No.

Image result for if you can't say something nice

Hey strangers. Been a long time. Crazy doings hereabouts as I get sorted to move house and rethink my career path, all while taking some token stabs at working on a number of neglected writing projects that need attention.

Even with all these distractions, I’ve been bearing witness to some of the insanity that continues the world over. It’s been hard to miss. Especially south of our border.

What is going on down there? Seriously. The inexplicability of it all has had me holding my tongue, somewhat, per advice like that found in that meme up there ^^^^

But I got up this morning with a head full of steam, heightened by a couple of factors: Trevor Noah on the Daily Show last night (I didn’t think I was over Jon Stewart’s departure, but last night I really began to acknowledge that this kid is something else. He could charm the bees from the trees – and is consistently showing some substantial comedy and commentary chops. Consider me won over in toto), and a ‘discussion’ on a group thread on one of the Facebook pages I visit upon occasion.

All prepared to write a rant of epic proportions, I realized that a lot of what was running through my head seemed eerily familiar. So, before putting figurative pen to figurative paper, I checked the drafts folder. And there it was. Three months old and languishing. A post on the topic that is overwhelming my thoughts and every news channel in clicking distance.

That this even needs addressing, still, boggles my mind. Like a whole lot of other people, a big part of me assumed that this insanity was going to max out at some point. I mean really.

So. I have a question:

How is it remotely acceptable that a person who is running for the highest office in a pretty big place (geographically and in a global political sense) can spew hate and fear and still be considered as a contender for that office?

I’m beyond sickened.Especially by the complicity of (much of) the media in the sickening quagmire that reflects the bigotry and xenophobia and dangerous ‘othering’ of specific populations of the world.

I have to say ‘much of’ the media, because I ran across this (in a friend’s fb feed). I didn’t know who Shaun King was (I do now- Google is helpful, sometimes. Seems like he’s made sense in the past, as well), since I don’t regularly read the New York Daily News (though they seem to be leading the charge in speaking out against things that other news groups seem to be addressing only speculative or in the abstract).

And Mr. King’s Op-Ed makes a whole lot of sense. So does this one. And this one.

Othering isn’t only an American phenomenon. Unfortunately. We dealt with more than our share of it under the previous federal government, to be fair.

But, in October, we stood up, as a country, and voted that sort of thinking out of office, heralding a new day that sets us back on the world stage as a country that is proud of its diversity. That choice for change is bearing fruit already. Our new PM is leading with a positive example that makes me proud, once again, to be Canadian. I admit that I had my hesitations about him, and there’s a long road ahead to bring us back to where we should be, but he’s taking us in the right direction, after a too-long period of regression, fueled by fear and the silencing of dissenting voices.

Those neighbours of ours down there… “A man that most Americans saw as a punchline and reality television star soon surged to the top of the polls and has remained there for nearly half a year. Soon he declared that he would “round up” over 400,000 undocumented Mexican immigrants per month for 24 months and drop them off at an undisclosed location in Mexico. With stadiums and crowds coming out to hear Trump all across America, he seemed to find his sweet spot in a new form of white supremacy that degraded Mexicans, stereotyped African Americans and banned Muslims.

And it’s gotten worse in the last three months. Way worse.

In the US, institutionalized racism is being allowed to flourish, while, here in Toronto, we continue to fight about things like taxi cabs. And remain ridiculously concerned about the PM’s childcare.

Priorities are all out of whack. Everywhere.

Today we woke to the news of another horrific attack on a European city at the hands of radical adherents of an ideological system that is medieval (at best) in its thinking and application. I can’t say anything new about the events in Belgium. I can’t do anything but weep for the lives lost in the name of fairy tales and power games and othering.

So, again, I avoided the ‘news’ as best I could and, instead, caught up on some stuff I’ve had bookmarked for later perusal for months.

I was dismayed and heartened, both, to hear a discussion about the borderline-propagandist media coverage of that pernicious racist down south on The Current.

I also saw a story in The Globe that echoed a thought I’ve had many times – that the US sitch is essentially Rob Ford idiocy writ larger- and more dangerously.

“… please, don’t imagine that Mr. Trump will just dry up and blow away. Even if, as seems likely, he fails to win his party’s nomination, he can do great damage. He already has. His remarks about Mexicans and now Muslims have stirred the muddy sediment at the bottom of the pond where hate lies.

It was the same way with Mr. Ford, who encouraged a certain kind of bottom dweller to come out in the open. If he could say it, why couldn’t they? When he boycotted the city’s gay pride parade, homophobes suddenly felt they had licence to say or post all those things they had been feeling. After all, they thought, Rob is on our side.

Looking back, Toronto took far too long to see Mr. Ford for what he was. Perhaps for fear of giving him another chance to say the elites were ganging up on him, leaders of the city’s establishment stood by aghast but mostly silent through much of the Ford era. They couldn’t see the breadth of his appeal. They failed to recognize the very real discontents that drove his rise.

Don’t make Toronto’s mistake. Don’t underestimate Donald Trump.”

Back when we were still in the thick of that four year stretch of self-imposed in(s)anity that was Ford’s tenure as our mayor, I wrote about evil (using the term with all my usual caveats) and the face of banality that it often wears. That little bit of a something was a bit too prophetic for my comfort. Change the names in the post – from Robbie F. to Donny T. – and I could have validly reposted the thing (I actually thought about it). The difference is one of scale – and scope. As the wannabe leader of the US, Donny T. (and that ‘unlikely’ prospect – winning his party’s nomination – draws closer to certainty) has clearly demonstrated that his ignorance and intolerance is something that needs checking. Now. Before it’s too late.

Hard on the heels of such thoughts, and wanting to find out some details about the federal Budget that was presented this afternoon (you know, the small stuff that might, actually, impact my life and the lives of those around me), I happened to catch a snippet that sucked me back to the media offerings. Robbie F. died this morning. While I’m sorry to hear of the passing of any young(ish) father, felled by a horrible disease at an age not far off my own, the mainstream media ’round these parts is demonstrating distressing lack of judgement and focusing all its attention in exactly the wrong places. Again.

On a day that saw horror and death in Europe and our new government’s plan for fiscal forward momentum, the 6:00 news spent most (and I really mean almost all) of its hour-long broadcast on the ‘story’ of the passing of a figure best left unheralded (Note that I don’t say ‘unacknowledged’ – he was a public figure and devoted at least part of his time to his version of public service). ‘Toronto Mourns’, they keep on headlining.

Like HELL it does.

Yet, once again, we the people are willingly drawn to a system of infotainment that persists in presenting the stories that they deem will garner the highest market-share – rather than those of greatest import and long-term impact.

Trevor spoke about it at length on the Daily Show last night – citing the president of one of the major network’s extreme glee that their excessive and unnecessary coverage of Donny T. is netting them a whole pile of cold, hard cash.

The bald admission turned my stomach. As did the sitch on the hometown network(s) – before I turned them off.

