Who is he, who even were truth on his tongue, his way of speaking it would make truth almost as offensive as falsehood? – Melville
In America part of this heritage is channeled through our unique emphasis on individualism, and, I would add, our narcissism: What is true for me, what saved my soul, is necessarily true for you as well, and it would save your soul as well. This is the potent, underlying assumption of all religious proselytizers, because it serves to cover up anxiety about their own beliefs. In other words, if they can convince you to accept Jesus (more likely, a very narrow understanding of Jesus), they have proof that their own choice was correct.
But, because, quoting Hillman, we are all psychologically Christian, this also explains the rigidity behind some of our secular disputes. The examples in middle class consumer culture are endless: clothing styles, therapy or exercise styles, doctors or healing modalities – and especially diet. What helped me with my problem would help you with your problem. Am I exaggerating? Consider your last Thanksgiving dinner conversation (or was it a frustrating monologue?) with a committed vegan you hadn’t seen in years, or if you prefer, an advocate of, say, the “caveman diet” (consider also the smirking sarcasm of your gatekeeping friend at the other end of the table).
Whatever the context, when believers insist that you would be better off converting to their way of thinking, this is known as fanaticism. It can only exist in a monotheistic universe where we assume only one correct way to be, and its logical conclusion is jihad, or crusade. According to Winston Churchill, a fanatic is someone who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject. Ironically, fanatic derives from fanum (“temple, shrine, consecrated place”).
Let’s move from fanaticism to discrimination. Discriminate (v.): 1620s, “distinguish from something else or from each other, observe or mark the differences between,” from Latin discernere, “to separate, set apart, divide, distribute; distinguish, perceive,” from dis- “off, away” + cernere, “distinguish, sift”, from root kre, “to sieve,” possibly related to “incriminate” and thus to “crime”.
I’ve been suggesting that discrimination is the key. Not in the negative, American religio-mythic sense in which discrimination divides the chosen from the fallen, but discrimination in the Buddhist sense of clear comprehension of reality. So I’ve devised a somewhat poetic response to discrimination-challenged NACs:
1 – Admit that we are all gatekeepers. Way back in 2005, Stephen Colbert coined a new word, “truthiness.” He said, “We’re not talking about the truth; we’re talking about something that seems like truth — the truth we want to exist.” No matter how far out on the margins anyone is, there is always someone further out, and we each determine where the boundaries are. Behind the justifiable but still monotheistic hunger for Truth, we find a deeper but smaller truth, the Pagan wisdom that there is no Truth, only various truths. Or, as the great physicist Niels Bohr said: “The opposite of a correct statement is a falsehood, but the opposite of a profound truth may well be another profound truth.”
2 – Believe nothing; entertain possibilities. Thanks to Caroline Casey for this insight. We are talking about stories that could be true, or not. Like all myths, they are stories we tell about other people but which in fact – always – are about ourselves. We project the stories we need to hear about ourselves onto celebrities (our substitutes for the pagan gods), or upon the shadow of celebrity, those who will not reveal their identities, or those who claim to have “knowledge” of the shadows, knowledge gained from (often quite undiscriminating) discrimination.
Only in our demythologized age, when myths no longer serve the deep needs of the soul, do stories about the “truth” result in affirmations of belief. Indigenous people who are still held in living mythologies and rituals, understand that stories are meant to provoke increasingly deeper questions, to drop us into the work of the soul, not to provide simplistic answers. “That is how he grows,” says Rilke, “by being defeated, decisively, by constantly greater beings.” Stories are meant to entertain us. As I write in Chapter Ten:
Our primary leisure activity is entertainment, being passively entertained. Certainly, we deserve relaxation and restoration. But why does it seem so unrewarding; and despite this, why do we constantly repeat the experience, as if something might change and our longing be fulfilled?
Entertain means “to hold together.” But what does “together” refer to, subject or object? Two or more subjects can hold something in common. Or, one subject could hold two or more objects. Finally, a community, several subjects, could hold mutually exclusive concepts – the tension of the opposites – in a ritual container such as tragic drama, and suffer together. I suggest that the original meaning of entertainment was ritual renewal of the community though shared suffering. Athenian audiences did exactly that; viewing the clash of unbearable contradictions, they held that tension and wept together. They emerged spent but renewed, purged of their anxieties for a while.
