“What a world, what a world” cried the twin witches of East and West as, soaked in a transparent liquid that may have been water (but smelled a bit like a cheap American vodka knock-off), they melted. Melted in a land other than Oz. And of course, wicked though they might have been (and that’s debatable), they were certainly right. That their viewpoints were otherwise quite different didn’t matter, didn’t matter at all.
Glenda? She was oblivious, enamored of her reflection in a borrowed magic mirror and Dorothy, well, she was not really what she seemed. The stories Toto could have told if only we’d understood what he was trying to say. And of course, the Wizard was not a wizard at all. Just a tool, a tool like most of us, singing of scarecrows, tin men and cowardly lions, ….
A question or a query or perhaps, an inquisition of sorts? From the Bizzaro world on the other side of the looking glass, the one from which Alice, now safe with her Cheshire cat and “haberdashered” rabbit, had fled for a second time (after a much regretted but highly publicized return). Evidently a very powerful country was split into at least seventeen furious factions and all they could agree on was that the others were viciously vile, deliberately so, not merely mistaken, but evil, and deceptively so.
To wit, a casual neutral observer, could one be found, might ponder, and verily so. Images in a purloined crystal ball come into focus, perhaps in a Palantir. Very hazy images, very difficult to comprehend, not because of their different dictions or registers or accents, but because the cacophony in which they were emerged was so lacking in coherence and logic, so internally contradictory. The scene becomes wavy the way dream sequences appeared in old black and white television programs, someone from another dimension, perhaps a comic book dimension, apparently a journalist, but a real journalist, not one of the professional entertainers charged with weaving narratives, although ….; anyway, he (or she, or it, gender seems hard to define) seems to be trying to make sense of what is happening, but not all that successfully. The journalist is observing an apparently sane person separating rival mobs. And we listen in.
…. Just how different is believing that judicial investigations into allegations of electoral fraud were conducted improperly from believing that a criminal trial was conducted inappropriately? The truth is that the electoral and judicial systems, like almost all of our governmental institutions, are dysfunctional at best. The truth is that they have become politicized, as have our means of mass communication. Perhaps they always were. Actually, no perhaps about it and such developments are neither accidental not natural but rather carefully and artfully orchestrated by those whom we’ve permitted to attain almost complete control over our lives. A feat possible only because they’ve become so expert at dividing us and keeping us divided. Perhaps that’s the real meaning of the allegorical Tower of Babel myth.
We, as a species, tend to be reactive rather than proactive and that makes it easy for those among us willing to plan and to strategize, to develop and implement tactics and then to wait patiently as they take root enabling “them” (the elusive but ubiquitous “they”) to successfully manipulate us. When their fields have been prepared and carefully planted and nurtured, like good strategists, they cultivate the harvests that most benefit them, usually to our detriment. Actually, we are those harvests, we are the fruit and grains that they reap, the cattle that they milk and then slaughter. And like the “good” (a relative concept) domesticated comestibles that we are, we permit ourselves to be herded to our doom while we bicker among ourselves and chew our metaphorical cud
As in the case of any great lie, grains of truth as seasoning are essentials. Those whose goal is our manipulation first find real social issues that require attention, issues such as racism, xenophobia, misogyny, the environment, inequality, inequity, injustice, corruption and impunity and then, rather than offer us solutions, they rub salt into every fissure to set us against each other while assuring that none of such issues are resolved. The United States Civil War is a great example. Elimination of slavery was never the issue, only its transformation and expansion into a caste system of serfs who believed themselves free, set against working stiffs who believed themselves free but somehow superior, all opposed to the huddled masses yearning to be free who invaded our shining shores, to then be en-serfed in their turn, all endowed with illusory rights, especially the right to believe that they controlled their own destinies. And it all worked just fine, and will keep working as long as most of us never realize that we have other options, as long as we can be kept bickering and polarized and furious.
Racism and xenophobia and misogyny will never be eliminated by seeking to humiliate and ridicule others or by destroying the markers and mementos of our sorry history. Mirages are not real and neither are sirens (except on police cars and firetrucks and ambulances). Delusion, whether self-imposed, self-maintained or artificially orchestrated will not solve problems any more than we can successfully groom ourselves by looking at pictures of attractive people and wishing we were they, but then, solutions are not the goal, control is, and emotional manipulation works just fine for that. Neither inequity nor inequality nor injustice can be minimized by self-delusion. Nor can corruption nor impunity. They’ll keep doing just fine in an information sharing system where misdirection is the key. While Kant’s nightmare, perpetual war, is also key, it is war on every level that counts, not just war against other countries: gender wars and racial wars and religious wars and class wars and cultural wars; each works just fine, even wars against recreational drugs and poverty. Poor Kant.
Anyone who seriously believes that elections in the United States have ever been free of fraud is delusional and those who most vehemently insist that is the case are in all probability the ones who most carefully, studiously and assiduously orchestrate electoral fraud (while screaming that what they do is designed to assure that electoral participation is facilitated, common sense be damned, it’s always been overrated). The same is true of anyone who believes that the criminal justice system actually functions in our best interests, or that the civil justice system will protect the righteous poor from the villainously powerful.
Only relative power matters.
But the delusional are many and very thoroughly convinced of their cognitive and moral superiority, whichever side they’re on. Which is just fine for those who are really “woke”. No, not the silly, self-centered, self-lauding, something-or-other-wannabes, but rather, their shepherds (and not in a positive sense). We are imprisoned in cells of our own design, tightly clutching the keys than can set us free, but utterly convinced that to use them is not in our best interest. That opening our cell doors to other perspectives will taint us and destroy that which we value. We have been accustomed and acculturated to believe that the illusory security of the static is essential and that change in our perspectives is anathematic treason. Treason to our masters who protect us from the others, the “others” who are a bit more evil than are they.
An open mind is a terrible thing, an abomination.
We are a stupid species, let’s admit it! And the universe might be well rid of us. Our planet certainly would be.
* * *
Hmmm, the old fashioned television program again becomes wavy, the color returns, the journalist shakes his head and smiles ruefully at his audience, a perplexed, almost extinct species of fictitious flying simian warriors, now gainfully unemployed.
© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2021; all rights reserved. Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.
Guillermo (“Bill”) Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen). Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales. He is currently a strategic analyst employed by Qest Consulting Group, Inc. He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies). He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.