Monday, May 30, 2022

Can we move from tinkering to transformation of the North American culture?

 Ban assault rifles…implement background checks….impose red-flag laws…limit magazine capacity….???? What about teach your kids to read and to be able to discern the difference between a ‘militia’ that requires defense enabled by a personal weapon and today’s situation where, ironically, and perhaps even predictably, the enemy is the weaponized divide?

The conflation of literalism, fundamentalism, populism and the pursuit of narcissistic addiction to power for its own sake, and not for the betterment of the public good, is a recipe for dissolution, devolution, and perhaps even disintegration. As the most powerfully weaponized nation, the wealthiest nation, the ‘best educated’ nation, in terms of the preponderance of undergraduate and graduate degrees, and the most scientifically advanced nation on earth, the irony of the “sclerosis” (courtesy of Michelle Goldberg, New York Times Columnist, on MSNBC) of American politics is both tragic and models other deep geopolitical divides.

Let’s try to unpack some of the more obvious gaps in the American culture, and possibly in the American zeitgeist and psyche:

§  the macho male archetype that confronts all “impediments” with hard power,

§   the dependence of millions of non-male sycophants who also cling to that model of power,

§  the resort to militarized police and the plethora of law enforcement agencies established as a “defence” against whatever current and perceived threat/enemy that rears its ugly head,

§  the blind hubristic denial that the established “insurance policies” (both literally and metaphorically) are both inadequate and in appropriate for most crises

§  the monetizing and idealization of that goal in profits of each and every human and organizational transaction

§  the reduction of each person to an economic ‘function’ and numerical identity

§  the identification of  human ‘identity’ in superficial, empiric, manipulated and manipulatable digits

§  the dominance of the corporation, the military, the pharmaceutical and the insurance and information machines…over the legitimate needs and aspirations of individual human beings

§  the legal definition of the corporation as a ‘person’ thereby protecting it from multiple legitimate legal actions

§  the out-sourcing of what once were government/public responsibilities to the private sector, to shield the political class from criticisms and electoral defeat

§  the gerry-mandering of districts to the point at which over 90% of all elected officials are returned to office as incumbents

§  the reduction of the education of children to behavioural, measureable responses

§  the erosion of the liberal arts from the majority of universities and colleges

§  the sanctification of the scientific, algorithmic, and the digital as the triumph of the American culture

§  the win-at-all-costs enculturation of all children, in a vain attempt to embody the ‘exceptionalism’ doctrine

§  the blind hubris of the establishment that “exceptionalism” is another ‘marketing’ and ‘selling’ and self-seducing ideal, not a statement of nature

§  the glorification of the heroic in the incidental, whether that incidental is in the science laboratory, the battlefield, the stock portfolio, the entertainment theatre, the athletic field, and even the religious sanctuary

§  the fear of the ‘other’ to the white, male stereotype of successful acquisition of status regardless of how that status is achieved or in whatever field of human endeavour

§  the measurement and definition of ‘support’ for the needy exclusively in dollars, numbers of persons hired and assigned, and the headlines of those superficial decisions

§  transformation of the political theatre into another internal battlefield in which the human lives (biographies, digital comments, tragedies and failures) of all combatants become weapons to be used against all opponents

§  the elevation and sanctification of war and all of the supportive material and personnel on that idol

§  the elevation of the extrinsic to a religious and national dominance within and in relations with the rest of the world

And before any American protests that s/he has no interest in being ‘lectured’ by a Canadian about a political culture, it needs to be said from the north side of the 49th parallel that we inevitably and incontrovertibly absorb, as if by osmosis, whatever happens to be happening south of that border.

For decades, we have consumed, willingly and even enthusiastically, American television and movie productions as if, somehow, they were also integral to who we might become as Canadians. Many of our popular artists, in order to gain acceptance in Canada, had to rise to public acclaim in the U.S. as if that were the stamp of approval. That dynamic has changed, following the initiative of a “Canadian program requirement on our radio airwaves. Gradually, great Canadian talent emerged, was recognized for its inherent universality and timelessness, and an audience developed for Canadian talent. Ironically, one of America’s rock and roll icons, who chose to make his living in Canada, Ronnie Hawkins, died this weekend at 87. In the 60’s and 70’s he was an obvious exception to the cadre of Canadian talent moving to the U.S.

Always considering our military ‘might and value’ to be considerably inferior to that of the U.S., (not even up to the 2% of GDP that Prime Minister Pearson advocated decades ago, for NATO members), and certainly our economy relied heavily on U.S. trade, innovation, and even considerable financial infrastructure. The U.S. is and has been traditionally less risk-averse that Canadians and also more imaginative and louder in their support of new ideas and projects and the men and women who created them. We in Canada have much less affinity and even comprehension of ‘heroes’ both in the literal and in the metaphoric. We are a more dour people and culture, some would argue whose Scottish influence plays a strong role in our public pursuit of accounting and accountability, as a foundation of ‘good order and government’. We are much less interested in, and committed to, what we see as the American fixation with “freedom” as in freedom of speech (apparently including hate speech, which we collectively and individually abhor), and freedom to carry guns (even including assault rifles, which we have banned).

And while we notice, and some even adhere to, the glitz of affluence in America, we are nevertheless, more complex in our understanding and pursuit of contentment and peace, rather than the “pursuit of happiness”, which seems to currently obstruct much of what is now considered the American culture. This trait does not make us ‘better’ or ‘worse’ but simply very different. Our federation, unlike the American republic, while seemingly engaged in federal-provincial yin-yang tensions, is less exercised about ‘states rights’ when it comes to the separation of powers between Ottawa and the provincial capitals. Trends, in so many fields, once seeded in the U.S., and then documented in Canada, reflected upon as potential here, are not always adopted, and when we turn away from such initiatives, we are proud of our ‘independence’. One example is the well-known and celebrated refusal of Prime Minister Chretien to join the coalition of the willing to attack Iraq in 2003. Another is our adoption of a woman’s right to choose, in the midst of a strong Roman Catholic demographic.

While both Canada and the U.S. both struggle with minority race relations, our primary minority are the indigenous population in all provinces and territories, whose lives and children have been seriously and blatantly and inexcusably colonized by the white ‘European’ majority. Only recently has our society and culture generally wakened to our shame, culpability and the beginning of a national commitment to begin the process of reconciliation. On the other hand, blacks in America, while a larger percentage of the population that First Nations in Canada, have endured centuries of overt abuse at all levels and to various degrees. That abuse has taken the form of “slaves ownership and selling and trading slaves, lynchings, poll taxes, criminalizing minor offences,….and the list is only beginning. Whether the American treatment of blacks is more heinous and despicable than the Canadian treatment of indigenous seems mute given that on both sides of the 49th parallel white supremacy reigned and to a considerable extent continues even into the 21st century

Militarily, Canada has, however, allied with the U.S, in both world wars, in Afghanistan, and now in Ukraine. The perception and the conception of this conflict is one shared by many ‘western’ nations, given the Russian invasion that was allegedly not prompted by any single act of Ukraine. The arguments that the expansion of NATO significantly contributed to the Russian impulse for both aggression and national aggrandizement, (not to exclude the inflation of the personal, historic ego of Putin himself) have received little if any public notice in both the U.S. and Canada, given the empathic impulse in both countries that stirs the heart of many to open their homes and nation to Ukrainian refugees.

