Category Archives: Truth Seeking

Parallel Mothers

 

 

This is a Spanish film that Canadians in particular should find resonating.  The background to the story is the discovery of long hidden graves that suggest Spain’s fascist past has not disappeared. It is not even past, as William Faulkner might say. And as Canada is learning, perhaps against its will, a horrific past cannot be ignored, it must be faced. Canada and Spain find themselves in similar circumstances for uncomfortably similar reasons.

 

The background of the film is the the ugly fact of hidden graves, but the foreground is deeply sensual and beautiful. The director Pedro Almodóvar uses that background to deliver a film about 2 similar (or parallel if you prefer) mothers. As the Guardian’s film critic  Peter Bradshaw put it, “Here we have convergent mothers; intersecting mothers whose lives come together with a spark that ignites this moving melodrama, which audaciously draws a line between love, sex, the passionate courage of single mothers, the meaning of Lorca’s Doña Rositat the Spinster and the unhealed wound of Spain’s fascist past.”

In this film two single mothers—one young and the other about twice as old— meet and clash with electric results. Their two stories illuminate each other as they also hide the truth. Ultimately, that is what the film is about. It is important to uncover the truth disaster can follow a hidden truth that will not stay hidden and the redemption that is possible if it is revealed with honesty.

Penélope Cruz plays the part of Janis the older mother a glamorous photographer. The younger mother, Ana is played by Milena Smit a teenager with a troubled family past. Arturo ((Israel Elejalde), is anthropologist who works with a historical unit that was formed under Spain’s memory law that traces people killed by supporter of the fascist leader Fanco during the civil war. Janis believes her grandfather was one of the victims and beseeches Arturo to help her discover the truth. While they search for truth, they are less than honest with each other. And that makes all the difference.

The scenes are saturated with beauty. The interior scenes and clothes the women wear are transfused with spectacular colour, the food looks just as sensational, the art on the walls is transfixing.  I got the feeling that the colors and foods were characters in the film. Every colour feels as choreographed as classical ballet. The sensual reality behind the abstract search for truth. The colours tell their own parallel story.

In the end the townspeople, carrying photos of their ancestors, to honour their dead, lie in the graves as the dead must have done.  Like our indigenous Canadians they want to honour the dead.

The film is summed up, in a quotation from Eduardo Galeano at the end:

“However much they crush it,

However much they falsify it,

Human history refuses to stay silent.”

 

We would do well to acknowledge that and give up trying to deny it or hide it.

 

Surrounded by Fearful Sycophants

 

Did you see the cringe worthy (and binge worthy) scene where Putin lined up his advisors at a long table (always at a very long table to keep the riff raff away from the god) and asked them for their opinions about the war against Ukraine? When one of those advisors was insufficiently obeisant, Putin mocked him and made him retract his slight disagreement and replace it with absolute obedience.  Of course, the only advice Putin wanted was to be told how smart he was. And that is the problem that dictators have.  They cannot accept that they might be wrong. They have no moral humility.

 

Trump was the same way, when he demanded his “advisors” fawn over him.  The only advice he needed from them was to say how great he was. I wouldn’t call Trump a dictator, but he sure was an authoritarian. And authoritarians—by definition—tolerate no dissent. None. And that is their Achilles heel. And that is Putin’s Achilles heel. And that is the Achilles heel of many Republicans, because they too have given up on democracy. They have become authoritarians. They want to decide what we should do. That is made clear by their brazen attempts to rig the upcoming elections in the US. A real believer in democracy would not do that. And to the extent the Democratic Party in the US has also tried to rig elections, they are not believers in democracy either.

 

Republicans in the US have lavished their praise on Putin. Trump called Putin “savvy” and a “genius.” Putin was his kind of strong man. A man who tolerated no obstacles to his relentless will.  Now many of us are starting to realize that Putin is no genius. Trump was wrong about that. The problem with Russia is precisely that “it is ruled by a man who accepts no criticism and brooks no dissent.” That is how Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman described him. That is what authoritarians do. It is part of their DNA and that is why it is so unwise of conservatives to bow before Putin.

