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Posts Tagged ‘belief’

IMG_20171015_165153_processedAs a rule of thumb it’s best to assume there’s more behind the day’s headlines than we know, or could ever imagine. Trump and BREXIT have dominated UK current affairs for years now, both of them beginning as little things we did not believe could happen, but which went on to happen in a big way, to the extent they have now mired the western world in crises too numerous to be unpicked here – even if I knew how.

I had thought it the result of a kind of cyclical madness, that once every couple of generations, the veneer of political stability naturally fell apart, that it was a kind of madness too that we could become normalised to what is now, frankly, a bewildering state of world affairs. But the picture emerging of the story behind this story, is not one of collective madness at all, more one of a concerted and clandestine campaign of disinformation and psychological warfare – specifically, the deployment of techniques developed to win over the hearts and minds of an enemy, or failing that to collapse their will, and therefore their resistance, to ideas and to forces they might otherwise see as harmful. In this case, the enemy is us, the civilian populations of the UK, Europe and the United States.

It was achieved through the medium of the truly Orwellian Visiphone, one many of us carry, all the time – our phones, our laptops, our swish tablet computers. They watch us, they look, listen, take note of the things we like, the things we don’t like, and make predictions based upon that data – what else we might like, or how we might be persuaded to like or not to like certain things. It logs our every step, everywhere we go, and how often. It makes note of our contacts. It can even make predictions of the likelihood of our committing future crimes, the likelihood we belong to an ethnic, religious or sexual minority group, the likelihood we are to the left or the right of the political divide.

Those deploying such weapons are not governments. ‘They’ are the plutocrats who own the world’s money, the unimaginably rich whose goal it is to further consolidate control of the world’s money flows. They have done this since the dawn of time by partly infiltrating and lobbying government, by funding and effectively blackmailing politicians into obedience, and more lately by owning and deploying with deadly effect that most recent Pandora’s box of nefarious possibility – Big Data.

Big Data is everything conceivably knowable about you and me, and we give it away in exchange for the convenient services we are offered in return – essentially messaging, information, entertainment and navigation via our Visiphones. Want to play that crazy cat game? You have to sign away all objections to your data being harvested first. Sounds dodgy? It is. But you know what? We do it anyway.

We have been at war for a long time without realising it. It’s basically a class war like no other ever waged in history, and we’re losing it. Worse, I see no heroes coming to our rescue, only leader after leader lying brazenly with their pants on fire as if to own the truth by denying its very existence. No one reading Carol Cadwalladr’s reports here, can be in any doubt now the result of the BREXIT vote was influenced by the self interest of an international plutocratic elite, virtue of the psychological weapons it deployed in the run-up to the vote, weapons purchased at great cost, yet secreted through various murky back-channels. To all rational thinkers the result of the BREXIT vote is null and void, democracy was undermined, yet we remain transfixed as the train rushes towards us, frozen in our disbelief.

The result for the UK is the destabilising chaos that has been BREXIT, and a government now torn between those within it who would work towards minimising the damage it will do, and those who would maximise that damage for their own purposes – damage here meaning severe detriment to the working and the middle classes of the UK, with the implication that whatever the outcome, that damage is now unavoidable and will be substantial. Already stripped of our former securities we face a further collapse of all certainties concerning healthcare, social provision and any kind of worthwhile work, both for ourselves and the generations who follow. This is a new world order. It’s Orwellian, it’s oppressive, and it came out of nowhere.

Plutocrats traditionally inhabit the far right of the political landscape, but so far as I can tell, not from any particular affinity with its ideology. Right leaning politicians and their cheerleaders are merely convenient bedfellows, and similarly contemptuous towards the common enemy, this being “The People”.

Persuading “the people” to vote or to support the policies of the right, policies that aid the plutocratic cause, and which are inherently harmful to “the people”  relies upon sowing the seeds of an irrational fear to distract from the actual facts – like vote for me and I’ll make you poorer, and I’ll make your children suffer. To pull that off is an act of astonishing sleight of hand, but it’s as effective now as it was in the nineteen twenties, and the fears stoked are the same – fear of the foreigner, or the other who is not like you, who will take your job and ruin the purity of your imagined native heritage.

