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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Can the Christian church authentically embrace the primitive, the poet, the madman and the child in each of us?

We all know about the evacuation of Christian church pews, especially from mainline churches, liberal and both tolerant and accepting of “the other”…regardless of the identity of that ‘other’.

On the other hand, evangelical “Christian” churches continue to show growth in both their revenue and their numbers of attendees. This space has previously documented the co-dependence of evangelicals with the trump administration in the U.S. The ostracizing of “the other” especially those who do not comport with their literal and imperialistic interpretation of scripture, especially of the conditions requisite for “salvation,” is nevertheless apparently not a problem for those inside that ‘circle.’
After a childhood in an evangelical Presbyterian church dominated by an Irish immigrant cloned on the Iain Paisley model of hatred, bigotry and contempt for everything Roman Catholic, especially those whose heritage embraced that faith often for centuries, an interim period of exploration of the “Anglican” tradition and finally service in active ministry in that church, I have experienced considerable fear, repression, intolerance, and blindness both in the manner in which the hierarchy administers that church, and in the theology that  reigns inside their personal and corporate sanctuaries.

Whether the Christian church’s assigning of human sexuality to the vaults of the conception and definition of evil, beginning with Augustine seems hardly relevant today. It is the much broader, more deeply ingrained and seemingly ineradicable relegation of everything unconscious to the “sin” and “sinner” designations that lies at the heart of much of the faith’s intolerance of, and even rejection of total reality (including both the conscious/empirical and the unconscious/psychic), that binds both the ecclesial entity and its clergy and laity to a judgement of “evil” that is literally and metaphorically unsustainable. Never seeking to turn a blind eye, ear and mind to the words of Paul, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), we nevertheless believe and here will attempt to defend the notion that “God does not make any junk”….an aphorism that, along with the injunction from John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they many have life, and have it to the full..”

How do we conceptualize “a full life”….in a materialistic, capitalistic, narcissistic, hedonistic and transactional secular culture? And how does that concept comport with, support and sustain a life of spiritual, psychic, intellectual, moral, ethical and physical human existence within the Christian context?

Let’s start with some basics about the nature of the human being borrowed from James Hillman, in his Revisioning Psychology, himself borrowing from depth psychology:

The insights of depth psychology derive from souls in extremis, the sick, suffering, abnormal and fantastic conditions of the psyche. Our souls in private to ourselves, in close communion with another, and even in public exhibit psychopathologies. Each soul at some time or another demonstrates illusions and depressions, overvalued ideas, manic flights and rages, anxieties, compulsions, and perversions. Perhaps our pathology has an intimate connection with our individuality, so that our fear of being what we really are is partly because we fear the psychopathological aspect of individuality. For we are each peculiar; we have symptoms; we fail, and cannot see why we go wrong or even where, despite high hopes and good intentions. We are unable to set matters right, to understand what is taking place or be understood by those who would try. Our minds, feelings, wills and behaviors deviate from normal ways. Our insights are impotent, or none come at all. Our feelings disappear in apathy; we worry and also don’t care. Destruction seeps out of us autonomously and we cannot redeem the broken trusts, hopes, loves.
 The study of lives and the care of souls means above all a prolonged encounter with what destroys and is destroyed, with what is broken and hurts—that is with psychopathology. Between the lines of each biography and in the lines of each face we may read a struggle with alcohol, with suicidal despair, with dreadful anxiety, with lascivious sexual obsessions, cruelties at close quarters, secret hallucinations, or paranoid spiritualisms. Ageing brings loneliness of soul, moments or acute psychic pain, and haunting remembrances as memory disintegrates. The night world in which we dream shows the soul split into antagonisms; night after night we are fearful, aggressive, guilty and failed.
These are the actualities—the concrete mess of psychological existence as it is phenomenologically, subjectively and individually….(p. 55-56)…

And a little later from Hillman:

We suffer, it has been customary to say, because we are either sick or sinful, and the cure of our suffering calls for either science or faith. But in both cases pathologizing* has had negative implications. For both sickness and sin imply that pathologizing is wrong. (p. 57)

We can all recognize the power of the medical and religious models for dealing with “disease” and with “evil” respectively for centuries. Treatment, and/or intervention to “cure” or to “heal” brings evidence, increasingly surfacing especially in the medial culture, that many of the interventions are not “cures” but rather suppression of symptoms. It can be legitimately argued that “spiritual” or religious interventions (take the confession/penitential/penance, the conversion/salvation moment, and even the liturgical re-enactment of the eucharist) while clearly not based on a malign intent, nevertheless often have minimal impact on one’s psychic health, growth and healing.