 

Why is the American right wing so enamoured of brutal dictators? It is not just Donald Trump either.  This love affair began before the rise of Trump. Part of this comes from the love of strongmen. Paul Krugman described this in the following manner:

“Some of this dictator-love reflected the belief that Putin was a champion of anti-wokeness — someone who wouldn’t accuse you of being a racist, who denounced cancel culture and “gay propaganda.”

 

Many American conservatives despise what they call cancel culture, even though they are keen practitioners of it. Many of them also see acquiescence to acknowledging LBGTQ rights as an abomination ushered in by the devil. Many believe that it is weak and feminine to cede any rights to them. In fact, conservative attitudes are a product of toxic masculinity which they can’t give up. Putin is their hero. As Krugman said,

 

“Sarah Palin declared that he wrestled bears while President Barack Obama wore “mom jeans” — and the apparent toughness of Putin’s people. Just last year Senator Ted Cruz contrasted footage of a shaven-headed Russian soldier with a U.S. Army recruiting ad to mock our “woke, emasculated” military.”

 

That was one of the reasons Trump trusted Russian intelligence more than America’s. They were tough. Of course, many Republicans just plain prefer authoritarian rule. They lust for it. And there was no bigger fan that Trump. As Krugman said,

 

“Just a few days ago Trump, who has dialed back his praise for Putin, chose instead to express admiration for North Korea’s Kim Jong-un. Kim’s generals and aides, he noted, “cowered” when the dictator spoke, adding that “I want my people to act like that.

 

Trump actually said that. But we must remember that what Trump admires is not strength, nor is it smart. First, by now it seems that the Russian army is not as powerful as we thought. They have a huge advantage in fire power, but are not translating that into huge gains on the ground. They might still get them, but not yet.

 

But the real problem for Putin is that he is surrounded by sycophants. Trembling yes men are never a reliable source of advice. No smart business man wants that. And that is what Russia has for political and military leadership. They have all learned to toe the line. None of them seems capable of independent thought. Even though Trump is impressed with meek obeisance it is not a ladder to success. It is a slide to oblivion. That means Putin has to make the important decisions on his own.

 

Krugman put it this way:

“The invaders were also clearly shocked by Ukraine’s resistance — both by its resolve and by its competence. Realistic intelligence assessments might have warned Russia that this might happen; but would you want to have been the official standing up and saying, “Mr. President, I’m afraid we may be underestimating the Ukrainians”?

 

We actually saw an example of such cringing meekness to the great leader when the lone advisor who did not automatically tell Putin what Putin wanted to hear, was immediately humiliated by the grand leader. Putin publicly made  him retract his doubts.

 

For example, Putin thought that his $630 billion war chest would protect the country from western sanctions. He did not believe that the western leaders had the guts to impose them. That was not an entirely unreasonable presumption, but it turned out to be wrong.  Now they have learned that  cutting off Russian from the world’s banking system was brutally effective. As Krugman said,

 

“It shouldn’t have required deep analysis to realize that Putin’s $630 billion in foreign exchange reserves would become largely unusable if the world’s democracies cut off Russia’s access to the world banking system. It also shouldn’t have required deep analysis to realize that Russia’s economy is deeply dependent on imports of capital goods and other essential industrial inputs.

 

But again, would you have wanted to be the diplomat telling Putin that the West isn’t as decadent as he thinks, the banker telling him that his vaunted “war chest” will be useless in a crisis, the economist telling him that Russia needs imports?”

 

Democracies are incredibly inefficient but they have one incredible advantage over autocracies.  The leader doesn’t have to do it all on his own. As Krugman concluded:

 

“The point is that the case for an open society — a society that allows dissent and criticism — goes beyond truth and morality. Open societies are also, by and large, more effective than closed-off autocracies. That is, while you might imagine that there are big advantages to rule by a strongman who can simply tell people what to do, these advantages are more than offset by the absence of free discussion and independent thought. Nobody can tell the strongman that he’s wrong or urge him to think twice before making a disastrous decision.

 

Which brings me back to America’s erstwhile Putin admirers. I’d like to think that they’ll take Russia’s Ukraine debacle as an object lesson and rethink their own hostility to democracy. OK, I don’t really expect that to happen. But we can always hope.”

 

I am not saying the Ukrainians will defeat the Russian bear. After all the Russians have massive military  advantages and are led by a leader with no moral hesitations. I am just saying there are also some significant advantages enjoyed by democracies. And they might make a difference.

