In 1969 Canada’s then Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau, told reporters in Washington, D.C., “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”
There are a lot of twitches and grunts recently.
This past week I watched the hearings for the US Supreme Court: the whole process just adds to the confusion I have about the way that society is handling change. Power is grasping to maintain control. In every country, but particularly in the US, there are a lot more than twitches and grunts. It seems more like a frenetic, chaotic and desperate palaver, where those who will eventually lose power are biting, scratching, and clawing at everything and everyone around them, channelling for their misguided outrage and fear of becoming irrelevant. Older men in positions of power are attempting to pass their privilege and ideology to younger men even while they continue to try to hang on to it for themselves. However, there seem to be fewer and fewer younger men willing to sacrifice themselves for outdated social norms that promote sexual violence, racism, and the othering of difference.
One problem with recognising white male privilege is that if you’re a privileged white male you can’t see it, even when others point it out. It’s an ugly blind spot. For me, it’s so very uncomfortable when I see it in action, as I have this week, and know that it’s trying to self-propagate. Frankly, the sooner that privileged white males are out of power the better the world may be. What we are seeing is phallogocentric panic and desperation.
Perhaps happiness and collective growth will prevail over anger and destruction, surely it’s a more compelling draw for the human spirit. As I watch the world burn physically and intellectually I need to hope that what emerges from the fires will be a new more enlightened structure of governance and stewardship that supports everything living on earth and our shared habitat.
I wonder when humanity, if ever, will completely move away from unquestioned trust in individuals who claim to be wise toward collective thought. Everything from managing a destructive and shifting world climate and the resulting loss of habitat and human migration, to improving our local communities’ well-being, may depend on our ability to trust one another’s ideas and insights enough to explore and decide together the best actions to take. The consolidation of power in individuals throughout history has never been successful and may always result in negative consequences for most. We must consciously evolve rather than take the steps that seem easy. Complex choices that serve the distant future over the immediate present are not easy or clear. Human lifespan is too short for us to notice what we have done or are doing to the future. If our species is to survive and enjoy a habitat that supports us all we must think about centuries far in the future and find ways to support better possibilities and healthier options of living together that allow for personal freedom, happiness, and collective governance.
In my struggle to make sense of the world dynamics right now, I ponder why it is that when humans feel uncertain that they are drawn to those who act and speak with certainty (regardless of whether true or false). Currently, the population tends to shy away from leaders that say “I don’t know” or “we’ll have to work together to understand”. For me, the truth is that there is no magic pill that will solve everything.
Because of this phenomenon to gravitate toward absolute certainty, I suspect worldwide there is also growth in religious attendance as well. People seem to like to believe that the world is a certain place or that absolute truth exists out there for discovery. It seems clear to me that all that really exists is an uncertain world with many competing beliefs, truths, and ideas. I wonder what might happen if we all embraced uncertainty and became a little more curious about everything including research into statements that seem absolute.
Power feeds on certainty, and belief in the absolute. If we are ever going to get past this world divide we are all going to have to drop our knowing and be curious about what else might exist right now. We could consider what we might become if we listen to one another and ask good questions. Even forgiveness and healing could emerge if we can begin to see that we are in a process of transitioning away from power embodied in individuals, particularly older white males.
Meanwhile for me, it was a long first week of fall. Many good moments, but mostly it was just focused labour. It was helpful to not be drinking, and I had some great sleeps. For the most part my cold is gone too — a day or two early. I’m trying to leave perfection for heaven… and just do my best right here, right now.
Tribe was busy this weekend and that’s helpful. I spent as much time as I could working on the addition: afternoons and evenings were spent scrubbing glue off of the floor when the place wasn’t busy. It’s come a long way. Sunday we built the demising wall, which means we’re getting down to the final stages before we call for inspection and start to use the space.
Perhaps progress is perfection.