Saturday, June 23, 2018

Is This Really Something To Be Proud Of?



I find myself these days thinking about the beasts that have been unleashed upon society. In the United States, of course, it is Donald Trump who has made it acceptable to openly hate, mock, exclude and even kill. In Ontario, citizens have selected Doug Ford as their new premier. While both Trump and Ford masquerade as "for the people," they are really devoted only is unleashing the beast that resides in all of us, the most selfish and destructive aspects of humanity, for their own gain. All they have to do, as time goes on, is to find new targets for their diabolical agenda.

I was out walking, and a question occurred to me: What is it that people feel when they have had ample opportunity to spew their bile, vent their prejudices, vituperate a particular group or cause, or given the middle finger to succeeding generations by vociferously opposing any measures that might help mitigate the climate change that is quickly overtaking all of us? At least when we do something positive, whether it be a contribution to a cause, support for an issue, a personal kindness or gesture that recognizes and acknowledges our shared humanity, we are left at least a little enlarged, a little bigger inside for what we have attempted, maybe even a little more fulfilled.

What do those who choose to embrace the darkest paths feel?

Perhaps an appropriate frame, if not an answer, can be found from an episode of Breaking Bad, a series about a high school chemistry teacher who turns his resentments and the fact that he is dying into a crystal meth empire, one that ultimately costs countless lives. It was a show I was addicted to (no pun intended, well, okay, maybe a small one) despite the fact that it was the darkest meditation on human nature I have ever seen.

In the following scene, Jesse Pinkman, seduced into the crystal meth business by his former teacher, Walter White, have a discussion:
And this is where Jesse now found himself. Sat in his partner's living room, trying to set himself free from the life he could no longer be a part of, with Mr White not willing to allow him to go.

Finally, Walt spoke up again, his words hard and determined. And upon hearing them, Jesse knew he was fighting a battle he couldn't win.

"Jesse, you once asked me if I was in the meth business or the money business.” Walt looked up from his glass, and eyed Jesse. “I'm in the empire business.”

Jesse gaped back at him, and managed a small shake of his head. Bringing a hand up to cover his ever worsening head ache, he replied, “I don't know, Mr White. Is a meth empire really something to be that proud of?”
And that is the same question I pose here, in this later part of my life, looking at a world gone mad:

Is your embrace of a darkness that does nothing other than to weaken and to destroy really something to be proud of?

9 comments:

  1. .. there are various exceptional articles explaining the 'partisan phemomena.. as a a syndrome. Some articles also connect the various related belief systems and behaviors. Whether climate change denial, racism, white supremacy or numerous & sundry other fallacies such as shallowness or unwillingness to read or see, knformation, The American political system is built on being Republican or Democrat, eusually starting at birth.. Its quite startling to look at partisanship from a clinical and/or informed persective

    Someone just the other day blogged about those whose persective (I am being generous) will not or cannot change or adapt because they shut out alternative info, or views conflicting with their beliefs.. perhaps there's something entwined here about the bible and christianity.. a astonishing percentage of Americans are evangelical.. high 20's or low 30' %

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    1. People have various filters and blinders so they see only what they want to see, Sal. In the end, though, their actions, whether explained by willful ignorance, indoctrination, upbringing, prejudice or sheer mean-spiritedness, are their own. I have no sympathy for them.

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  2. What do they feel? Precisely what they have been so thoroughly conditioned to feel - victims. At the heart of all bigotry, xenophobia, nativism lies victimhood. Notice that most of these Trump supporters are white folks "of a certain age." They remember a time when all they saw were other whites. Blacks and other races were there but they weren't as often seen as they are today. They hadn't taken their place in the ranks of the professions. Look how long it took America to desegregate major league baseball. Sammy Davis Jr. was a huge star in Vegas but wasn't permitted to take a room in the hotels where he headlined. Blacks are still under-represented but they have made inroads. There are a lot of working class whites uncomfortable with seeing a few blacks as their "betters."

    Demographics are changing in the US. Whites will lose their majority in a decade or two and they see that as a loss of their ability to dominate the society, to "make the rules."

    Along comes a guy like Trump who posits everyone else as a threat, stokes their fears and, no matter how degenerate he may be, they see him as their Messiah.

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    1. Yeah, life is tough for those folks, Mound. When you are no longer at the top of the heap, it must be a real blow to one's 'racial pride.' My heart bleeds for them.

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  3. I think Frederick Neitzsche understood humanity and our times very well, Lorne. He understood the Will to Power. And he knew that it could blot out all other concerns -- particularly benign concerns.

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    1. He understood us too well, Owen.

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  4. Do you know what they feel after they’ve spewed their hatred through words and actions? Crappy...and they don’t make the connection...so they continue hoping it will make them feel better so they continue with the behaviour...and they feel even worse. And so it continues...hoping to create a meaningful divide between themselves and the “other”...and convince themselves they are better. The idea that they could be like the people they’re victimizing is too threatening. They live in a world where there’s a pecking order...you’re either the victim or the victimizer...and so in order to distance themselves, the hatred and vile behaviour continue. How do we stop it? Not sure...a combination of the black and white thinking of fundamentalism combined with inadequate education and resaoning skill is dangerous; a consumer culture focussed on conspicuous consumption and the individual “lacking” in some way unless they buy products that help them reach a a desired lifestyle creates a pecking order of “winners” and “losers”; a spiritual hunger that mainstream churches do not seem to address (many fundamentalist churches seem to create a longing in their parishioners that turn them into fanatics); the breakdown of meaningful community where people from all ages, classes and races interact and care for each other...I could go on...obviously lots of factors have come together to create a toxic soup. I only hope that somehow the tide will turn at some point in the future ...but I’ve been hoping that since Ronald Reagan took office. And with the upcoming flood of climate change refugees, look for this behaviour to get worse, not better...

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    1. Your description and analysis of those who conduct their lives premised on dividing and conquering is very useful in providing a key into a world that is hard for many of us to understand, Ruth. Thank you.

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    2. "since Ronald Reagan took office"....or left?

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