The specific biographic details of individual anguish, anxiety, and psychic pain while relevant within families, can almost invariably be linked to and demonstrated in acts of excessive power. John Sanford, in his profound and illuminating work, Evil, the Shadow Side of Reality tell us “what is as the core of the archetype of evil: the power drive. Lucifer’s sin was in trying to replace God n the heavenly throne. It was the desire for power that brought about his downfall and led to mankind’s plight. On the psychological level, this destructive power drive can be seen as an archetypal quality of the human ego that wants to set itself up in place of the Self. It is the dark tendency built into our ego structure that tries to establishing the ego’s domination over the whole psyche, rather than allowing the God-given Centre of the psyche to rule. (p. 115)

Superimposing the “rule” and the “power” of the church, the hierarchy, the dogma, the tradition and the accompanying ethics and morality on a laity, regardless of the purity of the motive, nevertheless establishes an authority linked to a deity and a history over the laity. This puts both the “hierarchy” and the laity/clergy in the position of either imposing/judging on the basis of the “power” or of being and becoming the “judge” to enforce that hierarchy. The parallel process of the institutional model and the individual model illustrating and incarnating a similar imprisonment to a “code,” no matter how judiciously, honourably, honestly and integrously administered, relegates the hierarchy to the ‘critical parent/super ego, and the “laity/clergy” as implicitly the errant “id”.

For centuries, the church denied the feminine, as part of the denial of women to positions of responsibility, leadership and authority within the ecclesial structure. More broadly, the very denial, repression and avoidance of the totality of the human condition of “psychic pain” except as diagnosed by the medical/psychiatric fraternity, or punished by the legal codes lies at the core of the institutional (and by extension, the leadership model offered to parishioners) from the theological integration and metaphysic of the institution and by extension to the kitchen tables of the parishioners impoverishes the God and the theology that purports to worship that God.

Jung called the repressed unconscious the Shadow, the dark side of human reality, to which Hillman refers. Whether stored in memory, trauma, rejection, alienation, separation, abandonment or grief, the unrecognized, undiscussed, and “too much” for the capacity of the institution, the church is highly implicit in the social and cultural “critical parenting” of the people in the West. Overtly eager to diagnose, or to accept the diagnosis of either the medical or the legal fraternity of the psychic pain of all people, the church, both directly and inadvertently, complies with the “evil” or “sickness” of individuals. Complicitly enmeshed in the extrinsic/empirical conceptual framework in which the culture operates on a daily/hourly basis, the church turns a deaf ear and a blind eye, and more importantly a patronizing prayer to those “for whom they prey”. And implicit in each of those public and private prayers is the next line, “There but for the grace of God go I!”

However, God is not a shield or a sword against the human proclivity to psychic disorder, pain, trauma or even disablement. And positing the morality of the Christian ethic as an antidote to that psychic trauma is a disservice and a dismemberment of the love of God. If God can and does listen to the most desperate cry of anguish, why can the church not also embrace the totality of that anguish openly, honestly and without recrimination. Suffice it to say, the “corporate image” of upholding the moral and ethical code, in order to “justify” the continuing flow of cash, memberships, growth dependent as it is on “good image” in the base public relations definition of that concept stands in the way.

Walking with the unwanted, the undesired, the undesireable, the “weak” and the outcast is not some hollow ideal. It lies at the heart of the gospel ethic. And yet, holding the hierarchy, and the laity to some kind of “socially and politically correct” standard paradoxically denies that ideal. The church’s co-dependent enmeshment in the corporate culture is both a sin of commission and of omission: commission because it is a conscious and deliberate decision by those in charge and omission because it denies the very terrain (the psychic unconscious, the Shadow) of its purview. As Mary Jo Leddy writes in her explosive spiritual pilgrimage: Say to the Darkness, we Beg to Differ:

Jesus Christ is the liberating grace of our belief that life is stronger that death. He is the promise that we can be free from the deadly patterns within ourselves, within our society and within our church. This was his prophetic message. His life, death and resurrection give weight to his words. (p. 254)

It is not merely incidental to ask, “what is that life that is stronger that death”?
Is it a life filled with gossip, judgement, pointed fingers, wagging tongues and punitive “corrective” attitudes and behaviour that segregate “the other” from the very heart of the community? Is it a life constricted by the performance of rigid folds in the altar linen, and the judgement of the neophyte who has never been taught or learned how to make those folds? Is it a tolerance (or worse the elevation) of a social, corporate and political hierarchy as “models” of spiritual health? Is it the rejection of the refugee, the asylum seeker, the starved, the victim of the plague, the blind eye to the people living on the street, the acceptance of the “sickness” or “evil” description of behaviour and attitudes that do not comport with our personal/organizational/social/political wired fences?

Linking the medical and the evil diagnosis of attitudes and behaviour we don’t like, especially when it is almost invariably based on a single symptom, or even a restricted cluster of symptoms, rather than imprisoning our perspective and our vision of the human being in general, could be considered illustrative of the fantasy world, the daemons, the angels, the snakes, the sirens, and the characters to which our imaginations are familiar, and indeed in debt.

Having reduced our perceptions and our “visions” to the literal, without a grain of the poetic, the connotative, the personifying, we have robbed ourselves of the imagination, clearly one of the gifts of any deity worthy of the name.

If the church is to be fully and honestly and honourably engaged in the “life” of the human soul, as it purports to be, its leadership and its laity could well be more fully engaged in what Michelangelo considered significant, “l’imagine del cuor,” the image of the heart, not merely the primacy of sense perception.

Hillman references the Spaniard Miguelo de Unamuno (b.1864) “who returned to the relationship of hear5t and personified images and explained the necessary interdependence between love and personifying:

In order to love everything, in order to pity everything, human and extra-human, living and non-living, you must feel everything within yourself, you must personalize everything. For everything that it loves, everything that it pities, love personalizes…we only love—that which is like ourselves…it is love itself…that reveal these resemblances to us…Lover personalizes all that it loves> Only by personalizing it can we fall in love with an idea….

He (de Unamuno) sums up saying, “Our feeling of the world, upon which is based on understanding of it, is necessarily anthropomorphic and mythopoeic.” Loving I s a way of knowing, and for loving to know, it must personify. Personifying is thus a way of knowing, especially knowing what is invisible, hidden in the heart.

In this perspective personifying is not a lesser, primitive mode of apprehending but a finer one. It presents in psychological theory the attempt to integrate heart into method and to return abstract thoughts and dead matter to their human shapes. Because personifying is an epistemology of the heart, a thought mode of feeling, we do wrong to judge it as inferior, archaic thinking appropriate only to those allowed emotive speech and affective logic—children, madmen, poets and primitives. (Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, p.15)

Perhaps the church might open its eyes, ears, heart, neurotic mind-set and structure to embrace the “children, madmen, poets and primitives” rather than succumbing to the rigors of the empirical, literal, accounting and legal and politically correct constrictions (persons) currently and most recently in charge. Of course, such a transformation would imitate/incarnate a “resurrection”…the central image of the faith, so some of us still believe.


*pathologizing: the practice of seeing a symptom as indication of a disease or disorder, in mental health, the term is often used to indicate over-diagnosis or the refusal to accept certain behaviour as normal

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Advocating for a place at the table for misandry


A while back, this space waded slowly into the “beach” of the notion of misandry. A little tenuous, a little awkward and a more than a little risky in a time when misogyny is being trumpeted on all media, seemingly at all hours of the day and night, this “test-drive” needs to be updated.

For too long, the field of gender politics has been dominated by the feminist voice, too often as victim of the misdeeds, and the debasing attitudes of too many red neck men. In that vortex, men rarely venture into openly expressing disdain, disgust and contempt for the actions and the attitudes of those men who continue to tarnish the public reputation of masculinity. Men also, in their silence, permit the heavy hitters among angry and abused women to hold sway in the public consciousness about gender relations.