And in terms of generosity, the Americans doubtless, far outstrip both the Canadians and much of the rest of the world, given their compassion and their enthusiastic record of coming to the aid of the helpless, especially following a catastrophe, whether man-made, an act of nature or an unjustified military attack. Prevention of these catastrophes, as a cornerstone of public policy and integral to the process of governance, however, has received little attention politically, to some degree in both Canada and the U.S., the arguments against prevention including that it is ‘less sexy’ and ‘less able to be accounted for’ in terms of measurable results. How does the public know that that “$x billions” prevented that storm surge, or that hurricane? And given the cause-effect binary reductionism that lies at the core of most if not all public issues, especially including their diagnosis and proposed remediation, in all western governments, it is no surprise that prevention takes a back seat to crisis management.

Some argue that “hate” is now the core value in the United States. Canadians, on the other hand, would argue that we have not crossed that threshold yet, although hate was a prominent verbal bullet in the recent trucker blockade in Ottawa and on the Peace Bridge that connects Windsor and Detroit. Hatred of pandemic restrictions, government overreach, the tyranny of the “woke” and the rebellion of the “ordinary folk” who have, to some extent on both sides of the border, taken up arms, in proportions that we have not seen before.

The flow of money from the south, the United States, into the truckers’ blockade movement, and the hatred of government, especially the Canadian Prime Minister, has now prompted debate among Canadian security officials and scholars, not merely to take note of the American influence in Canada, but also to prepare for more, and to shore up our defences against further malignant, populist, right-wing, anarchist developments. On-line, social media influencers are on steroids not only to expand sales of consumer products and services; they are also rampant in “radicalizing” those mal-contents on both sides of the border, mostly bored, disengaged, minimally educated young men, who are easily induced into whatever excitement and incitement temps them.

Although religion and the church attendance in both countries has fallen precipitously over the last decades, not without just cause in many cases, a comment from a grandfather of one of the murdered children in Uvalde Texas had a pithy observation that seems to sum up much of the current zeitgeist, at least in the United States, where mass shootings are now the ‘new normal’…

“We used to be a nation under God; now we are a nation under guns!” was his comment. His wisdom, insight and clarity, while not embraced in the halls of power, is, nevertheless, like the insight, clarity and wisdom of the children who survived the latest massacre, prophetic and!

Can we hear the voice of the prophets amid the noise of our

“micro-nano-second-quick-fix-instant-gratification” perspective?

Proactive prevention, demands a transformation of the culture in both Canada and the U.S. as well as elsewhere.

Are we up to that degree of change?

Thursday, May 19, 2022

Wrestling with lies, racism, cultural stereotypes and change....


Is there some devious and deceptive and dangerous causal relationship between the rampant racism that we are witnessing/experiencing and the prevalence of public lies with impunity?

Do those whose hearts are filled with fear and hate need lies to tolerate their own anger?

Do the lies about fascism in Ukraine, maintained by Putin, cover for an abuse of power so egregious that its legitimate and honourable and authentiuc justification escapes even the man who triggered the invasion?

Does the pathology of lies that has become a malignant tumor on the American political culture and elsewhere demonstrate a perverse camouflage for over-weening white supremacy and other forms of racism?

Are the passions behind the conviction to the lies and the passions of white supremacists coming from the same psychological root, the fear of powerlessness, emasculation, and eradication?

We have all witnessed and most likely experienced the hatred and contempt of some group, or some ideology, or some social class, or some ‘inferior’ cluster, even if it were only a ‘neighbourhood’ where the “riffraff” the “undesirebles,” eke out an existence. Whether through reverse snobbery of the rich, the powerful and the highly educated simply because of their state in the world, or through the contempt many of us have and feel for our authority figures who have abused their power over us, or whether we were tutored in the ‘art’ of subtle disdain for another religion than that of our family, or whether we were somehow steeped in a family belief and perception that only those with money, power, status and ‘success’ are worthy of our acquaintance and admiration….or whether we dreamt of someday mounting the pinnacle of some pedestal of rank and were conditioned, like one of Pavlov’s dogs, to pursue that dream at the expense of everything and everyone else….

Words like cronies, buddies, like-minds, and ‘team-players’ are all incorporated into the lexicon of “belonging” to some group at a very early age. Neighbours, too, and church members, and social and golf and curling club memberships all fit with our attempt to belong to something somewhere somehow sometime. Military enlistments, fraternity/sorority membership, and all the other ‘consumer’ memberships: Aeroplan, Air Miles, Optimum Membership….all designed to deliver more sales and more profits for their originators. Belonging, in both the formal and informal senses, is a pursuit that begins very early in our childhood. Groups of girls and boys tend to “hang-out’ together, unless and until there is a ‘falling out’ ignited by some social slight, bullying, taunt, or even gossip. In classrooms, too, young children vie for the attention of the teacher, in the hope that “being friendly” will enhance their own self-esteem, even if those words have not yet cropped up in their personal lexicon. Dating in adolescence as well as athletic and/or artistic activities offer opportunities for ‘socializing,’ making friends and in the process ‘getting to know what kind of friends we prefer’ and thereby discovering who we are.

And by extension, the question of those individuals/groups with whom we are not familiar or comfortable also begins to be ‘coloured in’ on our mind’s landscape. No longer ‘stick persons’ of merely a pencil outline, these people may even have a higher degree of both recognition and conscious awareness in our “lens” simply because they are ‘different’ from us. Incidents in which we listen to the adults in our world criticize a group, or indicate in some overt or subtle manner, that ‘they’ are undesirable in some way, begin to lay down imprints of either caution signs or ‘red flags’ depending on the nature of the ‘story’.

In small towns, religious affiliation often plays a significant part in our ‘selection process’ of ‘friends and ‘frenemies’….and the distinction may be based on nothing specific, concrete, or even any specific experience. The distinction may be a left-over from our grand-parents’ generation, so deep are the feelings and attitudes of prejudice. And this underground attitudinal ‘current’ may never reach the light or sound of even a facial or a verbal expression. It may lie dormant, even unknown to its carrier, for decades. This kind of familial engendering, acculturation, assimilation and transfer is so deep and so indelible if imperceptible, that it rears its ugly head only upon the evidence of some trigger, a moment, a look, a word, a story or an experience that ‘evokes’ this stream of the unconscious and brings it back into consciousness.

None of us is free from such emotional and attitudinal ‘weeds,’ some of them even toxic and lethal, lying camouflaged in political correctness and professional demeanour, unless and until they erupt. And a good part of the camouflage comprises our willingness and skill in ‘deluding’ both ourselves and the other, by, what else? lying, covering-up, denying, deceiving and dissembling all the while covering those “mask” words with a broad smile.

We have become professional dissemblers, and our justification is that ‘we have to go along to get along’! So those who truly offend us continue to offend others, and we go blithely about our lives, unscathed by either the consciousness of our own demons or by the ‘hurt’ those demons have caused others.
Canadian poet, Irving Layton wrote that we learn to love by hating. At the first hearing of that notion, I was shocked, and over the decades since, have come to realize that there is an element of clarification in the experience of both anger and hate. There is usually little or no ambiguity in our experience of anger, nor is there of hate. Why we feel those deep emotions, however, may too often escape our reflection, given that the heat of their eruption shoves reflection off our consciousness, and the ‘heat’ subsides, and/or is assuaged and comforted by a friend’s empathy and compassion.
Has there be a significant and perhaps tectonic shift in our culture from ‘covering and masking’ our racism, hate, contempt and our demons by some form of polite social demeanour to now transferring that hate, racism and contempt into some form of perverse distortion of reality that permits any interpretation of anything and everything leaving us free to our worst instincts?

