America’s Obsession with Illusion
Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Progressive Radio Network, January 14, 2022
“He who despises his own life is soon master of others” – English proverb
For the vast majority of Americans, the past year has been the most challenging in their lives – certainly for young adults. However, not everyone has been suffering equally. The nation’s health or illness is not uniform. Much of our suffering is dependent upon the institutionalization and negligence of previous injustices, the loss of social equanimity, economic heedlessness, and our leaders’ unmitigated greed and pursuit of power. Nor is everyone adversely affected by the shifts underway in the imaginations of the political and ideological universes. The transnational class of corporate and banking elites, for example, has little motivation to respect or contribute to national boundaries and interests. They perceive themselves as global actors. For the generals and captains of neoliberal globalization, the puppet masters of financial markets, the Covid-19 pandemic only caused annoying disruptions in the quality of their lives. For the remainder, it has been cataclysmic.
As we begin 2022 should we not pause and reflect carefully about what we want as and don’t want as individuals and a nation for securing a sustainable future? Fundamental is a deep introspection into the common and moral principles we are living today. It is not what we say or profess, but what we actualize in our daily lives and as a collective society that matters. Only our actions can realistically convey the deeper values in the American psyche.
Therefore we need to ask ourselves more difficult questions to discover the real moral poverty that defines us as a civilization. Where were the large demonstrations against the trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and foreign banks when barely a penny for the average citizen was spent? Where were the demonstrations against home foreclosures and the loss of small family farms? Debt drenched student aid? Exploitive payday loans and exorbitant credit card fees. There were no protests against Obama’s broken promises on universal healthcare. The single-minded attention on the pandemic has cancelled out 2.5 million homeless American children and 46 million adults and children who go daily. Where was a collective voice condemning the hundreds of billion tax dollars to increase the power of the military and intelligence complexes as American cities further collapsed into ghettos? Where were the marches against corporations off-shoring jobs. Why no vocal outrage against Obama’s invasions of Libya and Syria, or the US ongoing support of rogue dictatorships, such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE, for crimes against humanity in Yemen. Where are the protests against corporations exploiting slave labor in poor countries such as Bangladesh and Indonesia. There were no noteworthy protests for any of these issues. And yet these are true existential threats to our very democracy. Bertrand Russell wrote, “one should care about the world they do not see.” Should we not therefore be planning ahead for the future of our children, grandchildren and ourselves instead of being incapacitated by fear.
The national popular disinterest in these and other crises forebodes something on the horizon that does not bode well for most Americans. It is a simple principle to understand; yet so subtle it will likely go unnoticed until everyone is individually and collectively affected. It is the utter lack of balance within the nation’s body politick, and across the media that spoon feeds us virtual images of a faux theatrical play, the illusory icons on our minds’ monitor screens, that shape our perceptions of reality. This is how control is exerted over our thoughts, speech and actions. In fact, it is only after people exercise their thoughts independently, with the certain belief that they have actual self-control over their lives, that they arrive at the realization that their perceptions may be largely distorted.
Throughout America’s history there has been a system of three federal branches to assure there is a platform for checks and balances as well as a structure to contain the tensions between them. That system now is being rapidly challenged and eroded. Now the middle of the road Democrats officially control the White House and both legislative bodies. We will see what awaits us.
There is also what is commonly referred to as the “fourth estate,” the powers of the press and news media that control the framing of the political narrative and partisan issues. In the past, the media was expected to hold the government accountable by exposing its conflicts of interest that endanger the public, its misdemeanors, and systemic corruption. This too is in decay as the media has been fully captured by corporate interests and now aligns itself politically and ideologically with the new political elite determined to reshape democracy and launch a new reset that will dramatically infringe on individual rights and liberties.
Finally, there is the growing influence of a fourth branch of government, the corpocracy and its private interests. We might also include the US intelligence community that increasingly operates independently from executive and legislative oversight.
Together we can witness this loose cabal of seemingly independent entities, working simultaneously in consortium and in opposition to each other, propelling us towards a future tsunami of greater polarization and immense social disruption.
Earlier generations were not threatened by the telecommunication and technological giants, such as Google, Facebook and Amazon. Clinton’s Communications Decency Act of 1996, despite its well-meaning intentions to protect free speech, was otherwise destructively naïve. At that time it was sensible; however, that was before the advent of the social media that now dominates our lives and shapes political discourse. Silicon Valley has become a force far more powerful than the lobbyists on K Street to ensure that corporate Democrats are raised to a position of absolute power. Yet the problem would be equally threatening if it were the corporate and radicalized GOP in power.
The centrist Democratic left, lulled in a passivity that “it can’t happen here,” is every bit as dangerous and delusional as the Republican far-right’s paranoia over conspiracies squatting behind every nook and cranny. A moderate centrist right no longer exists as it has now exited reality like a herd of lemmings to follow Trump phenomena over a phantasmagoric cliff.
The more important question to contemplate is how this will impact yourself and average citizens. What happens elsewhere around the world can no longer be viewed in isolation. Globalization is perhaps the most holistic phenomena within the matrix of financial capital movements and post-modern social restructuring. China has the means to socially control most of its population, especially in urban areas. On the other hand, China would be unable to succeed in this endeavor without the direct assistance, trade and technological development of Silicon Valley and the private innovators of intelligence and surveillance applied science. China has already launched social scoring, a nefarious means to reward and penalize public activity. If a person protests the lack of personal freedom, democratic values and free speech, his or her social score decreases. And through digital networks, authorities can monitor and identify every Chinese citizen’s movements. All of this technology is ready for launch in the US and other developed nations. However, rather than social scoring, it is block chain, the digital database that gathers any information it is programmed for. Block chain has already been employed for almost a decade.
