Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Is it possible to create radical change without violence?

"The climate crisis is here, now, but a compromised, corrupted media doesn’t want to know." says George Monbiot (The Purse is Mightier Than the Pen)

Who controls culture? Is it media, public opinion, or money?

Culture is starved of wisdom if we abandon it to the authority of the purse.  If leaders are mesmerized by money they will follow trends. They will believe they have no choice, and what has happened to western culture is the wholesale sacrifice of life to the altar of profit.

The Library of Social Science researchers and scholars have hypothesized a law of sacrifice in six ways, the first of which is "Cultures invent or create ideological concepts that they elevate into “absolutes”— worshiped as the essence of society. But how do people persuade themselves that the ideas their society has constructed are real? "

Propaganda is very sophisticated, and we often can't see how we are being persuaded if not manipulated. Our own desires are reconfigured to lead us to accept horrible outcomes. Like war, for example - do we leave our home and family to slaughter strangers or let the enemy slaughter us?

We are raised to fit into the community, to trust the authority of parents and teachers, who help and protect us, and who will punish us if we don't obey.

But what constitutes  a well functioning society? One that makes clear the rules and laws and where the masses are seen as stakeholders. It's not fear that preserves this but social responsibility and integrity.

The radical change comes from the actions of an observant citizenry that is informed, educated on history and politics, who understands the principles of fairness and the power of inclusion. Those who watch and listen to what is going on around them and weigh that against media headlines. Those who ask who benefits and who choose the greater good, and who do not trust an institution just because it has power.

This would be the seed of the radical - that we practice citizenship and refuse ideological absolutes.

Often what is presented as radical is an invasion of hostile ideologies that persuade us to sacrifice our lives for God, country, communism or capitalism. These require violence and human sacrifice in the thousands because they are a transfer of power.

Whatever is worth defending is that which asks our input and attention, our care and help - to live for it, not to die for it. 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Unconscious Bias

Walking around the Farmer's Market on a summer morning I passed two craftswomen engaged in conversation.  What word describes the opposite of misogyny? In passing I chimed misanthropy. The second woman said that is the general term for the hatred of humanity. And the question was, what is the term used to express the hatred of men, males. I moved on because I didn't want to get ensnared in this conversation I had heard from others in different times and places.

I anticipated after the two women concluded there was no opposite to misogyny in our language, they felt that a hatred of men coming from women, was not recognized.  The second woman said it's not fair.

There is no opposite of misogyny because a hatred of males has not been a systemic tool. Women became the possession of men, chattels, and the institutions governed by men created a fear and hatred towards the feminine to justify the power men were given over women.

Less than a century ago, women who spoke out in public, who were engaged in challenging the status quo were often beaten, imprisoned and raped. It was mostly women targeted during the witch hunts. It was women who were trained to be submissive and obedient to men. It is women whose character is whacked in courts where rape is the charge. In domestic abuse cases, up to now, women were blamed for violence inflicted upon them. Our society claimed they must have asked for it. A man who beats his partner claims "she pressed my buttons".  Sexuality for a man is conquest, for a woman it is slut shaming. Doesn't every woman know this? How many more examples of men's contempt for women do we need to know? Southern states that try women who have miscarried for murder? The misogynist attacks on Hilary Clinton?

It was my assumption that the women at the market were feeling sympathy for men who were being attacked by the feminist movement. This made my blood boil. But perhaps they were saying its not fair how women are viewed. Perhaps it was the opposite of what I thought.

Yes there are women who hate men but it's not supported and justified by our social system.  Hate hurts us all on a personal community level, but when hate is used to support the violence towards a whole group of people it becomes a weapon, and weapons we can't see are devastating.

Had I inquired I might have pounced in judgement based on my assumptions.  Emotions operate first. Also I was not invited to participate in the conversation. Had they been shouting then their opinions would be open for comment, the volume entering and changing the environment.

But it's times like this when I feel there is a need for conversations about civil society and social justice, and a movement for adult education. Questions such as when do expressions of hate become a crime? When should the public intervene? In what ways are we implicated when misogyny, racism and homophobia are expressed?

Monday, August 8, 2016

Naming the Disease - Social Atomization

Henry Giroux writes in his recent Truthout article titled "Donald Trump and the Plague of Atomization in a Neoliberal Age" of Leo Lowenthal who warned back in the forties about the atomization of human beings under a state of fear. "What he understood with great insight, even in 1946, is that democracy cannot exist without the educational political and formative cultures and institutions that make it possible."

This confirms my sense that we are trying to fight a social disease with rational arguments while the supporters of fascist movements just want a messiah who will deal with the big problems so we don't have to, but who have no idea of the danger in giving unconditional power to a single ego. A functioning democratic society can be annoying and tiresome but it has many conditions that challenge power.

In a free and democratic society that pays taxes for education, justice, and social protections for the most vulnerable - we are continually being updated with facts that challenge assumptions of how we can instinctively know the leaders we pick will protect us. That we have social standards that can't be broken. Or that we will be okay as long as the economy is okay. Or, even that we have progressed and would never push a woman in front of a train because she was wearing a headscarf.

