We are Not our own Justice

We are not our own Justice

            Shortly before his death, I happened to ask my father why he had become such an inveterate fan of the Montreal Canadiens. His answer astonished me, as this was the first time he had spoken of it, not in all of the long past years of my childhood and youth when we religiously watched the Habs each Saturday evening. They had drafted him back in 1945. He never donned the famous jersey as the joyful, though also incomplete and sobered, hordes of young men were returning from Europe and the talent pool got big again very quickly. Not to say my father was not a very competent ‘triple A’ player who faced off against the likes of Gordie Howe. He last laced up his skates in his early seventies, not unlike Howe himself.

            Now one doesn’t fact-check one’s own father nearing his death, if even such a thing could be checked. At this point one has earned the right to make certain claims, not that I have ever doubted this specific one. I make claims as well that hurt no one but myself perhaps – that I am Canada’s third leading social philosopher and ethicist behind Charles Taylor and Henri Giroux; that I am the leading thinker of my generation; that my 5000 page epic saga ‘Kristen-Seraphim’ is the story for our times and if one believes, as I do, that Jeshua ben Pantera, Saul of Tarsus, Prince Gautama, and Mohammed were all real people and thus the accounts of them and by them cannot be referred to as merely ‘stories’, then my epic is nothing less than the greatest story ever told – and in that I am no different from anyone else. But stories or no, the case becomes much different when we begin to make claims for others on their behalf.

            And the case becomes not so much different again but much uglier when these claims are intended not only to wound the other but to ‘cancel’ him entirely. And this is what is occurring today in a similar circumstance as my father’s end-of-war experience. I wrote about the concept of justice in a democracy in my 2013 book, We other Nazis: how you and I are still like them. In it, I suggested that liberal societies were at risk for authoritarian gestures not so much from their governments but rather, and with a horrible irony, from their citizens. For in a democracy one of the cornerstones is freedom of expression with that of association the material manifestation of this first freedom. And so, one might well use such a freedom to express an opinion that in our digital age could carry far more weight about it than it otherwise would, or should. The ‘cancel culture’ that has become fashionable in our days seeks to declare this or that person to be a non-entity because of some real or imagined error of judgement committed by said person, mimicking authoritarian regimes of the old Soviet Bloc, for instance. (Romania, in 1948, declared composer Nicolae Bretan to be a ‘non-person’, and this was one of thousands of such incidents emanating from such governments that we both quite rightly fear and despise). But the source of the error is not what is ultimately at stake, for even a crime is a singular event in a life, and in a sober light related to that which bathed the veterans returning from the revealed horrors of 1945 Europe, no ethical person would hold to the idea of ‘one strike, yer out!’. Indeed, much of the ethical majesty of the three more recent Agrarian age religious systems, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, centers around forbearance or forgiveness, both of which seem sadly lacking in our present climes. It is almost as if certain citizens imagine that they really are ‘without sin’, and thus the stones that are cast can claim a kind of other-worldly righteousness. In fact, such stones are the primitive projectiles of mere self-righteousness, a base sensibility that has animated much of the history of authoritarian politics. And if we are at least used to politicians themselves masquerading as ethical beings  – in a democracy, we can always get rid of them come next election and try again – then it is much more disconcerting that fellow citizens become rabidly righteous and more than this, seek to project this base and narrow righteousness into society at large. Politicians who leap on such ‘immoral panics’ should be far more than ashamed of themselves, especially when they themselves have amply demonstrated an utter disregard for professional and political ethics. Hitler himself knew how much Anti-Semitism existed in Europe; he didn’t have to create it but merely exploited its lengthy historical presence. Today’s ‘leaders’ are apt to do the same with what Max Scheler analyzed as ressentiment; malicious existential envy.

            What then is the source of such envy? The very hype and glamor that surrounds those we imagine to be graced with god-like fortune. To be drafted by a legendary sports franchise, for example, to win the lottery, to be the one to whom millions flock in concert tours or film releases or yet even ‘religious’ revivals, God help us. All such hype tells us that these few people are the best of the best, are somehow worthier than we, and that we should serve them, even indirectly. And however embittered, begrudging, or not quite convinced we may be regarding such claims, we do. But the briefest glance at the recent history of tabloid media and more tells us that we are ever ready for any take-down, evidenced or no. That the once mighty fall and we in our ressentiment rejoice. This is a misinterpretation of second wave Agrarian era ethics, borne on the once revolutionary sense that the ‘first shall be last’. Instead of understanding these novel ethics as a potent critique of caste-based social organizations – it is important to recall that our much vaunted Greece and Rome were populated by at least forty percent slaves, for instance – we have personalized them on two fronts; one, they are wielded as a weapon of mere opinion or taste; and two, they target individuals and not social systems. They are the very stuff of inauthenticity, and Jesus, for one, knew that when he cautioned the stone-casting crowd to engage in a little self-reflection. Today, our democratic legal systems mostly recognize this caution by saying to the offender that though there has been an error, your life is not over, nor should it be. Indeed, the entire point of learning from one’s mistakes is to live on as a better human being, as a better citizen, as a better person.

            Especially is this the case when the offender is young, barely an adult, committing an error that we would associate mostly with youth. But the self-righteous – who must have stoned themselves into some kind of unreflective stupor before picking up those same stones and directing them at others – would end such a person’s life and livelihood before it ever began. And that a national leader should agree and foment such a stoning. And that we live, so we claim, in a democracy of means, motives, and to a certain extent, materials as well. To this the ethicist, the philosopher, whatever his rank and standing and whether such a thing means little or nothing which is generally the case, must stand up and retort resoundingly, no and no again. Petty Hitlers aside, we are not our own justice. If a crime has been committed and the penalty paid, adjudicated in a formal and legal manner, then that must be an end of it. If one disagrees then it is the law that must be altered and not the life. And aren’t we fortunate to live in nations where such an alteration is so easily made, without need of revolution, civil war, the cavil and cant of politicians, the death camps. And who are those who would give up this good fortune? Ask yourself if you value your freedom of expression so little that you would use it as an unmerited weapon against those who have cast themselves down well before any stone has yet been thrown.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over forty-five books in ethics, education, aesthetics, health and social theory, and more recently, fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Why I am not an Olympian

Why I am not an Olympian

            Canada is objectively one of the best countries in the world. It was a tremendous stroke of good fortune for me to be born here, rather than many elsewheres. But happenstance alone should not engender pride. Canada maintains some good graces in calculated ways, and for this the citizen can be grateful on a daily basis. Mostly civil, somewhat tolerant, with a general sense of fair play and a reasonable boundary of scandal or yet evil, to be Canadian is to be aware of the centeredness of sociality in a manner most other nations either struggle with or have entirely forfeited.

