Sunday, June 28, 2015

Greece, the tip of the iceberg, in the demise of the rich and the powerful oligarchy that grips the world

Athens has proposed higher taxes on the wealthy and big corporations instead, but creditors worry that that would hamper growth. (As Greece shuts banks, fears grow of Eurozone instability, By Henry Chu, Los Angeles Times, June 28, 2015)
Have the leaders of the European Union lost their minds?
Are they so steeped in the ideology of the conservative right, as custodians of the purse at the European Central Bank, that any notion of hiking taxes on the wealthy and the corporations has become so anathema to their brand that they will risk not only the Greek economy but the very survival of the European Union itself.
There has been no denial or avoidance, by the Greek Prime Minister, of the debt to the IMF of $1.8 billion, due this Tuesday. What he has been seeking is an extension of the bail-out, linked to a reasonable plan to put the Greek economy on a stable footing, through both austerity of a moderate kind, and increased revenues from those who can most afford it.
Are we seeing the arguments of the Republican Party in the United States, blocking all attempts by the Obama administration, for six years, to raise taxes on the rich and the corporations, being echoed in Brussels, and in Berlin and in all of the capitals of the European Union, in unison, as if there is some kind of sacred and holy writ that obliterates such an approach from public consciousness?
If there is even a grain of truth in the connection between the EU response to the Greek approach and the Republican arguments over the last six years in the United States, then Europe needs to listen carefully to the arguments presented on the stump by Democratic candidate for President, Bernie Sanders.
Starting from a meagre single digit percent of Democratic support, compared with front-runner Hillary Clinton's double-digit lead, Sanders has now closed the gap to 8 percentage points, running at 35% to Clinton's 43%.
Sanders' arguments that too much wealth is being held by too few, and too much power rests in the hands of those few, even to the extent of being able to "purchase the election" of 2016, as a result of the Supreme Court decision on Citizens United, permitting the free flow of corporate and private cash into the political arena, as an expression of "free speech"....are getting a serious hearing and his is personally getting a serious look from voters in all the primary states, including New Hampshire, Iowa.
Such arguments are not lost on the protesters in Athens, nor are they lost on the protesters in London, and in any other capital city where austerity measures are being imposed, while the wealthy are being protected by their political serfs in power. And the IMF, along with the European Central Bank need to take a long and serious look at what they are saying. The oligarchy that has been ruling the world for the last two or three decades is about to crumble. And, with the BRIC bank having been established by countries like Brazil, India, China and Russia in opposition to the IMF, where a different set of cultural and political norms prevail, there is a shift of both money and political power and influence away from the traditional seats of 'western power' to a different set of power brokers and economic influence purveyors.
It is not only ISIS that has access and use of social media, along with access to the multitude of information outlets around the world, albeit most owned by the corporate moguls. So too do the people! And the percentage of ordinary people with cell phones and access to the world wide web is growing exponentially and that means that access to information and its manipulation and is insertion into public arguments is more widely known, better digested and capable of providing bridges of identification between and among oppressed people everywhere.
No longer can secret meetings behind closed doors, without worry of public consciousness, or without the "safety" of stories being fenced behind national borders be the sole right of the rich and the powerful. It takes only a nano-second for the right person with the right platform to tell the world what is happening. And, even though the numbers of foreign reporters in the western media have declined, through more application of austerity measures by the same kind of thinking, the world is able to rely on ordinary citizens to provide information that may not have the "vetting" of an official and credentialed newsroom and editors, nevertheless, the information is getting disseminated, And for that information, as we come to recognize our collective and shared reality on a planet whose resources are being raped and pillaged by those very corporations who hold tax hikes as edicts from Hell, there is a growing and voracious appetite.
I am certainly not an expert on either Greek economics, nor on Greek politics.
In a similar vein the Pope is not considered an expert on either the environment nor on poverty, in the classical definition of the word "expert". However, my lack of expertise is not an impediment to my identification with the poor in Greece, the government workers whose pensions have been gutted or even abandoned, as part of the austerity program already imposed. My lack of "authority" is not impeded by my moral and political and human outrage at the growing and pervasive spread of the ideology of the right, that characterizes the Greek situation and "having their cake and wanting it too".
Even Marie Antoinette would decry any association the establishment is attempting to make with her historic epithet.
"Let the rich and the powerful eat humility" should be the rallying cry, not only of the Greek electorate when they go to the polls in the upcoming referendum, to oppose the conditions being imposed by the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund. The world shares a basic need to learn to share, to learn that those with all the money must not be permitted to exercise all the power. The world knows, when it takes the time to reflect and to consider the full implications of what is really going on, that we are not feeding the starving, although we throw away more food than would be enough to feed everyone, that we are letting 17,000 children die every day from preventable illnesses, that we have now created the largest flood of refugees (some 60,000,000) through our collective abandonment of our responsibilities to bring Middle Eastern and African conflicts to a conclusion, that we have larger gaps between the average factory/floor worker and their CEO's than at any time in history, that we have unemployment rates that threaten the stability and the peace and security of too many states, some of them current members of the EU, and that Greece is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg.
If Greece is permitted to default, and to be forced out of the EU, will that set a precedent to be allied to countries like Italy and Spain that are also teetering? If Greece is permitted to default, will that start a run on European currency that could and likely will embroil the currencies of other countries including those in North America and South America, as well as Asia?
Sometimes, there are higher principles than those enclosed in the capitalist economic theory books. Sometimes, those books and their theories, and especially those theories that have become political dogma, must be discarded in favour of larger and higher principles, like the shared desire to survive of millions on the planet, whose voice will not only remain silent, but continue to be stifled, by those rich enough to control the decisions of the rich and the powerful, regardless of the continent, the country or the political structure they represent.
Ordinary people, after all, are the reason for the very existence of the political institutions in all countries in the first place, not to serve the special interests of the rich and the powerful. Their fiefdoms can and will no longer be tolerated, and the sooner they come to realize that truth, the sooner decisions will be made on the economy, on the environment and on the other perplexing issues like poverty, disease, hunger and universal health care and education that can and will only lead the world from the current darkness to a second enlightenment.
The rich and the powerful are not interested in such a new historic epoch of enlightenment, for in such an environment they will not rule, as they currently do. They will be stripped of their power and influence, and it will be replaced by decisions that respect the very existence and the dreams of the ordinary people.
If you don't believe me, and many do not, a brief encounter with Bernie Sanders website, and his political deconstruction of the current morass we all face would go a long way to educating you out of your slumber.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