In the fifties and sixties I was given an education based on social justice. It wasn't in headlines but it underscored all that I learned. It didn't guarantee fairness or security but assumed we had a responsibility to care about one another. We didn't read Giroux, Lowenthal or Arendt, but we knew of Socrates and Orwell.

Yet many who graduated from this era were quite happy to throw it away because it wasn't perfect.

Now we are at such a stage of civil entropy we shrug while finance capital rules and public benefits are eroded. Those at the bottom are left without a means of earning a living wage, without hope, continually ground down by endless poverty and denied human dignity.

"Mass fear is normalized as violence increasingly becomes the default logic for handling social problems." Giroux writes.

If we stop to read this age and condense all the hostility around us, we will see that life itself is the enemy of fascism. Fascism silences conversation, it wants unquestioned obedience, human sacrifices, the glorious sunset, robotic armies.

Totalitarianism wants power without the human stain, without competing organisms, without reflection or question or thought. It is the muscle without a brain, The sperm without the egg. The knife without flesh. The future without compassion. The masculine without the feminine.

The corporate media keeps telling us this over and over again, in a thousand different scenes and sound bites.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

If I Can't Rule the World I Shall Destroy It

This is the cry of the authoritarian narcissist, and those who support him or her. It's a cry of despair from the minds of those who believed that reason and justice ruled the world and now realizing it's the opposite, feel betrayed but cannot see their part in it. In denial and without humility they sink into the dark hole of revenge. 

The trouble is we confuse ideology or the power of ideology with right and wrong. "Ideologies may be viewed as societally defined ideational structures that exist in order to permit latent dimensions of the psyche to become manifest in the external world." says, Richard Koenigsberg in his essay "Why do Ideologies exist".

When someone says "the real world" what they mean is the "ideational structures" that we have taken for granted as "truth". What we often call human nature is the "psychic functions" that permit certain desires and fantasies to be projected onto "reality".

The ideational structure I am most affected by is the notion of control. Raised in a nation who preached progress and who embarked on racist, colonial brutality, we argued about how to rule the world but not how to care for it. 

The male head of the household made decisions for members of his family whom he viewed as weak and childlike, who needed his strength and protection.  When things didn't go as planned the ones who failed were those who could not live "up to" the patriarch's laws.  

In authoritarian cultures, the sons learned to shut down their emotions and daughters learned how to keep silent.  Love became duty. Empathy and compassion died. 

We are born into a set of beliefs that our parents and teachers assume are right, and since we need approval from our society to survive, we learn how to adjust ourselves to an external view. It works to oppress and make obedient the people who live under its power.

I grew up believing I was good and those who behaved and thought like me were also good, and if we all thought the same there would be peace. Prejudiced and privileged, I must now swallow how wrong I was. Thanks to the Republican party in the US, I see how corrupted the white colonialist is capable of becoming. I see the harm I have caused by believing I must be in control, by holding on to control and blinding myself to the effect it has on those who have less.

The more I age, the more I lack confidence in talking about big issues. How to create or be part of an inclusive and just society is beyond my control. Things are changing. There is so much I cannot know - even on my own street. I am a stakeholder in this thing called humanity but not its ruler.

When despotic opportunists threaten what little bit of civil society remains, I feel absolutely lost. Outraged that we vote for hate rather than deal with our own discomfort because we are not in control.  You and I can't rule the world. Yet we commit endless acts of violence to support the delusion that we can. Nations are not great. And we are destroying the world because we can't rule it.

Fascist and communist movements in Europe in the 1930's, according to Hannah Arendt, recruited support from the masses dismissed as being too stupid for the other parties.

Chris Hedges, in his article The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism. writes there is only "one way left to blunt the yearning for fascism coalescing around (Donald) Trump. It is to build, as fast as possible, movements or parties that declare war on corporate power, engage in sustained acts of civil disobedience and seek to reintegrate the disenfranchised—the “losers”—back into the economy and political life of the country." 

In short,  we must declare war on our addiction to power-over and use our power to care for and heal our world in any way we can.  

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Humanity - a Post Mortem Audit?

"The immersive and inescapable way children and teens are exposed to violence in their "media diet" on social media apps, video games and movies can make them more aggressive and fearful, the American Academy of Pediatrics says in a new policy statement." CBC.CA 

There is no doubt in my mind that a diet of violent entertainment disturbs my equilibrium. Even though I am a senior and have many years experience of living in a reciprocal community, TV dramas make me feel insecure on a vague, semi-conscious level. 

Children and teens have not yet developed their own survival skills and independence, so they are vulnerable to  messages wherever they come from.  

Also there is very little in the media that doesn't "bleed" and there are very few examples of people solving real problems. 

Have we become unconscious of how we internalize the messages that we know intellectually are fiction? The fast moving narrative of violence everywhere? After the music, images and high drama does it make hope of any kind seem naive?

I have just watched a brief interview of a gun toting white man ( who will vote for Donald Trump because he believes the government is corrupt.  He sees his role as protecting the innocent. Has he got his worldview from television where the dots are rarely connected, and facts don't count?  

