Monday, March 01, 2021

Still COVID times: More thoughts about "power"

My last post was on this same topic.
Today on Facebook I saw a post by a former cult member who freed herself a long time ago and now tries to free others, who posted a pice about gurus who exploit the underlings in their cults, and a critique by a commenter about how gurus like to be in the "moment," possibly so they never have to think about all the "moments" they have done rather unholy things to their followers. I was moved to comment on this myself. 

"If we don't take on the responsibility of integrating ourselves and being our own "leader" we will always be trapped in a conceptual hierarchy/patriarchy and be vulnerable to exploitation because of that.
I get it. I've dabbled but have never succumbed.
(--------) pointed out that we are mammals. I'd like to take that a step further - we are primate mammals. Primates don't survive without a troop. And troops are usually dominated by some alpha. This is awfully hardwired into our brains, so much so that it is almost a default.
Add to that the fact that our prefrontal cortices, the decision-making executive parts of our brains are not fully online until we are into our third decade! So we HAVE to rely on socio-cultural management until then. And by then we are in the habit of going along to get along, filled with yearnings to be "free." And we are sooooooo enculturated to put ourselves beneath others. That behaviour in and of itself perpetuates frickin' hierarchies.
So, thus is a hierarchical frame of mind created and perpetuated.
The good news is, once we learn to work our own brains we can reframe our perspectives and realize that we can live in a way that we almost never have to deal with hierarchy, by doing as (-------) suggested, adopting a scientific view on everything. What that means is, confronting and eliminating bias and other human foibles. We can do this because our brains are human (yay!) and we do NOT have to stay inside the mental cage we grew up in and were socialized to believe is reality. We really CAN "create our own reality" with just one member, our self, and one guru, our self. (Both of which are fictional categories by the way, but stick with me here for a second: that's what brains do - they like to make categories. At least the left hemisphere does.)
The task is to integrate your own brain, both hemispheres. Put yourself first, but not ahead, and not behind, any other self out there roaming around on the planet.
You have just as much right to breathe oxygen as any other living breathing mammal on the planet, as long as your life span lasts, until it's time for you to go back to being the way you were before you were born.
Anyway, once you do that, you are free to see yourself as an independent interactor/operator in the world, and you won't be tempted to project helplessness on some father figure (usually a father figure, sometimes a mother figure). You will be "free" of being possessed by archetypes (ideas of humans planted in you by the culture you grew up in), "free" to see yourself rather as a node of human intelligence moving through life, trying to do no harm, trying to be a helpful individual, trying to get through life honestly and ethically, no better and certainly no worse than any other node. We are all just nodes, highly intelligent nodes, interacting, inside ourselves and outside ourselves. On the same level. Sometimes through roles. Sometimes we place others into roles that are special, and have names, like "president." And bear in mind it's the *role* that is special, not the person who occupies the role for awhile. The hierarchy of governance is supposed to be fluid with the persons who occupy the roles being interchangeable. Until an exploiter comes along. But if you have made yourself cognitively nimble you will also be politically nimble enough to see that possibility and avoid the consequences by choosing who you vote for.
But I digress.
If you decide to be your own guru, voila! internalized hierarchy vaporizes and you're no longer vulnerable to exploitation by anyone, including yourself." 


I would add, this is our superpower, our secret weapon, our kryptonite against hierarchy - this power we all/each have to think for ourselves. 

...........


The commenter talked about how gurus like to talk about being in the "moment."
"Same old patriarchal spiritual bypassing nonsense we have been hearing and reading for centuries. The gurus love to fixate on the "moment", so they can never be held accountable for the things they did in previous "moments." They love to preach forgiveness so they don't have to apologize for their actions. They love to disparage gossip, so no one can ever talk about the things they do behind the scenes. They love to vilify anger, so that no one gets righteously angry at them for their abuses of power. They love to obsess over silence, so no one speaks their truth. They love to elevate stillness, so that no one ever moves into action against them. They love to deny the significance of the human "story", so that humans don't tell the story of what they did to them. They love to deny the truth of pain, so no one talks about how the guru wounded them. They love to bash the ego, so no one is egoically strong enough to stand against them. The guru game. The "avoida" movement. Stop wasting your time godjectifying these hustlers. Masters of self-avoidance masquerading as enlightened masters." Jeff Brown.
This is sooooo much the current Republican party of Trump, worshiping their dear leader, taking pictures of the gold statue of him at their convention. This is sooooo much Trump exploiting the crowd. A crowd whose dopamine only flows when they listen to him, their guru. A crowd who gets off on a standing wave of dopamine bolstered in their midst by staring at him and calling back to him as though they were in a revival meeting. Call/response. I am concluding that "right and left" has no real meaning in political terms. Instead, it boils down to:
  1. Blinkered vs. unblinkered.
  2. Ethical vs. unethical.
  3. Obstructive vs. progressive.
  4. Hierarchical vs. non-hierarchical.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Still COVID times: Who has the "power"?

