The Trappings of Fame


“Fame … makes a man take things over …. puts you there where things are hollow”

If you were a baby boomer in the sixties, you most likely never knew anyone who was ‘really really’ rich. There was a kid in my school whose dad was a famous football player, but I didn’t know her well. And there was another friend who came from Texas; they had a big house, and even had a maid, who let us make chili and mess up the kitchen.

I had relatives who had oil patch money – they didn’t come around to many family parties, though. They likely got tired of being hit up for loans that would never get repaid.

USA - 30th Anniversary of Elvis Presley's Death - GracelandWhen you think about it, one of the most famous, and presumably wealthiest, person with a high profile, back in those days, was Elvis. And by today’s standards, Graceland isn’t exactly the Taj Mahal. Not with all that shag carpeting. But for the time, it was high glam.

As a child, I knew, through reading, that there had been times in history when some people had attained obscene wealth, usually by conquering another country, and by subjecting those natives to their will. Those people were called kings, and whatever they wanted was granted to them, for their skill in warfare.queen of sheba

England had a royalty, but they wore sensible shoes.

I didn’t look up to those people; I never wanted to be ‘royal’ It seemed a pretty high price to pay for a life lived entirely in the public eye. And back then, there were a lot of people who wondered if the trade off of privacy for public adulation was a good one.

Now, of course, people will do anything to be seen, hopefully to be admired, for whatever it is they can do to be different. Tattoo a snake on your face? We’ll only be impressed if you’re the first to think to do so.

“Could it be the best, could it be? Really be, really, babe?”

I don’t know if it is a Canadian way of thinking, but I remember how most people I knew, growing up, adhered to the ‘tall poppy syndrome‘ … that meant that you didn’t want to stick your head up too high, or blow your own horn a little too loud, because you’d be sure to get cut down to size if you did. The syndrome is basically a way of sneering at those who revel in having a ton of money – which we assume is ill-gotten gains – or of seeking fame in public life.

william shatnerIn the seventies, you’d have been more likely to hear someone snigger, “geez, who does he/she think he/she is!” when a Canadian even got a mention in American media.

We did not put many Canadians on pedestals for their achievements, though we’d often get a little warm feeling when we felt like we’d snuck a Canadian through, behind America’s back. Like that William Shatner guy, with the weird way of talking. His mum had an acting school on Girouard in Montreal, so he was one of the good one’s.

We had our own awards, our Junos instead of Grammys, our Genie awards instead of Oscars, and by geez, that should be good enough for any Canadian! Just look at that Walter Ostanek fella, and all his polka Grammy wins! Does HE look happy? Now, you just go practice your accordion, and try not to get all stuck up and big headed!

“Fame …. what you like is in the limo”

And then came …. rock and roll hedonism.

“In the seventies … There was more excess, more hedonism, more drugs, more attitude, more sex, more style, more enthusiasm. Just?… more.” (The Telegraph, UK)

mudsharkI’m not saying that the days of mud sharks, Whovian displays of hotel trashing, and the deaths by overdose of nearly every icon of the day opened the door to the pedestaling of the rich and famous….

but it helped.

The austerity of the post war years, and the drive and eventual success of the lower class kids, who knew the only way to get out of soul crushing poverty was to get into sports or rock n roll, became the envy of those who wondered what it would be like to literally have the world and all of it’s glories at their feet … drugs, drink, the most beautiful women in the world … it could all be yours, if you just cracked the Top Ten Charts.

Mo’ money, mo’ problems. Some of the luckier and richer rockers listened to their dear old dads, or to the managers and accountants who flocked to help funnel some of this largesse into safer investments, like property. And sadly, some of those ‘helpful’ advisors turned out to be there with the intention of taking advantage of the silly geese now laying multiple golden eggs.

Fame and wealth are on a sliding scale, as the wiser of the nouveau riche artistes soon learned. And if those musos wanted to keep at least some of the moolah that was coming in, in order to pay for their growing entourages, they’d have to learn to manage, manipulate, and increase their funds, just like the robber barons of the last century had done.

And off they went, to the tax havens…. and began to grow their own little dynasties …

“Fame, “Nein! It’s mine! is just his line … to bind your time, it drives you to, crime .”

We aging hippies, especially those of us who chose careers in the arts, might not have prioritized the acquisition of wealth, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t drool a little when these new ‘lifestyles of the rich and famous’ were dangled before us, in the mid eighties.

make it rainMTV glommed onto that envy, and promoted the lifestyles of celebrities in shows like “The Fabulous Life Of … “ and “Cribs.” These quasi reality features pretended to give the plebes a glimpse into the opulent homes, glamorous lifestyles, and vacation playgrounds of those musicians who had ‘made it.’

FAME … and wealth, were now what everyone wanted to achieve, by any means possible. Oh yeah, it was all about the Benjamins …

“Fame … what you get is no tomorrow … “

And we bought it .. oh yes, those of us who looked on and envied the lifestyles of those who had cracked the money and power code, wanted in on the fun.

“Americans are accustomed to talking about fame using the heady language of the cosmos: the celebrity as a celestial truth, situated above us; the superstar as a force in the firmament, all heat and light and gravitational demands. Michael Jackson’s environmental form of fame—music that permeated people’s lives, iconography that saturated American culture—anticipated the intimate version of celebrity that is the default today. It is fitting, in that regard, that celebrity itself functions as a spectral character in Leaving Neverland. Jackson was acutely aware of the affordances of fame; he leveraged them, the documentary suggests—and, ultimately, he weaponized them. Joy Robson, Wade’s mother, recalls Jackson making a request of her; she recalls, as well, that when she refused it, he coolly informed her: “I always get what I want.”” (The Atlantic, March 2019)

This year has seen the release of several documentaries that question what the pedestaling of fame has done to our vulnerable young women and men. With the allegations in Leaving Neverland and Surviving R. Kelly, we also need to be aware of what fame does to the psyches of those who wield that much power.

camp followersThere have always been camp followers, disciples, those who believe that proximity to what they covet, for even a few moments, raises their own profile and value amongst those who have not had the same access to the royalty of their time.

When those who possess power of any potency use manipulation, a righteous fear, and their fame/perceived authority to get what they want, they are abusing that power in order to exploit vulnerable people for their own advantage or gain. And even if those people go willingly to the abuse, it’s still abuse.

Now, the funny thing is that, somewhere along the line, we all started to think that those who achieve fame and financial reward for being good at one thing, like music, or business, could translate that magic to other careers.

And strangely enough, in a culture that appears to embrace a meritocracy, those who seek fame and power somehow manage to drape the mantle of unique talents upon those whose rise to fame may well have simply come from a well placed endorsement, a reality television episode, or a sex tape featuring some very, very large buttocks.

kardashian buttWe would never expect our dentist to take out our appendix or fix our plumbing, but for some reason, we think that someone who has managed to acquire – by hook, and likely crook – a large amount of money, should be given free reign to guide a country, or should be allowed to tell us who and how to worship. The mind boggles.

