Thursday, June 27, 2024 #59

 American isolationism has long been a reverberating theme in American foreign policy. In his 2020 essay in The Atlantic, Isolationism is not a dirty word, Charles A. Kupchan writes:

Isolationism once cleared the way for America’s ascent, making the country prosperous, powerful, and secure. Today, however, the Founders’ admonition against entangling alliances has fallen into disrepute and the word isolationist itself has become an insult. In the absence of constraints on the nation’s ambition abroad, American grand strategy has fallen prey to overstretch and grown political insolvent. The nation now confronts a seemingly unlimited array of foreign entanglements, two decades of errant war in the Middle East, and a pandemic that is causing an economic debacle of a sort not experienced since the Great Depression. The United States needs to rediscover the history of isolationism and apply its lessons, shrinking its footprint abroad and bringing its foreign commitments back into line with its means and purposes.

Written some four years ago at the peak of the COVID pandemic, Kupchan’s words warrant a revisit. Now in the vortex of active and muscular engagements in both the war between Israel and Hamas, following the October 7 invasion of Israel by Hamas, and in the invasion of Ukraine by Putin’s Russia, now extending past the two-year mark, with no end in sight, the Biden administration has made and fulfilled commitments of both arms and humanitarian assistance to both theatres. At home, opinion is divided over both ‘entanglements’ to the extent that some observers contend that the presidential election could hinge on shifting vote patterns from an historic and unyielding cohesion with Israel to a shift in favour of the Palestinians, especially given the brutality and insensitivity of the Israeli IDF’s slaughter of women and children in Gaza. As for the Ukraine-Russia debacle, Republicans, under their apostate leader, trump, support for Ukraine as the defender of democracy for both NATO and the ‘world order’ of the last seventy-plus years has slipped and verges on termination, especially should trump win in November.

Lurking over the south-eastern horizon, too, is the spectre of an invasion of Taiwan by Beijing, in anticipation of which the U.S. is actively engaged in military maneuvers in the South China Sea, bringing China’s ships and planes in ever-increasing proximity to American battleships and military jets. And with the very recent arms deal between North Korea and Putin, South Korea is considering a shift in its policy to including sending military equipment to Ukraine, and not only humanitarian assistance. Iran, too, is fomenting turbulence on the northern border of Israel with Jordan, through its other proxy terrorist cell, Hezbollah, thereby portending protracted military, cyber and national security engagement of Israel, and by both commitment and necessity, engaging the U.S. in further Middle East complications.

NATO, itself, having scrambled to ‘unite’ to the degree it has, in order to support and help to defend Ukraine against the Russian provocation, based on Putin’s unsustainable lie of ridding Ukraine of Fascism, and having been led by the U.S. to ante up considerable military and humanitarian aid, nevertheless faces a conundrum. Hungary, Turkey, both NATO members, have signalled what Othello’s Desdemona described as a ‘divided loyalty’ in restraining NATO’s embrace of Sweden and Finland, while also maintaining ‘friendly’ relations with the Kremlin. And while focusing on military support, including the original commitment of 2% of GDP for defense spending by all members, NATO next formal meeting will take place in Washington from July 9-11.

Writing in The Conversation, June 26, 2024, Alexander Gilder, University of Reading, observes:

Ahead of the summit on July 9-11, there has been increased Russian intelligence activity across NATO member states. The Dutch National Security Agency warned that it is possible Russia has orchestrated various arson and sabotage attacks in the U.K. Poland Sweden and Germany….In the U.K. the National Security Act 2023 has been used for the first time to charge a man with assisting a foreign intelligence service following his arson attack on Ukrainian businesses on March 20. This is just part of a pattern of sabotage activities across Europe with planned attacks on US military bases in Germany thwarted, railway derailments in Sweden and the recruitment of citizens and criminal networks in Estonia and Lithuania to attack government and opposition figures…..Now the critical question is how the upcoming Washington summit will shape NATO’s approach to tackling Kremlin-backed sabotage and whether the membership will decide to back Ukraine with further support. For much of the 21st century, NATO has focused on activities such as peacekeeping, training, logistics, and humanitarian relief rather than combat. Many of NATO activities have also been based outside the Euro-Atlantic region (Europe, south Asia and the Middle East) such as the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan and cooperation with the African Union. The threat posed by Russia in Europe present a very different challenge.