The difference now is the plutocrat is not restricted in his disinformation to the partial media, which they mostly own. Now they have access to our primary means of information as well – to our Visiphones. Now they can make us hate anyone and anything they want, merely by a form of subliminal suggestion through the images and the adverts we are served. They can make us say and do stupid things, make us vote in strange ways, make us saw off the branch of the tree we’re sitting on. They are the Svengalis of the modern world.

Armed with a sufficient level of education, a knowledge of the dangers of this all-pervasive media, who controls it and how they control it helps one view information thus gleaned with circumspection. But not everyone is interested, or cares that much and it’s been proven anyway that, given sufficient motivation, even good people can be persuaded to do harm to others without just cause. Our will is weakened by a constant bombardment of unsettling and confusing issues to the point where we know something is badly wrong and we can’t believe anything we’re seeing, yet cannot conceive of any alternative, let alone how we go about achieving it.

I’m at the stage now where I want to close my eyes to that train heading full pelt in our direction. It might help if I focus my attention on a future world, one interpolated from the data plots already marked on the chart, and from the general direction we seem to be heading. It’s a world without any meaningful work, and a population enslaved, working two or three of those meaningless jobs for a minimum wage, eighty hours or more a week, just to pay the rent. None of us will own anything, not even the Visphones in our pockets, and the only satisfaction in life we’ll have is counting the likes we got for that stupid video we re-posted from somewhere else. Meanwhile the plutocrats in their super-yachts will be anchored offshore, grey silhouettes in the sunset, like the battleships of a conquering nation, a vision both futuristic and medieval. And there’s not a damned thing we can do about it. Except, next time, before you click, think about what information you’re giving away to the enemy, and what you might already have lost on account of it.

I’m off to West Wales now, to a little place half way up a mountain where there’s no ‘phone signal, and no Internet, where I can still believe the world is a beautiful place, and worth the shout and where my Visiphone won’t be urging me to hate any more.

 

 

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PS_20150130152500I was driving home and had pulled up to the line, waiting for a space so I could nose my way onto the roundabout. It was busy, it being that time of night we used to call the rush hour but which now lasts from 4:00 pm ’til 7:00. It was wet, dark, and I was tired. The traffic was fast, unyielding. I settled down to wait for a gap, but I was disturbed by the flashing lights and the honking horn of a van behind me. It yanked itself out into the neighbouring lane, looking for a squeeze past, much to the consternation of those drivers already in that lane. Just then, a gap appeared on the roundabout, so I moved into it and cautiously joined the flow. Then the van came by and I saw a fierce-faced man giving me the finger.

Had I been a bit overcautious in moving off and thus sorely tested his patience? I really don’t know. Had I zoned out for a moment? It’s possible. I had certainly done something to upset him, though I’m also minded these days it takes very little for the fingers to start flying.

My reaction? Self questioning, self doubt, and yes, a little hurt by the face pulling of this stranger whom I had so mysteriously offended, but mostly I was saddened to think such anger might be floating just below the surface of everyday life, that we have only to snag ourselves ever so briefly against the flow of this mad, mad world for teeth to be bared and that phallic finger to be jabbed.

It is the egoic face and the egoic phallus that confidently accuses the “other” of incompetence, of being a knob, whilst bestowing the mantle of perfection on the accuser. It is the same face and finger we see reflected in the public opinion columns of the online media where we quickly learn that public opinion, unleashed en-mass and anonymous, can be a very nasty thing indeed.

One of the great wisdoms of ancient Chinese philosophy is that we can only view the world as it truly is from a position of stillness. Stillness comes when we dissolve the ego, when we react even to shocking events in an unemotional way. Emotions, be they good or bad, come pretty low down on the evolutionary scale, and they hold us back – worse they imprison us and render us vulnerable to manipulation. It’s only through stillness we become aware of these things, that under the influence of strong emotions we are not truly our selves at all.