Simultaneously, trump, the most heinous example of masculinity on the planet, continues to debase especially women of colour, while simultaneously giving encouragement and license for white supremacists. Boris Johnston, newly elected prime minister of the United Kingdom, for his part, does not offer much hope to that narrow bank of the demographic occupied by enlightened, evolved and androgynous men.

Even those who have courageously established agencies in support of men’s rights, focussing on fathers’ rights to children following divorce, and to other legal male rights contests inside contemporary families, have failed, likely by design, to venture into the question of the detection of, the ferreting out of, and the exposing of and the implications of the other side of the gender debate, misandry. There are also reasonable and probable reasons for this posture: trying to thread a very small hole in a cultural needle to avoid any perception of, or worse charge of, seeming to be misogynistic, or even worse “being” misogynistic. In order to undertake the monumental task of seeding a public agency to advocate for the rights of men, and bringing the voices of all members of all families into the “room” CAFÉ, for example, has studiously restrained all public utterances from even the bare hint of misogyny. This piece not only respects that posture; it seeks to emulate it.

Physics reminds us that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. David Brinkley, the late NBC news anchor reminds us, “A successful person is one who builds a firm foundation on the bricks that have been thrown at him/her.” As a young boy, being “raised” by a woman who hated her father, and who declared her recently deceased husband of sixty-two years “no good” and who regularly meted out both physical and emotional abuse to an innocent and unsuspecting son, I have what might be considered an inside track on the misandry that enters too many rooms, in too many towns and cities, churches, schools, and corporations in North America and has been slinking under the doorways of public consciousness like an early morning fog, barely visible and certainly free of both scent and expected detection. Perhaps a better analogy would be the recently publicly disclosed “radon” gas.*

In the current cultural ethos, bombarded as it is with evidence of inappropriate sexual behaviour and attitudes by men directed toward too many women, including pending court cases and already documented convictions in such cases, even to raise the specter of misandry seems highly self-sabotaging, dangerous, and quixotic. Men, generally, are not bonded in a manner similar to the “sisterhood” to which all women implicitly belong. In fact, the reverse, exemplified by the historic encyclopaedic physical, military, pugilistic and even legal/courtroom conflicts between men, more typically exemplifies how men communicate: through direct confrontation, competition, and fighting even to the death, if deemed necessary to assert and to defend male honour.

Nevertheless, risking obliteration from both men and women, like a canary in a coalmine, this piece seeks to bring forward repeated evidence, too often denied or avoided or merely dismissed by men in positions of authority, the contempt of men by women not only exists in each of our contemporary social constructs, and contributes, without acknowledgement to many of the conflicts that we have come to cluster under the rubric, “gender politics.”

Reasons for women’s contempt, distaste, discomfort, in all of its many forms and faces vary in both fact and intensity. They include but are not restricted to:

·        a broken relationship with the fathers of your girls,
·        a series of unmet expectations in the face of high bars imposed or suggested by highly ambitious and insensitive fathers on their daughters
·        a lengthy exposure to their mother’s contempt for their fathers, or other men in their mother’s lives
·        exposure to and experience of a male figure who is especially officious when solving an issue in which young girls are involved, including teachers, principals, doctors, law enforcement officials, social workers, and clergy
·        an unresolved competitive/conflicted relationship between mothers and fathers of young girls
·        exposure to and experience of young men in their dating lives who fail to exhibit a level of respect, decency and honour for their female partners
·        exposure to and experience of men, conversely, who failed to confront injustice whether imposed by other men or women, incarnating a “eunuch” kind of failure

It all started, for me, with my father, although the pattern was invisible to me in the first several decades of my life. The physical and emotional abuse I experienced from my mother was never experienced/inflicted in the presence of my father, nor was it ever exposed in conversations I witnessed between them. In essence, this abuse was and remained closeted, secret, except through direct communication from me to my father’s two sisters. The kind of exaggerated and conflicted relations that originated from my mother with public officials such as school authorities, was never disclosed by my mother to my father, demonstrating further attempts to prevent disclosure of such acts. These, however, also occurred almost exclusively between my mother and male persons.

