Wednesday, May 1, 2024 #46

Who cannot but be exhausted, depressed, anxious, and profoundly stressed at this moment in history given the multiple, tempestuous flames of hatred, anger, fear and existential angst that, like a pervasive cloud of the most noxious smog (emotionally, environmentally, politically, rhetorically, geo-politically, ideologically and even religiously) seems to have taken up permanent residence in the air we breathe? And given that it infests our attitudes, perceptions, hopes and fears, (and not only our lungs or our blood stream), we continue both to breathe it in and exhaust it in many of our conservations both with others and with ourselves. Whereas in nature, we breathe in mostly clean ‘oxygen’ that sustains us, and exhale carbon dioxide, having removed the healthy elements from the oxygen, this cloud serves primarily only to infect our thoughts, our emotions, our conversations and damnably our expectations. And this infection cannot be and will not be contained within individual bodies, and spreads throughout our shared lives, without offering the option of capturing the ‘virus’ that is so dangerous, spreading it out on a slide, putting it under a compound microscope, and then experimenting to ‘find’ an antidote that might at least curtail the impact of the ethos ‘gas’ we are inhaling.

Clearly the medical, empirical, literal, infectious disease model and metaphor fails us. Put simply, this smog is not reducible to any of our known technical, scientific, legal, military, religious or even philosophic methods of analysis, diagnosis, treatment or especially ‘cure’. And while each of our most competent, scholarly, professional and disciplined men and women around the world are grasping, individually and collectively, to find its roots, its history, its ‘kill-rate’ and its potential antidotes, it seems to feed on its own inherent energy, malice and transparency, absence of both colour and scent, heat and cold, and its ubiquity. Boundless, it infects our Asian, European, North American and African populations, although the symptoms in each region might differ slightly, as do the symptoms of pandemic viruses vary with each person.

War, clearly based on personal ambition and greed seems to be one of the symptoms. Draughts and fires are another, seemingly more correlated with rising temperatures globally; floods and the terror of unleashed forces of water currents seem to have connections also with our environmental crisis. Terrorism and tribal violence seemingly more linked to specific and micro profound dissatisfactions and the attribution of responsibility to specific ‘powers’ and agencies. Campus protests, currently targeting the Israeli invasions of Gaza, and the concomitant missile barrages from Hezbollah in Jordan, The Houthis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza and the Iranian hand of hate that makes puppets of those agents have all culminated in a cancerous and wide-spread campaign that reeks of antisemitism. That Al Qaeda attack on the twin towers in lower Manhattan in September 2001, which to some observers seemed to be a direct ‘hit’ on the military/political/ideological/religious relationship (depicted by many as a dependency) that embraces and sustains the United States and Israel, pitting Islam against some form of Judeo-Christian ‘establishment’ seems to have overtones today in the Middle East. And while such a ‘framing’ is eminently reductionistic, there is a deep divide between the profound understanding of the complexities of the Middle East conflict(s) between ‘western’ leaders and their scholars and Middle East actors, theologians, and citizens. And that kind of division is an integral component of this ‘smog’.

We each, it seems, have been overcome by the smog, and each in our own way find that its restrictions and constrictions on our ‘metaphoric’ breathing, limits our vision, and torques our interpretations, giving rise to whatever anxieties and frustrations, fears, and enmities we harbour, both consciously and unconsciously. Rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, homelessness, hunger, alienation, drug and alcohol dependency, politically hate-filled rhetoric, gun violence, prices for ordinary consumer needs like food and medicine, and the hopelessness that undergirds these ‘demographic’ data trends, are all rising, and the speed of that rise is also increasing. Rising numbers of displaced, homeless and hopeless refugees and immigrants crowd the borders of previously ‘welcoming’ and tolerant and even embracing nations whose collective patience and tolerance has eroded, and morphed into closed borders and even such ‘out-of-the-box’ responses as shipping the refugees to Ruanda, by Great Britain.

Given all of this swirling vortex of political, rhetorical, military, environmental, ideological, religious and attitudinal chaos, many millions are, already have, grown exhausted and fragile. We are all far less tolerant of even the least of the many irritants that come our way. An impatient driver on a freeway cuts us off by slithering past our vehicle within inches as he crowds us by entering our lane in front of us; a retail clerk fails to greet us and offer a friendly ‘hello’ now is noticed and noted, as another sign that we are all ‘living at the end of our ‘short(er) fuse’ emotionally. Of course, many are going an extra mile to offer a friendly greeting, in the spirit of compensating for our shared angst.

It seems to be another given that the world (that is the shared ethos, public opinion, competitive values, and individual aggression) is considered objectively to evoke hatred, fear and depression. And these various ‘expressions’ of the negative forces we all face, individually and collectively, come to us in and through our emotions. Here is a moment for another impromptu intervention by James Hillman, found this time on in excerpts from Hillman’s “Emotion: A comprehensive phenomenology of theories and their meanings for therapy”.