Since I last made an entry, there has been an attempted coup in the US by trumple's followers, pissed that he lost the election, and given to belief in conspiracy theories of all absurd kinds.

I've been thinking on this for quite awhile. Bearing in mind that we are
1. primates of the human persuasion, therefore capable of symbolic thought, but with
2. moral codes common amongst all primate cousins,
3. emotional reflexes common to all mammals, and
4. survival reflexes common to all vertebrates and perhaps even non-vertebrates;
... who still prefer to be in troops, the larger the better:
1. On the one hand, there is this concept of democracy, freedom to self-govern, non-hierarchical possibilities to rise as far as one's proclivities and capacities permit, the right to do so, unhindered as a human. Call it a striving to become adult. In this arrangement, those who have a talent or are at least willing to engage in a ton of careful congenial arguing and constant repetition of a "message" day after day after day and follow a set of rules for the sake of avoiding unpleasant interaction rise to become successful at politician-ing. That is kind of the opposite of being drunk on power. This process of "serving" can be subverted though, by sociopaths who have learned to fake it and can therefore make it a fair way along in the process.
2. On the other, there is a deep thread in us as humans that wants someone else to make all the hard decisions for us, and for our benefit. Call that a pull toward remaining child-like. But when we were children we had no life skills or power and were completely exploitable by parents/adults for better or worse. If we were and remain fucked up from this and never grew past it or figured out how to contain it safely and responsibly, we are vulnerable to whoever comes by and dangles some sort of "power" prize in front of our noses, in exchange for demands that include harnessing all the fear and anger that accompanies a feeling of powerlessness. At last, we imagine, someone who really knows how to take charge, someone who we can "trust" to move the fucked-up world in a better direction where we won't have to deal with all this raw emotion, where we can deploy it outward, unload it in some collective revenge move.
Pretty sure ALL religions have exploited this since we were ever remotely human. We think we need some sort of "parent" to stay organized, even one we invent who doesn't exist, but we think, hey, let's pretend they do even if only once a week or as many as 5 times a day. Such pretense forces us to make then reinforce links inside our own brains. Presumably, this helps us feel like we are connected to something larger, coheres the troop (remember we are still primates).
A political system that can balance the two is likely the most successful option. Note that I didn't say it was the "best" option.
As I've mentioned many times, Canada still has the queen on our money and a political system that plays both sides. When times are good it's all very democratic and when times are bad we can get substantial lunch money for being good quiet polite citizens. When a pandemic comes along it is mentioned in passing that there will be stern consequences from on high (somewhat murky authoritarian "powers" are available to be deployed if needs be) if we fail to follow the rules. OK, fine. I was grateful when CERB checks came rolling in. They definitely helped massage away the grief I felt about having to accommodate my existence to the new reality.
Recently, a rift in the illusion appeared when Julie Payette (the governor-general of Canada, the queen's rep., our commander in chief, the head of state) resigned, or maybe was forced to resign, because of acting too much like a bossy queen. Like the red queen in Alice in Wonderland. Abusing everybody who worked for her and didn't deserve the abuse. Toxic workplace, we are told. Some sort of governing crisis.
However, there is a backup plan - the Supreme Justice of Canada can temporarily hold the "scepter," or whatever, until the prime minister appoints a new GG. Yeah, the PM does the choosing, and it turns out he did not pick a winner in Julie Payette. So, it's on him, kind of. But hey, if he picks the GG and the queen merely "approves" does that mean he has more power than she does, in reality? Maybe not, if the Supreme Justice of Canada automatically takes the Scepter Of Power and takes a seat on the Iron Throne of Monarchy. I mean, he (in fact all lawyers and judges in Canada) still wear 17th /18th century wigs FFS. They look so odd in their red Santa Claus robes and white curled wigs).
Tradition I guess.
I don't know... the whole deal seems so "oopsie," much like someone's pants accidentally falling down while on stage: it's kind of hard to save face, recover aplomb except through goodwill on behalf of the audience, and its ability to stifle a collective laugh.

