Wednesday, January 29, 2020

#47 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #15)

Benjamin Ferencz was the chief prosecutor at a special Nuremberg trial for Nazi’s who murdered one million Jews outside the gas chambers, mainly women and children on the beaches. A Romanian Jew, refugee, who with his parents travelled in fourth class, “because there was no lower class” on an open crowded deck. In a documentary aired last night on the Documentary channel, we learned of his biography. Raised by his grandmother, following the divorce of his parents, he was  rejected from elementary school because he could not speak English, and then he failed to pass French and Algebra so he frequented French movies to learn the language only to mock his “Parisien, romantic accent” in this bio, When the teacher’s observed to him and his parents that he was “gifted,” they knew nothing about the meaning of that word… “There were no gifts!”. His acceptance at Harvard following his graduation from City College in New York put him among a totally foreign culture of “aristocrats wearing loafers without socks and canoeing on the Charles River.”

His monumental intellect nevertheless attracted others who immediately following the Second War, were engaged in the trials of Nazi war prisoners at Nuremberg. Assigned to dig up evidence, Ferencz found a trove of documentation that implicated many officers in the recorded deaths of a million Jews, for which no trial had been planned or organized. When he approached his superior about the evidence, he was told that the twelve cases that had been planned, along with their assigned legal counsel, left no resources, or Pentagon approval for another trial. “Would he take it on, in addition to his other duties?” Of course!

And so, at twenty-seven, he began serving as the principal prosecutor in a trial held in a court room in the same building in which the indicted men were housed, in the basement. Wandering through the fields outside Auschwitz, he found bone fragments which he picked up and put in his pocket, perhaps as a reminder of the history in which he was now deeply engaged. When the question of who was going to pay for the maintenance of the many Jewish cemeteries in Germany, following the war, and German lawyers objected to having their government cover the costs, Ferencz pulled out the bones from his pocket and retorted, “Ask them why you should pay? It was you who killed them!

A fierce and undaunted, as well as undauntable beacon of the highest of human hope and endurance and the light of the human spirit, Firencz proudly corrected an early hiring American military officer who commented, “It appears that you are sometimes insubordinate!”

“No Sir, you say that I am sometimes insubordinate. I am always insubordinate!”
Following the trials at Nuremberg, Ferencz advocates for and champions, as he continues to do today, the establishment and the endorsement of all nations to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Signing onto the charter on behalf of the United States, as the last act of his presidency in December 1999, Bill Clinton’s bold decision was set aside by his Republican successor, George W. Bush. Consequently, the United States is no longer an active, committed signatory to the court’s charter. Ferencz held firm to his belief throughout his ninety-plus years that only through submitting human conflict, on all of its many levels, to the process of the law, would/could the world rid itself of war, a commitment to which he has dedicated his life. So his work continues so long as his adopted country and others remain outside the orbit, purview and judicial review of the court.

For these last many pages, the words found here have been focused on the nature of masculinity, given the many challenges, stereotypes, expectations, and even shackles into which masculinity has been framed, in all of the multiple meanings of that word, both in the contemporary culture, and, however, briefly and superficially, in history.

Ben Ferencz, as an individual human being so profoundly engaged in righting the evil exposed by the Third Reich, whose leaders pleaded that the Russians were going to take over Germany, thereby justifying both their following the Fuhrer’s orders, and his interpretation of the Russian bear, represents what might be feasible, even able to be envisioned in the imagination of the least altruistic among the men on the planet. An International Criminal Court, supported, sanctioned and funded by the world community, implies a degree of surrender of the power of each of the signatories.

Submitting raw evidence of the most heinous of human behaviour, performed as part of the actions of a state actor, and then having that evidence judged by a tribunal of impartial judges from various nations, literally and metaphorically shines a bead of light into the darkness that currently envelops geopolitical conflicts, threats of conflict, failures of negotiations, accords and treaties, not to mention the growing storm of oligarchy in too many capitals.

Of course, withdrawing into the confines of a nation’s shell, like the proverbial turtles in nature, as the United States, and several European and Asian nations seem to be doing, exhibits the obverse of everything the International Criminal Court represents.

nationalism (of a highly narcissistic nature),
measuring human “value” in terms of wealth, productivity, military might and corporate/executive profit and billionaires,
zero-sum “games” (that provide existential threats to all of humanity)
the death of truth and responsibility as well as the shame that accompanies those burials
these are just some of the winds that swirl across all the continents on the planet.

And underlying all of these forces, it says here, are anxiety, fear, hubris, competition, power-tripping, and the conventional acceptance of what have come to be called norms. Let’s take a closer look at what the world considers normal, in terms of human history and behaviour.

The ambition to amass personal, familial, communal, regional and national power holds a prominent place in the history of our species.

The curiosity to investigate how to find the “achilles heel” in each of our opponents is considered an astute, imaginative, even brilliant piece of strategy in the pursuit of power.

The development of high degrees of competency, skill, even virtuosity in the exercise of those skills that will provide dominance, equated with survival, in the pursuit of personal satisfaction.

The categorizing of all species, and all intellectual disciplines, including the many divergent sub-classes in all disciplines, as a foundational principle for all academic pursuits in the west.

The categorizing of God, god, deity, as one or more of king, healer, prophet, shaman, or hero as a human way to anthropologize this entity reduces the human stretch, search, reflection on a possibility of all ‘archetypes.’

The categorizing of the deity as male is another restricting, confining and indeed insulting reductionism of any and all deities.

The perspective of invincibility, even verging on the immortal, linked with a denial of death and the reflection of its meaning and purpose in human life.

The resistance to seeking help, collaboration, and to sharing vulnerabilities.

The prioritizing of order above chaos, as a guiding principle, while imitating some of what we call ‘nature’ excludes much more of ‘nature.’

The prioritizing of ‘making a living’ and all things pragmatic, responsible and mature above pursuits of imagination, art, thought, reflection and relationship.

The calculations of accountants, lawyers, doctors, teachers and priests as “expert” when most are inevitably and indisputable “works in progress” and “highly speculative and evolving.

The perspective of short-term transactional thinking, imagining, planning and the strategies and tactics to deliver on stated goals and objectives, at the expense of “connecting the dots” between and among the various human needs.
The pursuit of instant gratification, as opposed to delayed gratification.
Doe the proposition that perhaps the normal and the abnormal would/could well change places in order to provide a more humane, more healthy, and more sustainable cultural ethos?

For the cynic, do not these various “symptoms” of our western culture not approximate, too closely for comfort, the stereotypical notion of what it means, has meant, and in too many situations continues, to define masculinity?

