Acting As If It Weren’t Really So

Laughing on the bus/Playing Games with the faces/She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy/I said, “Be careful his bowtie is really a camera”
– America by Paul Simon

Only people who listen to the chorus of reliable alternative media voices warning of the quickly growing threat of nuclear war have any sense of the nightmare that is approaching.  Even for them, however, and surely for most others, unreality reigns.  Reality has a tough time countering illusions.  For we are cataleptically slow-walking to WW III.  If it is very hard or impossible to imagine our own deaths, how much harder is it to imagine the deaths of hundreds of millions of others or more. Seeking Truth in a Cou... Edward Curtin Buy New $13.99 (as of 07:37 UTC - Details)

In 1915, amid the insane slaughter of tens of millions during WW I that was a shocking embarrassment to the meliorist fantasy of the long-standing public consciousness, Freud wrote:

It is indeed impossible to imagine our own death, and whenever we attempt to do so, we can perceive that we are in fact still present as spectators. Hence the psychoanalytic school could venture on the assertion that, at bottom, no one believes in his own death, or to put the same thing another way, that, in the unconscious, every one of us is convinced of his own immortality.

The growing lunacy of the Biden administration’s provocations against Russia via Ukraine seem lost on so many.  The long-running and deep-seated demonization of Russia and its President Vladimir Putin by U.S. propagandists has sunk so deep into the Western mind that facts can’t descend that deep to counteract it. It is one of the greatest triumphs of U.S. government propaganda.

A friend, a retired history professor at an elite university, recently told me that he can’t think of such matters as the growing threat of nuclear war if he wants to sleep at night, but anyway, he’s more concerned with the consequences of global warming.  Readers at publications where my numerous articles about the nuclear war risk have appeared – the worst since the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 – have made many comments such as “nuclear weapons don’t exist,” that it’s all a hoax, that Putin is in cahoots with Biden in a game of fear mongering to promote a secret agenda, etc.  How can one respond to such denials of reality?

The other day I met another friend who likes to talk about politics.  He is an intelligent and a caring man.  He was sporting a tee-shirt with a quote from George Washington and quickly started talking about his obsessive fear of Donald Trump and the possibility that he could be elected again.  I told him that I despised Trump but that Biden was a far greater threat right now.  He spoke highly of Biden, and when I responded that Biden has been a warmonger throughout his political career and of course in Ukraine, was instigating the use of nuclear weapons, and was in full support of Israel’s genocide of Palestinians, he looked at me as if I were saying something he had never heard before.  When I spoke of the 2014 U.S. engineered coup d’état in Ukraine, he, a man in his sixties at least, said he was unaware of it, but in any case Biden supported our military as he did and that was good.  When I said Biden is mentally out of it and physically tottering, he emphatically denied it; said Biden was very sharp and fully engaged.  He said Trump was fat and a great danger and George Washington would agree.  I was at a loss for words.  The conversation ended.

A third friend, just back from living overseas for a year, flew back east from California to visit old friends and relatives.  He told me this sad tale:

There were experiences that troubled me very deeply during my visit that had nothing to do with all the death and final goodbyes I was immersed in.  My family I would say is pretty typical working class Democrat.  Liberal/progressive in social outlook.  Most are devout Catholics.  All are kind, generous very loving people.  What was troubling was that it was pretty much impossible to carry on a rational reasonably sane political conversation with all but a couple of them, as the “Trump Derangement Syndrome” symptoms were absolutely off the charts.  It was quite stunning actually.  It is almost as if Dementia-Joe isn’t even in office as they had no interest in discussing his many failings, because their entire focus was the orange haired clown.  If I had ten bucks for every time someone told me any one of the following NPR/PBS talking points I’d buy a nice meal for myself – (Trump will be a dictator if elected – Trump will prosecute his enemies if elected – Trump will destroy our democracy if he gets in – etc.)  Any and all attempts to question these narratives and talking points by bringing the behavior of the current administration into the conversation were met with befuddlement – as if people couldn’t believe that “I” wasn’t as terrified as they were by the “Trump-Monster” lurking in the shadows.

So I guess I’m sharing these thoughts with you Ed because it feels like I’m dealing with several different kinds of loss right now.  The more obvious “loss” associated with the physical death of loved ones – but I’m also mourning the intellectual and psychological death of living loved ones who have somehow become completely untethered from the “material realities” I observe on planet earth.  They can repeat “talking points” but can’t explain the evidence or reason that needs to be attached to those talking points for them to be anything but propaganda. Physical death is a natural thing – something we will all face – but this intellectual and spiritual death I am witness to is perhaps even more painful and disconcerting for me.  How do we find our way forward when reason, rational debate, evidence, and real-world events are replaced with fear – and rather irrational fears at that?

