Thursday, October 28, 2021

Reflections on personal and public, including institutional, naivety

Expectations born out of naivety can be tragic.

It is our personal, familial, social and cultural naivety for which we have to claim responsibility. And how did we get to be so naïve?

Is there a difference between hope and naivety? Are they part of a package of psychic and emotional baggage that comes from a very early age, is nurtured by a co-dependent adult culture and then plunged into the torrent of street life, like a high-wire sensationalists trying to walk on a tight-rope over Niagara Falls?

Is naivety a sure sign of emotional immaturity, perhaps even psychic lack of full development? Are those of us who assume the “best of others” designed both to be victimized by our own mental state and the obvious temptation “for attack” we offer, unconsciously, to those in need of power and control? Is our naivety at the core of all the power-trips being waged, by all of the roaring successes, in social, cultural, secular and political terms, and triumphing with such tragically demonic and devastating results?

Let’s unpack some of the obvious signs of naivety that appear to be universal.

At a very early age, we have to confront the ‘myth’ of Santa Claus, born on the wings of love, joy, new birth, and caring from parents and grandparents to the children and grandchildren. Regardless of the culture, and the various names for the ‘persona’, children everywhere stand with eyes wide open and mouth gaping at the prospect of a kind, loving, caring and benevolent ‘father figure’ out of never-never-land, bringing gifts, ‘knowing too if they have been bad or good’. Parents and grandparents have been committed for centuries to the benevolence, the profound joy both in giving and in the eyes of their offspring at the sight of their most anticipated and valued gift. The spirit of Christmas, in the Christian calendar, is also core to the story of Bethlehem and the birth of the baby Jesus. The whole story is replete with kindness, celebration, humility and homage to a miracle. Married to the secular story of father christmas, Saint Nicholas, the bond is impossible to break, and who would even want to. Link all of this to the economic bonanza of the billions or trillions of dollars “we” spend on those gifts, injecting adrenalin into whatever kind of economic pulse we happen to be experiencing, and we share a political, economic, religious and cultural “birthing” at so many levels. Complete with roasted chestnuts and songs with both repetition and longevity that make them indelibly imprinted on our memories, so deep that many of us can and do sing them without lyrics or melodies, at the most nominal prompt.

Naturally, the ‘lifting of the veil’ for an eight-year-old can comes in a variety of ways: tears, aha in that some already ‘knew’ it was mom and dad all along, or perhaps even relief that the suspension of disbelief was a stretch too far for some time previously. Similarly, the Easter Bunny, and Easter Eggs, and the rite of spring, linked to another pivotal Christian story of the death and resurrection of that same Jesus, offer opportunities for celebration, the mystery of the hunt and discovery, costumes and tummies filled with sweets. Another rite of passage for those in “Christian” cultures, leaves young people with a mixed message of hope and perhaps confusion, or at least wondering.

And then there is the daily routine of patterns of establishing trust with children, both by parents and teachers, perhaps clergy, aunts and uncles, cousins and neighbours, as well as team members of whatever athletic or academic interest applies. These interactions, while not considered historic and legendary at the time of any specific encounter, also form a foundational pattern that includes some trust, some wariness and scepticism, and some dismay for most adolescents. Naturally, the public airwaves, popular music, popular movies and television, as well as social media all play a role in the growth and development of an adolescent world view, attitude, perception and “maturity”.

“Old before his time,” or perhaps, “eighteen going on thirty-five” are phrases we have all heard in the presence of precociously “adult” young people. One assumes, perhaps with some reason, that such young men and women have ‘grown up’ in a family system that cultivated serious approaches to most decisions. Others, on the other hand, receive cliches such as “party animal just like his father” or “so spoiled she will never grow up” or even “mother’s or father’s ‘pet’ child over-protected and at risk of being overwhelmed by reality.

