From Politics to Poetry
Updated: 26 min 59 sec ago
Just before Christmas I stopped painting and have not really been able to go back to it. Perhaps it is something like a midlife crisis, I don't know, but over the past few months I have struggled to do anything productive. In the face of what seems like a existential crisis, I began to write again. I haven't written much since I finished the draft for my book on Mary Mitford which is now in the hands of my daughter as she attempts to complete it to a finished version. I started writing about art and aesthetics but that slowly turned to directly personal issues concerning the various artistic, political, and philosophical dilemmas that have haunted me all my life. I have psychologically relived the strange events that led to my commitment to largely disengage from most of the traditional aspirations of life. I won't go into the specifics of this philosophical decision because, for one, I am writing about them, and for another, they are too troubling and off colour for this blog. But the struggle itself can be expressed this way - Imagine that you are in some past society/empire. Let's say for the sake of argument you find yourself in the Aztec empire in Mexico at the height of its power in the 1400s. But unlike most of those around you, you reject pretty much all the cornerstones of your society. You don't believe in Sun worship, you don't believe in the aristocratic structure, you reject their slavery and their militarism, and you don't believe in the gender relations. What does one do in this situation? This is what I more or less have experienced in my own society. I don't believe in the major religions of our society, I reject capitalism, I don't believe in competition or organized sports, I reject the hierarchy of the education system, I reject much of the institutional structures of modern science and the technical-rational ideology that motivates it, I totally reject the militarism of our society, and I reject the gender inequalities that I see around me and to which my daughters will be subjected. In the face of all of this, I have spent much of my life disengaged from the ambitions and desires of those around me. I did a master's degree but I couldn't bring myself to stay in academia because I didn't believe in the hierarchy of the university system. As a white male, I rejected a great deal of career notions because I don't want to be another white male seeking worldly success when the gender inequalities demand that men step back from many ambitions so that we don't just perpetuate these inequalities. This is the reason that when I was in university I eventually began to consciously stay quite in many situations. As a white male, I had been trained from youth to speak up in almost any situation, and I eventually began to realize that women and racialized people had been more or less trained to be more reticent. I didn't want to perpetuate those relations. (I admit that I wasn't always successful in this effort, but I tried and continue to try). The upshot of all of this is that, right or wrong, I have lived outside of much of the traditional efforts of society. I have stood up for things that I believe are right and have sometimes been an activists, but I admit that in the light of the forces gathered against different beliefs, I have often hidden myself away from a society from which I feel so alienated. I might be indicted for not doing enough to change a society that I so thoroughly rejected. Perhaps, as the English would say, 'It's a fair cop.' But this has been my survival mechanism. Now that I have turned 50, I feel disheartened and troubled by my life-choices but feel that I have made the only choices that I could. Other dilemmas have also been part of my explorations, such as my conflicting philosophical beliefs. When I was still young I studied buddhism and meditation at the Naropa Institute (Now Naropa University). And even here I have always been conflicted. I understand the goals of Buddhism's core beliefs of peacefulness of mind, but I have also felt that passion, and sometimes anger can play a central role in creativity. Buddhism looks for a transcendence from suffering, but I think pain and suffering can be a central part of life and an essential part of experience. I have studied philosophy (Buddhist and Western as well) but have found no way out of these dilemmas.
My conflicts continue. Perhaps by writing about them I will find some answers. I don't know. I guess everyone has to find their own way through such dilemmas in life.
"How did we get here?"
This is the timeless question of people who find themselves in a country (or world) being enveloped by the politics of hate, fear, militarism, jingoism, and fascism. This is the question that people find themselves at war inevitably ask when the bullets start flying and the bombs start dropping. "How did we get here?" or "How did we let our leaders take us off this precipice?"
Well, it may be a frustrating and a timeless question, one that is painful to ask and one that is even more painful to answer, but if you have been paying attention to Canadian politics over the last ten years, you know the answer.
Apparently we get here through a fairly simple formula. First, have a media that is compliant or supportive of the government's rightwing agenda. Easy peasy - we have had that for a while now. Then take a political party that is rooted in racism, militarism, sexism, and corporatism. Check. Then let that party in government so it can legislate more or less by stealth for ten years or so, gradually undermining the courts, the democratic mechanisms, the legislative branch of government, the legal mechanisms that are meant to protect people against the arbitrary use of power, etc. Got that. Now, over a period of a decade or so let that government gradually change the mood of the nation and create a space in which racism, militarism, and jingoism become once again socially acceptable. And suddenly you find yourself in the midst of a national decline toward fascism in which the federal leader can blatantly lie about major national and international issues with little fear that he will be called out on his lies, in which the leader can use inflammatory, racist language and the racist slime that once hid in the corners of our society are suddenly free once again to proclaim their racism from the rooftops.
Sadly, this is where we now find ourselves. And as progressives we are startled by the speed and ease with which the nation slid toward fascism and racism. But we are only surprised because we, as progressives so often do, underestimated the remarkable ignorance, hate, and malleability of the general population.
Well, the jig, as they say, is up. Genuine fascism is at the gates, so to speak. Oh, of course, at the moment our fascism is not the same as that which manifested itself in various countries of Europe in the 1930s. At the moment we have a friendlier, more 'legitimatized' form of fascism. But make no mistake about what is going on. At the moment we are just pushing that proverbial envelope of racism and militarism that once defined Euro-fascism. But it will surely take only one more election victory (gained by an ever more compromised electoral system) to push us into a more full-fledged form of fascist/corporatist government. It is not a long way from a government proroguing parliament specifically to avoid falling, to a government cancelling or overturning elections. And if you think such things can't come to our seemingly quiet and 'peaceful' nation, I have only one word for you - VUKOVAR!
Ok, here's a short rant -
Now that Benjamin Netanyahu was inadvertently recorded admitting that Israel is only in peace negations as a way of stringing the Palestinians along while they steal all of their land, and now that Netanyahu has admitted that they will never allow a Palestinian state, isn't it time for all those apologists for Israel to admit that Israel has been the problem all along? For decades I heard people criticize Palestinians for failing to recognize Israel's right to exist, and people continued to perpetuate this misrepresentation years after the vast majority of Palestinians loudly proclaimed that they would recognize the 1947 partition boarders. It is clear now to all but the most blind partizans that it is Israel that will never recognize the Palestinians right to exist, it is the rightwing expansionism of Israel that wants all the land, not peace. The tide is turning. Millennials are beginning to recognize the pervasive lie and apartheid state that is modern Israel. Israel has long been an isolated state by the majority of countries in the world. They are isolated because they are a viscously racists, militarist, expansionist state hell-bent on taking all the land of Palestine and using some biblical fantasy to justify the more immoral of actions. But their isolation will now begin to increase as they have finally made their true colours clear to all but the most rabid apologists.
Reap the whirlwind Bibi - you have met the enemy and he is YOU.