6.26.2009

The Ubiquitous Matrix of Lies

http://www.realitysandwich.com/ubiquitous_matrix_lies
http://www.realitysandwich.com/sites/realitysandwich.civicactions.net/files/imagecache/large/dont+lieZ.jpg
by Charles Eisenstein
Increasingly, words don't mean anything. In politics, campaigning candidates make statements that flatly contradict their actions and policies, and no one seems to object or even care. It is not the routine dissembling of political figures that is striking, but rather our near-complete indifference to it. We are as well almost completely inured to the vacuity of advertising copy, the words of which increasingly mean nothing at all to the reader. Does anyone really believe that GE "brings good things to life?" Or that a housing development I passed today - "Walnut Crossing" - actually has any walnut trees or crossings? From brand names to PR slogans to political code-words, the language of the media that inundates modern life consists almost wholly of subtle lies, misdirection, and manipulation.
We live in a ubiquitous matrix of lies, a sea of mendacity so pervasive that it is nearly invisible. Because we are lied to all the time, in ways so subtle they are beneath conscious notice, even the most direct lies are losing their power to shock us.
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As we acclimate ourselves to a ubiquitous matrix of lies, words mean less and less to us, and we don't believe anything any more. As well we shouldn't! We are facing a crisis of language that underlies and mirrors all the other converging crises of the modern age. Just as a growing profusion of material and social technology has failed to bring about the promised Utopia of leisure, health, and justice, so has the profusion of words and media failed to bring about better communication. Instead, the opposite has happened.
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It is not only that the powers that be so completely dominate the narratives of our time that any dissent seems irrational or illegitimate. The words of the dominant powers are losing their potency as well! The primary method by which governments increase their control is by creating fear. In this atmosphere, it is easy to declare new wars, impose new restrictions on freedom, make people accept new sacrifices, etc. With this in mind, I was gratified to see the utter failure of the "terrorism threat level" color-coding system to instill panic. You may have heard the message in airports: "the Department of Homeland Security has raised the terror alert threat level to orange..." Does anyone say, "Oh my God, it is orange! That's just one step short of a red alert!"? No. The words impact us as the buzzing of a fly. Another example is the recent failure of government scaremongering about the swine flu, a fine opportunity to implement mandatory vaccination programs, build mass quarantine facilities, etc.
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We might say that the crisis of our civilization comes down to a crisis of language, in which words have seemingly lost their ability to create. We have all the technology and all the knowledge we need to live in beautiful harmony with each other and the planet. What we need is different collective choices. Choices arise from perceptions, perceptions arise from interpretations or stories, and stories are built of words, of symbols. Today, words have lost their power and our society's stories have seemingly taken on a life of their own, propelling us toward an end that no sane person would choose and that we seem helpless to resist. And helpless we are, when all we have are impotent words.
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