Discern [on Flawed Wednesday]

“For in the end, he [Aldous Huxley] was trying to tell us what afflicted the people in ‘Brave New World’ was not that they were laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.” Neil Postman, Amusing Ourselves To Death: Public Discourse In The Age Of Show Business

Neil Postman wrote Amusing Ourselves To Death in 1985. Cassandra, sounding the alarm to a community too distracted to listen. Were he alive today, he’d think – but would not say – “I told you so.” All the quotes in this post are his.

I read in my daily-news-horror-trawl a quote from a Wyoming man who believes he’s protected from the pandemic because of the color of his hair. It might sound wacky until you consider that his staunch belief in the virus’ preference for hair color is just one of the many misinformation narratives currently being fed to the angry and easily led. He is, without question or thought, breathing the gas of a political party that wants to keep him distracted, fearful and high.

If you are not choking on the fumes of excessive gaslighting, then you are among those whose eyes are burning from the corrosive air it produces. Are you as tired as I am of reading accounts of deathbed appeals for the vaccine? It is too late, in your final moments of life, to realize you’ve been duped. It’s a tragedy. Are you as disgusted as I am, having been witness to the undeniable violence of the insurrection, of listening to the blatant denials? Despite what your eyes saw, it was just another day of tourists wandering through the Capitol. Gaslight tears.

During the first year of the pandemic an acquaintance latched onto a comorbidity table lifted from the CDC website and circulated as “proof” that COVID was less dangerous than the common cold. It was, of course, taken out of context. A quick visit to the CDC website (seriously, less than 30 seconds), viewed in context and with an understanding of the meaning of the word “comorbidity,” easily debunked the claim. Our acquaintance, enraged, doubled down on his claim of “proof” – though he could not be bothered to spend 30 seconds to check the poison gas that he was gulping.

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.”

The legal defense has been successfully used to defend both Tucker Carlson and Rachel Maddow: the courts ruled that reasonable viewers should know the difference between news and opinion. This is news. This is not.

Do we have the ability to differentiate between public business and a vaudeville act? The evidence is not hopeful.

The court’s ruling, then, is likely based on a faulty premise: that people are able to differentiate. That the audience is reason-able or values reason. Able-To-Reason. Reason is the power to think, understand and form judgments through a process of logic. In order to be reasonable one must value reason. One must want it.

Logic and reason, both assume the inclination and capacity to question. Curiosity, real curiosity, does not seek agreement or group think. It seeks to step into the gap between what is espoused and what is lived. It seeks solid ground to build upon so must recognize sand when it sees it.

And, what if “reason” long ago fled the coop? Or, what if “reason,” has never been a dominant trait in the coop in the first place? What if discernment dies in the presence of so much gas?

“Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance.”

read Kerri’s blog post about IT DOESN’T KNOW

Turn To The Center [on Flawed Wednesday]

I read in my morning horror trawl that 80% of republicans think democrats are socialists and 80% of democrats believe republicans are racist. There you go! Socialists and racists running amok. Society reduced to elementary school antics. Blame games, name calling, stereotyping and over-adamant claims to know-the-truth-the-whole-truth-and-nothing-but-the-truth. We see each other by gaslight.

There’s a little secret about truth. It is very patient. It will sit and wait until all the shouting and belief-flinging arguments are exhausted. It is quiet. It will not prevent us from diving head-first down the rabbit-hole-of-conspiracy. It will let us claim that we possess it – that we are the single owner of it – no matter how ridiculous the face we attempt to paint on it.

Truth will not intervene. If lie and madness are what we desire, truth will, like a good parent, let us learn our lesson.

Truth honors choices. It is the still center and will wait until the whirling stops. It will wait until the lies spin off and we desire to once again turn our gaze to the still-calm-center.

Truth is not an enabler. Truth will let us put our hands on the burner. Truth will let us choke on COVID even as we cough-and-claim that it’s no worse than the flu. It will sit quietly while we protest and profess and propagandize. It will not intercede when we discard evidence or demonize other points of view. It will watch patiently as we give away the farm.

Truth cares not for what gossip fills our bubbles and brains and bank accounts. It will not stop us from acting as the termites to our very own timbers.

