Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Can we find 3.5% of the population to join Extinction Rebellion Canada?

Extinction Rebellion: Rebel for Life
Let’s welcome “Extinction Rebellion” into our consciousness.

From its website:

XR  (Extinction Rebellion) is a movement in which citizens come together to measure the imminent danger of extinction that ecological crisis represents. For the sake of life, they commit themselves non-violent, immediate and determined for survival in a better world.

It was created in the UK by a group called Rising Up!, founded in 2016 with the aim of empowering citizen groups committed to social change. In 2018, Rising Up! Started giving the presentation ‘Heading to extinction and what to do about it’ and then organized training in civil disobedience, bringing together motivated people to participate in the Extinction Rebellion movement.

In December 2019: launch of Extinction Rebellion Canada  (or XR Canada)…As of March 2019 XR Canada has more than 1000 members. Currently, ER Canada is actively spreading in many provinces: Quebec, PEI, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Alberta, British Columbia)

Since November 2018, movements have been   USA, France, Italy, Germany, Australia New Zealand. Other branches are being formed (Spain, Belgium, Portugal, Brazil, Colombia, Sweden. India)


1: We have a shared vision of change. Creating a world that is fit for generations to come.

2: We set out mission on what is necessary. Mobilizing 3.5% of the population tyo achieve system change—using ideas such as “Momentum-driven organizing” to achieve this.

3: We need a regenerative culture. Creating a culture which is healthy, resilient and adaptable.

4: We openly challenge ourselves and this toxic system. Leaving our comfort zones to take action for change.

5: We value reflecting and learning. Following a cycle of action, reflection, learning, and planning for more action. Learning from other movements and contexts as well as our own experiences.

6:  We welcome everyone and every part of everyone. Working actively to create safer and more accessible spaces.

7: We actively mitigate for power. Breaking down hierarchies of power for more equitable participation.

8: We avoid blaming and shaming. We live in a toxic system, but no one individual is to blame.

9: We are a non-violent network. Using non-violent strategy and tactics as the most effective way to bring about change.

10:  We are based on autonomy and decentralization. We collectively create the structures we need to challenge power. Anyone who follows these core principles and values can take action in the name of Extinction Rebellion.


1: Tell the truth

     That the Government must tell the truth about how deadly our situation is, it must reverse all policies not in alignment with that position and must work alongside the media to communicate the urgency for change including what individuals, communities and businesses need to do.

2: Act Now

    The Government must enact legally binding policies to reduce carbon emissions in Canada to net zero by 2015 and take further action to remove the excess of atmospheric greenhouse gases. It must cooperate internationally so that the global economy runs on no more than half a planet’s worth or resources per year.

3: Citizen’s Assembly

     The creation of  a Citizen’s Assembly in charge of deciding the measures needed to reach goals and guarantee a just and fair transition.

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Is provincialism a necessary petrie dish for fascism?

Oxford defines parochialism this way:

A limited or narrow outlook, especially focused on a local area; narrow-mindedness, insularity, small mindedness, provincialism.

Merriam-Webster defines fascism this way;

A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

There is a tidal wave of verbiage, both oral and written, that is engulfing the American media in the wake of 250 mass killings in 2019 alone, much of it focused on “white supremacy” and “fascism”. Immigration, as it has done, and continues to do, is tearing the country’s heart open and bleeding. Fueled largely by the bigoted rhetoric of the current occupant of the Oval Office, the political atmosphere characterized by grief, desperation, loss and hopelessness is compounding what has been a protracted period of political obstruction, defiance, insouciance and paralysis. Obsessed by fear, anxiety, distrust and frayed nerves, evidenced by the panic that ensued following the “backfire” of a motorcycle engine near Times Square in New York, the American people are starting to ask some cogent, penetration questions.

Far from becoming a “post-racial nation” as some trumpeted immediately after the election of Barack Obama in 2008, the U.S. has witnessed an unleashing of racial tensions, giving proof to the paradoxical notion that “having voted for a black president” and demonstrating that I am not a racist” now I can express the hatred, fear, contempt and bigotry I really espouse, without any concomitant guilt. Below the radar, the number of white supremacist groups began to spike after Obama’s electoral victory. And, in 2018, according to the Southern Poverty Law Centre, these groups exceeded 1000.