I need to ponder that question…

Have the lies become the ‘mask’ for the worst kind of attitude, including the demonization and the weaponizing of our ‘enemy targets’ including those of a different racial, religious, ethic, or gender group?

Is there an as-yet unplumbed hidden connection between those things we hate and our emotional capacity to deal with them? For example, are we repulsed by something or someone or some institution at a traumatic level that, ever-after we are prone to express contempt or hatred for that X? And are we complicit in carrying forward, either consciously or not, those attitudes that we inherited from our families, when we were too innocent and too young to discern their venality?

This morning I read an obituary of a school friend, then, in the 50’s and 60’s, a devout Roman Catholic in a very devout Roman Catholic family, in a town split along the protestant-catholic divide without the blood-shed of the Belfast of Rev. Iain Paisley, who, after a career in business in the U.S. returned to serve as mayor of our hometown. Today his obit notes his funeral will be in a protestant church, inviting donations to that church. This is not to proselytize for Protestantism over Roman Catholicism; it is rather to say that we all change and yet our perceptions of many of those changes are impeded by our clinging to an original imprint on our consciousness. And we, both individually and collectively, become ‘stuck’ in those modes of both thinking and believing. Some of that ‘stuckness’ rises to the level of racism, or bigotry of any kind, while some of it becomes ‘unstuck’ and moves to transform in ways that we might not have anticipated.

Considerable work is being conducted into both how we deal with trauma, and with how we make moral decisions.
On the issue of how we deal with trauma, especially as it impacts children, recent)
research indicates that healthy, yet open conversations help our children to develop discerning capacities and maturities later that serve them well regardless of the hurdles they have to overcome in their adult years. Protecting them through a sustained silence about the trauma is only a self-protection that places our needs above theirs.
(from Center for Child Trauma Assessment, services and Interventions,
Remain calm, meet them where they are, let them know it is not their fault, let them know there is no right or wrong way to feel or grieve after a traumatic event, allow the child to ask questions and be honest if you don’t know the answer….listen if s/he wants to talk, but do not force him/her to talk about trauma when s/he is not ready

And, while as parents we may not be conscious of what we are doing, we can learn and change, develop an openness to the new idea of exposing us to the notion that our child has been deeply and profoundly hurt, in and through whatever the family trauma was, and participate in open and voluntary conversations about their experience from their perspective, listening without judgement, to their perceptions and the attitudes that flow from them.

Human judgements many of them made in the flick of an eye, if not more quickly, have a significant impact, not only on the generation of conflict, including racism, and trauma, but also in the manner in which we comprehend and then assess and deal with the impacts. And in that process, as in almost all moments when we are “assessing” any situations, the level and manner of those judgements have a bearing on what happens next.

The question of how and when we make judgements has concerned other researchers. From, in a piece entitled, ‘The four moral judgements you make every day, our brains make snap moral decisions in mere seconds, by Scotty Hendricks, April 5, 2021, referencing an article by Dr. Bertram E. Malle of Brown University, there are four levels of assessments we all make, in sequence:

1.     Evaluations…the simple evaluations we make of things being good or bad, positive or negative…perhaps within a half second

2.     Norm Judgements…deciding is some action or thing is allowed, permissible, taboo or otherwise acceptable….limited to actions and often to future ones. Often invoking abstract notions of virtue and value, can be more deliberative than others.

3.     Wrongness judgements…to identify intentional violations of norms that are considered egregious, again in half a second

4.     Blame judgement…If wrongness judgements combine evaluations and norm judgements in a new way, then blame judgements combine all three. The most complex of the judgement categories, including factors of intentionality and justification…most people blame somebody for accidentally spilling milk less than they’d blame them for intentionally pouring a gallon on the floor. Our brains start to place blame in less than two seconds. Blame is not only a social tool; it can help us understand who did what but can also help regulate our moral behaviour in the future.

Clearly our culture is saturated, if not actually infested with and by “blame judgements” that run counter to simple evaluations, norms,  and wrongness… and leave many wandering in the desert of both accusations that may be misplaced and also others deep in a false security of absoluteness that offers a kind of pseudo-mental stability and security, as if our world is more stable and dependable than it really is.

Blaming all Romans (and Roman Catholics) for the Crucifixion of Christ is one epic blaming.

Blaming all of Germany for the Holocaust is another.

Blaming the Americans for the Ukraine-Russia war is another, useful as propaganda for the Kremlin, but not without some merit.

Blaming all Muslims for 9/11 is another epic and tragic blaming.

Blaming fraud for the presidential election in 2020 is another tragic blaming.

It is as if some are addicted to throwing the flaming spears of “blame” around with impunity as if to indicate an exercise and capability of showing strength that really betrays their weakness and offers nothing to heal their narcissism.

And, right away, I am engaging in the “blaming judgement” that combines an early evaluation, a perception of how a norm pertains to the viability and trust of U.S. elections, a wrongness judgement in that there is nor was evidence of the election being stolen.

These are many other examples of how opinions, especially among close-knit groups or clubs, become norms, that serve as guiding and eventually historic principles, governing the attitudes and behaviours of all those coming withing the borders of those groups. Norms apply also to small neighbourhoods, or even street descriptions that serve those who designate and determine the descriptors. If a shooting occurs in a quiet neighbourhood, it is a shock. If it occurs on the streets of Chicago, it is a norm. Similarly, in a small town, where personal ‘grit’ and determination trump social assistance, as a normative value, then those in need will experience a kind of ghost-like disappearance, whereas, in a region where a norm of programs and committed broad assistance beyond the individual primarily for the feel-good ‘samaritan’ gratification, the real need to be valued and independent will have become subsumed into the community’s need to ‘help’ only minimally, as if that was all the situation required.

And that ‘norm’ snares the community in a mind-set that resists a more open and much more complex acknowledgment of those community needs as well as an even stronger resistance to the notion of exposing the dark side of the community life.

We used to have homeless, but they have moved on. We used to have poverty but it too has subsided and apparently moved on. We used to have some people with disabilities but they too have moved on. What is wrong with this picture?

Moving on, elimination of the gordion knots of human desperation and struggle is not the business of such a community. It is for others to deal with, perhaps even rationalized as ‘lack of resources’ or ‘we do not want that kind here’ or even ‘we tried to deal with that in the past, and found it too burdensome, our taxpayers would not stand for it’….and the list of rationalizations continues…hypothetically.

These community ‘norms’ while mere papier mache, are established principles in the minds and attitudes of those who consider themselves “elites” within the community…and the pattern continues…unless and until there is a reckoning, a truth-telling that helps to shift the ‘public relations-image-building’ motive to a more integrous and authentic and sustainable acknowledgement of what is really going on.

Cultural change is analogous to moving mountains, and need the flow of clear courageous hearts and minds to wear its craggy out-cropping’s down to something more tolerant and tolerable. The glaciers of the Ice Age are melting, so too can the glaciers of human stereotypes along with simplistic, Samaritan* solutions and the culture that sanctifies them.

*A parables professor at St. Michael’s College  once commented, “The Christ Figure in the Good Samaritan story was the Jew taken for dead  in the ditch, not the Samaritan. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

With the debasement of truth, and the rise of hate...where are we going?

