Another war, another crisis

August 07, 2007 by barbara

Perhansa writes

While the recovery effort continues on the Mississippi River in Minneapolis, we wait to understand the political, natural and engineering culprits that brought down a bridge.

While Congress recesses, we are left to ponder the machinations that left the NSA and Justice Department with renewed powers to “eavesdrop” without oversight.

While the Iraqi Parliament vacations, our men and women in uniform (and countless Iraqi civilians) continue to die or be subject to constant peril in the hellhole Iraq has become, and we’re left wondering what will happen to Iraq when we finally leave.

As the cicadas sing and a warm August breeze sweeps away the sweat from my brow, I contemplate another “war” and another “crisis” of our generation. I reluctantly call it the War on Truth and the crisis which is so closely aligned with it: the Crisis of Trust. Continue reading.

Quite honestly, I am having a difficult time knowing whom to trust these days. Our national leaders are quite adept at bending, twisting, reshaping and flat out circumventing the truth to the point where I do not believe a word the President of the United States utters. That’s a sad, sorry commentary on trust and democracy.

I am not a registered Democrat. I’ve always considered myself slightly to the left of center and an independent; more libertarian than liberal. So it’s not just that I abhor BushCo. I do not and cannot trust them. Alberto Gonzales is a pathological liar. Dick Cheney is a bitter, old curmudgeon whose idea of “truth” is more elastic than Gumby. And the Dems are no shining example of veracity either. Bill Clinton was Exhibit A as liar-in-chief when he tried to wriggle out of his dalliance with Monica Lewinsky and debated the meaning of “is.” I have to confess I often question the motives and the veracity of Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi (not to mention our good friend, AmyK).

In 2006, we managed to send a message of change to Washington. Not much has changed. Are the Democrats too busy playing politics? Are they caught up in the same war on truth? Lying has become a national pastime: in sports, politics, literature, science, religion, even in history.

I’ve been listening to James Loewen’s book, Lies My Teacher Told Me, in which he analyzes the falsification and sanitization of history by those who write American history texts for our schools. They lie to us. They sanitize and create a mythical view of the truth that reinforces belief in our exceptionalism.

We can’t seem to effectively respond to global climate change because of the lies, rumors, distortions and misleading information being peddled by obstructionists, lobbyists and the oil interests. School boards push creationist agendas into the science classroom due to misinformation campaigns waged by the religious right and their sponsoring “think tanks.” The media is shamefully complicit by trying to be “fair and balanced” when they should be thoughtful and honest. Truth and balance are often mutually exclusive.

According to “systems theory,” when something in a complex system breaks down, it’s extremely difficult to identify the reason(s) because the symptoms often appear far away (in both time and space) from the causal source. This is often referred to as the “butterfly effect,” referencing the fact that a butterfly flapping its wings in Taiwan can affect the weather in San Diego.

Our human tendency is to treat the “symptoms” without understanding the “system.” So changes we make tend to have further negative consequences (and never address the causal source). Thus, though we continually inspect and repair them, bridges collapse. Advances in industrial technology lead to global warming. Over-use of antibiotics leads to disease-resistant bacteria. On and on it goes. It’s very difficult to think “systemically” and it’s certainly not a valued skill in an age of iPods, Internet, text messaging, 24/7 television and sound-bite news and politics.

I’m quite certain our new representatives in D.C. discovered very quickly how complex the problems are and then habitually fell into the beltway’s political monopoly game. Our political system doesn’t reward systemic thinking; it rewards short-term performance and feel-good promises. We reinforce this with demands for smaller government, lower taxes, popularity polls, quick fixes and a flood of special interest monies.

We have become a society that first looks out for self—everyone else be damned. We also have a terrible propensity to put our trust in abstractions like gods, gurus, dogmas, experts and leaders—the “they” of, “They always say…”

So, I find myself reading more blogs, books, magazines and journals, trying desperately to sort out truth from deception. I probably sound paranoid. I’m not. I am frustrated and pissed off that I have to work so hard to determine the truth upon which a functioning democracy depends.

I am no longer sure who I can trust. I do not trust our government or its representatives because they are in a polluted system.

Though I am scientifically minded, I know politics has crept in to the sciences, making them less reliable. They rely on money!

I do not trust religion or religious hucksters.

I conduct work daily with different corporations and I do not trust them. They are caught up in short-term, deception-based, market-driven thinking.

