Monthly Archives: June 2020

Things I Don’t Understand – The Economy, Part 11

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Shortly after having a discussion with some family members about guaranteed income for all, both the psychology of it and the economics, a CNN news item came on about the future of the NFL. The video clips showed players lined up, some kneeling, some working out within empty stadia. (martini, martinus)

And I thought, my God, we are wealthy enough to pay millions of dollars (each) to robust protein eating males to mill around on grass or astro turf bumping into one another.

This also reminded me of a TV item a year or so ago, this time Canadian, in which CBC interviewed a couple of minimum wage bros about the acquisition for a Toronto team of a star player with a 20 million dollar contract. They were so excited and not the least concerned that tickets to watch their new hero for a couple of hours would cost them a week’s wages.

In my childhood we did have semi-pro teams and the players had other jobs, often within the police or fire department. The bigger cities did have pro teams and we did have sports heroes, but Gordie Howe was paid only about twice that of a teacher, not fifty or a hundred times.

A craziness has evolved in our culture where American College Football coaches are the highest paid employees of the University, where we struggle to find money to pay teachers but sign a kid to play hockey for millions of dollars, where chasing a ball on a field becomes a multibillion dollar industry while the homeless population grows, and tent cities sprout within the boundaries of our cities.

Now with global warming and over population in the background COVID-19 arrives as if on cue; a virus, that for viruses at least, hits the sweet spot of being highly contagious but “only” debilitating and fatal about 1 to 5% of the time and transmissible before and after symptoms, completely disrupting our lives and the NFL, the CFL, MLB and the NHL.

And thus COVID-19, bless its little heart, not only gives us the quiet time, but forces us to examine our culture, our economy, our expectations and our relations with others.

Think of the money that could go into teaching, amateur sports, schools and housing if we did away with professional sport altogether, or, at least, took advantage of this moment to work it back to a reasonable proportion of “our economy”.

Analyzing the Atlanta Police Shooting video And a PS

By Dr David Laing Dawson

Laws, rules, policies, standards of practice, and expectations are all designed to limit what we have learned are the less positive and more anti-social potentials of human behaviour. All human behaviour, not just “bad apples”.

Sometimes societies control that which needn’t be controlled; sometimes our laws and rules turn out to be founded in prejudice; sometimes they give too little room for individual judgement; sometimes too much; sometimes the fears that drive them are unfounded; sometimes they can be used poorly, cruelly, unevenly, or for the enrichment of the few. Sometimes they simply don’t work. And sometimes the positive effect from a law is far outweighed by the negative. (making marijuana illegal e.g.)

Still, we need them, but once established, laws, rules, policies, and practices are resistant to change.

I am writing about this because it occurred to me, watching the videos we have all been watching, that with body cams, security cameras, and every potential witness carrying his or her own video camera, we have a new opportunity to dispassionately and objectively examine the enforcement, the enactment of laws, rules, and policies, and standards of practice, and make changes based on the actual observation of human behaviour and outcome.

Extensive video is available on, for example, the Rayshard Brooks death at the hands of police in a Wendy’s parking area. There are three decisive moments in these videos that lead to Brooks’ death.

The junior officer arrives first and arouses the sleeping Brooks. The officer is reasonable, polite, even jocular. Brooks cooperates but falls back asleep in his car in the drive through lane at Wendy’s. The more senior officer arrives and the junior officer fills him in thoroughly. The senior officer takes over. Brooks is compliant throughout but clearly confused in his story. He is obviously impaired and should not be driving. He may even be disoriented. The officers tell Brooks politely they will have to pat him down for weapons. Brooks complies. This is the first time they have moved in close and touched him.

The senior officer then takes Brooks through an agonizingly lengthy sobriety test and then politely asks Brooks if he is willing to take a breathalyzer test. Brooks agrees to do this.

To this point the officers have moved slowly, reasonably, politely. They have not touched Brooks without first getting his agreement.