Instead of balanced examination, and critical analysis of things like policy and long-term plans, the media (once-upon-a-time the voice of – and for – us regular folks) is leaving such things up to other voices- like George Takei, in performance on Broadway with his own story of being on the receiving end of institutionalized racism (I’d love to see Allegiance – unfortunately I’ve issued a moratorium on all travel to the US until they deal with their racists and their gun nuts. In other words, I’ll be waiting for the touring show to come to town… ). These voices are speaking out against the insidiousness of levels of racism that are, somehow, accepted as some kind of inevitable status quo by media outlets (those that aren’t locked in denial that the racism exists), and supported by political leaders and wannabe political leaders alike.

The ‘Otherers’ are re-gaining momentum. I can see it – in comments sections of social media groups I follow, for example. One such group (a mommy blog, actually. Although I am not a mommy, the originator of the group is a successful blogging friend-of-a-friend, and, I have to admit, that the ‘Merican-ness of the group keeps me morbidly intrigued. TBH, I feel like an anthropologist at times – as the posts and comments are usually so far outside of my ken that I am frequently aghast by the discussions that go on) featured a post about Donny T. and his ‘ideas’.

At first I kept paying attention due to a Schadenfreude of which I’m not entirely proud. There has been some hope that we’ve, just lately, escaped our racist, anti-intellectual, sexist overlord(s) – so it was sort of perversely entertaining to witness the discussions about it happening somewhere other than my own backyard.

Most comments on the page, it should be said, expressed disgust/dismay/anger at the guy’s proposed ‘policies’, but there were more than a few ‘everyone is entitled to their opinions’ that set the conversations down paths of hostility and into unsupported ‘arguments’ that made me want to bite something.

Entitlement is a concept we need to get over. FFS. You can have an opinion. Sure. If that opinion happens to be ignorance, fear and hatred made manifest in ugliness, then I don’t have to sit by and let you express said ‘opinion’. I do not. I will not.

There is no justification – NONE – for supporting a misogynistic, racist, fear-and-violence-mongering reality television performer for POTUS.

Support of the guy is, as Ricky Jones noted, nothing more or less than an acknowledgment that issues of race and class remain an every-day reality in the United States. And, although Trump is a reprehensible human being, to be sure, it is the voting population that supports him that needs to draw our focus.

Supporters of the ideology that drives the inflammatory rhetoric of people like Trump (and most of the other GOP contenders, for that matter) are the both the products and symptoms of a system that discourages progressive development and critical thinking.

THIS is what happens when you cut funding to education programs (especially those in the Humanities), while advertising a faulty ‘dream’ predicated on the drive to acquire meaningless stuff, while squandering individual benefits, without thought to the larger community.

THIS is what happens when history is treated as little more than a footnote in a perspective that is, increasingly, deemed ‘academic’ and, therefore, unimportant.

I’ve seen a fair number of memes and GIFs and such that equate Trump with other despotic leaders from our recent history. While I appreciate that any sort of nod is being paid to the lessons of the past, the reality of the danger in ignoring such parallels is being lost in the superficiality of the media in which they are being transmitted.

The rage that Paul Krugman referenced in his post cannot be understated or misunderstood for what it is. The rage is exemplified by one word associated with Trump’s campaign – that insidious little ‘Again’ that follows ‘Make America Great’.

That one word advocates for a return to something that those of us who know anything about history know wasn’t, in fact, the best of times – as can be determined by any accurate measure. I’ve written about the fallacy of the ‘good ol’ days’ before. That sort of idiocy is being taken to the nth degree by the nutbar seeking to lead the country.

Leaders like Trump (and Hitler) are allowed to rise to power because they legitimize ideologies that are ugly – and promotional of a group psychology that encourages complicity to ever-larger atrocity – by beginning with a mandate that the ‘simple’ can get behind. Trump’s ‘uneducated’ masses want to hear that someone is willing to return them to a mythical time when they held some level of ascendancy over some ‘other’ type of person. The ‘social identity’ of Trump’s followers has been shaken by progressive movements advocating social justice and equity.

The reality is that people like Trump are not ‘making America racist again’ – America never stopped being racist.

If this trajectory of the legitimation of hatred continues I’m concerned that there mightn’t be a wall high enough to keep the infection of such thinking south of the border (regardless of who ends up paying for said wall). We’re seeing it here, writ smaller to be sure, in the outpouring of ‘grief’ for a man who embodied racist, homophobic and misogynistic ignorance – and who impeded the progress of this city that I love for too many years.

 Canadian politesse (and the values taught to me by my parents) warns against things like speaking ill of the dead and suggests that the better course is saying nothing at all if niceties can’t be expressed.

Sorry Mum and Dad. Sitting by while the ‘news’ media spins tales of validity out of ineptitude and supposed-plain-speaking is symptomatic of dangerous complacency that supports epidemics of ignorance and wrong-doing. I’m an historian. I know what that level of complacency, and othering, and the acceptance of banality can do.

Unchecked, it can bring down civilizations.

The discontent that permits the rise of supposed-leaders like Donny T. and Robbie F. needs to be addressed, yes. We need to do so by rewriting the systemic inequities and lack of education that permits the persistence of othering. Our collective NOs – voiced in concert against the self-serving politicians, corporations, and media organizations – need to out-shout the manufacturers of fear and hatred that have become a shameful stock-in-trade of those who purport to lead.

So.

No.

Just no.

Nomenclature

Image result for picture worth a thousand words quote

There’s an old nugget of wisdom that talks about a picture being worth a whole bunch o’ words. Its origins are disputed- claims of historical (that it originated with the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, for example) and religious (Confucius) authority have been attempted to lend weight to its message- but it first showed up in the context of journalism and/or publicity (Frederick R. Barnard used it to convey the importance of graphics in advertising). Overall, that’s unsurprising.

I don’t know a whole lot about PR and/or marketing. Not my wheelhouse- and I find the concept behind such things uncomfortable, to say the least, what with their raisons d’être of manipulation and control.

A lot of us saw a picture last month. That picture rendered many of us speechless. With shock, with sorrow, with the reality of a tiny face given to millions of people who have been, for years now, fleeing chaos in their homeland.

I have my thoughts about how we, in the west, have been dealing with the issues that have created and exacerbated the strife in that area of the world. I’ve grieved for the people, as I’ve mourned the loss of their personal histories and the loss of the collective history of all of us humans as precious monuments are destroyed alongside lives yet uncounted.

Visuals are important- and it’s impossible to imagine our current (popular) culture without them. My generation was the first to see a war on the television- and the images of that war helped shape a response- from our parents and communities and governments- when the refugee crisis it prompted hit our shores, far away from South East Asia, in the form of people seeking asylum and relief from the chaos.

Pictures are invaluable- and can be, as we’ve seen this week, the tipping point toward enough awareness that change may actually be effected.

But me? I deal in words (I don’t even have a camera, tbh)- I find comfort and strength and expression through their effective use.

Something that has been bugging me for the past while has become uncomfortably blatant with all of the press coverage and political rhetoric that stemmed from the fallout after that picture appeared. Even weeks on, it’s framing our dialogue about what is happening overseas.

