Category Archives: Cogs ZH Posts

Welcome To The Insane Asylum – Our Collective Psychosis – Chapter One

All Aboard the Crazy Train

All amusement park rides have one characteristic in common. Regardless of the twists and turns of the experience, the exit is always at the end. This examination of our collective and individual dysfunction, our insanity, follows a similar path. We start with the identification of a few of the bigger picture issues, then move closer for a critical inspection of several of the individual and cultural dynamics and end with some guidance towards the lighted exit sign and one possible way out.

I’ve never been more confident in humanity’s ability to finally throw off the chains that bind. But (and there’s always a “but”) this can only be accomplished using the powerfully disinfecting sunlight of awareness and understanding. This is usually achieved through self reflection, self actualization and eventually enlightenment. A common misperception among many is that the general population is not intelligent enough to become aware and enlightened. The awakening process has nothing to do with our IQ and everything to do with our EQ or Emotional Quotient.

If we can be conditioned by fear and narcissistic naval gazing to be self destructive, we can be encouraged to be emotionally and spiritually healthy as long as we don’t look to our leaders for guidance. In fact, we must not transfer the responsibility for our own well being to others for this is simply an invitation to manipulate and extort us. There’s no single solution, no magic button to be pushed that makes everything better, allowing us to go back to our comfortable insanity. Ultimately our own unique journey is a deeply personal and individual experience and while the direction is clear, the path is customized by each journey.

There is no softer easier way, no short cut through the maze and no one to walk the path for us. I know this because of my long and at times difficult personal experience overcoming self erected obstacles as well as those placed there by my culture and country. I’ve tried every path I could possibly imagine before eventually settling on the only one I could find with an exit. That alone should be encouraging to many because until a few years ago I didn’t think there was a way out.

And I’m not alone because many people I talk to still feel it’s hopeless. The question (in my mind at least) is no longer can we save ourselves but what’s the process that must be followed in order to make the lasting changes needed to not only survive but grow and prosper. Make no mistake about what I’m saying; there will be pain no matter what we do or don’t do. But there is pain during healing as well as pain during destruction and we have a choice.

Swimming in the Shipping Channel of Life

The answers are deceptively simple, which makes it difficult for most people to accept when we’ve been conditioned to believe that complexity requires complex solutions. Nothing could be further from the truth. When one finds they’ve dug themselves into a hole, the first rule to follow is to stop digging. Since we’ve been trained all our lives that digging’s what we do, it’s almost heretical to ponder anything else. Considering how our narrow view benefits certain select “others” we should question everything we believe once we’ve stopped digging and are looking for a way out.

As with all my work, I ask the reader to consume it in it’s entirely, in the order presented and to leave all sections in context. I’ve broken this essay into multiple parts (5 at this point) for easier consumption. But it really doesn’t work unless it’s read as a continuous thought process. So I suggest you read each section in order because this isn’t 5 independent articles, but rather one article broken into 5 separate pieces.

Each section won’t necessarily make sense on its own unless you’ve read the preceding sections. Even then it might not make any sense, but I’m only responsible for my insanity. You’re on your own. This silliness started out as a one or two page blurb but quickly morphed into Godzilla like proportions. Consider it the insane leading the insane and have some fun while expanding your mind.

May I also suggest that you read each section twice, something I usually do when reading anything new? Reading it the first time trips all the objections my ego comes up with, which exposes my deep conditioning and indoctrination. My ego always defends my consciousness from the inevitable cognitive dissonance I experience when I read something that contradicts what I think I believe.

Basically my ego lies to me and then defends those lies using the pain of cognitive dissonance. The first reading clears out all those trip wires and leads the way for the second reading, which talks directly to the reasoning, common sense and empathy centers of my consciousness. If I really enjoyed what I’ve read, it gets a third reading for the pure joy of it. And of course to make sure the new conditioning has been properly assimilated.

Have you ever noticed how upon reading something a second time, you’ll often find words, sentences, even entire paragraphs you somehow missed the first time around? It’s amazing how blind we are when our ego gets in the way. Since this essay discusses subjects that are not exactly consensus opinion, expect to experience a few ego elevator drops.

I also swim pretty far from the pier of the commonly accepted understanding of “reality” in the later sections of this essay so expect some disorientation and wrinkled fingers and toes. The good news is that I’m beginning to find physicists and various other scientists swimming in the “what is reality” discussion philosophers have had to themselves for centuries. So at least we won’t be alone as we tread water near the shipping channel buoys. I do hope you enjoy reading this as much as I did writing it. I’m sure you’ll let me know in the comments section.

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

In an alternative universe such as Disney’s Magic Kingdom or Baum’s Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it’s always easy to distinguish the good guys from the bad, the truth from the lie. It usually has something to do with horned red devils and fire breathing dragons, with cotton tail bunnies and bizarre flying monkeys. We were weaned from mother’s breast with mythical tales of gallant white knights and long haired princesses, ancient stories originally intended to inform us of life’s wisdoms, pitfalls and hazards.

