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Cult of Personality

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By George Monbiot

Personality Cult

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 3rd October 2018

What kind of people would you expect the newspapers to interview most? Those with the most to say, perhaps? Or maybe those with the richest and weirdest experiences? Might it be philosophers? Or detectives? Or doctors working in war zones, refugees, polar scientists, street children, firefighters, base jumpers, activists, writers or free divers? No. It’s actors. I haven’t conducted an empirical study, but I would guess that between a third and a half of the major interviews in the newspapers feature people who make their living by adopting someone else’s persona and speaking someone else’s words.

This is such a bizarre phenomenon that, if it hadn’t crept up on us slowly, we would surely find it astounding. But it seems to me symbolic of the way the media works. The media’s problem runs deeper than fake news. What it offers is news about a fake world.

I am not proposing that the papers should never interview actors, or that they have no wisdom of their own to impart. But the remarkable obsession with this trade blots out other voices. One result is that an issue is not an issue until it has been voiced by an actor. Climate breakdown, refugees, human rights, sexual assault: none of these matters, it seems, can surface until they go Hollywood.

This is not to disparage the actors who have helped bring them to mainstream attention, least of all the brave and brilliant women who exposed Harvey Weinstein and popularised the #MeToo movement. But many other brave and brilliant women stood up to say the same thing – and, because they were not actors, remained unheard. The #MeToo movement is widely assumed to have begun a year ago, with Weinstein’s accusers. But it started in 2006, when the motto was coined by the activist Tarana Burke. She and the millions of others who tried to speak out were neither literally nor metaphorically in the spotlight.

At least actors serve everyone. But the next most-interviewed category, according to my unscientific survey, could be filed as “those who serve the wealthy”: restauranteurs, haute couturists, interior designers and the like, lionised and thrust into our faces as if we were their prospective clients. This is a world of makebelieve, in which we are induced to imagine we are participants, rather than merely gawpers.

The spotlight effect is bad enough on the culture pages. It’s worse when the same framing is applied to politics. Particularly during party conference season, but at other times of the year as well, public issues are cast as private dramas. Brexit, that is likely to alter the lives of everyone in Britain, is reduced to a story about whether or not Theresa May will keep her job. Who cares? Perhaps, by now, not even Theresa May.

Neither May nor Jeremy Corbyn can carry the weight of the personality cults that the media seeks to build around them. They are diffident and awkward in public, and appear to writhe in the spotlight. Both parties grapple with massive issues, and draw on the work of hundreds in formulating policy, tactics and presentation. Yet these huge and complex matters are reduced to the drama of one person’s struggle. Everyone, in the media’s viewfinder, becomes an actor. Reality is replaced by representation.

Even when political reporting is not reduced to personality, political photography is. An article might offer depth and complexity, but is illustrated with a photo of one of the 10 politicians whose picture must be attached to every news story. Where is the public clamour to see yet another image of Theresa May – let alone Boris Johnson? The pictures, like the actors, blot out our view of other people, and induce us to forget that these articles discuss the lives of millions, not the life of one.

The media’s failure of imagination and perspective is not just tiresome; it’s dangerous. There is a particular species of politics that is built entirely around personalities. It is a politics in which substance, evidence and analysis are replaced by symbols, slogans and sensation. It is called fascism. If you construct political narratives around the psychodramas of politicians, even when they don’t invite it, you open the way for those who can play this game more effectively.

Already, this reporting style has led to the rise of people who, though they are not fascists, have demagogic tendencies. Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and Jacob Rees-Mogg are all, like Donald Trump, reality TV stars. The reality TV on which they feature is not The Apprentice, but Question Time, and other news and current affairs programmes. In the media circus, the clowns have the starring roles. And clowns in politics are dangerous.

The spotlight effect allows the favoured few to set the agenda. Almost all the most critical issues remain in the darkness beyond the circle of light. Every day, thousands of pages are published and thousands of hours broadcast by the media. But scarcely any of this space and time is made available for the matters that really count: environmental breakdown, inequality, exclusion, the subversion of democracy by money. In a world of impersonation, we obsess about trivia. A story carried by BBC News last week was headlined Meghan Closes a Car Door.