After the breathalyzer the senior officer does tell Brooks he is drunk, and does tell him to put his hands behind his back, but then moves suddenly and quickly to get handcuffs on his wrists. The sudden movement startles Brooks and he fights back. They fall to the ground; the second officer piles in; one officer threatens to use his taser. Brooks wrestles free and runs off with the officer’s taser. One officer pursues Brooks. At one point in the video this officer can be seen passing his taser from right hand to left hand so he can draw his gun with his right hand. Brooks seems to partially turn and discharge the taser he is carrying at the police officer while he runs. The police officer fires his weapon about three times killing Brooks.

These decision points occur as I see them as 1. the sudden move to handcuff an intoxicated man. 2. the decision to pursue him after he has wrestled free. 3. drawing a gun during the pursuit and firing it.

The officer who fired his weapon has been charged with a criminal offence. Many Atlanta officers have resigned or called in sick. Systemic racism is being blamed. The video’s are being examined closely from a criminal perspective.

But policies, procedures, standards of practice are designed to protect us from our less happy instincts, be they hurt, rage, outrage, threat, aggression, stupidity, sloth, temper, or racism.

So looking at the three crucial moments: The first was the sudden move (without warning or discussion) to handcuff, triggering the aggressive reaction. This practice could be examined.

The second was the decision to pursue. Was that necessary? They had his ID and his car. It had not been a violent offence until the handcuffing. Just as there are now policies (at least in some jurisdictions) to avoid high speed car chases, might it be safer for everyone to not pursue in such a situation?

Finally the gun. Undoubtedly it is a fantasy to think we can move back to a time when police did not carry guns. But many mistakes can be avoided by slowing down the process, especially when flight/flight hormones have been activated. And to this end, here is a suggestion recently discussed with a police officer in Canada:

On regular patrol or traffic duty or calls to non-violent offences, or “mental health calls”, all weapons could be kept in a lock box in the trunk of the car with code or fingerprint access only.

And this means, for example, as in the Atlanta situation, that one more decision step would be in place, between the scuffle and the pursuit, giving at least a few seconds for the angry officer (be he racist or not) to calm down, slow down, and consider.

postscript:

No sooner had I finished writing about the police shooting in Atlanta, in as dispassionate a manner as possible, a 62 year old man is killed by police in Mississauga, Ontario. Apparently in some kind of health crisis, barricaded in his apartment, known to have schizophrenia (or other mental illness), family members living in the same building.

Police respond with “uniform officers, tactical officers and K 9 unit”. There is communication for a while and then it stops.

On the grounds that the man poses a “risk to himself” the police go into action. They refuse help from the family. They go in armed. The confrontation quickly escalates from non lethal to lethal weapons discharged by police.

This is an absolutely ridiculous way to respond to a “health, well being, mental health check”.

To all police forces in Canada:

Please review all policies and procedures for response to such situations and use and incorporate expert advice on dealing with mental health crises. And do this before the calls to Defund the Police begin to make sense to all of us.

Would Public Health Hire an Anti-Vaxxer?

By Marvin Ross

No so why do mental illness treatment groups hire anti-psychiatry people as peer support workers? I’ve just received a book proposal from an aspiring author which is not particularly surprising. I have published quite a number of books on schizophrenia that have done well and, I hope, have helped people to have a better understanding of this disease, its impact on the victims and their families. This particular proposal, however, really struck a nerve and I was left with that WTF feeling.

The proposal came from a woman who is presently working as a peer support counsellor and who has had a total of eight psychiatric hospitalizations to date. Those stays have involved her being medicated and she wishes to discuss the negative effects of psychiatric drugs. Her book is a critique of psychiatry and her own definition of psychosis and how it is caused.

She does not believe that there is any medical reason for psychosis but rather it is something that is “actually caused by people who are highly sensitive being exposed to trauma and the resulting disintegration of the psyche when not caused by drugs.” That’s nice but this sentence does not make sense. I think she is saying that psychosis occurs in people who are sensitive rather than caused by people who are sensitive and then are traumatized.

She thinks that her book will appeal to the approximately 189,000 “victims” of psychiatry in Canada and their friends and relatives. Her goal “as a Peer Support Worker …. is ….to educate the people I work with about the dangers of psychiatric drugs.” Hiring this person as a peer support is about as sensible as hiring an anti-vaxxer to work with new mothers in a public health unit.