The word isolation in the American lexicon has been twinned to the American ‘hard power’ of military supremacy. Armaments, including guns, missiles, bombs, and more recently drones and high-powered jets and bombers have for decades been the signature of the American preeminence in foreign relationships. Being ‘strong at home’ as a symbol of power has permitted inordinate influence to follow American engagements in different conflicts, whether that power was deployed or merely threatened, withheld or delivered in support of an ally.

As George W. Bush once famously declared, “I don’t do nuance!” Neither, unfortunately, does America “do nuance”. Bold, dazzling, headline-dedicated, and reputation-blazing actions, imitating Hollywood, Cecil B. DeMille and the ‘exceptionalism’ of supremacy are not the stuff of countering sabotage initiatives that would, by design, demonstrate the mythic David (Russia) against the mythic Goliath (United States).

Wreaking havoc, as opposed to conducting high-powered bombings, dronings, missiles on the battlefield, in the air, and on/under the sea is a seemingly counter-intuitive, yet poisoning, approach from Russia, to what seems as if it will be a very extensive, complex, and wearing-down of NATO patience, sacrifice, support and unity.

Isolationism, however, remains cuddled in the propaganda lexicon of the Republican Party, (in a 180 turnaround from their own history), nurtured by the far right wingnuts, led by trump and his Speaker of the House, Johnson. And the subtlety and creativity that are demonstrably needed, from NATO, led by the United States, to acknowledge the apparent flexibility (is this an open admission of Russia’s blatant exhaustion of military materiel and manpower?) of the Russian ‘bear’ could well be severely challenged.

Appearing in the moment as a nation whose “mind” is so divided that the two political “poles” do not acknowledge, recognize, or even perceive the other as existing and certainly not relevant, poses not only an internal political problem, the resolution of which will undoubtedly not emerge from the results of the November election. It poses an even more critical problem for NATO, and by implication, for the Western world.

Those in the United States who cling to the isolationism mantra, while attempting to defend their position with the mascara of fiscal responsibility and fending off toxic and cancerous and criminal immigrants and refugees, nevertheless, have to face many current impending crises, none of which can or will be confronted. mediated, collaboratively addressed, nor negotiated into manageable measures. In each and every intersection of the interests (legitimate or not) of another member of the world of nations with another member’s interests (also legitimate or not), the United States has an overt and/or an implicit interest. And, to put it bluntly, the world cannot afford to contemplate any ameliorating initiatives on geopolitical crises, without America’s full participation, even though such participation brings the prospect of both hope and tragedy.

It is this global conundrum, framed in the words of the zero-sum game, either-or…”If I win, you have to lose,” mentality which has currently seized the throat and the mind and heart and the soul of the American identity. The shadow of the political polarity within the United States extends, almost involuntarily and inexorably, around the globe.

Recalling Lincoln’s words:

A nation divided against itself cannot stand…I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free….I do not expect the Union to be dissolved-I do not expect the house to fall-but I do expect it will cease to be divided..It will become all one thing or all the other…

….applied to the current political and existential crisis of this nation currently experiencing what in psychological and therapeutic perspectives, would be dubbed a ‘break-down’ …there is a very credible, commendable and sustainable argument that, today, this ‘divide’ has deep and frightening implications for every single person on the planet.

A divided United States of America cannot survive; and the world attempting to work with and through its many entanglements, cannot and will not survive without a united, fully cognizant, fully committed and fully and willingly participating United States. The American experiment in democracy, currently stumbling in the swamp of micro-managed legalistic, technical, perfectionistic and balkanized language, perceptions, attitudes and beliefs, has to come face to face with its own dysfunction. And, without diving into a either a morass of self-indulgent shame and pity, nor falling unconscious into full denial of its own self-sabotage, nor, in the stereotypical masculine refusal of honourable, integrous and altruistic help and clarity, from outside, hide behind the mask of ‘the greatest nation on earth’. It never was worthy of that self-declared expectation on its ‘national ego’…and if and when it climbs down from such unsustainable expectations, and begins to listen to the rest of the world, and adjusts to a more modest, moderate and achievable standard and rhetoric, the world will welcome her into the vortex which American has so conspicuously and copiously contributed.

It is not only NATO that awaits a re-birthed America. We all do!

Wednesday, June 26, 2024 #58

In his Substack essay, June 24/24, entitled, “Why I’m scared sh’tless about Thursday,” (Thursday is the date of the televised debate between Biden and Trump) Robert Reich writes:

‘A few days ago I was talking with a young conservative who admitted that Trump was an ‘odious thug,’ in his words, but argued that America and the world had become such a mess that we need an odious thug as president. ‘Think of Putin, Xi, Kim, Ali Khamenei, Netanyahu—they’re all odious thugs,’ he said. ‘We need our own odious thug to stand up to them.’…He continued: ‘We need an odious thug to shake up Washington, stir up all the ossified bureaucracies now destroying America, do all the things no one has the balls to do….We need someone to take control!’

