It’s an old saying and it used to be true. As children, when we were asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, we responded with all sorts of possibilities. Some of us wanted to be firemen or policemen. Others wanted to be doctors or nurses. A few decided that they wanted to be astronauts and go to the moon.
But life intruded and we came to realize, sometimes gradually and sometimes because of a shock, that it was easier to say something than do something – that it was easier to daydream about the possible then to achieve the actual.
Out of that experience, we learn the truth of things. Leaving behind the fantasies of youth, we came to grapple with the realities of our own existence.
Along our journey most of us found that truth was important. Veracity was more than just a word. Honor and dignity were important to our lives; as was a sense of self-respect and value. Taken together, they defined what a human being – a man or a woman – ought to aspire to be.
Three things occurred during the latter part of the 20th century that upset the apple cart. The first was the emergence of an increasingly me-centric culture during the late 80s. It flowered through the end of the century and into the new one. Increasingly, the focus of human efforts was the accumulation of wealth and status. The somewhat traditional social structure that existed up until the early 60s first broke down and then morphed into a society of avarice nomads and non-nomadic prey.
It’s the second thing that happened was as a result of the cultural change. The gap between the very wealthy and the rest of society grew almost exponentially. The rich got richer and the middle class began to disappear.
As the wealth and income gap approached, and then exceeded that during the Middle Ages, the wealthy became more and more concerned for not only maintaining their wealth but, facing increasing difficulties of squeezing more and more blood out of their prey. They began to take more and more extreme actions. Their core strategy was to buy governments. At first, did that directly but then, thanks to a decision by the Supreme Court, a new class of ‘persons’ emerged. Corporations became super-people and the wealthy, who controlled most of them, could direct far more substantial resources in their attempt to maintain and extend their economic hegemony.
You would have thought that such a position was very difficult to maintain in the face of any level of critical thinking on the part of the rest of the population. Knowing the truth of it – that your prospects and those of your family are being diminished – that the bill of goods you are being sold as fraudulent – that the purpose of government is no longer to protect you from the wealthy and powerful but to protect the wealthy and powerful from you. You would think…
But then came the third development – the information age and virtual reality. And with their arrival came to departure of all of those virtues which formed the foundation of what it meant to be a human being. At the very point in time that these virtues were needed the most, the ultimate tools of propaganda and disinformation showed up. The huge megaphone that they provided allowed for the drowning out of truth or veracity. By muddying the water with torrents of fake news, the predators were now able to simply cover over the truth with piles of lies. No longer did they have to make logical arguments. No longer did they have to oppose the truth. They simply buried it under piles of manufactured bull shit.
Now everything was easy. “Truth” became a word that liars used to justify their lies. “Integrity” became a garment designed to hide corruption. Nothing was sacred because everything was profaned. The wealthy, and the people that they bought, took control of the tools of propaganda. Their mission was simple. To turn first the government and then the lives of the American people into a cheap reality show. They even found a reality show host to serve as their ‘useful idiot’.
But you would think that there has to be some residual – some part of those virtues – that still remains. That is the saddest truth in all of this. There is none. It is the only way to explain what has happened.
Think of it! Think of what has happened. A substantial portion of the population, most of them under heavy economic pressure and relying in one way or another on a social safety net, support a very wealthy individual whose every action seems focused primarily on making their lives worse and enriching further the very wealthy.
Why would a substantial portion of society decide on a course which is clearly against their own self-interest?
I suggest that the answer is that they no longer touch the reality of their lives. They have come to inhabit the virtual reality which has been created for them as a distraction. bread and circuses! But now the bread is getting expensive and the circus is getting repetitive. Their lives have been turned into a low-budget ‘reality show’ funded by their willingness to give away everything that made their country possible in exchange for an unending stream of fortune-cookie slogans. And what has become easy is to induce these individuals to commit slow suicide in service to the wealthy and the corporations.