Whether deliberate or not, as a culture we seem to be waging war on truth and it has led to a crisis of trust. The enemy—whoever it is—is winning.

Orwellian signs are all about us. Language is being undermined. Truth is being undermined. Concrete facts are shifted to the land of “reasonable” doubt by cherry-picking source information or actual misinformation. Everyone hires marketing gurus to “sell” their story more effectively, even when they know it’s not true.

What happened to truth? Do you know who you can trust? How do you know? Please tell me.

Posted in

Comments

B (not verified) | August 7, 2007 - 8:48pm

And, then we convince our children that there is a Santa Claus.

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susan | August 7, 2007 - 9:33pm

WHAT!!! There isn't? I've been scribbling notes to him every Christmas, asking for a new president. Now you tell me.

So Perhansa -- and I always enjoy your writing, btw -- you once wrote that it was up to people like us to have hope, that we who could afford the luxury of hope had to hold on to it for those who don't have that luxury. So given all that you mention above, what hope are you holding on to these days?

As Barb would say, Just askin'.

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paul miller (not verified) | August 8, 2007 - 7:08am

Today's bipartisan shameful headline, "Murtha agrees to block discloure of intelligence budget". They won't even tell us where our money is being spent. It's just a big black hole. These HUGE lies of omission and commision keep the system that is in place, in place.

The number one governing credo is do no harm to the "system". The "system" funnels all of our tax dollars into the military industrial complex. If we realize our representatives are basically the board of directors for the military industrial complex, albeit with some internal conflicts, we can understand their genial view towards the manical cabal that has called the shots for the past six years.

I guarentee you that not one representative will propose funding our infrastructure improvements out of the black hole that is the military budget. Murtha and the dems are reporting for duty, as ususal.

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 8, 2007 - 7:22am

Hope. There's that four-letter word again. Well, that and FISA.

I suppose it's possible to hope in the absence of trust. But I'm no longer sure. I used to be a relentlessly optimistic person. Having a hard time channeling that woman any more.

I expect to be betrayed by the right. I don't expect it from my own party. Our own legislators. And in the absence of satisfactory answers, I gotta say it looks and feels like betrayal.

Used to be that a butt-kicking donkey was the party's icon. I can see where Eeyore might be more appropriate. Our "leaders" dangle hope like the proverbial carrot. Like Lucy's football. Like that old, old document, the Constitution.

That bridge lying in the river brought a lot of us down. I imagine I'm not through standing up and fighting, but I gotta tell you, it's getting harder.

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perhansa (not verified) | August 8, 2007 - 2:40pm

Gonna make me choke on my own words Susan?

Perhaps hope (like it's cousin: faith) is merely a form of mental adaptiveness--a benign form of self-delusion that evolution found useful in preserving the species.

A democracy like ours relies on a well-informed citizenry (as Mr. Gore argued in Assault on Reason). In order to be "well-informed" you've got to work awfully hard. I happened by a newsstand today and was appalled to read the headline on Newsweek Magazine: Is Global Warming a Hoax? I didn't purchase the magazine so I don't know what the gist of the story was, regardless, it's cheap, irresponsible and sensationalist journalism intended to sell product--why not: "Is The Surge a Hoax?" or "Rush Limbaugh Reported to be Having Pillow Talk with Alien Invaders from Nearby Galaxy".

Hope feels like a thin thread of monofiliment fish line right about now. As Paul said, the "system" that is in place isn't going to change anytime soon unless there is a rollicking good catastrophe that leaves us no choice. Even with the I35W bridge collapsing a week ago, 57% of Minnesotans oppose an increase in the gas tax to fund infrastructure improvements.

Me first. My money. I earned it. I get to spend it. Let someone else pay for the roads I use to get to my job. Let someone else pay for the infrastructure that makes commerce (and my income) possible. Let the rest of the world pay $7 per gallon for gas, I'm not scrimping on my recreational activities--I deserve cheap gas and an SUV and a four-wheeler and a garage full of gas-powered toys/tools. This is America, G**dammit!

