Like many of us, J.K. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. From the time she was young, she wrote fantasy stories, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans – and she’s incredibly talented. Hence, the phenomenal success of Harry Potter.
As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys (ie) Donald Trump, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In our hyper-rational and unfeeling world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be barely human.
Within her writing, Ms. Rowling cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized and unconscious people, like Donald Trump, into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of; that we avoid and deny to varying degrees. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.
That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are deemed worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?
Recently, Ms. Rowling once again engaged the ‘enemy’, with the Huffington Post gleefully pointing out how she ‘destroys’ her Trump-supporting twitter trolls. In one breath Ms. Rowling tweets, “We stand together. We stick up for the vulnerable. We challenge bigots. We don’t let hate speech become normalised. We hold the line.” In the next breath she responds to a Trump troll who says they will be burning her books and movies with, “Well, the fumes from the DVDs might be toxic and I’ve still got your money, so by all means borrow my lighter.”
The inference is that Voldemort, WBC and her twitter trolls are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love – and even deserving of a brutal death. Cleverness, sarcasm and ridicule employed to inflict maximum harm. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? With Mr. Trump? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us – a mirror we dare not look into because we might see that we are an energetic match for what we reject most in others.
But, it’s just so damn satisfying to ‘destroy’ those who are lesser-than, isn’t it? After all, it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort! It’s Trump for God’s sake!!
I mean, these memes are hilarious, right?
The truth is, we scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured shame – because, steeped in avoidance and denial, we are unable to own it and heal it.
Besides, does it make sense to egg on such a damaged and now powerful man, as well as millions of his supporters, who naturally take these memes personally? In mocking them, don’t we only further alienate them? Don’t they become even more entrenched in their positions, further exacerbating the already precarious divisions in the culture?
Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our hyper-masculine world. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’. Because, all any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in our society? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place? And, most importantly, what does this harsh judgment say about those of us who engage in it, especially if we manage to dig deeper and recognize that Mr. Trump is less an aberration and more of a culmination of an abjectly corrupt social, economic and political system that has simply arrived at its logical destination? It says that if we continue to respond in the same unconscious fashion, the outcome will be predictably, and unpredictably, problematic.
Conversely, there is the opportunity for an evolutionary response. This begins, first and foremost, with us as individuals. Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel badly for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable given past and present traumas. This uncertainty can paralyse us, making the inner journey even more daunting than it already is. And yet, if we are hoping for different results, we’re challenged to seek peace and healing in the only place it resides, within, and then, to the extent that we can, to share that with the world.
Many people, especially in the working class demographic, have had enough. There is a sense of futility. Manufacturing has been decimated in their countries. Opportunities are few and far between. The American Dream is apt because it has been nothing more than a fantasy for decades. So, damn right they are upset. When things are this out of whack it eventually becomes obvious, even to the peasants. When things are this off-kilter, how can we expect anything other than the startling shenanigans of Donald Trump? We are only shocked because we are the fish in the sea not recognizing that Mr. Trump is the canary in the coalmine. Actually, with his election, he’s transformed into an Albatross. While the mainstream establishment, and millions of ordinary people, seek at every turn to present him as the fool – which is rather easy to do – they are poking the beast and missing the point: Donald Trump, dangerous as he may be, is not an aberration. He is the logical culmination of an ultra-patriarchal, unfeeling system run amok.
One of the deeply-rooted aspects of such a hyper-rational system is the absence of accurate and meaningful self-reflection. To not recognize how and why we are here is to dabble in the very same unconsciousness that is so easy to ascribe to President Trump and his supports – which will only exacerbate the situation.
I’ve been a big brother to a young Black man, Sean, for the last 15 years (I’m not Black or White). He’s 23 now. When he was 13 and having difficulties at home, my wife and I took him in for 6 months. He is my brother from another mother. All of which to say, I have my own limited insight into the Black community, diverse as it is – which align with my other writings regarding empathy within our culture.
Recently, Sean and I had dinner and saw the excellent film, Moonlight, which deals with familial and cultural trauma in Black America, with the added twist of delving into male sexuality. Because of our hyper-rational system, we feel the need to compartmentalize things: Black and white, right and wrong, Republican and Democrat, straight and gay, etc. The reality always lies somewhere in between. Each of us, regardless of gender, is a unique and infinitely complex combination of masculine and feminine energies. But if a man so much as considers physical closeness with another man, let alone acts on it, he is deemed to be gay, and that’s that. This subject is explored with nuance and sensitivity in the film.
Before I continue, let me say that I will be employing some generalizations that may not always satisfy but which I believe hold true in an overall sense.
There was a moment that struck me in the film, which has an all-Black cast. One character says to another, “Do you feel me?” The questioner is attempting to connect their own feelings to the feelings of another. This question, which is a normal part of North American Black culture, is generally not found in the ‘White’ culture. Instead, the more usual questions in the culture-at-large are: “Do you understand me?” or “What do you think of that?” or “What are you thinking?”
Black culture asks, “Do you feel me?” because the feminine energy has not been as squashed as in the dominant patriarchal culture. Due to this better access to feelings, despite centuries of subjugation, Black culture, especially Black women, holds an advantage in understanding the human experience and therefore has an opportunity to take a leadership role in the evolution of our species.
That those of African heritage have been presented as intellectually lesser-than is a given, but what strikes me as even more relevant is that the ultra-left brained, masculine colonial mind has also attempted to crush the ‘African’ way of being because it doesn’t understand it. Why can’t it understand? Because to understand something that is so connected with feeling requires connection to feelings, which the Western model, in general, does not have. How do we address this lack of access to our feminine selves? By denigrating it in those, including women, especially Black women, who do have that access. Indeed, in the movie, it is a Black woman who asks the question.
Meanwhile, ask many people of all classes, especially men, 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, that they are comfortably numb.
Why this comfortable numbness? Since the Age of reason, over 300 years ago, the Rational Man Project (RMP) has become deeply embedded in the Western World, resulting in a long-term legacy of sacrificing our feelings at the altar of rationality. What is the RMP?
“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… 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.” (Nick Duffell, “Wounded Leaders: British Elitism and The Entitlement Illusion”, 2014)
To varying degrees, Western men and women have exiled this poor self, leaving it to fill the void with a fusion of addictions (food, shopping, illegal drugs, prescription drugs, sports teams, sex, news, cell phone, alcohol, cigarettes, dieting, working, pain, working out, coffee, surfing the internet and social media, pornography, sugar, television, video games).
“The fallout from the Rational Man Project is alive and well… It causes our society grave problems as: It maintains the inherited class structure with its… male elitism intact; It prevents emerging new paradigms” from coming to the fore – “due to fear of foreigners and fear of losing the status quo; and 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.” (Duffell, 2014)
Regardless of gender, the emotional, intuitive, receptive, feminine, sensual, gentle and the big picture have been overwhelmed by a masculine, logical, specializing, practical, penetrating and efficient perspective that crosses class and religious boundaries. The result of this profound imbalance between the masculine and the feminine is a traumatized, confused and addicted culture that escapes and hides behind a wall, personal and collective, that we scarcely know exists. We don’t see the wall because we are the wall.
Among the many tragedies and ironies of those of African heritage having for centuries been deemed lesser-than, and punished accordingly, concerns their generally more effective access to their feelings. Look at Black churches and their intense connection to God. Look at Black dancing. Look at Black music. Look at Black creativity. Look at Black physicality, a strength acquired in part from the rigors of mistreatment and slavery. There is a rootedness that affords Black people, at least those who haven’t succumbed to the Rational Man Project, access to an emotional place that has been sidelined in the culture-at-large. For centuries, the colonial approach has deemed this connection to nature, to the soul, as being somehow uncivilized, with dispassionate reason put forth as a superior replacement.
No doubt this raw emotion is uncivilized, when civilized has, until very recently, meant the wholesale mass murder, torture and subjugation of people of color at home and away. And it’s not really over is it? To add insult to injury, there is the endemic and on-going appropriation of some of the most powerful and creative aspects of Black culture – via gradual, and sometimes, rapid assimilation into the still quasi-colonial structure. Understandably, there is consternation among some, maybe many, Black people who see and feel the injustice of having been treated as tier 2 citizens, really still to this day (other than the Black 1 percenters maybe), while simultaneously being pick-pocketed of their glory.
But what if we focus less on the glaring injustice and more on the opportunity to observe what this appropriation might mean, and why it’s happening? What if it’s not all on purpose? In the case of the United States, it has largely been part and parcel of multi-generational unconsciousness as a result of the three great traumas, “the Native American Genocide, Slavery and The Civil War, the effects of each of which continue to wreak havoc, hundreds of years after the fact. Standing Rock, the police shootings of African-Americans and the recent election highlight the explosive synergy between these three historic traumas, which has now come to a head.
In all three traumas, responsibility and contrition have been largely avoided by Americans of all stripes who now suffer from a deep-seated and profound shame that nobody wants to really look at, for obvious reasons. Some will balk at what is being presented here, suggesting that those things happened long ago. The argument that those are issues of the past has never been as hollow as it is at this moment when the continued impact of these traumas is now plain as day.
In the long term, when traumas, personal or global, are left untended to, the perpetrator becomes the victim, a slave to the guilt that has not been reconciled. Carrying around this burden has become debilitating for the United States, but also for the world as much of humanity struggles under their own versions of terrible betrayal of their fellow humans.” (This is a quote from my recent article on the Trump Presidency).
So what does all this mean for Black cultural appropriation? It means a twisted form of admiration. Despite the dubious methods, borrowing and copying indicate value. Alas, while this admiration also unconsciously dips into latent guilt and trauma, it actually holds within it an opportunity. The appropriation is actually a connecting point, however muddy that may appear. Instead of proper self-reflection and reconciliation the dominant culture apologizes in a back-handed fashion by connecting with areas of Black culture that help it fill the massive void created by the prevailing ultra-rational system.
Society desperately needs the access to feelings that Black people generally have more of – because they are missing it and they don’t know how to go within to find it. So, while society unconsciously takes it, the opportunity for the Black community is to see it as a compliment; to recognize its evolved position, take confidence from that, and act accordingly, from a place of compassion and non-judgment.
Meanwhile, it’s interesting to note what has not been appropriated – yet. This is where the most underestimated aspect of Black American culture comes into play, namely evolved intellect, represented by Martin Luther King Jr. and his championing of non-violent resistance.
A good case can be made that Martin Luther King Jr., a Black man, has been the most extraordinary person America has produced. Inspired in good part by Gandhi’s peaceful yet provocative path of non-violence, MLK, standing on the shoulders of countless Black women and men who came before him, and standing side-by-side with him, achieved the seemingly improbable.
MLK’s words ring as true today as in the 60s but what made them – still to this day – life-changing, was the feeling behind them. His words stir the mind. The feeling behind his words stirs the soul.
Of course, a case can also be made that Gandhi’s and MLK’s respective approaches had enjoyed only short-term success with limited endurance, thereby reducing their standing as giants of human history. Were the 60s a last gasp to steer America and humanity in a more connected direction? Some say yes, but then the evolution of human consciousness is a process, after all. There’s a lot of one step forward, two steps back. We try things on. We make some headway. Then we hit some fear and uncertainty so we take a step back. It doesn’t quite fit yet. It’s too much. Martin Luther King was too much, too soon, so his light was extinguished. This need not be seen as a defeat. Both personally, and as a species, we have our own timing and means of integrating the lessons we learn, especially the toughest ones.
That so much progress has been made on all fronts by Black people, especially considering the abysmal hole they have been forced to climb out of, is a testament to the monumental work and sacrifices that were made by Martin Luther King and the Civil Rights Movement, as well as this inherent rootedness that promotes incredible strength and resilience. The centuries of mistreatment and subjugation of Black people the world over makes their massive influence that much more astounding and meaningful.
The situation is fluid. In my opinion, no American has painted a more intelligent and beautiful picture of the United States, and humanity in general, than Martin Luther King Jr. But, we’re still just getting our feet wet with the progressive ways of Gandhi and MLK. The prevailing way of being is deeply entrenched. It will not easily be dislodged but no other method is better positioned to make inroads into our destructive patterns than an intentional, non-violent approach.
What has not been extinguished, and what an increasing number of people are locking into, is the ongoing legacy of what Martin Luther King Jr. espoused and had massive success with – the transformational power of a more balanced posture; masculine and feminine intertwined, aligned.
(Sidebar: before anyone comes forward with stories of the imperfections of MLK, we should note that there are scarcely any giants of human history who have been perfect. They were like the rest of us works in progress, complicated, beautiful, ugly people – except they also had the weight of the world on their shoulders)
The courage and boldness of MLK and his followers to embrace non-violence, in the face of naked and life-threatening aggression, speaks to evolved thinking and being. This is cutting-edge humanity. We have seen it. We have tasted it. It hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s been laying low but building in strength, working its way to the foreground once again; to the chagrin of status quo forces whose deep fear of self-reflection causes them to resist at all cost; because if they reveal a chink in their armor, a Pandora’s box of unresolved and messy feelings will bubble to the surface. What is in that box is so painful that they work overtime to keep things controlled and contained; avoidance and denial always at the fore. Hence, the difficulty some Americans have in understanding the Black Lives Matter movement – the logical mind having to contend with such a compromised heart center that it reacts by suggesting that White lives matter as well – which, of course, is obvious and not the point.
We have two choices in dealing with people whose life experience has shown them that we are selfish, greedy and all-around terrible beings: (1) Match their energy and aggression head on, which entails engaging with unconscious forces on their terms. With this approach, victory, whatever that means, may be achieved, but at what cost?; OR (2) Do the difficult work of dissolving the generational tit-for-tat where one side responds to being rejected by firing back with resentment.
What is the way forward, for Black culture and all of humanity? Re-embrace and re-invigorate the non-violence practised by MLK, recognizing that the greatest strides for Civil Rights were achieved not with force but with a brave commitment to non-violence and common humanity. Even Malcolm X, at the end of his life, realized that mining our common humanity was far more effective than fighting against those who have grenade launchers when you only have a knife.
In the face of intense and understandable resistance, compassion and non-judgment are the keys. I have been angry and judgmental for my whole life – until recently. Like many of us, it’s been a lifetime of healing my own traumas (which will continue until the day I die). Through my writing, including a piece I have written on the Trump Presidency, and the social media engagement that has followed, I have experienced for myself the transformational potential of treating people with courtesy and compassion, especially those who are most angry, rude, belligerent and lost.
I’ve learned that when we dig a little deeper with any human being and look beyond the desperate and angry mask that has likely been in place for what feels like forever, we find ourselves. The mask is not bad. It is like a collective trauma umbrella held over our heads. It seems to be protecting us from rain but we keep the umbrella open even when it’s not raining; because we’re looking down, afraid to look up. Besides, isn’t it always raining?
The mask has served a crucial purpose, to protect the most vulnerable parts of us from the onslaught of childhood, ancestral and societal trauma. The deeper the trauma, the more unforgiving the mask, the greater the compassion needed to see past it; to feel the depth of the pain, alienation and confusion; to feel how each of us, regardless of race or class, wants the same things; acknowledgment, affection, peace, a fair chance to be who we are and to do what we love.
There is a fantastic documentary entitled, The Mask You Live, which could be required viewing. The film “follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race, class, and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become “real” men.”
I was also recently moved by another extraordinary American Black man by the name of Daryl Davis. Inspired by Martin Luther King, Mr. Davis has for years engaged with and befriended members of the Ku Klux Klan – convincing 200 of them to “renounced their membership in the KKK. Some have even given Davis their ceremonial robes and hoods as a gesture to signify their departure from the group”.
Here is the trailer for a new documentary about Daryl Davis:
Daryl Davis represents cutting edge humanity at its finest. He embodies the idea that non-violence sparks connection, which sparks trust, which sparks feeling. It is only when we have the courage to engage with our own mask, and address what lies behind it, that we can believe in and invite in a different experience; that we can dance with our delicate feelings that have been banished to a netherworld but are eager to make a re-appearance, to be cared for.
Of course, there have also been Black women who have been giants of evolved being and action, including Dorothy Height, Shirley Chisholm, Mary McLeod Bethune, Annie-Lee Cooper and Maya Angelou, among others.
Of course, it must be pointed out that while a case is being made for Black culture, in general, having more access to the feminine energy, it goes without saying that many Black men, as with men in general in the culture, are still severely disconnected. It’s all understandable considering Black men are still dealing with massive generational and culture trauma that is still very fresh, and which will take time to reconcile. This brings us back to Moonlight.
The directing (Barry Jenkins) and casting are spot on. Mahershala Ali will be nominated for an Academy Award, and rightly so. His character encompasses many of the best qualities mentioned in the piece, the masculine and feminine working hard to be in balance. But the biggest revelation for me is the performance of Trevante Rhodes as the adult version of the main character. He is a man aching to connect with his own feelings; with who he is. It’s a remarkable and heartbreaking performance that taps into the furthest reaches of Western, and in this case Black, male alienation. Beyond anger, we must make it acceptable and safe for more men to explore their feelings.
As I have gained more access to my own feelings, I am helping my little brother Sean to do the same. It’s challenging but rewarding work for both us. We have learned so much from each other as we have both tried to figure out who we are and what this life is all about.
The defining question of Moonlight is “Who is you, man?” This is the question asked of the main character throughout his life. It’s the question we are all charged with answering for ourselves. It’s a question we have little hope of answering until we bring our masculine and feminine energies into better balance, personally and as a species. Connecting to our feelings is where human salvation lies. And in general, the Black community has better access to feelings than the rest of the culture. This is an advantage that holds great opportunity to set an example; to show leadership; to help humanity evolve to the next level.
Quite the pickle America and the world finds itself in. While I am Canadian, I’m just going to say “we” for the rest of the piece because a Donald Trump presidency is unprecedentedly significant for the rest of the world. Besides, we all have a hand in this.
Confusion and fear reign as many wonder how on earth this election outcome was possible. Collective shock has taken hold. Dazed, and on the heels of Brexit and the US election, we immediately find ourselves at yet another crossroads.
With the nuclear codes having somehow been placed into the hands of such a damaged and volatile human being, the dysfunctionality of our economic and political systems have been laid bare. Why are we here? There is plenty of blame to go around, between the ratings-hungry and fear-mongering cable news networks, both major political parties and the people. But the challenge is to move beyond the partisan fingering-pointing. There are bigger picture, deeper issues facing the Unites States, and the world, that are more relevant to the situation than anything to do with Democratic or Republican parties, both of which have become transparently corrupt and ineffective.
The nature of the current citizen response is critically important. If those on both sides continue to parse and cherry-pick information in order to vilify each other the danger to the nation, and the world, could be catastrophic. The reality, masked by decades and centuries of avoidance and denial, is that America is beset by disowned foundational trauma, revolving around the Native American Genocide, Slavery and The Civil War, the effects of each of which continue to wreak havoc, hundreds of years after the fact. Standing Rock, the police shootings of African-Americans and the recent election highlight the explosive synergy between these three historic traumas, which has now come to a head.
In all three traumas, responsibility and contrition have been largely avoided by Christian Americans who now suffer from a generational and profound shame that nobody wants to really look at, for obvious reasons. Some will balk at what is being presented here, suggesting that those things happened long ago. The argument that those are issues of the past has never been as hollow as it is at this moment when the continued impact of these traumas is now plain as day.
In the long term, when traumas, personal or global, are left untended to then the perpetrator becomes the victim, a slave to the guilt that has not been reconciled. Carrying around this burden has become debilitating for the United States, but also for the world as much of humanity struggles under their own versions of terrible betrayal of their fellow humans.
Our avoidance in tackling our traumas is totally understandable. We are afraid to look in the mirror because of what we will see. It’s painful. Between the latent historical traumas and our personal childhood trauma, which so many of us have, we find ourselves at a tipping point. This state of affairs can no longer be endured. One way or another, it must shift.
Enter: Donald Trump, an extreme manifestation of our collective neglected trauma screaming for attention, desperate for acceptance, yet perpetually rejected. It’s not on purpose. It’s too painful to engage with, so we distract ourselves to avoid the truth that has become patently obvious: America, the world, is sick, the severity of the condition represented by President-elect Trump.
Whether you voted for him or not, his is the prevailing energy at the fore at this point in time. And everyone has a piece of it because nothing happens without the tacit/active approval of the people. At the extremes, which have become increasingly normalized, some of us hate along with Mr. Trump, and others just hate Mr. Trump. In the end, beneath the veneer, there is little difference between the two positions.
What does it mean that Congress has a 13% approval rating? In what other arena are the players so inept yet still allowed to keep doing the same old same old? What does it mean when a paltry 53% of eligible voters participated in one of the most consequential elections in the history of the United States? By the way, let us not distract ourselves with the Electoral College and the argument that Hillary Clinton won more of the popular vote – by an unconvincing 2%. The more important figure is that almost 75% of eligible voters cared neither for her nor Donald Trump. Does democracy get any less watered-down than the ‘winner’ sporting a 25% mandate?