Since April or so the media has been talking about something called the ‘European Migrant Crisis’. Not that there was all that much real dialogue about it out there- but, when the news outlets chose to mention the influx of people into Europe everyone referred to them as migrants.

I have a problem with that. There are connotations associated with that particular term’s definition that belie the reality of what has been happening. In its common usage, there is an implied sense of choice associated with the word. Migrant workers, for example, have opted- for a variety of reasons- to work outside of their home region or country.

Here in Canada, we have temporary, seasonal agricultural workers who come from places like the Caribbean and Mexico to help farmers during periods of planting, cultivating and harvesting. And, once the harvest is in, they head back where they came from.

Migrant, as a categorizing term, implies an eventual return to the home country/region. A ‘temporary foreign worker‘ by another name.

Migration- in human terms- is simply defined as physical movement from one place to another with the intention of settling elsewhere- either temporarily or permanently. When they move, voluntarily, into a new area they are called immigrants. Sometimes they are called illegal immigrants (I’ll set aside the absurdity of applying a descriptor such as ‘illegal’ to human beings for another day. Acts are illegal. People should not be categorized as such)- when the country to which they migrate isn’t particularly open-arms-welcoming of them.

Involuntary human migration usually involves horrific things like human trafficking and slave trading: people who are taken, against their will, elsewhere for the economic benefit of other people.

It seems that, thankfully, I’m not completely alone in my distress about the irresponsible use of inflammatory language when we’re dealing with human beings in crisis. This morning I found this article, emphasizing the need for “accurate and well reported media coverage (that) will contribute to a balanced debate and will assist in fostering real respect and calmness in the face of deep human suffering. Refugees – all people actually – deserve to be treated with dignity and respect; in our public discourse as well as through our actions.”

There has been response from politicians and editorial writers (I found that opinion piece in the facebook feed of one of my childhood- and now, adulthood- heroes, Raffi), and, of course those journalists who have found evidence aplenty to lay the blame for our continued national inaction at the feet of our former federal government. Now the conversation is turning toward assessments of whether or not our new PM-elect can fulfill his promises to expedite the process of accepting refugees into the country.

They’re callin’ all the shots, they’ll call and say they phoned
They’ll call us lonely when we’re really just alone
Like a funny film, it’s kinda cute
They’ve bought the bullets and there’s no one left to shoot

Watching the local news channel this morning as I breakfasted, the anchor spoke repeatedly of the ‘refugee crisis’ and how awareness has increased since the photo appeared. At the same time, the teletype headline below her referred to violence between migrants and guards at railway and bus stations in various places in Eastern Europe.

We seem to be in a period of extreme dissociative identity disorder. But with the voices that found government-sanctioned support of their racism and irrational prejudices tempered (for the moment, anyway) by the election of representatives that promise to end such detestable divisiveness, perhaps we can make the conversations- and actions- more in keeping with the human rights concerns of the majority of this county.

Hope for a new day.

(I actually kept this post to 1000 words!)

Everybody has one…

Heavy thoughts on a gorgeous Friday…

It’s been another one of those weeks. Too many things challenging each other for head space for any really coherent insights to take hold and stick around.

My lovely friend Beth started a wonderful discussion this morning over at her blog (go have a look- it’s a great essay https://byrnesbeth.wordpress.com/2015/05/01/psychd/ on the value of perspective and education and lots of other important things…) that has me revisiting some ideas- and some older thoughts I put together and shared ’round these parts.

This was one of the earliest little bits o’something I posted here at colemining. Change up the specifics of the media coverage, and it’s, perhaps, even more applicable today- in light of this week’s events.

The weather is (finally) wonderful here in TO. I have plans to see some super heroes with some super friends. I’m trying hard not to let the evident awareness that we are continuing to choose to leap to conclusions without any examination of fact, or underlying causality, or endemic injustice, lead to irrecoverable despair/apathy.

Same windmills, two plus years on. Hoping to find the wherewithal to keep on tilting.

colemining

Once upon a time there were commentators- people who were paid to explain and offer opinions on newsworthy topics of concern.  They were clearly identified as opinions– and they provided credentials for analysis and acceptance (or rejection) by those reading or watching the editorial.  Last week there was a flood of (justified) criticism of many of the ‘news’ groups covering the trial of accused rapists in an Ohio town.  These commentaries on the commentaries (as opposed to news reporting) are still floating around the interworld, as well as the television, radio and print media.

Since we are losing connections to our myths- and myth making- the dramas of tragic events are being further dramatized- with commentary- and it frightens me a great deal.  People in power- be they politicians, business leaders, religious leaders- have always used the media of the time as a means of control over the population…

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On the Defensive- Part 2

In keeping with my need to distance myself, somewhat, from matters in the world that have any real import or impact, I’ve decided to spend a little time getting back into the writing habit by engaging in the defense of a couple o’ few relatively unimportant things/people/circumstances that have come under attack lately. I’m hoping this exercise will help deal with the sensory overload I’m experiencing- and the knee-jerk reversion back to ancient myths- and the doctrines they support- as an ever-growing and ever-more politically and socially acceptable means of dealing with our collective problems that is in evidence EVERYWHERE.

Part 1 was about U2’s misunderstood generosity- and briefly outlined the psychological concept of defense mechanisms. Pop on back there and have a read, if you’re so inclined. It’s a bit wordy (even for me), but I was introducing a new paradigm hereabouts- the ‘non-reactionary defense’ or ‘mature defense mechanism’- so it required a bit more background. Hopefully this one will be more succinct. No promises though. Once I get on a roll… Or a Rock and Roll…

Green Day. In 2015 they will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

*Gasp*

For some reason, this is making people very angry. At first glance, the growliest detractors seemed to be Smiths fans- who were upset that their particular whiny heroes hadn’t been the band to make the cut. (Full disclosure: I LOATHE Morrissey. Always have done. I get that Johnny Marr is pretty damn brilliant, and that the Smiths had some songs that had a fairly substantial impact back in the day- all those retro-80s compilation albums can’t be wrong, can they?-  but Moz makes me want to remove my ears. Just in case you were wondering.)

I saw a number of general complaints about Green Day’s inclusion back when they were first announced to be on the ballot, and the murmurs became full roars once they actually made it onto the inductees list.

While there may be a person or two on the list of 2015 inductees that is a wee bit confusing to me (not sure what Ringo- on his own, not as part of the Beatles- is doing there), overall, I’m not sure I can find much fault. Lou Reed? Not a question. Especially in light of the fact that we lost him a little over a year ago. His contribution should be highlighted- and, perhaps, acknowledged by a new generation.

Assuming, of course, that the newer generation(s) place any sort of value on induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I’m not sure that they do. At all. It kinda seems like the people getting their knickers well-twisted are of a more *ahem* seasoned demographic. MY demographic, to be accurate.

I don’t get the fuss. I don’t get the amount of energy and ink (metaphorically speaking) used to declaim the assertion that Green Day has no business being in the Hall o’ Fame.

