I Me My Narcissism


by Roxanne Tellier

Richard Nixon gave a defiant concession speech in 1962 that ended with …. “You won’t have Nixon to kick around anymore, because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference.”

The incredible narcissism and entitlement in that statement, coming from a man that was lucky not to have been tarred, feathered, and run out of town on a rail, still sends a frisson up my spine.

Had Nixon not heeded the potentates of his own party who advised him to resign, he would surely have been impeached by the House and removed from office by a trial in the Senate for his complicity in the Watergate burglary and ensuing coverup. As it was, 69 of his cronies were indicted, and 48 of those people were convicted and penalized.

Watergate came to encompass an array of clandestine and often illegal activities undertaken by members of the Nixon administration, including bugging the offices of political opponents and people of whom Nixon or his officials were suspicious; ordering investigations of activist groups and political figures; and using the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency,  and the Internal Revenue Service as political weapons.”  (Wikipedia)

Man – trump’s reign of terror is not just history rhyming, that’s a whole poetry slam right there.

The common denominator? An overwhelming self-entitlement, a belief that their acts and place in history should be above the law, a willingness to use the most powerful position in America like Negan used Lucille in The Walking Dead … and malignant narcissism.

To a narcissist, the absolute worst thing that they can threaten you with is their absence. They can’t imagine the horror your life would be without them in it. Their message is “How will you cope without me in your world? I am the sun of your universe, I cannot conceive of a world without me in it, and neither should you!”

The world is filled with narcissists, not just in politics, but in big business, the sciences, the entertainment world, and in our homes.

(“Although the cause of narcissistic personality disorder isn’t known, some researchers think that in biologically vulnerable children, parenting styles that are overprotective or neglectful may have an impact. Genetics and neurobiology also may play a role in development of narcissistic personality disorder.”  Mayo Clinic, 2017.)

No one can definitively say what causes someone to believe that they are more important than everyone else that they know. Nonetheless, the disorder seems to be growing exponentially.

While full-bodied narcissistic personality disorder is still a fairly unusual diagnosis, the rise of reality tv, social media, and the glorification of this type of personality has upped the ante. Modern narcissism isn’t so much about the disorder as it is about the rise in narcissistic traits.

It’s been a slippery slope for those with the tendency to self-promote. Remember when we used to laugh at those people who never saw a meal they couldn’t find a way to photograph, glorify and show their friends and followers on Facebook? When Instagram came along, narcissists were in their glory, showing off their clothing, homes, and vacations, all so that those with less would feel envious.  

The more we abandoned any pretence of humility, the more the spotlight shone on our deficiencies and perceived imperfections. By 2015 the waiting lists for cosmetic dentistry, plastic surgery, and alternative ‘enhancements’ were stretching around the block and two streets over.

Like needy children, we wanted everyone to ‘watch me, mommy!’ as we posed, sang, danced, and twirled before our imagined audiences. But that was just the beginning.

Many narcissists in the public eye choose to display a lack of caring for others, and a disdain for empathy, which neatly coexists with a glorification of one’s own talents and popularity.  Even the relevance of celebrity deaths, for instance, can only be understood in the context of their own loss.

When these people are informed of terrible tragedies – babies in cages at the border, the Charlie Hebdo attack, millions starving and dying from thirst and bombs in far flung countries – their concern is not for those in misery, but rather, in how to best spin their public reactions to switch the focus from those suffering, to themselves, as the ‘real victims.’ No matter how tragic an event, the narcissist only sees the calamity in the context of their own reactive wretchedness.

We used to be able to shrug off most garden variety narcissists as laughable, childish, needy creatures. But the tendency to believe that one is extraordinary (along with the obvious problem, which is that most people are simply and resoundingly NOT special) is increasing by the day.

The narcissist’s beliefs are unrealistic, but in a world where a financially and morally bankrupt ‘celebrity’ malignant narcissist can become president of the United States, how exactly do you define ‘unrealistic’?

I can’t swear that the rise of trump is tied to a rise in narcissism in North America, though I do see a through line in the rise of populist leaders, who tend to speak to the basest of our individual appetites. Three recent studies would seem to agree with that premise.

“A team of psychologists and political scientists from the universities of Kent (UK), Warsaw (Poland) and Maryland (USA) found in three studies that national collective narcissism was linked to support for populism. In the UK, collective narcissism predicted support for Brexit, in the US it predicted support for Donald Trump, and in Poland it predicted support for the populist Law and Justice party.

The study found that collective narcissism, i.e. an unrealistic belief in the greatness of the nation, increased in response to group feelings of being disadvantaged, especially when this was long lasting.

The researchers suggest that the narrative of relative disadvantage, fuelled by populist leaders, might reinforce a ‘defensive and destructive’ national perspective. Narcissistic beliefs about the in-group greatness are a way to compensate for feelings of being worse off than other groups.” (Science Daily.com)

I don’t even play a political scientist on TV. But what I DO know, is that, in the age of COVID-19, narcissists can be extremely dangerous to your health.  

During this pandemic, people have been asked to observe a few simple health precautions, to protect themselves and others. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Stay about 2 metres away from others.

That shouldn’t be that big a deal, or terribly hard to do. After all, all the wearing of a mask says is that the wearer recognizes their membership in their community.

But for some, covering their mouth and nose with cloth or other semipermeable material when near strangers in public settings inspires fear of an over-reaching government, and a denial of their ‘rights.’

Yes, this whole pandemic thing is a major pain in the butt. Yes, the mask can feel hot and itchy, and make your glasses fog up, while making those of us with lung issues feel claustrophobic and shorter of breath than usual.

But for many of us, there’s no real issue there. If wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and keeping surfaces sanitized to prevent a viral infection is necessary, then that’s what we’ll do. It’s not 1865, and we’re not Dr Joseph Lister trying to sell his discovery that washing hands could allow mothers to survive childbirth; this is 2020, and we should all be intelligent and mature enough to follow simple precepts that have been the norm for cleanliness and safety for over a century and a half.

But those pesky narcissists don’t think in terms of what is best for all, because they are emotionally immature. They believe that their ‘rights’ make them exempt from social norms, even during a pandemic, and they lack empathy, which leads them to believe that no one’s health but their own is of any concern.

Being a narcissist is to live inside a bubble of need and entitlement. Without the slightest concept of altruism, the life and death worries of others are just not a concern. Even when they are told that they will have to continue to live in a ‘new normal’ that means that they can’t get out to have fun with their friends, even as the European Union and other countries put the USA on a no entry list, and even as people continue to become infected .. and die … from a virus that other countries are able to control through sane public health regulations, they continue to believe that their own personal rights and freedoms supersede the personal rights and freedoms of others.

Entitlement. My rights over yours.  My needs being more needy and important than yours. My rights to be the victim superseding the actual hospitalization and death of the more vulnerable.  And if granny or mummy dies, it’s all about my loss, not her death, cuz poor little me is now an orphan!

It’s emotional bullying, and in many cases, physical bullying.  The armed militia groups dressed in army fatigues that stormed government offices to demand their rights were trampling ALL over the rights of everyone in their path. But narcissism … it’s a hell of a drug.

People who enjoy the rights, freedoms and privileges of our society do not have the right to refuse to acknowledge that other people have those same rights, freedoms and privileges. 

And there’s really nothing sadder than an over privileged narcissist finally discovering the very hard way that their personal world is not the centre of the universe.

PS… NEW Randy Rainbow! 😉

BONUS ROUND:

Are YOU a narcissist? Why not take this simple test and see!?

https://openpsychometrics.org/tests/NPI/

Beware of Darkness


by Roxanne Tellier

It’s a long weekend, and here in my little corner of the city, it’s sunny and warm, with just a gentle breeze ruffling the ferns. My ‘regular customers’ – the little birds, Blue Jays, and squirrels – have already been by for their morning treats and have now gone off to hide from the local felines. 

The local cats that I find myself hiding from are the hardcore cultists on social media. who – despite knowing that I have nothing but disdain for their claims – are still driven to send me memes and videos about conspiracy theories and their hero, trump. It’s like trump spawned an army of gaslighters to back up his prodigious stream of nonsense. I am besieged.

I am beset with anti vaxxers, anti Bill Gates-ers, the ‘plandemic’ true believers, the Mike Flynn apologists, and the swarms of cabin fevered, badly coiffed anti-COVID-ers, all of whom have chosen trump’s murderous and genocidal BizarroWorld over science, truth, or reality.  

I am hammered nonstop by these fanatics, and it’s making me crazy. I don’t want to be the bespectacled school marm, doomed to constantly interject that, “actually – that’s not at all true.” I don’t want to be the stern, uncompromising maiden aunt ‘with no sense of ha ha’ that I’m accused of being when I don’t find mis/disinformation presented as truths, funny. And I don’t want to be the Chris Hedges of the conversation, whose every observation reeks of doom and gloom.

And I really don’t want to be the person that points out that someone that YOU may hold dear, has actually gone batshit crazy, and needs an intervention.  I don’t have your history with that person, so I don’t see them with loving eyes – I see them without the rose-coloured glasses … and your dear friend or loved one is behaving irrationally and irresponsibly.

Mostly, I don’t want to ever feel that I did anything to hurt another human’s health, by adding to the complete confusion that has come along with the concerted efforts of trump’s re-election efforts, fueled by the trolls and Russian based troll farms that are spreading these lies, meant to lure people out of lockdown and into danger.  

Anyone who thinks that they are alone in despising the changes done to their everyday lives by this pandemic needs to check their narcissism; if there are two or three people somewhere unaffected and giggling, no one has time to dig down deep enough to find them. And anyone who believes that their ‘rights’ include the possibility of infecting others is abjectly and irredeemably selfish. As the saying goes, the right to swing my fist ends where the other man’s nose begins.