Emotion is the only mode of apprehending, cognizing and experiencing certain aspects of existence….It is only through emotion that we are led to higher spiritual and aesthetic awareness, and to God. Practically, this point of view means that there is so much hatred, fear and depression in our lives because there is so much to hate, fear and be sad about. The emotions only cognize the real facts. These real facts are in the social world and not only subjective ideas and images within the personal psyche of the perceiver. And so these emotions are not to be conditions to be medicated and cured away for the sake or normalcy. Such a therapeutic approach to the negative emotions is, in fact a perversion of man’s relation to his world which is objectively given as evoking hatred, fear and depression. On this view, normalcy itself takes

on another meaning: what is normal and real is what is presented by emotion. The concept of normalcy then becomes based on importance, on meaning, on value and not on collections of data. With this concept of normalcy, of reality, therapy would consist no in the adaptation of the patient’s emotion to his (or his therapist’s) view of normal reality, but in the adaptation of the patient to his emotion which, as the vision of the opsyche, tells the truth about the world. Such an adaptation would mean living an emotional life, with all its hatred, fear and depression, which in turn might well lead, as some writers suggest, to the higher life or art and morality and to God….Emotional behaviour corresponds with the symbolic aspect of objective reality. There is emotion because the world is being apprehended and lived through the symbol. The symbol is thus the emotion itself in the aspect of an exciting image. Emotion is the total pattern of the soul….Emotion is a gift of both flesh and spirit: as well, danger, for any gift can be a curse of a blessing or a blessing in disguise. Since the psyche as a whole is not grasped by consciousness alone, emotion is always a risk element. To be known, emotion must be lived.

Clearly, there is a symbiotic relationship between what is ‘going on in the world’ including both the events and the perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, fears and hatreds that lie behind and beneath those events (call it the zeitgeist, or from Hillman, the anima mundi, soul of the world) and what is going on in our individual and shared emotions. It is neither weak nor ‘sick’ nor ‘girlie’ nor melodramatic to ‘live’ one’s emotions, to get to know them, and to let them have their way, especially as the negative emotions are most likely to ‘lead down’ to some very poignant and cogent and revealing mysteries, secrets and the gold of new insights. However, there is an apparent, perhaps legitimately alleged, and self-imposed ‘wall’ segregating many men from their ‘lived emotions’. Reasons for this metaphoric wall, (denial, avoidance, deflection, fear itself, unfamiliarity, conformity with social expectations, religious belief, stoic philosophy) are as numerous as there are masculine minds and bodies on the planet. Even the potential of linking with other men, as a matter of unconscious ‘security’ and safety, while embodying another anxiety and fear, could nevertheless, be seen as a legitimate way of justifying emotional ‘coldness’ and detachment. The notion of objectivity, so endemic to the scientific, literal, empirical way of thinking and operating has been imbued into the fabric of the social consciousness so deeply that any deviation from it can often be considered ‘abnormal’ and psychologically disturbing.

Not only are our emotions ‘indigenous’ and inherent, natural and in some ways autonomously ‘linked’ to what we see, hear, smell, and even intuit, from the stimuli that strike us but there is a case to be made that ‘the anima mundi’ might be imaginatively, creatively, sensitively and compassionately and even empathically, considered as another ‘personification’ worthy of, indeed in need of, care, or from a contemporary vernacular, even therapy.

And while the masculine aversion to, revulsion from, denial of, avoidance of, or repulsion by his emotions is insufficient as a single ‘cause’  or diagnosis for the hatred, the fear the anxiety and the multiple crises we all face, in wars, pandemics, draughts, fires, tornadoes, poverty, greed, manipulation and brainwashing through propaganda, it does play a significant role.

Some obvious examples:

trump’s minimization, or even dismissal of the COVID-19 pandemic, and then his dismissive treatment of a disinfectant to be drunk, clearly exhibit a contemptuous disdain both for the seriousness of the pandemic and for the people whom it impacted and eventually killed.

putin’s lies about removing nazis from Ukraine through an alleged genocide, as the primary stated motive for his invasion of this nation, currently governed by a Jewish leader who some of his family in the holocaust are another example both of his capacity and preference for manipulating the truth for his own political, and personal purposes and ambition…his contribution to the destabilizing and deconstruction of the American voters’ trust and loyalty and respect for the U.S. democracy is another of his subtle, cunning, deceptive, cyber and geopolitical manoeuvres to help to dismantle what has been known as ‘world order’ for the last three-quarters of a century….

netanyahu’s alleged genocide in retribution for the Hamas viscious attack on Israel on October 7, 2023, amounts to another example of personal greed, ambition and hyper-nationalism gone awry…and paints another dark, black splot on the canvas we all know and witness as the landscape of the world ethos, the zeitgeist, or the anima munda considered globally.

