“Not all people exist in the same now.” Ernst Bloch, German Marxist, 1932.
Twenty-five percent of the American people exist in one “now” and see snow as black; another sixty percent live in an opposite “now” and see snow as white; and fifteen percent are effectively brain dead, but breathing, and may or may not recognize snow at all. Children are excepted.
This phenomenon is not cultural intersecting circles with some unifiers mutually shared – this is parallel trenches with a large no-trespass zone in between and white cease-fire flags available at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and birthdays lest the discussion veer to the color of snow. Quasi-wars smolder under the surface at these family gatherings as alternate trench-dwellers select news channels that reinforce their political positions.
How did we get to this state of affairs in America? Part of the explanation might be the following:
First, the philosophical premise of the American system is that there are universals or objective truths that exist in the world relative to humanity. The Founders felt that human beings are basically depraved, so government itself, even by the consent of the governed, is a necessity. Thomas Paine in his pamphlet Common Sense wrote in 1775: “Here then is the origin and rise of government; namely, a mode rendered necessary by the inability of moral virtue to govern the world.”
There are other objective truths or realities that human beings can know through their senses or through their experiences. Snow is generally white. 2+2 = 4. Human beings cannot be perfected. John Locke felt that the primary purpose of education, for instance, is to teach children general, objective knowledge. Our whole Constitutional system is undergirded by the notion of these and other objective truths. They provide social stability and intergenerational connectivity.
The opposite of this view is relativism or the doctrine that no absolutes exist. In the view of relativists there are no objective truths and there is no objective knowledge. The Vienna Circle of Logical Positivists of the 1920’s held that anything that cannot be scientifically proved does not exist. God, therefore, does not exist. The soul does not exist. Jean-Paul Sartre, a French philosopher, held that since God is dead human beings cannot discover His values for living. Human beings, therefore, can invent their own values. Joseph Fletcher, in his 1966 work Situational Ethics, finds the very definition of what is ethical to be an end result. The means to that end may be anything. So, if it is the purpose of those in power is to persuade the public that snow is black, then achieving that goal in twenty-five percent of the population is ethical.
What this explains in the trench warfare now going on in America is that one group accepts the objective and the other the relative. Ideas and theories are relative. Ideas and theories come and go. Universals do not. Critical race theory is a theory – it is not a truth. Ideas like this belong to be discussed by advanced critical thinkers, not children who are biologically incapable of sorting through the garbage can of someone’s questionable idea. Most adults are not even capable of critical thinking. When introduced to children at too young an age, relativism warps a growing mind.
Second, Sigmund Freud’s theories of the subconscious formed the basis for the development of professional propaganda techniques. In business circles, this field is called Public Relations. In government, this field is called Spin. One of the first Presidents to perfect it was Theodore Roosevelt. A wealthy Easterner, he created an image of himself as a “manly” man by dressing like Buffalo Bill, having his picture taken in a New York studio, and then disseminating it around the nation as proof he was a real “hunter”. Woodrow Wilson used propaganda to convince reluctant Americans to support our entrance into WWI.
The acknowledged founder of advanced propaganda techniques is Edward Bernays, nephew of Sigmund Freud. He used his uncle’s notions of the repressed subconscious to manipulate the masses. This manipulation, in his thinking, is the true ruling power of a society – an invisible government. Once it became clear that the subconscious could be controlled, corporations as well as governments, have made a science of it. China has perfected Bernays work and uses it to influence American policy. Facebook and the other social media manipulators of the subconscious and needy self use it to control thought and self-worth.
How do we recover our sanity and our stability as a society in the face of these two powerful forces?
- Recognize untruths as part of a system of subconscious manipulation. “The border is closed” is untrue. “We will leave no Americans behind” (in Afghanistan) is untrue. The idea is that if enough untruths are told, the human subconscious creates a space for them to be true to remain sane. This technique is called gaslighting.
- Promote public education for objective knowledge only and set a high bar for academic achievement. A high bar stretches the growing and curious mind of a child and helps develop critical thinking skills.
- Understand that regardless of individual beliefs, our American system is founded on the notion that individual rights come from a Creator and that citizens have a duty to that Creator as well as a duty to each other. These universals are what make America exceptional.
Once a person comes to the realization that he or she has been subconsciously manipulated, the trenches can be abandoned, the no-trespass zone can be crossed, real discussions can be held, and protections against subconscious manipulation can be put in place. Snow will once again be seen as generally white and God and virtue as essential to a well-ordered American society.