Friday, October 28, 2022

Political trendlines point downward....and the evidence is growing stronger...

 A new book, “Has Populism Won? The War on Liberal Democracy” by Daniel Drache and Marc D. Froese, details a disturbing trend. A report by the authors in The Star, October 28, 2022, runs under the headline, “Populism’s rise means worst will replace bad”. And these two professors of political science, Drache at York University, and Froese at Burman University, detail the trend line from bad far right populist leaders, in various jurisdictions, to worse, more dangerous leaders who weaponize discontent.

·        From Boris Johnson, to Liz Truss in the U.K.,

·        Rodrigo Duterte in the Philipines to a ‘new group of authoritarians including his own daughter and the son of disgraced dictator Ferdinand Marcos,

·        From trump to more extreme DeSantis and Marjorie Taylor Green

·        In Sweden, far-right Sweden Democrats now control parliamentary committees responsible for crime and immigration, where “thousands of immigrants and refugees are likely to be expelled” in the next decade

·        In Hungary, after four election wins, Viktor Orban “each time he degrades democracy more,” and the European Parliament has voted to declare Hungary an elector autocracy

·        In Alberta, Jason Kenny was replaced by Premier Danielle Smith who “courts the political fringe” (and has made the Sovereignty Act her top legislative priority)

·        In Saskatchewan “Premier Scott backing a white paper to increase his province’s sovereign independence from Ottawa”

·        In Ottawa, federal Conservatives followed Sheer and O’Toole with Poilievre and “now the party is doubling down on Pierre Poilievre’s hard right support for the whole populist bag-from anti-vax to the trucker convoy.

What the professors do not specifically address in their Star precis, Vladimir Putin, in a four-hour address yesterday, did when he declared there are “two Wests” and he has obviously decided to ‘side’ with the ‘hard-right’ forces in the West, in his perverted attempt to justify his invasion of Ukraine, and the sabre-rattling about the use of nuclear weapons in that war…even though he declares he will not go there. Dictators like Bolsonaro and whomever might succeed him and Xi Zing Ping and Kim Jung Un, the latter two on top of already established tyrannies, are not mentioned in the Star piece. No one knows, either, who might follow Putin in the Kremlin, but worse would be a nightmare of horror.

These professors write, in their excerpt in The Star:

(T)here is no easy way to harness the hard right’s ‘animal spirits’ without falling prey to its toxic messaging. When mainstream politicians try to bottle the populist secret sauce, they find they must embrace the lowest common denominator….Weaponizing discontent destroys the norms of fair play, undermines values of co-operation and compromise and tears up the unwritten rule book upon which Canada’s liberal democracy depends….Once a party, a politicians, or a movement has been sucked into the big lie, they never escape unscathed.”

And while this book documents the trend line of the dots of regimes and leaders who have moved even farther and harder to the right, the other side of this coin is the tidal surge of those who have put those leaders in place. What is going on in so many places where people either cannot stop or willingly and eagerly submit to these hard-right attitudes, values and policies and their short-and-long-term impact?

Some would argue, as a political neophyte put it recently, “people here are lazy and take no responsibility to seek information that is readily available…aka they need to be spoon-fed.” Others would say that, retrieving a glib and headline-filled news diet from social media, and then falling into the trap of the faux-informed and basically illiterate citizen (with respect to public issues and their complexities), a kind of “psychic fatigue” like a welcome fog of detachment takes over that part of the person that might have and even might still wish to participate in civic affairs. Others, themselves inoculated against the venom and the virulence of the hard right, having succumbed to its glossy, glittery and headline-grabbing rhetoric and obsession with the pursuit of power, have openly diagnosed a local mini political drama which saw a loud-mouthed control freak out-duel a moderate conciliator/facilitator who simply withdrew, this way: “He just made more noise than the moderate!”

And while there is a grain of accuracy in that reductionism, in that volume of decibels, and the capacity to garner headlines, will seem to over-shadow more reasoned and nuanced and “in-the-weeds” approach to any public issue, it is far to benign as a worthy political governing principle or ethic. Married to the pursuit and design of any tactic that will generate headlines, ratings, and donations, is the fundamentally flawed and cancerous ingredient of lies. Seemingly, the more odious the lies and the more frequently they are repeated, and the more intensity that energizes their repetition the more the public simply ignores, denies, avoids, or even counter-punches with a vote for the miscreant. That Herschel Walker is even tied or leading Senator Raphael Warnock in Georgia, for example, is another glaring example of how the hard right is continuing to dominate the political rhetoric, and eventually the policies that deprive voters of their right to vote, a woman’s right to choose, and ….and….who know how far this avalanche will fall taking with it much of what we considered somewhat stable liberal democracy.

The fetish-fixation on the stroke suffered by John Fetterman, candidate for Senate in Pennsylvania, against TV-doctor Mehmet Oz, is a litmus test for just how “low” the hard right, trump-endorsed candidate and movement will go to acquire power. The multiple hard-right-election-denier candidates seeking election in the November mid-term vote in the U.S. foreshadow a period in which election results themselves will be brought into question, and legitimate vote counts will be replaced by results favourable to those nearly 400 ‘deniers’ whose position on the ballot, itself, ought to be in doubt.

Hard-right political persons, (not leaders), being followed by even worse harder right persons, is a weather-vane for the mood and the attitude and the inclination of the electorate in those places where voting still takes place.

Anger, resentment, fear, distrust, gossip, personal attacks, based on whatever morsel of gossip is available to bring the opponent down….these are the symptoms of a culture that is no longer willing to tolerate corporate profits, establishment expertise, professional political operatives, and language and demeanour that would be and still is fitting and expected in the court room, the lecture hall, and the operating room, not to mention, presumably from the pulpit.

Although the pulpit is not immune from playing an active and subversive role in this cultural slide into ‘gutter-sniping-politics’….we have always known the cliché that politics is a “blood sport” (some might say body-contact sport) in which political foes do whatever it takes to win, and thereby obliterate their opponent. However, over the last three quarters of a century, for the most part, there have been unwritten rules, call them minimal, gentlemanly expectations, that, as the competing attorneys in the court room, before a presiding judge, the discourse, the arguments and the demeanour will remain ‘professional, respectful and honourable’ even if the evidence to be adduced is horrific, despicable and tortuous. Indeed, the judge there, and metaphorically in the public arena, s/he symbolized the public interest, as a non-biased, non-partisan, somewhat objective referee, to uphold and maintain the best traditions of the court and the supportive legal system.

There is no longer a literal or a metaphoric referee in the political debate arena. There is not even a whimper of an imitation of the “wrestling” ring in which fake chops and epic throws are all part of the show. Whereas previously, war and the initiation of military combat was something considered so dangerous and threatening to all combatants, it was entered only hesitatingly, tentatively, and with considerable pause….that is until the public pressure was created, or boiled up spontaneously, to require engagement.

No only is there no referee any longer; there is no reflection, consideration, pause, or ambiguity in the modus operandi of the hard right….action, action…and action premised on the zero-sum edict in which there are only winners and losers. And even some allegedly highly educated men and women, (think Yale and Harvard Law for Desantis, for example) now see this method acting of the hard right as the most effective path to victory, in his case, the White House.

Opportunism, however, is certainly not restricted to the political class. It has infected the world of the corporate and the academic and the medial and the legal fields for decades, if not centuries. On an individual basis, our young men and young women are titillated and induced into a perception and an attitude that, if and when they are anointed with a bar admission, or a medical degree, or a PhD, or a professorship, or a corporate executive suite, or ….or ….like the stars of the sports fraternity, the entertainment sector and even the entrepreneurial world, money, power, influence, and the shortest and most effective pathway to whatever ‘brass ring’ is in the dream….these are the not merely preferred steps on the ladder to success; they are virtually revered to the extent that individuals will sacrifice their physical and their mental and emotional health to achieve the acclaim and the reverence that the public deems warranted, upon reaching the peak.

War, as is so blatantly and tragically evident in Ukraine, is one theatre which demonstrates the human capacity to “kill” and to “main” and to “lay waste” and to do all this with not merely impunity but with considerable swagger, and the hubris that the swagger needs. We, each one of us, and collectively, all of us, have wantonly participated in a cultural slide not unlike the slide down the escape shoot from a downed jetliner, after the crash. In our case, the slide, however, has pre-empted the full enactment of the crash, and yet the warning signs are everywhere.

If our earth-ship were in fact flying through the skies, the warning lights on the cock-pit dashboard are already flashing red…our engines are on fire, the cabin oxygen is already starting to escape and those overhead oxygen masks are already unable to provide the amount of oxygen that we will need to slide down that escape shoot safely on the safety of firm ground, in an atmosphere that supports terrified and traumatized travellers. Our pilots and co-pilots, as well as our aircrew are panicking in the full knowledge that they are responsible for what now appear to be an inevitable crash, and the air-traffic controllers, while watching the drama of a crippled ‘ship’ flounder in the sky, seem helpless to offer the kind of assistance, guidance and support that would bring the ship down safely.