ALL hands on deck, in attempt to comprehend, internalize and then defeat the terrorist movement

It is too easy for all countries to become so attentive to the developments in their own country that their attention prevents a full consciousness of the waves of turmoil elsewhere.
The United States, this week, mourned the loss, through racial assassination in a Bible study session of nine members of an historic black church in Charleston South Carolina, followed by an unprecedented and epic eulogy for their pastor by none other than President Barack Obama, on the same day as the Supreme Court declared same-sex marriage "legal" in all fifty states, and in the same  week the court gave final approval to Obamacare. Oh, and by the way, one of the prison escapees from a New York state correctional facility, on the run for the past twenty-plus days, was shot by police while his accomplice was pursued through rural areas not far from the prison they escaped.
On Friday, nearly shoved aside from the front pages in the U.S. were several terrorist attacks, clearly co-ordinated in perception if not yet proven to be co-ordinated in a court of law. The Greek government has decided to hold a referendum on proposals to bail out their failing economy with austerity measures many feel are oppressive. The British government is experiencing substantial street protests against their austerity proposals, and word like, "We do not have to pay for the mistakes of the rich!" from the protesters find their way into news clips in North America.
While Obama, in his eulogy pointed to the subtlety of the new racism, 'where we might give Johnny a second interview for a job, we might not call back Jamal,'  his government continues to drop missiles on ISIS targets in Iraq and Syria, demonstrating a fundamental confusion over how to eliminate that demonic force. Of course, 200-plus years of open, hostile and sacred-to-some bigotry against Blacks in the United States, provides insight and clarity at home that a mere decade or two of confronting Islamic radicals fails to afford.
Remember former House Speaker Tip O'Neill's dictum that "all politics is local"!
There is a new definition of "local"...and we could and are arguing that global is the new local just as Orange in the new Black,  and some hope that tea is the new coffee.
With what amounts to a substantially global economic stage, the emergence of multilateral trade agreements, proposed and already signed, sometimes through bilateral treaties, and a trans-national communication system so interconnected that events anywhere are reported everywhere instantly, the capacity for individuals to absorb, digest, reflect upon and attempt to interpret the relative significance of events, in a manner that sustains their optimism and their hope, and wards against a rising tide of cynicism, hopelessness and even despair is threatened if not compromised.
On the other side of this coin, the flood of news from abroad makes it increasingly possible for political leaders to engage in such obstructive and regressive policies and tactics at home that are either imperceptible by their own electorate, or are couched in a context of too much information and confusion about the details rendering them vague, and far less damaging than they would otherwise be considered.
And so, while the technology to communicate and the skills of the reporters to analyse and report have never been better, so too is the power and influence of both those who own the technology and who pay those reporters. Ironically, while the capacity to disseminate information is unsurpassed, so too is the reduced capacity, interest and engagement of the general population to find meaning in the flood. And with the enhanced capacity to communicate comes also the enhanced power of the elite to control what precisely is communicated.
Little wonder, then, that human interest is still magnetized around events that have a kind of familiar ring to them: assassinations, prison escapes, marriage between people of the same gender, a eulogy that rises to a dramatic crescendo with the President initiating and leading 6000-plus in the singing of one of the oldest Christian 'chestnut' hymns, Amazing Grace. Little wonder, too that ordinary people, as well as political leaders, find it both difficult and even perplexing to fully integrate into their world view a galloping disease like ebola, or the more nearby plethora of cancers that seem to be impacting people on every street in every town and city in North America, or the confusing impetus to be-head, to terrorise and to rule the world by this growing band of  thugs whose many faces and names help to give it cover (through confusion) and to attract recruits in its various battlefields.