In spiritual terms, ego and emotional arousal disconnect us from the true course of life, they subvert our direction, our purpose, render us vulnerable to an adverse fate or simply to the meddling of others. While we don’t need to go so far as to subscribing to an irrational belief in such things, I certainly find life is sweeter and smoother, the less my ego has to do with it.

I imagine, in an advanced society, we would all rest content in the unassailable validity of our being, and would not be roused to anger when someone questioned what we said or did, or even if we were a little slow pulling onto the roundabout. On the other hand, in a retrograde society, dissent, or even a senior moment, is met with a torrent of irrational abuse, and then we’d better all watch out.

We see this in the senseless cesspits of the comments sections of online media – a constant cross-fire of low minded thinking, based upon the dubious fictions that are these days peddled as facts, and in the belief the high ground is owned by those who shout loudest and longest. I might express an opinion on world affairs, or on the weather, or even simply on the comparisons between a Biro and a fountain pen, but my opinion would be seized upon by those of an opposing view, not with the aim of exploring the validity of my thinking, nor seeking, by the sharing of facts, to persuade me of another view, but more, by the finger and the angry face, shut me down, to silence the discussion, because in even allowing the debate, whatever its nature or topic, the ego is challenged, and a population reacting permanently to emotional stimuli finds itself in a perpetual fight for imaginary supremacy.

Of course, in a world where facts are easily checked, easily verified, spurious arguments might be short lived, the liar eventually silenced by the obvious and unassailable truth. But we live now in a post-truth world, where inflammatory falsehoods are blatantly paraded by those in powerful positions as fact, while truths are dismissed as fictitious. We are no longer surprised by it. We expect it, we accept it, and by doing so risk abandoning hope of forming rational opinions on anything ever again. Whatever the headline, whatever the view expressed through whatever media, we must now pause and ask ourselves the question: what emotions are these words intended to manifest in me? At whom am I supposed to jab my finger?

The post truth world presents many challenges if we are to thrive, or even just survive as independent, thinking individuals. The emotional landscape of the future will be a tempestuous one as it reacts to bare faced manipulation, and there will be no safe media on which to rely for facts. There will only be the braying of the crowd on the infotainment channels, in the cesspits of social media commentary, and of course those crass, emotive headlines in the dailies.

But we can at least rest easy in our selves, and in our right to be, regardless of what fictions assail us. We ask questions if we must, but trust no answers that are nailed home by the finger. And in the mean time we endeavour to show kindness, while expecting none in return.

I also beg we all be patient with the guy in front, hesitating to join the Lemming like rush on the journey home.

Because it might just be me.

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lizardThe Internet has given us all a much wider view of the world than we used to have. Once upon a time, the TV and radio news broadcasts, and the newspapers were all we had. But events are treated so superficially by these media it’s impossible to know exactly what the underlying reasons are for a thing. Every headline is merely the tip of an iceberg of events, the details of which we never learn about in any depth. And it is always in the deeper understanding of events we find the truth, never the headline itself.

Control of such a limited bandwidth media renders it, and us, notoriously vulnerable to manipulation – the camera pointing in a certain direction, while ignoring others that may be inconvenient, embarrassing or decidedly off-message to powerful, controlling interests. Nowadays of course we have a much wider source of information and current affairs, courtesy of the plethora of online news and opinion. Indeed now you might say there are cameras pointing everywhere, and from every conceivable angle. There are facts a plenty for those willing to seek them out, but in seeking them we discover we also have fictions presented as facts, lies as truths, dreams as realities, indeed such a confused mish-mash of “content” we are still no more able to identify the underlying truth of a thing than we were before.