And, we are all flying together in this ‘metaphoric’ air-ship, fully conscious that, like those aboard the Titanic, it might very well be too late to change the course of the flight and the potential outcome…and so we order another drink, sing another song, ask anyone with a musical instrument to start playing and gasp in horror as we come to our senses about our shared, and yet preventable, fate.

We thank our political science professors for their yet another ‘canary in the coal mine warning about the trend line toward autocracy, hard right attitudes, and dictatorships, all of them staring us in the face, regardless of the seductive camouflage in which they are attired…and as we reflect upon their detailed observation, we nevertheless, seem impotent and ineffectual to change the direction of this earth-ship’s political, environmental, economic, military, and cultural direction.

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Church affiliation declining in Canada....God, not so much!

 The 2021 Canadian Census, from Stats Canada, as reported today in The Star, in a piece by Dhriti Gupta, indicates:

The latest data shows the proportion of no-religious Canadian has more than doubled in the past 20 years- to 34.6 per cent, up from 16.5 per cent in 2001. Meanwhile, though Christianity remains the majority religion in Canada, only 53 per cent of the population reported an affiliation with a Christian religion, down 14 per cent from 2011 and 24 per cent from 2001.

Cited as a reason for the decline in Christian responses is the obvious disparity in demonstrated moral values by the institution(s) that are purported to be the  protector, preserver and designer of moral values, the church. Holding “sacred” principles, like unmarried clergy, as if such an institution were ever part of the ‘mind of God’, has never been a tenet that any institution could uphold and sustain. That is not some “Delphic oracle’ speaking and writing from some elevated perch in history.

That is a statement whose basic truth is so self-evident as to be the Achilles Heel of any theology that puts God on the side of abstinence outside of a marriage between and man and a woman, and evil on the side of all other sexual activity. While procreation remains at the heart of all human aspirations and is integral to the fulfilment of many human beings of all faiths, cultures, ethnicities and traditions, intimacy, without the prospect of procreation between consenting adults is an essential ingredient for not merely pleasure and comfort but for one’s notions of acceptance, value, worth and even as a foundational feature of one’s well-being.

Having started from an unsustainable ethical, moral, theological, and natural perspective, as if to deny oneself as indication of a higher sacrifice to God, in the belief that God either needs or wants such a sign of obedience and that such sacrifice is also a healthy discipline for humans, and then stretching the premise to exclude all those who do not fall easily, naturally or willingly into the binary male-female categories, the church has in effect, been hoisted on its own petard.

And for those who reject the church’s objectification of morality, under the various rubrics of sanctity, spirituality, discipleship, and worship to then be considered self-indulgent narcissists whose lives fail the ultimate test of worthiness for an after-life in Heaven, by the ecclesial institution, and those charged with the responsibility and duty to defend that institution and its faith cornerstones, creeds, traditions, fathers, and liturgies is only an exacerbation of the original hubris, of those whose thought, prayer, writings and legacies have encumbered the institution and its generations of “leaders” for centuries.

Constructing a metaphoric moat around the ordination of men, for example, is just another of the many exclusions that are indefensible, from a moral/ethical perspective as well as from a theological perspective. The false and paradoxical crippling of the ordained, in a “socially elevated, morally unsustainable, politically and corporately designed status”, in order to enhance the community standing of the church, and the sanctity of those donations that are essential to build buildings and maintain them, to heat them, to purchase sacramental elements, and to pay clergy both salaries and pensions, is counter-intuitive to the deeply needed and extremely engaging  developmental work of pastoral care.

Pain and the plethora of faces it presents, in the lives of men and women, lies at the heart of all faith communities’ theory and praxis. The compassion, empathy, understanding and patience including the silence of the ministry of “presence”, along with the innumerable “service” components of care for those in crisis, in the immediate aftermath as well as for prolonged periods afterward are all notable, and indisputable occasions for those on both sides of the pain, those directly experiencing it and those ‘ministering’ to them, are all moments when “God” is or can be so profoundly experienced by both clergy and lay person. No moment of a death, a divorce, a life-threatening illness, a still-birth, a serious accident, a natural disaster, a spirit-threatening betrayal can be either fully comprehended or fully appreciated and empathized. The ‘victim’ of such intense darkness often is so overwhelmed that s/he wants total isolation, aloneness, quietude, and reflective time. And the training and development of the instinct to “care” as in “talk” and “process” and “hold” or bring a meal, or a coffee, or a seemingly relevant “resource” gives way, effectively, to the truth that there are really no formulaic, predictable, patterned and conditioning stimuli that might be appropriate.

These moments, are, in a word, “beyond the scope of human comprehension and appropriate support” and yet….thank God there are those who still try. And many make those gestures, prayers, pastoral visits, in the name of God, and in a spirit that they umbrella under a rubric that hope and believe the God would “approve” and endorse. Truths are frequently told at moments when we are most “unnerved” and “unarmed” or “disarmed” from the social and political and psychological expectations  and demands of the daily “encounters” in the public and professional world. Feelings that we did not know we had, and were certainly not prepared to face, flood our eyes, our bodies and our minds and hearts. “A puddle” is a cliché by which we often refer to ourselves in those moments. And the essential criterion most of us ascribe to how we got through such moments is encapsulated in the words, “Thank God I was not alone!”

Being alone, in a very dark and distressing and seemingly endless pain and place, is a description of those moments for which none of us is either prepared or equipped. And while social workers are trained to accompany us in those moments, and are now included in the staff rosters of most hospitals, thankfully, the “religious” professional, the chaplain, while available for “comfort” and “kindness” and “compassion” and even hopefully “empathy” (agape love in the Greek tradition), is a visible symbol of a relationship, not only with theory and psychological and therapeutic counsel, but with a “higher power”…some other ‘symbol’ of something or some force or some comprehension of the inexplicable.

From the beginning, humans have deferred to one or more ‘deities’ as a way of confronting the indiscernible, the “beyond” reason, beyond the senses, beyond the explainable and beyond the expanse of human perception and imagination. In fact, the deity (or dieties) and our relationships with it/them, have been and continue to be integral to all cultures and civilizations, beginning with an attempt to describe some origin of life, human life and the universe. Beginnings and final endings have been both instrumental and experimental in our developing world views, our belief systems our ideals and our fears and dreams.

And while that core seed is unlikely ever to be exorcised from the human consciousness and unconsciousness, in spite of the numerous labs and currently energized in the many aspects of neuroscience, astrophysics, and the new insights into the complexities of both human beings and the universe. The mystery of humans, and of the the galaxies and the inexhaustible curiosity we all share to pursue the multiple frontiers that continue to emerge, will not likely ever remove whatever it is that continues to link us, psychically, metaphorically, and somehow spiritually/religiously, to some other mystery.

The capacity, willingness, perseverance, diligence, probing thoughtfulness, intellectual and theological disciplines, and the capacity to both self-reflect and self-correct, among the various religious institutions and their respective seminaries and colleges, while ebbing and flowing int and out of historic periods of desert and flood, will likely continue to harbour some imaginal notion of something beyond the human.

And whether those attempts to explore, investigate, embrace, worship, venerate, celebrate, contend with, and even question the potential of a relationship between humans and one or more deities veer toward the mystical or more toward the scientific, nothing, literally nothing within our imagination can or will be “out of bounds” for humanity to consider and to reflect upon.

A while back I heard a wise person refer to God not as a noun, neither male nor female, but rather as a relationship, embracing both the activity of verb and the solidity of noun…another person once referred to tennis game as an act of prayer, symbolically, of course. Androgyny, that condition in which characteristics of both genders are clearly expressed in a single individual, is another of the depictors that have been applied to God, in a spirit of “inclusion” and respect for “diversity”.

These now highly politicized cultural terms of inclusivity and diversity, come from a moment in human history whcn the sanctity of the traditional “church” (therefore religious, and therefore moral and ethical, by inference, if not by definition) position on sexuality is being so utterly dessicated and defamed, and when political action on behalf of representative minority groups, including racial minorities, whose abuse throughout history has been both sanctioned and championed by the religious establishment. It is no accident that these social and cultural (and moral and ethical movements) coincide with a steep decline in church affiliation. It is not accident that the churches, themselves, really have no legitimate answer for centuries of fossilizing of religious belief, religious creed, and religious practice.

And, to think, as too many church leaders continue to think that, by amending the liturgies to include popular musical compositions and lyrics will attract new adherents, is a vision extending about as far as a marketer’s nose. Marketing, the ecclesial word for “evangelizing” or “prosletyzing,” is a word that those still in the corporate world, including too many bishops, defer to when noting and considering how to stem the tsunami of disaffection. Presenting the ‘benefits’ of church affiliation, however, is not and never can be similar to and certainly not equitable with selling a product or service.