The political ‘base’ of a country is as subservient to a populist politician, as a congregation is to a hyperbolic preacher, or a groupie or ‘musical prodigy’ is to a music mogul. There’s a parallel in the abuses.

rewards just aheadDangling the promises of future prosperity, they will assure their acolytes that there is a brilliant future awaiting them, if they’ll just listen to their master’s advice. The prey might wonder at what is asked of them, if they follow this path, and they may be reluctant to give their all, without the assurances, as false as they may be, that their faith will bring them enormous rewards in the end.

The followers will put that preacher, or politician, or musical ‘genius’ on a pedestal, and make that person their whole world, believing that their devotion and loyalty is as strongly returned.

But eventually, and inevitably, that faith is abused.

Our adoration of those with fame and wealth blinds us, and when those whom we’ve put on a pedestal are toppled, our beliefs in our selves is fractured.

toppling idolsWhat goes up .. must come down. At some point, the blinders fall off, and we see that those we call gods and kings are just selfish, spoiled, narcissists, and that we are the toys and pawns they use to satisfy their own whims and urges.

2011 … “A new study co-funded by the Gates Foundation, however, portrays the ultrarich as lost souls burdened by the fears, worries and family distortions of too much money.

Yeah yeah. Cry me a river.

 

 

Sports, Armageddon, and Quincy Jones Oh My!


 

by Roxanne Tellier

It’s Superbowl Sunday! that day when two teams of very large men in very padded outfits will try to kill each other for funzies and a huge, gawdy ring.

I don’t watch sports – it’s just not my thing – but I do enjoy the half time shows, and the award winning advertisements that sponsors save up for this special day.

What’s a ‘lunk’?

In other news, it seems like we’re living through a “Choose Your Own Armageddon” scenario.

If you’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world, your wish may be well on it’s way to coming true!

This week, the most informed leading lights and heads of the military and intelligence bureaus of the United States reported on the current hotspots around the globe that could cause major conflicts and bring unrest to America.

trump spoiled toddler poseThe most uninformed man in the world, who doubles as the president of the U.S., told them they were all wrong, and that only he, based on his ‘gut feelings’ and a solid and continuous scrutiny of the talking heads of the FOX Network, knew what was really going on.

So adamant was he on this point that the White House decreed that there would no longer be daily presidential briefs brought to him every morning, as these contrary ‘opinions’ were just too upsetting for the boy king.

trump tan failOh, and also that his orange facial tinge is due to ‘good genes‘ – not makeup and definitely NOT from a tanning bed.

To further demonstrate that ‘nobody’s gonna tell ME what to do!” trump then decided to end the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces, or INF, Treaty, which currently prohibits the production or testing of ground-launched cruise missiles with a range of 300 to 3,400 miles. Russia, a little miffed that the Orange Julep is pretending to bicep flex, immediately retaliated, declaring the treaty, in place since the days of Reagan, null and void.

This tiff, combined with the unstable situations in North Korea and the Middle East, now has those in the know worrying that an arms race is about to restart between the world’s two biggest nuclear powers. And it’s got me wondering where on earth I’m gonna find a school desk big enough for me to ‘duck and cover’ my big butt.

What we’re left with, after the clear warnings of the hearing, and the toddler’s subsequent tantrum, is something that will keep me and many others awake at night. Trump has been established as an ignoramus – uninformed and unwilling to learn – and the people who actually have the facts on global instability have been marginalized and belittled on the world stage by their own Commander in Chief.

This leaves precisely NO ONE in charge of what to do when the shit hits the fan. There are no leaders in which the American people can put their faith and trust. America is now ripe for a takeover by even the weakest nation on the planet, due to this gross destabilization of reality.

And if that don’t kill ya ….

Hundreds of thousands of fish have choked during Australia‘s hottest month since records began. Swathes of the United States are colder than the north pole. New ruptures have been found in one of the Antarctic’s biggest glaciers and there are growing signs the Arctic is warming so fast that it could soon be just another stretch of the Atlantic…. The US deep freeze, which has plunged temperatures in Minnesota to -50C (-58F), may appear to have little in common with the searing heatwave that cooked Marble Bar, Australia, in 49.1C (120.4F).” The Guardian, January 2019

world will end in 12 years AOC… little in common indeed … what’s a 100C degree temperature swing amongst friends, amirite?

At Davos, a feisty Swedish teen activist, Greta Thunberg, led a snowy sitdown demonstration to warn the billionaires, world leaders, business figures and celebrities gathered there that their inaction on climate change might be turning them a profit now, but didn’t bode well for their dreams of a long line of succession to their personal thrones.

“Some people say that the climate crisis is something that we all have created. But that is not true, because if everyone is guilty then no one is to blame. And someone is to blame,” 16-year-old climate crusader Greta Thunberg told the audience

Thunberg’s own strike from school every Friday for 23 weeks has inspired a wave of similar protests globally by young people who wonder what the point is of education in a world where political leaders fail to tackle climate change.

Also at Davos, and If you’d prefer your endtimes to involve guillotines, rumble carts, and a Les Miserables soundtrack, Rutger Bregman, historian and author of Utopia for Realists, gave the unclothed Davos emperors an earful, when he rightly pointed out that their prattlings on inequality and social unrest were sweet, but had little impact when divorced from the role the very wealthy play in the problem.

wealth isn't created at the topHe told his audience that people in Davos talked about participation, justice, equality and transparency, but “nobody raises the issue of tax avoidance and the rich not paying their share. It is like going to a firefighters’ conference and not talking about water.”

With all of that angst swirling around me, I am always enormously grateful when I find a little respite to the daily horror of the trump era, be it by watching videos of cats dressed in shark costumes riding Roombas, or of having the good fortune of stumbling upon a sweet documentary I didn’t know I needed to see.

QUINCY … this film alone is worth my monthly Netflix payment. The 2018 American documentary about ‘Q,’ the record producer, singer and film producer, is two hours I consider very well spent.

Quincy Jones – one of only 18 EGOTs (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner) … over 2000 songs and 300 albums recorded … 51 film and television scores … over 1000 original compositions … 79 Grammy nominations and 27 Grammy wins …. producer of both the best selling single AND the best selling album of all time.

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Quincy’s life was never easy, right from the days of his rough upbringing on the south side of Chicago. His mother was diagnosed schizophrenic and roughly dragged away in a straitjacket when he was just seven years old. He didn’t see her again until he was a successful young man.

His determination and grit saw him survive the Great Depression and go on to perform with Lionel Hampton as a teenaged trumpeter, and then put his head down and conquer every form of music that interested him, despite the barriers erected by the colour of his skin.

quincy and ray

He worked hard, and he loved hard, but the work had a habit of getting in the way. All three of his wives eventually had to leave because the music and the work was taking up all the air in the marriage.