Like it or not, our representatives reveal how well we think of ourselves. We are the bosses. These are the people we have hired. A 13% Congress persists because of a 300 year old legacy of sacrificing our feelings at the altar of The Age of Reason. Regardless of gender, the feminine, the emotional, the instinctual, the gentle and the big picture have been overwhelmed by a masculine, logical, specializing, practical and penetrating perspective that crosses class and religious boundaries. The result of this profound, historic imbalance between the masculine and the feminine is a fearful, abusive, violent, misogynistic, racist, pornographic culture that has relegated community, compassion and empathy to sideshow status, leaving in its wake a traumatized and confused culture that escapes and survives via its cornucopia of addictions that have become normalized.
Mr. Trump is the living embodiment of what is axiomatic but still not well understood: what we reject most vigorously in others is an energetic match for what lies within ourselves. That’s tough, because it requires us to look within. It requires us to take responsibility for ourselves. Unfortunately, self-reflection is not a strong suit of the hyper-rational mind, since it lies in the emotional sphere, where the heart connection resides. How many of us have only limited access to that receptive and loving place? Who amongst us knows what joy really tastes like? Instead, how many of us are fixing for a fight, our latent anger and frustration lurking just beneath the mask we deploy every day to engage with a world that makes so little sense? We chide our children for throwing tantrums or bullying when we have taught them everything they know. Things haven’t gone the way of Trump haters so they’re going to throw a hissy-fit – a tantrum because things didn’t work out the way they needed them to; so that they could feel okay; so that they could feel that things are still under control.
How many of us regularly unleash our incredulity on a random person over a harmless infraction? As pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we are ready to wag an accusatory finger at one another over some apparent advantage taken, or a moment of unawareness, that might have delayed us from reaching our destination by thirty seconds. And while we are fiercely condemning them for their act, we instantly take in their appearance, their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, their fitness level and come up with a personality profile that is born of ego, fear, judgment and bias; that conjures vulnerability in the other; to make us feel better; superior; to give us the justification we need to avoid recognizing our role in creating that very experience in order to show us our state of consciousness; empathy on life-support.
THE CIVIL WAR AND THE CREATION OF THE CONTINENTAL POVERTY DIVIDE
Nothing more needs to be said about the lasting ignominy of both the Native American Genocide and Slavery. However, the third trauma, The Civil War, is not so straight forward. A closer look at the motivations behind The Civil War sheds an important light on the ever-present North-South divide, represented here in a map which details the aptly named, Continental Poverty Divide:
How did this grossly unequal state of affairs come to be? A great myth of American history is that disagreement between North and South over Slavery was the primary reason for the Civil War, and that Slavery was mostly a Southern problem. In fact, the reason for the conflict was overwhelmingly economics. Of course, the victor always gets to write the history, and so it is that Abraham Lincoln has deified, having been credited with acting on behalf of slaves when in fact he only became an abolitionist, and a limited one at that, when it suited his political ends.
In September, 1858, during his campaign for the Senate, Mr. Lincoln said to a crowd in Charleston, Illinois:
“I will say, then, that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races (applause); that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people… And inasmuch as they cannot so live, while they do remain together there must be the position of superior and inferior, and I as much as any other man am in favor of having the superior position assigned to the white race.”
Furthermore, “racism in the North was as entrenched as slavery in the South, and it would take the war to shake both. New York blacks could not vote unless they owned $250 in property (a qualification not applied to whites). A proposal to abolish this, put on the ballot in 1860, was defeated two to one (although Lincoln carried New York by 50,000 votes).”
For Lincoln, the overwhelming imperative was keeping the Union together with Federal Government supremacy over fiscal matters, especially taxation. During the Civil War, in a letter to one of his generals here wrote:
“My paramount object in this struggle is to save the Union, and is not either to save or destroy Slavery. If I could save the Union without freeing any slave, I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves, I would do it; and if I could do it by freeing some and leaving others alone, I would also do that. What I do about Slavery and the colored race, I do because it helps to save this Union…”
When the Emancipation Proclamation “was issued January 1, 1863, it declared slaves free in those areas still fighting against the Union (which it listed very carefully), and said nothing about slaves behind Union lines. The London Spectator wrote concisely: “The principle is not that a human being cannot justly own another, but that he cannot own him unless he is loyal to the United States.”
153 years later, the revisionist history is gospel, which keeps alive the idea that the South was, and is, clearly more racist than the North. Jessica Barron, a sociologist at Duke University, says, “We as a nation do not like to talk about slavery in the north or our 12 presidents who owned slaves…” She goes on to say, “we need to understand that the entire foundation of the US is built on a racial hierarchy that has always said that white is better than black – not just in the south.” No doubt African-Americans in Chicago, Baltimore and New York would concur. (Sidebar: while African-Americans are almost 3 times as likely to be killed by police than Whites, any guesses as to who has it worse? The long forgotten who are even lower on the totem pole, if it can be believed, than African-Americans: Native Americans)
In short, despite conventional American denial, The Civil War was largely about economic and political control (which, of course, included control over decisions regarding Slavery). The Southern states resisted; in keeping with the ideals of the Declaration of Independence in which they would be free from the tyranny of centralized control. Indeed, it could be argued that inasmuch as the South might be ‘more’ racist than the north, that this position has been heavily influenced by the disingenuous prevailing history that the Civil War was about Slavery.
Regardless, The Civil War resulted a horrendous loss of life and the economic devastation of the South, from which it has yet to recover. The trauma the North inflicted on the South has not been reconciled or remedied, which means the trauma still remains in place, the deep distrust of the Establishment forces within the Federal Government passed down from generation to generation, still fresh, 153 years later.
Presently, the focus of the Left is, mistakenly, on the racist component of the vote instead of on what is more pertinent: namely, the continuing alienation of, and humiliation of, the Tier 2 Americans in the South. Add to this, the nation’s general Depression-era level income inequality and you have many millions of people who have been left in the economic dust and who have little faith in a political system that has not acted on their behalf.
After 153 years, millions of people are still tired of not being heard, tired not being acknowledged, tired of being so taken advantage of by a political and economic system that is absurdly skewed in favor of the Establishment and tired of being dismissed as simply racist. Is there a racist component to the Trump vote? Undoubtedly, since the Republican Party and their new President, have cynically used the racial card to gain support from frustrated and disenfranchised people. But to focus too much on the racial component, at the expense of the aforementioned factors, misses the larger point and perpetuates the divisions that brought about a Trump Presidency. If this chasm is allowed to persist, and expand, it could boil over into another national conflict.
THE MORAL AND INTELLECTUAL BANKRUPCTY OF AMERICA’S POLITICAL PARTIES
The status quo is so intolerable that millions risked electing, yes, a dangerous man, but also a man who spoke some truth to power, which no other Republican, or Democratic, candidate did. No doubt, to the extent that Mr. Trump spoke truth to power, it was self-serving. Nevertheless, he tapped into the national, nay global, push by people who have had enough of a system that benefits the few and abandons the many.
America is still living with this unresolved Civil War trauma, which has come to a head in our extreme left-brained culture that has trouble seeing, and feeling, the spaces between right and wrong, Left and Right, black and white, Democrat or Republican. We are stuck between a revisionist history rock and a binary approach hard place.
The emperor, the political system, has no clothes, or more accurately has had the clothes torn off. Do politicians really underestimate the people this much? Do they think we don’t see when they are being so crassly obvious? Well, we are starting to see. Don’t you see that? No, as amazing as that sounds. They do not see because the blinders that the elite have worn for centuries have engendered a generational myopia. Politicians of all stripes are so embedded in the game, so obsessed with maintaining or gaining power, so rationally divorced from their feelings, so beholden to their financial backers, that they are literally incapable of acting in the best interests of the people. This dog-eat-dog virtual-reality bubble that the Establishment, political and economic, has marooned itself in, has been at play for so long that they cannot see the forest for the trees – with grave consequences for the citizenry. Meanwhile, the confused citizenry extends the unconsciousness deep into the culture, unable to see through the fog…
This lack of vision and clarity has America on the precipice as their deep shame, entombed as it has been in the netherworld, rears its ugly head. The knee jerk reaction, generationally practiced, is to avoid and reject, in order to protect ourselves from the pain. The question is, will we open the door and engage with the beast on our terms, which will require unprecedented courage, or will we try to barricade the door, shut our eyes and cover our ears while shouting, la la la la la la, as loud as possible to drown out the sound of the battering ram that will, eventually, smash down the door?
We are all now perpetrator and victim, all rolled into one. None of us are purposely trying to make things worse, not the people and not the politicians. We’re all just trying to keep up, running, hair straight back, afraid to slow down, to stop. Afraid it will all catch up to us, like it has with 25% of Americans who suffer from mental illness, and countless more who are wondering what the hell is going on. We hear of epidemics all the time, none of which materialize, while we ignore the true epidemic in our midst. We are doing the best we can with a limited emotional toolbox.
How much global hate and ridicule have been, and continue to be, hurled Mr. Trump’s way? Many will argue that he clearly deserves it. After all, he’s just a loathsome, irredeemable fellow isn’t he? In our binary, rational world, we want to paint him with a single, vile brush. There. Done. Moving right along.
WHO IS DONALD TRUMP?
Speaking of a limited emotional toolbox, who is Donald Trump? “According to biographers, Trump’s father was a workaholic, a ruthless, cold and authoritarian man who believed life is a competition where the “killers” win.” He passed his public bigotry and trauma on to Donald, who was such a trouble-maker that his father sent him off to military boarding school. We don’t usually have to dig too far to glean that it’s likely the unruly child has been damaged, unconsciously to be sure, by the family. How many of us unwittingly pass off our trauma to our children, then deny it, then leave the confused child to try to figure it out, foreshadowing the seemingly inexorable continuation of generational betrayal and trauma.
Rest assured, like many of us, Mr. Trump has suffered – mightily. How can we know this? He infamously suggested to the Pakistani-American father who lost his son in combat that he, Mr. Trump, had sacrificed as much as Mr. and Mrs. Khan. Of course, he was roundly condemned for his apparently absurd comment, which he then doubled down on for good measure. We write him off as a fool, but his life and actions reveal deeper truths.
Many people are afraid of Mr. Trump. That they are correct to be concerned is ironically and frighteningly displayed in this video of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, recounting their father’s foundational advice when they were 11 and 4 years old, respectively. It is with pride that the brothers speak of their father telling them that they must never trust anyone, including each other, and including himself, their father. What a thing to tell your children. Why would Mr. Trump tell them that? It’s not because he’s just a jerk, though that’s one aspect of his life experience. It’s because he has unquestionably – yes unquestionably – been visited with extreme betrayal in his childhood, his heart connection severed. The extremity of this betrayal, on one end of the continuum, mirrors the extremity of the absence of trust that he so unconsciously bequeaths to the world and to his sons, who continue the tradition. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
If we don’t trust our parents, our gods, then how can we trust life? That’s exactly the point for Mr. Trump. Life is not to be trusted. Only someone who has come from trauma and betrayal feels this way. Earnestly believing he is helping his children, Mr. Trump brands his “wisdom” onto his children’s foreheads, for all to see. To Mr. Trump, anything other than this realpolitik approach would be naïve and irresponsible.
A person who has no trust is capable of the gravest actions. This is the person who is now steering the ship.
So, in a way, Mr. Trump has sacrificed more than Mr. and Mrs. Khan. The Khans’ lost a son yet exude dignity and decency. At some point, unable to cope, Mr. Trump lost himself, as do many of us. He sacrificed himself to survive. The alarming consequences are on display for the world to see; alarming because quite a few Americans are so traumatized and/or far gone with their disgust towards the Establishment that they will consider voting for such a man. Dig a little deeper and understand that some of these people are an energetic match for the traumatized Mr. Trump. The ascendency of Donald Trump reveals just how widespread the trauma is, and how badly the Establishment, bolstered by the populace, has mismanaged the country.
Meanwhile, the more his supporters are derided, the more emboldened and unpredictable they become, including the millions of them who may not display the obvious unsavoriness of Mr. Trump, but who feel deep-seated and unbearable dissatisfaction and insecurity with the status quo. Despite the complexity behind Mr. Trump’s support, our extreme black and white culture, like the old Loony Tunes cartoons, creates simplistic explanations to try to account for the widening chasm that is threatening to derail the American experiment. We’re afraid to see that all involved have legitimate beefs; and that the anger and confusion on both sides are simply two sides of the same coin.
Exiled from our emotional selves, we are suffering from a major compassion deficit. How can we have compassion for those apparently on the other side when we are so uncompassionate with ourselves? Well, in the place of compassion, what really may have won the day for President-Elect Trump is a national American pastime: Ridicule.
Where does this endemic ridicule come from? It is born from a deep insecurity that has been in place since America wrenched independence from Britain. America is still trying to prove itself; a brilliant but immature nation that resorts to constant self-aggrandizement to cover up rot upon which the self-professed greatest country in the world is built.
It is said that Donald Trump decided to run for President after the infamous 2011 White House Correspondents’ Dinner at which President Obama savagely humiliated him before the country’s elite. During the same dinner, comedian, Seth Meyers, also unleashed a full-scale assault on Mr. Trump. All told, it was a public humiliation for the ages. That dinner came on the heels of Donald Trump’s relentless harping on President Obama’s birth certificate. The frame of reference has drastically changed in recent days, but how many of us in the past laughed along with the ridicule, easily able to convince ourselves that Mr. Trump deserved every ounce of what the President dished out?
Before the election, Frontline on PBS had an excellent short video chronicling the events of that fateful night which helped set forces into motion that have somehow led to a Trump Presidency. In the video, Michael D’Antonio, author of the book, The Truth About Trump, says, “Donald dreads humiliation. And he dreads shame. And this is why he often attempts to humiliate and shame other people. So, in the case of the President ridiculing him, I think this was intolerable for Donald Trump.” The legendary level of Mr. Trump’s crassness perfectly reflects a man who has been deeply humiliated and shamed in his childhood. It has all been about payback ever since; to show the world that he is worthy, in the face of a never-ending barrage of insults that he has endured for decades, first from his father, then from the world. It all came to a head that night, when one of the most respectful men to ever hold the presidency succumbed to the ubiquitous ridicule that is not just tolerated but celebrated in the culture. All in good fun right? Short-term laughs and ego-boost; long-term underestimation and heartache. The truth is, dismissiveness and sarcasm, normalized in our culture, are outgrowths of deep-seated trauma that we are taking out on others instead of healing.
There is a fallacy that one needs to meet the bully head on; toe to toe; take them down a notch. Bully the bully. That will show them. This approach sometimes may appear to work in the short term, but in the long-term that violent impulse within the bully is only affirmed, with predictable collateral damage down the road. Does that mean we stand by and watch the bully wreak havoc? Certainly not. But the intention behind the response to the bully is key. To hope that he gets his just desserts connects us to the very same energies we condemn in the bully.
How many of us have been, and continue to be, on the Trump-bashing bandwagon? Egging him on; fueling the wounded beast within; confirming for him the unforgiving nature of the world. It is at our own peril if we persist in making fun of, and underestimating, a man who has achieved the remarkable, the unthinkable, especially if we understand the dark place that he is drawing his inspiration from.
THE ROAD AHEAD
We, and our ancestors, all created this mess but we just can’t believe that this is our baby.
Humanity is now presented with a stark choice:
(1) Have the courage to look within, to re-ignite the heart flame, and work to heal our own pain and shame; to look beyond the borders of labels like Democrat-Republican, gay-straight, black-white, Christian-Muslim, etc. Seek out the wonderful nuance that lives on the continuum between these limiting, extreme positions. Embark on the ultimate journey to identify, acknowledge and heal the betrayal and trauma within, while inflicting as little of it as possible on the world. For Americans, there’s also an opportunity to address the still-festering and unacknowledged trauma from the three main traumas; or
(2) Continue down the current divisive path by attacking and denigrating President Trump and his supporters, feeding the beast that already presents a solemn threat to the well-being of the nation and the world. Match their ferocity and disdain with our own.
How are we any different from Mr. Trump and some of his supporters if we spew fear and vitriol? This path sews within it the seeds of unfathomable suffering – again – because when we return similar fire, the recipient, the original bully, gets to divert their attention away from their own culpability and shift their blame on to us, thereby justifying their bad behavior. After all, they suppose, in the end everyone’s an asshole just like me, and we confirm that for them.
If we are searching for a glimmer of hope in a sea that has been colored Red, ponder this: Many are afraid of the Republican control of all levels of government. But, maybe things are, as usual, not so cut and dried. After all, President Trump is not a Republican, and never has been. He’s an independent that flew the Republican standard only to achieve power. He has about as much time for Republicans as he does Democrats. He has no allegiance to anyone but himself (remember the one debate when Mr.Trump didn’t hesitate to dismiss and embarrass future VP, Mike Pence, regarding Syria policy). He will put forward his agenda and if the Republican Congress obstructs him, he will use executive orders and/or the bully pulpit to appeal directly to the people, including his millions of rabid supporters, but also including everyone else.
Might he use the bully pulpit to nefarious ends? Possibly. If we keep hating him and his supporters, will we exacerbate an already volatile situation? Most definitely. Might things become ugly? Maybe. If so, we will have to learn another difficult lesson on the collective human journey, the severity of which will depend on our ability to grasp that our reaction, more so than his action, carries the day.
There is an incredible liberation that comes with not taking the bait to denigrate another, especially when they ‘deserve’ it. The alternative is always further separation – and consorting with the very same negative forces we so often condemn in the recipient. Once we cease to take the bait, a challenging journey to be sure for most of us, we have the opportunity to dissolve the historical and personal patterns of trauma that keep us trapped within an interminable tit-for-tat existence.
Let’s see what President Trump will do. His tendencies remind us of some of the worst leaders of human history. However, let us not assume, because we heard some things during the campaign, that he will follow through on the most unsavory aspects of his platform. Let us not bow to the relentless armaggedonization of our culture, which promotes extreme positions, while undermining community. After all, Mr. Trump, and every politician, will spout all kinds of nonsense to get elected. They don’t or can’t follow through on most of it anyway. Conversely, while seemingly preposterous, since the Establishment has made such a crazy hash of running the country, let us be open to the possibility that he may help the situation, just probably not in a linear or obvious way that is familiar and comfortable.
Neal Gabler said, post election: “We all knew these hatreds lurked under the thinnest veneer of civility. That civility finally is gone. In its absence, we may realize just how imperative that politesse was. It is the way we managed to coexist… No more can we pretend that we are exceptional or good or progressive or united. We are none of those things.”
The police shootings of this past year, Standing Rock and the election, have revealed what lurks below the dishonesty of that civility, which could no longer be hidden. The faux-civility bubble had to burst. The imperative ‘politesse’ that has now been lost, and that Mr. Gabler presents as having been positive, was in a fact a tool of denial. As we can now plainly see, the very best that could have been hoped for in its shadow was grudging tolerance, emphasis on the grudging. That civility was a lie that has, over generations, contributed to a collective American depression, and to the election of Donald Trump. Of course, the problem lay in the original presumption of the exceptional nature of America, or any group of humans, a position that automatically creates separation with others, and contains within it the potential for perpetual conflict.
It is from this uncomfortable place of being laid bare, distracted from the hollowness of our unfeeling, individualistic and materialistic culture, that we are presented with the opportunity to evolve as a species.
The road ahead is not to make America great again but to make America and humanity great, for the first time. Though it may seem counter-intuitive because we are so bad at loving the badness within ourselves and each other, let’s try sending the President-elect some good vibes. Throw him a bone. He needs it badly. So do we all.
It may have to get worse before it gets better. If so, we can, as individuals, not only do our utmost not to exacerbate the situation, but try to muster as much compassion and non-judgment for ourselves and our perceived enemies as possible, to lead humanity in a more empathetic direction. Despite our rational need for solutions, and quick ones at that, this is, and has always been, about the long game.
Reflections on Staying the Course or Finding the Courage and Clarity to Make a Course Correction
Remain or Leave? Which brings us back to Brexit. If we concede that what has been presented in this paper has validity, then it might feel trivial at this point to engage with Brexit, which is simply yet another in an endless line of outgrowths of an unconscious system that cannot do anything but: Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
The Brexit vote was a gentle nudge to the ribs of our leadership; a civilized wake-up call to let them know that the people are still relevant, and they are tired of being an afterthought. The response? As one commenter, discussing a potential second referendum, says:
“The Remain Camp’s contempt for democracy and the working class is huge and ever increasing. Any second referendum would result in an even bigger majority to leave. They clearly don’t understand the British people.”
Someone responds to him with:
“If it will be “an even bigger majority to leave”, then what is the problem? It has become abundantly clear that the Leave camp had no clear vision of what Brexit would mean. As that is the case, how can the referendum possibly have been conducted in anything but ignorance?”
What the second commenter is missing is that while ‘clear vision’ was, and still is, missing in action on both sides of the ledger, there is plenty of unconscious ignorance to go around. Only from this oxymoronic place can a serious article be written entitled, “The Brexit Doomsayers were wrong but now we need economic certainty.” Economic certainty eh?