The obvious conflict about whether or not I could continue to participate in minor hockey between my mother and father provided evidence, on reflection decades later, that their conflict was neither resolved nor resolvable. My father’s silence, for example, when my mother refused permission to participate in a hockey tournament in Collingwood, exhibits a level of insecurity, perhaps even fear in my father of my mother. This potential fear also reared its head in his speech stammer, worse at home than at his workplace, where he consistently dialogued freely and easily with customers in the hardware store he managed.

Similar default on my father’s part appears around and over family decisions on re-decorating, travel, family purchases, and even family activities that seemed to be generated and directed by my mother. Passive-aggression, however, was a repeated response from my father. Interjected on top of a history, known to my father, that my mother literally detested her father for his “premature” marriage to another women, shortly after the death of her mother, and perhaps his own family history where his own mother clearly dominated and controlled his father, this river of psychic sludge, inhabited as it is by unstated voices, resentments, contempts, and disparagements and unconscious projections necessarily contaminated the future of many, beyond the expectations of most participants. In his upper eighties, my father acknowledged, directly to me, “You were raised by Hitler and Chamberlain! And I was the Chamberlain in the family!”

Contempt, however, is one of many faces of fear. Others include, but are not restricted to: deceit, gossip, revenge, silence, withdrawal, poison, undermining, deafness (both literal and metaphoric), denigration, stereotyping, malicious humour/satire, dissociation and sexual denial by women of their male partners. And in a complex vortex of female emotional expressions (regardless of their intensity or appropriateness) most men are both literally and metaphorically “speechless”. Not having fully engaged in a process of exploring the emotional responses of characters in plays, novels, poems and films in their humanities classes in both elementary and secondary school, young men very often emerge into post-secondary institutions and workplaces devoid of both the vocabulary to express and the habit and comfort even to detect and disclose their personal emotional experience. Conventional social culture and perception, however, is currently flooded with disparagement of this male “inferiority” in the light of female vocabulary and familiarity with sharing their personal emotions. The public “convention” then falls into the trap of disdain of masculinity, both through the overt efforts of many women and the silence of most men, who, in the words of my physician, when nudged by my statement, “Men can learn to name and acknowledged their emotions,” replies, “Oh John, but women do it so much better!”
“And who is making this exercise a competition but you; women certainly are not on the personal level!” was my rebuttal.

Emotions, those unbridled, unbroken, unbreakable, and irrepressible forces that continual rumble in the human psyche, as they have from the beginning, nevertheless signal, warn, hint and even provide reconnaissance for and  in each situation regarding humans everywhere. In history, emotions have conventionally been regarded as unreliable, untrustworthy, dangerous and indicative of “mental instability” and even of religious “intemperance” or perhaps even insanity. Clearly, both the medical and religious communities have historically trusted human “reason,” science, experimentation, empirical evidence, and the legal community has struggled for centuries with the notion of human “motive”. In this detective search, they have sought to connect the dots between empirical evidence and a possible motive in most criminal activities, knowing that any approximation of what someone might be “thinking” or “feeling” would be, at best, speculation.

A link between the medical, religious and legal communities seems to lie in the human experience that is classified as “extreme”….usually described by actions (words, beliefs, attitudes) of emotional extremes. Medical conditions, legal cases, and religious conversions and missions are frequently associated with and complicated by human “emotions”….and history is replete with attempts by various scholars to disregard, eliminate, avoid, disparage or generally to disregard the implicit force in those various situations. Extreme emotions, for example, have fallen into one of two historical “problems”…sickness in the eyes of the medical fraternity and evil in the eyes of the religious fraternity.

Simultaneously, however, those human emotions have continued to rumble, vibrate, shake, sooth, dance and even embrace the experiences of the people they “
inhabit. Also, those emotions have been given, and have taken on the personalities of various “gods,” demons, angels, snakes, dogs, birds, dragons, and the like. In effect, humans have invariably given a personifying “face” and identity to these emotions. Recognizing the persistence and ubiquity of our emotions, humans have variously constructed mental hospitals, for example, “outside” population centres, and have tended to apply clinical diagnose what has been considered “dangerous” and aberrant behaviour and attitudes, all of them emitted from human emotions. Churches, too, have regarded emotions as dangerous to the spiritual pilgrimage of all humans.