In fact, the whole notion of “corporatizing” the church, by “upgrading” the liturgy, and by generating “connecting” and community-building moments and experiences, and inserting new hymnody, and new instruments into the sanctuary, and also by continuing to venerate the balance sheet, and the numbers of new ‘convert’ or adherents, as measures of success…these are all counter-intuitive to the basic notions at the heart of the gospel. We all know, irrespective of our church affiliation and those of our parents and grandparents, that while liturgy and ritual have a legitimate place in our lives, especially as they tend to create moments of significance, a birth, a baptism, a confirmation, a bar-mitzvah/bat-mitzvah, a wedding, a funeral….these are all landmarks in the life of both individuals and families. And they are all worthy of celebration and memorializing…and there is no reason to exclude a deity from sharing those moments.

For the church to “own” those moments, along with the strings of expectation that have been wired around their legitimacy, however, seems recently to be a step too far for many.

We all know, too, if and when we enter a space, whether that space is welcoming, inviting, and supportive and sustaining…and we are not completely clear about how we know. Just as Leonard Cohen says in one of his songs, “ I know I am forgiven, but I do not know how I know/”….so too we know that we feel welcome and when or if we feel “a part” of something that we seek to learn more about, to investigate and to experience as a comfort/challenge/support/encirclement in which we “feel” (and that means far more than elemental emotions) we belong.

Naturally, we all have different thresholds and expectations for what we “want and need” in our willingness to “volunteer” to participate in a church setting. And, given the west’s fixation on money, churches, by definition, exist and survive on the “willing” and “enjoyable” and “reciprocal” and “mutual” sharing of both gifts and resources. And volunteering, as a component of the secular culture, has both a negative and a positive colouration: for some it invigorates and challenges and rewards; for others it is an exhausting and isolating experience, primarily because of the sociological “determinant” that 10 per cent of the people always “do” 100 per cent of the work…and that fact alone can and does only breed resentment.

It is not only the church that suffers from that resentment, and the disaffection that inevitable accrues; God, however s/he is envisages, also weeps at that disaffection.

And, while there have been renowned historic movements denoting the “death of God” and so many obvious reasons for those movements, God is not a “thing, being, entity or even force that any human desire, wish, activity or impulse can or will extinguish from our lives. And how we integrate whatever relationship we deem appropriate with God, we are all in fact, doing that just this moment, in both the writing and the reading of this piece.

Tuesday, October 25, 2022

This is our world...and we must "own" it and "claim" it for our grandchildren....

 Ban Ki-moon:  Sustainable development is the pathway to the future we want for all. It offers a framework to generate economic growth, achieve social justice, exercise environmental stewardship and strengthen governance. Lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth…these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.

Between 2007 and 2016 Ban Ki-moon served as the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations and prior to that served as South Korea’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade between 2004 and 2006.

From, we read, “I grew up in war…and saw the United Nations help my country to recover and rebuild. That experience was a big part of what led me to pursue a career in public service. As Secretary-General, I am determined to see this Organization deliver tangible, meaningful results that advance peace, development and human rights.”

At the opening of the 77th UN General Assembly, September 20, 2022, the current Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, is reported to have said (from

We face a world in peril across our work to advance peace, human rights and sustainable development, Guterress said citing conflicts and climate change, a ‘broken global financial system’ poverty, inequality, hunger and divisions. Addressing common challenges will require continued solidarity as we demonstrate the great promise and potential of this organisation.

Two of the most recent Secretaries-General utter a similar tutorial, to connect the dots and to work in solidarity, from the pinnacle of the world’s sole organization dedicated to keeping the world from eviscerating itself, over a decade apart. And the conditions for their perspectives have only grown more cloudy, more divisive and more dangerous in the interim. Their work, as leaders in such an diverse, complex and some would argue dysfunctional organization, is compounded by many factors.

News outlets, from individual nations, generally tend to adopt the “parochial” or provincial view of their respective countries of origin. Consequently, Americans are fed a diet of pro-American information that inevitably paints America’s enemies in colours that perpetuate the traditional, standard, expected and stereotypical negative reinforcement of American views and expectations. That habit is almost uniformly and deliberately followed in each of the media of each of the member nations. Friends are friends, enemies are enemies…and rarely does that “plate” shift. Coverage of United Nations conferences, like those focused on climate change, champion the successes of individual nations’ representatives, as a way of convincing the “people back home” that all is well.

Foreign policy and foreign approaches to global issues remain fundamentally ‘in the closet’ among some many would consider ‘egg-heads’ or ‘foreign policy wonks’ whose language, perspective and diplomatic training renders them in another league from the hurly-burly of domestic politics. Foreign affairs rarely if ever find a place on the public rostrum in the middle of political campaigns, given the almost complete vacuum of public interest and knowledge of the people who will be casting votes in a nation’s general election. National politicians, too, find “cover” in rarely having to debate foreign policy issues in their legislatures, unless and until a conflict breaks our, like the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, that demands a response. Language of urgency, in the diplomatic theatre, tends to read like luke-warm tea, as compared with the vulgarity and contempt that tends to colour political campaigns for election. Even the tepid temperature helps to neutralize foreign issues from the general public, so inundated by incendiary viral screams on Twitter, Meta and Tik-Tok.

Geo-political power currents, and the personalities engaged in both swimming in and generating those currents, for most of us, seem beyond the pale in both cognitive understanding and emotional approachability. Whether it is an oil price hike, or a production decline, a hostage-taking on the West Bank, or a missile intercepted on its way into Tel Aviv, or a terror raid conducted by Al Shabbab in Africa, foreign affairs have, for most of us for many decades, been a rumble of thunder far off from our immediate circle, and often too, detached even from our homeland. Rarely, and only recently, have those clouds broken out in some kind of military ‘lightning’ or a terror-strike, or a bombing of a mosque or synagogue or church prayer meeting. And even those domestic terror events, while inflicted on “our” people, are still shrouded in both mystery, incomprehension, dismay and an unconscious (if not conscious) and willful attempt to ‘distance’ ourselves from their import and impact.

No longer.

It is no longer either feasible or tolerable for us to consider those thunder clouds of foreign affairs to be devoid of lightning and high winds and storm surges and draughts, food shortages, home destruction, inevitable serious strain on local and national budgets from events, both natural (with human responsibility) and directly resulting from human activity. It is also no longer acceptable for national media organizations to fall victim to the ratings/advertising/revenue electro-magnet of audience apathy, disinterest and detachment from foreign affairs. Headlines announcing the third British Prime Minister in three months (Rishi Sunak), after the precipitous fall of Liz (Lettuce) Truss, is hardly adequate coverage of the UK political dilemma, which, although it must be directly managed by 10 Downing, has and will continue to have repercussions for the world economy, including North American, the Middle East, South Asia and Africa.

A similar observation has to be emphasized about the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on the world economy, including direct impacts on whether or not millions of people will survive, in the face of food shortages, poverty, disease and shifting employment opportunities. The word ‘economy’ is so abstract, and yet has so many reverberating implications in the lives of individual human beings and their families. And we, ordinary citizens, have to shed our glazed eyes, ears, minds and hearts in order to being to peek into the weeds of the winds of economic/military/geo-political/climate/starvation ‘dots’ and the degree to which each of these files overlaps and impedes on the successful addressing of the fine points in each file.

And it is not only the files, those academic, abstract, and clinical pillow-cases of paper that metaphorically and literally encompass the “papers” of policy proposals, and research papers, and cynical intelligence reports, and analytical trends that are the stuff of the ‘homework’ of every political actor in every nation, on a daily if not hourly basis that overlap. The separate nations, themselves, also now are so interconnected and so interwoven, and so mutually inter-dependent as well as intra-dependent, are so enmeshed in those shared files, on behalf of their respective people, that the United Nations itself is becoming shredded at the edges where the respective interests of individual nations threaten the public good of the international community, including the billions of people all of whom need food, clean air, clean water, health care, inoculation from diseases that are trending in the ‘wrong direction’ and an income from work with dignity, respect and honour.

We can no longer separate, segregate, divide the files of national policy from the glaring and existential needs/threats facing the whole world. We can no longer tolerate a Security Council whose five original members have a veto over each and every decision. We can no longer tolerate a United Nations bereft, by design and by consent, of peace-keeping forces, police forces, international investigatory bodies with both the legal and the enforcement power to inspect, to report and to prosecute rogue nations for their secretive development of nuclear weapons. The surrender of national sovereignty, in the service of international legitimate needs, services, shared instruments with real, while limited, powers, is an agenda item that no longer can be excluded from the political agendas of all political persuasions in all nations, ethnicities, languages and traditions. Not the surrender of all national sovereignty, but the surrender of that degree of national independence that serves to acknowledge, and to implement a level of legal, committed and empowered and demonstrably shared obligations, goals, and a clear path to human survival.