In crisis, our characters are revealed; we are not what we claim, but what we do. If you are portraying yourself as a people-loving, hippie type, but you use your hippie cred to disseminate a meme about how America was ‘in the middle of a pandemic in 1969’ but  “Instead of shutting everything down, and ruining people’s lives, they held Woodstock,” you are spreading the ‘fake news’ gospel. You are claiming that the current coronavirus pandemic is a product of the media spreading unnecessary fear and panic. But you’re being sneakier than trump or his gang, in that you’re wrapped in a peace flag, in an attempt to appeal to that gauzy nostalgia loved by baby boomers.

Sneakier still, the group you are teasing with the memories of heady freedom, complete with ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ are the group deemed most vulnerable; seniors, often with multiple comorbidities. The Woodstock meme is the pied piper of pensioners.

(In fact, Woodstock took place months after the first season of the Hong Kong flu had ended in the United States, when it was believed that the virus was gone. ) 

And even after the truth is exposed, and the premises of the memes are debunked, those people prone to spreading misinformation tend to really double down. They will not be denied. They’ll arm-wrestle you to the ground in defense of their beliefs.

In truth, we’re all confused. We’re all hating being locked in and away from our loved ones, and we’re all starved for contact, and for some real, unbiased information, something we can pin our hopes and our futures upon. We want a return to what we used to call normal, even though that normal recedes further into the distance with every passing day.

A call to arms, like the ‘plandemic’ video misinformation, or like the Woodstock meme, gives us the false hope that all we have to do is be brave in order to be able to take some acceptable societal measures, like reopening the cities.

Is it really necessary for anyone to remind those people how many of the previously ‘brave’ now lie in coffins in the ground? We have over 5700 Canadians dead to date. Based on the current numbers, we’ll have over 100,000 dead Americans by next week. Perhaps a little less ‘bravery’ is in order.

…………………………………………………………………………………………….

On a lighter note, I can’t help but feel that President Obama’s wonderful speeches yesterday, delivered virus free to American graduates, were like opening a window and letting the clean, sweet May air flow into the house. 

Words of optimism, of hope, of pride in oneself and in one’s nation, without a single whine or brag – ah, it’s been a long, long time since we heard such kindness. In all of 2020 so far, at least we had that hour.

In that spirit, let’s take a little ‘prance’ down the Memory Lane of lively, happy, bubble gum pop songs with no agenda beyond making us smile. Everybody dance!

1910 Fruitgum Company … Simon Says

Bobby Sherman Easy Come Easy Go

Friend and Lover  Reach out of the Darkness

The Archies  Sugar Sugar

Tommy Roe  Dizzy 

The Ohio Express  Yummy Yummy Yummy

The Partridge Family – I think I Love You

Enjoy the rest of the long weekend!

Your Money or Your Life


by Roxanne Tellier

“2020 is a unique leap year,” surmised David Wessel, an economic researcher, on Twitter. “It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March and five years in April.”

Oh yes indeed – there’s been five years in April and May might age me another ten. Ain’t nobody having much fun anymore.  

Have you noticed how fluid time has become since stay at home orders were instituted in March?  Last week Shawn lost a full day, and was living his Friday on Thursday. Not that we’re doing anything different on a Friday as opposed to a Thursday these days, but it’s still a little discombobulating.

Time is how we measure change, so when we are living in a time when little changes, we become unmoored from the concept.  It is as though we were astronauts, floating weightless in space; there are no borders here. 

Studies have shown that humans perceive time differently, based on whatever it is they’re doing when asked. Fear and anxiety change our perceptions. If a person is under some sort of time pressure, they may be unable to tell you if two minutes or five minutes have passed, even if they’re constantly looking at a clock to judge how much time they have left to complete a task.  We feel time differently if we’re physically stressed, with cold, or heat, when we’re depressed, or when we’re bored. And if you’re ever lucky enough to experience being ‘in the zone,’ of being totally absorbed into a project, time becomes so ethereal that it practically disappears.

Knowing how elastic time can become under varying circumstances, it becomes obvious that for some, time spent during lockdown in a pandemic can feel like it’s gone on forever, and appears to stretch ahead for weeks or months to come. Many people just can’t cope – either they want some sort of stimulation to perk themselves up, or they’re frantic that the time they’ve spent doing nothing in particular has been time wasted in a life that needs constant forward movement.

But of course, how we’re experiencing time is only half the battle. It’s the not knowing what’s next that is driving us insane. On the one hand, we’re safer staying in, and away from crowds, where the possibility of infection is high. On the other, if we have a job or business where every day is integral to the production of our product, we face the age-old conundrum; your money or your life.  

Like a back-alley mugger, COVID 19 has pointed a gun at our head, and demanded that we rethink how we earn our livings. But the problem is, the world we’re going to return to, the one that was our previous normal, no longer exists.

The local restaurants and bars we enjoyed probably didn’t sock away enough profit to survive several months of outgo with no income. Exorbitant rents, along with fixed costs of utilities, and the cost of the goods on offer will finish off the majority of Mom and Pop stores.

Public transit is so risky that we’re warned not to use it unless it’s absolutely necessary, and then only when properly masked and gloved. Travelling by air will never be the same, and I’m gonna guess most of us are not really willing to chance a ride on a cruise line’s floating petri dish.  

How will we attend movies? Sporting events? Symphonies? Jam sessions? Will some discover that they could have always avoided the morning commute by simply working at home for the majority of the time?  

There’s no going back for millions who have lost their incomes and possibly their businesses. Barring the institution of a Universal Basic Income, we are looking at a period of economic chaos unlike anything that has been seen in North America since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  

And even as we try to cope with these changes, there are some who will take this opportunity to either improve the world we live in, or to warp it so that it works even more to their benefit.

Right now, America is at a terrible crossroads. In truth, the tax cuts and trade wars that made a small portion of the population wealthy has actually stolen the rainy-day money that might have made this pandemic a little easier for people to survive. And even the money that should be available for the taxpayers who are struggling is being dripped out so slowly that many are losing hope of staying in their homes.

Constant cuts to the social networks meant to help citizens means that those institutions struggling to throw people a lifeline are already fighting from a compromised position, with their backs against the wall.  In many U.S. states, unemployment insurance was jiggered to the point where it’s almost impossible for citizens to apply for the benefit, let alone receive regular cheques. This has left far too many people with nowhere to turn.

The question then becomes – who does the average person blame for this crisis? And how do they attempt to change what they cannot easily understand, endure or accept as their new normal?   

“The victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma.” Stockholm Syndrome, as described by Thomas Strentz, in his book, Psychological Aspects of Crisis Negotiation

Many people are just too tired and beaten down from fighting against their own leaders’ incursion into their rights and needs for the last several years. Lies. compounded by more lies, with disinformation and misinformation mixed, in have become our daily fare. We are so exhausted from all of the previous battles over political issues, both big and small, that now, when we really need our strength, we find there’s just nothing left in the tank.

And into that breech pours the 1%, with their hands out for yet more bailout money. There’s always money to be found for the billionaires, the cruise ships and airlines, the corporations, and the lobbyists. Even the churches are applying, and receiving armloads of cash. Wall Street is making out like a bandit. But Main Street is taking a real beating.

People have been brainwashed into believing that a thriving stock market, and a soaring number of billionaires means that their nation’s economy is thriving. But that’s never been true, because the stock market is NOT the economy.

Stocks anticipate future developments in business. They are not based on current affairs.  There is no relationship between a country’s GDP growth rate, and what will happen in the stock market. If anything, studies have found a negative correlation between the two.

While a good stock market can help with corporate assets, in practice, the tendency of management and investors to squander profit in poor decisions is more likely to tank the market. Putting funds into workers hands, so that it can circulate, is what really benefits the stock market, and that can be nice for our retirement funds. But … the stock market is not the economy.  

We are just not ourselves during crisis. We cannot think straight when we are in the grips of a ‘temporary psychosis’ – a desperate attempt of the psyche to resist a truth or a fear or a fact it cannot handle. That psychosis is what is driving so many to protest a lockdown that was instituted – against the wishes of those for whom the economy was more important than taxpayers – to save our lives.

The economy cannot exist without the millions of citizens that drive it’s engine. Without the efforts of those that are paid the least, countries would grind to a complete halt. And yet these workers are the ones that are treated with the most contempt, and who are often struggling just to make ends meet, on ridiculously low minimum wages.   

The unspoken truth is that these ‘essential workers, ‘ the ones treated so badly, are little more than the slave labour necessary to keep the 1% in control And there’s billions of willing workers, all around the planet, so if you break one, even if you murder hundreds or thousands of them, there’s always more slaves where those came from.

The fervor with which so many have greeted the false prophets and gurus of the ‘plandemic’ video and similar disinformation denotes how many have given up on logic, science, facts, or reality, as they struggle to deal with a reality that scares them to death. Sadly, a person with this psychosis can do quite a lot of damage when they are able to convince others that their paranoid suspicions just might be the truth. They tell two friends, and those two tell two friends… and so on and so on ….

They are struggling with a cognitive dissonance that overwhelms them, and their terror creates a psychotic reaction to the situation. They will not be shaken from their belief in the truth of the fantasy before them, even when the information is revealed to be twisted and untrue.

Overwhelming the audience with what is known as the ‘gish gallop,’ the viewer is bombarded with so many assertions and arguments that it becomes impossible to even keep up with the ideas, never mind refute them. And in that state of confusion we willingly walk into the slaughterhouse, and even defend those ready and waiting with the stun guns that will take us out.

We are living in a time of more confusion and uncertainty than we’ve known in a very long time, and the stakes are high. In order to survive, people need money, and to get money, they need to work. To work, the nations must re-open. But if the nations re-open before a COVID 19 treatment and/or vaccination has been produced, we may be re-injuring, and possibly even fatally damaging, our basic national economies.  

Scary times indeed. These are the times when we crave some sort of comfort, answers to the who what where why of this disaster. But even our scientists and national leaders can’t tell us with certainty what will happen next. 

Which is why so many are prepared to turn to charlatans and grifters, con men (and women) and snake oil salespeople. Using ethos, pathos and logos, and sifting in just enough plausible kernels of thought and ideas that seem possible and appeal to our intuition, the manipulator easily twists the vulnerable around their crooked little fingers.

Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama ……

I’ll leave you with some words of comfort and wisdom from Morgan Freeman   

Character


by Roxanne Tellier

Maybe it’s from a lack of fresh air, but I have found myself getting a little giddy lately, here in O’SheaWorld.  Also, I have had an epiphany. Turns out that the reason that I don’t do a lot of the things expected of me isn’t because there isn’t enough time, but because I’m lazy.   

Shawn and I have already done our 14-day isolation, but there’s really nowhere to go, beyond strictly controlled and policed grocery shopping. My baser instincts want me to run wild and free through the aisles of non-essential goods, but sadly, this is frowned upon in this age of plague.  

I’m sure that there are other people who have taken the quarantine as seriously as we have, but trusting others to have been vigilant takes on a whole different flavour when it’s your life you’re betting on.  

So we continue to maintain a strict protective stance, keeping our hands and the items around us as clean and as non-contaminated as possible. 

I read a lot, research a bunch, and write a little. Lately we mainly keep ourselves amused by sharing some of the best quips we read in our emails and social media. Well, mostly we just yell punchlines at each other, he from his perch in the living room to me, and my chair in the office area.

I get a massive kick out of some of the clever memes, cartoons, and songs coming out of a planet trying to come to grips with social distancing. Art will always survive. This is how we cope, laugh, learn, and search for common emotional ground.

Does this guy sum it up, or what?

And there’s no shortage of the obvious “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” parodies out there.

We chafe because it’s not ‘normal’ for our mobile society to be dealing with this crisis, each in our own little cells. Capitalism, consumerism – we are constantly reminded that our duty is to get out there and buy things, and to then compare those things to our friends and neighbours’ things, which will then drive us into a frenzy to make more money so we can buy even more things that will make our friends and neighbours jealous. It’s kind of like a game, except that nobody ever really wins, which is why we keep going to jobs, even when we don’t like the job or the people we work with. Our societal constructs keep the workers running like hamsters in an exercise wheel, right up until the day we cannot run any more.  

But now, the wheel has suddenly stopped, and many of us have fallen off.

I’ve worked in bars, owned businesses, and worked in demanding occupations, and I’m well aware that a sudden stoppage of the activities we’ve done, religiously, and with our whole heart and soul, whether we loved our jobs or not, is like hitting a brick wall at 90 miles an hour. That’s gonna leave a mark.

When it happens to others, it’s the way the world works. When it happens to us, it’s a disaster.

These are challenging times. No one is exempt from a pandemic, no matter how rich, famous, or powerful you may be. A virus doesn’t care how much you earn, though, sadly, what you earn can certainly determine how well you are treated in an American hospital.  

Often, we have run so fast, and for so long, that we’ve stopped thinking clearly. Everything is ‘just in time,’ and ‘good enough.’ We pretend that there will be more time, somehow, someday, when we will go back and fix those half-done tasks, but tomorrow never comes, and the next day’s output is as faulty as yesterdays. 

How people behave when the world is running down says so much more about them than what they say about themselves. It’s a lot like that old line about dating – how your date treats the waitstaff will tell you all you need to know about their real character.

Character. An old-fashioned word, to many, and yet it says everything about a person’s true self. It’s so easy to be a good person when things are going well. It’s another thing entirely to be composed, thoughtful, kind, and empathetic when the chips are down.

Someone who can be trusted, counted on, is solid, a mensch, a good soul, a stand-up person. We know them when we see them because their reputation for doing what’s right – not expedient – precedes them.

When you know someone who has a good, strong character, you know that they won’t flake in the crunch. They won’t turn away when you need a hard favour, they’re the first to share what ever they have, no matter how little, and they’re going to stand beside you and take your side when the rest of the world can find only fault. They might kid you when you screw up, but they won’t be in the kicking party when you’re down.

If there is someone like that in your life, cherish them. They are as rare and as precious as gold. 

Hard times make us rethink the things that we slough off in the short run. In our careers we’ll often put up with bullies, sneaks, lunch stealers, and coworkers with attitude larger than their talent, just because it’s easier to work around them than to trade up to better colleagues. Plus – a pay cheque is a pay cheque, and keeping a job – even a bad one – is easier than finding another one.

And while we might, in normal times, endure unhappy romantic relationships for fear that this bad actor is the best we can do, when the shit hits the fan, we realize that life is too short to ‘settle’ for mediocrity.   

It’s the same when we ourselves chose – even for just a moment – to abandon our own principles, to be selfish, to be a bully, or to act on an impulse that would be foreign to us when we’re feeling content and comfortable. In hard times, we have to fight the impulse to be morally lethargic, and instead, take the opportunity to bench press those principles. If our principles can be abandoned in hard times, then they were never our principles, they were only the stage dressing of our lives.

Tough times don’t last – tough people do. I am hoping that this spoke in the wheels of the world economy will slow us down for long enough to remember that character, and the maintaining of solid, honest principles, are the characteristics of those people we’d take to the end of the world, at the end of the world.

Meanwhile, the skies are bluer, the waters are cleaner, and the birds are coming home from their southern nests. Spring will come, and this too will pass.

And, while you may have the time to listen to all 16:56 minutes of the new Bob Dylan song – if you don’t want to, you don’t have to.

Life is good ….

To Panic or Not to Panic


by Roxanne Tellier

To update the old saw; whether you believe we are in the middle of a global pandemic, or not – you are right.

There is plenty of ‘evidence’ to bolster either conclusion. And that, in a nutshell, is precisely at the core of our immediate dilemma; in the face of a poorly coordinated, half-hearted, largely disrespected, lack of an honest plan for moving forward, the people are the losers.

“It’s just like a cold. More people die of the flu. It’ll be all over by the spring, when the hot weather arrives. It’ll just go away.  And besides, it’s gonna mainly just go after the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.”

Man, it’s like the early days of HIV/AIDs. No one is too concerned at first, until they realize that someone they actually love is at risk. THEN it’s real.

Without strong, disciplined, bipartisan leadership, the planet is sleepwalking toward that part in the horror movie when the teenaged girls in bikinis decide that the dead of night is a great time to explore the abandoned cabin that’s perched on the cursed graveyard. No matter how much you scream ‘DON’T GO IN!” the hapless victims seem locked into their fate. 

I want people to assume that we’re overreacting because if it looks like you’re overreacting you’re probably doing the right thing.” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases head Dr Anthony Fauci

The hard-won knowledge that is coming out of the worst infected areas is cautioning that only a complete commitment to social isolation can possibly flatline, or at least slightly flatten, an otherwise inevitably upward curve to confirmed cases, and sadly, the deaths of many.  

In actual fact, our governments have our social containment firmly in their grasps, should they decide to use their powers. Once a national emergency has been declared, there are sweeping, authoritarian-like powers that can lawfully separate people from their friends and families, or indeed, can legally order the containment and/or movement of anyone believed to have the virus, or have been exposed to it. Non-compliance of any of the constrictions could lead to fines and prosecution of scofflaws.

That would be your worst-case scenario. But whatever is to happen next, we must first have leaders in whom we have confidence. And we also have to make that giant leap in our own minds that there really is a boogieman out there, one that can not only take out our loved ones, but that can turn any one of us into an unwitting carrier that might well bring home the very disease we want to shield them from.

Even countries that have been goaded into rabid divisiveness need to get their act together. It’s time to think of the entire country as a tribe – not opposing teams – and work together to help each other out. It’s a lot harder when so many simply do not or can not believe in what they are hearing from their own governments, and instead have a sneaking suspicion that those meant to protect them, actually have more interest in either saving their own skins, or in using the opportunity to line their pockets at the peoples’ expense.

As if that mix isn’t toxic enough, add in one of the groups most vulnerable to the virus …. Baby boomers.  Now, I don’t want to say that we boomers have basically decided that we’re never gonna die – I’m just saying that we brought vinyl back when all the experts said that vinyl was as dead as the dodo. Baby Boomers that have gotten into a good job, in politics, big business, or the Market, have super glued themselves to their chairs, and have no intention of ever leaving, even if the virus DOES get them.

All things being equal, I’m not too terribly surprised at how many people are pooh poohing any kind of long-term social isolation, but hear me out – we’re more than halfway there already. With schools, libraries, live theatres, and so many other venues simply shutting their doors for the foreseeable future, why not bow to this enforced quarantine, and try to break the chain of infection?  

Not seizing the opportunity would be like throwing a fancy-dress party, but not specifying a date – in order for this to be effective, we need to be together, as a country, as a people. We need to MAKE it work, by committing to following the guidelines. How hard can it be?

If you’re trying to save the economy, that’s laudable. But these closings and shut downs are already in effect. There might not be another time when everything coincides to make it easiest to shut down for spring break, and then extend that break just long enough to get past the 14 day isolation period. Sure, I’m not happy that the live, daily shows that I enjoy will not be filmed or shown, but those people deserve to have their health considered as well – the stars and staff of those shows are not trained performing monkeys, they’re people with families and loved ones, maybe kids out of school for the duration, and they deserve that time off as much as anyone else does.

I don’t think it makes much sense to fight against that. This moment in time was fortuitous – it’s unlikely another will be in place before the summer. We have a chance to take control of a bad situation, and hopefully defeat the worst of what might be to come.

In terms of economic survival, the people I worry the most about are those who are part of the ‘gig’ economy – musicians, waiters, bartenders, Uber/Lyft drivers, and so many more who were clever enough to create jobs for themselves when no one would give them one. People who have thrown their lot in to entrepreneurialism are really going to suffer from a lack of a paycheck. They will need to be nimble and clever to ride it out. Sometimes it is in crisis that creative people come up with the next big evolutionary step in their art. Perhaps this is the gig economy’s ‘dinosaur, meet comet’ moment. I guess we’re about to find that out.

