‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer’

So.

My blogging buddy, I call him CBC, made an insightful comment in response to my latest rants against the current actions- and lack of response to questions about those actions- of our elected government officials yesterday.

He hit the nail on the head. AND made me all glowy with the realization that there are people out there who still can- and will- quote Yeats.

I love Yeats. I’ve talked about that before (when speaking about a beloved band and in the context of my enduring love affair with a number of Irish poets.  No one writes like the Irish. No one).

I’ve always considered Easter 1916 my fave (although The Stolen Child comes close)- and, given what week it is, that little gem is an appropriate theme to recollect as people the world over wear the green.

Words. They can be so beautiful when they are strung together with finesse that their perfection physically hurts. I just re-read Easter for the first time in a long time. Ouch.

He has this other poem, though, that reallyreally speaks to a place to which my brain has been turning more often than not, of late. Its very title sooooo speaks to my wheelhouse, my heart’s home, the focus of my days… Thanks for bringing it back to the forefront of my head, CBC (as I keep writing, trying to make sense of my whirring thoughts, I can’t stop remembering a paper I wrote about the poem, oh so very many years ago. Wish I knew where that was…).

The Second Coming was written, with all its wondrous apocalyptic imagery, as an allegory for post-WWI Europe. Such was the confusion and societal flux after the war that the anxieties seemed to be spinning out of control in a world in which the centre, the foundation, had been completely lost- or, perhaps, just forgotten.

Yeats spoke in terms of ‘the gyre’- which begins at a point and spirals ever-outward from its origin. The image represents an historical cycle- one of about 2000 years, beginning with the birth of the Xian era. He believed that all history is cyclical, and that his time, the beginning of the 20th century, marked the end of the Xian cycle. The new era- of industrialization and materialism and warfare (enacted on a global scale)- slouches from its cradle in response to the anarchy that has been loosed upon the world.

 

Chills. You see, the gyre has spun so far distant that it can’t remember its origins.

Part of this separation from our foundation?

‘The falcon cannot hear the falconer’.

I’m sort of thinking that the real problem- the one in the here and now, the one that I was railing against yesterday and the day before, heck, the one I’ve been railing against in most of the posts I’ve ever written on this here blog- the one that’s leading us inexorably to things falling apart completely? It’s more about the fact that the falcons are actively no longer listening to the falconers.

Indulge me as I extend a metaphor, for a second, won’t you?

Falconry, the hunting of wild game in its natural habitat using a trained bird of prey, has been around for a really long time. Like, since my friends in Mesopotamia were setting the stage for civilization and writing the foundational myths that would contribute to the development of that Big Book O’Stories that certain people, still, like to quote oh-so-very-much.

The falconers train and direct the falcons. They guide their development. There is a close relationship of respect between the trainer and the bird- and the bird is meant to hear and respond to the directives of its trainer as part of the give-and-take of this relationship.

Sort of like how things are meant to work in the relationship between political leaders and the citizens who elected them.

Canada is a representative democracy.

Representative democracies are founded on the principle of elected officials representing a group of people.

The House of Commons is a democratically elected body, whose members (MPs) are elected according to simple-plurality (‘first-past-the-post’) in each of the country’s ridings or electoral districts. Like all members of parliament, prime ministers are elected to represent their electoral constituents first and foremost. If they lose their support then, consequently, they are no longer entitled to be prime minister. Like all members of parliament, prime ministers (and leaders of the other parties, and cabinet ministers) are subject to the direction of their constituents- the people who elected them, as their representatives, to act according to the direction of the electorate. (synopsized from the Wikipedia)

That’d be us. Each and every citizen of this country that I love, who took the time to fulfill our civic responsibility to cast a vote for the best-possible representation in our houses of political power.

Our falcons aren’t listening to us. They have spun so far from the central foundation that its hold is becoming increasingly tenuous.

They aren’t listening to the letters they are sent, or the protests that are organized, or the challenges put to them by the media and the scientists and the academics and the lawyers…

Our falcons- especially the falcon-in-chief- are off hunting in Mespotamia (quite literally), regardless of whether or not the falconers agree with what they are doing. The falcons want to give themselves more power- to both fly further afield and for a longer period of time and to remove the jesses that allow the falconers to maintain their say in what the falcons might do.

I’m not usually all that attached to the minute-by-minute minutia that makes up most of social media. I play the game, now and again, since some of it can be pretty good for keeping contact with people and catching up on stuff that you might otherwise forget about (especially since I seem to be having more and more senior moments with each passing day), and videos of cats doing cute things are always welcome. But I’m not tied to my computer or a smart phone (the one I have is decidedly un-smart. Like Homer Simpson SMRT) to any great extent.