At the core of each human encounter, whether between same or opposite genders, the matter of human emotions is always in play. And our various attempts to contain, repress, deny, avoid, or even ameliorate the influence and power of human emotions, as well as the positive contribution to building loving and supportive relationships, have always yielded to some kind of imaginative analysis. Our human imagination holds our existence ‘together’ is what is a much more random and unpredictable and irrepressible, yet life-giving force and power that defines the human being. Far from succumbing to any religious doctrine, legal prescription, educational process or factum, or even literary convention, our imagination and our emotions are and can be integrated into a “world view” that does not presuppose the need for control, order, or external authority.

However, our human fear of the extremes to which we are vulnerable, whether expressed through medical diagnosis, or through sin, or criminal activity, has contributed excessively and neurotically, perhaps even psychotically, to our collective and individual self-sabotage. Rather than restricting our “world view” to the dictates, diagnoses, sanctions and expectations linked to the “experts” in all traditional professional fields, originally charged with ‘establishing and sustaining order” in civilization(s), as a requisite for human survival.

It is this premise with which we wish to contend. And no straw-man is the premise.

Masculinity, for its resistance to its own vulnerability in both acknowledging and identifying our emotional truths and realities, and femininity, for its indulgence in the pleasures and the warning signals emerging from their emotions have together brought us to this place. And the continuing fractious contentions between the genders relegates this public debate to the “either-or” “he said-she-said” dichotomy. Neither women nor men will ultimately emerge from the conflict transformed into any approximation of androgyny. Women will suit-up in their warrior armour to “protect” themselves from the ravages of masculinity gone amuck; men will continue to hide from their emotions, believing those emotions to betray their very masculinity.

My mother and father, unfortunately, were unable, unwilling(?), untrained, un-open(?) or predisposed to refuse to have a conversation that would (could?) have freed them both from their respective psychic cells. Similar “cells” of emotional imprisonment, however, have bloomed in the public organizations in which we have all participated.

Example:

·        the woman whose misandry goes unrecognized and unacknowledged in her leadership of her organization, while disdaining men, masculinity, including even their spouse, (secretly)
·        the advertising writers, actors and producers who generate television advertising that blatantly demeans masculinity as stupid, physically and emotionally immature and awkward
·        films and dramas that blatantly depict masculinity as debasing all women
·        university curricular offerings and departments entitled “gender studies” that focus primarily, or worse exclusively on “womens’ studies” (on the premise that all of history has been created, written and documented by men)
·        enrollment patterns and inducements that favour a female cohort over the male cohort, “to bring into balance” the inequities of male dominance
·        then writing of laws, regulations and processes that openly and publicly favour the stories of female ‘victims’ while minimizing the contextual evidence that paints a more complex and more “fair”* picture
·        the surreptitious and often un-perceived, or mis-acknowledged in its importance, the misandry of women, by both men and women supervisors
·        the refusal/failure/omission of negotiating “fair” employment wages, safety standards and opportunities of advancement of women by male executives, as an implicit gender bias, too often unaddressed by their male peers.
     
     Undoubtedly, there are a plethora of other perhaps even more relevant examples of how men and women both fail their children, their grandchildren and their communities in their respective ‘cracked’ visions of human emotions. And, while misogyny is  openly discussed and acknowledged, misandry needs to take its legitimate place at the public table.
*  
      * Radon is a chemical element with the symbol Rn and atomic number 86. It is a radioactive, colourless, odorless, tasteless noble gas….radon itself is the immediate decay product of radium. Its most stable isotope 222Rn, has a half-life of only 3.8 days, making radon one of the rarest elements since it decays away so quickly. (Wikipedia)

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Reflections on a "weaponized" culture


So much talk these days about the manipulation of the media by this U.S. president!
The anatomy of the dynamic goes like this: the president rants (never mind on which platform!) and the media rushes and gushes as if his every word was their latest and most important career nourishment supplement, really a steroid to which they are addicted. Changing the channel, changing the meme, shifting the klieg lights from whatever is the president’s latest moral and ethical tragic and ever so public failure to the next “tweet” has, through the complicity of the media, injected the same “steroid” into the American soap-opera. And the reporters are partially responsible.

