Sad News

Ellen Cropped tnThe writer of this blog, Ellen Collington aka Motley Dragon, passed away in the morning hours of Tuesday, November 19, 2013.  Her passing was sudden but peaceful, and she was watched over by people who loved her and whom she loved.  She did not have time to say goodbye, but we felt the warmth of her farewell.  She will be deeply missed.

Ellen kept this blog as a journal of ideas, a record of her own discoveries and adventures in the vast realm that is cyberspace. She often felt disappointed that the dialogue she longed for was not always forthcoming, and friends would have to remind her of the difficulty of making one’s voice heard online, of the “long tail” distribution of Internet site rankings and the loneliness of the long-distance blogger.

Despite the disappointments, Ellen persevered.  She loved her daily search for ideas and interesting things to share, and even when she didn’t hear back from readers, she held on to the hope that something she wrote here might someday reach out across time and space to touch someone with the spark of discovery.

To readers who followed “Invest Me in My Motley,” and especially those who took the time to leave a comment, sincerest thanks.  Your interest and attention meant more to Ellen than you may have known.

For any readers who live in the Hamilton area and who may wish to say goodbye, Visitation will be held between 6 and 9 pm today, Friday, November 22, at Cresmount Funeral Home in Hamilton, and a Memorial Celebration will be held at the same location tomorrow, November 23, at 10:30 am.  Further details can be found at the site of Cresmount Funeral Home here.

On behalf of Ellen/Motley Dragon, thank you dear reader, and farewell.


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Blobbing Ford (response)

A blog comment worth considering about yesterday’s post, MOBBING FORD.

from Curmudgeon Bludgeon 

I dunno about mobbing, Motley D, maybe “blobbing”? (Blogging about mobbing . . . get it? get it?) The funny thing is, scrolling down your main page I see that you anticipated the joke yourself way back on the eleventh: “I wrote about both Remembrance Day and Rob Ford last year. The links are in the next two blob [sic!] posts.” A subconscious slip of the processor? A blog about Rob is naturally a blob, and B and G are next to each other on the keyboard after all, lol. Or are you even slyer than we’ve always suspected? Hmm.

Anyway, sic! is indeed the word here. But I’m not sure about “mobbing.” The attack dogs of press and punditocracy are simply doing what they’re trained to do, and if ever there were a fat trouser-seat that had earned a biting it’s Our Ford’s. That’s just the problem, though: unless I’m misunderstanding Westhues, it seems to me that “mobbing” only applies as a viable sociological construct (i.e., one not expanded into meaninglessness by trying to make it cover too much) when the individual targeted really is (essentially) innocent of wrong-doing. For example, in the paradigm case, sexual harrassment charges amount to mobbing when some angry lesbian at the Womyn’s Centre decides that she doesn’t like, say, Dr. Summers’s* obsevations about the underrepresentation of women in STEM fields and suddenly “remembers” that time when he made a pass at her in the elevator . . . but not when it can be clearly shown that yes, Professor Fondle has indeed been running a gropes-for-grades cheerleader-pyramid scheme. (Ah but it was so sweet while it lasted . . . *sniff*)

In other words, mobbing is a highjacking of the mechanisms for internal policing within organizations. The victim cannot be shown to be incompetent or in dereliction of duty or any of the other things that would normally justify removal, and so a pretext must be found, typically by dipping into the squalid swamp of cultural marxist thought crimes for whatever mud seems most likely to stick. The process is one of active defamation and un-personing (all done, of course, with the best of intentions and in accordance with the highest ethical and professional standards . . . ), but that such tactics are resorted to at all is, in effect, all the proof you need that the target was otherwise unimpeachable to start with.

Not so, surely, in the case of Rob Ford.

* These names are purely fictional, and for the purposes of example only. Any resemblance, etc., etc.

