Archive for the ‘Current Events’ Category

Last night I invested several hours listening to the debate on populism between Steve Bannon and David Frum on the November Munk debate.  I turned out to me largely worth it, an enjoyable and surprisingly civil debate.  You can, of course, see the video of it on their site, which would allow you to digest it in smaller doses.

A few thoughts:

  1. The hype and protest against the debate because of Bannon’s “hate speech” was largely undeserved. Now, make no mistake that I disagree with Bannon very strongly and find some of his ideas disturbing.  However, I also believe that the standard has to be very high in order for something to be banned and labelled hate speech.  I saw the film on Bannon at TIFF (which was not protested) and have seen several other interviews, and I’ve never witnessed the level of hateful ideas that would be necessary to ban him as a speaker.  I can’t speak for all of his comments in past years, but what I’ve seen and what I saw last night did not rise to that level.  He’s not a David Duke or a Milo.
  2. I think that Bannon’s ideas are appealing because he is relatively good at pointing at real questions and issues. Like Sartre, he sees the problems, but has no acceptable answers.  I can agree that a form of “elite”, -the ones who caused the 2008 crash for example-, had and still have too much power.  I agree that there is a political class that needs to be shaken up.  But stating a problem doesn’t mean that any old answer/solution is worth trying.  Desperation is not a good motivator when it comes to political standards, and in this case the proof of the pudding was and is very much in the tasting.
    At the very beginning of his opening comment he stated that populism was inevitable and that the only question was whether it would be capitalist or socialist (like Bernie Sanders) populism.  Oddly, he never returned to that point in order to argue the benefits of one type over the other.  Personally I don’t think that either is inevitable, but if that was his thesis, it certainly would have been a point worth pursuing.
  3. The debate, as I said, was very civil and highly informative on both sides. It was worth the wait for it to get started (because of the protestors) and the hours of listening.  Unfortunately the ending was seriously marred by confusion over the audience voting on the question in order to determine a “winner”.  As is the tradition in debates, they polled the audience on the question at the beginning and at the end.  They also, however, added an additional poll as to what percentage of the audience considered themselves willing to change their minds as a result of persuasion in the debate.  The debate was running late and so the ending was rushed.  The result they announced was a win by Bannon with over a 30% shift.  This immediately seemed suspicious considering the amount of laughter at many of Bannon’s statements and the distribution of applause.  As near as I can tell, it turns out that they mistakenly used the numbers for those willing to change their minds instead of those that actually changed their minds, as those numbers are conveniently identical.  Later, on the Face Book site, they posted that the numbers did not shift from the beginning to the end, which makes far more sense.  Bannon’s performance was certainly not stellar enough to cause a 30 point shift.
    Of course this unfortunately gave rise to comments about “fake news” and a “liberal conspiracy”.  What is far more likely is that some poor tech person hit the wrong button or that the system glitched.  But hopefully they will issue a clear and accurate explanation on either the web site or FB page.  To not do this would place a serious blemish on the Munk Debates.
Advertisements

This is an addendum to the last post I made on “Transcend and Include”.  I was inspired by a recent podcast on Jeff Salzman’s Daily Evolver podcast about How To Vote Integral.

When you consider it, how a person trying to make an Integral decision would decide how to vote really addresses the the whole issue about valuing and recognizing the positives in each level.  There are few Integral, Second Tier politicians out there, and it’s not certain how much success they might have if elected at this point in time.  (Take Obama for example, who was pretty close to having an Integral outlook, but who became hogtied by his reality.)  It is also true, as I tried to outline in the previous article, that each level has something valuable to contribute to society and government and, as Jeff points out in his podcast, success often depends on using input from multiple levels.

So, choosing your vote requires filtering the positives and negatives of each level.  It is not only the ideology that is right or wrong, but also the way it is discerned.  I really like that word as it is a word like judge or discriminate, but has no connotations.  Discern.  How do you do that.