And the exhibition of what has come to be called “hard” power, (even hard wiring is now embedded in our culture, as opposed to software) is so endemically and inextricably embedded in our culture as to be reasonably and legitimately considered counter-intuitive, counter-productive, and self-sabotaging, not only of millions of individuals in their private lives, but also in the wider, broader and deeper implications for the survival of the planet.

It can be argued that many men are “hardwired” as solo flyers. Firencz, while a firebrand prosecutor, investigator, seeker of justice, both for the Jewish people, and ultimately for all of mankind, is also both mirror and lamp for the people on the planet. Found as a valuable resource in the middle of an epic and heinous human catasprophe, Firencz found his “place” as one of the more significant symbols of human pain and its profound and transformational impact on a human life.

This is not a hymn only to the Jewish people, and to Firencz as their prosecutor. It is also a challenge to each and every male currently within reach of these words, including the scribe, to examine critically how we reflect on our gender, how we exemplify our anxieties as power-over others, how we eliminate those unique dreams and aspirations which others find “unacceptable” for whatever fears and anxieties they are projecting onto us. We can also reflect on how we have especially neglected to acknowledge, identify, and address those simple and often superficial personal fears of embarrassment, rejection, alienation, and even abandonment by our peers, should we express our truth.

It is the manner of owning and expressing our insubordination that merits much more scrutiny, reflection and incorporation into our thinking, our habits of thought and especially our habits of “fitting” into the prevailing culture.

Currently, several nations are busily engaged in evacuating national from Wuhan in China, given the jet-stream of infections, deaths and fears that have overtaken millions. Canada, on the other hand, at this writing, is still deeply engaged, from the public evidence, in the bafflegab of circumlocution between and among its various political leaders, including the Prime Minister. For me, thinking from the perspective of one Canadian father, husband, living in Wuhan, with a wife who is three-months pregnant, and unable even to get to the local hospital for care, whether in an emergency or not, I am both embarrassed and ashamed of our country’s impotence.

In fact, evidence of masculine impotence, and its many faces, varieties, expressions and implications, holds much of the planet in its grip. However, to rush into any form of instant dominance, as an attempt to disprove and to disavow, and to dispel any notion of impotence, is both dangerous and potentially suicidal. We need to drink deeply from stories like that Firencz, not merely to find the strength, energy and nuclear power to combat our enemies in the flesh. We need to begin to consider how many of the real enemies are “within” our selves.

And while slaying the dragon has been a protypical archetype of masculine history and culture, is it not past time for men to let go of our tight-fisted clinging to the reins (and the reigns) of all forms of power, not mere to let others grow into their own fullness, but to release us from the enslavement to our own hubris?

The fire of conviction that burned in the belly of Firencz can also be found in the bellies of most men, given the appropriate, challenging, supportive and affirming ethos. And such conviction can be focused not only on a world criminal court, but on the many challenges facing men, in our relationships, in our vocations, in our conduct of leadership and in our pursuit of our most creative, and insubordinate selves.
Slavery, that noxious, heinous legacy of blacks in America, has many faces. And the millions of blacks who have been leading, and suffering in pursuit of the full freedom and uncoupling the links of their enslaving traps, many of them still ensnaring too many communities like Baltimore, because of the neurosis of too many people (mostly men) currently and historically holding positions of power, are beacons of hope, if we can see them in that light, for the millions of both men and women of all colours, races, religions and ethnicities, still struggling to be free.

As holders of the positions of power, and as manipulators of the levers of power in many cultures, and still  in most sectors, as well as in most nations, men have to take off our blinders to our own complicity in a culture that prefers to strangle and to limit and to control and to profit from its voiceless.

Can and will we?

Monday, January 27, 2020

#46 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #14)

Re-reading Robert Bly’s “Iron John,” I am struck by the breadth of references, the variety of his poetry and the linear processes of his detailed mirror/lamp on the life of a man.

The notion of the wound, ‘the axe,’ thrown (perhaps) by the father of the young man at the young man’s chest, the initiation rituals in many native tribes conducted by the older men, and now missing from the lives of North American young men and the sequence of red black and white have all stuck in memory.

Innocence, symbolized by the colour ‘white’ followed by the “wild” symbolized by the colour ‘red’ and finally the mature, more balanced, settled and calm ‘black’….indicate what Bly terms progression through which all young men pass. And, more than mere passage, a young man who ‘remains’ white, without exercising his wild man, according to Bly, will not emerge into the ‘black’. Asking myself, ‘what does it mean to be stuck in the ‘white’?

Well, for one thing, the blandness, the lack of guile, the earnestness and the pursuit of only the purest of motives through the most naïve, obvious and direct passages. What strikes me about this “white” stage, is that one of the dangers is that is can serve as a cover for some really traumatic, and yet still buried experiences. The ‘highroad’ of being stuck in one’s head, for example, seems appropriate as a sign of the ‘white’ stuckness. I did not know, for several decades, that I was so deeply impacted by that momentary incident in which I took the .22 from my father’s hands, just as he was pointing it at his head, at 3.00 a.m. sometime late in 1953. Even after studying “death and dying” and interviewing family members of men who had taken their own lives, I was still somewhat immune from and detached from my own trauma. And even after assignment to a parish in which the clergy had also taken his life, and participating in some grief “work” among the parishioners, some two years after the traumatic incident, and writing a thesis entitled, Death and Resurrection in that parish, I was still holding tight, literally and metaphorically, to my own trauma, busily beavering through the reading and writing of that project.

Preserving family secrets was a deeply held and practiced pattern I had learned to adopt, in order to preserve the family ‘name’ and ‘reputation’ as well as not to  inflame a maternal parent whose wrath, a projected self-loathing, had already taken a toll both physically and verbally/emotionally. If I could not bring myself to talk about my own situation, how could I possibly even consider exposing the underlying friction, tension, and outright warfare that apparently raged in our family home? Covering, withholding, keeping sealed lips in order to “keep that stiff upper lip” and cling to the privacy and the false security it offered, is, it would seem, not the same as being ‘white’ in the Bly sense of the concept.

However, appearing ‘white’ also has its dangers, threats and implications…especially among those who consider it an unfounded, unjustified, and even affected, ostentatious, pretentious and unnatural mask. Such a mask, legitimately identified by the innate sensors in others who, themselves, have already shed their innocence and demand it of others, can and will only engender negative feelings, encounters and especially derisive judgements, even among adults. So covering up one kind of personal shame can and does often evoke ridicule, and a different kind of shame from one’s peers. Phrases like “holier than thou” and “saint,” and “self-righteous” are hurled around in what amounts to verbal and psychological warfare. Politics among the practitioners is especially noted for this kind of “attack” given the pursuit of authenticity in political candidates. (As if such pursuit were achievable except possibly to a minor degree, given the human condition and the size of the stakes in all political contests!)

