Trump and the Y2 backlash

By Dr David Laing Dawson

As the year 2000 approached I wondered about backlash. There was, as you will recall, that unfounded fear of computer disruption, but I thought this magic number might be seen as symbolic of our new realities. And might not the people of this world who live within a pre-science, pre-knowledge bubble need to rebel against the onslaught of scientific information and truth? Won’t they need to recoil from this new millennium?

At the time I was thinking about those who hold medieval religious beliefs, of whatever flavour. How will they cope? How will they cope with the unavoidable (thanks to the internet) knowledge of our world from subatomic particle to an expanding universe, from the origins of life on earth to evolution and the human brain?

We got a taste of this, I think, with the rise of Islamic Extremists and their propagation of a way of life (and level of knowledge) my ancestors left behind shortly after the year 1000, or at least by 1700.

The Christian fundamentalists took a more nuanced approach concocting alternatives to evolution, modern medicine and quantum mechanics. (I just read a very bizarre conflation of biblical symbolism and the function of the human brain, most notably the pineal and pituitary gland, which, I did not know, are referenced in the bible as Joseph and Mary and who send some kind of oil down the spinal cord to the manger….but you get the drift).

Some Asian and Indigenous belief systems have been more easily adapted to this new age and the possibility there just might be some unseen forces we have not yet been able to detect and measure, and the fact there really is an almost magical ecological inter-connectedness between all living things. Even some trees “communicate” one to another when under threat of pestilence.

Though it is a surprise to see “alternative” medicine flourish, and people believing in unseen energy pathways running through the body from the big toe to the frontal lobe and which can be disrupted by a needle inserted according to a chart drawn up before we even knew about nerves and blood vessels, hormones and bacteria.

But a bigger surprise are the large numbers of people who are responding to Donald Trump and the other populist leaders. But then, of course, that is the real backlash, the recoil.

It is not just the religious fundamentalists our world is leaving behind, it is great masses of people who pine for 1950 (perhaps an imagined 1950) and a world of known order and expectation, a world of homogeneity, a world in which we feel we have some control and a bright future, a world without the daily intrusion of others, a world in fact where we don’t have to spend much time thinking about others, a world in which we don’t have to be frightened every day by dying tropical reefs, rising oceans, and Ebola outbreaks in Africa. A world in which most of us have at least a basic understanding of the tools we use. A world where we don’t ever have to think hard about our history, our heroes, our place in the universe.

That is the world Donald Trump is promising Americans. And wouldn’t it be nice: Pre-internet, pre-satellite, relatively clean oceans, large tracts of forest, just a touch of global warming, no mass migrations, no intrusions by the other, and a world population of two and a half billion.

But that is not reality. Our oceans are filthy; information of all kinds, the scientific truth and the most ridiculous lies, are being disseminated at the speed of light; our forests are being decimated by man, by disease and by fire; the population of the world is a coal burning seven billion, a decreasing percentage actually understand how our tools work, and more and more mass migrations will occur as each piece of unfortunate land becomes uninhabitable. A wall on the southern border won’t change this. Nor will a “Space Force”.

Just when we need our leaders to look reality in the face, to acknowledge the world as it really is, and to get together to formulate a plan to control the population, to feed everybody, to spread the wealth a little more evenly, to decrease carbon emissions, save the oceans and forests, to use our scientific knowledge for good, to learn to live as a global community, we get Trump.

God (if you will pardon my use of an anachronistic idiom) help us all.

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Doug Ford, Donald Trump

By Dr David Laing Dawson and an addendum by Marvin Ross

I just heard Doug Ford proclaim that he was elected by 2.3 million people whereas the judge was appointed by one person.

This is perilously close to a Trumpism.

Our systems of governance are complicated and cumbersome. Our judiciary is independent and equally complicated and layered. They have evolved this way not so that one man or woman can easily get things done but to prevent one man or woman or a group of men and women from doing stupid harmful things. From the moment I became aware of governance and politics, as far as I can remember, Canadian and American politicians, presidents, premiers, prime ministers understood this – up until the last 2 years.

Donald J. Trump demonstrates every day that he does not understand this. He has had 72 plus two hundred years to learn. He didn’t. And it seems a portion of the American population have forgotten as well. And another portion of the American population has become inured.

And now this is creeping into Ontario. We seem to have a Premier with Donald Trump instincts, the instincts of a bully, of an anti-democratic strongman. And like Donald Trump, he is willing to trample on democratic principles to push through his own agenda, both, tellingly, the small, personal and petty as well as serious policy.