However, their executives, themselves addicted to the latest Neilsen ratings as their “empirical measure” for determining their industry advertising rates, the empirical measure for their investors’ dividends, and not incidentally, their own share portfolios and their chances for promotion, transfer to another company, their access to venture capital should they wish to strike out on their own (via podcast, for example). And feeding this “food chain” of the media oligarchs, of course, is the president’s complicity, nefarious and eminently strategized and tactically targetted rants.
Chris Hedges, among others, regularly rants about corporate media collusion with the corporate-political-military-pharmaceutical-fossil fuel-insurance-intelligence behemoth.

However, while I do not disagree or defer from Hedges’ analysis, it is the underlying “sell-and-win” narcissistic culture, mind-set, propaganda, education system and “state of the union” in the U.S.. Too big for our modest human minds to integrate, assimilate and digest, this “mountain range” of information, now supplemented by both macro and meta-information, from both the “deep state” and the allegedly “public and political” state inevitably gets broken down into mini-bytes, like those Kellogg Mini-Wheats that have supplanted the old Shredded Wheats of our youth. Nano-second sound bytes of the latest gossip, career implosions, legal evidence of collusion, obstruction, groping, homophobia, racism, and other scraps of “political pornography” titillate millions, as it substitutes for and actually replaces legitimate discourse and debate of substantive and potentially lethal issues (global warming, nuclear missile development and deployment, mass incarceration, judicial wrongful convictions, gutting of public education, and corporate welfare as examples).

And instead of relegating such political pornography to the tabloids, the media has morphed into their own versions of the tabloid model. Joe Scarborough (MSNBC’s Morning Joe) articulately posits the differences between the “ground noise” and the “signals” to which all military generals have to pay attention. Trouble is, as he acknowledges, the media is committing the ultimate failure to distinguish between the two, “my (Joe’s) name at the top of the list of those media”!

Language, mere words, may finally be rising to the heights of its merited public, survival significance….words frame each and every one of our ideas, perspectives, opinions, ideologies, strategies, tactics, alliances, enemies, (now “”frenemies in another of our ‘cute’ hybrid addictions), and another “alternative facts” (courtesy of Kelly Anne Conway).

Depending on when and where the “words” are used, they may have application from one field to another: for example, from quantum physics to political culture.
In Quantum physics, Superposition is known to be the uncertainty of a particle (or particles) being in several states at once, while quantum Entanglement occurs when each possible state of two particles depend on each other’s state. It would seem, at least to the feeble and somewhat overwhelmed mind of this scribe, that a political “Quantum Entanglement” and “Quantum Superposition” are playing themselves out on our television screens each and every day.

Schrodinger’s Cat first came to public attention in the news coverage of the Kawai Leonard period of “limbo” when he was considered to be “staying” in the Toronto with the Raptors and “leaving” for greener pastures, likely back in California. According to Wikipedia,
Schrodinger’s cat is a thought experiment sometimes described as a paradox, devised by Austrian  physicist Erwin Schrodinger in 1935….The scenario presents a hypothetical cat that may be simultaneously both alive and dead, a state known as quantum superposition, as a result of being linked to a random subatomic event that may or may not occur.

If we were to consider the Schrodinger’s cat experiment (the cat is conceivably both dead and alive) to be one end of a continuum of thought, and the absolute, concrete literalism to be the opposite end of this continuum, political culture could hypothetically and imaginatively be “positioned” at some likely moving point on the continuum. In his seminal work introducing the Jesus Seminar, Robert W. Funk posits literalism as a significant impediment to the seminar’s search and research for the historical Jesus. Funk writes these words:

“Literalism has created what Northrop Frye has termed the “imaginative illiterate.” This product of the ascendancy of the empirical sciences, who can understand things only literally, dominated both high and naïve levels of culture. It doesn’t seem to matter that the literalist understands the literal in different senses on different occasions. At times, the literalist takes literal” to mean the descriptive, true-to-fact assertion; at other times, he or she understands the “literal” to mean the conventional, what everybody takes for granted. When used to mean what everybody takes for granted, the “literal” sense may thus also include the nonliteral. For example, everyone knowns that there are no real oats in “sowing wild oats,” and there is neither iron nor curtain in “the iron curtain.” Yet these popular expressions are understood to refer “literally” to youthful indiscretions and an impenetrable political boundary….
The physical science and preoccupation with the literal have nearly killed the imagination. That does not mean that I want to give up my refrigerator and modern medicine, both of which owe their efficacy to the sciences. But it does mean that refrigeration and surgery do not cover all the needs of the mind and the spirit. There are some things that cooling and lancing will not cure. The ability to perceive the nonliteral dimensions of our world is the victim of our inclination to exchange a refreshed sense of the world for a mess of technical pottage.” (Funk, Honest to Jesus, p.51-2)

