Monday, December 13, 2021

"Rape" and "pillage" under our nose

 I used to be angry that trump was even a candidate for the presidency of the U.S. And then, I was even more disheartened that he won the office, with the obvious and perhaps somewhat benign complicity, at least in motive but not in impact, of James Comey, the Hillary emails, and the sexcapades of Anthony Weiner.

And then I realized that sexcapades were another pandemic that has lodged itself into the cultural unconscious of the American landscape. There is Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, and….and…and..,,there is HIV-AIDS, and the taboo against gay people, and there is Bill Cosby and all of the other “star” personalities whose reputations have sewered resulting from inappropriate, unacceptable, acts of men exposed by various complaints from women of various age groups…and it became indisputable that sex, drugs and money were/are/have always been radioactive “hot-buttons” for a tabloid, and increasingly a mainline, media. While this dynamic has historic roots, its size, shape and impact have become lethal and tragic in the more recent past.

There is a predictable, guaranteed, paying consumer demographic for smut….fed and enhanced by a prurient* fixation on the intimate lives of public figures. The movies, television programs, advertising and print advertising have, and continue to deploy, female bodies and their lure, as magnets for flushing cash from the pockets and pocket-books of mostly men. Men create the marketing “creatives” and then rush to fulfil the never-ending prediction that such creatives will work on them.

The role of women in this scurrilous and ubiquitous dynamic, while obvious from the perspective of sitting for photo-shoots, and enlisting in entertainment options, dependent on the endless support of masculine bodies, minds and cash, is, however, something of a mystery. Female complicity with abusive and disrespectful, dominating advances by men, needless to say, is less profiled than that of male abusers.

And then, as I watched millions of women fall prey to the seductive, nefarious sexually motivated, engineered and delivered trump “promises” of inordinate personal power and the bowling-ball collapse of those women to the mass addiction of his power, I became tragically, so disillusioned and dismayed as to wonder what the nation, and the male leadership especially, could or would do to combat a seduction of such massive proportions and impact.

Cliches among popular musicians, both country and rock, tout tales of “picking up a guitar to attract girls” and a similar cliché is historically attached to and lived out by athletes, military uniforms and high-profile actors and corporate tycoons. What woman does not want to bring home a Harvard-degreed lawyer who has been recruited and signed by a high-profile Wall Street law firm? The future, it would seem to all witnesses, would be “set” in the eyes of her parents and set mostly in gold. Similarly, what woman does not want to date a West-Point grad, in the top tenth of his class, slated for clearly predictable promotions up the military ladder of rank? And, it is another heinous cornerstone of sexual assault that rape and other forms of sexual assault are all about power and domination, certainly not about love, affection or respect.

Power, in all of its many forms, is an unlicensed aphrodisiac…..It does not fall under the jurisdiction of the FDA, of the Department of Health And Human Services, the limp and unenforced gun-control legislation, the oversight of the SEC, or the Treasury Department, nor is it subject to the scrutiny of the National Intelligence Office. It is not sold in pharmacies, nor in liquor stores, nor in the more recent cannabis outlets. It is not under the radar of the FBI, or the CIA, as one of the most powerful and addictive drugs available everywhere….And the sexual aspect of this powerful drug pervades American culture, in all of its many forms.

Power is so compulsively addictive that its possession, historically in the hands primarily of men, has become a magnet for the female population, who already knew of the magnetism of their sexuality long before the corporate and political and academic and ecclesial opportunities became accessible. And the access to power positions by women was not achieved without much tension conflict, organizing and protesting, ambitious climbing up those multiple ladders of status and power. In order to demonstrate that women are as competent as men, in all fields of endeavour, women sought to prove their worth, essentially by out-performing them in executive, leadership, scholarship, pastoral and care-giving skills. Their capacity to perform in all arenas was available throughout history, but not permitted deployment and the concomitant awards and rewards by neurotic men who were literally and metaphorically frightened of being ‘knocked off their (our) pedestal’ of power.

There is a new wrinkle in the power/sexual politics game, inserted by the fundamentalist evangelicals. They believe, and uphold that belief in practice, that men are the head of the household, that their female partners are to be obedient to their men, and that all sexual activity must be restricted to the marriage bed. Is such a belief system blatantly congruent with, or co-dependent on, a trump model of masculine dominance? Is such a belief system a depraved cry for their male partners to demonstrate power and authority, in a rescuing model, so that those women will feel more secure in an insecure world? Is there a religious lens about God and what is “godly” that is attempting to preserve and propagate a male-dominance model of health human families?

And, how, perchance, is such a belief and praxis system compatible with a public figure who blatantly uses, abuses and disposes of women for his personal satisfaction and aggrandizement?

Religious purity, of the kind fundamentalist literalists cling to, is now being marketed under a church originating in Australia, under the name C3. It has spread into 64 countries, including Canada and the United Sates, almost illustrating a hybrid model of Lions International, with community, (in person and digital) as the social glue, with a literal Biblical interpretation the alleged spiritual glue holding it together, and holding its people in its sway at the same time.

Size, as in all other human endeavours, seems to qualify as a standard by which to evaluate any proposition. The more people who “follow” (for whatever unsavoury and illegitimate motive or purpose) and the bigger the bank and trust accounts of these now ubiquitous global fundamentalist evangelical behemoths, the more attraction they garner from the media. After all, would it not be reasonable and justifiable for media agents to “speak” to an audience that includes members of such religious monsters in order to generate ratings, advertising dollars, career advancement, tailored writing and delivery of daily news stories?

