A Nation of Liars vs. A Single Truth

This is the Age of the Liar. Everything that moves is a product and is marketed. From Presidents to GMO tomatoes to a mass-murdering super-heroes sold to kids, “the free market” is having the impact in our culture of a fundamentalist religion. Is it less violent than ISIS? Some people still think so.

It isn’t like the liars are winning and the truth-tellers are the last of the moral people — the ones who go to farmer’s markets and still remember when there was a peace movement. It’s more like it couldn’t be any other way. Nobody’s heard the truth in years.

Ten or twenty years ago there was still an idea that this bizarro world could still be influenced. There were French anti-consumer theorists and sweatshop product boycotts and Buy Nothing Day. There was something called “Ethical Shopping.” The enterprise had the lightness of assumed hope and even a sense of humor. The malls were still under construction and the end of the world had yet to make its appearance.

Consumer society is a darker thing now. On the page here I put quotes around the word “product”, and so I am able to stop the thing in mid-air, stop it and control about it. Would that we could do this in real life. The products are in us, radiating their lies. Products have crossed the blood-brain barrier.

For a long time there were outposts of honesty. Direct human contact, the shouting gang at the corner bodega or special friendships and romances, without the mediating of iPhones.. Lately any honesty is suspect, caught outside of history. Now “Higher Learning” is plunging students into debt, and “Policing” is racist violence, “Great Men” cheat on their resumes, “Real Estate Development” destroys community and family, “Parks and Recreation” are covered with carcinogenic Glyphosate and “Making a Living” is killing.

Simulated reality is the coin of the realm, the rut that politicians, religious leaders, artists — all public spokespersons — are stuck in, because public figures are products and they dance with teleprompters. The hot entertainment is special effects. We have manufactured apocalypses for our summer blockbusters, but the real apocalypse bearing down upon us is just a bore. Climate change is a bad movie. Climate change bombed.

George Orwell warned us that all economy, culture, government — would come to us from one source, one big brother, like Donald Sutherland in the Hunger Games. Well, we’re on our way. As the biggest corporations continue to merge and surround themselves with private armies — we are lost in the windstorm of a single product. The choice will be life or death, buy or die.

The old handing over of a few bucks to take a useful thing in your hand, and the simple taking of that product home — there is still some of that, but it’s a throwback. As the driverless cars, drones and robots gather for their instructions, the product feels strange in our hand as we take it from the shelf. We are walking into a Philip K. Dick short story. Our jobs are to sit at computers, low-level killers who push pixels around. We are liars shielded by the monoculture. We haven’t heard the truth in years.

The Age of Lies is inescapable. We buy things with money we don’t have; and forget the purchase with a memory we can’t remember having. The marketing itself is the new product.

An honest emotion, like the hysteria of a woman watching the murder of a loved one with her iPhone turned on, say, when this woman screams into public view, she will captivate an intense audience, for a while. We are scandalized by a few seconds that isn’t a lie. Some will say a hysterical cop did this. Others will say that it was the market, probably a badly programmed robot.

The Age of the Liar is a way of life with thousands of lies releasing within each of us day in and day out. The lies are programmed to narcoticize us into this fatal “normal.” We mistake the commercial messaging for heartbeats, for breaths. We are caught in the wrong womb. To tell the truth would be The Great Escape.

And then the truth shakes us like the earth quaking… It is unmistakable. When I first heard that Zuccotti Park would be occupied. I did a double take and ran to the subway with my family — let’s go! …and the first moment I heard that Michael Brown was murdered and the Ferguson people were rising up and the moment of the Kayaktavists of Seattle and the first seconds of hearing the story of Standing Rock.

Despite all the lies, the truth is told. And if it is told and backed up by the risking-of-life that telling the truth demands in this age of lies, then it shakes us awake. Suddenly it is the thing that our conscience remembers. In body and soul, we want the truth.

Reverend Billy’s most recent book is titled, “The Earth Wants You!” Read more at www.revbilly.com.

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