Friday, July 31, 2015

Will election writ spell the end of the Harper government?

In Canadian politics, just three or four days before the election writ is purportedly going to drop, proroguing parliament, both opposition leaders are attempting to out-charm each other, as broad-brush foils to the public’s perception of the prime minister, a mean-spirited and cynical control freak who muzzles and/or eliminates all voices that might hint that his government is not perfect.

The Prime Minister and his government (inseparable as the two headed Janus of Canadian politics are engaged in a long process of the abuse of power. To wit:

·       Smugly touting an election war chest that beats his two rivals combined, (“more Canadians support our government than either of the other two parties” chimed Conservative spokesman on CBC’s Power and Politics yesterday)...

·       dropping a combined $100 million on Toyota to update their Cambridge plant (with the government of Ontario)

·       visiting the Governor General this weekend to generate the longest election campaign in modern Canadian political history (thereby taking upmost advantage of his party’s superior vault of cash

·       sending his Finance Minister out to contradict the Governor of the Bank of Canada when he posits the view that the Canadian economy is sliding into recession (two consecutive quarters with no growth)

·       making faux headlines on the back of a “balanced budget” that is so swiss-cheese filled with holes, given the steep slide in oil prices and the government’s having put all their “eggs” in that basket

·       attempting to overshadow the testimony of former Chief of Staff, Nigel Wright at the Duffy trial in mid-August with election coverage

·       demonstrating extremely opportunistic and cynical judgement in the appointment of Duffy to the Senate as media icon to raise funds for the party and then dumping him for abusing the vague and hardly transparent Senate spending rules on ‘residency’ requirements, after Duffy himself protested to the Prime Minister himself that his ‘real residence’ was Ottawa

·       refusing ever to meet with the provincial premiers and territorial representatives to discuss anything including health care, environment, First Nations issues, or even human resource development

·       watching the resignation from his Cabinet of substantive ministers like John Baird, Peter McKay, Jim Prentice all of them in the prime of their political years

·       rotating ministers through the Environment department while persisting in denying and avoiding substantive steps to protect the environment from the toxic tar sands

·       dumping the long-form census on which all academics and social planners depend for their long-range projections

·       appointing candidates to the Supreme Court without fully complying with both the letter and the spirit of the traditional pathways

·       insulting the Supreme Court’s highest judge and thumbing his nose at the court repeatedly

·       refusing categorically to call a Royal Commission to investigate the death and disappearance of some 1100 aboriginal women, while employing the reductionistic “we do not need to look at the sociology, this is simply a criminal matter” rationalization

·       removing discretion from judges through maximum minimum sentences and building hundreds of new prison cells while rejecting the research based approach of remediation and reform of criminals

·       introducing and passing omnibus bills into the Commons thereby hiding nefarious and clearly unpopular measures that would otherwise fail the test of passage in the public interest, thereby upholding party interest above public interest

·       failing to balance personal freedom and public security in the C-51 Bill to enhance the powers of the national security apparatus while simultaneously reducing personal freedoms in the view of those who know and consider these options as part of their careers

·       bribing all parents with cheap child-care cheques weeks before the election date, thereby hoping to benefit from the manipulation of their loyalty in the voting booth

·       muzzling all civil servants from publicly discussing scientific evidence that is required for public application, having nothing to do with shaping government policy

·       emphasizing the military aspect of foreign policy to the abject abandonment of  a Canadian historic contribution to international geopolitics of mediation, negotiation and moderation and PEACEKEEPING, costing Canada a lost vote for a seat on the United Nations Security Council

·       abandoning the balanced and historic position of all previous Canadian governments (Liberal and Progressive Conservative) in the Palestine-Israel dispute, while also removing the Canadian embassy from Tehran

·       reducing the GST in another blatant attempt to bribe lower and middle class voters to support the government.

And this list is hardly complete...merely a remarkable list of taking Canada in the wrong direction, something for which Canadians will have to spend the next decade reversing, if, as polls indicate, we have the balls to throw the government out!

Unlike the leaders of the two opposition parties, I am not, and have no need to be, restrained in my expressions of contempt for the legacy of the Harper government or the Prime Minister. I am not in a position to have to mollify public opinion when the media paints this piece as “rash” “over the top” or even “extreme”.
 Like millions of other Ontarians, who had to dig ourselves out from the debacle now known as Mike Harris, I hope that Harper has so deeply convinced the electorate that pandering to fear, division and blatant and cheap bribery is a governmental diet that breeds only indigestion and gas, certainly not national nourishment and leadership. An old adage in politics as revered as “all politics is local” is the aphorism, “you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Poverty seriously depleting natural and human resources

There is a metaphor not very hidden in the CBC story about the invasion of the Lion Fish into Atlantic waters, first along the Florida Keys and now extending up and down the North and South American coasts. A predator with poisonous venom-filled spines, a voracious appetite, and a fearless approach to its prey, in order to protect the eco-systems necessary for the rest of the oceanic lives of plants and other fish, humans are now diving with spears in hand to kill them off, probably not fast enough to keep up with the new scourge.

While they will not appreciate the comparison, the Lion Fish seems to have graduated from the most highly refined and sophisticated finishing school for corporate and financial service-sector executives, preying upon the multiple eco-systems on which human beings depend. However, a significant different in the two situations is that, while there are think tanks and scholars and even some politicians who are publicly railing against the abuses of corporate and especially Wall Street abuse of power, there is merely a small band of conservationist-divers, armed with hand-spears who are killing the fish one at a time, while they also have created a culinary delicacy in Florida Keys restaurants. Will the  combination of single-handed spearing and dining delicacy produce the desired result of  eradication. These Lion fish are so fertile and hungry, that they are reproducing exponentially while growing fat on their prey.

Predator fish, voracious and propagating like rabbits along the coastline of both North and South America, now as far south as Peru, could leave the ocean floor devoid of many of the species of both flora and fauna.

A similar pattern of aggressive over-fishing on the floor of the Indian Ocean, byt starving people in Bangladesh, and on the east coast of India, in their fragile attempt both to eke out a living for their families through satisfying another  voracious appetite in Europe and America for another species of fish, frawns, is also stripping the eco system of that ocean, with barely a nod from the  wealthy whose appetite these poor fishers are filling.

One again, the difference between the Lion fish predators and the human fishers on the Indian Ocean is that, while they may have a similar impact, they are not what we would normally call predators...just poor peasants trying to survive.

