Monday, August 24, 2020

Grumbling at 'the establishment' need not destroy its target

 This morning, I heard a long-time minor hockey coach and executive detail how Hockey Canada, like to many other umbrella organizations, has a prepared bible of how to teach young kids to play hockey. And like so many other umbrella organizations, seeking primarily to avoid potential law suits, has detailed minute instructions even for such physical encounters on the ice of one player about to receive a check into the boards from another. Hunker down, while remaining at right angles to the boards, the recipient will take the impact of the ‘hit’ on the right or left shoulder, driving the opposite shoulder into the unforgiving boards. This coach-executive points out that he has discovered and taught a different method: instead of hunkering down and absorbing the impact on one shoulder only to be driven into the boards on the opposite shoulder, the player is to jump off the ice, and absorb the impact while extending his body higher at the level of the “plexiglass’ providing a much higher degree of flexibility than available at the level of the boards, leading to far fewer if any injuries.

But…and here is the but that is haunting so much of our culture: Hockey Canada will not have the “taking a hit” instruction taught in the latter manner, only the former. Any teaching of the less-impactful technique has to be kept within the local coach’s purview, and not disclosed to the upper echelons of the Hockey Canada kingdom.

This “grass-roots” wisdom, based on personal experience, and excluded from the official manual for hockey coaches, has several implications. One is that the locals are reinforced in a prevailing culture of “thumbing their noses” at officialdom; after all, that local instruction is far less likely to provoke injury and the inevitable parental fear, anger and potential suit. The observable conflict undermines the legitimacy and the authority of the ‘higher’ supervising body, without integrating the better method into the universal instruction manual. The resultant “reverse snobbery” from the lower ranks to the higher ranks, like the reverse snobbery that infects millions of poor people towards the affluent, ennobles a kind of perception, attitude and potential belief that can and does lead to some serious negative attitudes.

One such example is the growing spread of an anti-vaccination cult, based largely on mis-information, or perhaps dis-information, based on anecdotal accounts of negative reactions to a few inoculations. Feeding this growing sewer of distortions, dis-information, and outright lies, of course, is the master of deception, the man who has just in the last hour officially been nominated as the official candidate of the Republican Party for the presidency of the United States of America in 2020. Only last night, at a singularly noticeable and yet irrelevant presser, at the White House, trump announced a plasma treatment of a few people suffering with COVID-19, as if it were the silver bullet he has been promising for months. Not only has the treatment not been through the normal required clinical trials, and not only has it been in use for weeks if not months on severely ill COVIC-19 patients, with limited success, the announcement itself, once again erodes public confidence in the medical fraternity’s legitimacy, authority and ethical superiority among many people. When politicians undermine the medical and the public health authorities, in the middle of a pandemic, for their own narcissistic political ambitions, they not only erode public confidence in any such treatment, but they further erode the trust of the public in those whose rigid diligence to the science, of the disease, and the appropriate treatment options, thereby potentially extending the spread of the virus itself.

Back in another life, we often heard the word “anti-establishmentarianism”…an almost unpronounceable word that then named a kind of thumbing of the nose at the establishment that usually stopped at the attitudinal, without reaching into the behaviour of the persons who deployed the word. Another word that had currency at that time was iconoclast, an image breaker, or a social visionary, who saw through the blind-spots that accompany most long-standing institutions. Back then, there was a refreshing if somewhat irreverent attitude attached to both words, and to the people whose perspective beg their use. While riding a very different, potentially virulent wave of the latest iteration of this iconoclasm, trump’s brain-child, Steve Bannon, openly acknowledges that trump ‘the transformational president intends to eviscerate the political, institutional establishment, commonly referred to by that cult as the “deep state”.

These days, however, far removed from the rather idyllic and na├»ve, flower-child freedom of the seventies, those who belong to a growing cult that despises the “deep state” to the degree that, for them it is inhabited by liberals, Hollywood, the political elite and also, according to the highly virulent, toxic and even life-threatening code of QAnon, these people of the ‘deep state’ are believed to be so vile that they traffic in children, murder children and then drink the blood of those children. Some of the most animated adherents to this “conspiracy theory” have recently been successful in primary elections for the Republican party for Congress. Naturally aligned with those in the anti-vax “cult” they are foreshadowing a looming cloud of the dark side of the American culture that threatens to inject this cancer into the public debate, as if it deserved to be taken seriously.