  Newsweek today is reporting that Russian state television is advising the Kremlin to deploy nuclear weapons against Sweden and Finland, prompted by their avowed announcement and determination to apply for and pursue NATO membership.

Is this another irrelevant and irresponsible instance of sabre rattling, as a way to fend off these applications? Or, perhaps, is this a sign that the Kremlin is growing impatient with its own failures, with the failures of its military leadership, and of its frustration with the Ukrainian people and military for so courageously and persistently pushing back Russian forces?

Is the deployment of nuclear weapons actually on the table in this conflict? And if so, is it a serious indication that the “power of the nuke” is now the bargaining chip in all significant international negotiations? India is certainly using their nuclear ‘chip’ to bargain for not opposing the Russian invasion and for negotiating a lowered price for Russian fossil fuels. Has India signalled the next chapters in geo-politics, given the spike in growth of her economy, making her now the second largest economy in the world, after China’s economic slowdown?

Some are arguing that the world will split, geopolitically, into a block that includes China and Russia and India and Venezuela and Possibly Brazil, with Europe and the U.S. and Canada, Australia and New Zealand forming another block. Kissinger warns that the United States has to be careful not to alienate both China and Russia simultaneously. He also reports that Putin will have to end this war in Ukraine when he ‘sees’ that Russia’s power and status on the world stage is dissipating.

Reports of Putin’s ‘blood cancer’ along with reports of his having undergone back surgery related to his blood cancer, continue to be denied by Russian reports. However, there are also reports today that a bonafide coup movement is underway inside Russia to remove Putin from power. Whether these reports, like those of the potential deployment of nuclear weapons against Sweden and Finland, have any merit, and warrant serious consideration is so uncertain as to render them ‘speculative’ at best, and worrisome at worst. The Associated Press reports May 13, 2022, in a piece entitled, “Russian soldier on trial in first Ukraine war-crimes case” by Oleksandr Stashevski and Richar Lardner:

“A 21-year-old Russian soldier went on trial Friday in Kyiv for the killing of an unarmed Ukrainian civilian, marking the first war crime prosecution of a member of the Russian military from 11 weeks of bloodshed in Ukraine. The Soldier, a captured member of a tank unit is accused of shooting a 62-year-old Ukrainian man in the head through an open car window in the northeastern village of Chupakhivka during the first days of the war.

This trial is being conducted on the basis of Ukrainian criminal law, by Ukrainian prosecutors. So, the Ukrainians are fighting on the battlefield, in the air, in the bunkers and streets and now in the courts.

The rest of the world is watching and trying, without the benefit of intelligence initiatives, except those making their way into the public media, to sort out what is going on, what is about to go on, the implications of what has already taken place and any glimmer of hope that this serious slaughter might be brought to an end, without having to face the spectre of opening the Pandora’s Box of the nuclear threat.

The matter of the loss of trust seems to pervade the background of this conflict. Established as a ‘defensive alliance’ to protect members from any military incursion or invasion by Russia. NATO has itself now been morphed into an ‘offensive monster’ by the Russian wannabe czar as justification of his own war against Ukraine. It was Ukraine that was promised security by Russia, the UK and the US when it destroyed its nuclear weapons in 1994 and joined the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons Treaty (NPT).

Here is a glimpse of the wording of that treaty:

Confirm the following:

1.     The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance  with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine.

2.     The Russian Federation, The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their obligation to refrain from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Ukraine, and that none of their weapons will ever be used against Ukraine except in self-defence or otherwise in accordance with theCharter of the United Nations.

4.     (not a typo) The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to seek immediate United Nations Security Council action to provide assistance t Ukraine, as a non-nuclear-weapon State party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, if Ukraine should become a victim of an act of aggression or an object of a threat of aggression in which nuclear weapons are used.

Why would anyone of us not be confused, frustrated, and utterly in contempt of the hypocrisy, at least, and the undermining and sabotaging of their own words in initiating this act of war against Ukraine?

And, who would not also be in contempt of much of the language of public discourse that has devolved into little more than a papier mache verbosity that seeks to provide the quickest and most facile escape from the truth on the part of too many political actors. At the heart of that fabrication, that ‘front’ of cosmetics in which too many aspiring political leaders have been schooled, lies a foundational cornerstone of hate….whether it be of ‘fascists’ (as Putin falsely alleges in Ukraine) or blacks as white supremacists falsely allege in the U.S. or Jews also the target of white supremacists, or Asians, also a target of white supremacists….

Racial hatred, and the fear of ‘replacement’ by people whose skin is not white, is a phenomenon unrestricted by national boundaries, a fire fueled by social media also without jurisdictional constraints, in a world in which the people of good faith and good will seem to have faded in both numbers and volume. In another life, a political cliché that bounced around a northern Ontario town in a counter-offensive to what was perceived by many as the likelihood of a less-than-honourable candidate would win electoral victory ran something like this: ‘If the good people leave the field, then the less savoury will be free to take it over.’

Millions of ordinary people struggle not only with spiking inflation at the gas pump, in the grocery store, and the vagaries of an invisible virus but also with a conviction that those in charge will tell us what they think and believe we want to hear, that is what they believe will succeed in securing and maintaining public confidence and trust. And all the while, that confidence and trust has been so eroded, not by all political actors, but by enough of the really heinous and shameless ones who seem to have a way of seeking and grabbing the largest microphones. Loud noises, trumpeting lies that even the prevaricators know to be false, have thundered through the television and computer screens for decades, leaving in their wake a tidal wave of unresolved existential threats and a citizenry many of whom have lost hope that any real progress will or even can be made in this kind of ethos.

If the ethos and the actors responsible for that ethos are committed to their own self-denial, their own self-sabotage and the self-sabotage of the public interest, and all of this continues without a hint of remorse, and certainly no sign of a change, and the capacity to generate more ‘coverage’ from the media that is co-dependent on the ratings that come from violent rhetoric and lies, it is not only toxic gases, and nuclear missiles that we have to worry about.

We have to worry about the abject failure of many of those in positions of public influence, (think many Republicans and Tucker Carlson and Fox News, an  oxymoron itself, Lepine, and Renaud Camus) 08/11/2021, (reports): It was in his (Renaud Camus’) book ‘Le Grand Remplacement’ that he first coined the term ‘the great replacement’ which became a rallying cry for the far right worldwide….Rooted in racist nationalist views, the great replacement theory purports that an elitist group is colluding against  white French and European people to eventually  replace them with non-Europeans from Africa and the Middle East, the majority of whom are Muslim. Renaud Camus often refers to this as ‘genocide by substitution’.

Support for the healthy exchange of ideas, as well as the healthy address of serious social and political issues like food shortage, environmental degradation, a global pandemic, become highly problematic, if not inexorably complex and perhaps even meaningless where there is no basis for a common set of facts, and where the rot of human decay in hatred and contempt for the other, regardless of whom that ‘other’ might be dominates.

Descending to our most base instincts, like rabid animals starved in a drought-stricken desert, where our mere survival becomes our only goal and thereby our own feasible option, renders us all at the mercy of that survival motive. It may well not be a case of the survival of a civilization over another, but rather the survival of the whole of humanity that might be at risk, in spite of the plethora of platinum innovations in so many fields of public health, restorative justice, instant and accurate and accessible communications and the ingenuity of millions of brilliant scientists and thinkers dedicated to the ‘public good’ and the well-being of each of us.