Jeff’s podcast gives several ideas, at one point saying that perhaps you should chose wisdom over ideology.  I agree with that, but I don’t find it very helpful guidance.  One thing that I was surprised that he didn’t say was that perhaps Horizontal development and integrity are just as important as Vertical development.  Vertical development is the hierarchy of Traditional vs. Modern vs. Post-Modern, or the Red / Amber / Orange /Green continuum that Integral and Spiral Dynamics uses to describe social evolution.  But we’ve seen that there are negative traits in each of these, so that’s not enough when making a political decision.  Horizontal development is growth within a particular stage.  It is often seen as “integrity”.

That Horizontal development can be addressed using many facets and factors.  It can be that all Lines of development, such as intellectual, emotional, physical, social, etc., have undergone equal Vertical evolution.  Someone can be post-modern at a cognitive line, but traditional or even pre-traditional at an emotional and social stage.  (In many cases that would be called a sociopath.)  Someone with even development and balance across different kinds of “intelligence” is more likely to have the wisdom that Jeff is talking about.

Another aspect of Integral theory is respect of internal realities vs external ones vs social ones.  These are the four quadrants.  Certainly, a person who regards and takes into account factors from each of these quadrants is more likely to be a successful politician.  And one has to remember that it doesn’t matter what vertical level a person may be at, they can still access each one of these levels and utilize them.  A person with a traditional world view can access their own personal inner reality and values, can appreciate the objectivity of the external world and reality, and can consider social and systemic consequences.  A traditional person who relates to the world more in this way is going to be a more successful and wise politician than one who does not.  In fact they might be a better politician than someone at a “higher” stage who does not have this balance.

Another important aspect of Horizontal development is Shadow Work.  Shadows are the denied and submerged parts of our own mind that can act to sabotage our daily activities.  No matter how enlightened and wise we may think ourselves, if Shadows are not confronted they can ruin everything.  Sometimes entire cultures have Shadows in that there are deep ethnic or cultural injuries that have just never been confronted and absorbed into the main stream.  They then fester as cultural hang-ups.  Certainly a leader or politician who has dealt with their personal hang-ups or Shadows is likely to be more in touch with the positives than someone who has demons or skeletons, no matter what stage they are at.

Personally, I think that Horizontal development is essential to successful Vertical development, and should be a major part of any Integral mentoring or coaching program.  The ones I’ve witnessed recognize this and use it.  Insufficient Horizontal development leads to fixations, i.e. getting stuck in certain aspects of development which then can lead to integrity problems.  Politicians seem to have a lot of those.

There are many simplistic definitions of a CULT that provide a very broad and general meaning.  I’ve researched the material and come up with a more narrow and specific definition, which I think points to more dangerous cults more effectively than a broad definition.

It rests on 7 essential principles:

  1. It has a very strong leader, based on personal, emotional identification and an extreme feeling of allegiance and compliance.
  2. There are demands, pressures and pledges of allegiance to that extreme leadership figure or group of people.
  3. There is a central religious or ideological foundation that is rigidly adhered to.
  4. Some form of impending doom is involved, whether it be apocalyptic or some other sort of catastrophe.
  5. That impending doom is used as a vehicle to mobilize fear as a strong motivator.
  6. There is a routine suspension of reason and a dismissal of facts, with severe rationalization being obvious.
  7. There are paranoid tendencies dismissing all sources outside of the cult as conspiracies opposed to their one right way of seeing things.
  8. There is a strong pressure and often serious consequences forcing members to not leave the cult.