The development of the proverbial mask, (Jung’s Shadow) is not a momentary finite, discreet event. It takes years to develop, and with each trauma, each wound, the metaphoric ‘sack’ of memories/experiences  that were too painful to tolerate and deal with (come to terms with, explore the fullness of their meaning, their impact and lasting imprint on our lives) at the time of their occurrence, only fills up…sometimes even to overflowing. As that pattern continues, so do the skills that led to the initial ‘cover-up’ and the confidence in the deployment of those skills also grows. In the fifties and sixties, very few of our peers were talking about the private ethos of their families, unless and until some public tragedy struck. Even in small towns, where the cliché is that everyone knows everyone else’s business, at least in our little town, we were not privy to family stories, unless and until they became public gossip and avoidance of gossip seemed to be a prevalent modus operandi for most adolescents.

Public perceptions depended on public performance. And public performance was supposed to engender more highly successful, highly reputable, and highly valued examples in our little town. A university graduation, a commissioning in the military, certification as a specialist in surgery, or holding a public office like Crown Attorney, Mayor, Member of Parliament….these were among the rubrics of social status, value and honour. Ontario Scholars, inaugurated in the 1950’s awarded bursaries to high school graduates with graduating average marks over 75%, and their names were printed in the local paper, as were the names of those who tried pianoforte examinations with the Royal Conservatory of Toronto. Similarly, students who competed in music festivals, after achieving some award, saw their names appear in the local paper. The local club champion at the golf club was often pictured, as were the winning rinks from the local curling club. Even the numbers in an audience of the local theatre group were recorded by the local paper under a headline of the current play’s title.

Performance was noted, for example, in hockey playoffs, when the local team went to the provincial championship; similarly, those ‘senior’ boys basketball players proficient at putting the ball through the hoop, were noticed, recognized and admired by the juniors, sophomores and freshmen.

People whose wealth equated with their unique address, were also more visible, noteable and potentially noteworthy, and everyone in town knew specifically their names and their home location. If the local court was hearing a murder case, which had been taken to the Supreme Court of Canada, for example, the local defence attorney’s name, background along with a summary of the case, was even printed (once in my memory) in Time magazine.

Performance, whether through grades in school, trophies in athletics, size and address of residence, comprised the large component of the town’s news. Never considered a two-edged sword by the town leaders, this was what today we would consider basically “good for business”…and for recognition of the local people by their public newspaper.

The dark side of the town, the occasional case of public intoxication, petty theft, break and enter (there were many summer cottages in the area), and the occasional traffic accident, especially on the provincial highway in summer, along with the name and location of the local bootlegger were subjects heard only in small and relatively private conversation groups. Occasionally, someone would emerge as having left town, unexpectedly with a new partner, and the tongues would wag. Occasionally, too, a young woman, unmarried and pregnant, would be said to have ‘moved away’ to have the child,

Shame, in the lives of ordinary people, was not a subject for public consumption, outside the gossip circles. Suicides, for example, while most people in town knew when they occurred and the name of the victim, were never recorded in the public press. Family violence itself remained secretly closeted behind the front and back doors of most families and its shame was covered by both avoidance and denial.

Growing up in this climate, and talking with classmates all these decades later, I have learned that much more was known and clearly suspected of the dark side, even of my own family than I had imagined previously. So, not only was I deeply and earnestly engaged in my own ‘cover-up’ of the family secrets, and my own Shadow, I was totally unaware of the degree of penetration of our family story into the ears of classmates. “Who know what when,” as the proverbial question goes, remains a mystery, the depths of which I have only recently begun to plumb.

The kind of “raised shoulders” and “head-fixation” and feverish determination to perform, (whether at the keyboard, on exams, in the workplace, and even among the social and cultural events) were my personal “make-up” for nearly half a century. Not only did I wear that mask, putting it on daily, even hourly, in public and in private in my own home, more tragically, I was totally unaware of what I was doing.
I taught the lessons on the curriculum; I wrote and recorded the editorials on radio, I wrote and submitted columns to the local weekly. I briefly conducted the Rotary Songsters, coached those many basketball teams, and sold those suits, as well as all of Canada Packers’ products, and all those cases of beer, as a full-time and part-time worker. Later, I wrote those ads, brochures, newsletters, calendars and designed, with the graphic artist’s help, those posters dedicated to enhancing recruitment of college kids.

Sadly, I became a highly proficient production machine; busily engaged in pursuit of additional affirmation, really confirmation, that I was OK. Pursuing applause from others, however, is a self-defeating, self-sabotaging, self-demeaning, and self-eroding fixation, if not an addiction. Leaving to others to assess my worth, having been deprived of that in my family of origin, only prolonged the transition from ‘white’ to ‘red’ when I found, having turned to a different vocation, that the context in which I was asked (required, expected and even designated) to “perform” was so reprehensible as to be, from my perspective at least, intolerable.

There could be volumes written (at this keypad) about the complicity of the Christian church in the blocked evolutionary development of its clergy, and even more tragically, its laity, in all aspects of their lives. Maintaining a public “face” of perfection, in the light of the human condition, including our universal vulnerabilities, weaknesses, and deviations from social norms, especially while paradoxically preaching “forgiveness” and “love” and “hope” and “acceptance” is simply unsustainable. And defining human weakness as “sin” in desperate need of reformation, only magnifies the perverse magnetism and attractiveness of those weaknesses, and renders all people (except those in power) subject to the taser of condemnation, alienation, ostracism and self-righteous contempt especially if our defaults bring public scorn to the hierarchy.

The “red” wildness of young (and sometimes not so young) men is categorically unacceptable inside the church, and even some clergy, as recently as the beginning of this century, were advocating publicly the now-unlawful view that homosexuality was to be “cured” by treatment programs, under the guidance of the church. Even yesterday, a potential candidate for the Conservative Party leadership in Canada is telling anyone who is listening that homosexuality is a human choice, not a biological condition.

In the church, I witnessed the imposition of unjustified and unsupportable requirements of obedience, loyalty and duty to the institution, including to the power and the rulings of older men so needy and insecure that they deferred, without question, to the wave of feminism that categorizes all women as victims of men, in cases of complaints, and then enforces a zero-tolerance policy without due process and a full investigation. Rendering women as unequal to men, in all cases, without deeply and thoroughly exploring the finer details of each situation, can and does only dig deeper the hole of inequity that is premised on the mis-guided notion that history (all men) has maligned women, intentionally, deliberately and purposefully.

