The Journey From Rational to Empathetic
“The essential things in life are seen not with the eyes, but with the heart.” (from ‘The Little Prince’)
The night of the Jian Ghomeshi trial verdict I couldn’t sleep, although I wasn’t as surprised or outraged as many understandably were. As I lay there tossing and turning and remembering tidbits of what Justice William Horkins had said in his One-Hour Verdict, I was struck by my own familiarity with his tone and approach – and by his notable lack of empathy.
Like most, I have been raised as a Rational Man, in my case especially so because I attended a British Boarding School for four years when I was six years old (1976-80). Six weeks ago, soon after my 46th birthday, I participated in a workshop in London, England for Boarding School Survivors, which I can tell you to most Brits is an oxymoronic phrase. Long story short, boarding school was a wretched experience that turned me, and many thousands of others, into emotionally stunted humans. Why? One minute the child is at home (however imperfect), the next minute they are left in a strange and overwhelming place in which emotion has no place. The heart connection is violently compromised. Innocence is lost. Empathy crippled.
Why does this institution exist? Its mission has been, and continues to be, to make MEN. Men who will get down to business. Men who will fulfill their roles to carry on carrying on, no matter what. Men who have been specifically and transparently trained to suppress feelings. After all, feelings are just so… nebulous. A man, and society in general, is much better off if he doesn’t trifle with complex things like instincts, feelings, conscience, etc. Binary is easier. Right and Wrong. The clarity of the logical mind is a superior arbiter in all aspects of life.
So, how does a child cope with leaving the bonded family unit for life in an Institution that operates similarly to the Military and Prison systems? By cultivating what British Psychologist, Nick Duffell calls a Strategic Survival Personality (SSP) – a facade to mask the sudden and profound emotional void – to protect what little remains.
I have been such a man and my SSP has been quite something to experience in my life and to ‘share’ with the world. In my case, I became the angry, rebellious version of a Rational Man – a bully with the proverbial heart of gold that disappeared when under threat. Empathy always a slave to Anger, Justice and ‘Truth’. Others become the funny guy as a means of deflection. Most become some version of a disconnected man.
So how does my boarding school and life experience intersect and overlap with Justice Horkins and Jian Ghomeshi? Back to not being able to sleep. At 3am something occurred to me so I grabbed my phone and searched for Justice Horkins’s background. I wasn’t surprised to find that he attended Upper Canada College (UCC), the leading boy’s preparatory school in the country. UCC was founded in 1829 and modeled on the top private British boarding schools, especially the legendary Eton College. And just like at those schools in England, which eschew the Feminine, UCC has been rife with sexual abuse of children, usually by teachers and staff.
Boys who attend these boarding and private schools live in these hyper-Masculine, unfeeling and unsupportive environments; places that are built upon the foundations of unconscious parental abandonment and betrayal. For the child, your parents, your gods, have deserted you. You won’t get to have any contact with them for 3 weeks – so you can acclimate (ie) succumb. They tell you they are doing you a favour – and they believe it. You, the child, don’t ‘feel’ the largesse but your feelings and thoughts don’t count, especially as they come up against the fact that you are ‘lucky’ to be so privileged. Enter the Strategic Survival Personality to try to make the madness somehow manageable – all the while in constant proximity to the abyss within. The abandonment by the parent is directly correlated to the child’s commensurate abandonment of their feelings. Fear now a constant, if unconscious, companion. Meanwhile, the parents understandably thought they were doing a good thing. Yes, it made sense. But the issue, just like now, was not the thinking, it was the NOT feeling, which resulted in a generational passing down of the same old lack of empathy. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Many of these children grow up to be our corporate and government leaders, with the predictable consequences we see all around us (ie) Institutional Misogyny, Classism and Racism. The SSP is so firmly in place that if you don’t know what to look for you might readily accept that anyone who complains about their boarding school experience is just a big whiner. After all, most will say it was just fine, or even grand. As for the rest of the kids in our societies who are not ‘privileged’ enough to attend these schools, they are led to believe they should aspire to the material wealth and power that the elite enjoy. So, as a population, we court their ways and energies. We connect to them. And it all trickles down into the masses via our Media and Institutions.
After three years of research on the subject, and 26 years of tireless and challenging self-reflection, I’ve identified a strong correlation between The British Private/Boarding School system and what ails Canadian culture, represented here by the Ghomeshi case. Every day I recognize the presence and depth of this connection. In effect, regardless of whether or not we have attended one of these Institutions, Canadian society is built upon the principles and structures of the British system, which itself is underpinned by their educational system. “Cecil Rhodes was one of the classic figures in the inglorious late 19th century carve-up of Africa, a founder of De Beers that still commands immense riches, and a man after whom a whole country (now called Zimbabwe) was named. In 1887, when he was 24 and still at Oxford, a bastion of the Rational Man Project (see below), Rhodes was proud to put it this way: ‘I contend that we are the finest race in the world and that the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race.'” (ibid Duffell). (Perfectly, as I was making the final edits I came upon this posting which connects Cecil Rhodes to Attawapiskat)
Our Canadian (ie) British forefathers thought the same way. They decided they were doing the savage Indigenous Peoples a favour by civilizing them – by introducing religion to them. Up until the 1970s they forcibly took their children away from their parents and put them in Residential Schools (the same structure as boarding schools, but with the added ignominy of profound prejudice), unfathomably hellish places run by the Clergy. Nobody who is in touch with their heart, with their feelings and compassion could possibly think this was a good idea. This is what we come from, and what continues to have a hold on us.
