The new year is off to the maddening political races with the Republican (“white grievance party”) moving headlong and with abandon toward autocracy.

It is still only January and the Governor of Florida, Ron Desantis, has taken “Trumpism” to yet another level of devolution: active and proud censorship.

The Florida Republican-led legislature is now primed to enact legislation to ban any reference to the history of black slavery from the State’s public schools. In the very wording of the bill, we find the definition of White fragility: ‘educators may not make students “uncomfortable”’.

In today’s news, the same imperialist legislature is advancing the idea that teachers should be required to wear microphones to listen for educational infractions. In addition, certain books are to be banned and teachers must not speak of “LGBTQ”.

The March of American fascism is moving forward at a stunning pace and the party leadership in DC is fully complicit. More than half of the states ( all under Republican control) are moving in lockstep to achieve the same ends.

The news reads like pages from Orwell’s “1984,” “Animal Farm,” and especially Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World”. If you listen, just for a moment, you can hear the marching boots on the not-so-distant horizon of the political firemen of Bradbury’s “Fahrenheit 451” eager to burn our “liberal” libraries.

Democracy will be lost while a sizable percentage of Americans will likely go along with it blithely so long as they see price reductions for goods they want and need and an end to talk of viruses, masks, and vaccinations. They will go about their daily rounds believing all is well until true freedom is entirely gutted.

Huxley said it best:

Most human beings have an almost infinite capacity for taking things for granted.

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

The Neo-Trumpist front guard is made up of men like Ron Desantis (Fl) and Glen Youngkin, (VA), Jim Jordan, Mo Brooks, and Paul Gozar, and women like gun-happy anger-monger Marjorie Taylor Green and Elise Stefanik. They wrap themselves in “America First” while working with unabashed vigor to undermine the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

Let us encourage the inactive voting majority to rise with resolve and true patriotism to save Democracy before it is too late. If they do, Republicans will be confined to the marginal minority status that they have so richly earned. They’ve proven repeatedly that their interest is in leading an angry, regressive tribe fueled by hatred, not a pluralist, multi-culturally diverse Nation that they see as the problem.

It is almost midnight in the countdown to the final push in the Republican project to eviscerate the intent of the Founders as they stoke the passions of their minions to set in motion ever darker inequities.

© The Harried Mystic, 2022 and Br. Anton, TSSF. The unauthorized use or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is prohibited.

Juniper died today: euthanized after losing a leg to necrosis.

Such a tiny and humble creature, he would have been invisible in a crowd of his own kind. What made him visible was that we chose to bring him, specifically him, into our lives as a companion.

Juniper is a quail: a homely bird without distinctive coloring. All white and quiet, we acquired him for $10 and change. At the same time, we purchased two colorful lovebirds costing well over $200.

Juniper lived but 6 months, tops. The vet costs today ran $219: a poor investment, one might argue. It all depends. What value do you place on a life once that life becomes personal?

We recall the great and heroic lengths taken to save the last US President (who denied the very seriousness of Covid 19). He, ironically, received care that millions who perished did not and could not receive.

Was his life more valuable; more consequential?

Are the lives of celebrities really more important than those of our grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, cousins and dear friends? We know the answer.

Social valuation is part of the theater of the absurd. Existentially, life, all life, is priceless and terribly fleeting. It’s our heads that deal in comparative valuations. Our hearts, however, do a very different kind of math.

We live at a cultural inflection point in a topsy-turvey world engaged in wholesale human devaluation. In fact, and insanely, we are witnessing the mindless devaluation of the entire natural world on which we depend for our very existence.

We are witness to bitter and foolish conflict over whose lives really matter ( e.g., Black, Blue, immigrant men, women and children, or white inconvenienced citizens). These are times that call for thinking women and men to take serious stock and make wiser choices: choices that affirm the dignity of all life.

We need fresh eyes on the matter of life and our world, and, dear brothers and sisters, urgency is very high.

Today, as we said goodbye to Br. Juniper, I happily bumped into the recent book by Pope Francis, “Let Us Dream”. It is a post- pandemic meditation, and a prayerful cry for a correction in thinking – a call to reaffirm essential values, and to “ decenter” ourselves, moving away from self-preoccupation.

The Pope admonishes us to take action and to come to terms with what it means to really care for all our brothers and sisters ( all men, all women, all children, and all the created that carry the imprint of the Great Heart that inspired and inspires them).