I do think that peer support can be helpful if all the person does is act as a guide or mentor to someone going through what they themselves have gone through. The caveat, however, is that the person hired be familiar and well trained in the reality of psychosis and its treatment and not be an adherent to alternative or flaky views on psychiatry. Susan Inman, one of my authors who wrote the very successful memoir (After Her Brain Broke) did an excellent article on what should go into a good peer support worker which I highly recommend.

This proposal that I received mentioned that her book would be similar to the book by Erin Hawkes (When Quietness Came) which I also publish. If the person writing the proposal has actually read Erin’s book or anything about Erin, she would have known that Erin is a proponent of everything this proposal writer disagrees with. Erin is the author of one of the best defenses of involuntary treatment out there.

Needless to say, I am not interested in pursuing the manuscript.

Things I Don’t Understand

By Dr David Laing Dawson

1. “The Economy”

In January of 1961 with smuggled East German Marks in my pocket I entered a shoe store on Stalinallee in East Berlin. The black market exchange rate for East German marks acquired in the West was 5:1 so I was looking forward to buying a very inexpensive but good pair of shoes. (If this sounds a little too much John LeCarre, I was only 19 at the time, the wall had not yet been built, the subway still connected West to East Berlin and the Volkspolizei were not that interested in three naive Canadian backpackers – they had stopped us, looked in our eyes and our passports and then gone on to more serious matters.)

Stalinallee was the Soviet era showpiece, bleak and stolid and colorless, but hiding  the reality of East Berlin rubble and the old women picking through it.

The shoe store itself was pleasant enough, with display cases and shelves and at least 20 people in clerical uniforms standing around waiting to serve. But there were no shoes to buy; the shelves were empty.

It was, I thought at the time and later, a marvelous exposure to a major flaw in Marxist economics and central planning.

Many years later in Cuba, after the Soviets had abruptly left, I stepped into a restaurant in a small sea side town. The tables were set with silverware and linen; the waiters, quite a few of them, stood around waiting and were  polite and apologetic, for they had no food to serve.

And now, with COVID-19 our “economy” has been locked down through March, April and May, the stock market plummeted and is currently bouncing, and each province and state is gradually “re-opening”. Nail salons, hair salons, parks, beaches, stores and restaurants.

Meanwhile Jeff Bezos is about to become a trillionaire, Elon Musk will be firing his Space X rockets with astronauts on board, and governments are sending out money as fast as they can. And I notice how few of us today, in Marxist terms, are employed in the actual production of necessities. And for the most part, during this pandemic, the production and distribution of food stuffs and necessities were kept open and flowing. The part of our “economy” shut down was really the large non-productive, non-essential part, from hair salons to movie making to elective surgery and luxury vacations.

It is also easier to see during this quiet period of our lives, how we already have enough stuff and food – not evenly distributed of course – but certainly, in this country, more than enough over all. We don’t really need more paintings, more songs, more movies, more computers and phones and decorative rugs.  We don’t really need to buy a new sofa to replace the one so nicely worn and comfortable.

I am not promoting Marx, nor am I against nail salons, or the making of art, but isn’t it time we re-thought the meaning of and measurement of “our economy”. We have allowed, or at least the capitalists have indoctrinated us into thinking the measure of “economy” is growth, and that growth is quantified by consumption and spending. Always more, more, more, with a terrible fear of a “recession”, that is, a year in which we actually spend less.

COVID-19 highlights the ill distribution of wealth, not the creation of it. We have enough. And during this pandemic it seems the government can re-distribute some of this wealth without disaster occurring. We don’t need billionaires, or trillionaires, or rockets to the moon or an always growing economy (measured as consumption and spending).  Let’s take advantage of this quiet period and rethink such things as “the economy”, consider guaranteed income for everybody, what a “good economy” could mean if measured differently, and how we might all benefit from the wealth we already have.

More on Police, Race and Mental Illness

By Marvin Ross

I ended my blog on police race and mental illness by asking why we abdicate the crisis care in mental illness to cops in the first place. Those who are ill deserve more than to be treated by people with guns. It has already proven to be a disaster. Since that came out, there ithas been talk of defunding the police which, frankly, I do not understand.