We read and write about daily occurrences like the war crime trial, the Putin health reports, the nuclear non-proliferation treaty and the latest COVID numbers…and yet, we all know that much of that is only drivel if we are unable and unwilling to tackle the existential crises that exceed all national boundaries and cultures, all religions and atheism, all political ideologies and caste systems.

The Romans had a phrase that might be appropriate in these times:

Quo Vadis? Where are you marching or whither goest thou?

And we might ponder, “Wherever it is, will it be a road girded with truth, courage and collaborative hope or NOT?”

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Men need male support anecdotally, daily to shape our transformation....not just new programs

The Globe and Mail is running a series about the need to design and deliver ‘programs’ to and for men, to cope with the violent behaviour of men primarily in relationships with women.

Two things stood out from that reading:

1) The preponderance of public funds that are being poured into addressing domestic violence is supporting both facilities and programs for women victims. The argument from those quarters is that any new funding for facilities and programs for men will drain off the funds they are already receiving.

2)    2) The current situation, in this as in most public policy decisions, is tilted firmly in the direction of “crisis management” and not prevention.

Of course, both of these points are directly related, in that “prevention” of violence perpetrated by men against women requires not only to address the needs of those victims, but also to seek to prevent further abuse,

So, what is it about “crisis” management that is far more appealing and even seductive to decision-makers in the political arena, as well as in the policy arena, than prevention?

How do we measure the impact of any dollars spent on “preventing” men from imposing violent acts and emotions on women? How many men “have not” committed domestic violence as a result of this program? Who knows?

On the other hand, a woman in distress, as a victim of violence, absolutely needs support, counsel and a continuing circle of advocacy to attempt to re-build her life, whether or not she brings young children into the shelter. And those ‘outcomes’ are and will continue to be measured, in terms of number of women served, number of women who re-built their lives and numbers of children who successfully survived the family trauma. Politically, then, the sheer force of e empirical reality in terms of measurable results favours the “crisis management”.

The cliché’s that come from the men who have perpetrated family violence, and then sought help, abound, and are highly predictable:

We’re told from a very young age, that we must not show our emotions.

We’re told to ‘suck it up’ if and when we are injured or bullied.

We’re told to ‘answer back’ in order to stop the bullying.

We’ re told that “emotions are for girls” and not for boys,

We’re told that emotions will get in the way of a successful career.

And then, when we are in relationship with a woman, we bring all of that baggage into the home and we are completely without preparation for what kind of communications are necessary in order to grow and to sustain the relationship. Not only that, our women partners have been engaging in the expression of their emotions from their early years. So not only are they more in touch with their emotions, they also are much more comfortable in naming, acknowledging and expressing them. So, then, we are in a double bind and we are scared silly (read shitless!)

This stereotypical and reductionistic concept of masculinity is playing out on the battlefield in Ukraine, as well as in other ‘hot spots’ around the globe. Men who absolutely believe they need power over others, in order to satisfy their fundamental needs as men, are perverting both masculinity and their people, including, in Ukraine, the slaughter of thousands, and the displacement of millions.

And while the war cannot be attributed exclusively to the perversion of healthy masculinity, that is certainly one of the root impulses, whether it will ever be uttered in any peace negotiation room.

So, how does an enlightened culture, a wealthy and relatively educated culture address the question of educating boys and young men in the attributes and the benefits of androgyny, of honouring their true feelings, and of discerning the difference between ‘self-pity’ and authentic injury or emotional wounding. Our mothers were quite good at ‘fixing’ our “owie’s” when we fell off our bikes and skinned our knees, when we were seven. And yet our hockey coach was not so considerate if we were pummeled to the ice by an opponent as we attempted to pass or to score. Our fathers, too, in many cases, were determined to have a “successful” trophy as a son (not unlike many who ‘had’ a trophy wife), whose career, in many cases would never devolve into something as frivolous as music, dance, or the arts. Those sons were indoctrinated in the gospel of heroes like doctors, lawyers, accountants, engineers, dentists and surveyors or business tycoons.  Masculinity, too, never was to include being gay, because, in other days, that too was abominable, especially for fathers. Indeed, boys who were proficient in the arts were often considered effeminate again by their embarrassed fathers, while they mothers were more likely secretly proud of their sensitivity and their accomplishments.

So…..what to do in a world in which several generations of men and women have grown and bee/.\n nurtured in such poppy-cock while emerging generations will have no ‘truck’ with that crap?

I cannot speak or write about other ecclesial organizations; however, I have some deep and painful experiences in the Anglican/Episcopal church in both Canada and the U.S. And the culmination of a collision of masculinities occurred one spring day in 2000, when I uttered these words, to a bishop in the U.S. and his sycophant, in his office. His response continues to ring loudly in my ears and in my body.
“It is time for men to learn what their emotions are, to own them and to become comfortable with and in them!” were the words I uttered, almost defiantly, and certainly impolitically and perhaps even impertinently.

He lept from his desk chair and screamed, “That’s far too dangerous! That is not allowed!” At which point his sycophant muttered, “And there are far too many emotions in this room now; I have to leave!”

While I have documented this scene in other places in this space, I recount it here to begin to take note of the responsibility of the Anglican/Episcopal church for having repressed human emotions, especially those of men for decades if not centuries. Analogous to improper sexuality, in the church’s eyes, mind and canons, emotions are relegated to the private lives of those engaged in the business of the church. And there are several implications of that impulse.

Emotions then become a sign of something ‘evil’ when in reality they are an integral and inescapable aspect of human nature.

And, that is not to say that emotions cannot become a serious issue in the dynamic of human interactions. Former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, on CNN, in a program to air tomorrow night, “On the Mind of Vladimir Putin”…when asked about his impression of the Russian leader whom he has met several times, “He has a fervour!” A modest interpretation of that phrase would be “he is intensely emotional almost demonic in his pursuit of his agenda”. Contrast that with the George W. Bush exclamation shortly after the 9/11 attack, “I don’t do nuance!” as if, from his Texan perspective, anything modest, moderate or subtle is, by his own definition of his perspective, out of bounds. What is the emotional “content” of the Bush epithet? Another free transliteration might read, “In this moment, anything less than a full-out war will not be even contemplated by me!”

While men do not “do” emotions, too often their emotions “do” them, without their being conscious of that dynamic, and certainly without their having to take responsibility for their emotions.

And while we are agree that men do not, generally, manage, or even have a deep awareness of how they are experiencing, their feelings at any moment, and will withdraw in “embarrassment” and a feeling of inadequacy if they/we are asked to tell someone ‘how they are feeling’…..we all know that many social and political situations, if not all, are rooted in the feelings of the participants. Sometimes those feelings are honourable, trustworthy, legitimate and sometimes they are not.

It is also the discernment of which situation is active and relevant at a given moment that also seems to escape the purview of many men. However, if ignorance and insensibility have pervaded the male relationship with his/our emotions, irrespective of the cultural, historic, psychological or even ethical justification for that detachment, for centuries, that situation is, inevitably and predictably, changing, perhaps, in the view of many observers, at a pace analogous to the pace at which grass grows. Aroused emotion of anger, frustration, disempowerment and embarrassment, especially for men, is a red flag. And it ought not be only our female partners and co-workers’ job to caution us against a flare-up that could sabotage not only ourselves, but a far larger situation as well.