 

[postscript]   There’s one other characteristic of most cults that I want to add after watching some of the televangelists this Easter Sunday morning.  (I’m normally not in the habit of doing that, but GPS was a rerun, so I ended up flipping through channels.) Cults present arguments in calculated increments that are designed to convince people with weak reasoning skills to go deeper and deeper into ideological or religious beliefs.  They’re half reasonable (if appealing to a more semi-rational group) or deal in gradations of emotional ecstacy with the less rational and more emotional group.  They believe that if you repeat something, however ridiculous, often enough eventually many people will believe it.  The facts around it aren’t important, but you still have to pull the con job in gradual increments so that cognitive dissonance can take hold. Whichever strategy is present (and sometimes all are), it is calculated and deliberately designed to inch the potential cult member towards the desired goals.  It is different from “education” per se in two ways.  First of all the strategies are diabolical and designed to minimize personal awareness rather than maximize it.  Second, it is done in the context of the eight characteristics mentioned above.

 

Do with that what you will.  Personally I have no trouble seeing Donald Trump’s supporters as falling in line with most of these to a rather extreme degree.  Granted, you could make a case for any political movement being a cult, however by comparison I honestly don’t see Sanders supporters in the same fanatical light.  There are some pretty easily identified differences between charisma and fanaticism.  There are some pretty easily identified differences between speaking purely emotionally and putting forth rational arguments.  Easy, at least, for those that are not embraced by the cult.

More and more, as I’ve watched Trump surrogates on news talk shows, I see blank eyes and totally uncritical minds.  I’ve talked to many individuals who have come from bonifide cults, and Trump surrogates most certainly have “the look”.  It has gotten to the point where some of their advisories on these panels seem like they want to physically go over and shake sense into them, and I can’t blame them.  Recently several panel discussions actually cut the mike of Trump supporters because they just couldn’t stand the nonsense that they were spewing.  I think that marginalizing reason and suspending critical thinking are a slippery slope for some people, aided by incremental brainwashing and the calculated use of logical fallacies.  Once you start doing it, cognitive dissonance takes over and you end up going all the way down the rabbit hole.

 

Fortunately, a cult leader who is an outright narcissist is likely to consume himself and the cult in time.  Also, unless there is some kind of societal psychosis, the cult should have a ceiling, reinforced by the aversion to that narcissism.  That’s starting to happen now.  But watching these people embarrass themselves as they are drawn into this hypnotic state is almost too weird to believe.  I am hoping that it will be a socially transformative experience when it is all over, …and in a positive way.

When listening to gun advocates talk about their opposition to gun control many of them are occasionally candid enough to expose the real reason they want their guns. Behind the points about more guns reducing gun violence and whining about the Second Amendment (both of which have feeble or non-existent rational basis) there lies the real shadow driving their beliefs. Every once in a while the expose the fact that their real reason that they want their guns is to repel what they feel is an imminent attack coming to change their way of life. Sometimes it is Russian infiltration, sometimes the U.N., and currently it is Sharia Law, but more often than not it is their own Federal Government that they fear. Take, for example, the recent ridiculous fears about Jade Helm. The right to bear arms originated and still has a firm root in the fear that tyranny will creep into their lives.

Why do these people have a fear that there are those in government that are conspiring to oppress them? Why do they fear that the government will come and take away their guns and try to tell them what to do? I believe that it stems from two related sources.

The first is that on some level they truly understand that what they are doing is seen by the rest of the world as ridiculous, and as a result their beliefs are a defensive stance.

But secondly, and more importantly, the idea of oppression and telling other people how to live their lives seems to be a characteristic that this brand of right wing thinking seems to be very comfortable with. These are the same people who want to tell other people how to live their lives, who are intolerant of other cultures, who have an unjustified sense of exceptionalism and who are prepared to break laws in order satisfy what they believe are the dictates of their own personal values. They truly exhibit all of the worst characteristics that they are claiming to want to protect themselves from with their guns.

This is classic Shadow behaviour, and in this case seems to be operating on a cultural level. They are projecting their own negative characteristics onto whatever “bogeyman” is handy. Right now a lot of the projection is against the Federal Government, which, I think, has a lot to do with the victory of a black president for not one but two terms. The very things they seem to be afraid of are the very things that they prolifically exhibit themselves.