                Even so, there remains much to be done. To the ongoing challenge of governing a diverse and geographically vast land wherein increasingly voices are heard across the political spectrum which issue demands that suggest exclusivity and even outright exclusion, one must in addition provide a balance of rights and responsibilities both under the law and within an enlightenment ethics. Our legal system and our ethics are mostly foreign to those who arrive on our shores, and this is to be expected. But that they are sometimes shunned by those who understand Canada as a part of who they themselves are is something to be greeted with stringent reproach. There are numerous examples, from the PMO’s fast and loose definition of professional ethics, to section 43 violators – almost exclusively parents – to those who at least feign disbelief about the current public health crisis. Let us not forget those who ape regressive ideologies such as ethnic supremacies, regional nationalisms, sectarian reactionaries and throwbacks, and wealthy elites who imagine neither law nor ethics applies to their sainted natures. Canada has a surfeit of all of these and others alike.

                Yet the mere presence of such persons, claiming citizenship but on their own terms, is not enough to pass up clambering onto the epic mountain range upon which the Gods would stand. No, it is that we consistently both deny and obfuscate setting our fellow residents straight on some simple topics regarding both behavior and thinking that forces one to eschew these heady heights. Instead, we tend to distract ourselves by entertainment fictions and spectacles. The most grandiose, and the most dangerous, of these collective distractions is the Olympic Games.

                Hitler’s film director, Leni Riefenstahl, an artist of the alpine apexes caught up in darkest depths of the valley of fear, nailed the Olympics early on. The 1936 games, from which most of our contemporary hype, such as the torch run, is directly borrowed, was filmed by her and given sub-titles concerning the ‘celebration or festival of youth and beauty’. Certainly this is the kernel of the whole affair at the subjective level. Youth is the fetish of all modernity. Beauty is embodied by youth and youth alone. No longer a kind of transcendental conception, taking its place alongside the good and truth, beauty has become an esthetic spectacle, and one that exists solely because of voyeurism and its accompanying ressentiment. There is little doubt that almost all male viewers and about one-fifth of those female witness many Olympian events as a form of soft-core pornography, including rhythmic and artistic gymnastics, swimming and diving, sprinting events, figure skating, etc.. The fact that coaches of these sports versus others are much more likely to engage in criminal behavior should be noted as part of the overall fetish of youth and beauty combined. Not that any of this has an authentic sexuality about it. Rather its sensuality is Orwellian, at once a profanity and a mystery, something all covet and lust after but something about which one must remain silent. It is not the presence of the athlete but the appearance of her body that is paramount. A body put through its paces, a body disciplined, a body beautiful but aloof to intimate entreaty, a body ideological, a body disembodied from both its happenstance truth and its potential for the ethical good.

                Sontag’s sense of the ‘fascist aesthetic’, however misplaced when applied to Riefenstahl’s visual ethnographies of East Africa, remains absolutely applicable to the Olympic Games. It surrounds us on all sides, as if we were Minsk in 1941, even as if we were some gentler version of the camps. Yes, even that, for shame. Private sector companies flaunt this esthetic with endless posters, banners hanging from the rafters, images on labels, cashiers asking for donations, life-size images of the athletes in question. And who do you imagine invented all of this? The summer games is certainly more imposing than its winter counterpart, but nonetheless, a country like Canada regresses every two years into a kind of fourth reich symbolic status. The Reich itself had little to do, at the end of the day, with ethnicity proper and primary. No, it was about creating a new kind of Man, ‘men as gods’, to borrow from Wells, and this is precisely how the youthful athletes are portrayed, as gods on earth, as Olympians after all. A new race requires above all a new esthetic. And this was the simpler aspect of neo-ontological fetish. That it as well would require a new ethics, also superior, conveniently escaped the Nazis’ purview.

                And it also escapes our own. Why is there poverty in a wealthy country such as ours? Why is there child abuse? Why are there charter schools for the privileged in a nation that prides itself on democracy? Why are Indigenous peoples without potable water etc.? Why do our courageous military professionals risk themselves flying, riding, hiking, diving, on their courage alone? One obverse analogy: The Olympian dives into a safe pool of water with the backing of private and public sector glad-hands. Our submariners dive into the open ocean on a diesel-electric wing and a prayer. Why do many of our fellow citizens desire a different kind of Canada? What, exactly, are we missing about ourselves that no distraction could ever uncover?

                It is the simple experience of inequality; in justice, in gender, in opportunity, in housing, in education, in pedigree, in punditry, in birth, in life and even in death. The fascism of the Olympian esthetic only highlights these inequalities, and for that reason alone all athletes should refuse to participate in a festival that fetishizes both their bodies and the State alike. Only when the reality of Canadian life ascends beyond its faux ideals and addresses bodily all of the injustice remaining in this relatively beautiful place should you slip into that red and white leotard and proclaim that your ideal body is genuinely the embodiment of an ideal body-politic. Now that would be something in which anyone might take pride.

                Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over 45 books in ethics, aesthetics, education, health and social theory, and more recently, fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

The Religion of Criminality

The Religion of Criminality

            With the news that various faith-based organizations across the nation are flouting by-laws regarding mass assembly, the old tension between church and state has resurrected itself, apropos, given the time of year. For me, it was always to be expected that so-called evangelicals would be at the vanguard of this kind of passive-aggressive resistance to both civility and citizenship, but when Wheatley Ontario’s Mennonites began to jump in, my own quasi-ethnic background surfaced to bite on my own conscience. Not in a serious manner, but just enough to both condemn these erstwhile brethren as well as wonder why they might be engaging in what amounts to a public health menace. No true Christian would ever knowingly put his neighbor at risk. And while it is easier to dismiss the neo-fascist fake Christians as being simply that, when it comes to Menno Simons’ followers the issue appears more nuanced. Why so?

            My own father left home at seventeen, lied about his age and joined the RCN to fight in the Battle of the Atlantic. For the pacifist Mennonites this was more than a scandal. Not only was one engaging in violence but also doing so at the behest of the state, the historical victor over the church, all churches. This paradoxical effort at liberation in part allowed me, decades later, to become who I now am, a critical social philosopher, something that in the rearward facing climes of warmed-over old world beliefs would simply not have been imaginable. I owe my father much on that account. Even so, it is an odd paradox that the one who seeks freedom from the state shares much with the thinker, whose loyalty is also to something other than ideology and citizenship. The Greeks replaced myth with science, language transitioned from mythos to logos, and thus the gods were supplanted by thought itself. Sophia, herself the goddess of wisdom, was kind of like a mole in Greek mythology, unraveling the mythic tapestry from within, unlike Prometheus, who suffered endlessly because though he was also humanity’s ally, he pushed the revolution along from without.

