Redefining the Real: Metanarratives and collaborative fiction writing as a blueprint for social change.
By Dr.* Shackleford
1. The Politics of HatePolitical "discourse" in America, if it can even be called that (and it can't) has for the last several decades been reduced to a series of cheap talking points. We routinely hear buzzwords such as "abortion", "new taxes", "war on terror," "war on drugs", "family values", and ad hom attacks on rival politicians from opposing political camps ranging everywhere between "this candidate is a muslim terrorist socialist, just listen to his last name!" to "this candidate supports pornography and hates family values, because he hasn't banned the constitutional freedom for pornography to exist."
Beyond this, we further witness the tendency for complex and multi-faceted issues to become broken down into a sort of apocalyptic dualism, a polarization of the collective into a "left" vs. "right" or "red" vs. "blue" dichotomy of viewing the world that is radically different from the well-rounded and scientific inquiry into the nature of reality posited by science and the arts. This is the sort of dualism and hate rhetoric that does the precise opposite of what it purports to do: It does not serve to unify or to bring us together, but rather to distance us from one another using tactics of manipulation and disinformation. It literally "polarizes" us- divides us into opposite camps so that we continue to miss the common enemy at work. (And more on that, later!)
Morpheus: "Red pill or blue pill, Neo?"
Morpheus: "Republican or Democrat, Neo?"
Neo: "Well, I am not sure there is much of a differ..."
Morpheus: "COKE OR PEPSI, NEO?"
Neo: "This is dumb."
Morpheus: "BOXERS OR BRIEFS, NEO... YOU MUST CHOOSE NOW--"
Neo: "Fuck this shit. I'm going home."
2. Transcending Naive Realism
"Yes," you may say in the jaded, seen-it-all demeanor that is all the rage in your age demographic, "We already know that Hoover was a fascist transvestite and that Nixon was the Antichrist. So what?"
But let's take a moment to examine the implications of the above: The very fabrics of the the system we have been taught is "real reality" have been blown apart at the seams by the existence of obvious crooks, pimps and political panderers. We are now shown up close and in brutal clarity the deceitful and hideous underbelly of the American dream- the one that comedian and philosopher George Carlin told us "We'd have to be asleep to believe in." And that's not all.
A moment ago I told you that I would personally reveal what I believe to be the source of all human error and a common enemy that could serve to unite our species. That enemy is stupidity and naive realism.
From Ross and Ward, "Naive Realism: Implications for Social Conflict and Misunderstanding":
"Our point, again, is simply that such differences in construals, whether the product of political manipulation or the result of more spontaneous processes, matter in determining political behavior. At times, they even can be determinative of policy. More often, they serve to justify policies that are dictated by the standard combination of necessity, ideology and special interest, but that clash with broadly held personal, political or ethical values. The political battle to manipulate construals and thereby win support or marshal opposition to particular policies goes on constantly. Thus, depending on the views and interests of those controlling the media, we hear references to 'illegal aliens' versus 'undocumented workers,' to 'terrorists' versus 'freedom fighters,' to 'surgical' strikes and 'police' actions versus bombings and invasions, or the 'right to life' versus 'the right to choose.'"The above quote nicely outlines in a broad manner the essence of naive realism in its ability to blind us to the perspective of the other(s). I think it is safe to say that if you are still reading this, I will probably not offend you in stating that if you believe that Rick Santorum really cares about family values or the sanctity of marriage, you are a fucking idiot and should probably be hit in the head repeatedly with a big fucking tack hammer.
However, it should be remembered and duly noted that such sentiments are again those of the author, purely subjective and as such should be subject to scrutiny. And therein lies the crux of this argument: Language is meant to manipulate you. This is done through manipulation of beliefs associated with core values such as learned cultural ideas towards the nuclear family, religious projections and associated delusional belief systems, hostile dogmatic thinking and speech patterns such that much energy can be generated around "trigger" phrases like "terror", "9/11", "evildoer", "nigger", "chink", "gook", "longhair," "commie", "faggot" or any other term used to derogatorily slander and undermine a significant portion of the population. Such language is beaten into us from the age of childhood, burnt into our synapses as if by some strange hypnotism and perpetuated virally through language and semiotics.
3. Escaping RealityWhich gets us back to the original query: Just how comfortable are you that what you somewhat arbitrarily dub "reality" is real at all? I'd like you to go back and review in your head all of the lies your teachers told you in school. Columbus discovered America. One nation, under god. Did you know that line was not added to the pledge of allegiance until the cold war, in order to differentiate "Us" from those "Godless commies"? How many of the religious beliefs you hold or held at one point seem to be grounded in verifiable scientific fact? Does it ever occur to you that the bulk of observable cultural beliefs and customs have no basis in any real "fundamental truth"? Are we to be expected to believe that Jesus and the Flinstones rode dinosaurs everywhere and that a judeo christian god literally "made the world in seven days"?
Such sometimes irrationally held beliefs are only the tip of the ice berg and the most obvious examples of an all pervasive type of cultural gaming.
Binary opposition is used to create a double bind emotional response to codified societal programming from a young age. Allegiances are built to country, nuclear family, religious affiliation and political bipartisan loyalties, all of which are culturally fabricated ideas or statistically generated averages. Such as the proverbial "adult Americans have 2.5 children on average". A statistically generated bell curve, but no one expects to trail half a baby behind them as its entrails slip from its severed torso... Dead baby jokes aside, we are dealing with medians and averages built around the principles of mediocrity. The banality and imagined "normalcy" of an "average life". Nowhere in any of this can it logically be inferred on the basis of any empirical evidence that this is "the real", or at least somehow "more real" than any other superfluously held belief.