Sunday, November 22, 2020

In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 3

 This is the piece that really got to me. Went right through me. 

I lived through a stupid coup. America is having one now. 

 

The third in his series on the American situation: He touches on the absurdity of coup, tries to explain what it is, how vulnerable US democracy is to it, remarks on the chaos associated with it.
Excerpts: 


ABSURDITY

"Two years ago, I lived through a coup in Sri Lanka. It was stupid. The minority party threw chili powder at everyone in Parliament and took over by farce. Math, however, requires a majority and the courts kicked them out. They gave in. We’d been protesting for weeks and yay, we won. No. I didn’t know it at the time, but we had already lost. No one knew — but oh my God, what we lost. The legitimate government came back but it was divided and weak. We were divided and weak. We were vulnerable."


"Four months later, on Easter Sunday, some assholes attacked multiple churches and hotels, killing 269 of us.... Our nation was shattered. Mobs began attacking innocent Muslims. It was out of control. The coup broke our government, and four months later, that broke us." 


"The coup was a farce at the time but how soon it turned to tragedy. They called it a constitutional crisis, but how soon it became a real one. Right now, the same thing is happening to you. I’m trying to warn you America. It seems stupid now, but the consequences are not."

"Someone at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to a dildo shop. What a fucking stupid century. This is what our coups look like."

"I have lived through a coup. It felt like what you’re feeling now. Like watching something stupid and just waiting for it to go away. But it doesn’t go away. You can forget about it, but it doesn’t go away."



ANATOMY OF COUP


"What is a coup? It’s literally a blow, a strike. Someone hitting your normal processes of government, trying to knock them over. The blow doesn’t have to succeed. It still wounds. In our case it was occupying Parliament without a majority. In yours it’s denying the President-Elect after an election. Whether it fails or not, deep structural damage is done. At the time, however, it just feels dumb."

"The US system is weird, but people voted for a change of power. One person is refusing to accept the people’s will. He’s taking power that doesn’t belong to him. That’s a coup."

"American commentators say “we’re like the third world now” as if our very existence is a pejorative. Ha ha, you assholes, stop calling us that. You’re no better than us. The third world from the Sun is Earth. You live here too."

"You’ve already lost. This is what Americans need to understand"



FRAGILITY AND SUSCEPTIBILITY OF US DEMOCRACY TO COUP 


"America, in fact, is worse than us. America’s democracy is a lightly modified enslavement system that black people only wrested universal franchise from in 1965. It’s frankly a terrible democracy, built on voter suppression of 94% of the population, full of racist booby traps and prone to absurd randomness. For example, your dumbass founders left enough time to get to Washington by horse. Four months where a loser could hold power, later reduced to two. This is a built-in coup."

"Think about it. Your system gives the loser all the power and guns for two whole months. Almost every modern democracy changes power the next day, to avoid the very situation you’re in."

"America is a shitty and immature democracy, saved only by the fact that they didn’t elect equally shitty and immature Presidents. Until now."

"This year America had fascism on the ballot and nonwhite people mercifully said no. The fascists, however, are now saying fuck ballots. And enough of the population is like fuck yeah!"

"This is a major problem, and it won’t just go away on a technicality. I’m telling you, as someone that’s been there, you’ve already lost. It doesn’t matter if you get Trump out. He and the Republican Party are destroying trust in elections in general. This is catastrophic. You have no idea."



THE NATURE OF CHAOS


"The tragic thing which you do not understand — which you cannot understand — is that you’ve already lost. You cannot know exactly what — that’s the nature of chaos — but know this. You will lose more than you can bear."

"Republicans have set forces into play they cannot possibly understand and certainly cannot control. And they don’t even want to. To them, chaos is a ladder."

"This is the point. You have taken an orderly system balancing a whole lot of chaos and fucked with it. I don’t know how it’s going to explode, but I can promise you this. It’s going to explode."

"This is precisely why we have elections, and why both sides accept the results. To keep the chaos at bay. The whole point is that you have a regular, ritual fight rather than fighting all the time. Once one side breaks ritual then you’re on the way to civil war. Once you break the rules then chaos ensues. What exactly happens? I don’t know. It’s chaos."

"My wife and children were at church that day. Our regular church (where they hadn’t gone) had bombs on either side. I couldn’t understand the news when I first got it and you cannot understand the fear until they were safely home. I do not want you to understand but I fear one day you must. You have fucked with chaos and soon chaos will fuck with you." ...............