But our modern myths and fairy tales only serve to obscure, propagandize and pacify. Rarely do we question the content of anything we consume that’s entering through our five (six) senses. If a new offering appears to be reasonably consistent with what was recently consumed, access is granted with little or no critical assessment. Just go with the flow dude because it’s coming straight at you in torrents. After all what harm could a few TV sitcoms and dramas do to us, let alone the news? I certainly know when someone’s pulling my strings don’t you?

Most of us rarely consider the possibility that much of what we “know” isn’t actually based in reality, but is in effect a shared illusion, an unspoken and shared understanding between the natives. Our modern world is readily accepted and acted upon simply because there’s no serious consideration given to alternatives. After all, someone’s watching the store, right? We’re placed on an endless tread mill beginning around age 5 (some would say even earlier) and we’re assured this is normal and natural and everything that can be expected.

I know what I know because my parents and teachers taught me, my government and corporate approved propaganda reinforced it and now my TV and Internet are reinforcing the reinforcement. So it must be true simply because it all adds up to a staggering preponderance of evidence. We’re assured it’s all as real as an eighteen wheeler hard on our ass and trying to pass. Besides, everyone else pretty much believes the same thing we do with only minor variations. They can’t all be wrong! So don’t fight it, just go with the flow.

However, upon closer examination, much of this evidence is validated through circular logic, with Alpha supporting Beta which supports Alpha which supports Beta. On those rare occasions when contrary information enters the system and startles our consciousness, it’s quickly washed out as an outlier or fat finger. Madness and insanity, or dysfunction for those faint of heart who object to strong terms, is always self reinforcing, self perpetuating, self replicating and tolerates no contradictions. It is pure in form and function.

Unfortunately the world we live in isn’t quite as black and white as our story books, moving media and authority figures would have us believe. Instead, like some choking coal smoke that settles into every crack and crevice, we see nothing but endless permutations of gray wherever we gaze. It’s not very satisfying, is it? Where are the clear cut boundaries, where good begins and evil decays? Where are the brightly colored super heroes to contrast the dark evil villains? We can’t always tell them apart when they’re all covered in shades of gray.

I Can See Clearly Now, the Gray is Gone.

But wait, I think I know how to see through the haze. All it takes is an adjustment to my perception, a new set of spectacles for my senses. Like an old black and white TV, our most important sensory control knobs are brightness and contrast located between the ears. Between the two, everything can be brought into sharper focus. I’ll just be the good guy and everyone else can be bad. I can see clearly now, the gray is gone. It’s gonna be a bright bright sun-shiny day.

A consistent theme in various articles and comments are the angry denunciations of those (never ours, always they or them or those) evil bankers and corporations, the complicit mass media, a compliant regulatory authority and droves of corrupt government officials at the highest levels. And don’t forget the dead-to-the-world great unwashed masses. We complain they’re all engaged in an unprecedented (at least for modern times) take no prisoners thieving and feeding frenzy of those very same masses. And somehow we’re different, separated from the masses and the evil doers by our understanding and awareness of the fix that’s in.

Of course (we tell ourselves) this is being orchestrated by the powers that be, which can usually be found cowering behind the heavy curtains of the control system. They’re the ones pushing the levers and pulling the puppet strings, enslaving us with their fiat currency pushed by the black banking cabal without our consent and against our will. Here’s the proof, in black and white. Can’t you see it, there’s Professor Plum in the parlor with the candlestick?

And all of this may very well be entirely true. In fact, I believe much of it is. But it’s also mostly irrelevant to the one thing many of us are searching for in this filthy stinking mess. While it’s not voiced very often in the articles and comments, the great unanswered questions of this epic disaster are basic. Why is this happening? How are “they” able to get away with it? What is it about man that permits this cycle of greed and corruption to build to a climax and then recede, endlessly repeating the same cycle since well before Christ the Son of God or Ra the Sun God?

When will we accept that “they/them/those” won’t fix anything and it’s up to us to lead so that our leaders can follow? In the biggest paradox of them all, the underlying presumption is always that the machine itself works reasonably well if only the madmen were removed from the controls. But who put them there in the first place and won’t they just be replaced with more? We don’t question the basic systems, only the perceived faults of individual parts and mechanisms. We fiddle with the wires, connections and duct tape while the bomb is still ticking, collectively oblivious to the obvious.

I assure you with absolute certainty that I don’t have all the answers. But I can also assure you with equal certainty that we’ll never find the answers unless and until the questions that really matter are not only asked and examined, but that it’s done honestly and openly. In a world gone mad, sanity won’t be embraced or embodied until we examine our own insanity. Otherwise all we’re doing is soothing the savage beast within until this cycle ends and the next cycle of madness begins, bringing with it the next turning of humanity upon itself. While the reader may complain that I ask too much of us, that the problems are too big and the powers too strong; consider that it may only appear that way because we see the issue as one huge problem. This is an illusion.