For many pages, in this space, I have been arguing that while history has been written, and to a large extent, conducted by men, and a male culture has thereby been imposed on our collective consciousness, (while ignoring our masculine collective and individual unconscious), this dynamic is not to be construed as  malicious or criminal and exclusively rendered a female interpretation. Men, all men in the west, have to acknowledge that we have played a part in the inequity experienced by women, indeed most women. However, we have not imposed this culture from a malicious and certainly not a criminal motive as some would have it. Furthermore, women, as is the case in many families, have considerably more power and influence than their male partners. Much of that imbalance in power and influence in families, unfortunately, ensues from the silence, the passive aggression and the avoidance of confrontation on the part of too many men.

Similarly, in too many organizations where men hold executive power, and where they see, hear and confront angry women berating them and the organizations the lead, too many men have defaulted, in fact surrendered, to the wave of political activism that is both legitimate and often inordinate on the part of women.

Men have to step up to the plate, without fear of being “out-duelled” by our female partners, and women, for their part have to acknowledge that the ‘war of the genders’ hurts both, and leaves both disempowered in the long run. Not through more “performance” (as combatants, victors, and deniers) but through our real acceptance of all of our worts, gaps and vulnerabiliites, shared in humility and authenticity can and will we (men) meet, greet and open to the many gifts awaiting such a shared conversation and dialogue between gender equals.

And the church would be a very appropriate place for the imbalance in both perspective and practice to be first acknowledged and then addressed.

Masculinity, like that of the trump-cult, only exacerbates the war between the genders, and the Republican Senators reinforce their own anti-deluvian attitudes by supporting his lying case. All men are being seriously damaged by the current debacle playing out in the U.S. Senate…but it is not the first such debacle, nor will it be the last.

The gift will not only be appreciated by our female partners, co-workers and colleagues; it will also bring us to Bly’s “black” state in which our confidence, without hubris, and our grace without dilletantism, and our strength without tyranny will find their proper place and execution. That inner warrior, not dependent on the applause of others any longer, can finally find its voice and reduce our dependence on hard power of all varieties.

Monday, January 20, 2020

#45 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #13)

Let's try to peel the onion of how archetypes might shed light on our wounds.

James Hillman writes these words about our complexes:
Our complexes are not only wounds that hurt and mouths that tell our myths but also eyes that see what the normal and healthy parts cannot vision. Andre Gide said that illness opens doors to a reality which remains closed to the health point of view. One understands what he meant about the psychological acuity and richness of culture during periods of historical decay; but why is the same phenomenon of psychological depth in period of personal decay—ageing, neurosis, depression—not recognized with the same respect?
The soul sees by means of affliction. Those who are most dependent upon the imagination for their work—poets, painters, fantasts—have not wanted their pathologizing degraded into the “unconscious” and subjected to clinical literalism. (“The unconscious,” and submitting the pathologized imagination to therapy, found favor with less imaginative professions: nurses, educationalists, clinical psychologists, social workers.) The crazy artist, the daft poet and mad professor are neither romantic clichés nor antibourgeois postures. They are metaphors for the intimate relation between pathologizing and imagination. Pathologizing processes are a source of imaginative work, and the work provides a contained for the pathologizing process.
The wound and the eye are one and the same. From the psyche’s viewpoint, pathology and insight are not opposite—as if we hurt because we have not insight and when we gain insight we shall no longer hurt. No. Pathologizing is itself a way of seeing: the eye of the complex gives the particular twist called “psychological insight.” We become psychologists because we see from the psychological viewpoint, which means by benefit of our complexes and their pathologizings.
Normal psychology insists that this twisted insight is pathological. But let us bear in mind that normal psychology does not admit pathologizing unless dressed in its patient’s uniform. It has a special house called abnormal. And let us also bear in mind that the ego’s normative view of the psyche is a cramped distortion. If we studied soul through art, biography, myth; or through the history of ways, politics and dynasties, social behaviour and religious controversy; then normal and abnormal might have to switch houses. But normal academic psychology eschews these fields and compiles its statistics so often from undergraduates who have not yet had the chance to experience the range of their madness….
Archetypal psychopathology finds the pathological inherently necessary to the myth: Christ must have his crucifixion; Dionysus must be childish and attract titanic enemies; Persephone must be raped: Artemis must kill him who comes too close….
Consciousness today is closer to its pathology. Psychopathology is no longer held behind asylum walls. The sickness fantasy is now so dominate that one sees disintegration, pollution, insanities, cancerous growth, and decay wherever one looks. Pathology has entered our speech and we judge our fellow and our society in terms once reserved for psychiatric diagnoses. And the ego falls apart….The soul moves, via the pathologized fantasy of disintegration, out of too-centralized and muscle-bound structures which have become ordinary and normal, and so normative that they no longer correspond with the psyche’s needs for nonego imagination realities which “perturb to excess.”(James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, Harper, New York, 1976, p.106-7-8-9)

Undoubtedly all of us experience something we would call disintegration.
Each of us too have experienced the overflow of what were formerly psychiatric diagnoses thrown around like “bullets” in conversations, character defamations and character assessments by people who have neither the credentials nor the right to do so. In too many psychiatrists’ offices, too, glib and flippant names are stuck like “sticky-memo’s” on the foreheads of patients, without so much as a complete biographical history being undertaken.

Feeling the impingement of potentially degrading pathologizing into the unconscious in the manner of those “less imaginative professions,” I am trying to embrace a more expansive, imaginative and mythical “eye” and “wound”…without continuing to be ensnared in the conventional, social, political framework. There is something both challenging and freeing in the exploration of multiple images as potential hints at what might be going on in my own ‘wound’.

The implications of refusing to “begin” with the prospect of either “sickness” or “evil” in what conventional psychology considers to be the two exclusive categories of abnormal behaviour, visions, and depictions are both freeing and, of course, profoundly unsettling for many. Overturning norms, normative assumptions and the detailed and complex manner by which those norms have become accepted (normalized, sanctioned and rewarded)  in our hospitals, our courts, our educational institutions, and our social agencies, poses a picture of reduced power over individuals by the professionals, and challenge to the perspective that informs and undergirds many of our educational curricula, social norms, justice-system practices and rules.
Elevating the poet, the artist, the ‘daft’ professor from the trash bin of ostracisism, to the lighthouse on the shore of our shared dark nights of the soul is just one of the many potential benefits of a new perspective.

Nevertheless, even a private exploration of some of these themes, begins to offer connections between the rich, deep, and cross-cultural mythologies that comprise the foundation of our literature and our art, and our much more complex beings that many reductionists would prefer.