That I disagree, should be obvious. Why else would I be writing a defense, after all? I’ll get to that in a second, but please, just let me reiterate the fact that people of intelligence and influence are expending brain cells and time complaining about something like this. While real stuff is happening. Bad stuff. Stuff that should be talked about. And read about. And understood. So we can do something about it. (Want a list? Check out any of a number of my other posts- or posts that I’ve linked to- there a whole lot of smart people here in WPWorld talking about a whole lot of important things)

(And I don’t mean stuff like recapping the Walking Dead on the facebook. Just so’s we’re clear.)

Anyhoo. Back to defending Green Day. I like Green Day. A lot, in fact. In the wasteland that was the early 90’s- what with the rise of grunge and a bunch of inexplicable (to me) HipHop MCs- they were pretty much my go-to for music that didn’t make me want to tear off my ears (Moz wasn’t the only one who made me feel that way). Some good came out of Seattle, certainly (Dave Grolh has proven to be a pretty remarkable guy- and an innovative musician. Plus, I like drummers. But enough about him- he’s already in the Hall of Fame), but I was most definitely not a fan of the whole grungy dealio.

Dookie came along just in time, IMHO, to save us all from the faux-angst generated by Kurt Cobain’s suicide. It is also, in and of itself, a great freakin album. InsomniacNimrod and Warning (a folkier Green Day than had been heard heretofore) followed, and were all pretty solid offerings.

Breaths of fresh musical air in my least-favourite music-producing decade.

And then came 2004, and American Idiot.

After the master tracks for their album Cigarettes and Valentines were stolen, the boys in the band opted to start all over, rather than attempt to recreate the lost songs. What resulted was a well-crafted concept album that offered up a pretty stinging social commentary on the State of the American Union.

I was teaching my first course (‘Myth and Symbol’) at Carleton University’s College of the Humanities when the album was released. Surrounded as I was by really smart and engaged young people, I still associate the album with that time- and that group of people. A lot of my students got the album- they felt it spoke to them of the disarray in the post-9/11 world. The reactionary (and ridiculous and unfounded) politics of the American government (and of certain of its allies) and the mass-hysteria propagated by the ever-growing new media forms? All these things were acknowledged- if not adequately addressed. You can cut them some slack, though. They’re musicians, not policy-makers or community leaders, after all.

Billie Joe, Mike and Tré used this album to register their discontent- discordantly- based in the electric, albeit simple, chords inextricably bound up with their Punk roots.

Ideologically, I agree(d), wholeheartedly, with their political critique (who didn’t hate on Dubya, in those days?), and I love(d) the way they played with religious imagery/(sub)urban culture in the characters of Jesus of Suburbia and St. Jimmy.

There’s actually only one song on the album I don’t much like- Wake Me Up When September Ends. I’m not entirely sure how it ended up being one of the singles or how it’s meant to fit into the larger conceit of the album.

The rest of it? Pretty damn sublime, IMHO. It it pompous and it is glorious. And it’s a whole lot of fun, as well.

They followed it up with 21st Century Breakdown, another concept album that continued the themes of American Idiot quite well, while not quite living up to its example. It isn’t as cohesive, somehow, and the plot lines become a little muddled and convoluted.

But it’s still pretty great Rock and Roll.

American Idiot was turned into a stage musical combining songs from both albums. I’m still not 100% sure what that was all about. I’m guessing that it was an attempt to emulate The Who’s Tommy– and to attract a different audience- but… The book, written by Billie Joe and Michael Mayer, is weak and sort of meandering. I’m not sure I liked it. It certainly wasn’t Punk Rock. But as Broadway musicals go, I enjoyed it more than most.

The bottom line in all this? This band continues to consistently create interesting and innovative music- at times when the rest of the ‘industry’ seems intent on over-produced and/or derivative drivel. While there is great- often-independent- music happening all around us, the stuff that gets played in the mainstream these days (and I have to include things like late night talk show appearances, gigs on SNL and the like in this category) is TERRIBLE. There are exceptions that prove the rule (that Bruno Mars kid, for example, continues to impress me- not really my style of tunes, but you can’t deny the talent there. And he’s cute-as-a-button, to boot), but, generally, I have to actively search for new things that are worth a listen.

Green Day, somehow, manages to remain true to their Punk Rock roots (their cover of the Ramones’ Outsider, from the We’re a Happy Family tribute album IS worth a listen. THAT one you should google) while pushing the limits of the genre and incorporating different styles and themes into their work. And they seem to have a great time with it all. Still. After almost 30 years together. Through all the angst and righteous anger, they can take the piss and offer up a laugh or two along the way.

It’s a solid, clever, often-insightful, sometimes-complex, fun catalogue of music.

I’m not on the selection committee, but those things alone seem like pretty legit criteria for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy

Violence is an energy
Against the enemy
Well, violence is an energy

Bringing on the fury
The choir infantry
Revolt against the honor to obey

Overthrow the effigy
The vast majority
Well, burning down the foreman of control

Silence is the enemy
Against your urgency
So rally up the demons of your soul…

The insurgency will rise
When the blood’s been sacrificed
Don’t be blinded by the lies in your eyes

I’m not entirely sure that I can recognize an enemy, these days. Particularly when ideological attacks seem to be all over the place and, too often, to come out of nowhere.

I do, however, know that three guys out of Berkeley most certainly aren’t the enemy. Not these three guys, anyway. They get that silence- about things that matter- isn’t acceptable. I can appreciate that. They have Voices that say (or shout, depending on your perspective) things that matter- and that manage to get heard above some of the detritus that passes for music in some popular conceptions of such things.

Congratulations on the induction-to-come, Boys. Well-deserved.

Gives me some hope that 2015 might well be pretty cool. Perhaps even três cool.

Happy New Year, everyone! Celebrate well and safely.  Thanks for hanging about and chatting with me in 2014. Hope to see even more of you in the years to come!

On the Defensive- Part 1

One from the ‘Drafts’ folder. As I ponder further whether or not I should have to defend my non-belief- when, logically, those who believe without evidence should be the ones attempting to make their ideological case- I’ve put together some defenses on topics a little less-controversial. Perhaps. People seem to be pretty het up about these things, too…

One night last week, I opted to consciously put a hold on the all the insanity involved in holiday prep and some of the other obligations/responsibilities to which I am currently beholden. My plan (after I foolishly braved the freakin’ Eaton Centre- THAT didn’t last. Holy cows, people. If you’re going to walk and text in the midst of a million people, then you are GOING to get mowed down as I move with purpose to hit the stores I absolutely HAVE to hit), was to chill on the couch and catch up on some reading.

And writing.

My output (both the fictional stuff and here in WordPressWorld), for quite some time now, hasn’t been anywhere near where I’d like it to be. I could blame it on the time of year, but it’s been going on far longer than can be legitimated by that particular excuse.

There is the reality that my laptop is on its last legs (not that it has legs- it’s a MacBook)- sometimes it works, sometimes not so much – and the danger that I’ll get into some serious compositioning and have it die and lose it all is very frightening. I don’t need the anxiety- or the anger and frustration that would result when that happens. Santa knows the sitch. Hoping the Big Guy comes through so I’ll have one less potential defense for lack of productivity. (Update: Totes dead now. RIP Abe. And his successor was not to be found, under the tree- so I’ll have to venture out into the MacWorld to purchase one myself- and that ain’t happening until the stores clear of ‘bargain’ shoppers.)