His talent and genuine love for music propelled him to places few others could have gone. When the record companies said he was too young and inexperienced to be a producer, Dinah Washington insisted it was Quincy’s production or no one’s.

Mercury Records said, ‘Nope, we want a name.’ Dinah said, ‘Here’s a name for your ass: Dinah Washington with Quincy Jones as an arranger.’ ”

In the late fifties, Quincy’s work with Frank Sinatra was instrumental in the singer’s push for racial equality for Las Vegas entertainers, eventually playing an integral role in an agreement between Vegas hotel and casino owners that effectively desegregated the city in March 1960.

He knew everyone in the biz, and he worked with most of them. In one portion of the film, set in 2016, Jones inspects the new Smithsonian National Museum of African-American History & Culture exhibits, where the personal effects of so many of his old ‘homies’ –Ray Charles, Michael Jackson, Dinah Washington, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis – are on display. In a few hours, the grand opening ceremony that he has guided into place and produced will begin, but for a few moments, he is black musical history personified, both past and present.

The man never seems to stop, despite having had several serious health scares, including a nervous breakdown, blood clots, a stroke, diabetes, and not one, but two brain aneurysms.

And yet, the overwhelming passion that seems to guide his life is his incredible gratitude and appreciation for his family and friends. This is a loving man, a man who cannot get enough of his family, and a man who, despite having done so much in his lifetime, is still capable of finding joy and surprise in the music and the young musicians he continues to mentor, even as he edges ever closer to 90.

There were many moments in this film that touched my heart, and nearly brought me to tears. It is the existence and continuing presence of a rare genius in our midst that gives me hope for both music, and an America that could produce such a man.

 

Empathy and a God in Our Own Image


The holiday season is a good time to think about our interactions with other people. We really want to make our loved ones smile, so we’ll do as much as we can to please them. We search out gifts for giving that we think will delight our friends and acquaintances, hoping to strike that balance between spending too much or not enough. And, in the best case scenario, we find it in our hearts and pocketbooks to donate a little to those who have less than we do; some of us will do that because we think it’s right to share what we have with others, while some will do so because donations can be written off on next year’s taxes. Either way – our donations and caring will have some impact on those in need.

For most of us, that is all that the holidays require; a little thought for others, an attempt to ease some of the stress and strain that we humans navigate most days. Our songs and stories commemorate how we feel when we come together, in peace and joy, ‘heart to heart and hand in hand,” and lift the winter’s darkness for a short time.

lincoln empathyWe are driven by kindness and care, and empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings and emotions of others. The quality is usually strongest in children, who can be almost clairvoyant in their ability to feel the pain of others, either human or animal.  From a very early age, we can sense goodness and meanness in the intent of others, and even as babies, we instinctively dislike those who are cruel to others. Little children have yet to learn that most grownups are oblivious and indifferent to the feelings of animals. And many children, sadly, will grow up into adults who will, very often, be just as oblivious to the feelings of those who are different from themselves.

Different by virtue of skin colour, or gender, or by an accident of birth that sticks a silver spoon in one child’s mouth, and bitter alms in another. Children are born all over the planet, every minute of every day, but not every child will be welcomed by it’s family, or it’s people, or by those who hold power over the powerless.

So, here we are, with Christmas 2017 behind us. The days will get shorter now, and for many, the snow will fall far more than we’d like. The young, the old, the sick and the well – all of us will cope with good and bad events, to varying degrees, and with varying success.

The poor will suffer the most, since winter is hardest on those who live in inadequate housing, with uncertain heat, and even more uncertain nutrition. The middle class will struggle along, carrying the largest burden, since it is the middle class that invariably bears the cost of keeping society afloat. And the wealthy  … ah, the wealthy will have their own special burden, that of hiding their untold riches in ever more clever niches.

Inequality, already a societally crushing issue in the United States, was exacerbated last week when a group of old, mostly white, and mostly male Republicans forced through a bill looting the Treasury coffers, while enriching themselves and their donors. There is no other way to look at the tax scam perpetrated by the Trump administration than as the brutal rape of the American taxpayer, for the benefit of the wealthy.

tax scam 2017Every tax payer in America will suffer, and I say ‘every taxpayer’ because the wealthy were already well ahead of most Americans in the non-paying of taxes. Even as the rhetoric on American taxation being ‘the highest in the world’ (it’s not) crescendoed, the wealthy and corporations snickered up their sleeves, knowing that their trusty accountants and willing elected officials had long ago resolved that little problem. Very rarely do the tax bills of the 1% exceed 1% – it’s more likely that they’ll be coasting on credits from past corporate ‘losses,’ government grants, and well established tax havens in other countries.

The Republicans gathered to celebrate these cuts that were given to those who are currently sitting on trillions of dollars that they cannot be bothered to invest in their own employees and companies, and the corporations responded by cutting staff and automating the lowest paid jobs. And buying back their own stock. And giving themselves massive, million dollar bonuses.  Oh – and bemoaning a rise to minimum wage, as it would impact their bottom line.

trump tax ripoff

Meanwhile, the American people can look forward to death by a thousand tax cuts. There are cuts to pretty much everything necessary to live, not the American Dream, but a life not lived on the streets.

No sector of society has been left untouched. Health costs will soar, children will die from the loss of medication and treatments. The young, the old, the poor, the sick, small businesses, students, home owners, veterans, ‘dreamers,’ refugees and immigrants … all will pay the price for the corporations’ champagne dreams.

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” says the plaque on the Statue of Liberty, but now, she’s beckoning them closer so that she can mug them, and then sell their blood and organs to the highest bidder.

The astonishing lack of empathy or fellowship shown in this tax scam is frightening. How do you explain to someone what it means to care about their fellow man? To care for their neighbour, not just because there’s something in it for them, but because their own laws say that all men are created equal?

I don’t know how to open the eyes of those who cannot see the suffering in front of them, or who do see the suffering, but brush it away with impatience. The greed and detached cruelty of those who have the power to ease the misery of others, to elevate the standard of living for all, and yet fail to do so, is astounding.

The gleeful joy and unbelievable callousness exhibited by those who passed this bill is beyond me. I think it’s likely beyond even our fictional monsters. It took Scrooge three ghosts to understand his perfidy, but I think the Republicans cut back the ghost jobs last year, and replaced them with automation.

I’ve got mine, Jack,” they gloat. “Pull yourselves up by your bootstraps,” they say, neglecting to mention that the bootstraps and ladders they used to climb to power were pulled up behind them, and the door closed to those who might use those means to succeed in the future.

There are practical, and even self-serving reasons, to make sure that all of your people have health care, public education or access to higher education, and better paying jobs that enable the masses to buy the junk that corporations have made in cheaper lands. But even that doesn’t penetrate the scaly skins of the elected officials.

minimum-wage-graphic Ontario 2017Years of recession, of belt tightening, of cutting staff to the bone, have weakened respect for workers, and tested our own belief in the value of what we do. After all, if we had any importance, surely our jobs and wages would not be treated with such disdain and indifference! When we are no longer valued for what we bring to a company, when corporations would prefer to pay as little as they can get away with, rather than pay a minimum wage that would allow their workers to have a decent life, the very idea of the dignity of work loses meaning.