The number of Councilors representing parts of the biggest city in Canada is not an important issue. It can be adjusted with discussion, consultation, voting, over time as demographics and population densities change.

It is an historical pet grievance of one Doug Ford. To use the “not withstanding clause” of the charter to override a judicial decision about such an arbitrary unimportant issue is stupid, reckless, thoughtless. And this is not about good governance of Toronto or Ontario. It is about the fragile ego of one Douglas Ford.

Please let us not follow the Americans down that regressive path.

Addendum

David is of course quite correct in his comparison but there is one fundamental difference that I’ve been meaning to write about. That is the difference between the US Federal system where the president is an entity pretty much unto his own and the British Parliamentary system that we enjoy. In the parliamentary system, the prime minister or premier of a province is one of many elected to the legislature and then elected by his peers as the leader of the party.

The prime minister sits in the legislature and is subjected to a regular question period where any member can and does ask some very difficult questions. If Trump was compelled to sit in congress, take questions and answer them, things might be somewhat more transparent (or not).

In attempting to pass his unpopular legislation slashing Toronto City Council mid-election on Wednesday, Doug Ford was subjected to a barrage of questions from the opposition and a public gallery that became unruly. Security had to clear the gallery and some were removed in handcuffs including a 77 year old grandmother. Then, when the legislature resumed, the opposition loudly opposed and were removed by the Sgt at Arms.

OK, it looked like a kindergarten gone mad but the points were made. The sensible members on the government side must be giving their support for their leader Doug and his ideas a good second thought with visions of the next election outcome.  Doug must be wondering how he is going to get through his mandate if he continues to introduce stupid bills. Senior and respected members of his party oppose his actions like Bill Davis the former premier who was involved in negotiating the Charter and  Brian Mulroney the former prime minister (whose daughter is the current Ontario attorney general). His governing will be even more of a mockery if he keeps this up. At least I hope.

South of the border, Trump is isolated from direct confrontation surrounded by his yes people while denouncing the media opposition as fake while Doug must take the full brunt of an angry legislature.

Article 25 of the US Constitution

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Many pundits have referred to Trump as a Reality TV President, partly referring to the origins of his infamy, and partly to the way he operates as a politician and leader. But the description is increasingly apt. The whole scene – the White House, daily tweets, the books, the anonymous op ed, the daily coverage and panel discussions, the leaks – it has all taken on the tone of Reality TV. And as it takes on this tone – the vying for limelight, the petty competitions, grievances aired, boasting, lying, the focus entirely subjective, the absence of actual reality, the absence of awareness of a world beyond the bubble – we fall into watching it the same way. Each day we tune in to watch these conflicts unfold, and just as in Reality TV, we are far more concerned with the relationships of all involved than with the prize (in Realty TV) and the enacted policies (in governance). Our hunger for prurient detail, for the personality machinations, conflicts, buffoonery, stupidity and chicanery in and surrounding Trump overwhelm our concern for health care, international relations, and global conflict.

In Reality TV the conceits of drama are imposed in the editing room. Here they are imposed by the Media, the watchers, the Late Night Hosts, and Trump himself.

I am thinking of this as I wonder how the Trump presidency will end. Last night he told his supporters that if he is impeached he will hold them responsible for not voting in the midterms.

If the Democrats do regain control of Senate and Congress and start impeachment proceedings, what will happen? How will Trump behave?

We know he will not go quiet (or gentle) into that good night. We know, at least as far as I can see, that his profound narcissism never ever permits a breach in his defenses, an admission of failure or of being bested in some way. We know this is extreme. We know that he will take praise and support from anyone, including Kim Jong Un. We know he is capable of seeing what he wants to see, to a delusional degree. And we know, unfortunately, that he is not constrained by a conscience, by empathy for others. And we know that people who lie to others as easily as he does, also lie to themselves.

We also know he will rage and blame others and that he is capable of outrageous lies to support his position.

If this were Shakespeare we could leave him in the turret of his castle railing at the moon.

But will he sabotage the castle when he is cornered? Will he burn Paris as he retreats?

Unfortunately I think the answer to that question is YES.

So if the Democrats gain power and start impeachment proceedings I think they need to be prepared to invoke Article (Amendment) 25 before Donald J. Trump lights the match.

Trying to Explain QAnon

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I fell down the internet rabbit hole today, after reading about QANON followers, supporters, supplicants at the Trump rally in Florida. Apparently this is pronounced Cue Anon and it refers to a source, a guru, a (supposed) government leaker, a group espousing a number of deep state conspiracy theories.

