Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Ruth Ben-Ghiat on the Return of Fascism in Italy

Perhaps like me you’ve been long aware of (and troubled by) the rise of authoritarian leaders and governments around the world.

The most recent example of this is in Italy where, in the wake of recent elections, the country’s first far-right leader since Benito Mussolini, Giorgia Meloni, has declared victory, as the right-wing alliance led by her Brothers of Italy party looks set to win a clear majority in the next Parliament.

Meloni is allied with Spain’s far-right Vox party, Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party, and Sweden’s newly formed coalition government led by the anti-immigrant, far-right Sweden Democrats party, which emerged out of Sweden’s neo-Nazi movement.

Earlier this week, Ruth Ben-Ghiat (right), a professor of History and Italian Studies at New York University and an expert on fascism and authoritarianism, was a guest on the daily, global, independent news hour, Democracy Now! Ben-Ghiat is the author of Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present, and her latest article for The Atlantic is headlined “The Return of Fascism in Italy.” She’s also the publisher of Lucid, a newsletter on threats to democracy.

Following is part of what Ben-Ghiat shared on Democracy Now! in relation to the return of fascism in Italy.

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[Giorgia] Meloni is somebody who was a hardcore neofascist. . . . [A]t 15 she joined the party that was founded right after Benito Mussolini’s original party was banned in 1945. [It’s a] neofascist party called the Italian Social Movement. . . . [In] the ’90s [she became] the head of its student organization. . . .[I]f you look at the logo of her party, called Brothers of Italy today, which was founded in 2012, she insisted on keeping a tricolor flame in the logo. And that is the symbol of the original neofascist party. Over the years, many people have told her to get rid of that flame, but she won’t. So this tells us a lot about her loyalties. . . . [S]he really sees her party as carrying the heritage of fascism into today.

[Meloni] is a proponent of the “great replacement theory,” the idea that non-white births are going to extinguish white births. . . . [S]ome people espouse this theory as a natural outcome of demographic change. She actually is a conspiracy theorist. She believes . . . there is a plot, a design, a plan, she calls it, by George Soros, by the EU . . . to force mass immigration onto Europe and Italy and extinguish everything that makes us who we are.

. . . [A] lot of what she espouses can seem very familiar if you follow the far-right in Hungary — again, the obsession with Soros, the opposition to what she calls “LGBTQ lobbies,” who are ruining civilization with what she calls “gender ideology.” And she’s an example of what political scientists call genderwashing, when women politicians say that they are for women and that they are going to improve female conditions, but actually they go after reproductive rights, and they have a very specific idea of womanhood and the family, and that is very much rooted in the far-right ideology.

And she also will seem familiar if you follow GOP politics [in the U.S.]. . . . [S]he’s very close with Steve Bannon. She’s very close with the GOP. She’s been to the National Prayer Breakfast. She’s been to CPAC. And so her position on abortion rights, reproductive rights, in general, approaches all of these far-right parties. . . . She’s a demagogue. And at the end of my book Strongmen, which is about male leaders and machismo, I predicted that there will be a female-led far-right authoritarian government. We thought it would be Marine Le Pen. But you hear her style of speaking, which is very much the charismatic demagogue. So, they can come in the figure of a woman, too.

[Meloni] is part of this far-right international — you could call it a second fascist international. I studied and wrote about the first one of the ’30s and ’40s. And, you know, Hungary is a node, is a hub. And they’re very active in trying to have this kind of new political culture that is transnational. Fascism has always been transnational. And the fact that Meloni is polylingual – she speaks four languages – has always been a help to her. . . . [T]here is a transnational design to bring this new far-right culture into being, and it’s absolutely terrifying. . . . [W]hat she is saying [is] Islamaphobic. It’s racist. You’re going to expect a very draconian treatment of immigrants, boats [being] turn[ed] back, you know, deaths.

We’ll have to see — we’ll have to see what she does in terms of how constrained she is. She has a big majority in Parliament. So, in terms of what actually happens, we’ll have to see. But she is a female demagogue. Now, Italy has always been a political laboratory. Mussolini invented fascism. In the ’90s, Berlusconi brought fascists into the government, neofascists, for the first time. He broke a taboo. And now Italy has the first female far-right prime minister.

. . . The GOP, I’ve been saying for a long time, has to be seen as a far-right authoritarian party in the model of European parties. And what’s going on right now – history is being made before our eyes. The Republican party is remaking itself to support whatever form of illiberal rule it wants to have in the United States. And, of course, we’re seeing this at the state level, in Texas and especially in Florida.