When we see hundreds or thousands of jobs cut, and the CEO rewarded with multi million dollar bonuses for his/her skill at excising these workers, we begin to see our lowly place in the big picture. We see that minimum wage is, indeed, the lowest amount a company can legally pay a worker, but that they’d gladly drop that amount by even more, or welcome slavery, if only it would come back into fashion and usage.

Minimum wage today buys less than it did in 1950. That’s why some households have two, or even three, family members, all desperately working as hard as they can, just to bring in enough to cover their basic survival needs. That house of cards shivers every time something unexpected happens – an accident, an illness, an unanticipated expense … or the cost of an education that might allow a family member to dream of a better job.

min wage earnersWhen I see the memes of the self-righteous, those who sneer at those who fill these jobs that pay only a minimum wage, I cringe. It chills me, especially when those jeers come from someone who grew up in a time when there WAS a more level playing field, more opportunities for advancement, or who came from a middle class family able to pay for the speaker to get a leg up in life.

Those people are often under the false impression that it is only the young and incompetent that work for such a low salary. They are very wrong. And even when it is shown to them that they are wrong, they will defend their position, trotting out sexist, racist, or xenophobic tropes to bolster their words.

I don’t know if such an ugly and pitiless state of mind comes from the mindset of a political party, the real and imagined fears of the unknown or unknowable that plagues some as they age, or just a sheer bloodymindedness and complete lack of empathy for anyone other than oneself. I don’t know – because it is unimaginable to me.

Worst of all, those who propound these horrors, ‘for the good of the economy,‘ most often profess  to be good Christians, following the Bible, manipulating and misquoting it’s words to defend their deeds.

golden rule empathyIn all religions, there is one rule above all others, and the only one that must be followed. It is always some variation on the Golden Rule … “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Somehow, the importance of that must have gotten lost in the conservative/right wing/Republicans’ bibles.

These people worship riches, not a God. They deify those who have amassed assets beyond any conceivable use, and spit upon those who have not been ‘blessed’ with wealth. And yet, they simultaneously and methodically put into place barriers prohibiting the vast majority of others of ever attaining a similar goal. It is inexplicable. Somewhere along the line, our justified laughter at the silly crassness of the “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” morphed into an adulation at the altar of the Kardashians.  And it ain’t pretty, folks, it ain’t pretty at all. In fact – it’s nauseating.

Religions tell us that we were made in God’s image. That we are little God mini-me’s. It suits their purposes, because they can then mold our thinking to what works for the benefit of the religion, the church, and for those who profit from the preaching of the tenets of the faith. If we are just like God, we must be right and just. What we fear or hate is rational, as it is God’s own fear. We must love those that believe as we do, and hate those who believe differently. Carrot and stick – behave in the way we’ve outlined, and you get to go to Heaven. Misbehave, and it’s eternal damnation for you, buddy!

In reality, we create our Gods in our own image. We decide what a God should be, and it would seem that we’ve decided that’s he’s a pretty nasty creature, who demands absolute adoration, and will strike down all of ‘his’ children at the slightest indiscretion. He needs money, apparently, lots of money, to build fancy places of worship. This faux God insists that he is the arbiter of faiths, and that all who profess different beliefs are infidels, and must be converted, or murdered so that our religion is the only one worshiped.

What a vicious, reprehensible, ugly, vile, bugger some have chosen to represent the Almighty! Is this really how an all knowing, all seeing being, capable of creating the heavens and the earths would wish to be portrayed?

A benevolent God doesn’t hate poor people – in fact, they are his best beloved, along with children, the sick, the lame, the blind, and all of the others that elected governments prefer to throw under the bus, in order to curry favour with those who already have too much wealth and power.

rich need bigger needleGod DID hate those who wielded money and power like a weapon. Remember when he threw the money changers out of the Temple? Or that bit about the camel and the needle? Were you aware that the word “Gospel” literally means “Good News,” and that, at the time of this usage, had no religious feature, but instead meant ‘the forgiving of debt?’

An omniscient God doesn’t hate gay people, or refugees, or those with a different coloured skin or language. A compassionate God loves all mankind, not just a neat subsection of people exactly like Himself – or yourself.

A Vengeful God that spits out vindictive words and bile about ANY other human being is a false God, created in the image of the fallible and power hungry.  When the likes and dislikes of those imperfect humans are foisted onto a deity of your choice, the only religion that can be carved out is one that reflects our own prejudices and fears of ‘the other.”

empathy religion. JpgThe essence of empathy is an understanding that we are all equal, and all deserving of love and compassion. When empathy is removed from business and politics, we are on a slippery slope to the collapse of an Empire.

A nation is built upon the backs of ALL of it’s citizens, all of whom must have a place at the table. When the political administration in power only caters to the wealthy, they have forgotten that they serve at the pleasure of all of the people … and that their time in power is only temporary, and at the whim of those people.

This holiday season, the Republican party flaunted a lack of empathy and a slavish devotion to the upper class, all the while telling the middle class that they were giving them a ‘Christmas present.’  Those same smiling faces said that this year, you could once again say “Merry Christmas,” as though there had been some admonition against it while ‘the black man’ was president.  In truth, you could always say “Merry Christmas,” but after this tax scam, you just won’t be able to have one. strong people. jpg

The new year will reveal exactly how low they are willing to go in their abject fealty to these overlords. With luck, it will also open the eyes of those who’ve enabled their ugly, selfish, partisan goals, and lead us all to a world where fairness and democracy replace greed and apathy.

My wish is that 2018 be the year when we finally understand that ‘peace on earth, goodwill towards men’ was never meant to last for just a day, but rather, needs to be our goal, every day, every where, and for all people.

happy-new-year-quotes-2018

 

 

Power Corrupts


Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

Oh that’s right; Trump is still president. There’s your trouble. Or at least, one steaming pile of it.

It’s almost beyond comprehension that the orange shit gibbon continues to rampage thru the White House halls, especially considering how dangerous his demented ravings are to the planet. Not content with merely twitter goosing the perpetually paranoid North Korean dictator, he thought he’d start another pissing match with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.

Way to honour your presidential oath to protect and defend mushroom cloudthe constitution .. or the people. The Nuclear Clock edges closer to midnight, and what we’re hoping is dawn’s early light might just be the glare off a pyrocumulus mushroom shaped cloud.