In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 2

 


Here are excerpts from his second piece, written in Oct. in this, our year of COVID. 

It touches on comparisons between his own country and the US, the "human shields" both countries are exploiting/exploited, the death of innocents by pestilence, inequity, his solidarity with them, how far out of balance the Senate is in the US, and some perspective on collapse from a very very old culture.


PART 2. 

The sadness of the American collapse


PESTILENCE

"I think then, of the American people, carried headlong into COVID by their mad choleric king. Trump has infected his family, his staff, his own supporters, and the entire nation. Trump has completely inverted the idea of Commander-in-Chief. Under Trump America has (for once) attacked itself."


INEQUITY

 

"America’s democracy is younger than Sri Lanka’s and the foundation completely decrepit. At its founding, only 6% of the population (white land-owners) had the vote. Those rancid, racist ghosts haunt your democracy still."

 


 SOLIDARITY

 

"So I think, then, of the people held helplessly around the shuddering hulk of a superspreading White House. Not even a human shield, just pointless human sacrifice. As much as I do want the turgid, terrorizing empire to collapse, it is surrounded by innocent human beings. People out-organized, outgunned, and hearing ‘I told you so’ from foreign correspondents like me. So what am I saying? Am I in solidarity with them, against their tyrannical government, or against them all? In solidarity, in solidarity. I don’t want to pull any punches and I don’t know how everything comes out, but in my heart that’s how I feel. I’m with you."



NON-DEMOCRACY OF THE SENATE

 

"American democracy is deeply, structurally unsound. 39.5 million people have the same number of Senators as 600,000 people in Wyoming, and those people in Wyoming are disproportionately awful. And this Senate confirms judges, effectively another branch of eternal politicians. And who fucks up their own Post Office to sabotage a vote? What is this really? It’s more like a strategy game than a democracy. Y’all getting played. How are you people, living in the warped carcass of a property-owners’ paradise, in control of anything? America is just a stock market with human beings attached. And the human beings are expendable."

 

 

PERSPECTIVE

 

"It is a sad thing, collapse. Sad but necessary. The Hindu trinity has a creator, a preserver, and a destroyer. This ancient culture has a deeper understanding of the cyclical nature of things, rather than the new American myth of eternal growth (ie, cancer). But when you’re on the business end of Shiva’s trident, who cares? Must things fall on the people that least deserve it? Must collapse fall on your grandparents, your poor, on you? I hope not. I wish not. But what is history? Just the forgotten ruins of humble villages and the vaunted carelessness of ‘great’ men. All the Earth is a palimpsest. What’s written is written in blood."


In this year of COVID: Indi Samarajiva, Part 1

 I love this writer. Indi Samarajiva is


I want to post excerpts from three recent articles by him that I found in Medium dot com. to do with American politics and the recent election.  Part 1, his observations on the human numbness, lack of empathy, anonymity, uneven experience, and obliviousness associated with societal collapse that occurred in his own country and what he sees happening in the US.


1. From September in this year of COVID, 2020: 

I lived through collapse. America is already there. 


NUMBNESS

"Living in Sri Lanka during the end of the civil war, I saw how life goes on, surrounded by death"

" I lived through the end of a civil war — I moved back to Sri Lanka in my twenties, just as the ceasefire fell apart. Do you know what it was like for me? Quite normal. I went to work, I went out, I dated. This is what Americans don’t understand. They’re waiting to get personally punched in the face while ash falls from the sky. That’s not how it happens. This is how it happens. Precisely what you’re feeling now. The numbing litany of bad news. The ever rising outrages. People suffering, dying, and protesting all around you, while you think about dinner. If you’re trying to carry on while people around you die, your society is not collapsing. It’s already fallen down."


HERD IMMUNITY FROM EMPATHY

"Collapse does not mean you’re personally dying right now. It means y’all are dying right now. Death is sometimes close, sometimes far away, but always there. I used to judge those herds of gazelle when the lion eats one of them alive and everyone keeps going — but no, humans are just the same. That’s the real meaning of herd immunity. We’re fundamentally immune to giving a shit."

"Collapse is just a series of ordinary days in between extraordinary bullshit, most of it happening to someone else. That’s all it is."


ANONYMITY

 

"If you’re waiting for a moment where you’re like “this is it,” I’m telling you, it never comes. Nobody comes on TV and says “things are officially bad.” There’s no launch party for decay.... Perhaps you’re waiting for some moment when the adrenaline kicks in and you’re fighting the virus or fascism all the time, but it’s not like that. Life is not a movie, and if it were, you’re certainly not the star. You’re just an extra. If something good or bad happens to you it’ll be random and no one will care. If you’re unlucky you’re a statistic. If you’re lucky, no one notices you at all."