Robbing the eco-system  of one or more ocean floors is only a part of the devastation that poverty, and unemployment and hopelessness wreak. Last night the BBC aired a lengthy report on the sexual exploitation of American children who have been seduced and captured by the sex trade in the U.S. At its root, according to the piece, are poverty, neglect and drugs. And according to the BBC the F.B.I. is reported to have removed some 600 children from the sex trade just in the last year. Like most serious issues, it starts, in the words of one survivor, with a simple payment of $50 to a twelve-year-old girl for a photo of her topless body. As she puts it, “$50 is big for a twelve-year-old” and then it just grows quickly until you are trapped.”

Now, if we were to present the case of the hungry fishers in India and Bangladesh to the International Monetary Fund, or the case of the children victims of the sex trade to the Koch Brothers, both the I.M.F. and Koch would quickly and defensively declare their responsibilities do not include the protection, nor the precention of these pockets of poverty. They are tasked with much “larger fish”...issues of national and international debt,  and issues of growing the dividends of their investors respectively. And the news media would hardly be expected to put these stories in the same news piece. Too complicated, too unrelated, too big a brush stroke, and lacking in both unity and coherence would be some of the editorial pushback.

Nevertheless, perhaps that is just one more reason these pieces do not have a home in a respected news organ. the issue of poverty, unemployment, drugs and neglect together have many faces and together they are related intimately, deeply and profoundly in the attitudes and behaviours of most human beings. Being poor is not a death sentence, and there are millions who are desperately and defiantly overcoming what to many seem insurmountable odds and striving to stay alive and to improve their prospects. However, when the wealthy world’s dining tables are vacuuming the fronds and the floor of the Indian Ocean, and the same wealthy appetites are gobbling the predator Lion fish in the Atlantic, is there a danger that we will once again veer towards complacency, shrug our shoulders, individually and collectively and go on about our business of making our own living.

And that is one response the world, the oceans and the fishers cannot tolerate. Not only are the wealthy nations pouring billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the same atmosphere your grandkids and mine need to survive, we are also consuming depleting resources at a speed never before even imagined, without a unified international and emergency response to the plight we are generating.

Can we also shrug our shoulders at the epidemic sexploitation of American children in cities where some of the most wealthy live, work and pay their taxes, taxes that go to investigate and to arrest and to imprison those human predators who are criminally exploiting young girls? Can we also shrug our shoulders at the millions of refugees who are piling onto transport trucks, trains and boats trying to make their way from France to the United Kingdom, having fled deplorable and life-threatening conditions in their homelands?

The world likes the response of increased security, law enforcement and punishment, but just as the United States cannot and will not deport 12 million undocumented immigrants, so too the world cannot incarcerate the millions of refugees who are threatening generous countries like Jordan, and have been taken in in large numbers by countries like Sweden, while other countries like my own, Canada, have barely accepted slightly more than 1000.

Refugees, exploited children sucked into the sex trade in poor pockets of ‘first world’ cities, exploding Lions fish, depleting fronds, and the human appetite that apparently knows no bounds. And this is especially true when people are desperate. We have become so accomplished at detailing the micro-details of each and every incident, and each and every single guilty person or gang, that we have lost sight of the gestalt of our collective habits, our collective appetites and our collective capacity and eagerness to turn a blind eye to the most uncomfortable and the most compromising theatre.

Documentary writers and film-makers, to their credit, help to expose those issues that do not make it to the front pages of our papers, or the headlines of our tv newscasts. Yet, we continue to demand too little of our political leaders; we continue to walk barely conscious, perhaps even unconscious as a protection from having to come face to face with the garbage dump we are leaving behind everywhere. And we have enough food to feed everyone, and we have the resources and the creativity and ingenuity to put everyone to work with dignity, and thereby to generate clean environments ....and we continue to do so little that it seems pathetic, especially when compared with our capacity, our technology and our growing data base on needs and the various interventions to meet those needs.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Where have the adults gone?

