Wednesday, November 22, 2017

THE INNER LIBERAL

November 22, 2017




Rep. Dana Rohrabacher,
101 Main Street #380
Huntington Beach, CA 92648

Dear Congressman,

Re: The inner liberal

Arch conservative columnist Bill Kristol tweeted yesterday: “The GOP tax bill's bringing out my inner socialist. The sex scandals are bringing out my inner feminist. Donald Trump and Roy Moore are bringing out my inner liberal. WHAT IS HAPPENING?”

Yes, what IS happening? Even the rightest of right-wing intellectuals are beginning to recognize the multiple betrayals of the Republican Party under the sway of Donald Trump.

So, Congressman… any word from your inner liberal?

Happy Thanksgiving!

(signed)


Peter Clothier, Ph.D.





Tuesday, November 21, 2017

HARASSMENT

I'm sick at heart, hearing all these sexual harassment charges that are flying about in the media today. Sick because they involve not only those with whom I politically disagree, but also those I admire. Sick because of the hysteria that seems to have taken hold of our society. Sick because we, as a culture, seem unable to make thoughtful distinctions, to think critically, to come to balanced and well-thought conclusions. And not least, sick because the "president" of this country (I use the quotation marks advisedly) has publicly boasted about the abuse of his celebrity status to molest women, and who joyfully capitalizes on his opponents' bad behavior even as he refuses to acknowledge that of his supporters--or his own.

The president, it turns out, is an uncomfortably true reflection of ourselves. It's a truly sickening moment in our history. But it is also one that holds promise for a change in social norms that, until now, have allowed men to treat women as chattels, to be exploited for their own pleasure, or often merely to assert their masculine power. It has been going on for too long. For centuries, to be honest. We're past due for a radical shift in consciousness with respect to the relationship between the sexes. Perhaps, finally, this is what we see beginning to happen.

And, by the way, lest I be misunderstood: I'm not arguing for the abdication of male power, which can just as well be turned to beneficial and creative ends. I'm arguing simply for mutual respect and for a recognition of our mutual responsibility to behave as decent, mature, and compassionate human beings.

Monday, November 20, 2017

CAN WOMEN SAVE THE WORLD? A PREDICTION

This shrinking planet and its rapidly expanding population by the human species will survive only if we learn to modify the old masculine power model of competition, aggression and domination with the feminine model of cooperation, compassion and mutual tolerance. I use the terms "masculine" and "feminine" more as a convenience than as stereotypes or mutually exclusive definitions, since I believe that each of us has within us a proportional share of both.

The man who currently occupies the seat of power in this country is the apotheosis of the masculine model, the product of centuries of our Western phallocentric culture. Devoid of compassion, tolerance and constitutionally averse to cooperation, he operates instinctively from the spirit of competition, aggression, domination and territoriality. He himself is the embodiment of masculine energy gone awry, and the motivating quality of his core constituency is potentially good masculine energy that is both wounded and aggrieved, and consequently misdirected.

We are witnessing, in the current, very public, almost universal, mostly female revolt against the widespread practice of sexual assault, the beginnings of a long-delayed shift of power, questioning the hegemony of misused masculine energy and preparing the way for an infusion of what I hope and trust will be a much-needed surge of complementary feminine energy.

It is not only in the area of sexual aggression, and not only in this country that this imbalance is manifest. We live in a time of profound global upheaval, indeed of global revolution. Much of it--as in the Middle East--is related to gender injustice and the centuries-old suppression of women's voices and women's rights. We will need to somehow learn to find an equitable balance between male and female, and between masculine and feminine energies, if we are to survive the current crisis of humanity. I see many hopeful signs that this is happening.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

CAN WOMEN SAVE THE WORLD? A book review


THE RACE: TALES OF FLIGHT, by Patrick Ryoichi Nagatani (and collaborators)

The Race. Copyright: 2017 Patrick Nagatani (My thanks to the Albuquerque Museum for providing this image and all those below).

The late Patrick Nagatani was known in his lifetime chiefly for his beautifully crafted and conceptually based work as a photographer, addressing issues of topical social and ethical concern. Virtually at the moment of his untimely death, after a years-long battle with colorectal cancer, the Albuquerque Museum has just published his remarkable “novel”, The Race: Tales in Flight.

I use quotation marks advisedly. This is as much a work of conceptual art as fiction. It also features photography as an important element of the narrative. The “fiction” is the invented story of fifteen World War II Spitfires—the plane renowned for its role in the Battle of Britain—disinterred in recent times from a secret cache in Burma, where they were purportedly buried at the end of the war. Acquired by the super-wealthy woman and Japanese corporate executive, Keiko Kobahashi, the (once enemy!) aircraft have been restored and equipped with pontoons to enable sea landings, and have become the vehicle for Kobahashi’s vision of a trans-Pacific air race from Tokyo to San Francisco. Each is painted a distinctive color, and each plane is navigated by a female pilot handpicked by Kobahashi for her special strength and unique qualities as a woman.
 
Ludmilla Litvyck in Flight. Copyright: 2017 Patrick Nagatani
The first two chapters—a “Prologue” introducing the proposition and a description of the initial “Training Program”—are authored by Nagatani himself.  The remaining chapters before the epilogue are written, mostly with the collaboration of Nagatani, by women writers from different national and ethnic backgrounds and with a wide variety of experience. Their soliloquies describe the journey of each fictional pilot across the Pacific Ocean, with sometimes hazardous refueling stops along the way; and, more broadly, they are reflections on each pilot’s life’s path, her ethnic origins, her professional accomplishments and ambitions, her spiritual beliefs, her sense of responsibility and vision for the future of the planet. Each individual “flight” is in its way the inspirational story of a healing, a journey from personal vulnerability to self-confidence and strength.