NON-UNIFORMITY OF EXPERIENCE

 

"I was at work when someone left a bomb at the NOLIMIT clothing store. It exploded, killing 17 people. When these types of traumatic events take place, no two people experience the same thing. For me, it was seeing the phone lines getting clogged for an hour. For my wife, it was feeling the explosion a half-kilometer from her house. But for the families of the 17 victims, this was the end. And their grief goes on. As you can see, this is not a uniform experience of chaos. For some people it destroys their bodies, others their hearts, but for most people it’s just a low-level hum at the back of their minds."

 

 OBLIVIOUSNESS

"As a nation you don’t seem to mourn your dead, but their families do. Their communities do. Jesus, also, weeps. But for most people it’s just another day. You’ve run out of coffee. There’s a funny meme. This can’t be collapse, because nothing’s collapsing for me. But that’s exactly how collapse feels. This is how I felt. This is how millions of people have felt, including many immigrants in your midst. We’re trying to tell you as loud as we can. You can get out of it, but you have to understand where you are to even turn around. This, I fear, is one of many things Americans do not understand. You tell yourself American collapse is impossible. Meanwhile, look around. In the last three months America has lost more people than Sri Lanka lost in 30 years of civil war. If this isn’t collapse, then the word has no meaning."

......


Wednesday, November 04, 2020

Boundaries in the age of COVID: US elections

So, it is Nov 4/, 2020, the day after polls closed in the US for the presidential election, results still not quite in. Everyone I know there busy stressing out over it and still trying to avoid COVID. As individuals, because there was no national plan enacted the way there was in Canada and just about everywhere else in the entire world.

Being newly retired I have had time to fixate on the American neighbour, delve into many deep ponderings about what it means to be a Canadian only an hour's drive north of the US-Canada border (which remains closed) just over North Dakota. 

The US appears, at least superficially, to be sort of a banana republic. It has held together for a couple centuries, amazingly. It became a huge country of 330 million people, with the baling twine and chewing gum of gracious conduct lubricated by tons of money, but I suspect global warming is worrying the global financial powers that be into acting autocratically.
I seriously can't believe trumple is a lone actor - pretty sure he's a puppet for a global moneyed oligarchy. One advantage he may have is that there seems to be a custom in the US of keeping a president in power for a full two terms, 8 years, and he's only at the 4-year mark so he has only managed to half wreck the country and has only murdered about 240 thousand people so far by not implementing a decent COVID prevention plan - his destructive work is only half done. 

About the US, I remember being aghast that individual voting was such a huge affair and so complicated, elections so expensive and long-winded, that the ballots could go on for pages and pages, that voters had to fight to actually be registered and to vote.
How cumbersome, I thought.
Then I grew to appreciate that it really was an amazing innovation in the 18th century to distribute power so equitably to (at first) all white men who owned property, then later to everybody. And I appreciated that massive struggle had been involved in expansion of voting rights. Especially when I found out that black women had been held back from voting until 1965. 
Nineteen sixty-five!!
Unconscionable.

D
ismay slowly arose though as it dawned on me that there is nothing particularly equitable about a system that is actually not a single large ship of state but rather a flotilla of 50 ships of state all tied together, some in pretty good shape and others very rusted, leaky, still on top of the water only because of movement inertia and other ships pulling them, but acting as a drag to the entire ensemble. All of them are slowed down by the barnacles of time. 
Furthermore, some ships try to pull the entire shebang one way and others in a different direction. 
In fact, the two major parties remind me of the way two eagles grasp talons and participate in a twirling death spiral

Which brings us to the "electoral vote." 
Imagine this: we have the 50 ships of varying sizes and conditions all tied together all pulling different directions all weighed down by barnacle infestation.  Imagine all the people on each ship voting for a new leader, say, a different president. All the votes are counted, but... only the ship gets to have an actual presidential vote. The ship! Some ships more than one, some ships many; it depends on the size of the ship. So, no matter how big the population aboard, if it's a small ship, individual votes may count more heavily than if the ship is an ocean liner like California. 
This system of states' votes stems from the days of slavery when only white male property owners could vote. A "college" of "learned men." Why it still exists is beyond me. 

........ 