Icons of Insanity

I’m using the words insane and madness in this essay not only to grab your attention but because I believe those are the proper words to use. But the inherent problem in using them is that the popular perception of insanity has been shaped by novels and TV. When one sees or hears the words insanity or madness, most people instantly visualize a serial killer randomly stalking victims before slashing them to pieces. Or maybe one thinks of a totally dysfunctional asylum inmate zonked out on Thorazine, specks of spittle clinging to his lower lip while drool drips down the side of his mouth. Our popular culture is chock full of these images, from A Clockwork Orange to a Freddy Krueger. For the purposes of this essay, wash those images from your mind because our collective insanity is much more presentable and socially acceptable.

Despite these image problems, I’m still going to use the words repeatedly because the reader needs to understand that I do mean deranged, not fully aware, acting strangely or at cross purposes to one’s own long term survival. Some of the words used in the definition of mad or insane help to explain my meaning further, such as mentally disturbed, extremely foolish or unwise, imprudent, irrational, confused, extreme impulsiveness, unsafe, wildly impractical or foolish, ill-advised, dangerous, senseless, reckless, unsound, maniacal, angry or ill-tempered. You get the picture.

I expect the reader’s ego response to being accused of insanity might be immediate and visceral and quite possibly insulting. I ask that you push past that initial impulse and understand that there are various levels of insanity, including high functioning and socially adapted. If you’ve come this far in the essay, let’s go the rest of the way. It’ll only hurt until the Thorazine kicks in.

Our Cultural Insane Asylum– Welcome to the Machine

The economic, social and political atrocity we’re not only witnessing but living isn’t their insanity, it’s our insanity; individually, collectively and culturally. This insanity, our insanity, is being outwardly manifested in individuals and groups, effectively in all of us to some degree or another. We our engulfed by our insanity in the same manner some wretched character in a Greek or Shakespearian tragedy is consumed by an angry God, the devil or some other ill-tempered spirit. Today’s modern calamity is the compiled manifestation, expression, reflection and symptom of all the ugly lies, half truths, spin and self deceptions our society leaves unsaid, does not discus, hushes up, hides from view and buries in the back yard of our minds.

Our inner dysfunction, while most certainly affecting us personally, is also expressed outwardly through us individually and collectively and in varying degrees and manner. And sometimes it’s focused within certain people and/or groups of people. Or more accurately, our collective insanity is acted out by or within certain people or groups of people. Does this concept sound farfetched or even crazy? Why is it so easy for us to recognize someone else’s insanity or to see that a group of people are acting crazy or insanely and yet not see it within ourselves or in our own culture? Why can’t we recognize that we might very well have the same insane or unstable tendencies as those we’re pointing towards? Are we pointing our fingers away from us so that we may deny the source?

Why do we so easily accept the concept of herd mentality, that people, either physically grouped into crowds or scattered throughout the world, can act as one (think of the markets) yet we reject this concept when it comes to madness, insanity or dysfunction? Why do we readily accept the phrase “The world went mad during WW 2” yet not think it was our own individual madness that we and the world were acting out? Why do we always exclude ourselves in part or whole from those or them?

Maybe we do accept the statement but don’t see how it relates to us. I know a few people who easily accept the idea that the world can/could/did go mad but not him or her. So are we saying it was everyone else that was insane but not us? If so, does this not illustrate our own dysfunction, to think we would be immune and not affected by what’s tormenting the entire world? We seem to have this serious mental and emotional block that prevents us from seeing the obvious. Of course, it’s our ego that’s blocking our vision and awareness, a subject I’ve examined in more depth in a prior article.

Precisely because of our intellectual and emotional inconsistency, helped along by our self deception, we can delude ourselves into thinking we’re OK. Often we’re encouraged in this self deception by outside forces that fan the flames of self delusion for control and manipulation purposes. One of the many ways is through the display of individuals who are obviously and intentionally different from us. They’re usually close enough to us for easy comparison thanks to TV and the Internet. But don’t dwell too long on the comparison because that might ignite self reflection. So the control system relies on quick glimpses that satisfy our need to feel superior, and thus separate, before the next manipulative image is presented.

Cultural Insanity Reinforcement - American Idol Style

Consider that a key component of the American Idol talent “competition” is the initial programs, where fool after fool is paraded before us. The canned laugh track encourages us to laugh and mock their inferiority and non conformity, thus enabling us to feel comfortable with our homogenization and normality. This concept is ripped from the pages of 1984, where the carrot and stick approach is used to corral us into the hamster pens to work another day.

The carrot is acceptance by the welcoming and nurturing hive, where group think is rewarded and uniformity and conformity is applauded. The stick is to publically ridicule anything that the hive considers abnormal and thus subhuman, which of course can’t be a part of the hive. It’s unthinkable to suffer this, a fate worse than death that of banishment from the hive. See how abnormal those dancing and singing fools are? Only a crazy person would allow themselves to sing that poorly or act that stupidly on TV.

Carefully mixed in with the fools are the soon to be “discovered” hidden gems, which look just like you and I. Our mediocrity is validated because those gems look just like everyday people who escaped from the streets. “Oh look honey, another slave has escaped. I could as well if I practiced harder on my clarinet and got that boob job. If I work some overtime for the next few months at the hamster wheel factory ………”

I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the more talented contestants aren’t seeded into the show by the producers. There are many ways to do so. Regardless, the result has the intended effect; wonderfully talented but tragically and unfairly ignored men and women (invisible nobody’s like you and I) are finally discovered, their hidden talents recognized and validated by the world. They’ve hit the big time and they fulfill every person’s fantasy through emotional transference, thanks to perseverance and our 50” HD surround sound LCD TV.

