Artists, I’m afraid, have blood on their hands. They are as guilty and culpable as any of the worst tyrants in history. Why? Because of the skill and guile with which they complicity constructed the unreality we all now inhabit. Story by story. Emotional impact by emotional impact.
If you don’t think we live in an unreality bubble of our own making, then you really haven’t been paying attention to recent world events, or else have been, but have been so stupefied by the myths and illusions force-fed to you since childhood, that you believe the unreality to be reality. Can there be any rational, self-aware, sentient human being that doesn’t look at the state of current geo-politics and shake their head in despair? Does anybody regard this as an acceptable business-as-usual situation? Is this how it’s going to be, from now on? How the hell did we get to this place?
The origins of the current malaise, variously and euphemistically described as “managed democracy”, lie in the Cold War, where nuclear weapons made the power-crazed megalomaniacs in charge so supremely powerful, that they could end humanity at a stroke. No wonder they came to see themselves as Gods, indifferent to the concerns or importance of ordinary people. The “little people” were utterly insignificant, in the delicate balance of nuclear terror. With a life-extinguishing holocaust in their grasp, there was no reason to consider the lives of ordinary people at all. They were an irrelevance. Henceforth, they simply weren’t considered at all. Power and the maintenance of control were considered to be far more important. To the power brokers, they were the only thing.
The problem with having all that power and control is that you can use it capriciously, for whatever phantasm or cockamamy project that enters your power-addled, delusional, deranged bonce. Whatever irrational superstition or baseless belief system you subscribe to, you can now throw the entire weight of total annihilation behind it. You can launch any goddam crusade you choose, no matter how ludicrous, primitive, cruel, base and arbitrary.
These were the conditions under which a primary nuclear power broker, Henry Kissinger, embarked on the ultimate imperialist project – world government. It was with this power that he also sought to pursue the interests of people who, for millennia, had thought of themselves as the chosen people. Not only were they chosen by God, according to their Bronze Age texts, but now they were chosen, too, by the God-like controllers of nuclear terror. Anybody that disagreed could be conveniently labelled an anti-Semite and thus neutralised.
Understandably, there were Arab leaders, themselves drunk on dictatorial power, that didn’t like this plan very much. They lacked access to and control of nuclear weapons, but the next best thing, they figured, was a suicide bomber. Under the auspices of their Bronze Age texts, they convinced their populations of the moral rectitude of suicide, taking a radius of innocent bystanders with them. This, in their twisted calculus and rhetoric, would be enough to drive the American nuclear-wielding psychopaths and criminals out of the Middle East.
Both sides were utterly delusional in this: their respective projects had no basis whatsoever in objective reality and no amount of brutality, force or terror can change a mind. Yet, minds had to be changed. People had to be managed into thinking that both projects were ethical, moral and righteous, even though both dealt in little more than greed, vengeance, power-lust, death and destruction. Populations had to be controlled in their thinking, or they might take control of these weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the power junkies that knew the launch codes. Worse still, they might come to their senses and dismantle these insane weapons altogether!
Divide and rule was the reliable, standard, ancient answer. Simple solutions that created “us” and “others”. The invention of non-existent enemies of the people was the way forward. Terrorist masterminds whose headquarters could never be located or pin pointed. Fear, uncertainty and doubt. Consumerism. The cult of the self. Mass communications and the entertainment industry, owned and controlled by nuclear weapons suppliers. Individualism supplanted the ineffectual murders and assassinations of union organisers and uniting leaders. With individualism, there are no martyrs created.
A concerted effort, on an unimaginable scale, was undertaken to ensure you didn’t see reality for what it really was. Massive surveillance systems were constructed, masquerading as search engines, blog sites and social media, with algorithms created to ensure you remained within your own echo chamber bubble, addressing and interacting with only the people you agreed with, insulating you from having any possibility of genuine debate or winning minds through the strength of your arguments. Instead, the algorithms would emasculate your intellect and keep you in a perpetual state of ineffectuality.
But anger and hate meant profits for the corporations and bankers enriched in the management of democracy. Angry people click and clicks mean ad impressions – ads to sell you products that will reinforce your isolation and solitude. Hate factories, printing brazen headlines filled with bile, sell more copies. We reward our manipulators with every click and purchase – the ultimate captives and Stockholm Syndrome acquiescent. Silent, complacent and accepting.
If you brainwash populations with simple narratives, though, eventually the cracks appear. People innately sense that all is not how it seems. Their lives are not more secure and comfortable. They aren’t fulfilled and happy. In many ways, their existence is debt-ridden and precarious, or else constrained and hemmed in, as their savings evaporate faster than they can accumulate and appreciate. Eventually, they figure out that all politicians lie. They can’t be trusted, their simple narratives are discredited and it is obvious they can neither help the people out of their enforced immiseration, nor had any intention to do so.
