Thursday, September 10, 2020

Just how desperate are WE?

 Desperation is defined as a loss of hope, or a great need that can make you act irrationally. When you are absolutely starving and you steel a loaf of bread because you are feeling so hungry, this is an example of acting our of desperation. (yourdictionary.com)

Like many pivotal moments in human history, a single act, captured for the world to witness, gives clarity, meaning, often shame, and occasionally transformation. As what many might call a “last act” of desperation, the president of the United States, desperately, opened his mind, mouth and naivety to the recording device(s) of one Bob Woodward, he of the Washington Post and also of Watergate fame. Desperation borne of a life of narcissistic play-acting, while clinging to the belief, the absolute conviction, that everything he did was absolutely outstanding, this latest and most desperate fall for some nine hours, over eighteen phone calls, has stripped all the clothes from the ‘emperor’…leaving him, his office and especially his country gaping in horrific shame, bewilderment, denial and, for Senator Kennedy, scoffing. Kennedy refuses even to read the latest Woodward book, Rage, from which the torrent of disclosures from the mouth of the occupant of the Oval Office have been reported.

And while this spate of obsessively pursued and desperately needed psychic photographs of the man America elected president in November 2016 literally and metaphorically strips him and his administration of all pretenses to legitimacy, it signals, what for many may be an extreme, intense and embarrassing vulnerability: we are all desperate, in some way or other.

And it is our individual and our shared denial of our own desperation, at various moments in our life, that we could actually come face to face with, in this moment of national, and international existential threat.

Whether our desperation comes from our shared despair that the world will not come together to confront the looming and glaring climate crisis and global warming, that is so much a factor in the inferno that is California and a dozen other western states..

Or whether our desperation comes from our shared despair that the world continues to pursue the desperate and futile competition for more nuclear weapons, signalled by the president’s public sharing of ‘his’ latest, secret nuclear device, never before announced to the world…

Or whether our desperation comes from our having to face, both individually and collectively, the most serious and lethal pandemic for over a century, in such obviously immature, divided, selfish and even arrogant ways that we have morphed something as minimal and protective as face masks into a political statement of ‘alpha’ individuals’ and ‘wimps’…following in the rhetorical and cognitive vacuum of trump himself…

Or whether our desperation comes from our having to face one or more of the cataract of implosions of job loss, divorce, eviction, COVID-19 itself, and the prospect that needed assistance, like nutrition for children from school programs will never return while facing a government that has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to providing basic support According to Schumer, Democratic Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate, McConnell (Majority Republican Leader in the Senate) has said publicly that twenty (20) of his Republican colleagues in the Senate absolutely refuse to vote for any bill that will provide additional assistance to thus living on the edge .

Or whether our desperation comes from facing co-morbidity issues, in our own life or in the life of a family member, without confidence that needed medical care is or will be available in order to facilitate either or both a recovery or a peaceful and stress-free passing…

Or whether our desperation comes from watching a western culture, formerly supported by the strength, the creativity and the ambition of the United States’ economy and political system which lies gasping for breath on the floor of the Oval Office, the offices of the Department of Justice, the ravages of the tatters of environmental protections eviscerated by the Environmental Protection Agency, or in the classrooms of the United States public education system, gutted of essential funding by its current Secretary DeVos, or in the gaping divide between the executive and legislative branches of government, not to mention the total ennui rampant in the Pentagon, and in the National Security former bastion of intelligence….

Or whether our desperation comes from watching false promises, deceptive contracts, inflated egos and desperate leaders scheming and executing the poisoning of high-profile opponents, with both impunity and apparently international immunity, given the spinelessness of the world’s international governance bodies, like the International Criminal Court, the United Nations, the World Health Organization, the World Bank ….

Or whether our desperation comes from watching the streets of our towns and cities vacuum onto their plate glass faces the plywood boarding that normally appears only in the face of a hurricane or a tornado, only this time, they face permanent closure because they have lost hope and confidence that they can or will recover from the pandemic shut down…

Or whether our desperation comes from our former, and even original family history that for many included and was even centred on a faith community whose pillars of both belief and personnel are themselves lying breathless on the beaches of our formerly committed hopes, prayers, and even dreams in an ethic that reached even the most desperate among us, only to watch the hierarchical eyes, ears and even heart turn upward to the elites whose cheques they desperately sought for their own resumes…

Or whether our desperation comes from our daily diet of what we call news, all of it sliding quickly into the quicksand of gossip, character assassination, and ‘gotcha’ headlines in order to inflate ratings in order to generate advertising revenue,

OR whether our desperation comes from what can only be diagnosed as the ‘stench’ of verbal garbage that pours out of many if not most of the social medial platforms, throwing grenades of gossip, innuendo, jealousy, revenge, threats and even outright death threats as the ‘public access’ to these megaphones emboldens especially the most desperate among us…

Or whether our desperation comes from the attempt to digest what are primarily band-aids, and those primarily of  a public relations nature, substituting for serious legislation in even the most democratic and allegedly enlightened parliaments like Great Britain, Canada, France, and Italy…leaving the current U.S. administration our of this picture

Or whether our desperation comes from the spectre of millions of refugees currently encamped in bulging tents, hovels, boats, and streets starving, cold, hopeless, and desperate in a way that none of the rest of us can even begin to imagine, while “elected” leaders throw up walls, barbed wire fences, staffed with hungry dogs, and with security personnel, to preserve the ethnic purity of their respective nations. And we all know that such “nationalist nihilism” is another desperate act of those who can flex their muscles, while the ordinary folk gape in despair, without even denting the iron-clad will of those despots.