The disconnect in our culture allows us to lecture the world on human rights and on the treatment of women and children, while we are not even close as a Country in taking responsibility for the all but unforgivable way in which we have treated the Indigenous People of this wonderful country – let alone the deplorable state of our justice system where the vulnerable are concerned. What is happening in Attawapiskat is far more grave than many believe. It is in fact an accurate reflection of both our relationship with Indigenous People and the state of the consciousness and conscience of Canada. Our lack of empathy and understanding has killed the empathy in some Indigenous people to such a degree that they would rather die – in droves – than continue receiving this rejection. Or worse, is it just indifference? If you look down upon any Indigenous People, including the homeless drunkards, I invite you to dig deeper. Even do some research into humans throughout history who have had a massive thumb pressing down on them for 100, 200, 300 years. As with Blacks in America, you don’t just come out of this utter repudiation in one or two generations. You can’t just ‘get on with it’. The grooves of pain, shame and humiliation run insanely deep.
THE RATIONAL MAN PROJECT
What is at the root of this disconnect? The Rational Man Project (RMP). The RMP, a term coined by Nick Duffell, involves a brain that is “over-trained in rationality, has turned away from empathy and has mastered and normalized dissociation in its most severe dimensions; it is consequently incapable of recognizing the fault in its own system.” (Nick Duffell, “Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and The Entitlement Illusion”, 2014) “Rational Man was (and still is) permanently at war. He was at war with himself and with the world he created. The self he was at war with was his own indigenous self, the natural, emotional, innocent, spontaneous, sometimes lazy, sometimes erotic self.” (ibid. Duffell) To varying degrees, Western man and woman have exiled this poor self that fills the void with a cornucopia of addictions (Food, Shopping, Illegal Drugs, Sports Teams, Sex, Cell Phone, Legal Drugs, Alcohol, Cigarettes, Working, Pain, Working out, Coffee, Surfing the Internet, Facebook, Soft Drinks, Porn, Sugar, Television, Video Games).
“The fallout from the British Rational Man Project is alive and well” in Canada. “It causes our society grave problems as: (1) It maintains the inherited class structure with its… male elitism intact (2) It prevents emerging new paradigms” from coming to the fore – “due to fear of foreigners and fear of losing the status quo. (3) We do not notice the Rational Man Project’s grip on us because we are too close to it, like the fish who do not know the water; identified with it, we believe it to be our hallowed tradition.” (ibid. Duffell)
This brings us to Misogyny, a hallmark of all the major religions as well as the vast majority of cultures. Women have been second-class citizens for millennia. With the arrival of the ‘The Age of Reason’ in the 17th century Western world, Spirit was supplanted by Science and Reason. Man now controlled his own destiny. The British created their own particular brand of the Rational Man Project. The British boarding and private school system had two roles: (1) churn out men who would be sent around the world to run the greatest empire the world has ever seen (2) be a ‘home’ for the children of these very same men who were far away from England. This went on for centuries.
Regardless of circumstances, when God was at the centre of most people’s lives there was a direct connection with the unknown, the mysterious, the Feminine. The Rational Man Project kind of ‘civilized’ and sanitized the misogyny (and racism) which had always been there, and then exported it to the colonial world. With succeeding generations of abandoned and betrayed boys running the world, including Canada, Logic became bereft of Feeling.
Duffell on what misogyny looks like today: “Socially and politically, misogyny in its softest normalized form results in an overvaluation of masculinity, an over-respect for the opinions of men high up the hierarchy and the regarding of women as, at best, a necessary diversion… this unconscious misogyny is not just a male… problem; it affects women and, worse: it also takes root inside women… The implications are that there are generations of women growing up not rooted in a positive femininity. As mothers, they raise girls who do not have good femininity mirrored back to them and raise boys who look down on women… British (Canadian, US, Australian) middle-class women, I suggest, have been forced to grow up with and identify with a femininity whose true nature is ignored or despised and disowned. This is an incalculable problem for a society, and one that would horrify much of the Indigenous world, where pride in female wisdom and traditions tends to be a cornerstone of the community.” (ibid Duffell)
The Ghomeshi case is a microcosm of the consequences of the multi-century Rational Man Project, laying bare our latent societal misogyny. But let’s be clear. This piece is more than simply a defense of women. By understanding the role of the RMP, it is a call for both women and men to recognize and embrace the Feminine within. This evolution of our society involves the re-igniting of the Heart Connection; the realization that there is strength in softness; there is power in vulnerability. Accessing more of our heart-centered energy is the key for better living. Institutional Empathy is the next frontier.