Then there’s the healthcare field; already overwhelmed by government’s continual nipping and tucking of their budgets. This crisis is shining a spotlight on what happens when we cut too close to the bone, and endanger not only our patients, but the very people that we need to save us when it hits the fan. First responders are also going to be an endangered species; the police, fire, EMTs, 911 operators, ambulance drivers, are all going to be working overtime to take care of those who need their services. What happens when those people have to deal with the virus in their own families? Or in themselves? Time to be very, very kind to everyone you know who stands between you and a very messy illness.

Bear in mind, as well, that while we’re trying to ramp up to help people with acute virus symptoms, that already strained health care system and lack of beds and equipment is ensuring a continuation of hall way medicine, and long, long hours in emergency rooms. Having a heart attack? A baby? We’re already hearing about women facing hard labour on a gurney – or even out in the parking lot. Triage could get brutal.

There’s so much more to consider. What happens to those people who keep going in to work, in any field, that have to worry about their kids being out of school for several weeks? Is serving your coffee, or ringing up your purchases, as important as being home to care for their children, or elderly parents? 

Truthfully, what’s really making us crazy is this crippling uncertainty. We don’t’ know how long this will go on. Do we need to look at long term unemployment? What about the kids? How long can we sustain any kind of isolation? Without a clear vision, just getting through the next few weeks may seem like too much of a hardship, personally, and for our country.

We want to know that this too will pass, but we’d be a lot more comfortable if there were clear indicators of what will happen tomorrow, next week, or next month. We want to know that there are brighter days ahead, if we can only hang in through this trying period. When we are told to expect worse to come, it doesn’t make what is happening now any easier.

In Italy right now, a country that is, granted, much more attuned to an authoritarian, militaristic governance, the people are dutifully quarantined in their homes. Some say that America is just one week ahead of where Italy is right now, pandemic wise.

This letter, from Monica Maggioni, a veteran journalist and the CEO of RaiCom, a division of Italian public television, was published in the Washington Post today, in an attempt to paint a bit of a picture of what is going on there.

For many Italians, the normal warnings about this virus were simply not enough to change behavior. Denial comes too easily, perhaps. It was more convenient to blame some foreign germ-spreader, or pretend that the news was unreal. Then came a reality check: Last Sunday, Pope Francis gave a benediction not from his normal window at the Vatican but via video, in part to avoid the crowd on St. Peter’s Square but also to send a message. That was the first strong sign to snap out of it.

Now I find myself confined in a place where time is suspended. All the shops are closed, except for groceries and pharmacies. All the bars and restaurants are shuttered. Every tiny sign of life has disappeared. The streets are totally empty; it is forbidden even to take a walk unless you carry a document that explains to authorities why you have left your house.”

Strange days, hard times. And yet – even in the sadness, the wonderful people of Italy are proving that the sharing of music can keep us from despair.

They will prevail. And so will we.

Giant Meteor Wins By A Landslide!


by Roxanne Tellier

Anyone paying attention to the primaries in New Hampshire last week?

If you thought it was about Bernie vs Buttigieg, you missed out on the best option that New Hampshirites were offered …. 

“Would you rather see a giant meteor strike the earth, extinguishing all human life? Or see President Trump re-elected?”

Sixty-four percent of the voters, including 68% of women polled, opted for the giant meteor and a fiery death, rather than four more years of trump. Me too.  

Truthfully, though, there WAS a giant asteroid heading straight for Earth this week. Apparently, it just skimmed by us. If you were asleep yesterday at 6:05 a.m., you slept through it.

I was rooting for the giant asteroid, but apparently, we’re gonna go by coronavirus instead. Ah well, either way, something massive seems to be en route to save the planet – not the people, but hopefully other living creatures, flora and fauna. About time. They deserve a break from humanity’s unending cruelty and selfishness.

I love the planet, but the people? Gotta go. We’re a virus on the earth, like a legion of marauding Huns or Vikings. Man has used, abused, raped, and defiled as much of the planet as they can get to, and is on track to find the last of the pristine land to despoil, all to have somewhere upon which to deposit their excrement and garbage.

Failing that quest, it’s off to other planets, by Space Force apparently. This garbage has to go somewhere!

We don’t deserve this planet. Maybe we never did. Or maybe we did for a while, but then we got off track, and let our ugliest selves take over. I don’t know. I just live here.

I’ve long come to the realization that those who deny climate change, despite the words of 97% of scientists, are fundamentally selfish, and unable to accept the responsibility and accountability for their actions. After all, if you agree that the climate is changing, and that our abuse of the planet has had a hand in damaging it, then you have to agree that we all have to do something about it.

It just makes sense to want a world where everyone can breathe cleaner air, and drink purer water. I want my kids and grandkids to have a life in a naturally beautiful nation, where they can enjoy the same wonders that I did as a child, and as my parents did, and as my grandparents did. I want them to be able to revel in the beauty that we took for granted for centuries, without having to first slog through and deal with other people’s trash and waste.

And that kind of accountable, grown up, respectful of others thinking just doesn’t seem to work for those who believe it is their absolute right, told to them right there in the Bible, that this land is theirs to do with as they wish.

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Even those that haven’t darkened so much as a community centre, never mind a church, in decades take that as their licence to do as they please to a supine, and apparently passive and powerless, earth and her creatures.

Might not keep on being so easy, though, in the next few decades, or even years.  Seems like Mother Nature is getting a tad peeved.  

The forecast calls for a whole lot of weather events on their way, with phasers set on stun – colder winters, hotter summers, heatwaves, floods, and forest fires, as sea levels rise and take out the coasts. Lots more bugs and biting things, because of the heat and damp. There’ll be more frequent and more violent hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, and earthquakes.

More than half of the living creatures that roamed the earth when I was a kid are long gone, and my grandkids will likely only know many beautiful, and now extinct, animals solely by seeing their pictures in books. We’re cutting down rain forests, biodiverse woodlands, and ancient trees, in order to plant palm oil trees to make face cream, and in the process, we are destroying the homes many wild animals need to survive.

Where exactly do you think the wild things go when their world is on fire?

And where exactly do you think WE will go when our world is too dirty, polluted and just plain unliveable for our children to survive, BESIDES being on fire or under water? 

And that, my dears, is why I was rooting for the giant asteroid all week. A quick ‘boom!’ and that’s it – no more worrying about how our selfish greed has soured the futures of our heirs. You won’t even have to study for that end of term exam. All good! And all gone!  (armageddon.jpg)

It seems that the alternative – to dig down deep, and find the resources and will to turn this car crash around – are beyond the abilities or will of most world leaders.

But on the bright side, they say the economy was booming.

——————————————————

On a lighter note, I was thinking about the American cities that are getting really angry at trump, and now pence, who have a habit of cruising into towns to throw a rally/party – and then skating on the tab. Apparently that tab, which inevitably winds up being downloaded onto the cities, and ultimately the tax prayers, is way past the million dollar mark. And mayors are getting angry. Justifiably. How will THEY run for re-election, when only a portion of their taxpayers are picking up the bill for a GOP rally they neither asked for nor wanted?

I have come up with a plan for those mayors. No need to thank me.

First, get your people on board. As more and more people opt for giant meteors instead of those four more years, it should be easy to convince the bulk of your citizens that paying for the freeloader and his hangers on to party on their dime just isn’t worth it. If you’ve got some really rabid trumpsters against the plan, maybe send them off to another city for the day, one that has one of those 3D IMAX screens and the latest super hero movie playing. Expensive. But remember – your OWN re-election is at stake!

So then, here’s the deal. Air Force One taxis into your city for a rally … but there’s no one there to greet them. The airport is empty.

Trump’s handlers fling open the plane’s plug door to discover there’s no waiting flight of stairs. After several minutes of discussion, and despite Melania’s complaints, the crew, along with trump and his camp followers, decide they’ll have to use the emergency exit slide, and hope they can rouse the airport’s landing crew later. 

There’s no motorcade waiting, so trump and his goons get into a convoy of luggage carts and putt putt towards the arena where he’s supposed to speak, but – it’s locked! Not a creature is stirring, not even an attendant to let them in.

But in the parking lot, the out of town, trump faithful are gathered, crowding around their pickup trucks and RVs bearing trump positive stickers. A lot of overly excited, red faced and red hatted people are alternating tossing their garbage on to the pavement, and eating each other’s pets on tailgate grills, cuz there’s no food stalls open.

Wisely, the Secret Service throw a bag over trump’s head before he can see the faithful, and launch into a Nuremburg-worthy rant.

The VIP golf cart cortege putt putts into the city, but there’s not a soul on the streets. You could shoot a cannon down Main Street, and not hit anyone. Pompeo gives it a try with a ceremonial cannon he finds on a war memorial.

There’s no response when trump’s Secret Service detail empty their pistols into a closed hot dog vendor’s stall. The odd vertical blind twitches in a window, but the city is otherwise silent and still. (Tell your people not to giggle.)

The minions huddle to strategize, but, with no cheering crowds, trump’s getting very whiny. If they can’t find some loyal trumplodytes soon, or at least a couple of scoops of ice cream, there’s gonna be trouble.

When the luggage carts run out of gas, the decision is made for them – they need to move out. But trump and his goons now have to limp back to the airport, carrying trump, who refuses to walk, and is having a tantrum, his arms and legs flailing as the tears fall, and all of that drama makes it even harder for the Secret Service to carry him.

Melania gamely chooses to walk as well, despite having broken a nail. When a light drizzle begins to fall, she’s grateful to have remembered to bring her favorite rain jacket. 

Hours later, they get back to the airport, the plane’s been jacked up, and three of its wheels are missing.

You can flesh out the rest of the plan to suit your own city, Mr Mayor. And … you’re welcome.

Tags: DBAWIS, Bob Segarini, Roxanne Tellier, Giant Meteor, New Hampshire. Space Force. Bible, Mother Nature, 3D IMAX,  Air Force One, Secret Service, save the planet, extinction

One of These Things is Not Like the Other


by Roxanne Tellier

At a party last summer, I met someone who looked very like Patrick Stewart, aka, Captain Picard of Star Trek fame.

He seemed like a nice enough guy. He had a lovely smile, and a soft, even childlike, air.