In our desire to comprehend, we like to dissect and to simplify, in order to make sense of something. We use traditional and historic words, stories, archetypes and examples that we know and understand from our schooling and our cultural origins. And we continue to resist whatever is considered foreign. New people in a small community are treated with polite distance. New ideas are buffeted by simplistic dismissal, as are those brave enough and willing enough to put them forward. Even volunteering in new situations, developed over decades by others, by those new to the situation is compounded by unexplained changes made by those 'in charge' to the confusion and downright anger of those manipulated.
And little wonder that the stories of the multiple sites of terror including the various forms they take are reduced in the public mind to "more trouble" as were the sectarian conflicts for decades in Ireland, known as "the troubles". Everyone knew then, and certainly knows today, that in Ireland, the fight was between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, two very different versions of something called Christianity. While the Irish "troubles" have calmed, the whole world is now witnessing a similar but different conflict between Sunni and Shia Muslims, amid the turmoil and chaos of the crumbling of dictatorships, failed states, rampant poverty and galloping despair. And the British government's attempt to quell the troubles in Ireland knowing both the language and the religious bases for the dispute, if not the reasons for the depth of hatred and bigotry, is vastly different from the current situation in which the world's major powers literally know nothing of the language, culture or religious beliefs and practices of Sunni and Shia. Nor do we know the extent to which each side is prepared to go to 'win' or to stop the fighting. Intellectual arguments, theories about an Islamic reformation, and Pentagon and State Department assessments and strategies, while giving talking points to their front men and women, and cover to their political masters, are not tempering the conflict nor dissuading recruits from joining, nor engaging in the  needed battle of ideas, of education and of receptivity and openness to how the world might become engaged in both understanding and helping to resolve this political, ideological and quasi-military disease that threatens to destabilize peace and security anywhere and potentially everywhere.
Learning a few place names of cities and countries previously unknown is not enough.
Learning a few dramatic incidents, mourning with those who have lost family members, while noble and honourable, is not enough.
Deploying bombs and missiles, as if we knew what we were doing (when we cannot predict the long-range impact of our actions) is not enough.
Reading books on the history of the Muslim faith, while admirable and enriching, is not enough.
Throwing money into pockets of extreme poverty and hopelessness in the developing world is not enough.
This scourge, linked to the many examples of the imbalance of wealth and its concomitant power that beset us, the 60,000,000 refugees attempting to find a life out of the several scenes of chaos, the apparent and growingly apparent incapacity or unwillingness or both, of institutional leaders in all countries to form a collective and united will to grapple effectively, and courageously and on a long-term basis on multiple 'fronts' to bring this monster to heel, is going to continue to impact the political and even the biological health of individuals and nations for the foreseeable future.
And just like the Confederate Flag that continues to fly over the state capitol in Charleston, that burned the pain of bigotry and injustice into the hearts and minds of both blacks and whites, and may finally be removed, this black ISIS flag and the cry of "Allah is Good" are and will continue to cast a long shadow over the hopes and dreams of millions, both Muslim and non-Muslim, not to mention the threat they pose to the people and the state of Israel.
We cannot wait for the century-plus to remove this black flag, and its addiction to complete control, as blacks have waited patiently for the removal of the Confederate Flag even though we want to bury its stories on the back pages, and at the bottom of our newscasts, while celebrating the "progress" we believe we are making on the home front.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