And so, when a party is remaking itself, it pushes some people out, and these are, let’s say, moderates, like Cheney, Kinzinger, all these people who were anti-Trump. And who is being invited in? Lawless people, violent people. That’s why, if you want to get ahead in the GOP, your campaign ad has to have you and an assault rifle. People who participated in January 6th — criminals — are being invited to run for office, and actual extremists, like Mark Finchem in Arizona. He is an Oath Keeper. He is very proud [and] very public about being an Oath Keeper, a member of this violent extremist group. And so, he is now the Arizona candidate for Secretary of State. So, getting ahead in today’s GOP, being an extremist is a help to that, because they are remaking themselves as a far-right party. So there are going to be, I predict, a lot of interchange between Meloni’s neofascists and the GOP.


For Democracy Now’s complete interview with Ruth Ben-Ghiat, click here.



Related Off-site Links:
The Return of Fascism in Italy – Ruth Ben-Ghiat (The Atlantic, September 23, 2022).
Hillary Clinton Under Fire for Supportive Remarks of Far-Right PM Contender in Italy – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, September 2, 2022).
Why Is Authoritarianism On the Rise Worldwide? – Moksha Sharma (YKA, April 8, 2021).
Understanding the Global Rise of Authoritarianism – Melissa Morgan (FSI News, November 8, 2021).
The Rise of American Authoritarianism – Amanda Taub (Vox, March 1, 2016).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Historian Nancy MacLean: The Threat to American Democracy Is at “Red-Alert Stage”
“Come for the Racism, Stay for the Autocracy”
William D. Lindsey: Quote of the Day – August 12, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson: It’s Up to Us to Prove That Democracy Is Still a Viable Form of Government
“How Can One Overreact to a Mortal Threat to American Democracy?”
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking Democracy
“The Coup Attempt on Jan. 6th Was a Warning for What’s to Come If We Don’t Act”
“My Biggest Worry Is for My Country”
Republicans Pose an “Existential Threat” to American Democracy
The Big Switch
The Republican Party in a Nutshell
Republicans Don’t Care About American Democracy
Heather Cox Richardson on Combating the Republican Party’s “Rigging of the System”
David Remnick: Quote of the Day – February 13, 2021
Dan Rather on America’s “Moment of Reckoning”
Michael Harriot: Quote of the Day – January 6, 2021
Insurrection at the United States Capitol
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Fascism Is Upon Us
Trump’s America: Normalized White Supremacy and a Rising Tide of Racist Violence
On International Human Rights Day, Saying “No” to Donald Trump and His Fascist Agenda
Trump’s Playbook


Sunday, September 18, 2022

The Unforgettable and Unique Grayson Hall


It’s the birthday today of the late great American actress Grayson Hall (1922-1985), whom I first encountered in the early 1990s when I chanced upon a late night screening of The Night of the Iguana on Australian TV.

Hall’s portrayal in this film of the closeted lesbian Miss Judith Fellowes is outstanding, and definitely worthy of her Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Supporting Actress. In fact, it’s been said that Grayson was the “first actor to ever receive an Oscar nomination for playing a gay role.”

The Night of the Iguana was released in 1964, and although Grayson missed out on receiving either an Oscar or a Golden Globe for her unforgettable part in it, she was soon famous for playing multiple prominent roles in the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows (1966-1971). In particular, Grayson’s portrayal of Dr. Julia Hoffman in Dark Shadows made her an icon to the show’s fans, including its gay fans. For as David Alexander Nahmod explains . . .

As [her character] attempted to cure Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid) of the vampire curse, [Grayson Hall] made an acting choice that changed the course of the series’ history. Though it was never spoken or scripted, Hall let the audience know, with nothing more than a flicker of her eyes, that Julia was deeply in love with Barnabas, a love she could never express aloud. To the many gay men watching the show who could not express their own love publicly, Hall was speaking to and for them.


Incidentally, it was the following meme about her portrayal of Julia in Dark Shadows that recently reminded me of the unique artistry of Grayson Hall.


When I was preparing to return to Australia in August (a trip I subsequently had to postpone) I decided that one of the books I wanted to take with me for the long flight was R.J. Jamison’s Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow. I recently started reading this biography, and have been moved by Jamison’s dedication to documenting and honoring the legacy of her subject.

The book contains a powerful foreword written by S.R. Shutt, who himself spent many years researching Grayson’s career. As a result, he writes the following with both knowledge and conviction.

There are moments in Grayson’s work of unique human grandeur, laced with a poignant tenderness, salted here and there with streaks of surprisingly bawdy humor; moments as unforgettable and unique as the woman herself was in her own life. . . . Grayson’s legacy remains with us to illuminate all the darkest shadows of our days and nights with her undaunted and unbowed commitment to the dignity, beauty, and extravagance of the human spirit.


I hope to share more from Jamison’s biography of Grayson in a later post. Today, though, in remembering Grayson on what would have been her 100th birthday, I share (with added images and links) an excerpt from another very well-written piece: Frank Jay Gruber’s online article, “The Performance Art of Grayson Hall: Life on Two Levels.” Enjoy!