It is the collision of “reality” and expectation that is our focus, and while such collisions occur daily and perhaps even hourly, for many, there are some notable examples that bring this issue into clear lens. Recently, I read the words of Jody Wilson-Raybould in an excerpt from her new book, “Indian in the Cabinet” about her believing Justin Trudeau when they first met that politics was going to be ‘done differently’ and her reflection on her own naivety After having run and won election and after being appointed the first indigenous, female Attorney General and Minister of Justice in Canada, and then having been removed from Cabinet and ultimately withdrawing from elected politics, Ms Wilson-Raybould is changed in her perceptions and attitudes about the ultimate truth and credence of Trudeau’s commitment to change. She is now much more sanguine, more detached, more sceptical and much more deeply hurt and disappointed, even though she had, before entering national politics, worked with many indigenous and non-indigenous leaders and groups in the effort to reconcile the Canadian racial history. A graduate in law, and seasoned and sophisticated and deeply cultured and committed individual, a wife, and a mature woman, nevertheless, she is still appalled at what she experienced, and her experience is conditioned in part by her own naivety, according to her own words.

Her naivety is not to be judged; rather her courage in facing it is what many of us lack. She has become, through her service, her angst, the collision of her high ethical standards with the realpolitik of Ottawa and Quebec, and SNC Lavalin, even more elevated than when she held public office, in her capacity to both comprehend the full complexity of the relationships between indigenous peoples and the ‘establishment’ over centuries on this continent and to bring those perspectives and attitudes to the ‘table’ of any attempts at reconciliation. For her people, and for the people of Canada generally, she is and always will be a national leader. And her contribution to the national debate, on whatever issues she selects to advocate for, will continue long past her brief stay in official Ottawa.

On the other hand, M. Trudeau, her antagonist specifically in the SNC-Lavelin affair, is permanently damaged politically, perhaps, and this is mere speculation without hard evidence, succumbing to his own naivety that “fighting for jobs,” his war cry of support for his position advocating for a deferred prosecution agreement with SNC Lavalin, saw him fall, in the public mind, on his own sword. There is obviously a degree of naivety in any assumption that ‘fighting for jobs’ would trump serious illicit and potentially illegal behaviour of bribery, for which some SNC Lavelin executives have been convicted. There is also a level of naivety among the staffers in the PMO at the time of this affair, that Ms Wilson-Raybould would succumb to whatever pressures were applied to achieve her compliance with the political agenda of the Prime Minister.

Indeed, the prevalence of naivety that encircles the political and cultural ethos is astounding.

·         Biden that the Congress would be amenable to his multi-trillion spending proposals on both hard infrastructure as well as social infrastructure;

·         Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren that the Democrats would comply with their “socialist” agenda, even though it does not and never will warrant such a loaded diagnosis:

·         The Green Party of Canada, that the party itself would tolerate, support and even champion a black, Jewish diplomatic scholar as leader, or was that another of Elizabeth May’s expressions of hope-inspired naivety?

·         The long-standing and even longer-suffering fans and season-ticket-holders of the Toronto Maple Leafs that the bumpf of triumphal puffery being pumped out by the organization about the potential winning ways of their million-dollar babies would bring the Stanley Cup to Toronto, after six-plus decades of scarcity;

·         The people who have swallowed, hook-line-and-sinker, the bullshit that has been  spewed forth from the trump cult about the pandemic, the efficacy and safety of the vaccines (all of them ironically evolved in revolutionary time in part from trump’s funding injection), the research about the spread and the mutations of the virus;

·         The same cult’s drunkenness over the ‘election steal’ and their impending and potentially lethal threats against even their own Republican election officials who defy the “steal” and the “big lie” about the steal;

·         The Republican party, especially in the Senate, led by McConnell and Graham et al, that trump is the best their party can offer to the American electorate in 2024, and his candidates in 2022;

·         The Democratic Party, in both houses of Congress that Manchin and Sinema will bend far enough to permit a substantial and historic bill of an expanded safety net, including climate protections to a successful majority vote, and their collective naivety with the White House that starting with a number like $3.5 trillion (lobbied for by the radical wing) was the politically astute approach, when we all know that snail-paced incrementalism is the dogma and ideological “process” of contemporary western politics where “process” trumps “content” every time;

·         The Christian Church, hierarchy, traditional theologians, and church “orthodoxy” based on the presumed naivety and innocence of the ordinary parishioner, first with the printing of scripture, that only clergy could explain and interpret it satisfactorily, and then with such tone-deaf dogma of only male clergy, the even more tone-deaf dogma excluding divorce, gay marriage, and gay clergy; then over the banning of books and contraceptives; and then over the apartheid practiced jointly with the Canadian government to “christianize” and eliminate “the savage” from indigenous children…this list could go for volumes;