Corporations, continuing to operate in nations where they avoid taxes on profits, or pay far less than in developed countries, will also have to pay their fair share of the costs of levelling the playing field to the degree that we (all of us) never become integrated and enmeshed in the business of permitting people to die, simply because we have an economic and political and ethical ‘system’ that provides immunity and impunity for the perpetuation of colonial, imperial, imposed and tyrannical pursuit of wealth, power and domination of those whose power and influence, whose voices and whose “perceived” value is considered expendable.

Such a model of criminal irresponsibility and criminal conspiracy and negligence was alive and well and operating in the United States of America during the last presidential administration. Tape recordings of conversations between Bob Woodward and the former president, recently released, demonstrate that a knowledge of the significance of the pandemic was conveyed to the chief executive months before it was public acknowledged, while thousands died from lack of care, prevention and inoculation. Without having a legal education, and the knowledge that classifies crimes, it is not a stretch to call the despicable failure of the former president ‘crimes against humanity’ (his own people, for God’s sake!) whether those crimes are ever prosecuted in his own country or around the world or not.

And, having provided the despicable and deplorable failure to accept and to enact responsibility for the job to which he was elected, the former president has set-loose a model of mis-governance, camouflaged by lies, deceit, insouciance, and hubris that, in the midst of the turbulence of the storm in which we are all living and working, around the world, a model that has already found willing accomplices and imitators in too many quarters.

Pitting the United Nations and its Secretary General and the Security Council against the insidious and insurrectionist powers of the wannabe dictators, autocrats and tyrants, whether they hold ‘elected’ office or merely operate out of caves in the ground, is a conflict the outcome from which, while not necessarily totally predictable, nevertheless seems quite ominous. So long as Putin is not held at bay or preferably removed as soon as possible, for example, through the imposition of a formal investigation and prosecution by some world court, under the auspices of the United Nations, this deadly war will continue. And this war will only escalate and many more people will be killed, maimed, abandoned, and declared illegitimate and irrelevant.

It is no longer tolerable for the United States to remain on the sidelines, in public opinion especially, regarding the United Nations as an infringement on national sovereignty. It is long past time for the United States to sign the International Criminal Court charter as a full-fledged member, paying both homage and dues to the international legal system. Weapons, missile defense systems, warheads and humanitarian assistance all worthy of commendation…and still not enough.

The United States could, and should, today, publicly call for admission of Ukraine to full memberships in NATO, even though the process will take some time to complete.

And the people of the United States, not only in and through their ballots on November 8, but also in and through their letters, calls, texts and emails to their respective members of Congress, both Senate and House, call for a resolution that would preclude Republicans from withholding further aid to Ukraine, should they take control both either or both Houses.

The United States, in coalition with its allies, can and must take the lead in re-designing the United Nations, to make it become a muscular agent of nor merely talking points of multiple languages, but a force for international collaboration, co-operation and resolution of the open and glaring holes in international governance.

Putin has demonstrated the futility of the current arrangement; others of like mind will continue to take advantage, patronize, condescend and effectively dismiss the United Nations as it is currently constructed and operating. We have no time to wait. The words of those Secretary Generals cannot and must not drift into the archives as merely nice words, without the impact of full and universal implementation.

Writing on Hildegard of Bingen, the medieval mystic, Elaine Bellezza writes:

We cannot live in a world that is not our own, in a world that is interpreted for us by others. An interprete4d world is not home. Part of the terror is to take back our own listening, to use our own voice, to see our own light. (from Wanderings on facebook).

Those words have always been true, and never more than today 

Monday, October 24, 2022

Wading into the waters of the river of archetypal psychology...again...

 For years nearly two decades, I have been sipping the wine of something called archetypal psychology, through the writing of James Hillman’s ‘The Soul’s Code, Revisioning Psychology, and Archetypal Psychology, A Brief Account.

In this space, I have haltingly and sputteringly and tentatively attempted to explore some of the major tenets of Hillman’s thinking. The concept of a daimon, some kind of ‘acorn’ that influences, without directing or dominating, a central energy in one’s life, was attractive, perhaps because some of the models of biographies Hillman discloses were surprising, somewhat unpredictable, and clearly impactful on those individuals. Menuhin’s childhood demand for a ‘real’ violin and not a miniature after attending a symphony concert, for example, was riveting. The tight fit of a psychology of unification, normality, and ultimately politically correct, in which the ego dominated, within highly structured and conventionally enforced boundaries, rendering all other human behaviour unacceptable always seemed quite harsh, inhuman and possibly in need of further study and reflection. The squeezing of psychology between the legal and the medical epistemologies, theories, methodologies, including pharmaceutical interventions, electric shock therapy and ‘talk therapy’ were the chosen modalities of addressing whatever human psychological needs presented, also seemed somehow too limiting. Fiction and biographies seemed replete with stories of human “excess” while garnering attention of readers and scholars, criminologists and legal heavy-weights, as well as pharmacists and psychiatrists. Most of their respective interpretations were regarded by many as “abnormal”. The categorizing of human behaviour as “abnormal” has many implications not the least of which is ‘social ostracizing’.

Perhaps it was growing up in a house where all-too-frequent judgements were liberally assigned to “characters” for whom one of my parents had no respect or regard. The word “crazy” usually was one of the epithets in the mix of adjectives.  Although a nurse, she had no formal training or reading of any kind in the field of human psychology, and the judgements seem to have been seared in my memory as both hurtful and unwarranted. Attempts to analyze characters in literature, too, were full of attempts to paint a ‘psychological’ portrait of their personality, which paintings were often the application of a theoretical framework from a leading psychological theorist. For example, a psychology professor friend, visited a grade eleven English class to introduce the students to the application of Freud’s ego-id-libido tri-partite distinctions of human personality to William Golding’s novel, Lord of the Flies. Piggy, in that novel, was depicted in this application as “super-ego” attempting to balance ego and id of the choir boys.

Later, differentiations of human personality appeared, for example from Jung’s complex theory:

 “which holds that every personality is essentially multiple. Multiple personality is humanity in its natural condition. In other cultures, these multiple personalities have names, locations, energies, functions voices, angel and animal forms and even theoretical formulations as different kinds of soul. In our culture the multiplicity of personality is regarded either as a psychiatric aberration or, at best, as unintegrated introjections or partial personalities. The Psychiatric fear of multiple personality indicates the identification of personality with a partial capacity, the ego, which is in turn the psychological enactment of a two-thousand-year monotheistic tradition that has elevated unity over multiplicity.” (James Hillman, Archetypal Psychology, A Brief Account, Spring Publications, Dallas, 1983, p. 51-2)

Some assumptions underly the personality theory that emerges from archetypal psychology, assumptions that differ from the main views of personality in Western psychology. If pathologizing belongs to the soul and is not to be combated by a strong ego, and if therapy consists in giving support to the counter-ego forces, the personified figures who are ego-alien, then both the theory of psycho-pathology and that of therapy assume a personality theory that is not ego-centred….Archetypal psychology extends Jung’s personified naming of the components of personality-shadow, anima, animus, trickster, old wise man, great mother, etc. ‘Personifying or imagining things’ becomes crucial for moving from an abstract, objectified psychology to one that encourages animistic engagement with the world. Personifying further allows the multiplicity of psychic phenomena to be experienced as voices, faces, and names. Psychic phenomena can then be perceived with precision and particularity, rather than generalized in the manner of faculty psychology as feelings, ideas, sensations and the like. For archetypal psychology, consciousness is given with the various ‘partial’ personalities. Rather than being imagined as split-off fragments of the ‘I’, they are better reverted to the differentiated models of earlier psychologies where the complexes would have been called souls, daimones, genii, and other mythical-imaginal figures….Whereas most psychologies attempt to ban these personalities as disintegrative, archetypal psychology favors bringing non-ego figures to further awareness and consider this tension with the non-ego which relativizes the ego’s surety and single perspective to be a chief occupation of soul-making. Thus, personality is conceived less in terms of stages in life and development, of typologies of character and functioning, of psycho-energetics towards a goal (social, individual, etc.) or of faculties (will, affect, reason) and their balance. Rather, personality is imaginatively conceived as a living and peopled drama in which the subject ‘I’ takes part but is neither the sole author, nor director, nor always the main character. Sometimes he or she is not even on the stage….The healthy or mature or ideal personality will thus show cognizance of its dramatically masked and ambiguous situation. Irony, humor, and compassion will be it hallmarks, since these traits bespeak an awareness of the multiplicity of meanings and fates and the multiplicity of intentions embodied by any subject at any moment.   The ‘healthy personality’ is imagined less upon a model of natural, primitive, or ancient man with its nostalgia, or upon social-political man with its mission, or bourgeois rational man with its moralism, but instead against the background of artistic man for whom imagining is a style of living and whose reactions are reflexive, animal, immediate. This model is, of course, not meant literally or singly. It serves to stress certain values of personality to which archetypal psychology gives importance: sophistication, complexity, and impersonal profundity; an animal flow with life disregarding concepts of will, choice, and decision -making; morality as dedication to crafting the soul; sensitivity to traditional continuities; the significance of pathologizing and living at the ’borders’; aesthetic responsiveness.  (Hillman, op. cit. p. 51-2-3)