            My father was an insider who went outside. I would never return to complete a personal circle, as it were, but at the same time, I understand the confluence that lies between those whose loyalty is to some higher being, however imaginary or no, and someone like myself, whose loyalty is to what I take to be a higher sensibility; ethics, rationality, reason, interpretation, reflection, critique. Philosophy is, after all, the child of religious thought, just as science is the child of religious myth. The Wheatley group have been engaging in the critique of the state even if they have also been engaged in unethical, even criminal, activity. This is no mere ‘civil’ disobedience on their parts. It is manifestly uncivil to place others at a health risk, especially those who do not agree to be so placed. Is it too much to believe that every single person in this or that congregation would only and ever associate with the remainder of said congregation, day in day out, forever and ever, or at least, until all are vaccinated? This kind of leap of faith is actually more of a chasm than even a belief in God, whose being, after all, is not disproven by science, merely rolled back, much in the same manner as is religious explanation curtailed in its territory by that scientific.

            It is not a leap that I am willing to make. The local public authorities must get much more serious about stopping such assemblies. They can even use Christian ethics to support their legal efforts. Why do the vast majority of churches meet on-line, when all of them would ideally meet in person? This alone dispels any far-fetched rationale that only a very few churches – say in the rural Fraser Valley of BC and in similar areas within Ontario and Quebec, for instance – have the ‘true’ message of their God in their hearts. No, these folks are simply using religion to commit a crime, and in doing so, have placed themselves on the same spectrum as the likes of the Taliban. How far will they go in their delusion of being persecuted? Maybe we should ask the average Afghani to predict what the thin edge of the wedge can really mean when people use their fraudulent faith as a cloak for their more naked desire for power.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over forty books in ethics, health, education ,aesthetics and social theory, as well as more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for two decades.

In Memoriam: Edward Van Halen

A musical virtuoso whose shared humanity came across in every note, Edward Van Halen 1955-2020.

In Memoriam: Edward Van Halen

                                    Turned out the simple life, weren’t so simple

                                    When I got out on that road. (Van Halen 1978).

            In his Smithsonian Institution interview, Van Halen spoke of the immigrant story, of a family thrown into an alien world, back in 1962 when the to-be-virtuoso guitarist was a mere seven years old. Not speaking English was the greatest barrier at first, but there would be others. A study in contrasts that nevertheless ended up making eminent sense, Van Halen’s life was defined at the outset as an American dream; unlikely, hard-working, persistent, celebrated, resented, and ultimately cut short by the perennially pallid penury of professional entertainment. He spoke of their debut album, which went on to sell more than ten million copies and usher in a new kind of popular music that blended the angst of punk and the romance of the dance floor, as being the beginning of experience, of lost innocence: ‘we cut a best-selling album, went on a sold-out tour for a year, and when we got back the record company told me, congratulations, you owe us a new album and three million dollars.’

            No life can be said to be simple, no matter what it might look like from without. A musical hero, however brilliant and with an impulsive and improvisatory genius however breathtaking, remains human. And yet that is what I always felt was so compelling about Van Halen’s guitar playing; its resonant humanity. Hendrix was god-like, and one could be forgiven if one imagined that he was something more than human. Howe is distant, unforgiving, beautiful in the way great art is and yet oddly removed from the heart of things. Clapton guttural and bitter, abrasive and sometimes even smug. McLaughlin a single strike through the conscience of consciousness, transporting the listener quite literally to ‘visions beyond’. Metheny cool, even chill, the perfection of a sculptor who renders his music as if it could retain its sonic solidity indefinitely. Of all the virtuosos that come easily to mind, only Eric Johnson, like Van Halen, comes across as a great human being first, his humanity guiding the music and creating an over-souled bond with the listener.

            But Van Halen’s perfection came in the midst of mayhem, banality, and a musical form that would not, at first glance, be a likely birthplace for virtuoso genius. Compared with the other great electric players in the above paragraph, Van Halen as a band was the bread and butter, meat and potatoes variety of music. This too made Edward Van Halen stand out without forcing him to stand apart. Millions showed to see him first, as the feature, the lead, the hero, the star. In the most unlikely of places we are struck by the exactitude of his solos – perhaps the most obvious example would be the utter perfection exhibited in ‘Somebody get me a Doctor’ (1979) wherein we are transfixed by seemingly the only series of notes that could elevate a throw-away song into something we would play over and over again; but there are many others – and if Van Halen as a performing act often came across as rock and roll’s answer to Barnum and Bailey, its bombast always had the good graces to never take itself so seriously as to vanish up its own posterior, as did many – if not all – of the biggest acts previous to them.

            I was one of uncounted teenage guitar players fascinated by Van Halen’s technical innovations, attempting to mimic them and feeling inordinately proud when I even came close. And though we are aware that both Hendrix and Hackett regularly used the right-handed ‘hammer-on’ move, for instance, it was Van Halen who perfected it and let it transform the guitar into a broader musical palette. His instrument was inseparable from his person, prefiguring the relations of production in the as yet mythical communism of Marx and Engels, when they speak of the ‘authenticity of the product of labor’. In this too Van Halen was a visionary, and the intriguing mix of juvenilia and critical politics to be found in the actual song-writing of the band is suggestive of a manner of speaking to youth of the difference between things that matter now and those that matter for all time, of some things that matter as much to a mature human life as we as young people might imagine does romance, sex, relationships, money and fame. The band and its blueprint appear to be an essay in confrontation, but by now, after long having the entirety of their catalogue within easy grasp, the whole of what Van Halen was really about appears without such blur.

            And what this whole is, is a kind of freedom from needless and mindless restraint, rule, form and norm. It isn’t simple, just as a human life can never be. To attain a sense of one’s life is to have the courage to get past what has been the past, something that Van Halen never ceased to accomplish. This is the greater freedom of historical being; that history is not yet done. It is a freedom that celebrates its true cause by singing the praises of its passing effects. A freedom that speaks to each generation when it is most receptive of listening, but one which also hopes that in a more sober stage of existence all of us will begin to heed its call and take life itself to be the open and powerful instrument of popular art that Edward Van Halen took to be his own.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over forty books in ethics, aesthetics, education, health and social theory, and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor in the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

Fifty Films

Fifty Films: a Covid-19 project

My wife, having more or less grown up without film, suggested that we watch a fair sample of films ‘everyone’ has seen but she had not. Only fifty, you say? Well, there are other things to do after all. I’m neither a film historian nor a film buff, so for what it’s worth…

Canonical:

All the President’s Men (1976): Not unlike a Ken Burns epic where there is much early detail and then it leaves you hanging at the end, Redford and Hoffman break the story of the decade and then exit stage left. Still a good lesson in power corrupts given our Trumpist times.

