“We no longer agree on a common set of facts, on a common reality, and that is a big problem for democracy.” — David Becker, Center for Election Innovation and Research, Jan 6, 2021 on 1A
Part 1 in The Storytelling Species Series
A DANGEROUS GAME
2020 – what more need be said. It was a year of enormous reversals, lost, and tragedy. Colossal waves of misery circumnavigated the global hitting every continent of consciousness like tsunamis of misfortune. These billowing waves of ruin quickly laid waste to norms, routines, and traditions keeping humanity flowing in elaborately engineered channels of business-as-usual.
The cause of this terrific ruinous wave was not a stupendous subterranean seismic shift. Rather it was a submicroscopic infectious bundle of nucleic acid molecules. A minute bundle of pre-life substances that decided long ago it was far more effective to replicate itself inside of the cells of living organisms emerging at the same time long ago. Rather than grow all those high energy organelles themselves, this teensy-weensy replicon simply evolved the capacity to bind to cells of living beings and invade them. Upon gaining entry, the little replicons go to work doing what they are best at doing: replicating. It’s not that hard to understand how a thing that replicates so much mutates and jumps from one species to another.
Before 2020 was half over, it was clear no part of the globe would be spared from the tiny replicon that made the jump to us, and then it got worse. Nevertheless, small pockets of human triumph emerged (places in the world where quick collective action kept the little replicon at bay). I found this website tracking which countries are winning in the fight against COVID-19, which are nearly there, and which need action. I was surprised because thought I knew which ones were winning. It turns out many countries I thought were doing fine have faltered, while others who are winning or nearly there, I’ve never heard of—places like Djibouti, Holy See, and Vanuatu.
To be sure, many of these are smaller countries or island nations, which naturally confers an advantage in winning the war against this tiny replicon. However, the most powerful tool in the arsenal of every continent of consciousness has been messaging a rather new type of communiqué to emerge in the human world. It is a word used frequently in workplace settings. But it is also used wherever there is a need to get a lot of people on the same page to accomplish a collective action.
Study.com defines messaging into 3 types: 1) informational messages communicate routine, repetitive daily tasks or convey instructions, codes, steps, or workplace procedures; 2) persuasive messages are designed to convince an individual or group to take certain specific actions; and 3) goodwill messages are used to show or instill a sense of kindness or friendliness in a workplace or community.
To combat COVID-19, blending these 3 types of messaging together has proved to be the most effective strategy in repelling the tiny virion. It turns out this blend of messaging is a modern distillation of a much older form of human communication, storytelling.
Every people, culture, and civilization that has ever existed has stories that are passed down from one generation to the next. Stories tell what has happened to the people through time. Stories weave wonderous narratives of where the people have come from and where they may be going. Stories entertain, frighten, warn, and make fun of aspects of being human and of living together in groups. Some of our most beloved stories are of individuals who overcome overwhelming obstacles to accomplish something extraordinary that benefits the people. These are the stories of heroes, winners, celebrities, and luminaries—a civilization’s shining stars of how to be a superb human being in the adoring eyes of all its citizen members.
Almost as beloved but for different reasons are stories of individual who commit dreadful, appalling, horrifying atrocities on other living beings. These stories tend to serve as warnings But sometimes they get twisted and become a template for emptying the space inside the minds of individual citizens and filling this space with warped and twisted content designed to serve the narrator of these stories. When this happens, it is always a dangerous time for everyone in a group.
Stories have long been used to galvanize collective action for as long as mankind can remember. They are powerful tools because they work inside the invisible spaces of the human mind. They settle into the darkest recesses of the human psyche. They take root and grow within the human soul.
Throughout human history stories have galvanized individuals living within a group or civilization to strive for something greater or for something mingy. Stories reveal the best and worst of the people who tell them because they reveal pieces of their soul.
As the global pandemic made its watery march around the world, I began to see stories emerge from people that shocked and surprised me. Many stories barely clung to reality. Rather these stories seemed to float in the air like colorful bubbles that would most surely pop as soon as encountering the first blade of grass growing out of the Rock of Reality… the one we all live on… our beloved Planet Earth.