And following this path into the corners of the internet I came across word salads of meaningless connections the likes of which I have only seen before with psychosis, specifically schizophrenia.

As if global warming and the rise of right wing populists were not enough to worry about we now have a rising tide of people espousing and broadcasting delusions.

I have written before that delusions are never about trivial matters, but always about the central vectors of existence in our social world: Power, Sex, Control, Worth. And, curiously,  QANON manages to conflate all of these. (Deep state control of our lives along with sex trafficking and pedophilia)

And what does this mean?

The brain is an organizing machine. It seeks cause and effect, linkages, symbols, connections. The sane mind in a relatively well organized society will find mostly the same linkages as everyone else and these linkages will be both plausible and possible; they will connect within the same physical and temporal spheres, and will support safety and success. They allow us to predict what will happen next.

When the brain is impaired, when it’s perceptual, filtering, and organizational apparatus are impaired, it will continue to make linkages and some of these may be crazy. That is, they may jump from one physical or temporal sphere to another. (e.g. an earthquake in Peru was caused by the bad thoughts I had yesterday, or 4 blue cars drove by and Donald Trump used the word “four” and there are four somethings in the bible, therefore…) Similarly when we cut off all input (sensory deprivation experiments and solitary confinement) the brain continues to form linkages, find cause and effect paradigms, and these may then (unhindered by solid external data) become fantastical.

The QANON people can’t all suffer from impaired brains, nor are they sensory deprived. That leaves the possibility that the same effect that illness (like schizophrenia) and/or sensory deprivation can have on the brain can also be caused by extreme internet information overload and social persuasion. Though I would have to assume that this overwhelming information load only disrupts the cognitive patterns of those that lack a solid foundation of meaning and understanding, that is, a way of organizing information within the same temporal and physical spheres of reality and plausibility. For just as with delusional schizophrenia, a single visual mark, a symbol, or a nonspecific sound, can, in Qanon minds, leap categories and time constraints and become a theory of everything. They write, podcast, and talk as if a hundred miniature Dan Browns resided in their frontal lobes leaving Illuminati parchment clues to pizza parlor Clinton sex trafficking, illegal immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Hollywood pedophiles, and the apocalypse. Not to forget the Elite and the Deep State.  This is not conspiracy theory. This is delusional.

There is another slightly more benign explanation, and that is that our entertainment world, including reality TV, has grown so pervasive and persuasive that more and more people  can no longer tell the difference, and/or find fiction just more interesting and fun than reality.

In the long run solid public education is probably the answer, and we need to teach our kids and teens how to organize, to learn, to categorize, to think scientifically and logically.

In the short run, unfortunately, I can see groups like Qanon becoming Donald Trump’s Brown Shirt enforcers.

An Appeal for a Handgun Ban in Canada.

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Surprisingly it might be possible for Canada to outlaw handguns. Not restrict them but outlaw them totally. Apparently one poll suggests 67 percent of Canadians would be in favour of this. So if this is now politically possible, let’s do it. Let’s do it before the gun manufacturers catch on and send in trolls and talking heads spouting the kind of nonsense I hear on American television.

I understand that many of the guns used in crime, and in the current spate of homicides in Toronto, are illegal, stolen, and/or smuggled in from the United States. And so I understand that a total ban on handguns will not eliminate the problem overnight. We will still have some gang and drug related firearm deaths.

But there are two pieces of evidence that underscore the rationale for banning handguns. The first is simply factual reality, statistics and science. The more guns there are the more shooting deaths there will be. As a means of suicide a gun allows no second thoughts, whereas all other means of suicide require some activity and time beyond pulling a trigger. Guns bought for personal protection are used, if actually used, ninety-six percent of the time, for purposes other than self protection. This includes suicides, homicides, and accidental shootings. Ninety-six percent of the time. 96 out of 100 times such a gun is used it will be used for suicide, homicide, and accidental shootings.

And, from the perspective of individual behaviour in a group or community, we know that social sanctions, disapproval, and actual laws do effect the ways we all “act out”. This means that if we ban handguns, if we develop a community disapproval of having handguns, if having a handgun becomes socially unacceptable as well as legally unacceptable, fewer young men will feel comfortable carrying a handgun around. That means that even if most guns used in crime have been illegal in the first place, the comfort level of carrying one of these around will diminish. There will then be no legal guns on the street and fewer illegal ones.

Opportunity appears to have opened a door. If we keep this issue alive we just might be able to ban handguns entirely and greatly reduce gun crime in Canada.