How we ‘see’ and ‘consider’ and ‘evaluate’ ourselves, as well as how we see ‘the other’ becomes, through this lens, radically different from the various “templates” that previously have been used as our cognitive and relational perspectives and to beg more reflection. Previous notions of ‘thinking’ feeling, acting, and the notion of ‘components’ of the psyche, evocative of the anatomical/physiological names and functions of body parts, give way, without being excluded, to an over-arching notion of an artistic river that includes those archetypes that seem to ‘have’ us in each situation, and that bear constant reflection without evading, avoiding, denying or shaming, from the psychological perspective. Reductionisms give way to imaginal reflective portraiture. Hillman writes in Archetypal Psychology, A Brief Account, “archetypal psychology presents the polytheistic structure of a post-modern consciousness. It is a style of thinking, a fashion of mind, a revisionist engagement on many fronts: therapy, education, literary criticism, medicine, philosophy, and the material world. (p. 54)

In his work entitled, Revisioning Psychology, Hillman writes;

I am attempting to de-moralize the psyche from the moralistic fallacy which reads psychic events in terms of good and bad, right and wrong. This requires the fiction of a fixed subject, the Chooser, or a choosing subject, the Fixer, who can repair, amend, atone. The moralistic fallacy is central to the myth of man in the middle, humanism’s psychology of a self-identified ego, the Hero whose decisive sword divides in two so that he may choose between good and evil. Moralism plagues psychology, as it must if we remember psychology’s origins in the Reformation and Melancthon’s+ attempt to bring about the ethical culture of Germany. Even empirical psychology has its moralistic tone, tending to be both descriptive and normative together. Whether in the fantasy of Watson (scientific theory of behaviorism), Skinner (Operant Conditioning), and Mowrer (two-factor theory, learning due to Pavlovian conditioning or the law of effect) or in Freud, Maslow, Laing, and Jung, psychology wants to show in the same demonstration both how we are and how we should be--the ‘should be’ disguised by saying, ‘This is how mankind really is; here is our basic nature; this is what it is to be human.’ What does not fit in becomes inhuman, psychopathic, or evil. Every student of psychology is forced into moralistic positions and every patient of psychology caught in moral judgements about the soul. (Hillman borrows from Kathleen Raine’s writing of William Blake’s view of the moralistic fallacy)….

Satan’s first step is to invent a moral code based upon the false belief that individuals can of themselves be good or evil. This is in direct contradiction to the real nature of things, by which the proprium (property, attribute) is merely the recipient of the divine influx. The morally ‘good’ spectre is as satanic in every way as the morally ‘evil,’ since what is alike in both is their negation of the Imagination.

And Hillman goes on: Morality is rooted in psychic images and psychic images are moral powers. These images remind us that we are not alone, choosing and deciding, but that in our choices and decisions we are always reflecting mythic stances. To follow a morality literally is the fallacy that forgets morality’s imaginal background; it is even an immoral or impious stance, for it forgets the God in the morality. So, when Blake says that choosing in terms of good and evil negates Imagination, it is implied that the first step in recovering the imaginative perspective is to set aside all moral points of view toward the images of fantasy, dream and pathology. Images are to be left free of judgements, good or bad, positive or negative. We have been so dominated by the heroic ego that questions of free will and self-determination have become central concerns of Western thought. Let us return morality to the imagination, and instead become concerned with its free play and free workings in order to understand the soul’s images and changes exempt from taxing burdens of moralisms….The horizon of the psyche these days is shrunk to the personal, and the new psychology of humanism fosters the little self-important man at the great sea’s edge, turning to himself to ask how he feels today, filling in his questionnaire, counting his personality inventory. He had abandoned intellect and interpreted his imagination in order to become one with his ‘gut experiences’ and ‘emotional problems’; his soul has become equated with these. His fantasy of redemption has shrunk to ‘ways of coping’; his stubborn pathology, that via regia to the soul’s depths, is cast forth in Janovian* screams, like swine before Perls#, dissolved in a closed Gestalt of group closeness, or dropped in an abyss of regression during the clamber up to Maslovian** peaks. Feeling is all. Discover your feelings; trust your feelings. The human heart is the way to soul and what psychology is all about….The faith in human feeling is nothing other than a new religion, a religion with teachers and terms, rituals and doctrines, but without Gods…..Feelings too are metaphors, expressions of fantasy, indicative of psychic images. They are not immune to ego and its literalizations; feelings are no more truths than are ideas, no more facts than are perceptions.  Feelings too are subject to archetypal powers that govern their ethical values, their aesthetic judgements, their styles of relating expressing and absorbing. Feelings are not a faultless compass to steer by, to believe so is to make Gods of them and then only Good Gods, forgetting that feeling can be as instrumental to destructive action and mistaken ideologies as any other psychological function…..Organizational loyalties can make us commit perjury; class solidarity and military pride can make us intolerant and cruel; and feelings of personal attachment can make us defensive, possessive, and sentimental.

These notions unpack Hegel’s writing (from Philosophy of Mind) about feelings:

Feeling and heart is not the form by which anything is legitimated, moral, true, just, etc., and an appeal to heart and feeling either means nothing or means something bad…From the heart proceed evil thoughts, murder adultery, fornication, blasphemy, etc.’ In such times when ‘’scientific’ theology and philosophy (and therapy) make the heart and feeling the criterion for what is good, moral and religious, it is necessary to remind them of these trite experiences. (Hillman, Revisioning Psychology, pp.178-182)

The transition from the fragile perch of the hero, considering himself and others from the satanic perspective of several ‘good-bad’ templates, to a far more complex and nuanced and shared engagement/enactment (metaphorically and literally) with pulsing archetypes, whose images, like the bank, the rocks, the water creatures, including the acidity/alkalinity of the river, continue to engage in our lives, offer a far more magnetic and soul-searching process than the ‘cardboard cut-outs’ of humanism’s psychology.

+Philip Melancthon, a German Lutheran reformer, collaborator with Luther, first systematic theologian of the Protestant Reformation, asserted justification by faith and rejected transubstantiation

*Arthur Janov authored “The Primal Scream”

# Fritz Perls coined the term “Gestalt therapy”

**Abraham Maslow created a hierarchy of needs

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

America's sugar high of "armed" lies, deception, disinformation, denial and devolution

 This morning’s news from Republican Minority Leader, Mike McCarthy, that should his party secure the majority in the House of Representatives, in the November election, they will cut (if not discontinue) support for The Ukraine, is a bombshell that needs to be heard around the world. Almost at the same time as this utterance was hitting the airwaves, Putin, himself, declared Marshall Law in the four “annexed” provinces in East Ukraine.

It is not only disconcerting that McCarthy (drugged by trump) would have fallen so limply and distractedly into the seductive trap of the former president, and Putin ally, it is almost impossible to think that the two announcements were not co-ordinated in some manner. Conspiracy theories are a “drink” from which I prefer to abstain; however, it appears that nothing, literally nothing is outside the realm of the possible, especially what would normally be considered “worst case scenario”.

Jim McGovern (D-Massachusetts) tweets, (from The Hill, in a piece by Emily Brooks, entitled, McCarthy defends ‘blank check’ remark on Ukraine, 10/19/22):

(Republicans) “want to cast aside American global leadership at a time when we should do the exact opposite.”…(Also from The Hill, “In May, 57 House Republicans voted against a $40 billions  security supplemental for Ukraine.”

There are, it is true, some Republicans who continue to support Ukraine, especially in the U.S, Senate. However, there is an American election in a few weeks, which, if current polls continue to hold and the trend favouring Republican control of both the House and the Senate proves to be contained in the election results, it is not only the U.S. that will be in extreme jeopardy. The whole world will experience a political shock that could eclipse that “shock and awe” George W. Bush expressed over this anticipated glee in initiating the Iraq war.

Yesterday, a reputable polling report indicated that 71% of American voters consider their own democracy to be in peril, while the same poll showed only a mere 7% were considering that fact to be one on which to cast a ballot to address. Economic issues including the astronomic prices of gas, food, housing are trending as “kitchen-table” issues that drive voters to mark their ballots. A devolving democracy, as the American union is indisputably, positioned immediately adjacent to the pressing domestic ‘cost of living’ issues, in the midst of a horrendous Ukraine war that has serious repercussions on inflation and those same prices for everyone around the world, seems to be rendering those responding to pollsters, opting for the punishment of the Democrats, and Biden, as the ‘perceived cause’ of the current economic crunch. Of course, they know that Biden himself, and the Democrats too, have taken considered legislative steps to soften the burden of rising prices, including tapping into the oil reserves, to help cushion gas prices. However, given that the country is undergoing a scorched-earth zero-sum game of political parties, in which one party has a single goal, taking back power for themselves, while the other attempts to govern, the question of who survives the “internal political war” seems to many observers, a foregone conclusion: that Republicans will likely be in the majority in both House and Senate.