Playing off the empirical/conventional dichotomy, sliding seamlessly from what some consider true-to-fact to the convention, is a technique the current occupant of the Oval office has mastered proficiently, to his short-term headline-generating benefit, while at the same time, energetically (and we presume deliberately and consciously) imposing a scorched earth obliterating approach to the common set of facts to which we were all previously in accord.

And the media, given its cultural belief that it writes and speaks to an audience of “sixth-grade readers/listeners,” falls imperceptible and tragically into the trap of conflating the conventional and the factual. It also, invariably, couches its headlines in the most blatant overused, cliché-ridden language of phrases like “sowing wild oats” or “the iron curtain”.

Supporting a devolution to minimal literalism, the legal profession too is drowning in the precise and limited/limiting definitions of words, reinforced by case law based on the interpretations of those sitting on the bench. “Hate speech” for example, is defined as speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of protected attributes such as race, religion, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. (Wikipedia)

And yet, everyone knows, deep and profoundly in his/her gut, what constitutes offence, disdain, disrespect and alienation, without having to resort to a legal definition. Insults, name-calling, verbal bullying and taunting, the kind of verbiage that saturates social media (often even leading to both successful and attempted suicides by victims) are a “norm” which is forcefully and deliberately underscored, enhanced and vigorously disseminated by the current occupant of the Oval office.

The conflation of the “factual” with the “conventional” along with the etherization of the imagination leaves public discourse, the street vernacular and the expectations of every young person observer reduced to such a “trash” level, emblematic of a national culture devoid of even the basic levels of education. It is not only a dynamic that robs the discourse of its “table manners” and its “creativity” and its “nuance” and its minimal expectation of compromise, healthy interaction, the search for a common “truth” as well as for a common and unifying and uplifting “goal”.

Reports in The Guardian today point to a U.S. Congressman’s letter to the Pentagon asking for a report on the potential “weaponizing” of ticks with the Lyme disease germ, for the purpose of enhancing military objectives. “The House approved an amendment proposed by a Republican congressman from New Jersey, Chris South, instructing the defence department’s inspector general to conduct a review of whether the U.S. “experimented with ticks and insects regarding use as a biological weapon between the years of 1950 and 1975.” Currently, some 400,000 Americans are affected by Lyme disease each year.

Effectively, through a combined impact of the conflation of “literal” and “conventional”, and the effective scorching of the American (and other western countries’) individual and collective imagination, it is not only the prospect of “weaponizing” of insects that disturbs. The weaponizing of words, for the purpose of political and personal narcissistic ambition and gain, in the extremely short term, is another impact of the endangered “species” of imaginative, expansive, collaborative, co-operative and language and the mind-set that provides the garden for such a language.

Transforming the political culture into a battlefield, through the abusive, dangerous, lethal reduction of language into coded bullets, in both naïve and ‘high’ levels of culture is an impediment, not only for Jesus Seminar scholars, but also for anyone seeking to imagine, design and grow a dream that focuses on the protection of human and all other flora and fauna species.

Literalism, combined with the military manufacturing behemoth, the pharmaceutical vulture, the starving “egos” of political leaders desperately clinging to power, not only imitates but also emulates the modus operandi, the desperation and the determination of those identified by terrorist organizations against which the “establishment” claims to be protecting us. Linked to this cultural “ethos” of course, is the notion of the “binary” as a cornerstone of public discourse, personal thought, digital devices and transactional interactions. “For us or against us” as  articulated by George W. Bush immediately after 9-11, even if it had minimal relevance in that moment, is not a state designed to sustain a family, a community, a nation or a planet.

The words of Maya Angelou, as a poetic antidote for this potentially lethal culture of “weaponization”, ring out this morning as a solo, ubiquitous and lyrical melody struggling for an audience amidst this psychic and political embattlement:
You may shoot me with your words
You may cut me with your eyes
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.