THE PERFECT STORM: DUMB, FAT AND HAPPY
From time to time throughout history, the forces of nature conspire to create super-storms, such as the legendary tempest in "The Perfect Storm." Occasionally, the same principles apply to the human realm, producing seemingly miraculous results. The 1969 Mets and the 1980 US Olympic Hockey teams come to mind. Today we are witnessing just such a societal convergence, but one with far darker overtones.
The United States of America in the year 2004 has become the most gullible, most easily manipulated populace in the history of mankind. The agents of propaganda manipulate us as laboratory rats in a maze, closing one door, opening another, and skillfully planting cheese to lead us down the desired path. We run blindly, unaware that every path leads to a dead end.
Our human nature dictates that when our basic needs are not met, we ask "why not," and search passionately for answers. We hunt cautiously, fully cognizant of our vulnerability. Conversely, if we want for nothing, we get lazy. We stop asking questions, and our focus turns to ensuring our continued comfort.
Today, we are dumb, fat, and happy. Oh, there's always something to complain about, but on the whole our needs are met. Since the civil rights struggles of the 1960's, we have had little to awaken us from our consumption comas. We stirred briefly after 9/11, but soon rolled over and snuggled back in. We enjoyed that brief surge of revenge-induced adrenalin, wrote some songs about kickin' Muslim ass, then got back in our SUVs and drove back to suburbia so as not to miss Monday Night Football.
In our comfort zones, the last thing we want to hear is more bad news. For example, watch the 11 o'clock news. Ten minutes of suffering, twenty minutes of entertainment. We can take truth in small doses, but don't upset us too much. Life truly is challenging enough, what with paying the bills, dealing with illness, and ferrying the kids to their various activities. The last thing we want to worry about is if we're being told the truth. For most of us, this ranks pretty low on our daily to-do lists. Besides, we all expect politicians to lie to us. Our attitude is: "Tell us something we don't know." But most of us have no conception of the depth to which we are lied. The lies have become the very framework by which reality is measured, distorting our ability to perceive the biggest lies. The ministers of propaganda happily concede small glimpses of truth, confident that these distractions will keep us from paying any attention to that man behind the curtain.
Depending upon your individual perspective, this remarkable convergence of humanism, materialism, and corporatism can be seen as either a tragic coincidence or the Machiavellian opus of decades of absolutely brilliant societal engineering. However you slice it, the result is an uniformed and distracted populace.
Humanism has killed God, or at least reduced his significance to where we're only allowed to acknowledge his existence in political campaigns and pre-game prayers. It has also killed Satan, the deceiver. If the story of Adam and Eve is mere mythology, then we deny the absolutes of good and evil. Our enlightened generation thus misinterprets this epic battle within each of us, incorrectly assuming that we have evolved into a civilized and benevolent people who will choose the correct moral path. In today's America, evil only exists "out there," in backward nations, in Mosques, in dark mountain caves, and in spider holes. When we refuse to look at the planks in our own eyes and acknowledge our own inherent capacity to lie, then anything is believable. Cynicism has been banished to the back of the room along with those "conspiracy theorists." They make us feel bad.
Somewhere along the line, the simple desire to have a better quality of life has morphed into an obsession with materialism. We are bombarded with messages telling us that we must consume or else. Our obsession with celebrity culture reinforces the subtle suggestion that only through buying can we be fulfilled. We're nobody unless we're somebody, or at least look and act like we're somebody. This insatiable thirst for more forces our focus on our wants and our desires. Once our attention is gained, slight of hand becomes child's play. Our commercial culture has convinced us that only what's on TV is important. Man's eternal pursuit of beauty and truth, manifested in art and literature, has devolved into a culture of shallow immediacy. No longer willing to be challenged and forced to think, we want it now; we need to be entertained now. We just watch.
Our nation was founded upon the idea of a free and diverse press. The open exchange of ideas and opinions, regardless of their perceived absurdity, is absolutely essential to maintain a healthy republic. Today, we are witnessing the consolidation of mega-corporations, which have managed to profit not only from the dissemination of information, but also from the very opinions we absorb from them. Due to profit pressures and potential loss of advertising dollars, hard-hitting investigative reporting has gone the way of the Edsel. War brings profit to defense contractors and big media. War sells. Consequently, protesters opposed to our Iraqi invasion received scant network coverage, and those with anti-war opinions were ridiculed as un-American kooks. Big media has become sanitized and homogenized, safe for all to consume.
We watch, we buy, we believe, we fit in. Nobody wants to be laughed at. It's mind boggling how these forces have made us so pliable and compliant. What an incredible coincidence; almost as if ...well, you know.
Published originally at EtherZone.com: republication allowed with this notice and hyperlink intact."
Alan Homcy is a computer specialist residing in Cleveland, Ohio. He is a regular columnist for Ether Zone.
Alan Homcy can be reached at: mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
Published in the February 23, 2004 issue of Ether Zone. Copyright © 1997 - 2004 Ether Zone.
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