Xi’s complicity in both political and intelligence support for putin’s war against Ukraine and his over alliance with putin, as a conspiratorial communist leader, so portrayed by the western media, (itself a co-opted machine of the American corporate profit-driven establishment) and thereby signalling another opportunity to western ‘neurosis, or even psychosis, depending on how far each person ‘takes’ or is taken by, his/her fear of the unknown ‘enemy’…China’s open and continuing bellicosity over the impending take-over of Taiwan, controverting the fifty-year commitment made in 1997 to let Taiwan remain independent also provokes ‘military exercises’ that threaten to destabilize the South China Sea, as U.S. and Chinese aircraft pass dangerously close to each other, in a ‘dare-devil’ game of ‘who blinks first?’ also destabilizes our sense of both security and safety, politically and militarily, as well as emotionally and psychologically.

 Iran’s overt and lethal hatred of Israel and the Jewish state, supported as integral to Jewish religion by many Zionists, and her open allegiance with and complicit supply of weapons, not only to its ‘sub-contractors’ Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthis, but also to putin and the Russian Ukrainian invasion, under the perceived and reported politically umbrella of an over threat to begin anew their program to develop nuclear weapons, in their hegemonic campaign for dominance in the Middle East….another complication and intractable dynamic over which no world power seems to have any influence…

Even the proposed entente between Saudi Arabia and Israel, which some observers point to as a potential trigger of the Hamas invasion of Israel on October 7/23, seems to lie dormant as negotiations for a cease-fire and the release of hostages continue….most observers quite pessimistic over their likely outcome…

OR is that last statement a natural one coming from the very little information we all have access to, so that we are left in a position of having to ‘guess’ and ‘surmise’ and to project, based on even more limited grasp of the history of the Middle East, and the centuries-long antipathy, in some quarters between both religions and nation states.

The U.S.’s artificial insemination and birthing of the original Jewish state in 1948, itself, continuing with a kind of umbilical cord of military, economic, political and psychological enmeshment with her ‘offspring’ child, and the supplying of nuclear weapons, under a swiss-cheese cloke of diplomatic secrecy, that leaves the world in full awareness and trepidation of the long-term impact of this history, especially in any turbulent torrent of violence. And the diplomatic ‘impunity’ with which the United States proceeds, as if everything she has done for Israel has been ethical, honourable and without blight of either self-interest or malignancy, from the perspective of the world’s order and stability, is another symptom of our shared personal, and collective and global dis-ease.

And all the while these various cauldrons threaten to boil over, so does the potential meltdown of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station inside Ukraine, recently hit by Russian missiles, loom as potentially lethal to millions in eastern Europe No headlines of either comfort or serious responsibility seem to be found to indicate an active and aggressive commitment by the world’s governments to the destabilizing threat of global warming and climate change. To be sure, specific nations, including Canada, U.S.A. France, Germany and Great Britain have all made inroads on this file, while countries like India and China remain the world’s current most active carbon dioxide polluters, with little sign of changing their ways in the new future. And given that this is a long-term slow-to-resolve issue, in a world feeding on its appetite for instant solutions, medications preferably, it seems almost inevitable that we would grow impatient (especially our youth) for more intense and seriously disciplined commitments.

Having spent many of the previous entries in this space lauding and honouring the heroic contributions of both Mandela and Gandhi for their respective nations, in eliminating or at least ameliorating apartheid and British imperialism, the current ‘anima mundi’, it seems to this scribe, is not and will not be amenable to another ‘hero’…indeed, that historic model of how male heroes have served to extricate millions from the entrapments of fascism, communism, nationalism, white supremacy, imperialism, colonialism and the pervasive abuse of power by those whose hands were/are on the levers of power, has outlived its appropriateness. The only hero we can now count on in within each of us, and we all know that pressing responsibility. Indeed, so pressing is it, and so pressing is our over-anxious perception of its impact on us and our children and grandchildren, that we are in danger of avoiding, turning away, deflecting, and detaching from the darkness, the seriousness and the dangers of that responsibility.

Denial, avoidance, detachment, and dismissal of our responsibility in the current maelstrom by both men and women, not unlike the similar approach of many males to their/our emotions, is and will be proven to be a self-inflicted disaster. And we can only hope that the current volcanic eruption of anarchy and disorder is an authentic eruption of authentic, dark and deep emotions, constricted as repressed by conventional respectability and political correctness previously, is a sign that our pursuit of our unadulterated, and unvarnished barbarian-ness is now an acceptable and even reputable perception in all world cultures, ethnicities, religions, and nation states.

In the words of a American popular song, recorded by Tina Turner:

We Don’t Need Another Hero (Thunderdome)

Out of the ruins

Out from the wreckage

Can’t make the same mistake this time

We are the children

The last generation (the last generation, the last generation)

We are the ones they left behind

And I wonder when we are ever gonna

Change, change

Living under the fear, ‘til nothing else


We don’t need another hero

We don’t need to know the way home

All we want is life beyond Thunderdome

Looking for something we can rely on

There’s gotta be something better out


Ooh, love and compassion

Their day is coming (coming)

All else are castles built in the air…

So, what do we do with our lives

We leave only a mark

Will our story shine like a light or end in

the dark

Give it all or nothing at all


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