Nevertheless, programmed into the cultural development of many North American women is the concept of, first, managing through identification and sharing of their own emotions, and second, helping their male colleagues and partners to “hold them under wraps” if and when there is a real danger of eruption. And it is eruption of emotions, mostly by men, that frequently lies at the heart of so many domestic disputes and abuse. There is also a high co-relation between those men who drive themselves very hard, and who have an extremely high set of expectations and standards for themselves and their families, especially their sons, and the eruption of negative, highly critical emotional outbursts if and when the child appears in any way inadequate. It is almost as if the reputation of the ‘father’ is transferred to the performance of the son, and, disappointing the father, resulting in deep and unforgettable emotional wounding of the son.

Clearly, it is not only our sons or our life partners who suffer the imposition of unleashed and clearly not understood or even tolerated and acknowledged emotions from the men in their lives. Workplaces, too, and organizations and corporations, experience considerable impact of conflict that, in many cases, can be traced back to some male “power-figure” being upset at the exposure of negative information, especially of the kind that demonstrates what he believes to indicate the ‘nature of the character of the offender’ in his mind.

And there is another more subtle and almost imperceptible implication of “power” over that pervades small and large organizations, especially among those who have been there, and perhaps previously held leadership positions. And this is especially evident among men, who themselves, have almost imperceptibly been supported and even cheer-led by the women in the organization, (in order to keep the peace) and have a blind eye and a deaf ear to their own abuse of power over, for example, new comers to the organization, the church, or the town. Leadership positions, while requiring and expecting ‘performance’ from those in office, also carry the burden of living examples of how human interactions occur within the group.

For example, just because a male group member is hosting a guest speaker from another organization does not give him the right to usurp the female executive of the hosting organization from the head table, in order to take that place himself and then justify such a move on the basis of having to introduce his guest to the group. I have personally watched that little scene play out and everyone, including the displaced executive member, remained silent thereby permitting the ensuing impunity to shield the offending male.

It is not because Canadians are especially polite and deferential that such situations play out frequently. It is also because women have deferred for centuries to the bad behaviour of men, without the men uttering a word either of self-criticism or of transformation of their expectations of themselves or their female colleagues. And, for their part, the women “know” that keeping the peace is preferable to raising an issue of ‘offense’, because they know that if they were to take every situation of disrespect seriously, they could be in conflict at least weekly.

Male assumption of power over others is not and cannot be justified by superior competence, nor superior muscle strength, and certainly not by a higher emotional intelligence. Indeed, the evidence of a higher emotional intelligence among women far outstrips that of most men. And that, in itself, is another nail in the coffin of male ego’s, already enduring a verbal lashing from the predominance of domestic violence cases by men against women.

And while training programs, and counselling and coaching and codes of conduct in organizations, including signs in retail outlets (I shockingly read on the door of a retail outlet this week “We will not tolerate abusive behaviour, anger or threats in our store”), will spread red flags ubiquitously, they will not transform the deep-seated fear and insecurity in many males. They/we too often believe that these changes toward equality, equity, respect and dignity for all is just another attempt to denigrate the way things were, when, many men believed they were just fine before.

Men, ourselves, in quite moments, among friends and family, having noted and embraced changes in attitude and deportment, have the obligation of leading our fellow males in a direction that can only bode well for our partners, our children and our grandchildren.

It is not only the environment’s suffocation from toxic gases that we have to address. Toxic words and attitudes from men are also polluting our shared environments.



Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Do the snakes want to take over the zoo...or are we going to let them?

 Sometimes over a coffee, a comment will emerge from a rather innocuous and merely social conversation that gets at something like an earth-rumble, not a volcano nor an actual quake, but a rolling rumble.

An observation from a retired health care professional, looking back on her decades of service, seemed to come from a deep place. It was an observation that had morphed into a conviction that the people she had worked with were far more likely to cut a co-worker up (put him/her down) than offer encouragement, support and empathy. Why is it that we seem to have a set of relationship “do’s and don’t’s” that pour enthusiastic cheer-leading on young people (except for those parents and teachers who are fixated on ‘not spoiling’ the kid) and then dump on our peers?

There seems to be a kind of either-or imbalance in our many engage in the competitive, cynical, sceptical and even scurrilous kind of “gossip” that may offer instant gratification for the source of the insult, the put-down or the snide remark, immediately covered with a “professional good morning” as if how we really feel about the person can be subsumed in a different mask. It is as if there are different colours, even opposite and necessary colours that describe our complexity and our resistance to tell whatever it is that might be bothering us for fear that we might have to take some responsibility for both how we feel and for a limited or even a deliberately distorted shaping of information to suit our weakest purposes.

What does all of this have to do with anything?

Well, there is a clear and present danger stomping the globe that has echoes of our personal divide. In succession, the former American president, and now the Russian wannabe czar, have adopted a kind of ‘take the gloves off’ from having the facts, the foundational facts and the foundational precepts and even what might be noted as natural human tendency to listen to, to digest, and to participate in some form of dialogue, at the state level, that addresses the whole situation, not merely a small slice of it.

The popular parlance uses the phrase “the big lie” to encapsulate the depth and the range of the self-duplicity, the self-deception, and the seduction of sycophants as acolytes to the gospel of the “big lie” that threatens to break open and inflict itself on the people of the planet. It is not only the question of a non-rigged American election, or a pandemic that will miraculously slide away “come Easter” or a Ukrainian “denazification” program that has already killed thousands and left millions displaced, not altogether dissimilar to the millions who have died from the obvious negligence of the former American president in a deliberately deplorable mis-statement and malpractice of his responsibilities.

We are at risk of falling into the trap that there is no “formal or informal” ‘league’ that connects such a kind of personal need to dominate and to deploy whatever deceptions and propaganda to sustain those deceptions. We read and listen to reports daily of the tragic and heinous steps that are and have been taken by each man, as if they were innate to each separate leader. And we risk failing to take as seriously as the signs would signal, the danger that should trump have pulled out of NATO, and should the January 6th insurrection have succeeded, with the raging pandemic for the last many months, Putin would and could have easily ‘driven himself into Kiev’ in the words of Fiona Hill yesterday on MSNBC.

There were moments in the trump regime when reports focussed on the singular obsession of the then president to build another of his ‘towers’ in Moscow, as if that were his prime purpose in his slippery sidling up to Putin in Helsinki, like the sycophant to the tyrant he was. And, falling into a similar pattern as those health care workers who prefer the ‘put-down’ to the ‘hand-up’ we thought and believed that, by open criticism, even harsh and mean-spirited and focused criticism we were protecting ourselves from what might actually be going on. And yet, was there then, and is there still something else going on besides the public discussion and debate of war intelligence and military materiel in support of Ukraine against a lethal, obsessed and obsessive and compulsive tyrant who is/has adopted the same modus operandi as all dictators have in history? Is there some kind of totalitarian ambition among leaders the ‘west’ considers to be at best ‘rogue’ and at worst “lethal” to the public good, that, whether it is conscious and deliberate or merely accidents of history, or somewhere in between, that poses a significant threat that is not contained in the “defense of democracy and freedom” justification of support for Ukraine?

We like to compartmentalize our thinking, our vision, our vocabulary, and our protection of our own personal, family and community security and hope. We like to think that our “world” is not completely vulnerable to forces that have a need and a determination to destroy for their own insatiable appetite for power. And we like to think that we have some “order” in a common agreement and acknowledgement of something like the cliché,  “the common good is the public trust we are all upholding”…And yet…..
Is that a naïve and potentially dangerous way of not seeing the snakes in the grass, on our shared lawn of the planet?