 

Perry Mason

A lot of people are complaining about things like critical race theory or bleeding heart liberals always worried about getting to the facts and in the process criticizing their country.  Why can’t they just accept and love their country? In the US the conservatives say that the liberals hate their country. The liberals say they are looking for the truth—even uncomfortable truths. What does that have to do with this TV series?

 

When I was young I was a big fan of Perry Mason–both the novels and the TV series. I watched an interesting limited series on HBO. Called Perry Mason, based very loosely–no extremely loosely–on the old Perry Mason books by Earle Stanley Gardner. Don’t watch this expecting Raymond Burr. Or the Perry Mason of the novels. The series is really nothing like the books, or the old TV series,  except for the character of the characters. That rung true. But as this series shows, truth is not always simple or obvious. Perhaps it’s not even true.

A young boy, Charlie Dodson was killed. His mother stands charged. Did she do it? Behind the Judge in the murder trial there is a sign. This is how it read: “Find Truth. Seek Justice.” That is it. As Mason says in his brilliant summation, “Find truth and seek justice, in that order. You cannot seek justice without first knowing the truth. And if the truth is hidden by distraction or lies, you will never get justice. And therefore you will never fix what happened to Charley Dodson.” That is the purpose of everything in this series. Amidst the corruption of Los Angeles between the first and second World War, we are led to believe there was one brave and fearless but tarnished knight in the search of  truth, and then, after finding that, also found justice.  Is this possible? The jury tried that. One of them was bought and paid for. But amazingly, 2 others reached the same conclusion, and found the way to justice through truth. Can that possibly be true? I guess that depends on what truth is.  I don’t have Pilate to tell me what that is, so how can I know?

Sister Alice is a star who performs miracles for the Church of the Radiant Way. (I hope I got the name right. It might not be true) Or does she actually perform miracles? She says she thought she did. Is that enough?  Perry Mason, in this series at least at the beginning, is a corrupt private investigator who later miraculously turns into a righteous lawyer.  Now that is a miracle. In more ways than one.

 

Can the two get together? In the end they talk as they look into the vastness of the Pacific ocean:

Mason:            Pretty long way from the choir.

Alice:              Not so far. There is an old mission up the road, I go there sometimes and I pray.

Mason:            Get any answers?

Alice:              Not lately.

Mason tries to interest Alice in a Church of the Reborn. “Miracle Mother. Miracle Child. Come one. Come All. What was True in the Bible is true again.” But Alice is not interested.

Mason:            I know how Charlie died.

Mason gives details of how the child was killed. But he can’t prove it.

Mason:            There is one thing I want to know.

Alice:              Whether or not I am fraud?

Mason:            Somebody took that boy’s body out of the ground. That’s quite a trick to pull with everybody watching. Even for God.

Alice:              You really want to believe in Him don’t you? No matter how hard you try, you still hope that he’s there.

Mason:            A baby was killed to prop up your church. So you’re telling me that you can look at this and you can still believe?

Alice:              You want to know things Mr. Mason. You want to find things out and prove things. What comfort has that ever given you? What peace? When I saw you there out of the blue, I thought, maybe you were tired of being alone.

Mason:            Maybe I am.

Alice:              I am too. But we will be won’t we? Alone. Why is that?

She smiles softly at him. Sadly.

Alice:              Bye Perry

She leaves, but Perry calls her to stop.

Mason:            Did you really think you could bring Charlie back?

Alice:              I did. Didn’t I?

She smiles and leaves again.

She really did ask the most important question. Why is that they remain lone? Yes that is much more important. If you get a truthful answer.

 

Science and the hobgoblins of fear

 

This photo was taken by me yesterday at an anti-vaccine rally in Steinbach where the message was that we should not give in to fear.

A reliance on reason, evidence, analysis and critical thinking is the hallmark of Enlightenment thinking and its progeny—science. Science is reason refined.  Science is not perfect nor is it the only way to understand the world,  but it is certainly the best. That does not detract from the arts and other disciplines. It adds to it.

 

The historian David Wooton reminded us how much the thinking of people has changed since 1600, the approximate time when the Enlightenment began.  He said that in 1600 the educated Englishman believed the following:

“He believes witches can summon up storms that sink ships.