What with the non-response I received from one of our political parties yesterday, I’ve been following a few people on the social media a little more closely than is my usual wont. I feel like I need to keep an eye on just what’s happening as this whole thing- now both Bill C-51 AND the PM’s insane and unsubstantiated  proposition to parliament that the Canadian ‘mission’ in Iraq should be extended- and expanded to include Syria- plays out.

I’ve signed petitions, checked in with human rights and social justice groups, watched news feeds for the hashtags #C51 and #rejectfear. And you know what? I’ve seen some actual, honest-to-goodness progress…

Like this indication that public support for the Bill is decreasing, significantly, as citizens take the time to actually pay attention to the thing. Or this article, based on findings straight out of CSIS (you remember, that intelligence-gathering agency that the PM wants to provide with more power under the terms of the Bill) that states that ‘lone wolf’ attacks- like the admittedly-horrible recent events in Ottawa and Quebec- ‘more often come from white supremacists and extreme right-wing ideologies than from Islamic radicalism.’

Hmm. Interesting.

The CSIS documents ‘explicitly warn that the notion the Western world is at war with Islam plays into terrorist recruitment strategies. “International terrorist groups place a high priority on radicalizing Westerners who can be used to carry out terrorist attacks in their home countries,” the documents read. “The narrative that the West is at war with Islam continues to exert a very powerful influence in radicalizing individuals and spreads quickly through social media and online fora.”’

There was evidence enough of some level of positive progress out there in the interworld that I’m renewed in my determination to hold our leaders to account for their actions- and proposed legislation- while reminding them who, really, is boss.

I encourage you all to do the same.

Let them know that, while they might be birds of prey and play a crucial role in maintaining the health of our ecosystem, our political leaders remain answerable to the electorate that permits them to fly on their behalf.

Listen up, raptors. We determine where you get to fly- and when it might be time to cage you. Permanently. Keep that mind. It may well be that a lot of things may, in fact, ‘change, change utterly‘ in the coming months.

If we work together, the revelation at hand just might herald the birth of beauty, rather than a misshapen, rough beast born out of the fires of fear and the empty words of political expediency.

Hoping and hoping
As if by my weak faith
The spirit of this world
Would heal and rise
Vast are the shadows
That straddle and strafe
And struggle in the darkness
Troubling my eyes

Angels and Demons

As sometimes happens, when a story attracts the attention of a nation (believe me, I’m not delusional enough to think that our little ‘local’ problem with a national radio host is making much of a ripple elsewhere in the world- that would involve far more Cansplaining than is warranted), it serves as the catalyst for a whole lot of discussion about things outside of the primary issue.

That has certainly been the case this week. There is just so much about this thing in the press. There are reasons for this- he IS a well-known figure in our particular cultural microcosm, and an accomplished broadcaster to boot. But setting him aside completely, a dialogue has been started that shines light on the fact that the greater, by far, percentage of women who are sexually assaulted never report the crimes.

In Canada.

Where we have freedoms and opportunities and equality that can’t even be imagined too many places elsewhere in the world.

I’ve read a fair number of the articles and opinions being published about the situation- and they are myriad (journos have been staggered by these accusations leveled at ‘one of their own’)- because they are contributing to necessary dialogue about such issues. And, when well-presented, they are educating us about the reality that this imbalance of power yet exists and permeates our culture.

So it’s a personal issue for me. It speaks to my own experience and the experience of others I know and love.

There have also been a number of discussions about the narcissism that also permeates out culture (something that I find deeply disturbing and have written about before)- and projections that pathological Narcissistic Personality Disorder is at the heart of this situation. Impossible to tell- from a distance, and without legitimate professional assessment- but, once again, it is bringing discussions of mental illness into the forefront of our awareness.

There’s another personal element at play here too- my deep and abiding love of the CBC and the continuing assertion that it is an important institution. Anything that shakes that place to its core is going to get me talking.

The best thing I read this week on that topic (one of the best things I read all week, full stop) came from Michael Enright, another old favourite of mine. He addresses both of the issues with which I have a personal investment- violence against women and the integrity- moral and journalistic- of the CBC. Voices like his are the reason we need to fight to maintain our national broadcaster.

But I’m also interested for purely academic reasons. I talk a whole lot here about my issues with the separation into black and white- sourced in outdated Bronze Age concepts of ‘good’ and ‘evil’- as defined by social codes for behaviour that are, often, not remotely culturally or morally relevant in the 21st century.

(There are exceptions, of course. The one about not murdering other people? THAT one should certainly be upheld. The ones based in common sense and true morality? Those I don’t have a problem with. It’s the ones that were designed solely for the purpose of keeping a particular tribal organization of people specifically tribally organized… a lot of those need to be left in the annals of history, where they belong).