There are so many different perspectives on political ‘snakes’ in each period of history. And today, we are all reflecting on just whom to trust, on the international stage, including the American political soap-opera/reality television show.

Putin’s denazification of Ukraine, we all know is a blatant defiance of truth and reality. So is trump’s claim that the election was stolen by fraud. And yet, both larynxes have megaphones, and purposefully and willfully manipulate their millions of cult-sycophants, including their ‘bag-men-and-women’. Trouble is, both of these men, through their open defiance of both truth and foundational reality, give both examples and encouragement, support and cover for all other wannabe dictators. Viktor Orban, in Hungary, for example, is resisting joining an embargo or boycott of Russian oil and gas, in the face of intense lobbying by the President of the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, who travelling to Budapest yesterday to change his mind. Just today, Emmanuel Macron, recently elected president of France for another five years, has come out swinging in opposition to Ukraine’s proposed and applied for membership in the European Union.

Jennifer Rankin in Brussels, May 9, 2022, reports in The Guardian:

“Emmanuel Macron has called for a new political organization to unite democracies on the European continent, as he warned that Ukraine would probably not join the EU for several decades.”

That utterance, coming as it does in one of the hottest and most violent weeks of this 76-day war in Ukraine, is both untimely and ill-advised. Just because the French president has just been sworn in, following his election is neither the time nor a good opportunity to put such an argument on the international table for consideration. It expresses deep division within the EU, as the President, herself, is working strenuously on behalf of a swift Ukrainian process toward membership.

 Herding cats is an image not so far removed from the cracks in the EU, as well as those in NATO, in spite of the forward movement of Sweden and Finland toward NATO membership. And cats, like rebellious men and their millions of followers who not only keep them in power, or on the television and computer screens far past their expiry date, there is reason to entertain the prospect that such independence, undergirded by extreme nationalism, populism and a growing sense that their ‘movement’ is not some accident of history, but rather a fully planned, designed and now being executed shift of geopolitics from the previous post-war arrangements, which everyone knows are and were never perfect, into a much more chaotic almost deconstruction into who knows what.

Brutal stamping out all opposition, control of the media, imprisoning and poisoning opponents with impunity, control of the judicial system, and the addiction to personal acquisition of affluence and long-term office are just some of the personal attributes of those who place their own narcissism ahead of the public interest in their own country and in the world at large.

It is not rocket-science to note that if such tin-pot despots are unable to give even a modicum of care and interest for their own citizens, (think the lock-up of 25 million in Shang Hi, by the Bejing regime, to stem the faux-spread of COVID.), then how can anyone expect them to consider even briefly the broader and deeper interests of the people of the planet, many of whom are starving, and many of whom are experiencing the ravages of global warming including fires and draught as well as crop failures.

It is also not rocket-science to note that everywhere the conversation is sounding the same…we are in a desperate situation, around the world, without any of the requisite institutional and governance systems equipped and ready to address the common shared existential threats. In the provincial election campaign in Ontario, this month, pollsters reports that the dominant issue is “affordability”….the spiking costs of housing, gas, food, and the complexities of the root causes of each of them overwhelming the potential of a concerted, collaborative, and survival-based ethical construct, a global strategic plan, to address their potency.

Bill Gates has publicly argued for a Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization  team (GERM), as a possible first approach to dealing with the next, and in his mind, inevitable, pandemic. This would be comprised of people from around the world who have expertise: epidemiology, genetics, data systems, diplomacy, rapid response, logistics computer modeling communications and more….

Such a model, fashioned as a preventive (as opposed to reactive) Marshall Plan for the world’s basic need to address the potential existential crisis of more pandemics.

However, the world cannot rely on the philanthropists of the world to address our shared problems, although their contributions are needed. Governments cannot and must not permit their own irrelevancy by continuing to either do very little or, more importantly, bicker bitterly over the minutiae and fail to see the big picture,

Our job training approaches, it seems, are deeply steeped in the training of skills to confront individual and business problems and symptoms. Where in the world is anyone thinking about the global issues of training generalist experts who can and will bring the disparate experts to the table, with some kind of complex decision-making model to which all participants can subscribe?

The pandemic has not only exposed cracks in our readiness; it has exposed, along with converging threats of a similar magnitude in terms of their impact on human lives, that render the American war against abortion a kind of back-yard bonfire, in light of the global threats to human life. The passion of each side in that debate, while indisputable, also sheds light on the extreme theocratic nature of the fight.

And as American unravels on the abortion front, symbolic of the unravelling that is going on on the governance front, their traditional leadership is going to come into question while the global needs continue to mount.

Who is counting snakes anyway? Do we have an academic department for that?

Monday, May 2, 2022

We got ourselves into this mess, can we get ourselves out of it?

 Meet the Press Host, Chuck Todd, says that the United States is in a ‘proxy war’ with Russia in Ukraine. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in Germany last week, he wants to see Russia ‘weakened so it cannot do again’ what it is doing. President of the Council on Foreign Relations, Richard Haas, appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe says he cannot ‘see’ a peace deal given than neither leader in Russia or in Ukraine is willing to give up anything. Retired military officer Stephen Witty, also on Moring Joe, says he envisions a prolonger war, similar to the eight-year on-again-off-again history in the Donbas, with first Russia taking a town and then Ukraine taking it back, and so on.

Those many ‘wind gusts’ of opinion, however, are ‘blowin’in the wind’ like so much speculation, all of which becomes merely a transcript of the daily writing/recording of history, and not the ultimate outcome. None of those voices can be considered either ‘wrong’ or ‘right’, either credible or non-credible. Varying experience and perspectives, motivations and aspirations drive such observations. Like water-cooler chatter, they are interesting and possibly even worthy of some consideration.

However, given that we are learning some other pieces of information that together do not bode well for the near-term future, it might be well to pause and consider them. Russian troops stealing wheat from the ‘foodbasket of the world’ as the World Food Program Director calls it on CNN’s GPS, yesterday, renders food another weapon in this war. The report that Poland and Slovakia are jointly considering providing MIG jets to the Ukrainians cuts through the resistance earlier put forward by the Americans. The stories of the physical and sexual abuse of Ukrainian women by the Russian soldiers, followed by predictable attempts to cover such stories in denial, along with the brazen blasts near where friendly political leaders are meeting with Ukrainian officials, add credence to the inhumanity that lies at the heart of the Russian mis-adventure.

As in the pandemic, including the public coverage of the plague, we are all living on the cusp of today’s headlines and tomorrow’s prospects/dread/fears and doing whatever we can to reconcile our fragile emotions and cognitions. This bifocal perspective, however, finds us vacillating from some flimsy sense of ‘knowing’ to an even more delicate sense of how to carry the burden of whatever knowing we seem to have, and finding both paths encumbered with history, personal angst, political gamesmanship, propaganda, contempt for the killings, the rapes the indiscriminate bombings of hospitals and innocent civilians, and the migration and/or displacement of some 12.7 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children.

