Monday, May 27, 2024 #56

 The intersection of a newby with an organization, team, group, while perceived conventionally as a matter of sociology, politics, and cognition, reaches far beyond those academic/cognitive frames. Indeed, any intersection of two entities, whether they are individual humans, with groups of humans, ideas, principles, visions, and even theologies and ideologies between and among human beings, is a multifaceted, complex, seemingly ineffable and almost incomprehensible encounter. And much of the dynamics of these intersections/relationships remain out of the reach of the rational, literal, empirical, diagnostic medical/legal frameworks.

Identities, whether of individuals, or ‘positions’ and thoughts, visions and even proposals, always carry the freight of those who have previously ‘bought into’ their value, and the potential of new men and women embracing those ideas, principles, visions and even theologies and/or ideologies.

Separating the human beings from the ideology or the theology, including the organization that embodies and cultivates the vision (ideology, theology, processes and protocols) is both impossible and frivolous even to contemplate. Indeed, at least in the West, (and one has to guess that the East is also engaged in this process), the name of a person or persons is almost inextricably entwined with an ideology, a theology, a vision, or a process or method. Classical management in the industrial arena, for example, is often, if not always, linked to the name of Henry Ford, whose model T is said to have ‘democratized’ the auto industry, by making cars accessible to a wide and deep segment of American society. Revolutions, too, have the name of their originator, prime mover and motivator, or military victor.

Similarly, the thoughts of philosophers, theologians, psychologists, and historians and even mythologists have been attached to their work, as have the bodies of work of such film-makers as Steven Spielberg and others, composers like Burt Bacharach, George Gershwin and many others. Periods of national history, for example, frequently bear the name of the leader who ‘presided’ over that period as the elected or appointed individual, bearing a personal attitude, perception, belief system, management or leadership style and a set of personal values. A highly reputed and respected example of this dynamic comes from the life of Pierre Trudeau, who remarked to the effect that wherever the weight of the conventional attitude prevailed, he tended to ‘counter’ or balance that conventional attitude. His intellect, training, disposition, biography and character were blended in a kind of vortex that saw things in a unique, individual, somewhat unconventional and clearly charismatic manner. And yet, his theology as a Roman Catholic French Canadian of French and Scottish descent did not preclude his dramatic assertion: “The State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation!” Indeed, there may even be a case that his ancestry permitted, enabled, and eventually drew out such a significant historic principle, that has stood the test of time. Indeed, such a clear, dividing line between the state and the private lives of the  Canadian people, at that time, has proved foundational for his later Charter of the Rights and Freedoms, which have also proved foundational for the decades following in federal provincial relations as well as the relations between citizens of various and highly individualized religions, ethnicities, languages, and cultural traditions. This kind of perception, attitude, and rhetoric also echoes the phrase from Mark 12:17 (NIV) ‘Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s’ at least in its pattern and clarity.

The “news,” through journalism, reports such historic statements (as Trudeau’s above) in the context of the views of a particular leader's opponents, rendering them fodder for political and legal arguments, in both elections and court and board rooms, as well as arguments relevant to doctoral theses of various academic disciplines. Indeed, the marriage of journalism and academic disciplines, infrequently, if ever linked in the same sentence, have served over decades, and even centuries, (as journalism evolved on the strength of the academic traditions, methods and theory and practice) has given us in the West a diet of information, as well as a method of ‘processing’ and perceiving, assessing and discerning that information.

Based on the observation, detailed note-taking (film and recording came later), and the actions/words/attitudes and perceptions of both public figures and their fourth estate colleagues, we have inherited not only a world in which the dominant, even almost exclusive language, perception, cognitive assimilation, interpretation and applications are conducted from what can be called an ‘extrinsic’ perspective. This perception is literal, empirical, nominal, diagnostic, and interventionist on the side of cleaning up problems as they become identified.