·         Governments in the west who/which have succumbed to the totem-pole adulation if not actual sacralizing of everything fiscal and economic dealing with money, as the criterion for assessing and predicting and promoting political success, while ignoring such basic concepts as human well-being, planetary health, rape of the natural resources everywhere on the planet and the basic assumption that those with wealth must prevail over those without;

·         And the complicit naivety of all of us, in tolerating more and more deceptive “advertising” bumpf from a variety of corporations about the safety and quality of their products, (one glaring example from the past is thalidomide!) including tobacco, sugar, salt, unsafe cars (remember Ralph Nader?), jet planes that were not adequately safety tested prior to approval by both internal company quality control experts as well as the FAA, asleep on the job while hundreds died; the naivety of the western populace that NATO will actually, on the ground, face-to-face, protect its members when invaded, and similarly that, should China attack Taiwan and/or Hong Kong, the west will effectively confront such aggression; that the United States, the self-=proclaimed protector of human rights and democracy has not and will not sign on to the International Criminal Court fearing that should it be necessary, their own personel would be subjected to its jurisdiction; and the complicit naivety of the public attitude that whistle-blowers are more dangerous than helpful in achieving a “more perfect union”: and the gullibility of the public that more dollars and more laws and more police will reduce the rampant racism that kills innocent people of minorities of colour at a rate far exceeding the abuse of power against the white majority…

 And then there is my own unequivocal naivety in leaving documents I consider important on the kitchen table while our nine-month-old Portugese Water Dog roams the house, as I write this, only to then appear beside my desk with torn pieces of those documents hanging loosely from her mouth, as she wags her tail in triumph, and attempts to lick my hand.

 Maybe Ms Wilson-Raybould’s open acknowledgement of her deep and profoundly impactful naivety is an example for each of us, letting none of us ‘off the hook’ including the political leaders, the media, the educators, the clergy, our doctors and our legal and financial establishments.

 Being hoisted on our own petard, then, would have meaning and application far beyond “the other” whom we love to point out, while hiding in our own weeds. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

superficialities and stereotypes

In a CBC opinion piece a Muslim thought leader, Narjis Karani, decries the reductionism of the words race, gender, religion and ethnicity as defining minorities. The superficiality obviously obviates cultural traditions, and patterns of behaviour that accompany the full identity of what are effectively still "colonized" groups.

Constricting those people by phrases like "s/he is religious but does not wear his/her religion on his/her sleeve", while it also has application among majorities, minority citizens feel more compelled to "fit" into their new society.

The tokenism that results, in her view, leads inevitably and tragically to assimilation as the erosion of the details of a minority's authentic choices continues.
It is not only the "devil that is in the details," that devil and those details are actually intrinsic to one's identity especially if we are ever to "do nuance" in human relations.

The collision of "nuance" in public affairs and public debates with perceived power agents and agencies is one of the most intransigent Gordon knots we have still not learn how to untie.
Glossing over a place and way for Jews to celebrate Shabbat and for Muslims to conduct Friday prayers, for example, by arguing there is no money or space or time in the organization's world view, amounts to a perpetuation if the colonial "top-down" mentality and conventional "hierarchy" that will no longer be tolerated.
Values and ethics and relationships are not reducible to their superficial acknowledgement, as.if that were adequate.

"Arm's distance" is a common vernacular for "professional detachment and is a cornerstone of the Praxis of many, including Christian, faiths. Detachment, and disengagement, ("s/he is becoming too familiar") sold under the rubric of "objectivity" and "order" and professionalism will not pass the basic test of human nature.

As one who has been accused by professional peers of "being too close" to the students in one arena and then decades later of being "enmeshed" in a congregation, not incidentally by men in both cases, I embodied the argument of the thesis in this piece.

The historic perception that social order depends on impenetrable boundaries between a public life and a private life lies at the root of Ms Karani's critique. And the linking of personal freedom as rationalization for such boundaries is not only specious but unsustainable.

The current phrase "power differential" that lies at the core of thousand of complaints of injustice, most by women against men, attempts to explain the injustice and the inequity that govern relationships between individuals who hold a rank higher than another in a personal relationship. The assumption, and it has deep historical roots, is that first men are more "powerful" than women and that any abuse of that power is the exclusive responsibility of the men. Often based on "legal" definitions and compilations of specific incident evidence, accusations and convictions are determined, without the benefit of "contextual" or what is deemed perjoratively as "circumstantial" evidence.
And the meme of male dominance and female victimhood not only continues but is substantially reinforced.