So, today, the day after Independence Day in the US, we personally grieve the passing of our little friend who lived so very briefly: a life otherwise dismissed as inconsequential as measured by the World’s standards .

We are nonetheless personally richer that he was a brief part of ours as we affirm the dignity of his journey among us.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

What we don’t know always vastly exceeds what we do know. That’s the fun of figuring things out; there is always more to figure out!

The knowledge engine must work feverishly to expand the universe of knowns, but for every revelation there always remains a vast cloud of unknowns. Knowledge progresses by virtue of the quality of the questions we ask and the rigor we bring to examining them. If one’s head does not hurt from all the wondering, I wager we are merely wandering and not wondering at all.

There are many paths to knowing. Science pursues objective truth while the humanities explore wisdom: a higher-order understanding of what it means to be human. Both demand clarity of thought, and are valued to the degree that they evoke genuine insight. They are inseparable and coequal components of the “ knowledge machine”. One without the other is like having a head without a heart. This is the central virtue of a conjoined liberal arts and sciences education.

The 2020/2021 experience includes our witness of a rupture of the liberal arts virtue that traces itself back to Ancient Greek Society that laid the foundations of Western civilization. The Covid pandemic brought to light the continuing needless and uninformed warfare between the ways of knowing.

We watched as the uninformed purveyors of propaganda treated Science as the servant of ideology rather than an escape from it and the needed counterbalance to our natural tendency to fall in love with our own narratives. We saw ignorance touted as virtue and all the rest as “ fake news”.

As I write this, I am recalling a not very good movie but one with a title that aptly captures the continuing love affair with the idea of the primacy of easy belief over the harder acquisition of real knowledge. The movie was named “ Eyes Wide Shut”.

Only when knowledge and belief meaningfully intersect and interrogate each other are both elevated to what we call wisdom. To believe in what is patently and demonstrably false is folly and willful ignorance. To believe in things yet unexplored is the stuff of inspiration and a call to forge fresh hypotheses and launch thoughtful endeavors to unravel mystery.

This is the essence of curiosity the drives us to explore but it too must be soaked in humility. In other words, we must continuously subject belief to examination and then work diligently to prove ourselves wrong.

I am drawn to spending time with the scientist/ theologians who represent the blending of belief and clear-headed inquiry. One association of such inquisitive souls is the Faraday Society in London. They live on the razor’s edge between faith and science. They lead with unbridled fascination and fear no assault on their assumptions. On the contrary, they invite them and delight in them.

One such scientist/theologian is Sir John Polkinghorne, theoretical physicist, theologian and Anglican Priest. He refers to himself as a “ bottom-up” thinker who finds support for his faith in a meta-analysis of his sense of the world of elementary particles. While respecting the very different ways of knowing represented by theoretical physics and theology, he nonetheless dances joyfully at the point where they enter into a meaningful dialogue.

Polkinghorne, and others like him, approach mystery with the eagerness of youthful discovery and a humble mindset. They boldly speculate but always move swiftly to the question of veracity. They are models of intellectual honesty chasing after elusive wisdom.

Time is short in our brief time in the world. It is especially short when we are motivated each day with a sense of the enormous mass of unknowns relative to the glimmers of genuine understanding.

The true joy of inquiry rests in revealing not what it is we know, but what we can celebrate as persistent mystery teasing us to look harder and stretch our understanding with ever greater vigor and enthusiasm.

Let us embrace the vision of a life lived authentically with our “ eyes wide open”.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized euse or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Sin of the Calf

Once again, the wages of wanton corruption and spiritual blindness parade boldly among the chronically deluded and unthinking.

Amazingly, the story of the worship of the Golden Calf was re-enacted live at the CPAC convention in Florida this weekend by Trump’s loyal band of miscreant followers and acolytes.

They actually had the audacity to fashion and roll out a golden statue of their cartoonish demigod. That said, it was hardly an impressive statue projecting any real stature. It can be more accurately described as a pitiful golden golem, a contorted Homunculus and,from that standpoint, a more fitting unconscious expression of the mean-spirited, ugly persona of its subject.

The so-called “Conservative Republicans” are clearly now completely enslaved in an “all or none” covenant with their much celebrated demon. Just when you think they have reached the nadir of personal debasement, they surprise us with yet another act of disgusting obsequiousness. This is part of the sad reverberating drumbeat of a rising tide of American Fascism.