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[Grayson Hall] is still one of the most unusual and arresting performers in film and television history. Her Best Supporting Actress Golden Globe and Oscar-nominated performance in the film version of Tennessee Williams’s play The Night of the Iguana still registers impressively, while her television portrayals of Dr. Julia Hoffman and Magda the Gypsy [below] in the original Dark Shadows are scorched in viewers’ memories.


Why is this so?

Certainly her physical presence is a factor. Her tightly-pulled skin, coolly probing eyes, sharply arched eyebrows and nostrils, hair that always appeared at least mildly askew no matter what wig or how coiffed and short her hairstyle, and the relentless intelligence of her deportment and delivery all served to render her unforgettable.

. . . [Grayson Hall] possessed an innate assurance before the cameras, whether it was while adapting her own stage role as Judith Fellowes from Night of the Iguana, or playing the Mrs. Danvers-like role of Carlotta Drake in [the film] Night of Dark Shadows. On film, each of her motions was carefully performed, meticulous in execution. Her delivery was precise and nuanced. Each subtle look was powerful and each glare was a rare and shocking indictment, while every line delivery sounded out crisp and flawless. Regardless of what the demands of her harried personal life may have been as working wife and mother, in motion pictures Grayson Hall was almost supernaturally cool and competent – an absolutely assured professional continually delivering a moderated and perfect performance complementary in tone to the material and to the medium of film.


. . . On television, over a span of 475 Dark Shadows episodes, Grayson Hall had countless memorable moments and flashes of brilliance, but was often comically uncomfortable. Not only was she without the luxury of intense rehearsals and downtime for performance preparation, but the storylines were often so fantastic that she admittedly had little idea what was going on – which was even more frustrating since her husband, Sam Hall, was writing many of the shows. There is a memorable vignette in one of Kathryn Leigh Scott’s memoirs where Grayson Hall ducks into a backwater diner for coffee and meets a waitress who at last explains all of the recent Dark Shadows plotlines to her in understandable terms.

Receiving the script the day before, blocking a full show only scant hours before taping, and not understanding the full arc or meaning of the story all understandably took their toll on the theatrically-trained actress’ performance. Layers of subtlety and gradations of emotion went out the window. It had to be enough to hit the correct marks, get most of the lines right and rely on a library of stock facial expressions, reactions and body language just to get through each show. This often betrayed her, as looks of shock and befuddlement were always comical when coupled with a daytime drama’s frequent musical stings to telegraph moments of dramatic reveal or tension.

“We learned to never end a scene with a shot of her,” admitted Grayson’s husband Sam Hall, presumably with a smile. Viewers will never forget her intrepid but befuddled performance as a victim of the Dream Curse: prancing gingerly, backhand covering her mouth in terror, opening one door after another and barely reacting to such things as bright-eyed plastic skulls or lethargic guillotines – but becoming completely undone by a full skeleton in a wedding dress and a cheap wig, responding with a smoker’s throaty scream and hurrying back to her chair during the bride’s close-up to wait for the camera and wake with a horrified “Aaaah! No! No!”


Yet her art demanded she take even these nonsensical moments and the most absurd lines as reality. “Yes, I was a ridiculous doctor . . . but when I did it I was actually serious and believed every minute of it,” she told Soap Opera Digest years after the series ended.

On one level, this must have been humiliating and frustrating for an Academy Award-nominated actress. Then again, a child had to be raised, bills had to be paid – Dark Shadows furnished two regular paychecks each week for the Hall family – and there was legitimate classic film star Joan Bennett starring in the show, too. Grayson Hall had to make the best of it. Realistically speaking, it just had to be done.

Which brings us neatly back to The Night of the Iguana. Late in the film, Deborah Kerr as Hannah Jelkes concludes, “We are operating on a realistic level when we are doing the things that have to be done.” Regardless of what was required, no matter how fantastic the circumstances or plot machinations, and whether acting before film cameras or on video for the small screen, Grayson Hall’s priority was always the heightened reality of her performance art. Few actresses are consistently as committed to the needs of each project, vital and alive in each moment, and absolutely riveting.


To read in Frank Jay Gruber's “The Performance Art of Grayson Hall: Life on Two Levels” its entirety, click here.


Related Off-site Links:
Grayson Hall: A Hard Act to Follow – Official Website.
Chronicling the Life of Grayson Hall – Rebecca Jamison (GraysonHall.net/).
Parker Posey on Channeling ’70s Horror Icon Grayson Hall in Tales of the Walking Dead – Stacy Lambe‍ (Entertainment (August 24, 2022).
Grayson Hall Delivers Your Every Quarantine MoodYouTube (May 6, 2020).
Happy Birthday Grayson Hall! (Probably!) – The Collinsport Historical Society (September 18, 2019).
Gay Icon in Waiting – David Alexander Nahmod (Bay Area Reporter, September 19, 2006).
Grayson Hall Ain’t No Snitch, 1964 – The Collinsport Historical Society (August 29, 2016).
Clippings: A 1972 Interview with Grayson Hall “Superfan” – The Collinsport Historical Society (July 15, 2016).
Praise for Grayson Hall from Richard Burton – The Collinsport Historical Society (April 16, 2015).
Clippings: Grayson Hall Goes Out of the Shadows, 1971 – The Collinsport Historical Society (January 13, 2014).
Grayson Hall at the 1965 Oscars – The Collinsport Historical Society (December 26, 2012).
Sam Hall, Soap Opera Writer for Dark Shadows and One Life to Live, Dies at 93 – Mike Barnes (The Hollywood Reporter, September 30, 2014).
Obituary: Grayson Hall, Actress, Of Stage, TV and FilmThe New York Times (August 9, 1985).