The system we call Gaia or Mother Earth or whatever won't tolerate us and our current behavior much longer--that's a source for hope (in a negative sense). We'll be forced to change or perish. Perhaps the breakthroughs in cognitive science will provide a more realistic understanding of how we think and reason and act and that awareness will allow us to make the necessary adjustments and reexamine philosophy and finally let go of the archaic myths and fables we live by. I have several young grandchildren and they are a living breathing walking talking source of hope. I know many lovely artists who are creating some amazing work and are truly compassionate people--they give me hope. I read the writings of intelligent, caring, compassionate people who give me hope. The history of mankind goes in ebbs and flows, if there is any certainty, we can be certain things will change. That gives me hope. We can't see very far down the road so we don;t know what changes might turn our world upside down--that gives me hope.

And then, in the darker moments, I realize that evolution didn't build a human brain for the purpose of discovering truth but to enhance the survival odds of the species. I spent a weekend fishing with family last week and felt an eerie sense of animal "clan-ness" to it all. We are animals and our impulse is to defend our kin(d), our view of the world, and our way of doing things. Our nature is to be able to see only a very short distance from our inner circel before we call others "alien" or "outsiders." Distrust might be an enduring evolutionary inheritance. Deception might be a highly adaptive survival skill. Tribalism, nationalism, patriotism, special-interestism might be threaded through our DNA and implanted in the neurons multiplying in our brains. It might all be a sad sorry tale told by an idiot signifying nothing and inevitable.

Can recognizing and accepting that "nothing" give us hope? Can it be the foundation for a gut-level honest philosophy of living well?

I woke up today and the world was still there, so hope is possible.

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MLS (not verified) | August 8, 2007 - 10:09pm

Attention everyone. Thought you might be interested to read
these words of wisdom.

"History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy." - George W. Bush

Cough, choke, gasp, gag...

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 8, 2007 - 10:26pm

Oh, wow! George is kind of like, you know, all yinny and yangy. Deep. Very deep. Thanks for sharing.

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perhansa (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 11:04am

That's exactly the kind of simplistic cliches this faux-president apparently lives by...Platitiudes like this fit right in with the assault on reason and truth. Meaningless sound bites and superficial analysis couched in prophetic sounding words by his speech writers.

"History is moving..." No history is being written, in hindsight. The actors in the play are moving, the script is made up after the fact.

"It tends toward hope or toward tragedy"... or toward neither or both depending on the perspective of the historian and the actors.

Perhaps George should have drank less and studied more. Maybe try reading something more informative than Michael Creighton or his Bible.

Koan for the Day:
What is the sound of one hand slapping George W upside the head?

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B (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 11:16am

"We often don't want the truth.

We want someone to simply hear our side
and take our side."

~Rev. Rodney B. Jackson~

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MLS (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 4:39pm

I have a library book that I just checked out a few days ago
entitled, "Blessed Unrest" by Paul Hawken. Coincidentally,
there is mention of it in today's Commondreams.org website.
Hawken explains that there is "hope" in action every day -throughout the world. Small, medium and large non-governmental organizations at local, national, and world level are working for a better tomorrow. As Bill McKibben described it, "The movers and shakers on our planet aren't the billionaires and the generals - they are the incredible numbers of people around the world filled with love for neighbor and for the earth who are resisting, remaking, restoring, renewing, revitalizing." If you want to understand and feel encouraged that you are making a difference, if you want to believe there is hope read this book and then pass it on to others.

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perhansa (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 5:08pm

I've been reading this as well...I second the motion.

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paul miller (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 5:31pm

"History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend toward tragedy." - George W. Bush

not to compare bush to one of the greats, but I think it was Curly who said, "I try and think, but nothing happens"

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 7:48pm

I saw that Bush quote, too. This from the "leader" of the free world. Oy!

There was lots of conversation on the blogs today about The Current Occupant's distracted state of being during his presser. I didn't see it. Some thought he almost seemed medicated. Weirdly out of touch (yes, more than usual). Anyone see it?

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Anonymous (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 8:14pm

Yes I did. He was very sharp and in control. If you did not see it that way, it is because your pre-conceived thoughts, or lack of, that are already in place and nothing he could say would make a difference. It must be hell to go through life that way, every waking moment being spiteful, and hoping some tragedy will befall us or our troopers or airmen and sailors, and even bridge travelers, so that you can blame part or all on who is in office that you despise. You can deny it, but it is obvious. This is coming from ever caring "elite" liberals who seem to know what is good and right for everyone but themselves. I would suggest coming out of your little ivory towers, your great halls of "supposed academia", and your little dollar a year leased land island bungalows ( you know who you are) and talk to some main stream folks. If you spend all of your time with kooks, your gonna get a little kookie and you haven't disappointed there.