What is the fascination that we humans seem to share about larger than life individuals? Are we playing out our own unconscious, or perhaps tragically even denied, insecurity as perpetual orphans, wandering around looking to be rescued? A British psychiatrist, Bolby, through his work with children, writes about what he conceives as a fundamental and universal human dilemma: that we all suffer a monumental loss, separation, abandonment, alienation, early in our lives, and spend the remainder of our time on the planet attempting to mend the rupture.
If there is even a kernel of validity in the theory, then there is a potential to unify humans of all colours, languages and cultures, if we are prepared to acknowledge our shared pa in. On the other hand, there is also the potential that, without recognizing our pain, we enter into a world view that seeks out and even depends on a figure, father or mother, to 'be there for us' when others simply went AWOL.
We are all participants in a global experiment that includes our "audience" role in a public drama, each day, the script for which may seem to be written by those names and faces we see on our television screens, yet all the while, our "role" in the writing of that script can never be overemphasized. If we are embued with a kind of hard wiring that begins with separation, alienation, loss, then we will seek out figures with whom we can and do identify, those voices, faces, and personas whose energy gives expression to those basic feelings, thoughts, ideas, and even attitudes that we believe we lack the opportunity to express, in a loud and effective manner. Our shared frustration with those in power finds release in the manner and voice of a public figure who exposes his or her own frustration, thereby relieving us of the danger and risk of so doing. We live, too often, vicariously, through our projections onto whichever figures we choose. And our choices are not completely rational, deliberate or predictable.
The marketing fraternity digs deeply into our pain, our fears, our losses and our inadequacies for the sole purpose of painting pictures of products and services that purport to fill those gaps in our lives. "Drink this lager, and you will have an army of loyal friends who share your good taste for lager."
"Drive this car, and you will have the status that only this brand can give you."
"Apply this cream, and your skin will be so radiant and attractive that both men and women will want to emulate your 'image'."
"Invest with our company, and you will be cutting through the bafflegab that surrounds all the other investment pitches, because we have the best, the most credible and the most proven analysts of a supersonic global market."
Companies, like individual people running for office, carve out their perception of their unique "offering" and then buy writers and artists and composers to create the background 'set' for the selling of that offering. After being exposed to decades of manipulation, by companies shilling their brand, and politicians cunningly 'telling their story', like all overfed and bored and cynical consumers, our role has shifted from consumers who rush to the circus of a "Barnum and Bailey" barker who just arrived in town to skim our pocket change with cheap thrills and then move on to the next "sucker" town, to a more demanding and discerning consumer/audience who seeks a more substantive offering than another cheap thrill to fill the pain of our separation and alienation.
Nevertheless, there are many whose need for attention, any kind of attention, especially the kind of attention that purports to speak their language, and hold their views, regardless of how simplistic or distorted from reality those views are, like moths drawn to a light bulb, fly to the incandescence of any light, in numbers dependent more on the degree of incandescence than on the substance of the offering. A shooting star from the skies will find millions at their telescopes in the middle of the night, taking in the light show. A new planet, like Hebron 452, will generate public commentary, especially given the potential that it might house 'life' in some form similar to the life on earth. All of the 'lone-wolf' shooters in schools, churches, movie houses will generate more moths of media granting them a few minutes of infamy, even if posthumously, that they believed they were starved of in their lives.
And those "media moths" will be motivated by the research that demonstrates that there are millions of other 'moths' in living rooms, bars and rec-rooms, feeding on the words and the images of the first-line moths presenting the images on the television. Outside of the mainstream market, infested with those paid shillers, unpaid, and often obscure artists attempt to paint a picture that is not dependent on the acclaim and the dollars that comprise the drum-beat of the consumer marketplace. Like Arthur Miller, through his 1950 Pulitzer Prize-winning tragedy, Death of a Salesman, these writers see behind the public 'show' into the private lives of people like Willy Loman, whose life as a salesman has foundered on the rocks of reality, depression,, loneliness and alienation, not only from his own self, but also from his wife and sons. Penetrating the hollowness of the public pursuit of status, Miller illustrates its cumulative impact in the suicide of Willy.
And although that play is now half a century old, the alienation, separation and loss of individual lives is still playing an active role in the public drama that unfolds daily through the public media. And the reasons for the alienation, separation and loss are both the same as they always were, and somewhat different. Similar, in the fact that families are more fragmented and cut-off from each other given a universal attachment and fascination to tech devices that take them away to fragmented conversations with  friends when they might be having face-to-face encounters with other family members. Even President Obama has had to ban cell phones from the dinner table, and lay on the reasonable expectation that his family talk to each other. And different in that the culture has become so violent, disrespectful and annoying rendering many public encounters offensive. At the gas bar this week, for example, I watched as several drivers strolled through their gas-up, and their pay-up and their window wash in a deliberately casual and isolated manner (as if they were the only ones seeking gas) while many others watched and waited in line. When I commented to the attendant that I was a little offended, he replied instantly, "So are we offended with the drivers around here...and the problem is that no body cares any more!"
And like abandoned orphans, we feel our original pain again, even at the gas pump.
And that pain wants a pill....and it seeks a pill in whatever form it can find.
And, if the pain is strong enough, the pill we seek may well be more dangerous than the pain itself.
And that's where the larger-than-life offering from a company, or a politician takes on a new kind of significance.
We can all see around North America, buildings around which thousands of cars are parked...these buildings include casinos, shopping malls and athletic stadia. People are attempting to satisfy appetites that apparently are not satiated, as these scenes continue to play themselves out. On a smaller scale, bars and pubs are filled with people talking about the 'talking heads' they are watching on the television, and gaming rooms are filled with those engaged in a virtual reality, one they call more real than the one the mainstream considers real, given the games' cut-to-the-chase presentation of conflict, strategy, tactics and winning/losing.
Carole Pearson, in her The Hero Within, wrote in the 1990's that the American culture was dominated by the Victim (Women) and the Warrior (Men) and that her hope was that both would find their  Wanderer, and transition to their Magician. In 2015, one could reasonable speculate that the Orphan, and the Innocent are more prominent in American culture, and the dependence on the 'great figure' as the answer/rescuer/protector has grown rather than declined. Many women have found their Warrior voice, and men have started to explore their victim through their acknowledgement of their emotional pain, heretofore repressed and hidden from public view. However, the regression into a shared adolescence, one that includes both the Innocent and the Orphan, by both genders, perhaps for different reasons (women because their needs have not been met by the Feminist Agenda, their shared warrior, and men because their wandering is still misconstrued as weakness by many) seems more prominent.
Angry disillusionment, disenchantment, and narcissistic rebellion against all institutions, all collective decisions 'in the public good' seem to be echoed and amplified by raucous and offensive drama and political rhetoric that could be summed in the growth of extreme sports, as the epitome of the recovery and rise of the individual, in an ironically failed attempt to regain personal power and authenticity. Little wonder that we have become deadened emotionally to the bombs and the bullets and the refugees and the starving and are fascinated by inconsequential and ephermeral conflicts like that between "The Donald" the all the other presidential candidates.
When we believe we have been abandoned, isolated and victimized by a system over which we have no influence, we revert to our early patterns, and regress into archetypes we still need to developmentally transition from their negative to their positive attributes, and even to seek new ways of being adult, confident and willing to participate, so that the public square and the public good are once again supported by the best of our angels, and not those in need of the nano-second of public adulation.
We are, after all, capable of being more and different than abandoned adolescents at the latest rock concert, in our public lives.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

American political theatre: entertaining but hardly inspiring

The American political theatre never fails to entertain. Today, and for the foreseeable future, we have the spectacle of one of the most articulate, sophisticated, intellectually gifted and accomplished president, Barack Obama, relaxing with his family in Central Park, an art museum and a Broadway play on the weekend. After leading his country into an historic agreement over Iran’s nuclear ambitions, opening diplomatic relations with Cuba following a half-century freeze, opening up the potential of prison and sentencing reform through another historic visit to an Oklahoma prison, another first for any American president, and watching the American economy begin to rebound from the “mat” it faced in 2008-9 when he took office, Obama is marching to a legacy worthy of his person and presidency, through the highly appropriate “end-run” around Congress.

On the other side of the stage, the Americans (and the rest of the world) are being treated to The Donald’s (Trump) bloviating parade to the top of the opinion polls among the platoon of potential and declared candidates for the White House allegedly espousing a different political ideology. Denigrating former presidential candidate John McCain for being imprisoned, “I like those who are not imprisoned!” Trump knew would lob an incendiary device into the campaign backrooms of his competitors. Defending the “crazies” in Arizona, thousands who showed up for one of his political diabtribes, and were dubbed “crazies” by that same McCain, Trump also knew would generate public sympathy among the masses.

And of course, the  media, loving the “show” much more than the substance of a debate on issues, playing to its “base” motive for ratings, is delighted to record and replay comments like “unfit to be commander in chief,” and “jackass” and “a disgrace to the Republican party” from Trump’s rivals....adding the predictable rhetorical fuel to an already burgeoning swamp fire of much more heat than light.

