I never imagined a decade ago, when I was contemplating my imminent retirement, that my golden years would be fraught with grief and anger over a barbarian war of annihilation in Ukraine, a Republican party enthralled by a poofy-haired huckster engaged in the subversion of American democracy, a pandemic virus infection that would kill 6.2 million people worldwide, and, oh yes, a general failure by all nations to take action to avert the worst consequences of climate change.
The side-effects of all of this have tarnished the joy I might otherwise have experienced in retirement. Sometimes I feel cheated out of my retirement by world events. It is not in my nature to shrug and look away. I am captivated by what is happening in the world, even though my attention to events makes no difference and the problems are beyond my control.
Although I may complain that I deserved a better world, I must acknowledge that I have had it pretty good, better than most people on earth. My city has not been bombed to rubble and my neighbors do not lie dead in the streets. My life has not been torn apart by floods, storms, wildfires or any other unnatural disasters lately intensified by too much carbon dioxide in the sky. My power of rational thought has not been poisoned by QAnon glue-sniffers. My lungs have not been compromised by Covid.
Yes, it could have been worse, but why couldn’t it have been much better?
I still believe in unalienable rights. I still believe in justice. I still believe in the right to vote and to have that vote count. I still believe in equality of dignity and worth. How have these things become so devalued in our society?
Is it my nightmarish imagination or are there more lies being spread about than ever before? There must be more liars and more people believing lies. Politicians of a certain brand have made lying fashionable and have encouraged the recent growth of the liar culture. The result of so much lying is an erosion of regard for our country’s founding principles.
It is not known who first observed “there’s a sucker born every minute,” but it seems to be true. The presence of so many newly minted suckers is evidence that there are more liars-per-minute that are making them so.
The liar culture embraces and perpetuates all sorts of lies, but not all lies are created equally. There are two kinds of lies. There are ordinary lies that, although falsehoods, are based on reality. Then there are phantasmagoric lies. This kind of lie is not only a falsehood, but it is falsehood based on unreality. Phantasmagoric lies spring from an imagined world that seems to some people like it could be real but is not. It is a world, for example, where Democrats are Satan-worshiping pedophiles, Covid vaccines are synthesized snake venom carrying the devil’s DNA, and Lord Butternuts won the 2020 election “by a landslide.”
For the ordinary lies, we have some hope that the falsehood can be overcome with real-world evidence. Ordinary lies can be refuted; they can be fact-checked and debunked. But there is no possibility of disproving a phantasmagoric lie. No amount of real-world evidence can dissuade a belief that springs from a mirage.
I am tired of all the lies. I am tired of all the latest disasters in world events. But that is the condition of the world in which I find my retirement. I calculate that I spend about 27 percent of my waking hours watching the news on television, hearing it on radio or reading it from online newspapers. No wonder I grow weary. If I paid less attention to the news, maybe I would not feel so tired and so cheated.
Recent opinion polls suggest that there must be a lot of people who are not paying attention. I should not criticize them. In their pursuit of happiness, they don’t spend too much time on the details of world events or the truth of the news. Enviably, they don’t seem to get tired of the lies or to feel their days diminished by what is going on in the world.
But if you are not paying attention, the news that breaks through to you is too often merely the sensational. It becomes difficult for you to distinguish between news and entertainment. You begin to measure the relevance of the news by the jolt of outrage or grievance it delivers to you. Then, outrage and grievance soon come to define truth.
Some other stuff for later,
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