I grew to appreciate even more the role played by current-day media as a way all the people on board all the ships can maintain some semblance of feeling connected to each other and updated about how each others' lives are going, and how we all eavesdrop on it no matter where we non-Americans live. Yeah, it's noisy and often feels intrusive (cultural imperialism) but it does help time go by. 

States' rights in the US are a real detriment at times. The power assigned to voting individuals is completely at the mercy of whatever ship said individuals happen to be riding on. War was fought over perceived state inequities. Plus, all that ghastly slavery crap that happened from 1619 onward, and that supposedly ended with the Civil War, cultivated mental and social ruts into the fabric of the US so deeply that some aspects have not yet ceased to exist (police murders of George Floyd et al) and voting rights are still being suppressed by some of the old rust bucket state ships in the flotilla. 

Heather Cox Richardson provides context and lots of optimism. In fact I'm pretty sure the fumes of optimism are enticing enough to have been the main way the US has survived thus far given all the handicaps its citizens endure for their privilege of collectively holding ultimate power every 4 or 6 years, 4 for presidential elections and 6 for senate seats (I think). Given the fact that said individuals have been taught to eschew the very thought of being part of a "collective" of anything. 

The main problem I see with individuals holding power is that no one individual has the power to fire a terrible leader. It has to be done collectively, but to get people to act collectively they have to be convinced to maintain a completely incongruent set of ideas about how acting collectively will support their freedom as individuals somehow. Furthermore, if the terrible leader manages to be the best convincer, the resulting set of incongruent ideas becomes a cult. His followers appear to be oblivious to cognitive dissonance.  

I learned a new word recently - paralipsis. It's a rhetorical device that lets your audience know what's on your mind without having to say so directly. It permits lying, because you can always deny you actually said it. It boils down to speaking with forked tongue or out both sides of your mouth. The current terrible leader is a master of it. Which means he obfuscates and escapes like an octopus from any tiny hole. His story depends entirely on his audience, and what he wants to get from them. 
Critical thinkers find him appalling and mendacious and thoroughly misleading. His followers think he's brilliant and will fix their leaky rust-bucket ship of state. He won't. 

We still don't know who won the election, because there were so many mail-in ballots due to COVID still being counted. 


 

Sunday, September 06, 2020

Boundaries in the age of COVID, Sept 2020

I made a decision today, one that ripped the front of my chest off yet again: I decided to retire from teaching except within Canada's boundary. 
I methodically contacted all the workshop organizers in Europe to let them know I would not be coming in 2021. 
I intend to keep the commitment to fulfill workshops that have been scheduled here in Canada. 
For one more year at least. Here's the list

Gad this one hurt... 

My mind flew back to the early 70's, when my good friend Gayle and I made plans to travel in Europe together. We were going to meet up in Greece. It never happened because I never went. I had saved up the princely sum of about a thousand dollars, which back in the day went a looooooong way; instead of spending it traveling, I decided to go back to university instead. 

I had three workshops lined up in the spring, Greece, Cyprus, and Malta. 
A couple in the fall, Italy and Austria. 

Some part of my brain, maybe the part that still thinks I'm in my twenties, must have thought it would be a good idea to plan to go next year, I guess; workshops had all been canceled for 2020 due to travel restrictions that COVID imposed, and 2021 seemed so far away. Now in September, it doesn't seem far away at all. 

So the more realistic part of my brain that keeps up with reality and doesn't let itself be caught up in fantasy or yearnings or time warp looked at the situation cooly:

1. the fact that travel is even more cumbersome than it was last year, what with COVID precautions

2. the fact that travel is BOUND to be more expensive, therefore the workshops were possibly more likely to be canceled anyway, by the hosts, who have to at least cover costs

3. the fact that I'm not (definitely NOT) getting younger, and after sitting around for the past 6 months, feeling quite a lot rustier

4. the fact that moving my mother (age 96) to assisted living this past month turned out to be a lot more work, not less. More running around, not less. More conveying of mail, trips to the bank, trips to the lawyer, all sorts of bureaucratic bits and bobs, not to mention emptying of a very jam-packed condo all throughout the past three weeks and allocation of items under the strict eye of my younger sister who was very organized and vigorous and has very much a zero-landfill disposition these days.
(She had me save glass jars for her, FFS. Fking glass jars.) 
(I said I would. They are still sitting in my car.)
 
I'm exhausted. Physically and emotionally. 