In this blog series, I will explore how stories alter human reality. It is something we’ve been doing for a very long time. The difference now is there are so many more humans living on Earth all creating slightly different versions of reality inside their mind. These realities take form and burst into the world whenever an individual acts upon their inner stories. All of us have them. These are the stories we tell ourselves about what has happened to us through space and time. It is self-talk, but inner talk that creates bubble-like realities inside our minds.
We need these mind bubbles. They generate energy that power our minds. It is very much like how living cells grew organelles, little bubbles, inside the cell to power the cell, creating life! Mind bubbles create awaken consciousness. There are other organelles inside the mind creating human consciousness, but I will focus on the ones creating mind bubbles through stories, which we consume to feed our mind.
Most modern human beings have forgotten this. Forgetting this, we have descended into consumption patterns that are quite destructive. It’s a lot like eating fatty, sugary, highly processed morsels of food that has become more artificial than natural to sustain the body. It doesn’t end well. The same is true of feeding the human mind, it requires nourishment and this nourishment sustains the soul.
I believe humanity is playing a dangerous game. Most of it is occurs inside our minds until it erupts into action. When action is informed by reality, humans have done and accomplished amazing feats. However, when human action is informed by human fantasy and misinformation, terrible things can occur.
Today, one of these bubbles popped in a most distributing way.
Most of us have stumbled into this game. Many have been pushed by super manipulators of dangerous and false narratives. What these stories do is stir up sleeping forces living deep inside us. Most modern men and women have forgotten they are there. Without the light of consciousness, they can be deadly. It is a game humanity has been playing for awhile and it has been steadily dragging the entire world to the brink of catastrophe. If humanity survives this game, future humans will remember 2020 and the beginning of 2021 as the beginning of the coming catastrophe that will resonate throughout the entire century created by a meltdown of the human mind.
A deep taproot feeding our deadly descent is a collective unwillingness to Bear Accurate Witness to reality. It is a concept my friend Barry Kort brought to my attention recently. I will talk more about it later and recount our conversation in October/November in AfterMath: The Magical Calculus of Consciousness.
In upcoming blogs, I’ll explain more of what I mean that we are a storytelling species playing a dangerous game of bubble realities. These games transpire inside our minds and can turn off our hearts. This ability gives humans tremendous power. Stories can ignite the human soul and inspire it to act in terrible ways. Stories can also extinguish the flame of destruction and heal hearts and souls. Both of these potentials come from inside us. As perhaps the only storytelling species of planet Earth, we hold the magical power to create or destroy our shared reality through stories.
Yesterday, I was working on this piece while listening to NPR as I usually do. When it got towards 1:00 p.m., FreshAir was airing something I was not as interested in when it occurred to be that the Congressional counts were beginning. So I turned on CNN and listened to it as I wrote. I did not intend to put the videos and pictures above in this piece. At that moment in time, the reality bubble had not yet popped and spilled into reality in disturbing, violent ways.
Just before it did, I began taking pictures and videos to make a short video about dogs watching history (like I did one year earlier during the Impeachment Hearings). I thought it funny and a nice way to document and remember this historic moment. I finished this video just before the Capitol was invaded on Jan 6, 2021–incited by the President’s speech one hour earlier and his steady drip of misinformation that he won the 2020 election by a landslide and the election was stolen from him.
Here is the first video I made yesterday. Moments after making this, CNN began to cut to marchers surging upon the Capitol.
After the Capitol was breached and distributing reports streamed across the airways, I kept filming and made a second more serious video.
These are the Impeachment with dog videos I made a year ago.
This was on the ground footage of one of the first Pro-Trump rally in DC.
And, this was one of first Black Lives Matter protests in DC after Trump violently cleared Lafayette Square for a photo opt.
Some of Jan 6, 2021 AfterMath
Who were the groups at the rally? By Shayan Sardarizadeh of BBC Monitoring — I will be talking about QAnon a little be later in this series. I heard about this guy. Pretty stunning.