Considering the spice of a Saturn, or an Eros, or a Dionysus mixing with the cocktail shaker of one’s life, seems, at least to this scribe, to be far more enlightening and accepting, tolerant and enriching than a simple “depressed” and in need of a pill. Individual human perception of the complexity, the sensibilities, the sensitivities, the patterns of the gods that just might be playing out in lives thousands of years after their original imaginative conceptualization, is not only a fresh perspective of how we might see ourselves but also potential universal link to all of humanity.

Individual complexity, diversity, ethnicity, language, it seems reasonable, extends far beyond the confines of an ideology, a religions dogma, a politically “incorrect” judgement, and perhaps also a “criminal intent” as the starting point for all law enforcement. Reducing a cancerous tumour, for example, to a diseased piece of matter in need of excision, too, precludes what that tumour might/could/would say if we were willing and able to “listen” to its deep and profound anguish.

While it is inappropriate to project any specific “wound” onto a group of people, there is enough evidence around us to speculate that many men in North America seem to walk around in a state of self-perceived and believed “unworthiness”. There are a zillion potential reasons for such a cultural wave. Proving one’s self, in, the eyes of a parent, teacher, coach, professor, boss, (not to mention God) is an integral component of how men operate. Competition with other men, as an part of this path only fuels the fire to do even better, more, more skillfully, more efficiently, more fluently, and in a more disciplined way. The conventional arguments supporting this cliché abound: higher marks, more degrees, higher income, higher status, social approbation and even adulation. Classical conditioning taken to its logical conclusion: extrinsic rewards will motivate all competitors….

Except that the research is not unequivocal about that assumption. Long past the Maslow hierarchy, many men are coming to realize that our relationships, our sense of being valued and respected, our capacity to father, and to husband, to create and to imagine are at least as important as those medals, trophies, bonuses and stock options and corner offices. Evidence suggests too that, in an environment  in which the corporate culture continues to depend almost exclusively on those extrinsic rewards, the creeping toxins of greed, excessive ambition, personal demonization of competitors have a greater tendency to influence events.

Just this week, we have learned, for example, that Boeing’s business model on the debacle known as the 737 Max 8 jet, two of which have crashed, relied on greed, and omitted the requisite critical examination, evaluation, inspections, caution and extended time. Nevertheless, the CEO, after being relieved of his post, left with a reported $62 million severance package. The other real danger, according to some reports is that no one will ever be held accountable for the multiple tragedies, loss of life and serious and warranted hit to Boeing’s stock and reputation.

There is another side to the “unworthiness” syndrome: and that takes the shape of over-confidence, super-human perceptions, beliefs and risks (that no one will find out about). Hercules still lives apparently at Boeing. Hillman writes:

"(I)t is also possible to insight the ego and ego psychology, by reverting it to the heroic myths of Hercules with whose strength and mission we have become so caught that the patterns of Hercules--clubbing animals, refusing the feminine, fighting old age and death, being plagued by Mom but marrying her younger edition--are only now beginning to be recognized as pathology." (Hillman, op. cit. p.102)

Are we to be under any delusion that there will be a transforming tidal wave of psychological insight flowing in the upper power-and-wealth echelons of a culture in which 2100 billionaires own more than 60% of the world’s wealth (according to CNN’s GPS with Fareed Zakaria) or in the U.S. where a mere 4 families own more than 40% of the wealth in that country? No.

In fact, the Hercules myth has such a hold on the culture, especially in the last decade, that it is becoming engraved in the political and corporate mind-set.
What might be feasible is for more of us to begin to reconsider how we see ourselves, and how we see others, especially when we are suffering deep and profound anguish. Rather than link it exclusively to a single piece of behaviour, (our own or another’s) and then sliding into a pattern of denial, avoidance, and self-loathing, we might consider reflecting on the myth, and/or the god, or the hero or heroine whose story might be finding another iteration in our life.

Whether we are trying too hard, flying too close to the sun (and melting the wax that holds our “wings” together, or whether we are desperate for love, or experiencing something like hysteria, or impulsiveness, we are likely to be treading on paths previously trod by mythical figures whose stories might just shed some light on the situation.

And, just as importantly, if and when we witness what we might have considered bizarre behaviour, or a piece of incomprehensible art, we might reject our previously “impulsive” judgement of both the behaviour and the person behind it as “sick.” Instead, we might try to think/look/reflect/inquire/speculate as to what “story” is being enacted before our eyes, ears, and our unique and mythic perspective.

I’m just saying!!!!..........

Friday, January 17, 2020

#44 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #12)

I have often wondered why it is that men love to watch movies exploring the inner space of the imagination, and the outer space of that same dimension (given that the imagination is the root of both) and yet shy away from disclosing the outer reaches of our inner space. Ghoulish figures, monsters, dragons, skeletons, putrifaction pulverizing and dissolution are all characters and processes of the latest in visual effects. The technology, in fact, has so advanced as to be able to render any and all potentially imaginative characters in the most “dramatic” and memorable fashion.

The efforts to keep wired and turned “on” the electrified fence separating these movies from the inner space of one’s sense of self, however, while seeming heroic in a politically correct, tight-assed, buttoned-down, ‘preppy’ and hermaphroditically sealed culture aiming at the perfection of all personal performances, are, to be blunt, soul destroying. Repression, denial, avoidance, and the reduction of all things “psychopathological” as “dangerous” and “outside the realm of normality” is a kind of involuntary critical parenting that is not only not necessary, but also debilitating.
James Hillman, in Revisioning Psychology, writes these words:

Ideals and norms provide means for seeing pathologizing but they are not to be taken as means for measuring pathologizing. From the psychological viewpoint neither the statistical norm nor the ideal norm can offer the least relevance regarding the inherent value of a pathologized fantasy or experience. My nightmares, compulsions, anxieties may be essential to my work, life-style, and my relations with others. Norms are perceptual modes for seeing contrasts; they are staining methods which help un notice deviations more sharply. By realizing how strongly pathologizing an event is, we more immediately8 sense its importance. But the psychological worth of what is going on is stated not by the norm or the deviation, but by the affliction itself. It reports its own interior significance in its accompanying fantasy-images.

Pathologizing this afflicts the very fantasy of norms themselves, the idea that there are objective standards, bench marks for the soul, its fantasy, its madness, its fate. When a therapist insists that no two cases are alike, (s)he means this not merely in the details of its accidents but in the profound sense that human being is essentially “differing” being, and that individuality is given with the particular mix of soul, the complexity of its composition. Therefore, when Jung defines individuation as a ‘process of differentiation’ and differentiation as ‘the development of differences, the separation of parts from the whole,’ it means realizing our differences from every other person.
But it also means our internal differences deriving from our internal multiple persons.