The often unmentioned accompanying allegory in the Biblical story of the Golden Calf, fashioned by Aaron during Moses’ forty day pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, was what Moses did with it upon his return. Furious with what he perceived as the ultimate transgressive blasphemy, he had the idol burned and the gold ground into a fine powder. He then added that powder to water and forced the Israelites to drink it, killing them.

Not yet finished with his retribution, Moses then issued the Lord’s command for the Levite’s to slay the remaining idolaters by the sword, killing “10000 men” ( Exodus 32). So repugnant was the idolatry, that all (except the Levite’s that refrained from worshipping the bull) were put to death. Such was the intolerable immaturity and superficiality of the faith of those who tired of waiting on God’s time for word from Moses and instead cynically turned to a transitional object to adore.

The sin of the Israelites was in grabbing hold to any handy symbol that gave them a quick sense of power, identity and agency when so much was uncertain. Their impulse was to act in an adolescent and regressive grasping for anything to worship that was in their own control. Lacking in the vision that inspired Moses, they simply couldn’t wait on God and trust in goodness. They needed to exert their will having lost all patience waiting for an authentic encounter with the sacred.

One cannot help but wonder what awaits the ideologues on the far right who show such a thirst for the “cool-aid” of Trumpism to soothe their fears of any form of social change since the 1950s. I do suspect and hope that many will one day wake up from their Trump-induced somnambulism, feel ashamed at their folly and embrace a truer sense of America as an exemplary melting pot. Many will undoubtedly and regrettably play through their stupefaction with enough hyperbolic rationalizing to last a lifetime.

Meanwhile, we all need to keep watch. This may be the true and terrifying manifestation of the “ zombie apocalypse” that authors of both fiction and nonfiction have envisioned.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. Unauthorized use or distribution of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Is the soul-numbing boredom of Covid isolation turbocharging the rabid and pernicious narratives of hatred, fear, delusional frenzy and the seemingly insatiable appetite for misinformation?

The sensational arouses our strongest feelings. We love the dramatic and surprising turns in a story. It gets the heartbeat up. We breath faster. It distracts from the banal humdrum round of so many same-old-nights following upon same-old- days.

Is that what’s got so many Americans worked up as they crave their prior favorite escapes from the banal and what they recall as “normal”?

While the causes of the descent into inconsolable malaise, disaffection, anger and the irrational shouting of our times are surely multi-factorial, stultifying boredom must surely be principal among them as a compelling irritant.

On day two of the second impeachment trial of the erstwhile President, accompanied by the ongoing drumbeats of mindless tribalism and the continuous talk of Covid variants, I find myself drawn to an iconic painting that feels well-suited to our moment in history: “ The Scream,” by Norwegian painter Edvard Munch.

This iconic painting, foreshadowing expressionism, was originally entitled the “ Scream of Nature”. Munch’s own journal reveals its inspiration – ‘a walk at dusk over a bridge when the sky over Oslo turned blood red as he felt a silent agonized shriek in the world mirrored in his soul as horrifying anguish and despair. ‘

Arguably, Munch’s riveting and deeply disturbing painting can be said to be a striking symbolic embodiment of existential torment. After all, his was a tragic life. He lost one sister at age five, when she was just 14, to turburculosis, and another later to mental illness, and he himself experienced a “ nervous breakdown”. This deeply melancholic and sensitive soul wrote:

“ Illness, insanity, and death were the black angels that kept watch over my cradle and accompanied me all my life.”

Edvard Munch

Under controlled circumstances, we love a good fright. We delight in stories of ghouls, ghosts, night crawlers and monsters. Look at the success of the “ Walking Dead” and “ Jericho” as illustrative. There are seemingly infinite variations on the telling of the tales of “ Dracula”, witches and warlocks, devils and avenging angels.

The suspense and horror genres thrive for good reason. We all embrace the good yarn that gets us riled up. It makes us feel somehow more alive. Paintings of heaven are predominantly ethereal and beautiful, but essentially dull. Compare them with the works of Hieronymous Bosch ( e.g., “ The Garden of Earthly Delights”). Oh my!

Problem is, in these times of pandemic, those already predisposed to the effects of demagoguery ( I.e., the “ low information voters) are especially susceptible to tall dark tales. They struggle to distinguish fact from fiction. They accept the weaver’s tale as nonfiction if he has charisma and repeats it often enough. The story is uncritically absorbed.

