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Monday, 16 January 2017

Plumbing the Depths Part II: What colour is your reality tunnel? Post Truth and Pax Americana

This is the part two to a post I wrote when I was still with KP, it can be found here. Also I get that there are certain metaphysical issues that I raise and then completely ignore in this post but let’s get real here for a moment (psych!). I will return to these issues at a later date.

One of the buzz words of 2016 was post truth. Which is defined by the online Oxford Dictionary as Relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.

In short, rational argument is trumped (or should I say Trumped) by the power of personality or one’s personal position.

But whose facts are we talking about and are we really talking about objective truth or the accepted truth, the official line so to speak.

The reality is (and I fully get the irony of making that statement in this context) is that much of what we have accepted as fact or truth (when we are talking about things outside of our immediate reality like our lives) come to us through a select number of channels from a select number of sources and reflects a select number of points of view or positions and in essence forms the basis of what we see and how we see it in the wider world.

I like to refer to this as our reality tunnel*.

A good example of this is how the average workplace conversation will revolve around a limited number of topics or issues and is often prefaced by phrases such as “did you see on the news last night…” or “have you heard/read” (which refers to some topic, meme, video or picture which is trending at the time) which is then followed by an almost predictable conversation where an issue is discussed and dissected and then the respective parties state their positions in relation to it before the conversation ends.

Such a topic may surface again depending on the level of interest but more often than not it will sink into the blather and be replaced by a new item of News from the following night for us to discuss the following day.

Now the point here is not specifically the topics themselves that are being discussed but how they are selected, prepared and packaged before delivery to your mind and the vehicles for delivering these carefully chosen media products.

What I am getting at here is that what we accept as truth or fact are often more “truth” or “fact” and that it is selected to create and reinforce certain points of view by providing little snack-like media nuggets for consumption rather than present an organised and coherent (dare I say objective) reality for examination or debate.

At its most positive this process could be considered the setting of political or social talking points but more cynically is called manufactured debate, “wagging the dog” or spin.

In New Zealand this is clearly illustrated in the Dirty Politics saga where the National Governments media manipulation strategy and list of dodgy behaviors was exposed for all to see as a deliberate attempt to steer negative debate away from National and go on the attack towards those who were steering it towards them.

At this point you could be forgiven for thinking that I had just read Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media by Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky (note: I read it in the early 90s as an undergrad) and was going to do nothing but parrot those ideas and themes back at you for the rest of this post but you would be wrong

In this light the heavily manufactured and manipulated media through which we shape our thoughts and opinions, and ultimately our reality or “truth” is not benign or neutral, it is biased and designed to shape our thoughts and reality to suit those who shape it.

Some might consider this propaganda, or media manipulation or even the thought police but whether malicious or not (and that’s a discussion for another day) our reality and our views are not just our own but the product of our society and wider world and we can only escape it by taking two courses of action when faced with this fact: retreat into fantasy or have as much control as possible over your own reality.

The first course of action is easy and predictable in our modern day and age, we all do it from time to time but for many the retreat into fantasy through movies, games or other forms of escapism (such as religion, economics or political belief) becomes more and more a means to avoid the day to day mundanity of life and work or to simply prevent any thoughts or ideas which we disagree with from entering our heads and causing us pain.

The second course of action is difficult and is never ending, it’s a much more arduous path and one which can as easily lead into dogma as much as other forms of escapism, or outright failure as one dismantles and examines the foundations of one’s own thoughts and beliefs of one’s reality tunnel but fails to reassemble a replacement and crosses over into paranoia, nihilism and madness.

I am not going to go much further into the mechanics of such things right now (because that is a whole metaphysical can of worms) but for those interested in building their own reality tunnel a good place to start might be here or here. But if you want to go a bit further and a bit deeper then try this (specially as they use bits of one of my favorite John Carpenter films) or this.

What I am talking about today is that the Mass Consensual Hallucination (or MCH for short) which makes up a large part of what our reality tunnels and is breaking down as we enter the post truth age.

And what pray tell is this MCH of which I speak? Why Pax Americana dear reader, good ol Pax Americana.

So what’s the connection between Pax Americana and Post Truth?

