Saturday, December 18, 2010

Anger and Fear: common to all in turbulence

By James Travers, Toronto Star, December 18, 2010
What are Sarah Palin, Rob Ford (newly elected Mayor of Toronto), Don Cherry (ex-NHL coach, from CBC's Coach's Corner) or Julian Assange if not angry birds? What are political leaders, investment bankers, coddled bureaucrats and other grasping elites if not egg-stealing pigs? What are parliaments, banks and multinational corporations if not soaring stone, glass and steel strongholds protecting the privileged?

Perhaps overly simplistic, the analogy nevertheless resonates. Played for fools for too long, citizens, taxpayers and voters are hurling themselves at the most visible targets with a vengefulness that is often suicidal.
The sights and sounds of siege are everywhere in this capital. After decades of decay, scaffolding leans against the Gothic walls and towers of a Parliament that can’t escape the rotten whiff of corruption even when it renovates. Nortel pensioners seeking help for disabled colleagues are repulsed by unelected, unaccountable Senators hustling off to the Conservative Christmas party. Alarms bells warn day and night that those trusted with public power are sucking advantage through the very loopholes they solemnly swore to slam shut.
Like most overnight phenomena, this one has been a long time coming. Little by little, by stealth and increment, the command-and-control that we-the-people took centuries to strip from kings, queens and courtiers has been retaken by the new overlords.
My, how deftly the worm turned while most of us were preoccupied by the hurly-burly of humdrum daily life. The merely wealthy became the super rich. The middle class lost its mojo. Boom went bust, not once but many times. The kids moved back home after university. And the carrot of hope that each generation would do better than the last has now been beaten silly by the stick of grim realities.
If there’s a surprise in our collective anger it’s that it took so long to boil. One of many plausible reasons is that while so much was unfolding elsewhere, Canadians were lulled into complacency by what wasn’t happening in the political village clustered below the Peace Tower.
First, thanks to Mr. Travers for his insight, and for his courage to lay it out there in bold terms.
Collective political anger really has no political, ideological home. It is like a river that has overflowed its banks, as so many are doing, while roads "flood" with snow on the 402 drowning transports, trucks and cars in twenty-foot drifts, and weather casts a curtain of pathetic fallacy over all our thoughts, feelings and confusions.
We are all so very tiny, facing the turbulence that is everywhere overturning all that we thought we could rely on...in nature, in religion, in the economy, in technology, in international relations, in human consciousness of the plight of millions, if not billions of hungry, diseased, poor and destitute around the globe, ..and then there is  the environment.
And like any family in crisis, we begin with anger, some move into denial and we await the oncoming new strategies and alliances that are yet to take shape, in some kind of new paradigm.
But first, while angry, we have to take stock of what is really happening.
Is the confluence of all these mega-problems partly the result of the way humans have been doing things?
What is the part the human organizations, and human complacency, and human lassitude and human "head-in-the-sand-ness" are playing in our own wake-up call to an unsustainable future, if we continue along a path of greed and selfishness for a few and dire scarcity for the many?
And just as in private life, when anger rears its head, as a signal that something is dreadfully wrong, and we must awaken to that reality and consider all options, the body politic is being awakened to the cavernous gulf that grows between the haves and the have-nots, and looking for both scapegoats and messiahs.
Scapegoats, so that we can pelt rocks and words and eggs and perhaps even a few rockets if we have any in the direction of the privileged and their protectors, and messiahs who might lead us out of "Egypt" as Moses once did for the Israelites. (Let's not forget that it was not Moses or the people who made him their leader; it was God's intervention, as the story is told!) And, sadly, we have many more individuals today claiming to know the mind and the will of God, in order to get us out of our collective mess. They wear the hats of extremists in every faith on the planet and their extremism is another of the human responses of fear.
It is the inseparable link between anger and fear that we need to examine, individually, domestically and collectively.
We are indeed angry! We are also frightened about many things, depending on our perspective. However, one thing that is common in all our fears, is our perceived impotence to "right the ship" to a kind of balanced equilibrium so that our "sailing" through these extreme storms can be a little more predictable, a little more equitable and a little more "just" as we have come to know the meaning of that word.
We seem impotent to bring opposing sides together to reach mutually beneficial decisions and accommodations to:
  • end poverty, in all its ugly forms, especially among the young and the dispossessed
  • reduce green house gases
  • reduce or eliminate run-away greed in the financial services sector and in the corporate boardrooms
  • reduce or eliminate our voracious appetite for guns, drugs, and titillating entertainment
  • reduce or eliminate our imbalances of power within organizations, and between organizations and between nations and even between religions
  • provide equal access to education, health care, food, shelter, and clear water and air for all
  • reduce or eliminate our "dependence" (again based on our fear) on nuclear weapons, and even all other military hard power
  • provide some kind of assurance that our children and grandchildren will have a future equal to, if not even more just than the one our parents and grandparents passed on to us.
These are not merely Canadian or North American issues, problems or needs. They are universal, and once we come to our senses, which we are doing now in our own inimitible way, through the sending out of many canaries into the many coal mines around the globe (metaphorically speaking), and we realize our potential for both survival and solutions, including the enhanced deployment of both current and developing resources, we can then potentially move through this extreme turbulence, into a kind of collaborative, and less power-down-driven method of acting and deliberating, and reach some kinds of concensus that we reduce our anxieties our fears and our impulsivity.
However, the rich and the privileged among us are going to have to "give up" much of that wealth and that superior status, in order for the plenty that is our's to be shared. And that means that a lot of concentrated power and "established" order is going to have to give way not only to individual acts of  benevolence, and similar movements of non-profits, but a relinquishing of the power and privilege that some consider "mine" or perhaps even "God-given" or perhaps "earned" or perhaps "historical."
A former mayor I had the opportunity to "cover" politically, used to remind his audiences, "There are a lot more little people than there are 'big shots' ," as he would put it, and when most of the voices of that majority start to sing from the same song sheet, that choir is going to be heard around the world. I hope I'm still around to sing with it!



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