Sunday, April 19, 2015

Character and climate: both sine qua nons of our collective future on the planet

David Brooks' new  book, The Road to Character, uses ten biographies to illustrate his thesis: that political figures must know the difference between their public voice (persona) and their inner voice, the truth. As one of his primary cases of evidence in support of his thesis, Brooks, appearing as a guest on GPS with Fareed Zakaria today, Brooks cites the example of John Hay, senior advisor of Abraham Lincoln, who was charged with writing press releases to document the vagaries of the Civil War (and reinforce the spirits of union readers!). These consisted of glowing accounts of northern victories, superior generals and the promise of ultimate victory. At the same time, according to Brooks, Hay was writing diary entries that cried out about impending catastrophe with incompetent generals. For Brooks, this biographical narrative illustrates what he considers Hay's exemplary character, knowing the difference between the public voice and the inner voice, a difference Brooks believes is missing in most current public figures.
A classic illustration of Carl Jung's theory of enantiadromia,* this fusion of the ego and the persona.
The super-dominance of the persona comes with a serious price, the repression of the ego, that inner voice, to the point where, eventually, the inner voice will erupt in the opposite of the voice of the persona. Either with the persona in dominance, or the ego in dominance, there can be no balance, the ultimate task of maturation. The task of becoming human, for Jung, is one of individuation, that separation of the ego from the public mask, that pose we all create and present, in order to survive in an increasingly malicious and bullying social media-dominated world.
Within each of us, this tension between expressing what one deeply feels, and what one knows can only be tolerated by a fragile world (unable to deal with too much reality) continues. It is especially prominent for politicians whose very identity depends on the ultimate acceptance of that public whose votes determine their futures. Clearly, the course of history would have taken a different path had Lincoln's press secretary revealed the contents of his diaries in the middle of the Civil War. Northern forces would have withered in despair; northern generals would have cried "sabotage" and Lincoln himself could have become a victim of the words of his own agent.
Appearing on the same GPS on CNN, Richard Sacks, articulate advocate for addressing the threat of global warming and climate change, told listeners that 2015 was the pivotal year in addressing this monumental danger. If we do not get it right this year, then, according to Sacks, we could lose the battle against the already dangerous and mounting evidence of global warming and climate change.
The question these two appearances raised for me is, "Is saving the planet connected to the restoration of the inner voice in some hopeful manner?"
There can be no sane private or public person left who seriously questions the dangers of global warming and climate change to every living creature on the planet. There can also be very few people left who would not welcome a breakthrough of the "truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" from public figures. Ideologies depend for their existence and their exclusivity on "salesmanship" which is just another word for "persona". Getting and keeping "party members" loyal, depends on controlling their words, and matching those words to the party manifesto. Only heretics, we are led to believe, can get away with expressing the whole truth, especially including their most private fears and anxieties of both individuals and organizations, including corporations and political parties.
Each and every public figure has been educated "into" the vernacular of his/her chosen political ideology. And each and every ideology has set itself up "in opposition" to something so venal and heinous as to be considered "heretical".
More tax increases on the rich, lower corporate taxes to fuel economic expansion, lowering the income disparity, invade or not invade country X or Y, negotiate with Iran or bomb their nuclear centrifuges, spend billions on cyber security or negotiate a cyber-security pact with China, write a law that keeps "counterfeit" products of our shelves, or generate an information campaign to educate consumers to refuse to purchase counterfeit items....these are all minor in comparison to the question of addressing climate change now, before our window of opportunity closes to be able to affect the change necessary.
The United Nations "head" of the effort to get what amount to 194 countries (cats) herded into a significant commitment to deal with what is really a death threat from global warming and climate change, took an optimistic high road in a recent interview with Wendy Medsley on CBC, when asked if she had met with either the Prime Minister of the Canadian Minister of the Environment. Neither were available, and yet the Prime Minister had all sorts of time for the Prime Minister of India, to bask in the sunlight of his worship from Indo-Canadians in both Toronto and Vancouver and to sign a sales agreement of Canadian uranium to India of some size. It is not incidental that Harper's closed door the UN envoy on the environment occurred precisely while India's PM demanded his attention, given India's continued obsession with coal-fired plants amounts to one of the most serious threats, (along with China) to solving the global warming-climate change  dilemma.
It would seem clear, at this from this corner of the world, that the inner voice knows, and has the clear opportunity to speak loudly and clearly, in unison, to generate a wave of public opinion from all countries, ethnicities, religions and political ideologies, joined with the public voice (persona) to demand positive and collaborative and sustainable and accountable commitment to first slowing the emission of toxic gases, and eventually to eliminate their emission, so that all persons and all political ideologies and all religions and all ethnicities can breathe a global sigh of relief that our grandchildren will be able to survive in the detritus of our greed and our narcissism and our immaturity.
Is this a time when the private voice and the public voice can be united in an authentic and megaphoned triumph of the collective human spirit that yearns for life? Is this a time when giving voice to the truth is finally a political win from all quarters? We can only hope!

*a principle introduced by psychiatrist Carl Jung that the superabundance of any force inevitably produces its opposite. It is similar to the principle of equilibrium in the natural world, in that any extreme is opposed by the system in order to restore balance. When things get to their extreme, they turn into their opposite. However, in Jungian terms, a thing psychically transmogrifies into its Shadow opposite, in the repression of psychic forces that are thereby cathected into something powerful and threatening. This can be anticipated as well in the principles of traditional Chinese religion - as in Taoism and yin-yang. (from Wikipedia)

No comments:

Post a Comment