Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Rip Van Who?

Rip Van Winkle
Artist: John Quidor (1801-1881), Art Institute of Chicago, Wikimedia Public Domain

Do you sometimes wish you'd fallen into a long sleep early in 2020 like the fabled Rip Van Winkle? Look around and you will find some people did.

When you encounter anyone like Rip, it's best to be careful. Rip didn't understand much when he met the silent ghosts of Henry Hudson's crew playing a game of nine-pins in the Catskill Mountains. He didn't ask who they were or how they knew his name. He did get what it was about their magic purple liquor that he imbibed, which putting him to sleep. It just worked for him to miss the American Revolutionary War.

So, chances are that if you're on an evening or early morning walk trying to social distance from the joggers and dog-walkers, or wherever you find someone sleeping or sleep-walking through the twenty-first century, this person won't get much about the current reality either.

But, there are people to shake awake yet. Ever since memory, the USA has yet to turn out the higher percentages of voters recorded in some countries. Getting out the vote person-to-person, door-to-door is the powerful method to do this, with face-masks on (not just by phone or weaker social media).

Meantime, to out-think and out-do the propagandist, George Orwell (1946), Vance Packard (1957), Jacques Ellul (1965), and a host of others have provided us with ways to deal with the continuous propaganda that often numbs the "sleepers," and all of us.

For example, Jacques Ellul named the counter-actions you can take against a continuous propaganda onslaught.

1. Challenge any propaganda that targets our pre-existing attitudes AND reassert our beliefs in honesty, justice, temperance, courage, and wisdom - and, our desire to live in a society that enables health, jobs, shelter, food, safety, freedom, with any bad actor held accountable. 

2. Highlight the harm to people of anti-democratic actions that deny health care, jobs, safety, postal services, etc. AND say exactly what should happen instead.

3. Reassert the rightness of facts, positively and specifically (without naming the lie or the liar, to avoid being a megaphone for the corrupt).

4. Keep repeating what is right (propaganda decays over time, especially when crowded out of the public communication channels).

Oh, and as George Orwell urged about any verbal refuse, be sure to call out and mock the foreign propaganda that misses our culture. As we saw in my previous blog posting, this is really easy when it's half-baked with lots of "tells."

Too many of our fellow "we, the people" might seem to be awake in their sleep-walk, as they continue to be polite about a propagandist. But some have taken years to publicly call a lie a lie. And, some in the media still broadcast unfiltered drivel of a propagandist; or, endlessly micro-analyze his nonsense, thereby promoting him and his nonsense. Maybe they have some dangerously mistaken belief that this serves some purpose of even-handedness, or democratic debate, or advertising sales.

I even heard a federal senator this week say, completely unacceptably, that the shame for the failure of his opponents to act properly was on his opponents. How about what that senator had not accomplished holding them to account? He wasn't elected to be a bystander.

During this Big Sleep, with apologies to Raymond Chandler, many "we, the people" patiently expected someone else to stop the useless growth of lawyers taking legal actions. Providing employment for lawyers wasn't supposed to be a main outcome of democracy. Yet, too many such proceedings continue in multiple, drawn-out, inconclusive actions, instead of anything useful to stop the propagandist. 

Lookalike despots, autocrats, and wannabe leaders flourish when they are unchecked. There's still time to block and check in workable ways.

One step we can all help with NOW is to personally encourage friends, family, and neighbors to get out the vote.