An either-or fixation grips the American culture in paralysis and adolescence

It was during a discussion with a guest teacher on the subject of William Golding's novel, Lord of the Flies, that the psychology professor guest detailed the three Freudian concepts of Ego, Super-Ego and Id. The young boys are stranded on a south pacific island following their plane crash, and they attempt to survive long enough to be picked up, ironically, by a warship during the Second World War.
Piggy, the fat kid with glasses, constantly whines, "What would auntie think?" as the articulate voice of the Super Ego, the critical parent, the authority among the savages. Finding the collective Ego, among the troop is no easy task, while the savage Id finds all sorts of expression.
Power, especially in the mist of chaos, savagery and lawlessness, deploys the voice of the Super Ego, as the voice of desperation attempting to bring the monster to heel.
In South Carolina, last week, nine people were gunned down in a brazen and wanton act of racial savagery. Of course the United States is once again in shame, attempting to overcome another hurdle in the struggle to eradicate racism. Power, of the kind used by the killer, is at the heart of the American culture. From his perspective, he was most likely attempting to bring order to what he saw as chaos. Just like the Super Ego, however, Roof's Id took over, as if there were no other options.
Of course, the allies would not have won the Second World War without the serious help from the Americans. And their military might must never be underestimated, in fact, on the ground, in the air and on the seas. However, replacing a colonial power, Great Britain, with another colonial model, with different goals objectives and means, does not mean that the U.S. has arrived at a state in which the national Ego, (in Freud's use of the term) balances the Super Ego and the Id. Replacing one addiction with another does not remove the quality of being dependent on an external power.
External power, whether in the form of the Super Ego or the Id, the former being the highly self-righteous one, the latter being the more sexual and base one, is not the preferred path to an adult balance from the Ego.
Clouding the issue of balance, in an individual or in a country, is the American preference to consider itself (themselves) exceptional. Exceptional does not feel comfortable with 'ordinary' or moderate or modest or balanced. Exceptional needs the extremes, whether of the Super Ego or the national Id, as expressed in the saturation of sexuality, including all violent expressions of sex, throughout the American culture
So the battle of the highly inflamed moralists among the religious fundamentalists versus the violent expression of the street gangs, the drug dealers and the anti-heroes captures both the American imagination and the political life of the nation. It, in fact, paralyses the country in an unresolving tension of two poles. And the more inflamed the actions of one set of forces, the more vehement the reaction and response of the other.
It was Melodie Beattie in her work, The Hero Within, who traced the life of many characters in American movies, novels and television dramas. And since she was searching for expressions of a series of archetypes, she concluded that the American culture was dominated by a conflict between the Victim and the Warrior, the former being the women and the latter being the men of the population.
Similarly, one could posit that the conflict within the American culture is also between the Super Ego and the Id, with the Ego having too little influence, given the attention paid to both of the other voices.
Pixar has just released its "Inside Out" movie in which the emotions are actually played by different characters, Lewis Black, for example, voices Anger, while Amy Poehler voices joy. An exemplary piece of animated drama to help adults and children find, listen to and respect their various emotional states, while also helping them detach from obsessions with any of them.
A similar and more geo-political drama, of the kind that finds characters playing Freud's Ego, Super Ego and Id, among the many conflicts in which the United States is engaged (too many of the hard power kind for many of us) would document  President Obama's heroic attempt to present the voice of the Ego, amidst the cacophony of screaming from both the Super Ego and the Id. Unfortunately, the Congress prefers not to align itself with a moderate, balanced, mature and effective Ego voice, preferring to grab short-term headlines with ideological and predictable and utterly insipid, both from a hawk and from a self-righteous perspective, polarized piece of history.
Obama does not seek, nor does he deserve dramatic headlines, given his consistent expression of the moderate voice in American political culture. Those whose opposition to him comprises both the self-righteous Super Ego of what they consider the high ground of moral purity, for example on abortion, or on gun rights, or the Id of the hawks who consistently call Obama "weak" in a manner reminiscent of the 'right' charges against President Jimmy Carter, another of the voices of the Ego that have lived in the White House.
Excising the volume and the intensity of the voices of both the Super Ego and the Id, in a culture now addicted to its own violent and extreme rhetoric and preferred choice of methods of resolving any dispute, is going to take generations. First, the country has to acknowledge that it is stuck in the morass of adoring both the Super Ego models in its fundamental churches, while those engaged in lawlessness and violence are merely choosing the opposite path from those of the self-righteous. We are bad, and we are proud of it! would be their slogan.
Voices that come from the moderate, complex middle, are insults to the headline writers, whose job depends on selling newspapers, and to do that, needs the most graphic and the most violent expression of another 'war' in the 72-point type needed to attract attention.
So one could also argue that underlying the American culture and history is the archetype of war, open, unending, violent, and heavily armed and financed. And within that culture of violence, one can and does find the vocabulary to argue (with public compliance) that church can and must be separated from state when everyone knows that such a separation is impossible in fact. One can also hear arguments around abortion in which each side literally and metaphorically seeks to kill the other, especially the pro-life forces seeking to destroy their pro-choice opponents when everyone knows that the Ego prefers no abortions, while at the same time, knowing that therapeutic abortions trump the back alley, unsanitary and unsavoury kind of the quacks.
We can hear arguments for and against the American "policeman of the world" model, as Super Ego voices compete with Id voices, while Ego voices are cast aside as irrelevant in the discussion.
Melodie Beattie's work researching individual lives from literature and movies and television posited the archetype of the Magician as one in which there is "enough" for everyone, a world view that contains no scarcity, from which all other archetypes spring.
Development along a continuum, following The Hero Within, also is dependent on the archetype of the Wanderer, that voice that seeks the wilderness for reflection, pause, honest self-evaluation, change and adaptability.
In the United States, and in too many other countries the voice of the Wanderer is considered "lost" and thereby self-excluded from any public discourse because the "wanderer" in somewhat uncertain, somewhat conflicted, somewhat ambiguous and somewhat in a space-time bubble.
There is no room in the American culture for such "eccentrics" and such off-beats, unless and until they produce a work of art or a piece of literature that captivates the culture, makes money and becomes famous.
It is time for the American culture, the body politic, to embrace the Ego, the Magician, and the Wanderer, if it is to succeed in overcoming the paralysis of racism, militarism, sexism, ageism, and a power ideology that obliterates the powerless from the public lens. No person can become healthy vacillating from Super Ego to Id and back again, nor can a culture develop a healthy character vacillating from Victim to Warrior, nor relegating the Wanderer to the status of unknown.
Blacks, whites, religious fundamentalists, Marines, and reflective thinkers...they are all needed if the Ego voice is to become the primary voice of the culture. And only then will the vacillation decrease, if not stop. However, perhaps in that dip in the extreme curves, maybe there will be enough time and space for more Ego voices to climb on board the national consciousness. And then, and then only, will the extremes give way to moderation.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Crises of global security and governance"

“Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.” (Pope Francis' Encyclical on global warming and climate change.)
"We should call this what it is: not just a 'refugee crisis,' but a crisis of global security and governance that is manifesting itself in the worst refugee crisis ever recorded — and a time of mass displacement.... Displacement is multiplying because the wars don't end, and countries emerging from conflict don't get the support they need. We handle crises by discussing either boots on the ground or aid relief. The global crisis is showing us that this narrow view of dealing with conflict is wrong and ineffective.I am of course grateful for the funds countries have contributed even if they are not enough to meet all the needs.
But I say to those countries, your job is not to fund displacement but to prevent it. To end it.(Angelina Jolie, speaking in Turkey on Refugee Day, 2015)
These brief excerpts from two of the world's opinion makers, in this week, would earn both spokespersons the title "catastrophist" (as opposed to dynamist) from New York Times columnist Ross Douthat.*
Count this scribe among the catastrophists.
And my reasons are quite simple.
As explained by Ms Jolie, the world seems to be deploying a "narrow view" in dealing with conflict, "by discussion either boots on the ground or aid relief". This looking down the telescope backwards, in order to manage and control the magnitude of the single problem of 60 million refugees who are escaping war and poverty, is a typical and sadly and tragically conventional perspective of too many on all issues.
On global warming and climate change, for example, the rich corporate moguls are throwing billions into campaigns to cast doubt on the human component of the cause, when the science is more than clear that humans are indeed the major contributing factor, through the emission of toxic gases into the atmosphere.
Jolie reminds us that we should call a spade a shovel: 'this is not just a refugee crisis but a crisis of global security and governance that is manifesting itself in the worst refugee crisis ever recorded".
A crisis of global security and governance
It was Canadian poet Graeme Gibson who reminded a high-school co-ed, in a Canada Day Writers' Day in North Bay in the mid 1970's, when asked about 'taking a poem apart': "You have to murder it in order to dissect it!"
We decry the anatomizing and murderous impact of the 'narrow vision' that refuses to integrate the gestalt of the problem into the public consciousness, of the academic "specialists, the political leaders (all of them seeking their respective talking points consistent with the ideology) and the media. Wedge issues divide political campaigns into micro-campaigns, pitting those opposed to higher taxes on the rich against those who believe the rich must pay their fair share, for example, or those who oppose abortion against those who support a woman's right to choose, or those who favour more bombs and boots, to those who seek alternative, more creative (also more unconventional and likely to provoke ridicule) methods to bring conflicts to an end, without the loss of another innocent life.
The words used to portray any issue are the words that "frame" both the public discussion and the public approach to the problem, which approach is then "measured" by market analysis in order to determine how the politicians find their preferred ideological 'sweet spot' on the complex continuum of perceptions, approaches and solutions.
When the Pope linked global warming and climate change to the poorest among us, as having the greatest negative impact on those who can least defend themselves, his encyclical was dubbed by some as mixing two important issues. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush (himself a practising Roman Catholic) even went so far as to remind his audience that he does not get his science advise from the Vatican, falling victim to the long-ago dropped danger that some religious purists might deprive him of their vote because of his religion. We actually thought that battle was fought and won in 1960 when John F. Kennedy campaigned by telling the electorate that he did not intend to invite, accept or even tolerate dictation from the Vatican on public policy. In Canada, too, when Roman Catholic priests campaigned against poverty, they were decried as having no authority to address economic issues by politicians and public voices who deemed that only economists could speak with the required credibility and gravitas on the subject.
Public policy, by its very nature, and even by definition, is the purview of the whole population, not merely the experts, especially economic policy, given the clouds of obfuscation in both words of theory and mathematical models that purport to prove those proliferating, murky economic theories.
When taken to extremes, both capitalism and socialism represent some imbalances in both the identification of the issues, their public portrayal and, naturally, the range of options open to resolving them.
Capitalism has filled American prisons with prisoners, under the guise of a 'good business model' that takes the responsibility for funding off the legislators who prefer to spend on matters like bridges to nowhere in order to ensure their own re-election. However, that business model has also provided cover for the embedded and seemingly irreversible racism that accompanies those growing prisons. Was no one seeing far enough down the road that politicians were merely feathering their own political nests, through such slick and slippery talking points as "job creation" and economic sustainability for their constituents through the building of those holding cells? Similarly, under Stephen Harper in Canada, the talking points of job creation, economic growth and national security have been used ad nauseum to cover a policy and tax parade of corporate enmeshment and political fund raising of substantial proportions.