And the fools, after being stripped naked and displayed for the crowd to jeer and stone, are thrown out of the hive as unwanted trash, not even worth the nickel deposit, their part of the charade now complete. Later, as some of the formerly hidden gems rise up the ranks (watch carefully how they’re steadily transformed with coaching, makeup and costumes) we allow ourselves to follow along, nurturing our fantasy that this too could be us. Thus we ascend God like into the glow of the adoring public, enabling us to feel superior while we wallow in our mediocrity.

And don’t forget the text voting, that wonderfully democratic principal that allows us all to participate in the crowning of our next plastic Idol on the dashboard of life. It must be true that I’m a singing fool because my fellow slaves elected me to the throne. The genius of American Idol is not in the music, costumes and coaching, it’s the magic that happens in the editing room and the manipulated voting.

Would Goebbels Like Reality TV?

There’s an extremely good reason why “reality” television shows are so popular. While we’re encouraged to suspend reality while watching regular TV dramas in order to enjoy the program, we consciously know it isn’t real, though unconsciously we make no such distinction. But with “reality” television it’s real, right? It not only could happen but it is happening. Isn’t that the entire concept of “reality” TV, that it’s real?

Leaving aside the understanding that “reality” TV is highly choreographed and elaborately staged; the illusion is that it’s real. This allows the viewer to be swept up along with the contestants as they morph from cocoon to butterfly, taking fictional character empathy and self identification by the viewer to much higher levels than previously thought possible. Goebbels, who until now had been the anointed master of the “Big Lie”, must be screaming in a jealous rage as he rots in his grave. And you thought this was just a talent show or a competition of “survival” on a tropical island.

This method of cultural conditioning is highly effective even when the viewer is aware of the dynamic, just as long as that person is somewhat dissatisfied with their life and is searching for meaning and understanding outside of themselves rather than within. And the higher the IQ and financial earning power of an individual, the higher the likelihood they’ll be searching, particularly among those who are growing weary of our consumer culture.

Some are beginning to recognize that we’ve been conditioned to believe happiness can only be found in an automobile or an iPhone. But where do we look when the hive actively discourages exploring anywhere but on the TV. After all, isn’t that the purpose of American Idol, to inform you of what’s acceptable and what’s not?

Look at the viewer demographics of American Idol for the proof. The average Idol (Idle?) viewer is anything but run of the mill in nearly all the demographics, with higher than average IQ and better than average income. This is you and I folks, not simply the average blue collar beer swilling Joe we like to point to as the problem cattle in the mindless herd. I’ve seen the cattle and the cattle are us.

Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

We as individuals, as a culture and a society, are only as sick as our deepest darkest secrets and lies. And all those buried and unspoken falsehoods surround us like an endless unmarked and unexplored mine field. On top of that, the lies we tell ourselves and each other in order to ignore this mine field add to the dishonesty that we live with and within. They fester inside our psyche, like swarms of virus bots consuming resources and destroying perceptions and pathways.

Have you ever wondered why confession, the purging of the “soul” of past transgressions, is so therapeutic and cleansing? How could this be unless lies and self deception truly are harmful to the mind/body harmony? I’m not talking religion here, I’m talking inner balance. If one is to believe in personal evolution, isn’t rigorous honesty beneficial to a long and healthy life? When navigating the jungle of life, you won’t last long if you’re in denial of your situation and are intentionally oblivious to that saber toothed tiger or that inner city bus. Though I guess that’s two ways to ineffectively scatter your seed.

So does it really matter whether the dangers are physical or spiritual if the damage is ultimately as severe? I’ve spent some time studying indigenous cultures and very few (if any) developed such a dishonest and deceptive culture as ours is today. These indigenous cultures flourished for hundreds if not thousands of years and many would still thrive today if they hadn’t come into contact with us. We came in peace, my childhood textbook claimed, written by the “winner” if that matters. All we wanted was everything we wanted. What so bad about that?

Ours is a culture that honors the glory and sanctity of God and humanity. And we constantly remind ourselves of this as we hack our way through one culture after another in a desperate attempt to rid the world of the cancer their sanity and harmony with self and nature represent to our own world. Our culture mocked their medicine men and shamans as primitive witch doctors at the same time we were bleeding people of evil spirits and burning witches. Oops, did I say that with my out loud voice? That’s sacrilege after all, with the penalty now my choice, that of being burned at the stake or excommunication from the hive.

The indigenous shaman was by far the most important member of their culture, healing sickness they believed could be traced back to a soul/body/spiritual imbalance. But they also guided the individual and the tribe’s consciousness forward, teaching their fellow man of the dangers and pitfalls inherent in any culture that worshiped self above all else. They warned their members of the hazard of endless accumulation and ego domination rather than harmony with a world in which they must co-exist or perish.