This TrumpPlague is virulent, and it’s debilitating effects are immediate. You see it’s incapacitating effects most evident amongst those people that feel a strong empathy for people in need, regardless of their race, sex, creed, colour, or age. But even those who like to pick and choose just who gets to receive help and support are starting to notice a pattern in TrumpLand; there’s only one entity that is worthy and/or deserving, and that is the Hairy Sunburnt Marshmallow in control, he who manages to be simultaneously all powerful and yet the only victim in any situation or crisis.

the buck stops anywhere but hereIt is a stunning example of someone who could do so much good for the deluded populace who eagerly put he and the Republican Party into power, consistently managing to stop short of ever benefiting or enriching anyone but himself. His specialty is senseless destruction in the pursuit of profit, and the ripping away of any semblance of a social safety net or security that the people may have enjoyed. His belief is that the people he rules over – no matter how young, old, vulnerable or infirm – deserve nothing unearned.

Which is pretty rich, coming from someone who’s never wanted for anything since the day of his birth.

The plain truth is that any idiot can destroy – raise their foot and demolish what others worked so hard to build, or fire a gun and kill a human it took months and years to bring into existence. It’s easy. What’s not easy is creation, and the protection and nurturing of human beings and the good that they are capable of doing.

boot on a human faceWe’ve seen evil morons force their will upon the vulnerable before. Trump’s
abuse of absolute power is nothing new .. it’s just new to those who refuse to see a pattern of abuse of power in their society.

Abuse against people of colour; immigrants, and the DACA children who have never known any other home than America; mothers who were forced to give birth to children they cannot afford to raise; women and children who have had any sort of medical aid stripped from them in a fit of pique and carelessness; football players who dare to protest racial inequality; journalists who seek to provide information and truth while government agencies conspire to spread disinformation and outright lies, and conspire to conceal their plans to manipulate gullible citizens; Puerto Rican and US Virgin Islands citizens who have the nerve to expect to be treated with the same respect as other U.S. citizens in their time of need…. it’s a constant stream of abuse against anyone who is not HIM.

The TrumpPlague is nothing new. The current wannabe dictator is not an anomaly; he conforms to a pattern of political abuse of power that has been ignored or treated as a quotidian part of North American society since the first American elite signed off on the constitution.

“America, the Empire, … imagined itself as it wanted to be, as it had claimed to be in its infancy against a cruel and despotic king in the late eighteenth century.
It reshaped itself into the rebels, not the imperial overlords.
It shaped itself as oppressed, fighting for freedom.
But America, like every nation, has its ages of psychosis. It has fits of indecision and periods of self-delusion.
Consider how presidents spoke movingly of ‘freedom from tyranny’ while personally holding hundreds of men, women and children in slavery.
Or imagine Jefferson, the Sage of Monticello, who was the father of half-Black children, at the same moment as he wrote, in his only book, “Notes on the State of Virginia,” that Black people were essentially nonhuman, a species related to the orangutan. (Does this mean that he saw himself as being into bestiality? Or did this mean he really thought his children were, well, half monkey?)
Americans, like any people, are subject to delusions.        america vietnam
….
In the grisly aftermath of a war that tore millions from the face of Asia, all to cover for the corporate exploitation of Vietnam’s bauxite and other natural resources, the imperial shock trooper, the imperial metallic death’s hand, was father to the rebel.
The were, in fact, more than related.
In truth, they were one.”

(Star Wars and the American Imagination; Mumia Abu-Jamal, 2015.)

But here’s what’s interesting: while we are attempting to make some sense of this current overriding entitlement that abuses everyone who fails to bow down to the Trump throne and proclaim undying loyalty and fealty, our attentions have been caught by something we feel we CAN have a say on, something society likes to pretend that they DO care about and always HAVE cared about, but really only gave lip service to …
the abuse of power over women.

Although we may be powerless to remove Trump from the presidency, at least we can all get behind getting incensed and excited about those who’ve been accused and tried in the public eye for sexual abuse. Right?

Oh, you’ve always been against those with any kind of power forcing themselves on women and children? You mean, while 60 women came forward to accuse Bill Cosby of drugging and raping them, but were ignored and reviled until a male journalist actually had Cosby admit in print that he’d done so? Or when you cheered on the (female) lawyer who got Jian Ghomeshi off the rape hook with her clever manipulation of his weeping victims? Or maybe it’s when serial pedophiles, like former U.S. House speaker Dennis Hastert, served just 13 months for a bank fraud conviction linked to his effort to buy off the accusations of a former student he sexually abused during his days as a high school wrestling coach. Like Al Capone, they just couldn’t get him on his real crimes.

Jeffrey-Epstein-sex-offenderOr billionaire financier Jeffrey Epstein, the child molesting ringleader of a sexual human trafficking ring, who was allowed to freely leave jail during the day and only come back to overnight at his Palm Beach Country jail for the mere thirteen months he served of an eighteen month sentence in 2008. Two felony counts of soliciting underage victims for sex would get the average person twenty years in federal prison. But not if you have money and power.

These instances, and many others, are why I welcome those, who now call themselves allies, entering into the discussion. Sadly, though, I can already see the future, when the charges are downgraded, the sentence is a wrist slap or commuted, and it all goes back to where it was before this small moment of ‘enlightenment.’  What has gone before tells us that somehow there will always be some devious, quasi legal, way of placing the blame not on the monster that abuses power, but on the helpless victims of the predator.

Why is that?

Women and children do not hold some mysterious power over the male penis. The real power is not inherent in the one allowing or denying open and unasked access to his or her genitals .. it is in the one doing the hiring and the firing, making decisions, controlling our work environment, and deciding how much to pay women, or even whether to treat women like humans or adversaries. It is in those who would rather take what they want, by trick if possible, by force or coercion if necessary, and then deny any culpability in the abuse.

Where’s the power, once the predator has ejaculated into whatever tunnel of love or potted plant they’ve chosen to empty their sperm within, when all they need to do is turn over and sleep, a good sleep, despite now needing to spend the rest of their lives concealing what they’ve done, from those who would make them accountable?

Is it with the ‘powerful’ victims, who then get to clean up the mess, do the ‘walk of shame’ home afterwards, and try to live with the reality that they have been treated as no more than a convenient receptacle for the lust of a powerful person who has neither the need nor desire to control their own sexual drives?

Don’t get me wrong; I’m really glad that there are many powerful people, both men and women, who are now willing to stand by the victims. But hopefully you can forgive those of us who fail to believe that the uncloaking of predators like Harvey Weinstein, Roger Ailes, and yes … the Dear Leader Trump … will change how society will go forth from their current days of reckonings. We know how this game is played – you will forget, and they will rise again, somehow, somewhere. They are merely the figureheads, the most powerful in their fields, the ones who got caught … this time. This abuse of power goes on every day, and in every sphere of human life, from the homes where children have to be wary of their own lust driven parents or step-parents, to your local MacDonalds. It’s happening in small and large business, and in places of government … anywhere where some creep with a modicum of power uses that power to take what they are not willingly offered.

trump grabs ivankas assAnd, lord help me, I don’t see it ending anytime soon.