Every step of the way in the formal education of a young human being, a child is given a plethora of false dichotomy either/or type decisions or pleasure/pain reinforced double bind scenarios. Teachers enforce the idea that the child should be a sort of a cog, an idea steeped largely in the child's relationship to often arbitrarily imposed social constraints upon behavior. If the child shows too much individuality or curiosity, they are often pushed back down into the herd and their questions are quickly stifled or silenced. If they day dream, they are often labeled "ADHD", another systemic problem that in all probability relates back to poor nutritional and dietary habits, overstimulation by exposure to mass media, and lazy parenting. If the child is not "unique enough", they are often criticized for being "dull" or "stupid" or "learning impaired" in some way. Every step of the way, growing up in the American public school systems demands the ability to walk an everpresent tightrope between "being an idiot" and "being too smart." The child quickly learns to guess at what others are wearing, listening to, reading or talking about, in a clumsy and misguided attempt not to develop as an individual but to emulate behavior of those around them, which we have statistically generated to fabricate an average.
(THE SNAFU PRINCIPLE):—Never Whistle While You're Pissing, by Hagbard Celine, H.M., S.H.
"The most thoroughly and relentlessly Damned, banned, excluded, condemned, forbidden, ostracized, ignored, suppressed, repressed, robbed, brutalized and defamed of all Damned Things is the individual human being. The social engineers, statisticians, psychologists, sociologists, market researchers, landlords, bureaucrats, captains of industry, bankers, governors, commissars, kings and presidents are perpetually forcing this Damned Thing into carefully prepared blueprints and perpetually irritated that the Damned Thing will not fit into the slot assigned to it. The theologians call it a sinner and try to reform it The governor calls it a criminal and tries to punish it The psychotherapist calls it a neurotic and tries to cure it. Still, the Damned Thing will not fit into their slots."
I don't mean to point the finger. Far from that, I would like to invite you to actively participate in constructing the narratives we live by. Here's how it works.
4. The Crumbling of Game Reality and the Emergence of the "Hyperreal"Within social game theory resides the idea that with every interaction there is a "lose, lose", "win, win", or "win, lose" outcome, and there are what are called "finite" and "infinite games".
From the book, "Finite and Infinite Games", by James P. Carse:
"There are at least two kinds of games. One could be called finite, the other infinite. A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, an infinite game for the purpose of continuing the play. There is no game, finite or infinite, unless the players freely agree to play it. No one can play who is forced to play. This is an invariable principle of all play. Whoever must play, cannot play. If a finite game is to be won by someone, it must come to a definitive end. It will come to an end when someone has won. Winning is determined by agreement of the players."Fairly recently, a team of social theorists set out to create a meme designed to test and to possibly break social game theory. They called it simply, "The Game", and the rules were simple: Upon learning of "the game", you lose the game. The second rule of "the game" was that you have no choice but to play "the game". The third rule was everyone who plays "the game" loses. The fourth rule was that every time you remembered the game, you had to announce out loud "I just lost 'the game' " .
In doing so, the social theorists responsible for the inception of 'the game' meme set about to reveal what they believed to be contradictory elements of social game theory. One, there is no clear solution in sight. Unlike a "finite" social game, this game never ends and there is no positive outcome. You must lose. If the game be simply "Life", it is understood that we have no choice but to "play", and the only apparent end is "loss" (death.)
Secondly, there is an understood assumption in the rules of this game that the majority of social games we play are never agreed upon. In other words, at the beginning of "the game" you are forced into play. There is no choice. There is no agreement. In this manner, the theorists more closely emulate the most socially pervasive games. The ones we cannot choose but play, the ones that traditionally hidden beneath the veneer of customs and cultural values.
The only escape from "the game" is to lose, thus "losing" implies "winning". To lose the game is to win. The death of traditional social gaming and black/white, lose/win, male/female, good/evil type thought processes heralds the dawn of the hyperreal. Belief becomes seen as a tool to mold one's own reality, rather than to be utilized by outside forces as a form of social leveraging. Metaprogramming in the human biocomputer ensues.
The "hyperreal" can be understood as the dimension of experience wherein the symbolic and the literal unite. As marine biologist and sensory deprivation float tank pioneer John C Lilly once said,
"In the province of connected minds, what the network believes to be true, either is true or becomes true within certain limits to be found experientially and experimentally. These limits are further beliefs to be transcended. In the network's mind there are no limits."A metanarrative or a metafiction begins when it seeds itself into the collective's cultural operating system. Like the concept of "currency", which can be traced from finding itself propped up by monatomic gold, then paper, and finally to only being credit in a bank's computer, a metafiction relies entirely upon imagined consensual validity to make it true. Interestingly, sometimes belief in a fictional construct can in many ways physically manifest that fiction. The hyperreal relates to the study of the medium itself in shaping the message. In the context of the hyperreal, the medium takes importance over the message and what it comes to represent symbolically is more important than the thing itself.
From wisegeek: "what is hyperreality"?:
"Although there is some debate about the exact definition, hyperreality is generally defined as a condition in which what is real and what is fiction are blended together so that there is no clear distinction between where one ends and the other begins. It is a postmodern philosophy that deals in part with semiotics, or the study of the signs that surround people in everyday life and what they actually mean."From this perspective, it is seen that the highest possible virtue can be skepticism: It may be impossible for us to avoid using language, but it is very possible for us to become more skeptical about the ways it which language can use us. Acknowledging the future of the world we all co-create through coming together to form our own narratives, empowering or motivating narratives that provoke thought and direct action instead of apathy and hopelessness, could hold the key for the survival of our species.