Rear Window (1954): Irascible James Stewart and the perennially perfect Grace Kelly almost let their imaginations run away with them. In spite of her timeless beauty, it is Kelly’s gaminesque exploits that win the day, lightly echoing the period’s male desire for the feminine to become oddly masculine.

Dirty Harry (1971): Cop flick on overdrive features the debut of Harry Callahan, master of cinema epigram. Now did Eastwood make six films in this character, or only five? Guess punk, do you feel lucky? To have seen them all, yes, I do.

Vertigo (1958): Dolly zooms aside, don’t cast your lead and then later complain that he’s ‘too old’ for the part to be believable. What about driving down the wrong side of the highway, or that a national historic site is open at all hours, including its bell tower? The movie’s plot mimics its action. Just climb up and fall off.

Citizen Kane (1941): For six decades the ‘best film ever made’ maintains its relevance by capturing the character of the most dangerous type of modern person; the one who cannot love. Still a far better film than ‘Vertigo’, which for some reason has recently assumed pride of place on the A list, it was itself never the best – ‘The Battleship Potemkin’, ‘Metropolis’, ‘Modern Times’, ‘The Seventh Seal’ and ‘2001’ all come readily to my mind as better films. Nevertheless, the film remains a great work of art if only because the truth upon which it was based is yet more terrifying.

North by Northwest (1959): In what must have been a very mature thriller for the time, Grant morphs from self-interested ‘Madman’ into espionage agent as if he were born to do so. Aside from the ludicrous ten second denouement, this is still a solid film with many famous sequences and a clever plot.

Easy Rider (1969): Disturbing piece of ethnohistory is shot alternatively as docudrama and experimental. Its theme – our persistent and perennial refusal to even attempt to understand one another – is regrettably still current.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956): Coming at the height of the Suez crisis, this still eminently watchable thriller exhibits the excellent chemistry of Day and Stewart, who appear to have equal agency and wit. Hitchcock’s women were always active and represented a slightly different ideal to the prevailing winds.

Network (1976): Still a reasonable, and very prescient, satire of commodity media. Pythonesque influences abound here a few years after that show went off the air.

On the Waterfront (1954): Early Brando as a naive but gutsy longshoreman is a solid film for its time, though you can hardly hear it through the blaring Bernstein score. Almost as if Lenny went to Kazan and said, ‘shoot me some background footage for my new incidental music’. 

Apocalypse Now (1979): New extended version to 3.5 hours has some interesting additional scenes that would have been good in the original cut. Still one of the best films ever made, in my opinion, but the so-called director’s cut is far too lengthy. Even Joseph Conrad would have fallen asleep.

Gandhi (1983): I may be becoming cynical in my old age but this epic left me cool. Amazing film as films go but repetitive and preachy as go narratives. Kingsley himself very convincing, Gandhi not so much.

The French Connection: (1971): Hackman and Steiger engage in one long chase video which includes the famous Harold Lloyd inspired car and train sequence – though Lloyd never actually crashed a vehicle in his chase scenes, just himself. A passable crime thriller supposedly true to actual case.

Remains of the Day (1993): Genius atmosphere but regrettable characters. Hopkins is brilliant as a complete loser and Thompson is basically the female version. A solid contemporary tragedy that just manages to avoid nostalgia.

Five Easy Pieces (1970): Early Nicholson verges on film noir, then in its third and final(?) phase. A slightly interesting character study that must have been a fair sample of such doings during the generational upheaval of the era. Otherwise: huh?

The Mission (1983): Still in my personal top 10, and me not of a religious suasion. Irons is exact in his portrayal of a living ethic and De Niro grasps this only to let it fall from his grip right at the end. Another true account, apparently, and certainly believable. Fantastic film and the winner of the Palme D’Or amongst many others.

Anatomy of a Murder (1959): Intriguing plot makes this archetypical courtroom drama fairly watchable and current in spite of its length and some dated and sexist dialogue. The fact that over six decades later women are still cast as willing actors of their own demise in many assault cases raises questions about the legal system and society more generally, which this film adeptly initiates given its time period. The snappy Ellington soundtrack and the moment where Stewart and Ellington share a piano also lend interest.

The Exorcist (1973): Almost coherent thriller spawned a new genre that has itself become so tired that the original views brilliantly, with Blair’s command performance well worth the Golden Globe and a should-have-been Oscar. Penderecki’s score adds to the surreal quality of the sequences while we are left to ponder the mortal weaknesses that mark our own very human descents.

The Seventh Seal (1957): One of the great works of art of the post-war period, Bergmann’s solemn meditation on the meaning of life in the face of death yet resonates underneath the shill of the mundane. The Knight’s inordinate pride provides Death with the latter’s in; the former sharing his chess tactic with an apparent monk. That one moment, seemingly too obvious for a film of this depth, reminds us that human genius contains its own tragic character flaw.

Sudden Impact (1980): This is the film with the single most famous line in cinematic history, besting the nostalgic turning away of ‘Play it again, Sam’, the fatalistic resentment of ‘Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’, and even the ominous deadpan of ‘Open the pod bay doors, Hal’. It’s not as profoundly pointed as ‘Deserves got nothing to do with it’ but it’s simplicity sums the entire human endeavor; its resistance, its refusal, its dare: it is what existence utters to history, it is what thought utters to the tradition. So go ahead

Non-canonical:

Goodfellas (1990): Scorsese’s personalist take on the gangster film brings a fresh view to the sub-genre, with Liotta narrating his biography; a guy who wanted to be something he could not, due to ethnicity and scruple. Another apparently true story and a decent film.

The Matrix (1999): Although it could be generously interpreted as self-satire, this abysmally cartoonish rescript of ‘Metropolis’ has one good thing about it: it makes Fritz Lang look all the more the genius he actually was.

A Walk in the Woods (2015): Gentle journey narrative places aging Redford and Nolte in the position of asking two questions each of us must come to ask: what is the meaning of a life well lived, and have I myself done as much? Since these are both existential and ethical questions, the principles serve as characters in the finest of Greek tradition.