Here is the dogma of the reductionism of the ‘race to the bottom’ expressed in such desperate, yet compelling and frightening terms that, potentially, could return trump to the Oval Office. Imitating, and worse, emulating those ‘odious thugs’ by propping up another ‘odious thug’ is the height of the ultra-simplistic ‘silver bullet’ response to an otherwise highly complex, devious, intertwined, enmeshed and dangerously ensnarled world of geopolitics of the twenty-first century. The language of this ‘young conservative’ is reminiscent of the ‘shoot-out’ at the OK corral, from the western movie set. Dependence on ‘hard power’ has held a very high place in the value system of the American state. Just yesterday, the U.S. Surgeon General, Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy, declared gun violence a public health crisis.

Politico’s Erin Schumaker reports, June 25, 2024, in a piece entitled, ‘Gun violence is fueling national trauma, surgeon general warns’:

Gun violence has created a large-scale cycle of trauma and fear that’s damaging Americans’ mental health, making children fearful of going to school and adults of going to public places, Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said in announcing a public health crisis Tuesday….As Murthy’s report lays out, by many measures, gun violence in America is worse than ever, with more than 48,204 people dying from guns in 2022, down slightly after hitting a three-decade peak in 2021.

Mother Jones in a report entitled, US Surgeon General Declares Gun Violence a Public Health Crisis, (June 25, 2024) by Arianna Coghill, reports:

According to the (Surgeon General’s advisory), firearm-related homicides and suicides have both seen a steady increase over the past decade, with guns being the leading cause of death among children and adolescents since 2020.

Milton Mayer’s 1955 book, They Thought They Were Free, ‘recently republished…was one of the first accounts of ordinary life under Nazism….(Returning home after the War) ‘He learned that Nazism took over Germany not  ‘by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler.’ Many Germans wanted it; they got it; and they liked it…..Mayer’s most stunning conclusion is that with one partial exception (the teacher), none of his subjects (10 ordinary people) ‘saw Nazism as we—you and I—saw it in any respect.’ Where most of us understand Nazism as a form of tyranny, Mayer’s subjects ‘did not know before 1933 that Nazism was evil. They did not know between 1933 and 1945 that it was evil. And they do not know it now.’ Seven years after the war, they looked back on the period from 1933 to 1939 as the best time of their lives….Even in retrospect, Mayer’s subjects liked and admired Hitler. They saw him as someone who has ‘a feeling for masses of people’ and spoke directly in opposition to the Versailles Treaty, to unemployment-to all aspects of the existing order. They applauded Hitler for his rejection of ‘the whole pack--all the parliamentary politicians and all the parliamentary parties’—and for his cleanup up of moral degenerates.’ The bank clerk described Hitler as ‘spellbinder, a natural orator. I think he was carried away from truth, even from truth, by his passion. Even so, he always believed what he said.’ (From The New York Review of Books, in a piece entitled, It can Happen here by Cass. R. Sunstein)

Rationalizing approval of ‘odious thugs’ as a counter to the ‘odious thugs’ who seem to have captured the megaphones of propaganda, incited some of the most heinous military, cyber and disinformation campaigns in history, in an overt display of tyranny, oligarchy, narcissism, hard power (and alpha masculinity!) is s sure-fire path to chaos…and yet chaos seems to be preferred to the current unconscious malaise of anxiety, fear, insecurity, neurosis and potentially psychosis as a national debilitation.

And the notion of being ‘carried away from truth, even from truth, by his passion…as a spellbinder’….seems highly evocative of the perceptions of the MAGA cult of their de facto leader. Odious thugs do not hold much stock in truth; they hold stock in manipulation, twisting and contorting the facts to suit their agenda, their excessive motivation, manipulation of masses of people into a kind of political tornado, emblematic of mass hysteria, devoid of both any connection to the truth and a total absence of responsibility for that failure. And what is even more galling is the seeming complicity of what otherwise was considered to be a responsible media empire.