Further to the alienation of the Feminine, Psychiatrist and Oxford Professor, Iain McGilchrist, writes in his book “The Master and his Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World”, about the respective roles of the Left- and Right-brains and how our culture, having been overrun by the Rational Man Project, has become predominantly Left-brained. Unfortunately, while the Left-brain approach “facilitated the accumulation of knowledge and skills, its downside has resulted in a crisis of Compartmentalization.” Duffell on McGilchrist, “there is a precise order to how the two hemispheres work: thought and language are born… on the Right, then grow up… on the Left, to provide the ‘necessary difference’ for self-reflection.” Crucially, what is sent to the Right then returns back to the Right, “where a new synthesis can be made.” (ibid. Duffell)
The Right-brain is more concerned with the Feminine, visual, non-linear, heart connection, receptivity, softness, sensitivity, creativity, the instinctual, the unexplainable, the conscience, the feelings, emotional IQ, big picture, cooperation and doubt. The Left-Brain is more concerned with the Masculine, verbal, linear, logical, details, organization, structure, labeling, analysis, specialization and hierarchy.
The ‘Return’ is the key to balanced thinking and good choices. Without that the Left-brain creates its own micro-contexts and parses things so finely that it can “eliminate all contradictions and leave us with clear and distinct ideas.” (ibid. Duffell)
So, we men – and women – grow up in a saturated Rational Man Project environment, which is overwhelmingly persuasive in pulling us into the Left-brain. Throw in our own personal traumas on top of that, especially ones from childhood, and we’re left with a population of people who have had to create their own Strategic Survival Personalities (SSP) in order to manage. The issue is that the SSP might have served us well as children but is problematic if we don’t recognize and jettison it as adults. If the protective walls remain in place it makes it challenging to become mature and balanced adults. This is why so many of us become defensive so easily. It’s our SSP kicking into action when we feel a threat. Depending on the level of our trauma our facade is that much more convincing – and impenetrable. The protective Wall that is built can lead to isolation, violence, depression and the epidemic of mental illness in our society.
Hence, we have a society in which many Men, represented here by Jian Ghomeshi, have so little respect for and understanding of Woman – and the Feminine energy within themselves. Many people actually confuse ‘Masculine and Feminine’ with ‘Man and Woman’. In fact, as more people are now understanding, each of us, regardless of gender, are made up of varying levels of the Masculine and Feminine. Where the two work in harmony you have a uniquely balanced human being.
“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know… We know truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” 17th Century Physicist and Philosopher Blaise Pascal
Periodically, we single out one or another of our Institutions – Media, Corporate, Banking, Legal, Police, Health, Government – for their failings and excesses. In the wake of the Ghomeshi case, some are calling for changes to the Justice System. The reality is that because Institutions operate at the behest of the Rational Man Project, meaningful change is predictably problematic. We have created these Institutions. We work in them. They represent us. We are tacitly, and in most cases unwittingly, complicit in their actions. In short, we and they are not doing any of this on purpose. We have been on automatic pilot for 300 years. At this stage, we are simply the fish in the sea, thinking that this is just the way things are. Anyone who suggests otherwise is just naïve.
THE GHOMESHI CASE
Let’s break down the Ghomeshi case. Firstly, according to rules and practices of our legal system there is near universal acknowledgment from the legal community that the verdict is correct: Not Guilty – however unsatisfying and outrageous that may be for some. But, really, as we will see from the statistics, the probability for a conviction in this type of case is remote at best, even when the Plaintiffs are totally consistent. Some will argue that it can’t be any other way but maybe that is just a position which lacks the creativity and effort required to develop a more suitable system.
The case largely comes down to He Said/She Said, which, as the statistics show, even under the best of circumstances makes it challenging to convict an abuser, especially when He doesn’t have to say anything in court, or be cross-examined. In some cases, the challenge is good because it makes sense that there needs to be compelling evidence to convict. What this Legal System cannot contain is the fact that there were not only three women accusing him in this case but some 20 more who have come forward to corroborate the plaintiffs’ assertions that there was not remotely clear consent. They were all blind-sided by the suddenness and severity of Mr. Ghomeshi’s actions. But all these other women coming forward with incredibly consistent stories are not admissible or relevant to this case. Over 20 women. Not good enough. Why? (1) In part, because many people, including Globe Columnist, Ms. Wente, and especially men, believe that the women must have been at fault, or they are coming forward for personal gain. (2) In part also because of the Compartmentalization of our RMP Institutions that are so good at parsing, yet so terrible at the big picture – at Common Sense.
Common sense tells many of us that Mr. Ghomeshi is guilty – hence the outrage at the decision in some quarters. Common sense tells us that when over 20 women say the same thing there is a clear pattern of abuse (as MP Charlie Angus, who has known Mr. Ghomeshi for 25 years, says, “Nobody close to Jian even pretends he is innocent, and somehow this isn’t an issue — the women are”).
There is much lamentation in our culture regarding the dearth of Common Sense. Common Sense is commonly conflated with Logic, hence why our culture regularly jokes that Woman’s ‘unpredictability’ makes her susceptible to lapses in Common Sense. Yet, taking a wider view of things, it’s easy to see that in fact it is the world of Men, which controls the levers of power in all of our Institutions, which consistently acts with a disconcerting and dangerous lack of Common Sense – while hamstrung by the difficulty in seeing past the unfeeling Logic. After all, Logic is only one component of Common Sense. Actually, sense only becomes ‘Common’ when the Right-brain gets involved. The absence or dilution of the ‘Return’ to the Right-brain results in the debilitating excesses that are threatening our very survival as a species.