Here is another edition of the classic “class war” pitting the self-appointed sophisticates like Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and potentially Marco Rubio, against the deliberately unpolished, unsophisticated and unrehearsed and deliberately manipulative Trump, on the Republican side, while on the Democratic side, Bernie Sanders is showing his colours as a “one-trick” pony attempting to reduced the inequality gap while being shouted down by those who find his record on race relations hollow (whether that charge is warranted or not) and Hillary Clinton keeps to her script as the “youngest female ever elected to the White House”.

Along with the media, Trump has others in his supporting cast including Senator Ted Cruz, the evangelical Cuban-Canadian, who apparently earned high praise for his intellectual heft from his Harvard Law professor, Allan Dershowitz, and a bankroll that could and just might sink his opponents, in the long run, if he chooses to stay in the race. Adding to his supporting cast, of course, is the chorus of angry, disenchanted, inarticulate yet highly explosive mass of voters who are disgusted with the bowel obstruction that has plagued Congress for the past eight years, and who are struggling with low incomes, or even no incomes, in a recovery that has favoured the very wealthy at the expense of the many.

Trump’s recipe of “more jobs than any other candidate,” more push-back to China and Iran and North Korea than any other candidate,” “more Latino voters than any other candidate come election time,” played against the background of his many “deals” (many of which went South, by the way) offer a diet of “fast food” in an economy in which only the sharks survive. Whether the American people want a shark in the White House, that is an admitted and gloating and hubristic and inflated shark, when compared with the highly restrained political ambitions of the mainstream candidates on both sides, is still an open question. They certainly know, even if they do not read the papers, or watch the television, or follow the thousands of nuanced blogs and columnists, that the world is a very dangerous and unfriendly place. They also know that the Pentagon is not and will never again be the sole source of American or even western power. They know that Obama’s rarefied and homiletic paragraphs of analysis and defence of his policies float high over their heads. They buy some of the “macho” simplifications of the Donald, as a prescription like all their other drugs, to potentially relieve their pain. And, even if the relief is only for a moment, like most addicts, that is sufficient to attract their attention.

As the representative for Netflix explained yesterday on CBC Newsworld, in defending his company’s casual approach to the millions who are pirating his company’s service, “we just want to develop an army of addicts to our service”, the marketing world has an insatiable appetite for “addicts” to whatever it is attempting to sell, and to some significant extent, each candidate wants a frenzied band of “addicts” to their candidacy. Whether he is selling a reality television show, or cleaning up from the mess his loud mouth has generated through the abandonment of major corporate accounts, Trump is Horatio Alger on steroids.

Trump knows the inside of this world better and more immediately than any of his opponents on both sides. Not only is the uber deal-maker, he is also the creation of the world of the unfettered capitalism of which his deals are the ultimate consummation. He openly and readily admits that he “gives money to everybody” including Hillary Clinton, because that is how the system works. When he needs some political influence, no matter whether a Republican or a Democrat, local, state or federal, he has already paved the way for whatever political favour he needs. So not only does he “play the game”, he also openly tells the world, “that is what’s wrong with the system!” He knows how to play while simultaneously despising the game. He once favoured a woman’s right to choose, but now tells an interviewer he is pro-life. He raised funds for McCain’s presidential bid in 2008, and how tells the world he is not a war hero because he was captured.

Calling his closest opponent, Jeb Bush, “out of touch” (whatever that means), Trump seems to play all the rhetorical cards in the deck whenever and wherever he feels drawn to a particular expression. Spontaneous might be one word for his stump portrait; however, is it really spontaneity, or extreme contempt for the political process, linked to a bank vault in his name? He knows just how crass and tarnished politics has become; he also knows that in order to even contend for the nomination in the Republican Party, he has to generated excitement, crowds, media attention, and perhaps sometime, even consider some serious policy proposals. He has not openly espoused a federally financed campaign law, that would remove the tsunami of cash from donors who, like him, seek political favours. Of course, even such a law would not prevent him from underwriting his own campaign.

As an archetype of the American financial culture, Trump is, to most people merely an “object” to be toyed with, permitted a gig as entertainer, and as the stir-stick in the cocktail, an agent of mixing up the political cocktail currently on offer.

Not surprising that he has “never asked God to forgive him” given his inordinate hubris that blinds him to anything in his life requiring the forgiveness of a deity. Depicting Mexicans as drug addicts, and rapists, (contrary to the facts which never seem to impede his voluble steam-rolling tongue,) and denigrating McCain’s war hero status, calling his opponents losers, while telling audiences he “likes Obama” speaks to the strategy of a candidate whose strong-man image plays with the emotions of his audiences, including the media whom he counts on for their co-dependent role in his epic charade, “enhancing his brand” as some would put it. But this is no Ross Perrot on steroids; nor is it Ralph Nader on opiates; nor it is Teddy Roosevelt in a suit and pseudo toupe (that really is his hair!). Barkers like television ‘host’ Geraldo Rivera, or Glenn Beck, are names that come to mind, each with his own persona, and it is the persona that Trump is “trumpeting”.

The Persona, as Jung saw it, is a Mask, a cover-up for the ego of the person, and when the ego and mask remain undifferentiated, Jung called that enantiodromia. Whether or not Trump has separated his ‘persona’ from his ‘ego’ in clinical or technical terms, the world is now his fixated audience, (although hardly addicted), and the duration of his “15 minutes of fame” will depend on his Shadow, that part of his unconscious that will ultimately rear its less than endearing head/voice and the world will wonder what happened. Right now, the world struggles to discern who Trump really is, given that authenticity is still in the mix of voter motivation.

However, the “reality television” meme has so consumed the American public, that prior to robots taking over, we may have to endure a transition into a Pinocchio/Gepetto duet playing in an auditorium near everyone, confusing and toying with his audience starved for some inexpensive stage show, in the hinterland, now that Broadway ticket prices have soared beyond the average voter’s pocket book.  Jeff Dunham’s puppets are another evocation of The Donald, given their extreme red-neck observations, regardless of their physical image, or perhaps it is really the other-way-round: The Donald has taken his cues from the Dunham puppets.

It is also a meme in American pop culture, that extreme fame resides in a “single-name” identity: Cher, Madonna, Mantle, Elvis, Hillary...and Donald has even blown that meme apart, adding his regal “The” to his persona. Is he a sign of the complete atrophy of the American huckster culture or a foreshadowing of the future of Brave New World, when the people are so ‘drugged’ into unconscious that they no longer care?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Benjamin Britten: the more violent the society, the more violent will the individual be...(Opera "Peter Grimes")

 In Benjamin Britten’s Opera, Peter Grimes, the composer develops the theme of the struggle between the individual and the society. One of the more cogent and penetrating insights of this intersection, according to Britten, is that the more violent the society, the more violent will the individual be.

