Saturday, October 24, 2015

Complicity in narcissism and its denial could be our undoing

And then there is the "inner voice" that continues to wrangle with our public "persona" and tells us those deeper truths that we often do not wish to expose, or even to deny their existence, so embedded in our public "face".
It is the inner voice that recognizes the slightest slight, the almost imperceptible insult, the hollowness of the other's patronizing, the brutality of another's taking us for granted, the assault of conventional attitudes and perceptions and words, especially those words calculated to "persuade" us to another point of view.
It is not only on facebook or twitter where insults are hurled.
It is not only among competitors on Main Street that competition is allowed to run amuk over the truth.
It is not only among school children, many of them struggling to find both mentors and the acceptance that makes their guidance so valuable and so relevant to young minds, that bullies abound,
It is right there, in plain sight of everyone breathing, and willing to name the insult when one person's ambition and need for the spotlight trumps another's legitimacy in where to sit in a public meeting, or how to respond when asked a serious question, and after having done so, having recoiled from the impact of the cold, ostracizing stare and then the inevitable movement to the other side of the room, because the response to the question did not fit within the bounds of the expectations of the family or group.
The anthropologists and the psychologists and the sociologists agree and continue to remind us that humans are "social" beings, that we gravitate together, that we read others' responses as a pathway to our own discovery of the paths we choose. And, especially when there is an impending disaster, a family tragedy, a community fire, or even a disastrous car accident, there is an immediate and both expected and warranted outpouring of human support, in flowers, candles, prayers, vigils, and even some liturgies that comport with the customs and the traditions of the victims. At that moment, we are all "good Samaritans" at least in our public display of "support" and "comfort".
And yet, most are unaware of the hidden impact of the original story of the Good Samaritan.
A Jew, taken for dead, is lying in a ditch. He is passed by by both a priest and a Levite. And then the Good Samaritan lifts him from his ditch, takes him to shelter, pays for the shelter and receives rave reviews among most contemporary Christians.
A different "take" on the story, however, sees in the divinity, not in the Good Samaritan, but in the Jew lying in the ditch. He is the most vulnerable, the most ignored, the most taken for granted and the most hated by the Samaritan community. For some, he represents the Christ, and not the Good Samaritan, as conventional 'wisdom' would maintain.
And, for every one of us, we are much more like the Jew, taken for dead, by all the passers-by in our lives. We are mostly ignored, passed by, offered the most basal token of notice: "Hello, and how are you today?" "Fine thanks!" is our response, because we all know too intimately and too painfully, that any other answer would be a bother to the inquirer. The question is both automatic, even autonomic, as is the response.
We are paying lip-service to "belonging" to the human race, to the local community, to the staff of our workplace and we are "fitting in" with the expectations of others.
And the price for our conformity, and for our compliance and for our repression of how we really feel and think is demonstrated in the statistics in our cardiac and our cancer wards, in our rehab programs, in our prisons, in our thousands of drop-outs, in our millions of insults, that campaign for the delivery of which makes us all willful and dutiful soldiers.
We neither really notice the other, nor do we consider it "appropriate" to inquire further, or to take the time needed for additional engagement, although we know deeply and profoundly that we both share such an encounter.
Our churches, have abandoned this human need for being known, for being considered valuable, in spite of the scriptural phrase, "image dei" (made in the image of God). We have been fed, and our ancestors and our families have rushed headlong to the feeding frenzy that feeds us the non-nutritional belief, perception and attitude that we are basically evil, sinners, imperfect in every way, and desperately in need of redemption. We have turned God into the most arbitrary and most powerful and most hated critical parent of all, and that is the most powerful "inner" voice in our head.
It plays the tapes of the most unsettling and the most upsetting and the most painful episodes in our lives, over and over, whenever a situation presents itself that triggers a similar moment in which we were abused, insulted, bullied yet were unable to respond in a manner fitting to the abuse of that power.
And, then we have so designed our culture that it becomes something "noxious" when and if such a response leaps unexpectedly from our unconscious, causing embarrassment for both the "erupter" and for the audience. "Oh, there must be deep issues still unresolved in that life," in the sometimes unspoken reaction to such an outburst; often that sentiment is even expressed in company where the people have refused categorically to acknowledge their own unresolved conflicts, tensions, abuses and victim. We may be "social" in a minimalist sense of the word, but we are also extremely quick and willing to dismiss the other at the very moment when that other may be expressing real truth, not only from that person's inner life, but also a truth that addresses something dysfunctional in the public arena.