Much of four public affairs focuses on ‘messes’ or crises, as the collective ‘we’ perceives them, and whether they are climate, economic, military, terrorist or ideological, our messes comprise conflict between forces identified and funded to persuade potential allies of the rectitude of their position. If the “mess” we perceive is considered by many to be significant, we (collectively, often politically, and often even philanthropically) throw stashes of cash to ‘fix’ it. Identifying each mess, through the lenses of both historians and journalists, in the public square, comprises many of our current headlines, water-cooler conversations, and potentially government policies and legislation. That’s at least in theory, or what we might ‘conventionally’ and hopefully consider to be a minimum expectation. A perception, even expectation, that the ‘conferences’ and the agreements and the announcements and the court cases that attempt to resolve these crises will have their desired change affect, haunts the public anima  mundi, as unfinished, and seemingly intractable open and festering shared tumors. And one of the more prominent aspects of our current global mess is a perception founded on mountains of empirical evidence of failure, incomplete and unenforced commitments and promises hanging like lynchings from the trees of our imaginations, for a tragic legacy. And we all share both a responsibility for and a complicity in those images hanging in the trees.

Our current world psyche is more than murderous, lynching-infested racism; it is complicity in a kind of sleep-walking, drug-induced coma that permits unprincipled, unleashed personal and national and religious ambition and greed to dominate in and through the excessive ambition narcissism and revolutionary zeel of leaders, without seeing the prospect of any relevant or effective antidotes, curbs, or even reckonings. And these forces are aided and abetted by the proliferation of propagandistic lies, cyber-attacks, and conspiracy theories that are designed to ‘destroy’ what have been albeit chaotic and functioning democracies, since World War II to be replaced by autocracies, stripped of human rights consciousness and protection, reliant on the most base, narcissistic, victimhood perceptions and attitudes of millions of cult followers.

We ‘know’ that we are being lied to, misled, and manipulated by forces that many are unable and/or unwilling to resist, confront, and eliminate. It is as if our public square has all of the ingredients of a psychopathology of crisis, which has us in its grip.

In our lives, our ‘messes’ are of a different order and magnitude although they often bear strikingly similar patterns to our public crisis. Forces over which we seem to have no control, or even have no intimate awareness of their existence or their impact, ‘have us’ in their grip, and we seem utterly powerless to extricate ourselves, and our world from that grip. On a personal level these crises evolve in and through such personal catastrophes as injury, disease, death, job loss, examination failure, social embarrassment through some serious mis-step of moral and/or ethical proportions, addictions, changing industrial, technological and economic conditions including both theory and hardware, divorce, betrayal, and although it is not often listed in such a compendium, indifference, apathy, detachment, hostility and zero-sum competition. Inescapably included in such a list we have to add prejudice, racism, sexism, homophobia, and profound applications of such heinous ‘diseases’ on refugees, immigrants, poverty, and homelessness however they might be dubbed in both journalistic or historic language. And those languages, themselves, are really never adequate to capture the ‘human damage’ that our insidious attitudes, behaviours, words, and even such physical, yet unaccountable, acts as ‘rolling our eyes’ in contempt, or crossing the street, as Obama reported grandmother preferred in order not to encounter a black man.

In this cauldron of “messes” let’s defer from the word and framing of ‘disease’ for it carries a cultural, linguistic, perceptual and interpretative set of cultural, intellectual, psychological, religions and political and cognitive baggage. Messes, and the responsibility for those messes, together, bring about a series of perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, assessments and judgements, not only by ordinary folk within the circle of the flow of information, but also those among those professionals who are solicited to resolve, mediate, medicate, punish, litigate or otherwise assess and counter the mess. And, in a general manner both of perception and of evaluation, our personal messes are assigned either or both to our medical professionals and/or our legal professionals. Under the classical psychological appellation, diagnostically speaking, our messes are our ‘abnormal psychology’ cases.

