A. Introductory Remarks
Imagine yourself resting peacefully in your sitting-room when you notice a huge pool of water on the floor. You are shocked, jump up from your seat and rush to the kitchen to grab a roll of paper towels. But no matter how vigorously you work, you are making no progress; in fact, the pool continues to increase in size. Then you look up and see that the water is actually coming through the ceiling. So, you rush upstairs to the bathroom which is above the sitting-room to discover that the bathroom is swimming under four inches of water. You open the closet and take out all of the towels – face towels, hand towels and bath towels – and furiously begin a mop up operation. But, once again, no matter how diligently you work, you are getting nowhere.
Then you realize that both faucets in the wash-hand basin are open and that the plug is inserted in the drain. This is the cause of the whole problem. So, you pull out the plug and turn off the faucets. Now, at last, you can mop up the water on both floors. There may be damage to the floor boards, substructures and sheet rock but at least a solution finally seems possible.
That is the situation we find ourselves in as a nation and as a global community. Trying to find solutions by taking sides with particular politicians or following the advice of the mass media is the equivalent of only mopping the sitting-room floor. It is an utter waste of time and I have no intention in this two-part essay of wasting my time following or berating politicians or media on either side of this alleged ‘debate’.
It has solved nothing and will continue to solve nothing. Rather, I have seen it sunder families and friendships, the nation and the world. Instead, I want to examine the root causes and look at genuine, permanent solutions that involve actually listening to each other.
B. Fake News
a. The Punch and Judy Show
A favorite English beachside entertainment is the Punch and Judy Show. A puppet master, hidden in a small booth, engages two puppets – Punch and Judy – in a violent family feud. Punch is wielding a big stick with which he is bashing his wife Judy, while she is tearing strips off him with her barbed tongue. The puppeteer is speaking both voices in the ‘dialog’ and the crowd, who immediately take sides, shout out their commentary.
In reality this is what our political system is like, once you add one further ingredient: confederates of the puppet masters are circulating among the mindless crowd picking their pockets in a system we call, ‘taxation’. This money is then used to finance foreign wars and to re-elect willing political puppets.
There are several levels of puppet masters, with each level being puppets of those above and puppet masters of those below. I’m sure there must be a top level, an oligarchy of some kind who have control of the entire enterprise. Each stratum is told the appropriate level of the lie to keep them obediently involved.
Fundamentalism manifests in both religious and secular garb but it always involves four stages. First, the meme-makers reduce a complex situation to a few bumper sticker one-liners that even the dumbest of us can understand. Then, they identify – or if necessary create – an ‘enemy’. Third, they dehumanize the enemy; and, finally, they release the dogs of war.
And every war in human history has been the final act in that four-part drama. The war is always preceded by a divide-and-conquer campaign. As a species we are pawns in the carefully managed ‘outrage’ at the enemy de jour.
Reality, then, is a composite of all the “truths” to which we cling. So, there is a “personal reality”, the sum total of our own beliefs; then there is a “consensual reality” which is the intersection set of all the personal realities of the members of the culture.
The willingness of the mainstream media to suppress the truth and promote the agenda of the oligarchs, coupled with modern communication technologies, means that the new “global storytellers” are empowered to create the narrative of fear, division and violence on an uneven playing field where the real prophets are spancelled and hobbled. The current American political chaos, to which Democrats and Republicans have contributed in equal measure, begs the Shakespearian riposte, “a plague o’both your houses!”
A major plank in this construction is the manipulation of seven different timelines. There is an actual past which has hugely influenced how we got to be where we are; but we are equally products of a fictitious past, the ‘history’ we were fed by the winners. So, now we find ourselves in an actual present which is the result of the first two timelines while, simultaneously, we are bombarded by a fictitious present which is the result of propaganda and fake news. The future beckons in three guises. First, those who believe that salvation is impossible; that there is only a pre-determined, inevitable future – so ‘eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.’ Then there is the probable future – what is likely to happen if we don’t change how we are doing life on planet Earth. Finally, there is the possible future – what can happen if we do change our behavior. Hence, the function of the prophet is not to predict the inevitable future but to prevent the probable future; to forestall it, not to foretell it; and then give us the tools to create the possible future.
I believe that the fictitious past of the court historians and the fictitious present of propaganda are just as influential in creating the future as are the real past and the real present. If it’s true in psychology that the individual mind often can’t distinguish between memories, sensations and imagination (e.g., false memory syndrome, optical illusions, the placebo effect and post-hypnotic suggestions), then it is much more powerfully true of the “mass mind” under the influence of “fake news.” It has never been more important to redefine truth as that which transforms and aligns with Love.
d. Dark Forces
Consciously or unconsciously there is a dark, demonic force whose agenda is to divide the nation into warring camps. Such a force feeds on the evil energy generated by the conflict. Like patrons who pay hundreds of dollars to watch boxers beat each other into pulp as they take sides and shout encouragement and vitriol; or who get off by forcing innocent animals – dogs and roosters – to fight each other to the death.
By addiction to the daily ‘news’ you are voting with your remote control, saying ‘yes’ to having some talking head manipulate your reality. It’s time we looked up and saw the strings with which the puppet masters are moving our hands, our mouths and our minds. It’s time to cut the strings, unplug your TV and, instead, read Christ’s ‘Sermon on the mount’ – especially the Beatitudes; or the Buddha’s ‘Eightfold Path.’
To be continued in part two of this essay.