Magnum Force (1973): The second of the Harry Callahan quintet takes its cue from Bond-style action and conspiracy but fashions it into a more realistic and serious ‘Star Chamber’ style plot. Eastwood plays his signature role ‘knowing well enough its limitations’ to make it both believable and entertaining.

Tie me up, Tie me down! (1989): Bathos and pathos meet head on in this Spanish tragi-comedy. Why do I wonder if the theater of mental illness and that of the pornography industry are more closely related than meets the eye? A very good film but one leaving one counting one’s blessings.

The Enforcer (1976): The third ‘Dirty Harry’ film is well known to be the weakest of the five but even here interesting themes such as the novel experience of women in the work force and doing dangerous work to boot are explored, with Tyne Daly, the put-upon greenhorn partner of Callahan, making her case for the later ‘Cagney and Lacey’ TV series.

The Pelican Brief (1993): In this barely passable political-legal conspiracy drama – melodrama? – the subtext seems to be as much about Julia Roberts’ ever-changing hair styles as anything to do with the now – but at least not then – tired opposition between environment and resource extraction. The film owes much to Hitchcock’s similarly gender-paired thrillers but this is not always a good thing. Instead of a ludicrous ten second denouement this one is ten minutes long.

The Man who Loved Women (1977): Truffaut’s good-natured yet poignant tribute to a now rather unfashionable sense of romance is both amusing and all too close to the truth of things. The ‘hero’ is very much a man I recognize, and this makes him more than himself, as it were, even if in the end he is immolated upon his own passions. Sound familiar?

The Dead Pool (1988): By now an expected formula, the last of the Callahan set yet entertains on the once. Eastwood himself stated afterwards that given his age there would be no more as the risk of self-parody was just evident even in this film. Still, a ‘swell’ series of almost archetypical character.

Marnie (1964): Sean Connery (still alive at 89), fresh off the first three ‘Bond’ films in succession, is still not famous enough to displace friend-of-lions activist ‘Tippi’ Hedren (still alive at 90) in the credits of this quite serious piece about child abuse and murder. One of Hitchcock’s last films has strong dialogue and is generally intriguing. It must have been tough on the audiences of the day, but at least the adorable Diane Baker (still alive at 82) really was adorable.

The Hit (1984): The absurdity of life gets in the way of the calculatedness of death. Like watching the Godfather vacationing in Fawlty Towers, Peter Prince’s writerly precision is far sharper than any would-be assassin’s eye.

Eyes Wide Shut (1999): A fluffy piece of inconsequential nonsense, much like the Kidman character herself. I rarely find a need to quote a popular culture critic, but Edelstein’s comments at the time nailed it: “Who are these people played by Cruise and Kidman, who act as if no one has ever made a pass at them and are so deeply traumatized by their newfound knowledge of sexual fantasies—the kind that mainstream culture absorbed at least half a century ago?” At least, given the film is based on a 1926 Freud-inspired novella. The only mystery herein is why Kubrick apparently imagined this was his greatest film. But ask me if I’m going to obsess over that mystery.

Meet Joe Black (1998): Ever-eloquent Anthony Hopkins cannot carry this twice-too-lengthy piece of sentimental nonsense. If you want an authentic understanding of how love can overcome death in life, listen to Mahler 2. Please.

Independence Day (1996): About as gripping as a popcorn epic can be, we are meant to be inspired by a global community that unites in the face of the end of everything. However unrealistic this may be, it is an ideal that is not only worth pursuing, but, specific to our own times, must be achieved.

American Gangster (2007): Another supposedly true story that explores the link between the Viet Nam war and a new generation of drug culture and use in the USA, as well as exposing the largest single police corruption case in US history. Gritty and yet strangely sentimental, the account was apparently so heavily fictionalized that in this specific case Ridley Scott may mean close to didley squat.

Monster’s Ball (2001): This was a surprisingly good film about persons who manage to survive the worst and find a new life outside everything they thought they knew. Not ‘heartwarming’ in the Hallmark Card sense of the term but still a relief vis-a-vis the human spirit.

The King of Hearts (1966): Excellent satire of social organization in all its absurd glory. The question of what constitutes insanity is thoroughly explored and sent up in this unassuming little gem from France. Features a youthful Genevieve Bujold.

The King of Marvin Gardens (1977): And speaking above of ‘huh?’, here Nicholson is a much more well-adjusted persona who plays Abel to his brother’s Cain. Perhaps this is the more subjectivist version of ‘The Big Chill’ of the following year, but a pretty sad affair all round.

Boost (recent): Quebec film about the immigration story is quite good, though inevitably tragic. The sequence in which Canadian identity is defined from the outside in is alone worth the price of admission.

Antigone (recent): Another Quebec hit retells the archetypical conflict between public and private morality, centered once again in the state versus the family. Definitely for young persons, it was still a good take on the narrative, though less convincing for older viewers given Antigone’s own tragic flaw.

Will you ever forgive me? (2001): Sordid but true story of a has-been writer who fakes famous writer’s letters etc. and then gets caught. Not worth making a film about but still entertaining.

The Game (2012): Mike Douglas ends his once endless streak of never being in a mediocre film. 

High Plains Drifter (1973): Shot on the abandoned Salton Sea in California, this is an early Eastwood directed film. A decent idea for a western and of course Clint is always appealing as the justice-seeker who has at his disposal unlimited means to find it. Reminds me of some of my saga’s characters.

Amelie (2001): This film became such a cult hit that it almost seems cliché on second viewing. There is something so very Gallic about the whole thing that is both charming but also frustrating. Love may indeed be innocent in general, but surely not of itself.

The Day After (1983): The most horrifying fictional film I have ever seen, and thus the most important. Though we are in fashionably collective denial about the greatest threat to the future, nevertheless that same old threat remains. Watch this film, just don’t watch it alone.

Documentaries:

The 24 Hour War (2017): The epic sports car and specifically Grand Lemans battle between Ford and Ferrari in the 1960s is eloquently explored in this fascinating set of interviews, archival footage and contemporary retrospective. Ferrari took the first half of the decade, Ford the second. Either way, a great watch.

All or Nothing at All (1997): My wife and I became instant fans of Frank Sinatra after viewing this poignant and powerful four hour affair. A heroic tale tinged with bitterness presented the man himself as both a larger than life character and one who nonetheless could not master that very life he came to represent.

Williams (2018): Wincingly intimate portrait of one of F1’s most famous racing families, living through both complete success and utter misery. Documentaries like this one almost make me able to forgive the BBC for cancelling ‘11th Hour’.

