Saturday, July 08, 2006
The Things We Think We Know
Charles' post about how even the lefty blogs seem to be ignoring the crisis in Mexico got me to thinking a bit about the things we think we know. We are shaped, whether we like it or not, by "consensus reality" -- and the consensus-setters are the mass media and whoever tells them what messages to present. The very frames we think in are a product of this. (Why, to cite an example often used by Mike Malloy, do newspapers and news programs have "business" sections and no "labor" sections? Or, why does a large portion of the public believe that no human endeavor is worth doing unless the person or persons doing it can make money off of it?) The consensus reality most Americans -- that is, those who aren't Hispanic or who don't live within five hundred miles of the Mexican border -- have grown up with is that Mexico is this funny little country with the irredeemably corrupt government that keeps sending us cheap labor but is otherwise not all that important (the subtext being that they aren't important because they are brown people). The nuts and bolts of Mexican life and politics simply aren't covered by the news outlets that most Americans see. Which is why I'm glad that Charles is here, and that he knows Spanish, and that he knows statistics.
You've made a very important observation, PW. Human beings have a capacity to create a mental reality completely divorced from what their senses and reason should tell them. The tulip bulb mania in Holland, where the price of tulip bulbs skyrocketed despite the rather obvious points that rare flowers are not necessities and that they can be cultivated and made less rare, is not an exception. It is an illustration of just how irrational mankind normally is.
We Americans are in a bubble of unreality much more dangerous than tulip mania. After World War II, we were the strongest power. But we couldn't even defeat North Korea, aided as it was by China and the USSR. We couldn't defeat North Vietnam, which got far less help from its traditional enemy China, and limited help from the USSR. So why do we think we can defeat the Iraqi insurgency or Iran?
After World War II, our industrial plant was the only one left intact. So, we were able to export like mad. But it has been 30 years since we started to slip into debtor status. At first we were assured that services (like credit cards) would save us. They helped a lot, but eventually the effect faded as competitors emerged. Then we were told that high tech would save us. It helped a lot, but eventually the effect faded because competitors emerged. Now we're being told that "dark matter" will save us from debt. But "dark matter" is some mysterious means by which US investments are more efficient than investments abroad-- presumably because we are financial wizards. Investments like, say, Toyota vs. GM?
We Americans did have many advantages. And once Katie Couric was young. Things change. We have to change with them. The bubble has reached its outer limits. Reality is about to break through, and it's very different than what we imagine it to be. Even the best informed of all of us will be surprised.
Whether they are competent or not, whether they know it or not, the architects of the Mexican vote fiasco have played the "chaos is the plan" card.
Have they considered how this will affect the cities of the Southwest?
Have they considered how $5/gallon gasoline will affect the U.S.?
Only insofar as it will briefly line their already-overflowing pockets.
We have now a case of the blind leading the naked. But millions of naked people can do wonders when provoked!
There's nothing like a happy metaphor to go along with coffee and Sunday Baroque on the radio.
If I seem mentally a little ragged it's because I just finished a 60-hour week at The Great Muffin Factory and my brain has been stretched like taffy.
Carry on, batsies.
More blogs about politics.