Fortunately, we are becoming more aware of our own failings and blocks, as well as those of our political, legal, medical and economic systems. The emperor has kind of lost his mind, mystified by his personal and ancestral betrayal and addiction to the Rational Man Project. He truly doesn’t know any better, because he’s been frozen in time as the traumatized seven year old child, still trying to figure out what the hell is going on. That makes him potentially dangerous until we understand that the way forward on all fronts is compassion and non-judgment. These people need help, just like we do. They need love, just like we do. When they don’t get it, when we don’t get it, bad things can and do happen.
Many of us will say we’re not addicted to the RMP way, as we fill our every waking hour with something: coffee, get the kids ready for school, work out, eat, work, surf the web, coffee, email, snack, Facebook, cigarette, coffee, eat, work, snack, pick up the kids from daycare, have a toke, make dinner, clean up, Facebook, bathe the kids, put them to sleep, collapse on the couch in front of the TV, have a drink, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, TV, news, have a drink, late show, stay up way past when we should because we don’t want to go to bed. Oh, it’s morning again. Shit. Whatever, must keep moving; to escape the pain. Weekend? What weekend? What rest? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Are we not addicted? We frown upon those who shine a light on our collective malaise by abusing a specific addiction, especially one that has arbitrarily been deemed unacceptable, such as drugs. Apparently, these people don’t know how to colour inside the lines; and it’s awkward for the rest of us to have to witness that, especially as we are working double-time to escape the pain. The reality is that most of us find ourselves somewhere on the Addiction Continuum, our location correlating with our level of disconnect from our feelings and with the depth of our trauma.
As the untenable nature of the RMP approach comes into sharp relief, more of us are wondering if this state of affairs really is inevitable. On social media recently I saw the following ditty: “We’re born. What the fuck is this? We die”. More of us are starting to recognize that this mass confusion, mollified by our normalized addictions, is no longer sustainable. How much longer can we maintain this exhaustingly addictive façade?
We are approaching the nexus where universal and inconsolable stiff-upper-lipping-it meets a place we have not experienced before. We get snippets here and there of this mythical place, but we don’t know what it looks like. We think we need to know what it looks like before taking the plunge. But looking, and the left-brain evaluation that accompanies it, is not remotely as effective as feeling it.
Here’s the mission should we choose to accept it:
(1) Forgive ourselves;
(2) Forgive our parents;
(3) Forgive our ancestors; and
(4) Regenerate the pathways back to the right-brain; back to our hearts; back to our long-lost feelings.
But before that can occur there is one critical component of courting a viable and juicy dance with compassion and non-judgment, without which little changes: space. We have so little space in our over-scheduled and addicted lives to invite in something new.
How can anything change while we suckle at the teat of our permanent hyper-adrenalized state? There is a violence to this routine of addiction. When we engage the wall from this place we are met with a corresponding resistance; a painful rebuff that serves to confirm for us the improbability of safely reconnecting with that far-off place. We are owned by the things we resist most. The greater the resistance to anything, the more in common we have with its energetic signature; not with the exact characteristic but with the feeling underlying it.
Courage is required to create the space needed to reconnect with our hearts – and compassion for what will arise from this place. Crucially, as Dr. Mate, says, “Real compassion doesn’t have to do with helping somebody feel good. It has to do with guiding them to the truth because it’s the truth that will liberate them.” A friend of mine took a course with Dr. Mate last year and she asked him about “joy” – because when you look at him over the course of many videos he doesn’t seem to exhibit much joy and lightness. He responded in a way which is entirely congruent with what he is sharing with the world. Uncovering joy and happiness is a process. Many of us don’t even know what joy really feels like. We are manufacturing it from without. We haven’t known how to be joyful. So, extracting it is not easy. But the more of it we extract, the easier it becomes.
One of the things I love about Dr. Mate is how deliberately he speaks. In our era of lightning quick edits and instant gratification, his thoughtful and gentle delivery can be jarring at first; until we allow ourselves to glide along with him as he creates the space for himself to come up with just the right word or feeling. (For a more in-depth interview with Dr. Gabor Mate click here)
The introduction of this space, and the accompanying gentle pace, into our lives is a mechanism through which we can gain access to the heart side. Of course, this cannot happen without making some changes.
Despite the sway of infinite growth, we can take a step back: maybe downsize our home; change our job; simplify our lives; reduce our addictive consumption; limit our exposure to toxic relationships. No doubt, this is hard to do when confronted by our peer group and family when they are still operating at warp speed. Hence, courage, to slow down, in order to feel; in order to be able to deal with the fear that comes with change. When the fear comes, as it always does, we acknowledge it and feel how it is affecting us and then reach for the better-feeling thought.
The endgame is to feel. Feel the bad stuff and release it. Feel the good stuff and invite it to stick around. Sustained clarity comes from maintaining and nourishing these newly forged channels to our feelings; knowing all the while that this is a life-long process that will sometimes feel like one step forward and two steps back or two steps forward and one step back. At all times, we are encouraged to be as compassionate with ourselves as possible; to cut ourselves continual slack because we are doing the most demanding and honourable work there is.
An antidote to the confusion that is so prevalent in humanity is the process of gaining access to our feelings. It is only from the increasingly balanced place where right-brain feeling has been re-integrated that we can recognize the patterns, destructive and otherwise, that are governing our lives. Moreover, this personal journey becomes a conduit to decoding larger scale unconscious patterns that dictate our familial, national and global behaviour. Questions we didn’t even know we had, or have been avoiding because they are so vexing, can suddenly be asked and answered. Why did I marry my wife? Why am I an alcoholic just like my father? Why is my brother in a terrible relationship with his partner… again? Why am I sick… again? Why am I going through the motions with my job… again? Why is my relationship with my mother so problematic? Why am I perpetually unsatisfied and unhappy? What is up with the world?
Over a period of months and years of accessing our long-dormant feelings the dots begin to be connected as we experience revelatory moments of really understanding the programming behind the scenes. But what’s really fascinating and exciting is that the more insight we gain into our personal patterning, the more we see the generational patterning at work within our own families and our world. Trauma is trauma and betrayal is betrayal, regardless of class, nationality or religion. With this felt understanding, the artificial walls that separate us begin to fall away. We see each other. We see ourselves.
Quantum Physics has a theory, which has been tested, called Quantum Tunneling, which entails “transitioning through a classically-forbidden energy state”. For example, a particle passing through a barrier that it logically shouldn’t be able to. Until recently, this was deemed impossible by the experts who are experts at colouring inside the lines, only venturing outside the lines once it has been confirmed that it’s okay to do so; which brings us back to that daunting wall. Don’t we already know the deal with the wall? When there is clarity, courage and compassion, we can tunnel through the wall. It is not so much a breaking through the wall as becoming one with the wall – and then dissolving it.
Image from Roger Water’s ‘The Wall’ tour
Notice all the people in the crowd exhilarated by the dissolution of the wall by a single person.
When this kind of opening happens, for however long it lasts, empathy enters the equation. Empathy is the opposite of judgment. From this place we can feel that many other humans on this planet – our brothers and sisters – have endured similar levels of trauma and betrayal; and that we’re all just doing the best we can to cope. From this place we can learn to trust. Trust is the opposite of betrayal. From this feeling place we can become familiar with happiness. We can stop running. We can rest. We can feel the exhilarating liberation of letting things go. Letting go of the illusion that we are defined and judged by our trauma, most of which doesn’t belong to us anyway. We can feel the power of peace and gentleness. We can feel that it’s going to be okay.
The other side of the wall is not the promised land as much as extricating ourselves from our own cage; as we realize that we are responsible for our own suffering and our own joy. Until then, we play the role of victim, beholden to the hopelessness and pain that keeps us down. On the other side, we can choose to exchange the hand we were dealt, with a new hand we deal to ourselves. Where we go from there is up to us.
There is nothing we ‘must’ or ‘should’ do. This piece will resonate with some; others will say it’s ‘tosh’. And that’s okay. It is not required for everyone to have courage and to do what Rumi said:
“And you? When will you begin that long journey into yourself?”
Will we as a species manage to open our hearts, to trust? Let’s see what we choose. In the end, our individual and collective choices will govern which direction we will head in: further global divisiveness or the unprecedented coming together. We may have to sink further before we can swim. And that’s okay.
If Pink Floyd’s, The Wall, has been the soundtrack of the time period we are emerging from, then the wonderful band, Villagers, represents one musical vision of what is at hand. Here is Conor O’Brien singing, Courage.
“Took a little time to get where I wanted. Took a little time to get free. Took a little time to be honest. Took a little time to be me…”
With courage in hand, we can reach for our emotional surfboard and ride The Waves:
It’s all in our hands and hearts.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on The Wall and How to Move Beyond our Endemic Hysteria, Anger and Aloofness
Who better from the RMP establishment to remind us of Diana’s legacy than the country’s new chief diplomat, Boris Johnson. In an article he wrote after the Brexit vote, he said:
“There is, among a section of the population, a kind of hysteria, a contagious mourning of the kind that I remember in 1997 after the death of the Princess of Wales.”
Mr. Johnson drips with sarcasm and disdain for the contagion that is love, admiration and loss. And yes, hysteria, a term that has historically been associated with loss of control by women. Undoubtedly, the majority of Diana’s admirers were women, though there were also hundreds of millions of men. If what I’ve described above is remotely accurate in describing Diana’s singular effect on the people of the world, was the outpouring of grief not justified? Hysteria is exaggeration. How should people mourn for the untimely death of one of human history’s most influential and beloved figures?
By using the word hysteria to compare the fear and confusion over Brexit to Diana’s death, Mr. Johnson only confirms his utter lack of respect and understanding of, and connexion to, the people , women and the feminine in general. Clearly, Brexit is a big deal, as was Diana’s passing – except to those who have difficulty feeling. To Mr. Johnson, any misplaced emotion is hysteria that must be brought under strict control, just like when he was eleven years old. The quasi-exception to this rule is anger. It’s also not really allowed, especially in public, but because there is no stopping it – because it is ubiquitous – we must make room for anger. Anger in one hand, Martini in the other. The Martini helps with keeping it in check, where it should be.
By all accounts, I went into Boarding School a lovely, six year old boy. Four years later, I exited severely damaged. I know about anger; rage; an achingly barren, futile and impotent fury; my constant companions for 40 years… and beyond. My parents, like almost all parents of children traumatized by the boarding experience, had no idea how to deal with me afterwards. I was two handfuls… and then some. My fury was commensurate with, and exacerbated by, their inability to see and feel what I had experienced. In perpetual survival mode, I made them suffer for their unawareness of me. I couldn’t help it, and they did not have the awareness to help me. It’s humbling for so many ex-boarders to accept that it’s likely, and understandably, damn near impossible for the family to reconcile that they unwittingly put their child in a terrible situation. For many parents and family members, this is a non-starter. Unfortunately, the unfeeling RMP and the inherent privilege of Boarding School meant, and means, that most parents cannot see, or feel, the forest for the trees. Consequently, the way forward may not be to seek acknowledgment and restitution from our families, but to find our peace out in the world.
I can’t find it but somewhere in Nick Duffell’s work he mentions that after a quarter century of counseling, the wounds from Boarding School often run so deep that few, if any, recover. When I first read that, three years ago, it took a while for it to sink in. Up until that point, 23 years into my adult life, I had been working hard, really hard, to find a modicum of peace. I’m talking purposeful and direct self-reflection, to the best of my ability at any given moment. Amazingly, after 23 years, while I had definitely made notable gains, I was still a slave to my rage, that I would regularly take that out on my wife and my child; and whoever else crossed my path at the wrong moment. Mercifully, my anger does not present itself in the physical dimension – but we all know that emotional and verbal abuse are just as bad. It took the momentary dissolution of my marriage two years ago for my wall to wobble; the near miraculous escape from the maze only to be confronted by the immensity of the wall. Fortunately, all the gut-wrenching work I had done until that point paid off, just, because as with the CEO on the plane, momentous clarity came to me. Standing before my wife, who had the proverbial last straw gritted between her teeth, I was able to see how far I had come – and how much further there was still to go.
I don’t know if I can find the kind of peace where the anger that wells up in me is permanently muted. At this point, I am still vulnerable under my worst button-pushing moments. Recently, I was having a bad day. I knew that going into the bank to sort something out was a bad idea. But I went anyway. Before I knew it, I was taking out my frustrations on the bank manager for the gross injustice of their policies. The poor guy was only doing his job. It wasn’t pretty, and, as usual, I felt that all too familiar shame right away after I dismissively left him. It took me three days to call him and apologize. This shit runs deep. And so it should not be taken for granted. I am charged with staying centred, or getting back to centre as gently and quickly as possible, for my own sake, and that of others; a kind of graceful vigilance. Shame is the opposite of grace.
Synchronistically, when I came upon the Boarding School Trauma information, my daughter was six years old, the same age as when I went to Boarding School. Through her and her peers I saw what six years old means. It hit me and I felt, for the first time since I shut myself down those many moons ago, what it felt like to deal with being dropped off and what it meant to survive in that place. I realized how much my child still critically needs her mother and me.
It’s humbling to witness the glorious and heart-breaking vulnerability in my child and her peers, and how easily it can literally and suddenly become the end of the world for them. Some adults wonder what the big deal is and castigate the child for getting carried away. All the while, we and the rest of the adults in the world, are living embodiments of “getting carried away” – which our children readily feel and see. Aren’t our children, and their moods, and their health, not a perfect reflection of us? There is little more startling than your own child reflecting back your own anger back to you; the anger that, despite my very best efforts, I have passed on to her. As parents, we have a choice to either recognize where our child’s issues come from and take the challenging steps to evolve as human beings, or we can punish them for showing us what unconscious assholes we are.
My daughter and her friends are only nine years old. She is a kid growing up in a RMP culture, dealing with her RMP parents and the RMP world. They still really need their parents, the best versions of us that we can muster.
It is from this position of gaining access to who I was that I write this piece. It has been a gruelling journey. Cut off from my heart and feelings, my anger has always been severe. Anger is a funny one because it is allowed, but then it is condemned, especially when employed by a man – a man who is raging because he is confused and afraid. The anger is seen as shameful, which is yet another blow for the angry man. After all, anger is emotion – out-of-control emotion. One might call it… hysterical. He gets angrier. But because many more men than women exhibit this anger, patriarchy cuts anger slack because it’s never as bad as it seems – at least to the perpetrator (beyond the historical rape of hundreds of millions of women and the killing (via war and murder) of well over 300,000,000 million people since recorded history).
I mean, anger is bad but it’s no hysteria.
What many don’t realize is that anger, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. In fact, anger is a loud clarion call that something is very wrong. Unfortunately, despite its absurd obviousness, we haven’t gotten the hint – yet. So, anger doesn’t go away. It will not go away until it is acknowledged, embraced and forgiven – with humility. That is the only way. This illustration, meant for children, is perfect for us adults as well:
Actually, this illustration also serves to reveal the general level of consciousness (up top) and unconsciousness (down below) in our culture.
What is lower on the totem pole than anger? Apathy. Resignation. Being comfortably numb. Aloofness. For many of us, if we’re not angry we’ve just kind of given up; running on automatic; in full avoidance and denial. At least the hooligans are alive and kicking; the little boys in them desperately trying to be heard; wanting the all-enveloping hug from the Mummy in the Mother, and raising hell in the absence of it. How many of us, men and women, experienced the mummy-in-the-mother?
How many boys, in the absence of getting the mummy-in-the-mother, grow up with that void of nurturance which results in frustration and anger? How many men unwittingly look to their partners and wives for that missing mothering/feminine energy? Except we’re not supposed to get that from our sexual partner – so then many relationships are fatally compromised from the beginning, as a twisted dynamic develops between man and woman. Wife is not mother. Meanwhile, most women have also not received the proper maternal mirroring from their mothers – so they don’t even know what a healthy version of that is. This is the inbuilt betrayal of our parents, who themselves have largely played out the historical patterning of trauma that was passed down to them. Most of us don’t know any different, so that ubiquitous lack of deep mothering seems normal; it often doesn’t even feel like a lacking because in most of our lives, and in our society at large, it barely registers to begin with.
Where is that deep mothering? Millennia of misogyny and centuries of the Rational Man Project have relegated women and the feminine to the sidelines; deemed unhealthy, especially for young boys. Hence Boarding School, where you are least likely to find it, where young boys (and girls for that matter) will instead be indoctrinated with all the useful masculine skills necessary to succeed in an RMP world; where you will learn the ultimate lesson: Trust no one. Self-reliance is paramount, because in the end, you are alone.
The repression of the feminine is so thorough that most women are full participants in the worst aspects of the Rational Man Project. That the divine feminine has been crippled in men is one thing – and a given – but what of the commensurate de-feminisation in women? It goes without saying that, generally speaking, the daddy-in-the-father has been permanently missing-in-action.
Boarding School was a pretty awful experience for me but there were a handful of major moments or aspects that kept me from fully going to the dark side. One such sublime moment occurred in 1979. I was nine years old. It was the middle of a weekend day. All the boys, maybe around 150 of us, were in our dormitories cleaning up. The sound of music came, ever closer. One of the older boys was walking towards us carrying a ghetto blaster. The lyrics became intelligible: “We don’t need no education, We don’t need no thought control, No dark sarcasm in the classroom, Hey, Teachers leave them kids alone”.
The entire place went mental. Such easy lyrics to repeat. With kids singing the refrain! Kids like us. Telling our story. It was surreal. We were giddy. Euphoric. Of course, we were children so, beyond the obvious, we didn’t know what the music meant. But we felt it. It cut through like a laser. Acknowledgement of the madness we were embroiled in. It was a moment of clarity and connection that would pass into legend.
Pink Floyd was the perfect soundtrack for us boys. For many Britons and humanity, it still is: Dark Side of the Moon; Wish You Were Here; The Wall. The enduring popularity of Pink Floyd is owed to the fact that their music is arguably the seminal soundtrack to the 20th/21st Century Rational Man Project. The dark hope of that revelatory music etched itself into the tree of my heart. I didn’t listen to The Wall again properly until I was 26 years old – and totally lost. Those were dark days, months and years. It told my story.
For most of my life it was more a matter of intellectual faith that I might possibly reconnect with that mythological place on the other side of the wall; that it was real; and that I was worthy of hanging out on the other side. Three years ago, at the age of 43, knee deep in connecting with my Boarding School experience for the first time in my life, I finally emerged from the impossible maze only to behold the sheer immensity of the wall.
The last three years has entailed me letting go of the wall; acknowledging the wall; appreciating the wall for how it protected me when I was most vulnerable. I wouldn’t have survived without my wall. None of us would have. I had no idea how to engage with my family during this process of discovery. Consequently, I caused them a lot of pain; the pain that is housed within our lineage.
But we are family. We all come from the same place. I may have attended Boarding School but that experience is only one manifestation of the betrayed energy that imbues my collective lineage. That’s how I ended up in Boarding School. It’s understandable that they may not want to participate in that delving. It’s overwhelming. If they don’t want to tap into that aspect of their life experience, that is their prerogative. Unfortunately, this rejection and dismissiveness only serves to make the ex-boarder feel those familiar feelings of isolation and desolation.
But then this is par for the course for so many within the Rational Man Project as we neglect and punish the most vulnerable among us. It’s not personal. No one is doing anything on purpose; not the politician, not the CEO, not the hooligan, not the mum, not the dad, not the boss, not the child, not you and not me. Despite how it seems to the outside world, we are all doing our very best, including those of us who seem to be doing a dreadful job.
Without the balancing effects of the right-brain the RMP system has no shut off valve – hence why it is running itself into the ground; shooting itself in the foot; causing the people to rise up. Many of us are wondering what on earth is going on. Others are crying out for help. Brexit is part and parcel of an ever-building and increasingly audible SOS. Will there be some economic and cultural adjustments that will emerge from the Brexit vote? Will we need more of a wake-up call?
Is there something wrong with humanity? Are we too far-gone to be saved? No. There is nothing wrong with us. We are on a journey and to date it has looked like this. It’s easy to focus on our failures – there have been many – but the more we focus on that, the more difficult it is to see that we are all in this together. In the age of social media, we are saturated with sayings and poems emblazoned on beautiful images. Cliché has never been as cliché as it is now. But, as Ram Dass says, ‘we are all just walking each other home’. In a world in turmoil, that can be hard to see; hard to let in; jaded and bamboozled as we are by centuries of betrayal and trauma, personally and generationally.
The workshop with my boarding school mates was a microcosm of our world. Despite being all men, humanity was well-represented. No matter the details of our own experiences we are all, at once, perpetrator and victim. Amongst our ranks are bullies and those victimised by bullies, at school and in adult life; some of us are just hanging on, sometimes by a thread; some of us realize why we have allowed ourselves to be endlessly victimised, only to take it out on others; some of us realize that, all along, when we insist that our bullying is not as bad as our wives, children and co-workers have suggested, that it has actually been worse; some of us feel, in a deeper way than ever before, the depth of the trauma we have endured – and how much desperate energy we have exerted to not feel it and to hide it from the world, as we hear story after story of betrayal and pain and genuinely feel it, maybe for the first time; feel the desire to walk over and hold that fragile and lovely man you have just met in your arms; just hold him so he feels acknowledged and safe. Maybe for the first time, he has willed the courage to reveal himself – very un-British – in front of a bunch of other British blokes no less; his shame right there for all to see. And… it’s okay because we are all right there with him; because we are him.