Therefore, an individual cannot provide a norm even for himself. The many persons which play their parts through an individual have differing paths to follow, different moments of rise and decay, different Gods to obey….The falling apart of the individual at death, the dissolution of his complexity, which the Buddha taught in his last cautionary enigma-‘Decay is inherent in all composite things. Work on your salvation with diligence’- points to the absolute non-normality of each individual person. If the fundamental principle of psychological life is differentiation, then no single perspective can embrace psychological life. A standard for one figure may be pathology for another, and pathology for one part may be normal from another perspective within the same individual.  (James Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, Harper, New York, 1975, p.87-88)

Try to juxtapose this notion alongside of the concept of the monstrous industrial, normalizing “machine” of the norms imposed, expected and heavily sanctioned by the state. There is a significant difference worthy of exploration between the “hard-wiring” (so called) of the individual (dubious at best) and the hard-wiring of the state. Normalizing, for the purpose of achieving something called “state and private protection” (really an aphorism for state control) within a narrow, highly starched, even fossilized set of norms, and then monitoring the compliance (or not) of millions of people may seem like a technological phenomenon worthy of man’s highest aspirations and ideals. It is, also, and perhaps paradoxically, a highly dangerous machine in the hands, and the internal compulsions of the state.

The dedicated purpose of achieving power, no matter how benign its design, implies a kind of inferential proposition that power is inherently “good” and its absence is inherently “evil”. Narrowing the definition of the human being into a straight-jacket that ‘fits’ neatly into a set of publicly acclaimed and rewarded attitudes, behaviours, beliefs and actions is a path to ironing out all the creases of who we are, differently from everyone else. And then, diving deeply into a theatrical world of grotesque images, and conflicts between good and evil, as a way of releasing our anxieties, while temporarily escaping the vicissitudes of hose anxieties, is a prescription for doing the same thing over and over, while expecting different results.

We have all lived through a thousand moments, many of them having been forgotten, while a few have the potential (although not easily accessed) of offering new insights in which can reveal the ‘information of the universe,’ the “groundwork and hierarchies of the imagination on archetypal principles. The ordering rubrics that provided that categories were mainly planetary Gods and themes from classical myths.” (Hillman, op. cit. p.92)

Those pathologized memories, events indelibly and retrievably embedded in our memory, are what Hillman calls, “true soul movers” since “if a soul is to be truly moved, a tortured psychology is necessary.” (Ibid, p. 92)
“Soul-moving” memories, such moments as an untimely death, a suicide, a birth, a divorce, a firing, an abandonment, a serious accident comprise the kind of experience that everyone of us can experience on any day in our lives. And once having gone through one or more, we are inevitably much more awakened to their potential for our lives. For many (if not most) of us, events pass “through” us much as our food passes through us, so “in our heads and minds” are we that we do not pause, (perhaps cannot) and let the event continue to reverberate, resonate, vibrate and engrave the fullness of its image on our soul. Task-focused men are especially likely to sideline such moments, both given their potential for bending us at our knees, and for opening the tear-ducts of our eyes, both of which possibilities are not “appropriate” at the moment.

The knee-jerk response of many males, as leaders of organizations in which trauma has occurred is to “find a “Churchill” to get the organization and the people to “move on” and to take their grief, or trauma “home” where it will not impede the “getting on with it” by the organization.” This is especially counter-intuitive in an ecclesial organization, where inevitably trauma occurs rather frequently, and, to this scribe, unsurprisingly. Considering grief, for example, even the most dramatic and public display of its depth, as counter-intuitive to the “smooth running” of the corporation, and thus justifying its removal from the scene of a profound tragedy, is not merely expressing a conventional, and even normative “fear” that such emotions threaten the stability of the organization and its capacity to “weather the current storm.” And in an organization, the church, supposedly dedicated to the spiritual, psychological and social development of the individuals under its roof, and dedicated to the principle of embracing and comforting the “suffering” and to upset the comfortable, histories in which that aspirational goal has been thwarted have deeply impacted those present.

In fact, the intersection of social, cultural norms, whereby private trauma is deliberately and dismissively ostracized from the public arena, as is the case still with suicide in North America, (both Canada and the U.S.) is a case in point in which the normalizing of repression, invalidation, and effectively denial of both the empirical reality and the emotional impact, is a theme in which we all, consciously or unconsciously, participate. Untimely death, at one’s own hands, is a public issue and a private reality at different ends of the numerical continuum. We are willing to talk about its depressing numbers of incidents, and to focus on the age demographics, or the indigenous demographics, without really facing the individual lives of desperation faced by those whose lives we mourn.

Of course, each incident leaves deep and profound remorse, and even deeper shame and guilt among those still living. “What could I have done to prevent this?” is the question each engaged person asks. The culture, on the other hand, picks up its morning coffee, shakes its head, and utters something like, “It’s so sad!” as it walks out the door of the coffee shop. And yet, if we are going to begin to acknowledge the “monsters” in our own imaginations, we will need to acknowledge that there are ‘monsters’ in each of our imaginations.

Trying to imagine the deep and profound depression, anxiety, fear and potential shame that prompted a father of a classmate, my childhood pharmacist, a young male church member, an elderly and highly respected widower, a former Ontario Premier who had suffered a debilitating stroke, a brilliant heart surgeon, a distraught clergy, a highly sensitive, creative wannabee-writer, and my grandfather, all of whom either committed or attempted suicide in my lifetime is an impossible task. Sadly, there is a known and unforgettable name on each of the faces of those lives with which I am familiar. Imagine how many others, each of them known to someone, and to some community, whose lives were ended by their own hands, or who attempted to end their lives. However, not to bring their lives, their memories and their desperation back to life, as a canary in the coal-mine of our own culture and time, is and would be an omission of a full acknowledgement our cultural DNA.

Our cultural dismissal as “something wrong with each of them” is no longer palatable, thankfully. However, our openness to our own vulnerabilities, fears, anxieties, and the imaginations that create our most treasured poems, films, plays are also inhabiting our own memories. And we are each, potentially, alchemists, with our own fire, and sulphur and salt and lead, as symbols of our bitterness, and metaphoric combustion. We can burn both the chemicals and those “infections” still inhabiting our soul in our own alchemy, if Hillman is to be believed.

Nevertheless, the especially masculine filing of the imagination, the deep imprints of traumatic memory, and all things that disclose and even hint at weakness, an integral part of our complexity, under “for a later date” is a penchant that cannot be allowed to be deemed part of our permanent hard-wiring. Nor can we revert to the medication of some prescribed (or not) drug or potion, as our pathway through the underground tunnel of our unconscious as our key to its discovery.