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perhansa (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 9:24pm

Ouch...thus spake Zarathustra that hath no name.

If you want to see how far your boy is off the mark from a real leader go to www.truthout.org and read the piece by Theodore Sorenson, A New VIsion.

If it doesn't make you weep for the gap between what could be and what is check your pulse, see if you have one...

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paul miller (not verified) | August 9, 2007 - 9:30pm

I read the transcript of the press conference - definately crackers but that's not news

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susan | August 9, 2007 - 11:53pm

"Yes I did. He was very sharp and in control."

Anon, you're a great foil. And it's true, this was not Bush's worst press conference by a long shot. The wheels came off a bit about 15 minutes in, when asked a question about progress in iraq, and he rambled somewhat incoherently for about 3-4 minutes, and he was indeed "sharp" when asked about the death of Pat Tillman. But overall, I thought it was the same old Shrub. And that ain't saying much.

As for the island bungalow on land that's leased for a dollar a year, well, you're at least 20 years behind the times with that piece of misinformation -- as you are with most things. In other words, irrelevant and incorrect. And, how do I put this to you? Let's see. I do know who I am and I know bungalows, and I'm very fond of bungalows, but this, sir, is no bungalow. Harumph.

Thanks for writing. Gotta run say my bedtime prayers.

Dear God, I'm hoping some tragedy will befall us or our troopers or airmen and sailors, and even bridge travelers so I can blame part or all on who is in office that I despise. (sic)
And keep Anon safe, cause he doesn't mean to be so nasty.
Your kooky elite -- and hopeful -- liberal.

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paul miller (not verified) | August 10, 2007 - 6:23am

Amen

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paul miller (not verified) | August 10, 2007 - 8:12am

I propose that the articulate, clever and damn funny left leaning commentors / bloggers on this site sign the NRA (non responorial act) which states:

we the people, in order to have any sort of union, in all future endeavors, will refrain from responding to anonymus comments. As our spiritual mentor, Stuart Smalley, would say, "Doggone it, we're good enough".

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susan | August 10, 2007 - 9:27am

Well, I know, don't feed the pests, it just attracts more and all that, but I'm afraid if I sign the pledge, I'll be the first to break it. Anon is just such a simple target I can't resist. Sometimes I get truly creepy hate mail, but with anon I just laugh outloud. But I agree in priciple and will try to do better. But I'll need your help and support. Thanks.
And sorry, all, for the lack of new posts. The clothesline is feeling the heat. Dog days and all that.

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David (not verified) | August 10, 2007 - 11:29am

The theory is, of course, enlightened self interest. We apparently have half of it right, and are being led by the must unenlightened people imaginable, especially for the onset of the 21st century. As a colleague who taught political science once quipped regarding the Enlightenment, it will be nice when it finally reaches America.

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perhansa (not verified) | August 10, 2007 - 12:26pm

I love the saying--sad but true.

Anon does have a point about resorting to low brow commentary more endemic of the paragons of puerile profundity like Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, and Rush Limbaugh. I guess liberals are human (and spiteful) too.

I'm humbled and quite honest when I say I don't think the conversation progresses when I call W a "pocket gopher" or Cheney a "curmudgeon" or Gonzales a "pathological liar"...next time I'll refrain and stick to only those terms employed by the other camp, things like unpatriotic, surrender monkey, traitor, cutter-and-runner, enemy-sympathiser, white-flagger, Old-European, wussy, pansy, faggot,...etc.

That should bring the level of dialogue up a bit.

Just to clear up any misunderstandings...I personally don't pray for disasters like Anon suggests because: 1) they seem to happen often enough without encouraging the gods, 2) I don't believe in the gods, 3) I reserve praying for terrible things to happen to people you don't like or don't agree with to the left-behind-end-times-holy-book-thumping fundamentalists of every religious ilk.

Zeus bless America!

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barbara aka babs (not verified) | August 10, 2007 - 1:19pm

"Zeus bless America"

Okay, laughing hard. Feels good. Especially since Goddess of the Hunt black-and-blued her arm Big Time taking an archery lesson with number four grand.

Instructor did a little exercise to determine whether each of us was right- or left-eye dominant. I am the latter, which will surprise no one. But that meant this right-handed woman had to pull the bow with my left hand, which resulted in twanging my right forearm repeatedly with the bowstring.

I think there's a political metaphor in all of this, but I'll be jiggered if I can figure out what it is.

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