Saturday, September 17, 2022

In the Garden of Spirituality – Pema Chödrön


“We are not on earth to guard a museum,
but to cultivate a flowering garden of life.”


– Pope John XXIII


The Wild Reed’s series of reflections on religion and spirituality continues with an excerpt from Pema Chödrön’s book When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.

________________________


We think that if we just meditated enough or jogged enough or ate perfect food, everything would be perfect. But from the point of view of someone who is awake, that’s death. Seeking security or perfection, rejoicing in feeling confirmed and whole, self-contained and comfortable, is some kind of death. It doesn’t have any fresh air. There’s no room for something to come in and interrupt all that. We are killing the moment by controlling our experience. Doing this is setting ourselves up for failure, because sooner or later, we’re going to have an experience we can’t control: our house is going to burn down, someone we love is going to die, we’re going to find out we have cancer, a brick is going to fall out of the sky and hit us on the head, somebody’s going to spill tomato juice all over our white suit, or we’re going to arrive at our favorite restaurant and discover that no one ordered produce and seven hundred people are coming for lunch.

The trick is to keep exploring and not bail out, even when we find out that something is not what we thought. That’s what we’re going to discover again and again and again. Nothing is what we thought.

Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it. Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about. The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation, a situation in which we don’t get caught and we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit. It’s a very tender, non-aggressive, open-ended state of affairs. To stay with that shakiness – to stay with a broken heart, with a rumbling stomach, with the feeling of hopelessness and wanting to get revenge – that is the path of true awakening. Sticking with that uncertainty, getting the knack of relaxing in the midst of chaos, learning not to panic – this is the spiritual path. Things falling apart is a kind of testing and also a kind of healing. We think that the point is to pass the test or to overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.

– Pema Chödrön
Excerpted from When Things Fall Apart:
Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Shambhala, 1996



Related Off-site Link:
Smile at Fear: Pema Chödrön on Bravery, Open Heart and Basic GoodnessLion’s Roar (October 31, 2018).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Somewhere In Between
Cultivating Stillness
A Sacred Pause
Aligning With the Living Light
Mystical Participation
The Source Is Within You
Memet Bilgin and the Art of Restoring Balance
Prayer and the Experience of God in an Ever-Unfolding Universe

Others highlighted in The Wild Reed’s “In the Garden of Spirituality” series include:
Zainab Salbi | Daniel Helminiak | Rod Cameron | Paul Collins | Joan Chittister | Toby Johnson | Joan Timmerman (Part I) | Joan Timmerman (Part II) | Uta Ranke-Heinemann | Caroline Jones | Ron Rolheiser | James C. Howell | Paul Coelho | Doris Lessing | Michael Morwood | Kenneth Stokes | Dody Donnelly | Adrian Smith | Henri Nouwen | Diarmuid Ó Murchú | L. Patrick Carroll | Jesse Lava | Geoffrey Robinson | Joyce Rupp | Debbie Blue | Rosanne Cash | Elizabeth Johnson | Eckhart Tolle | James B. Nelson | Jeanette Blonigen Clancy | Mark Hathaway (Part I) | Mark Hathaway (Part II) | Parker Palmer | Karen Armstrong | Alan Lurie | Paul Wapner | Pamela Greenberg | Ilia Delio | Hazrat Inayat Khan | Andrew Harvey | Kabir Helminski | Beatrice Bruteau | Richard Rohr (Part I) | Richard Rohr (Part II) | Judy Cannato | Anthony de Mello | Marianne Williamson | David Richo | Gerald May | Thomas Crum

Garden images: Michael J. Bayly.


Thursday, September 15, 2022

Tarot: A Compass For Journeying Toward the Truth of Who We Are and Who We Can Be


The Wild Reed’s 2022 Queer Appreciation series concludes by coming full circle with the sharing of a second excerpt from Queering the Tarot.

Yet unlike the first excerpt, which highlighted the words of Cassandra Snow, the author of Queering the Tarot, tonight’s excerpt is from the book’s foreword, written by Beth Maiden (right).

