A Slice of Post-bomb Bangkok Reality by Christopher G. Moore

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In Bangkok, press reports of the bombing said at least 20 people had been killed and more than a 100 people were injured at Erawan Shrine on early Monday evening during rush hour. http://edition.cnn.com/2015/08/17/asia/thailand-bangkok-bomb/ The subsequent police investigation of the crime scene, the announcements by various officials in government, and the post-bombing analysis pulsates along swift currents of the social media in Thailand and elsewhere. One of the many stories is that of BBC correspondent Jonathan Head who several days after the bombing found pieces of shrapnel which he tried to hand over to police only to be told they station was closed for business.

Here’s a link to Jonathan Head BBC report where he seeks to handover evidence to the police in Bangkok: http://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-34006372

Head’s adventure with the police has elements we come to expect from contemporary reporting on major disaster scenes: irony, sadness, inexplicable official response and disturbing lack of professionalism by those on the frontline. Evidence connected to a major incident involving the death of many people had been refused by the police in front of police headquarters in Bangkok.

Head has provided evidence of a much deeper story beyond the refusal of police to accept evidence. I want to look at that story in this essay in the context of a book I’ve finished reading. The book tells the story about the process of how the manufacturing process of truth serves a reality designed to favor the interest of the powerful.

The book was written by Matthew B. Crawford, and titled The World Beyond Your Head, Farrar, Straus and Giroux(2015). He has three messages worth considering.

1/Our connection to reality is largely a consumer product that has been manufactured.

2/Truth’ isn’t found in reality any more than a bottle of vintage wine is found on the moon; truth has become indistinguishable from any other product and is processed and packaged like any other commodity.

3/Designing the architecture of reality is a business and political model. There is profit and power in such design.

4/The modern cult of personal autonomy, fueled by the consumer-based political and economic world, rests on an individually atomized notion of free will.

On lying, the whole structure of manufactured reality is built from lies. The Matrix was a little sign that maybe people should pay attention. They don’t. They’re distracted. Look, there’s a squirrel and they forget a moment ago they were upset about something. But they forgot what it was. Lies need stupid and ignorant people to thrive and create the vast colonies you see around the globe. None of the official stories hold together any longer. Presidents, generals, ministers, all of them avoid the truth. You can understand in a strange way. Truth is complex, vague around the edges, no real certainty and constantly needs updating. Lies avoid all of that mess.

Reality, unmediated by governments and corporation, is brimming with noise. Embedded in all of that noise there may be a signal. But it takes an enormous amount of effort, resources and patience to find a meaningful signal in the noise. The unpredictability, randomness and uncertainty of reality causes people to feel anxiety, frustration and fear. Emotional needs compel most people to seek certainty, peace, and predictability. Everywhere you look, someone will be offering you a platform that promises resolution of these problems. The scaffolding is hidden out of sight and the more shoddy ones collapse around us every day and we hardly notice.

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There are good emotional reasons to recoil from the raw material of reality. It’s not a hard sell. Sifting through reality for the truth is more painful than going along with the lies. People are basically lazy except they emotionally are better able to deal with half-truth, lies and just-so stories than that dark, hidden place called reality. We go shopping for the truth among the purveyors who promise they know the reality. Who offers the best deal? That deal is the one that sit well with what we wish reality to be and mainly that is enough for most people.

Without a deep-seated narcissism we would challenge the stripped down, communized comic strip reality and make independent inquiries. On this basis, reality is what you choose it to believe, and that choice lines up with your personal beliefs, cultural habits, and aligns the reality jigs designed by the commercial world. We don’t set out to upturn our internal reality. Quite the opposite, we do our best to confirm our reality through representations made by others who share our beliefs.

Why does such a powerful force easily capture and hold us hostage for a lifetime? We are afraid of the messy, unpredictable, contradictory and confusing state of affairs that lies outside the doorstep of the commercial lies from the private sector supplemented by the official lies told by governments. There is no longer a lie-free space to escape to—it has vanished in the workplace, schools, shops, clubs, shopping malls, restaurants, airports, hospitals, etc.—all the public spaces we pass through have been colonized by truth fabricators. The images and voices of the hawkers are all around us—in the newspapers, TV, social media, film makers, authors, generals, politicians, celebrities, and board rooms.

There is an entire industry devoted to creating ‘your’ experience, ‘your’ style, ‘your’ self and ‘your’ knowledge about how the world works and ‘your’ place in it. What you know and believe has been through committees, consultants and experts, audience tested, rolled out and delivered to with the right emotional hooks to grab your attention. And what is worthy of our attention? Or more important what is your attention worth? Look at Google, Facebook and Twitter and you’d find it’s worth a great deal of money.

We hunger for ideas and representations that put us in the centre of the action, of the world and reality. Like a virus it infects our view of the world and each other. We think we can step out of ourselves and have a look around as if we are from an alien world; we have no third-party vantage point. All we can do is engage in the world, with each other, and accept that co-operation and competition are normal, and that normality includes conflict and uncertainty. What politician or corporation is going to abandon the truth manufacturing business? None of them will because it has no benefit.

We no longer have to be force fed, as full-blown narcissists we are addicted to constant reconfirmation that our psychic needs are being attended to. At some level, people must know that what is being fed is noise. But it is pleasant, addictive noise that lulls, soothes, and comforts. By disconnecting us from reality and feeding our addiction to fantasy, we find the real world jarring and soon enough retreat to the manufactured reality.

We need to live in a world that is represented as real. It turns out that government officials and corporations have long ago figured out that our basic physic needs are vastly more important than evidence or facts, and those who can serve those emotional needs to feel secure and protected, popular and loved, admired and special, will win wealth, fame and power. It is a dirty little racket—this marketing of lies. There is no official or commercial incentive to offer people the red pill—the Matrix is too seductive and powerful to resist.

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