According to the Director of the World Food Program, the former Governor of South Carolina, David Beasley, because of the rocket-spike of need, they are now feeding the starving while having to deprive the hungry. “Ukraine is the breadbasket of the world. They grow enough food to feed 400 million people. Well that’s gone, Beasley told 60 Minutes this week, ‘You’re already seeing fuel pricing spike, food pricing spike, cost of shipping spike. It’s already creating havoc for the poorest of the poor around the world. But this is gonna affect not just the poorest of the poor. It’s gonna affect everybody.’ ( May 1, 2022)

Different from the political, military and even hopeful musings of the talking heads, Beasley’s words have to be segregated from speculation and both interpreted and considered as urgent, perhaps even existential. Reports (see that fighting has spilled beyond Ukraine into neighbouring Russia and Moldova are also unnerving at best and frightening at worst. reports: ‘United Nations officials have been ‘blocked’ from accessing  ‘port cities like Mariupol, Mykolaiv and Kherson’- raising concerns of mass starvation in the Ukrainian cities that have been devastated by Russia’a military invasion….Russia and Ukraine supplied about 30% of the world’s wheat and barley before the war. Thirty six countries, including some of the world’s most vulnerable and impoverished, relied on them for more than half of their wheat imports (Rebecca Falconer, May 1, 2022)

Another layer of speculation now includes the prospect of NATO warships blockading the Black Sea in order to prevent Russian ships from impeding or preventing food shipments from reaching Ukrainian ports, and to enable that food to reach starving Ukrainians.

How are we in the west even to entertain a notion that holds that the war will be contained inside the borders of Ukraine, with the multiple pots that are roiling, anyone of which could spark a wider conflict. Belarus, for example, is expressing some intent to seek a wider and closer alliance with Russia, almost in an imitation of the NATO initiatives of the last two or three decades. China is reported to have publicly noted that the expansion of NATO was a serious and disturbing initiative that negatively impacted Europe, with whose members China has significant trade relations.

Still with China, Politico reports yesterday, May 1, 2022:

Taiwan’s foreign minister said Sunday that his island nation is studying carefully Russia’s invasion of neighbouring Ukraine for lessons applicable to its situation with China….There are two things, of course (Joseph) Wu said, (to Fareed Zakaria on GPS yesterday). ‘The first is asymmetric capability. Look at the /Ukrainians, they use small personal weapons to go against a large enemy. And I thing that is something we can learn from. In fact, we have been preparing for that, but we need to make more investment in this regard…The second area we can learn from Ukraine is civil defense, Look at the Ukrainian people. All of the males are having the determination to defend the country. They want to serve in the military. They want to go to war zones to fight against Russia. That kind of spirit is enviable for the Taiwanese people.

The spectre of a China invasion, or some form of take-over of Taiwan cannot be considered mere speculation, given that China considers Taiwan to be an integral component of mainland China. Whether the United States, Japan, South Korea and their allies would/will provide a similar level of commitment, support and hardware to Taiwan as NATO and the U.S. is providing Ukraine in the event of a Chinese invasion, however, remains a mystery at this point, irrespective of American rhetoric of support for Taiwan.

Separating the starving from the hungry, a highly delicate and necessary critical judgement on the part of the officials of the World Food Program, is as difficult and heart-wrenching as sorting out the ‘ethics’ morals and legalities of providing MIG jets to Ukraine, as is the reading of daily human stories of lives destroyed, separated, and left to die while facing the announced prospect of a nuclear or a chemical deployment in this conflict.

While we are being fed a surfeit of daily news stories, that are both magnetic and enervating at the same time, we are also having to do our own curating, digesting, connecting the dots and trying to make sense of both too much information and not enough wisdom. And we are not only starved of wisdom, we are, in effect, starving for a level of common sense, honesty, integrity, courage and global strategic planning and collaboration not only in the face of the Russia-Ukraine war, but also in the face of the impending starvation crisis, the impending displacement crisis, the already extant income chasm and the global crisis of climate change and global warming.

Without either life-saving training or even life-saving coaches and mentors, we are left seemingly afloat on a tiny boat, with millions of others equally desperate to make sense of our shared and impending confluence of crises, wondering how to impact the increasing political myopia, supplemented by the media and even worse, the social media, in their concentration, if not fixation on the micro-analysis, the micro-incident, the micro-conflict, fire, shooting, and even pandemic cases and their widely divergent approaches to ameliorating that historic plague. We have to focus on the big picture, especially at a time when we are inundated with storm surges of serious and threatening date, for which it seems no political institution or organization either has the power, or can summon the will to address adequately.

It is not as if no one is doing anything. Thousands of individuals in all parts of the world are going their ‘bit’ to help save the planet, and to help put people to work with dignity and to mediate peer conflicts and to urge their families and friends to ‘mask up’ and to get vaccinated and to keep social distance, and to try to stay abreast of the various public issues we all face. And yet….

When we look “up” to the “powers-that-be” for both inspiration and for substantial policies and leadership, across provincial and national boundaries, into networks of like-minded, courageous, creative and committed leaders, at both the thought and the pragmatic levels, we face a white board scribbled in shapes, sizes, colours and curves that are not only random but hardly indicative of belonging to the same ‘canvas’….

The Secretary General of the United Nations emphatically underscored, in a public interview while in Ukraine that there is much more to the UN than the Security  Council, which, until now, has failed to take action even on the crimes against humanity that were committed in Syria, according to Amal Clooney, again representing the interests of the global citizens before that august body, to ask for concerted, urgent and immediate action on the crimes against humanity, war  ini crimes and mass murder of innocent men, women and children in Ukraine, by Russian invading forces. The International Criminal Court, while honourable and ethical, does not have the signatures of either China or the United States on its Charter. Hence, collaborative action in the short term, and potentially even in the longer term, is less than likely, to prosecute Russian soldiers, generals and Putin himself.

And while regime change in not only not on the lips of any western official, given that no nation is prepared to ‘take him out’, nor should they, the world is left hanging in desperate impatience in a vain hope that Putin will remove himself from the Kremlin, or be ushered out by his more sane cronies. Certainly, he should neither be invited nor permitted to attend the G20 meeting in Indonesia, in spite of the invitation having been issued by the president of that country. And tennis stars like Nadal and Djokovic who are protesting the barring of Russian tennis players from Wimbledon need to examine both their motivating and their role in the world’s serious drama(s) in which we are all enmeshed.

Neither the president of Indonesia, nor Nadal and Djovokic, will be exempt in the long run, from the highly predictable and multiple-layered impacts of the violence that Putin has inflicted on the world. And their advisers and their respective countrymen and women would be wise and helpful in counselling them to change their views. Public figures, including even those like Ji JinPing in China, have a significant role to play in seeding and nurturing a point of view that rises above self-interest, and even national interest and reaches into the global interest…Putin does not “get it”, and will only march further down the rabbit hole of this conflict, perhaps even into the sovereign territory of other nations, if he is not stopped.

Ordinary people, by the millions, “get it” and we all need some serious and substantive indication from those who have the levers of power in their respective hands that they, on our behalf, are prepared to lead, to provide workable options that can and will lead us all out of this extremely dark basement of our collective conscious, not to mention our collective unconscious.

We are all hoping, praying, begging, pleading and aspiring for leadership toward a shared, sustainable and equitable existence…not so much for ourselves, but for our grandchildren, as former Secretary of State, Madelaine Albright reminded us over and over again. We mourn her passing, but humbly acknowledge her gift of leadership, mentorship, courage, conviction and commitment to the cause of freedom, democracy and liberty.

After being exiled by both the Fascists and the Communists, separately and at different times in her life, her voice will ring through the centuries, regardless of how long tyrants like Putin, Hitler and Stalin attempt to hold sway.