With some 399 candidates currently running for seats at both state and national levels, many of them seeking Secretary of State offices in various states, all of whom are dubbed “election deniers” in that they fully support trump’s claim that the 2020 election was stolen from their “leader” through fraudulent votes, a claim rejected by over 60 American courts, presided over in many cases by trump appointees, and national polls showing the Republicans over all to have a 2% lead in popularity over the Democrats, many of these election deniers will hold office after the election. And that result will catapult McCarthy into his “dream” job as Speaker of the House of Representatives.

Voters who can and do endorse what is almost without dispute, what amounts to an illiterate candidate in Herschel Walker for Senate in Georgia, and also who campaign to enact or pass laws in State legislatures that ban abortion outright, with no exceptions, give pause not only to other American observers and voters. They prompt outsiders, like this Canadian, to gasp in cynical horror at the prospect of an ex-president who escapes legal arrest and sentencing and a mob of his cult taking over the U.S. government after the November vote, and then paving the way for his own return to the White House in 2024. While that may seem like a dystopian and demonic scenario, today, it is clearly not outside the realm of both the possible and the feasible.

Voters who turn a blind eye to the personal positions of many of the trump acolytes, like seeking election in order to determine the results of elections, like outlawing abortion everywhere, like defunding medicare, social security, and other social-assistance programs, and generally do little to nothing to neutralize the inflationary pressures that all Americans (and Canadians, and Brits, and French, and Germans, and Italians, and Poles and Swedes and Finns and ….and….) are having to endure, seems to this observer to be a blatant and venal political “death wish” to the institutional stability and establishment that has been a cornerstone of American democracy, through the good faith and works of both Republican and Democractic parties for well over two hundred years. Post-modernism may have ushered in a post-truth tolerance of political rhetoric that is now totally unhinged from all of what once were the agreed guardrails of facts, on which politicians could and did debate, only after agreeing with the core data that served as the foundations for those debates. We have long ago moved out of a political culture that had and demonstrated honour, respect and dignity both for a body of facts and especially for one’s political opponent. There once was a kind of ‘chivalric’ and predictable and guard-railed cautionary public consciousness, both among candidates and among their electors, that served as a neutralizing chemical “base” for the virulent and acidic rhetoric of hate and the weaponizing of words, ideas, thoughts and especially human beings.

There is, so far as this limited observer can tell, no recruitment office seducing recruits into a political warfare that know and observes and respects no boundaries on whatever is uttered both in campaigns and in the daily hurly-burly of scrums and interviews and pontifications following the votes. Funded primarily in secret by those flush with cash and an over-weeing obsessive desire and will to take control of  the public’s business, overtly, blatantly and narcissistically to enhance the right (not responsibility) of all businesses to effectively control the public agenda in favour of those businesses and their operators who fall in line with the profit motive, to the exclusion of all else. Issues that threaten the air we breathe, for example, wilt under the demand for more removal of restrictions on pollution by private business, coal-fired electricity plants are left free from the obligation to the public interest to either clean their emissions or shutter. Even the Potomac River suffers, right in the heart of the capital, from overflowing sewage that demands daily and hourly monitoring, without effective legislation to punish and thereby reform polluters.

Women daily and even hourly are expressing their shared fear and desperation that, should they have, for example, an ectopic pregnancy and need medical attention, it might not be available in time for their life to be saved. Others, like young girls of ten who have been raped, are facing the prospect of having to travel out of their home state, already, in pursuit of a needed abortion. The theocratic Supreme Court in shoving the question of a woman’s right to choose back to the states, effectively declared the United States both un-united, divided, and tragically and openly torn-apart, after fifty years of what became accepted public policy and practice, access to medical, and ethical abortions if and when needed. Marco Rubio, just last night, declared his opponent, Val Demings, for the Senate seat in Florida, to be the “ extreme candidate” in this election, reversing the word extreme which has been sewn on the consciences and lapels of pro-life candidates. Rubio’s flipped use of the word “extreme” came in confrontation of Deming’s position that, according to him “She supports no restriction, no limitation of any kind…she supports taxpayer funded abortion..up until the moment of birth.(from Politico, today) Axios reports, today, “Demings said she supports abortion access up until the fetus “viability” but did not specify what restrictions she would support.” This war over abortion, and it can only be considered a political war, has already generated casualties in the medical arena. Doubtless, there will be political casualties evident after the November vote.

And while the right to choose is a hot-button political issue, just as is the state of the democracy, voters are likely to be swayed into a short-term, vindictive and arguably unreasonable vote for the Republicans in many cases, given that “anger” and “revenge” and the “shoot-out” archetype analogous to the wild-west tales of the frontier are the emotional and psychic models that govern the American psyche…

War….guns….the second amendment, Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law…anti-wokeness….anti-establishment(arianism)….lawlessness and the free speech that takes to the street, armed without concern for the casualties, all in pursuit of small or no government (or the cult leader trump back in power)…..all of these vacuous cliches could be the litmus test for the November elections…and whatever policies and programs and legislation and promises offered by the Democrats will land like powder-puffs in the face of millions of voters who have already decided that “raw power” in the form of the trump cabal is preferred to the more restrained, thoughtful, often rational and compassionate, long-term approach that undergirds, for example, the infrastructure and inflation legislation that seeks to restore the thousands of decrepit bridges, airports, ports and rail lines across the country.

Instant gratification, regardless of the form it takes, especially when fueled by intense, irrational and uncontrolled vindictive anger, especially when it is armed with AK-47’s and AR-15’ a force with which no government anywhere is prepared or capable of neutralizing…it is a force that slides along the corridors of every mall, and into every coffee shop, and out into the bars and casinos’ and into the armouries, and apparently also into some of the private homes and hearts of FBI recruits, whose participation in the January 6 insurrection has yet to be clarified, and potentially prosecuted.

Just how rotten is the state of America? It seems that the evidence, like a volcano waiting to erupt, continues to heat up, spill over in trickles, while the world audience, already historically conditioned to expect the most dramatic (even if melo-dramatic) of dramas to emerge not only from the American theatre, but also, more recently, from the American political operatives.

And, as some cheap, and cunning and schemeing local politicians of my acquaintance were wont to say, ‘I don’t care what you say about me as long as you spell my name right!”….and drama, especially of the tabloid-fixated variety, serves as a magnet both for the participants starved for public attention, even if it is notoriety, and for the spectators whose lives seem to need, even depend, upon a little salacious spice for their psychic survival.

Policy, and policy wonks, historians and political theorists, even marketers and advertising guru’s, and also those seeking the public approval and potential income of public office….they all in effect defer to the deep and unbridled and unleashed animalistic instincts for a “bite of the sugary donut of power” as a path to satisfy even the most desperate and demonic of needs.

Nevertheless, that instant ‘sugar high’ is ‘no way to run a railroad’ in America or anywhere else!

Has anyone checked the commodity price on sugar lately? Currently $0.1870 per pound… with a forecast rise of 4% y/y, with support measures from the American government and expected sufficient global supply,. Last year, the average retail refined sugar price in America jumped by 8% y/y to 68.4 cents per pound. (

Friday, October 14, 2022

Revisiting and reviving SHAME in Canadian culture

 Canadian shame, as in other countries, cannot be shoved under the table, out with the trash, or buried in the bin of denial. It jumps out on every national news cast and screams loudly about the human dependence on greed, manipulation and secrecy.

Career colleges that hire recruiting agents, pay them $2000 per student signed up, foment the very lies that those recruiters use of promises of quality training and easy and smooth flow into the workplace in ‘good quality jobs’. CBC’s The National documented this dynamic with a particular story from India. A farmer-father sells two vehicles in order to provide the $28K for his daughter to enrol in a Canadian career college, with false promises of great training and a good job, only to have her discover that the whole scheme was nothing but false promises.

Fake, fraudulent mortgage brokers promising clients borrowed funds after fabricating income’ that does not exist, while charging an additional 1% interest on the mortgage is just another of the shams to which innocent and desperate people are being subjected. Again, the story comes from the CBC’s The National.

And yes, Canadian military trainers in Great Britain are engaged in developing trained soldiers among Ukrainian recruits, in their nation’s fight against the terrorist-invader, pussia, (the name of the country is so defamed by the murdered in the Kremlin). Good on them, and thanks to Canada for making them available. We do have a reasonable reputation as trainers.

And yet, our emergency rooms are so under-staffed following the pandemic and the resignation of health care workers, people with broken ankles are waiting up to a full day before they can have the needed surgery. Canada has had and insisted upon building metaphoric moats and barbed-wire fences to prevent professionally trained health care workers from other countries, among others, from entering their profession here. Exams, credentials checked ‘up-the-ying-yang’ by ‘gate-keepers’ installed in a manner that fossilizes a national superiority, an arrogance, a hubris that gives a bad name to the concept of myth.

