At present, Forty-six percent of the American people hold the delusion that Saddam Hussein was involved in the planning and execution of the terrorist attacks of 9/11/2001. http://www.zogby.com/news/ReadNews.dbm?ID=1169
What are the cultural circumstances that allow such mass deceptions to be perpetrated with seeming impunity? Will these Rovian prevarications, so rife within the corporate media bubble, continue to define our life and times? Will our destinies, both individual and collective, continue to be determined by these pervasive deceits --- these pernicious narratives, concocted by cadres of elitist fabulists, perpetuated with the intention of frightening and distracting that portion of our population comprised of gullible, anxious, over-sized, over-aged, dim children?
Sadly, there is not a granule of novelty in this: All nations, tribes, and families tell tales composed of sacred lies. Most of us are compelled to find rationales to live with ourselves and to tolerate the presence of those close to us. On a personal basis, these tales serve to repackage self-deception as self-confidence. On a mass scale, a nation's acts of aggression can be re-accounted as epic tales of selfless valor and heroic sacrifice. As Jean Renoir piquantly put it, "You know, in this world there's one thing that's terrible, that everyone has their reasons."
When the events and circumstances of our lives become terrifying, daunting, and unbearable, we are prone to create waking dreams of deus ex machina: of risen and returning saviors, of eternal feasts and attentive virgins in paradise, of communion with space brothers, and decisive, time-ending wars that will forever banish all sin and suffering. During times of trauma and uncertainty, we seek narratives of reassurance -- even clinging to ones that are spurious -- even preposterous. Ergo, George W. Bush will restore "dignity to the White House." Right! -- And druggy Rush Limbaugh will restore dignity to the Crackhouse.
Wingers go weak at the knees for this kind of hokum. In the 1980s, they swooned, gazing upon Ronald Reagan's stiff, Pomade-lacquered pompadour which he held high and steady against the changes that blew in the wind from the odious 1960s. Then, as now, believing: The Gipper's fine head of 1940s' hair should be carved in stone on Mount Rushmore where it would defy rain, snow, and lashing wind -- and would be, axiomatically, impervious to the reality of change. That is, until, the ineluctable ravishing of impersonal, amoral, and apolitical time reduce even mountains of ancient rock to rubble.
But all monuments to delusion need not be as epic as that. Even objects as quotidian and seemingly innocuous as neighborhood street signs can and will deceive us. Names can be misleading. Moreover, these everyday -- seemingly trivial -- misapprehensions can diminish our lives.
A sampling of such: The Manhattan neighborhood where I reside, the East Village, is a misnomer. It's name was created by real estate hustlers, who, acting on the presumption that the property values of the area, located north of Houston Street and east of Second Avenue, known previously as the northern section of The Lower Eastside, or The Alphabets or simply DON'T GO THERE! would be enhanced by said name change. The connotations of the name, The Lower Eastside, would have, at that time, had a tendency to scare off the sort of tenants who had the means to afford the newly jacked-up rents being asked for the former tenement apartments comprising a large percent of the area.
The marketing move was contrived to attract faux hipster careerists and those radical-until-daddy-takes-away-his-Platinum-Card-Trust-Fundafarians, whose pretensions and vanities led them to believe the designation "Village" invoked an artistic cachet to their corporate-controlled lives, but who would not abide the risks and squalor inherent to the sorts of neighborhoods that have been forsaken by all but poor working families, squatters, drug addicts, the mentally ill, non-conformists, as well as, by those renegade creative types too engaged in creating the future of art, music, and poetry to be overly concerned by the risks of such environs nor troubled by the attendant low status their address held among uptown trendies.
For the next case in point, I'll travel southward and back in time, a number of decades.
I was born in the Deep South, industrial city of Birmingham, Alabama, another example of a place in possession of a fraudulent name.
Subsequently, the bloodsucking, Yankee bastards (I mean, visionary captains of capitalism) who were known in Birmingham as the "Big Mules" went about the business of exploiting (of course, they would say, giving gainful employment to...) every dumb as dirt, backwoods, genetic retread, too-ignorant-to-hit-the-ground-with-his-own-piss yokel who had the requisite physical stamina and motor skills required to sacrifice their bodies and souls for substandard wages.
As the riches, plundered from the Appalachian Hills, flowed northward to Pittsburgh, what the laboring classes received in return was a life of ceaseless toil and perpetual debt. These harsh realities made the people of Birmingham hard and mean. In the early nineteen-sixties, the city was unofficially re-christened "Bombingham."