He believes in werewolves, although there happen not to be any in England—he knows they are found in Belgium…He believes Circe really did turn Odysseus’s crew into pigs.  He believes mice are spontaneously generated in piles of straw. He believes in contemporary magicians…He has seen a unicorn’s horn, but not a unicorn.

He believes that a murdered body will bleed in the presence of the murderer. He believes that there is an ointment which, if rubbed on a dagger which caused a wound, will cure the wound. He believes that the shape, colour and texture of a plant can be a clue to how it will work as a medicine because God designed nature to be interpreted by mankind. He believes that it is possible to turn base metal into gold, although he doubts that anyone nows how to do it. He believes that nature abhors a vacuum. He believes the rainbow is a sign from God and that comets portend evil. He believes that dreams predict the future, if we now how to interpret them. He believes, of course, that the earth stands still and the sun and stars turn around the earth once every twenty-four hours.”

 

Steven Pinker in his book Enlightenment Now pointed out that within 150 years of the Enlightenment starting the ordinary educated Englishman no longer believed any of those things. That, when you think about it, is an astonishing achievement in a remarkably short period of time. That really is a revolution. And that is what the Enlightenment and science brought to us, and that is not an insignificant achievement. Pinker goes farther when he says, “It was an escape not just from ignorance, but from terror.” That is an achievement we should shout about. We should celebrate it. It is a magnificent accomplishment. This achievement allowed the world to escape from unreason. As Robert Scott a sociologist said, until then “the belief that an external force controlled daily life contributed a kind of collective paranoia.” Escaping the forces of unreasonable fears is vastly important, and we don’t think about that often enough. We have not escaped all unreasonable fears, and that is regrettable, but to escape so many, is magnificent. Science allowed us to escape what R.A. Scott called  “the hobgoblins of fear.”

Everywhere until then people were paralyzed by those hobgoblins of fear that were ushered in by superstition and irrational thinking. So, people thought the sea was filled with monsters, forests with scary predators, thieves, ogres demons, and witches. Everyday activities were governed by the belief in omens, portents of danger, and scary thoughts. It was difficult to carry on ordinary life under such circumstances.

The vaccine rebels keep harping that we should not be controlled by fear. I agree entirely with them on this point.  But their way is not the way to do that. In fact, I would suggest, they are actually giving in to fear.  If we listen to them they will bring us back to those hobgoblins. More on that later.

In times of pandemic we need science more than ever to escape the hobgoblins of fear. We need to turn from paranoia to the light. That is what enlightenment is all about. That is exactly what the anti-vaxxers don’t understand.

Dying or Thinking: Health authorities’ “Agenda”

 

CBS Morning show recently filmed a man in a Louisiana hospital bed recovering from Covid-19.  If I did not know better I would have thought he was in Boundary Trails Hospital l between Winkler and Morden. After a lengthy stay in the hospital as a result of Covid-19, he was about to get out of hospital but still he said he would not get a vaccine. The interviewer asked him why and he responded, he did not want the government to “shove it down his throat.”  When asked what they were shoving down his throat , he said the local, state, and federal governments were all trying to shove it down his throat. The interviewer asked, “what are they shoving the science?’  The patient answered “No they are shoving the fact that this is their agenda. The agenda is to get me vaccinated.” What is so remarkable about this is that he was dead right (not dead yet, but right).  Public health officials do want to get him vaccinated to protect the public, including him.

Excuse the naughty words, but as John Oliver responded to this interview,

“public health officials agenda is to get you vaccinated. And you know what Covid’s agenda is?  To fucking kill you! To burrow into your body, into your hot little mouth, fuck around with your body, flip your nostrils off, make soup taste more like nothing than it already does and then kill you!”

 

Why is no one worried about that agenda?  Because Covid -19 is not the government. And that makes all the difference. Such people don’t trust anything that comes from the government, even if it will save their life.

People like that will never be persuaded.

The vaccine is doing its job. Nearly 100% of patients in hospital beds for Covid-19 are now unvaccinated. It is not perfect. There are some breakthrough cases. But the success rate is astonishingly good and the side effects are surprisingly low. Frankly, for most of us there is no good reason not to take the vaccine and a lot of good ones to take it.