There is a difference between a myth in literary and imaginative perspective, and a myth that grips a nation by its throat, in order to create another ‘papier-mache’ tradition of false pride and false superiority. A Chilean-trained female dentist, of my acquaintance, is only one of many examples of highly skilled, committed and even ‘superior’ professional health care workers who had to endure years of menial Canadian jobs before finally being permitted entry into the Ontario Dental College. A lifetime of at least a dozen Canadian dentists is eclipsed by her discipline, her patient care and her professionalism. And much of her work is dedicated to the concept of prevention of dental decay. Treatment counsel, constant mentoring, recommendations of options and regular appointments are all as important in her practice as filling the latest cavity.

Shame, in a Canadian context too, is evident in the data point that some 47% of Canadians cannot read at a high school level. The Conference Board of Canada reports:

“Forty-eight percent of Canadian adults have inadequate literacy skills-a significant increase from a decade ago. …Literacy skills are defined as ‘the ability to understand, evaluate, use, and engage with written texts toparticipate3 in society, to achieve one’s goals, and to develop one’s knowledge and potential. This requires ‘accessing, identifying, and processing information from a variety of texts that relate to arrange of settings’….65 percent of recent immigrants (those arriving in Canada within the last 10 years) and 63 percent of established immigrant (those who have lived in Canada for more than 10 years)..had inadequate literacy skills (in English or French, although their literacy skills in their own language is adequate).


This deficit in skills exposes the failures of both commission and omission in the education system, the immigrant and refugee system, the labour situation, and the cultural pandemic of ‘instant glances for instant judgement’ of sell lines, media headlines, social media twitter blurbs and an embedded resistance to the “weeds” and the “nuances” and the fine details of any situation, except those in which we consider ourselves engaged, involved and interested in.

At first glance, it would appear that the issue of ‘preferential’ exclusion of foreign-trained professionals and national literacy rates have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. And from the perspective of “cause-effect” in a direct line, of course they don’t. What does, however, potentially link them, is a sense of societal entitlement, devoid of conscience and reflection and regret or remorse. We just assume that “our” systems are the best, simply because ‘we” operate them; “our” people have designed and constructed them and the legacy and the heritage and the presumption of superiority is built in to our perceptions of those systems.

Similarly, the issue of gaping holes in literacy rates, seems totally unrelated to how decisions are made, by public bodies like provincial legislatures. However, the members of all governments in Canada are reliant on the public perspectives on their attitudes, behaviours and ultimately their votes. And those perceptions and  attitudes devolve directly from the kind of superficial and self-inflating headlines to the degree that those elected officials can engineer those headlines. We are all painfully aware that most elected officials do not read the fine print in the many pieces of legislation that are approved and signed into law; we are also aware that the publication of those bills, and the degree to which they are each digested, reflected upon and integrated into their lives, for most people, is both brief and superficial. And part of the impetus for that dynamic is the degree to which literacy skills have been integrated into our shared culture.

Shoving information that would turn the public “off” is both easy and available as a posture for governments. And the degree of “innocence” or “ignorance” or “willful blindness” or “dedicated avoidance” of news that would upset most people, tends to be shoved into one or more of the available secret spaces, the closets, the back pages, or even into the ‘classified’ category.  As a species, we do whatever we can to avoid the really hard task of confronting the most troubling and seemingly insolvable and intractable problem, whether it is in our personal lives or, similarly, in our public debates and decisions.

And while that “penchant” to avoid, deny, and thus “do nothing” or perhaps ‘form a study’ to avoid having to take specific actions abounds, historic patterns of considering those seeking to expose our ‘dirty laundry’ to ourselves, are often considered dangerous, unco-operative, non-conformists, or worse, dangerous. Hard-headed diligent digging of data that we would all consider “too troublesome to deal with” is considered “too much” and “too offensive” and “too costly” to address adequately, honestly and humbly, as a culture.

Nevertheless, we also know that, from our personal lives, the longer we leave difficult issues to fester, in silence, whether from fear of the consequences, or some other unidentified fear, the issue continues to fester. And while we cannot “fix” everything, especially in our encounters with others, we all know that there does come a time for such serious decision-making. The same pattern also holds for the public square.

Loosening the ‘strings’ that prevent and preclude entry into Ontario professions, obviously, has now been forced upon the government, especially since the pandemic has contributed to a severe shortage of health care workers, protracted  and unacceptable waiting times for urgent treatment including surgeries for serious cancers, for example. The public argument goes that the urgency of the moment has resulted in the change in “gate-keeping”….while we all know that the “forced hand” of the government obliterates the need for a public acknowledgement of the superior, insulated, and colonial mind-set that lurks like the fog from dry ice in all of the offices and chambers in the legislature, a fog that is itself denied as well.

This morning, in The Star, I read another investigative piece about the horrors to which vulnerable people, most of whom fall between the cracks of the regulated facilities for long-term care. Whether those are victims of unemployment, milder forms of mental health needs, homelessness, or those waiting for admission to long-term care facilities, (on lists that extend to what would be part the life-span of many of these people)….many of them are currently being “warehoused” in group homes in Ontario that escape regulation, only minimal inspection and the expectation of the most basic standards of cleanliness, nutrition and personal safety.

Diane Zlomislic, investigative reporter at The Star, today October 14, 2022, writes a piece entitled: It was supposed to be a safe, affordable home for Ontarians with nowhere else to go. But inside it was horrifying.

The details will offend many, while others will merely observe the headline, itself a very different from the normal “clip”, and continue on with their daily activities.

As we have all participated in the death and burial of something we used to call shame, and along with that unacknowledged and undocumented ‘funeral’ the accompanying grieving that attends all deaths, and the reflective hand-wringing that asks ‘what happened?’ after the silent, undetected death, until the full realization was so shocking that it seemed traumatic to “go there”….As George W. Bush declared, “I don’t DO nuance!” so too, we have collectively declared, “We don’t do SHAME!”

Nevertheless, although we may be in denial of our burial of shame, it continues to haunt us, in the boardroom of Hockey Canada, in the group homes of southern Ontario, in the hospitals where people who deserve immediate and highly quality health care WAIT, and on the streets, the underpasses, and in the foodbanks in most towns and cities across the land. Our language, and our capacity to care, while mediated by considerable generosity and philanthropic donoring, at the level of the public debate, we are still attempting to ride the oscillating equation between government policy that some consider “indulgent of indolence” and others consider a “needed hand up”.

It is not incidental to note that The Star story details the operator’s cash grab from the cheques of the residents in the homes, cheques that have come from public coffers. And, as a lone citizen, I have to ask why, if public funds are helping to keep these marginalized men and women afloat, why are the public ‘safety and health and sanitation’ quality control monitors not being demanded, for these homes. Is this another of the implications that inspections for long-term care homes have been radically reduced, or even discontinued, as a favour to the private-sector operators?

And has the private sector garnered such monumental control of the attitudes and the boundaries and the parameters of those making legislative decisions in this province, and also in other jurisdictions, that whatever the private sector wants, the private sector gets, so long as the problem of the marginalized, and the voiceless, and the indigent, do not become a political problem for those privileged members of the political establishment?

Are we living out our own worst nightmares because we have collectively  permitted the erosion of “citizenship” and the inherent “engagement” and public “literacy” on which functioning society relies to atrophy, and to be replaced by a kind of “gimme” instant gratification which extends to the next Netflix movie, the next social media gossip-fest, the next public scandal of some official. Are we not “entitled” to the kind of exhaustive and searing reporting that Ms Zlomislic offers in her piece, on many other public issues that tend to lie dormant, gathering dust and disinterest, and causing the political class no ‘headaches’.

It is not to simply shame an individual that this space is dedicated. It is to shame us all, in our turning away from those things we can really not afford (in all of the connotations of that word) to avoid. It is not only the short term cost of a new bill that would require licensing, inspections, accountability, responsibility and care for residents of these unlicensed group homes. The longer term coat of the glaring message that these people do not matter, in a culture and a society considered one of the best educated and most intelligent and most wealthy in the world, that really shames us all.