This intellectual and spiritual death that he describes is a widespread phenomenon.  It is not new, but COVID 19 with its lockdowns, lies, and dangerous “vaccines” dramatically intensified it.  It created vast gaps in interpersonal communication that were earlier exploited in the lead-up to the 2016 election and Trump’s surprising victory.  Families and friends stopped talking to each other.  The longstanding official propaganda apparatus went into overdrive.  Then in  2020 the normal human fear of death and chaos was fully digitized during the lockdowns.  Putin, Trump, the Chinese, sexual predators, viruses, space aliens, your next door neighbor, etc. – you name it – were all tossed into the mix that created fear and panic to replace the growing realization that the war on terror initiated by George W. Bush in 2001 was losing its power.  New terrors were created, censorship was reinforced, and here we are in 2024 in a country supporting Israeli genocide in Gaza and with a population blind to the growing threat of WW III and the use of nuclear weapons.

The communication gap – what my friend aptly describes as “this intellectual and spiritual death” – is two-sided.  On one hand there is simple ignorance of what is really going on in the world, greatly aided by vast government/media propaganda. On the other, there is chosen ignorance or the wish to be deceived to maintain illusions.

We are thinking reeds as Pascal called us, vulnerable feeling creatures afraid of death; we, who through the support of wars and violence of all sorts, care just enough to want to be deceived as to what we are doing by supporting wars that make so much blood that is inside other people get to the outside for the earth to drink since it is not our blood and we survive.

I could, of course, quote liberally from truth tellers down through history who have said the same thing about self-deception with all its shades and nuances. Those quotations are endless.  Why bother?  At some very deep level in the recesses of their hearts, people know it’s true.  I could make a pretty essay here, be erudite and eloquent, and weave a web of wisdom from all those the world says were the great thinkers because they are now dead and can no longer detect hypocrisy.

For the desire to be deceived and hypocrisy (Greek hypokrites, stage actor, a pretender) are kissing cousins. Grasping the theatrical nature of social life, the need to pretend, to act, to feel oneself part of a “meaningful” play explains a lot.  To stand outside consensus reality, outside the stage door, so to speak, is not very popular.   Despite the mass idiocy of the media’s daily barrage of lies and stupidities that pass for news on the front pages and newscasts of the corporate media, people want to believe them to feel they belong.

Yet D. H. Lawrence’s point a century ago still applies: “The essential America soul is hard, isolate, stoic, and a killer.  It has never yet melted.”

But this killer soul must be hidden behind a wall of deceptions as the U.S. warfare state ceaselessly wages wars all around the world.  It must be hidden behind feel good news stories about how Americans really care about others, but only others that they are officially allowed to care about.  Not Syrians, Yemenis, Russian speakers of the Donbass, Palestinians, et al.  The terrorist nature of decades upon decades of U.S. savagery and the indifference of so many Americans go hand-in-hand but escape notice in the corporate media that are propagandists. The major theme of these media is that the United States government is the great defender of freedom, peace, and democracy.  Every once in a while, a scapegoat, one rotten apple in the barrel, is offered up to show that all is not perfect in paradise.  Here or there a decent article appears to reinforce the illusion that the corporate media tell the truth.  But essentially it is one massive deception that is leading many people to accept a slow walk toward WW III.

There’s a make-believe quality to this vast spectacle of violent power and false innocence that baffles the mind.  To see and hear the corporate masked media magicians’ daily reports is to enter a world of pure illusion that deserves only sardonic laughter but sadly captivates so many adult children desperate to believe.

Here’s an anecdote about a very strange encounter, one I couldn’t make up.  A communication of some sort that also has a make-believe quality to it.  I’m not sure what the message is. Catching Chickens: Bab... Wilson, Lawrence Buy New $3.99 (as of 07:37 UTC - Details)

I was recently meeting with a writer and researcher who has interviewed scores of people about the famous 1960s assassinations and other sensitive matters.  I only knew this person through internet communication, but he was passing my way and suggested that we meet, which we did at a local out-of-the-way cafe.  We were the only customers and we took our drinks out the back to a small table and chairs under a tree in the café’s large garden that bordered open land down to a river.  About 10 yards away a woman sat at a table, writing in a notebook that I took to be journaling of some sort.  The researcher and I talked very openly for more than two hours about our mutual work and what he had learned from many of his interviewees about the assassinations.  Neither of us paid any attention to the woman at the table – naively? – and our conversation naturally revolved around the parts played by intelligence agencies, the CIA, etc. in the assassinations of the Kennedys and MLK, Jr.  The woman sat and wrote.  Near the end of our two plus hours, my friend went inside the café, which had closed to new customers, to use the men’s room.  The woman called to me and said I hope you don’t mind but I overheard some of your conversation and my father worked for U.S. intelligence.  She then told us much more about him, where he went to college, etc. or at least what she said she knew because when growing up he didn’t tell her mother, her, or siblings any details about his decades of spying.  But when she attended his memorial service in Washington D.C., the place was filled with intelligence  operatives and she learned more about her father’s secretive life.  Then, out of the blue, it burst out of her how he was obsessed with the high school he attended, one she assured us we probably never heard of (we were in Massachusetts) – Regis High School, a Jesuit scholarship prep school for boys in NYC.  To say I was startled is an understatement, since I went to Regis myself, and the anomalous “coincidence” of this encounter in the back garden of an empty café spooked my friend as well.  The woman told us more about her father until we had to leave.

I wondered if he wore a bowtie and if what just happened weren’t really so.

Reprinted with the author’s permission.