As Bertrand Russell said, “Most people would rather die than think. And most people do.”

 

Gross Negligence

 

This past year, while he was president, Donald Trump on national TV, with Dr. Fauci beside him, said this about Hydroxychloroquine a drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration but not for Covid-19 patients except for experimental studies: “It may work; it may not work. I feel good about it. That’s all it is just a feeling.” Coming from the president of the country with a legion of fanatically loyal followers this is an extremely dangerous thing to say. I would go so far as to say it was gross negligence. People believed him and risked their lives. Perhaps some died as a result.

 

Much later, Dr. Fauci said, “the partisanship has been poisonous.” Health issues should not become political footballs. Health issues should be determined by the best science available not feelings. Important societal; issues should be determined by science, data, reasoning and evidence. Not feelings, or hunches, or faith. That is why the United States is in such a difficult position now.

 

 

The Death of Truth and we have killed it

 

The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche invented an astonishing idea—the idea that God is dead. Naturally, many people were deeply disturbed by that idea. I want to propose an equally startling idea—the truth is dead and we have killed it.

This is what Nietzsche said in his book, The Gay Science in his parable of the Madman. The tale went like this:

“Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, “I seek God! I seek God!…”Wither is God! He cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers…But how  have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? …is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?…Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God?…God is dead. God remains dead and we have killed him…What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us?”

I want to propose a new parable. It is very much similar. It goes like this:

Have you not heard of that madman who lit a lantern in the bright morning hours, ran to the market place, and cried incessantly, “I seek the truth! I seek the truth!…”Wither is Truth! He cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed it—you and I. All of us are his murderers…But how  have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained this earth from its sun? …is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing?…Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying Truth?…Truth is dead. Truth remains dead and we have killed him…What was holiest and most powerful of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us?

I found proof of this momentous event about week or so ago.

The war against truth is over and truth lost! It is a sad day. The enemies of truth have won the war decisively. I have long suspected that, but now I know it is absolutely true. I am not trying to exaggerate to make a point. Truth has surrendered and been executedsand we are all doomed.

The final straw in the battle occurred about a week ago when the President of the United States tweeted that Stella Immanuel was “very impressive,” “an important voice,” and, believe it or not “spectacular.” What did she do to warrant such gushing by the President. First, she endorsed the use of “hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 wonder cure.” That of course is plenty enough to secure Trump’s dying devotion in his relentless search for a Hail Mary cure for the virus in order to give him a chance of winning the 2020 US presidential election which he likely sees as slipping through his fingers at this time. I personally do not think he has lost it yet. The devotion of his followers is theologically based and is quite able to overcome innumerably obstacles. Don’t count him out yet as Hillary and her much less rabid followers did prematurely in 2016.

Trump has praised Stella Immanuel on social media and as a direct result millions of his followers have read or heard his direct endorsement of her. Most of those followers believe everything he says, no matter how outrageous, and no matter how much evidence is easily available to contradict him, so it is very likely, if not certain, that tens of millions of Americans believe what she says too.

 

And what does she say? This is where it gets bizarre. Here is how Andrew Sullivan has described some of her beliefs:

“Will Sommer of the Daily Beast took a deeper look this week into Immanuel’s beliefs. “She has often claimed that gynecological problems like cysts and endometriosis are in fact caused by people having sex in their dreams with demons and witches,” Sommer wrote. “She alleges alien DNA is currently used in medical treatments, and that scientists are cooking up a vaccine to prevent people from being religious. And, despite appearing in Washington, D.C., to lobby Congress on Monday, she has said that the government is run in part not by humans but by ‘reptilians’ and other aliens.”

Immanuel said in a recent speech in Washington that the power of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment means that protective face masks aren’t necessary. None of this has a basis in fact, but try telling that to the tens of millions who have not only seen it but have been urged to believe it by the President of the United States.

These are views that Trump has endorsed as “spectacular” and has referred to her as “an important voice.” Not only that but since these posts, his popularity among Americans has gone up! As a result of this the conservative commentator Andrew Sullivan has asserted,

“Given this and a few other hideous developments, it’s time to acknowledge the painfully obvious: America has waved the white flag and surrendered.

