Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Reflections on Balbriggin beach

Sitting on a bench on the shore of the Irish Sea this afternoon at Balbriggin IE, with gulls circling, flocking to ancient black rocks, and parents of both genders pushing strollers with infants tented in plastic, the scant breeze turning barely perceptible waves onto the shore, before high tide, my wife and I were literally and metaphorically completely detached from news of Cambridge Analytica, professor Kogan, and the trump campaign.

We knew nothing of the ‘hunt’ for Zuckerberg, the millions of dollars invested in Cambridge Analytica by Mercer, nor the fact that his daughter was/is? a board member of the firm, nor that both U.S. and U.K. governments were on a steroid-induced troll for whatever breaches of law, ethics, and business ethics were embedded in the election of trump.

And we really could not have cared less about all that!

We were/are ensconced in a visit into places like the Long Room, filled with 200,000 volumes of historic texts, the busts of dozens of world thinkers, writers, scientists and scholars. Having just crossed the Ha’Penny Bridge yesterday, where, as on  the bridge over the Seine, romantic couples had placed padlocks, emblematic of their relationship securely onto the bridge’s frame, we strolled Temple Bar, detoured into McDonalds for a brief reprieve from the seering cold wind and happily joined hundreds from all over the world to line up for an opportunity to view the Book of Kells, at Trinity College Dublin.

Some of our ancestors had emigrated to North America from the Emerald Isle, and we came to absorb the land, water, air and culture on which they were reared. And some of what we have discovered is worth noting: waterless urinals, (saving 100,000 litres of water annually), sun-fuelled compactors of refuse on the university campus, hotel room lighting that is turned on only after the hotel “key-card) has been inserted into a controlling slot. When the guests remove the card, and leave for the day, no electricity is used in the room. Similarly, corridors adjacent to the “lift” (elevator) doors remain unlit, unless and until a person steps off the elevator, triggering their illumination.

Electric trains link all major cities, including Dublin to Belfast, the home of “the troubles” and both ad signage and hotel-hosted religious conferences continue to evangelize for Christ, without raising a whiff of either public engagement or disdain. As one local put it on the beach where he was raking geometric images, as part of a self-designed psycho-therapy regime, the division between Catholics and Protestants simply does not matter to anyone. He was schooled by Franciscans, while as a father, he worked to establish a non-sectarian school attended by his sons, and students of all faiths, and no faith, in the suburb of Dublin. The mere recollection of the visit of Rev. Iain Paisley to this small town, ‘where he was not warmly welcomed’ kindled a deep connection and silent applause in this rebel who, at sixteen, departed a parish in Canada, after a Paisley clone announced that “Roman Catholics were going to Hell” in a public sermon, on behalf of a bogus religion and ideology that was/is an agency consummated in some kind of icy hell, and delivered as a means of disruption around the world.

The announcement (advert) on the television by some pharmacist of the growing incidence of bowel illnesses in the last decade (he was selling an agent to counter the discomfort) acknowledges what the geometric beach designer and millions of others around the world already know, that current conditions in most, if not all workplaces, have left conscientious professionals suffering deeply under the strain of abuse by clients, pressures to comply with new regulations and expectations from employers, and threats to personal security, privacy and personal contentment and psychological peace that found some of on that beach far away from it all.

And this dis-ease that has forced panic attacks on the ‘beach-designer’ and placed millions in jeopardy of similar psychic pressures, often repressed and unacknowledged, results from many variant stimuli. However, the culmination of these militant political, cultural and fiscal “viruses” (including Cambridge Analytica, trump, bannon, mercer and the millions of corporate feudal lords at the top of millions of employers) demands a push-back from ordinary people, those clinging to their jobs, or digging for their opportunities to work, or scurrying away as refugees from poverty, war, disease and hunger….all of us crying, like the unfed Polar Bear which screams, “We will no longer merely gather up the crumbs that you plutocrats let fall from your tables, your cash registers and your investment portfolios!”

It is no longer adequate to debate the ravages of corporate greed, as an ideology of abuse. We must move beyond the abstract! Our bodies, our minds, our hearts and our spirits are withering on the slender and unwatered, un-attended vines of what once passed as beneficence on the part of major employers, once concerned about their workers, the lives of their families, and the thrill that comes from demonstrable support and nurture of those families.

It was a brief moment of heart-warming (if ever-so-minimal) beneficence that emerged in an early afternoon replay of Undercover Boss, on Channel 4 in Dublin, earlier today, in which the CEO of True-Value Hardware Corporation, a former undercover agent for the FBI, met and had secret conversations with workers in one of the company’s franchise stores in Massachusetts. And then, after removing his “cover,” he had frank, supportive and mentor conversations, supplemented by the commitment of real cash for support for loan pay-offs, educational trusts, “familymoon” for one married worker who had not had the opportunity to have a real honeymoon. But the real difference in these conversations was that he was asking for and committing to a mentorship relationship in which he proposed speaking once a month every month for a year, to guide the recipient of the company’s support and trust, and to incarnate the belief that these people were worthy of such personal/corporate encouragement.

As reality television, the piece has some entertainment value. However, as a cultural tip of the arrow of healthy recognition of the value of those in the trenches, all of the trenches, and not merely tokenism for television ratings, this CEO could well enable others to find the courage to step into the growing void of hopelessness, and despair and lost lives that populate the fast food outlets, the hardware warehouses, the insurances brokerages where phoney claims by amoral fraudsters not only push up all premiums, but trash those who have to work in an environment that escapes even the bare minimum of conscience and ethical considerations.

We are at risk of drowning in a tidal wave of narcissism, demonstrated by the trumps, the bannons, the mercers and the zuckerbergs (rumors of his potential run at the White House in 2020 cannot be overlooked or denied). And the decent, atheist geometric beach designer’s images, like the implicit and intrinsic value of each of us in this world dominated by the moral insouciants, will be washed away by the next high tide.

And its arrival is merely hours away, in geologic time!   

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