Each one of us is a coin. Perpetrator on one side, Victim on the other. The place we are all after is the narrow space between the two sides, though we can see that there is actually a lot of surface area to this narrow space. This is the place where peace, gentleness, generosity and community reside. This is the place on the other side of the wall. The conventional RMP approach insists that life is all about no pain, no gain. If we’re not feeling pain, we’re not trying hard enough. Gain can only come if we go beyond what feels good; sacrifices must be made. Based on millennia of programming, we have accepted that life is a slog. To think otherwise is the domain of the ignorant and naïve. The turmoil in the world certainly gets a lot of airtime. What we have seen much less of, until very recently, is the good stuff. The good stuff is now accessible in an unprecedented way via the Internet; increasing numbers of people are feeling the pull of information and experiences that summon the happy within. It’s the underdog, totally underestimated by those among us who dare not believe; because to actually allow ourselves to believe is the greatest fear; because if we allow it in, really in, will we be betrayed… again? That would be unbearable. Instead, I’ll endure the old familiar… until I can’t any longer.
So, here we are at the wall. It is daunting. After all this way in the cold, how will I get to the other side of this monstrosity? Is there even another side? No pain, no gain tells us that there are only two ways to get there – over or around. Both of those routes are available. Both may get you there but after such a grueling trip you may not have the energy required to reap the rewards.
Maybe there is another way: Courage.
“Courage is a heart word. The root of the word is cor – the Latin word for heart. In one of its earliest forms, the word courage meant ‘to speak one’s mind by telling all one’s heart’” Brene Brown
It is our own personal Diana-passage. Let us not focus on the fact that she died an untimely death; let us revel (because that is what hundreds of millions of people did in her) knowing that, even for only a short time, she began to live – and be free. That feeling of freedom is priceless. It is attainable. It is ultimately challenging. Because we are undoing many lifetimes of looking down and digging the ditch, distracted by those odd dull-sparkles in the earth. We and our ancestors, on automatic, have tunnelled to an unimaginable depth. Once in a while we pause, yanked out of our stupor by a sliver of sun that has miraculously reached us from miles above. We never look back – up – because it is usually just an abyss of darkness. But there is something undeniable and irresistible about this light. So… we look up. We see the light.
These are the rare moments of clarity that cut through the fog, as occurred for the CEO after watching, The Making of Them. We all have them. Alas, however deep in the ditch we find ourselves, corresponds with how elusive these magical moments are. The ancient patterning, the ego, works overtime to reel us back in because these earth-shaking events do not just concern that particular situation; they illuminate everything. This is scary. But as Maya Angelou has written:
“In the flush of love’s light, we dare to be brave. And suddenly we see that love costs all we are, and will ever be. Yet it is only love which sets us free.”
How can we transform the “elusive” into the “mainstay”? Through something like what Dr. Gabor Mate calls Compassionate Inquiry, which he discusses here in a brief video:
We are often loath to dig too deeply into the past because we’d rather not engage with painful experiences, including some that have, through necessity, receded so far into the ether that they barely register, consciously anyway. The traditional therapeutic model usually consists of endlessly mining the past, which is required, yet remaining there and trying to decipher what happened can often lead to further confusion and entrenchment. Why? Memory is fatally flawed, especially in service of old patterns of belief that keep us down.
So many of us have engaged with some form or another of therapy. Why do we stop when we clearly have not found the peace we are searching for? Because connecting ourselves with those long-past and dark memories for too long only keeps us connected with those lower frequencies; look for too long and we get mesmerized by the sheer scale of the trauma; and we stay stuck. It makes sense that conventional therapy falls short for so many of us.
However, as Dr. Mate says in the video, “the past is only important insofar as it illuminates what’s happening in the present.” Compassionate Inquiry allows us, and those we look to for assistance, to feel safe and brave as we approach the wall; to feel where we are at, and what’s happening – NOW – in the present. Now is much more manageable than then; it’s much more accessible. Critically, this access can only be granted “when compassion is present”. Only then “will [we] allow [ourselves] to see the truth” – to FEEL the truth – “But it’s a fierce kind of compassion… to guide [ourselves] to those painful places”
Because we are all beautiful at heart, so many of us look around at the world and feel helpless for humanity – and ourselves. There is an enshrined resignation, totally understandable under the generationally traumatic circumstances, which kind of paralyses us. This makes the wall even more fantastic. There is an abiding futility to the task, which would be relevant if not for the recognition that the trip really begins and ends at the self. The self is much more accessible than the daunting whole. Within this inner journey, “once [we] become capable of recognizing where [we] are being inauthentic, which is to say disconnected from [ourselves], then the pathway is clear for authenticity… It’s a matter of patiently and fiercely and compassionately inquiring into what’s in the way of authenticity.”
It cannot be exaggerated the significance of a single human being embracing our authentic selves. A single human being operating from this compassionate and non-judgmental position can interact with tens and hundreds of other human beings on a daily basis. You know that feeling when we are walking down the street and someone walks past us, but not before flashing an authentic and heart-warming smile. Did we miss it? Maybe. Did we see it but are taken aback, maybe because I’m a man and he was a man? Maybe. Or did we let it in; let it wash over us? As delicious as eating our favourite food. It puts a hop in our step. We have been acknowledged and appreciated – by a stranger no less. That is mighty powerful. Simply a given and received smile cuts to the core of everything. This does not require us to be enlightened beings. After all, it’s a process, not a destination. But the more of it we do the easier it becomes; the more peace we attract and share with the world. As Dr. Mate says, the path forward is quite “simple” in a way, once it has been identified. There will be difficult work that follows this discovery but the decision is as follows: Remain in a life that finds us perpetually unsatisfied, with spikes of heart-wrenching melancholy, and the constant whiff of futility; or, leave the situation by courageously embarking on a path to the undiscovered country. Both routes can really suck but at least the second option has the possibility of something… else, rather than the interminable status quo.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Princess Diana, Her Family, Prince Charles, The Queen and the People of the World’s Search for Humility
When will we find the courage to create a different experience? Interestingly, humanity has had minimal opportunity to embrace an alternative style since the global take-over by organized religion, which was created exclusively by men. From there we entered the Age of Reason, again the exclusive purview of men; moving from Religious Patriarchy to Rational Patriarchy; the passion and energy associated with religion was supplanted with the cool, detached clarity of the rational, which has had a long run. Unfortunately, the lack of balance between the left- and right-brains has extracted a heavy toll – our ability to feel.
It feels like we haven’t given ourselves the opportunity of seeing what might happen as we re-integrate the feminine back into the game, eventually leading to a more balanced relationship with the masculine.
It’s important to stress that despite the collective suffering, we are in many ways a young species (if the earth is indeed 4.6 billion years old, then we have been here around 4 hours). We’ve been going through the birthing pains of the evolution of our species in the last few millennia. It’s been an arduous journey. Many of us are understandably medicating ourselves through the trauma.
Each one of us is at once birthing the next level while also being born into it. Clearly, this hasn’t been one of those rare, “easy” births. I was present at my daughter’s birth. The pain that my wife endured, the genuine moments of loss of faith and confidence, and her courage to go way, way beyond where she ever imagined she could go was quite something. And here we are.
Our lessons have been excruciating at times but this is the Hero’s Journey that we are on, individually and as a community, guaranteed to test us. We will keep asking for these difficult lessons until feeling becomes as respected and appreciated as thinking. Is it to be believed? It’s a mirage, isn’t it? I mean, can “good” really going to come of all this?
Ironically, the extremity and incongruity of our present moment is serving as the main fuel for the challenging journey through the maze to the netherworld: to reclaim our essence. We can make this trek alone, but it sure makes it easier and more enjoyable when we have company.
The way ahead is to look to those amongst us, increasing by the minute, who are more connected to our heart sides; to those who can mirror for us how we can be; how we can welcome the long-dormant empathy that is dying to come out and play.
Harry Patch was such a person, a guiding light; courage personified. There was another in the last 30 years in Britain, a figure so oozing empathy in its purest form that she single-handedly brought the country, and the world, to life. Princess Diana.
The tried, tested and true by-product of betrayal is the wall, and its accompanying fear and judgment. Maybe out of sheer desperation did Diana step out from behind her wall, her trauma laid bare for the world to see what they rarely get to see: a genuinely feeling person in a position of massive influence. The people’s empathetic balloon had been steadily, carefully expanding. Daring to hope. Daring to feel. Diana’s struggle, as she was marginalized and abandoned within the Royal Family, mirrored that of the people, perpetually betrayed by their leadership, by themselves.
Charles was betrayed by not being allowed to marry his love, Camilla. So, he played the game, married Diana and then betrayed her. Diana then betrayed Charles by having affairs. Then she couldn’t live with all the betrayal and lies, so she left. The Queen and the Royal Family felt so betrayed, especially by her openness with the media and the public, that it took them a full five days to make any statement regarding her death – despite the tremendous negative publicity they received.
Why the delay? Because while all Royal parties involved drank heartily of the betrayal soup, Diana’s betrayal was deemed the most egregious; because she had the audacity to confront it, within and without. Under the auspices of the Rational Man Project, personal betrayal is essential, while betrayal of sacred institutional conventions is an unforgiveable sin. You are supposed to sweep it all under the rug.
How did Diana end up in such an unhealthy situation rife with systemic betrayal? Like many of us, she came from that very same place, only magnified under the microscope of a noble/privileged life. From an early age, her destiny was intertwined with that of the Royal family. She grew up on the Sandringham Estate, in a house leased from Queen Elizabeth II. As a child, she played with Princes Andrew and Edward. Her parents divorced when she was seven years old.
In the ensuing custody hearings, Diana’s grandmother, Baroness Fermoy (‘Woman of the Bed Chamber’ and confidante to the Queen Mother), betrayed her own daughter, Frances, Diana’s mother, by testifying against her in court (she had committed adultery), resulting in Diana’s father obtaining custody of all the children (Baroness Fermoy herself had endured the serial womanizing of her husband Lord Maurice Fermoy, which yielded at least two illegitimate children). The difference is Baroness Fermoy stayed in her adulterous marriage because that is what you are supposed to do. Frances, Diana’s mother, not only flouted the unwritten masochistic rule, she did so with a commoner, which was beyond the pale. Hence, she incurred her mother’s wrath – and lost custody of her children.
Meanwhile, Edmund Roche, the son of Baroness Fermoy, and brother to Frances, Eton attendee and suffering from long-term depression committed suicide at the age of 45.
With Frances and her husband, Viscount Althorp (“Johnnie”) Spencer, producing two girls, the pressure was on to produce a son to ensure the family inheritance.
“His young wife would go through six pregnancies before the heir arrived… Their hopes seemed to be fulfilled when they had their first son, John, in 1960. However, it was immediately apparent that John was deformed and he was rushed out of his mother’s room immediately after birth. ‘In cruel repression of feeling that reflected the paternalistic nature of obstetrics at the time, Viscount Althorp decreed his wife must not be allowed to view or hold her son. Years later, Frances recalled the chilling scene of how she struggled out of bed and banged frantically on the locked door’ (Brown, 37). He died just 11 hours later, without his mother ever seeing his face (Beddell Smith, 1999). The chasm between Johnnie and Frances widened as he subjected her to multiple humiliating fertility tests to determine why she could not produce a male heir. Soon after John’s death, she became pregnant and miscarried, but did not tell her husband. When Diana was born, 18 months later, her parents and extended family were so disappointed by the arrival of another female child, they did not bother to register her birth, and she is the only one of her siblings who was not given a royal godparent. They did not even give her a name her until a week after her birth.”
This is the multi-generational warped energy into which Diana was born. She was the third girl; unwanted, especially after the bitter disappointment and trauma of losing a boy – the much vaunted heir. Diana grew up an afterthought. So, after experiencing her parents’ divorce, Diana, aged 9, was then placed in Boarding School, the same school attended by her mother and grandmother. And, of course, Diana’s children were also sent away to Eton.
As with many of the privileged, for both Charles and Diana, marrying for love was unlikely, to say the least; impossible actually for Charles, who has been seen as a heel for his role in the Diana affair. But let us manage to scrape together some empathy for a boy who was sent away to Boarding School, grew up saddled with the incredible pressure of a future kingship, was forced to marry a woman he didn’t love (while hiding his affections for his true love), had to endure the fallout from said marriage, then Diana’s death. Meanwhile, for decades it has been suggested that he’s actually missing that kingly quality.
In keeping with tradition, infidelity has also been a feature of Diana’s brother’s life. Charles Spencer is now three-times divorced.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Diana had been playing the game for too long. She just couldn’t do it anymore, just like so many of us who are barely coping. But while many of us remain on the hamster wheel, understandably afraid to make a change, Diana took the terrifying plunge. And she was beloved for it. She was an inspiration because through her immense compassion and empathy, she showed us what humanity is. All of this from a most unlikely source: a British Princess. She became an island unto herself, surrounded by a rational and frigid structure that could not contain her; could not understand her; could not feel her; and felt threatened by her.
The sheer power of her vulnerability crashes through the screen – easily misconstrued as weakness when it is actually profound courage.
Despite overwhelming pressure, especially with respect to her boys, she went with her heart. Some will contend that she was selfish for choosing to live a life that did not entail self-betrayal. Some will say that she chose herself over her children. But her soul was dying and she knew it. She knew that if she stiff-upper-lipped-it and did the ‘right’ thing – as any self-respecting Royal and Brit would and should do – she would have become a shell of herself. What good would it have done for her children to witness and feel her abdication, her resignation? That would have been devastating for Diana and the young princes.
In an airplane, if the oxygen masks come down, we are told to put our own mask on before helping children and others – which sounds counter-intuitive. The reason we are told to do this is that our mind can instantaneously make a logically convincing and contrary case that we should help our children first. Why? Because of our over-trained left-brains. Intuition, which is deep knowing, is found more on the right. It can only be known via feelings.
In the absence of this balancing, feminine insight, we delve further into the masculine maze of the left-brain. The masculine energy is the doer; it is the action and penetrating force that launches itself beyond. Outside. It looks to others for validation, comfort, strength. It lives in incessant binary comparison; jealousy; insecurity. All to do with other; with what is outside of us. This is what we’re most familiar with. Hence, the reason many of us would automatically put the mask on our child first.
Taking care of ourselves first isn’t selfishness. It’s intelligence. This only sounds counter-intuitive from an RMP perspective. We don’t know that we can and should be taking care of ourselves first. That is how we will be better parents and human beings – not by sacrificing ourselves at every turn.
Despite Diana’s ever-present connection with her heart, her decision, and the courage that entailed, was actually practical and wise, which was indicative of her increasingly balanced mind and being. Her acute sensitivity (which is generally deemed a liability in our culture, attached as it is to hysteria – the hysterical woman in particular) could not brook further committing the ultimate betrayal – of herself.
Though there would undoubtedly be serious repercussions, the charade was no longer tenable. During her marriage to Charles she cut herself repeatedly, and suffered from bulimia. By her own admission, she had, like her uncle, attempted suicide on multiple occasions, including throwing herself down a flight of stairs while pregnant with William.
This was the boarding school of her adult life. She did what almost every boy and girl who is dropped off at Boarding School wants to do; what so many of us wish we could do at this very moment. We want to live. We want to be. We want to believe. We want meaning. We want things to feel right – even as our resistant conditioning and culture hammer into us that we are naïve to think things can be any other way; that tells us we are unsafe; that we are not enough; that the ultimate arbiter, the solution, is more, more and more of the same, just a glossier more photo-shopped version. Stay the course. The alternative path is so unknown, so intangible, so fluffy. Do not look to your left or right. Hair straight back. Full steam ahead.
Diana made the intangible real. The world stopped in her presence. She represented that place within all of us that yearns for a fuller experience. She represented the ascendant feminine. She was the personification of the huge adrenaline-filled needle that is jammed through the chest cavity right into the heart to bring someone back to life; straight into the heart of humanity.
“Her death became a world-wide public event with millions who had never met her feeling a personal bereavement… For a full week, this single news story dominated all media outlets to an extent that is rarely seen under any circumstances. Diana’s death received more media attention than any event in history. It was the biggest story the BBC had ever carried…”
In a time of zero social media, almost 50% of the adults in Britain watched the funeral. A record 2.5 billion people (out of 5.9 billion) around the world watched the funeral. A staggering 42% of the world tuned in because she was the most beloved human being in history – per capita and total.
She was more beloved than Jesus, Mohammad or anybody else in history. A woman steeped in compassion and empathy. Party, religious and club affiliations became meaningless to her. Her appeal was boundless because she was proof that we need not be slaves to the Rational Man Project, even and especially when you are an elite representative. It is akin to a child growing up in a Ku Klux Klan family and town and knowing nothing other than extreme prejudice but somehow managing to think and feel for themselves and transform into a lover of humanity and becoming the most appreciated human of all time. That is how you get 2.5 billion people fascinated by you. “People left public offerings of flowers, candles, cards, and personal messages outside Kensington Palace for many months”after her death.
It is axiomatic that we are an energetic match to the people and things we are attracted to – good or bad. Her legion of admirers felt her struggle, because energetically she represented their own challenges. We are all steeped in cultural, familial and multi-generational betrayal. She did not set out to represent the pain and hopes of the people. That just happened. It’s likely what saved her – and possibly was her undoing.
This is what privilege looks like at the highest levels: an endless sea of trauma and betrayal. How do these people endure such heartbreak? How do any of us? In 2004, when audio tapes were released of her telling biographer Andrew Morton about her life and one of the attempts at taking it, she said:
“I threw myself down the stairs bearing in mind I was carrying a child. Queen [Elizabeth] comes out, absolutely horrified, shaking she’s so frightened … and Charles went out riding.”
How do so many of us deal with our various levels of torment? The way Charles did, by going out riding. Grin and bear it. Avoid feeling it at all cost. Deny the severity of the trauma. That is the left-brain RMP way. Because to really feel it is too daunting. Instead, we dull our pain, often through our coterie of addictions and make it not such a big deal. After all, there are millions of others around the world enduring greater suffering than you. It’s all good, right? RMP binary tells us so. So, bury those feelings. They are not worthy of our attention.
In the interview with Martin Bashir (a total betrayal for the Royal Family, but where she actually held back so much) she speaks of the difficulty of her first pregnancy (without mentioning the suicide attempt), and goes on to say that prior to her marriage, pregnancy and post-partum experience she had not experienced depression. After what you have read about her life doesn’t it sound like there were many incredibly depressing times? Was she being disingenuous? Likely not. When you don’t have any other frame of reference; when the crazy world around you reflects the madness of your own life; when all those terrible things are nothing other than… normal; and when you have been trained from an early age to bury the only thing that can provide some clarity – your feelings – you might very well delude yourself into thinking everything is just fine.
What does it take to bring our disowned pain and shame to the surface? Invariably it’s something dramatic. A death in the family. A suicide. A life-threatening illness. Or marrying the future King of England and becoming the most watched person on the planet; by joining and becoming the most visible member of the most pressure-packed family on the planet; by realizing you are married to a man whose heart belongs to another.
All of this taken together was the straw that broke the camel’s back. A lifetime of downplaying her suffering was no longer possible. She was broken open. She almost didn’t survive, until she turned to the people. In Roman Mythology, Diana was known to be the virgin goddess of childbirth and women. Her name means ‘bright sky’ or ‘daylight’. She was a sun unto herself, cutting through the RMP clouds, shining a glittering light on humanity’s path towards the netherworld – setting the emotional foundation for humanity to birth our next level of consciousness. The mythological “Diana was also considered the protector of the lower classes, especially slaves.” How perfect is that?
So, how does the RMP view Princess Diana and her death? Well, we saw the response from the Queen and the Royal Family. Interestingly, at the outset, the Queen greatly approved of Diana as a match for the future king. Why? (1) There were long-term family connections (as already noted, Diana’s grandmother, Lady Fermoy, was the Queen Mother’s confidante); (2) She was thirteen years younger than Charles, so she would be obedient; (3) She was beautiful; and (4) She hadn’t even managed to pass her ‘O’ Levels and she was working as a nursery teacher’s assistant. In other words, she wasn’t too sharp, so she wouldn’t pose much of a challenge to Charles and she would do what she was told, that is, perform her Royal duties as required. Perfect.
So how did Diana become the Queen’s worst nightmare? How did the Queen make such a miscalculation for the ages? And how did she follow up and compound that mistake with her enthusiastic support of Prince Andrew’s disastrous choice of wife (from the Royal perspective), Sarah Ferguson? Actually, as we can see, when we look back at the history of the Royals and most privilege families, we find a repeating pattern of awful decisions, made for all the wrong reasons, ad infinitum.