Honestly though, I think the true problem is that I’m dealing with a whack of sensory overload right now. There is so much going on, and most of it deserves some reflection and commentary. As of this moment there are 12 drafts in dashboard. Lucky 13, if you count this one here.

Comfortably settled on the couch, I tried to put something together that began to address the disgusting news of the past week(s)- downtown Australia under siege, more women and children taken by an putatively-religious organization of thugs in Africa, children and educators murdered in a school in Pakistan…

Couldn’t do it.

Just. Couldn’t.

There is no insight I can offer. I don’t get any of it. I can’t explain away the credulity and self-serving power mongers that drive these sorts of ideologies of cruelty and irrationality. I’m not going to try.

Since I was having issues with writing I opted to do a bit of reading instead. Like the draft folder, my To-Read list is mighty full at the moment. Once again, couldn’t do it.

For whatever reason (partly the season, I’d guess), the bulk of the articles I’ve marked to come back to seem to be about things like belief-based indefensible defenses of the the existence of an historical dude named Jesus and his definite and absolute divinity (and this article about why such defenses are indefensible), the whole end-of-the-year looking back retrospective on things like how no one was reporting let alone paying attention to the really important stuff going on, or the fact that while this guy is attempting to bring change to a millennia-old outdated and obsolete institution, those who benefit most from the money and power continue to fight to hold onto that money and power and deny culpability in cover-ups and injustices…

All that stuff is just sameoldsameoldsameold… I have no new ideas about how I might more effectively tilt at those windmills at the mo’. Too much to do, and not enough determined energy to fight the idiocy.

But I AM feeling defensive… My reserves and resources are low, but there have been fighting words- on a number of topics- that have been thrown around of late. So, since these particular topics matter not-at-all in the overall scheme of important things, these things, I feel up to defending.

When I was talking about the newest iteration of the Band Aid thingamabop (okay, that was a defense too. I guess I’ve been on the defensive for a while now), I mentioned that I was working on a defense of the guy who has stuck around (and retained enough fame) to participate in all the various versions of the thing in the past 30 years.

Bono. We all love to hate him. I’m guilty of that, myself, truth be told. He welcomes it. But hey- the guy’s got some redeeming stuff going for him too…

Doesn’t he?

Yesterday, there was a story on my beloved CBC all about the biggest marketing fails of 2014. I’m not a fan of marketing- I resent being marketed to, and certainly don’t want to deal with people looking for information that will help the process run more smoothly- so I knew I’d get a chuckle at the offered instances in which things did NOT go according to plan.

The Number One biggie gave me a little pause for thought.

When U2 ‘gifted’ humanity with ‘free’ versions of their latest album, the interwebs were set afire with complaints and concerns and conspiracy theories. A certain portion of the younger generation, on social media platforms like Twitter et al, claimed that U2 MUST be Illuminati, since they woke up out of innocent U2-free sleep to the unauthorized addition on their own, personal, technological device(s).

Which none of them seem to really understand. They had been ‘hacked’. The lads from Ireland had violated their privacy by offering them their latest missive. For people who seem to use the social media at the expense of actual human interaction a whole bunch, they really don’t seem to grasp how it works.

Songs of Innocence, their (unlucky?) 13th studio album, WAS there- on devices or in the iTunes store available for download (if, as in my case, your phone ain’t so Smart). It was advertising- an ill-fated attempt at generating a new audience. It was not a conspiracy.

For about a week I couldn’t stop laughing at the suppositions- Bono and Crew were Illuminati. Illuminati. Perhaps the worst part of labeling them such? The accusers were obviously drawing their definition and conspiracy theories from another book by the the writer of TDB (interestingly, I wrote about Bono in that post about TDB, too. Maybe he IS Illuminatus. Just kidding. He couldn’t Illuminati his way out of a paper bag).

Sigh. They couldn’t even pull their fictional conspiracists from good fiction (the Illuminati also appear in Foucault’s Pendulum– but it is highly doubtful that the investigative minds positing the theory that U2 are part of their number- in less that 140 characters- have taken the time to read Eco).

Anyhoo.

Bono sort of apologized for the ‘megalomaniacal’ stunt, blaming it on their enthusiasm for the new tunes and a desire to share them with everyone.

They offered a whole lot of people the opportunity to have a listen to an album. They didn’t kill anyone or kidnap young girls in the name of misogynistic ideology.

Yet it got people reallyreally PISSED. THAT did. A gift of music. Which you could easily delete if it wasn’t your cup o’ joe.

Seriously.

In the realm of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, this sitch takes a whole big chunk of the cake.

The argument can, perhaps, be made, that what they should have apologized for is the album itself. I have to admit, I was sort of in that camp when I first downloaded and listened to the thing.

The fact that the lead-off single was already an iTunes/iPhone commercial has something to do with that. Irritating as Hell to have it pop up endlessly on the tv. Then there was the fact that it pays homage to Joey. I’m not sure that the song says ‘Ramones’ in any way, shape or form. I’m not sure that it even says ‘U2’ all that much. And did you ever hear the version of Beat on the Brat they did for the Ramones Tribute album? If you haven’t, please don’t google it. No really. Do not. It hurts my heart.

Is it a great album? I don’t think so. Although Rolling Stone begs to differ. Number 1. Of. The. Year.

I’ve listened to it in its entirety a few times since the Day of the Download. Parts of it have grown on me- not so much that I’d have been all that pleased if I’d paid money for it- but enough that I can appreciate what they were doing.

And enough that demonstrates that they can still rock’n’roll better than a whole lot of young’uns getting way-too-much air time on the YouTube and such these days.

The Lads have said that it is their ‘most personal’ album yet. Some of that comes through quite clearly. Bono’s song about his mother, Iris, is truly lovely. Raised By Wolves hearkens back to the violence of the environment in which they grew up- the Dublin and Monaghan bombings of 1974- and reignites some of the same feelings that Sunday Bloody Sunday awakened, back in the day. Sleep Like a Baby Tonight is deceptively lullaby-esque- until you realize it references a pedophile priest…

Add to all that the fact that Bono, even if he is a self-righteous megalomaniac, has had an impact on the world and does have a tendency to do more than pay lip-service to his drive for change.

He gave this little TEDTalk less than two years ago.

Okay. So he’s a prat. He loves himself so veryvery much. The biblical/historical allusions made my teeth grind. And he’s got a mouth on him that makes me cringe at times. But he can also laugh at himself- and at his fame and the lack of real importance that accompanies the fame. And he is doing something. He is using his celebrity (and, evidently, his powers as an Illuminati) to aid in the eradication of worldwide poverty. Worldwide Poverty.

Modeling himself after those greaterthans who came before him, he is helping to make the world a better place.

Factivism. I like that. I can get behind that. (I could do without the image of his ‘collation arousal’, though. Ick).