Trump manipulated this psychic reality with an incessant propaganda intended to specifically rally the darker passions. It worked beautifully. It got innocent people killed. It was and is his only demonstrable talent. He is perfect in the role of dark prophet and one might even suspect ( though I seriously doubt he read it) that he is a student of the written work of Adolph Hitler (“e.g., “ Mein Kampf”, or “ My Struggle”).

In any event, he embodies much of what Hitler’s manifesto signifies: he is the victim, only he knows the truth to greatness, and only he is able to unleash the real “ patriots” who have too long been silenced. The lesson Hitler teaches is simple: Lie big, lie bold, and stoke the monsters of the Id.

Once the pandemic is in the rearview mirror, I suspect much of the acute din of the zombified hoardes will subside, but that won’t come quickly. The condition is chronic and resistant to treatment.

The only true medicine is authentic reflection: catching ourselves in the act of being swept up into the frenzy of finding meaning in combativeness, abuse of one another, demonization and unbridled histrionics.

The dilemma is that this takes self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Many need help getting to square one on both counts. Our bards of the stories of better angels have their work cut out for them. Nonetheless, our Nation and our culture must look to them to lift us out of the muck (especially those stuck solidly in it).

This is the purpose of the Arts: to cause us to see more clearly and elevate our vision. I can think of no more important time to put the Arts at the service of the renewal of civilization, morality, and unity.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Our Long March Back

All true journeys begin and end in the human heart.

What young Dorothy sought in the Emerald City was herself: the rising woman, bold, focused and unafraid. But first came the frightful storm, and perilous adventure past the homespun times and rhymes of childhood.

Her first sure-footed steps on the manicured yellow-brick road opened to ornament, frolic and song, fond well wishes and firm resolve. Buoyed by luminous vision, festooned with color and idealistic fervor, there then arrived the accompanying trio of soon to be friends: humble courage, caring intellect, and selfless compassion.

There can never truly be any well-rooted meaning absent purity of heart, fresh eyes, and unadulterated love.

With open heart, open arms and opened mind, of one such as Parsifal, can we too once again gaze upon Oz: our true home where we have always been, but of which we lost sight some time long ago. All the rest is idol fantasy.

So begins the way that leads to wisdom, traveling deep inside the pitch of mystery with nothing more than wonder. Curiosity charts the course ahead for our small yet resilient fellowship of friends ready to face the fiercest monsters.

Our Nation strains between the sirens’ songs that would lure us away from the true path. Let us stay alert, stay the course and strap ourselves firmly to the mast of our founding vision.

Let us resist all temptation away from the illumined way of unity, justice and amity. Arm clasping arm, let us listen for the song of Home and reclaim the rhyming time of childhood.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

The Delusion Delusion

The PT Barnum of “ Fake News”

The last four years of the Trump anti-leadership era have amplified the delusion that those with facts and data are delusional.

What is real and verifiable is called “fake” while irrational conspiracy theories are touted as the real. When the chief conspiracy theorist is the President, an unstable accelerant is poured out on the perpetual fires stoked by crackpots and political manipulators. The Bully Pulpit provided Trump a vehicle for continuous reinforcement of hatred, vitreol, and conspiracy theories

Since the January 6 assault on the Capitol, the majority of Americans are profoundly distressed and appalled at the bloody insurrection founded on “ the Big Lie” of Trump’s imagined victory. Nonetheless, recent polls show the majority of the Republican Party still believing the election was stolen. They hold tenaciously to this stance despite all evidence to the contrary. More striking still, Trump’s approval rating, though very low in historical terms, remains essentially unchanged even after the Capitol assault.

How can so many hold onto these bizarre views in the face of more than 60 court cases, most all thrown out by the courts as lacking any merit, and the numerous repeated official pronouncements of a fair and secure election, many from Republican state officials ? After the repeated and compelling refutation of their narrative, one can only conclude it is a case of malicious and willful ignorance.

What we are witnessing is the mutation of a lie into a presumed dark truth elevated to the level of a Creed. The believers are Americans who have either become part of a systematic brainwashing given their emotional susceptibility (and a President that made the lie into a truth), or members of extremist groups newly empowered and activated by an unhinged President and his sycophantic party. Either way, they represent a danger to the Republic and need to be managed with a firm, focused and strategic hand.