As it has been suggested, effective leadership and decision-making requires fluid access between the logical and emotional mind. Stretching back for centuries, the Royal Family and the generationally privileged could not be any more entrenched within the left-brain. In a parallel universe, if the Queen had been more balanced in her approach, after a few visits with Diana, she might have felt that something was not quite right; that maybe it wasn’t such a perfect match after all. She might have noticed that Diana had that same independent streak that was present in her mother, Frances, who went to incredible lengths to secure her freedom from her husband, while losing her children in the bargain.
Sadly, with so little access to the wealth of insight and information available in the right-brain, the Queen’s calculations used the same faulty algorithms as Mr. Blair employed in approaching Mr. Patch and going into Iraq. There is an inherent arrogance and entitlement that comes with RMP leadership, which fuels chronic underestimation and erroneous judgment of people and situations. From Mr. Blair’s perspective, he was the Prime Minister for God’s sake. Who is going to refuse a picture with the goddamned Prime Minister, and be disrespectful to boot! If Mr. Blair and the Queen had been able to really feel what was before them they both might have made different choices.
The Harry Patch incident is, and was, little more than a side-note. The problem of this persistent cranial and emotional imbalance in our leadership – and society – is that when this mode of decision-making is applied to complex and grave circumstances, the results can be disastrous – as with Brexit. Not because Brexit shouldn’t have happened but because it was not the intended result. Britain and Europe were not ready for Brexit. It was apparently such a slam dunk that the Remain Camp would prevail, that no planning was done, you know, just in case.
Neil Seeman, Canadian businessman and expert on the collection and evaluation of data says:
“Brexit and Trump — and Twitter’s success (launched 10 years ago) — stupefied the overwhelming majority of experts in politics and technology, respectively… On Brexit, the usually accurate prediction markets for binary events, where people invest their own money on the outcome, were wrong. Expert influencers – from Christine Lagarde of the IMF to Mark Carney of the Bank of England to Nobel Laureate economist Paul Krugman – did not influence. The average of public polls, polls usually being reliant on non-random survey respondents – that is, self-trained political pundits – were wrong, not just right before the vote, but through many of the prior months. Behemoth financial institutions, privy to sophisticated private research, did not take trading positions that would suggest any information edge… That Leave would win was, especially among academic and media elites, as preposterous an idea as the early notion that Mr. Trump would win the Republican nomination… Socrates and the Stoic philosophers were correct. The only true wisdom is that you know nothing. From that premise of humility stems the basis of the pursuit of reason, and, ultimately, intelligence. ‘Intelligent’ machines — spirited forth through the current generation of the Internet of Things and the so-called Semantic Web — are only as intelligent as the humility and self-doubt of those who write the code… Yet we humans are a self-assured lot; we assume ever more data sets will lead to the Holy Grail of prediction — while history teaches the opposite to be the case… In the field of prediction, this manifests itself in the failure to probe for potential confounding variables, and, ceteris paribus, our intellectual reach shall exceed our grasp. Not understanding confounders that have unintentionally crept into enormous data sets can result in flawed conclusions…The next era of prediction, then, lies in factoring humility into our models. Without this, machine learning will only take us so far. This time it was Brexit that the machines failed to predict. Next time it could be an eventuality more serious.”
Each of the people Mr. Seeman mentions are deeply embedded members of the Rational Man Project. While Mr. Seeman, a Harvard alum, is cut from the same cloth, he has hit on something interesting. Humility is a mainstay of the neglected right-brain, and the opposite of arrogance. What are some words associated with humility? Humble, modest, gentle, easy-going, peaceful, compassionate, sharing. Mr. Seeman could not be more right in his assessment. For our leadership – for us all – how identified are we with the aforementioned words describing humility?
Alas, though arguably presented as such by Mr. Seeman, humility does not lend itself to being turned into simply “another” criterion to be added to the many others. True humility unites us with our very essence; to the best of us. It’s not a box to be ticked. It is encompassing; as are all the elements concerned more with the feminine. The extremely logical, structured mind has trouble containing and appraising those criteria because they simply will not be pigeon-holed and manipulated. Humility cannot be faked. False humility changes nothing or causes more damage. True humility, a la Diana, can move mountains.
Post-Brexit, our leadership, governmental and corporate, have not given any signs of shifting the approach. It’s business as usual. Responsibility is being avoided by all. Blame is being placed on the most vulnerable, as usual. Adjustments are to be made on the fly. Passions on all sides will dissipate. The people will forget. They will get back to the same-old-same-old. Moving right along. Nothing to see here. Or maybe not. How many warning bells must we here before we are yanked out of our RMP stupor?
If we are to make better decisions, personally and politically, a good place to start is to take the time to move beyond an intellectual understanding of humility to actually ‘feeling’ it; to feeling anything really. What does it feel like in the body if we allow humility to wash over us? How does that feeling affect the way we engage with the world – and ourselves? Can we feel the genuine frustration and confusion on the part of poor and disenfranchised in the Leave camp? If we could just allow ourselves to feel humility and compassion… This is a new direction. This is the opportunity.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Donald Trump, Ridicule as a National Pastime, The Sheer Scale of Humanity’s Endless Trauma, The Continuation of Global British Influence and the Troubling Legacy of Winston Churchill
Yes, Donald. It can’t get any better than poor, misbehaving Donald Trump having been sent off to Military Boarding School (in America). Watch the BFG and see if Mr. Trump doesn’t remind you of the head Giant. “According to biographers, Trump’s father was a workaholic, a ruthless, cold and authoritarian man who believed life is a competition where the “killers” win.” He passed his bigotry and trauma on to Donald, who has apparently been known to keep a book of Hitler’s speeches at his bedside. His life story is similar to all the other traumatized figures in this piece. Rest assured, that Mr. Trump has suffered – mightily. He recently suggested to the Pakistani-American father who lost his son in combat that he, Mr. Trump, had sacrificed as much as Mr. and Mrs. Khan. Of course, he was roundly condemned for his apparently absurd comment, which he then doubled down on for good measure.
How on earth do you so irresponsibly – politically, let alone morally – throw good money after bad following such a damaging statement? We write him off as a fool, but his life and actions reveal deeper truths.
Many people are genuinely afraid of Mr. Trump. That they are correct to be concerned is ironically and frighteningly displayed in this video of Mr. Trump’s sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, recounting their father’s foundational advice when they were 11 and 4 years old, respectively. It is with pride that the brothers speak of their father telling them that they must never trust anyone, including each other, and including himself, their father. What a thing to tell your children. Why would Mr. Trump tell them that? It’s not because he’s just a sociopathic jerk, though that’s the result of his life experience. It’s because he has unquestionably – yes unquestionably – been visited with extreme betrayal in his childhood; and the extremity of this betrayal, on one end of the continuum, mirrors the extremity of the absence of trust that he so unconsciously bequeaths to his sons, who continue the tradition. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Even as adults, the dissociated brothers see nothing wrong with their father’s approach. On the contrary they laud it as superior parenting. But if we don’t trust our parents, our Gods, then how can we trust life. That’s exactly the point for Mr. Trump. Life is not to be trusted. Only someone who has come from trauma and betrayal feels this way. Earnestly believing he is helping his children, Mr. Trump brands his “wisdom” onto his children’s foreheads, for all to see. It’s the right thing to do. To Mr. Trump, anything other than this realpolitik approach would be naïve and irresponsible.
A person who has no trust is capable of the gravest actions.
So, in a way, Mr. Trump has sacrificed more than Mr. and Mrs. Khan. The Khans’ lost a son yet exude dignity and decency. At some point, unable to cope, Mr. Trump lost himself, as do so many boys and men who experience extreme RMP families and institutions do, including many of our leaders. He sacrificed himself to survive. The alarming consequences are on display for the world to see; alarming because, like some Brits, 40% of Americans are so far gone with their disgust towards the establishment that they will consider voting for such a man. Dig a little deeper and understand that these people are an energetic match for Mr. Trump. There are a lot of lost and disillusioned souls out there, and they just don’t give a shit anymore. Scary stuff.
Is Donald Trump not the terrifying manifestation of the betrayed soul, taking out his frustrations on the world? Boris to the nth degree. Of course, all over the world, including in the UK, Mr. Trump is ridiculed and mocked. As for his supporters, we throw them under the bus as well because of how unconscious they must be – just like the Brexiters. How stupid are these people anyway? Meanwhile, the more his supporters are derided, the more emboldened and unreasonable they become. Why? Because not only don’t we recognize that they are angry and lost, just like Mr. Trump, we are unable to muster the compassion and non-judgment required to get through to them. Instead, we do the worst possible thing: we’re assholes towards them; we take the piss.
Remember when a segment of the British Parliament debated banning Donald Trump from entering the country? This one-minute clip was shown the world-over, including in the United States, where it was great fodder for press and comedians alike.
One gets the impression from the clip that the debate consisted of nothing other than taking the piss out of Mr. Trump; puns and wise-cracks galore; a real opportunity for the country’s leadership to show off their top-drawer roasting skills.
Interestingly, when you read the transcript of the entire debate, it’s clear that there were actually many more measured voices among the group, such as that of Conservative Sir Edward Leigh who opined that care should be taken since: “This man [Trump] may conceivably become President of our most important ally.” Not very sexy to be sure. He also said that: (1) the debate just gives Mr. Trump more publicity; and (2) “We must be wary of lowering ourselves to demagoguery in fighting demagogues.”
MP Alex Chalk, the man who has the last word in the clip, says, “… May I suggest that this is actually about buffoonery? Ultimately, buffoonery should be met not with the blunt instrument of a ban, but with the classic British response of Ridicule” – to the shouts of ‘here here’. This was the extent of Mr. Chalk’s contribution. Despite the inanity of the process as a whole, most other speakers provided at least some level of insight into Mr. Trump and his potential to cause unrest in the UK. Not Mr. Chalk, who nonetheless masterfully recognized the opportunity for self-promotion, including retweeting his moment in the sun (on January 19, 2016, the day of the debate). Heavens did he deliver, unleashing the zinger of the session; a succinct sound-bite that goes for the jugular. Pats on the back all around.
Any guesses at to which gentlemen, Sir Edward or Alex Chalk, attended the elite of elite 600 year-old Boarding School Winchester College, followed by Oxford?
Of course, one need not be an ex-boarder to be judgmental. On the contrary, Mr. Chalk has wonderfully summarized a key British characteristic that permeates the culture, the humour and the Parliament: Ridicule.
Taking the piss is one of Britain’s favourite pastimes. Who laughed after watching Mr. Chalk’s clever quip? We all did apparently. Because that’s what we do. Identify a person’s greatest vulnerability and make fun of it. And make sure to give them a few extra kicks when they’re down. (ie) Boris the ‘clown’. It is de rigueur in all the Anglo countries. Hilarious really. Just like when we were kids in the playground. Hilarious for everyone else except the recipient.
As with addiction and racism in Britain and the Anglo World, ridicule also crosses class lines.
The same thing that is happening in the UK is firing on all cylinders in the US. A Washington Postanalysis discovered that Trump’s main source of support were young, male, white, without a university degree, disenfranchised, voiceless, threatened from the outside and racially unprogressive. Sound Familiar? America, Canada and Australia, and scores of other countries to similar or lesser degrees, are underpinned by the particularly British Rational Man Project. British men were responsible for laying the governmental, economic, legal and cultural systems of these countries. Hence, Slavery (not just in the US) and the grotesque treatment of Indigenous People in all three countries. The inability of RMP systems to look within, means that all three countries have only scraped the surface when it comes to addressing what has been perpetrated on their respective Indigenous peoples.
Despite our need to believe that these issues are from the distant past, Canadian residential schools were still open in the 1980s. A recent shocking report out of Australia where imprisoned juveniles, 90% of whom are Aboriginal, have been subjected to outright torture, should be earth-shaking – with techniques employed against alleged terrorists in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay used against CHILDREN. Shocking is an understatement, which also describes the typical governmental reaction to such revelations – a royal commission that will present a report by next year. It would be comical if it weren’t so tragic. These are children who have been betrayed by a racist system, whose people have been so vandalized that they understandably – at least to someone with empathy – have a devil of time creating a functioning life. Who among us would fare better under the emotionally and financially decrepit conditions that many Indigenous children grow up in? We look down on them and wonder what their problem is. We castigate them for their addictions, while many of us are ourselves only functioning via our addictions. The contradiction is fantastic – and predictable. What we disown in ourselves we disown in others. What we cannot own continues to hang over us like a toxic ether that we share with the world.
In Britain and the Anglo world we like to think we live in post-racist world. We keep being shown that the reality could not be further from the truth. One ironic truth is that the working class people we systematically abuse have more in common with the lowly natives all around the world, as both parties are slaves to the whims of an out-of-touch elite.
Many people, especially in the working class demographic, have had enough. There is a sense of futility. Manufacturing has been decimated in their countries. Opportunities are few and far between. The American Dream is apt because it has been nothing more than a fantasy for decades. So, damn right they are upset. When things are this out of whack it eventually becomes obvious, even to the peasants. When things are this off-kilter, how can we expect anything other than the shenanigans of Donald Trump? We are only shocked because we are the fish in the sea not recognizing that Mr. Trump is the canary in the coalmine. Actually, he’s not a canary any longer, he’s an Albatross. While the mainstream Rational Man Project seeks at every turn to present him as the fool – which is rather easy to do – they miss the point: Donald Trump, fool as he may be, keeps revealing enough truth about the corrupt establishment system that those who are at the very end of their rope are actually willing to listen.
We have a choice in dealing with these angry, mostly white, men. We can fiercely reject them and dissociate from them, which will only further entrench their rage. Or, we can see them for who they are: angry beacons shining a blinding light into our eyes. In one direction is tyranny. We have been there. We’re being tested again. It seems like early days, but as we have learned from history, things can get out of hand pretty fast if a critical mass is reached.
Alternatively, we undertake the hard work; the hardest work there is. Namely, recognizing that they, and our wounded leaders, actually represent all of us. Foundationally exact, yet superficially opposites, they reveal to us who we actually are. Via the Rational Man Project and the economic imperative for infinite growth, many of us are so busy running and running and running, we can’t see its effect, dulled and distracted by our cocktail of addictions and avoidances.
“People intoxicate themselves with work so they won’t see how they really are.” – Aldous Huxley (another Boarding School attendee with additional personal trauma. His nickname was “Ogie”, short for Ogre. School must have been fun.)
The focus of this piece has been the particularly British form of the Rational Man Project. Of course, as we can plainly see, left-brain, rational patriarchy dominates much of world, resulting in global RMP misogyny, racism and classism.
In most countries, there is a dearth of empathy; the feminine energy quashed. Patriarchal religion has fundamentally undermined the feminine for millennia. The mode and method of this subjugation is different in every country depending on a myriad of factors especially with respect to the religion that dominated before the arrival of the Age of Reason. With Britain being the last great empire, and with the United States being recent history’s lighter version of empire, the British way of doing things holds sway in large swathes of the world, even in places the British didn’t colonise. After all, Britain has in its history invaded 9 out of 10 countries of the world and the United States currently has 800 military bases around the world (with American military presence in 160 countries), while all the rest of the countries of the world, including Britain, France and Russia have a grand total of 30! The BBC World Service is the most watched source of news information in the world – and its reach is only expanding. We don’t need statistics to know the class of those global non-Brits watching the BBC. Furthermore, for a century, the elite from all over the world, including from Russia, China, South Korea, The Middle East and India have sent their children to British, American & Swiss private and boarding schools – and that trend has reached record levels. Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Muammar Gaddafi’s son, Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (and her son) and Gandhi, among many others, were educated in Britain. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un attended a Swiss boarding school.
Meanwhile, top British boarding schools (Harrow, Marlborough, Wellington College and Dulwich College) have recently opened locations all around the world, especially in China, providing local elites further opportunities for their children to receive the best education in the world. “Our culture values a Western education more than a local education, probably due to our colonial mentality,” notes Matthew Manotoc, a grandson of Filipino ruler Ferdinand Marcos. Manotoc went to university in the US, as did his mother… And it’s just not a matter of colonial submissiveness. As Prince Asfa-Wossen, the European-educated son of the last president of Ethiopia’s Imperial Crown Council observes, foreign leaders send their children to schools and universities in the West “because they want them to get a good education, but also because they identify with the values and culture of the West”.
The deep and recent British influence is why the entire world is taken with Brexit and many things British, including the Royal Family.
So many of us, within our own lives and via our lineage, have endured the Boarding Schools that are our lives marred by profound personal tragedy and betrayal. Extrapolate that to an entire nation, and then to the world and we get massive collective rrauma. In our instant gratification world that has become governed by the next election or economic quarter, and the 24 hour news cycle, we are inundated with trauma that we just as quickly shunt aside. In order to protect ourselves, just like boys in Boarding School, we become desensitized to the psychological and physical violence. This mode of living has become normalized. So, we avoid and ignore our own pain, too busy with our ludicrously adrenalized lives. Paradoxically, then we subject ourselves to secondary trauma by ingesting alarming amounts of violence via news, film, TV, video games and pornography. Notice how the intensity levels of all of these forms of entertainment have gone through the roof, keeping us on our toes as if there is a terrorist, serial killer or pedophile around every corner? But that’s what it feels like, doesn’t it? Why?
Question: If the statistics show that global deaths from conflict have been on a consistently downward trend since WWII, why are so many people so pessimistic and fearful?
Firstly, note that almost all of the worst conflicts since 1400 have involved inter-European combat. Secondly, if you then take a look at the data used to create this graph, one thing will jump out at you: the vast majority of deaths from conflict since about 1400 have resulted from inter-European war or European aggression against the people of the world. So, while we continually demonize people of other races and religions, it is Christian, White Europeans who have wreaked the vast majority of the havoc in the world. Thirdly, notice that while the death figures are down since WWII, our present day deaths per 100,000 is comparable to that of many periods of the past. What does it say that our current global conflict death rates are similar to those from the horrid medieval times? With all of our civility and technology, has anything really changed? Beyond the facade, the answer is pretty clear. Things feel out of hand because they are – and people are feeling it.
Here is a tiny taste of the trauma and betrayal that human beings have doled out and received over the last 150 years;
(a) ongoing blowback from the mistreatment and genocide of Native peoples during colonisation
(b) WWI and WWII
(d) Iraq, Afghanistan and historical malfeasance in the Middle East
(e) Recent London attacks
(2) The United States:
(a) Brutalization of Native Americans
(c) The Civil War, pitting American against American
(e) dropping Atomic bombs on Japan
(f) Vietnam War
(g) Support of despotic fascist regimes in Central and South America and The Middle East
(i) Perpetual War in Afghanistan and Iraq
(a) Hundreds of thousands of women raped and many millions of civilians killed by the invading Japanese between 1937 and 1945, including the savage Rape of Nanking
(b) the Trauma of Chinese Communism under Mao started in 1949 and continues to aggressively limit the human experience
(c) The Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s which resulted in a mind-boggling 30 million Chinese murdered by their own (and these are the “official” figures)
(d) Tianenman Square
(a) committed mass genocide in China, including the famous Rape of Nanking, as well as the systematic torture and killing of POWs in their care. The history of Japanese atrocities in the 1930s and 1940s is incomprehensible
(b) being the Perpetrators and Victims in WWII, culminating in suffering through the Atomic bombs and the shame of defeat
(c) Large scale rape and slavery of thousands of Korean women during WWII
(a) WWI and its aftermath
(b) WWII, the Holocaust and the murder of millions of other people, and the breaking up of the country
(a) The continent’s suffering is enough to fill many volumes but just the colonial genocide and brutality is unfathomable
(b) The Congolese Holocaust at the hands of the Belgians laid the groundwork for the more well-known mass genocides of the 20th century
(c) South Africa and Apartheid
(d) Starvation in Ethiopia
(e) Egypt, Libya and most of Islamic Africa under violent oppressive regimes, past and present. Etc, Etc.
(8) South and Central America:
(a) Spanish and Portuguese colonial genocide and repression
(b) In the 20th Century, most of the countries experienced fascist regimes that terrorized the people, with America having a hand in the savagery
(9) Russia: an endless history of oppression and violence that continues to this day, internally and externally.
(10) Eastern Europe: massive suffering during WWII followed by ruthless Soviet repression
(11) Former Yugoslavia: the dissolution of a country in devastating fashion
(12) Vietnam, Cambodia and South East Asia
(13) Israel and Palestine and the Middle East in general. Syria. Lebanon.
On and on the list goes. Infinite brutality. Infinite pain. Infinite trauma. Infinite betrayal. For perpetrators. For victims. The beautiful and the wondrous in humanity decimated. Some contend that this is simply humanity: selfish, greedy assholes who will take advantage when given the chance. After all, so few countries have taken responsibility for their past actions.
Any meaningful admission of wrong-doing, even in a recent and clear cut case like Iraq? Any reparations paid? The Rational Man Project does not allow for the self-reflection that would be required to elicit healing for Britons, both as perpetrator and victim of their own perpetration. This inability to take responsibility for morally reprehensible behaviour has meant that the overt racism of the past, never having been properly owned and repudiated, still remains, ready to rear its ugly head under duress.