While controlled media has the potential to make us believe whatever the controller of that media wants us to believe, the Internet merely reflects back whatever it is we want to believe in the first place; it hides the truth in plain sight. The Internet grants the freedom to dream, to believe what we want, but what kind of freedom is that exactly when we are unable to tell the genuine article from the false? What we want to believe may well be the truth, but unless we bear it witness, personally, we will never know for sure, because for every story that says a thing is true, there are many others that say it’s not.

Let’s say I believed the world’s elite were descended from a race of lizards. Why would I believe such a preposterous thing? Because it’s what I heard; it’s what someone I respect told me was true, therefore I am inclined to believe in it as well, and there are plenty of Internet sources to support this particular belief. Or how about a global conspiracy to keep us all docile by spraying chemicals in the atmosphere? Sure,… I heard it said, and there’s plenty of stuff online to support that belief also. Ditto UFO’s, that the earth is flat, or the moon is made of blue cheese.

Whatever we want to believe, we will find convincingly corroborating sources online, and these will lend comfort to our beliefs. Whether this stuff is true or not is never clear for media of any kind does not constitute proof, and relies instead on our credulous support to render it a viable myth and myths are not truths. Myths are myths.

The same thing applies to world affairs. If we turn to You Tube, we get snippets of current affairs spinning at us from so many directions and angles now it’s impossible to know which is correct. In short, the Internet solves nothing, because from a medium of endless choice, we merely select those stories that suit our beliefs and allow our prejudice to reject the ones that don’t. Worse, the Internet tailors our searches to give us more of what it thinks we want, based on our previous searches, tending only to reinforce and narrow, rather than widen our views.

We need a fair arbiter of the truth, a voice that tells us which of the stories of the world are worth listening to. But how do we find such a trustworthy arbiter when any bloody fool can be a pundit on their own Internet news channel? Have we really arrived at the situation where we can trust no one’s judgement other than our own? But how can we even trust ourselves? How do I know I am not deluded in my beliefs, or that the person who passed on these beliefs to me was not himself deluded, ignorant, bigoted, racist, sexist, or just plain stupid?

There are those who know they don’t know a thing, and for them something might be done. It’s called education. But for those who don’t know they don’t know a thing, or worse don’t know a thing when they think they know all about it, education is of little use and most likely will be rejected anyway as a conspiracy to brainwash them of the truth. This is the way it’s always been, and the result is called the human race. And the human race, equipped with the Internet, is the human race as we once knew it but on steroids. It is a collective at the mercy of its own increasingly vicious, ignorant, unconscious maelstrom of thought and emotion.

Only education points the way to truth. Armed with a wide, general and impartial knowledge of the world, and an experience of life, you might eventually ask how likely is the truth of a thing, and thereby come to some sort of approximation of it, but even this is no guarantee, for there are many highly educated people who are also fools, lending their foolish opinions to the world of thought.

I’ve heard it said there’s no such thing as the truth anyway. It was probably one of those half baked puffball quotations you get from a self-styled self-help guru’s website, one that thinks it knows a thing when it doesn’t. But in an altercation between two individuals one of them clearly hits the other first. There is a definite truth to it, but when both cry foul, and in the absence of impartial witness, there’s no knowing who started it, no actual “knowing” the truth of their story at all. At school, in the days of corporal punishment, both would have their backsides tanned, both truth and falsehood winding up with smarting asses, the truth resentful at not being believed, the falsehood smug at having truth concealed.

So how do we get at the truth? Beats me. Age doesn’t help – the older one gets the wider only one’s view of the sea of untruth. This doesn’t aid navigation much; it results only in a gradual becalming, so progress turns in on itself, becomes contemplative and philosophical, rather than desiring to bring about change in the world, for without foundation all things crumble into dust, so where is one to begin? It’s tempting to believe all humans are mad, incapable of either telling or perceiving the truth any more, and that the only philosophy worth a damn, whether it’s true or not, is one that tries to stop us inflicting suffering on each other, or on ourselves, because, well, pain hurts, and it makes sense to stop it. But that’s life in general. You begin thinking you know everything about it, and wind up realising you don’t know anything at all.

And that’s the truth.

Dammit.

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