“Rapists” “murderers” coming over the border from Mexico were verbal bullets fired by the then presidential candidate in 2016 as he descended the “gold” escalator to announce his candidacy. And then there were his comments (“good people on both sides”) following Charlottesville’s ugly protests by opponents of white supremacy encountering the shouts of those very klansmen, “We will not be replaced by Jews!” echoing both the hatred and the danger reminiscent of the 1930’s in Germany. The Muslim ban, the shithole countries in Africa, the AIDS spectre from Haiti, all of these racial slurs erupting like lethal molten lava from the president’s larynx, underlined and removed any doubt, at least in the public mind (if not the “mind” of Senate Republicans) that the leader of the free world is, has been and will continue to be a fascist white supremacist.

And the answer to the question, “Is he a symptom or the root cause?” has to be the former. One man, even one as reprehensible as this president, so narcissistic, so depraved and so disconnected from the people, the history, the law, the traditions and the culture of the nation he is elected to protect and defend, cannot be held responsible for all of the “carnage” he so despises about America.

I spent nearly four years working in a county on the west side of the Continental Divide, at the end of the last century, a county that voted 87% for this president in 2016. As an “alien” in legal and definition terms, I was clearly an outsider, and reminded of my “alienation” each and every day I lived and worked there. There are so many examples of significant cultural and sociological differences between my home country, Canada, and this outlaw county that a catalogue would be excessive. Basque cattle and sheep herders lived and worked on the outskirts of the little town; within the town, coal miners and workers at the coal-fired power plant and a few merchants, with a smattering of ex-military personnel. Blacks were few and mostly invisible; liquor stores abounded; reading was disdained and conversation was restricted to hot sauces, hatred of environmentalist “tree-huggers” and contempt for the rich out of state whose homes were powered by the electricity from the local plant.

So deep was the hatred for those “California” wealthy, that one miner, an explosive specialist, injected a charge into a new hole and blew himself up, after leaving a piece of hateful scribbling. Bloviating about having “fought” in Vietnam, by a former marine who never set foot in that country, echoed over too many restaurant tables, on too many noon hours on days off, as did the bragging about having to “hide” for at least half of a ten-hour work shift by a unionized power plant electrician. Trophy wives, at least in the eyes of their spouses and their spouses male associates, abounded, as a single preponderant image, evidencing a dominant, if unconscious and closed patriarchy. As part of this ‘meme’ of course, was a contempt for any male interested in the arts, music (except country and western), books, hiking (except for hunting), and dance.

So narrow were the mental guardrails for the male population, and so submissive were the attitudes, words and actions of many of the women that even when a  twelve-year-old daughter begged her father, “Please don’t shoot!” he father nevertheless fired a shotgun into the sparrow on the clothesline right in front of her. One professional woman actually bragged about having purchased a new $50 portable television that she could watch alone, while her spouse indulged in ‘his’ preferred tv-pornography, after nearly forty years of marriage. Drugs, mostly methamphetamines, were couriered from the “south” through town, and on up north to more northern states, while supplying the local young men with their needed fix. I am uncertain if there were “meth” labs in the town. Drinking among high school graduates resulted in road deaths nearly every spring following graduation. A teen help-line, set up under the auspices of the local McDonald’s owner/operator, went silent because local teens did not trust the confidentiality of those volunteers who staffed it on weekend evenings and nights for several months. Meetings held in a home of a long-time resident, in what was literally sagebrush desert, both hot and dry, went without even an offer of a glass of water for participants, so alien from the human culture was the host.

During the time of the Bosnian war, there was little talk of or interest in world affairs, given that most television news was restricted to state boundaries, and few if any national newspapers were delivered to local residents. Almost nothing was either known or asked about the country to the north, Canada, from which I had emigrated. Disassociation, and also alienation from “outside” influences, was so apparent and so operative that one person felt compelled to inquire about the acceptability of a “black” relative from the state capital to a community celebration before granting permission for him to attend. The local community college attracted a low enrollment, offering training in manual and social service skills. Entertainment, outside of television, centred around rodeo activities, and the sign on the highway at the town’s entrance read, “The Real Wild West” as a proud, if hollow, claim to the land of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, who had prowled the region decades previous.

Would I, and do I dub this picture the epitome of parochialism?

In a heartbeat, YES!