The ambition and search for power, recognition, influence, status and even identity is universal. This is not an argument for lassitude, apathy, indolence and narcissistic laziness. It is, however, a recognition and exposure of the seemingly distorted path pursued by many to forms of power that are reduced to individual, as opposed to collective power and influence. While that is obvious, what is not often detailed is the degree to which the culture complicity endorses and enacts the notion and the implications of its disdain for others. Recently CNN honoured individual heroes whose lives are directly contributing, with others, to sustainable, honourable, achievable social goals in their respective communities. Subaru, a corporate sponsor for these awards, is increasingly devoting much of its marketing to enhancing life on the planet. And while cynics will dismiss Subaru’s efforts, their corporate leadership warrants some public respect.

There is a kind of clarity of motive and action that characterizes these local heroes, some of whom have turned their own personal pain into first an identification with others who were experiencing similar pain and then a plan to address the kind of specific pain they themselves previously underwent. A former convicted prison needing a second chance, for example, has created a foundation executing second chances for other recently released convicted prisoners, under the slogan, “your worst act is not who you are”. Among his community, recidivism has been cut to 1%, compared with a much higher rate among other recently released prisoners. And while both the motive and the achievement of these heroes is commendable and worthy of emulation, representing the better angels of human transformation, there are sizeable currents of various individual and collective pursuits of power and influence that are working against the human survival and healing of men and women and children and the planet itself.

And not all of the nefarious influences are easily detected or neutralized by a common solidarity. One example, from a recent documentary on the ‘gig’ economy, portrayed a male individual in Florida, 36 and living with his mother, who has learned the ‘tricks’ of how to make a living by completing surveys. Although Caucasian, he has signed up to complete surveys for which he is paid, as a “black Republican,” knowing that such a category has very few numbers. He thus has become a sought-after subject for surveys that pay him, according to his own statement, somewhere in the neighbourhood of $30,000 annually. Of course, his responses to survey questions have no relevance or application to the category to which he has assigned himself. And the company operating the survey have no way of identifying him as a ‘fraudster’ and there is likely no “law” preventing his approach, especially in an economy that is sliding like an avalanche into the valley of  “gigs” by individuals everywhere.

Stories abound of individuals who ride bikes in urban traffic to deliver food, in alcohol, and all manner of goods, as “private contractors,” who are universally denied protections of job security, benefits, and safety by the ‘firms’ who dole out meagre pennies for their efforts. Are those corporate decision-makers not also fully engaged in a kind of ‘rape’ of the dignity, decency and humanity of their slaves for profit? And is that abuse not escaping the eye and the attitudes and the actions of many in power who could ameliorate their situation, but refuse to enter into the fray in an unholy alliance with their powerful owners, operators and manipulators. And is that unholy, unspoken alliance not a model of the abuse of power that we saw in the trump administration in epic proportions, and continue to witness in his cult’s defiance of legitimate probes into his private affairs as well as into the insurrection, and also into the manner in which his administrations’ negligence (deemed criminal here) in their mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting of hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths?

And was it not primarily male leaders, with millions of men and women followers that comprised the trump cabal? And was the abuse of power, under the guise of empowerment of the “seduced” not the sine qua non of the whole operation? And was/is the abuse of power by that man in Florida, by the trump gang, and also by the thousands of complicit enablers, both inside the Republican party as well as among the plethora of white supremacy militias serving as acolytes to the  ‘movement,’ not a tidal wave of neurosis running after whatever papier mache symbols of power and influence they could cling to?

And this co-dependent movement of enablers of abusers, who seem to be willing to stoop to whatever means it takes to deconstruct the institutional edifices and systems of conventional and traditional social order, serves as “role model” for the men and women who must cling to whatever levers of power/money/food/shelter/clothes they can find?

And such models of abusive power and influence for personal gain not only abound but apparently remain, for the most part, untouched by whatever authorities might bring the behaviour down.

Despondency, despair and desperation, like a early morning fog on London streets, slither up and down the streets and alleys in all of our towns and villages, suburbs and inner cities. And while we focus on a pandemic virus, and a climate gasping for clean air and water, and for affordable and safe food, and for modest gifts for our families at this holiday season, all the while the deliberate, concentrated, illicit and inescapable forces of “rape” and “pillage” (robbing a place through violence especially in wartime) of millions of innocents continues with a kind of impunity that pirates enjoyed.

How can we reconcile our legitimate public contempt for the individuals who abuse women and children with our social and cultural fixation on the abuse of power by mostly men of wealth, political and corporate malfeasance? The mega-abusers like trump know they have commandeered such public attention that they have swamped the micro-news-professionals with so many nefarious acts and defiances. Covering each minute detail naturally swamps coverage of the tectonic shifts in cultural attitudes that pose even bigger threats.

And their dominance depends directly on a public appetite for the scurrilous stories about their “powerful” and “seductive” assault on the innocence and complicity of millions.

Are we all complicit?


*Meriam-webster: marked by or arousing an immoderate or unwholesome interest or desire, especially marked by, arousing or appealing to sexual desire.


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