While the last few decades may not top the charts for violence, there is clearly a more ubiquitous and incessant dissemination of the violence humans are perpetrating on one another. And like the bursting bubble of 2008-9, first in the housing market in the U.S., the conditions in which these acts of violence occur have changed. They are no longer isolated and manageable. They are no longer mere incidents, or even accidents, although those continue. They are no longer able to be remediated by a single agent. They spill over borders, political ideologies, languages, time zones and other economies.

We have engaged in a run-away global economy, in which the corporations have a distinct advantage over the various governments charged with responsibility for public policy including regulation of the corporations, for cleaning up the messes (frequently initiated by the bankers and financial markets) when the collective centrifuge blows apart. It is a lot easier and compelling to remove a dictator, for example, than to replace that dictator with a level of governance, laws, and social policies that take care of the needs of the people who live in that country. Libya, Iraq, Tunisia, Yemen, are some of the nations in which chaos, violence, and the complete fraying of the social fabric have replaced the dangers and threats once posed by the dictators, many of whom were “allies” of the west, and the news out of those places was mainly “settled” and predictable.

Today, the various theatres of violence, failed states, migrant refugees and instability are ripe opportunities for forces never before even contemplated let alone planned for. And once having left a deep deposit of military hardware in their abandoned fighting fields, the United States is experiencing, and the world is witnessing, the slaughter those weapons inflict in the hands of the terrorists. Just as Donald Rumsfeld, envoy of then president Ronald Reagan, conveyed “weapons of mass destruction” to Saddam Hussein in the mid-eighties, so too has the world’s military super power (albeit indirectly) fueled the current violence in the Middle East. And one of the things about this period of history is that such complicity is now out in the open for all to see and to contemplate and to measure.

And, caught in the vortex of its own “power” the United States is continuing to ship arms not only to other nations, along with Russia, but it has engaged in a massive sale of weapons inside its homeland. When the arsenal of power is dependent on the gun (not exclusively) then that arsenal is already participating in its own demise. Devising preventive techniques to  block the acquisition of arms from “undesireables” at home, while expanding the international shipment of bigger and more explosives around the world is a bi-polarity that is simply and utterly unsustainable. The hornets’ nest of political voices that perpetuate the dependence on the bullet, both at home and around the world, and the culture in which that nest lives and even grows, is one that would find any restrictions on the development and sale of those arms repugnant. Little boys, and increasingly little girls, in such a culture, will come to believe and act upon the notion that violence is a remedy for whatever blocks their individual and narcissistic paths. Exporting violence, as a way of life and a means of sustaining its balance of payments, merely enhances the opportunities of those who would seek to deploy violence in their own little worlds, in whatever country they may exist.

The NRA, the proliferation of arms for all law enforcement including school guards, the dissemination of the argument of self-defence backed by a weapon, in the purse, under the pillow, in the glove box, in the  brief case, and yes even in the college classrooms and the sanctuaries of churches and the absolute contempt for any push-back from even the parents of lost children in Sandy Hook, for example, cripples both the spirit of the nation of the United States, and the capacity of the rest of the civilized world to give that  country the kind of respect it could enjoy, if it were deliberately and openly to put curbs on its dependence of the bullet.

Of course, there is significant evidence that the United States also provides generous amounts of support for worthwhile causes, like the fight against AIDS in Africa, and many other such examples. And that generosity of spirit must not be denigrated. However, linked to both the addiction to corporate profits of its main corporate citizens, and to the delusion that military power is the guarantor of national and personal security, this generosity can be and is only tarnished and reduced significantly.

Even the language of its political discourse is infused with killing, wiping out the enemy, fatal blows to the enemies, (in the rhetorical sense) as examples of potential leaders who might occupy the White House. Not only does this language and weapon-infested culture bespeak a neurotic masculinity so frightened of losing control as well as dominance, it also entraps successive generations of young men who are innocently and naively emulating their fathers and grandfathers.

The male individual who does not subscribe to the “win-at-all-costs” formula, even if it means obliterating the enemy, is far too often dubbed “girlish” or worse, “gay” or even worse, “fag”....And when we combine the ‘first-and-last resort’ to weapons in all conflicts in the U.S. with the emasculation through poverty, unemployment and hopelessness of the people of both genders who have barely enough money to survive, the American society demonstrates its commitment to violence and the individual is its victim.

In yesterday’s column in, Chris Hedges call  all Americans Greeks, reduced to the serfdom of the masses dependent on the miserly bail-out of the rich and the powerful. Americans, however, may consider Greeks to be at least on the leading edge of the bail-outs, for we all know that after the ensuing bail-outs that will be required to “reconcile” the $1.3 trillion in state debt, there will be empty vaults under the control of the wealthy and the powerful for those still in line.

While the violence continues on the battle fields, on the oceans and through the air, behind those horrific scenes, big powers are engaged in an interminable campaign of manufacturing, marketing and exporting weapons of all kinds around the world. Weapons in the hands of the hopeless regardless of their ethnicity, ideology or religion, still constitutes a dangerous marriage.
And remember Britten’s linkage: the more violent the society, the more violent will be the individual in that society.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Paradox, irony and ambiguity in the service of humanity and survival