I hate this dichotomization. Good/Evil. Us/Them. It’s all about division when we NEED to be talking about union.

One of the week’s articles referenced this, in passing. But it’s a point that I think needs a little more emphasis.

Although I approached the topic differently and named it with other names, yesterday’s post was, in part, about the ‘Halo Effect’ that Dan Gardner talks about. We love the guy, he’s great at his job, and, as such, he can’t possibly be guilty.

Likewise, when we label people with the ‘Devil Effect’, we see nothing but evil. By removing the humanity– that admixture of nature and nurture that makes up each and every one of our personalities- we are saying that we are statically categorized. Once placed in a box there is no possibility of movement.

Which is ludicrous.

And worse, it feeds the sort of power-driven insanity that leads people in power to state that we needn’t be looking for the societal origins of anomie (or discontent and disconnection) that leads to us branding people as belonging on one-or-the-other side of a coin of extremes.

We need to change our language. I keep harping on this, I know. We have to remove apocalyptic thinking from our shared worldview (which is a discussion for another day) and we need to stop the dichotomizing. To do so, we need to examine the myths that created the language, and exorcize those that have no place in our current temporal, moral and communal reality.

I’ve never considered myself a vehement atheist (although I am a vehement humanist). I certainly don’t count myself among the screaming crowd of the New Atheists who deride and castigate those who are believers at every possible turn. I’m all about the ‘live and let live’. And I know- because I have spent my adult life studying the phenomenon- the importance of religion in human life and the reasons why we create and cling to gods.

But. I’m tired. Very tired.

Of playing devil’s advocate (although I will continue to Advocate for the Devil- that guy needs some serious PR) for those who hold to belief- especially (although not exclusively) unexamined belief- as a way to justify the unjustifiable and to maintain a status quo that should have been eradicated generations ago.

I am finding it harder and harder to comprehend educated, reasoning human beings who cling to myths that originated in such a different time and place that there can be no social comparison in the face of evidence that proves- unequivocally- that they are not history. That they are human-created stories that answered the questions that plagued the human experience. Even though we have, now, answered those questions in other, demonstrable and evidence-based, ways.

The events of the past two weeks- both the tragic and the (melo)dramatic- in my Home and Native Land can have extremely positive repercussions- if we choose to address them in the ways they should be addressed. With critical, in-credulous focus on the hearts of the matters at hand.

Without divisive rhetoric that polarizes the issue and hearkens back to an era of superstition and suspicion.

My Canadian-ness is an ever-present facet of my personality- both the nature and the nurture of it. I love Canada (although Scotland was pretty cool, too). My cultural identity is solidly Canadian (except the liking hockey part). We have had a lot with which to contend, over the past few weeks, and, for the most part, we have done so admirably and with the dignity and thoughtfulness with which we generally view the world.

This song has been running through my head today.

Although
I speak in tongues of men and angels
I’m just soundin’ brass and tinklin’ cymbals
Without love

Love suffers long, love is kind
Enduring all things, hopin’ all things
Love has no evil in mind

As a child, I spoke as a child
I thought and I understood as a child
But when I became a woman I put away childish things
And began to see through a glass darkly

Joni is another of our National Treasures. Interestingly, Jian’s interview with her was one of the best things I’ve ever seen on Q.

But it’s time to put away childish things- and childish ways of seeing the world as either this or that. ‘Halo Effect’ and ‘Devil Effect’. Angels and Demons. More than just a poorly-written (if bestselling) thriller. It’s a dangerous metaphor that keeps us locked in archaic mythological ways of viewing the world.

Please. Stop. Just stop.

Let something positive come out of all the events of the last weeks. We are talking- let’s keep those discussions from devolving and referencing outdated ideals of polarization sourced in stories- and values- of old.

P.S. I realized- after some additional reflection- that this post may make it seem as if I find no value at all in these myths of ours. This is, of course, not the case. I love our stories- I started this blog as a means of communicating my belief in the power of our myths. If you have spent any time here, you have to acknowledge the truth of that.

What has to cease is our insistence on clinging to them as anything other than metaphor and attempts to make sense of the world with the wisdom we had at the time they were created. There is wisdom to be found- but there is also much that is dangerous- in light of the strides we have made in understanding our universe with the tools we continue to develop. I’m terrified that we are slipping back into believing the ‘truth’ behind the tales and missing the underlying messages of humanity as we fight about the existence of one or another god- and the varied interpretations of what those gods allegedly had to tell us.

It might be a fine line- but it’s one that is clear in my understanding of the world.