We need the police to prevent and investigate crime in our communities. That should be their primary function and, I gather, no one who advocates defunding disagrees with that concept. I think, and I may be wrong, that the other issues like responding to mental health calls, police in schools, and similar duties should not be supported. I guess that would also extend to domestic disputes where a marriage counsellor would show up. These calls, however, are among the most dangerous for the police.

A Toronto Star columnist, Vinay Menon, wondered if defunding meant this should happen when his house was broken into at 3 in the morning. He said he took:

real comfort in knowing a squad car with armed cops is only a 911 call away. What’s the alternative? Go downstairs in my jammies and kindly ask the home invaders to get on the blower with a community psychologist to figure out why they have just removed steak knives from a kitchen drawer and are frantically rifling through my wife’s purse for car keys, which they are about to use to steal our Jetta before terrorizing my cats? True story!

Defunding maybe are laudable goals but are they feasible. Mental health services in North America have been so defunded and are so inadequate that the health system is often AWOL. I learned the sad reality many years ago when the schizophrenic brother of a friend would regularly escape and show up at my apartment. The second time it happened, I called the hospital and told them to come get him. I was so naive, that I fully anticipated hospital staff would come. Two cops showed up but he had already left. No worry, they said, we know him and will drive around the area.

Jospeph Meyer, whose excellent blog I referred to, did a small survey on facebook asking Would you feel comfortable calling for the police during a psychiatric crisis? So far, 60 people have said no and only 18 have said yes. People commented that they had both good and bad experiences while one said the police killed the subject and another said an arrest was made. I have also heard outside of this survey that the police are sometimes handcuffed and can do very little because of restrictive mental health acts in that community.

In many communities, there are specially funded units for trained officers to go out with social workers or psychiatric nurses. Often the hours are limited, the demand too high for them to respond and it is the regular patrol car that arrives. I’ve dealt with some of the specialized officers and been on panels with them so I know they are dedicated and trained but they are too few. With the regular patrol car, you’re taking your chances.

The solution is not defunding the police but improving their training while, at the same time, fighting for improved mental health acts, more hospital beds, longer hospital stays and more realistic privacy legislation. We still need the police for psychiatric emergencies but we cannot accept the excuse of “there are a few bad apples so what ya gonna do, eh?”

Some of the problems are well illustrated in this news report: If the embedding does not work and for some problem it does not show, here is the link
https://www.cbc.ca/player/play/1748788803526/

One of the interviewees in that clip refers to being made to feel like a criminal when the police become involved and that is a perfect example of a bad encounter with untrained police. In one of my earlier Huffington Post pieces, I talked about a man with schizophrenia who went to his local ER for help. After a long wait where nothing happened, he wanted to leave but was not allowed to. The hospital called to police (five of them), a physical conflict ensued and the poor guy was arrested and charged with numerous criminal offences including assault of a police officer. That is often a charge laid when someone’s head gets in the way of a police fist.

I knew the man and wrote about his adventures with the criminal justice system where he was found not guilty and the judge had very harsh words for the police and the hospital staff. Despite his acquittal and the denunciation of the complainants by the judge, the perpetrators received no penalties from their employers, the justice system or the healthcare regulators asI described. I did encourage him to sue which he did. He called me a few years later to say that his legal action was done and he was very pleased with the result.

I can’t remember who said it but no airline has ever used the excuse that sorry the pilot who flew into the mountain instead of landing at the airport was just a bad apple pilot. Training and vigilance is needed to improve their response so they do not shoot and kill a young Indigenous woman when doing a health check as happened recently in Edmunston, New Brunswick.

And maybe we need a People of Colour Police Department

Bipolar Disorder and Black Lives Matter

The letter below was sent to one of the followers of this blog  from the CEO of Carnival (Cruise Line) Corporation to his employees. He grew up in the segregated South and these are the steps he had to take to ensure that a family member remained safe in the community they grew up in.

A Message to Employees from Arnold Donald, President & CEO Carnival Corporation

June 3, 2020

To the members of our Carnival family,

I have been hesitant to join in with the many executives who have issued communiques, knowing that any words are far too inadequate in the face of the events that have occurred in the U.S. over the past several days.