Common Sense might tell us that there is something odd about a man who has assiduously kept ALL electronic and hand-written notes exchanged with every one of these 20 plus women. Why would you keep a hand-written note from someone you barely had a relationship with; didn’t have sex with; didn’t see more than a couple of times – this scenario, with many women. Does this make sense? It’s hard not to conjecture that “Ghomeshi kept files on women in case they would later accuse him of violence.”
Here are excerpts from a Toronto Life article written (before the trial) by long-time friend of Mr. Ghomeshi’s, Leah McLaren: “Being rich and successful wasn’t enough for Jian. He wanted to be adored… What’s startling about the allegations against Jian is not that a seemingly law-abiding person is accused of doing terrible things. That happens all the time. It’s the way Jian wove the most cherished and sacred liberal values of Canadian society into an ingenious disguise that he used to hide in plain sight. He was a wolf in organic, fair-trade lamb’s clothing… Once, just seconds before going on air, he said he liked it when his girlfriend wore a certain baggy wool sweater because he knew it was obscuring the bruises on her breasts… For his part, Jian is confident that no matter how bad the evidence looks, he will ultimately be exonerated. He’s a survivor… His true gift is his innate ability to control the people nearest to him… a master of emotional manipulation both at work and in his personal life… Jian was incredibly thin-skinned, and he used his insecurities as an excuse to be temperamental, petulant, even cruel.”
This behaviour, which some might deem Sociopathic, is textbook Strategic Survival Personality at its finest. The façade is masterful. He’s a Survivor, because that is what has always been required. It’s a dog-eat-dog, Mad Max world. Do it to them before they do it to you. Fear and insecurity rule the roost. Think of the dichotomy of on the one hand wanting to be adored, and on the other hand being so cruel. This is the disconnect of the SSP. And there is ALWAYS a good reason for it. No doubt if we knew the details of his life and childhood we would be more understanding. Despite what some believe I don’t think behaviour like his develops in a vacuum. Mr. Ghomeshi is in pain. While I don’t know the details of his pain, with my experience I have a sense of the quality it – because I recognize his behaviour. It is devastating. You create the SSP to survive when you are young. Most of us don’t know how to release it once we become adults. We don’t even know it’s there – which makes life confusing at best and brutal at its worst. I’m sure it sounds ludicrous to some, especially his victims, but in a sense he’s not doing it on purpose. That’s the crazy part. But then how many of us are unconsciously hurting others – and ourselves? It’s just that our shit doesn’t get televised.
Extreme SSP is existential. I must be RIGHT or I might be found out (see Conrad Black below) or I might die or even take my own life. It’s at that level. That’s why he so meticulously laid the groundwork for his own defense years before he might need it. Cleverness to conceal the rot. Because the only salve to the absence of self-worth and self-love is WINNING. That is the way of the Rational Man Project. He knew he was going to win and to ensure his victory he brought on the ‘Eviscerator’ to provide the coup de gras.
In short, while it is strange to say, actual Common Sense is often not a player in our one-dimensional Legal System.
RMP FEMINISM AND THE GHOMESHI CASE
Many women unconsciously participate in and bolster the Rational Man Project. How else to explain how last year, after upwards of 30 women had already accused Bill Cosby of despicable acts (including a host of women who said he drugged and raped them), and overlapping with the allegations against Mr. Ghomeshi, that Mr. Cosby enjoyed a successful Canadian tour, with women being there in similar numbers to men? What does it mean when so many women attending his shows, a notable number of whom will, according to statistics, have personally experienced some form of sexual abuse, manage to sidestep, avoid, deny the incredibly consistent evidence brought by over THIRTY women? Is this not an indicator of a classic general cultural myopia that is the result of excessive adherence to the Left-brain? Isn’t this a group Female Strategic Survival Personality in order to cope with rampant misogyny and abuse that is simply endemic to our culture, despite the much improved veneer? By the way, as with Mr. Ghomeshi, the fact that Mr. Cosby is still a free man is another indication that if you are a successful Man you have the upper hand, even against 30 plus women, even when you are a Black Man in a country in which Black Lives Clearly Don’t Matter.
And while it may be controversial to say, it’s becoming clear that the answer may not be for women to succeed within the RMP, because you can only do so by giving yourself over to it, by embracing the myopic nature of it, the harshness of it, the abject patriarchy of it.
This case has only confirmed what a maestro Defense Attorney Marie Henein is. Within legal circles, there is unanimous praise for the expert way in which she managed to discredit the witnesses and create enough doubt that she got her man acquitted. In his memoir, former client Michael Bryant describes how Ms. Henein seemed to “channel Hannibal Lecter” with her ability to “find a person’s deepest frailties and exploit them.” How wonderful to be compared to a character who is the epitome of the Rational Man Project at its most brutal. That Mr. Bryant would find the ‘positive’ in the most vicious serial killer the silver screen has ever seen, and then ascribe that to Ms. Henein, is instructive and revealing. My guess is that Mr. Bryant’s observation would elicit chuckles from many people – and that most lawyers would take it as a compliment. Were you amused at the comparison?