Picard, the character, is universally beloved, and, in that role, exhibits extraordinary intelligence, patience, kindness, and empathy, while he simultaneously pilots a starship and its crew to adventures and destinations unknown.

The fellow that I met, the Picard lookalike, was a very nice man. What he WASN’T … was Patrick Stewart. And there’s an odd thing about how humans process information; when we see someone who looks like someone we admire, we expect them to be very like that person. It’s like we believe that our appearance is the augur of our destiny.  

One of these things is not like the other.

Our society lionizes the successful, the beautiful, rich, famous, and powerful. Accordingly, we have a surplus of people ready and willing to jump at the chance to ‘pretend’ to be one of our idols, to imitate them, in the hopes of drawing from the fans a little of the same love and respect – and maybe some wealth of their own. “Tribute’ or clone acts fill the entertainment world, and those lucky enough to resemble actors or world leaders can make a ton of money, just showing up at conferences, conventions, and forums, and shaking hands with the faithful.

But of course, looks have very little to do with ability, intelligence, artistry or character. Sow’s ear, silk purse … you can dress a clown in an expensive suit, but that doesn’t mean the clown can do much more than twist a balloon into a poodle shape. And, no matter how persuasive the clown, or how nice the suit, you really shouldn’t give that clown access to a button that can potentially blow up the world.

We are so enamoured by fame that we’ve gone from idolizing those who were indisputably the best in the world at what they did, to pedestalling those who are famous for simply being famous. To this, we can now add those who are famous simply because they look like someone famous.

The people of the United States of America love fame so much that they appointed a failed businessman cum reality show actor to lead and control the enormous wealth and power of their nation. Hasn’t gone quite as well as they’d expected. But that’s because, as I mentioned above, the fact that someone APPEARS a certain way, does not mean that they have any of the attributes of that façade.

Trump was a creation, a confection fashioned by hanging an expensive suit on a broken coat rack, and surrounding him with what the hoi polloi imagine is luxury…. beautiful women, gilded spittoons, champagnes and yachts. In reality, the trump that strutted on the stage sprang nearly fully formed from the forehead of Mark Burnett, show creator extraordinaire. 

After the success of Survivor, Burnett wanted to try another ‘social experiment’ – ‘Survivor in the City’ This one would feature contestants competing for a corporate job in the URBAN jungle.

From The New Yorker magazine, January 2019. “He needed someone to play the role of a heavyweight tycoon. Burnett, who tends to narrate stories from his own life in the bravura language of a Hollywood pitch, once said of the show, “It’s got to have a hook to it, right? They’ve got to be working for someone big and special and important. Cut to: I’ve rented this skating rink.”

In 2002, Burnett rented Wollman Rink, in Central Park, for a live broadcast of the Season 4 finale of “Survivor.” The property was controlled by Donald Trump, who had obtained the lease to operate the rink in 1986, and had plastered his name on it. Before the segment started, Burnett addressed fifteen hundred spectators who had been corralled for the occasion, and noticed Trump sitting with Melania Knauss, then his girlfriend, in the front row. Burnett prides himself on his ability to “read the room”: to size up the personalities in his audience, suss out what they want, and then give it to them.

“I need to show respect to Mr. Trump,” Burnett recounted, in a 2013 speech in Vancouver. “I said, ‘Welcome, everybody, to Trump Wollman skating rink. The Trump Wollman skating rink is a fine facility, built by Mr. Donald Trump. Thank you, Mr. Trump. Because the Trump Wollman skating rink is the place we are tonight and we love being at the Trump Wollman skating rink, Mr. Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump, Trump.” As Burnett told the story, he had scarcely got offstage before Trump was shaking his hand, proclaiming, “You’re a genius!”………………

Trump had been a celebrity since the eighties, his persona shaped by the best-selling book “The Art of the Deal.” But his business had foundered, and by 2003 he had become a garish figure of local interest—a punch line on Page Six. “The Apprentice” mythologized him anew, and on a much bigger scale, turning him into an icon of American success. …

“The Apprentice” portrayed Trump not as a skeezy hustler who huddles with local mobsters but as a plutocrat with impeccable business instincts and unparalleled wealth—a titan who always seemed to be climbing out of helicopters or into limousines. “Most of us knew he was a fake,” Braun told me. “He had just gone through I don’t know how many bankruptcies. But we made him out to be the most important person in the world. It was like making the court jester the king.” Bill Pruitt, another producer, recalled, “We walked through the offices and saw chipped furniture. We saw a crumbling empire at every turn. Our job was to make it seem otherwise.”

This is an oddly common refrain among people who were involved in “The Apprentice”: that the show was camp, and that the image of Trump as an avatar of prosperity was delivered with a wink. Somehow, this interpretation eluded the audience. Jonathon Braun marvelled, “People started taking it seriously!”

To paraphrase Burnett – cut to: Trump on an escalator.

“Trump has succeeded in politics, in part, by borrowing the tropes of the show. Jonathon Braun pointed out to me that when Trump announced his candidacy, in 2015, he did so in the atrium of Trump Tower, and made his entrance by descending the gold-colored escalator—choreography that Burnett and his team had repeatedly used on the show. After Trump’s announcement, reports suggested that people who had filled the space and cheered during his speech had been hired to do so, like TV extras, for a day rate of fifty dollars. Earlier this year, the White House started issuing brief video monologues from the President that strongly evoke his appearances on Burnett’s show. Justin McConney, a former director of new media for the Trump Organization, told New York that, whenever Trump works with camera people, he instructs them, “Shoot me like I’m shot on ‘The Apprentice.’ ”

On the days that I am feeling generous about what would make any human, never mind a professional politician who has sworn an oath on a Bible they claim to hold dear, to believe that trump is a leader ordained by god, elected by 60 million Americans to hold their futures in his tiny hands, I assume it must be, overall, about their own buy-in to his apparent ‘fame.’

Because it can’t be based on any type of actual success he has achieved; his business history is strewn with bankruptcies, court orders, and law suits from people who have been royally ripped off by trump and his family. It can’t be from his success with interpersonal relationships; his three marriages, all of which were plagued by his cheating with any female within grabbing range, would belie his ability to maintain a close, intimate relationship, even with a mate. And although trump has leaned heavily upon, and capitalized on the fawning adoration of the Evangelicals, he himself shows less than a passing interest in religion. Even ‘two Corinthians’ had to be coerced out of him.

I have to come to the conclusion that this mist, this miasma of perceived fame, is what blurred the vision of those who opted to follow trump down the escalator and into a perversion of a Republican party concocted by the Machiavellian Mitch McConnell.

Even those who ran against his presidential bid, whom he skewered like so many cocktail weenies and left to wither on the sidelines, have had a ‘come to Jesus!’ moment, in which they substituted the Jesus for the two faced Janus.

Maybe we’ll learn, years from now, exactly how trump’s former opponents became some of his fiercest defenders. For now, we can just watch, goggle-eyed, as the like of Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio abase themselves at his feet.

Few in the GOP are courageous enough to face the POTUS’ wrath, and really, you can’t blame them for being such cowards. The power of his office is vast, and there is no atrocity he will not countenance. After his yawning dismissal of the murder of Kashoggi by bone saw, it’s pretty clear that he believes all is fair when it comes to disposing – literally – of your enemies.

So I think most of us were rather surprised when Matt Gaetz, another fawning sycophant who seemed to be on the fast track to some prestigious position or posting, suddenly found a conscience, and lent his support to the House’s war powers resolution, which would limit the ability of the president to engage in further military action against Iran without congressional approval.

Gaetz was immediately excoriated by his party, and summarily removed from the defense team being put together for the Impeachment trial.  While Gaetz seemed genuinely hurt by the cold shoulder, he also had a few choice words for the media after watching how the Dems and GOP conducted themselves in said trial. While he praised the House Dems for their presentation, saying that ‘they made their case as if it were cable news,” and commending their use of multimedia to make points, he had little respect for the (unpaid) trump defense team, whom he said ‘looked like an eighth-grade book report. Actually, no, I take that back. An eighth-grader would know how to use PowerPoint and iPads.”  

Gaetz is, of course, one of the many angry Republicans who just can’t seem to speak without screaming their ‘truth’ over whomever is attempting to make a point. I won’t give him a pass for seeing the defense team as sloppy and lazy; his disdain seems primarily motivated by his narcissistic belief that it is their loss for keeping him off that team.

After the first few hours of the lacklustre defense provided by trump’s defense, he may well be right. After all, we’ve just seen three days, a solid 24 hours, of superior, informed, well-expressed, cogent, political rhetoric, which outlined in every detail exactly WHY trump has to be removed from office, culminating with Adam Schiff’s powerful summation, that – assuming there’s a nation and a democracy after trump’s evil reign – will likely become as renowned as the signature speeches of Martin Luther King Jr., John F Kennedy, and Dwight D. Eisenhower. It was that good.

“If right doesn’t matter, if right doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter how good the constitution is. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the framers were. It doesn’t matter how good or bad our advocacy in this trial is. It doesn’t matter how well-written the oath of impartiality is. If right doesn’t matter, we’re lost. If truth doesn’t matter, we’re lost. The framers couldn’t protect us from ourselves, if right and truth don’t matter. And you know that what he did was not right. You know, that’s what they do in the old country, that Colonel Vindman’s father came from or the old country that my great-grandfather came from, or the old countries that your ancestors came from or that maybe you came from. But here, right is supposed to matter.

It’s what’s made us the greatest nation on Earth. No constitution can protect us if right doesn’t matter anymore. And you know you can’t trust this president to do what’s right for this country. You can trust he will do what’s right for Donald Trump. He’ll do it now. He’s done it before. He’ll do it for the next several months. He’ll do it in the election if he’s allowed to. This is why, if you find him guilty, you must find that he should be removed. Because right matters. Because right matters. And the truth matters. Otherwise, we are lost.”

No, one of these things is not like the other.

