Thursday, December 17, 2009

Dredd discusses dementia, personal and social

Is America suffering through a period of social dementia? Have we all lost contact with reality as a group? That is an implication of Max Blumenthal's discussion of Secular Salvation Narratives. Dredd discusses this. Dredd's discussion goes further than Blumenthal's by suggesting that America as a society has culturally lost contact with reality. If that's true, then it goes to the very core of our culture, and that hinges on the nature of narratives. So first let's briefly look at what Dredd suggests.

Dredd is describing America as a society in which certain elites wanted to take control of the population, but instead of using the brute force techniques of government (which they concluded would not work) they developed a set of propaganda narratives to control how Americans think. Go read Dredd's article. Propaganda that works does so by creating a preferred narrative that shifts the culture. "Preferred?" Well, "Propaganda" naturally means that the narrative desired by the propagandists is the goal.

The psychologists say that the human memory is physically laid down in a narrative framework. That, it seems to me, is the basis for the way culture is passed on from one generation to another and probably the way information used to be transmitted between families and communities before humans developed technologies to transmit information. In other words, we learn what is important about how society is ordered through the stories we are told.

So exactly what is a narrative? Well, it's a story. That is, it is a set of characters who undergo a series of events, and the events are connected through the means of cause-and-effect. Narratives fit into an overall pattern of beginning, middle and end, and each of those categories has different characteristics and different purposes. I speculate that the human capacity to think in narrative may be the origin of the human ability to recognize time. (The discipline of General Semantics calls this Time Binding.)

The difference between history and a fable is that when one is telling history the details of the events are verified by sources other than just trust in the veracity, memory and accuracy of the story-teller. The tales told by minstrels when they passed from one community to another were generally dependent on the memory of the minstrel. Minstrels seem to have developed poetic techniques as memory aids so that they could remember the details well enough so that when they told the same tale several times, they actually did tell roughly the same story. Remember those poetic techniques. They were methods of using quirks of the brain to better remember details.

Those same narrative techniques that transmit culture also transmit propaganda. The two American business disciplines most closely associated with creating propaganda are Public Relations and Advertising. Both say to the public that they don't change anything, and yet they both sell their services to many businesses and individuals who are investing good money in what they do with the intent of making a profit. Is it reasonable to believe that those businesses exist but do nothing effective? Nope.

I wouldn't dismiss Dredd's description of modern America as a culture that has lost contact with reality. His proposal regarding how it might have happened is missing only a good description of who the culprits who did it are. The social mechanics are certainly in place, and the evidence for the sanity of American culture is weak at best.

Max Blumenthal's description of a secular narrative built up by Obama in order to win the election as President and now dashed in the chaos of the health care reform legislation in the Senate looks like a good explanation for the mass depression currently being felt by disappointed liberals and progressives.

Anyway, these are my current thoughts on the subject.

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