That 67% approval rating might be a reaction to the gun crazy attitudes south of our border. So be it. At least one thing good (in Canada) may come out of the Trump presidency.

More on Depression and Suicide

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Let me take my most recent blog a little farther.

For mental health workers: Stop asking the suicide question. It is a question that produces about 50% false positive, 49% genuine negative, and 1% false negative answers. It misleads and distracts. And, clearly, even with thousands of mental health professionals asking that question over and over again, the actual completed suicide rate is increasing (it does not work), while the statement “I want to die” has become legitimized as a replacement for, “I am not happy with my life at this moment.”

The question also distracts and misleads. The answer to this simple question becomes the criteria for holding or not holding, for acting or not acting, for caring or not caring. It also, in hospitals and emergency rooms, becomes a cover-my-ass question before discharging from care.

Rather, spend the time to be with. To look, listen, and attend. Depression is visible. It is not a hidden illness. It is visible. If you don’t believe me watch Anthony Bourdain’s last television special.

Agitated Depression, a combination of despair and high anxiety, is very visible and a high risk for suicide. The pain of agitated depression is hard to sit with, be next to. The diminution of conscious awareness is apparent. Being there and listening one can experience the loss of attachment to others and to a future and to the pain of being in that person’s skin.

Flat, blunted depression is airless. The eyes have no life, the voice no lilt; the entire arousal system is diminished. It is difficult to sit long with this person without feeling his or her lonely shrinking consciousness.

Offer help and treatment in a safe environment. And by treatment I mean medical psychiatric treatment, not a CBT course starting next month. Hospitalization is needed if the risk is severe, and definitely when the person is in a state of agitated depression, or if he or she not once in the course of an hour spoke of anything beyond tomorrow, and no one’s name caused a glimmer of light to appear in his eyes.

Offer treatment, help, hope and hospitalization. Severely depressed people accept help when it is offered.

Do not “contract for safety”. It is, again, a bizarre “cover-my-ass” approach that is obviously paradoxical. It means, at face value, that the counselor believes the risk of suicide is high and at the same time that eliciting a promise to not kill oneself (at least before the next appointment) is a sufficient response to that risk.

We treat heart failure to prevent death.

We should treat depression to prevent suicide.

Suicide and Depression

By Dr David Laing Dawson

This week, after the suicides of three Ontario Provincial Police officers a heartfelt plea went out from the president of the Union. He implored officers who were suffering to seek help, to talk with someone.

A similar heartfelt message was re posted by my daughter after she learned an old friend had committed suicide.

Broadly, over the last many years, we have seen many “Let’s talk about it” public campaigns.

But over those same years the numbers of completed suicides have gradually increased while the numbers of people taken to the emergency departments for assessment of “suicide ideation” have dramatically increased.

What are we missing?

I think it is this: Most suicides are the product of severe depression. Not all, but most. And often complicated by loss, drugs, alcohol, pain, anxiety, poverty, PTSD, bullying. But still, usually, a state of depression.

And depression, medical depression, is not simply a mood disorder. It is a cognitive disorder as well. Let me explain.

Normally, when we are healthy, our consciousness includes much more than ourselves. Besides being aware of ourselves and our inner state we are aware of (conscious of) our surroundings, the task at hand, our loved ones, our extended family, our colleagues, our friends, our fellow travelers, the citizens of our community, of our country, and, sometimes, far beyond that. All of these things and people float in and out of our consciousness through the waking hours, and may visit us as an eternal puzzle in our dreams.

I assume that awareness, the breadth of that awareness, varies from person to person. For most of us it does not that often go beyond friends, workmates and family, fellow travelers, until we watch the news. Still, it always stretches beyond ourselves.

Not in a severe depression. In a medical depression, the illness depression, our consciousness shrivels. That floating awareness of all around us closes in. We, when suffering from a depression, lose our awareness of others. They simply fall away from our consciousness.

Hence asking a severely depressed person to reach out to others is akin to asking a paralyzed man to walk to the nearest emergency.

The public anti suicide programs and initiatives may even be making the problem worse. They reduce this mental health problem to a dichotomy: thinking about suicide or not thinking about suicide, held in hospital or not held in hospital.

Certainly the statistics tell us the current public initiatives are not working. Not working.

A far better approach would be to talk about depression. Recognizing it in ourselves and others, and helping those others seek treatment. We do have effective treatment for depression.