Jonathan Rosen's piece in The Atlantic, entitled, Does Milan Kundera still matter?, writes:
Accepting the Jerusalem Prize in 1985, he (Czech-born writer, Kundera) praised Israel for giving one of its highest awards to an international novel and paying tribute, despite betrayal, to 'a Europe conceived not as territory but as culture.' This, he made clear, is more than Europe deserves:
If the Jews, even after Europe so tragically failed them, nonetheless kept faith with that European cosmopolitanism, Israel, their little homeland finally regained, strikes me as the true heart of Europe- a peculiar heart outside the body.
Here is a paradox worthy of Kafka. It takes a little homeland regained to house a larger trans-national dream. Europe meanwhile, has become a shrunken wanderer. (Jonathan Rosen, Does Milan Kundera still matter? The Atlantic, July/August, 2015, p. 42
Ripe for the picking, these thoughts!
A geography conceived not as territory but as culture....
A heart outside the body....
A keeping faith with their betrayers by those inexorably and tragically betrayed....
A 'little' heart capable of international cosmopolitanism...
A continent become a shrunken wanderer....
So many paradoxes!
In a North American culture whose landscape is overrun with parks filled with stereotypes, worn-out idols of conventional thinking and acting, Kundera's imagination flows like a fresh spring from underground. We live in a world in which big bests small, rich bests poor, presence bests absence, extreme power obliterates vulnerability, sun bests shade, white bests black, competition trumps collaboration, literal bests symbol, cause-effect trumps paradox, explanation bests ambiguity, clarity bests confusion, skill bests critical thought, and science bests imagination.
We have become drugged on a diet of stereotypes morphing into dogma, as if there were no other way of looking at ourselves or our world. And our delusion, our complacency in living "comfortably" with these perversions of the whole of reality, reductionisms really, threaten, like the missiles we drop on ISIS targets, to obliterate the much more complex and often irreducible issues, masking them with the mundane and the superficial.
Perhaps prophets like Kundera can help us to tease the scales from our eyes, and to see our country as a culture, perhaps, our civilization as a community, our issues as our opportunities, and our fears as the seeds of our dreams and imagination.
And, as usual in history, it will be the writers who give us both the sign posts and the courage to explore mental territories heretofore abandoned, like so many factories across North America.
Of course, there will be howling and desperate cries of, "STOP!" in the midst of any reconfiguring of our world views, and our ideologies, given the deep discomfort of change. Each individual, not to mention each silo of protected turf (academic, political, economic, sociological, theological, ethical/moral, linguistic, cultural), will rise up to protect its "identity" if such an identity were engraved in marble. The world collectively and nationally today spends more on "defence" of its identity, territory, ideology and current status than it would take to feed all the starving people.
Irony, and metaphor, both the cornerstones of literature (with thanks to Frye) do not belong in our culture. They have no place in a world consumed with and by the transformation of ideas into commodities, the acceptance of human lives as instruments of profit, the perception of "value" as reduced to the size of salaries, mansions, investment accounts and the title and sphere of influence of power, except as vehicles of enhancement of those idols.
Writers have, ironically, placed words of deep and somewhat frightening observation in characters like clowns, the hobo, the vagrant and the dispossessed. Wisdom, after all, is not the exclusive domain of the powerful; indeed, it is those very powerful who have abandoned or sacrificed their more creative and eccentric selves to the mannequins of social and political acceptance. A culture of compliant and co-dependent clones addicted to their own narcissistic needs, regardless of the continent on which they live, the language they speak or the corporation or government they purport to lead, is still, at base, a culture that compromises the truth, and the potential for collaboration.
Of course, there will be legitimate arguments that difference, friction, even fractiousness generates both heat and light, often illuminating the darkness of the current tunnel we are all walking. It is the nature of that tension that merits our attention here.
Shouting matches of the deaf, cacophonies of noise supplanting rhythms and melodies of the imagination, shadow-boxing matches of rhetoric supplanting authentic and honest negotiations....these are the tools in the kitbag of the literalists, as if winning the moment is all that matters. Making the sale, winning the election, completing the merger, cutting the budget, raising the share values, securing the signing bonus....these are not the footings for a sustainable culture, nor even a culture capable of sustaining the health impacts of such a 'theology'. And it has become a new form of a theocracy, this worship of the processes of personal profit at the expense of the interests of the whole of the global family.
The west decries those nations whose culture exemplifies what the west calls a theocracy, as if to worship some deity were more dangerous than to worship the acquisition of profit, through all available means. Of course, the pursuit of any  belief system must not and cannot include violence against those whom that belief system considers infidels.
It is the preservation of infidels that could be the saving grace of all the violence that we see erupting everywhere.
It is the "heart outside the body" image that Kundera describes Israel outside the body of Europe that rises to consideration. As there appears to be at best the atrophy of the "heart inside the body" in North America, can we look elsewhere for a heart outside the body? And if so, where might we look?
One would hope that we could resume the search within. However, within the religious communities, the fights over specific issues like abortion, gay rights, the deployment of military solutions, the denial of the human complicity in global warming, the champion of the death penalty and the racism against minorities and different ethnicities, we are left without any credence in that collective voice. Could we look to another country? Which one strikes us as a potential for that role?
Where is there a country that beats with the passion and the credentials for the dispossessed?
Where is there an institution that beats with the authenticity of a perception that embraces the least embraceable, if and when ones like the WHO (World Health Organization) is not prepared for a global epidemic, that everyone knows will impact the dispossessed the most severely?
Where is there a legislature that embraces, really embraces the plight of the underbelly of the society that elected that legislature? Or is the manipulation of the voter so deep and embedded in our accepted definition and modus operandi of the government process that, once counted, those votes no longer matter, and only those who funded the campaigns of the successful candidates have a real voice in the decision-making of that legislature?
Could Israel, herself, be or become the heart of the planet? And even if she could and would, would the rest of the world be willing to acknowledge that heart? Of course, the rising tide of anti-Semitism linked to the escalating violence of the Islamic terrorism jihad would tend to blind the eyes of millions to such a proposition.
We tend, unfortunately, to pin hopes far too high to succeed onto the epaulets of a single person: Mandela in the face of apartheid, Martin Luther King in the face of segregation, Obama in the post-racial but still highly racist America, Churchill in the face of the Third Reich and previously military leaders like Napoleon and Alexandria in the distant past. Today, even the Prime Minister of both Greece and Germany have significant influence on the outcome of the Greek debt crisis. Giving a face to the opposition to what we perceive as an evil monster, (as well as to the evil monster himself) may provide a portrait of the strength of the opposition, the potential of its success and the likelihood of achieving the defeat of the evil. At some point, however, through such literary devices as irony, paradox and metaphor, we may come to a shared perception of the good within the evil, and the evil within the good, the heart within the body and the body containing the heart, the rich being poor in many ways including their desperate spirit, the poor being rich in many ways including the validity and the reality of their perception of the world's issues and the resolutions of those issues.
We may even come to see the enemy as our friend, not in the Orwellian sense of Newspeak, manipulated for the purposes of those in power, and we may even come to see, in our friends, the potential for betrayal, and then to experience that betrayal and be once again, like Israel, taking on the best of the betrayer as an integral part of our identity.
Even that would be a step toward forgiveness, the missing grace from the lives of billions!

Friday, July 10, 2015

A big thank you to the Greek People! Are democracy and unbridled capitalism incompatible?

It is so easy to become jaundiced about the potential of democracy to generate positive results for the people who vote. There is so much evidence that the political process has been purchased by the rich. This week, from the womb of democracy, the people of Greece turned the tables on the establishment in Europe.