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Why is it that queer folks are drawn to tarot and other witchy, magical, or esoteric practices? I believe it has to do with a righteous reclaiming of the marginal spaces we inhabit. As we embrace what makes us different, we turn to tools and practices that have themselves been ridiculed or shamed. I spoke about the value of queer magic recently in an interview with queer designer and moon-witch Sarah Gottesdiener.

Queers – especially those with other intersecting marginal identities – tend to exist in the spaces the mainstream neglects; beautiful, scruffy, overgrown edgelands where we can experience a little freedom, support each other to thrive, where we get real about our pain, and where we continually look outwards. We have to look outwards because as well as being reviled and scapegoated, queers are also exotified and tokenised, and the radical spaces we create are rapidly gentrified and commodified, claimed by the mainstream and sold back to us in plastic packaging. This is always painful, but I think queer folks are used to it. It can be fuel for the fire. We push boundaries and move a little further out of the mainstream, where we discover new sources of inspiration, create new kinds of magic.

We work to liberate ourselves and each other. Queers understand that personal and collective liberation are interwoven and are used to supporting and uplifting each other in a way that runs counter to the me me me messages of the mainstream. We critique what we are offered (or sold) and turn it on its head.


To a world that categorizes us as non-normative, we say, “Your loss! We’ll build our own communities, economies, and structures of care right over here.” Picking up affordable, accessible practices like tarot, astrology, and herbalism – folk tools that to the capitalist white hetero-patriarchy are useless because they can’t be neatly explained, co-opted, and sold – is part of this radical community-building process. We use tarot to better understand and care for ourselves and our communities.

. . . Too often, mainstream discourse on LGBTQ+ experiences focuses on how queers are “just like everyone else.” We hear about “same love,” we talk about how we are all human, we fight for permission to enter the patriarchal, capitalist institutions of matrimony, and so on. I frequently hear confused voices drifting over from the mainstream, asking: Why do you need your own special hairdressers? Do you still need Pride, now that gays can get married? Why would you seek out a queer therapist? and so on.

These questions contain their own answers; their very asking shows us why and how much we do need these things. While, of course, it’s important to talk about human commonalities, while, of course, love is love, and while for many LGBTQ+ people, a seat at the mainstream table is a revolution in itself, it’s also the case that the queer experience is different from the hetero experience (depending on other intersecting circumstances such as race, class, mental health, or body type, often vastly so).

We need our own hairdressers, visibility parades, therapists, and so on because so often the people and institutions around us do not get it (or choose not to). Hetero-normative society doesn't know what it is like to have a stylist alter that haicut you’ve asked for in order to make your gender expression fit their comfort zone, doesn’t know how it feels to be continually assessing the fluctuating cost of speaking in your own voice, wearing the clothes you choose, or simply touching your lover’s hand. Hetero-normative society doesn’t see the shame and the fear every queer person has confronted (or will at some point need to confront) that is the result of growing up categorized as not “normal.” No single queer person I know (regardless of how supportive their family may be) has been immune to this shame and fear. Queer identity – with all of this shame and fear, and with its pride and its resilience and its deep, unconditional love, too – is a maze through which we walk, or crawl, or fly, or drag ourselves, or dance, or dream, or fall, or fuck, as we journey toward the truth of who we are and who we can be. Tarot is a compass for navigating that maze with curiosity, consciousness, honesty, and compassion.

– Beth Maiden
Excerpted from the foreword
to Cassandra Snow’s book,
Queering the Tarot
Weiser Books, 2019
pp. xiii-xv



Related Off-site Links:
Queer Tarot – Terra Loire (Queer Majority).
10 LGBTQ+ Tarot Books That Deserve a Spot on Your Bookshelf – Erika W. Smith (Cosmopolitan, June 27, 2022).

For previous installments in The Wild Reed’s 2022 Queer Appreciation series, see:
Cassandra Snow on Reclaiming the Word “Queer”
Tian Richards’ Message to Queer Youth: “Every Part of Your Identity Is a Superpower”
Gabbi Pierce on the “Evolution of Gender”
Afdhere Jama’s “Love Song to the Queer Somali”
“Creative Outsider, Determined Innovator”: Remembering Berto Pasuka
“Queer Love Is My Divine Companion”
Dyllón Burnside: “For Me, the Term Queer Just Opens Up Space”

Opening image: The Black Queer Tarot
Image 2: Beth Maiden.
Images 3 and 4: Divine Diversity Tarot
Image 5: The Light Seer’s Tarot


Friday, September 09, 2022

The Queen and British Colonialism


Earlier today Democracy Now! hosted an insightful and informative roundtable discussion on the “deadly legacy” of British colonialism, a topic that’s very much in the spotlight given the recent death of Queen Elizabeth II.

One of the participants in this roundtable was Priyamvada Gopal, Professor of Post-Colonial Studies at the University of Cambridge and author of the award-winning book, Insurgent Empire: Anti-Colonial Resistance and British Dissent (2019). Following is part of what Gopal had to say about the Queen and British colonialism.

