Churned up

For the past week or so I have felt churned up both mentally and physically, anxious, distracted, weighed down and deteriorating generally. There have been choppy waters involving uncommon but pressing personal matters, health, family and friends. This brouhaha has unfolded against a public background of disturbing politics and economics both internationally and locally, the US elections, Brexit, terrorism and municipal wrangling.

Until a moment ago (upon leaving the Hospital where I was undergoing one of a series of investigative probes) I had no clear idea of the extent to which tempers had risen regarding the conduct of our municipal Council. A long-time resident (who was waiting for his elderly mother in the out-patient lobby of the Emergency room) hailed me and reported with mushrooming intensity that strangers had been imported to protest against a local hydro development, that our senior businessmen have been flabbergasted by the conduct of Council, that the current popular view is that Councillors are dodging their duties and that a movement is already afoot to replace our representatives who were elected for a 4-year term in 2014. He reiterated what I had earlier heard that a Rate Payers Association has been mobilized to monitor the conduct of Council. This intelligence particularly alarmed me because my recollection of the recent municipal election was that a new Council of transparency and accountability was being ushered in (though I subsequently learned that the vote for the Mayor was won by a small margin arising from what was allegedly a split vote caused by an unforeseen third candidate). Now retrospective pundits revel in the turn of events.

Amidst this furor there is a burgeoning theme worldwide of nationalism and tribalism, people everywhere closing ranks with their own intent upon keeping others ostracized. The rationale is that the narrowness is prompted by a collective sense among the lower ranks of society that they have been cheated and mistreated often for the benefit of undeserving or unwelcome intruders, a prejudice which is frequently conjoined with the supportable though unrelated theory of the widening gap between the rich and the poor. The anger and mistrust fomented by this retrogression is in danger of cementing fascist opinions of the unruly populace (ironically prepared to jettison the very democratic credos which have historically buttressed them) marshalled behind sometimes egomaniacal leadership (most prominently Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin). Nonetheless an element of merit lingers for the cause of the disadvantaged who view current authoritarian rulers as scoundrels to be run out of town. It wouldn’t be the first time appetite has trumped foresight.

There sometimes seems no relief from perpetual disturbance. In this context how trite appear to be the once valued sentiments of humanity, generosity, camaraderie and personal pride. Every stratum of society is under attack, the rich for their greed, the poor for their ignorance, nationals for their xenophobia, immigrants for their economic and social threats, men for their chauvinism, women for their liberalism, gays for their deviance, millennials for their entitlement, religion for its fanaticism, atheism for its conceit. All are characterized as self-interested and exclusive. There is no motivation for understanding or accommodation, every echelon is seemingly resolved to power and winning. The social disintegration is captured in the prospective tumbling of the European Union, the fracturing of North African societies and the prophetic redundancy and upending of Republican Party of the United States. The economic contamination has affected the whole of Europe, the once oil-rich empires and the behemoth China which in turn is drowning the giant US economy in a sea of off-shore debt. Everywhere there is a yearning to restore the status quo, a middle road, a life free of interruption and modification. But everyone knows it will never happen anymore than climate change will prove to be science fiction. People live in fear of terrorism or the latest disclosure or disruption from cyber warfare; the sinews of society have been laid bare and the sensitivity is one of extreme nervousness.

The Games of the XXXI Olympiad held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil succeed to remind us of the possibilities of cooperation and cohabitation (though not without its unsettling admixture of activism on behalf of the local neglected poor). This salve may however only temporarily distance us from the coarse realities of the world (lately echoed in the plight of the deprived of Venezuela). The disquietude continues like the hum of a fan.