It is beyond me how those in the trump cult can continue to follow their false Messiah, even as he tears down the foundations of their once great nation. Indeed, even as the Impeachment trial attempts to decide if his crimes are sufficient to remove him from office, he’s flaunting his obstruction, (“We have all the material. They don’t have the material.”) overturning legislation that for 50 years has protected the waters and environment of the country, and telling the politicians and billionaires attending Davos the ‘entitlements’ of social security, Medicare, and Medicaid are his targets to be cut, should he win a second term.

“It’ll be toward the end of the year,” Trump said from Davos, Switzerland. “And at the right time, we will take a look at that. You know, that’s actually the easiest of all things, if you look, cause it’s such a big percentage. “

And really, how big a deal is the prospective deaths of a couple of hundred million Americans through his actions, in the face of climate change, and the accelerated political unrest around the globe, that has enough people so on edge and fearful that it’s moved us to a mere one hundred seconds from Doomsday?



One of these things is not like the others. One spells the end of democracy, and possibly the planet. The other hopes that the children of the world are strong and determined enough to snatch back all of our futures from the brink that crazed, populist, right wing politicians have dragged us toward.

And, unless humanity makes some smart decisions very soon, that direction may ultimately have very little to do with what we would choose, even assuming that we’re given a choice.

 

The Teeter Totter of Hell


by Roxanne Tellier

Oh America.  So many wanted to believe in the ‘shining city on the hill,’ and your declaration that your people deserved ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. ‘ Millions of immigrants looked for salvation on your shores, and believed that the poem, etched on the base of that sacred icon, the Statue of Liberty, and a gift from a country that knew well what it meant to overthrow a tyrannical monarchy and bask in a newfound freedom, was a prayer and a promise written just for them.

But beneath the anthems, the ‘rockets red glare’ and the hands pressed to hearts, too many have learned that there lies a nation built on genocide, slavery and a slavish devotion to capitalism that has devolved into an insatiable greed and selfishness.

Now we know the dirty little secret of the United States of America;  all of the high flying words, the protestations of freedom, the claims that all were created equal, the vaunted checks and balances meant to assure the republic would remain a democratic country, were nothing but lip service. 

Well, at least according to FOX News, and trump and his henchmen. 

” On August 12, 2019, Ken Cuccinelli,, acting director of US Citizenship and Immigration Services, revised a line from the poem to outline a new immigration policy that would evaluate potential visa/green card immigrants on the basis of income and education, stating: “Give me your tired, your poor who can stand on their own two feet and who will not become a public charge.” In a subsequent interview, Cuccinelli also interpreted the poem as referring to “people coming from Europe” (wikipedia)

The framers of the U.S. Constitution knew well that the people could one day be fooled by cunning con men and those seeking to enrich themselves by abusing power, so they created a system that co-equally divided the powers and responsibilities of three branches; the legislative branch, the executive branch, and the judiciary branch. 

They also put into place a system of checks and balances, that, combined with the separation of powers, they hoped would guard against a tyranny  imposed upon the people, in the event that any one branch attempted to grab too much power.

But checks and balances only work when those charged with obeying them are men of honour with a respect for the laws and institutions that are the framework of a democratic nation.

As James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers“In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty is this: You must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place, oblige it to control itself.”

As prescient as the Founders were in their attempts to keep America from devolving to a monarchy or dictatorship, they couldn’t possibly have guessed that men like Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump, never mind the self-loathing white nationalists lead by Stephen Miller, would one day come to power, with an agenda designed solely to enrich themselves, while keeping the American people complacent and subjected to their will through fear, force,  and/or intimidation.

Those who fled countries under the thrall of dictatorship, or under threat of  physical or intellectual assault, believed that America’s shores would, like the Gates of Heaven, usher them into a life where all men had the opportunity to be free, and to seek to enrich their lives through a lifetime of hard work, and dedication.

Apparently they were wrong. 

“Dad, my sitting here today, in the US Capitol talking to our elected officials is proof that you made the right decision 40 years ago to leave the Soviet Union and come here to the United States of America in search of a better life for our family,” he said. “Do not worry. I will be fine for telling the truth.”

Even as those brave witnesses came forward in these last two weeks to testify to the crimes and corrupt behaviour exhibited by, not just the POTUS, but a cabal of his henchmen, in the Ukraine scandal, those witnesses were having their lifetimes of dedicated civil service smeared, and have since described harrowing incidents of harassment, threats and attack on their very lives, and the lives of their families.

So, no, Lt Col Vindman, you are not ‘fine.’ Your dad was right to worry. You won’t be fine for devoting 40 years of loyal service to your adopted country. Instead, the military must find somewhere to shelter you and your family from the wrath of America’s elected representatives, it’s president, and his cultist followers.

Lt Col Vindman, Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, Jennifer Williams, former White House national security official Fiona Hill, and others from the former or current administration are being viciously attacked for daring to testify to the corruption and felonious actions of trump and his shadow government.

Whatever side of the political divide you may be on, this case is ridiculously easy to understand. Trump attempted to force new Ukraine president Zelensky to personally appear on the Sunday political edition of CNN’s journalist Fareed Zakaria’s program to inform the rest of the ‘free world’ that he (Zelensky) was about to open an investigation into potential misdeeds perpetrated in the Ukraine by Hunter Biden, the son of former vice president Joe Biden, who is currently a front runner in the Democratic presidential nomination in the run up to the 2020 election. If Zelensky agreed to do so, trump would release over $400 million set aside by Congress to aid in the Ukraine’s defence against Russia.

By doing so, trump would then hold enormous power over Zelensky for as long as either of them were in power, since this would be an act of corruption perpetrated by a new president, swept in on a platform of anti-corruption. 

It would also be a federal offence, as outlined in the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974, which was put into place after then president Richard Nixon impounded tens of billions of dollars, and refused to spend funds appropriated by Congress, particularly if the impounding of those funds would cause programs he didn’t like to be gutted.

This precipitated a constitutional crisis, as the Constitution, in it’s separation of powers, granted Congress the power of the purse.

And so the 1974 Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act was created, in order to limit the powers of an out of control president.

Trump is a scofflaw, who believes himself above the law, and certainly that he is above such niceties as obeying federal laws, but that is precisely what he has broken. And he has compounded that felony with the impeachable act of attempted bribery, in order to solicit re-election aid from a foreign power.

In any other place or time, this would be an open and shut case, and trump would be impeached, removed from power, and indicted.

However, trump’s America is a BizarroWorld of GOP officials as corrupt as in any third world dictatorship, that is colluding with a branch of Justice headed up by an Attorney General who is himself implicated in the corruption, and aided and abetted by a cultlike following who are prepared to commit any atrocity in the service and name of their GodKing.

So, this is not the America that Lt Col Vindman thought it was. It’s not a country where those who devote their lives in service to their country can feel secure that speaking the truth will set them free. In trump’s BizarroWorld, only his truth is viable, and anyone speaking against it must be thoroughly punished to the full extent of his presidential powers.

Further, trump, in lockstep with the wishes of Russia’s leader, Vladimir Putin, wanted Zelensky to confess to a meddling in the 2016 elections by the previous government. This would then allow trump to ‘prove’ a debunked conspiracy theory, and to deny the conclusions of all of the American intelligence agency leaders, that Russia had interfered in the 2016 election, by shuffling the blame upon the Ukraine government instead. By doing so, trump could then insist that American sanctions upon Russia must be lifted.

What Trump demanded, as was made clear on his call to Zelensky, was that Ukraine lend credence to the Crowdstrike conspiracy theory. Not only did Trump make that demand, but Nunes and others have been attempting to support that claim during the hearings. And that is why Dr. Hill made her statement about Republicans not believing in Russian interference: They are actively working, right now, in concert with Trump, to “prove” that there was no Russian interference. They are no longer willing to admit even the things they admitted in that report they’re still waving around.

Every single time someone mentioned “investigating the 2016 election,” what they really meant was “exonerating Vladimir Putin and shifting the blame to Hillary Clinton.” And while it’s understandable that no one wanted to use their five minutes to unwind this ridiculous “Hillary hacked herself and hid the server in Ukraine” theory that Attorney General William Barr is chasing around the world, not taking that time allowed Republicans to pretend that they’re not actively working to clear Russia as well as Trump. When they are. They really, really are. (Mark Sumner, Daily Kos)

Yes … the lord giveth, and the lord taketh away. The last two weeks of witness testimony at the impeachment inquiry hearings have gladdened the heart of many who want to see trump’s iron grip on America’s institutions and justice system broken, and for him to suffer the consequences of his impeachable and felonious actions.

On the other hand, the American public are not united in their need to see an unbridled and omnipotent POTUS overthrown. There remains a firm 23% of Americans who will follow their president wherever he takes them, even if where they’re going is to hell in a handcart.

And the timing isn’t great either, when the American thanksgiving is right around the corner, followed by America’s most beloved holiday, the Black Friday sales. Christmas will follow, and then much of the nation will be dealing with inclement weather for several months.

Political junkies will follow impeachment proceedings as they occur, but for many Americans, lulled now into numbness by three years of constant tweets, executive orders, and ‘chopper talk’ pronouncements vilifying anyone against the trump juggernaut as ‘human scum,’ it may well be that trump slides into a second term handily, as have so many past incumbent presidents, and despite his crimes.

And if that happens ….. the rest of the world can only wish America ‘good luck.’ Because trump and his cabal have spent the last three years destroying any vestige of what was once the great white hope of the rest of the world. They have  murdered Captain America, and put a slavering, rapacious Golem in his place.

In time, the America we once thought existed will be a legend as outdated as tales of Atlantis.

A Crack in the Patriarchal Egg?


by Roxanne Tellier

At the end of the Montgomery bus boycott, Martin Luther King Jr famously paraphrased the words of Theodore Parker, American transcendentalist and pastor, when he stated,

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

There are many days when only that aspiration keeps me going. Some days, I’ll  find myself wondering if that’s a light up ahead, or just the headlights of an oncoming train …. but after this week, for a number of reasons, I’m liking the odds that it is truly a light. 

Three things happened this week to make me think that there might be some hope, and that, maybe – just maybe! we ARE gonna be okay. Maybe that arc really is moving in the right direction.