Their spiritual and cultural histories often reached back thousands of years and taped into an ancient wisdom and understanding that withstood the test of time, evident in both their healthy existence as well as the environment they lived within, not on or in spite of. Sounds like deep and valuable wisdom from where I stand and precisely why they were killed as quickly as they were discovered. They were heretics and would act as strong antibiotics if they were introduced into the European and American cultural virus. We couldn’t even take the chance of trying assimilation, instead relying on the tried and true extermination.

Kill Baby Kill

We as individuals and as a culture simply cannot destroy living beings, be they human, animal or plant, in such large quantities and with such speed without imbibing a daily dose of lies and self deception to kill the pain of our own sickness and insanity. To actually comprehend the death and destruction by our own hand with even a minimal level of empathy or compassion would assure its immediate cessation. I wonder if that’s why our soldier’s bodies come home at midnight and the wholesale killing is either sanitized or completely missing from our TV and other mass media.

I certainly don’t have the stomach for this business and I suspect neither do you. While I understand I cannot covet my neighbor’s wife and daughter, I feel no discomfort if I covet his oil and other natural resources. So as a society we ensure the resulting blood doesn’t splatter us and that death remains at a safe distance when we forward position our home grown madmen to oversee our neighbor’s destruction. Kill baby kill.

And so slowly but surely, helped along with generous portions of self serving propaganda, the dehumanization of those “savage and primitive races” (today aka as terrorists) is complete and our population is infected with blood lust and material infatuation. And the rest, as they say, is bloody history; though you won’t find this version in any acceptably sanitized school text book.

Our culture is plagued with school shootings, serial killers (government sponsored or otherwise) conducting mass murder, state sponsored genocide, fast food obesity and pill popping to kill our emotional and spiritual pain. And of course don’t forget the constant mindless consumption to placate an emotional and spiritual emptiness that can never be soothed by material balms. But we can die trying, can’t we? And we call ourselves sane.

The shaman was a healer in the broadest since of the word and the spiritual center and source of wisdom and guidance for the tribe. The indigenous cultures were dependent upon their shaman to remain spiritually centered and physically healthy. Once they were gone, any surviving tribesmen quickly succumbed to the insanity of the Europeans once their spiritual anchors were uprooted and destroyed.

Have you ever wondered why there are hundreds of stories of early European and American settlers in North America that willingly lived among and within these “primitive” cultures? Once the non natives (the white man) had been thoroughly assimilated into these cultures, why did so many of them want to stay and even fought against their old countrymen in order to remain within their adopted cultural families? These cultural adoptees talked about being the happiest and most fulfilled they’d ever been and how for the first time in their lives they felt at peace, both with themselves and with those around them.

How could this occur in a culture that supposedly had nothing to offer the modern world? What could these “backward” cultures possibly offer the so-called “civilized” Europeans and Americans that would be more attractive than what they already possessed? Is it possible that our culture has lied to us about these things and potentially much more? Could it be that our culture isn’t healthy for us, is in fact killing us? Might it be we’re being used and abused by our own culture for the benefit of others, that this isn’t a natural state for humanity and that this disturbance we feel is the source of our insanity?

I find it very revealing that the North American Indian has the highest rate of alcoholism and drug dependency in this country. It makes sense when you consider that once stripped of their cultural support and defensive systems, their shamans and nurturing culture, the original source of their strength and spiritual health, that they would seek a substitute elsewhere. Consider how you would feel if you visited heaven and felt the warm embrace of peace and happiness, only to be ripped from its breast kicking and screaming and deposited into hell. Maybe we should have their descendants consult our technology Gods to find a solution to their spiritual unhappiness and mental illness. You know what; I bet there’s an app for that.

In Chapter Two, we will continue our exploration of our individual and collective insanity, where we spend some time examining that lovable megalomaniac ego inside each of us, why and where it all went wrong, the sliding scale of insanity with lots of finger pointing, how we certify our madness for comfort and support, our mental toxic waste dumps and the first sighting of light at the end of the tunnel. Or is that just the crazy train express to DC? Here’s one car wreck we can all safely examine as we drive by in our economic suicide machines.

Cognitive Dissonance - 06/02/2010

End of Empire (Part One) – Propaganda and the American Myth

 “Oh what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive”….ourselves. With apologies to Sir Walter Scott.

If only life were as neat and orderly as my ancient history text book showed it to be. There it was on glossy paper, spread out across two sets of adjoining pages, maps of the ancient and modern world. Including time lines top and bottom, with countries outlined and identified. Underneath their modern English names were one or two older names in smaller stylized script, often including exact beginning and end dates. I remember one in particular that caught my eye. “United States of America” followed by the year 1776. But with no end date indicated, it looked like unfinished business to me. You’ve got to love those historians and their exact dates.