If each of those men were depressed, and who would argue that they were not, and we continue to see depression as the great evil, Hillman posits a reasonable, if complicating explication of how the “christian” culture came to this point….

“Because Christ resurrects, moments of despair, darkening, 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 wholly8 new day better by far than before. Not only will therapy more or less consciously imitate this program (in ways ranging from hopeful positive counseling to electroshock), but the individual’s consciousness is already allegorized by the Christian myth and so he knows what depression is and experiencers 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….
Yet through depression we enter depths and in depths find soul. Depression is essential to the tragic sense of life. It moistens that dry soul, and dries the aet. 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 till it turns, nor theologizing it—but discovering the consciousness and depths it wants. So begins the revolution in behalf of soul.” (Hillman, op. cit. p.98-99)

Saturday, January 11, 2020

#43 Men, agents of and pathway to cultural metanoia (Masculine cultural DNA #11)

Jesuit John Powell wrote a little book entitled “Why I don’t tell you who I am” in which he explained that “that’s all I have and you might reject me”….Protection of our deepest most private self is hardly unexpected in a world of cruelty, meanness, flaunted and faux superiority and masculine bravado.

Never mind that there are “mean girls”; that is a situation for women to confront. We men have our own meanness, cruelty, bullying, and a stubborn fixation with the archetype that keeps this kind of attitude, behaviour, perception and outright abuse of power alive, and as the evidence indicates, growing.

A sensitive piece in The Atlantic’s most recent edition, tells the world that Joe Biden has struggled with a speech stutter from his youth. Written by another stutterer, John Hendrickson, a senior editor at The Atlantic, the piece tellingly urges the presidential candidate to “say it” that he does indeed suffer from a stutter. Hendrickson, though, is not sure he wants to hear his subject utter those words for his personal benefit, or if he believes Biden would relieve himself of considerable public scorn, anguish, criticism or scepticism.

Holding to the heroic role model of having worked with and overcome his speech impediment, Biden speaks privately with those who suffer from the same difficulty. Asked whether he thinks he would evoke pity from voters if he declared his “truth,” Biden wonders out loud how people could or would have pity for someone as fortunate, almost gilded as his life has been. Naturally, following his viewing of The King’s Speech, the inspirational film about the struggles of King George VI to overcome his own stutter, a neurological condition pertaining mainly to men, Biden noted that he had, without knowing anyone else who did, for years written speeches in a form that separated difficult words on the page with spaces in the copy just as he then learned the King had also done. The same night Biden watched The King’s Speech, he also left a recorded message of remembrance and reconnection on the phone of his speech therapist.

In a series of pieces about denial by men of any mere hint of weakness, vulnerability and the implications of such denial, personal connections to the trope seem relevant. My father suffered from a serious stutter, especially when he was at home, where the emotional, psychological ethos was often highly tense, even threatened by intemperate, unsuspected and mostly disconnected from the current reality emotional explosions from his wife, my mother. At work, where he supervised a staff of a dozen men and women, and gracefully and graciously served customers for over half a century, he speech was flawless, uninterrupted and imbued with integrity and authenticity.

As an adolescent, however, my impatience with his long pauses in his speech provoked what can only have been the most disrespectful and hurtful interjections, filling in his missing words. Only much later, when I learned of another colleague who also suffered from a life-long speech stutter, and who worked with neurologists to produce a device that through experiment proved adequate to the almost complete eradication of the struggle, did I secure the device and offer it to my father, in the hope that it would have the same result for him. The device consisted of a small plastic box containing batteries attached to a wire collar placed around the neck. A simple switch initiated a minor electric current, essentially a ‘shot of warmth’ into the neck when the wearer came upon a word difficult to say. My colleague demonstrated such a strict commitment to proving the value of the device that he read for three hours each night, with the device attached to his neck and his thumb on the button. The experiment was so successful that he then secured a weekly three-hour hosting post on a classical music show on radio station CFRB, then one of Toronto’s most powerful and most listened-to AM radio station. Listeners would never hear a speech pause. My father, having passed his sixty-fifth year when he received the device, was either unable or unwilling to commit fully to its use.

Whether Joe Biden will actually pull the curtain back from his stutter in the middle of his third campaign for the Democratic nomination for the presidency is still a matter for speculation. Having maintained his ‘silence’ (really his secrecy) in the face of a youth when he was dubbed “Stut” and considered by many to be less intelligent than his peers, and especially humiliated by a Catholic nun in speech class, there is reason to doubt his full disclosure. Surely, however, as with the more sensitive and responsible approach to public disclosure and acceptance of autism, Biden’s public accounting would go a long way to his own psychological and emotional relief, as well as to the prospect of public shame for having shamed him (and millions of others) throughout his life.

Shame, inevitably linked to anger, humiliation, and possibly even to revenge, while not exclusive to men, is a prominent experience given our deep and persistent consciousness of how we appear to other men. And there are so many ways by which men “attack” other men for our being different from what is considered ‘normal’ masculinity. Considering many of these ‘attacks’ as a pathway to ‘manhood,’ the kind of manhood that can stand up for itself, will not be pushed around, will not tolerate shaming, insults, taunting or worse,  a black eye, men (and their mothers and fathers) for centuries been engaged in a hot-house that nurtures the weed of revenge, and not the flower of turning the other cheek. And that kind of cultural ‘gardening’ begins with a conception of human beings (or is it mainly men?) as mostly sinful, flawed, imperfect and mostly to be defended against, not primarily accepted, honoured, trusted and respected.

Of course, the church has a giant share of culpability in this regard. In its attempt to cap any hint of arrogance, and to ensure the pre-eminence of humility among “believers” (not to mention the church’s need for control of members), as the sine-qua non of discipleship, and the purity of that obedience to the will of God, it has paradoxically generated centuries of natural, inevitable and uncontrolled and uncontrollable push-back. Physics posits that for every action there is a equal and opposite reaction; human nature suggests that whatever we hate we become. Extreme and absolute anything, is, apparently, according to the universe, the first seedling in generating its precise opposite. If I hate someone or something, I am much more vulnerable to incarnating that very “thing” that I hate.