All of this is the outcome of a highly successful PSYOPS campaign likely funded by both foreign and domestic adversaries of democracy. The Co-conspirators include congresspeople and extremists with voices undeservedly amplified by the megaphone of social media.

PSYOPS is said to be of three kinds: white (mostly truth) , grey ( a mix of truth and lie), and black ( overt and covert propaganda of deception). Grey and black forms have been at work on our country on steroids since Trump was “elected”.

Republicans are now even talking of civil war as belief in the Lie snowballs into a toxic creed. Bans of Trump (and many of his more rabid supporters) from major social media platforms have afforded us a moment’s reprieve, though the insurrectionists are fleeing swiftly to encrypted sites. The challenge ahead becomes more complex as the evil finds its way to the back alleys of the internet.

Beyond the critical need for an aggressive, coherent multi-agency strategy of domestic counter-terrorism, what more can be done? Those fully brainwashed, the hardcore conspiracy theorists, are likely beyond recovery. They will need to be countered by a strong offense of surveillance and targeted police action.

Treatment for the “lemming” caucus and the corrupted citizenry will need to be informed by what we have learned from the Skinnerian radical behaviorism of the 1950s and 60s. Speeches and appeals to truth (attempting reasoned argument) will go nowhere as this audience lack “ears to hear”.

While Biden stresses American foundational values (unity, civility, equality under the law and decency), there must be a clear and consistently applied reinforcement schedule implemented by the Justice Department: an extinction schedule, a special case of non-intermittent reinforcement.

The incentive for the behavior we are watching has been a continuous positive reinforcement (largely via Trump’s social media following on Twitter, Facebook and Parler). Air time on demand gave a lunatic executive as much space as he wanted to pollute the thinking of the confused, marginalized and disaffected.

Legislation will now be needed to ensure that social media companies clamp down fast and hard on hate speech and incitement to violence. A consistent and aggressive campaign of flagging what is the actually fake news ( i.e., aggressive fact checking) must become the standard.

Hate groups promoting violence should be outlawed. Nazis should not be allowed a voice in America ( and they should never have been given one). Spokespersons who recover from their addiction to hate and who speak out for rationality, on the other hand, should be positively recognized and celebrated ( like congresspeople who feel shame and offer apology).

Invoking one of the core principles of learning theory, behavior lacking a linked reward, and/ or receiving punishment, will lead to a significant reduction ( if not extinction) of the offending behavior.

This social project takes on critical importance as we open a new corrective Administration. In the meantime, the rest of us, the majority, need to role model the values of civil discourse, listening, and respect for those who are inclined toward healthy debate.

Our only recourse, in the case of those who wrap themselves in the “delusion delusion,” is to deliberately shun them, walk away, and relate to their behavior as we do any noxious noise to be squelched. It’s the behavior we must denounce while wishing them speedy recovery from the disease of extremist delusion.

Clear reinforcement contingencies are the only way to restore right order when it comes to anarchists, fear-mongers, liars, criminals, cheats and misanthropes. Walking away in such cases, while holding them fully accountable for misdeeds, is an authentic demonstration of caring.

Appeasement and effortful attempts to convert them to the truth simply feeds the beast. Better to starve it and treat it with clear consequences. This is what we do in all other instances of acting out and misguided, malicious action.

What we are seeing today is the outcome of a pernicious moral relativism. Now, facts are considered to be relative to the person’s experiences ( i.e., all in the eyes of the beholders). In giving credence to this distortion, we fail to assert the unarguable dignity of what is verifiable fact.

We created what we are seeing by tolerating the intolerable. Now is the time to return to the basics of clear boundaries, decisive definition of acceptable and unacceptable community behavior, and the fundamentals of democratic governance. Otherwise, the American experiment will devolve toward dictatorship.

The times call for a vision of hope to be sure. However, hope must be supported by clear contingencies for adherence to rules of decency and mutual regard. Provisions for unrelenting punitive measures for the corrupt and mean -spirited is the flip side of the coin of civilized society. At the same time, we need to insist on competent and accountable leadership at all levels that models the way.

Discipline is not the enemy of enthusiasm”

Joe Clark

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A week ago, we attempted to get the first of two vaccinations here in Lake County Florida.

A text from the the local Health Department said it was a first come, first serve process beginning at 9 am. The published site was about 30 minutes away.

