Smoke and mirrors
The United States of America is largely about smoke and mirrors. And I’m not saying that to be demeaning, because it takes tremendous effort to maintain this illusion/delusion.
In this society, the most complex to the simplest most meaningful thing, can be an illusion, things that aren’t as they seem. Americans have come to be recognized as highly superficial people, the triumph of style over substance. The problem often is that style collapses quickly and where there is no substance, where the banality of one’s life is easily exposed, where the illusion of strength and comfort quickly disappear, then people stop trusting everything in the society.
I was recently talking to a dude whose former workplace is a national office supplies chain. For the sake of this blog, we’ll call them aah, Office Depot.
He told me that every week he printed new job application forms which quickly disappear as needy wanna-be workers are encouraged to apply for employment. Problem: Office Depot isn’t really hiring.
The dude told me that there are stacks of filled –out forms in the back, not even making File 13. That when employees leave, their positions aren’t filled. That the store that he was working, was grossly understaffed, that corporate has mandated a freeze on hiring. I went into a couple stores to check and found them practically deserted of employees, what I would think was an unhealthy ratio of manpower per sq.ft.
Now, one would ask why would any corporation pursue such practices? Isn’t there something sadistic about giving people hope of employment when there is none, or is it the thought that it is better to give a little hope than none? Is this the only corporation carrying through this façade and if not, how national is it? Is it a way of trying to deceive their own employees, the public, the shareholders or other competing stores?
I would love for readers to share their own perceptions, rationale and experiences. I would love for a retail manager to confirm or rationalise this phenomenon. Anyone.
Now this smoke and mirrors game isn’t limited to just corporations… it’s an American way of life. Go into a strip mall and look at the fancy facades with nothing behind them. Listen to the tv commercials, particularly those hawking drugs… 15 seconds of what miracles the drug will do for you and the other 15 seconds of how it can kill you.
Look at the political arena, even the presidential elections… wasn’t it John McCain’s campaign manager who proudly announced that this campaign won’t be about issues but perceptions? In a real world, shouldn’t someone have his head on a stick?
Look at the illusion that a president runs the country by himself. The president is subject to many influences including his advisers and party. People talk about Obama’s experience like it is really, really important. More important is his ability to lead, to create leadership within his inner circle, to take advice, and to some extent impose some of the things he personally wants to be done.
As front-man, he also should have the ability to dialogue with other leaders without giving them shoulder massages in public or attempting to exit through locked doors, also on camera. Duh!
By his very presence, he should be able to engender respect from allies and foes alike and this can only be done by someone with an overall empathy for the world. George Bush never had that, and with all his ‘experience’, neither does McCain. But back to the script.
Does anyone really believe 1/2 of what politicians tell them? Of course they do, which is why they get disillusioned with government so quickly and why the voting percentages have been trending Downsville for so many years. Hopefully that will be reversed this year, but then what?
Look at television… the ultimate tool of deception, where even the news only enhance perceptions, not deliver substance.
The collapse financial market: What were the players trading in… smoke and mirrors. Bits and bytes that didn’t really exist. No one was trading a book for a pen, a tractor for a house. Just numbers, on a computer, with nothing to back them. And that $700B? Just more numbers to be given away.
Why didn’t the congress choose take Wall St to a large field in Utah and show them 600 airplanes, 8,000 earthmovers, 80 ships, 10 million boxes of Lego, 1B chocolate bars, 300,00 boxes of pencils and say, “This is your bailout package”. Because Wall St wouldn’t know what to do with something that actually can be touched, something solid. It would be like giving Paris Hilton a pan, water and a stove. She wouldn’t have a clue. Like when George Bush first went into a supermarket, “I never knew places like this existed”.
Capitalism is also smoke and mirrors, as is democracy. Both, like the concept of American justice, works for some but really not the majority. ‘Work hard and you will succeed’ is another delusion millions have bought into and are in therapy blaming themselves for ‘failing’. Well, here is free and drug-free psycho-advice. Stop buying into the myth, your failure is not always your fault.
Even America’s bravery and intelligence are delusions, for on average, they are no greater or lesser than any other country. But for years the myths of these attributes have been built up by movies, superhero magazines and talking heads wishing the country not to know the real truth. And that rubbish could pass here and abroad because of the backative of America’s might, its dominance of the world economy and the strength of its weaponry.
But these myths have been unraveled and we in America are the last to know, and too many are futilely clinging to the delusions, without these self-acclamations we feel less than nothing.
America can only save itself by recognizing that the smoke is dispersed and the mirrors broken… we have no new raiment, we are naked, and we are not kings. Recognizing this, we can join the world community as an equal, not an overlord. We should accept that we can no longer say one thing and do another, that we are subject to rules and repercussions like everyone else. That our collective voices only count as one. That each sovereign state has its own destiny and must find their own way without our interference, or at most we can only join with others (not extort them), against truly rogue situations.
We will have to learn that we, 5% of the world population, cannot control and oftentimes waste, at the expense of others, 25% of the world’s resources.
We will have to teach our children from a world perspective, not from a racist, sexist, narrow-minded, jingoist point of view.
The United States is a great (not greatest) wonderful country, but one which has long chosen to live by sleight of hand backed by bombast and threats, rather than honesty and truth.
This is an opportune time for honesty and true self-awareness. This is one of the elements that Barack Obama might, repeat might bring to America and the world. I pray that he does and that Americans readily accept that new position in the world… an opportunity that can bring them true leadership and respect. Choose it, or lose it.
Interesting news just bust. Hillary Clinton says that she is not likely to run again. Hmmm. This can be good news in that there is a recognition that Barack Obama will win the presidency and would run again in 2012 unless he’s a complete bust. Short of that, it’s unlikely that his party would seriously entertain a challenger.
But she made this announcement on Fox News, which could mean that she is sending a message to her supporters that if Obama wins, their beloved Hillary is soooo history. Hmmm, indeed. Sorry, but I can no longer trust the Clintons.