A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Monday, July 5, 2010

No Truth is an Island

The media (we must come up with a better label) -- right, left and center –  fails to do more than skim the surface of events.  It is like seeing the connections between islands only through the events of the weather – if you read this sentence and say, “I don’t understand, it makes no sense.” then you have captured the essence of it.  

To explain the explanation: most islands are made to exist by the movements of the earth’s tectonic plates; almost all are volcanic mountains surrounded by water. And as such we only see the tops of them.  Often chains of islands are formed by the operation of a single process occurring over many millions of years and are thus related.  The resulting isolated mountain tops can be strung out through several climate zones and thus have very different appearances.  If one only sees the surface relationships the “reporting” on the islands will, at the best, be incomplete and at the worst misleading.  If assumptions of relationship of one island to another are made only from superficial similarities, then much is lost to the understanding and, very likely, to accuracy of action. 

The roots of islands are in the geology of their formation; what are the roots of the stories of national and world events?  First, it should be clear that we treat these events as isolated in one sense and yet we try to organize them into groups of like kinds so to better make sense of them – just like the islands; see there was a purpose to that part.  We can pretty easily come up with the analogies to the islands (the stories) and to the weather (the other stuff going on at the same time), but what would be the roots of the mountains; what would be the plate tectonics?  That is where those who act in the capacity of ‘the press’ are so woefully unprepared, they not only have no clue, but most don’t even know that they need a clue. 

It is important to remember that the first clear theory of plate tectonics comes from the turn of the 19th to the 20th century and that the idea was not verified and generally accepted until the late mid-century.  Islands were much more of a mystery before then.  Since news stories are almost all about human actions, with only the occasional avalanche or earthquake, the root is human nature and behavior stirred together with our history and the forms of relationships that we have struck with nature and each other. 

There can be no assumption that the audience for a news story will have any common experience or understanding of these roots, so at a minimum the reporter should be expected to tell us a bit about his/her understanding of these root issues with everything that they write.  And, they must have an understanding in the first place. 

A great problem rises up, however.  There has come to be the incredible notion that the root basis – human nature and behavior, history, etc. – is open to essentially unguided interpretation, that anyone’s view is as good as any other.  It would be crazy to select an accountant to explain the origin of islands rather than a geophysicist/volcanologist.  Why would we not attempt to select those with the best possible basis for the understanding of human behavior for this clearly more crucial comprehension and make such understanding an expectation for those who claim the position of telling us about the events of our world? 

Admittedly the situation is more complex than I have drawn it.  “News” deliverers understand that they need to appear knowledgeable and use a variety of devices to appear trustworthy.  We seek out the stories and interpretations of stories that we find must agreeable.  This has led to a media of appearances and a highly segmented audience.  But these happen to the degree that they do in part because of the vacuum of real comprehension evident in reporting. 

As much as I would like to lay the fault at the feet of the confused and disengaged public, it is impossible to do so.  The Great Many is like water flowing over the land, it seeks a path moved by gravity and guided by the shape of the landscape.  The Great Many cannot, no matter how well intended, do its own discovery, cannot form enlightened opinion in a vacuum of honest information. 

And thus the conundrum: only the public can demand that the media do its job.  The money that comes to the media is supposed, in a “free market economy”, to be a measure of the public will, but is not.  It is a measure of the corporate will and, since controlling what the public sees and hears serves corporate interests, the media responds to business interests from the deeply subtle to the blatantly obvious [1]

The passivity of the public has led to the self-serving conclusion that the Great Many are only sheepeople intent on stuffing themselves with fastfood and buying electronic toys.  But people will act in the ways that are available.  Tell them the truth and, after the initial shock and grieving process, a significant percentage of them will begin to refill with their native humanness like a cactus after a heavy rain.  This is understood by the smartest of the elite and watched for. 

It is not clear where the reservoir of courage is to be found, that courage that will risk telling the truth loudly enough and from a high enough place to be heard.  The powers will tolerate little fish like me and others, people who can be ignored, but when JFK might have ended the war in southeast Asia or Bobby might have gained real power or when Martin and his millions began to speak against the Vietnam war and the militarization of the US, then they had to go.  In fact, they need little fish to keep the public confused, to supply an immediate and local danger for the official story.  It is a balancing act that the powerful feel that they are in control of. 

Another way is more likely: the big lie told long enough is believed and then it begins to become tattered.  But by then it cannot be untold, even by master propagandists.  Such is the stuff of desperate revolutions.  A lie too big to stay hidden; life too stressed to resist the seeping in of, if not truth, the emptiness of the lie.  It will be one or the other. 

We are watching the powerful in the process of fortifying their position, building their armies, collecting the computer based ‘crowd control’ systems; preparing for the lie to tatter, preparing for the emptiness of the lie to replaced with tiny bits of truth, enough to whet the taste.  We are also seeing this in the craziness of the militia movement; the second amendment seems to offer a little nibble of solution.  We see it in the blank-stare patriotism of the ‘teaparty’ loonies; grabbing at the tiny crumbs of truth that morph from the emptiness of the lie. 

But is only a small and rapid step from the craziness of the grief process to the actionable potential of acceptance, not of the tattered lie, but of the forming truth left unceremoniously and painfully in its place. 

It will not be long until it is increasingly clear that our Orwellian war on ‘Terror’ is exactly that, a device to control the Great Many, a way to take their tiny bits of wealth and to fortify and arm the elites against the Great Many, against the inevitable tattering of the lie. No truth is an island, it is all connected and rooted in the human tectonic movements. And then we will see. 

[1]  From a ‘conspiracy’ of language that selects the same unquestioned words and phrases to the “army” of army experts explaining our “civilian controlled” military.  Of course, the obvious has become so routine that blatancy is removed and replaced with a fearful and passive bargaining.

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