With nearly 150,000 dead from COVID-19, we’ve not only lost the public-health war, we’ve lost the war for truth. Misinformation and lies.”

I concur.

Remember that millions of people follow Trump and believe in him with theological devotion. They believe this nonsense! The proof that truth is dead is that hardly anyone objects when people believe stuff like this. That would not be possible if truth were still alive. Yes truth is dead and we have killed it. And that has some profound consequences. I wish it were not so, but this subject will be continued.

 

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood

 

This film makes us ask fundamental questions: what is  truth; where is the fairytale?  In modern terms: where is the fake news? And what is the difference between them? And it does that in amusing ways. It’s a very good film.

It toys with “true events”—the murderous rampage led by Charlie Manson and his band of followers. But that event which is expected throughout the film is only the background to the film. It is not the true story of those events. Or maybe it is. After all, what is truth anyway?

It tells the entirely fictional story of Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) Hollywood stuntman to star Rick Dalton (Leonardo diCaprio) a fading Western movie star and Sharon Tate, (Margot Robbie) a real person who was brutally murdered by the Manson gang. Dalton lives next door to the house shared by Tate and her husband Roman Polanski. That lends an ominous quality to the film right from the start. Given that Quentin Tarantino is the director we always expect (no dread) the worst. Al Pacino plays the role of a casting agent and Kurt Russell as a Hollywood hot shot and Bruce Dern plays an old blind former star  who wants to warm his hands one more time at the fire of life with a Manson girl. When Booth shows up at his home where he is sleeping and introduces himself as a stuntman, he retorts, “every man needs a stunt man.” For sure.

Though inspired by actual events nothing is straight-forward in this film. After all truth is murky. To misquote Bob Dylan, reality does not talk it swears. Characters in the film are or are not based on actual characters. What else would you expect about a film based on Hollywood’s golden age that went sensationally down in fire after the murder of Sharon Tate and friends?

But the finale still surprises. There are multiple story lines but all revolve around the world of make believe, and of course, we never believe. No one tells the truth, and no one cares. An 8-year old child star sounds like a middle-aged matron. Actors may or may not be acting. Like the Beatles said, ‘Nothing is real.” Nothing to get hung-up about. It’s all Helter Skelter, reputedly the words in a Beatle song that inspired Charlie Manson. For a while the action moves to the Spahn Ranch, that was also used as movie set, was where the Manson team hung out in dilapidated splendour is the scene. Here we get to meet the Manson clan on their own territory and it is not a pretty sight.

Tate spends an afternoon girlishly watching herself in a recent Dean Martin film. Dalton plays scenes that may or may not be real.

Needless to say, the night of the planned murders do not go according to plan. It is a melee. The Manson gang goes to the wrong house, but they see that Dalton is a worthy candidate for murder too. After all why not, “kill the guys who taught us to kill?” Since we’re in Hollywood that makes sense doesn’t it? To the others it seems like a “great idea.” The night ends up being the blackest of comedies.

Here is a conversation between Cliff and a young Mansonite:

Cliff: “You are real right?”

Teen: “Real as donut.”

Cliff, thinking it is all a joke, asks, “Who are you?”

Teen: “I’m the devil and I’m here to do the devil’s business.”

That explains it. Or does it?

When all is done, the survivors party on. No one cares about the dead. Would you? After all, nothing is real. Except maybe escapism of Hollywood movies. That is true escapism. True lies.

Salute to the Heroes of the Pandumic

 

The Daily Show with Trevor Noah presented a salute to what they called the Salute to the Heroes of the Pandumic. They included clips from various right-wing media pundits, starting with Sean Hannity in which he bombastically delivered a mocking and sarcastic comment, alluding particularly to the suggestion that anyone who takes the coronavirus seriously is a wimp:

“Tonight I am here to report, the sky is absolutely falling, we are all doomed, the end is near, the apocalypse is imminent and you’re all going to die. Or, at least that is what the media mob would like you to think.”

Next up was Rush Limbaugh, who said on February 24, 2020:

“I’m dead right on this. The coronavirus is the common cold! The hype of this thing as a pandemic, as the Andromeda strain, as the ‘Oh my God if you get it you’re dead.’”

Maybe he will be dead right on this.