Truth watches as we bicker on the playground. It honors our choices. It is patient. It knows that someday we will tire of snarling-fearmongering. It knows we will, one day, lose enough to at last shut-up and once again turn together and listen beyond our noisy protestations.

We will of necessity turn to the quiet center. Truth will be patiently waiting.

read Kerri’s blog post about TRUTH DECAY

Play A New Game [on DR Thursday]

“To know what is right and not do it is the worst cowardice.” ~ Confucius

When I do not know what to do or say about the state of the world, I draw pictures. That’s been true all of my life. Apparently, when I was very young, I was in a constant state of not knowing what to do or say. I repeatedly drew an imaginary cabin in the woods. It was a place of peace and solitude. I came into this world with a bit of Thoreau imprinted on my soul.

I know things are bad when my drawings lapse into caricature. These sketches might look like nasty-grams to Mitch McConnell but they are, in truth, ruminations on our system. Last night the streets were again alive with protest. Yet another black American was murdered (in her home) and the system turned its head and looked away. A very long trail of tears. I feel like I need to climb to the top of the mountain and scream, “OUR SYSTEM IS DOING WHAT IT WAS DESIGNED TO DO!”

Suppressing black Americans, as designed into our system, is the same action as elevating white Americans. It’s a mechanism, a single action. A seesaw. This is not the first era in which citizens took to the streets to protest the inequities between black and white America. The protests are immediate and necessary but they do not come close to touching the system.

Legislation will not touch it (a system never assaults itself). Police reform will not change it as systems are great shape-shifters; a new form of suppression/elevation will arise. A system has to be acknowledged before it can be addressed and the acknowledgment can’t come from the angry people in the streets – it must come from the people in suits-and-ties who deny systemic racism exists, the ones who fear the loss of their supremacy. [Isn’t it remarkable that leaders in a country founded on slavery, celebrated lynching with picture postcards in a Jim Crow era, while a terrific battle was being fought en route to civil rights legislation were rigging tax codes and redlining and on and on and on, can deny the existence of racism? That IS the system talking].

The system is dancing right in front of our eyes. While the streets are alive with BLM protests demanding justice and equal rule of law, Mitch McConnell, awash in hypocrisy, is doing what he wants to do with no regard to precedent, rule, or ethic. The system is Lindsey Graham and his fellow red senators following their leader without shame. Laws are made of words – so are creeds and constitutions – as are ethics and morality. Words have no meaning when they are so easily discounted.

We’ve built our crumbling castle on a foundation of Manifest Destiny. A chosen people who believe they can do what they want to do to whomever stands in their way. Native Americans will tell you that government treaties were made to be broken. Words mean nothing when winning-at-all-cost is the name of the game. Laws are made of words – so are creeds and constitutions.

Winning at all cost IS the name of the game. It is the system. It is a game that cares not for who is thrust through the meat grinder. To watch Mitch is to see the system.

Winning at all cost is not governance. Undermining elections is not governance. Gerrymandering electoral maps is not governance. Suppressing voters is not governance. Whipping up fantasies about voter fraud is not governance. How is it possible that the people occupying the seats of a representative government do not believe in the democratic process?

It’s not new. It’s the system.

Our constitution and creeds will matter when our words matter, when we can say what we mean and mean what we say. Black lives will matter when the words written into our creeds and constitution guide us rather than disguise us. In the meantime, we will take another step on the road of cowardice, all the while pretending to be righteous.

It’s enough to make me return to drawing pictures of my cabin in the woods.

read Kerri’s blog post about MITCH

Recognize The Divine [on KS Friday]

“To say that life is destabilized by weakened institutions is merely to say that information loses its use and therefore becomes a source of confusion rather than coherence.” ~ Neil Postman, Technopoly.

“Regularly throughout conversation in Gaelic, ” John O’Donohue writes, “there is explicit recognition that the divine is present in others.” Social fabric is tightly woven and made strong by the recognition of value, divine or otherwise, in all members of a community. During my travels in Bali I was moved again and again by the interconnectivity, the deep assumption of coherence that wove together daily life and community. “If two cars crash, “Budi told me, “the driver’s first thought is not that the other is to blame, it is that they are supposed to meet.”

