Thursday, October 24, 2019

#15 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia ("mighty men")


This space has presented several arguments advocating enhanced conscious sensitivity on the part of corporations for the individuals working in their employ. This piece details Lionel Tiger’s scathing attack from the 1980’s on the “individualized” economy and culture, from the perspective of an anthropologist. On the surface, this might appear as a fundamental contraction, or at least a paradox. Individual corporations, based on considerable evidence, have reduced “employees” to functions like “enhanced profits” and/or “reduced costs,” perhaps  as an “unforced error” under the cultural rubric of the “gig” economy in which millions now operate their own enterprise, without the benefits and loyalties and implicit respect that once attended corporate deployment. The relationship of the individual both to the organization for which they work and secure their income, livelihood and a sizeable portion of their “identity” as professionals, is a dynamic  river flowing through the turbulence of “white water” and then the quiet eddies of a calm distance. As James Hillman reminds us, in organizations, individuals are perceived and treated as ‘components’ and symbols of a larger archetype. Similarly, from a political policy perspective, individuals are “categorized” and “classified” in numerous “clusters” as if such “demographic identity” is adequate for the calculations underlying the design of public policy. It is far too easy for water-cooler conversations and the culture generally slides back and forth between perspectives of “archetypes” and individual biographies.

Seemingly, without formal research, we appear to be intensely interested in the “background” of an individual when a “crisis” emerges while retaining a disciplined detachment, in other times, so as not to “interfere with the privacy” of the other. Even getting to know our neighbours, or church pew cohorts, or social club members frequently, if not exclusively, gives way to a privacy, and a detachment that renders millions to a reiterated form of “isolation” and “alienation” whose collective costs are rarely, if ever, considered in calculating the “health care” budgets of contemporary North America.

Based on the emergence of physical, emotional and/or psychological symptoms, in individual lives, as they appear in consults with family physicians, or in emergency room triage, our “health” conversely includes the culmination and summation of multiple factors. And prevention, in all of the ways that concept could be applied to our public and political debate, remains another of the silent denied forces, so obsessed are we with fixing immediate crises.

It is the irony and paradox of the application of a similar “diagnosis” and “remediation” to our cars, our furnaces, our refrigerators and washers and dryers to our “bodies, minds and spirits” that confounds both logic and even the collective, conscious debate and resolution of personal health issues. And the relationship of the individual to the organization(s) in which they/we work that plays a significant role in the spike in illicit medications including alcohol, drugs, gambling and obesity. Just as the costs of “pollution” of carbon gases need to be borne by those who pollute, a similar equation is equally applicable (if politically radioactive) to those corporations who decimate the very persons for whom they share responsibility.
This issue is ripe for union leadership. It is ripe for politicians with the spine, the vision and the respect of their electorate to introduce into the public debate. And while denticare, pharmacare and visioncare are all legitimate and worthy of inclusion in public budget calculations. So too is the virtue, morally and ethically, as well as economically, of elevating the need to address the concept of prevention, in some many of our social and economic policies, not to mention our global address of global warming and climate change.

A cultural mind-set that feeds on an obsessive and insatiable appetite for “crisis” in our movies and television dramas, in our obsession with weapons, in our obsession with hot “news” stories that generate ratings and readings, in our obsession with athletic violence and the concomitant life-threatening injuries (e.g. concussions in football, hockey, soccer, and the interminable injuries and deaths from excessive speed in a variety of motor sports)

The "driver" archetype, as the Type A executive, is not only a threat to his own well-being; he is also a threat to millions of those who consider his "model" one to emulate. And he is closely aligned to the "risk-takers" who underscore and reinforce the stereotypical definition of masculinity as "macho" and intense, and intensely in the moment, at the price of the long-range, more reflective and yet sill male model whose sensibilities moderate their own "king" dreams to include and to revere a closer connection to the ground, the earth, nature and vulnerability, as opposed to invincibility. And in their decision-making process, the underlying premises that those who are risk-resistant are weak, effeminate, and less worthy than those men who will throw themselves into the "melee" that is the current organizational crisis.
Unfortunately, Winston Churchill is a war hero, whose leadership, and incarnation of masculinity, while relevant and appropriate to war, and serious emergencies, is not a model to be emulated in the flow of the  ordinary rhythms of markets, and organizational peaks and valleys, as well as family tensions in which they insert themselves inappropriately.

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