3 – Follow the money. In searching for truths in America one’s first question must always be Cui bono? – Who profits? Anchoring ourselves in this perspective, we automatically align ourselves with the masses of suffering humanity. Then it becomes easy to see that behind most so-called “populist” movements of the Right are some very wealthy families. Tea Party organizers, for example, make sure that their crowd photos include lots of overweight, scruffy, baseball hat-wearing, “working class” people. But, quite simply, there would be no Tea Party – and hence, no Trump presidency – without the massive infusions of money provided by the Koch brothers. To take their bait, once such sponsors are revealed, and still accept the proposition that the mega-rich have anything in common with these people besides their racism is to lack discrimination. And the only Deep State that Donald Trump is endeavoring to destroy are agencies that regulate his friends’ businesses.
4 – Judge a tree by its fruit. Even if at this late date you still harbor notions that Trump is out to destroy the Deep State, all you need to do is look at the scoundrels he has always surrounded himself with, from his original mentor Roy Cohn to New York and Russian mobsters to the corrupt bankers and anti-regulators dedicated to serving Big Business. At the top of David Icke’s website I found a banner reading, “President Trump needs your help. Sign the petition to build the wall!”
To judge what the tree really thinks, look at what other trees think of it. During last year’s Gubernatorial campaign, the Republican (and, due to massive voter repression, eventual winner) Ron DeSantis made outrageous public statements. He denied their obvious racist nature in debates with the Democrat Andrew Gillum, who countered with:
…he’s got neo-Nazis helping him out in the state. He has spoken at racist conferences. He’s accepted a contribution and would not return it from someone who referred to the former president of the United States as a Muslim n-i-g-g-e-r. When asked to return that money, he said no. He’s using that money to now fund negative ads…Now, I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist.
Trump, the consummate con-man, plays the spokesperson for a deliberately indefinable, populist extreme that draws its energy by pretending to attack an establishment that, they have been falsely taught, serves only undeserving minorities and immigrants. So far, the fact that all of his actual policies, like those of all his predecessors, consistently buttress that same establishment doesn’t matter to them. We are talking about rhetoric, not action; stories, not revealed truth. He doesn’t have to wink and nod; the racists know very well where he stands, at least on the issues of race, misogyny and white supremacy.
5 – Even a broken clock is right twice a day. Just as there is no overarching, grand Truth, no one is perfect except for the archetypes of the Collective Unconscious, and this is the source of the cult of celebrity which so characterizes our age. So we can’t expect our purveyors of information and speculation to precisely share our versions of some truths.
At the same time, a certain general consistency in philosophy ought to produce general consistency in specific views. Consider Ron Paul and his son Rand, who occasionally voice very perceptive criticisms of America’s imperial wars from the libertarian perspective, but who would also ban all abortions. Can someone favor banning a woman’s freedom of choice – choice! – and still claim that they love freedom? Or is that freedom simply freedom from taxes? Broken clocks.
Of course, the government had (at least) prior knowledge of the 9-11 attacks, but that doesn’t mean that they take their orders from Reptile people. The fact that Alex Jones quite rightly questions the official narrative – or that he, unlike absolutely any of centrist gatekeepers, gives Dr. Andrew Wakefield airtime opportunities to respond to his “debunkers” is no reason to accept his claim that the Moon landing footage was fake, or that Democrats and communists have plotted “white genocide” attacks.
Jones’ major product, like that of all right-wing conspiracy theorists from Limbaugh to Beck, is fear. And his major cures, like theirs, range from scapegoating Black people to nutritional supplements and gold investments. His show is very profitable (follow that money again). Maybe that’s the real difference between right and left-wingers, whose organizing is motivated toward inspiring people to act and make society more just, not more fearful.