The first event was long in coming, but something I’d been rooting for; the investigation into Trump’s misdeeds has morphed into an inquiry. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the end of a shockingly corrupt and criminal abuse of power by America’s POTUS.

The way an impeachment works is regulated at the federal level, under the American Constitution.  First the Congress investigates, and then, based on their findings, the House of Representatives must pass, by a simple majority of those present and voting, articles of impeachment. Those articles will be the formal allegation or allegations of what are considered to be ‘high crimes and misdemeanors.’

According to the Harvard Law Review “The majority view is that a president can legally be impeached for ‘intentional, evil deeds’ that ‘drastically subvert the Constitution and involve an unforgivable abuse of the presidency’ — even if those deeds didn’t violate any criminal laws.”

So we’re in phase two now, prior to, hopefully, phase three, wherein the Senate will be called upon to try the accused. Many have said that the Senate will likely fail to actually impeach Trump, but there is some hope that these investigations, and the live television transmittal of the honourable men and women testifying to Trump’s misdeeds/crimes, at home and abroad, will sway the American voters, and by extension, the Republican Senators who are in danger of losing re-election in 2020 if they continue to align with trump.

One big hope is that the Dems get their way, and voting is done by anonymous, secret ballot. If that were to happen, it’s guesstimated that at least 30 Republicans would vote with the Dems, thus ensuring impeachment.

Can’t you just hear the theme to Curb Your Enthusiasm playing right now?

Meanwhile, the POTUS is flailing as the truth emerges about his endeavour to tempt the new President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, into corruption. He dangled Congressionally approved military aid for the Ukraine, that would shore up the embattled nation in their war with Russia .. if Zelensky would just grant trump ‘one favour’ … 

When Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine was almost ready to purchase American Javelin anti-tank missiles so it could better repel armored assaults by Russian-supported fighters, Mr. Trump pounced.

“I would like you to do us a favor though,” Mr. Trump responded, beginning a series of pointed requests. The president pressed Mr. Zelensky to use the help of Attorney General William P. Barr in opening an investigation of a company involved in the beginnings of the F.B.I. inquiry of Russia’s 2016 election interference. He also wanted a corruption investigation connected to former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a Democratic rival.

Both held the potential to benefit Mr. Trump politically. And in case Mr. Zelensky needed reminding, Mr. Trump was quick to point out that “the United States has been very, very good to Ukraine.”

Mr. Trump’s suggestion that American law enforcement be directly involved and in contact with Ukraine’s government marks the first evidence that the president personally sought to harness the power of the United States government to further a political investigation.”  (from the New York Times, Sept 25/2019)

Actually, trump wanted THREE favours …  from Vice’s coverage of the memo,

1. He asked Zelensky to “look into” Joe Biden

2. He asked Zelensky to speak to Rudy Giuliani and Bill Barr , while insinuating that Giuliani had the real information on corruption in the Ukraine, and smearing the American Ambassador to the Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, saying, “The former ambassador from the United States, the woman, was bad news and the people she was dealing with in the Ukraine were bad news so I just want to let you know that.”

3. He oddly asked Zelensky to investigate Crowdstrike

 “I would like you to find out what happened with this whole situation with Ukraine, they say Crowdstrike… I guess you have one of your wealthy people… The server, they say Ukraine has it. There are a lot of things that went on, the whole situation,” Trump continued.

In a nutshell, trump sought to impel Zelensky, a new president, swept in on an anti-corruption platform, to agree to commit corruption in order to receive monies that had already been pledged to Ukraine, by the American Congress. Trump had NO right to a say in the over $400 million due to Ukraine, yet he behaved as though it were his personal money, bribe money to be used to get what he wanted … a public, foreign investigation into the son of his main opponent in the 2020 election..

Ambassador Sondland tried to explain to me that President Trump is a businessman,” Bill Taylor, the top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine, told House investigators. “When a businessman is about to sign a check to someone who owes him something, he said, the businessman asks that person to pay up before signing the check.”

Except that this was not a business transaction, it was a diplomatic, Congressionally approved, transaction, Zelensky owed trump nothing, and it wasn’t trump’s own money. But since trump couldn’t take a cut of the millions, he took the opportunity to attempt to blackmail Zelensky, a move that would seem to be straight out of the Putin Playbook for “how to use kompromat to tie another country’s president to you in perpetuity.” (with at least one chapter on how to best preserve sheets used for golden showers by wannabe presidents.)  

There can be NO logical explanation or excuse that makes what trump asked of Zelensky anything other than an attempt at bribery, potential blackmail, an attempt to elevate a conspiracy theory that excuses Russia’s role in election meddling by placing Ukraine in that role, and a gross abuse of power, despite how many frantic and hysterical tweets he vomits up on Twitter.

Hopefully the Republicans will soon see that their desperate attempts to smear those who have the courage to testify is backfiring upon them. Or maybe they’re still too terrified of the ‘wrath of trump’ to realize that everyone around trump eventually winds up under the bus, no matter how good they are at sycophancy.

*********************************************

The second event – la deuxième étoile ! – that heralded a sea change to our society happened, not when Don Cherry said,

You people love, that come here, whatever it is, you love our way of life, you love our milk and honey, at least you can pay a couple bucks for a poppy or something like that,”  

No, it happened when Rogers/Sportsnet caved to the flood of callers who demanded that Cherry be summarily dismissed. That’s the Free Market that so many extol; in this case, it worked against those who have pedestaled their hero and that notion. The market/shareholders spoke, and Don Cherry, still refusing to apologize, fell.

Don ‘Sour ‘Grapes’ Cherry is 85, worth $14 million, makes $800K a year, and is still a miserable cuss. He plays to the mob, and relishes any chance to punch down at his targets.

Political correctness aside, Cherry was spewing hate and spreading misinformation on Hockey Night in Canada. That’s not free speech, it’s hate speech. As a public figure, and on a platform that reaches millions, his commentary targeted people already vulnerable, because Don Cherry and his fans feel free to look down upon people of colour, and of those who aren’t  ‘pur laine’, Canadians. 

And whether he liked it or not, he had a signed contract that prohibits certain forms of speech.

This kind of xenophobia and bigotry is unCanadian, even when it comes from a man who was once honoured by being ranked at number 7 in the 2004 CBC miniseries, The Greatest Canadian.

Cherry should have cleared the ice before it all turned into a gongshow.

********************************************************************

Event three – and one that, I’m gonna guess, huge portions of this column’s readers missed entirely, happened on Wednesday night, on a double episode of Survivor – Island of the Idols.  Survivor got #MeToo-ed.  

Survivor: Borneo

From the very first episode of Survivor:Borneo, in the summer of 2000, the reality series has spoken to a huge swath of Middle American viewers. In that first season, crusty Rudy Boesch, a 72 year old retired Navy Seal, and still the oldest contestant to ever play the game, kept a stiff upper lip as Richard Hatch, openly gay, and flagrantly arrogant, spent many hours parading around naked in an attempt to rattle the other players. Rudy and Richard became good friends over the course of the game, and when Rudy died recently, Hatch was one of the many mourners to pay him tribute. The Rudy/Richard friendship influenced how many viewers felt about people who, on the surface, appeared completely unlike themselves. The viewers learned that appearances and even long held opinions, could be deceiving. 

During these 39 seasons, viewers have learned a great deal about opinions, prejudices, and why it’s foolhardy to have preconceived ideas about any other person. Viewers have seen the game, with it’s motto of “Outwit. Outplay. Outlast,” change with the times, even as the definition of what constitutes normalcy, equality, and  ‘fair play’ changes as American society itself changes.

In 2003, contestant Jon Dalton told what host/producer Jeff Probst would call “the greatest lie in Survivor history” when he concocted a scheme to manipulate his fellow players by saying that his grandmother had died. She had not. Although ‘Johnny FairPlay’ entered Survivor history, he didn’t win the series, and his name became synonymous with UNfair play in the game.

In 2013, bread baking Mormon mama Dawn Meehan had not the slightest qualms about voting off her best buddy Brenda Lowe, despite Brenda having salvaged Dawn’s dignity by finding the missing false teeth Dawn had lost in a pond. It’s a game, and anything that gets you further in the game is by definition ‘within the rules.’ How you live with yourself afterwards is your problem.; if you win, you’ll have a lot of fans, and a million dollars to keep your warm.

In 2019, we are once again revisiting the idea of what exactly constitutes ‘fair play’ in the contest.   

Kellee Kim, Dan Spito

As the two tribes merged, contestant Kellee Kim, a 29 year-old Harvard grad and MBA student, realized that she’d once again have to deal with contestant Dan Spito, a 48 year-old LA talent manager who had a little ‘issue’ with his physicality when female players were near. Kellee had briefly dealt with him at the beginning of the game, and told him in no uncertain terms that she did not like or want him to touch her. Dan seemed to accept that, and fate sent the two players off in different directions for the first half of the season.

But since the two teams had merged and converged in one small area of the island, Dan’s hands were at it again, tiptoeing through the ladies. And Kellee was not at all happy with his presumption that her body and hair,  as well as that of other female contestants, were fair game.

“At the merge feast last night…. I feel someone wiggling my toes, and I’m like, I wonder who it could be? And it’s him.” said contestant Missy It’s inappropriate touching. I’m not an object.”

In one of the segments, Kellee tearfully told team mate Janet that she found Dan’s attentions upsetting. Janet hadn’t really noticed that Kellee and several of the other young women were being targeted.  But she was ready to help, if she could.

But as Kellee told the camera, “It’s super upsetting, because you can’t do anything about it. There are always consequences for standing up. It happens in real life, in work settings, in school … and you can’t say anything because it will affect your upward trajectory, it’s gonna affect how people look at you.” 

The show’s producer, in an unprecedented move, broke the fourth wall, saying, “You know, if there are issues to the point where things need to happen, come to me and I will make sure that stops. ‘Cause that’s…I don’t want anyone feeling uncomfortable.”