We have painfully witnessed the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and others, followed by frustrated, passionate protestors exercising their rights of freedom of speech, unfortunately followed by vandalism and looting perpetrated by a few – all in the context of a higher-than-normal level of pent-up tension and anxiety exacerbated by the global pandemic, stay-at-home, shelter-in-place, loss of jobs and income, and an uncertain future. Clearly these are not the best of times.

So what can we do? And I ask what can I do? Not just words but actions, that in my own small way, help us to a brighter day? Racism is real. Not just here in the U.S., but around the world. Injustice and brutality are real. They’ve been with us forever despite many efforts to eradicate both.

I grew up in a segregated South in the U.S., and like others at the time, I witnessed and suffered injustices. I have a family member with bipolar disorder and at times when elevated, can come across as belligerent, at perennial risk as a young black adult of finding himself in a bad situation that could lead to severe or even fatal consequences. And I have family members who are in law enforcement and put their lives on the line every day. I’m certain that many of you have similar circumstances.

I make certain that my bipolar family member is introduced to the law enforcement officers in the communities that he is in. I make certain that they see him as a human being, as a complete person, albeit one with the unique challenge of suffering with bipolar disorder. I make certain that I remind my law enforcement family members to remember their purpose and their training – all of their training. And of course out of love and concern for them, I hope they don’t hesitate when they face a truly threatening situation.

In the hope of catalyzing even the smallest of change, I share with my neighbors and my professional colleagues the incidents of racial profiling and biased accusations that my family members and I have experienced on far too many occasions. And through the greatest platform that I have available to me to effect change, as CEO of this corporation, I want to provide the support and the motivation for us to build on our foundation of being the greatest travel and leisure company in the world, bringing millions of people together every year of all nationalities, ethnicities, backgrounds and experiences so they can joyfully discover what they have in common and learn to celebrate their differences, rather than fear them – while at the same time providing an economic multiplier that contributes to a higher quality of life through the power of inclusion.

I thank each of you for the part you play in making this possible and I encourage you to honor our core values expressed in our vision statement … “We are committed to a positive and just corporate culture, based on inclusion and the power of diversity. We operate with integrity, trust and respect for each other … an exemplary corporate citizen, leaving the people and the places we touch even better.”

Despite these times, and despite what seems to be far too tedious and far too slow progress, collectively we are capable of powerful change for the better, and I have no doubt that if we double down on our efforts and stay the course, together we will create a brighter future.

The only way through is forward.

Arnold

Defusing Nasty Cultures (Police, etc)

By Dr David Laing Dawson

There is a small moment in one of the videos we have all been watching that is very telling: The 75 year old protester has been pushed by a police officer, he falls backwards onto the sidewalk and cracks his head. As they walk by one officer starts to bend down to tend to the fallen and bleeding man. Another nudges him to walk on by. The one whose instinct was to respond to the injured man acquiesces and straightens up and walks away.

In the George Floyd video it is unclear to me which, if any, of the other officers are simply standing by, abetting, participating in the assault, and/or at least suggesting a different action be taken.

We are social animals. And that means we are each vulnerable to accepting practices within our club, our company of brothers, that we would not accept in the quiet contemplation of our own instincts and morality. Nasty cultures, nasty cultural practices and attitudes can develop in groups, especially in isolated brotherhoods, and those who perceive themselves as under threat.

(“nasty” here can mean antisocial, nihilistic, apathetic, misogynistic, racist, aggressive, criminal, vindictive, even sadistic)

And this development of an insular nasty culture can occur within platoons, cults, police divisions, offices, residential schools, hospital wards, and long term care homes.

Once such a nasty culture has developed it is hard for any member to resist it, as that first video illustrates. Membership comes at a price.

The remedies:

1. Moral leadership, very active visible moral leadership.

2. Policies, rules and standard practices that go as far as possible in preventing these cultures from developing and flourishing. (e.g. Not teaching choke holds but banning choke holds)

3. Breaking up any nasty little groups that develop within a police squadron or the night shift nurses.

4. Transparency. (Finally we may have a real benefit from everyone carrying a camera)

5. Perhaps, above all else, we need to admit these behaviours are within our human capacity and therefore we need to develop social strictures that prevent them.

