Thursday, March 25, 2021

Is there a new wave...or is it a Spring fantasy?

The Toronto Raptors made history last night deploying the first all female broadcast crew for an NBA game in league history. Five women took to the microphone to bring  the game between the Raptors and the Denver Nuggets to the Raptor fans! Remarkable, and long overdue.

Yesterday, also, in appointing Vice-president Kamala Harris as ‘point-person’ to address the tidal wave of legal and illegal immigrants and refugees already crowded into the Mexican-U.S. border facilities, bringing them to overflowing.

The news media, collectively, has taken steps to shift the way in which they ‘cover’ mass shootings, by giving far less airtime and biographical details of the perpetrators of such acts, as they dedicate enhanced time and resources to the stories of the victims.

Many public media outlets, including CBC and MSNBC are dedicating respectful time, in a sensitive manner, to commemorating the lives of the thousands of men, women and children who have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic. “Lives fully lived” is the caption at the top of the MSNBC segment, hosted by Nicolle Wallace between 4 and 6 p.m. EST.

In the recently passed Rescue package in the U.S. additional funds have been allocate to Medicaid, as a supplement and enhancement to the Affordable Care Act.

In Ontario, yesterday, the provincial budget includes $1 billion for vaccinations for the virus, $2.3 billions for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, $1.8 billions to provide care for COVID-19 patients as well as surgical backlogs extended during the pandemic. The budget also includes a second round of payments for businesses that lost revenue during the pandemic, approximately 120,000 such businesses are eligible for between $10K and $20K, without having to submit new applications. Tourist operators will be eligible for between $10K and $20K one-time payments, up to a total of $100 million set aside for this initiative. Child Benefit provisions, enhanced, will provide a one-time payment of $400 per child and $500 per child with special needs. Long-term care spending up to $2.3 billion over four years is projected to provide 20,161 new beds by 2025 and 30,000 beds by 2028, at both public and for-profit facilities, addressing the projected spike in boomers needing care. Another $8.4 million will fund a crisis call diversion program within the Ontario Provincial Police, potentially diverting some calls to mental health professionals rather than police. For mental health and addictions, another $175 millions is allocated, and there is a job training tax credit to provide up to $2000 for an estimated 230,000 in 2021, for residents between 26 and 65.

The fine print, in each of these stories, while significant to their respective demographic segment, could be a glimmer of light in a pandemic-induced reality check that, not only can and must government support the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of truly suffering people through no fault or default of their own, but that the political culture, while obviously serving the goal of painting a rosy picture of compassion and empathy to generate votes, can and will take seriously the need to restore public faith and confidence in the “public square”. There are legitimate needs driving immigrants to the southern border of the United States, comprising the root causes of such pilgrimages for survival, for a life that offers a real chance for work, for food, and for an education to those who see their prospects of those basic needs being thwarted in their home land. A similar plight faced Irish immigrants in the 19th century. In 1847, The Great Irish Potato Famine caused the death, mostly from starvation, of over a million Irish, a motivated a mass exodus of some 1.3 million between 1841 and 1850 with some 70% going to the USA, 28% to Canada and 2% to Australia.

From history.com, the editors write:

The Irish Potato Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, began in 1845 when a fungus-like organism called Phytophthora infestans spread rapidly through Ireland. The infestation ruined up to one-half of the potato crop that year, and about three-quarters of the crop over the next seven years….English and Anglo-Irish families owned most of the land, and most Irish Catholics were relegated to work as tenant farmers forced to pay rent to the landowners.

And while we have had over a century and a half to assess the legacy of this historic movement, the debate over British government incompetence or negligence continues. And the issue of government incompetence/negligence, continues, in the fine details about the attitudes, beliefs, policies and procedures surrounding the current pandemic.

The reason for the cluster of ‘hopeful’ and enlightened notations above is simply to hint at what might be only a “Spring fantasy” on the part of this scribe. Maybe, just maybe, finally, when the clouds of disease, death, scarcities of needed equipment for health care workers, scarcities of ventilators, masks and apparel, as well as the not occasional hiccups in the rollout of vaccines (notwithstanding the speed and efficacy of the research and provisional emergency approvals of their deployment) darken the hopes and dreams of millions around the world, some glimmer of hope and light is beginning to emerge in the public consciousness, including those in positions of responsibility.