It sees only as far as the local hills and mini-mountains, the opportunity to hunt and to mine and to drink and to “do” drugs, with so little cultural, intellectual and social and political winds blowing through its valleys and tumble-weed scattered streets as to be virtually an intellectual, emotional and psychic wasteland. Hatred of the city, and even more profoundly of the “EAST” as represented by New York and Boston, Harvard and Yale, Columbia and all forms of government, these people were still mired in their own ignorance, and the walls preventing penetration were so thick, deep and high that nothing from “outside” except drugs and more evidence to instill anxiety were going to penetrate or subvert their mental prisons.

Male anger, regardless of the specific “root cause” flowed like a noxious and toxic gas up and down each street and out into the river valley and up onto the sandstone outcropping that offered a panoramic view of the town, itself dominated by some two dozen churches of different denominations, in a deliberate and almost military obsession to demonstrate moral, ethical and spiritual purity as integral to this exclusivity.

Reading, what little took place, was devoid of even a hint of poetry, given the literal and legal constrictions on the local mind-set and the false security that such an approach seemed to provide. Relationships were, predominantly, transactional, leaving nuances aside, and struggling merely to accommodate only the bare essential of getting by, both from a personal perspective and from a community perspective.

Of course, I detested this human wasteland, and the forces that guaranteed its permanence. Like a frozen iceberg, in a frozen tundra, this piece of human life was not ever likely to thaw into its full potential, and of course, welcomed the opportunity to thumb its nose at the world and the “effetes” like Obama from Harvard, Yale, Columbia and the EAST who had been in office for too long, in their mind.
Like an earnest eunuch, I banged my head against the walls of this community, and my fists into the walls of the house to which I had been assigned, until I broke….and had to leave.

Looking back, both my innocence and my earnest need to “break through” such walls of resistance, (as a career educator, whose challenges had never been so resistant or so successful in sustaining their resistance) were part of my undoing. I detest provincialism, racism, white supremacy and the vacuous and narcissistic individuals who peddle in this social and political anaesthetic.

Nevertheless, there are still millions, just like those “wild west(erners)” who never did and never would have accepted me, nor I them even if I had stayed for the past two decades.

Is provincialism a necessary petrie dish for fascism? I am beginning to think it might be.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Paying homage to James Hillman's gift, "Revisioning Psychology" (Harper, 1976)

Reading James Hillman’s Revisioning Psychology, one comes away both enlightened and puzzled; enlightened because each page offers a laser-like insight into contemporary culture, and puzzled because the complexity of our enmeshment in our own blind sabotage offers scant light at the end of the dark tunnel.

Broadening and deepening the potential of psychology, from therapeutic interventions into a psychology of “soul” and “soul making,” Hillman posits that soul is a “perspective rather than a substance, a viewpoint toward things rather than a thing itself. This perspective is reflective; it mediates events and makes differences between ourselves and everything that happens. Between us and events, between the does and the deed, there is a reflective moment—and soul-making means differentiating this middle ground.” (p.xvi)

Discerning the profound difference between the contemporary place of today’s words: (“Of course we live in a world of slogan, jargon, and press releases, approximating the ‘Newspeak’ of Orwell’s 1984,” and “Words like angels, are powers which have invisible power over us” (p.9), Hillman actually names words as “angels” and as “persons” “transcend(ing) their nominalistic* definitions and contexts and evoke(s) in our souls a universal resonance….Words like angels, are powers which have invisible power over us. They are personal presences which have whole mythologies: genders, genealogies…histories and vogues: and their own guarding, blaspheming, creating and annihilating effects. For words are persons.” (ibid)

Stretching for a new perspective on a dominant “Christian” cultural image, for example, based on the Easter story of Good Friday and Easter Sunday, Hillman shines a LED on the notion of depression. He writes:

Because Christ resurrects, moments of despair and desertion cannot be valid in themselves. Our one model insists on light at the end of the tunnel, one program that moves from Thursday evening to Sunday and the rising of a whole new day better by far than before. Not only will therapy more or less consciously imitate this program (in ways ranging from hopeful positive counselling to electroshock), but the individual’s consciousness is already allegorized by the Christian myth and so he knows that depression is and experiences it according to form. It must be necessary (for it appears in the crucifixion), and it must be suffering; but staying
depressed must be negative, since in the Christian allegory Friday is never valid per se, for Sunday—as an integral part of the myth—is pre-existent in Friday from the start. The counterpart of every crucifixion fantasy is a resurrection fantasy. Our stance toward depression is a priori a manic defense against it.
 Even our notion of consciousness itself serves as an antidepressant: to be conscious is to be awake alive, attentive, in a state of activated cortical functioning. Drawn to extremes, consciousness and depression have come to exclude each other, and psychological depression has replaced theological hell….
Depression is still the Great Enemy. More personal energy is expended in manic defenses against, diversions from and denials of it than goes into other supposed psychopathological threats to society: Psychopathic criminality, schizoid breakdown, addictions. As long as we are caught is cycles of hoping against despair, each productive of the other, as long as our actions in regard to depression are resurrective, implying that being down and staying down is sin, we remain Christian in psychology.
Yet through depression we enter depths and in depths find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens the dry soul, and dries the wet. It brings refuge, limitation, focus, gravity, weight and humble powerlessness. It reminds of death. The true revolution begins in the individual who can be true to his or her depression. Neither jerking oneself out of it, caught in cycles of hope and despair, nor suffering it through gill it turns, nor theologizing it—but discovering the consciousness and depths it wants. So begins the revolution in behalf of soul. P 98-99)