What Trump and His Mob Taught the World About America — Anne Applebaum, Staff writer at The Atlantic
I have been following Anne over the past year as she is an expert in these matters and really, really smart! She opens her piece in The Atlantic saying:
“We have promoted democracy in our movies and books. We speak of democracy in our speeches and lectures. We even sing about democracy, from sea to shining sea, in our national songs. We have entire government bureaus devoted to thinking about how we can help other countries become and remain democratic. We fund institutions that do the same.
And yet by far the most important weapon that the United States of America has ever wielded—in defense of democracy, in defense of political liberty, in defense of universal rights, in defense of the rule of law—was the power of example. In the end, it wasn’t our words, our songs, our diplomacy, or even our money or our military power that mattered. It was rather the things we had achieved: the two and a half centuries of peaceful transitions of power, the slow but massive expansion of the franchise, and the long, seemingly solid traditions of civilized debate.“
… She talks about the years after WWII and how America stood as an example, but more than that… a symbol of democracy. Symbols act very powerfully inside the human psyche. Stories use symbols to conduct their magic. Anne goes on saying:
“During this period, many American politicians and diplomats mistakenly imagined that it was their clever words or deeds that persuaded others to join what eventually became a very broad, international democratic alliance. But they were wrong. It was not them; it was us—our example.
Over the past four years, that example has been badly damaged. We elected a president who refused to recognize the democratic process. We stood by while some members of Donald Trump’s party cynically colluded with him, helping him break laws and rules designed to restrain him. We indulged his cheerleading “media”—professional liars who pretended to believe the president’s stories, including his invented claims of massive voter fraud. Then came the denouement: an awkward, cack-handed invasion of the Capitol by the president’s supporters, some dressed in strange costumes, others sporting Nazi symbols or waving Confederate flags. They achieved the president’s goal: They brought the official certification of the Electoral College vote to a halt. House and Senate members and Vice President Mike Pence were escorted out of the legislative chambers. Their staff members were told to shelter in place. A woman was shot to death.“
… Anne talks about how anti-democratic countries are and will continue to use what happened yesterday to push down democratic efforts among their people. They are already twisting what happened at the Capitol yesterday equating the rioters who rampaged the Capitol as the same as the demonstrators in places such as Russia and China that have violently dealt with individuals seeking free and fair elections, equating the MAGA rioters ignited by a false narrative promoted by Trump as the same.
“America’s enemies said less but surely enjoyed the images more. Yesterday morning, after all, the Chinese government arrested the leaders of the democracy movement in Hong Kong. In 2020, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, who did so much to put Donald Trump in the White House, was accused of poisoning his most important political opponent, Alexei Navalny. In recent memory, the Saudi crown prince ordered the gruesome murder of a journalist who was one of his most prominent critics; Iranian, Belarusian, and Venezuelan leaders regularly beat and imprison dissidents in their countries.
After the riot at the Capitol, all of them will feel more confident, more secure in their positions. They use violence to prevent peaceful debate and peaceful transfers of power; now they have observed that the American president does too. Trump has not ordered the murder of his enemies. But now nobody can be sure of what he might do in order to maintain power. Schadenfreude will be the dominant emotion in Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, Caracas, Riyadh, and Minsk. The leaders of those cities—men sitting in well-appointed palaces, surrounded by security guards—will enjoy the scenes from Washington, relishing the sight of the U.S. brought so low.“
Yes indeed, America was significantly damaged yesterday–all in the service of one man’s bruised ego.
Description: “An insurrectionist mob supporting President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday as a part of a riot against the results of the election. Four people died on the Capitol grounds. Pipe bombs and a cooler of Molotov cocktails were found in the area.