The BBC has just announced that two of its programmes will now start covering climate change once a week. Given the indifference and sometimes outright hostility with which it has treated people trying to raise such issues over the past 20 years, this is progress. But business news, though less important than environmental collapse, is broadcast every minute, partly because it is treated as central by the people who run the media, and partly because it is of pressing interest to those within the spotlight. We see what they want us to see. The rest remains in darkness.

The task of all journalists is to turn off the spotlight, roll up the blinds and see what’s lurking at the back of the room. There are some magnificent examples of how this can be done, such as the Windrush Scandal reporting by Amelia Gentleman and others. This told the story of people who live far from where the spotlight falls. The articles were accompanied by pictures of the victims, rather than those of the politicians who had treated them so badly: their tragedies were not supplanted by someone else’s drama. Yet these stories were told with such power that they forced even those within the spotlight to respond.

The task of all citizens is to understand what we are seeing. The world as portrayed is not the world as it is. The personification of complex issues confuses and misdirects us, ensuring that we struggle to comprehend and respond to our predicaments. This, it seems, is often the point.

Source: Monbiot

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Mobilized is creating a collaborative constructive solutions network  dedicated to our collective  human potential, economic and ecologic justice, and human rights.  We are a network of media producers, investigative journalists, deep-thinkers, scientists and pro-active organizers who believe that an enlightened and well-informed populous is important for a society to truly flourish and are committed to working towards bringing it about.  Please join us as a collaborator in creation of a better world: It’s Free to sign up, your registration will never be compromised.  Share the news of solutions and empower a brighter tomorrow, today. Click here to sign up!

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Chuck W.

The Interconnected structure of reality

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Post 9/11: Truth or Continued Consequences?

What did 9-11, Covid19, the Covid variants, the end of our 20-year war in Afghanistan, recent extreme weather events globally, and a decline in democracy in many nations all have in common?  First, they were all predictable, predicted, and preventable. Second, more costly blood and treasure consequences are yet to come – unless we understand the root cause and urgently act on it.

By “The Other” Chuck Woolery

Everyone who was conscious on September 11, 2001, recalls the events of that day. But understanding both the origins and the results of 9/11 is far more important than any acts of remembrance that we might perform. If we truly care to honor those who died and suffered on that unforgettable day, we must use our powers of understanding to develop sustainable strategies for preventing the next terrorizing event that might occur. Understanding must matter more than body counts.

The Post’s lead editorial of 9/11 cites Abraham Lincoln’s statement that, when combating danger “the best defense (against the dangers of his time) …lay in cultivating robust ‘reverence for the Constitution and laws,’ ” as well as his hopes that doing so “would inspire and sustain the people’s commitment to liberty and equality.”

In his writings, Lincoln also described the Declaration of Independence as “our apple of gold” and the Constitution as its “frame of silver.” To my mind, these analogies reflect our foundational goal of equality for all people, as invoked in the Declaration.   But our “rule of law, as detailed in the Constitution ignores both the concept of justice and humanities inalienable rights.  The Constitution’s reliance on the proposition of independence — a deeply flawed concept rooted deeply in our minds has not delivered justice or consistently protected human rights since its creation.  From the start it was engineered into every level of our nation’s government.

Many Americans today proclaim their allegiance to individual liberty at the freedom to infect others in their communities.  For a significant portion US citizens “independence” has come to denote the license to act irresponsibly without regard for the medical, environmental, or economic consequences their actions on others (rejecting masks, refusing vaccinations, or denying climate change).

This prevalent fusion of “freedom” with “self-gratification” has long consequences for rest of the world too. For many decades our foreign and military policies have disparaged other cultures as unworthy of the respect and privilege that we ourselves take for granted; we’ve dismissed foreign casualties as “collateral damage”, communist or terrorist sympathizers, or humans irrelevant to our nation’s interests.

My studies as a biologist and student of the natural world have made the fundamental flaws in our Constitution to be “self-evident”.  They consistently ignore the “Laws of Nature and Nature’s God” expressed in the first paragraph of our “Apple of Gold” the Declaration of Independence.   Interdependence is at the heart of nature’s laws. Chief Seattle (1780-1866), the head of the Duwamish and Suquamish nations, saw this clearly: “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.”   Yet most of us ignore our irreversible global interdependence environmentally, economically, militarily, and health wise.   Without being responsible with our freedoms abroad we cannot expect to sustainably preserve our freedom, security, or prosperity here.