If we are going to move toward true equity and equality of minorities with majorities and of one gender with another, (setting aside for a.moment, the multiple issues of gender identity), it seems that a critical examination of who people are in some rigorous detail, how they behave both consciously and unconsciously and how we can and must move beyond religiously-based and sacralized determinants.

Getting to "know" students beyond their test scores and their public masks is essential for all teachers to be effective. Only in this way can appropriate mentorship take place.
Similarly, getting to "know" individuals in a congregation entails hearing their deepest fears and highest aspirations and dreams in a supportive and obviously confidential way.
This dynamic of "getting to know" is the one side of a human coin whose alternative side reads "please see, hear and respect me"!

Ms Karani as a Muslim wants to be able to shed the social and politically correct imposition of superficiality to her life and identity.

My students, without every uttering the words, wanted to be "seen" and "known" as evolving human beings with their talents and their warts. So too, again without ever emitting the words, parishioners want to be "seen" and "heard" and "valued" and respected far beyond their vote at a parish council meeting.

And if and when that sharing the process of "getting and beng known" veers into the intimate, we should not as a culture immediately rush to shame that intimacy as unethical, immoral or worse criminal.

Of course, the wannabe and the authentic "clinicians" among us will cry "Out with this specious argument!!"
Their very professional existence is founded on the objectivity and detachment and disengagement of which I write.

And it is certainly not rocket science to note that all scientific research carries with it the intimate human nuanced traits of the experimenter and that "human element" can never be fully excised from the research or from the results.

Is it not time for educators and religious leaders and practitioners to begin to remove the professional armour/mask their professions impose. Could they not be in  the vanguard of the thaw that melts the "ice" of professional and political faux protection from authority figures (potential colonists) and elevates the thoughts and feelings if us ordinary mortals to respectability.
And that would have to include shedding some dangerous myths about "power differentials" and "ethnic  minorities".

As individuals, we are each amazingly complex and needy and talented and unique. If that is true, why do we persist in subverting and repressing our uniqueness in such highly sophisticated and seductive ways?

Surely, it cannot be legitimately argued "for the public good"!


Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Is a hybrid business model, grafting the non-profit to the for-profit, the next stage?

