Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Outliers breed and support outliers.....

There are some disturbing images on our television screens, from various quarters. While thankfully there is a slight pause in the bombing of Syria, on the border between Greece and Macedonia, refugees by the thousands from Syria, Afghanistan and other failing regions, are met with tear gas and stun guns when they use a battering ram to destroy a fence. In the United States, as Blacks protest a Trump rally, to Trumps dictatorial edict, “Get ‘em out!” following his “I’m only going to say it once, “All lives matter!” a Secret Service agent is filmed throwing a Time magazine reporter down, first smashing his head on a table and then throwing him to the floor at the same rally.

Ironically, and as a perfect foil, the President is honouring a Navy Seal with the Medal of Honour, for saving the life of one of his team in an invasion of a Taliban hold-out in Afghanistan. Violence, in pursuit of whatever goals seem urgent, by whatever individuals or groups, is the language of influence. And that includes the violence of the stump rhetoric through which human dignity, human decency, human honour, human cohesion and collaboration are all thrown under the bus in pursuit of power...by those already in power, through either political status or wealth.

And when the bar is lowered fully to the ground, can it go lower?

Pundits are predicting the breaking apart of the Republican Party of Lincoln and Reagan. Some like Chris Hedges are predicting the breaking apart of the republic, given the irreparable divide between the corporate structure and the people. Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany was heard telling an interviewer yesterday that Europe must not abandon Greece and her overwhelming problem with refugees to blow in the wind. And yet, the antipathy to refugees grows in all towns and cities across Europe, while the numbers continue virtually unabated even in the middle of the coldest weather. Great Britain is about to vote on June 23rd to answer the question about whether to remain part of the EU, with Prime Minister Cameron facing serious opposition from the Mayor of London who advocates separation. The argument in some quarters is that, should Britain exit the EU, Scotland will likely exit the United Kingdom.

There is a pervasive sense that far from a chip on the shoulder of those who feel alienated from the community, now there is a large segment of the community that has a tree growing where there was once a chip. Anger, disaffection, disillusionment, and even hopelessness have infected the body politic, to a degree that has not been so deep and so pervasive. And the information we are being “fed” from around the world is also not encouraging, not hopeful, and not inspiring back home.

And there are so many places to lay responsibility both inside the United States, and abroad.

First, inside:

Physics tells us that for every action there is an equal and opposite action. Some would argue that Obama’s legacy of moderation, temperance, resistance to war even to the opportunity to drop bombs on Syria when it was proven that Assad had used chemical weapons on his people (preferring a Russian intervention that assisted the removal of those weapons) has played a role in generating the virulent form of overt and shameless demand for “bombing the hell out of them” (as Trump promises to do to ISIS). It is a similar demand from many Americans, even directed at the establishment(s) in both Republican and Democratic parties. Some would argue that the Wall Street “cabal” that underwrites many of the political campaigns of those seeking the White House, excluding Bernie Sanders shoulders considerable responsibility for having gutted the housing market and left millions stranded under water in their mortgages. Some would argue that trade agreements that provide opportunity to flood America with foreign-produced products, while preventing a similar exchange of American products into those countries flooding the American market have gutted much of the manufacturing sector in America eliminating millions of well paid jobs. Some would argue that Republican obstructionism from the first day of the Obama administration has so completely emasculated government leaving only token and ceremonial tasks to Washington, and has thereby also generated a level of contempt for the political process and the onslaught of  protest is indiscriminately fired off at all purporting to be politicians, including the president. Shootings of young black men by white police officers, incarceration of millions of blacks and Latinos for minor offences, while neglecting to hold Wall Street financiers accountable for what they did to the economy, the over and blatant poisoning of the water system in Flint Michigan (an act for which only criminal charges would be even remotely appropriate given the mental and social impairment by lead poisoning of a generation of children), and a nadir in respect for anyone considered a political opponent...these all have a share in the responsibility for the cancer of disillusionment that in metastasizing across America. And the media, so addicted to the ratings spikes that it can and will see only into the next nanosecond, parsing as it does every last syllable of the childish “debate” among presidential candidates, adamantly determined to cover only the hose race aspect of the presidential campaign, as well as the limitless blocks on any legislative proposal, (ignoring the merits, along with any full parsing of the policy alternatives of the candidates), is merely a vehicle for both the corporate vacuums sucking as much cash from the billions spent on advertising and for the pugilists in the campaign ‘ring’. Even Melissa Harris-Perry’s intelligent, provocative and courageous examination of political and cultural issues on Saturday and Sunday mornings on MSNBC has been cancelled, given her being victimized by executives demanding higher ratings,
(which translated means only wall-to-wall coverage of the horse race).