Statements that attempt to integrate more than two variables almost never make it to the front pages, and never into the banner headlines. In fact, in all situations, in the family, the classroom, the hospital, the university, and the marketplace, no outcome has a single cause. In human motivations, it has been well established that never does a single motive account for any act, regardless of whether it is a criminal act or not. Putin's recent statement that he wants Russia to be respected as an equal member of the world's great powers, while it may have some connection to his and to Russia's reality, is also a cover for some extremely nefarious acts on the part of Putin's Kremlin. Hillary Clinton's chorus, "I want to fight for the middle class," while containing a kernel of her truth, and her perception of what it takes to win the presidential election in 2016, is only a part of the motivation for her presidential run. She also desperately wants to make history as the first woman president, no matter what it takes to bring that dream to fruition.
The courts parse human behaviours, including words, facial expressions, and the words of so-called witnesses in their pursuit of the truth when attempting to help either judges or judges and juries, or just juries to determine culpability. Digging down into the fine print, into the process of 'connecting the dots' of a person's public and, insofar as is possible, into the person's private life, including his inner thoughts is the grist for the shaping of the impression of the person on trial and thereby for the final verdict. That verdict, itself, is the culmination, the combination and the sum of many influences, some of them given words, many left in silence, on the part of the jury or the judge. Objective empirical evidence is the title of that body of information to which the court grants admission, and opinion is seen as unworthy of admission, given the highly subjective nature of its existence.
Kierkegaard, for one, reminded us that the only truth is subjectivity, and history continues to ponder his influence on that observation. As a man in conflict with the church, he is considered by some to be a heretic, and by others a visionary.
Historians, too, are clustered around their consideration of the prominence and influence of specific factors in their analysis of how the world "works". Economic historians consider events to flow primarily from the economics of the situation, whereas, political historians think the political process is more determinative of events. Some historians hold that individuals shape events, while others hold the inverse, the events shape individuals. Some psychologists hold that biology determines behaviour; others hold that situations shape behaviour. In matters of faith, some communities hold that matters of faith and matters of state must be held apart, separate and not permitted to influence each other. Other faiths, Islam, for example, hold that matters of state and matters of faith are inseparable. And, as might be expected, wars are fought to uphold these competing views.
It is long past time for the human race to recognize, and to respect the view that no matter how attached or committed to a specific ideology/faith/academic discipline/perception of truth each of us is, there is always an equally respectable and valuable and honourable  ideology/faith/discipline/perception that counters our view. And also that, to the degree that we are each, both individually and in our communities, open to the truths, beliefs, attitudes and perceptions of the other will represent the degree to which we are prepared to open our hearts and minds and thereby our behaviours to accommodate the other and open our options to those never before welcomed in our families, our communities, our provinces or our nations.
Listen to the most complicated of symphonies, concertos, sonatas, and something as complicated as the Goldberg Variations, and find in each manuscript the tensions that generate harmonies out of dissonance, the rhythms that search for the heart-beat of human existence, rising to soaring heights, and falling to desperate and dark nadirs, climbing and receding in bars and phrases, themes and counter-themes, lyrical melodies and harsh cacophonies all of them required in measured proportions to grab our minds and hearts and full attention.
How can those harmonies captivate without bringing all the notes on the keyboard, and all the rhythms and all the instruments and all the contributing events in the composer's own life, even those initiatives that broke with "tradition"? In short they can't!
Neither can the human race, including all of its various ethnicities, ideologies, theologies, linguistic differences, achieve its most resonant harmonies and rhythms without all perspectives being respectfully represented at the common table of the planet.
And that big table cannot be even envisioned so long as the narrow, and backward, and myopic and exclusive and excluding perspective of fear, dispassionate dismissal, denial, indifference and insouciance, rejection and opposition continues to dominate our consciousness, our families, our communities and our nations.
It is not too much to ask that we all disrobe of our pride, our narcissism, our self-righteousness, and our flawed vision for the greater good, the only hope of seeing the world as it is, and fulfilling the hope and the promise that thing can and must be different.
If Bernie Sanders can draw 5,000 to a university auditorium in Denver, last night, where Republicans dominate, and generate enthusiasm for his populist campaign, then the falling away of the scales from each of our metaphoric 'eyes' is also within the realm of the possible.
And without our collective collaboration and creative respect for all reasonable and life-giving options, we will not stop the flood of either refugees or carbon dioxide, or ideologies that together threaten global security, including the private security of all earthlings.