We were advised to arrive early, so we awoke at 6 AM and joined a line of cars already forming by 7. In a matter of minutes, a police car pulled up behind us flashing his lights. Using his cruiser’s bull horn , he blasted a stern command: “ driver, put down your window so you can hear what I am saying”. Frankly, the dead could hear it.

I complied. He followed with “ continue on route 27”.

In other words, get out of line and leave. With so many in line in front of us, I concluded he just didn’t like the “cut of my jib”.

Driving on, it was then that I noticed the large digital sign at the front of the line: “ No vaccines today!” Passing by, now in the opposite direction, I saw the officer repeating the same disconcerting and aggressive process for each car in the line ahead. Clearly, he was suffering an enlarged spleen on this particular morning!

For the life of me, I can’t imagine why drivers at the front of the line remained there waiting in spite of the obvious signage that no vaccine was available! I guess we might chalk it up to the incredible power of denial.

For a good hour thereafter, I was just out of sorts and my thoughts and mood were, shall we say, less than fraternal. Everything about Florida irritated me, and I confess having spent a fair amount of the morning maligning the intelligence and competence of my Floridian brothers and sisters. It was a personal demonstration of the highly contagious nature of negativity and aggression.

Contrast that with our experience yesterday. Linda and I received another text, out of the blue, that we were eligible to receive the vaccine by appointment. We chose the Orlando Health site in Wintergarden.

We arrived a few minutes early. We were cordially ushered in and given a seat on a line of other folks with earlier appointments. We were offered bottle water with apologies that they were about 30 minutes behind.

The site was very busy but everyone was wearing masks and social distancing. Within 30 minutes, we were invited to a vaccination station where a delightfully warm and pleasant nurse went through the intake process: confirming our age and suitability with focus on possible allergic reactions.

With everything in order, we were invited to a separate station for the vaccination. We received the first of the two shot protocol required by the Moderna vaccine. We were then asked to remain in a seated area ( complete with a large screen TV) for an additional half hour to make certain we had no adverse reaction. Afterwards, we were free to go.

People waiting in line were patient. There was an almost jovial mood in the air. The gentleman following me was a pleasant octogenarian with genuinely amusing little quips. His demeanor helped further brighten the spirits of the nursing staff.

The intake nurse was warm and generous. She was apparently doing three jobs at once but without complaint or sense of irritation. [We are scheduled there for shot two in early February. ]

We returned to our car and signaled another incoming driver that our parking space would be available shortly. He smiled and waved back at us. We were both in a giving and caring mood looking forward to the chance to offer someone else a little kindness.

This is a small tale of the great power of kindness to change the world. It is also an example of how all events, if we have eyes to see and ears to hear, are food for our enlightenment.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Beyond the Rhetoric

More than ever before in my lifetime has there been such a profound need for reflection on this well known scriptural passage.

Demagogues among us are legion and they are brutal masters of subterfuge. They take a lie, weave a tortured narrative around it, and then amplify it through hermetically sealed echo chambers so often as to dupe the casual and inattentive reader and listener.

The insurrectionists in Congress, and the growing choir of fascist voices among us, create a sticky web of propaganda meant to ensnare the unsuspecting or the intellectually and emotionally vulnerable, impressionable and unprepared. It is a demonstrable fact that we are largely an ahistorical Nation with a citizenry overwhelmingly oblivious to basic civics let alone the lessons of history. This has certainly helped set the stage for what we are now seeing.

Watch what they do and what they produce. Ask who it is they serve. Examine the central propositions. Do they pass the smell test?

What are their sources of information and are they reliable and verified? How so? We need to take apart the narrative that fuels the propaganda machine. Case in point: a member of my own family recently challenged my eagerness for the Covid 19 vaccine with the warning that it causes sterilization.

Above all, we must examine our own hearts. If what is being said arouses our passions and reflex acquiescence, we need to start with what’s going on in us. What about the argument being advanced (or the story being told) speaks so loudly to us? On what emotional basis are we inclined to take in the message without a healthy skepticism as to its veracity without any further examination?

Propaganda has no force or command whatsoever if we avoid lazy regurgitative thinking. We are imprisoned by ideas only to the extent that we avoid an examination of their roots and the dynamics of our own motivated reasoning. The only way to avoid the slippery slopes that lead to dystopias is to really think!

Accept nothing without a search for convergent truth: a conclusion arrived at only after seeing things from different perspectives, sources and methods of fact gathering.