Police, Race and Mental Illness

By Marvin Ross

Systemic racism exists in every country and no one is immune despite what some Canadian politicians have claimed. Ontario premier Doug Ford, at his daily Covid-19, press briefing, was shocked at what has gone on in the US and proudly proclaimed that there is no racism in Canada. Another right wing former politician declared that racism was like his being made fun of at school because he wore glasses.

The next day in the legislature, Doug Ford walked his assertions back. The other, lost his two consulting jobs for his stupid and ignorant comment. It took the satirical website, The Beaverton, to summarize our racist history pointing out that Canada is:

“home to the Indian Act, Chinese Head Tax, Africville, “None Is Too Many,” Japanese Internment Camps, Sixties Scoop, Residential Schools, Komagata Maru, the Oka Massacre, and MMIWG”.

It is hard for us to be sanctimonious when there are still reserves with no clean drinking water. I can say as someone who comes from an immigrant discriminated group that in my lifetime, things have improved. They just aren’t where they should be and, given human nature, may never be where they should be. American anti-black racism, however, is rather unique as explained by the internationally syndicated columnist, Gwynne Dyer.

He points out that historically, slavery has been equal opportunity. Slaves have come in all colours save for the US and Brazil. In order to justify the buying, selling and oppression of human beings of one colour, US society had to justify it. And they justified it by deciding that the slaves are inferior.

He said:

“that rationalization is still hanging around, together with the underlying knowledge that American whites had done their Black fellow-citizens a great harm, and the widespread belief among whites that you must fear those whom you have wronged.”

He also points out that American police are tremendously violent and kill unarmed Black people at a rate of 100 to one compared to the British police. The culture of police everywhere is a bit more violent than the culture of say social workers but, in Canada at least, that is improving a bit. When I worked with the police as a statistician many many years ago, it was looked down upon among their ranks for an officer to have a university education or to be taking university courses. Now, many departments are only recruiting those with university degrees and often masters degrees.

This brings me to the topic of mental illness and the police. Overall, I’ve found the police to be incredibly compassionate and understanding when they are dealing with someone in a psychotic state. I’ve heard from many others who have found the same thing. I suspect that it is likely only a few who mess up. When they mess up, it is spectacular and gets a lot of media attention. My US advocate colleague, Joseph Meyer, wrote an excellent guest blog on Pete Earley’s site on police, Black Lives Matter, and the mentally ill.

Since the George Floyd murder, Toronto had another death of a young woman from a visible minority in an interaction with police. This has led to claims of racism and a recounting of some previous deaths with police that have occurred over the years. Many of those deaths have involved racial minorities but not all. No one can know with any degree of certainty if racism played a role but I do think that the biggest reason was police stupidity and lack of proper training.

This most recent case involved Regis Korchinski-Paquet aged 29 who fell to her death from the 24th floor of a high rise in the presence of police. She is described in the article linked above as Afro-Indigenous but the family lawyer at the press conference referred to her as Ukrainian Indigenous from Nova Scotia – an example of the mixing of races and ethnicities in Canada.

What is known is that there was a family dispute and her mother called 911 for help getting her daughter to the psychiatric emergency. The family lives in a very nice area of the city but six cops showed up for the call. When the police got off the elevator, they found Regis, her mother and her brother in the hall. Six big cops with guns (even holstered), handcuffs, etc is very intimidating regardless of your mental state.

It is reported that Regis got into an argument with the police and then said she needed to go to the bathroom and went back into her apartment. The police followed her in and blocked her family from going in with her. Next, her mother heard “mom, help me” and Regis went over the balcony to her death. No one knows what took place in the apartment other than the police officers who were there and, stupidly, the Toronto Police do not have bodycams.

The event is being investigated by the civilian review agency but this is my assessment. Six cops to answer a 911 call for mental health assistance is absurd. It simply escalates the situation. I have seen the police respond to a floridly psychotic person and only one cop comes with one backup. The backup stays out of the way and out of sight and is only there if things escalate and if he/she is needed. The main officer then talks quietly and calmly to the person so as not to frighten or escalate. The officer uses quiet, respectful conversation to get the person to comply and to go to the hospital. That cannot be achieved by six big cops huddled in a confined space like an apartment hallway.