Into this trust vacuum, opportunists can step in; people willing to openly and deliberately lie, who promise everything and have no intention of delivering anything. They scapegoat the most vulnerable and deliberately misdirect attention from the real enemies of the people – the banks and corporations whose wealth gallups off at an accelerating rate, while the real wages of the vast majority of humanity stagnate and diminish. They preside over the greatest redistribution of material wealth in human history, while we blame immigrants and the disabled.
Today, most people feel no shame or guilt at torturing asylum seekers, or sanctioning the needy to death. We’re morally disengaged. Our cruelty is enshrined in the fictional language of noble, worthy, higher causes. We’re all innocent bystanders, waiting for somebody else to step in and act. As individuals, we believe ourselves powerless, yet we’re unable and unwilling to organise collective action. We can’t even envisage what a fairer, less intrusive, humane and just society might look like. Every utopian narrative flounders on irrational, devoted adherence to rulers, an elite class, law enforcement and violence. We lack the moral compass and ethical bearings to accept that how others choose to live their lives is none of our goddam business, enthralled as we are to our Bronze Age texts, our bile filled news media and our angry social media interactions. We possess ample collective imagination to envisage the very worst, but are hopelessly ill-equipped to design the best means of organising human affairs. Why should that be? This was the deliberate aim of the power brokers who decided to manage our democracy. It worked. Our minds were not changed by terror, violence and brutal force. They were changed by the repetition of the threat of these things.
We live in a post-truth society, run by psychopaths so cynical, that they believe in perpetual destabilisation; our new hypernormalisation. How this affects individuals is not even considered by those who inflict it, because the global power balance is all they care about. They wage perpetual, non-linear wars, where you can never tell who is allied with whom, what the enemies’ objectives are and even who the enemy really is. Meanwhile, wealth is quantitatively-eased out of nations, tax-free, leaving the populace with the debt burden and the austerity, in a futile attempt to meet the interest payments on the money thus printed. They don’t care what you think or how traumatised and stressed you are, so long as they stay in power, with the ability to kill us all in a single exchange of nuclear fireworks.
Artists participated fully in creating the unreality. Instead of revealing the global power game and its sick, self-serving participants, we wove enticing, untrue stories and served them up as reality. They were noxious confections, but we made them. Instead of changing the world for the better, we were content to write songs about the decay, but from the point of view of disinterested bystanders, watching Rome burn with chic detachment. Our work was so convincing that whole populations are completely and totally unaware of actual reality. Actual reality consists of unaddressed climate change, environmental destruction, carcinogenic foods, blanket surveillance and manipulation, mass curtailment of freedom and imagination, pointless jobs, indignity and a failure to let humanity’s collective creativity prevail. Most of all, we’re being farmed and milked, so that people that already have the ultimate power over life on Earth can have more. What will they do with it? To what end? How much power is enough? They don’t even know.
How do I know we have slipped increasingly into unreality? One of my most popular blog posts is “25 Ideas for Daydreaming”. My stats reveal that this post has gathered readers exponentially, since I wrote it, five years ago. We want to escape more than ever, it appears.
When the Cold War gave way to its successor, our hypernormalised, managed democracy, Reagan and Thatcher were in the ascendant. At the time, both were considered to be jokes – buffoons and cranks. Today, bizarrely and weirdly, both are revered as great statesmen, but both started us on the trajectory to the place we have now reached. The reality is that both actually were fools – the willing dupes and puppets of finance, corporate power and nuclear power brokers dedicated to global control. In our unreality, though, we don’t see them that way. The carefully constructed myths have instead prevailed.
A colleague where I work and I were discussing how much of this terrible reality we should expose our children to. After all, they’re just kids and you don’t want to kill their innocent hope stone dead. As a parent, you have to decide judiciously which information to hide, while they’re young. In other words, you’re left to choose which fictions to instill, as our parents had to, regarding authority and religion. Some parents chose to call those things what they really were – abusive structures of power acting against most people’s interests, which if you trusted in them, could get you killed. Today, I think the same applies. If you know what power and our managed democracy really is, then you should call it what it is – dangerous, insane, megalomaniacal games for the benefit of a tiny minority of cynical psychopaths, which if you trusted in them, could get you killed.
There are, in fact, complex, intractable realities that, for our ultimate survival, we must all face. We must strip bare the unreal illusions and deal with our actual situation, rather than remaining as sleepwalking participants in pointless, irrational, global power games, which have ultimate control of us all and our very minds as their goal. We’ve got to see the Bronze Age justifications for what they are – cynical manipulations and moral distortions. Are we so manipulated that we’ve lost our moral bearings, or do we still cling onto an essential sense of what is right?
Perhaps artists can do a better job of revealing the unrealities and help humanity perceive things more truthfully, this time. Or will we retreat into getting paid to lie, manipulate and mask the truth, as we have been doing? How complicit in our own oppression, enslavement and destruction are we going to be?
In the end, the only hope we have is to keep calling things what they are. Honestly. Truthfully. Courageously.
Picasso once said: “The world today doesn’t make sense, so why should I paint pictures that do?” It’s an interesting question, but the answer, to me, is obvious.
Because if artists don’t, who will?