So, with all that going on, the reality part of my brain kicked me out of my stupor, out of that sense of unreality that all the societal changes that COVID have wrought upon the world and everyone in it. 
It said to me, Diane, are you fking kidding yourself? You really think you are up for yet more flying around Europe sleep-deprived, fueled by adrenalin, coffee, and whatever is the local beer? And standing up teaching for four days straight? And trying to keep up with youngsters eager to show you the local tourist sites on top of all that? You know how much your feet hurt in the past and how long it took to recover from sleeping sitting up on planes and how many days it took for the swelling in your ankles to go away after you got home, and how it was a lot harder to recover if you were doing more than just one workshop per trip, and how you had three (count'em, 3!!!) booked all in a row, you crazy woman, and how your Eurocentric side thought for a hot second that it wouldn't be able to exist or forgive itself if it passed up an opportunity to see Greece finally, not to mention Malta and Cyprus... Get real Diane. You will be 70 years old and that's too old for any more shit like this. Are you trying to kill us off early or something? Get.
Real. 

So, I did. 
I obeyed the voice within that told me to let go of yet more of my professional existence. 
It sort of feels like I imagine it must feel after having divorced to decide what to do about the kids. All the lingering bits of an old life that must be carried forward into a new existence until they are grown and can fend for themselves. 
Even though it's the rational thing to do, retire from teaching overseas, it still feels like the front of my chest has been removed.
Without anesthetic.
It must be that twenty-something part of me who still lingers somewhere in me, making me feel that. 
I'm learning that who one is is mostly an accumulation of selves you have been and that constant decluttering is not just about physical existence, it's also about psychosocial existence. 

I still need that part 20-something part of myself. She is the more energetic part of me, still full of possibilities. I don't want to kill her off, but we will have to reorganize our relationship somehow, because the I that I am now is here, now, and I really do not like feeling all raw on the front of my body, and she will have to learn to respect me as her future self, getting riper all the time. 



Sunday, August 02, 2020

Yannick's take on DNM: July 2020

Yannick Wenger is a physiotherapist working and teaching at a physio school in France, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Montreal last spring. He came all the way to Canada to attend a DNM workshop. His wife, also a physio, attended a DNM workshop I taught in Paris about a month prior. They couldn't attend at the same time because of small children. 

Yannick and I stayed at the same AirB&B in Montreal and had many opportunities to talk (his English is way better than my paltry French). He told me about U theory, a form of teaching and learning he is fond of, and social constructivism, a form of pedagogy that dates all the way back to just after the French revolution more than 200 years ago. 

He started a new group on Facebook, DNM France by freephYsio, in which he states he is willing to entertain all questions. 

"The DNM a conceptual framework for a new manual therapy prototyped by Diane Jacobs. This page aims to make you discover the DermoNeuroModulation. Yannick Wenger offers you possible developments to understand your manual therapy differently. Here you will find a humanist view of the therapeutic relationship combining neurosciences, philosophy, anthropology and praxis. Feel free to question, comment, argue: you are on a socio-constructivist page.
If you want to organize training in DNM, Yannick Wenger, an expert trainer certified by the CNAM, is at your disposal. Contact: dnmbyfreephysio@gmail.com"

He recently posted a series of essays on Facebook that are lovely, and I want to preserve here on my blog; He started posting them shortly after sharing this link: What is the operator model? What is the interactor model? , a piece I wrote in 2011 that sets out my own deconstructive process.  

After introducing DNM as a fresh approach Yannick starts his U process of deconstructiing manual therapy with its biggest confound, skin. He takes us on a lovely relaxing metaphoric train ride, a good situation to think and read and write. We can follow his own process of changing his way of thinking about manual therapy. By the end of the train ride, he has connected all the dots, has changed his thinking sufficiently to see the point of adopting a more neurocentric, interactive view. 

(Note: I recommend using DeepL Translator if you want to turn his lovely French into good English. It's better than the default translation Facebook provides. You can use it online without having to download it.)

July 2  DNM: Naturalism and phenomenology

July 4  DNM: Are you an operator or an interactor?

July 5  Touch

July 6  Bottom-up and top-down together

July 9  Skin

July 10  Carl Rogers

July 12 DNM and U theory

July 13 DNM and U theory

July 14  DNM and U theory

July 15  Seeing anew

July 16  Collecting 

July 19  Perceiving

July 20  Listening and presence

July 21  Adopting a neurocentric model

July 23  At the bottom of the U, moving across, adopting a neurocentric model

July 25  Moving into the ascension of the U

July 28  Still ascending the U

July 30  Still ascending to the top

July 31  Exiting the U

Monday, July 27, 2020

July 27 of the year of COVID: John Lewis, honor guards, the power of precision.