And by so doing, they have breathed life into what was becoming system of governance in palliative care. When they voted by a 61% majority against austerity (a regime they have suffered and endured for five years, while their economy atrophied by 25%, and the unemployment rate soared to 25%, with youth unemployment at 50% and hundreds of PhD graduates fled the country), not only did they strengthen the negotiating hand of their Prime Minister with the leaders of the European Union, they also send a clarion call around the world on behalf of the millions of poor whose lives have increasingly slid into the slough of despair (borrowing from Bunyan). And the lives of the poor, the listless, the diseased and the hopeless are directly attributable to the insouciance of the rich, regardless of the culture, the religion, the language or the geography of those uber-wealthy.

Debt re-structuring, when the debt is 180% of GDP is not only analogous  to oxygen and electric shock to a dying cardiac patient. It is also common sense. And this patient, not only Greece itself, but potentially the EU, including the economies of Italy, Portugal, Spain, Ireland...needs all the political and economic life-support available. Unfortunately, politicians and world bankers have not taken the Hippocratic Oath, whose prime objective and duty is “never to do harm”....

There is, according to reliable reports, some $1.3 trillion in outstanding state debt, across the globe. While most of us ordinary mortals are simple not able to wrap our little minds around such a figure, we are able to grasp that it is enormous. And unless and until the mostly western countries and their international banker friends awaken to the imminent threat of state debt, and the deplorable conditions that make a life with dignity virtually impossible, we are collectively going to face growing numbers of preventable child deaths, (17,000 per day according to the UN Children’s Fund) a growing cadre of pirates, terrorists, child soldiers, child slaves, and a growing and verdant garden for growing them by those who delight in failure.

And it is not only debt re-structuring that the world’s powerful are going to have to include in their/our kit-bag of tools; we are going to have to expand our thinking to include debt relief. There is simply no way those states struggling under massive state debt can or will be able to repay that debt. If we think the “grace” of the families of the victims in Charleston South Carolina is impressive, just imagine the global “grace” that will be needed if we are to come to our senses, to accept the reality of “our brother’s keeper” and include in that aphorism all the people on the planet.

Peace and security, those benchmarks of a healthy civilization, come at a price. And they must. And that price will include the lowering, if not the dropping of all pretense to superiority, to power, to wealth and to dominance. It will include the acknowledgment that the “developed world” has provided the weapons, the carbon dioxide, the war mentality, the jungle-survivor mentality, the ‘my-god-is-better-than-your-god’ prison that shackles millions, and the clinging desperately to a kind of ideological and religious and dogmatic faith of flint (that no self-respecting God would own or honour)....all of the very things that threaten our survival. And we will also have to acknowledge that the great majority of our economic models are both flawed and incomplete, the very opposite of our hubris in creating and propagating them, that our doctoral graduates too often rush into the highest paid, and highly narcissistic jobs, as the best way to climb the status and power ladder we have sacralised and sacrificed on the altar of corporate profiteering.

And we will also have to acknowledge that our collective, and academically fostered disdain for anything but the corporate profiteering model is another example of how we have sacrificed intellectual independence, truth and freedom on the altar of personal power, profit and self-aggrandisement.

And we will have to confront our arms factories, our pharmaceutical companies, our insurance companies, our financial services industry and our political class to desist from their co-dependent enmeshment and their inordinate power grabs over the last half century...both at home and around the world.

And we will also have to acknowledge that our factories and our greed that fires the human engine, while fossil fuels drive the forges and the furnaces, have virtually decimated the planet’s ecosystem, in such a high-handed and disdainful manner as to render our place at the future tables of power not merely questionable but spurious.

Every civilization that has permitted and even fostered narcissism and greed to dominate its culture has thereby sown the seeds of its own demise. And we are no different.

There is really much doubt that we will choose different seeds to plant in different hearts and minds with a view to preserving the future ecosystem, including the path to a life with dignity for all, for our grandchildren. Speaking at an international climate conference in Toronto yesterday, Al Gore sounded optimistic that business will lead the way forward on preserving the global ecosystem. Geneticist, David Suzuki, however, is much more sceptical, if not downright despairing that we have gone past the tipping point and we are now merely attempting to moderate the damage of global warming and climate change.

The Greek people, through their exercise of the democratic vote, may well have rung the bell for each of the rest of us, in sending a resounding and unequivocal message to the rich and the powerful whose “ownership of the whole thing” is finally being questioned openly in the U.S. presidential election campaign by Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders.

Can and will these voices from Greece, from Sanders, from Gore and even from Suzuki finally flow into a compelling stream of political, intellectual, cultural and even economic power for change?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