Are these traumas ancient history? “What are you going on about? That was 150 years ago!” The American Civil War was in 1860. As we witness America falling apart, does it feel like that history is in the distant past? Does it feel like we’re done with the problems of slavery? Does it feel like many Southern, white American men have gotten over a conflict that took place 150 years ago? The disowned traumas and betrayals of even generations past remain with us until we do right by them. America’s weighty baggage is threatening to take it under. Though the situation in Britain is not quite as dire as that in the US, it is on the same destructive path – though many are incapable of seeing the patterns at work; patterns that connect the likes of Tony Blair to the demigod, Winston Churchill.
Mr. Churchill is arguably the most admired Brit of all time. His role in rallying Britain to survive against, and then defeat, the Nazis is the stuff of legend. However, if we take in his entire record, should Mr. Churchill be so appreciated, so deified?
“With limited contact with his parents, Churchill became very close to his nanny… attended Harrow School from the age of 13… he was a stocky boy with red hair who talked with a stutter and a lisp… he did poorly in his schoolwork… he hated Harrow. His mother rarely visited him, and he wrote letters begging her either to come to the school or to allow him to come home. His relationship with his father was distant; he once remarked that they barely spoke to one another… Churchill had a lateral lisp that continued throughout his career, reported consistently by journalists of the time and later. Authors writing in the 1920s and 1930s, before sound recording became common, also mentioned Churchill having a stutter, describing it in terms such as “severe” or “agonising”.
Boris before Boris.
Mr. Churchill married Clementine in 1908. What was Clementine’s back-story? Childhood trauma arising from, at the least, infidelity and betrayal. It’s hard to keep up with the multiple levels of trauma which Clementine carried with her into her marriage with Mr. Churchill – and into motherhood. It’s hard to be a good mother when your understanding of what mother is has been reflected back to you by a negligent mother – who herself, no doubt, has been beset by the very same dynamic. And so the pattern endures.
As with Mr. Churchill’s early life, and those of most Royalty and nobility, his children were usually left in the care of governesses. On one such typical occasion in 1921, while Churchill was away for work and Clementine was away on a tennis adventure, their three year old daughter Marigold died of septicaemia – sans parents.
Churchill then “received word that his nanny, Mrs. Everest, was dying; he then returned to England and stayed with her for a week until she died. He wrote in his journal, ‘She was my favourite friend.’ In My Early Life he wrote: ‘She had been my dearest and most intimate friend during the whole of the twenty years I had lived… She served as his confidante, nurse, and mother substitute’ …”
As with so many of his privileged brothers and sisters, we see the characteristic neglect and betrayal of Mr. Churchill by his absentee parents. It was truly a godsend that he adored his nanny so much; nannies and matrons of the day were generally not so lovable. But between the abject parental neglect of young Winston, and his desperate, unrequited letters, the stage was set for a dangerously un-empathetic adult. The normalcy of such a state of affairs has no bearing on how a child responds to, and is traumatized by, neglect and/or abuse. If we weren’t so enamored with purely scientific reasons behind why some children develop a stutter or lisp we might notice the obvious. Either way, can it be doubted that he suffered greatly because of his impediments, as child and adult?
With Maya Angelou’s words, “when people show you who they are, believe them”, in mind, this quote from Mr. Churchill may provide some deeper insight into the man:
“When you’re 40, you stop caring what other people think. When you’re 60, you realize that no one was ever thinking about you in the first place.”
Mr. Churchill’s accomplishments are well documented, though strangely limited if one views history from a more empathetic perspective. Unfortunately, there is a large body of evidence to show that Mr. Churchill personally made some devastating leadership decisions, which stemmed from his unconscious RMP upbringing.
“Churchill certainly believed in racial hierarchies and eugenics, says John Charmley, author of Churchill: The End of Glory. In Churchill’s view, white protestant Christians were at the top, above white Catholics, while Indians were higher than Africans, he adds. “Churchill saw himself and Britain as being the winners in a social Darwinian hierarchy… Churchill was very much on the far right of British politics over India,” says Charmley. “Even to most Conservatives, let alone Liberals and Labour, Churchill’s views on India between 1929 and 1939 were quite abhorrent… “People sometimes question why on Earth did people not listen to Churchill’s warnings about Hitler in the late 1930s,” says Charmley, “to which the short answer is that he’d used exactly the same language about Gandhi in the early 1930s.”
He said of Gandhi’s peaceful resistance campaign that he “ought to be lain bound hand and foot at the gates of Delhi, and then trampled on by an enormous elephant with the new Viceroy seated on its back.” As the resistance swelled, he announced: “I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion.”
But what should we expect from a man who at Harrow and Sandhurst learned that “the superior white man was conquering the primitive, dark-skinned natives, and bringing them the benefits of civilisation.” Many of us will recoil in reading this. It’s pretty stark. Yet, how different is it from what Foreign Minister Boris Johnson said in 2002: “The best fate for Africa would be if the old colonial powers or their citizens scrambled once again in her direction on the understanding that this time they will not be asked to feel guilty.” The disconnect is, as usual, arresting, yet predictable. Recently, in a speech, he called Africa, “that country”. “Doubling down on imperialist rhetoric as his speech this week progressed, Johnson also proudly proclaimed that “the values of global Britain are needed more than ever” along with suggesting that its “beliefs” are responsible for continuing to “lift the world out of poverty”.”
Mr. Johnson is not being obvious on purpose. It just slips out. He’s just mining what is in the air, deeply engrained in our RMP culture; except, as with Donald Trump, his filtering system goes AWOL at the drop of a hat. And then we get the truth, their truth. It’s ugly. We don’t want to see it. Alas, the more we look away, the more intense and absurd the lesson becomes, until we wake up to the fact that Boris Johnson is the Foreign Minister of Great Britain; and he want to be Prime Minister. Dr. Gabor Mate asks, “What does it say about our society that such deeply troubled individuals frequently rise to the top ruling circles, attaining wealth and power and even the admiration of millions?” Isn’t the answer, that many of us are also deeply troubled?
Back to Mr. Churchill, whose actions in Africa, The Middle East and India showed that he simply took what he learned, culturally and at school, and sprinted with it. This knowledge, combined with a foundation of parental betrayal, produced an extreme RMP figure. At a moment in time during WWII, there was some doubt as to whether Britain would prevail over the Nazis. It was a fearful time. The man of the moment was the ultimate survivor – he embodied the survivor spirit of the Brit. He was forged into that within the trenches of childhood. What he brought forth was genuine. The people felt that and embraced Mr. Churchill in that vulnerable moment – and then turned him into the most admired Briton of all time – largely based on that short period of time during the War.
Would he be so admired if the people allowed themselves to see and accept the fuller picture? In a sense, it’s difficult to write this because there is so much invested in Britain’s elevation of Mr. Churchill to hallowed levels. It’s painful when we are challenged to take another look at something which has given us so much strength and value. It means looking within and touching into places unseen and unacknowledged. It shines a light on the places of our greatest sensitivity.
In 2014, Labour candidate Benjamin Whittingham “tweeted that Churchill was ‘a racist and white supremacist’.” Mr. Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, “was outraged… Soames thinks it is ludicrous to attack Churchill. ‘You’re talking about one of the greatest men the world has ever seen, who was a child of the Edwardian age and spoke the language of [it].’ Conservative opponent Ben Wallace labelled the comments ‘ignorant’ and ‘incredibly insulting’.”
The responses of those defending Mr. Churchill are instructive. Firstly, Sir Soames, provides the de facto reason why Mr. Churchill should be revered: He is the consummate British man. Simply due to his station in life, his pedigree, he is to be admired – details be damned. Of course, Mr. Soames’ position can only be held if he subscribes to a revisionist version of Mr. Churchill’s history. Despite the expected apologists, family and Churchill organizations, the actual record does not paint Mr. Churchill in a good light:
(1) Famine in Bengal – “In 1943 a famine broke out in Bengal, caused – as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has proved – by the imperial policies of the British. Up to 3 million people starved to death while British officials begged Churchill to direct food supplies to the region. He bluntly refused. He raged that it was their own fault for ‘breeding like rabbits’.” To confirm, Mr. Churchill ordered food that Indians had grown for Indians, to be forcibly taken from them and sent off to feed British soldiers. Again, it’s easy to focus the blame on Mr. Churchill – until we see that the Colonial Secretary’s actions were consistent with 150 years of British rule in India, including seven previous famines that had killed millions, and exacerbated by criminal British taxation policies which left Indians in the lurch during times of difficulty.
(2) South Africa – Mr. Churchill’s direct influence in restricting Black African rights to own land and vote – which, as we have seen, was perfectly in line with historical British practice in Africa – set the stage for the official policy of Apartheid.
(3) Iraq during and after WWI – when Mr. Churchill, as Colonial Secretary, was responsible for overseeing the invasion of the area he would end up partitioning into, among other countries, Iraq. 40,000 British troops were killed before the locals were subdued. Heaven knows what the Native casualty figures were. The partition was done in a reckless manner that brought together disparate tribes and people including: Sunnis, Shia and Kurds. If that weren’t bad enough, he engineered the installation of a Sunni King, though the Sunnis were in the minority. Fast forward almost a hundred years. While Saddam Hussein was always vilified, and rightly so, for his terrible rule, how was he not anything other than a leader cut from the mould carved by British colonial power? Saddam Hussein was a facsimile of King Faisal, who was appointed by Mr. Churchill in 1921 to rule the new Iraq. He was wholeheartedly supported, economically and militarily, by Britain and the United States; that is, until Mr. Hussein started to violate the rules of the game. Enter: Tony Blair, to do the same-old-same-old, except, because of technology and access to information, the people now have a much better sense of dire consequences of neo-colonial actions. Let us try to imagine the scope of the conflict that started in 1915 that claimed 40,000 British soldiers – during the time of trench warfare. It must have been hell on earth – like now. And how about now? Our empathetic shortcomings makes it all but impossible to comprehend the scale of suffering that people from other parts of the world endure – where the fatalities are in the tens and hundreds of thousands – especially when, as in Iraq, where in the guise of installing democracy, we have had a direct hand in destroying, arguably, the most progressive country in the region.
In short: Britain being Britain. Churchill being Britain. Blair being Britain.
What of Mr. Churchill’s support of eugenics and “compulsory labour camps for ‘mental defectives’”? There were only three members of parliament, who grasped the moral implications of the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913, which replaced its predecessor, which went by the wonderfully tone-deaf moniker of The Idiots Act of 1886, and voted against it. Mr. Churchill was not among these enlightened souls. Instead, he specifically advocated for compulsory labour camps for the four classes of citizens: idiots, imbeciles, feeble-minded persons and moral imbeciles.
From the Mental Deficiency Act:
“A person deemed to be an idiot or imbecile might be placed in an institution or under guardianship if the parent or guardian so petitioned, as could a person of any of the four categories under 21 years, as could a person of any category who had been abandoned, neglected, guilty of a crime, in a state institution, habitually drunk, or unable to be schooled. At the height of operation of the Mental Deficiency Act, 65,000 people were placed in “colonies” or in other institutional settings. The act remained in effect until it was repealed” in 1959.
One of the three dissenters was, Member of Parliament, Josiah Wedgwood, who “staged a filibuster against the government’s Mental Deficiency Bill, which he saw as authoritarian and unjust. Over the course of two days in Parliament, he tabled 120 amendments and made 150 speeches in Parliament, sustaining himself with only barley-water and chocolate according to press reports, until his voice gave out.” He also went out on a limb by supporting the Suffragetes. Furthermore, “though he stood for the Liberal Party, he made it clear that he would take an independent line in Parliament if necessary, in accordance with his conscience.” Conscience… clearly it was as novel an idea back then as it is today. When do we hear about conscience? Does it make sense to take decisions without conscience front and centre? It does when, collectively, we have trouble accessing our conscience, which is tucked away somewhere in the opaqueness of our right-brains. Without a notable presence of conscience, the results are predictable: regardless of Party, generations of successive leaders, like Prime Minister May, pledge to finally do better by the people, but almost always fall well short of their promises. Who knows, maybe Ms. May will be “the one”. Considering the ever-present distraction and primacy of inner-party and election politics, that seems unlikely; not because our leaders genuinely don’t actually care about the people, but because they are so utterly mesmerised by the intricacies of their institution, including surviving and thriving in the game. The people are not purposely, but necessarily, an after-thought.
It’s not difficult to extrapolate Mr. Churchill’s advocacy for the Mental Deficiency Act to the establishment of the Kenyan labour camps a few decades later. While we now champion the rights of the imbeciles among us, it has never taken much for our abandoned and traumatized leadership to betray the lesser-thans of the moment. Without knowing more about, Mr. Wedgwood, do we generally celebrate leaders who, especially with the benefit of hindsight, were ahead of the curve, who rose above the fray, morally and intellectually?
With limited access to his conscience, Mr. Churchill filled his void with Empire. His touchstone was not himself but Empire. It took Empire to keep him from engaging with his massive inner turmoil. Many of us do our versions of the very same thing, desperate to avoid our deep trauma. How can we surmise that Mr. Churchill’s trauma was massive? By looking at the scale of the suffering and destruction that was wrought on humanity by his hand.
Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Churchill also sacrificed himself, in this case to the altar of Empire. Surely, these two men should not be placed in the same universe, let alone the same sentence. Surely? Surely, it doesn’t mean anything that both Mr. Trump and George W. Bush hugely admire Winston Churchill. Amazingly, after I just wrote this, I did a Google search for Mr. Trump and Mr. Churchill only to find a plethora of right-wing news articles favourably comparing the two. Ridiculous as it may seem, there is quite a bit of overlap, especially if we can admit that Mr. Churchill was not the best of men. Winston, Donald and Dubya are cut from the same RMP cloth. Many suffered due to the leadership of both Mr. Churchill and Mr. Bush. Alas, Mr. Obama, who promised Americans that “they could”, was unable or unwilling to give them a chance. And with so many people despising the uber-establishment Hillary Clinton we are left with the preposterous possibility of a Trump presidency.
We celebrate or vilify extreme RMP figures. We imagine them as somehow different than the rest of us when in actual fact we are enabling them. This is where we need courage to look within; because our unconsciousness is helping to manifest these damaged and dangerous leaders.
As always, let us not forget and underestimate the trauma Mr. Churchill experienced as a child. Many of us, familiar as we are with our own histories of personal and generational trauma, may balk at the “trauma excuse” when judging the dastardly deeds of others. This is not to exonerate those who behave badly. The thing is, we all respond to trauma in unique ways. For those who feel it more keenly, if the good and beautiful do not manage to find a way in, that person is at risk of betraying themselves and those around them. If such a person achieves political and/or corporate power then watch out. How many times have we seen this play out in history?
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Ubiquitous Media Violence, Football Hooligans, JK Rowling and Roald Dahl
The ever-present RMP structures and institutions, which have held it all together, are starting to give way. Our collective sensitivity is on the upswing. Many of us are delving into uncharted territory. This can be confusing and frightening. One thing is certain: An increasing number of people are seeing and feeling the rampant discord that has the world perpetually at the brink of catastrophe (only exacerbated by the unprecedented amounts of intensified and normalized ultra-violent news, films and video games that many of us ingest on a daily basis). Fear is ever-present. Meanwhile, competing studies regularly emerge discussing whether or not our violently-saturated media environment has any impact on our children and society. Only the hyper-rational mindset requires studies to confirm something that is evident to those who have access to their feelings.
Like many of us in the Western world, especially men in the Anglo world, I have absorbed a staggering amount of media content in my life. I am a sports fan, I love movies, including super-hero films, and unfortunately my mobile phone is practically attached to my hand. Until pretty recently, I have been able to experience a wide range of media violence with barely any notable reaction, other than maybe becoming adrenalized. As I’ve allowed feeling back into me, I’m noticing that for the first time in my life I am actually being affected by violence and brutality. I am no longer as comfortably numb as I’ve been. Magnified by the psychological violence of, for example, Boarding School and the Military, our systemic emotional numbing provides us and our children protection from actually feeling and comprehending the perpetual damage we are inflicting on ourselves.
“The typical American [British figures will be similar] child will view more than 200,000 acts of violence, including more than 16,000 murders before age 18. Television programs display 812 violent acts per hour; children’s programming, particularly cartoons, displays up to 20 violent acts hourly.”“Overall, roughly two out of three video games marketed for general audiences contained violence, and nearly all games marketed for older players do” (Wilson, 2008)… Underage children often play violent video games, even those rated inappropriate for their age group. For example, a 2004 survey of kids in grades 7-12 found that 65% had played the game Grand Theft Auto (KFF, 2005).”
As for video game sales in the UK, outside of FIFA16, practically every other game is non-stop violence, including the ever-increasing place of first-person shooter games in which the player has a weapon and is killing the “enemy” at will. Years ago, the “enemy” in these games were demons and monsters. In a short period of time, they became humans.
Grand Theft Auto (GTA): only in a violence-saturated, empathetically-numbed environment can parents believe that this game is “no big deal” steeped as it is in murder and misogyny. In a strange way, it’s not a big deal because GTA and other violent video games are also simply outgrowths and representations of our RMP society in which violence is completely normalized. So, when we see that many parents condone their child’s playing of GTA, it shouldn’t come as any surprise; including the mental games that are employed to minimize and deny the potential impact. One parent reviewer says, “I think that this game has many violent and awful things, but if your child knows the difference between the game and the real world, they should be fine. My 13 year old son was allowed to get this game because he demonstrated his knowledge that this game is not to be repeated in any way.” Another parent says, “But I believe that apart from it being violent and the language being bad this game is fine for anyone ages 13 and up.” Another parent says, “yes it does have sexual content, although I had found out that you do not HAVE TO go near any of it during the game.” Parenting our children to become kind and compassionate members of society – to seek out the best in themselves – is a monumental challenge for parents who are so submerged in the RMP that we have trouble recognizing that violent media serves to further entrench the already deep-seated lack of empathy that underpins our society.
My nine year old daughter recently attended a two-week film-making camp (made up of an equal number of boys and girls). On the final day, an hour’s worth of their short films (a total of about 20 films) were screened for us parents. The vast majority of the films contained violence, including fighting, murder, horror and even suicide. I kept waiting for just one of the films (made by 8-12 year olds) to explore love or friendship, to tap into the innocence of childhood. Nope. For me, in the midst of writing this piece, it provided yet another transition point as I sat there and witnessed many of the parents laughing along with what we were watching. When the show ended I was in a daze as I walked out listening to the parents congratulating their children. Despite all the violence I am so intimately familiar with, I was suddenly strangely disturbed by watching these children representing, in a twistedly cute fashion, what is dominating their imaginations. It is troubling, though not unexpected, if we take into consideration the acquiescence and participation of the children’s supervisors: a bunch of 20 year old first-year university film students.
Remember when the 1971 film A Clockwork Orange was so outrageous, so absurd in its excess? Remember the scene when the Malcolm McDowell character, Alex, a perfect representation of the RMP run amok, is injected with a drug that makes him terribly nauseous, then has his eyelids forcibly exposed so he can watch a video with endless amounts of cruelty and brutality?
Nowadays, our addictions are Alex’s injected drugs, though our level of disconnect is so severe that we need not be forced to imbibe the ultra-violence of our culture and world. We readily soak it up. As always, Kubrick was ahead of his time. We are all versions of Alex. And we have learned from the very beginning to protect ourselves from our violent world by cutting off from our feelings. It’s the only way to survive the onslaught. Of course, the consequence is that we then have trouble feeling love and community.
This is the bad news; and there’s plenty of it. Are we truly no better than this? Fortunately, and significantly, there is an opposing, and over-arching force that is rapidly coming into play, and its delivery system is the Internet. More of us are choosing to engage with content that connects us with our hearts and with humanity; that makes us laugh; that inspires us; that yearns for community instead of conflict. The inevitability of an the RMP way, that assumes and promulgates the worst in us, is running up against this heart-centred force that is expanding at a rapid pace, and has hitherto largely been unexplored by humans. There is an inverse correlation between further RMP extremity and increased emotional sensitivity. There is a nexus point in there somewhere and we are working our way towards it.
Notwithstanding the ridicule by RMP stalwarts, a tipping point may be in the offing. RMP resistance is understandable and must be met with compassion, keeping in mind that it is not required for the majority to open themselves to this evolution in consciousness.
In fact, despite the terrible state of global affairs, there are many examples of this increased sensitivity. Between 1915 and 1922 it was acceptable for 40,000 British troops to die in Iraq. That would be an impossibility today. In the last 13 years, the combined losses for British troops in Afghanistan and Iraq has been less than 500; and yet even these figures have placed incredible pressure on the government and military to justify these deaths.
What will this tipping point look like? I have been asked a number of times recently what will replace the status quo. Well, we are on the cutting edge of something new… we won’t know what it will look like until we’re in it. As Einstein said, “You can’t solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.” That’s scary for some, and certainly it leaves open the possibility for some terrible things to transpire. Or not .
Which brings us back to Africa. Some will say that the Africans were savages. After all, some of them participated in human sacrifice. That was certainly the case up until the 19th century, but only from a rigid RMP position can the human sacrifice of a tiny number of people justify the murder of hundreds of thousands and millions of Africans.