Madness Can Be Contagious

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Some years ago, working within psychiatric clinics and mental hospitals, I used to advise staff, students, counselors, therapists, psychiatrists, that the most important thing they should strive for at all times, was “to remain sane.” At all times, remain sane. Your job, as a mental health professional, is first and foremost, to remain sane.

Sane meant, of course, keeping calm, ethical, sensible, compassionate, and not reacting or over-reacting to the insanity that surrounded them. That insanity coming from both the patients and the human systems we all worked within.
Sane also meant not assuming responsibility for that which was not yours to assume, and not trying to change the unchangeable. It was also wise to bring perspectives of time and relative importance to all events.

Of course none of us were always able to achieve this.

But I am thinking of this as Maxime Bernier angrily leaves the Conservative party to start one of his own, presumably along even more conservative lines, and Doug Ford sets up a hotline for parents to rat on teachers if they step past 1950 in their sex ed teachings. And from James Cagney mouthing the words, “You dirty rat.” to the 15 year old boys I see who don’t “rat” on their friends, to Donald Trump calling John Dean a “rat” and then offering that maybe “flipping” should almost be illegal.

It is hard to remain sane.

It is hard to remain sane living next door to the USA as they fall into a deeply conflicted madness. But that is our Canadian task. Remain sane.

Americans are currently struggling over dichotomous extremes, polarizing issues that should have been settled long ago, now requiring mere tweaking with each new generation.

In Canada, all our systems can be improved, carefully, gradually. None of them need be abandoned, or drastically and dramatically changed. Our problems are not either/or. We do not need to choose capitalism or socialism, abortion or no abortion, accepting refugees or not accepting refugees, being multicultural or not multicultural, of having social programs, guaranteed income, health care for all, or not having these things.

We just need to tweak them and improve them from time to time, occasionally shifting the balance of private enterprise and government, reacting sanely and generously to crises, tweaking our laws and services to deal with the new realities, all the while pursuing the goal of a healthy, equitable, and happy society.

I am not downplaying the problems we face around housing, adequate income for all, employment and health care, not to mention saving the planet, but we must not fall into the contagion of vitriol south of our border.


On Youtube: A new play by Dawson premiered at the Artword Artbar, Hamilton.

 

Laying Bare the Sacrifices, Pain, and Even Joy of Caring for a Mentally Ill Relative

By Marvin Ross

Surveys of and anecdotes by caregivers tell of the extreme lengths that we all go to in order to ensure that our family members with serious mental illnesses are safe, cared for and are able to enjoy as good a quality of life as they possibly can. But Shatterdays Bipolar Lives by Frank and Melanie Shanty is the only book that I’ve ever found that lays bare the sacrifice that families endure beginning from the onset of the illness to, in this case, a premature death.

Susan Caltrider first became ill at age 14 and was diagnosed with schizophrenia and spent lengthy periods of time in various institutions. By 1976, doctors suspected that she had been incorrectly diagnosed, changed the diagnosis to bipolar type I with psychotic symptoms and started her on lithium which had just recently become available.

Susan’s mother then spent the rest of her life caring for and overseeing her daughter’s care and progress through numerous hospitalizations, encounters with the police and ensuring that she attained whatever benefits she was entitled to from the state. None of this was easy for her with four other children, a husband, a rocky marriage and a career. One aunt is quoted in the book saying that “when you have a special-needs child, they become your life”. Melanie added that “without a doubt, this statement accurately describes my mother’s relationship with Susan”.

When Susan’s mother passed away from cancer in 1998, Melanie, a year younger than Susan, took over her care. Melanie had promised her mother that she would assume the responsibility that her mother had shouldered since the early 1970s. “At that moment, I didn’t realize the weight of that promise or the emotional toll it would eventually take on me”.

Susan’s social worker of many years is quoted saying that “Melanie’s love for her sister was the game-changer. If you took Melanie out of the equation, Susan would have ended up on the street, a victim of violence or confined for a large part of her life. Melanie enabled Susan to have a life….”

That commitment to her sister came at a price that all caregivers of adults with serious mental illnesses can relate to.

“Although I felt a responsibility to Susan, she was a burden. The painful truth is that with the passage of time, I became resentful. I often wondered if I would be able to maintain my commitment to her. Although I had empathy for my sister, I found it harder to juggle career, family and serve as Susan’s care provider. I was physically exhausted and emotionally drained”

“Counseling enriched my life beyond what I could have accomplished on my own. I am not who I was twenty years ago. But success wasn’t easy. Frequent bouts of anxiety, anger and depression kept me in therapy during the thirteen years I was Susan’s primary caregiver.”