Until we grasp the wisdom and survival value of putting the global protection of human rights and the environment above the protection of national sovereignty and corporate power, our vulnerability to the kind of dangers inflicted on 9/11 will grow.  Sustaining what quality of life that remains and improving it for ourselves and our children we must abandon the illusion of independence.

 

Our interdependence within this nation and on this planet is accelerating and irreversible. Nearly every troubling trend we are experiencing today is a symptom of our delusion of separation. There is a medical term for this mental condition – anosognosia.  It is when someone is unaware of their own mental health condition.  In a world with the accelerating evolution of weapons, pathogens, failing democracies, and civil strife It’s time for a wake-up call.

Our human-created construct of independence is responsible for our persistent failure to understand and respond effectively to nearly every danger we face (pandemics, pollution, terrorism, cyber security, economic stability, drug trade, refugee flows, food insecurity, extreme weather events…), each with lethal and unfavorable consequences for all — both here and abroad.

We can no longer simply react when disaster strikes. We can no longer build back to what we had before. It’s imperative now that we build forward in ways that prevent dangers and conserve limited resources.  It is our only means of maximizing any sustainable prospects of freedom, security, and prosperity for ourselves and our posterity.  Most nations have agreed to achieve the 17 Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.  It is the only comprehensive set of solutions we have, and humanity is not on track to meet them.  Time is not on our side…and e may not get another chance.

The truth of our interdependence can set us free.  Ignoring it will only have more unfavorable consequences.

 

Before you finish eating breakfast in the morning, you’ve depended on more than half of the world. This is the way our universe is structured, this is its interrelated quality. We aren’t going to have peace on earth until we recognize this basic fact of the interrelated structure of all reality.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘Universe’; a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to achieve this completely, but striving for such achievement is, in itself, a part of the liberation, and a foundation for inner security.”   -Albert Einstein.  As quoted in Quantum Reality, Beyond the New Physics, p. 250.

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Mea Culpa

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Notes on 9-11, twenty years later.

This is the anniversary of a dark day in our country’s history.  It has also been totally eclipsed by the utterly horrifying death toll from a preventable virus.  So much so, that after this year I doubt anybody will be putting much emphasis on 9/11 anymore.  Too many folks are mourning their current lost loved ones to spend heaps of time on those of a generation ago.

I wanted to start this essay with “I told you so.”  It sure would have felt good, too; 20 years after warning y’all about the mistake of going to war to avenge a violent terror attack.  Who the hell would read that article though?  Nobody.

Nobody likes to be told they are wrong, least of all ‘Muricans.

We don’t.  We blew it on Viet Nam.  But then we spent the next two decades fellating ourselves with Rambo movies and Reagan and other such exciting fictions.  So when 9/11 occured, we were 100% ready and willing and able to make the same mistake again.  Then – – our short-attention span made it so that we turned away from the Afghan rebuilding project to double down and invade Iraq.  (I decried that invason too, to no avail).

We then whipped up some fancy ‘mission accomplished’ banners and photo ops, and… spent the next 19 years waiting to be greeted as liberators.  August of 2021 may have finally put that delusion to bed.  Somehow, I don’t think so.

I hate being Cassandra.  I do.  Nobody wants to hear the unvarnished truth, that much is clear.  But why?  How is it we would rather keep suffering, and keep on making other nations suffer; instead of doing the simple, basic work to fix the problems once and for all?  *This* question has become my life’s work.

There are solutions, by the way.  Never ever let anyone tell you these problems cannot be fixed.  Those folks are selling you something; and are not to be trusted.  We could never have built civilization in the first place, if we did not have solutions available for getting people to co-exist, within community.

So forget all about ‘I told you so’, and forget about who’s fault it is that we are in such a mess.  Focus your precious time on learning about solutions.  I have close to 20 essays up on mobilized.news now, and plenty of others have stuff posted here too.  That’s one possible place to start learning if you need resources.  For the busier or more skeptical among us, here (below) are some short takes that may be of use.

I am sorry that we’re still suffering.  Maybe I haven’t done enough to help relieve that suffering.  Maybe I can do more.  But it’s not about me, and it’s not about you.  It’s about the future. It really can be as bright as we want it to be.  Our biggest hurdle to overcome is simply inertia –  – and that’s a choice we make every day.

Simply change your mind, decide to find a new model to live within.  Better days lie ahead.


Further Reading: 

https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/welcoming-remarks-made-at-a-literary-reading-9-25-01?