Countering propaganda, lies, manipulation and ‘spellbinding’ oratory is not something for which either the government nor the mass media has prepared, nor has either the skill or the temperament to counteract. The propriety, sense of balance, obeisance to a semblance of objectivity, has seemed to be lurking in the ethos of the editorial rooms of television and newspapers at the national level. Gentle, proper, even sophisticated arguments, based on both reason and facts, hourly dispensed and ‘consumed’ by thoughtful, reasonable, and highly motivated political observers and even activists, however, is simply not going to relieve the inordinate fears of people like Robert Reich. Fearing that the trump-cult will find a way to ‘prevail’ in an electorate deeply divided over not merely how the country is faring, but whether the identity of the nation is sustainable,  at a time when the world is careening over several cliffs simultaneously, and the ordinary people are squeamish, anxious, highly critical and suspicious of the current ‘establishment’ seems to bleed over into a geopolitical malaise.

Gaza-Israel, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, The Kremlin, Taiwan, killer fires, droughts, floods, historic rainfalls, summer snows, terrorist threats and killings, piled onto a culture that experiences a mass-shooting several times every week….and there is a recipe for calamitous, reactive, angry, frightened and even euphoric mass hysteria.

And this mass hysteria, whose figure-head-tv personality huckster struts into and out of every room, and every criminal charge, and every court hearing and every mass rally he deems to enter, seems to gather emotional fuel and cash with each and every legal conviction of the orange-dyed coiffed hair. Call it perversion, call it the rise of the anti-hero, the outlaw archetype, the white supremacist, the “Christian nationalist, the iconoclast and insurrectionist, that cowers behind the public image of millions of Americans and seems, like Leviathan, to be rising from the detritus of a money-grubbing, star-worshipping, entertainment-addicted huckster culture.

This is no television entertainment show in which the public interest is auditioning for recognition, respect and honour, before a jury of pre-disposed selfish and greedy and testosterone-infested male losers. And yet the public interest is indeed under considerable pressure enduring highly publicized, daily, if not hourly, attacks from  one who seeks to become its “king”. Weaponizing the institutional, governmental, judicial, economic, social-service-network, educational system and performing all of that while holding and selling The American Bible makes Sir Gregor MacGregor* look like a rank amateur.

In a piece in by Glenn C. Altschuler, March 3, 2024, we read:

‘May I be honest; may I be decent; may I be unaffected by the technique of hucksters,’ John Steinbeck once wrote in a letter to a friend. ‘May I for a little while, see with the inflamed eyes of a God.’ With the possibility of a huckster returning to the White House and subordinating public service interests to personal interests, Steinbeck’s prayer seems urgently relevant.

Soo too does Robert Reich’s shitless fear, not only about the short-term results of the debate, but more importantly about the seduction of the American electorate in voting for him as a twice-impeached, 34-times-convicted felon, life-long-grifter….absolutely defiantly unapologetic and unrepentant, never  having done anything ‘wrong’…Indeed, his bravado evocative of the James Jesse Strang, a shape-shifting Mormon prophet who ‘conjured a visit from an angel and produced a letter anointing him (Joseph) Smith’s heir, after Smith was murdered in 1844. He also dug up some buried tablets which he translated. All of this seemed right in America in the 1840’s Visits from angels. Buried tablets. (From Review: Remembering One of America’s Greatest Conmen, a ‘Sanctimonious Rascal’ by Ann Fabian, reviewing Miles Harvey’s The King of Confidence, on The National Book Review.)

Fabian’s final words in the review strike a literary note attempting to lift American literature and life up:

Strang’s nasty story with its thievery, theatricality, and deceptions, lures us into those writers who tried so hard to wrestle with the contradictions of America’s past. Harvey shows us just how Melville, Hawthorne, Whitman, and Twain shared Strang’s imagined world. They turned confidence schemes into art. Maybe we should try to do that again.

We can only join Steinbeck, and Whitman et al, and hope to transform confidence schemes into art, lifting them out of the sewer of contemporary American politics.


*MacGregor sold a non-existent island country (Poyais) somewhere in the Caribbean by offering bonds to wealthy educated people. He advertised to non-existent island country to the British and French public, calling it the land that never was, wrote a book about it under the pen name, Thomas Strangeways. About 750 people loaded onto seven ships and set out to the non-existent island country where many suffered, few survived due to diseases, natural calamity and  among the settlers. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2024 #57

 There is an apparent ‘gap’ in organizations between the ‘template of values, aspirations, and beliefs’ and the “ground-work” of the conversations, relationships, and ‘connections’ that embody, incarnate, and live-out these templates.