And none of us either wants to bear the burden of that shame, nor the full burden of a conscience that wantonly and brazenly permits such conditions to exist right under our noses, even though we cannot escape the stench.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Fear and its denial lie at the heart of all unravelling

 “At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer, if it ever reaches us, it must spring up amongst us. It cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot, we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.” (Abraham Lincoln)

In a speech (quoted above) to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield Illinois, January 12, 1838, entitled ‘The Perpetuation of Our Political Institutions’, Lincoln warned that mobs of people who disrespected U.S. laws and courts could destroy the United States. He went on to say the Constitution and rule of law in the United States are ‘the political religion of our nation.’ He continued, “whenever the vicious portion of our population shall be permitted to gather in bands of hundreds and thousands, and burn churches, ravage and rob provision stores, throw printing presses into rivers, shoot editors, and hang and burn obnoxious persons at pleasure and with impunity, depend upon it, this government cannot last. By such things the feelings of the best citizens will become more or less alienated from it, and thus it will be left without friends, or with too few, and those few too weak to make the friendship effectual…..Is it unreasonable, then to expect that some man possessed of the loftiest genius, coupled with ambition sufficient to push it to its utmost stretch, will at some time spring up among us? And when such a one does, it will require the people to be united with each other, attached to the government and laws, generally intelligent, to successfully frustrate his designs. Distinction will be his paramount object, and although he would willingly perhaps more so, acquire it by good as harm; yet, that opportunity being past, and nothing left to be done in the way of building up, he would set boldly to the task of pulling down. (from

Little did this scribe know, before this morning, (October 12, 2022) that in the United States, yesterday, October 11, 2022, was “Face your Fears Day. And like most other days of singular commemoration and reflection, the day passes like a token on checkers, from the playing field, with perhaps a mere glance.

It is often said that nothing knew is ever written or spoken; only the style, the vernacular, and the ethos/context in which it is repeated changes. Surely, Lincoln’s wisdom, insight and indeed what we today might call “clairvoyance” bears revisiting in this ‘fall’ of 2022, when the very notion of a “fall” as in an epic “fall” from grace, of the kind that once highly regarded and respected individuals experience as a life tragedy, faces what was once the most powerful and most revered nation on earth.

Juxtaposed by Lincoln, we find James Hillman, twentieth century psychology revisionist, writing about fear from a different, non-institutional perspective:
“fear like love, can become a call into consciousness; one meets the unconscious, the unknown, the numinous and uncontrollably by keeping in touch with fear, which elevates the blind instinctual panic of the sheep into the knowing, cunning, fearful awe of the shepherd.”…And “The soul of our civilization depends upon the civilization of our soul. The imagination of our culture calls for a culture of the imagination.”

Writing in The Atlantic, January 11, 2021, Ibram X. Kendi, in a piece entitled, “Denial is the Heartbeat of America, writes this:

To say that the attack on the U.S. Capitol is not who we are is to say that this is not part of us, not part of our politics, not part of our history. And to say that this is not part of America, American politics, and American history is a bald-faced denial. But the denial is normal. In the aftermath of catastrophes, when have Americans commonly admitted who we are? The heartbeat of America is denial. It is historic, this denial. Every American generation denies. America is establishing the freest democracy in the world, said the white people who secured their freedom during the 1770’s and 890’s. America is the greatest democracy on Earth, said the property owners voting in the early 19th century. America is the beacon of democracy in world history, said the non-incarcerated people who have voted throughout U.S. history in almost every state. American is the utmost democracy of the face of the Earth, said the primarily older and better-off and able-bodied people who are the likeliest to vote in the 21st century. America is the best democracy around, said the American people when it was harder for Black and Nati8ve and Latino people to vote in the 2020 election. At every point in the history of American tyranny, the honest recorders heart the sounds of Denial. Today is no different….White terror is as American as the Stars and Stripes. But when this is denied, it is no wonder that the events at the Capitol are read as shocking and un-American…..I’ve been arguing that the heartbeat of racism is denial. There is the regular structural denial that racial inequity is caused by racist policy. And whenever an American engages in a racist act and someone points it out, the inevitably response is the sound of that denial: I’m not racist. It can’t be, I was being racist, but I’m going to try to be anti-racist. It is always I’m not racist. No wonder the racists never stop….To overcome Trumpism, the American people must stop denying that Trumpism is outside America. Trump is the heartbeat of American denial in its clearest form. He is America shirtless and exposed, like Childish Gambino in the video. Trump is not different from those elected officials saying, “This s not who we are.” He denies. They deny. The difference is the extremism of Trump’s denial. While Americans say, “I am not racist,” Trump says, “I am the least racist person there is anywhere in the world.” While Americans commonly say to those Trump supporters who attacked the Capitol, “You’re not us,” Trump says, “You’re very special.” Two groups of Americans are feeding, and feeding on, American denial. There are Americans like Trump who nonviolently-and like his supporters, violently—rage, and engage in the carnage at the U.S. Capitol in complete denial of the election results. And there are the Americans who, during and after the carnage say, “This is not who we are,” in complete denial that the rioters are part of America. The white domestic terrorist who denies his own criminality and the American Politian who denies that the terrorist is part of us both remain in the foreground of the American media, of American politics—taking up all our care and concern. Meanwhile, in the background, the violence is placed on red cloths as the victims of the carnage are carelessly dragged out of sight and mind—as Eddie S. Glaude Jr. powerfully says, “This is us!”

While Lincoln forecast an individual supported and sustained by supporters and enabled by a weakened attention and care, Kendi/Glaude point to a societal pattern, through twenty-first century eyes, that articulates both the deep and intimate dependence on denial as the root of racism, terrorism and what this scribe is calling the unravelling of the core institutions as well as, and more importantly, the collective will and collective care and concern that must undergird the trust that is the authentic and indisputable foundational value of any institution, nation, community, and family.

“The greatest democracy on earth” evokes sad memories and horrid visions of “this is the one and only true religion” on signs hanging over denominational seminaries. It is not only the hubris that is encased in such phrases and convictions but the denial of the fullness of the truth of the value of all religious attempts to approximate some kind of relationship with God, whomever and however that deity is conceived, perceived, worshipped and followed.

Neither Lincoln nor Glaude (nor Kendi) would fall into the category of those who seek to persist in the cultural modality of denial. However, the machine that trots out messages in support of denial, evasion, circumlocution, dissembling, and hubristic proselyting and propaganda, in America and elsewhere, has considerable historic roots and production facilities in America. Hence, it is no surprise that the denial and the lies and the hubris and the manipulation that is currently also flowing from the Kremlin, as if it has been conceptualized to mock the same kind of approach and an attitude and modality that is evident in the United States, cannot be considered either surprising or defensible.

Regardless of the mountain of evidence that is researched, curated and distributed about white Christian nationalism’s bigoted war on Jews, and the evidence of conspiracy and seditionist attempts against the government, all of which is true, verifiable and reliable, the penchant, even addiction, to denial has to ‘trump’ the more granular narratives of the racist abuse of power. Only if and when the nation succumbs to its knees, to the full truth of its own drowning in denial, both as escape and also as political aggression and power-brokering, will the issues of trust begin to surface.

In dysfunctional families, while there is anger, and there are arguments, and there are often individual human tragic weaknesses, it is the underlying “secrecy” and denial that lingers like an unconscious and malignant tumor in the psyche of those individuals who either remain in or separate from those families. And the need for denial and secrecy is most necessary for those whose control needs and insecurities and even neuroses and/or psychoses are the dominant psychic energy in the family fabric.

Recently, the notion of National Intelligence as protection for a nation engaged in serious and potentially tragic encounters with enemies was the focus in this space. It would seem to follow that the degree of fear and insecurity, and the fear of being weak and vulnerable, and the dominating need to defend against such fears, lie at the heart of the conception and the design and construction of such a monumental edifice as the National Intelligence institution.

How cam, for instance, a nation (and this is not exclusive to the U.S.) drum into its children that fear is the greatest enemy in their pursuit of their dreams, aspirations and life goals, when that fear is the guiding principle for the denial, and the obfuscations and the mis-leading attitudes, behaviours and intellectual rationalizations of those charged with the leadership and mentorship of the nation?

The paradox, the irony and the indefensibility of that juxtaposition is both glaring and disheartening. Thumping the nation’s chest with the biggest, the brightest, the best and the loudest messages, while continuing to deny the underbelly of the unconscious of the nation, is not only a recipe for national disaster; it is a model of cultural mis-leadership and seduction for individuals, especially young men and women whose full grasp of the hollowness of the land will only become fully recognized and grasped much later in life.

Churches too, have a role in this drama of denial, in that they are renowned for having turned a blind eye to their own culpability, life and family destruction, exclusion, brow-beating, mind-bending and denial of their own obsessive-compulsive need for absolute dominance, control…and all of it in the name of a deity whose need is clearly not congruent with the ecclesial perfection that has been baked into the cake of Christianity.

Hubris and humility, while perhaps opposite sides of the same psychic coin, are, in most cases, mutually exclusive. And the need for the one too often eradicates the pursuit of the other. In a nation, this spells catastrophe; in an organization, short-term success will only precede ultimate demise. In a family, of even a church, the high-handed, self-righteousness of any dogmatic theology that abuses men and women and children, is both obvious and inexcusable.

And these patterns, while obvious, need more than the sunlight disinfectant of disclosure; they require the transformative shared acknowledgement that we are all intimately embedded in their energies. And those energies spell eventual doom, as they must.

Only if and when denial is faced by individuals, by groups, and by institutions, (and this process can only proceed slowly and incrementally, lest we retreat in even more fear), can we look forward to a sunrise of open, fearless and hopeful encounters with others and whatever the world offers us to address.