Of course, in reality there are no exact dates for the birth and death of city/states, other than in the author’s mind. Children continue to be born, the old still die, and life goes on under different circumstances. But you’re rarely informed of the subjective nature of historical events when you’re young and impressionable, so they’re presented in the history books as fact. The last thing the reigning Empire wants is to appear uncertain about previous Empires. Even before we begin to read and comprehend on our own, we’re presented with the illusion of a beginning and end to everything, often with very clear lines of demarcation. This concept is continuously reinforced through our daily indoctrination of carefully scripted news stories, care of our modern media saturated existence. Naturally, critical thinking is optional and definitively not encouraged.

Mix in a healthy dose of hard core science, where you learn very early there are correct and incorrect answers to all your questions, and a pattern of social myth making emerges. Of course, the correct answers are held for public safekeeping by our cultural high priests and authority figures, be they academic, governmental, scientific or religious. Lest you forget, cultural icons and heroes must always be respected and deferred to. Maybe now’s a good time to remember that most history and science books are written and re-written by those very same keepers of the public mythology. What we believe as a culture, sometimes called our public myth, is usually determined by those whose pockets are the deepest or most powerful, not by those who are the wisest and most knowledgeable.

Have you ever read a book written by the survivors of the vanquished, the so called losers? I have, a number of times, and it’s usually very enlightening to see the world from the other side of the bloody divide. In their hands, our cultural myths aren’t treated with the same loving care and respect we afford them, nor should they be. But of course they must be lying because they have an ax to grind. Revisionist history is how those in power politely describe the writings of the defeated and the victims crushed in the head long rush of conquering empire. The public myth tells us that the losers can do nothing but taut the victorious with their lies. Ignore them and they’ll go away. Besides, the winners never lie about the facts, though we’re told there’s plenty of room for differences of opinion. And just about everything can be reduced to an opinion if you’re looking to obscure.

Of course, one of the unspoken duties of the winners is to distort the written and visual record, so that it conforms to the public myth. This is the principle reason why recently retired or replaced holders of powerful governmental and military positions are handed huge advances to write their memoirs. These sacred tomes of divine wisdom are quickly embraced by other propagandists as the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, so help their Gods of propaganda. Once in hand, it’s quickly woven into the fabric of the public myth as supporting documentation. Thus another slice of the propaganda cycle is complete and ready for its next rotation.

We possess extremely complex belief systems and world views. How they develop and evolve is greatly influenced by external information sources we rarely question or challenge. After all, these sources are our cultural authority figures, the experts, professionals and intelligentsia that form our cultural propaganda delivery and support system. These sources cannot be seriously questioned, particularly from within, without being declared a heretic. Just look at how Zero Hedge, and other non-conforming web sites, are treated as an example of how heresy is handled these days. While we may not pay much attention to everything we hear or see, our unconscious is absorbing it all, raw and unfiltered. This information feeds into and supports our world view with little conscious thought or scrutiny. This is the reason why repetition is so vitally important to effective propaganda. Our brain always absorbs even when we do not look and listen.

It’s shocking to realize how seldom we change our basic beliefs or understanding when confronted with new information that normally would affect change. Instead, we bend or ignore facts to fit our established world view. John Maynard Keynes once said “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?” Sadly most people don’t subscribe to this logical practice. Instead, conformation bias and denial are the tools we use to manage and manipulate information to our liking. And there are plenty of governmental, corporate and private citizens ready to help us accomplish this through deliberate and targeted propaganda. The most common personal warning sign that this is happening is the pain of cognitive dissonance, which is usually set off when new information is in conflict with long established and dearly held views.

Rarely do we push through this cognitive pain to reappraise our inventory of established truths for validity or relevance. It’s so much easier to discard ugly deviations, or cherry pick information that confirms our preferred vision, rather than conduct the top to bottom review that’s called for when the facts change. Intellectual laziness is the polite term for this phenomenon. I think a more honest explanation is deliberate and mostly conscious denial. However, even when I’m alert for and aware of this phenomenon, I’m still surprised how often I participate. It’s frightening to see how deeply conditioned we are in the art of self deception. The truth hurts, so I employ the most powerful pain killer know to man, that of denial. It’s extremely difficult to reject popular opinion and strike out on our own independent path. Group think is indoctrinated into us from birth and socially rewarded at every turn. It’s emotionally safer and more comfortable if you stay near the center of the pack. Herd mentality in all its glory, which is corralled by the public myth and which we too are the keepers.

I often say all writers are essentially propagandists and that applies to me as well. I’m using this forum to cherry pick information which I then present in the most compelling manner to make my case. In effect, I’m feeding you my spin, which along with other pieces can be used to build a myth. The most effective propaganda is that whose basic premise is slipped by the reader or TV viewer so smoothly it’s never recognized. Once the premise is planted and accepted, the hard work is done and the fish is quickly reeled in. What’s that you say? You’re too smart to let the wool be pulled over your eyes? That you can discern truth from lies and would eventually figure it out given enough time and inclination? Honestly ask yourself, how much effort would you put into examining something you already believe to be true? Wouldn’t you deem it a major waste of your time? Consider the premise I put forth in the title of this article. Did you notice? Did you question? Or did you accept and start to read?