When Peter Navaro, the president’s wingman on trade, tells the FDA to “get onto trump time” referring to the perceived tardiness of the agency in requiring all COVID-19 treatments go through the trials that ensure both safety and efficacy, he is signing on to the trump-dominating political, and soon-to-be-public perception of distrust of a once respected, ethical, professional and non-partisan institution. And this institution lies at the core of the nation’s mind-heart-and muscle in any initiative to combat a national, and an international pandemic.

The FDA, like the CDC, both highly trusted and respected at home and around the world, as leaders in the field of public health, has held that stature because they both were committed to the strict, rigidly enforced and scientifically-established regime of long standing. And their reputation did not rely on favouritism from either Democratic or Republican administrations, until they were both politicized by the current administration.

That local hockey executive, while proudly honouring the creative insights of locals whose personal consciousness generated ingenuity and a potentially safer way for kids to absorb a hit near the boards, and complaining that the innovation cannot be spread to others, does not have the capacity to undermine a nation’s political structure for his own personal gain. Nor does he seek such influence.

It is the millions of people who have become drunk on the kool-aid that trump is serving, through deception, lies, manipulation, hiring and firing of mob-type sycophants, all the while trumpeting a regime of falsehoods, false and unfulfilled promises, and distortions that increased the spread of a deadly virus and the potential for some 310,000 U.S. deaths by election day, according to at least one model.

That hockey executive has no intention of overturning Canada Hockey, for the purpose of replacing it with his own narcissistic cult. He has no desire to withdraw from minor hockey, a life-time passion, simply because there are some differences between his nuanced teaching techniques, (there may even be at least another half-dozen ways to absorb the impact of a shoulder check into the boards) and the Hockey Canada manual. A difference in opinion based on experience, and a human ambition to find what seems the safest technique to teach, at this time, in this place, will not become a national insurrection, funded by millions of contributions of deluded contributors who believe blindly that their saviour is another human being.

QAnon cultists actually do believe, according to multiple reports, that trump is their saviour who is going to rescue them from the hoards of evil people, including especially Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama (whose birth certificate continues to haunt their ghostly caves).

And when one links the public disclosure by the Republican-controlled National Intelligence Committee of the Senate, that the trump administration sought and accepted assistance from Russian intelligence officer(s?) in order to win the 2016 election, and that the Russians are continuing their dis-information campaign into the 2020 campaign, on behalf of trump, it is not difficult to not that the American political and cultural soil is ripe for the seeding and growth of political malfeasance. And the agency that has poisoned the political soil is none other than the trump cult.

QAnon, as what might prove to be the most virulent political beast on the current horizon, inside the U.S., for many whose search for the fine points of reality remain totally foreign to their alleged saviour, could and likely will flow into a hot-house of their own imagination which has been given over to growing and spreading conspiracy theories. And it is just such conspiracy theories in which the Russians also trade, according to published, respected and trustworthy reports.

Just how far apart are the lies and deceptions of Putin from those being spread by QAnon? From this vantage point, it would seem not very far. And what would it take for each to reinforce the other, as agents both dedicated to the re-election of trump? Highly valued, needed and previously staffed and trusted institutions too are under threat from trump himself. These now decimated institutions now include the Justice Department, the Homeland Security Department, the State Department, the Health and Human Services Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Education, the aforementioned CDC and FDA. Not incidentally, the life of Dr. Anthony Fauci has been threatened, presumably because he will not fawn to the idol of the QAnon, (and Putin).

And his life, at seventy-nine, is clearly one life worthy of upholding, sustaining and supporting. Just as is the life of the now-comatose Alexei Navalny, lying in a German hospital, following confirmation from the German doctors that he was indeed poisoned in Siberia, in spite of the denials of the Kremlin and the Siberian doctors who detained him for the first forty-eight hours, presumably in order to give time for the poison to leave his body.

We are not yet living in Russia; nor is the United States on the verge of becoming a full-blown dictatorship. However, all the signs, the language, the behavior, the attitudes of an incipient oligarchy are right in front of our eyes.

Those who deny the evidence are engaged in a conscious and willful effort to comply with the trump regime. Those who brush it aside are just as dangerous, for their’s is the complicity of spinelessness. And those who continue to massage the danger of QAnon, and the imminent threat from Russia and potentially other foreign adversaries, whether inside a political party or inside a mega-media outlet (read FOX NEWS) are equally complicit, if more difficult to excise. The Fox nest, now disclosed by the reporting of Brian Stelter in his book entitled  HOAX.

The title word has been used by trump well over 250 times in tweets, and public utterances, and one can only guess that Stelter is attempting to glue the word where it really belongs on the orange-blimp himself, enmeshed as Stelter demonstrates in the very fabric of FOX News, where many of his sycophants find their political ‘sugarpops’.

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