Here are some excerpts from Globe Columnist Margaret Wente’s Globe and Mail article on Marie Henein’s masterful defense of Jian Ghomeshi: “[Ms. Henein] began to eviscerate the witness – slowly, methodically… In the macho, high-stakes world of criminal-defense law, she is a standout. Nobody works harder. Nobody is more driven… Here’s what people talk about when they talk about Ms. Henein: Her look is strict, steely, a bit transgressive… the image conveys a potent message: Don’t mess with me… After she is described as being ‘supersoft, sensitive” by a friend the same friend says, “She can trash-talk anyone – she can – out-trash even the biggest trash talkers… It was her mother who drilled into Marie the precepts of feminism. She was determined that her daughter escape the misogynist oppression the family had left behind” (having emigrated from Egypt when Henein was young)… She prefers to get the job done with… surgical efficiency… When you rise to her level, you’re not just representing a client. You’re representing the system itself.“
There appears to be nothing short of glee in Ms. Wente’s support of Ms. Henein’s take-down of the Plaintiffs. Notice the language employed by Ms. Wente in describing what she admires in Ms. Henein: her drive, her surgical efficiency, her powers of evisceration (reminiscent of Mr. Bryant’s description), her methodical approach, her prey cowering before her, her top-drawer trash-talking. But it’s the final sentence that really tells the story. Ms. Henein represents the system. If, as I and increasingly more people contend, the system is inherently and unconsciously stacked against women and the Feminine energy in all of us, then what is the take-away? What does this say about Ms. Wente and Ms. Henein’s idea of Feminism? Wouldn’t true Feminism take a more holistic approach, incorporating more nuance and understanding into the situation? Might not true Feminism be a little less ruthless? Wouldn’t true Feminism eschew the kind of terminology that is the domain of professional sport or war? Maybe, but the problem is there is no space for that within the Rational Man Project.
Of course, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, Ms. Wente says in another article, “The message for genuine sexual assault victims should be very reassuring. The message is that if you come forward, the police and the courts will treat you with great respect… If you’re honest and forthright you’ll get a fair shake in court.” Further along she says, “The complainants may have had another motive for concealing the truth. They had become media celebrities. And they had a mission to bring Mr. Ghomeshi down. In one of the thousands of e-mails Ms. DeCoutere exchanged with S.D, she said she wanted to see him “fucking decimated.”
Firstly, with regard to the Police and Legal Systems protecting and defending women, the experience of countless women, as the statistics show (see below), is rather different than the fictional landscape espoused by Ms. Wente. Consider this brave woman who has come forward to tell her experience dealing with the Police and Legal Systems – which many abused women can surely attest to. Secondly, we witness the canard that women come forward for personal gain. Especially coming from a woman, the level of disconnect here is disheartening, though not surprising. Thirdly, I don’t know about you but if I were a woman who had been abused by a man, and then I found out that I wasn’t the only one and that he continues to get away with it I could certainly understand her desire to see him “fucking decimated”. Alas, Lucy didn’t realize that she would somehow be transformed from the Victim into the Perpetrator – into the Liar. And yet, who among us, man or woman, doesn’t consciously and unconsciously revise our memories when the truth of our actions is too shameful and painful to bear?
Again, from her March 26 Globe piece, Ms. Wente writes, “The evening of the cross-examination [of Ms. DeCoutere], Ms. Henein took her team out for drinks to celebrate. They were giddy with success. They called up a few close friends to crow.” In the online version this section was removed, with a retraction appearing at the bottom saying that there was actually no celebration or giddiness or crowing. Apparently, they just went out for ‘quiet’ drinks.
So, did Ms. Wente just make that up? Because ‘quiet’ drinks is entirely different than the High-Fiving one might imagine went down based on the original piece. Indeed, Ms. Wente was likely just too forthright with this information. She should have held that back, though it’s easy to see how inspired she was by her piece. Maybe she got careless, which wouldn’t be the first time, and just before the final edit of this piece, certainly not the last time (Ms. Wente viciously cuts down the credibility of the Plaintiffs, while her own credibility as a journalist regularly comes into question. Classic RMP Projection and Deflection – see Conrad Black below). After all, the kind of emotion she describes in the aforementioned excerpt is a little unseemly and inappropriate – certainly nothing we will likely ever see from Ms. Henein in front of the general public. Maybe Ms. Wente got a bit emotional, a little ‘crazy’ perhaps, and revealed too much. Yes, let’s pull that back.
Women are regularly ridiculed for their apparent lack of consistency, for their moodiness (which is unacceptable and irritating). How many times in our lives and media do we experience women being called ‘Crazy’? It’s okay for a man to be angry but if a woman is emotional then she’s being crazy. She needs to ‘get it together’. It’s irrelevant that she might be being ‘crazy’ because her man or the system around her constantly shows her that she’s not enough – that her feelings are objectionable. She should suck it up in true British-inspired fashion. Stiff upper lip. Moving right along. Nothing to see here.
Surely, it can’t be that Woman, and the Feminine energy, and the Right-brain simply works differently than the logical Left-brain. If you are incredulous as to how on earth a woman could be on the receiving end of what Mr. Ghomeshi or any other abuser has dished out and go back for more – if you can’t get your head around that – it might be an indication that your access to your Right-brain – and your heart – is compromised. Because the reality is that extensive research has shown that women often react in the same ways to abuse and danger – Freeze, Appease, Mend, Tend, Befriend. Is this logical? Certainly not. But logic is irrelevant in this and many other circumstances, which is problematic for a society and a court system that values linear objectivity above all. Of course, real life doesn’t fit into properly labeled boxes. It is complex – and so are feelings. What a horrible feeling it must be for women who end up ‘tending and befriending’ their abusers, with the inevitable shame and confusion that this engenders after the fact.