This, then, poses a problem as it reveals that this passion for guns (what some have cleverly labelled ammophilia) is actually a type of personality disorder. I’m not saying that just to provide a handy label for it, or to pigeon hole it, but to emphasize how difficult it is going to be to change. Changing these people’s attitudes towards gun control is going to be hampered by three problems:

  1. You’re not going to get meaningful change until you address and resolve the underlying Shadow elements. This happens very slowly as a result of social evolution.
  2. Any attempt to resolve the problem unilaterally will only result in the underlying Shadow becoming stronger and more determined.
  3. Any kind of rational discourse is going to have no effect. Looking at studies about gun control vs violence is of no value, as the root cause is an emotional and psychological one.

Understand that I am not making the case here that this analysis applies to all gun owners.  I am looking at those who have an emotional and irrational opposition to any kind of reasonable gun control.

I’m not sure where that leaves us as a society. I do think that in the Canadian political landscape you can see a bit of the same thing happening, though not nearly as extreme as you see in the U.S. One thing that we can learn from this way of looking at the problem is to be very vigilant that we, in Canadian society, don’t allow the development of these cultural Shadows to ferment, and that we take whatever steps are necessary to nip in the bud anything that might foster or bolster those Shadows.

Once they are in place, they’re very difficult to shake loose.

The Canadian federal election is just around the corner and the polls seem to be characterized by each of the three main parties having about one third of the popular vote. The balance shifts a few percentage points each week, and the seat tally shifts depending on how the vote is distributed, but in the final analysis it seems that Canadian voters are pretty well evenly strewn among the three parties. A minority government is almost certainly going to be the result and old questions about coalition governments are rearing once again.

The interesting thing about Canadian political parties is that the left is split between the Liberals and the NDP, while the right is in the hands of the Conservatives. That’s a little deceptive as examining recent history will show you that the current Conservatives are the result of a merger between the old Progressive Conservative party and the western based Heritage party. The current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, actually came from that Heritage party. (It is interesting that they solved the name issue by dropping the word “progressive”.) The Conservative party, which embodies the politics more right of centre, is therefore already a coalition that has simply been formalized with an actual merger. The Liberals and the NDP, who embody the politics more left of centre, are still maintaining their individual identities, even though they have far more in common with each other than either has with the Conservatives. Clearly, if the Liberals and the NDP were to merge (and maybe even include the Green Party), and create a two party system in Canada similar to what they have in the U.S., the Conservative Party, at least as it exists now, would never win another election. Two thirds of the voters are currently supporting parties that sit left of centre. (That’s not to say that the Conservative Party wouldn’t change its nature if the political landscape changed drastically.)

Admittedly we have a lot of independent voters that see themselves as centrist in their political views. They often bounce back and forth between the Liberals and the Conservatives. They have a dilemma to deal with in the current election seeing as the Liberals and the NDP have sort of swapped places, with the NDP trying to take the more central role and the Liberals being forced more to the left. It makes the centre and left territory a little more fuzzy.

So, it is no wonder that the Conservatives are strongly opposed to the idea of a coalition government and the other two parties are more open to it (in spite of the overt Liberal policy). Each party has its own interpretation of the Westminster system of Parliament, on which our elections are based. The Conservatives insist that our electoral system says that the party with the most seats should form the government. The other parties have a differing view.

The reality is that the Westminster system gives the incumbent party first shot at forming a government. It seems to me that this, itself, is a vindication of the idea of coalition governments. If a sitting government were to lose an election, only by forming a coalition would they be able to retain power. I’ve only heard of one situation where this was even considered in Canadian federal politics, but it is not that unusual in European countries. The second shot usually does go to the party with the most seats, but there is a harsh reality there. If that is a minority government, it could last as long as the first vote of confidence. If they were to lose that important vote, it could potentially trigger another election immediately. So, it is the case that if a coalition of parties approaches the Governor General after the results of an election are in, they could be given the right to form a coalition in Parliament, even though the parties separately haven’t gotten the most votes. The idea of a confidence vote in our system creates a situation where it is the elected Parliament which determines the Prime Minister and the ruling party. Whether you feel that is right or not, that, in fact, is the way our system works. Protests from the Conservative party that coalitions are “unfair” are not based in fact.