Despite all the calls for better police training, there are still cops who just don’t get it and that is the problem. But even if they do get it, the key question is why do we abdicate the crisis care in mental illness to cops in the first place. Those who are ill deserve more than to be treated by people with guns. it has already proven to be a disaster.

The Summer of our Discontent

By Dr David Laing Dawson

I don’t think it is that hard to imagine the evolution of a fascist leader, a cruel omnipotent dictator. It has happened often enough historically and recently, and we can each find within ourselves just such a potential if we remember those moments in our own lives when such an instinct tickled the surface of our consciousness. Most of us, I think, recoil from it. Most of us never get the opportunity to scratch that itch. But a few of us have sufficient grandiosity, narcissism, and sociopathy to let that tickle embrace us if the circumstances allow, and if our rules and laws and norms do not prevent it.

And here we have Trump and his people at the precipice. They have had three and a half years to undermine the norms and expectations of their democracy, to undermine the fourth estate, to muddy the boundary between government and judiciary, to stack the decks, and to sow fear and discord among the people. And now they have been given a disrupting crisis in the form of a pandemic, and one that affects the poor more viciously than the rich, heightening both fear and poverty all round.

Crowds of peaceful protesters in the day unleash vandals and looters after dark. It doesn’t really matter if those night time looters were the same peaceful protesters during the day, or opportunists, or outside provocateurs, or just young males with no adult supervision; it is setting the stage for the next step toward the destruction of American Democracy – which by the way, Donald Trump has said he will take – the unleashing of the military on its own people.

So America (and the world for that matter) is at an inflexion point, a tipping point. I say the world as well as America, for these nationalist evolutions are the antithesis of international peace and cooperation.

The image of a white police officer kneeling on the neck of George Lloyd could not have been a clearer, more potent symbol of the racism that has been allowed to fester and worsen. (I had not realized that the progress from the civil rights movement of integrating schools and neighbourhoods was reversed over the last few years in Minnesota and many other states.)

Now as I write this the American Secretary of Defence Esper has just made a speech against using military force. So perhaps we will muddle through.

But at the top of this article I wrote that “it is not hard to imagine the evolution of a fascist leader”. Harder to understand is when and at what point do people like myself look away – liberal, thoughtful, educated, but white and privileged people. So I ask myself that if the rioting came to my neighbourhood (which is downtown and racially mixed), the looting and vandalism, and if our windows were smashed, our gallery looted, would I then welcome troops in my street and the re-election of Donald Trump? Or even just kid myself that troops in my street are necessary and only temporary?

Five months to go before the American election. Five summer months, including the mean month of August.

I sincerely hope Biden is up to the task of providing some alternative vision and leadership during these months. And then putting in four hard years of repairing the inequities within America.

The Donald’s Sense of Humour

By Dr David Laing Dawson

It has been pointed out by many that Trump lacks, among other traits, a sense of humour.

This is not quite true.

He regularly deploys the kinds of labelling of others that is usually seen in unsupervised groups of boys age 7 to 13 and draws from the same age group the occasional chuckle. His “Crazy Bernie” and “Sleepy Joe” and “Nervous Nancy” are equivalent to the mockery of prepubescent boy children: “fatso”, “idiot”, “dickwad”…..

And at his rallies he occasionally tries a false modesty routine that never quite works: a hint at his prowess, greatness, attraction, and success that the audience might have missed, ha, ha.

But that is it.

And I wonder if the absence of an adult sense of humour may be a marker – that is an indicator of a narcissism so profound and all encompassing that its absence should be an early warning sign.

There are many kinds of humour. There are even scales people have devised to judge a sense of humour.

But, I think, to be able to quip, to wit, to pun, to successfully use sarcasm, double meaning, innuendo, to tell jokes in long form with a twist, or short form with a punch line, to lighten mood with an unusual association….. – all of these require adult empathy.

And true empathy is an adult trait, hints of which can be seen in childhood, but which does not fully form until the brain has fully developed.

Perhaps not having an adult sense of humour should be a disqualifier for any public office.