Most people see information as chunks of data that can be compartmentalized, examined and manipulated. But rarely do we recognize that many of the truths we hold as impeccable are based upon long lines of information. If at any point this information could be proven false, the entire line is suspect, along with your impeccable truth. Consider a long string of mathematical calculations. While there may be dozens of individual problems with separate answers, each answer then feeds into another calculation as a sum or variable. Make a mistake at any point in the line and the entire data stream is corrupt. How we view our world is based upon many preconceived notions and beliefs. Change just one small piece we previously thought correct and everything changes to some extent. Change two or three and suddenly we have a crisis of confidence and a cognitive dissonance. Yet when we feel that pain, how often do we reboot and reexamine everything? Why would you reexamine what you think you know to be correct, particularly when most everyone else is in agreement? Peer pressure and conditioning are hard to resist, even in the privacy of your own mind. “We are never deceived; we deceive ourselves.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

My basic premise and the basis for this series of articles is that the American Empire is ending. In fact, it has peaked and is now in rapid decline. While I can’t offer an exact date for this change of direction, it doesn’t diminish my argument in the least. I’d be hard pressed to give you the date for the decline of the Roman Empire, but clearly it followed the same trajectory. Did Rome’s downward spiral start when the capital was moved to Constantinople in 330 AD? Or when Rome was sacked by the Visigoths in 410 AD? It matters little at this point, except to the historians. While America descends, China and India ascend.

Actually I would argue that while Empires come and go, the culture of environmental and human exploitation and destruction we call civilization has grown in efficiency over the past 3000 years. We Americans now stand proudly at the pinnacle of the insanity, picking up where the Romans and Europeans left off. I’ll leave that thought for another day but I think you get my point.

America as a social and financial entity ceased to function at peak efficiency decades ago. This rapid decline is the main reason behind the massive increase in financial engineering, which is now coming apart at the seams, deliberately in my view. To argue over this or that detail is to be in denial of the obvious. In fact, I consider the official bickering over these details as a deliberate attempt to distort and distract while the final looting and rape occurs. Using propaganda and other psychological operations, our leaders lie about the economic condition of America. They do so not because they expect the lie to withstand close scrutiny, but rather to enable those who wish to believe the lie a plausible excuse to do so. Remember our conditioning. When in doubt, defer to authority and suspend disbelief.

A classic sales technique is the assumed consent close. Rather than directly asking you to purchase this new car, I simply assume you are purchasing and begin asking you closing questions. “Do you prefer the red one we looked at first or the blue convertible with the beige interior? Could you please get your insurance card out of the glove box before you clean out your car? Just sign here and here. Thanks.” You’d be surprised how many new automobiles, rooms of household furniture, whole life insurance, variable annuities and pieces of expensive jewelry are sold in this manner. Something similar to this technique is being used by the mass media to sell us something we already wish to buy. Only they aren’t selling the death of America, but rather its remarkable resilience and miraculous comeback. We’re being sold false hope, disguised as assumed consent questions such as, should we audit the Fed, can we expand healthcare with a public option, will Son of Stimulus be rolled out by the first or second quarter of 2010, should we……..well, you get the picture.

False hope binds us to impossible conditions and situations. Please read that statement again and then let it sink in for a minute.

As long as we believe there’s residual value in keeping America on life support, we’ll continue to pour borrowed money into this mess, rather than roll up the derivatives, fire the managers and start over. We don’t wish to face the reality that we’re in way over our heads. As long as we’re not forced to look too closely at the horrible condition our country’s in, we’re all too willing to do our part and avoid applying critical thinking to the subject. Like an old bull unknowingly led to slaughter because he thinks he’s off to mount another cow, we’re desperately trying to keep alive the magical American myth of life, liberty and apple pie while shielding our eyes from the rotting corpse it’s rapidly becoming.

That’s probably too harsh for the average American’s sensibilities, but let’s ask ourselves a few questions in an effort to find the truth, or at least something approaching the truth as we know it. Let me be clear on something before I get flamed for my harsh tongue. I’m not America bashing in the least. I’m America myth bashing. The American myth of exceptionalism is enabling her destruction as we stand idly by, applauding the mythical facade our leaders and media display 24/7. As long as we cling to the hope that all she needs is a tune up and some minor repairs, we’re condemned to a long and painful death spiral. We’re being sold exactly what we want to hear when we need to hear it. To claim otherwise is to lie to ourselves and to each other.

America is crumbling from the foundation up, and yet we gather around the TV, talking about a fresh paint job and a new screen door, both bought on credit, while handing our grandchildren a bill they’ll never be able to pay. The only way we can live with this lie while perpetrating these despicable acts upon our own family members is to deny it’s even happening. The big lie, which we must continue to tell ourselves, has taken on a life of its own and is consuming everyone and everything in its path. We are addicted to our own public myth and to sustain the lie, we simply ignore the truth. The only way to break through this lie is to go back through decades of propaganda and myth and find out what went wrong. Since this would be too painful, both individually and as a society, we distort reality as quickly as we change cable channels. It’s not just our leaders who are corrupt but we as well.