Slate’s Aymann Ismail was with some of the insurrectionists as they breached the Capitol:
The people I managed to speak to didn’t seem to understand the gravity of what they had done. Inside a building they had broken into, they described themselves as “peaceful” to me. I talked to a kid from Florida, who must have been no more than 17 or 18. He told me, “This is nothing compared to what Antifa does.” I said, “Look, they’re breaking the glass.” He answered, “Yeah, but at least they’re not destroying the things.” I showed him pictures of things destroyed. It didn’t register. On the way up, there was a woman holding a sign saying, “If we were leftists, we would be rioting.”
After multiple calls to do so by Republicans and Democrats, in the afternoon, President Trump asked the mob to stay peaceful. In the same video posted to Twitter, President Trump also insisted the election was stolen from him, which is a lie. After these videos were posted, the president was banned from his Twitter account for 12 hours.
The insurrection was the third MAGA-related event in the last few months as Trump-affiliated demonstrators previously clashed with counter-protesters and police in November and December.”
One of the guest speakers is talking about the narrative going back decades such as Newt Gingrich saying he wanted to make politics a blood sport (and he has). This speakers says a conscious choice was made to court the worse instincts in their supporters. The problem is once these instincts ignite, the manipulators loss control.
Jen White says: “We knew because he told us over and over.”
Rep Tim Ryan (D-OH) says (approximately): “I’m not impressed with all the Republicans jumping on the right side of history in the last 13 days of the Trump Administration. And the Republicans still riding the Trump bandwagon know better. Ted Cruz, Josh Hawley, and a handful of others. They know better. They received the best education possible in America and still they propped up Trump’s false narrative.”
Andrew Marantz (Staff Writer, The New Yorker; author of “Anti-Social: Online Extremists, Techno-Utopians, and the Hijacking of the American Conversation.”) says (approximately): “We have a much bigger problem going on. Our entire social media empire is a system constructed to hijack the human mind and tap into the lizard brain. It preys on humanity’s worse instincts and keeps them addicted to it.” This is what I’m writing in my book: Sapience!
Description of episode: “In a September presidential debate, President Donald Trump told the Proud Boys “to stand back and stand by.” The Proud Boys are a right-wing extremist group with ties to white supremacy. But those comments weren’t the first time he appeared to encourage violence from his base. And on Wednesday, thousands of pro-Trump insurrectionists stormed the U.S. Capitol building.
Despite previously encouraging them to go to the Capitol, President Trump urged the mob to “go home,” though in the same statement he continued to falsely claim he won the election. And after this, some are wondering whether it’s still safe for the president, and the lawmakers who challenged the vote certification process, to stay in office for the rest of his term.”
Pro-Trump Insurrectionists Cause Chaos At The Capitol — THE KOJO NNAMDI SHOW, Jan 7, 2021
Greg Carr, Chair, Dept. of Afro-American Studies, Howard University, said (roughly): “They… who are they (the people who poured into the Capitol yesterday)… they are the people who see ‘their’ country slipping away… the power they use to have as a majority, as former slave owners and landowners, as people who have become use to having advantages over black and brown citizens of the United States of America. They were promised to bring all these things back… and they saw this promise slipping away… and so they went into ‘their’ house to hold state in ‘their’ country. That is who they are...” (…) “This country was founded on the enslavement of a people. What we saw today is a continuation of this struggle. … There is a moment when the black police officer is retreating up the stairs from the mob chasing him. When he finally gets up to the 4th floor and encounters several white police officers, you can see the moment when he stops and looks at them and you know he is thinking — are they with them or are they with me? He does not advance to defend himself and the capitol until he sees the white officers advancing on the insurrectionists. That moment tells you everything about what was going on yesterday.”
Dana Fisher, Professor of Sociology, University of Maryland; Author, “American Resistance: From the Women’s March to the Blue Wave”, said (roughly when asked what is the difference between a protestor and insurrectionist): “Protesters expertise their right to voice their disagreement to something going on in the country, but protesters do not carry arms, invade a building of government, and call for shooting and hanging the traitors they believe have failed them. These are insurrectionists… these are domestic terrorists…“
Stay safe… remember love always finds the most inclusive, gentle way to live together in peace and harmony. It is our choice to act through love or to act through hate.