Neither a denigration of Christian theology, nor an anthem for traditional psychology, this vision of the intimate, integral and unavoidable relationship between cultural myths/archetypes and the human psyche needs some unpacking.

Consciousness of the implications of this Easter/Death/Resurrection dynamic on our visceral, unconscious and often ignored/denied/avoided psychological entrapment can potentially offer both a new and freeing psychological vision, and even a more profound appreciation for the penetration of each of the multiple myths/archetypes/fantasies/ with which we walk, eat, breathe, sleep and dream.

First, we need not remain trapped in our limited vision of depression as sin. Also, we need not jump to distracting activities in order to curtail the depression that comes often without warning, without preparation, without constraint and without easily accessible support. Depression, seen as “angel” or as “person” or as having a voice to which it begs us to attend, will, if we accept Hillman’s perspective, offer gifts from its depths that will only enrich our sense of our self, our capacity to see and experience both our self and our world in new and authentic ways.

Seeing our psychic life in more imaginative scenes, replete with fantasy, angels, visions, dreams and n an esternal archetypes can enable us to open to “self-talk” that integrates our conscious “voice” into conversations with these figures, these angels, these characters silently waiting for us to invite them into our “world.” Similarly, our swimming in the waters of the cultural archetypes that swim in those same bays, eddies, inlets, rivers, isthmuses and whirlpools and permitting their “presence” to become part of our consciousness not only enriches our psychic breast-stroke, back-stroke, crawl and even our treading water, not merely increasing the strength of those skills, but selecting to the most appropriate ‘stroke’ given the fullness of the psychic environment and our appreciation of its complexities, really our own complexities.
In the Christian tradition, the “dark night of the soul” has captured the attention of mystic spiritual seekers and has provided narratives that inspire others, while also perhaps terrifying some.

Eckhart Tolle writes about the dark night of the soul:

It is a term used to describe what cone could calla a collapse of a perceived meaning in life…an eruption into your life or a deep sense of meaninglessness. The inner state in some cases is very close to what is conventionally called depression. Nothing makes sense anymore, there’s no purpose to anything. Sometimes it’s triggered by some external event, some disaster perhaps, on an external level. The death of someone close to you could trigger it, especially premature death, for example if your child dies. Or you had built up your life, and given it meaning, --and the meaning that you had given your life, your activities, your achievement, where you are going, what is considered important, and the meaning that you had given your life for  some reason collapses. (Eckhart Tolle website)

Our tendency to pathologize this “darkness” (this deep depression) as either or both a sin or an illness, based on the traditional religious and/or medical model respectively, sabotages our attempt to deal with our own reality, our own truth. In order to appear “well” or “not evil”….or also to avoid being ostracized, alienated, or declared “unfit” for acceptance in employment, social association, neighbourhood, or even amateur athletic teams, too many of us rush into a public “face” of “being OK”….and thereby cover our depression, both to ourselves and to others we “don’t want to worry”.

We cannot afford to avoid, deny, disdain or trash Hillman’s cultural revisioning of our conventional perceptions of our psychic realities. And, obviously, it will take each of us, including all of our thought leaders, our shamans, our pedagogues and our clergy (especially) to “unbind” the constrictions of many of the reductions of conventional psychology and society if we are to enter into an enriched culture of poetic imagination.

As Red Green reminds us, “We’re all in this together, and we’re pulling for you!”

*nominalism: the doctrine that universals or general ideas are mere names without any corresponding reality, and that only particular objects exist; properties, numbers, and sets are thought of as merely features of the way of considering the things that exist (Dictionary)