American Factory (2017): Top notch organizational ethnography about a Chinese reboot of rust belt infrastructure shows the conflict between two systems of labor and production. Practicing Buddhist billionaire Cao’s self-doubts regarding his actions ruining the world appear genuine, and thus one wonders if anyone in either Beijing or DC is listening.

The Road I’m On (2019): Oddly, this was probably the most disturbing film of the fifty on this list. Garth Brooks has apparently become some all-too-certain ‘family values’ propagandist due to his consuming guilt about missing part of his children’s childhood. I didn’t think I could so intensely dislike a celebrity, let alone the seemingly benign, or at least inoffensive and inconsequential Brooks, but after three hours it wasn’t a problem to shoot out the dance.

Harry the potter’s jars of clay

Harry the potter’s jars of clay

            In the wake of J.K. Rowling’s unabashed comments regarding the reality of sex and the charges of transphobia that were issued in response to them, it may be germane to discuss some of our current conceptions concerning human identity and the politics that follows therefrom. Ultimately, one’s definition of reality is at stake, and we will see that this is the truer import of all such debates, however popularized or taken to the streets.

            There are five major biological sexes in the human species, and the so-called ‘sexual dimorphism’ that allows for convenient categories is splayed out along a spectrum which meets in hermaphroditism – of late relabeled ‘intersex’ – the central variants of which account for at least one in every 2 to 2.5 thousand live (‘female’) births. There are no doubt ‘more’ genders than there are sexes, but who’s counting? The point is that both gender and sex are social constructions mainly based on national health policy and indeed the identity of the particular nation state in question. Biopower, Foucault’s simple but arresting conception of an originally bourgeois transformation of the older labor power, demographic concerns such as pension fund viability, voter franchise, relative strength and weakness of employment markets, and more darkly, bigotries surrounding equally moribund concepts of race and ethnicity – the ‘fear of a black planet’ thing – influence who we are liable to label a ‘man’ or a ‘woman’. If I were a woman of any cultural or even individual construction, I wouldn’t take kindly to Rowling’s ‘offer’ of a potential definition of myself as ‘one who menstruates’. This appears reductive in the extreme while at once suggesting that I am the same as every other woman out there. Indeed, it is this urge for sameness while simultaneously drawing up boundaries of difference that is at present threatening to do us in.

            One could simply play at language, avoiding a deeper dialectic and thus also the confrontation that adheres to it. Perhaps sex and gender are both equally ‘real’, or neither are real and a truly hard-nosed scientific-minded reality has nothing to do with the human imagination. Perhaps sex is the old reality and gender the new, or that the former’s hold upon an actually unmoving reality is supplanted by the latter’s emergent identity politics. Or perhaps reality is itself irrelevant, and human consciousness, only partially conscious of itself and much less so of others, is the only arbiter of what can become real and thus also unreal.

            But I am going to suggest that our reality is in fact being covered over by such discussions, whether they are violently performed in confrontations amongst people who imagine themselves to be so different as to not share even an iota of humanity with one another, or more banally, literary celebrities and entertainers who imagine that their unstudied opinions should carry such misplaced public weight.

            Diversity in every known species is an evolutionary positive. Not only for that self-same species regarding its adaptational acumen given changing ecological niches either over the course of geological epochs or, in our own time, over a generation or two, but also for other species, as when humble fungi contain the key to cancer cures or other medical breakthroughs. Though cultural evolution as a theory of human cosmogony is a long out-of-fashion sensibility, one aspect of it that remains salient is that human diversity along cultural lines is also a positive. No one culture, says this view, holds all of the truths for all of the myriad of changing contexts in which we humans find ourselves. And yet each culture does hold truths. Though not ‘eternal’ – the mere fact that we can identify such ideas in history tells us that their origin too is historical and not so much otherworldly – they can nevertheless be timely. One conception that is apropos to consider during this time of too-easy offense and counter-offense is that of compassion.

            Compassion is an ethical hallmark of the newer agrarian world-systems, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. It is sourced in the then equally novel sensibility that each human being has an intrinsic worth, apart from one’s accomplishments, abilities, and most importantly, apart from one’s social status. This last includes one’s self-identified gender, sex, race and ethnicity, one’s role and job title, and one’s address and education, let alone one’s cultural persuasions. An example: it is of interest that one’s individuated tastes can make for strange bedfellows. I despise swing music and am certain that Bruckner is a markedly superior composer to Tchaikovsky, not that Peter Ilyich was a slouch. In these two things I fully agree with the Nazis. Happen to agree, that is. It is this happenstance of the confluence of historical identity politics and one’s personal experiences that fraudulently drives much of our current predicament.

            Consider that no white owners of black slaves exist in North America today. Wage-slavery aside for a moment, all these other folks are long dead. But it is also the case that white persons are less likely to be enslaved by what reaches out for all of us from beyond the grave. Yes, the dead must bury the dead, but you have to kill them first. Just so, how does one commit an idea to the ground of non-being when the vast majority of the very people who are most hurt by the current social organization of difference maintain beliefs in the afterlife? The overcoming of the ideologized politics of difference is both a recognition of human diversity as it is and not as we would desire it to be, as well as being the beginning of a self-recognition that I am also not one thing, not these things, not a ‘thing’ at all.

            Dressing oneself up in difference is not a way to confront the reality of human diversity. Only being with another human being in as personal a manner as possible will make one more aware of just how similar our differences are, why they exist, where they come from, and of vital import for humanity today, where they are going. Daniel Radcliffe responded to the author of his career freedom and perhaps more than that by restating the basic ethic of Harry Potter; that ‘love is the most powerful force in the universe’. Though Rowling’s epic appears to imagine love as an inherent good, which is only forgivable because these are books for children, Radcliffe’s well-meaning naivety yet touches upon the desire to get along with the others in spite of their differences, which in turn threaten us not because they are alien, but because they remind us too closely of ourselves. To begin to consider the other as a means to understand the self and my self as a means for the other to recover her authentic freedom is the first step to a world wherein reality is something that all human beings are at liberty to help construct.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of forty books in ethics, education, aesthetics, religion, and social theory and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for over two decades.

This Time the Government is Good for You

This Time the Government is Good for You

            Relax, I’m a doctor. Of philosophy, that is. I hold a world top-40 Ph.D. in the human sciences and partly because of this people often ask me to ‘explain’ what is going on right now. I can’t cure the virus, so my skills are not front and center. But step aside with me for a moment, and I’ll attempt to tell you why I think that this time, the government is the right pill for the right job.