‘The power of the people is so much stronger than the people in power.” That line alone speaks louder than most of the pop-tripe out there in the www.

A defense mechanism is a coping technique. It helps to reduce anxiety. We get defensive when our opinions or illusions or way of seeing the world are challenged to an unreasonable degree. It is an unconscious impulse used for self-protection when things get overwhelming.

It isn’t good to resort to these mechanisms pathologically or immaturely, but we can do so maturely. That latter option may include things like altruism, humour, respect and gratitude- those virtuous actions that we can use to positively optimize our relationships and interactions with society. This can also involve things like emotional self-sufficiency– not relying on the opinions of others to validate oneself.

As I continue to evaluate my own reactions to things- whether those found in our popular culture, or in the wider world- I’ll be keeping that one, in particular, in mind.

While I do so, here’s one from the vaults. I forgot how much I love this song, actually. The Edge’s monotone provides a nice counterbalance to Bono’s somewhat strident falsetto. It also goes to show that this band is more than its vocalist (and his big mouth)- and that they have things of value to say.

The Edge has said that this song- and the Zoo TV Tour– tapped into “the sense that we were being bombarded by so much information that you find yourself shutting down and unable to respond.” Twas true back in 1993. The sensory overload is exponentially worse, now.

“Don’t move, don’t talk out of time

Don’t think, don’t worry, everything’s just fine
Just fine

Don’t grab, don’t clutch, don’t hope for too much
Don’t breathe, don’t achieve or grieve without leave

Don’t check, just balance on the fence
Don’t answer, don’t ask, don’t try and make sense

Don’t whisper, don’t talk, don’t run if you can walk
Don’t cheat, compete, don’t miss the one beat

Don’t travel by train, don’t eat, don’t spill
Don’t piss in the drain, don’t make a will

Don’t fill out any forms, don’t compensate
Don’t cower, don’t crawl, don’t come around late
Don’t hover at the gate

Don’t take it on board, don’t fall on your sword
Just play another chord
If you feel you’re getting bored
(I feel numb)
(I feel numb)
(Too much is not enough)

Don’t change your brand, don’t listen to the band…”

Even if they want to give you their music for free.

Thanks for the tunes, Lads.

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.

Feet of Clay

Since, lately, I’ve been dragged in every direction but this little space of the blogosphere, and in keeping with the recycling of older posts as a way of letting peeps know that I’m still around, I reblogged- weeks ago now, it seems- a little bit o’ something about some of the cool things that can be found in the OT Book of Daniel.

At that time, after reading my discussion about disembodied hands and holy graffiti, my blogging buddy Daniel (pay him a visit- you won’t be disappointed) put in a request for some more stuff about the madness of the dream of old Nebuchadnezzar. So, because I always try to accommodate interesting requests, and because I love saying the name Nebuchadnezzar, but mostly because that book about that guy Daniel (the biblical one) is full of  resonant language and enduring concepts, I am happy to oblige.

Interestingly, I didn’t have to wait long for one of those of those images to resonate with contemporary events. And it’s Hallowe’en, so a discussion about a mythological nightmare seems pretty apt…

I don’t usually pay all that much attention to the search terms that bring people to visit me here in my WordPress World. Really, I’m just happy to have people visit and for the chats that might ensue as a result. Every once in a while they sort of jump out at me, though.  Doobster reminded me of this over at his blog, not long ago.

My favourite still has to be about exorcising Pazuzu. I remain at a loss as to who might be looking to get rid of Mesopotamian demons, and I wish them well in that particular research, since I’m pretty sure that my blog post wouldn’t have been much help in that department. (Another of my recent faves asks: ‘is Don Henley a Xian’? Which is interesting. Since I don’t actually know the answer, and wouldn’t presume to ask him, since it matters to me not a whit. He’s awesome, regardless of religious background or belief).

A couple of days ago a search term popped into my settings profile that was timely and somewhat distressing. Just to make sure it wasn’t a weird anomaly, I googled it myself and, sure enough, I was directed here.

Looking at it closely, I realized that the reason the post came up in the search was due to to the proximity of the word ‘dated’ (which I was using as an adjective to mean ‘provided with a date’ with the implication that said date was long ago and that I am, in fact, old) with a reference to his name (not that common) as I described scenes from his recent book.

Contrary to the search term’s implication, I did NOT date Jian.

If you do a search on that selection of words (‘I dated Jian’) ALL kinds of other things will now come up far far ahead of my little post about a trip to the cottage over a year ago. He’s all over the news. Everywhere. He’s knocked our former mayor and the defeat of his brother (Praise Odin and the gods of Valhalla) out of all media coverage. New scandals await our insatiable appetite for the lurid. We are all talking about him- and lines are being drawn all over the place.

Know what? He is a creepy guy. He’s always been a creepy guy. This isn’t news to anyone. Especially not to anyone who has had even passing acquaintance with the tinytiny world that is the Canadian media.

What IS news is that he seems to be more than just creepy. If the women who have come forward since he released his PR-company-driven attempt at playing the victim came out on Sunday are to believed (and why shouldn’t they be believed?), he has a whole lot of issues. A need to exert dominance by beating unwilling women appears to be one of them.

There’s a lot of talk about this going on everywhere. The social media are overwhelmed with the discussions/arguments/attacks about this. Two sides to all stories and that sort of thing. There are experts weighing in- those intimately familiar with BDSM and the negotiated rules that are required to make such relationships work, and legal experts- citing case law that says that assault isn’t something for which people can grant permission, are but a few of the voices we’ve been hearing since Sunday night.

‘Abuse is abuse’, they say. ‘They’ include some who consider the guy in question a friend. Yesterday morning, on The Current, CBC featured an extremely well-put-together interview with one of the accusers- one who wasn’t intimated by the power play and who isn’t afraid of the back-lash that might come from stepping forward to make her voice heard (many kudos to K and the team for an amazing presentation).

By last evening, another woman had come forward, identifying herself and making her accusations- and her reasons for not going to the authorities with the events she recounted- clear. Brave women- speaking on behalf of themselves and those who feel they cannot. For whatever reason (and those reasons are, unfortunately, myriad).

It would hope that it’s obvious on which side of this story I can be found. Abuse of power (abuse of any kind) is not something that is remotely acceptable in my way of viewing the world. Ego (especially when its completely out of proportion to reality) as a primary personality trait is dangerous and something about which to be greatly concerned when it is made manifest- in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships. No matter how much I might enjoy a radio programme.

The fact that people- across the country- immediately leapt to defend the guy says a whole lot about us and the irrational attachments we build with people in the spotlight. And none of what it says is good. Especially since said messages of defence involved few cautions about waiting to hear the whole story. Instead, there was a shocking degree of shameful victim blaming. I saw a bunch of reallyreally bad language being thrown around. And I’m not talking about the sort with four letters.

I’m talking about words like ‘vindictive’ and ‘jilted’ and ‘attention seeking’ and ‘gold-digging’. As people high-jumped to conclusions with an alacrity that is pretty damn stomach turning.

