The Real Alternative

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Is university still a place to question and explore?

As far back as 1992 in a graduate studies methodology course I questioned the psychiatric model – not dismissing it, mind you, but questioning it. After all, that’s what we’re supposed to do in academia, right? University is not a church or a political party. It’s a place where the mind can explore new possibilities and critique existing conditions.

Sadly, the professor who hosted the course was a capricious, cynical stooge. He is alleged to have said that “a university is a place where a professor can get a paycheck.” And after initially agreeing to write letters of recommendation for post-doc scholarships, at the last minute, just before application deadlines, he changed his mind and literally shafted me.

“Shafted” might sound like a harsh word but it’s the very word the Department Head at the time used to describe what happened, later on, when I was also not given the chance to teach a course, which is important to your CV.

Sensing that my academic future was on the line, I went through every legitimate government agency, asking for help. Everybody just passed the buck and I didn’t get a fair chance to compete for a post-doc scholarship. (I had a fantastic track record for getting funding before running into this professor).

I suppose there is some value in seeing the dark side of life along with the sunny side. Until meeting this professor, I was the apple of just about every professor’s eye. I’d hear comments like “It’s Michael Clark and all the other students.” Or “She is not as good as you.” (“she” being a leading student). “What would we do without you, Mike!” Michael Clark is “stellar,” “outstanding,” and I could go on. But when I encountered this dishonorable professor, the dynamic changed.

Let’s not fool ourselves. University is as politically charged and potentially corrupt as any other social institution. The higher you go, the more you see it. I was naïve at the time and could not understand why one crummy professor’s actions could seemingly influence so many others. But that’s what apparently happened. Many professors who once glowingly supported me suddenly did not return my emails. Some had integrity and hung in there, and for that I am truly appreciative. However, the ones who did try to help were mostly undergraduate professors. And that just doesn’t cut it when you need several letters of recommendation for post-doc funding (My Masters professors were all in India, which in the 1990s was still a difficult place to communicate with, and I was not given adequate time for snail mail).

The professor who shafted me would have known all this. In his jaded, cynical way, he was clever. He tried to slough me off by suggesting I go see my “Peterborough people” after changing his mind about supporting me. (Peterborough, Ontario is where I did my undergraduate studies).

Weird? Not really. I see it more clearly now. But I don’t like to use overly nasty words at this blog. It would alienate readers and get the site designated as mature, which would only hinder any chance of getting a more positive message out there.

Anyhow, today’s tweet brought back a lot of memories. I wrote about the DSM-III-R from a cross-cultural perspective back in 1992-93. I was moderate and didn’t romanticize things. I recognized that people with mental injury or differences often do suffer.

But it only took one creepy professor with a bit of imo questionable power to put me in the academic trash can. He was the kind of professor who was often seen volunteering in the department mail room when the mail room secretary wasn’t around. But he would rarely, if ever, show up at colloquia and graduate presentations. It seems he liked to sift through the mail more than talk about intellectual issues, which in retrospect seems pretty strange to me. No time for academic debate? Lots of time to play mail boy?

Little did this enigmatic professor know, however, that out of the ashes, | would arise. So even though I’m not getting paid for doing this blog, at least the internet has provided a forum that one lousy, authoritarian professor tried to shut down.

I mean, this guy may have had power in Religious Studies within the Canadian system. But he couldn’t shut down Google. And Google US recognized the value of Earthpages well before any search engines north of the border did. A little nod to my American friends.🙂


Trump/Clinton vs. Gore/Bush – One standard for men and women and another for men and men?

Trump has been described as bullying, intimidating, misogynist and threatening for standing behind Hillary Clinton during the last debate. But when Al Gore stood much closer to G. W. Bush in a similar debate, he wasn’t branded as some kind of power-hungry psycho.

So what’s going on here? Do women get special treatment, even when there’s obviously no real physical threat present? Is this the kind of gender “equality” we really want? Men are demonized for doing things that in other contexts may be somewhat off, but certainly not pathological?

Seems like a bit of a double standard to me.

I thought Trump just wanted more camera time. Right or wrong, that was my honest interpretation of his behavior.