* Catastrophists are those who think we are headed in the wrong direction, and that serious threats are overwhelming attempts to ward them off. Dynamists believe that we can and will work our way through our problems, primarily through technological innovation.)

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Accepting the gift of unknowing, uncertainty and our shared humility

Speaking at today's Countering Violent Extremism summit in Sydney, Mr Abbott said the threat posed by IS, also known as Daesh, was global.
"Daesh is coming, if it can, for every person and for every government with a simple message: 'Submit or die'," Mr Abbott said.
"The declaration of a caliphate, preposterous though it seems, is a brazen claim to universal dominion.
"You can't negotiate with an entity like this, you can only fight it." (From ABC online, Thursday, June 11, 2015)
Countering the Abbott outburst,
Abdul-Rehman Malik is the programs manager at Radical Middle Way, an outreach group for young Muslims.
"I think to call [Islamic State] a death cult, as the Australian Prime Minister does, is a complete misnomer and it actually feeds in to IS propaganda," he told the ABC's Lateline program.
"The propagandists of the Islamic State, when they hear themselves referred to as a death cult hell bent on global domination, are patting themselves on the back because you know what?
"You've bought in to their narrative." (ABC online, June 11, 2015)
Even a conference called by Abbott to deal with the threat posed by radical Islam is not generating a practical and coherent position on how to go about destroying the movement. One of the most virulent political/military epidemics to erupt on the world's horizon, radical Islam, while not a legitimate or credible expression of Islam, nevertheless excites deep passions, even among those who seek a Middle Way, a compromise that does not capitulate to the propaganda, nor to the fear that haunts the halls of power in many world capitals.
Of course, the Abbott primal political scream would garner headlines among the western media. It succinctly expresses the most basic fear of Daesh, without having to put compelling policies and actions behind the sentiment. Does the statement risk a backlash of hubris among Daesh participants, and perhaps more desperate and misguided recruits for the terrorists? Probably.
Moderate positions, on the other hand, do not generate the kind of headlines that sell papers, or secure television ratings. It is violence, verbal, digital, military, domestic, and certainly both political and journalistic that dominates our contemporary consciousness.
A long-term friendship in Edmonton between a businessman and another hired to perform services for the businessman, even extended to shared family camping excursions, suddenly takes a very violent turn the moment the hired "friend" learns that the businessman is a Jew. The Jew now lives under police protection, fearing for his own life and for that of his family. A policeman and the 'friend' are now dead.
Built on a sometime latent anti-Semitism now unleashed, fueled by a pathology of adventure, risk and even chosen martyrdom in service of some faux deity, Allah, advanced by  a sophisticated social media campaign, and numerous medieval beheadings all of them captured on video and broadcast around the planet, Daesh is like a bacterial enemy for which conventional 'medicine' in terms of military antibiotics has hardly resulted in a 'cure'.
As in so many instances, medical, legal, economic, political and even environmental, we have glimpses of the issues that confront our individual and collective consciousness, and also glimpses of how we would like the narratives to play out. However, we are all, if and when we are sufficiently confident and honest with ourselves and each other, living in a blinding darkness, probing, stabbing and even stumbling in search of correctives, or even remediatives, or even retardants for the fires that threaten us.
We do not know, for example, how kidney stones form, or why or when or when or if they will pass. We do not know why some people contract the big C, cancer, and others who appear to follow a similar lifestyle, diet and exercise program do not.
We do not know if a seriously deprived young person, following what some would call a 'curdled' childhood, will turn to outstanding cultural achievements, or slide further into crime, imprisonment and violence.
We do not know why the greed of Wall Street operatives catapulted the world economy into collapse in 2008-9, nor do we know if those responsible will ever be fully prosecuted, and our grandchildren will not have to face a similar catastrophe.
We do not know if global trade deals will, in fact, stabilize both the world economy and balance the inequities in income between the extremely rich and the extremely poor.
We do not know how to bring about a meeting of minds among business and environmental advocates on fossil fuel resource extraction and environmental protection.
We do not know how to develop a balanced approach to national security and personal freedoms.
We do not know how to re-establish a balanced tax code that levels the playing field by demanding more from the rich and provide more opportunities for the disadvantaged.
We do not know how to reduce or even to manage our "power needs" with our capacity for empathy and compassion....and we are not even paying much attention to the learning curve that would set us on a path to mediate those power needs and drives, and enhance our willingness to share authentic empathy especially for those in our circles of influence who need a hand-up, not a hand-out.
We do not know whom to trust, among the many voices in world leadership, as capable of garnering enough sustainable support for healthy shared goals among peers, so that Daesh will be defanged, Ukraine will be freed, Syria Iraq, Lebanon, Iran and Yemen will be disarmed, and willing to come to a table of negotiation and peace.
We do not know if or when the corporate moguls who have already amassed so much wealth and corporate ownership will awaken to their own greed, their own shallow and hollow pursuit of narcissistic goals and methods and their potential to change.
We do not know the myriad of motives that undergird all expressions of human abuse, violence, libel, extortion, and hopelessness...nor do we know anything that could or would help to alleviate the numerous expressions of inhumanity, in all social and economic classes, in all cultures, in all geographies and climates and in all periods of history.
And in the midst of our unknowing, we perpetuate the illusion, even some would say delusion, that we are the most knowledgeable, the most educated, the most ethical and the most visionary creatures to dwell on the planet in history,
To some of us, it seems we are prisoners of our own hubris, and accompanying self-deception and deceit, and certainly conceit. And, our path to a humility and a healthy identification with all 'the other' creatures of our species, will more likely be paved with sweat lodges, and spiritual retreats, and humanitarian projects and openness to our own need that will help to move us all, both individually and collectively, from the extrinsic acquisition of power and status to the intrinsic awareness of our shared needs, our shared powerlessness and our shared and limited access to the necessities of life: love, acceptance, an embrace of the transcendant and the unknown as gift and not as scarcity.
It is our sense of scarcity, no matter its source, that confines and limits our consciousness of our own truths and our own opportunities to make the world a more habitable and humane place for all succeeding generations.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Harper’s world view, even more than his destructive policies, will eventually do in him and his government

It is very difficult to mine a leader’s world view, especially when that view is filtered through the world view of what that leader considers his “constituency”. If the leader has spent time among and been exposed to and even been steeped in the culture of a world view, it is inevitable that some of that world view will glomb onto his world view.