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Mobbing Ford

2013-11-15-300x245This is the editorial cartoon by Graeme MacKay as it appeared in to-day’s Spectator.  The Hamilton and Toronto football teams play off in Toronto Sunday for a place in the Grey Cup game next week.
Mayor Ford, a football enthusiast and former coach, wore his Argonaut team sweater to work on Thursday (not smart) and threatened to make a jeering phone call to the Hamilton mayor, whose name he got wrong (even worse)!

As it happens, MacKay’s cartoon is an excellent introduction for to-day’s topic: mobbing.

The term Mobbing has nothing to do with mobs waving placards and shouting chants.  It is now used in a technical sense to describe group behaviour, especially in a workplace, that acts collectively to shun and destroy a fellow employee. It is like a collective, organized, and adult form of the destructive bullying we see among children. There has recently been a huge campaign against bullying, a zero tolerance policy… but it remains to be seen whether this will have any significant impact, especially among teens with internet access and social networking skills.

I first heard the term mobbing used in connection with Professor Kenneth Westhues of the University of Waterloo.  His website dedicated to the topic is especially interesting. I just read his explanation of the tragedy in the 2007 massacre at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University,  when a fourth-year student murdered 32 professors and students and injured a further 25, before taking his own life.  Read it here.

As usual, Wikipedia is a good starting point for finding references on any topic. Here is part of the article there.  

Mobbing in the context of human beings means bullying of an individual by a group in any context, such as a family, school, workplace, neighborhood, or community.

When it occurs as emotional abuse in the workplace, such as “ganging up” by co-workers, subordinates or superiors, to force someone out of the workplace through rumor, innuendo, intimidation, humiliation, discrediting, and isolation, it is also referred to as malicious, nonsexual, nonracial, general harassment… 

In the book MOBBING: Emotional Abuse in the American Workplace, [Davenport, Schwartz & Elliott] the authors identify mobbing as a particular type of bullying that is not as apparent as most, defining it as “…an emotional assault. It begins when an individual becomes the target of disrespectful and harmful behavior. Through innuendo, rumors, and public discrediting, a hostile environment is created in which one individual gathers others to willingly, or unwillingly, participate in continuous malevolent actions to force a person out of the workplace.”

The authors say that mobbing is typically found in work environments that have poorly organised production and/or working methods and incapable or inattentive management and that mobbing victims are usually “exceptional individuals who demonstrated intelligence, competence, creativity, integrity, accomplishment and dedication”.

Does the Rob Ford situation fit the description? It is certainly a hostile environment!

And what about the really nasty and uncivil behaviour seen in so many television programs centered on the workplace and reality TV.  Sometimes it appears, both in the news and in real life that mobbing is an entrenched reaction to stress and disagreement. I could tell stories; I am confident you can also!  If you are still reading, here is a graphic I found on Google Images.   Does any of it sound familiar?pcjpeg From  WHEN THE ABUSER GOES TO WORK : An Employment Law Blog about Workplace Bullying, Discrimination & Abuse

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Tragedy and the Common Man

RobFordEyesThis morning at the bank, the doctor’s office, shopping in three different stores, the conversations I overheard were all about Toronto Mayor, Rob Ford.  Although people lament the persistent media coverage and say they are sick of hearing about the scandal, there is a prurient fascination, a compulsion to know more and exchange stories and outrage, even with strangers. I suppose this is the same keen sort of interest that people in Britain feel when “the royals” are misbehaving.

There is both suspense and a sense of inevitability… something important and terrible is about to happen. We know the key characters and the circumstances, but is the exposition complete, has the turning point been reached, what else can happen, and how or when?

In this essay written nearly sixty five years ago by Arther Miller, author of Death of a Salesman and The Crucible, readers of The New York Times were challenged to think about the essence of tragedy and to compare it with pathos. The ideas are still relevant.

The italics for emphasis are my own.