An apology for the GESTALT in most private and public issues

In their essay, "Improving Humanitarian Aid,"* David Miliband and Ravi Gurumurthy, both of the International Rescue Committee, detail current trends as well as an innovative perspective to enhance humanitarian aid efforts.
Humanitarian relief, they say, flows for saving lives and alleviating suffering in war zones and after natural disasters.
Development assistance funds support economic growth and long-term improvement in quality of life in poor countries.
Another distinction made by donors segregates aid for low-income countries from that for middle-income countries.
Their analysis points out how dysfunctional are these categories. Although both Jordan and Lebanon are dealing with millions of refugees, because they are considered middle-income countries, they are ineligible for World Bank support. Also, short-term relief  projects are incompatible with long-term conflicts such as those in Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Somalia and should not be separated from long-term development aid.
They write: Yet donors continue to funnel money through different institutions to many of the same places: the $5.5 billion in humanitarian relief they spent on the top 20 crises in 2013 sits alongside, and is overshadowed by, the $28.6 billion they spent in the same countries on development assistance. Add in the false separation of service -between health, education, and women's protection, for example- and the result is frustration at the failure to meet people's needs. (p. 120)
Their proposal is to focus spending on the concept of fragility "defined not just by how much a state lacks the capacity, will or legitimacy to provide basic services or enforce the rule of law but also by the extent to which that country is exposed to violence, poverty, economic instability, and environmental shocks." (p.120)
The lens of "fragility" resembles the therapeutic approach known as "gestalt" in combining a cluster of conditions into a broad perspective that would render humanitarian assistance both more complicated and also, inevitably, more effective. There are both significant benefits from a narrow definition of an issue like humanitarian aid, in providing donors more targets, while avoiding the political consequences of a wider lens that may include targets with which they disagree, and also significant  blocks, in reductions that eliminate worthy recipients as noted.
The Canadian Prime Minister, for example, hides behind the narrow definition of criminality when discussing missing and murdered aboriginal women, and dismisses the gestalt of "sociology" in all discussions of the issue, as he persists in rejecting a judicial inquiry into the causes and solutions to the growing tragedy. Narrowing his focus on finding, arresting and convicting those responsible ''for their heinous acts" is his rifle-like approach, given how it circumscribes the responsibility of the national government, at least in his mind.
This same prime minister, in his perception of the issue of social justice, also employs a narrow definition of the problem of street crime, through increased mandatory sentences, tighter parole restrictions and more prison cells, eliminating what many consider a much more effective and longer term approach, that of rehabilitation of the high percentage of criminals who warrant such an approach.
In medicine, also, we have specialists who, when asked about the potential of allergies as part of the cause of ear infections, for example, shout defiantly to the pleading mother, "We treat ears here!"
We have become prisoners of our narrow definitions, narrow professional specialties, and increasingly, the shortest of time horizons in the way we conduct our affairs in organizations and corporations dependent on the narcissistic motives of people in positions of power. Reducing all our collective and conventional thinking, for example, to cost savings, we introduce short-term solutions in order to feather our political positions, enhancing our opportunities for recognition, advancement and bigger salaries and pensions, and compromise the long-term results in both productivity and human and human culture as "left for another generation to clean up."
Returning to the issue of humanitarian aid, if the world were to implement the "fragility" quotient, including BOTH a state's capacity to provide basic services AND the combined impact of its situation, we would have to come up with an equation that blends these factors in a much more effective and relevant lens through which to calculate need and to focus the donors' attention on eligibility of recipients.
In our medical treatments, for example, to widen the perspective of the medical practitioners, we would welcome the combined influence of life-style factors like diet, exercise, spiritual health, social life, as well as hereditary biological evidence from our ancestors in our treatment plans. We would also require a full biographic interview that seeks and finds the patterns in our lives in order both to better understand who our patients are as individuals, but also how to design treatment options and their implementation for those unique persons. We would resist the temptation to fire a pill at a pain, as the silver bullet that too often simply will not work, and embrace the complexity of both who we are as human beings, (and not merely an orthopedic, or oncology or GI "case") and the range of treatment options that include much more patient acceptance and embrace of personal responsibility and many more and varied options from the professionals.
In our perceptions and understandings of public issues, like the end result of prisons filled with aboriginal and minority persons, we would embrace an understanding of the lives of those mostly men, their family and community conditions, their education history and potential, and their potential for remediation, reform and release. Throwing money into prisons and judicial sentences, just like the compounding categories that reduce current humanitarian efforts to what can only be called laughable result, if they were not so tragic, misses the gestalt.
What are the main reasons we are so embedded in the narrow definitions of all situations?
Let's start with their more manageable dimensions. We can and do have the perception of more control if we are attempting to manage a single variable that is objective, measureable and transparent. If the costs of doing  business drop, for example, too many of us think we have made a good decision, having lost sight of the full range of implications of the savings. If we can point to the "target" of our philanthropy, as having reduced the incidence of a specific illness, for example, then we can claim victory for our efforts, and thereby convert others to join our campaign. Targetting the complicated and competing factors in a community's "health and wellness" is much more demanding and much more illusive and thereby much less attractive as a magnet for our attention, our commitment and our dollars.
Let's also spread the culpability around and into the academic community, for our narrow definitions.
It was Aristotle who named the species, and defined many of the issues through such motifs as cause-effect, nature-nurture, extrinsic-intrinsic....the many dichotomies, comparisons and binary perceptions, analyses and theories, even doctorates that fill our academic archives, while demonstrating diligence, persistence and loyalty to the academic models of our respective "departments" (otherwise known as academic disciplines) at the same time demonstrate a severe denigration of any inclusion of the methods, analyses or definitions of other disciplines). The scientific method of disproving the null hypothesis, for example, requires the elimination of all variables but the two under investigation. And that model, proselytized over centuries, cultures, geographies and disciplines, is working its way into the public consciousness.
Let's also acknowledge the desire for simplifying everything "to keep our lives from becoming too complicated." We talk about complication as if it were a mind-numbing drug that removed our consciousness, our capacity to think, our capacity to comprehend and our capacity to survive. Paradoxically, however, it is those narratives of complications that draw us into the theatres, the movie houses and the television dramas. We actually do love complications, especially those that involve other people. We, on the other hand, are obsessed with "keeping it simple stupid" (KISS).
In some fields, writing is one, the ability of the reader to grasp and to comprehend the written word is essential for the effort to be worthwhile. In a classroom, the teacher must explain the most complicated of issues in a language and tone that is compatible with the age and development stage of the learners. In a medical office, the practitioner must use language that sheds light on the medical issue and its potential treatment(s) for the patient to grasp and to implement those approaches. So in our communication, clarity and comprehension are essential.
None of these reasons, however, give justification for our lazy and even complacent narrow definitions of too many situations in both our private and our public lives. We must hold our leaders to complete, if complicated, understandings and explanations of our public issues. And we must demand of our scribes and teachers and thought leaders that they never shy away from the gestalt that is operating in all situations. It is not merely a listing of the issues in any negotiations, because the whole is, after all, much greater than the sum of the parts. (Example: while the individual and dividing issues in the current Iran nuclear negotiations are threatening to foreclose on the negotiations, the impact of a "treaty" that is responsible, open to monitoring and verifiability, and agreed implications for infractions is much greater and more important than the sum of all issues.)
Sound bytes, twitter feeds of 140 characters, headlines of fewer than 6 words, definitions of categories that compound our legitimate efforts to make the world a better place for all, while providing cover for the powerful through their narrow accomplishments, even cell phone texts of 2-3 sentences that fail to arrive at their proscribed destinations and multiple choice examinations without the subtleties of the essay format in all disciplines....these are some of the traps into which our narrow definitions fall as if they were "legal" and "legitimate" and "truthful" and "full" and more importantly, "permanent" and "traditional."
Organizations, for purposes of management, will categorize their employees in a variety of ways, all of them intended to generate the most productivity. He is a guy who hates to lose, she is a woman who networks, he is a guy who gives speeches, she is an activist,.....all of them simplifications. Worse, he is a businessman, and she is an accountant....demonstrating that simplistic reductions are also applied to our perceptions of others in our narrow "looking down the telescope backwards" our own and others' peril.
Of course, this argument risks the charge of becoming Hamlet, making things too complicated to be able to be solved. Rationalizations, however, are not the subject of this piece. They have no place in any analysis of any situation, and belong in their own scrap heap, thrown there by those willing and courageous enough to remain open to the most comprehensive and the more challenging and also the most potentially rewarding approaches to humanitarian aid, as well as to most other personal and public issues. There is no single cause, just as there is no single motive for any act. And the sooner we open our embrace to that proposition, the sooner we free ourselves from many of our "control dramas."

*In the July/August 2015 edition of Foreign Affairs, p.118