Stephen Harper, one of those leaders attending the G7 meeting in southern Germany, used words in his press conference at the close of the meeting that many thought would never come from his mouth. Words to the effect that we will have to find other ways to power our industries than fossil fuels, effectively pronouncing a death knell for both coal and oil/gas, surprised some given his government’s record of sycophancy to the fossil fuel sector.

Angela Merkel, host of the G7 meeting, had urged the leaders to opt for a deadline of 2050, with measureable targets of carbon reduction; she, however, had to settle for a more ephermeral and much less binding deadline of 2100, when all of the leaders will have long since passed away. For his part, Harper’s signature is another of his many “tokenisms” leading to an election campaign in October when he hopes, and would probably predict, he will win a majority government for his Conservative party.

A photo-op with the Pope, a warm and fuzzy send-off for retiring political foe, Peter McKay, a national commercial of the Prime Minister sitting at his desk pondering the world’s problems as if his decisions were measureable against those of Mount Olympus to the Greek gods, and of course the requisite “law-and-order” Bill C-51 that, according to a legion of academics much smarter and better informed that this scribe say threatens civil liberties, while shrugging his shoulders at the massive and seemingly endless buy-out of the Canadian resource and industrial economy by foreign corporate.....these are just some of the more visible signs of the marketing of the prime minister, now another “brand” for the private sector to sell to a gullible electorate. Getting elected, and continuing to campaign, all the while demonizing anything and anyone who hints of a view contrary to Harpers, seems to be his modus operandi.

What is quite bothersome, however, is the pattern of targeting and demonizing individual humans, as the primary focus of Harper’s political ‘ideology’ and world view. Criminals need stiffer sentences; political opponents require a scorched earth approach to the ‘war’ of a campaign; thousands of academic researchers inside the federal government need to be declared redundant, presumably because they might unearth truths that contradict the policies of the government; all government communications must be filtered through a massive and new bureaucracy that keeps the message free of any information or opinion that would even hint at an opinion that would blur the simplistic rifle shots of the talking points that have already been cleared by the Prime Minister’s Office. The most recent market statistics, especially those pointing to the rise in stock prices, are like manna from heaven for this government, given its dual constituency of the corporation board rooms and the rural homesteads and villages. And of course, these two constituencies espouse capitalism, militarism, and a capacity to demonize their opponents in a Darwinian manner known as “eating their own”.

Touting his government’s investments in new technologies, like wind and solar, in the final press briefing at the G7, Harper belies the real truth: that his government has consistently turned both a blind eye and a deaf ear to all reasonable arguments from all reasonable sources like David Suzuki  to protect the environment, over the last decade of his tenure. Arguing that to have moved to alternative energy sources would eliminate jobs and increase the cost of doing business is another of Harper’s half-truths: it would increase job opportunities, and probably, in the short run, would require some increase in production costs for industry.

 However, the costs of doing nothing, or of pushing any real commitment to the end of this century as the G7 and Harper have done, are much higher than taking positive action now to protect our grandchildren’s air, water, land and the many ecosystems that are threatened.

It has been said that economists have been producing mathematical models of economic activity for decades, many of which they, the economists themselves, do not understand, but which give them fodder for academic meetings and degrees. Harper’s work as a student of economics may have given him the vocabulary and the illusion that his words (like the mathematical symbols of those models) are so captivating that they are in fact seducing him into believing his own delusions.

Building prisons, incarcerating criminals for longer periods for lesser crimes, while removing judicial flexibility in making their judgements, pouring money into the military (now branded with the sacred “royal” moniker), providing tax breaks for the rich and the corporations, especially those engaged in the extraction of gas and oil, tossing crumbs like tax credits for piano lessons (Harper plays keyboard in a band), and for kids soccer, and striding boldly (and hallowly) against Putin and ISIS, and withholding millions of budgeted funds for aboriginal health, education and employment (arguing that the money is reserved to settle land claims)....this is not a legacy that warrants another term in government.

More importantly, the ad-hominum nature of his world view that renders all issues, not merely local but personal. Requiring both a human target (the enemy) and a military hero and self-righteous battle using propaganda, dollars, character assassination and hollow and strident rhetoric to defeat, is a towering insult to the intelligence of the Prime Minister, his muzzled Cabinet, his wooden and programmed members, and the electorate. Scientific abstractions, like the global ozone and its depletion, without a single human being who is the poster-child to attack for its destruction, or long-term trends that foreshadow demographics of tomorrow, provided historically and very professionally y Statistics Canada...these are enemies of the Harper state, given their complexity, even their ambiguity and their need for increased funds to both study and to remediate. The elimination of the long-term census, for example, along with the thousands of scientists in the civil service, a cadre of which Canada has been historically and internationally proud, is another example of Harper’s determination to impose his world view on the Canadian electorate and culture through the “defeat” as if he were a military general on some mythic battlefield, of all perceived or hypothetical enemies.

Unfortunately, playing heroically and mythically with some “joy stick” in order to demonstrate digital power over enemies is not analogous to the many and subtle complexities and contradictions and ambiguities of governing a highly sophisticated, intelligent, contemporary, liberal democracy. His determination to eradicate the word “liberal” from the Canadian lexicon, however, will ultimately and permanently fail and Harper’s signature will be all over his government’s defeat.