February 27, 1949
Tragedy and the Common Man


In this age few tragedies are written. It has often been held that the lack is due to a paucity of heroes among us, or else that modern man has had the blood drawn out of his organs of belief by the skepticism of science, and the heroic attack on life cannot feed on an attitude of reserve and circumspection. For one reason or another, we are often held to be below tragedy-or tragedy above us. The inevitable conclusion is, of course, that the tragic mode is archaic, fit only for the very highly placed, the kings or the kingly, and where this admission is not made in so many words it is most often implied.

I believe that the common man is as apt a subject for tragedy in its highest sense as kings were. On the face of it this ought to be obvious in the light of modern psychiatry, which bases its analysis upon classific formulations, such as Oedipus and Orestes complexes, for instances, which were enacted by royal beings, but which apply to everyone in similar emotional situations.

More simply, when the question of tragedy in art is not at issue, we never hesitate to attribute to the well-placed and the exalted the very same mental processes as the lowly. And finally, if the exaltation of tragic action were truly a property of the high-bred character alone, it is inconceivable that the mass of mankind should cherish tragedy above all other forms, let alone be capable of understanding it.

As a general rule, to which there may be exceptions unknown to me, I think the tragic feeling is evoked in us when we are in the presence of a character who is ready to lay down his life, if need be, to secure one thing-his sense of personal dignity. From Orestes to Hamlet, Medea to Macbeth, the underlying struggle is that of the individual attempting to gain his “rightful” position in his society.

Sometimes he is one who has been displaced from it, sometimes one who seeks to attain it for the first time, but the fateful wound from which the inevitable events spiral is the wound of indignity and its dominant force is indignation. Tragedy, then, is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly.

In the sense of having been initiated by the hero himself, the tale always reveals what has been called his “tragic flaw,” a failing that is not peculiar to grand or elevated characters. Nor is it necessarily a weakness. The flaw, or crack in the characters, is really nothing-and need be nothing, but his inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity, his image of his rightful status. Only the passive, only those who accept their lot without active retaliation, are “flawless.” Most of us are in that category.

But there are among us today, as there always have been, those who act against the scheme of things that degrades them, and in the process of action everything we have accepted out of fear of insensitivity or ignorance is shaken before us and examined, and from this total onslaught by an individual against the seemingly stable cosmos surrounding us-from this total examination of the “unchangeable” environment-comes the terror and the fear that is classically associated with tragedy. More important, from this total questioning of what has previously been unquestioned, we learn. And such a process is not beyond the common man. In revolutions around the world, these past thirty years, he has demonstrated again and again this inner dynamic of all tragedy.

Insistence upon the rank of the tragic hero, or the so-called nobility of his character, is really but a clinging to the outward forms of tragedy. If rank or nobility of character was indispensable, then it would follow that the problems of those with rank were the particular problems of tragedy. But surely the right of one monarch to capture the domain from another no longer raises our passions, nor are our concepts of justice what they were to the mind of an Elizabethan king.

The quality in such plays that does shake us, however, derives from the underlying fear of being displaced, the disaster inherent in being torn away from our chosen image of what and who we are in this world. Among us today this fear is strong, and perhaps stronger, than it ever was. In fact, it is the common man who knows this fear best.

Now, if it is true that tragedy is the consequence of a man’s total compulsion to evaluate himself justly, his destruction in the attempt posits a wrong or an evil in his environment. And this is precisely the morality of tragedy and its lesson. The discovery of the moral law, which is what the enlightenment of tragedy consists of, is not the discovery of some abstract or metaphysical quantity.

The tragic right is a condition of life, a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself. The wrong is the condition which suppresses man, perverts the flowing out of his love and creative instinct. Tragedy enlightens-and it must, in that it points the heroic finger at the enemy of man’s freedom. The thrust for freedom is the quality in tragedy which exalts. The revolutionary questioning of the stable environment is what terrifies. In no way is the common man debarred from such thoughts or such actions.

Seen in this light, our lack of tragedy may be partially accounted for by the turn which modern literature has taken toward the purely psychiatric view of life, or the purely sociological. If all our miseries, our indignities, are born and bred within our minds, then all action, let alone the heroic action, is obviously impossible.