In Canada there are 460,000 sexual assaults per year. Out of every 1000 sexual assaults, only 33 are reported to the police, 12 have charges laid, 6 are prosecuted, 3 lead to convictions, 997 ASSAILANTS WALK FREE (Johnson, “Limits of a Criminal Justice Response: Trends in Police and Court Processing of Sexual Assaults” in Sheehy, Sexual Assault in Canada: Law, Legal Practices and Women’s Activism, 2012). Does this strike anyone as a beneficial environment for an abused woman to come forward, let alone with some kind of ulterior motive other than justice – when the evidence is overwhelming that the accused will likely end up being treated as the victim? Does adding insult to injury get any more blatant than this? Is it any wonder it has taken so long for us to address the missing and murdered First Nations women? (Women being second-class is one thing. If you’re a minority woman, African-American or Indigenous, you are truly on the lowest rung of the ladder)
Is this to suggest that there are not some instances when women falsely accuse men of abuse? Of course that happens but based on the aforementioned figures surely this is rare when compared to legitimate abuse.
Taking Ms. Wente’s original piece at face value we can see our court system for what it is, a zero-sum game. It’s actually less about truth and justice and more about winning – at all cost. Very RMP. I hope that while Ms. Henein and her group were celebrating her masterful ‘evisceration’ of Ms. DeCoutere they took a moment to sympathize with Mr. Ghomeshi’s many victims, in their case and otherwise. I wonder if they raised a somber glass to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian women who suffer abuse every year. Naysayers might suggest that Ms. Henein et al are not required to have any sympathy in this case since Mr. Ghomeshi was found ‘innocent’. Not innocent of doing the terrible things he has been accused of, which he has admitted to, but innocent of wrong-doing because he had given fair warning of what was to come. Consent is the heart of the matter here and despite being eviscerated on the stand all three Plaintiffs were consistent in their assertions that there was no consent.
Ms. Henein and Ms. Wente are cut from the same cloth as other women who have succeeded within the RMP; women like Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, Eva Peron and Madeleine Albright (who famously said in 1996 that the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children was worth the overthrow of Saddam Hussein). Ms. Albright, who in 2012 received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her service, also recently said, “There is a special place in hell for women who do not vote for Hillary Clinton.” Really? Women should vote for Hillary simply because she’s a woman? This black and white approach is a hallmark of the Rational Man Project. This article tells us something about Hillary Clinton that we don’t get from mainstream RMP coverage. She may be a ‘Feminist’ but it’s debatable whether this brand of Feminism is in the best interests of women or humanity at large. Because what is rewarded within the RMP is efficiency, ruthlessness, singular focus and lack of emotion. If you’re going to be a successful woman in a man’s world you’ll take no prisoners, you’ll go for the jugular without hesitation. One female writer, staunchly defending Ms. Henein’s brand of Feminism says, “Henein has yet to allow her personal feelings to get in the way of her job or her clients. Arguably, it’s her greatest weapon… Her ability to separate emotion from career, as well as her relentless faith in the judicial system” Yes, God forbid any feelings should enter the ‘equation’. Check out the Comments at the end of the article to see how many women understandably defend Ms. Henein’s skill but who I contend might be missing the bigger picture. One relieved gentleman notes, “Finally, a rational Feminist voice. I was starting to think that they were an endangered species.” Surely, the only useful Feminist is a ‘rational’ one, which ‘makes sense’ in the society we live in. The hyper-rational Feminist resolves millennia of Women’s subjugation by inadvertently becoming a subjugator. The Victim becomes the Perpetrator.
Obviously, women have worked tirelessly to infiltrate and occupy this patriarchal hierarchy – to ‘break the glass ceiling’. I hold no illusions as to the arduous journey that has been travelled by incredible women like Marie Henein, Margaret Wente and Gloria Steinem to obtain rights and success for women. However, maybe it’s time to take stock and see that Feminism has inevitably become corrupted by the influence of the RMP. Yes, many women are now reaching the hallowed halls of patriarchal power. If the goal was to simply arrive and participate then kudos. If the goal was for powerful women to arrive and do something differently than men it’s abundantly clear that this has not come to pass.
Ms. Henein and Ms. Wente are both formidable people to have risen to the very top in their respective fields. I can only imagine how challenging that was at times, or a lot of time, when they were making their way up the ranks in a man’s world. These two obviously skillful women, and the multitude of other successful women from history, from Joan of Arc to Elizabeth I to Jane Austen to Susan B. Anthony to Marie Curie to the Suffragettes to Rosa Parks to Germaine Greer have set the stage for the arrival of 21st century woman. Women are still getting shafted with lower pay but they have arrived.
