By Steve Bhaerman
"In psychological warfare, the Colonel of Truth is always outranked by the General Lie."
-- Swami Beyondananda (aka, Steve Baherman)
Back in the Vietnam era, there was a popular joke about Lyndon Johnson. How can you tell when LBJ is lying? When he scratches his head, he is telling the truth. When his nose twitches, he is telling the truth. When he wiggles his ear, he is telling the truth. But when he opens his mouth ... he's lying.
Like so many political jokes, that one has been re-purposed many times to apply to the lying politician du jour. Even the lies are the same. If you haven't done so already, go rent Norman Solomon's movie, War Made Easy. There, you will see and hear Robert McNamara and LBJ justifying the Vietnam War -- and the Bush team and their media lackeys saying almost the exact same words to justify our invasion of Iraq 35 years later.
How can they continue to get away with it? Well, because the American people have been "trained" to accept being lied to. The prevailing cliché of lying politicians is so universally accepted, that ... well, it's universally accepted, so much so that you can probably get nine out of ten Americans to agree that, yes politicians lie. By making "lying politicians" an indisputable truth, it becomes like army food in the old days: something we are encouraged to complain about, but are powerless to change.
To understand how we have been collectively mentally manipulated to accept and embrace lies and liars, go check out Edward Bernays and Leo Strauss. They shared the belief that the masses are meant to be manipulated by the elites, and their ideas have spawned the techniques and technologies that keep the American people enslaved under the illusion of freedom. And when dissatisfaction does well up, the channels are in place for the heat of anger to be expressed, while the light of insight remains hidden.
How Lie-ability Has Become An Asset
To understand how lie-ability becomes an asset, let's take a look at two liars -- your liar, and my liar. Your liar is the liar I love to hate, whose lies I believe should be transparent to everyone -- which is why he or she drives me crazy. For progressives, Glenn Beck fits that description perfectly. As the "ideal" purveyor of toxic disinformation, Beck builds credibility by beginning with "common sense" truths that seem indisputable. Into this mix, however, he inserts an IED (Intentionally Explosive Disinformation) that causes progressives to explode with rage, to the glee of his faithful audience.
Ready for Beck's favorite IED? George W. Bush was a progressive. Yes, according to Glenn Beck, because the Bush Administration grew big government to run the Iraq War, it makes him a "progressive." Does it make sense? Well, to conservatives who have learned that "progressives hate America and love big government," it makes a sort of half sense -- but who needs logic when you have fervent belief and an all-purpose straw man enemy? This is a recycled McCarthyist tactic that worked back when the enemy was communism. Now it's socialism, or Obamacare.
Because of the absurd outrageousness of this claim, it draws progressive fire: "Come on baby, fight my liar!" And, it gives so-called conservatives something to rally around. (I remember the first peace march I went to in New York back in the 60s, where I found myself face-to-face with a counter-demonstrator shouting, "Communist! Communist! Communist!" I calmly walked up to him, put my face close to his and asked, "Excuse me, can you tell me what a communist is?" He got a blank look on his face for a moment, and then he answered my question. "YOU! YOU! You're a communist!")
OK. So that's their liar. What about ours?
Strung Out On Hopium?
Last month, more than 500 concerned progressives attended an event at the University of San Francisco sponsored by the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Convened by Rabbi Michael Lerner of Tikkun magazine, the one-day event focused on how the progressive wing of the Democratic Party could influence President Obama to be the Obama the people voted for.
In addition to providing comic relief as the Swami, I was also given a panel spot to address the war in Afghanistan. I used that platform to suggest that the war is a symptom of the disease that has had America in a stranglehold for more than 60 years -- a Military Industrial Complex in support of the American Empire. Earlier, a military veteran had commented that in his experience, the President had limited power to make any real change, and that the Military Industrial Complex held the real power. Another individual suggested that until we address the very questionable "official 9/11 story," we would unable to fundamentally change American foreign policy.
I was disappointed -- but not surprised -- as the gathered progressives rejected the opportunity to step outside the political matrix. None of the other panelists who spoke would address either the forces that hold the President in check, or the horrific notion that our own government might have had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. It was reminiscent of the classic Holy Fool story, where the Fool is down on his knees in a parking light one evening. A friend asks him what he is doing.
"I'm looking for my car keys," is the reply.
"Oh," says the friend, "you lost your car keys in the parking lot?"
"No, I lost them in the bushes over there."
"Well then, why are you looking here?"
"Because there is more light in the parking lot."