            Needless to say, as a thinker I am no great fan of the state. Our official apical ancestor, Socrates, was executed by the state for ‘corrupting youth’, which remains a large part of my mission. Kant was ordered by his state to stop writing about religion, a particularly delicate theme in his time even more than in our own. He ignored the order and no doubt said something that wasn’t fit to print in return. So that’s pretty much where I come from in the day to day, when times are mundane and life seems long.

            But for the moment, our times are neither. I recently published a new theory of anxiety and so one thing I can tell you right off is that Anxiety, capital ‘A’, is seen by philosophers as a good thing. It’s like an early warning system, an impetus to care, which Heidegger stated was the most fundamental aspect of our beings. This ‘concernfulness’, as he put it, orients ourselves to the most pressing of issues which underlie the day to day of living on. These include the condition of others to self, the future as ‘being-ahead-of-ourselves’, and our thrown and fallen state as beings who exist in the envelope of both ‘finitude’ – existential finiteness that cannot be located at a precise time, just as we cannot know the hour of our individual deaths – and ‘running on’ – moving towards our future deaths but in no conscious or systematic manner. Large-scale crises are certainly something to work against and around, but they also serve to distract and decoy us away from confronting the intimacy of our own deaths, which cannot be shared with any other human being.

            So ironically, part of our anxieties regarding COVID-19 concerns how well this crisis will distract us from ourselves, our own lives as we have lived them, and whatever regrets we may have suppressed about them. Anxiety, on the other hand, alerts us to these more intimate aspects of selfhood and does not let us be distracted by the world in any inauthentic manner. Generally, the state is part of this decoy world, issuing this or that decree that appears abstracted from our daily life, even arbitrary. The State is one of theological philosopher Paul Ricoeur’s two examples of the ‘evil of evil’ (the other being the Church). The evil of evil is defined as ‘fraudulency in the work of totalization’. What does this mean?

            Traditionally, only a God was omniscient and omnipresent. As secular political life elbowed spiritual life into the margins, indeed, sometimes into the shadows, the state replaced the church as the center of social power. Even so, as a human institution, government is flawed, not at all all-knowing, and not quite everywhere at once. It often pretends that it is both, and in this it is a fraud. Many modern institutions partake in this ‘fraudulence’ as they pretend to be everything for everyone. The university is another obvious example. But with the stern demands the state is placing upon us these days it is flexing its absolute power over civil society, in part, again perhaps ironically, to keep it thus. We are reminded of Lord Acton’s now almost cliché epigram, originally in epistolary form, that ‘power corrupts’, and further ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’. So we might be adding this worry to our list of anxieties and generally and in principle, we should always be concerned about limiting the power of the state, lest more governments arise around the globe that lengthen the list of authoritarian regimes.

            But this time I’m going to tell you that our governments, at least, are doing the right thing. Listening to real doctors, for instance, and following their advice to the letter. In turn, we as civil and unselfish citizens need to do the same. This does not mean that we shed our individuality for automata, slough off our would-be immortal coils of freedom for slavery and obedience, or regress to the status of young children. It is a choice we make based on the best of knowledge at the time, and one that the vast majority of us, myself certainly included, could not make for ourselves. We do not become thoughtless morons by acceding to this general will. Indeed, it is thinking that has brought us to this point and it is thinking that will see us through to its far end, however indefinite this may appear to be today. At both federal and provincial levels then, we should heed to the letter the demands of the day. So relax, take two governments, and call me in the morning.

            Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of almost forty books in ethics, education, social theory, health and aesthetics, as well as metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for two decades.

Me Tar Sand, You Pain

Me Tar Sand, You Pain

            On the general culpability of misogyny and self-hatred

            With the confluence of International Women’s Day whose major theme was domestic violence and misogyny, and the appearance of a misogynistic cartoon of Greta Thunberg emanating from Alberta’s resource heartland, it would be sage to note that these kinds of events are not at all unrelated, as Hillary Clinton publicly did some days ago. Yet there is more to such a dynamic than vested interests and the conflict of gender iniquities. Men tend to keep their emotional resources locked deep inside a sediment metamorphosed by machismo, the shallow equivalent of honour, bravado in lieu of bravery, and paternalism instead of chivalry. Such patriarchy may indeed be ‘viral’, as the French protesters aptly suggested, but it is more than that. We men are the human equivalent of the tar sands. Costly to parse from our violent socialization, with dubious merit once so distilled. But if we carry the strata of another epoch within our spirits, women must appear to us as the painful perspective upon our own internal undoing.

            Because men have great difficulty in excavating their own human feelings and communicating their experiences in a richer language than that of the joint fascist aesthetic of desire and control, we have projected our still present curiosity and ingenuity into the world. An objectified nature can be subjected much more easily than can be the subject himself, and our subjection of nature is in fact a thinly veiled objection to ourselves. This projection of the will to life in carnal form using only carnival norms threatens to destroy the species. But more intimately, and with a greater resentment, we have also projected our inability to practice an examined self-understanding onto women. It is this that actually provides the clue to the more general problem at hand.

            My wife astutely remarked, upon hearing of the Thunberg cartoon decal and the reaction to it, ‘forget about child pornography, this is a hate crime’. Quite so. Instead of listening with compassion and risk to the other who challenges us, who has another perspective, who is sincere but who also does not know us, simply assault them, rape them, beat them down. In doing so, men are once again projecting the violence they feel toward themselves into the world, this time not of nature, but of others. This in turn divides the question of who is human and who should be the steward of the world at hand. For humans, in general, a world in hand is less threatening than a world merely at hand. Women and children as chattel – in many countries yet today they are still defined in this manner; witness the elites of Dubai or the peasants of Afghanistan, the lack of legal deterrents against domestic violence in a Russia hell-bent on increasing its birthrate, the lack of protection against physical violence for children in the United States, the list goes on – are to be taken in hand. The similarity of phrases is not a coincidence.

            Violence against women and children, as well as against other men, is the same thing as violence against the world. But women are not nature. The popular mythology of ‘mother earth’ is a distraction that pushes both men and women and all other genders away from truth of things: the world in fact is an anonymous set of forces which is not at all dependent on human life in any manner. It worlds itself without us, and we have, of late, made ourselves a danger to it mostly in relation to our own tenure upon it. Perhaps not only to this, but as well much of life as we have known it. The ‘male gaze’ which objectifies the world of forms and indeed helps to create that world as form and not as an unformed mass of unrelated sense and image, is one of appropriation. It seeks to possess but it also seeks to maintain possession. In this, it is in conflict with itself. For how can one attain the mastery over something and thence forth keep still in one’s mastery? What does it mean to be the master of all things when the attainment of which can afford no further means to satisfy one’s desire for mastery?

