the engine, the rocket fuel and the political will that everyone looks to the Democrats to launch this over-due removal from office.

De Toqueville posited two “weapons” of freedom in a democratic state:
Ø Freedom of the press
Ø Freedom of association

He saw both of these forces as agents of decentralizing power, both the power of ideas and the power of individuals. And the prospect of “administrative despotism” (De Toqueville’s term) was his view of the most likely to take hold in America. “This ever-changing administration grows over time to become the ultramonarchical monster which initially prompted the American Revolution from the portrayed despot of England.” (Joshua D. Glawson, on

Glawson goes on to quote De Toqueville:

The doctrine of self-interest well understood seems to me of all the philosophic theories the most appropriate to the needs of men in our time, and that I see in it the most powerful guarantee against themselves that remains to them. (Democracy in America, 502-503)

We cannot rely on the Democrats alone to bring about the result the world needs and the American democracy demands. A free press, unencumbered by the mandate to drink the kool-aid of the aphrodisiac of ratings (and advertising sales and corporate profits), can and will release the coverage of mendacity, depravity and despotism so incarnated in this administration without regard to the kind of euphemistic, clinical, analytical and academic analysis that tends to “fog” the danger. Chamberlain succumbed to the “fog” of propaganda in Munich, and the American people have to be guided by the hand of the media, supplemented by the thought leaders like Bill Weld, Ralph Nader, Lawrence Tribe, David Cay Johnston,  each of them given more time and exposure, not only on MSNBC but also on Fox, PBS and CBS and ABC, as well as in national dailies like the New York Times and Washington Post. Noam Chomsky, too, that linguist so renowned for his continual, persistent, acerbic and prophetic unmasking of political verbiage of all political actors from all sides for decades deserves a far more prominent place of time and attention by the American public, if the corporate cabal that undergirds the Republican (and to a lesser degree the Democrat) “establishment” soldiers. The president is the current and malignant symptom of the American malaise; he is not, however, the root cause of the disease that is threatening the very life of the republic.

Freedom of association, while acknowledged among individuals as a potentially decentralizing energy in a healthy democracy, has become a form of interior, if unofficial collusion among corporate executives. Private, personal profit, stock options, golden parachutes, fixed prices, unregulated financial services industry, and the outflow of action plans to advance, enhance and assure their respective and collective “normalcy” underlie the American political and economic culture. And one clear symptom of this underlying malaise can be seen in the determined and blatant initiative to “sell arms” (including withdrawal from the UN arms control agreement) anywhere and any time to any buyer by the trump administration. This flagrant attempt to fan the flames of military conflict, as a ruse to generate American employment numbers, (not to mention enhanced revenue and dividends for American oligarchs), is just another of the many “high crimes and misdemeanours” that fall outside the purview of the American legal, judicial system, and certainly of the current Justice Department, headed by William Barr.

Unless and until the corporate layer of “leadership” finally takes off their addictive blinders and opens their eyes to the deliberate, public, insouciant, self-serving, debilitating actions, beliefs, attitudes and sleuths that rush like a cataract from the administration, all of the legitimate, limited and polite legal overtures of the Democrats to remove this administration will crater on the shoals of defiance from the Oval Office.

The self-serving approach of both Republicans and corporate executives (seeking the preservation of their own power and wealth) is an unnamed, legal, and socially approved kind of obstruction to this blocked “bowel” of the American democracy. And this moment in history in so many ways requires a tectonic cultural shift from the pursuit of personal, private wealth and power, to both an acknowledgement and acceptance and honouring of the public interest, the public good, and the public institutions that have sustained that public good/interest for centuries.

Another shift in the culture needed for this moment of history to become the kind and degree of catharsis that is desperately needed focuses on the addiction to the “heroic star” of the public entertainment appetite. The current president has ridden, manipulated and essentially owned the archetype of the “star” in American life for decades, all the while masquerading in that mask while defrauding the IRS, the New York tenants who happened to live in his buildings, likely also many American banks who will allegedly no longer loan him money. And taking him out will not reset the American political and cultural health prognosis.

Charging Barr with contempt of Congress, and even the potential of bringing him to heel in a now-out-of-mind-and-use jail cell in the basement of Congress will only demonstrate the hollow emptiness of the Democratic labours. Similarly, while needed as a micro-measure, the petition to the court for release of the Grand Jury testimony will not comprise adequate proof to convince Republic Senators of the need to impeach the president, nor will it move any of those hardened trump cult members so deeply intoxicated by his political, financial and theatrical snake oil.

Leadership, starting with the look-in-the-mirror honesty and courage to the self, an activity so divorced from the political arena, is the missing ingredient from the Republican-trump-cult cabal, epitomized and even honoured by the cult leader himself. He is clearly one of the most anaesthetized-from-reality (especially his own) persons to occupy a prominent position in American life, since Barnum and Bailey. Declaring himself the most intelligent, best educated and most capable person in America, “I alone can fix this!” trump paradoxically betrays his own vacuity, and projects that vacuity onto the environment, the battlefield, the diplomatic conference room, and especially the mass anaesthetics of television and twitter.

Drunk on his own hubris, trump overflows the definition of “high crimes and misdemeanours,” threatening not only the American democracy, but also the highly fragile, brittle and thin world order. As a megaphone for white supremacy, an incarnation of “mob” culture, a “transformative” president (in all of the most dangerous nefarious ways imaginable) so named by Steve Bannon, as an agent and emblem of dictators, racists, misogynists, and fraudsters, this president more than fulfils the dictates of the political (not merely legal) definition of “high crimes and misdemeanours”. No matter how high the Dow climbs, nor how low the unemployment numbers fall, this administration warrants impeachment supported by all political parties and a majority of American voters.

Can the Republican/cult dupes take off their blind, obsessive addiction for personal power and begin to act on behalf of the democracy and the oaths they swore to uphold the constitution of that democracy?