“Incest and other forms of prolonged sexual abuse are such profound violations that they provoke a different form of disbelief than the kind that women often face when they talk about sexual violence they have experienced; when you tell your mother you’re being raped by your father, as the author of The Incest Diary does multiple times in her adolescence, you are disbelieved not because your mother is casually misogynistic, in keeping with her culture, but because she can’t believe you and uphold her understanding of the world. Incest is a violation so profound that it breaks knowledge. In these cases we disbelieve not because we’re so inured to a world where men take sexual advantage of women that such abuse seems normal, but because we can’t conceive of a world in which what we believe is normal could be so defiled.”
(https://electricliterature.com/who-gets-to-write-about-sexual-abuse-and-what-do-we-let-them-say-928dfbd184d6)

For many, the exposure of the Cosbys, the Weinsteins and the Ailes comes as a surprise. The knee jerk reaction is to disbelieve the victims, as if this sort of abuse is an aberration, a gross accusal of wrongdoing that is impossible to fathom, given the position, power and wealth of the accused. Such disbelief speaks to a naiveté and privilege that belies the reality of what we call first world civilization.

Power, fame and wealth do not bestow intelligence, empathy or humanity. In many cases, in fact, they are diametrically opposed.

We so often hear of those that can only believe an accusation of abuse from a women if it has happened to one of their own .. their daughter, their sister, their wife. Then, and only then, is sexual assault scary and disgusting. Consider how comforting that is to those of us whom you don’t consider your ‘own’ in some fashion.

I would like to think that this depressing interval in history can be a time of revelation, a time when the abused and oppressed can tell their stories and be believed, when the realization that women are people as valuable and respected as men – indeed as equal – is accepted as fact, even if just from this day forward.

But I’m not holding my breath.

” My friend was so ready to excuse the actions of this man as normal—he was a relatively new acquaintance, I might add—that he waved me off and acted as if my extreme discomfort was negligible.

Never mind the fact that he was already doing harm, by ignoring my wishes to be left alone and making me feel vaguely unsafe during an otherwise pleasant evening. Never mind that I wasn’t asking for my friend to beat his ass (a show of magnanimity, I thought!), or that I wasn’t going so far as to scream rape or otherwise suggest that I was in danger of him sexually assaulting me right then and there (even though my spidey senses told me he certainly might, if given the chance, since “no” clearly wasn’t in this guy’s vocabulary)..”

(https://verysmartbrothas.theroot.com/i-have-been-raped-by-far-nicer-men-than-you-1819412131)

i-did-try-and-f-ck-her-she-was-married-i-12715251One of the saddest things I’ve read in recent days was on my own Facebook page, in a thread where the discussion of Weinstein’s abuse of power was inevitably compared to Trump’s, with a meme that quoted Trump’s own words, spoken on that Hollywood Access tape, before … BEFORE .. the election that saw him crowned King of America.

The (American) woman who commented on the post was incensed. She could not believe that Trump had said those words – in public, on video tape, irrefutably – and had still been elected as President of the United States.

He did. He was. And he is.

Not feeling quite myself these days – it’s like there’s a flu going round. Some sort of energy-sapping, soul-sucking, misery-laden, bone-crushing, muscle-rending miasma, that’s keeping a lot of us from feeling our best, or even very good.

We’ve all got the TrumpPlague. And it may be the death of us.

 

Blackberries and Entitlement


There is a very nice house on the corner of my street. The back yard is surrounded by a tall fence, but as you walk by, you can peep through, and see that there is a lovely garden inside, with a deck, and a nice patio seating area. It’s all very well kept and tidy.

Plants peek out through the fence, as plants will. There are some flowers, and a few weeds, and some of those long, brambly, blackberry stalks, the sort that seem to go from manageable to ‘ow! that long branch just scratched my arm!” in a matter of seconds.

blackberry bushA few months ago, the blackberries appeared. Blackberries start out red and inedible. It’s not until they turn black that they become tasty. There is usually about one week in the summer when the berries all hit peak perfection simultaneously. At my old house, I had a wall of blackberry bushes. When they were ready to pick, I would go into hyper drive, trying to get as many of the berries harvested as I possibly could, so that I could make a summer jam. I’d also offer my neighbours some of the bounty. And, inevitably, the birds, squirrels and raccoons would have a messy feast as well.

The first sighting of the blackberry plants escaping the fence on the corner house gave me a little frisson of emotion, a combination of happiness at seeing the familiar fruit, and a twinge of sadness at no longer having my little Scarborough fruit and veg garden. Planting in containers just isn’t the same.

Halfway through July, the magic moment arrived, and suddenly the branches bent low with beautiful, glossy black berries.  I’m sure I wasn’t the only passer-by that helped herself to a berry or two when I walked by the house. The branches were, after all, bordering the sidewalk, and just a tiny portion of the plants that lined the inside of the fence.

The day after the appearance of the berries, a small sign, written in crayon, and in a child’s handwriting, appeared on the fence. It said, “Please don’t pick the berries. Thank you.”

depressed personNow, perhaps my chagrin at seeing that sign stemmed from a desire to be inside the fence, gobbling down handfuls of the berries before harvesting a bushel or so for jam making.

But the first thought that crossed my mind was that someone had missed a wonderful opportunity to teach a child about sharing and responsibility. Since the home owner had allowed their plants to cross over into common ground, the berries were, ostensibly, now to be had by anyone who passed by the branches on their way down the street.

And if someone picked a berry and enjoyed it, that was a way of spreading the wealth, so to speak, without having to make any real effort. A way to allow others to enjoy a little treat, without that gift costing our benefactors any loss or stress. You  might not know who enjoyed that pleasure, and they might never know that it was you that let them have it, but there can be a strange, inner joy that comes from simply giving away some of the surplus of what you have.

Instead, the parents of that child taught her that she needed to keep a firm grip on what she ‘owned,’ even if that ‘property’ wasn’t actually contained within its bounds.  Best to assume that others will take things away from you, if you’re not stern and disciplined, and keep a firm grasp on your ‘stuff.’ And if you don’t tell them to back off, they’ll take and take and …oh!

i've got mineThat’s a weird and ugly paradigm that many live by now; the world of “I’ve got mine, and I’ll fight anyone that tries to get some for themselves!”

That’s the mindset of those who are threatened by anyone else enjoying even a sip of life’s cup, since it is a sip they feel to be taken from their own mouths. It’s what people earning a comfortable living feel like when they hear the minimum wage might be raised so that others with more menial jobs can actually afford to live. And it’s the way that many Canadians feel when they hear that there is a cost to ignoring the civil rights of other Canadians, and in the resentment they feel when the courts actually have to shell out millions to pay those costs to the victim.

It’s in the self-righteousness of the outwardly religious who piously mouth the Lord’s Prayer, but deny Christ’s preaching to love everyone as he loved them, and to treat others as they wish to be treated.  It’s in those who would put the possible cost of healthcare for transgendered people in the military over a respect for those peoples’ basic rights, as they spend their lives in the defence of their country.  It’s even in the behaviour of the driver who feels the need to be in constant touch by telephone entitles him or her to break the law and answer their cell phone while zipping down the highway at 140km an hour.