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I find myself appreciating the circumstances in which [the Queen] passed. She had good care. She had good medical supervision. She was in secure shelter in a place that she loved. And I am glad for that. I do wonder, given the state that Britain is in today, which is in a state of crisis, whether many British pensioners will have the same easeful passing this winter. I fear not. I think many people will be in insecure housing, without heat, potentially without food, and certainly without access to good medical care.

So I’m really struck by the difference between the circumstances of Queen Elizabeth’s passing and what many of her subjects may have to endure this coming winter in a country where the monarchy really has come to represent the deep and profound and grave inequality [that] is going to be a problem in the months to come.

. . . [T]he other thing I want to say is that we often talk about monarchy as an anachronism. [For example, people say] she came into a world where monarchy was normal, and now it’s an anachronism. Actually, we still have a world order in which, both in Britain and in the colonies, there is enormous concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few. And monarchy really, in a sense, is not anachronistic. It represents exactly what we are ruled by across the world, in the U.S. as much as anywhere else: power and privilege and wealth in the hands of a few, which the rest of us are then invited to worship and think of as perfectly normal. The monarchy is really one aspect of plutocracy: the rule by the wealthy. And that is something that hasn’t essentially changed from 1952 to 2022. If anything, here we are again, ruled by a handful of oligarchs across the world, as ordinary people in Britain and beyond suffer deprivation. So, I slightly wonder if we do in fact live in a very different world from the one that she inherited.


And in terms of [her] knowledge of foreign policy, I think . . . she was very faithful and dutiful, as the word is often used in the British press, about representing the British state’s understanding of its own foreign policy. I have no evidence that she was knowledgeable about what was happening in the colonies, that she was knowledgeable about the enormous violence with which empire ended in many places. When she came to power, there were brutal counterinsurgencies not just in Kenya, but in Malaya and Cyprus. Many of the records of the crimes of the British state at that point have been destroyed willfully by the British state. So . . . how much did she know? We won’t know that. But did she speak on these matters? Could she speak on these matters? Was she knowledgeable about what took place? I’m afraid I have no evidence of anything other than that she, and the institution of the monarchy, perpetuated the British state’s and the British elites’ narrative of itself and of Britain.




Related Off-site Links:
Mourn the Queen, Not Her Empire – Maya Jasanoff (The New York Times, September 8, 2022).
Mourn the Queen, But God Save the People – Richard Eskow (Common Dreams, September 9, 2022).
After Queen’s Death, Victims of British Imperialism Share Why “We Will Not Mourn” – Brett Wilkins (Common Dreams, September 9, 2022).
The Complicated History of the British Commonwealth – Ari Shapiro, Karen Zamora, and Ashley Brown (All Things Considered, September 9, 2022).
Former Colonies of Elizabeth II Want Their $400 Million Diamond Back From the Crown Jewels – Pallavi Pundir (VICE, September 9, 2022).
Legacy of Violence Documents the Dark Side of the British Empire – Arun Venugopal (NPR News, July 11, 2022).
Britain’s Shameful Colonisation of India – Shashi Tharoor (Asian Century Institute, December 9, 2019).
Viewpoint: Britain Must Pay Reparations to India – Shashi Tharoor (BBC News, July 22, 2015).

UPDATES: MSNBC Host Flips the Script on Royal Coverage to Document British Colonial Brutality – Tom Boggioni (Raw Story, September 10, 2022).
Not Everyone Mourns the Queen. For Many, She Can’t Be Separated From Colonial Rule – Juliana Kim (NPR News, September 12, 2022).
Dismantle the Commonwealth: Queen Elizabeth’s Death Prompts Reckoning with Colonial Past in AfricaDemocracy Now! (September 12, 2022).
The Queen is Dead – Maybe the Monarchy Needs to Die, Too – Barrington M. Salmon (The Washington Informer, September 14, 2022).
The Impacts of Colonialism Outlive the British Queen – Amy Goodman and Denis Moynihan (Democracy Now!, September 15, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
“Royal, Yet Servant-Hearted. Regal, Yet Hard-Working. Crowned, Yet Kind”
Progressive Perspectives on the 2019 British Election
Resisting the Hand of the Empire
John Pilger on Resisting Empire
John le Carré’s “Dark Suspicions”
Tariq Ali Discusses Rudyard Kipling
Rock of Ages

Opening image: Troops parade for Queen Elizabeth II as she arrives in Kingston, Jamaica, in 2002. (Photo: PA Images via Getty Images)
Image 2: Photographer unknown.
Image 3: The last official photograph of Queen Elizabeth II. It was taken on Tuesday, September 6 in the Drawing Room at Balmoral Castle.
Image 4: An official portrait comemmorating Queen Elizabeth II’s June 2, 1953 coronation in Westminster Abbey, London.


Thursday, September 08, 2022

“Royal, Yet Servant-Hearted. Regal, Yet Hard-Working. Crowned, Yet Kind”


“I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion.”