Tom Chappell, founder of Tom's of Maine
Perhaps he was ahead of his time when, after studying theology at Harvard and then returning to operate his natural products (tooth paste, deodorant, shampoo etc.), he wrote a book entitled Managing Upside Down.
In it he outlines how he transformed his business and his role in it.
Dedicating a minimum of 5% of all profits to be donated to charities and public issues in the area in Maine, and those decisions about where the money would best serve to his staff, he found the results quite astounding.
He also established a breakfast club at the local high school, inviting, through the principal, those students deemed most disengaged from the formal learning process and most likely to drop out.
Searching for each student's passion/interest, Chappell then coached each to develop a business plan for a personal profit-driven enterprise based on their passion and seed-funded each with $500.
Naturally, after the business plan, there were dozens of additional decisions for each incipient aspiring entrepreneur to make under his guidance.
Win-win was not merely a nice slogan; it was a template bridge between an innovative corporate leader and those who could best benefit from his experience and wisdom.
Kids developed a new sense of identity, from listlessness to more focus and determination to make their little business grow.
The community basked in the glow of the sharing interdependence and the book was written and published.
Later, on this side of the 49th parallel, Thomas Homer-Dixon, then a professor at the University of Toronto, entitled The Ingenuity Gap, in which he argues that Canada faces a deficit of    ingenuity at many levels, business, political and cultural.
I have no idea if Chappell ever met Homer-Dixon; however, a recent conversation with an enterprising Canadian business consultant revealed that some business clients are quite reserved and restrained about "growing" their business.
Comfort with the status quo, a perception that "if it ain't broke don't fix it" and a deep and abiding trust 8n the current people on staff are some of the cited reasons for holding to what seems like stability and security to decision-makers.
This consultant commented that he far more enjoyed helping clients "grow" their top line than their bottom line. When asked the meaning of "too" and " bottom" he replied, "Top line refers to revenue and bottom line to profit."
There is  a different attitude, perspective and even satisfaction in paying attention to the "top" line from the "bottom" line.
First, it evokes a longer term vision; it demands more creative energy; it provides a different kind of satisfaction and security that is based on critical evaluations of how the business might serve its own best interests.
The "Canadian" status quo preservation, as a cultural archetype has served our banking institutions for  more than a century....although even they have made considerable strides to diversify in recent decades.
Evolution would describe their general approach and not revolution. However,  their eye and mind on market trends and their place in that market require them to develop a vision long with strategies and tactics to "adapt" even if their record on staff working conditions including pressure to "sell" as a higher priority than client need and remuneration remain at historical and embarrassing low's.
An interesting comment from our resident consultant, "Rarely have I seen a business operating at more than 80% efficiency because if the variability in human performance."
And another observation, "It would probably be more feasible to coach a business grossing between $1 and $2 million to move to $5 or $6 million than to help it move to $2.2 million."
"Why is that?" I inquired.
"Well there are obvious new revenue streams that are not being explored or tapped and, if pursued, would result in more than marginal revenue growth."
The marketplace, like silky putty (no ridicule), is in constant motion and needs monitoring regularly.
When I inquired about the level of commitment to "research" business clients commit to, his reply was a disappointing "very little".
With a tectonic shift in how people are living and making a living, this seems like an appropriate time to re-evaluate how Canadian business is adapting to these changes.
Not only "greening" their emissions and raising the horizon on their flexibility on working conditions and paid ma-and-pa-ternity leave, but on the way decisions are made and what those decisions are meant to accomplish.
Power, the elusive, imperceptible, odorous, tasteless, and ubiquitous unmentionable that slides down the corridors linking offices, that glides without notice along computer programs, that invisibly undergirds the cultural structure in every organization bears both critical investigation and even more critical exposure.
Workers are not colonial infidels;
executives are not automatically revered gurus; middle managers, although mostly gutted in the last two or three decades, like many towns and cities, are not automatons.
The military and quasi-and pseudo-military organizational templates that have been the "norm" for too long can transformed into a much more equitable and trusting and mutually interdependent kind of ethos based on a higher quality of relationships than those imposed by power "down".
Just this weekend, in a conversation with a local leader, I heard these words, Don"t tell me how much money you made in your business venture; I want to know about the number and the quality of relationships you developed and continue to nurture and to be nurtured by."
I nearly fell off the park bench I was sitting on.
There is a useful reference back to Tom Chappell here. His attempt to marry the modus operandi of the non-profit to the for-profit enterprise is more needed now than ever.
Care for a community (a cause, a specific group, a deeply felt need, a new venture in inventing and creating, a new health service...the list is endless) requires and even demands the skills and commitments of sentient and enthusiastic business leaders. is where it gets in tricky...those business leaders need and even require the rewards and the emotional invigoration and adrenaline that can come from public service.
Writing a cheque to some non-profit, even if it brings a tax receipt is not the same as full engagement in that non-profit. Tokenism can and will bring only token reciprocation.
We have a contemporary culture fed by the hot pursuit of money and power...and we have millions who are dispossessed in a variety of ways.
Patronizing condescension, a pat on the head in pity will not put a roof over the homeless, nor will a donation to a minor hockey team's fundraising drive rescue the kid who is already thinking about leaving home and "surfing" the couches if his friends.
Leadership, not bootcamp yelling, but sensitive and sensible and compassionate creative and courageous leaders of men and women who seek their own and their community's wellness can machete their way through the thicket of horrendous news, hateful and hopeless rhetoric and the blindness that accompanies looking down the telescope from the wrong end.
Now, can we together find those leaders from among our own communities?
And can they be recruited to colour outside the boxes of comfort and status quo?

Who knows? 

Monday, October 18, 2021

Is obstructionism the new ideology?

 For decades, I have championed the concept and the ethical significance of a "majority of one". Individuals, especially those who have taken serious and troublesome decisions, deserve our utmost respect, honour and support.

In fact, individual decisions to act alone even by remaining silent, have resulted in their own defamation, isolation and public shame...only to have their courage and independent thought and decision revisited weeks, months or years later in the light of "new" additional information. Such revisiting often results in a reclamation of some of the lost dignity and honour of their decision and consequently of their person.

Public knowledge and awareness is often limited and even curtailed by a "rush to judgement" when an unconventional decision brings down public scorn and contempt.
A spouse's persistent silence when facing what s/he regards as  unacceptable behaviour/attitude of the other partner, while disappointing to some, can eventually be seen as both wise and consistent with family stability.