And when the devaluation of others becomes a national pastime as it has in these once united states, pushing down the head of an other in an attempt to elevate the self – the preferred action of all drowning people – saves no one. It only delays the drowning of all involved. That sound we hear is the rending of our social fabric, the breaking apart of the ship. Those shouts of triumph and scorn coming from the top deck will be short lived. Confusion is a lousy organizing principle and guarantees a watery grave for all on board.

We are awash in information and so we are also awash in an assault on information. Misinformation is our Achilles Heel. So weakened by gaslighting are our public institutions that the single most damning confession of our lifetime, a president admitting for all to hear that he knew and lied about the deadly virus, is shrugged off. “Yeah, well what about Nancy Pelosi’s hair!” I shuddered when I read the inane defense. We flatten. Our values fade as fast as our perspective. Thousands died who did not have to – heads were knowingly pushed under. Thousands will die who do not have to; an estimated 410,000 by the new year. Disposable people.

Neil Postman wrote, “What makes science possible is not our ability to recognize ‘truth’ but our ability to recognize falsehood.” Replace the word “science” with the word “community’ and the statement rings just as true. A community that cannot recognize falsehood is in trouble. A community that will not deal with truth is destined to drown in its own willful confusion.

We will not find our way through this paralysis until we can step out of this car crash and, instead of pointing our fingers and blaming, we step toward each other with wonder at what brought us together, until we are willing to ask, “Why did we meet?”

CONNECTED on the album RELEASED FROM THE HEART is available on iTunes

read Kerri’s blog post about CONNECTED

Question It [on KS Friday]

bridge box copy

Mist covers the mountain and the mountain disappears.

I just learned a new term: astroturfing: “…the practice of masking the sponsors of a message or organization to make it appear as though it originates from and is supported by grassroots participants. It is a practice intended to give the statements or organizations credibility by withholding information about the source’s financial connection.” ~wikipedia

This morning I stumbled onto this term because someone we love has swallowed the bait and jumped enthusiastically into a conspiracy sink hole. It took us less than 30 seconds to research the organization and discover its connection to Russian bots. It’s a mirage meant to attract the lazy-minded and whip them into malcontents. Pull the curtain and Oz is revealed as nothing more than a 2nd rate magician who understands the power of slight of hand. Look over there.

I feel as though I could and should use this quote every day:

“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ~ Isaac Asimov

The real problem of our nation in these times is a dedication to ignorance. It took us less than 30 seconds to pull the curtain on this cult-sham-of-angry-misinformation meant to influence our elections. Yet, we know that no amount of love or appeal matters. Our loved one is lost. It is the nature of cults to provide absolute answers to the fearful. The cult provides the appearance of comfort and community. “Welcome!” The organizing principle is always Us versus Them with the not-so-subtle doctrine that Us is superior to Them. It is the nature of cults to isolate their members, play on their low self-esteem, steel them against fact or reason or the appeals of loved ones to open their eyes. It is an aspect of cults that the adherents have no idea that they are in a cult.

There’s no use shouting, “Wait! Look! Open your eyes!” We have become the enemy, Them. We are inferior and data and fact are an an assault on the comfort, the easy answer, a threat to new-found absolute superiority. The tub of purple Koolaid has already been distributed and consumed by the faithful.

I remember teaching students to check their sources. It’s become even more important in the age of the internet and social media. Kerri and I hold ourselves to that standard. We check our media. We check the sources of our media checks. It is a simple basic: don’t believe everything you hear. Check it. It is the hard line separating ignorance from knowledge. We cannot have a debate of ideas and ideals without it. We cannot build a bridge to the center, to compromise and collaboration, if astro-turf  manipulation is so easily embraced as a grassroots movement, if dedicated ignorance is comparable to research, study and questioning.

30 seconds. It seems like such a small thing to ask, a simple kick of the tire. Check what your hear. Question what you are being sold. A question is never an assault on belief.

Yet, it seems too much to ask. We watch as the mist descends. The mountain disappears.

 

 

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