This quote from the Queen’s 1957 Christmas broadcast sums it all up for me. A life lived so well, before God, with a beautiful mix of duty and devotion.

Royal, yet servant-hearted. Regal, yet hard-working. Crowned, yet kind.

In an age where character no longer seems to be king, I’m so grateful that this steadfast, faithful and dedicated follower of Christ* was our Queen.

I join my voice today to the millions of others mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II and celebrating her inspiring legacy. May she rest in peace and rise in glory.

Matt Redman
via Facebook
September 8, 2022



* In her Christmas Message of 2000, Queen Elizabeth II said: “For me the teachings of Christ and my own personal accountability before God provide a framework in which I try to lead my life.”

Wikipedia notes that, “Aside from her official religious role as Supreme Governor of the established Church of England, Elizabeth II worshipped with that church and also the national Church of Scotland. She demonstrated support for inter-faith relations and met with leaders of other churches and religions, including five popes: Pius XII, John XXIII, John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis. A personal note about her faith often featured in her annual Christmas Message broadcast to the Commonwealth.”




NEXT: The Queen and British Colonialism


Related Off-site Links:
Queen Elizabeth II Has DiedBBC News (September 8, 2022).
Obituary: Queen Elizabeth II – A Long Life Marked By a Sense of DutyBBC News (September 8, 2022).
Queen Elizabeth II, the Longest-serving British Monarch, Has Died at 96 – Becky Sullivan (NPR News, September 8, 2022).
Mourn the Queen, Not Her Empire – Maya Jasanoff (The New York Times, September 8, 2022).
How Peter Morgan, Netflix and The Crown Brought Us Closer to Understanding the Real Queen Elizabeth II – Jessica Riga (ABC News, September 12, 2022).
Queen Elizabeth Wore the Crown For Seven Decades. Can the British Monarchy Survive Without Her? – Rebecca Armitage (ABC News, September 12, 2022).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Progressive Perspectives on the 2019 British Election
Christmas in Australia (2010)
The Model of Leadership Offered by Jesus: “More Like the Gardener Than the Owner of the Garden”
Genuine Authority
Europe 2005: Part 1 – London


Wednesday, September 07, 2022

First Signs of “By Far the Most Paradoxical” Season


Of the four seasons, autumn is by far the most paradoxical. Wedged between an equinox and a solstice, it moors us to cosmic rhythms of deep time and at the same time envelops us in the palpable immediacy of its warm afternoon breeze, its evening chill, its unmistakable scentscape. It is a season considered temperate, but one often tempestuous in its sudden storms and ecstatic echoes of summer heat. We call it “fall” with the wistfulness of loss as we watch leaves and ripe fruit drop to the ground, but it is also the season of abundance, of labor coming to fruition in harvest.



See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Autumn: Season of Transformation and Surrender
Autumn . . . Within and Beyond (2021)
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2018)
Autumn – Within and Beyond (2016)
O Sacred Season of Autumn
“Thou Hast Thy Music Too”
Autumn Psalm
“This Autumn Land Is Dreaming”
Autumn’s “Wordless Message”
Autumnal (and Rather Pagan) Thoughts on the Making of “All Things New”
Thomas Moore on the Circling of Nature as the Best Way to Find Our Substance
Autumn Beauty
Autumn Leaves
Autumn Hues
Autumn Dance

Image: Michael J. Bayly.


Monday, September 05, 2022

Marianne Williamson’s Politics of Love: The Rich Roll Interview


As I rest and recover from my recent surgery, I’ve been watching various YouTube videos. In particular, I've been seeking out videos that motivate and inspire. For instance, I recently viewed a fascinating and insightful hour-long interview from 2020 with Olivia Newton-John and her spouse John Easterling. In this interview they are talking about the healing properties of plants, something that was very beneficial for Olivia throughout her own 30-year cancer journey, one which ended recently with her August 8 passing.

I’ve also been watching some great interviews (see here and here) with singer Kiki Dee, who with her long-time music collaboator Carmello Luggeri, has recently released a new album, The Long Ride Home.

I also recently watched Rich Roll’s very insightful and inspiring interview with author, activist, and former Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson.

I’ve long respected and supported Marianne, and agree with philosopher and social critic Cornel West when he says that Marianne is “one of the few in the higher echelons of public life and public conversation who understand the intimate relation between the spiritual and the social, the personal and the political, and the existential and the economic.” Continues West: “It’s very rare that people have this synoptic vision, [one that ensures that] spirituality, morality, and integrity sit at the center and at the beginning of any serious discussion about the relation of a self and a society.”

This “synoptic vision” of Marianne’s, greatly needed in our fractured world today, is on full display throughout Rich Roll’s conversation with her. As Roll notes, it’s a conversation that’s “about what’s required to solve our most urgent problems – from the perils of our entrenched government-media-industrial complex and the ills of corporate stranglehold on governance, to the legacy of ’60s activism, the role of spirituality in politics, and the complex relationship between personal evolution and global change.”