However, the context matters greatly as to when and how to interpret the power of one.
The current example of Senator Manchin's rejection of the clean energy piece of the Biden Social infrastructure bill radiates radioactively and globally as both intolerable and short-sighted. There is no justification for his using his single vote to subvert this specific proposal except perhaps his own political survival in West Virginia. Allowing Manchin "time" to bring his voters on board with the climate crisis we and they already face is inexcusable and brings out questions of the political muscle of Democrats generally and the White House specifically.

Superficially, and technically, Manchin can kill the package of some $2 trillion dollars, given the number of Democrats and Republican Senators is tied at 50-50. However, to permit him this "power of one" is both irresponsible and politically suicidal for Democrats in 2022 and for the Biden presidency.
The nation's highest and best interests  require bold political action to ameliorate and perhaps even preclude further destruction of the planet's atmosphere.

It is prevalent in many small and medium sized projects where the silence of a majority, deferring to a dominant opinion and attitude and preferring to avoid conflict with others they consider"friends", results in the loudest voice being permitted to be the "bully" they are determined to be.
Even if the best and highest interests of the project are to be sacrificed to the will of an obstructionist tyrant, silence and false political correctness/peace-keeping make that sacrifice inevitable.

Some would argue that the compromise answer would resolve the obstruction, each "giving" a little for the larger interest and purpose of the allegedly "shared" interest in and commitment to the project. However, people like Joe Manchin and right-wing religious fanatics and deeply insecure and consequently dominating persons do not and never will qualify as potential equal and equally respected participants in negotiations aimed at compromise.

"My way or the highway" is a slogan championed by the former disgraced president of the U.S. who, by wearing that slogan ("I alone can fix it!"), has given millions of weak and angry individuals license and encouragement to thwart the public good and the will of the majority.
Indeed, the voices of those who consider themselves "empowered" and "entitled" regardless of their unique justification for their empowerment and/or entitlement, effectively replicate the role and power of the colonialists, both official and their angry victims.

The approach of the  "established" (entitled) and those who consider the approach of the entitled to be worthy of emulation (ironically as self-sabotaging of both groups), is guaranteed to fail whether that failure is obvious immediately or in the longer run.
Subverting the will of the majority, especially when the benefits of that will are obvious and uncontested, for the purpose of bending to an individual's neurotic and narcissistic need is a step too far.
However, we live in a time when the highest aspirations and.most basic needs of the majority are blocked by obstructionist bullies, with the silent compliance and complicity of too many "nice" people avoiding the risk of losing a friend.

Hundreds of police officers are resigning today in major U.S. cities because they dispute mandated vaccinations, the only currently available protection against a lethal and mutating have thousands of health care workers, for the same reason.

Obstructing both public health and the  protection of the planet, it seems, is part of the new normal.
And the new normal renders us all less safe and less hopeful.

Obstruction, it seems, has become a new political movement and ideology.

And the force needed to beat it back seem to be suffering entropy just when muscular push-back is required. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Reflections on public discourse

There is a serious problem with the manner in which public discourse is devolving into "hot-button" words that really distort the shared goals of addressing social and cultural malaise.

Even this specific issue is irreducible to another simplistic and glib diagnosis.
When much communication across our cultural landscape comes through 240 digits on twitter or in the form of a sensational headline, the broad term of societal literacy is threatened.

Issues frequently are captioned in a single word with obvious and eager opposition. That opposition seems determined to deconstruct and decimate the "charge" or the perceived radioactivity of the word.
For example, headlines that social media is filled with and exacerbates "disinformation," while literally true, is only a part of the problem. Political propaganda, for example, has been and continues to be the stock-in-trade even of political parties and practitioners in what are considered "democracies".

 Exaggeration and distortion of the views of political opponents are considered "normal" and "conventional" and such words and statements have dogged the practice of politics for centuries.
Inflation of the importance of an idea of which a candidate is an advocate is another of the multiple vernacular lenses that "paint" a picture designed to sway voters.

A similar exaggeration, linked directly and often inconspicuously to omission of significant details is the stock-in-trade of the massive advertising industry. That sector is also appended to the public relations industry, another designed to put a "good face" on, in many cases, deplorable evidence of corporate culpability.