The answer to that is simple as most of what makes up our MCH or reality tunnel is created, molded and shaped to suit the US outlook or view in much the same way as the saying that history is always written by the victors; so is the way we view our world (in this case our world being the final remains of the post WW2 world where the US and the USSR won the war and imposed the following peace).

During the Cold War the world was spilt into two great reality tunnels, competing with each other in the service of two great powers (defined as capitalism and communism) and for nearly 50 years they battled it out (mostly cold but sometimes hot) for the hearts and minds of the Earth’s inhabitants.

And with the defeat of Communism and the end of the Cold War we have had to live under the triumphalist victory arch of Capitalism and the crowing of the US for nearly 30 years (and its singular reality of rabid consumerism) for the veil to be lifted and the wiring under the board to be exposed as a gigantic pyramid scheme where the those at the very apex get rich and live long while the rest stay poor and die early.

And now all of those thoughts and ideas which were previously dismissed as conspiracy theory have become, in almost every case, accepted and established fact when people like Daniel Ellsberg and Edward Snowden push the truth out into the light (often at great personal cost) but also where a healthy mistrust of authority (and whatever doublespeak they are blathering) is a requirement to remaining sane.

In this light Post Truth is not simply the fact free ravings of Donald Trump or any other politician who will twist and turn to avoid answering a straight question, or when faced with their lying simply manipulate their (or others) words to say black is white and two plus two equals five it’s also the loss of confidence in the establishment by the general populace and the erosion of the US narrative which has dominated our media for the last 75 years whether you live in the US or in one of its satellites (and NZ while a far flung satellite remains in their orbit).

But Post Truth in this light is not a bad thing it’s a good thing.

Yes it is being exploited by those who would promote the big lie but it’s also an opportunity to be part of reshaping the new future narrative (the one that will replace Pax Americana), to add your own bricks to the reality tunnel wall and add new energy to speaking truth to power by taking part in the debate.

Because the basis of that power (its narrative or reality) is breaking down as its physical empire begins to collapse.

In this context, as the US weakens so too does its means to control and shape the debate and the effect is a clear and noticeable rise in the failure of establishment and establishment politicians to stifle debate or dissent from the people.

Look no further than things like opposition to the TPPA, Brexit and the rise of Trump to see evidence of a lot more people who won’t simply sit down and do what they are told.

What these people have in common is that for a period of time (and we don’t know how long) the grip of our so called masters on reality is weak. No one believes what they say any more (it’s not just a grumbling few on the fringes now but whole generations and masses of the populace), it does not matter what they say or who they have saying it their message has been soiled and their brand ruined.

A perfect example of this is how most western media behaved in dealing with Trump (by denigrating him again and again when he continued to rise) and by simply becoming so partisan that they perjured themselves in light of their so called journalisticobjectivity and simply became shills for the Man.

It does not matter that Trump merely represents an internal revolt between the established elites ruling us and another powerful group seeking to depose them and take over, as both are simply on the same side in the end and have the same agenda (just like Labour and National in NZ always believe that they will be the government or the government in waiting).

But let’s look at a few more concrete examples to fill out our case.

Most Western media continue to harp on about Russia “hacking” or influencing the US election which even if it is true ignores the fact that the US has been “hacking”** or influencing the elections of other countries for 75 years including installing genocidal murderers, right-wing dictators or using outright murder or assignation to remove political figures they did not like so they achieved the political outcome they want.

A famous actress denounces the President Elect in her acceptance speech at an awards show while seemingly failing to ignore the irony that she is a well-paid and pampered member of the establishment who is upset that her establishment candidate did not win the election.

It’s as if the dialectic of Team America came to life, as such things seem to do in the world today, in defiance of its own absurdity.

So the noble or big lie of our generation is dying and along with it will many of the smaller lies that we have been living under.

To be sure we will eventually end up with a new big lie but for a period we have the opportunity to make that lie our own rather than theirs. It’s a revolution of the mind rather than the body because as the rule goes the first rule of any revolution is to get rid of any competing revolutionaries*** and if we don’t shape our own thoughts they will.

So for a possibly limited time the chains on our minds are weakened, and while this is also an opportunity for those currently in power to make demagogic appeals to the masses this is definitely the time to choose what lies you will believe and what truth you will ignore; a time for looking afresh with jaded eyes and seeing the bars of the cage (the carefully created reality we move through) and who are our jailers (the media) while remembering who they truly serve (whatever ruling establishment you happen to be living under).