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Today’s Top Tweets – With a bit more commentary than originally intended…

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, probably because it’s colder up here and our harvest is earlier than in the US. Today is a holiday but we had our family dinner last night. I’m up early this morning but not really in the frame of mind to make long comments. So I’ll just offer a few one-liner thoughts that came to mind as I looked over these stories:


1 – I always thought that the crucial distinction was between genuine authority, on the one hand, an oppressive authoritarianism on the other hand. This article seems to confuse that:

2 – This is a complicated issue but I think an alternative voice is something to at least consider, even if one does not entirely agree:

3 – I have to admit that I have wondered who was really hacking whom. We cannot know. But at least we can read everyone’s allegations about everyone else:

4 – For many years I’ve felt that the melody in pop tunes is often stronger than the melodies in many classical compositions. And even the arrangement. If one actually tries to do pop, one realizes that it is NOT simple. Even simple sounding songs involve an incredibly complicated process. Same thing with EDM. Some people disparage it as music some guy or gal “creates on a laptop.” Well, let me tell you. You don’t just create songs on your computer by pressing a button. It takes a lot of technical and theoretical knowledge, talent and time. If you don’t believe me, compare the electronic stuff I’ve done so far (a hobbyist who is still learning) with commercial songs. Big difference. So big that sometimes I get discouraged.

5 – To folks unfamiliar with St. Faustina, this final Top Tweet article might appear to be one of those hokey accounts that you see in some sensational books, magazines and web sites. But this is actually different. St. Faustina wrote a diary in the early 20th century that has become popular among Catholics interested in mysticism. I have read most of the diary. I got bored about 3/4 of the way through. But I think I read enough to get the gist of it.

This tweeted article ignores that mysticism and spiritual direction in the Catholic Church are not as clear and simple as the cherry picked passages seem to indicate. Faustina also writes in her diary that she learned not to confess everything to confessors, especially if she felt they were inexperienced. She even made a joke implying how ridiculous her fellow sisters (nuns) were for regularly checking her bed sheets to see if she had been masturbating. Later in the diary Faustina writes (or apparently writes) that she learned it is a great sin to not follow her superiors. She learns the value of “holy obedience.” To the Catholic Church’s credit, these seemingly contradictory passages were not edited out. And they probably could have been.

At times I have felt that Faustina was a naive young Polish woman, easily influenced (and psychologically abused) by some members of the Catholic Church. She suffered a lot, she also saw Jesus a lot whom she says consoled her; then she got sick and died young. My point is that what she calls “holy obedience” might be her putting a bit too much naive trust in a somewhat hypocritical and corrupt religious organization. Or it might not be. I don’t know.

I am just being honest about how I have thought about this issue over the years. It seems a lot of Catholics enjoy and reinforce fairy tale simplicities. But life is rarely like that. And if one really wants to be a mystical saint in the 21st century, I’m not even sure they could be within the rigid and often deceptively simple confines of today’s Catholic world. What I saw while discerning a possible call to the priesthood was a religious culture that cries out against the “evils” of secular society but in actual practice doesn’t really seem any better or worse, morally or economically.


Another Clinton lie? Just to try to keep the news more balanced for the next little while…

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In an odd twist of fate, the Scarlet Letter is now “T”

If you haven’t read The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne you probably won’t know what the heck I’m talking about. It’s a classic American novel.

English: Engraving of American author Nathanie...

Engraving of American author Nathaniel Hawthorne. Taken from Brief Biographies: With Steel Portraits by Samuel Smiles. Published by Ticknor and Fields, 1861. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Scarlet Letter (1926 film)

The Scarlet Letter (1926 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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Clinton seems to have her own secrets to hide (re-tweet see note)

I should make clear that I am a Canadian and have no real preference for who wins the US election. I think Trump is a bit of a loose canon but his advisers might be able to keep him in check. Clinton, on the other hand, would probably do more for world peace, mainly because she knows the system and has been there. But again, I don’t know. Politics is not my thing. I watch it out of psychological, sociological, rhetorical and historical interest.

But since everyone is going to be on Trump’s case for the next few days, and possibly some projecting their own holier-than-thou shadows onto him, I think it only fair that this news piece gets a bit of press:


Clinton forgave her husband when it paid off for her..?

English: Monica Lewinsky, from her government ...

Monica Lewinsky, from her government ID photo by Office of the Secretary of Defense. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Again, I want to stress that I am a Canadian and have a disinterested interest in the US Elections.

Last night Hillary Clinton tweeted “This is horrific. We cannot allow this man to become president.”

Isn’t this a bit hypocritical and sanctimonious considering her husband was caught having sex with someone less than half his age, lied about it, and HC forgave him and went along with his not being impeached as President?

I can’t stand holier than thou posers. That’s one thing that really turns me off.