 

Daniel Quinn shared this insight with us: Most folks would say that “the world was made for Man, and Man was made to conquer it.”  But of course that is just mythology, nothing about it is true.  It’s far more accurate to say that “the world is a sacred place and a sacred process – – and we are part of it.”  Our fundamental mis-understanding of how the world works is the key to knowing why we keep going on foolish crusades overseas, why we keep destroying the climate even though we know better, and so many other maladies.  It’s time to change those habits.

I often recommend this book, and do so again today because it’s more relevant NOW than ever before.  “Beyond Civilization” by Daniel Quinn.  See also: “Providence”, and the 3 “Ishmael” novels… which would make one hell of a great miniseries, if there are any TeeVee producers reading this post.

Speaking of ‘more relevant than ever’, Bucky Fuller’s classic book-length essay Grunch of Giants came out in 1970 for crying out loud; it’s too bad we’ve never taken his wise advice.

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews/

https://mobilized.news/bite-sized-book-reviews-ii-electric-boogaloo/

 

Here let us read in their own words, some post-war thoughts from a selection of unindicted war criminals.  They only barely register any remorse, and sure are twisting themselves in knots to justify their murderous idiocy.  NOTABLY ABSENT IN THESE INTERVIEWS: THE POINT OF VIEW OF ANYBODY AT ALL WHO WARNED AGAINST THE INVASIONS BEFORE HAND.  Such as Barbara Lee, Arundhati Roy, Naomi Klein, Medea Benjamin, or any of the Gold Star Mothers.  Funny how the media is falling over themselves to ask the guilty how they feel about being guilty.  It’s too damn bad the media doesn’t truly want to prevent future mistakes since that would be bad for their ratings.  Le sigh.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/9-11-attacks-20th-anniversary-reassessing-20-years-of-war-506924

For a more rational change of pace, this journalist ignored the fatuous glad-handers who lied us into war and instead talked to the soldiers on the ground.  If you’re in a hurry, skip the last entry and just read this one.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/09/10/politico-mag-afghan-vets-roundtable-506989

 

Here I offer a hat tip to my friend Alice Shikina, who has pointed me towards a far better means of conflict resolution – guided mediation & arbitration.  Groups such as SEEDS exist here in the Bay Area and similar ones are in most any big city near you.  We don’t have to spend our precious time being angry, or blaming the ‘other guy’.  We can instead work on listening and finding common ground.  There WAS common ground to be had with the Afghan people, for example, but we never once tried to find it.  We simply imposed a top-down model on them and then, were puzzled why they despised it.  What a huge missed opportunity.  Don’t you make that same mistake.  Check out the better options that are available and cost almost nothing to implement.

https://www.seedscrc.org/

www.cnvc.org

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Idjitz Stoopidshitz and-Dumfux

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Idjitz, Stoopidshitz, and-Dumfux

That’s how the growing resentment against the unvaccinated is best expressed.   Somehow these people regard their decision to flirt with imminent risk as an act of patriotism, the pure expression of American individualism boldly spitting in the wind of governmental control and the face of death itself.

On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we might do well to remember the heroic efforts of the true patriots among us, first responders and committed civil servants, and not the swollen pride of the few who carried the banners of plastic flagstaffs, boldly flapping stars and stripes, on the roll-up windows of their Cadillac Escalades to tailgate parties on the weekends that followed.  Some people can sure talk the talk, and the rest, Hillary’s deplorables, show up at events like that of January 6th.

But to be certain, those patriots on September 11th who went into those collapsing towers were heroes not solely because they put their lives in danger, took a risk to save others, selfless acts in defiance of the most certain of consequences, but because they truly cared about you and me.  All of America was in those towers.

Looking back on the death toll that day, as staggering as it was, it was even more shocking that the event occurred in our sacred homeland, a place of safety where we Americans enjoy our freedoms unhindered by fear.   To secure that same future, we accepted a massive loss of freedoms to embrace the Patriot Act and we shipped thousands of young Americans to distant lands, many to fall at the hands of unseen terrorists’ IEDs while on patrol.

So why is it that with the overwhelming statistics on Covid deaths, rising infections, the many at-capacity hospitals and the lack of safety for our unprotected children, do these anti-vaxers maintain that their so called freedoms take precedent over the safety of the community at large?  These people are not patriots.  They are the worst kind of self-serving cowards!

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