One can fully concur, in one’s head, with the ideas, the philosophies, ideologies, and aspirations of the group, as a cognitive, intellectual, objective and aspirational objectivity, without necessarily integrating them, through a commitment even to talk about those values and aspirations in the template. And among factors that are helping to generate this ‘gap’ is the social convention of how, if, when and how much to engage in conversations that go past, beyond, around, ‘small talk’.

Socialization, in a face-to-face situation is very different from socialization on what is called ‘social media’ where faceless, and often anonymous communication leaves the initiator’s identity somewhat concealed from the recipient. This ‘pseudo-anonymity’ is also a factor in keeping the two ‘communicators’ somewhat detached, separated and disengaged from each other. Just as, here at this moment, while tapping these keys, I have no face-to-face connection with anyone who might chose to read these words. Somewhere in between, platforms like Zoom, Skype, Facetime, etc. offer an upgrade to the former telephone, in that we can ‘see’ the other person(s) while we chat.

Another aspect to the divide, is the issue of ‘public’ versus ‘private’ aspects of any conversation. We are all highly protective of our personal identity, including whatever experiences, perceptions, attitudes, beliefs, and ‘secrets’ that we all harbour, that just might be a cause for concern, if others, with whom we are unfamiliar, were to be introduced to them. These personal ‘stories’ are those things we guard for any of several reasons.

Protecting other members of our family, or protecting ourselves from what we might ‘assume’ or ‘presume’ to be a kind of shock, surprise, jealousy, anxiety, or even fear from another, if they become party to the details of our life are among those reasons. Assumption, and presumption, however, are not idle nor irrelevant aspects of our protective shield. They both comprise an integral part of our social skills repertoire. They are the verbs/nouns that serve as the ‘grease’ in the ‘joint’ that exists in each one-on-one, face-to-face conversation. And while they are neither given voice, they are part of the unwritten ‘code’ that we believe, with good reason, protects us from having to face our own trauma before we are ready, and from the trauma of others, prior to their having reached their comfort zone with it.

Social distance, whether in a physical encounter, or over a technological device, is always essential to every person in a conversational mode. Much is made, in fact, of the physical structure, the arrangements and even positions in relation to the light in the room, for example, in the professional interview process. Interviewers often, at least in the past, have sought a position in from of a window, in order to better conceal whatever emotion the conversation with the recruit evoked. The size of a desk or table, or even its existence in such interviews, is part of the staging of such conversations. The skill of listening to voice tone, also, is highly receptive to the emotional ‘place’ of the speaker, and can either enhance the conversation (and potential connection) or dissipate its potential. Taking note of body language, another visual component of any conversation, is a skill that comes readily and expectedly to those engaged in the study and apprenticeship of the theatre. Dramatic skills lie at the core of all dramatic productions, and while no one wishes to morph an informal chat into a melodrama, one can at least be aware of signs of either comfort or discomfort in the conversation partner. Closed arms/legs, for example, might indicate a degree of withdrawal and/or resistance, if they occur in the middle of the chat, as would their inverse possibly suggest a relaxation.

Speed of voice and volume are also highly nuanced indices of another’s “presence” that, if we are present ourselves, can tip us off as to ‘how’ the other person is ‘receiving’ whatever we might be saying. High pitched, rapid-fire articulation, like those notes of the violin in the upper register, are, just like those strings, taut, and arresting. Lower tones uttered and received in a slower pace can be quite supportive and comforting in situations of considered emotional angst.

And while these observations may sound like a ‘template’ that encases conversation in ‘unnatural’ and pro-forma directives, simply being aware of the other person’s demeanor will have an impact on what we say, how we say it, and even the length of the encounter.

The question of opening a conversation with a new person, is, however, one of the more challenging thresholds we all face. The weather, the latest scores, perhaps even a highly circulated local event…these are all ‘safe’ topics even for the most reserved, shy and silent types among us. And then, after the opening ‘exchange’ what comes next? Assertiveness, for some, is analogous to, if not actual, aggressiveness. And the line between those behavioural and attitudinal ‘cousins’ (assertiveness and aggression) that perceptions of discomfort and comfort will, like a rising and ebbing tide or breeze, ebb and flow through the course of the conversation.

Doubtless, in such a porous and shifting ‘line’ that depends on the perceptions, attitudes, and personal character of each conversant, men will be at a considerable disadvantage, if they are conversing with women. Sensitive to all of the various signals in a conversation, most women will have had more opportunities of shared talk than most men, and the situations will likely be quite different.