It’s a selfishness and entitlement that can be seen daily, on the streets, and in the houses of corporate and political power. The real trickle down that we’ve seen over the last few decades hasn’t been the money that the rich and powerful never did let fall on the lowly, but the examples that they’ve shown us, of how disrespect, lying, and a lack of accountability can enrich those who simply don’t care about anyone other than themselves.

We want to celebrate those who have stood on the shoulders of giants, but instead we are too often and too loudly confronted by those with feet of clay, who prefer to stand on the throats of the weak.

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” Isaac Newton.

baby crying over statue removalNowhere was the inevitable down slide of perverted entitlement seen more clearly than in this weekend’s parades, protests, and riots in Charlottesville, Virginia. Far-right activists descended upon the city for a Unite the Right rally against the removal of a statue of Confederate leader, Robert E. Lee.

In April, the Charlottesville City Council voted to sell the bronze statue that stands in downtown Charlottesville. The city council also unanimously voted to rename Lee Park. However, two members of the five-member city council still voted against removing the statue. In May, a judge halted that removal for six months.

For those playing along at home, Lee was the general who lead the charge of the Confederate Army, in defence of slavery, against the prevailing American forces of the time. The Confederacy lost. The statue was commissioned in 1917, 52 years after the war ended, and was finally erected in 1924, 59 years after the war ended.

The march of the alt-right was composed primarily of young, white, decently dressed young men, who seemed to feel that their lack of melanin outweighed their concurrent lack of anything remotely special about themselves. Just having been born white and American has lead them to believe that they should have everything they feel they deserve in life – even if it means taking from others less fortunate.

Some are equating this all-white/alt-right protest to the Black Lives Matter protests. I would unequivocally disagree. One is a group seeking to elevate themselves socially by denying the rights of others, while the other is a traditionally oppressed group seeking their civil rights. Violent protests are wrong no matter who participates, but the messages are in no way equivalent.

“[…] I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

A state’s leader that would qualify his objection to ‘hatred, bigotry and violence‘ by adding “on many sides” is no leader at all, but rather a fool who dog whistles to his bigoted and racist followers, egging them on to further violence, in a game of false equivalency.

“… there was strong reaction to Trump’s refusal to denounce far-right extremists who had marched through the streets carrying flaming torches, screaming racial epithets and setting upon their opponents.

The clashes started after white nationalists planned a rally around a statue of the Confederate general Robert E Lee that is slated to be removed, and culminated in a car being deliberately driven into a group of people peacefully protesting the far right rally, killing one person and injuring at least 19.”

Even those within his own party disapproved of Trump’s lukewarm response.

The Republican senator Cory Gardner of Colorado tweeted: “Mr President – we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.” This was echoed by Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah who lost a brother in the second world war. “We should call evil by its name. My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.” ”  (The Guardian)

Despite the public disavowal of those who committed these offences, there were still many on social media who defended their racism by claiming that their protests are a reaction to what they see (the removal of a statue of a Confederate general) as a ‘direct assault against white people.”

Essentially, they are saying they’ll go to civil war to protect the past in an effort to avoid moving forward. The lives of those they harm are of no consequence; their actions say that their traditions and history are more important than the lives of other human beings.

charlottesville carThe Rebel staffer, Faith Goldy, was complaining about left-wing protesters not being inclusive, when she was interrupted by the killing of one of them, preserved on video as it happened.

The truth that must be said, that must be shouted and proclaimed, by not only the President of the United States but by all of his followers and sycophants, is that there is no equivalency between those who marched for their white rights, and those who had finally had enough of those who believe they can only be ‘equal’ if they are allowed to be superior to others through oppression. This was domestic terrorism, as deadly and frightening as any other sort of terrorism. The difference here is that this terrorism is being nurtured by other Americans.

White Americans, and especially young, white, male Americans, aren’t oppressed in the least. No one is trying to take their guns or Christmas away from them. Their churches are not being burned, and there are no burning crosses on the lawns of ‘whitey.’ No one is trying to take away their right to marry the person of their choice. They are under no worse of a travel ban than the need to remove their shoes before being allowed entry onto an airplane. No one feels so threatened by their very presence and colour that even the murder of a child walking home from school can be justified because someone ‘feared for their life.’ And there are no political groups so threatened by ‘the white demographic’ that they have to jury rig districts to ensure the right/white candidate is elected.

They don’t have grandparents and great-grandparents who lived through slavery and systemic racism that took from them even the hope of the prosperity of the average white American. Their parents weren’t imprisoned for marrying someone of a different colour, or for merely being mistaken for an actual criminal because ‘they all look alike to me.’

Racism and bigotry – that’s America’s real history and legacy. Great strides toward a more equal and civilized society have been made in the last several decades, but the actions of those who would ‘make America great again’ by ‘making America white again’ threaten to halt that progress, and tear the nation apart. It is only by accepting the ugly past, and learning from it, that a better future can be attained.

The willfully ignorant, those who are armed and dangerous to anyone who disagrees with their bigoted beliefs, who create their own echo chamber filled with half-truths and lies, are the cancer that will bring America to it’s knees.

America’s president has been very bold in denouncing global terrorism. It is apparently only domestic terrorism that keeps him silent.

Inaction and Consequences


There are risks and costs to action…But they are far less than the long range risks of comfortable inaction.          John F. Kennedy – 1917-1963, 35th U.S. President

Somewhere along the line – was it in the disco 70s? The ‘Me” decade of the 80’s? The Naughty 90’s? The despair of the Noughties?

Somewhere in there, we lost our way.rox-1964-5th-grade-lacademie-assomption

In the 1950s, we were all shook up, and in the sixties, we tuned in, turned on, and changed the world. We believed in ourselves and that our actions had global impact. And we were right.

But all that action was exhausting.  We couldn’t keep it up, and we were busy patting ourselves on the back for being so hip and cool and groovy. We had used our flower power to launch a civil rights movement, and to stop an unjust war! The U.S. landed a man on the moon! Now we dance!

civil rights 60s protest.jpgRetribution for the changes we had wrought came swiftly. Those who hate change targeted those who encouraged change. John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Bobby Kennedy – all assassinated for daring to dream of a better world.

Racism and ignorance tore the bright and shiny dreams of peace and equality of the sixties into shreds, and now, it threatens to do so again. The way forward is not paved with bullets and brutality. The raised voice and fist of dictatorship enslaves;  it does not elevate a people or a culture, it tramples them into the ground.

Our years of ‘comfortable inaction’ have birthed some of the worst, most self-indulgent, and reprehensible political representatives of all time. Around the world, and at every level of government, the choices are dismal, with little to discern one corrupt, manipulative and greedy candidate from another.