            The fear of an anonymous and even uncanny nature led in part to the advent of civilization. It is Glacken’s (1967) uncommonly fine historical analysis that allows us such insights in our own time. Today, we hold not so much an antique fear within ourselves but rather resentment. With all our accomplishments, yet we must perish as unique individuals. This is an unquiet thought and men specifically are socialized to feel responsibility for it. We reach out from this disquiet towards an ungodly future; from the desperate quest to evolve the species artificially to the perennially popular fantasies concerning contact with other civilizations to the sense that stem cells etc. can prolong the lives we do have, we struggle with the new role we have assumed; we are now our own gods. Yet we also strain backward towards the all-too-godly past; from the recent resuscitation of the authoritarian family made manifest in ‘intensive’ parenting and strict control over children, to the idea that the family – an institution constructed during a time when women were chattel, hence the prevalence of contemporary violence now reported because in fact women are not chattel, and neither are our children – should even exist as a viable social institution, the return of young people to popular ‘religious-based’ organizations as if these could have any profoundly relevant meaning to the world-as-it-is, we as a species are challenged by the mortality of our condition as never before.

            Yet we can ask ourselves, what is the loss of an individual future as against the loss of the future itself? Humans die, but humanity lives on. A man dies after all not as a man but as a human being, his reason suppressed, his soul unexamined and his heart enslaved to a vain desire. A woman dies before her time if she is forced to be less than her own future makes openly possible. A child dies before she even becomes fully human, sentenced to the unutterable violence of the chattel definition and the dictates of moribund institutional ‘life’. Can any of this be called a ‘future’?

            The human condition summons us in ways both threatening and non-threatening, says Heidegger. But however we respond, we do not avoid these summons. The climate crisis is a mere symptom, as is that geopolitical. Let us not be decoyed into becoming entangled by a symptomatology in the same way as we would not, disingenuously and with a transparent duplicity, allow ourselves to be seen to too publicly eviscerate courageous women or too harshly discipline equally courageous youth, though both conditions remain the desire of most men and indeed, perhaps most ‘adults’ as well. Instead, confrontation with compassion, heroism without hedonism, chivalry without paternity, honor within authenticity; these are the characteristics that make the noble character from which humanity has gained its only marque of self-respect. In our own time, when respect for others and for the world is at a premium, we must begin by staring not at the mirror, but staring it down, staring through it, until we reach some more insightful sensibility that does not rely upon the force of will alone.

Social philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of almost forty books in ethics, education, religion, aesthetics and social theory, and more recently, metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor of the interdisciplinary human sciences for two decades.

On Being Ignored: Some Advice for Prince Harry

On Being Ignored: Some Advice for Prince Harry

            With the news that Harry and Co. were hanging out in my home town perhaps with an eye to resettle there – a no-brainer given the Canadian climate – and with the recent understanding that he blames the low-culture media for the death of his mother – reasonable if incomplete – I have some advice: I’m an expert on being ignored. Indeed, I may be one of the world’s greatest. All one has to do is become a critical social philosopher and practice your craft. In an instant, all your wishes for utter privacy will be attained.

            Considering that I am the most prolific scholar of my generation – true, Gen-X hasn’t accomplished much and never will; Tiger Woods is about it – and considering I have come up with numerous new discursive concepts including a new model of the afterlife, a theory of subjectivity that addresses prolonged adolescence in consumer society, a critical-ethical conception of political relations, an analysis of fascism in everyday life, a new theory of anxiety – uh, I could go on – not to mention having written an eleven volume fantasy-sci-fi adventure series that completely obliterates the previous canon and its moribund morality, one might think that I, or at least my work, would be of interest to somebody.

            One would be mistaken. Though it is quite true that a retired academic might be imagined as having little to offer the world at large – aside from, in my case, public policy analysis in health, higher education and corrections and justice, pedagogic ability from the widest liberal arts down to the ability to teach ‘TOK’ in IB programs, social and institutional research experience of over twenty-five years, eight years of mid-executive management experience and publications in HR journals [hey, this is beginning to sound like a resume; it’s actually a white flag] and the ability to practice a form of therapy called existential analysis etc. – I had hoped, most naively as it turned out, to be of some use in my autumnal years. From the start of 2018 to the summer of 2019 I applied to over four hundred jobs. I got four interviews. I applied to dozens of volunteer sites, started my own consulting business, led writing workshops and had all of three takers combined. All I can say is thank the Gods for PRIFFs (as well as my brilliantly resilient and resourceful spouse). Perhaps I didn’t go the distance, perhaps I didn’t move to the right place (one executive headhunter I spoke with early on simply said I needed to move to Boston of all places, but as I grew up a Habs fan – my father had been drafted by them back in 1945 but with the returning hordes from Europe only played on their farm club – I had to turn that one down) or perhaps I missed my boat when my editor – ex Scribner’s, ex McClelland and Stewart – asked me to move to New York City back when I was ‘only’ forty-eight. Whatever might have been the case, I now couldn’t get a gig helping out free of charge at the lowest of the low.

            I’m even mostly ignored by my friends, as well as those few I have actually helped, the media to whom I have sent oh-so-enlightening articles, small businesses to whom I have offered business, politicians – perhaps this is a good thing – and even Greta Thunberg herself who is, ironically, just as Mr. Putin characterized her: ‘kind, gentle and ill-informed’. She is kind and gentle. Far too much so for the mission at hand. And she is misinformed, though not in the way the Russian leader was perhaps indicating. Twenty minutes once a week makes her a darling of parents, schools and peers alike, not to mention the greater villains. Stating what actually needs to be done makes someone like myself into public enemy number one.

            Hence my advice to the Prince. That and move out to an internally divisive thirteen municipality patently cultural backwater locally referred to as the GVRD. But he may have that part down already. So if Prince Harry, or anyone else for that matter, for whom a dubious fame is getting to be all too much – and when does it not if you have any conscience at all; even Hitler, who might not have had a conscience but did have a debilitating social anxiety, succumbed to it in the end – wants to become a true pariah, simply follow in my recently furtive footsteps. I guarantee instant results.

            Social Philosopher G.V. Loewen is the author of over thirty-five books in ethics, education, health, aesthetics and social theory, as well as metaphysical adventure fiction. He was professor in the interdisciplinary human sciences in two countries for over two decades and in spite of all of that, has retained some nominal sense of humour.