And that is the rub!
We absolutely refuse to accept that truth, given the fragility of our public "group" or "organization" or family, or political party. It is a Conservative candidate from the most recent election in Canada who told CBC News that the Conservative party was absolutely unwilling to even hear, let alone acknowledge, the fact that their leader Stephen Harper was unpopular, even though all of the opinion polls told the world that well over 74% of all voters wanted him removed from office.
It is this kind of denial, and obfuscation and cover-up and dismissal of the ugly truths that make our lives uncomfortable, from which extremely valuable relationships can build, new truths discovered and from which all individuals and organizations can grow, deepen their insight and develop new approaches to old problems.
And, of course, the nation voted "strategically" to send 184 Liberals to Ottawa, in a majority government because they believed that in their specific riding, a vote for the party of their real choice (other than Liberal) would tend to prevent the removal from power of the hated government of Stephen Harper. It would "split" the vote and leave the country with the unacceptable future of a minority government, even though many insightful political scientists pointed to our history of minority governments that worked very effectively. Lester Pearson's Liberal minority in the mid-1960's is the best example. And yet, that was a time in which world peace, and the expectations of prosperity abounded, notwithstanding both the Cold War and the Bay of Pigs. While Trudeau was denouncing Harper for his "politics of fear and division" he was also defaming Mulcair for his vision's long-term execution, while he offered "instant gratification" something the electorate is unwilling to acknowledge.
Democracy may be the best of many bad systems of governance. It certainly panders to an insatiable appetite for "sugar" and for sweetness and for youth and energy and the promise of 'valhalla', when we all know that no Prime Minister, even with 184 seats, can or will deliver on such magnanimous and patronizing promises that paved the way to the majority government.
And of course, when (not if) the Prime Minister fails, demonstrates his "feet of clay," and negotiates a bad deal, or insults an unsuspecting segment of the population, as he inevitably will, we will not own a single iota of responsibility for having put him in  such a position, along with his compliance, in the first place.
We have come to believe, I guess, that we can buy anything, including a utopian government, fair to all constituents, to all special interests and to all ethnicities, and regions and economic sectors. In our blatant naivety, we have rushed headlong away from something the taste of which we found abhorrent, to something the initial taste of which is like candy floss at the midway. And we all know how nourishing that ephemeral sticky stuff really is.
It is not that the Liberals and Mr. Trudeau insulted us; it is rather that we were so voraciously hungry from something different, that we may have compromised the real and not so hidden ugly truths of our national consciousness, and our national culture. It is filled with racism, bigotry, even some including us, would argue apartheid, but we do not wish to hear or to acknowledge our part in that dark secret.
We are also a national of co-dependent pleasers who like nothing better than looking good for the stock market, for the investment community, for the power-brokers internationally, while ignoring the deliberate assault on working people of the last decade, (unlikely to be reversed under the corporate-dependent Liberals), and while ignoring the glaring income disparity that has followed the globalization of the world economy. While Trudeau has promised a tax hike for the wealthiest income earners, that will disturb literally no one, given their capacity to withstand such a slight alteration in their tax payable. And yet, no one is decrying the lowest corporate tax rate among the G7, the urgency of the now of extreme action on global warming and climate change. No one can watch the largest storm in recorded history slam into the shores of Mexico, nor the plethora of storms that continue to plague many countries and not wonder if and when the world is going to curb its appetite for fossil fuels. And leaving the stage to the private corporations, with a few government subsidies for renewables, with minimal impact caps on carbon emissions is not enough.
In fact, while Liberals historically (and successfully) campaign from the left and then govern from the right, that is not enough either, for the dangers and the threats we all face. Keeping the corporations and the stock markets 'happy' and undisturbed' is precisely the opposite of what the world needs.
And the capacity and willingness of the Canadian electorate to comply with what feels good, and what looks good, and what causes no serious discomfort,  both in our private lives, in our families, and in our political lives, could well implicate each of us in a series of outcomes for which we all share responsibility.
Is that good enough, in a country where "better is always possible" according to the Prime Minister- designate?

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