Through the prophetic imagination of acclaimed writers of dystopian fiction the likes of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, Margaret Atwood, Anthony Burgess, or CS Lewis (to name just a few), a few things emerge as common causes of a nation’s slide toward fascism:

– “might makes right” politics and the erosion of civil discourse, true debate, and mutual regard as shown in resorting to ad hominem demonization;

– a rise in class warfare and fear of the loss of privilege by the “ majority”;

– erosion of a social contract upholding clear standards or right and wrong ( ethical fuzzy logic);

– weakening of the centrality of the dignity of families;

– fear of diversity and loss of a sense of homogeneous national identity;

– rapid increase in the use of depersonalizing technologies;

– deterioration of the rule of law;

– erosion of accountability and governmental checks and balances;

– a war on competence, expertise and intellectual rigor;

– insatiable social appetite for passive entertainment ( reality tv), or the love of spectacle that eclipses thoughtful reading and analysis;

– assault on the dignity of a free press and the decline of journalistic integrity;

– punditocracy.

Even this partial list of diagnostic signs ought to make us tremble a bit.

Fiction often becomes fact.

We have seen a great number of dystopian movies, books, screen plays and TV series in recent years ( e.g., Hunger Games, Wall-E, Jericho). Modern art also has seemed to move toward ever greater celebration of banality, anomie, materialism and crassness.

There are numerous sociopolitical and cultural signs of a slide toward mediocrity, superficiality, lean edutainments and a will to rest on the laurels of the past.

We are witness to a gathering storm. Are you troubled by it?

Are you seeing it and the enormity of the threat to the values that our fathers and mothers fought so very hard to secure?

Our country is in desperate need of principle- centered, high-integrity leadership, an engaged and inquiring electorate, and a call to restore the vision the Nation was founded upon. The new Administration coming into Washington is a start, but we each must do our part as true patriots to help solidify a return to right order.

My father in law served at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 when it was bombed by the Japanese Zeros. I am thinking a lot about him these days and of all those men and women that fought so bravely for democracy, many of whom made the ultimate sacrifice. He would be appalled by the events we are witnessing. We owe it to them to stand up to the march of fascism in this country.

The more difficult enemy is always the one within. Domestic terrorism is on the rise because we have allowed it to rise. To right the ship of state, we need to remove the counterfeit “ leaders” in Washington that cave to the pressure from white supremacists, or who are themselves of that ilk. We either own this democracy or risk losing it for our children and grandchildren.

2021 is the year of the Call to democratic stewardship of a badly wounded Nation after the disgraceful last four years of a tortured and lethal dance with a dictator in the White House.

Never again!

By our fruits we shall be known!

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind.

Hosea 8:7

This verse from Hosea is echoed in the events of this week. Having encouraged sedition and insurrection, Trump and his acolytes have “ sown the wind”. Now comes the whirlwind.

We will be visited by all manner of demons and innocents will be sacrificed to the insatiable unholy appetites of anarchists and antiChrists. Trump and the Republican Party have much blood on their hands, including the many Covid-19 related deaths owing to an absent National strategy to combat the disease.

Rather than an all-hands full court press focus on saving the country from a raging pandemic, these hollow men and women are obsessed instead with preservation of power in the face of certified election results. The events of this week are tragically only the beginning.

The perfect storms of Covid 19 and a pandemic of hatred and rage have combined: a recipe for ongoing suffering. I suspect that there will be further violence perpetrated against our country especially now as the unthinking Trumpists feel betrayed by their dark lord.

Among Biden’s tall challenges is grappling with the problem of political echo chambers serving as instruments of motivating propaganda. The “ free speech” provision needs to be re-examined to nullify the unsubstantiated and hate-soaked rhetoric that incites violence. The majority in our society is demonstrably unskilled in telling the difference between facts and fictions.

The psychology of propaganda becomes an area for high priority consideration. Social media companies need to educate their users and exercise far greater oversight. Banning Trump for life is a good start along with flagging sites containing disinformation. Fresh legislation is needed this year once the new Congress is seated.

Fantasy has no place in governance and policy making. It has its place in the exercise of creative imagination and entertainment. It has its place in fashioning fresh hypotheses for testing. Beyond that, we need to forcefully reassert the dignity of empiricism and call out anything that violates the fact-based canon of methodologies.

It is now a matter of life and death. We are all entitled to our opinion, but not our own body of unverified “ facts”.

© The Harried Mystic, 2021 and Br. Anton, TSSF. and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.