Indeed, I was so impressed by this particular interview/conversation (one that took place in December 2021) that I’m sharing it today at The Wild Reed. It was first posted on YouTube earlier this year, and even though it’s an hour-and-forty-minutes in duration, trust me when I say that tuning into it will definitely be worth your time.





NOTE: Rich Roll’s interview with Marianne is filmed and edited by Blake Curtis. The following is a helpful guide to its content.

00:00:00 – Introduction
00:01:59 – Marianne’s Perspective on Our Current Time in History
00:04:16 – Are We on a Ticking Time Clock Towards Doom?
00:09:45 – Identifying the Anti-Democratic Forces Working Against the American People
00:13:22 – Defining the Crisis of Consciousness We Face Today
00:20:50 – The Peril of Having Large Groups of Desperate People
00:25:34 – Getting Mischaracterized by the Media During the 2020 Presidential Primary
00:39:08 – The Legacy of Activism and the Peril Facing Today’s Youth
00:46:33 – The Need to Stand Up Our Conviction for Love
00:52:05 – Is the Political Left Too Secular?
00:57:00 – Problem Solving Through the Lens of a 12-Step Program
00:59:39 – The Need for Reparations to Black Americans
01:07:50 – What Would a U.S. Department of Peace Look Like?
01:13:59 – The Power and Influence Big Corporations
01:20:38 – The Steven Donziger Story
01:27:32 – Forgiveness and Developing a Facility to Forgive
01:36:16 – Marianne’s Conviction That Love Always Prevails
01:40:52 – Closing Remarks


For more of Marianne Williamson at The Wild Reed, see:
“Two of the Most Dedicated and Enlightened Heroes of Present Day America”
Now Here’s a Voice I’d Like to Hear Regularly on the Sunday Morning Talk Shows
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking American Democracy
“For the Love of Our Children, Let’s Not Shut Up”
Marianne Williamson on the Tenth Anniversary of Occupy Wall Street
Cultivating Stillness
Cultivating Peace
Pollyanna, “Miracle Worker”
Inauguration Eve Musings
We Cannot Allow a Biden Win to Mean a Return to “Brunch Liberalism”
“As Much the Sounding of An Alarm As a Time for Self-Congratulations”
Marianne Williamson on the Movement for a People’s Party
Eight Leading Progressive Voices on Why They’re Voting for Biden
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – November 11, 2021
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – June 2, 2020
Deep Gratitude
“A Beautiful Message, So Full of Greatness”
Marianne Williamson: “Anything That Will Help People Thrive, I’m Interested In”
Caitlin Johnstone: “Status Quo Politicians Are Infinitely ‘Weirder’ Than Marianne Williamson”
Presidential Candidate Marianne Williamson: “We’re Living at a Critical Moment in Our Democracy”
Why Marianne Williamson Is a Serious and Credible Presidential Candidate
In the Garden of Spirituality – Marianne Williamson
Easter for Mystics
Christmas for Mystics


Sunday, September 04, 2022

Quote of the Day

The formative experience around American authoritarianism has been the treatment of people of African descent and people of Indigenous descent. If you don’t examine how democracy has died for people of color in this country, you might miss how freedom fades not in big bombastic moments, but in slow ongoing repression.

And if you exclude the voices of scholars and writers who understand an anti-democratic, fascist order as heritage, rather than an aberration, you might miss how democracy has before been pulled back from the brink.

Jelani Cobb
Quoted in Sandhya Dirks’ article,
Biden’s So-White Historians May Miss
Crucial Points on Saving Democracy

NPR News
September 4, 2020


See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Historian Nancy MacLean: The Threat to American Democracy Is at “Red-Alert”
“Come for the Racism, Stay for the Autocracy”
William D. Lindsey: Quote of the Day – August 12, 2022
Heather Cox Richardson: It’s Up to Us to Prove That Democracy Is Still a Viable Form of Government
“How Can One Overreact to a Mortal Threat to American Democracy?”
A Deeper Perspective on What’s Really Attacking Democracy
“The Coup Attempt on Jan. 6th Was a Warning for What’s to Come If We Don’t Act”
“My Biggest Worry Is for My Country”
Republicans Pose an “Existential Threat” to American Democracy
The Big Switch
The Republican Party in a Nutshell
Republicans Don’t Care About American Democracy
Heather Cox Richardson on Combating the Republican Party’s “Rigging of the System”
David Remnick: Quote of the Day – February 13, 2021
Dan Rather on America’s “Moment of Reckoning”
Michael Harriot: Quote of the Day – January 6, 2021
Insurrection at the United States Capitol
“We Have an Emergency On Our Hands”: Marianne Williamson On the “Freefall” of American Democracy
Fascism Is Upon Us