I won’t go into the crises and challenges that occurred regularly as you can learn about those by reading the book but Susan did fare reasonably well and was married to a man with schizophrenia for many years until he passed away. Sadly,Susan’s life ended too early in 2011 as the result of a fire in her apartment building.

In Melanie’s ending words, Susan’s “story resonates with ‘ordinary people’ caught in the throes of mental illness and provides a beacon of hope for caregivers. Susan’s life was a testament to the power of love and commitment”.

One aspect of the book that struck me was the care that Susan received from the medical system beginning in the 1970s and on. When needed, she was admitted to hospitals or care facilities and her stays were lengthy by today’s standards. But then, towards the end of her life, Melanie took her to Johns Hopkins ER in a highly agitated manic state. Hopkins had access to her charts but all the doctor was concerned about was if she was going to harm herself or others. When Susan said no to both, she was not admitted and sent on her way.

Melanie commented that the doctor ignored her obviously elevated mood and “now believed that the mental-health barometer had changed from treatment to to crisis management – crisis defined as the desire to harm yourself or others”. She is right and it is now worse. Many families can attest to the difficulty of getting their obviously ill relative admitted and, if they do, the stay is not long enough to properly stabilize the person.

Because Melanie had her own business, she was able to employ Susan part-time for a period. Susan had previously worked for her mother two days a week and enjoyed that. The job with Melanie provided social interaction and the psychological benefit of feeling productive. Sadly, this is not something that most people with serious mental illnesses can acquire. Many are capable of part time work but there are very few opportunities. Instead, they sit around all day smoking and drinking coffee which does nothing to help improve their mental state.

Shatterdays Bipolar Lives by Dr Frank Shanty and Melanie Shanty is available at Amazon and other book sellers in print and e-book versions. I highly recommend it particularly as a book you can give relatives to help them understand your ill family member and how your life is impacted trying to help them.

Pennsylvania and the Catholic Church

By Dr David Laing Dawson

A cult is a cult is a cult is a cult.

The Cathedral at Chartres, I suppose because of its magnificence as well as its age and physical location, allows one, as I did, to stand in it and outside it and imagine the 14th century: the fields stretching off in the distance, the peasants on foot and oxen cart slowly approaching this edifice, dressed in rough cloth tunics and hand sewn goat skin boots, bringing what offerings they could. This cathedral was built to impress, and impressive it is. And that I suppose is its purpose. It is, in modern vernacular, awesome, and in the centuries before this, designed to instill awe.

Standing there it is easy to imagine those illiterate peasants approaching the castle of knowledge and salvation. They did not yet understand why there was night and day or why water ran downhill or some fell ill with fever and others didn’t. And the church, for the next few centuries, would try to keep it that way.

And at Chartres, more than other cathedrals and churches, it is easy to see and experience the power of the building, and to understand its purpose by imagining the first hundred years of its existence.

Power and control. And, more quietly of course, sex.

What a con. What a magnificent con.

I’m not really knocking it, for we humans seemed to need an organizing system and some guiding principals sent to us from on high. Even now, in parts of the world where we have socially evolved to the point where we can, through very human processes, set those rules and expectations ourselves, many of us still yearn for the help of God. And, God knows, the Catholic Church, for much of its existence, has been no worse than Islam, Scientology, Mormonism, the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, or the Branch Davidians.

But I would like to point out that it is we humans who have, within our own secular governing bodies, in many parts of the world, arrived at the conviction that a.) women are full citizens with equal rights, b.) men do not have the right to non-consensual sex with women, and c.) we adults really shouldn’t be sexually abusing children and teenagers. Note that it is not Joseph Smith, the Pope, the Imams of Saudi Arabia, or Jim Jones who arrived at those conclusions.

Cults. It is what they are all about of course. They strip women of power. They permit non-consensual sex or, at the very least, coercive sex with females. And they justify the sexual abuse of children, pre or post pubertal children, male and female. And they all prey on the innocence and naivety of our less educated, less wary and less suspicious citizens. They are all, all, all about power, control, and sex.

Someone pointed out that if it had come to light that over 300 Jiffy Lube employees had been discovered to have sexually abused over 1000 children it would be the end of Jiffy Lube, but the Catholic Church will continue, as will Islam, and it seems there are always a few charismatic psychopaths (male) hanging around ready to start new cults.

Though it has been heartening to see, over the past 50 years, that increasingly large percentages of the citizens of most advanced nations, when polled, say they are either not religious, or do not belong to any particular religious group or cult.