Sunday, October 3, 2010

Charles Eisenstein: The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies

Global Citizen Research and Media Group - Discussions
The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies article link
Article written by Charles Eisenstein

We live in a ubiquitous matrix of lies, a culture of mendacity so pervasive that it is nearly invisible. Because we are lied to all the time, in ways so routine they are beneath conscious notice, even the most direct lies are losing their power to shock us. The most shocking thing about the lies of the Bush administration is that those lies are not actually shocking to most people. Why do we as a society seemingly accept our leaders' gross dishonesty as a matter of course? Why does the repeated exposure of their lies seem to arouse barely a ripple of indignation among the general public? Where is the protest, the outrage, the sense of betrayal?

The answer to these questions lies deeper than the machinations of one or another faction of the power elite. It lies deeper than the subversion and control of the media. Our society's apathy arises from a subtle and profound disempowerment: the depotentiation of the language itself, along with all other forms of symbolic culture. Words are losing their power to create and to transform. The result is a tyranny that can never be overthrown, but will only proceed toward totality until it collapses under the weight of the multiple crises it inevitably generates. ...

What are we to do, then, when words, our primary creative tool in the modern world, have become impotent? Surely radical activists and writers must ask this of themselves, as they shout the truth from the rooftops, loud and clear, to so little effect (yes there are some small victories, but the inferno rages on). We feel the urge to stop talking and get out there and DO something. But to do is to speak.

The exception is activists who, impatient with all the talk, go out there and do good work on a local, individual basis. They help prisoners or poor children or the sick or some other victim of the world-devouring machine. They teach teens how to become conscientious objectors. They offer legal aid or friendship to people on death row. They go into the inner city and plant gardens. They staff soup kitchens. They lie down in front of tractors. They spike trees. They blow the whistle on an injustice. They become healers. On an individual level, they make a huge difference in many people's lives, and their own lives are spiritually rewarding and emotionally fulfilling. On the societal level or the civilizational level, however, they do little to stem the tide, because on that level the main impact of such operations lies, ironically enough, in their symbolic power, which has quickly diminished (in the public consciousness) to the status of clich├ęs, gimmicks, or stunts.

The crisis of our civilization comes down to a crisis of language, in which words have seemingly lost their ability to create and can now only destroy. We have all the technology and all the knowledge we need to live in beautiful harmony with each other and the planet. What is needed are different collective choices. Choices arise from perceptions, perceptions arise from interpretations or stories, and stories are build of words. Today, words have lost their power and our society's stories have seemingly taken on a life of their own, propelling us toward an end that no sane person would choose and that we seem helpless to resist. And helpless we are, when all we have are impotent words.

What are we as writers, then, to do? Shall we stop writing? No. But let us not labor under any illusions. The truth has been exposed again and again, but to what effect? What have forty years of correct analysis of the environmental and political state of the world brought us? The reason that the entire staff of your favorite left-wing website is not in a concentration camp is that it is not necessary. Words themselves have been robbed of their power. Thoreau said, "It takes two to speak the truth: one to speak and another to hear." Who hears now but the already-converted? ...

Like words, images have become divorced from the objects they are supposed to represent, until the very word "image" itself has taken on connotations of inauthenticity: a corporate image, a politician's image. In a world of lies and images, nothing is real. Immersed in such a world, is the political apathy of the American public so difficult to understand?

The danger when we operate wholly in a world of representations and images is that we begin to mistake that world for reality, and to believe that by manipulating symbols we can automatically change the reality they represent. We lose touch with the reality behind the symbols. Grisly death becomes collateral damage. Torture becomes enhanced interrogation. A bill to relax pollution controls becomes the Clear Skies Act. Defeat in Iraq becomes victory. War becomes peace. Hate becomes love. Freedom becomes slavery. ...

Take heart: the evisceration of the language that makes our tyranny impregnable also ensures its eventual demise. The words, numbers, and images over which it exercises complete control are less and less congruent to reality. Such is the folly of the infamous "Brand America" campaign, designed to burnish America's "image" abroad. The image has become more important than the reality. Bombs blow up innocent civilians to send a "message" to the "terrorists". No matter that this message exists only in the fantasies of our leaders. They are, like those they rule, immersed in an increasingly impotent world of symbol and cannot understand why the world does not conform to their manipulation of its representation, the pieces on their global chess board.

However we play with the statistics to cover up the converging crises of our time, the crises continue to intensify. We can euphemize the autism crisis away, the obesity epidemic, the soil crisis, the water crisis, the energy crisis. We can dumb down standardized exams to cover up the accelerating implosion of the educational system. We can redefine people in and out of poverty and manipulate economic statistics. We can declare -- simply declare -- that the forests are not in precipitous decline. For a while we can hide the gathering collapse of environment and polity, economy and ecology, but eventually reality will break through. ...

Increasingly isolated in a virtual world, the mass of people fear authenticity even as they crave it. Except in the young, the fear usually prevails over the craving until something happens to make life fall apart. Following the pattern experienced by Cindy Sheehan, the fundamental corruption of first one, then all of our civilization's major institutions becomes transparent. In my various areas of activism I have seen this many times. Someone discovers that the pharmaceutical industry, or the music industry, or the oil industry, or organized religion, or Big Science, or the food industry is shockingly corrupt, but still believes in the basic soundness of the system as a whole. Eventually, in a natural process of radicalization, they discover that the rot is endemic to all of these and more. As activists for the truth, we are midwives to this process.

As the crises of our age converge and infiltrate the fortresses we have erected to preserve the virtual world of euphemism and pretense, the world is falling apart for more and more people at once. The truth is closing in. Let us speak it loud and clear, so that when they emerge into the stark glare of our true condition, someone is there to say, "Welcome to the real world."

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