The came Pete Hegseth a Fox commentator who said on March 8, 2020:

“This is one of those cases where the more I learn about coronavirus the less concerned I am. It’s a lot of hyperbole.”

Then we heard Lou Dobbs, also from Fox on March 9, 2020:

“The national left wing media playing up fears of the coronavirus”

 That was followed by Fox’s Tomi Lahren on March 10, 2020:

“The sky is falling because we have a few dozen cases of Coronavirus on cruise ship. I am far more concerned about stepping on a used heroin needle than I am about getting the coronavirus but maybe that’s just me.”

Of course they had to include Judge Judy (Jeanine Pirro) with her comments on March 7, 2020:

“It’s a virus like the flu. All the talk about coronavirus being more deadly doesn’t reflect reality.’

They also showed Dr. Marc Siegel commenting on Fox News on March 6, 2020 as follows:

“This virus should be compared to the flu because at worst, at worst, the worst case scenario it could be the flu.”

 Next came former lawyer turned television pundit, Geraldo Rivera on February 28, 2020:

 “The far more deadly, the far more lethal threat right now is not the coronavirus, is the common old flu. Nobody has died yet in the United States as far as we know from this disease.’

Then there was Laura Ingraham also on March 9, 2020,

“The facts are actually pretty reassuring, but you would never know it watching all this stuff. ”  

We were also blessed with commentator Jesse Waters on March 3, 2020,

“You know how I really feel about the coronavirus? If I get it I’ll beat it. I’m not afraid of the coronavirus, and no one else should be that afraid either.”

Of course we had to have Matt Schlapp on March 11, 2020:

“It is very, very difficult to contract this virus’.

 On March 2, 2020 there was a reassuring comment from another physician, Dr. Drew Pinksy:

“The fatality rate is gonna drop.’

 He was followed by Ed Henry on March 10, 2020,

“In it context it is not quite as scary.’        

And of course the inimitable Fox commentator, no famous for intelligence, Ainsley Earnhardt on March 13, 2020, who opined as follows:

“It’s the safest time to fly. Everyone I know is flying right now. The terminals are pretty much dead, and then the planes, remember back in the day when you had a seat next to you possibly empty, you could stretch out a little more, its like that on every flight now.”

We also had the benefit of advice from Republican Congressman Devin Nunes on March 15,

“If you’re healthy for you and your family it’s a great time to just go out, go to a local restaurant. Likely you can get in easily.”

Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz on March 4, 2020 added a colourful prop for his statement by wearing a gas mask when he mocked concerns about the spread of the virus.

On March 11, 2020, a reporter in the Capital asked Senator James Inhofe who famously called climate change science a hoax and brought unseasonable snow into the Senate to “prove” his point, what precautions he was taking  related to Coronavirus he confidently extended his arm and asked the reporter, ‘Wanna shake hands?

Of course there is the razor sharp mind of the leader of the President’s task force on the coronavirus, Mike Pence, who said on March 10, 2020, saying,

“In our line of work you shake hands. I expect the President to continue to do that and I’ll continue to do it.’

Of course, Pence, unlike some of us, can no doubt rely on divine intervention to protect him. A fine example for us indeed.

Then there was the President’s man Larry Kudlow on February 25, 2020 who said,

“We have contained this. We have contained this. I won’t say airtight, but pretty close to airtight.”

 Of course no such salute would be complete without a word from Kelly-Anne “Alternative Facts” Conway who said on March 6, 2020,

 “This is being contained. And do you not think it is being contained?’

 Then were shown more of Sean Hannity, saying on February 27, 2020,

“Zero people have died in America form the coronavirus. Zero!’

 Finally, we were given the benefit of Donald Trump’s words, on February 26, 2020,

“This is a flu. This is like a flu. Its’ going to disappear. It’s like a miracle, one day it’s going to disappear.’

 Of course after downplaying it for weeks, and calling the reporting of the virus or the virus itself, a “hoax,” on March 17, 2020 Trump changed his tune,

“I felt it was a pandemic long before it was called a pandemic. I took it very seriously.’

 Even Sean Hannity on March 18, 2020, following Trump one day later said,

“This program has always taken the coronavirus very seriously.’

It takes real chutzpah to lie so brazenly. Both Trump and Hannity have that in abundance.