And if society alone is responsible for the cramping of our lives, then the protagonist must needs be so pure and faultless as to force us to deny his validity as a character. From neither of these views can tragedy derive, simply because neither represents a balanced concept of life. Above all else, tragedy requires the finest appreciation by the writer of cause and effect.

No tragedy can therefore come about when its author fears to question absolutely everything, when he regards any institution, habit or custom as being either everlasting, immutable or inevitable. In the tragic view the need of man to wholly realize himself is the only fixed star, and whatever it is that hedges his nature and lowers it is ripe for attack and examination. Which is not to say that tragedy must preach revolution.

The Greeks could probe the very heavenly origin of their ways and return to confirm the rightness of laws. And Job could face God in anger, demanding his right and end in submission. But for a moment everything is in suspension, nothing is accepted, and in this sketching and tearing apart of the cosmos, in the very action of so doing, the character gains “size,” the tragic stature which is spuriously attached to the royal or the high born in our minds. The commonest of men may take on that stature to the extent of his willingness to throw all he has into the contest, the battle to secure his rightful place in the world.

There is a misconception of tragedy with which I have been struck in review after review, and in many conversations with writers and readers alike. It is the idea that tragedy is of necessity allied to pessimism. Even the dictionary says nothing more about the word than that it means a story with a sad or unhappy ending. This impression is so firmly fixed that I almost hesitate to claim that in truth tragedy implies more optimism in its author than does comedy, and that its final result ought to be the reinforcement of the onlooker’s brightest opinions of the human animal.

For, if it is true to say that in essence the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity.

The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity, or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force.

Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief-optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man.

It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possibly lead in our time-the heart and spirit of the average man.

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Kurt Vonnegut: 10 quotes on his birthday

Kurt_VonnegutThis is reposted from The Christian Science Monitor... the quotes are definitely worth reading and thinking about… I could write personal journals using each one as a starting point.

There is also a whole set of posters on Google Images that highlight Vonnegut quotations.  So I could use one a day as a screen saver/ keynote for the day.  Umm….

Click here for the quotations:  Kurt Vonnegut: 10 quotes on his birthday

Kurt Vonnegut, one of the most influential American writers of the 20th century, was born on November 11, 1922, in Indianapolis. Vonnegut studied chemistry at Cornell University from 1940 to 1943. After graduating from college he enrolled in the US Army and was given the opportunity to study engineering at Carnegie Mellon University. A year later, Vonnegut was sent to Europe and was captured as a prisoner of war by the Germans during the Battle of Bulge. Vonnegut was living as a prisoner in Dresden when the city was bombed. He managed to survive the bombing because he was working in an underground meat locker. “Slaughterhouse-Five,” the novel many people consider to be Vonnegut’s masterpiece, is based on his experiences during the war. After the war, Vonnegut attended the University of Chicago as a graduate student in anthropology. There he submitted his novel “Cat’s Cradle” as his thesis project. Vonnegut is known for his blend of satire, science fiction, and humor.


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Ford’s Folly

Rob Ford, Part 3

Posted on November 30, 2012

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Remembrance Day

Lest We Forget

In Canada we honour Remembrance Day on November 11.For the entire month we wear the poppy pins sold by veterans’ associations, on the 11th the entire nation stops everything  and stands for two minutes of silence at 11AM, there are veterans’ parades and the laying of wreaths at every town memorial, the reading of the Canadian poem by John McCrae, In Flanders Fields, prayers, and the playing of the last post.

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White Poppies

This year I did not wear a red poppy, and I declined an invitation to attend a Remembrance Day ceremony. My husband went, and said that it was dignified and meaningful, and that veterans of engagements since WWII were also acknowledged by members of the audience putting poppies on the wreath on their behalf.

I do not want to wear a red poppy ever again, or attend another Remembrance Day ceremony. I do not want to remember… nor do I want to forget! I want to move forward.

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