Or whether our desperation comes from our individual capacity to envision a personal role for each of us, in an authentic commitment to a legitimate and glaring social justice campaign, on behalf of our neighbours whose capacity and resources preclude their own ambition to take responsibility for their plight….

Or whether our desperation comes from watching those we considered honourable, and tolerant and inclusive and visionary become enmeshed in the minutiae of managing their own public image that they have lost sight of the public needs, and the public legitimacy and the public contract to which they have been assigned…

Or whether our desperation comes from noting the desperation of even the most highly educated and the most talented among us flounder in their own desperation, clinging to a false notion that they “know” both what they are doing and where they want to go, while all the while projecting their self-loathing onto those they endear most and those who also endear them as well…

Or whether our desperation comes from the reductionism of both language and perception to the basal level of human interaction as defined by mere transaction, in which each person is determined to ‘win’ while the other automatically has to lose…in what has become a zero-sum game in which we all lose…

Or whether our desperation comes from the fear of unknowing and thereby speculating that everything that we and our forebears built in what we like to think was a reasonable and sustainable and life-supporting civilization is crumbling under our feet, with the weight of insouciance, greed, ambition, profiteering and the refutation of compromise, collaboration, and even basic, except as narrowly defined legally, ethics and morality…

Or whether our desperation comes from the sheer weight of knowing how we human beings are laying waste the planet, invading the habitats of nature’s wild life, in order to feed that insatiable appetite for conquest, for power, for profit and for immediate gratification, on a corporate, capitalist and unleashed and unfettered law of the jungle, to which one either joins or is left behind…

Or whether our desperation comes from the kind of war that characterizes much of the conventional public attitudes on the potential relationship between the genders, the ethnicities, the religions, the races, the generations and the have’s and have-not’s….

If we seem to be at war, and if we seem to be, collectively and increasingly individually, careless and carefree about how we treat each other in the face of a lethal pandemic, and the planet is suffering from the desperately irresponsible attitudes, beliefs and decisions of leaders like trump, who have put the markets ahead of the science of holding the pandemic at bay, and if we are determined to grab whatever shiny image of the moment, the hook-up, the latest drink, toke, shoot-up, the momentary photo-op of the self-proclaimed protective vigilante, at 17 with his own AR-15, and then turn that misguided child, himself desperate for attention and acclaim, into a poster-child for the right wing….and if we are cut off from the people and the details of whatever it is that they might be thinking and why they might be thinking those thoughts….

Then there is little need to wonder that we are individually, communally and collectively feeling more desperate than most of us have felt, probably since the end of the Second World War….

As in a divorce, which is like and unlike a death, there is no funeral; today there is no formal declaration of war, in the historic sense of that word, and there will be no formal treaty signed signifying some collaborative and collective commitment to share responsibility and intelligence, and creativity and productivity for new ways of facing our shared future. There are no Marshall Plans to underwrite the plight or refugees in Jordan, for example; there are no signs that anything remotely similar to the Paris Accord will replace that document on the environmental front; there is no prospect of a U.S. renewal of its commitment to the Iran Nuclear Accord; there is no international accord to address the shared and desperate plight of the world economy and the nations’ economies, demonstrating that rugged individualism, the survival of the fittest, and the law of the jungle has replaced most legitimate and formerly respected and honoured statesmanship on the international stage, and among those who share responsibility for offering example of leadership that can and will keep hope alive.

Never mind elevating our expectations beyond what can be delivered reasonably and responsibly; as Biden exhorts his presidential opponent, so too we exhort the leaders of the world’s think tanks, newsrooms, university lecture halls, science labs, and political theatres “JUST DO YOUR JOB!”

We are exhausted and despairing that any future that breathes clean air, and drinks clean water, and feeds the hungry and educates the masses, and thrives on the blessing of such normal and legitimate and minimal requirements is slipping out of our grasp. Ed Yong describes the United States as a colony of “army ants” moving around in circles without focused leadership, without any conviction and without hope, in the midst of this pandemic. It is not a stretch to extend his picture to the global scene in an ironic and tragic replica of America leading the world, only in the wrong direction…

Are we all, like Jong’s army ants just turning and turning blindly in circles that spiral downwards into our own demise?

Or, will a world leadership team, comprising some of those still available on the sidelines, still vigorous, still mentally acute, still creative and courageous and still available find both the motivation, the encouragement, the support and the endorsement of their peers both to recognize that we all need their help, their best efforts and their design of a future that holds some promise that it will sustain and grow the lives of our grandchildren and their grandchildren?

Names like Obama (x2), Bush, Merkel, Cameron, Blair, Brown, Miliband, Lewis, Mulroney, Martin, Chretien, Kissinger, Rice, Powell, Gates, are just a few of those we need to come off the sidelines, and into the front pages into the lecture halls, into the book stores, and into the television studios….

PLEASE!

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