At this moment the federal government and individual states are blindly over-reacting to Covid’s health threats, the climate and environment, and the collapse of social cohesion. These threats are eliciting government mandates, such as vaccination. A Biden federal vaccine mandate would overrule individual state laws. The fact that this is being publicly stated should quell many conspiratorial theories. It is part of a more comprehensive and long-term agenda for expanding government social control under the pretense and propaganda of keeping Americans safe under the banner of national security.
New laws are under construction that would redefine hate speech. Censorship of free speech for criticizing official narratives and policies to tackle the pandemic are being enforced. Any criticism towards the failures of the Covid-19 vaccines is redefined as threats to public health. People raising such critiques may eventually find their names on domestic terrorist lists. This scenario is not beyond the imagination. Wikileaks revealed that environmental, animal protection, and human rights groups have been labeled as domestic terrorist organizations. Guilt by association laws, for example buried in Obama’s National Defense Authorization Act, are in place. Expanding a law’s scope is far easier than erasing it from the books. Consequently, it is not unlikely that these laws may eventually widen to include charges of subversion based solely on the emails you read, the videos you watch or the broadcasts you listen to. This would inevitably lead to the death toll for any residue of integrity in journalism. Silicon Valley’s collusion with the government has canceled the voices of some of our best investigative journalists, such as Chris Hedges, Sharyl Attkinsson, Glenn Greenwald, Max Blumenthal and Craig Murray. These are only a few of many examples. The new unstated law is that original investigation must support the official narrative, otherwise it will be prohibited from accessible public view.
We may recall that under the second Bush administration, the justice department created “free speech zones,” fenced off or confined areas where demonstrators were only permitted to exercise their Constitutional rights of free protest and expression. Today we are only several small amendments away before the right to assemble being banned altogether.
Faced with growing condemnation by many nations, the US’ hegemony on the world geopolitical arena has waned considerably. Biden’s administration and its return to neocon foreign against Russia and China and neoliberal market policies will likely make every effort to regain the dominance it lost during the past four years. What has vanished in the US’ former full spectrum dominance over the geopolitical landscape is now being inverted to strengthen federal hegemonic reign over the American population.
Finally, we need to awaken to modern technologies’ remarkable sophistication and its certain threats to the health of our societies, and even to our definition of being human. Sadly, this is an industry each of us has been complicit in advancing. Coining a term by one of the planet’s most important and forgotten 20th century prophetic voices, the Trappist monk Father Thomas Merton, we are facing a great Unspeakable, a spiritual crisis contributing to the existential vacuity of modern American culture. Few are aware that in his 1964 collection of meditations, Seeds of Destruction, Merton predicted that the civil rights movement would confront a catastrophic impasse and may find itself without leadership. Four years later, Martin Luther King Jr, who Merton had a deep correspondence with, was assassinated. Merton would die suddenly later that same year under very mysterious circumstances in Thailand.
Another way to describe the Unspeakable is criminal Sovereignty, with a capital S, to convey its almost numinous qualities. If alive today, Merton would look upon both the extreme right and left as mere expressions of the meaninglessness of American life manifesting as a turbulent ocean of afflictive emotions and thoughts. Instead of technology serving the needs of humanity, Americans are being increasingly conditioned to willingly bow as slaves to technology. The public, Somerset Maugham warned, “are easily disillusioned then they are angry or it was the illusion they loved.” The Unspeakable’s unspoken mantra is: technology must progress regardless of how many people fall destitute, jobless, debt ridden and physically ill with only suicide as a recourse to escape. “American democracy today,” Merton observed over 55 years ago, “is just cheap pressed wood fiber, cardboard and spray paint.” Consequently, the elite sitting in the global control tower view the Great Reset’s technological regime as preferable to democracy’s kabuki theater. Advanced surveillance, artificial intelligence, intelligent robotics, transhumanism, a 5G internet of everything, genetic engineering, and weather modification should be our guiding avatars. The solutions, he would argue, can no longer be found in civil discourse or the rights of human beings gathering in assembly. For the ruling elite, the masses are blind sheep wandering in search of a shepherd. This is what author Ronald Wright called the “progress trap” – progress’ unending efforts to feed technology’s hunger to devour natural and human capital, interest free. And the mainstream press and news media, in its’ malady of cognitive dissonance, serves as its unreflective cheerleader for our march towards civilizational collapse.
Merton was keenly aware of technology’s dangers to social stability. In a 1967 letter he took aim at the “universal myth that technology infallibly makes everything in every way better for everybody. It does not.” However, Merton was by no means a Luddite. “Technology could indeed make a better world for millions of human beings,” he wrote. Yet there remained the nightmare of technology transforming the world into a “more collectivist, cybernated mass culture.” Decades before the first desktop, Merton foresaw a complete fragmentation of the nation’s moral and spiritual fabric when people will begin basing all of their political and ethical decisions on computers. Prophetically he wrote to a friend, “just wait until they start philosophizing with computers!” That was 1967. He even foresaw technology becoming a means to elevate the slaves of technology’s false self, to satisfy narcissistic appetites for admiration and status. In other words, the woke social media.
“The greatest need of our time,” Merton wrote in his Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, “is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds and makes all political and social life a mass illness. Without this housecleaning we cannot begin to see. Unless we see we cannot think. The purification must begin with the mass media.”
For this reason we urgently need to penetrate the illusions of propaganda and popular falsehoods, across the entire political spectrum as well the self-appointed pontificating Pharisees who are ushering a new socio-economic era where endless technological innovation has precedence over human lives. Despite its newness, it has also been clearly predictable. No doubt, if Orwell were penning his great novel today, the emergence of this new American era we are witnessing would not be fiction.