This week, we heard from U.S. Congressional representatives that social media is having its "tobacco moment" in reference to the public and legal acknowledgement that tobacco kills. This truth was denied by tobacco companies for decades. The whistle-blower from Facebook testified to incontrovertible evidence that her former employer consciously and deliberately values excess profit over client protection, even young children.

We cannot "contain" the implications of the unregulated several social media platforms to a diagnosis of "disinformation". Like an objective clinical diagnosis of cancer, it fails to embrace the full complexities of the disease of which there are a plethora of complexities and even families of cancers.
It is our penchant for a clinical and  "hygienic" single word or short phrase to express complications that invariably and inevitably flood over the  parameters of the conventional buzzword that tend to entrap public discourse and comprehension of the full overtones of the file.

Another example of misleading and dangerous phrases is "systemic racism". Designed to expand the public consciousness of the depth and the breadth of racism, it conversely puts the emphasis and the responsibility for racial bigotry  on the system...that impersonal amorphous faceless and thereby unidentifiable "thing" called the system.

Racism is a personal belief/attitude
/expression of contempt for another based on their ethnicity or religion or
identity such as sexual identity. The target  of racism is a real person and while the culmination of multiple examples of hatred targetting a specific demographic group warrants the term "systemic racism".The hatred and its wounds, serious and even potentially lethal, depend more on the transformation of individual attitudes than on some "training" in racial equality.

Cognitive behavioural therapy has found a receptive and sizeable discipleship in a culture reduced to transactionality.

However, transformation is not reducible to even a mountain of evidence of single transactions. Indeed, such evidence could easily lead to a public minimization of the size and danger of racism and an inevitable disassociation from responsibility for racist attitudes and beliefs and actions.
Words do indeed matter and a public discourse that collapses the language into hot-buttons or euphemisms renders participants in that discourse to potentially simple antagonists in a binary battle for supremacy in the moment.

Unfortunately, our shared reality does not and will not succumb to that game...nor will a full, open, transparent and both informed and nuanced discourse emerge from such a game.

Respnding to Heather Mallick

In her Star column earlier this week, Ms Mallick demanded that men control the men who hate if that were not only feasible but also a reasoned argument.

It is neither!

First men who hate women are the culmination of a biography that inevitably carried a cast of characters of both genders. The misogyny we see today rests on the shoulders of individuals as well as a culture that, admittedly, bears responsibility for a cultural history and anthropology that has been determined, designed and deployed by a toxic masculinity.

Men wrote the sacred books, the philosophy and legal treatises, the medical journals, the scientific "method" and even the parameters that define psychiatry and mental health.

Although many of the "patients" of those theories were, and continue to be, women, the perspective that observed and diagnosed and theorized about their "abnormalities" was and continues to be masculine.
Reductionisms abound for many reasons as do binary approaches, neither of which depict or resolve many human psychic dilemmas.

Literalisms cannot be allowed to erase the poetic and the mythopoetic perspective and their serious gifts of a world perspective that stretches into the ambiguity and the mysteries on which we all depend.
Ms Mallick's authentic feelings about male responsibility for other males is grounded in the facts of domestic and systemic abuse against women.

However, the headline to her column is as specious and effectual as would be its inverse:
"women must control the women who hate men"
In a world where gallons of 'ink' are spilled decrying misogyny, hardly a drop is spilled decrying misandry.

And only if and when women reflect on their personal encounters with men, in collaboration with both genders, and men do the same in collaboration with both genders will the prospect of mitigating the abuse that is inflicted by both on the other as well as on themselves appear on our shared horizon.
If we were determined to examine the details of each life of an abuser of women, in too many cases there were/are women who helped shape the distortion of their self-worth and the unwarranted and unjustified resort to violence and revenge. Doubtless, the same is true for women who hate men even though the expression of that hate takes different forms than the violence perpetrated by men against women.

Pulling the mask off the extrinsic evidence of violence and contempt between the genders is one of the most serious challenges of our public discourse. And that is a task that cannot be accomplished by men only.

Ms Mallick's recent piece could plant seeds of reflection in both men and women if for no other reason than her premise is so misguided.

Sometimes the most unbalanced perspective prods the voices in rebuttal to generate a substantive public discussion. And a substantive and balanced discussion of gender relations will go a long way to helping detoxify other vitriolic public rhetoric.

And that would do much to reduce the tension and the angst that grows hourly, ubiquitously.