A convergence of things have finally lead me to post this. An exchange of emails and phone calls I won’t go into was part of it. The HARDTalk interview with Henry Winkler I watched yesterday is the second reason. Last night’s controversy in London City Council is item three. The last piece of this puzzle is Francis Pryor’s blog on the UK situation. Seemingly unconnected things but they point to something I have been wondering about. Why is society so toxic?
We seem to take pleasure as a society in finding people to persecute. The Henry Winkler interview shows that invisible disabilities are fair game. His dyslexia, my ADD or any number of other neurological disorders, learning disabilities and depression are hard enough without societies prejudices, teasing or ignorance. How Winkler can be so positive after being called dumb dog by his parents is beyond me. I am at heart a pessimist who internalized every insult, every guilt trip and every accusation of worthlessness.
Many artists have/had invisible disabilities to cope with, like Winkler or K’Os or Kurt Cobain. Not just artists have them, many people in many fields. We make fun of Sheldon on Big Bang Theory but why? Why is so much easier to put insult and humiliate than to praise and respect? I confess I get caught up in the wave of insults and negativity. We all have. Some people think they haven’t though. You have if you have ever said something like; ‘Have you tried not being…?’, ‘Get over it!’, ‘Other people have…’, ‘Reality check…’. I could go on, many people could add to the list. My all time ‘favourites’ are lazy, immature and stupid, yes people with invisible disabilities are all three. We lack morals to, it must be true if a certain ignorant segment of society says so. Whatever makes people feel superior to others must be good. Sorry for the sarcastic outburst, less prison time than stabbing these people in the left knee cap.
I will freely admit I like Katy Perry, I haven’t heard much of her music so it must be an attraction thing. She is like Lady Gaga, Madonna and countless other entertainers who use shock to gain audience. It is perfectly fine to get offended by the bus ads of her, after all that is the point. Shock people while tantalizing others. I truly doubt Councillor White is Perry’s target demographic but I do expect Perry and her organisation are thrilled with the free publicity. Councillor White played into the trap set to sensationalize Perry and the station buying the ad space. To fuel the fire by playing the same shock and awe game was really the opposite of brilliant.
Sexism, misogyny and gender politics are sadly still with us, so Councillor White’s lost point is valid. Gender is just another fault line society exploits to play ‘with us or agin us’. I am a heterosexual male, I like woman and yes I like seeing them without clothes, I know that is objectifying and bad of me. The best part of women in my experience are the brains. I have met, read about and seen documentaries of/by some amazingly intelligent women. It is difficult to overcome reproductive biology at times and when you add society in the mix almost impossible. I don’t mean specifically male or female biology but the human urge to make more humans or at least practice.
Switching the persecution to people who don’t fit the ‘traditional’ sexual orientation or roles is just as bad. My brain is wired to be distracted, unable to do math well and be attracted to women. How dull a world would be if everyone’s brain was wired the same. Brain chemistry/wiring in no way allows us to label people or judge people. We all have no clue on what it is like to be wired in another way or with other life experience. We can only share with each other and that is getting impossible in our toxic society of silos that we are building.
Back to the racist term Councillor White used for shock value. We Canadians can be pretty smug and righteous when it comes to calling other countries out on their racism while we are marginalizing our own First Nations. We practice a form of apartheid here that is unforgivable and unjustified. Canada, Ontario and London are racist. I may be a poor, white Anglo-Saxon of Protestant stalk but I have seen the racism in this country from my relatively privileged spot in the hierarchy The term Councillor White used is derogatory to African Canadians and they do not need me to explain the history they have experienced. None of the visible minorities need me to explain what they have gone through, it us up to us to listen/read what they themselves are saying/writing.
I went to Saltfleet Highschool in Stoney Creek Ontario from 1989-1995 with a brief drop out in 1993. Laugh if you want but I had yet to be diagnosed with my invisible disabilities. The rival high-school in town had racial tensions and violence between Sikhs and white supremacists. I hate white supremacists to this day and they are a threat to Canadian society and values. This country is striving to be multicultural and pluralistic but this is recent. We have had slavery, interned ‘Enemy Aliens’, levied the Head Tax on Chinese immigration, imported other nations conflicts and this list also could go on. We all seem to choose sides in foreign conflicts based on our own prejudices; Israel vs Palestine, Croat vs Serb, Democrat vs Republican for examples. We Canadians for awhile were an honest broker trying to solve conflicts, now we ask who benefits our petty interests more.
Which brings me to Francis Pryor’s point about how disconnected governed and governing have become. Would Councillor White have used such a word had she been better connected and more accountable to those she represents? Perhaps, but accountability is in short supply in our world and the silos between elected and elector are growing further apart. The whole idea of elevating some people above others as celebrities, economic elites, political elites or star athletes is just another method of divide and rule. Another means to devalue some people in relation to others. A very toxic exercise, is it not?
In no way am I saying we shouldn’t praise success, just let’s not make a cult of the successful. Celebrate the differences in society but not to use them to divide society. Prime Minister, poet, homeless person, billionaire, factory worker or scientist are all going to end up under the floor, as Pryor says. We are future archaeology and I bet our current time will be looked upon as a dark period in human history.
So why is society so toxic? I recently started reaching out and coming to grips with my mental health issues. A few people ignored it, one devalued it as nothing but the majority of people have been there. How is our society healthy when so many members have experienced depression, racism, sexism or any other form of persecution or mental illness? We build cities with divide and conquer as the goal. Nimby rules, no poor people, factory, power plant or wind generator here. Make everyone ride separately to work in their own car. Call school uniforms elitist so rich and poor kids don’t interact. Write the old neighbourhoods off until they become trendy then remove the locals who made it trendy.
Pryor raises the issue of growth and how it maybe a myth, Jeff Rubin wrote a book on how seeking it will lead to endless boom bust cycles. The whole concept is to perpetuate the divide between haves and have nots. We are consuming our future with zero percent tax hikes, tax cuts, increased debt, latest fads, fashions or models, higher profits, disposable products and endless waste. All will be evident to those future archaeologists when they survey the city dump before recovering the wasted resources. Peoples around the world who are closer to nature see everything as borrowed from the future generations, we see it everything as entitlement. Shopping has become the placebo to try and cure our real underlining issues with alienation from each other and ourselves.
You may notice in the title the hashtag #OODAloop, it wasn’t originally going to get in this but as I wrote/write I realize how relevant it is. OODA stands for Observe, Orient, Decide, Act and was created by John Boyd. My understanding of its origins are that it was born on Boyd’s work on fighter plane design and what made a winning plane. His conclusion was adaptability, not of the plane but of the pilot, hence the loop. Rather Darwinian eh? Adaptable societies are the ones that will evolve into the future. Our toxic society left evolution/adaptability behind.
Silos are great for farm storage but you can’t observe much from inside one. As individual components of our society we need to understand our own environment and orientation so we can have interaction with others. We need the OODA loop as individuals and as a society, we can’t keep our blinders on and continue as we are because we are on the path to elimination. We find endless reasons to divide society, persecute others, and devalue each other but we all need to remember that society exists for human survival. We are not tigers going it solo, we are pack animals that have different talents and abilities to allow the pack to function. Perhaps the OODA loop should be mandatory in schools along with the uniforms to hide economic class.
One final thought I will give. All generalizations are wrong, including this one.