Voices of reason stepped in- to rationally discuss the reasons why liking/admiring a radio host does not automatically make him exempt from having done terrible things, to address the common charge that none of these women filed police reports about the incidents, to inform us about some of the realities of being a woman in our society that many people would rather leave under the rugs where they’ve been swept.

The CBC will survive (provided the leader of Harper’s Conservatives and culturally ignorant individuals (no names mentioned *cough* Christie Blatchford) don’t get their way). I’m old enough to remember the national sense of loss that we felt when Peter Gzowski, long-time host of Morningside, one of CBC’s most distinctive voices, and true National Treasure, died in 2002. His vision continued. In many ways, Jian is one of the heirs of his legacy- and of Peter’s lifelong attempts to identify and express Canada’s cultural identity.

But he’s only one of the heirs. And, really, not necessarily even the best of them (I should note here- for the record- that I’ve always been partial to Strombo).

As guest host Brent Bambury said so eloquently on Monday- while introducing a show that was profoundly under the microscope and likely facing irrevocable change- Q is more than one person. Much more. There are dozens of people who work to make the show what it is. They are still there. And will be, as long as there are listeners who appreciate what Q continues to be about.

Which is a lot of things. The variety, the diversity of subjects and perspectives on art and culture and politics and society is something that has kept me engaged with and enjoying the show for many years.

What it isn’t about, shouldn’t be about, is a cult of personality, created by one individual, that has led to people believing his press releases (figurative and realized), without reflection or analysis, and to blind, reactionary responses that are stomach-turning and, frankly, un-Canadian.

Just last week (was it over a week ago already?) I went on and on and on, to anyone who would listen, about the class with which the CBC (and Peter Mansbridge, in particular) handled the day-long coverage of the terrible events, as they happened, in Ottawa. The difference between that coverage and anything comparable that one might witness on the 24-hour-a-days ‘news’ channels in the US, was a sizable gulf- a fact that gives me great pride.

Which is why the trolls and the misogynists and those who just can’t simply wrap their brains (such as they are) around the potentiality of wrong-doing on the part of a ‘celebrity’ because, well, he’s a celebrity– who is, admittedly, great at his job- makes me want to bite something. But they know him. He’s ‘part of their lives’. And loving/revering/worshiping a public figure means giving them the benefit of every possible doubt. Evidently.

My fave Babylonian king (you know his name. Say it- ‘Nebuchadnezzar’) once had a dream that both baffled and disturbed him. None of his own courtiers or wiseguys were able to interpret the dream for him- since doing so required the input of the gods.  And they didn’t seem to be forthcoming with any guidance- much to the distress of the wiseguys. Distress that grew, quite significantly, when it became clear that Neb was going to execute the bunch of them for their inability to help him sort it all out.

As they were being rounded up (as I re-read the passage I had an image of the Brute Squad clearing out the Thieves’ Forest in The Princess Bride, for some reason), Daniel asked the Captain of the Guard what was up with all this. Once answered, Daniel then asked Arioch to hold off on the whole executing-the-wiseguys thing, and to give him some time to figure out the troublesome nightmare.

Granted the time, Daniel and his Judean buds prayed to their god for mercy, and the meaning of Neb’s dream was revealed to them. Daniel was taken to the king and recounted it fully, before beginning his interpretation- which, he noted, he was able to do because of the guidance of his god. Who was better than Neb’s gods. Just a BTW.

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamt of a great figure- with a head made of gold, upper body of silver, belly and thighs of bronze, legs of iron, and feet made partly of iron and partly of baked clay. A stone- uncut by human hands- came along and smashed the feet of clay, causing the entirety to topple and shatter- with the precious metals being blown away by the winds, as the stone became a mountain which then filled the whole Earth.

Daniel tells Neb that he, the king, is the head of gold. He has been given his dominion by god and is great among men, in his power and glory. After his time, another kingdom will arise- one inferior to his. And then another. And another. Then will arise a kingdom that is divided- and the weakness caused by this division will lead to its downfall- by another kingdom, established by god, that will smash all the others to bits.

Neb was so happy to have his dream interpreted, he made Daniel his chief wiseguy and lavished rewards upon him and his friends (Daniel wasn’t one to forget his buddies…).

There are all kinds of interpretations of this dream and its interpretation. The separate sections of the figure are generally thought to represent specific nations- Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome, as one example- and, as such, is more of the same sort of social commentary you find throughout the narrative of the Book of Daniel.

But… as is often the case with such things, strong mythological images develop nuances of their own outside of the context of their creation.

‘Feet of clay’ is colloquially used to reference a character flaw- usually one that is pretty darn significant. The fragility of the feet- the flaw- caused by the hubris or ego of the figure- endangers the whole. Up to and including it’s wondrous head of gold. The (self-) perceived beauty and wisdom and charisma cannot remain standing under its own weight when any sort of stone shows up to smash into that problematic and fragile underpinning.

We invest so much in our public figures- in those personalities who keep us entertained or informed, or those who seek to lead us in our day-to-day lives. When their clay feet are (often inevitably) revealed, we tend to react with either 1) hostile doubt and by lashing out at those stony accusers who dare to imply anything less than golden about the figurehead they love, or 2) with knowing self-assurance that the idol was always destined to be toppled from his lofty height.

Those who make of themselves a cult of personality do so at their own risk. We like them, until we are presented with reasons to despise them- or their behaviours. But sometimes we cling to the illusion, regardless of the weight of evidence, and maintain the defence long past all logic or rationale (I could cite another recent example having something to do with our recent Municipal election, but I’m too pleased by the overall outcome to harp on the idiocy of the remnants of Ford Nation…), hoping that the object of reverence will remember the loyalty when returned to power.

I actually hated this song when it came out. Although, really, that largely had to do with the fact that one of my uni housemates played it All. The. Time. (Until Fletch stormed downstairs and turfed it far out into the snow of the backyard, that is. I think I need to buy him a drink in remembered thankfulness for that…). I’m still not sure I like the song all that much, but its lyrics stand up as well today as they did back in 1988.

Neon lights, Nobel Prize
When a mirror speaks, the reflection lies
You won’t have to follow me
Only you can set me free

I sell the things you need to be
I’m the smiling face on your TV
I’m the cult of personality
I exploit you, still you love me
I tell you one and one makes three

You gave me fortune
You gave me fame
You gave me power in your god’s name
I’m every person you need to be
I’m the cult of personality

And that title.

The song is about psychology and politics. And ‘cult’ is a loaded term that is, generally (i.e not academically), used negatively. A cult of personality happens when a person uses things like the media to construct an idealized image. It is based in charismatic authority and has connections with narcissistic leadership.

So. If the shoe fits…

Perhaps it can be used to cover up those fragile tootsies.

The Straw

I had such good intentions…

I was going to come home and work on a post that has been percolating in my brain over the past couple of days (while hoping that my laptop cooperates and hangs in there long enough to permit the composition/posting process). And then I made the mistake of turning on the news.

The top story was all about how we need to be looking at the root causes of radicalization.