Men, for the most part, are less loquacious than women, and also speak only if and when some specific piece(s) of information needs to be shared. And, as research demonstrates, men prefer to be occupied in some ‘task’ so that they are less conscious of the need to ‘talk’, concentrating on the task and less personally profiled while talking.

Formal conversation, in public meetings, too, have an inherent ‘set of conventions’ that most adults ‘know’ implicitly and these ‘normal’ behaviours tend to guide the conversation, while also providing a model for those wishing to speak. Public institutions, hospitals for instance, have posted signs on their corridors warning about abusive behaviour including intemperate, raised voices. Similarly, in public meetings, a silent ‘code’ of acceptable manner, discourse, language, tone, volume, body movements prevail, for the most part, or engage an intervention of reproach, sanctions or even removal.

The unwritten, conventional and professional expectations of how to converse, while important and warranting attention in a culture in which anger, disrespect and angst prevail. However, it is those intractable forces that swirl around us, war, swarming refugee and migrant movements, climate change, poverty, disease, and the general malaise of seemingly emasculated governance on many of these issues, that bring us up short, sometimes even choking us, provoking involuntary tears from our eyes, a surge of emotional hopelessness in our chests.

Lurking on the edge of each conversation, especially within organized groups, are several significant and relevant ‘variables,’ really expectations that are shared by all members of the group. Each member (participant) enters a kind of tunnel of formal/informal orientation, really more like an assimilation of the ‘codes’ and the models of engagement that have been adopted and inaugurated by the group prior to the entry of the newby.

Paradoxically, a newby can find him/herself totally comfortable with the mission, formal expectations of the organization, while at the same time experiencing a detachment from engagement with established members. Groups too, have few if any formal or informal orientation approaches, save and except for the occasional initiative of individual members who reach out to engage.

Obviously, there is no violation or contravening of the principles of the group in the space between the newby and the organization. Silence, distance, and some level of anticipation of engagement from the perspective of the newby, combine to enhance the potential of both silence and a feeling/perception of wondering ‘how’ and ‘when’ and ‘with whom’ one might ‘open up’ and begin to form some connection.

The apparent ‘convention’ of ‘small talk’ as the welcome mat for conversations, while useful and normal, can devolve into a pattern that continues, safety, ‘cover’ and familiarity that can and often does eclipse the kind of conversation that offers insight, disclosure, even a hint of friction/tension, and a more engaging and challenging experience.

What is missing, while neither malignant nor offensive, nevertheless, serves as a silent ‘moat’ of social distance, whose crossing challenges both newby and the group, individually and collectively.

And while, for some, this situation sounds like micro-managing  how to be more assertive, and thereby dismissible as a serious matter for mature adults, it can be an opportunity for all groups interested in embracing new members to reconsider how to ‘welcome’ those new members and especially how to engage and retain them within the group.

The obvious and preferred response of most groups is to ‘engage’ (perhaps voluntold) new members into an activity which is recognized and respected (and expected) within the group. Ubiquitous in classrooms, gymnasia, athletic teams and workplaces, where “doing” and “performing” are core to the group’s purpose and existence, tasks and ‘doing’ are not necessarily inherent to all groups. Building relationships, as a prime purpose for a group, seems to have been relegated to pubs, and parties and private dinners. Also ‘building relationships’ is far more natural and carries a much higher value among women than among men. Accomplishing the “task” lies at the top of the totem pole for men, and building relationships seems to be a welcome incidental or even accidental.

This issue ticks another box: the presence, tolerance and acceptance of ‘shy’ men and women from the highly gregarious, social and extroverted among us and the culture’s innocent blindness to their sensibilities. Just as there are multiple models of both genders, and leadership, there are multiple contributions from ‘shy’ and withdrawn and reticent men and women whose contribution often is slow to discover and certainly slow to be proferred.

Templates, group expectations, mission statements, and social conventions can and often are roadblocks to their own effective attainment without a conscious and conscientious and critical examination of how people “feel” and how people interact and how people “experience” a new situation. The old adage that as we grow old we care less about what others think, while relevant occasionally, may not ‘cover’ all situations. Indeed, as we gain insight and clarity in how and what we observe and how we experience new situations, we often become more discerning and more reflective and even more nuanced in our perceptions, attitudes and perceptions of acceptance. This is especially relevant if the group’s mission and purpose align with our own identity and conceived potential purpose.

Group depth of insight of individuals, both current and new, and desire to really get to know newcomers is a sine qua non of its enduring and sustaining potential, irrespective of what its purpose and mission articulate. That’s not rocket science, but perhaps worthy of consideration by volunteer organizations.