A title card then appeared on screen, which read, The following morning the producers met with all the players, both as a group and individually. They were cautioned about personal boundaries and reminded that producers are available to them at all times. Based on the outcome of those discussions, the game continued. In addition, producers met privately with Dan, at which time he was issued a warning for his behavior. Producers continue to monitor the situation.”

If that had been the end of the situation, as usually happens in our society, it would have been just another day in misogyny. But what happened next was a REAL lesson for Middle America; two of the other female players, Elizabeth and Molly, decided to use this moment to hatch a plan that would smear Dan while saving themselves, by making Dan and Kellee targets for elimination. Worse still, they abused the trust and faith of Janet to do so, knowing that Janet would see it as her place, as an older, mother figure, to do whatever it might take to help the girls.  

Elizabeth, Missy, Lauren, Aaron

In truth, neither Elizabeth nor Molly actually felt unsafe or uncomfortable around Dan. If anything, they thought he and his wandering hands were a non-issue, easily ignored.

Inevitably, #MeToo came up squarely against game strategy, and it was Kellee who was voted ‘off the island’ while Janet was left to understand that the other girls had willfully played upon her better nature to further their own game, at Kellee (and Janet’s) expense.

At a later tribal council, the women tried to defend their actions by calling it ‘game play,’ while a male player, Aaron, refused to believe that it had happened, because, “if it had, I would have known.” 

Jamal Shipman

Jamal tried to explain why Aaron was wrong, saying, “This whole idea that you would have known about it – that’s exactly what happens in the real world, guys. When a woman brings up a charge, and people want to negate whether or not it’s legitimate, they say, well if it was such a big issue, then she would have brought it up last year, two years ago, three years ago. We are not entitled to ‘know’ things just because we’re men, or just because we’re in power. “

As Kellee had said, “There are always consequences for standing up. ” For his pains, and his insight, Jamal was the next to leave the game.

As Jeff Probst later said, “Survivor is a microcosm for our real world. Situations just like this one are playing out in offices and bars and colleges across the country and the world. “

And that is, of course, sadly true. However, it was the enormous backlash against the two female players, for their deceit, and their ugly manipulation of Janet’s protective nature, that raged mightily across  social media on Thursday morning that really gave me hope. Is it possible – can it really be – that sometimes the right people will actually be punished for making the lives of others miserable, just because they can?

This is the week that #MeToo came to reality TV, big time, and Middle America got to see how it works, from all sides and angles. Anyone that watched the double episode play out is now in possession of all the information they need to make life better for 51% of society (that’s women, by the way.)   

The question is, will they? Can they be bothered? Or is life a whole lot easier when we just toss off the island those people who are only asking  to be treated like people instead of objects?

I will continue to hope that the light at the end of the tunnel really is dawn breaking somewhere.

The Past is Prologue


by Roxanne Tellier

… while those of us who DO remember the past, are doomed to watch those who DO NOT, make the same mistakes, over and over again….

One of the few benefits of getting older is having not only a lot of past to remember, but for some, the time to do so in a leisurely fashion, and with a philosophical bent. If we are lucky, and if we look back with clear eyes, we may actually begin to see where we’ve been, and maybe even to see how our past has impacted upon our present.

Lately I’ve been spending a lot of time wondering how and why so much of the civilized world, and North America in particular, has been working very hard to turn back time and progress.  

if you grew up in the fifties and sixties, you remember fighting for civil rights, equal rights for women, abortion rights, and so much more. My generation had an enormous impact on society.

So what went wrong? How is it that the despots of today are being allowed to turn back the clock to the ugly world of before?

I guess it could be argued that not every one was happy with the advances we made – that in fact, there were misogynists, xenophobes, bigots and racists that weren’t very happy at all with those advances.

Are those the people hell-bent on returning us to those days?

Children of the fifties and sixties were shaped by the dramatic events of our time. Since we’d never known any other kind of world, it felt relatively normal to us. But it was the most explosive, impactful, and eventful time in modern history.

Bear with me now – cast your mind back.

In the United States, Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy was shepherding a form of terror by government into place from the late 1940s through the 1950s, as ordinary citizens were accused of subversion or treason without any regard for evidence.  

70 years on we have replaced McCarthy with Attorney General William Barr, who has been stealthily ‘investigating the investigators’ of the Mueller Report, despite no evidence of impropriety.

Just a month after the United States tested the first atomic bomb, in July 1945 at Alamogordo, New Mexico, it used that same technology to obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A lot of us boomers had parents who’d been in WWII, or in Korea, and many of those parents brought back photographic images of the horrors on view in the destruction of occupied Europe and Japan. By 1949, the USSR had exploded it’s own atomic bomb, raising those stakes even higher.  It was only by a series of high level discussions, and the implementation of the  Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) doctrine of military strategy and national security policy that we brought to an end a nuclear escalation that could have  caused the complete annihilation of both the attacker and the defender in a nuclear war.   

Today, many countries are moving towards nuclear armament, including North Korea, where a very miffed Kim Jong Un has been testing his arsenal of approximately 20 to 30 nuclear weapons, now deemed capable of reaching Washington, DC.

Back in the fifties and sixties, we were being flooded with a new wave of science fiction movies and magazines tasked with the job of distracting North Americans, and soon we were looking ahead to driverless, flying cars.

Remember Them! (giant irradiated ants, ) X The Unknown (radiation run amuck in Scotland,) and a host of other films in which radiation and/or atomic fallout caused the ordinary to radically change into mutant monsters?

“Some of these films envisioned a terrestrial holocaust destroying or threatening humanity as a result of nuclear testing or war [World Without End (1956), On the Beach (1959), The Day the Earth Caught Fire (1961), Crack in the World (1965)]. Nearly all of the atomic films centered on the strange powers of radiation.

This kind of radiation causes Douglas Fairbanks Jr’s duck to lay uranium eggs in Val Guests’s Mr. Drake’s Duck (1950), makes Mickey Rooney glow in The Atomic Kid, puts Peter Arne seven and a half seconds into the future in Timeslip, creates geniuses or zombies in John Gillings’s The Gamma People (1956), shrinks Grant Williams in Jack Arnold’s The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), grows Glenn Langan in Bert I. Gordon’s The Amazing Colossal Man, revives a murderous native as a walking tree in Dan Milner’s From Hell It Came (1957), makes Japanese gangsters sentient slime in Ishiro Honda’s Bijo to Ekatai Ningen, turns Ron Randell to steel in Allan Dwan’s The Most Dangerous Man Alive and makes Tor Johnson into Coleman Francis’s The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961).” 

(read more here https://www.tru.ca/canfilm/essays/gargantuan_bugs.htm)

While titillating, these films really sought to make the impossible and the unreal – radiation, invisible yet deadly, that could change nor only our very own bodies, but the DNA of our flora and fauna; aliens, and future technology – into something we could accept as normal and even possible. 

These films turned what were real dangers – like radiation and the destruction of war – into the mundane, and therefore something that the average human could, with a little forethought and planning, survive. These movies didn’t challenge what was wrong with the politics of the countries that blithely obliterated millions of living creatures and their habitats, they instead focused our native paranoia and fear of otherness, by dehumanizing people and creatures unlike ourselves.

Or, as Susan Sontag wrote in 1964,  “Ours is indeed an age of extremity. For we live under continual threat of two equally fearful, but seemingly opposed, destinies: unremitting banality and inconceivable terror. It is fantasy, served out in large rations by the popular arts, which allows most people to cope with these twin specters. For one job that fantasy can do is to lift us out of the unbearably humdrum and to distract us from terrors, real or anticipated-by an escape into exotic dangerous situations which have last-minute happy endings. But another one of the things that fantasy can do is to normalize what is psychologically unbearable, thereby inuring us to it. In the one case, fantasy beautifies the world. In the other, it neutralizes it.”  

Sound familiar? You’ve been soaking in entertainment that attempts to prepare you for your future in exactly the same way. The tsunami of zombie films are a representation of immigrants and refugees, displaced through war or climate change, who the fearful imagine as innumerable, insatiable, and unstoppable creatures that are coming for your land and your food.

All of the Sharknado films, Geostorm,  WaterWorld, The Day After Tomorrow ….those films present a world in which climate change is a survival issue. Luckily for you, Hollywood’s obsession with global warming has conscripted top movie stars to show you how these problems can be handled without messing your hair.  

And the Mad Max films, along with so many others that envision life after an apocalyptic event, are all meant to lull you into a false security about an uncertain future. All you’ll need is enough ammo to bully yourself into power, right?

But in truth, the sci fi films of my day, many of which focused on monsters actually CREATED by that fall out and radiation, did little to prepare us for October 1962, and the days of the Cuban Crisis. Even if you’d only seen posters of those films, or heard parents or older siblings talking about them, it was stretching credibility for those of us who were school aged at the time to believe that our little wooden desks would protect us from bombs and nuclear fall out.

And in all of the films – either of the past or today – that are subtly meant to prepare this generation for climate change, floods of displaced people, possible nuclear attacks by foreign entities, or a civil war in which families battle each other .. not a single one of those films points to what will actually be the salvation of those remaining, or the rebuilding of society.

It’s not sexy – real life rarely is – but the only sort of society that will allow mankind to crawl out of whatever viper pit they’ve managed to fall into in a dystopic apocalypse is going to rely on only a few things.

And weapons aren’t high on that list.  After all, if you’ve just lost a large portion of humanity, every soul will be as precious as those fetuses the religious radicals revere.  Only this will be for real, not for show.

What will save humanity will be empathy, respect and regard for every person. Whomever can work compassionately and equitably with others will be a leader.

That leader will need the sense to scavenge not just the physical things needed, but the information held by elders, and in libraries. You’ll need to redevelop agriculture, and, without those tools farmers use today, you’ll have little time to do much else than farm.

You’ll need to reconstruct the calendar, in order to prepare for the seasons and survival, and to be able to predict best times for sowing and harvesting. In time you will also need to figure out how to make soap, windmills, steam engines, and all the myriad necessities we take for granted today.

And then, dear reader, you will look back to today, and call these times the good ol’ days …