However, to posit a view of human nature that begins with, and ends with, an expression of love, especially in the current cultural climate, is to flirt with social ostracism. In order to begin with love of another, one has to have an unwavering sense of one’s own person, not as an incarnation of perfection certainly, but as an honourable, trusting and trustworthy being. Quakers speak of the ‘divine light’ being within each person; some Christians speak of the “image of God” within each person;…and yet, our social conventions start with, (and continue long after childhood and adolescence), sanctions, punishments, accusations, judgements and shaming.
We, and men are especially implicated in this dynamic, shame others and then dismiss the shaming as a joke, a dissing, a kind of ‘arming’ the other for the field of battle, the journey of one’s life. As far back as 1854, Henry David Thoreau, in his historic treatise, Walden, wrote these words:

“You who govern public affairs, what need have you to employ punishments?” Love virtue, and the people will be virtuous. The virtues of a superior man are like the wind; the virtues of a common man are like the grass; the grass, While we do not subscribe to the classism and the easy and glib segregation of superior and common man, we, with Rousseau, subscribe, however quixotically and unabashedly to the notion that goodness is more defining of the nature of man, including men, than evil. The true key to all the perplexities of the human condition, Rousseau boldly claims, is the “natural goodness of man.” (From the University of Chicago Press website) Ghandi, too, having read Tolstoy’s “The Kingdom of God in Within You,” in which the ‘love as law of life’ and principles of non-violence base don love for the entire mankind were deeply embedded principles, cured him of scepticism and made him a firm believer in Ahimsa.*

So what is it that drives our (masculine) penchant for power, our volcanic hot pursuit of our enemies? What is it that drives our pursuit of the shame of the other searching, like obsessed gold diggers, for the weakest link ( criminality, unconscious bias, racism, sexism, ageism, homophobia, bigotry, insouciance) of the other? Why are we, like Joe Biden, my father, millions of humans who struggle with any form of physical, emotional, psychic, intellectual or spiritual deformity?

Is it not, in fact, our imperfections that make us real, interesting, diverse, and obviously “unfinished” as fully developed individuals, not to mention as participants in an unfinished, developing culture? Why then are we so obsessed with the illegal, or sick (or both) categorizations of anything and everything that “we” consider to be abnormal?

Is it our collective cultural anxiety about not understanding what we cannot explain? Why, for example, are we fascinated by the new and as yet unexplained discoveries of the human mind, or the revelations of outer space also as yet unexplained, in a scientific perspective, and yet so revolted by the surprising, or the predictable behaviour of those of our human species that emerges from deprivation, depravity, and the slightest or monumental evidence of abuse?

We all know, at least our better angels tell us hourly, that any evidence of violence can be traced back to previous violence, whether it be on the battlefield, or in the bedroom, or in the schoolyard, or in the courtroom. It is our own deep and hidden and buried angst, anxiety, insecurity, failure, shame, crossing of boundaries, whether consciously or not, that causes pain, insult, offence, violence and even debasement of the other.

Having lived and worked in the United States for four years, I noticed a pronounced dependence on private insurance, law enforcement, the military and the power of money as status. The divisions between the ‘have’s’ and the ‘have-not’s’ in each of these four imperatives is a divide wider than the Grand Canyon. And the churches, at least those I observed, remain mute, gagged by the political correctness of their absolute co-dependence on the cheques of those very wealthy patrons whose membership in the establishment guarantees the complicity of the dependent religious hierarchy. Similarly, the political class too, is enmeshed in the same co-dependence with the fat-cats who write their cheques. Just last night, Cory Booker, a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination protested the power of money in the campaigns of specific candidates, while he has committed to accepting money only from private, small, independent donors, rejecting money from PAC’s and from the pharmaceutical companies and environmental polluters.

Taking the high road, it seems, is also the road to elimination. And yet, paradoxically, the world sings the praises of a Ghandi, a Mandela, a Tolstoy, a Thoreau, a Rousseau, a Mother Theresa, without seeming to stop to reflect upon how vengeful, vindictive, judgemental, punitive, racist, homophobic, ageist, sexist we each tend to be (and to express overtly). Hypocrisy, dear reader, is a cocktail to which we are all addicted.
Not practicing what one preaches, lacking the willpower to live up to one’s own ideals and behaving in ways one knows are obviously wrong, are all moral failings. There is perhaps a different reason for our contempt of hypocrisy:

“We contend that the reason people dislike hypocrites is that their outspoken moralizing falsely signals their own virtue. People object, in other words, to the misleading implication---not to a failure of will or a weakness of character.” (The Real Problem with Hypocrisy, by Jillian Jordan, Roseanne Sommers and /David Rand, The New York Times, January 13, 2017, quoting the journal, Psychological Science)

Having railed against disavowed fear, against the unacknowledged Shadow, against the impunity we compliantly permit to those whose attitudes, behaviours and words deeply and permanently harm us, especially those in positions of power whose decisions have rendered us impotent, silent, and irrelevant, it is time to expose the writer’s deep-seated complicity in a masculine culture of social, political, and even religious “going along to get along”…I have failed myself, my family, my students, and my parishioners for having silently and complicitly navigated through clashing rocks and swirling whirlpools of the appeasement of my mother by my father, the appeasement of supervisors to their superiors, the complicity of radio station managers to the demands of advertisers, the religious bigotry of clergy under the guise of the gospel, the manipulation of supervisors who manipulated professional colleagues out of their jobs through deliberately over-loading their workday, the deceit of bishops who refused to face hard truths in their appointments, and failed to implement requisite supports, and who failed to acknowledge their professional incompetence and unprofessional judgements.

I also failed in my responsibilities to my family, when, without knowing how to navigate what I considered irreconcilable differences, I withdrew from their presence. Without the perception of legitimate and achievable options, I made what were unilateral decisions, thereby betraying the people I most cherished, my daughters.
I witnessed firsthand the impact of suicides of men who, starving for both personal and professional supports, took their own lives, in what can only be discerned as a screaming cry for help. And the number of men who continue to take their own lives grows whether through such serious trauma (PTSD), or a combination of trauma and the inevitable social, political, cultural, and even ecclesial neglect. We all have the blood of their deaths on our hands, for our shared, collective, complicit failure to treat the fragility and the innocence and the dignity and the goodness and the love each of us with the care, the commitment and the discipline we all need. And as men, we also continue to prop up a cultural norm of an addiction to power, to abuse, to indifference to weakness, and to the denial of our own vulnerability.

It is a stance that is both unsustainable and self-sabotaging. Just yesterday, I listened as Anthony Scaramucci, a former press relations officer of the president, for 11 days. He expounded on the self-loathing that eats away at the psyche of the current occupant of the Oval Office. Men, especially, have to be supportive of each other in order that more do not fall into the slough of self-hatred. There are so many influences that would have us fall; and there are so few guard-rails protecting us from sliding. Let’s commit to an infrastructure project that builds more of those guard rails.

*Ahimsa: In Jainism, ahimsa is the standard by which all actions are judged. For the ascetic, ahimsa entails the greatest care to prevent the ascetic from knowingly or unknowingly being the cause of injury to any live soul. (Britannica website)