Before you point the finger – know that you did this to yourselves. Know that wanting our own well-being at any cost, opting for indulgences as we decimated the middle class, slotting anyone who didn’t look or act like us into the reject pile of life … all of these ‘inactions,’  in the name of comfort, created the monsters we now see before us.

walle_interactionThe years of focusing on what made us happy; on choosing the cheap over the well-made (and in that group, I include the ‘heroes’ we pedestaled;) the crude and ugly brutality of racism and bigotry whipped up by leaders who chose fear of others as their platforms; the laziness of passionate if largely uninformed opinion over fact and reason; the years of “too long: didn’t read”  – all of those   combined – have given us the governments we deserve.

govt-we-deserveWe lost belief in ourselves, and demanded less of our leaders. We lost sight of the fact that every action we take has global impact. We refused responsibility. We chose comfort for ourselves over the welfare of the planet.

The actions we could have, and should have, taken in controlling our voracious greed for wealth and power, never happened.

And now we are reaping the long range risks of comfortable inaction.

Interesting Times


May you live in interesting times.” Not a blessing, some say, but a curse, as though only times of peace and contentment are to be appreciated and enjoyed.

Perhaps we mean it ironically, as all times, across all eras, have had interesting aspects. Specific conditions change, but people still bend or break in reaction. Those who lived through the Great Depression, World Wars, Kennedy’s assassination, the Age of Aquarius, and the onset of the Computer Age, came out the other end either subtly or grossly altered. And those who look back fondly at rosy tinted times are prisoners of nostalgia, blinded by imaginings that neatly snip out the bits that disturb the dream.

beauty in chaosSo many dread and fear changes to their lives, and yet, there can be great beauty in chaos. Certainly, coping with new information can be problematic, but without profound change, we are static and boring. We even bore ourselves when life becomes nothing more than a forced march through our days, stuck deep in a rut of habit and preconceptions. Creativity demands a spur. You cannot rage against that with which you have not grappled.

We can try to hide away when change threatens our equilibrium. Or we can rush toward change, willing to embrace whatever life throws at us. Either way, change will come. The only difference will be in how you accept the inevitable.  Will you accommodate the newness, incorporating what is different, and weaving its strands into your existence? Or will you rail impotently at what is to come, in a foolish attempt to cling to the past, to slow down what cannot be stopped?  The present doesn’t care. The present continually dances to each new reality, with or without your approval.

The refusal to embrace change has reached its zenith in American politics. Long groomed by the Religious Right and a lockstep Republican party‘s fanatical refusal and repudiation of science and actual facts, a good part of the nation now stumbles along behind the Godzilla of Gaslighting, a man so devoid of empathy for his fellow man (or woman) that he feels free to tar whole segments of humanity with his own prejudices and biases. A textbook narcissist, willing to say or do anything to stay in the spotlight, and keep a constant stream of attention upon his silly self, he manipulates his followers through their nostalgic yearning for happier times … Make America Great Again, he cries, as though only he has Willie Wonka’s golden ticket to the future. The future he’s selling, though, seems to have to first detour through the past.

He wants to return America to the “good old days,” when life was simple. Well, simple for a certain segment of society, before civil rights and equal rights. Not so good, and a giant step backwards, for women, people of colour, or immigrants, be they legal or illegal.

we hope we despairHis followers yearn for an America that never existed except on film. They are led not so much by what he says, but what they fear – reality itself. They want to stop the world, just for a while, “just until we figure out what’s going on.”  He’s going to make life all better, more understandable, and “you’re gonna love it. There will be so much winning, you’ll get sick of winning.”

Like a slimy, used car salesman , the Sultan of Slurs seduces with words of no more than three syllables, absolutely devoid of facts or actual plans, and replete with self-aggrandizement. “I will tell you this, and I can say it with certainty: I will be the greatest jobs producing President that God ever created. I love the subject, I love doing it, and I love helping people.”

TheTrumpHouse.jpgDespite zero political experience, and a chequered, peppered with bankruptcy, past, he has nonetheless captured the lazy and the selfish, those who have yet to grasp that they are being sold a bill of goods. It seems almost preordained – behold your next President, brought to you by a media that prizes sound bites over content, the election reduced to a simple transaction between a seller and a buyer. And bought by those too foolish to grasp the precept, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

Meanwhile, politicians with actual platforms run smack into that same unwillingness to grasp change, or hope for the future. After declaring in Ohio that her coal plan would “put a lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business,” Hillary Clinton, with almost terminal foot in mouth disease, was soundly booed and condemned by coal country lawmakers.  Meanwhile, the $30 billion alternative being offered for investment in the clean-energy economy was completely dismissed. Because, yes, there will be more jobs in clean energy, but for those who’ve spent a lifetime in coal mining, it’s a leap too far, particularly for people with little confidence in current government And especially since, as former Representative Barney Frank put it, “the likelihood that 58-year-old coal miners are going to become the solar engineers of the future is nil.

That guy is more likely to be thinking, “if Black Lung and lung cancer were good enough for my dad … they’re good enough for me.”

nothing but a twigDespair. Fear.  Anger.  So much anger.  Anger that simmers just below the surface, until released in the form of the fist of a 78-year old man, sucker punching a young, black dissenter. A  mindless, impotent, unending anger against politicians, Wall Street, terrorists, immigrants snatching the few remaining jobs, governments kinder to corporations than its voting citizens. Anger against a dream denied, a life that might have been, a life ‘as seen on TV.’  An anger that is fear disguised as action and reaction.

This is an extraordinary time full of vital, transformative movements that could not be foreseen. It’s also a nightmarish time. Full engagement requires the ability to perceive both.” Rebecca Solnit

The stories that are told to us, and the stories we tell ourselves, about our pasts, our presents, and our possible futures, reflect only one aspect at a time. If the narrator chooses to emphasize the negative over the positive, our emotions can be twisted, causing us to accept or reject the narrative. It’s often very much in how you look at things that determines how the experience ends.opportunities

This same society, this same world, which can be perceived as cold and unforgiving, can also be a place of wonder and delight. Each step forward, plagued as it can be by those who resent change, represents shifts in ideas and perspectives. Social change is happening. The very framework of how we view sexuality is shifting.  There are progressive advances in the sciences that we would never have anticipated, even months ago. All of these marvels are going on in real time, minute by minute. But if your expectations are shaped by those who desperately cling to the past, you’ll be stuck back there with them. If all you are focused on is what is temporarily amusing, or that which jibes with your own, delicate, beliefs, you’ll blink and miss glimpses of your future.

We have little control over the times in which we live. Indeed, no one has total control of anything, or anyone, other than themselves, and even that doesn’t always run smooth. So you may as well surrender to uncertainty. When we are willing to step into the unknown, free from all preconceptions, those ‘interesting times’ become the opening notes to a symphony of possibilities.

 

(first pubished March 20/16: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/20/roxanne-tellier-interesting-times/)