Top photo – One part Osiris, two parts Horus
Hello my friends, time for another podcast. This time some ideas about how we all got here, to this rather fraught moment. By ‘we’ I often mean western civilization in general, but I also have some unusual and specific reality to offer today. As part of trying to overcome all forms of tribalism – which indeed can be political, racial, cultural, class-based, or of course national, I have some things to share with my American friends today that Canadians don’t often admit in broader discussions about culture or politics. I also have some unusual treats that conservatives haven’t heard from lefties, and Christians haven’t heard from from atheists. Of course my leftie friends already know I am relentlessly curious and simply don’t do group-think or group cruelty. Which is why some of them find me heartening or nostalgic, and some rather frustrating.
“Unmutual” in the wonderful precision-surreality language of “the prisoner.” ;o)
As far as I can tell, for respect to work, the capability for it must be demonstrated and proven, and it must be offered in genuine spirit. It simply cannot be demanded, or exist one-sidedly.
Call me crazy, but I still think there is a way for regular working class people to get over all the false division and overturn the irresponsible creeps who are running us over a cliff. It isn’t really about left or right, the split is between thinking mostly about people, or mostly about institutions and technologies. The same inhuman trends scare many on the left and right, they just view the causes and best responses very differently, and tend to react with hostility to each other’s terms, even when they are discussing the very same underlying problems.
I still mean to do a show about transcendence and enlightenment – secular and religious, but this episode is an important foundation for that. We talk about the history of the last few generations as if we have learned all of the lessons we should have. Some even say there is nothing of value we can learn from those with attitudes that now seem immoral, by the light of our sophisticated modern standards. But guess what – the latest greatest best we can do will also seem utterly barbaric one day. That is simply the nature of reality and history. And every one of our risks and errors will also be worth learning from.
Best to be honest.
I know too many people who are hurting themselves with emotional extremes over tribalism these days. Being cut off from the world of simple pleasures and stimulus thanks to covid is a big part of the stress, no doubt – but we have also been exhorted toward extremes, and once you step into a position where you take pride in your hostility, it is incredibly hard to step down again – for men especially – without feeling as if you have chickened-out or suffered a defeat. Pride is weird and deeply irrational stuff, and intellectuals are especially good at mistaking ideas for territory, and then getting all messy and snarly in a territory marking contest.
Jocks hassle geeks, and geeks make fun of the brainlessness of sports – but jocks get catharsis – a way to exercise (and exorcise) their excess passion, that we geeks can only dream about. Not so easy to say who is better at sublimating unreason, concentrating and thinking clearly. Maybe whacking moving things with a big stick is an ideal boost for our intellect, from way back.
Now here’s a special treat to lift the hearts of anyone feeling hopeless about the potential for cooperation. Cornell West is simply one of my favourite human beings, and also the Christian pastor who speaks most directly to the heart of the faith which seems self-evident to me, despite my lifelong atheism.
In this conversation he’s talking to the also brilliant conservative economist Glen Lowry. They disagree about many of the most fundamental things, and they don’t ever pretend otherwise – but instead of name calling or rancour, they confide deeply in one another, and together find a profound common line of respect and understanding. This is brilliantly hopeful stuff.