How will Trump make things better? What would he contribute to society? According to reports, he prides himself on not paying taxes because he feels that government is a waste of money. He has power and influence because his father had good connections, lots of money and was able to influence officials.  He has the key of wealth and celebrity, and that's where (we have been lead to believe) power lies.  

The first and most dangerous violence is the notion we are isolated egos, which means we have no agency within a conscious society and makes us slaves to whatever ideology has the most funding. 

We have elected through cynicism and intellectual laziness to let the chips fall where they may.  We are losing our sanity, our integrity and our civil society. What creature will outlive us if we forget what it means to be human?

Saturday, July 16, 2016

After the Wedding

For the last two weeks my environment has been full of celebration, games, talk, food, wine and catching up with family. Listening for the urgent needs of babes and young ones. Endless used cups, plates and utensils covering every available surface. Used tissues discarded in every room. Stacks of dirty washing, leftover food, crowded fridge. Trying to remember all the things we hope to do during the day,realizing by nightfall most did not get done.

Sleeping bodies strewn across passageways, couches and mattresses at night. Stepping cautiously over toys, boxes and feet, during the day.

Now the wedding is over, time to think about what it all means. The deeds are done. The youngest daughter and son-in-law are married.  The cousins have met, brothers and sisters from three continents have reconnected.

So how do I feel now?  Gratitude for the gathering, the good weather, the rain, meeting in-laws, friends, eating and drinking. The image of the beautiful bride, the handsome groom, and attendants - in white, yellow, pink and green. So many beautiful dresses and smiling faces.  The very natural "sanctuary" on the beach, carefully decorated with driftwood.

We are up for this except when I fall down from poor balance due to a bad cold. The cold got in the way of my best self as I slink away to the bed to sleep. Once upon a time a cold was just a cold, but now my immune system just breaks down, and I couldn't find the energy to rise above the symptoms.

The good news is most people had a really good time and I am thankful that everything went off well. I return home a changed person from all I have met and all whom I love. I just hope that my weariness did not spoil anyone's holiday.

Big occasions I can remember but not all the elements. They pass like foggy apparitions I cannot hold onto. My wedding 46 years ago, my son's wedding 13 years ago and my daughter's wedding two weeks ago. I cannot say with confidence that I was 100% available at all times although that was the plan. But I do feel really blessed for all these people in my life. I feel rich, very rich. There is no million dollar lottery that can match the beauty of family and friends who are healthy, capable, gifted and loving.

Thank you all - you may never know just how beautiful you are.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Why You Don't Have More Control When You Choose Hate As a Way Out

Antony Gormley was quoted in an article (by Hannah Ellis-Petersen, printed in the Guardian July 6 )with a warning - we live in dangerous times. “Yet we are all sleepwalking through it...aware the centre cannot hold, that 250 years of industrial activity has undermined and fundamentally disturbed our world – yet we feel somehow not responsible.” 

Worse is the seeming efficiency with which movements are able to destroy civil society all across the globe with very little analysis among comrades or from the mainstream media.

So while hatred has been whipped up towards immigrants, or more likely people who are not white, and while hatred has done so much damage to struggling countries everywhere - we seem to have learned nothing.

But there are recurring elements we must remember before we slip into civil wars, terrorism or xenophobic attacks.

1. The white race has for centuries invaded all continents and brutally destroyed the social systems of aboriginal people they encountered.

2. Outrage at the "problems" caused by immigrants usually comes from the white race who felt entitled to invade, rape and pillage wherever they landed without question. The harm done by colonialism has yet to be fully examined by Europeans who now feel threatened by mass immigration. 

3. The military-industrial complex has been very effective in flaming hatred where they stand to profit from the wars that result from it. However we don't remember the interests who help to fund campaigns such as the Nazis in WWII, military coups in Central America, or the Middle East.

4. We don't pay attention to the really powerful lobbies and their ideologies. It's as though we accept their reptilian appetites as business-as-usual without blame.

5. We forget that the front line hooligans, thugs and suicide bombers are often the poorest most desperate groups who have very little choice, and who are hungry for a future that includes dignity and meaning.  We readily turn away from their condition and their despair when it is obvious they are in need, and then are shocked when they become radicalized.

6. We forget that the masses are dismissed until they are exploited and manipulated to cause the conditions for a profitable invasion from a foreign elite so powerful, their presence is rarely reported in the mainstream.

7. We forget that every generation experiences the disregard for humanity, until their suffering becomes a useful means for profit for the very few. 

In spite of all this, we quickly blame without reflection, those who have the least power to change things. There seems to be an inability to see our part in this recurring drama which ultimately harms us all. 

But also we need to realize that it is the system that breeds contempt for life with its surgical strategies that further divide us and make life miserable.

If we don't wake up soon, our beloved will suffer the torture and violence that spreads like a deadly virus as though it is the only solution, when in reality, it simply breeds the trauma that keep us fearful and afraid of one another. And therefore powerless cannon fodder for the strategists planning their next windfall.