Post Truth could be seen as a scary time when anyone can say anything but I prefer to see it as a wonderful time where anyone can say anything because the truth as we know it is more often the “truth” as we know it and its only if we start to dismantle our cage will we have the materials to build a new one.

Now if your beginning to see a paradoxical, Zen like or even BS tone creeping into this post then you would be right because we have to live in a reality tunnel, that cannot be escaped but what we can do is either have no choice in what reality tunnel we live in (because it’s the easy option) or take the time to build our own (from whatever we have at hand) and the death of empire (a weakening of the hegemonic power) is one of the few opportunities where we can do this rather than have one foisted on us.

So yes its paradoxical that one must build a cage of sorts for ones perceptions in order to exist but if one must build such a cage better to be a reality of ones choosing than being herded into a prefabricated one size fits all reality like sheep in a pen.

The role of the media in this process will be examined in detail in other posts but it’s become clear that the continual role of media as willing handmaiden (some might say whore) to power rather than even try and act as an arbiter of truth (the old joke about not being all the news that fit to print but printed to fit) has eroded not only trust in itself but the very people they were speaking for and the result is a situation where the usual anchor for reality and truth (the media) has failed and the ship (the established powers that be) is now adrift in the sea of information.

But Pax Americana has not failed just because the media lost its moral compass it’s also because all empires decline and fail and a fall into fantasy and decadence are the classic hallmarks of a ruling elite gone to seed and the whole edifice breaking up amid the myriad of contradictions that come with keeping such unwieldy structures upright.

And I get the argument made by some people that if not Pax Americana then Pax what? Pax Sinica? The point here is not to let another greedy hegemony move in and take over the reality tunnel but to live in one of your own making or choosing a world that requires more than one singular reality tunnel (a plurality of tunnels).

And now with the current singular structure breaking up the foundations of the “truth” are up for grabs, the narrative is open to seized and held by anyone who wishes and with the official organs of the “truth” in disgrace for behaving more like a pedophile staking their victim rather than a trusted source of information the playing field is as level as it ever will be.

Yes those with more money can buy more advertising time but that is countered by the fact that it’s no longer the medium but the message (with due respect to Marshall McLuhan) and history is full of examples of words and deeds shining out across time to inspire others which were made in defiance of the official line.

It’s not just who can shout the loudest, although that helps, but who can inspire and lead and who will take to the barricades (so to speak) in this time of revolution because this is the time to revolt and the world is now simmering with anger at those who would hold the majority back for the benefit of their own greedy ends.

So here we stand at the dawn of the post truth, this day won’t last for long and in time a new reality or realities will arise (in fact the powers that be have already started trying but remain hamstrung by the fact that they and their delivery systems remain suspect and criminal at best and un-trusted and despised at worst).

In this day any person can seize the means to make a statement, an act or gesture which may be part of the blueprints of the new reality that arises. The only thing which they need to do to fulfill this is to remain true to what they believe and be willing to say or do it.

And this might start to sound like an incitement to violence BUT it is not. What it is an incitement to ACTION, the action is to take on the DIY ethos so espoused on home improvement shows (ever wondered why they are so pushed in a time when affordability of a house is so sky-high?) and put it to use in constructing or renovating your very own reality tunnel and contributing to a greater one in which you will live.

Carpe Diem!

*-I am liberally borrowing from the idea of a reality tunnel as coined by Timothy Leary but I have taken on some of the ideas as espoused by Robert Anton Wilson in his book Prometheus Rising
**-I really can’t stress enough for having a look at this source and seeing how many times the US has intervened in the politics of another country to get the outcome it wanted.
***-Unless you’re a follower of Mao Tse Tung then it’s the supremacy of Mao’s thought but that is just the same argument in another form.
****-The high-water marks of US culture are its expressive mediums like Jazz, blues, comic books and cartoons, Rock and Roll, Hot rod cars, kitsch culture, science fiction, horror and pop music but also in activities like skateboarding, surfing, bowling and roller-derby and other things from the period of the 1920s to 1970s where US culture expressed itself fully and without gross repetition. And I admit my own enjoyment of these (and many others) but that does not detract from the fact that US culture has provided some extraordinary outlets for expressing in the industrial age.

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