Unfortunately, the arrival within the classic RMP Institutions necessarily involves sacrificing important aspects of the Feminine – which are not welcome or understood. This sacrifice is a heavy burden which can only have one outcome – reduced empathy. It has nothing to do with the ability and intelligence of the women. The reality is that you can only succeed as a woman within these Institutions if you play by the rules – otherwise, you’ll be weeded out, whether you are a man or a woman. So, while on the one hand respect should be shown to the Ms. Heneins and Ms. Wentes of the world for having run, survived and flourished within the RMP gauntlet, we are left a sour taste in our mouths since their arrival and participation is not helping women or our society as a whole.
Fortunately, the ‘Arrival’ is now setting the stage for a ‘Veering’ in a more balanced direction, led by the new breed of young Feminists, like Ellen Page, Emma Watson and Malala Yousafzai. As Feminism evolves it has the opportunity to see that the answer does not lie in colluding with the RMP, but instead in charting a new course; one that is more holistic; one that doesn’t end up abandoning those aspects of the Feminine that are considered weak by many men (and some women), where in fact they are essential fonts of great wisdom and power. Indeed, human salvation may lie in these sacrificed aspects of the Feminine.
JUSTICE HORKINS AND THE LIMITS OF THE CURRENT LEGAL SYSTEM
“Reason is a material capacity, while the soul or spirit lives on the thoughts which are whispered by the heart. Thought is born in the soul. Reason is a tool, a machine, which is driven by the spiritual fire. When human reason … penetrates into the domain of knowledge, it works independently of the feeling, and consequently of the heart.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky
As with Ms. Henein, Justice Horkins has also received acclaim from within the legal system for his record, his fairness and his handling of the Ghomeshi case. Technically speaking, it appears he has done an exemplary job. Of course, if you were interested in a little more than the bottom line, Justice Horkins’ verdict might have left you a little wanting. Why? Because even after the case many people, some grudgingly, admitted that Mr. Ghomeshi probably did what he did, especially considering that 20 plus women have come forward to give their accounts of his abusive behaviour. Of course, while ‘probably’ is not sufficient in a court of law, that arena is not the only arbiter of opinion and truth.
What has taken some people by surprise is that despite repeated indications of Mr. Ghomeshi’s disgusting behaviour towards women, in his decision Justice Horkins went out of his way to lambaste the Victims while not saying a damn thing to Mr. Ghomeshi. Yes, there were inconsistencies in the women’s stories. Yet, shouldn’t a judge with Mr. Horkins’ experience know about the mitigating factors involved in the abuse of women? The unreliability of memory under the best of circumstances, let alone when you’ve been blind-sided by a punch to the head? The predictable unpredictability of a Victim’s behaviour after the fact? No doubt, had Mr. Ghomeshi been obliged to take the stand there would have been uniform consistency between his original statements and those given under oath – under heavy cross-examination.
In a parallel universe, this was an opportunity for Justice Horkins to acquit Mr. Ghomeshi (based on the limited left-brain patriarchal legal system within which he is being tried) but where the judge let Mr. Ghomeshi know that while he is technically being found not guilty he might want to do some serious soul-searching and get help because he seems to have a skewed understanding of how respectful and healthy humans interact. This would have been a minor but important salve for women everywhere who have suffered abuse.
Alas, this kind of rounded verdict would require the judge to “feel” what is before him, which he does not have a history of. On the contrary, Justice Hoskins’ lack of empathy made him instead castigate the Victims, who had already been betrayed by Mr. Ghomeshi. After putting themselves through sheer hell by subjecting themselves to our Legal System they not only lost but were shamed further? Does insult to injury get any more blatant? Only can a system that is emotionally stunted produce a decision this tone-deaf.
Sadly, this tone-deafness is par for the course in our culture. Ask many men, including and especially those at the higher echelons of corporations and government, how they ‘feel’ about something and invariably they will begin their response with ‘I think…‘. You’ve asked how they ‘feel’ about something but they are responding by telling you what they ‘think’ – and all of this is unconscious. Then if you press them they might shrug awkwardly, maybe laugh, as they find it difficult to identify their feelings beyond ‘fine’, ‘good’ or ‘bad’. Or they’ll simply say they don’t know, which doesn’t really bother them because so many men are so divorced from their feelings (other than anger) that they don’t even know there’s something amiss.
If we can’t ‘feel’ what’s happening, within and without, we as individuals, cities and countries are vulnerable to acting in ways that we might otherwise not. The more a person’s being is centered in the Left-brain (a) the further they are from being a compassionate and empathetic being (b) the more anger, frustration, fear, resignation, impatience, numbness the person experiences – with predictable consequences such as ill-health, alienation, depression and addiction.
With technology, this abandonment of vulnerability and empathy is being taken to stratospheric levels. Our boys and young men (and even men in their 20s and 30s) are overdosing on a diet of Pornography and violent/demeaning Video Games. The consequences of these boys, and increasingly girls, growing up and becoming our leaders should be a cause for great concern. You might have read that Porn and Video Games do not negatively affect young men – indeed there are studies which reveal that Video Games have ‘benefits’. Yes, I’m sure that’s the case when looked at from a compartmentalized perspective. Conversely, empathy allows us to see, without studies, the bigger picture; the imminent danger; the profound Shame.
Maybe we will look back with hindsight and be grateful that Justice Horkins went ‘All In’ with his decision. Something has been awoken in earnest. Many women throughout Canada are shaking their heads and thinking, “Are you kidding me?” Every day, more and more men are becoming conscious as well. A fire was lit by this case from the moment it came to the fore. Now that fire has been stoked into a bonfire.