We have become cowardly, unwilling to commit to the tough decision of setting aside instant gratification in order to assure our grandchildren a home to live in. This is the ultimate act of selfishness, compounded by the fact that we claim we’ve been hijacked by our leaders. Sadly, our leaders are doing exactly what we want them to do, which is to continue the lie. Did we really think we could put our toys and war machines on the charge card and not worry about the bill, just because some politicians said we could? What are we, 5 year olds, pointing our fingers elsewhere when asked who broke the vase? Even if we personally followed the path of fiscal prudence, why didn’t we scream bloody murder, demanding we stop this insanity before the country began its suicidal plunge? Why do we still remain silent? Our hands are bloody and the only question is, how much is yours and how much is mine. Citizenship is all about individual responsibility, something we’ve been avoiding for a while now, at least since we started calling ourselves consumers.

Look at the endless propaganda on TV that’s used to lull us back into a drugged stupor, so we don’t dwell on what we’re doing to our children’s children. American flags wave in the background as chiseled men and full breasted women expound on how wonderful we are for building and loving this great nation of ours. The great American love story, brought to you nightly on prime time TV. This is where the bad guys always loose, men are men and women are sexual objects to lust after. Watch closely children, this is the American dream. Why wouldn’t we love America the myth? It’s everything we want without the pain. Nationalism is our unifying religion, a potentially fatal addiction to our public myth that enables us to fiddle while America burns. More drugs over here doctor, the patient’s waking up.

So how do we deal with this, and what does this have to do with Zero Hedge? Well, I would say it has everything to do with ZH, but then again I’m just a propagandist, weaving my magical myth. But to be honest, in desperation I’m seeking another way, a different path. I’m tired of moving in and out of the various stages of loss and grief. One moment I’m screaming at my zombie neighbor, imploring him to wake up and see the insanity. The next I’m filled with self righteous indignation as another patsy banker’s head is placed on the public pike. Sometimes I start my morning bargaining with unseen powers, begging for a truce or cease fire, only to end my day crying in my hands in fear and frustration of it all. And I’m not alone.

Zero Hedge seems to be a refuge for the walking wounded, a safe haven inside occupied territory for the psychically damaged and demoralized. But we need more than rest and relaxation in order to regain our feet. We need to heal and grow our ranks, to find a way to help ourselves and those who follow us into the refuge. Surrounded by lies and deceit, we are indoctrinated to such an extent that we still speak the language of denial without realizing it. We have no choice but to start at the beginning. While Zero Hedge speaks truth to power, we need to speak truth to ourselves, to talk openly about what has happened and where we’re going. Part of the seduction of denial is the avoidance of personal responsibility. In my view this must stop, thus my declaration that we’re all responsible for this mess. I have no doubt America can be repaired but the process starts at the personal level.

From a financial point of view, I’m sure we’ve all held a winning trade past its prime, giving back money we should have booked. And who hasn’t kept a dog way too long, when we should have thrown it overboard months ago? While I’m certain there are multiple reasons for poor investment performance, a fearless and thorough examination often shows that bad investment decisions are the result of personal shortcomings, such as wishful thinking or denial. For myself, when this happens, I find I’ve violated one or more of my trading rules. They are as follows.

 One, know myself, particularly my strengths and weaknesses. Two, know my trading environment or don’t play in the sandbox. Three, always consider the other side of trade. If I’m buying, why is the other guy selling? If I’m selling, why is the other guy buying? Look for weakness in my thinking. Four, from time to time, mentally clear my computer screen of existing positions and then follow step three with each holding. If I wouldn’t buy or sell it now, why am I holding it? Five, trust my instincts, not my heart. My heart lies to me all the time with plenty of help from my brain. Instinctually I usually know when to buy or sell but often I ignore my gut feeling and wind up screwing the pooch. Over the years I’ve found that too much thinking gets in the way and often makes things worse.

These trading rules, as with life itself, requires a clear eyed view and a deeper understanding of ourselves, our fellow man and the real world, not as we wish to see it but as it really is. Unfortunately we still engage in wishful thinking way too often, constantly pushing the hope “dope” button and regretting it afterwards. Considering the direction our world is headed, it’s going to be more difficult to think clearly unless we make personal changes. Old habits die hard because we desperately cling to them for emotional support. Understanding why we do this will go a long way to helping us jettison that old baggage. Even if we are trapped on the crazy train to hell, just because we can’t get off doesn’t mean we must participate in the insanity.

So with the active participation of my fellow Zero Hedge readers, I would like to continue this exploration in a series of “End of Empire” articles, each time focusing on a different aspect of the unraveling. We need to develop our intellectual, emotional and financial coping techniques. Of particular importance to me will be the comments and feedback I get from you, for I assure you I don’t have all the answers. This isn’t a rally to arms but rather a cry for help. Either we heal as a community or we continue to hemorrhage, alone and isolated. It’s going to be a wild ride so let’s buckle up and do this together. After all, there’s safety in numbers, inside the new herd mentality of Zero Hedge.

Cognitive Dissonance  11-29-2009

Chapter Two: End of Empire - Waking Zombie Nations / Psychology, Consciousness and The Egoic Mind