Is that designation of our messes helpful? Is it realistic? Is it redemptive? Is it even honest, from the perspective, not of the professional interventionist, but from the person in the middle of  the vortex of his or her mess? We all know that no single human is or ever will be exempt from his or her mess, and since our messes are so complex and multi-seeded and also the compilation of multiple influences, some of them deeply painful, others not so much. Also since many of the interventions are ‘moderating’ as opposed to ‘curative’ of whatever it was/is that is at the root of the “mess,” we also know that both individually and collectively, we, as a culture are far more interested, invested, even addicted to picking up those who have “fallen” in their mess after the ‘fall’ as compared with a different orientation, value and belief system that prevention, while not nearly as sexy or dramatic, might actually serve each of us, as well as our shared culture, far more effectively, than the current crisis management modality for which we claim our victories, form our social and political policies and teach our undergraduates in almost all academic fields.

The striking parallels between our personal, private crises, and our shared public crises,

·      in that they both have power that overtakes the mind, body and spirit,

·      in that they both seem to have voices within that we are desperate to identify, discern, interpret and thereby reduce the toxicity and control over our individual and our shared lives

·      in that we also know at some level that we are engaged in a vortex similar to those vortexes which have haunted humans from antiquity

·      that if we could imaginatively put a face, a name and a voice to the dramatic mythic characters that have us ‘by the throat’ we might begin to feel both a degree of insight and understanding as well as a release from those clutches (which themselves are also embedded in our imagination)

If we were to wear the same eye glasses, as detailed above, when with the individual messes in individual lives from a social and a cultural perspective, let’s see if we can find a place for the religious sector to play a significant role both in prevention and in intervening when we fall into our messes. This is not to say that each of us bears considerable, if not absolute, responsibility, for the messes we find ourselves in. Indeed, discerning that personal responsibility, identifying it, acknowledging it, and fully confronting it is such an important and personal process that it often requires different and perhaps even additional support than is available from either or both medical and/or legal professionals, including the ubiquitous and recently applauded social worker, and clinical psychologist.

Coming to grips with those inhabitants (voices, faces, themes, and patterns) that might be running through our psychic mess, is a matter of pausing to look into our own mirror, in a manner of concentration, hope and imagination that begins to open to how we might ‘see’ the situation slightly more objectively.

An example of this kind of introspection might apply to the United States. According to Anne Applebaum, writer for The Atlantic, the list of autocrats like Putin Xi Jin Ping, the leaders of Iran, Venezuela, Hungary, North Korea (and perhaps others) are aligning their nations to delegitimize democracy, the American hegemony and the pursuit of human rights and the privileges of living in a democracy. Replacing democracy with autocracy, irrespective of political ideology, according to Applebaum, seems to be their expressed purpose and goal. And, she posits that these leaders are confronting the democratic ideals and history of nations like the United States, and others. What she did not reference in her recent interview on MSNBC is that, perhaps, although it is unsightly and very difficult for the United States as a nation to see and to accept, is that these leaders are also emulating, imitating and replicating the most heinous aspects of unbridled capitalism  that seemingly has the United States tightly by the throat. Embedded in capitalism at home, is the almost literal worship of competition, and its ugly cousin, dominance, both at home and around the world. And this grip will only grow tighter and less amenable to removal, should trump return to the Oval Office. 

The world knows that, while America is strong, economically, militarily, hubristically, it is also blind, unconscious and seems to disavow its brutality on the world stage. Millions of people around the world have a love/hate relationsip with America...the shining beackon of freedom for those facing gangland murders and violence, human rights abuses and hopelessness at home, and also a nation that has dominated the world stage for a long time. It is America who, like the rest of the world, and each of us individually, can only develop fully if and when it recognizes, claims and surrenders to its own psychic bully. As long as the American "bully" archetype holds sway, remains dominant, unconsciously even secretly, men like trump will grow in influence and demonic destructiveness. The Greek God Zeus, and Goddess Hybris, as a hybrid and megaphoned voice in the unconscious of American anima mundi, need to have a conversation with the Greek Goddess Aidos, goddess of shame, modesty, respect adn humility. Aidos, as a quality, was a felling of reverence or shame  restriains MEN from their own worst impulses. The cultural meme of never acknowledging having donne anything 'wrong' has become so enmeshed in American culture that generations will fall victim to their own blindness. 

How and if we ‘see’ and embrace the demons, personally, nationally, organizationally, lies at the heart of all psychic, and potentially spiritual transformations.


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