Today's US death total: 150,233. (Link)

I watched all of the memorial service for John Lewis today. I watched him be carried over the Edmund Pettus bridge on the weekend. I have been a white female Canadian retired physio feeling a bit like a voyeur, attending services for black men in the US whether murdered by police or dying of cancer as John Lewis did. 

I have been moved to tears.

..........


Tears started falling out of my face when the honor guard moved his casket from the church to the wagon, the caisson they call it, that would carry him across the bridge strewn with rose petals, red rose petals, to symbolize the blood that was shed on that same bridge 55 years earlier, Bloody Sunday 1965, when fascist piggdoggs of the day cracked his skull open during a peaceful march for civil rights. 

.......

The honor guard moved as one. Eight burly men. All dressed impecably. In military clothing. All of them wearing masks. Their steps taken very carefully. Very measured. Taking 4 steps to turn a 90 degree angle. Very precise. Listening to and obeying orders.  Standing at attention, very still, between each set of steps. 

As I watched this, I felt grief burn a hole through me. It was partly for John Lewis, it was partly from the pageantry itself, the respect it was all intended to convey. 


Weirdly, there was also grief for the life I have had to leave behind.  

..........

I was reminded of the power there is in touch, a life spent touching people with a license to do so, therapeutically. Of having learned how to touch effectively. With precision. Obeying something that gave me the orders. Being very still before and after each small move. How touch, when done that way, conveys respect. How it may touch someone else's nervous system in such a way that they feel redeemed. Respected. Accepted into the world again. 

What is that something that gives the orders?
It can't be defined. It's interoceptive. It has no voice. It's a sensation coupled with some cognitive appreciation. It's the third space. It's the intersubjectivity between two nervous systems, communicating kinesthetically. 

For decades after I had learned to recognize it, it sounded like a loud voice to me, a drill sergeant barking out the steps of a very practiced drill.

I often compare good manual therapy to jazz and state emphatically that it's not classical music. I get that comparing manual therapy to a casket-carrying drill by military people seems a bit the opposite of jazz, however please bear with me:
Good jazz musicians are precise. They have already played classical music, most of them, and moved on.
They take pauses.
They pay rapt attention for hours,  listening to each other.
They listen for soundless space between notes. The silence. They hear beats that no one else can.
And they move together, perfectly.

Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Canada Day 2020

A lot has happened since I last felt moved to write anything here.
Well, I should mention that I started two blogposts, but didn't finish them.
Life events outside my little bubble were far too riveting.

So, let's see:

COVID:
1. COVID is burning a big hole south of the Canadian border. At the moment, more than 130,000 people in the US have died of it. Two other countries seeing a lot of runaway numbers are Russia and Brazil.
2. Canada seems to have planked the infection and death curve successfully, as have Asian countries and European Union countries. So much so that Canadians will be allowed to travel to Europe but not US citizens.
3. I will not be traveling anywhere anytime soon, even within Canada. I have three risk factors for COVID: old, too chubby, and type A- blood. I wear a mask to the grocery store. When I take my 96-year-old mother to her various appointments, I wear a mask and have the car windows rolled down.

US POLITICS:
1. It's a presidential election year. A lot of trumpy shit has accumulated both pre-impeachment and post-impeachment.
2. He won't wear a mask in public. A lot of his die-hard devoted followers who talk freedom but adhere to all his dog whistles won't wear them either.
3. Biden is leading in all the polls.
4. I have discovered and have been avidly following Heather Cox Richardson, a historian who shines light several times a week on current events and ties the past to the present.


RACE RELATIONS:
1.  George Floyd, a Black man innocent of anything, was apprehended and killed by a policeman kneeling on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in Minnesota. In the street. With no due process. And filmed by bystanders. This set the whole world on its heels and protests have been non-stop ever since, everywhere.
2. Confederate statues have been toppled in the US.
3. Statues of slave traders have been tossed into the harbour in England.
4. Companies have taken racist images off their brands.
5. Sports organizations have announced that flying of Confederate flags will no longer be allowed.
6. The flag itself has been removed from state buildings in the south. Finally.

The past few months have been a firehose of indepth learning and unlearning experience.

To celebrate Canada Day, today I listened to this fabulous 2-part podcast from over a year ago about the history of slavery in Canada. Awesome unveiling.

Canada's slavery secret: The whitewashing of 200 years of enslavement