Movements for gender equity, the removal or mitigation of racist attitudes and actions, the impetus for wage equity between men and women, the election of a bi-racial woman as Vice-president of the United States, the appointment of a highly qualified woman as the first Minister of Finance, (Hon. Chrystia Freeland)…these are tiny rivulets, that are now converging into a noticeable energy of change. The Society of Women Engineers, (altogether.swe.org) reported in 2019 a significant uptick in the numbers of women entering university with intentions to major in Engineering, Math, Statistics, or Computer Science, from 3.7% in 2007 to 9.5% in 2017. Unfortunately, they also cite a troubling number of 30% of women who, following graduation entered the engineering profession and then left citing “organizational climate” as their reason for leaving. SWE also reports a 40% increase in bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and computer science from 2012 (146,060) to 2017 (205, 181). Another notable data point from swe:  a 58% increase in bachelor’s degrees awarded in engineering and computer science to women from 2012 (25,900) to 2017 (40,876)

Could there be a growing awareness of the disparities that current and long-standing “conventions” including hierarchical, top-down, primarily masculine models of organization, communication, restricted affect including empathy, reliance on the bully-alpha model of “leadership” is eroding, or merely succumbing to the over-weening weight of self-imposed and self-designed ways of doing business? Could it be that, as in the city of Boston, which for 91 years has had alternatively and exclusively either an Irish or an Italian white man as mayor, a tale only to be broken on Tuesday of this week, by Kim Janey, a black woman. Ms Janey, formerly selected as president of the city council by her peers, was sworn in following the departure of Mayor Marty Walsh who joins the Biden administration as Secretary Labour. Appearing on Rachel Maddow last night, Ms Janey articulated her fervent hope of an administration that will seek to distribute COVID-19 vaccines in an equitable manner, given the disproportionate impact the virus has had on minorities and especially women of minorities.

These things, like who the mayor is, especially in American towns and cities, really matter. Americans generally look to their leaders for inspiration, although their record on voting turn-out is, like so many other democracies, quite low. At the U.S. federal cabinet level, a woman has become the Secretary of the Interior. Deb Haaland, a progressive Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, a member of Pueblo of Laguna, one of the first Native Americans ever to serve in a U.S. cabinet. With jurisdiction over tribal lands, and vast tracts of American wilderness, including Yellowstone and Yosemite national parks, Ms Haaland promises to be “fierce for all of us, our planet, and all of our protected land” (Her own Tweet)

Racial disparities, including outright overt and covert systemic racism against blacks, Asians, Hispanic, and indigenous, as well as the sexism experienced by the LGBTQI community has been vehemently and honourably dis-robed on both sides of the 49th parallel. The much harder, and more enduring process of reframing and rebuilding a culture of tolerance, respect and dignity for all, while needing public policy and legislature, including anti-hate enforcement, will also depend on a significant shift in perceptions, values, and the tensions of insecurity, inferiority, and fear that are so easily and readily masked by “exaggerated force” in body language, in verbal language, in violence and in attitudes, beliefs and perceptions of superiority, never justified, and never fully realized simply because they are not true.

Could it be that there is something like an unconscious, perhaps even underground (in the sense of being off the public media, the political radar, outside the intellectual and conventional thinking and perceptions of many ‘establishment’ thinkers and political actors) that is out front of the political class? Could it be that such a list of individual examples of new people, new attitudes, new vocabulary, new approaches, not so much based on the old shibboleths of scarcity, exclusivity, domination, and exclusion, cold-heartedness and even meanness in order to sustain one’s power, is, perhaps at a glacial pace, and outside of the collective consciousness of the popular culture, is advancing like an army of silent, infinitesimal, odourless, social and cultural single cells, that, somehow know their rightful place in the human universe, so long denied and thwarted, is coming into focus?

Is there a cultural (and thereby ethical) shift that has a similar kinetic force to that of the cyber-revolution, riding into our lives, much like the hidden Greeks in their Trojan horse, about the bring about the downfall of an enemy. In computer terms, a trojan horse is a special type of malware that pretends to do a certain thing, but in reality it does something else, such as allow a stranger to read and change the computer’s information. Certainly, if we are to assess this situation from the perspective of Republican Senators, almost all of them white men:

Ø steeped in their own conventional hold on power,

Ø supported by their various cultures,

Ø including the gun culture,

Ø the white supremacy movement,

Ø the loyalty and trust of the top one percent,

Ø membership in the old boys club,

Ø attendance at the establishment mainline churches,

Ø the need for a massive and indomitable military fortress,  

Ø free access to oil and gas reserves,

Ø freedom from environmental protections,

Ø the demand that government refuse to cuddle and ‘nanny’ strong independent solo flier individuals, the engine of a capitalist, monolithic, top-gun nation state…

they are the unquestioned enemy of the new ‘wave’ of potential greening, both in American and around the world.

And maybe this wave is our primary hope 

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