One of the easiest routes of healing for our planet would be the acknowledgement, and some level of reparations for what has been done in Africa. Until that happens, Britons, and almost everybody else, will continue to drown under the weight of their woefully misguided and ill-informed racism, a major pillar of British culture.
Unless Britons find the wherewithal and the courage to look within, the pattern still rules. This means that you are a grown man, but you likely have the emotional maturity of a traumatized young boy; maybe book smart, maybe not; but probably emotionally stunted. This has been ongoing for centuries, resulting in normalized and systemic betrayal that we cannot recognize because it’s all we’ve ever known. We cannot see the forest for the trees.
Actually, we have so lost the plot that we’re zoomed in on a few particular leaves of only one tree, the big picture sacrificed to the myopia of the Rational Man Project. Does the forest even exist any longer? Has it been relegated to myth? We are divorced from the right-brain, from the heart, too busy defending the fortress to look up and see and feel that just because something has been one way for ages, doesn’t mean there isn’t another way.
But if that ethereal other way entails the possibility of being on the receiving end of ridicule, we’d rather stick with the status quo because that is always preferable to touching into the shame and the pain. In other words, business as usual. As we continue to see, this is disastrous for all citizens.
Hundreds of years of the betrayal of our privileged children via the Boarding experience has not only created a deep-seated, cutthroat environment within the governmental and corporate spheres, but also within the culture at large. The people have always looked to their leaders for guidance and support. We admire them, or more accurately want to admire them. We aspire to their success, position and wealth. Our leaders, whether at home, school, work or government are meant to be our beacons.
Here is the crux of the matter. How on earth can we expect our leaders, generationally steeped as they are in betrayal, not to betray the people? When was the last time in the UK that a leader came into power being liked and respected, and left under the same conditions? It does not and cannot happen within the current framework. Consequently, it only stands to reason that the people are constantly betrayed by government and corporate leaders. Inequality goes up. The negligent and thieving banks are bailed out while the people pay the price through austerity. Institutions that support the people, like the NHS, are constantly undermined. More and more people living with subsistence wages are bearing the brunt of taxation while corporations are allowed to avoid their financial duties with off-shore tax havens. On and on it goes. Long and familiar story.
The people get the shaft. The reason why this doesn’t change is that for those at the top there is genuinely nothing amiss. After all, it’s a dog-eat-dog world they have grown up in. The people will have to battle, just like they’ve been forced to do. Life is not for the faint of heart. Take what’s yours. Defend it with all your might because, guaranteed, someone is going to try to take it away from you. And if you’re not up to the task, then you fall by the wayside. If you’re looking for sympathy, let alone empathy, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Nobody is withholding the empathy. It’s simply not there because it has no place within the Rational Man Project.
With the marginalizing of Spirit in the Anglo world – post Age of Reason – one thing in the modern world more than any other has filled the void for men: Sports. Some sports fans, largely young and middle-aged men, live and die with their teams. The religion is now Football. In the absence of community, once an outgrowth of the Church, they find belonging in their team. They commune with their team. They’re value comes from their team and how their team performs. When they speak of their team they say, “We”.
Unfortunately, in keeping with the chaos of Brexit, desperation has been the main feeling associated with the England football team for quite some time. It’s palpable. The pressure on the players is overwhelming. England have potential but they always manage to disappoint. Isn’t the football team the perfect reflection of working class English society as it stands? Confused and resigned. It is these young men who have the enormous task of providing a winning salve so that, at least for a moment in time, the people can feel some much needed pride and elation; because the fans feel the trials and tribulations of their team as keenly as the players. They come from the same places. Football is one of the few arenas where they, primarily young men, are allowed to feel anything, especially with the lubrication of alcohol; where they can get a small dose of acceptable male camaraderie. This general feeling deficiency is so acute that when it has a chance to surface it is extreme in its manifestation. Winning produces euphoria. Losing, especially on a big stage, is a crushing personal defeat.
When England lose, in true British fashion the fans mercilessly turn on the players – on their own – vicious on social media, heartless by the tens of thousands in the stadium. Why? Because the players got out. They made it but they’re too pathetic to take advantage of it. Too coddled and weak to deliver what the fans expect and NEED. The team has betrayed the fans with their pathetic performance so the fans feel justified in doing this…
This fierce rejection becomes an outlet for the working class fan to project their own feelings of rage and abandonment anywhere but at themselves: at their football team, at immigrants, at authority. To the bully, everything that goes wrong is everybody else’s fault, lashing out at those who dare to fail and make you feel like shit.
Again, how is this different than what is transpiring in the political arena? The players betray the fans by losing. So the fans betray the players by ripping away their support, at least temporarily, until those bastards know what they have done!
So, in the absence of empathy, community, compassion and respect, we are left with betrayal at all levels of our society. The abandonment of the privileged, results in the abandonment of the working class who then take out their frustrations on whoever is most vulnerable around them, especially women and children. Hence, why the British football fans treated those refugee children in France the way they did.
They’re not doing it on purpose; it is because there is an empathetic bankruptcy that imbues the culture both on a personal level and on a state level. State-sponsored racism is cloaked hollow justification that is subservient to a geopolitical calculus that is backed by corporate interests. There is no difference.
The rest of us look at the behaviour of these “hooligans” and condemn it in no uncertain terms, just like we condemn our politicians; wash our hands of these embarrassing fellows who reflect so poorly on us. That’s the key. They are not outliers. They are reflecting us and our culture back to us. This is real reality TV. They shed a humiliating light on us – giving away the family secrets. They are the black sheep of the family, unable to keep up the required pretences. Thus, they must be shunned because their behaviour is apparently not what Britain stands for. Shame! But of course they are exactly what Britain stands for.
We refuse to see it, to accept it. Why? Because we have trouble forgiving ourselves, empathising with ourselves. If we cannot be compassionate with ourselves, how can we give that to others? In the absence of understanding and kindness, the immediate default response is rejection.
In some “primitive” Indigenous cultures when a member of the community transgresses they are not cast out. Instead, they are brought before the community to find out what’s wrong with that person. Our binary, left-brain system only has two settings: Good and Bad. If you’re Bad, you will be punished. End of story. We are unable to see what is glaringly obvious once you notice it: namely, that a person acts out, breaks the law, hurts other people and abuses drugs, when they are in pain; when they have been hurt and betrayed. What do we do in response? We punish that person with further rejection and/or imprisonment. We take people who already feel deep levels of shame and shame them further; publically humiliate them.
The way forward is to connect to our empathy within, to recognize that no one – NO ONE – is harming other people on purpose. Only someone who has been traumatized can treat other human beings the way that the British fans treated those children (I do not believe in inherently awful or evil people). I feel secure in saying that if someone were to contact one of those drunk British football fans, who treated those refugee children so terribly, and sit down and find out who the man is that, to the extent that he’d be able to share his own story, it would reveal pain and sadness as a result of betrayal. If we saw hidden video of him as a boy we would want to hold the allegedly terrible man and say, “I’m so sorry for what you have endured”. Our compassion would crash through the wall that keeps us from our empathy.
But then aren’t some people simply beyond the pale? Aren’t some people just lost causes, bastards? Our RMP culture, challenged as it is with nuance, can discard people so easily, transform them into Voldemort.
I almost didn’t want to mention JK Rowling and Harry Potter because Ms. Rowling’s life-story and accomplishments are so extraordinary, and she is so renowned, deservedly so, for her philanthropy. The sad reality is that she, like the aforementioned bookseller, is magically unaware of the reality of Boarding School. Before the meteoric success of Harry Potter, the Boarding School industry was at its nadir, with attendance at dangerously low levels. Ms. Rowling’s fantastical depiction of Hogwarts has not only coincided with a huge jump in domestic attendance but also has surely played a role in the top British Boarding Schools opening locations in the Far East and Middle East.
The slogan for JK Rowling’s charity, Lumos, is “Protecting Children. Providing Solutions”. Lumos is charged with improving the plight of orphaned children around the world. Upon light inspection, they appear to do wonderful work. During a live Facebook Live chat, Ms. Rowling, said, “All of the research agrees that there is little you can do worse for a child than put it in an institution”.
But then, isn’t this terribly ironic and confusing? Does she not see the intense overlap between the two institutions, orphanages and Boarding Schools? Maybe she does at this point, maybe she doesn’t. Likely, she’s like most Brits, from all backgrounds, who see Boarding School as just another normal component of our RMP culture.
Like many of us, Ms. Rowling’s past was filled with trauma and betrayal, including an unhappy childhood, her mother suffering and dying from Multiple Sclerosis, a relationship with her father that has left them estranged from each other, a failed four-month marriage and poverty-stricken single motherhood that left her clinically depressed and suicidal. Like Roald Dahl, she wrote fantasy stories from the time she was young, metaphorically playing out the good, bad and the ugly from her life. She knows Voldemort well, as do many humans. Hence, the success of the series.
As always though, material prosperity does not necessarily, or usually, coincide with emotional maturity. As most of us are wont to do when presented with ‘bad’ guys, we feel justified in judging them in the harshest terms – assuming that nothing we say or do against the villain can compare with their treachery. In a RMP binary world, poor Voldemort, conceived as he was via trickery, coercion and a loveless union, was destined for darkness; a worthless baby, a misbegotten child who, once his mother died, was a lost cause; so devoid of love as to be practically inhuman.
Within her writing, Ms. Rowling, who took some years to fill in Voldemort’s backstory, cannot muster an iota of compassion for this poor soul, and the unfathomable suffering he undoubtedly endured in his childhood that turned him into a monster. Or was he a monster to begin with? Are those of us who are borne of the union of two terrible people trapped within that destiny? Should we be written off just like Voldemort was by Ms. Rowling? We do the same thing in the real world, turning traumatized people into inhuman caricatures in order to distance ourselves from their anger and shame that has a home in all of us; that is a by-product of the destructive emotional landscape we are all a part of. All art represents who we are and where we come from. Harry Potter isn’t just a story that has been conjured from nowhere. It represents the inner workings of JK Rowling’s mind and life.
That is where Ms. Rowling’s combativeness and judgment comes from when engaging on social media with people who are worthy of her scorn, such as the Westboro Baptist Church (WBC). In response to the WBC threatening to picket a gay union between Dumbledore and Gandalf, Ms. Rowling tweeted, “Alas, the sheer awesomeness of such a union in such a place would blow your tiny bigoted minds out of your thick sloping skulls.” Needless to say, it is really easy to poke fun at the WBC; but then how many of us harbour our own prejudices, some that we’re unaware of, and some that we assiduously hide from the world?
The inference is that Voldemort and the WBC are beneath contempt; beyond salvation; beyond love. But what if the only way to possibly get through to extremely traumatized beings, who are overtly and unconsciously taking out their ugly frustrations on others, is via compassionate engagement? Was this attempted with Voldemort? With the WBC? No, because to do so would be to dabble in the darkness, which we’re deathly afraid of. We would be required to believe in love; to believe that life is more than about vengeful counter-attacks and ridiculing retorts that itch an ego scratch that actually taps into the worst in us. But it’s the Westboro Baptist Church! It’s Voldemort for God’s sake!
We scapegoat those who most clearly reveal to us our obscured self-disgust – because we are unable to own it and release it. The question is, do we believe in humanity’s inherent beauty or not? Unfortunately, so many of us are living in a state of collective trauma that when push comes to shove, we reluctantly admit that based on personal and human history, the answer is no; or, I don’t know. It might be on the other side of the wall, but who knows? Who knows is who feels.
Blessings for Ms. Rowling, who is doing nothing more than representing most of us in our RMP world, all within a superbly entertaining package. I understand and empathize with her judgment. Judgment holds a seemingly unassailable position in our world; though the operative word here is ‘seemingly’.
There is a moment in the wonderful new film “The BFG”, based on the book written by Roald Dahl (another Boarding School and Oxford alum) in which, perfectly for my current purposes, the fictional Queen of England pays a lovely compliment to the Big Friendly Giant. His eyes well up instantly. He asks if she’s really talking about him. Receiving confirmation, he is overwhelmed. You see, the BFG is as old as the world and his constant companions have been a bunch of other Giants who are much larger than him and have bullied him mercifully for eons. It’s all he has ever known. So, when he receives love, he doesn’t quite know what to do with himself, but he likes it.
All any of us want is acknowledgment. How much acknowledgment and acceptance is occurring in this culture? On the contrary, how much bashing, undermining and rejection is taking place?
From his autobiography, it is clear Roald Dahl had a horrendous time at Boarding School. Without doing further research, it feels like Dahl is the BFG and the other Giants are the boys at school, making him feel small, terrorizing him. How did he survive Boarding School? Probably by living in his imagination and by hoping against all hope.
To the football fan, bless you. To David and Boris and Donald, bless you. What we judge them for is being their traumatized little boy – and that boy is running the adult – in them and most of us. That’s hard to do and so we constantly screw up – waiting for something that doesn’t seem to be coming; that doesn’t seem like it exists. Acknowledgment. Love.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.
Reflections on Tony Blair, Iraq, Harry Patch, Racism, the Historic Abuse of British Soldiers and the Unknown yet Magnificent History of Africa
The Chilcot Report was recently released and we have confirmation of what was obvious, namely the chicanery of Tony Blair, ardent Christian, blood-brothers with George Bush, and the initiator of the invasion of Iraq under false pretenses; which, including the ill-fated expedition in Aghanistan, resulted in sending hundreds of British servicemen and women to their deaths, as well as the tens of thousands of injured and scarred soldiers.
The working class once again sacrificed for the misguided machinations of an elite class who deemed the sacrifice worthwhile. In Tony Blair, yet another Private and Boarding School attendee, we have the archetypal example of a skilful man who is so trapped within his RMP Left-brain, so divorced from his empathetic right-brain, that while at an event as Prime Minister in 2006 he sought a photo-op with the last remaining British WWI veteran and war hero, Harry Patch. Why was the decision by Mr. Blair to approach Mr. Patch an absurd one?
Mr. Patch was ‘the last fighting Tommy’, ‘the last surviving combat soldier from any country’; except he was actually more of an anti-hero than a war hero. He called War “calculated slaughter” and said that the dead were “victims of governments”. He said he had no time for “‘thieving politicians’ lies”. Surely, these public statements by a very well known cultural figure in and of themselves should have convinced Mr. Blair, who, under false pretenses, had recently sent troops into Iraq, that seeking a photo with the legendary anti-war-hero was a terrible idea.
It gets better. What makes Mr. Patch extraordinary, in the truest sense of the word, is that during “the war to end all wars” him and five friends made a pact not to kill any “enemy” soldiers. Yes, you read that correctly. Him and his mates all went to the Western Front and did not kill any Germans. These soldiers decided that they would rather be killed, maimed or shot for treason than to harm another human being who, just like them, had been forced to suffer the brutality of war in order to play out the twisted machinations of their arrogant and cold-hearted leadership. Mr. Patch, a man well ahead of his time, was so conscious and empathetic that it was an impossibility for him, a “peacenik”, to kill people who he was told were his mortal enemies; when he knew very well that he had infinitely more in common with the terrified young man in the opposite trench than with his own leadership that had sent him and millions of other British men into a most horrific conflict (700,000 British soldiers perished).
So, when Mr. Blair sidled in to ingratiate himself with Mr. Patch “he was met with Harry’s sharp rebuff. Harry regaled him with the Harry Patch remedy for conflict resolution, namely, that politicians who took us to war should have been given the guns and told to settle their differences themselves instead of organizing nothing better than legalized mass murder.” This is the man a warmonger approached for acknowledgement; for personal gain.
Humiliated, Mr. Blair slinked away. The question is, how on earth did such a seemingly intelligent man (a la Mr. Cameron) manage to make such a gross miscalculation? Do his actions not contravene even the most rudimentary rules of “common sense”? Shouldn’t he be steering well clear of Mr. Patch? Here again we run into this patterned unconsciousness that governs our culture and our leadership and leads them to betray the people – and themselves. Sadly, the assumed “intelligence” is only one-dimensional.
Speaking of, common sense (CS), this from another of my pieces: “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 CS. 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 CS – while hamstrung by the difficulty in seeing past the unfeeling logic, which 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.”
This is the insanity of the rational mind that can create convincing justification for anything from thin air. The issue is that Mr. Blair didn’t and doesn’t feel what he has done. He has so little access to his right-brain, where the instinct resides, that somehow it makes sense to him to seek a photo-op with his human antithesis. This is the level of incongruence, the level of cluelessness, that resulted in the killing and maiming of tens of thousands of British soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis.
The assumption on the part of some citizens is that corporate and government figures like Mr. Blair do what they do on purpose; that they are fully aware of their actions – as well as the consequences for themselves and others; as if they are like the odious Mr. Burns character from The Simpsons, gleefully rubbing his hands together at the prospect of screwing the people over.
The reality is that Mr. Blair, like most Western leaders, was simply on automatic pilot, trapped within the rigid confines of his left-brain; divorced from the empathy and common sense that is required to make good and moral decisions, personally and professionally. Despite taking some artistic license with the intelligence, he determined, and/or was led to believe, that however illegal and unjustified the invasion of Iraq was, it was preferable to any alternatives.
Undeterred by the damning Chilcott Report, Mr. Blair is still in fine RMP form. Though the emperor has no clothes, or more accurately has had the clothes ripped off him, this time, astoundingly by the authorities, he maintains his position that invasion was the correct course of action, regardless of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Can it be anything other than abject denial when today Mr. Blair says, “I can regret the mistakes and many things about it, but I genuinely believe that we acted out of good motives … I sincerely believe we would be in a worse position if we hadn’t acted in that way.”
Surely, it’s the realm of the fantastic to suggest things could be any worse in Iraq and the Middle East. So why does such an intelligent man continue with this charade? Because as crazy as it sounds he believes it. He has created his own logic which enables him to protect himself from the agonizing truth that he has a direct hand in setting off a chain of events that has caused untold and ever-continuing death and suffering. Steadfastness to the last. The Chilcott Report begs to differ with Mr. Blair, as do the millions of British people who knew back in 2003 that going to war would be disastrous for Britain and the world. Not even the stark clarity of hindsight is enough to elicit an iota of self-reflection or remorse, at least for public consumption. In our RMP culture, and especially for our leadership, it’s all or nothing; usually nothing.
Privilege means rarely having to take responsibility for your actions or to receive any meaningful punishment. So, despite the authorities finding Mr. Blair convincingly culpable, the cherry on top is this headline which perfectly encapsulates why more and more people are fed up: “Outrage as war crimes prosecutors say Tony Blair will not be investigated over Chilcot’s Iraq war report – but British soldiers could be.” What else but travesty can be expected? If there is anything surprising it’s that anyone is surprised. The people, especially soldiers, always take it on the chin for the misadventures of their leaders. The architect not only gets off scot-free but the stratospheric insult to injury has Mr. Blair not only coming to the defense of the very soldiers he has wantonly put into impossible situations, with ruinous consequences, but actually considering saving Britain by once again gallantly taking the reins. We might forgive some soldiers who question Mr. Blair’s sincerity.
What must it be like to be an avowed and ardent Christian, a follower of the Prince of Peace, and yet have behaved in a fashion that runs so counter to what Jesus stood for? Actually, Harry Patch was Mr. Blair’s real life quasi-Christ figure. He unwittingly went to Mr. Patch for forgiveness and absolution only to be rebuffed. Only maybe Jesus himself could be forgiving towards Mr. Blair. In his absence, we are all charged with seeking out our own compassion for a man who has to live out the rest of his days with his naked shame forever spotlighted for the world to see, even if he can’t see it himself. What of Mr. Blair’s children? What of the trauma and betrayal he has passed down to them? Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
Another element of Mr. Patch’s disdain surely concerns the shocking lack of support for our veterans. If all of their unnecessary suffering wasn’t insult enough, we see that these poor souls are not being taken care of, especially in the long term (in Britain, the United States, Canada and Australia).
Still, it’s not really shocking is it? It makes perfect sense. It should be a crime to not take care of those who have sacrificed so much. There is a reason they say “War is Hell”. That’s not just some platitude. But when the leadership doesn’t really feel the magnitude of sending young, lower class, men and women to war, then they cannot emotionally understand the nature of that sacrifice; what killing other humans does to a person, regardless of the alleged justification, let alone the debilitating physical and mental wounds that are left behind.
Consequently, the returning soldiers are betrayed. It’s not personal. It’s not on purpose. If decision-makers actually allowed themselves to feel the agony of so many veterans, war would truly only become a last resort. It is the hyper-rational mind that produces the dissociation required to make these horrendous decisions; dissociation learned within the culture and the educational system – in a highly focused way in Boarding School and the top Universities.
