THIS IS REALITY
I mentioned last week Adam Curtis’ new documentary called ‘HyperNormalisation’. The documentary is about the wool that is pulled across our eyes; the fact that, particularly in the political arena, we are presented with an ultra-simplistic fake reality, a fake narrative which we ingest and debate, and accept as reality because everyone else around us does. This reality is so convincing to us that often it feels more real than the reality of our everyday lives. The most obvious example in our own current context is the battle between the remainers and the Brexiters; somehow this unfolding drama seems almost more real, more pertinent to our lives, than what we are doing now, gathering in community. And yet if we think about it, that is surely not the case. Everything out there in the political and social arena filters through to us via the media. It is dumbed down to a greater or lesser extent, shaped and qualified for our consumption. Given that fact, it’s almost impossible to know what is real. Take the unfolding Brexit narrative - do we want hard Brexit or soft Brexit? Does the government know what it wants? First it says hard - Brexit means Brexit - then some softer voices take centre stage. There is a great deal of stage management taking place: the way information is leaked, the way the narrative unfolds, none of it seems real to me. Imagine a great game, a football game say, the red side vs the blue side, and all of society was enthralled by it, caught up in their fanatical support of their team. Their team scores a goal: they’re happy, their team lets a goal in: they’re unhappy. In other words, the masses are utterly placated, we are submissive to real power, because we are caught up in some meaningless game. We’re caught up in the media’s circus.
I think there may be a great deal of merit in elevating the significance of the gathered community. There is a passage in Galatians which I like a lot, ‘there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave or free, neither male or female’; and then developing this idea further in one’s liturgy - nor is there straight or gay, neither conservative or liberal, neither Remainer or Brexiter, and so on… These socio-political labels attempt to undermine the central and most significant reality of all, which is our togetherness now. A similar point is made by Paul in this morning’s reading - an appeal that there be no division amongst us. Not that there be no disagreement, but no division; as Joe Cox MP most notable stated, that we are ‘far more united and have far more in common with each other than things that divide us.’ Adam Curtis paints a picture then of our bloody, brutal world: a world so complex that politicians and financiers have reduced it to overly simplistic models they can get their heads around: if only we had a bit more nationalism, or a bit more of that ism or this ism, everything would stabilise and be alright again. And, we all kind of buy into that idea. We invest so much of ourselves into it, our very self-image is wrapped up with it, wrapped up in this system that we are unable to see beyond. Maybe liberalism, socialism, or Bolshevism haven’t worked yet, but that’s because they need to be modified slightly. A new expression would surely save the day. But of course, they all lead into ever deadening ends.
A FROG in livery! `There's no sort of use in knocking,' said the Footman, ‘because I'm on the same side of the door as you are…’ Does this sentence not sum up politics quite nicely? A frog in livery – lacking some pretty essential self-awareness, apparently almost entirely lacking an understanding of the world which he inhabits. He answers Alice’s question, but not in any satisfactory way; he answers the question apparently with only one point of reference, himself. So instead of being seduced by this spectacle, imagine if we located our identity first and foremost amongst the people with whom we interacted face to face. Politics is a game of coercion, alienation, and seduction, but here let us strive to play a different game, one of self-realisation, communication, and participation. In the 1960s there was a movement called ‘Situationist International’. They were a surrealist art and politics movement in France; their drive and aim seems to chime quite closely with what Adam Curtis is driving at in his documentary.
I spoke last week about the darkness within us, and the importance of knowing that darkness, because as the horrors of today show, and just as the horrors of the two wars showed, our best intentions when we come together are thwarted in this collective darkness taking shape and finding expression. ‘Situationist International’ sought to locate ultimate concern in everyday life, not in abstraction. Here in our own subjective, our own dreams, and capacity for the creative, is where we should locate reality, in communities small enough that the individual is not marginalized or scapegoated for any perceived greater good, but individualism can find full expression and realisation. Our subjective creativity should not be sacrificed to the collective. We must revolt, and release ourselves from this imprisoning narrative, throw off this zombie exterior which is subservient to the spectacle, the circus, the media’s game. This is our spiritual task: to locate the self, locate the self in the present, locate the self in the present with the other. And to love, to be creative, to be poetic, to be your own individual self. How can that ever be boring!