But let’s look at something both difficult to write and speak about, and also extremely difficult to experience: over hatred, contempt, bigotry and bullying tactics.

Back in the last decade of the last century, I served as an “alien” in a rural area of the United States, on the west side of the Continental Divide. From Canada, I was first considered a “novelty” especially since those for whom I worked had tried in vain for two years to acquire the services of an American to fill the role. As part of the novelty chapter of this saga, I was subjected to the most reductionistic parameters of the proposed ‘service’ I was expected to offer. And the reductionism resulted directly from a conventional perception of the “ability to pay”, based on the skeleton of individuals (6) who were still attempting to preserve a vestige of this community. Linked to the perceived ability to pay, was another heinous perception: the absolute need for complete control on the part of those ‘hiring’, especially considering the risk of taking on a “foreigner”. Arriving as a single and divorced male, I quickly learned that had I been accompanied by a black spouse, I would not have been offered the position.(I was told directly and offensively about this prior condition, not made available upon entry.) Not only were parsimony and absolute control inherent among the tiny group, so was a degree of racism that effectively painted me as a “black” in white skin. The writers of the Quebec Revolution in the 70’s called people like themselves, White Niggers given their perception of the subjugation of Quebecers by the rest of Canada, at that time.

Naively, however, I did not foresee my “outsidedness” nearly as clearly as I might have. Nor was there any source among the American cohort willing to or interested in orienting me to the deep and ugly realities of American life in the ‘wild west’. Pushing past the initial minimalist offering, I secured something like full-time work, only to learn that the interest among the group in sharing anything, including time, thoughts, perceptions, emotions or even aspirations was non-existent. These were “siloed” individuals living in a wall-off ghetto silo, able to perpetuate their contempt for anything outside their suffocating walls. Their walls were mental, physical, cultural, emotional, political and even spiritual. Never has there been a more obvious cloister of parochial, frozen, and neurotic both group and individual members.

These people had access to full hygienic facilities, without the benefits of a world view that might have accompanied the amenities, at least a century earlier. These people were the forerunners of the Trump cavalcade. They were angry for many valid and invalid reasons; they were self-styled outliers, even outlaws, of the kind that currently frequent the Trump rallies. They were frozen in their contempt for the “other”, and their other included this Canadian, the people from the big cities, the people who had graduated university, and especially the people of the “east” whom their considered both effeminate and offensive. For example, one of the complaints about me was that I read  books, and proposed ideas from books written by scholars, many of whom lived and worked in some of the cities on the eastern seaboard. And they were so contemptuous that in one specific situation, I was dubbed “another pinko communist bastard” just as Nixon had dubbed Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. My experience occurred in 1999, indicating the longevity of the “type” that continued to survive among these outliers.

Trump has given voice to these people, to their fears and to their alienation. He seduces them with candy-floss promises to which he is not now and never was and never will be committed. He rides the wave of their energy, prompting ever more intensity each time he takes a microphone. Racism, inverse snobbery, contempt for moderation, sacralising the hard power to be deployed in all situations....and a highly loose and suspect command of reality (except the reality of the kool-aid Trump is peddling). These people, like the people on the western side of the continental divide are reminiscent of the people who drank the kool-aid in Jonestown. Only, Trump is merely offering the canapés to his banquet of deception and duplicity, the lofty promises, not promises really but rather mere sound and fury signifying only a personal narcissism of such proportions that evoke images of all the dictators from history.

And, his lead in the race merely paints a picture of a society and a culture immune to the truth, to the dangers of his rise to power, immune to the profound complexities of issues the world has never had to grapple with.

And the rest of the world, including those of us north of the 49th parallel, are not only watching; we are shuddering in our boots, fearful that two men, Putin and Trump could each have their fingers on the nuclear buttons, if the current evidence continues to unfold as predicted by many. And so too could Kim Jong Un, as well as the insiders in Pakistan. If we thought we faced dangers before Trump (BT) try to get your mind around the dangers With Trump (WT).


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