 

Are none of them feeling at all guilty or at least embarrassed about having misled the public into minimizing the importance of this pandemic?

Pursuing Truth and Beauty

 

I decided when I retired that I wanted to do something. Not work. Not chasing the all mighty dollar. Nothing wrong with that, we all have to do it, but I have done that for nearly 40 years (really more when you include the 7 years of post-secondary school education I had to do in order to qualify for my profession). Of course, given current market tribulations I might have to return to work again.

This next phase of my life was inspired by the English poet John Keats. In particular it was inspired by his famous poem, “Ode on a Grecian Urn”.

He wrote about an old urn that has an image on it showing Dionysian revelries. It showed young lovers in flight and pursuit. That urn freezes a moment in time. It is a moment of time—an instant—forever frozen by the artist’s art, which in turn is celebrated by the art of the poet. It opens like this,

 

“Thou still unravished bride of quietness,

Thou foster child of silence and slow time,

Sylvan historian, who canst express

A flowery tale more sweetly than our rhyme:

What leaf-fringed legend haunts about thy shape

Of deities or mortals, or both”

That bride that Keats refers to is forever pursued; forever uncaught, and hence eternally virgin. The bride never loses her luster. Her beauty lasts forever. Only true beauty can do it. The beauty of artistic achievement is forever. Keats always longed for permanence, but of course in life could never find it. He actually died very young. I think he died at 29 if I remember correctly. Only in art could permanence be found.

Eternity is inexplicable. It mystifies us. Everything of this world is subject to change, decay, and disintegration. Keats wanted more than that, so he lamented this fact but acknowledged the only way out, was art. He found permanence in an image on a Grecian Urn :

“Thou, silent form, dost tease out of thought

As doth eternity: Cold Pastoral!

When old age shall this generation waste,

Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe

Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,

Beauty is truth, truth beauty,–that is all

Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.

That is what I mean.  I think Keats meant beauty in a wide sense. He was not talking only about the beauty of a young woman—though that too. After all there is beauty in old women too. Even old men have a faint streak of it from time to time.

Keats wanted to include the beauty of artistic achievement. That is the beauty that lasts forever, or at least a long time. As close as we can get. A young woman’s beauty turns old. It is still beauty, but it is different it has changed. The beauty of the image on a Grecian Urn remains the same forever unchanged forever avoiding decay.

Now as I enter the time of my degeneration I notice the changes more deeply. Until recently I thought I would be healthy and powerful forever. I believed I would never decay, never diminish. Sadly, I now know clearly that this is not to be. I am not to be. I am draining away. But in my last years, I want to pursue truth and beauty, even though I know I will never catch up with them. Beauty and truth will be forever unravished by me at least. There will be no consummation. Keats urges the lover not to grieve for his lover will never “fade”, because even though the lover will never get to kiss her,

“She cannot fade, though thou hast not thy bliss

Forever will thou love, and she be fair!’

Yet the pursuit, I hope, can be filled with grace, and wonder, just like the lover pursuing his bride of silence, forever uncaught, but forever beautiful. I will pursue truth and beauty because that is all I know and all I need to know. It will be part of what Keats called “a mad pursuit.” Yet he also says it is “wild ecstasy.”   That’s what I want—wild ecstasy.

Of course the next question is how to do that? How does one pursue truth and beauty in the modern world? There are many roads to truth. Art is one source of both truth and beauty. Keats knew that. Philosophy is also one. Philosophy is the pursuit of wisdom through thinking. Reason is the instrument of philosophy. When reason shows the truth, it is beautiful. Music is a source as well. An important one is nature. It is the unedited manuscript of god. Religion can be a source, though often it is a restrictive source of narrow thinking, that leads to falsehood not truth. Then it leads to exclusion, superiority, and hate. And then it ceases to be religion. An expansive religion—one, which connects us to the world, and to each other is a deep source of everything that is true and good and right.

Northrop Frye said that he had carefully arranged his life so that nothing ever happened to him. That gave him time to do what he really wanted; to read and think. What a great goal. To many it seems absurd. But it is not absurd; it is a delight. That is the way to pursue truth and beauty. That includes moral as well intellectual, artistic, musical, truth and beauty. And it’s all beautiful. And its all true.