I feel for Mr. Blair. He is a Shakespearian Tragic Figure (we haven’t even touched on how he might be connected to the suspicious death of Dr. David Kelly). As with many of us, he is a slave to the Rational Man Project. Like many in our culture, he lost himself as a boy but jumped through all the right hoops in order to survive and thrive. Success made him believe that he was playing the fiddle masterfully, without realizing that, in fact, he was, and still is, the fiddle and the RMP has been playing him like a Stradivarius. Like many leaders that came before him and after him Mr. Blair became a marvelous, emotionally-enfeebled technocrat. David Cameron fittingly called himself “the heir to Blair” when he became Prime Minister. The results of his tenure, including his mangling of the Brexit vote and his disgraceful Libya follies, confirm the redundancy of Mr. Cameron’s statement since it scarcely matters who holds the reins of power and which party they represent.
RMP failings are extremely visible in the hands of our leadership. It’s easy to sit back and scrutinize our leaders for their shortcomings, but if that’s all we’re doing we’re missing the boat. Granted, it’s difficult to admit that they are an accurate representation of us within the political sphere. We don’t want to see that, or can’t see it, in the same ways that we create revisionist history – and denial – in our own lives in order to avoid pain; to avoid looking at the past; to avoid looking within and taking responsibility for how we are living and what we are putting out into the world.
How many of us regularly take the opportunity to unleash our incredulity or anger on a random person, even over a harmless infraction? As pedestrians, cyclists and drivers we are ready to wag an accusatory finger at one another over some apparent advantage taken, or a moment of unawareness, that might have delayed us from reaching our destination by thirty seconds? No worries. We’re on it. We’re on high alert at all times for these situations where, based on one moment, we can identify a person or a group of people as being lesser than us. Less intelligent. Less aware. Less considerate. And while we are fiercely condemning them for their act, we instantly take in their appearance, their race, their gender, their age, their sexual orientation, their fitness level and come up with a personality profile that is born of ego, fear, judgment and bias; that conjures vulnerability in the other; to make us feel better; superior; to give us the justification we need to avoid recognizing our role in creating that very experience; to show us our state of consciousness.
Meanwhile, on some other occasion we’ve likely made the exact same unforgivable mistake as the moron who is currently invoking our wrath. But it was probably okay when we messed up. Oopsy. Whatever. We wonder why the accuser is getting so bent out of shape. “No big deal. Take it easy. Oh really? Well fuck you too…”, as we size them up and concoct a violent insult cocktail to deflect and protect from the over-the-top reaction that is being hurled our way. “Served them right for getting carried away.”
Empathy on life-support. This is RMP left-brain gymnastics at its finest and most ubiquitous. Many of us are masters at it. Ready to defend. The need to feel a semblance of control over something… anything that’s easier to latch on to than the confusion that reigns when we have limited access to our right-brains. We are perpetrator and victim all rolled into one, based on a recipe consisting of systemic, collective and personal betrayal and trauma; masculine and feminine, dissonant.
Our leaders? They are like you and me though the higher they go, and the deeper their childhood RMP training, the greater the RMP commitment. How else will they be able to justify taking advantage of people or having a hand in condemning soldiers and innocent civilians to experience hell on earth? I don’t envy our “privileged” leaders who are playing this role for us in our dysfunctional culture. It’s a heavy burden to bear when acting with a limited emotional toolbox. It lends itself to potentially deadly and immature tit-for-tat responses that encourage the worst in us, the endgame victory instead of cooperation, the greater good always sacrificed at the altar of perceived right and wrong.
What do we expect from our Leaders when so many of us can barely behave like adults in our little lives? Projecting our frustrations on to others; left-brain justification on over-drive; self-reflection and empathy an afterthought. There is a straight line between this low-level type of buck-passing and the mass-scale obfuscation and violence practiced by our leaders, in government and corporations.
The RMP culture creates an infinite stew of divisions among the people, personally and globally. Historically, but especially currently, race, which is an anachronistic concept, is unfortunately at the forefront.
Much has been made of the racist component of the Brexit vote and the notable uptick in racism towards immigrants since the vote. As is politicians’ wont, Mr. Farage has always sought to use whatever leverage, in this case race, in his efforts to exert his and his backers’ influence. Understandably, the majority of the country looks down upon xenophobic Brits as an embarrassment. They are rejected as being lesser than; less intelligent and progressive; dangerous anomalies.
The Age of Reason has glossed over what until very recently used to be naked racism. Let us recall that while America is always taken to task for slavery, it began with the arrival of the first slaves in 1619. American Independence occurred in 1776. It was under British rule that slavery began, expanded and thrived. It was under British rule that treaties with the Canadian First Nations were made and broken, and where children were forcibly removed from their parents, placed in Residential Schools, forbidden to speak their language and abused and murdered. The rational British mind did not understand or respect the traditions and ways of the heathens of the world. Whether they wanted it or not, the savages were not in a position to know better; they would be introduced to a superior mode of living and thinking, with a side dish of Christianity.
Africa: endlessly fascinating and historically devastated. In researching for this article I came upon information about Africa that twisted my head. How is it that I am relatively well-read, have attended university and have interest in the genuine history of humanity, and yet had NO IDEA about this information. The material in this link should be required reading for every single person in the world, especially those from the former colonial powers. There is nothing more shocking and revealing in my piece than understanding the history of Africa. If you only click on one link in this piece, let it be this one. The centuries of revisionist African history, as written by the victorious colonial powers, has allowed untold misery to be visited upon the very place where humanity originated from.
Except for Egypt, Africa has always been presented to us as having been a primitive, uncivilized and savage place. Because of centuries of this belief in the lesser-than nature of Africans it’s incredibly confusing and shameful when non-Africans are told by science and anthropology that humanity has its origins in Africa; that we are all actually Africans that gradually spread all around the world. There’s an awkward and bizarre incongruence when we look at African history of the last hundred years. It’s a catastrophe. How can we come from these people? If the history of Africa that has been presented were accurate then this question might have some legitimacy – especially from a limited left-brain perspective in which everything develops from a linear equation.
So what happens when we find out that Africa was actually always at the cutting edge of human knowledge, architecture, art and technology – that is until the 1800s when the colonial powers, including Britain, destroyed the African legacy. If only this were exaggeration then the reality, and the consequences, would not be so mortifying.
Please click on the link above to read about many examples of various advanced African empires, cities and cultures since medieval times. While Europe was suffering from plagues, famines and relentless religious and ethnic conflict during the Middle Ages, Africa was flourishing. With China and The Middle East, it was a world centre for cutting edge human existence.
It’s challenging to provide just a couple of examples of not only historical African excellence, but in some cases, superiority. The irony is so fantastic as to leave me speechless.
Some examples of actual African history:
(1) The 13th Century city of Benin (now in Nigeria) “was built to ‘a scale comparable with the Great Wall of China'”. There was a vast system of defensive walling totaling 10,000 miles in all. The 1974 edition of the Guinness Book of Records described the city as: ‘The largest earthworks in the world carried out prior to the mechanical era.’ Another European visitor wrote, “They took an estimated 150 million hours of digging to construct, and are perhaps the largest single archaeological phenomenon on the planet.” Another European visitor said, “These people are in no way inferior to the Dutch as regards cleanliness; they wash and scrub their houses so well that they are polished and shining like a looking glass.” Benin artwork and sculpture was, and is, regarded as comparable in quality and creativity to any produced in Europe. So, what happened to the kingdom of Benin that had been flourishing for centuries? British Industry wanted control of their palm oil, rubber and ivory resources. Benin refused to become a colony so the British wiped out their entire kingdom. In 1897, led by Admiral Harry Rawson (who attended Boarding School at Eastman’s Royal Naval Academy), Benin was invaded, looted and razed to the ground.
(2) The City of Timbuktu – In modern culture, Timbuktu has been utilized in humour and jokes. After all, it’s a funny sounding word, right? How many people know that the city of Timbuktu was the capital of one of the great empires of human history, that it has been called the Paris of the medieval world? In the 14th Century, it was ruled by Mansa Musa. Heard of him? Probably not. Some facts about Mansa Musa and Timbuktu: (a) The richest empire in the world at the time, when Mansa Musa “went on a pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324, he carried so much gold, and spent them so lavishly that the price of gold fell for ten years. 60,000 people accompanied him.” (b) He founded the legendary Timbuktu Library. Despite French Colonial treachery between 1894 and 1956, whereby thousands of manuscripts were looted or burned, it is estimated that some 700,000 ancient books still survive, largely within private collections. “The most profitable trade items in Timbuktu were books. Buying them was considered a socially acceptable way of displaying wealth and a great source of prestige”. Trading in books? Doesn’t sound very savage does it? According to Michael Palin, in his series, Sahara, The Imam of Timbuktu “has a collection of scientific texts that clearly show the planets circling the sun. They date back hundreds of years… It’s convincing evidence that the scholars of Timbuktu knew a lot more than their counterparts in Europe. In the fifteenth century in Timbuktu the mathematicians knew about the rotation of the planets, knew about the details of the eclipse, they knew things which we had to wait for 150 almost 200 years to know in Europe when Galileo and Copernicus came up with these same calculations and were given a very hard time for it.” Again, how does this square with the notion that Africans are lesser-than?
There are many more examples of African excellence, from all areas of the continent, in the link provided. The startling truth of the history of Africa shatters the myths that have been peddled by the colonial powers that it was a backward place that was in need of their superior knowledge and rule. As is often the case, the truth is the direct opposite, but in the days of colonial conquest, highly inconvenient. Because the only way for the colonial powers, who have pillaged Africa for its incredible wealth of gold, diamonds and resources (and continue to do so), to justify their horrors was to paint the African as being savage – so primitive that even their mass murder and destruction of their cultures was justified.
Does this mean that the wide range of Africans were all exemplary humans before colonisation? Obviously not, but whatever activities they may have participated in were certainly no more brutal than anything engaged in by Europeans. In fact, as we’ll see in Part 7, African transgressions paled in comparison to those of Europeans.
The British (French, Dutch, Belgian, Spanish and Portuguese) people have never been presented with the well-documented evidence of their genocides in Africa (and elsewhere). For the Germans, The Jewish Holocaust happened in the middle of Europe; there was no hiding it. Of course, as the victor earns the right to record the “official” history, if the Germans had won the war, the Holocaust would certainly not have the place it has in the world today. It would have been glossed over, as has been done in Africa.
Many wonder how so many regular Germans didn’t know about what was being done in their names. After all, it took many thousands of German soldiers to run all the concentration camps. How did these soldiers’ families not know? As we have already heard, very few of us discuss massive trauma. Why? Regardless of the type of trauma, revealing it entails divulging the shame associated with it – whether one was the perpetrator or the victim. Germans had for a decade been on the receiving end of propaganda that painted Jews and Slavs and Gypsies as less than humans; as rats. Of course, it’s one thing to start to believe that, it’s quite another to be one of thousands of German soldiers who participated in the mass extermination of human beings.
The reason why the Holocaust was even possible was that Germany as a nation was so traumatized and humiliated because: (1) firstly they had been pushed by their leadership into an absolutely unnecessary war (WWI) with an unprecedented loss of life and destruction of property; (2) the aftermath of WWI, where the Treaty of Versailles saddled them with decades long and debilitating reparations and economic catastrophe; and (3) the coup de grace which was the global Great Depression. Millions of Germans were living in desperation. They were vulnerable to manipulation. Enter: Hitler, who appealed to the former glory of the Germanic people and lay the sole blame for the country’s ills at the feet of the outside world – and the Jews (self-reflection be damned).
Despite how deep the indoctrination went, it makes sense that the unconscious shame Germans must have felt was not something most of them would allow to come to the surface – for them to actually feel it and share it with their friends and family back home. If they allowed themselves to feel what they were doing it would be impossible to continue. This is the hyper-compartmentalization that is possible when we succumb to the twisted logic of the left-brain. It allows us, any of us, to abandon our humanity. That is why it is incumbent on us to take care of ourselves and each other – so that extreme circumstances are not allowed to arise whereby the unthinkable can occur.
The defeated Germans were shamed before the world for their atrocities (by the other Great Powers who have absolutely no business taking any country to task for their misdeeds). The vast majority of Germans know the real history of what their recent ancestors wrought. Though one can argue about the sincerity and depth of German repentance, there has been extensive discussion of the subject in Germany and the world, and many Germans feel profound remorse. Germans, rightly so, are not permitted to forget what they did; and there is a visible monument in the form of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, though some suggest it is not explicit enough in outlining the wrong-doing.
Now, let us discuss the various African and Colonial Holocaust Memorials in London, Paris, Brussels, Rome, Lisbon and Amsterdam… Any large memorials in the UK, US, Canada and Australia to show the colonial brutality committed against the Indigenous Peoples; against Africans?
Needless to say, the white-washing by the Great Powers of their many global atrocities (more on the specifics later in the piece) was much easier when their victims were half a world away – and during the 1800s and early 1900s when access to information was infinitely less available.
Some present day Europeans are aghast at what is transpiring on their continent, beset as they are by the threatening, dark-skinned hordes. If they knew the history, they would cease to wonder why, and take the difficult steps required to address the horrors that their recent ancestors inflicted on the world. They would readily recognize that we are witnessing the long-term consequences of inhumane actions. For example, how many Belgians – or any us for that matter – know that a little over 100 years ago their forces murdered an estimated 10 million Congolese over a 23 year period ending in 1908 – half of the entire population. 10 million. 10 million. Pause and think about how deeply we are affected in the present day when terrorism claims 50 or 100 lives in a major European city. While these attacks are undoubtedly devastating, how can we even fathom 10 million people, including millions of women and children, massacred? Furthermore, the Belgiansinstigated a system of punishment whereby many thousands of Congolese who resisted or who did not manage to meet their rubber quotas had their hands and feet chopped off as a deterrent.
Mass Rape was also a staple of the Belgian way. Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness is based on these Belgian atrocities, except the reality of the situation was far more heinous than in Conrad’s shocking novel. This is what the traumatized hyper-masculine mind is capable of.
“He [King Leopold II] used great sums of the money from this exploitation for public and private construction projects in Belgium during this period. He donated the private buildings to the state before his death.”
In the West, we relentlessly attempt to lessen and relegate our nations’ misdeeds to the distant past. Meanwhile, the Belgian people today unconsciously benefit from and utilize buildings that were built upon the mountain of mutilated and massacred Congolese – without an iota of admission or remorse. And while this mind-numbing level of brutality under King Leopold II came to an end in 1908, Belgian colonial rule, which continued to subjugate and abuse the population, persisted until the Democratic Republic of Congo gained independence in 1960. The Belgians also controlled next door Rwanda. So many in the west decry the violence that they have seen from Congo and Rwanda in the last 30 years. Only the compartmentalized Western mind is unable to recognize the barbaric levels of trauma that these poor Africans endured for decades under white rule. Instead, in warped irony we dub them savages – for perpetuating the policies and actions they learned from their colonial masters. How could it be otherwise from RMP societies that live in perpetual denial and avoidance?
In almost every case, British and colonial powers first established friendly and trade relationships with the “natives”. But as time went on and the visitors learned the lay of the land, they eventually did what they knew best. They betrayed their new friends. It was not personal. It was just the way of the world. If the savage was too naïve and unsophisticated to comprehend the rules of the game, they did not deserve what they had. It would be taken from them and if they resisted, as any people would do, they would be made to suffer.
Why were the British the most successful of all the Great Powers? How did they build the grandest empire the world had ever seen? Because their colonial leaders received the very best RMP training available from the time they were young boys – Boarding School. Their indoctrination happened early and it was comprehensive, which allowed them to be least effected by potentially irksome influences such as conscience, morals, ethics, feelings, etc.
“… the role of such schools was clear: they broke boys’ attachment to their families and re-attached them to the institutions – the colonial service, the government, the armed forces – through which the British ruling class projected its power. Every year they released into the world a cadre of kamikazes, young men fanatically devoted to their caste and culture…”
What is the legacy of such an approach? The three greatest areas of conflict in the world in the last thirty years have been Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel/Palestine – all former British Colonies. Syria “belonged” to the French. And Nigeria, the location of the former Empire of Benin, is in freefall.
The abject shame of those returning British soldiers from Africa ended up being an energetic match for the betrayal and the shame that was, and is, inherent in the culture. Hence, moving right along. Nothing to see here. Meanwhile, the returning soldiers of past and present, without an outlet to address their trauma, slip back into normal life. They become husbands and fathers; their confusion and rage leaking out into every aspect of their lives; seamlessly absorbed into society as a whole.
As with the German soldiers, what of the thousands upon thousands of British soldiers who, over a 250 year period, returned home having participated in the brutal subjugation, exploitation and murder of countless humans? This is the reality, and most Brits have no idea. No idea of many generations of young, working class British men who were obliged by elite British men to carry out heinous acts in the name of Empire. War and genocide was, and still remains, an exercise in political and economic control; though the foot-soldiers are always led to believe that there are more noble reasons behind the madness.
Then these poor soldiers returned home and re-integrated back into society. Unlike the German soldiers in WWII, their ethics and morals were not questioned; victors rarely ever are. On the contrary, they would have been praised for serving their country, the Empire. And yet, it is practically inconceivable the immense trauma they would have experienced in destroying, maiming and murdering. On an infinitely smaller scale we can see the effects of recent, and unjust, wars on our returning soldiers. Beyond the thousands of injured, there is rampant PTSD. A major component of that PTSD is the inhumanity these poor soldiers are forced to confront in themselves – the self-betrayal – in order to carry out the machinations of their leadership – against people who are only doing exactly what the British would do, and have done, if they were attacked on their own soil: defend themselves. The shame is unbearable for some, including those who commit suicide.
Veterans in Britain, America, Canada and Australia are all in the same boat. The care for returning soldiers is, and has always been, woefully inadequate. The reason for this is obvious. How can the unconscious RMP leadership that betrays their young men by sending them into morally confusing and repugnant circumstances then take proper care of them when they return? Consequently, they are abandoned and left to their own devices; dealing with rampant depression and suicide; their families left to pick up the shattered pieces.
At every turn, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) seeks to minimize the issues, nonsensical double-speak always the order of the day. In one breath, the MoD says that there is a downward trend in soldier suicides, while in the next it “blames administrative difficulties in keeping tabs on hundreds of thousands of ex-military personnel spread across the globe” Actually, the MoD“doesn’t track what happens to veterans, no one knows how many are suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or have taken their own lives.” This glaring contradiction is allowed to persist. Why? Because the entire society is beset with normalized contradiction in which most people can readily see the incongruity, but are not moved to act – because to be moved would be to feel. Instead, the family and friends of these poor returning souls are often hopelessly left to standby as their irretrievably ravaged loved ones try to reconcile the insanity of what they have experienced. If it were even possible, how could they share the crushing shame they live with? How can they admit that following orders entailed them betraying their own souls? ‘What will Mum and Dad think of me?’ Invariably they will undertake this bleak journey alone. For some it is much too much, let alone for the thousands who will walk through the rest of their lives as damaged goods.
One mother of a Soldier who was diagnosed with PTSD and hanged himself one year after being discharged says, “I rang his platoon after he died as I was angry. I spoke to a desk sergeant. All he said was he was no longer their responsibility.” What of the poor Desk Sergeant who is burdened with representing a system that abandons his brothers-in-arms?
In addition, the vast majority of the discussion by the authorities and families of the thousands of troubled soldiers, especially the ones who take their own lives, is how they were damaged primarily because of witnessing the killing and maiming of their fellow soldiers, their friends. No doubt this is true, but isn’t there something missing? How about the effect on the soldiers from witnessing, and sometimes perpetrating, the suffering of the people in those countries they are occupying? It’s almost never mentioned by anyone. Can you feel the incongruence? Can you feel the historical racism that values the life of the Brit over the foreign unmentionables? Might our poor soldiers not be even more adversely affected by the anguish and killing of locals, especially children? We don’t know. We don’t ask that question. That question is not within the realm of acceptable inquiry. The answer to that question introduces far too many extra variables into the equation than is possible for RMP systems to compute. It is not even attempted. This bypass is not on purpose. It is endemic to the system. It is not being consciously ignored. It is unseen. Once in a while, under duress, the blinders involuntarily fly open, only to be glued back shut as quickly as possible, lest we dip in to that shameful place. This is collective moral and soul self-preservation. This is survival.
For the British, unjust war and mass murder has for centuries merely been the furthest, logical extension of the unconsciousness fomented in a Boarding School-influenced leadership and culture. Naturally, leadership that perpetually betrays and takes advantage of its own complicit people will readily do the same to those far away people that are racially and culturally different. Who in the culture are tasked with carrying out the eternally noble RMP actions in distant lands? Who in our culture will pay the highest price for our distorted ways of being? Who will represent those most unconscious and violent aspects of us? Who will be the sacrificial lambs sent to the front lines, forced to deal with what can only be imagined as the insanity of it all? Our Soldiers: the very same working class folk whom the leadership has, by default, already betrayed; the very same people who have been abandoned and disenfranchised; those deemed to have less to lose; those whose lives are undoubtedly valued less. We are not equipped to comprehend quite what that means. If we did; if we could feel what the consequences are for our Soldiers, the “enemy” and our society as a whole, we would stop the killing. Granted, from a deeply embedded RMP perspective, this can only sound like a naïve fantasy.
Bard Azima is a Writer, Photographer, Filmmaker, Empathy Miner and Boarding School Survivor.