Conrad Black, a Doyen of the RMP and, like Justice Horkins, a former UCC Alum, recently wrote a piece about the Ghomeshi case – in support of the verdict, needless to say. Please read it with the knowledge that Mr. Black was expelled from UCC for selling stolen exam papers, after which he attended Trinity College School where within a year he was again expelled, this time for insubordinate behaviour.
How does his piece make you feel? What is the tone? To me, it’s familiar. I know it well. I feel like if he were reading it out loud there would be tiny bits of spittle flying everywhere, incredulity dripping from his tongue. Latent rage seeping through. The injustices so full of injustice that it justifies MY Dismissiveness, my Arrogance, my Condescension, my Aggression – all warranted because I am RIGHT. Exaggeration and bombast the order of the day. Everything existential.
Meanwhile, Mr. Black likely doesn’t realize that this thinly veiled exercise in his own perpetual self-defense of his pathologically criminal actions, for which he was convicted and imprisoned, actually reveals the wounded little boy within him. Still fighting for acknowledgment and value, despite the abandonment of long ago confirming for the little boy that there was something wrong with him – and me. That is why he was sent away. Self-worth and Self-esteem obliterated (really, it’s like that until the SSP swoops in).
The method of defense is merciless attack, with the ultimate civilized weapon of choice – penetrating intellect. Like Mr. Black, and many men, there is no backing down in me when I’m at my worst. I will talk – and shout – rings around you – defending myself. Afterwards, until quite recently, I’d easily focus my blame on other – deflecting from my own ignorance, pain, shame, humiliation and guilt.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Fortunately, the arrival of my daughter almost 9 years ago opened a door. Finding out about the Rational Man Project almost three years ago blew the door off its hinges. Though that thing in me will always remain, very gradually (in my case, anyway) it’s being whittled away. I do my best every day; still fail regularly. It’s hard work. Extreme RMP runs deep!
Mr. Black and I, and many thousands of others, are extreme outgrowths of the Rational Man Project. Mr. Ghomeshi and most men and women, whether aggressive, passive-aggressive or aloof are inadvertent servants of the Rational Man Project – hanging out somewhere on the continuum of unconsciousness and alienation.
THE WAY FORWARD
Some I’ve spoken with have asked me what the alternative is. The answer is inconvenient for those steeped in the ways of RMP ‘solutions’: We don’t know yet because we think the RMP maze we are lost in is all there is. The RMP is like a virus. The ‘antidote’? The re-integration of the Feminine, of the Right-brain. This will not be easy but as we move in that direction we will come up with creative solutions that at this point are simply not available – that have yet to be conjured. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”
Canada is a special place with huge potential. I say what I say because I love this country. Toronto is much maligned but living in this city, the most diverse city on the planet, with people living in general harmony, is quite incredible when we look around the world. Among other things I’m a wedding and a school photographer. I love the fact that I get to photograph children and adults engaging with life in so many different ways – so many different souls making their way together. Yet, there is an opportunity for further evolution. That’s what the Ghomeshi case is offering us. To look beyond the veneer. To look beyond mere band-aid solutions that do nothing to address the fundamental issues. Globally, with our baggage, we are not at the cutting edge of progressive living – yet. But we can be if we begin to genuinely engage with something that is anathema to the Rational Man Project – Self-Reflection.
The path ahead might be arduous but it will be so healing for our Canada – and will propel us forward in a bold way. To be sure, despite the hold of the RMP, every day more people are finding their voices and making themselves heard, putting increasing pressure on the anachronistic RMP way of life. Evolution is well underway. Things like: Gay rights, Paternity Leave, the Environmental Movement, high level leaks (Snowden, Panama Papers), Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), among many other things, are laying the groundwork for a more balanced framework. Just because there has been a particular approach for a long time doesn’t mean that alternative ways of being are not realistic and available.
And while we are on our way, Men, in general, are too entrenched within the RMP to spearhead the coming shift. Conscious Western Woman is best positioned to affect this change, to lead us towards a new paradigm – with conscious men in tow. Let’s be angry at the Ghomeshi verdict and the system that does such a terrible job of safeguarding what is most precious – our hearts. Let us grieve for the centuries of injustice. But let’s not focus our blame on Jian Ghomeshi, Justice Horkins, Mary Henein or Margaret Wente or anyone else. They are merely representatives of our narrow-minded and dysfunctional system. They are mirrors for us to gaze into and recognize ourselves. Forgive them for they know not what they do – what we do.
If we’re going to be fierce let’s be fiercely compassionate and non-judgmental. That is the only way through this. Not by fighting against (Left-brain), but by coming together (Right-brain). Every day there are more women and men jumping on this evolutionary bandwagon. This is the cutting edge. New ground is being broken. The shift does not require large numbers, just effective numbers. As always, there will be many naysayers. And that’s okay. Let’s remain kindhearted yet determined. Let us welcome the ‘Return’ to the Right-brain. Let us accept the open invitation to the embrace the feelings that will inform and guide our next steps as a species.
We are emerging…
By: Bard Azima
Photographer, Film-maker, Writer & Boarding School Survivor