Saturday, September 19, 2020

Who owns what you think is true? Who owns what's in your head? The politics of belief and adherence

 A friend, with whom I'd been drifting away from, over 20 years, seems to have become enamored with "Q-anon culture."  It's not worth recounting here what that connotes, what they say will happen, who the villains are, the sex trafficking Clintons, Bill Gates and what-not.  Suffice it to say there's a few seeds of truth (Epstein, child sex-trafficking) buried somewhere in a chiliocosm of bullshit, said bullshit including a complete discounting of any report or story coming from major mainstream media.

How people got that way, what in their psyche or genetics pre-disposes them to cosmic credulousness is also not particularly relevant to the topic of this post.  Suffice it to say that it is certainly one by-product of Steve Bannon and other right wing propagandists' strategy to "Flood the Zone with Shit." Its political import is that by gaslighting people to think of vast conspiracies, it's easier to get them to behave how you want, it excludes and erases things which may challenge rightist political initiatives, and even causes left reactions that exclude and erase that which can challenge the right.

This has been going on for quite a while of course in one form or another; going back to the Red Scares, or Masonic or anti-Semitic conspiracy theories.  Too, there have been, you know, actual conspiracies.   But the questions I'm trying to pose here is are as above.  If you are thinking about a conspiracy of something, or some political thing or other, why?  Does it serve a purpose being in your head?

As of this writing, Ruth Bader Gisnburg has recently passed away, and of course there will be a titanic and greatly political struggle taking place in election season to name here successor.  And it's altogether fitting and proper that we should contribute to that discourse, just as it's been altogether fitting and proper to bear witness to the fact that Black lives matter.  We do have voices and feet and hands and brains and existences that does make it our responsibility to contribute to political discourse to improve the conditions of all beings.

Also as of this writing, September 19th, 2020, we in the Pacific Northwest emerged only yesterday from a week of very unhealthy to world's worst hazardous air conditions because of the confluence of forest fires and a temperature inversion.  That, combined with Covid-19, combined with the normal flood of shit in a political season, made it all the more absurd when my friend started texting me links from sites so lacking in credibility that the most credible one came from Fox "News," an organization that has literally gone to court to protect their "right" to lie to their audience.  Aside from the complete obliviousness to what I was actually experiencing (said Q-anon adherent lives in New York), what struck me was how divorced from reality my friend had become.  Mentally he was in the same place as a jihadi, a Scientologist,  or a member of the Weather Underground (although the latter at least had real enemies and legitimate animuses.   In short, my friend had drunk the Kool-Aid®.

Q-anon adherence is just one way though in which one's mind can be hijacked in the service of others.   Capitalism has lots of other ways of doing this as well.  "Ideal love a new purchase" is a line in a Gang of Four song. Our day jobs are in many cases the leasing out of attention and time to that which we wouldn't lease out if we didn't need the money.   Then there are those hours we while away in front of the TV, or in compulsive activities, or other ways in which we waste time and attention.  Most of the latter activities are ways of titrating reality because reality is found to be extremely painful. 

Who owns what you think is true? The Q-anon people claim they "do research," yet reject fact-checking that which is inconsistent with their premise that the "mainstream media" cannot be trusted.   The mainstream media should always be questioned as their choice of facts and narratives often does serve a political purpose, acknowledged or not.   But when one is trying to debunk a story from them with Turkish government propaganda, propaganda from the present Turkish government, one will fail.

"I'm not a philosopher, I'm a plumber" my Physics 101 professor said in response to a question about the nature of charge and matter I posed many years ago. I'm an applied scientist too, a kind of plumber, and while the nature of reality is something that has taken up a lot of mental space in Mahayana Buddhism, I've got to get from point A to point B.  So in a certain sense the ultimate nature of TRUTH is not as important as getting from point A to point B with grace, wisdom, compassion and generosity.  Both because the phenomena alluded to in Q-anon conspiracies do not comport with reality and because the recounting of the alluded-to phenomena is not done with grace, wisdom, compassion and generosity the movement cannot be given any kind of credence from anyone honestly "doing their own research."

Who owns what is in your head? 

Any serious practitioner of Zen knows the answer to that one.