How to Cope In The Age of Endless Hype, Spin and Bullshit – Survival Tips

December 20, 2007

I am reminded there is nothing inherently wrong with rewriting history. After all, all of history is the story of someone who lost, rewritten by those who won. The entire slant of the narrative favors the ape, who made it all the way to the top of the hill. Well and good. That’s just how it goes. The problem with rewriting history occurs when it begins to peel off from the whole idea of reality, that’s to say, history becomes so far fetched it’s no longer believable. Stalin shows how terribly wrong it can go. When rewriting history is taken to its illogical end, mass persecution is replaced with the term, enlightenment – tragic mismanagement of human resources is justified in the name of the great patriotic struggle– the happy life is repackaged to include concrete walls, barbed wire, border guards and searchlights.

In matters of faith, reality takes a nose dive, when the pastor decides to wake up one morning and buy into the idea God asked him to play Donald Trump – and off he goes building shopping malls in the name of Jesus Christ. Stands the test of reason. Eventually, it has to happen, the truth can only take so much abuse without snapping if it’s pushed too far into the realm of incrudelity, it leads to the inexorable collapse like the Soviet reality. Not even rehashing the daily rag as ‘the truth’ in the guise of ‘Pravda’ can raise the dead – once it’s dead, it’s dead. Kaput!

I just need to qualify myself, I don’t really have anything against people rewriting history per se – Actually I believe certain things should actually be rewritten only because they are better off glossed over. According to Melvilles notes Moby Dick was originally supposed to be a novel about the pursuit of a white walrus. Had his publishers not persuaded him to switch it to an albino whale, the novel might languish in obscurity today. So there you go, these are examples of how rewriting things actually adds value to the final product – but again one always needs to be mindful of what folks call ‘reality’ – take the whole idea too far and it may just back fire. I mean all of us have been there before we all know that all too familiar sinking sensation when we have been taken for a ride. What am I referring too? Well a hundred and one things from re-branding to product launches which claim to offer ‘new’ or ‘improved’ only to for us to just wince and say, ‘go and die lah.’

One of the things that really bothers me is the whole idea when rewriting history just slips into the no-man’s-land of historical tweaking? Let me just explain; take the idea – if you want quality you need to pay for it? How true is it? In reality not very true, because I can argue quality doesn’t need to come at an extra cost, it can be built it – don’t believe me? Go check out Japanese manufacturing technology, there’s enough empirical proof to sink 10 battleships.

That notion may not be any thing near marrow-curdling or anything. But consider this; what about the idea that the only way to get social stability is by imposing limits on the freedom of press? How does that whole idea measure to the reality score card? How true is it that more press freedom = anarchy?

See what I mean, it’s really scary when you actually consider how many perfectly intelligent people actually buy into that crock of shit! It begs the question how did such a preposterous notion even manage to whirl itself and establish a beach head in your mind?

I cannot answer that question. You need to seriously work it out yourself. One clue why this regularly happens is because rewriting history is often done subtely. By that I mean, the reasons are designed in such a manner, they offer the most expeditious way out of having to explain, justify and even rationalize anything.  You what? You don’t believe me? OK consider this attempt at rewritting history: competition is good, if we don’t compete we just die!–how true is it? Like all believable lies it’s a mixture of truth and myth, but in reality unless you’re tadpole trying to evolve into a George Clooney or something, it doesn’t make any sense – but what is really beautiful about it is this, the person leveraging on this tag line does not even need to supply even one morsel of reason why he needs to do the things he does. Why? Because we know exactly what he means when he says, “if we cannot compete, we die.” Or do we really?You work it out yourself! I ain’t going to connect the dots for you! Not this time!The Soviets played the idea of ‘fear’ so well, that shoppers regularly bought one black sock and a white one and dyed the other black. The idea may not make sense to us, but it made perfect sense to those living in that sort of regime.

See what I mean? The danger is when history is rewritten to such a degree it has the capacity to warp out brains, everything just loses a sense of perspective – the insignificant gets conflated at the expense of the cogent, which makes it almost impossible to make sense of events, situations and things.

I try to keep this at the back of mind, every time, I pick up the daily rag, switch on the TV or even listen to anyone – I mean just because some reporter tells me that the BCC conducted a poll saying that most Singaporeans are apathetic about the freedom of the press doesn’t mean, I am just going to believe him, what I usually do is go beyond the two dimensional reportage and dig out the actual source of references and winnow the truth out from the hype and spin – usually if the reporter does a decent job, the stacks measure up, but there are times when what they tell me is so different, it might as well be a case of heaven and earth.

Now at this point some of you will probably be saying; this is another hari raya rant that the resident hack probably spend 15 tapping on his Nokia Communicator just to fill in some space in this blog!

You are wrong! There is a dead pan serious logic to all this and here comes the kicker: if you get it, you get, if you miss it, then it’s just too bad. What you really need to understand is this, rewriting history is a noble tradition that goes all the way back to Cain and Abel, when they latter just decided to treat ‘dying’ as a minor detail – so it’s never ever going to go away – doesn’t matter whether it’s the BCC or even the CNN or even the Mother Teresa Press providing people are in the equation, they are going to bring along with them their own culture, experience and perspective into the ‘truth.’ As long as that remains the case, I will even go as far as to say, ‘rewritten’ is the only kind of history there is (period) and there is no point in trying to even search for Veritas press, it doesn’t exist. And this brings into focus the need for one to really invest time and effort in sharpening the power of discernment to seek out the truth.

You see this is where I feel the policy makers have got themselves all terribly mixed up, they’re falling over like bowling pins. If they really want folks to say “no” to terrorism, fundamentalism and pornography. It makes absolutely zero sense to control the source by regulating, censoring and filtering. You might as well go and plough the sea and sow your seeds there or something, it’s just a really lousy way of getting a good return on anything. I am not saying that approach will not work, put in enough resources and I am sure it will – only from a efficiency curve. It’s as streamline as chucking out canon balls to propel a boat forward, makes far more sense to leverage on the power of collective efficiency by empowering people with the ‘right’ thoughtware to say “no” – that of course requires a paradigm shift which also requires policy makers to buy into the whole idea of empowering people. That also means they have to consider opening up the channels of information as a matter of strategic pre-condition otherwise how do you really expect folks to develop their critical thinking skills?

That’s why, I don’t believe the key towards resolving 377A lies in decriminalizing or fighting for gays to have equal rights, that sort of approach sounds good in theory, but it makes a lousy proposition when you consider how entrenched positions really are, might as well go and fight trench warfare in Verdun or the Somme. Makes infinitely more sense for gay activitist such as Alex Au to buy into the idea of changing the general perception of straight folks by deconstructing much of the myth associated with gays – that of course leads us all to ask, how much equity do policy makers want to take up in such an exercise? 

The way I see it, coming to terms with the truth is far better than saying everything is going according to plan. That’s no good, as it can never change reality, not if the situation is really lousy; when the price of luncheon meat goes up 20%, it’s 20%, no matter how you cut it! No amount of hype and spin is going to change that reality – coming to terms with the facts of life is the only reality-based approach. Or at least have a plan to begin with. Unless readers themselves start catching on to this revisionary approach and begin empowering themselves with the knowledge to continually discern, winnow and distinguish the truth from the hype and spin, things will never really change – because one thing will remain sure fire cock 100% certain, either way you cut it, history will always get rewritten by hook or by crook. That’s just one of the inconvenient truths in life. 

Happy Raya and that’s the pick me up for the day in 15 minutes flat!

Darkness 2007  

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