Our “first past the post” system of elections has come under a lot of scrutiny lately, with many vying for alternative electoral systems. In my opinion this seems like a good idea and worth examining. A system where 10% of the people can vote for the Green Party, only resulting in 1 seat, or where 40% of the voters cast their ballots for the Conservative Party and they end up with a majority government, is just not representative government. In a country where between 60% and 70% of the voters are making a statement that they want change, re-electing a Conservative government, even if it is a minority, seems unfair. Those wanting to change the electoral system are looking at some more whole scale changes to the system, which I’m not going into here, but a coalition government formed to provide a clearly desired change does not seem to be a bad idea at all, -except for the party that can’t manage to retain power even though they don’t represent anywhere near a majority of Canadians.

Canada is not like the United States, where there are only two parties. If you look at world governments where there are more than two major political parties, coalition governments are not uncommon. In fact, if the Green Party were to build support and garner more seats, coalition governments might become an absolute necessity.

This documentary covers the three months of protest against the government leading to the flight of President Yanukovych. It bears truthful witness to the struggle, although critics might say that it is somewhat one sided. Little is said about the pro-Russian side. However, the film gives testimony to the betrayal of the people by the government and the inhuman police brutality. There is little disputing that. It is a testimony to commonplace heroism. A comment from the audience after the showing was that every politician should see this film to remind them that they are responsible to the people.  After the film was screened it was announced that Netflix picked up the movie and will be making it available on Oct. 9 of this year, -a fantastically quick delivery time. Well worth watching. B+

I’ve said this before, but I’m ready to repeat myself because I just think it is a really effective idea.

Indiana’s new “Religious Freedom” law actually allows private businesses to post signs saying that they will discriminate in their service on the basis of sexual orientation.  It is being widely criticized as a blatantly bigoted law, which of course it is.  This article in The Atlantic does a good job of pointing out exactly how bad this law is.  Much to the chagrin of many people with religious beliefs, it is fueled and rationalized by right wing Christian extremist views and beliefs.  So, how should someone who doesn’t fit into that category, whether religious or not, respond?

One way is to launch a campaign of signs in businesses that say something to the effect of “ALL ARE WELCOME TO DO BUSINESS HERE, REGARDLESS OF RACE, COLOR, RELIGION OR SEXUAL ORIENTATION!” Make some kind of a catchy symbol to go with it.  Make them available to stores who abide by that policy, and then put forward an awareness campaign encouraging like minded people to only shop in stores displaying and living up to that sign.  Those willing to support the campaign have a chance to show their love of freedom and human dignity.  It could be civil rights organizations, large businesses and, yes, even some churches.

Even in the most redneck parts of the U.S., there are large proportions of rational people, often approaching or surpassing 50%.  It is often a vocal minority that pushes this kind of ignorance, -or at least one can hope it is.  Regardless, those who do not post the sign, or who post a contrary sign, would be making their beliefs clear and the discriminating public would be free to exercise their right of choice and withhold their business.

These signs would not be meant for those being discriminated against, although it would have an added benefit of showing them not only in which stores they are welcome, but also how many stores would actually support them.  They are, moreover, meant for the rest of the public, many of which would actually prefer not to financially support a store that so strongly differs from their own ethical views.  I know that I would avoid a store that had a policy that I found repulsive.

I’ve said before that this seems to be a very positive way of solving the problem in a manner that supports tolerance rather than condemning bigotry, -not that that doesn’t have its place as well.  In time, singled out by omission, the stores who chose to retain their redneck ways would more than likely suffer financially, that being one basic way to force them to recognize that it may not be to their benefit to try to shove their outdated religious beliefs down the throats of others.