More broadly, the whole book is about the healing process. Given the state of Nagatani’s own health as it was written, it is about the various forms of healing of the human body, from Western medical treatments, including radiation and chemotherapy, to alternative healing traditions: Native American shamanism, acupuncture, even Chromotherapy—the color of each airplane is an important reflection of its pilot’s inner life—and all these treatments are offered at each refueling stop. They are based, one suspects, on the author’s own exhaustive attempts to find a cure for the cancer that invaded his body. (There is, indeed, an autobiographical flavor to each of the stories—not only of the women writers who channel the pilots’ narratives, but also of Nagatani himself.)

Still more than individual healing, though, the book is about the healing of the planet. This is a parallel “race”—a race against time to save our species from the environmental ravages caused by our many forms of pollution. Central to the experience of each woman in crossing the Pacific is the encounter, far below them, on the surface of the ocean, with that vast, swirling and ever-growing island of human detritus that threatens not only animal and bird life, but the ecology of the Pacific itself. This encounter is a moment of epiphany for each of the pilots, in most cases provoking a commitment to action on their return to land.

Quite aside from the physical and ecological healing, however, there is emotional and spiritual healing work to be done, as Nagatani sees it. Through the voices of his women guides and the tapestry of their experience in many different geographical locations, Nagatani explores the inner life of the emotions that’s common to us all, the pain and grief that none of us are spared as human beings, our anger, even our rage, along with those seemingly rare glimpses of love and joy. Through their voices, too, he explores the variety of religious traditions—Catholicism, Judaism, Islam, Shinto, Hinudism and Buddhism, not to mention Native American pantheism, paganism, and other ancient tribal beliefs. His book becomes almost encyclopedic in its embrace of the infinite varieties of human aspiration for the infinite and the eternal.
 
Firoozeh Irani in Flight. Copyright: 2017 Patrick Nagatani
Nagatani’s book is also about the ceaseless human quest for happiness. On her descent into the San Francisco bay area, each women is alerted to her passage through “Cloud Nine”—a mythical place of Buddhist-like awakening where they are able to leave the personal traumas and the perils of the journey in their wake and experience the bliss of freedom from those parts of themselves that once stood in the way of their full transformation into, as it were, the essence of their being.

Kobahashi’s core belief and motivation is that it will take the liberation of strong female energy to heal the world, and she envisions her “race” as a way of marshalling and focusing that energy. Once each woman pilot—save one—arrives at their common destination, she is invited to enlist in a utopian project designed, literally, to save the human species and the planet. Located in an Arcadian community in Hawaii, it is a working center for the pursuit of intellectual, scientific, emotional and spiritual development, where each woman’s special talent and energy will be nurtured and allowed to blossom.

If there is a weakness to “The Race,” it is perhaps here, where the radical feminism that the story honors risks degenerating into an idealism too rosy to inspire conviction. It is an irony, too, that the whole idealistic enterprise is enabled and funded by immense resources of the kind of corporate wealth accumulated precisely at the expense of human economic justice and global ecological well-being. But this is perhaps a quibble. Along with Nagatani and his fictional philanthropist, I myself am coming to the belief that it is women, if anyone, who can save us from ourselves.

The race, it turns out, is also the human race. Our future depends on co-operation and compassion rather than the competitive greed that continues to serve us ill even today. With this intelligent, sensitive, and moving book, his last creative accomplishment, Nagatani has established for himself a fitting and distinguished legacy for his life’s work.

Patrick Nagatani, his wife Leigh Ann Langwell, and their recently deceased dog, Annie. Copyright: 2017 Patrick Nagatani


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Thursday, November 9, 2017

STRENGTH

It's clear to me that Donald Trump is a weak man. The truly strong man has no need to constantly assert his strength, whether in words, in physical bluster, or in displays of dominance. True strength emanates quietly from within. It is unmistakeable, and cannot be faked. It is not, of course, the sole property of men, though some would like to have it that way.

The same rules apply to a country as to individuals. Our country is in a weakened position, thanks to the president's unseemly threats and bluster. It is at the cost of our strong leadership in the world that he withdraws from pacts on climate change, nuclear agreements and trade. If strength is in integrity, and integrity is a matter of being true to one's word, our strength as a nation has been squandered by a man who does not begin to understand that lasting truth.

This man, though--let's be honest--is a reflection of ourselves. Much though I'd want to dissociate myself from this truth, "we" chose him to be the leader of our country. The rot in his soul is the rot in our own; his venality, his greed, his disrespect, his discourtesy, his elevation of money as the sole mark of success are not inconsistent with the values our society has come to embrace. Our political paralysis is evidence of our lack of care for each other. We are weakened, ironically, by the excess that results from our founding strength: the right of the individual.

The candidate we rejected just last year was right: we would have been "stronger together." Instead, we opted for division.

So now we are divided, and weakened by that division. Once lost, strength is not easy to restore. Sadly, but perhaps inevitably in the long view of human history, America risks sacrificing its pre-eminence among nations. If we wish to "make America great again," we must all work to reconnect with our own integrity.

It's not that we have completely forgotten how to care for each other. The recent response of communities to disasters--both natural and man-made--offer ample evidence that Americans will rise to the occasion. If only we could learn to manifest that compassion and that sense of shared responsibility unmotivated by disaster! Therein, in my opinion, lies the possibility to regain our strength.