6 – People do cruel things because they are cruel people, not as representatives of racial or ethnic groups. Of course, we are often victimized in the general sense, but we act as individuals, even if we are encouraged by politicians and other bad actors. Every mass shooter acts entirely on his own, even if the vast majority of them are white males with similar, right-wing views. This is all about white privilege. In my blog of the same title I list fourteen characteristics. Here are two of them:
Privilege allows white people to universalize, to claim that “black people are also prejudiced,” to claim that racism is fluid, one day (or era) benefitting whites and another day benefitting blacks. While the notion of individualism declares that we all need to see each other as individuals (everyone is different), the privilege of universalism declares that we all need to see each other as human beings (everyone is the same) and subtly functions to deny the significance of race and the advantages of whiteness. Simultaneously, whites learn that they are individuals and not part of a racially socialized group.
Privilege allows whites to individualize, to view themselves as unique and original, unaffected by the relentless racial messages in the culture, able to distance themselves from other, “bad” whites. Seeing themselves as individuals outside of race frees whites from the psychic burden of race in a wholly racialized society. Race and racism become “their” problem, not “ours.” Whites are privileged to invoke these seemingly contradictory discourses – either we are all unique or we are all the same – interchangeably when it suits their purposes to do so.
At this point, more than one good-hearted friend may ask, “What about George Soros?” I’m afraid that they have been, knowingly or not, influenced by certain well-funded websites that tend to place Soros’s name at the center of their connect-the-dots charts, but which also clearly emphasize his Jewish identity first and his billionaire status second. My friends have probably never heard of Sheldon Adelson. Nor do they realize that the whole Soros narrative – and the huge uptick in worldwide anti-Semitism associated with it – was created by two long-time Republican (and, yes, Jewish) dirty tricksters.
7 – The Lyndon Johnson trick in reverse, as told by Hunter S. Thompson:
…(in) one of Lyndon Johnson’s early campaigns in Texas. The race was close and Johnson was getting worried. Finally he told his campaign manager to start a massive rumor campaign about his opponent’s life-long habit of enjoying carnal knowledge of his own barnyard sows. “Christ, we can’t get a way calling him a pig-fucker,” the campaign manager protested. “Nobody’s going to believe a thing like that.” “I know,” Johnson replied. “But let’s make the sonofabitch deny it.”
In reversing this tale, we recall the line from Hamlet: “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” I have no scientific proof here, but I don’t really think that truly non-racist people, whose actions usually speak well for themselves, ever have to deny accusations that they are racists.
Trump: “I’m the least racist person anybody is going to meet.”
David Icke: “I’m one of the least racist people on Earth…”
To be fair, we should note that Icke, unlike Trump, has consistently pointed out that he (like increasing numbers of American Jews) is an anti-Zionist. And this issue drops us back into the false equivalency muck, where Republicans – and, sadly, most well-known elected Democrats – accuse even pacifist critics of Israel of being anti-Semitic and continue attempting to demonize the BDS movement. So, referring back to Andrew Gillum’s statement (“I’m not calling Mr. Desantis a racist. I’m simply saying the racists believe he’s a racist”), we can only ask whether admitted racists consider Icke an ally.
And would a committed and articulate anti-Zionist ever have anything whatsoever in common with such a pro-Israeli imperialist and spokesperson for genocide as Trump? The only thing that broken clocks have in common with each other are their brokenness and their willingness to con the gullible.
8 – It’s not my circus, not my monkey. We have to ask ourselves: Do I really need to spend any more time obsessing with the stuff? Is it doing me, my loved ones or the world any good at all? Why am I concerned with global (or inter-galactic) issues over which, admittedly, I have no control, when I could actually have some influence in local issues? This is not to patronize but to challenge those who cleave to meta-narratives that clearly no longer serve them. In the 20th century we have seen plenty of evidence that those who have done so often reached the depths of profound disillusionment. In archetypal terms, Hillman referred to this experience as betrayal, and he saw it as a prelude to soul-work. Or, as Rumi says:
When school or mosque, tower or minaret get torn down,
Then dervishes may begin their community.
Only when faithfulness turns to betrayal and betrayal into trust
Can any human being become part of the truth.
Part Four of this essay is here.