In my view, mainstream progressives are unwilling to confront the darkness at the heart of the American empire. They rail at the manipulators over at Faux News, as they fail to recognize a very inconvenient truth: they are lying to themselves. Now let me clarify what I mean by the "darkness" at the heart of the American empire. I don't believe America or Americans are "evil." Very likely the vast majority of our public servants, even those who serve in high office, are largely well-intentioned. However, by ignoring the proverbial elephant in the living room, they empower the sociopathogens who thrive in darkness.
After World War II, the American public entered into a "don't ask, don't tell" agreement with our government. We the people promised not to ask what our government is doing to "protect" us, and the government promised not to tell us. In the 60+ years that have followed, we have empowered a secret government with a "black budget," with no accountability whatever. If there is one universal law of political science worth remembering, it's Lord Acton's notion that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely."
America's Founding Fathers understood this more than a century before Lord Acton uttered those words. That's why the Constitution provides for balance of powers. But when you empower a power that has no accountability, and no counterbalance, you are essentially writing a blank check to tyranny. Global climate change notwithstanding, THIS is the hugely inconvenient truth that so few "progressives" are willing to face. Why? Because facing it would require inordinate courage and spiritual fortitude.
Consequently, most progressives accept the taboos against talking about fixed elections or the mysterious collapse of Building Seven. Just recently, the Huffington Post very quickly pulled a post by Jesse Ventura that questioned the official 9/11 story. Where was the protest? Nowhere, that's where. With the exception of three notable progressive journalists -- Mark Crispin Miller, Rob Kall of OpEd News and Peter Phillips of Project Censored, the rest of progressive journalism prefers the comfort of calling these inconvenient possibilities "conspiracy theories." My definition of conspiracy theory is, "something which, were it true, you would be unable to deal with it."
Hence, we have mainstream progressives searching for the keys to change in a well-lit parking lot, instead of the dark and thorny shrubbery. They may find ways to temporarily feel better, but ultimately they will continue to hold the current dysfunction in place, while continuing to hold on to the "moral superiority" of believing in change, while not being willing to do what it really takes to have that change.
I'm sorry if that sounds harsh.
But true transformation comes from confronting the lies we tell ourselves, rather than on our outrage over the lies the other guy is telling. We have very little power of the latter, and a world of power over the former.
And Now ... For the Good News: The Law of 75
The good news can be found in a story my friend and colleague Patricia Sun told me a number of years ago. She was scheduled to speak at a "new age" bookstore, and when she arrived she found four fundamentalist Christians picketing outside the store. Patricia told the storeowner she was going to speak to them.
"Oh," the storeowner said, "you can't talk with those people. Don't waste your time."
Nonetheless, she went out to converse with the picketers. After ten minutes, three of the four put down their signs, hugged Patricia, and said, "You're saying just what Jesus said!"
The fourth one continued holding his sign.
From this simple, transformational incident I extracted "the Law of 75." When faced with loving and respectful communication, three out of four of people will put aside the beliefs in their head for the love in their heart. Of course, this is an untested premise, more of an intuitive suspicion than an actual "law." But I'm sure those working with the tools of Non-violent Communication and other techniques for holding connection in the face of conflict have similar stories.
So perhaps the key to breakthrough and transformation is not to get sucked into fighting the other guy's liar, but instead gathering around a higher, more compelling truth. If you think this is pie-in-the-sky hopium smoke I am blowing, check out what's happening in Reno, Nevada, where Richard Flyer's Conscious Community Network is bringing together traditionally religious folks, along with the spiritual-but-not-religious, secular humanists and ethical atheists around "virtues and values" the vast majority of us share in common.
Maybe this is the time to emerge from the dueling dualities and bi-polar political dysfunction, and have the courage to face the unknown together, using our "positions" as jumping off points, not platforms. What if we brought together the Tea Parties, the Coffee Parties -- heck, the Pot Parties, if need be -- and brought the light of love, sanity, and coherence across the artificial political divide, and focused on the greater truths we share in common?
We already have the communications tools to do this. Now we need the will and the focus.
There are some who say we are facing an imminent apocalypse. Others say that evolution is calling us forth. I'm inclined to agree with both. Remember, the original definition of apocalypse is "lifting the veils." As with any recovery program, the first step is telling the truth -- lifting the veils both on the true powers we have as human beings, and the forces that have kept us from seeing and using that power. Before we can totally embrace our powers as co-creators, we must see clearly where we are and how we got here.
It won't be pretty. But by cultivating and growing the field of love that at least 75% of us are capable of, we will have what we need to metabolize those political toxins. As we strengthen the bonds of love and mutual-respect, we will generate both the field and the wisdom to find emergent solutions to entrenched problems. Together, we can become generators of our own light. And only together can we bring that light to the endarkened corridors of power.
Steve Bhaerman is the co-author (with Bruce Lipton) of Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way To Get There From Here. He also performs cosmic comedy in the guise of Swami Beyondananda.