I’m not- generally- one for the whole ‘I told you so’ sort of thing. I’m making an exception here. I wrote this post quite some time ago, in response to something idiotic that our Prime Minister had to say.

It would seem that some of the chickens I spoke about are coming home to roost, a fact that is leading to the changing of a tune or two up there on Parliament Hill. Unfortunate that this little ditty is coming on the heels of an attack on two members of our CAF- and attack that left one of those members dead and the other seriously injured.

But then, our PM is nothing if not speedy with expedience. If there’s a political benefit to be found, of course.

colemining

My intention in creating this blog was mainly to start conversations about great stories, the myths that shape our realities and celebrate all it means to be human, with human failings, triumphs, loves, losses, questions and answers.  It is supposed to focus on the positivity of humanity- there is far too much evidence of the opposite in the media on any given day.  Despite such good intentions, I do have a tendency- partly nature, partly habit- to sit back and observe, offering occasional commentaries on the ways of the world and the politics of the day, without being stirred into action to affect change.

I am not a politician.  I have little respect for most of the people who call themselves ‘career politicians,’ but I have never really been motivated enough to speak publicly and directly against any one political party or person (dinner or cocktail party discussions are a different kettle of cod).  To do…

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I Can’t Even…

Generally, I try to refrain from too much name-calling.  I don’t think it accomplishes anything productive and it can disrupt attempts at meaningful dialogue and debate.

But HOLY HELL.

I mean, c’mon.  Just. COME. ON.

I don’t know whether to laugh hysterically or to dissolve into inconsolable sobbing.

At least six people have sent me links to a particular Fox News interview (this link also mentions Doctor Aslan’s later conversation with Piers Morgan and his embarrassment at having to repeatedly trot out his academic credentials).  In The Washington Post, Erik Wemple has kindly provided us with a transcript of the Fox debacle- in case you’d rather read than watch the cringe-worthy attempt at an interview- and the opinion that the idiots at Fox owe the Professor an apology.

I can’t even.

Jebus.

I briefly discussed the whole Jesus-as-Zealot issue a while back, and although I still lean to the side of history and scholarship that rejects the claim that he was actively engaged in insurrection against Rome, I am open-minded enough to examine Dr. Aslan’s argument and weigh his evidence before saying that I unequivocally disagree with his conclusions.

But the book, its author and the author’s thesis aren’t going to be the focus of this post.  Once I actually read the book I might have more to say on the subject, as an historian of religions in Antiquity and Late Antiquity myself, but then again, I might not.  Over here in the WordPress universe, I try to write about things that are interesting, engaging or making me completely insanely-off-my-nugget-bat-shit crazy in a given moment.

This qualifies resoundingly as the latter.

Yes, I have ranted about the media a few times before (most recently here) and I understand that it is our job as responsible individuals to pick and choose which news forum(s) we are going believe and use as a platform from which to investigate further and draw our own, informed conclusions and, alternatively, which ones are ridiculous and deserving of recurring spoofs on Saturday Night Live.  Believe me, I get the double-edged sword that comes with the (putative) freedom of the press and proliferation of places that are offering us their ‘journalistic’ viewpoints on the news of the world.

But really Fox News?!?!?

Wemple insinuates that Lauren Green hadn’t read the book before attempting to ‘catch’ her subject on the whole Muslim-Christian problem (this seems to be the poorly-executed underlying purpose of the interview).  Whether or not she did (personally, I can’t believe she has cracked the spines of many books at all, TBH) and adequately prepared herself for the interview isn’t even the biggest problem (although it would definitely be evidence of shoddy and shameful ‘journalism’).

Regardless, the transcript reads like a high school student interviewing an educated elder about a subject with which the adolescent has no frame of reference (her misuse of ‘begs the question’ demonstrates an unfortunately ubiquitous habit that the uniformed often have- misusing terminology in an effort to appear informed).  Although I have known plenty of high school students who would be angry with me for making that comparison.

The problem is her repeatedly-expressed incredulity that Dr. Aslan, as a Muslim, would have any reason to be interested in Jesus.  That she doesn’t understand his academic credentials is obvious.  I’ve experienced the same thing- some people just cannot (or will not) wrap their brains around the fact that studying religion(s) doesn’t have to have ANYthing to do with belief in said religion(s)- and his frustration at this inability, by someone who (one would hope) has done some background research before the interview, is palpable, yet overcome.  Quite heroically and with enviable composure and professionalism.

The problem is that she cites a theologian and Christian Apologist as an example of the scholarship refuting Dr. Aslan’s thesis (and none of the myriad historians of Christianity who might disagree with Dr. Aslan),  further evidence of the existent bias of the ‘reporting’ that goes on at Fox News as a matter of course.  Of her inappropriate analogy about a “Democrat wanting to promote democracy by writing about a Republican”, the less said the better.

The problem is that the interview is inexcusably slanted, uninformed and shows such an incredible lack of anything approaching a desire for dialogue between those of differing faiths, academic backgrounds and cultures that it makes me more than a little sick to my stomach.

But what makes me really ill is the knowledge that Ms. Green is not remotely alone in this willful ignorance, lack of perspective and context and complete unwillingness to acknowledge any of the cultural and religious scripts that have shaped the ignorance.

This is the point that moves the interview from the amusing realm of an academic who competently and completely schools the unprepared interviewer, rendering her a ridiculous laughing stock who will be openly mocked on interworld sites and in memes and GIFS for the foreseeable future, into the terrifying reality that there are way too many people out there who will see the interview, and Ms. Green’s perspective (such as it is), as representative of their own worldview.

The dunce cap is an example of an ‘educational tool’ in a system that has long been rendered obsolete and ineffective.  Shaming people is never going to lead them to work toward better performance or increased comprehension.  That punishing someone by singling them out for ridicule was ever thought to be pedagogically sound is beyond my comprehension.

The word ‘dunce’ originated as a term describing those who stubbornly refused to surrender ideas and ways of viewing the world.  John Duns Scotus, a Franciscan philosopher-theologian and Scholastic during the High Middle Ages (11th-13th centuries CE), wrote treatises on all kinds of points of theology (the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, for e.g.), grammar, logic and metaphysics.

By the time of the Renaissance, and then the Reformation, many of Duns Scotus’ ideas had been superseded by new approaches and beliefs.  Those who continued to support his worldview, even in the face of new evidence and perspective, came to be called ‘dunces’- with the underlying meaning being ‘stupid’ or dull-witted’.

In our common parlance- and in connection with its former use in classroom settings (shudder)- a ‘dunce cap’ is used to mark someone as ‘uneducated’ or ‘incapable of learning’.  Ms. Green is certainly the former.  My hope would be that the attention and response to this interview will lead her to understand this truth and attempt to refute the latter through engaged learning.

I’m not going to hold my breath.

Little technical point that’s bugging me.  Ms. Green repeatedly referred to Jesus of Nazareth as the ‘founder’ of Christianity and Dr. Aslan doesn’t correct her- most likely because he recognized the futility in doing so.  Historical and textual evidence indicates that Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, looking to reform his religion, not trying to ‘found’ a new one.  Just so’s you know.