When magicians pull a trick on curious, hapless bystanders, they ensure that the trick is happening right in front of their blighted eyes. The majority of the trick happens in plain sight, not behind the magician’s ears or under the table, but right in his hands. How does the bystander not notice it when it’s so obvious: because he’s distracted. Distraction is the better part of deception.
The Nigerian author and Booker-Prize winner Ben Okri once said: “The magician and the politician have much in common: they both have to draw our attention away from what they are really doing.” One can easily see the symmetry between the magician’s art and the politician’s hands. Politicians have been distracting their populace for centuries. What’s different now, what’s the purpose for writing this: the uber mediazation of civilization. That doesn’t sound right. But it’s not meant to. It’s meant to sound ugly, because it expiates something unpleasant.
That unpleasantness is this: the real problems of this world are not the problems we are confronted with. Now, let me not be misquoted, this is by no means a conspiracy theory. Conspiracies are for superstitious-minded cretins. This is an observation. More akin to a theory than a conspiracy.
So politicians are like magicians, both masters of distraction. Whilst the magician uses cards, coins or veils for his tricks, politicians use the world-wide media. And I’m not just talking mainstream media like CNN or Al Jazeera. I mean the all-pervasive, Big Brother-media that enlists in its uniform ranks the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, blogs, websites, documentary-makers and even MTV.
It would be a moronic statement to say all these institutions are conspiring (there’s that word again) together to influence what we see and think. You wouldn’t put that plot in a shit novel. Let’s be more intelligent and say, there is a kind of natural selection at work here. And we, the viewers, readers, consumers: we are the ones that select what stays and what goes. Therein lies the bitching part: so long as the media is at our mercy, adapting and evolving according to our tastes, it becomes one-track minded, business-minded and deceitful.
We are all of us inured by the drama of Syria. It’s captivating, like a war-drama or reality show cum telenovela. So many actors are involved. So wait, Turkey is allied with the US but the US is allied with the Kurds who are against the Turks? That’s a scriptwriter’s wet-dream! No wonder we tune in. And then there’s tragedy the likes of which are too Shakespearean for hyperbole. Not even Shakespeare wrote so many good tragedies using children! He never wrote about children washed dead on shore or boys being pulled out of the rubble, bloodied, stoic, their families dead in the rubble. This is TV gold.
With regards to social media, remember how trendy ALS was! A crippling neurological disease that paralyses its sufferer and kills them prematurely. A perfect condition to make a viral challenge for! Ice-bucket the disease, why not. Oh and the world’s greatest-living genius Stephen Hawking suffers from it too. Brilliant! Who knew ALS could be as catchy as Gangman Style?
Charities are quite a hit on social media, too. All of you must get on your Facebook wall posts saying something to the effect of: share this and we’ll raise awareness for breast cancer. Say a prayer to cure Aids. It’s the social media version of when Bono clicked his fingers and killed an African child. This is better than Game of Thrones any day!
This is what we all want to see. We are all gossips, nothing gives us more of a kick than someone else’s suffering. This is the era of the mass-schadenfreude. Just tune into CNN and watch them interview the widow of a recently shot black man in America. Watch how they play soft piano music in the background and zoom in on her hot-fresh tears.
I can’t go much further in this tone: frankly this is all too disgusting. The privacy of the mourner, the sufferer, is dead, extinct, like most species that have ever lived, like most species are in fact going extinct. Freudian slip there; might as well use it as a segway. Species extinction. The fact that we are living through one of the greatest mass extinctions since the annihilation of the dinosaurs. But that’s not quite as kinky as Trump, is it? And how can global warming ever hope to compete with the charms of Hillary Clinton!
So long as the cheap, common, rampant tastes of the masses continue to dictate what the media feeds us, we are allowing ourselves to be tricked. So long as we focus on sop-stories, over-emphasise crises like Syria and North Korea, we continue to ignore, and be left ignorant of, so many other tragedies (and wonders) that are occurring all over our ever-shrinking planet.
This is not to say that Syria isn’t important. That it isn’t a disaster humanity should be ashamed of. But it doesn’t standalone.
Why aren’t there news cameras in La Chureca? You don’t know what it is? Well, to be fair, no one has ever done an ice-bucket challenge for it! La Chureca is the largest garbage dump in Central America, in the country of Nicaragua. Remember Nicaragua, the country Ronald Reagan, the cowboy, invaded and forever de-stabilised because he mistrusted the freely elected socialist Sandinista regime? This the man who purportedly brought an end to the Cold War! La Chureca covers an area of four square miles and over a thousand people live there.
Yes, live there. In the “City of Trash.” The Churequeros live in homes made of trash and scavenge for food, alongside anaemic-looking dogs, crows and cows, in the mounds of garbage, hoping for leftover scraps. There is an elementary school in the Chureca, kids wear uniforms and everything, and when they graduate most of them end up working, like the rest of their families, in the landfill, for long hours and little pay. When you see scenes of 11-year-old boys closing their eyes because of the toxic fumes as they scavenge through the garbage, you can’t not ask yourself: how can humanity allow this to happen?
Not far from Nicaragua there is a similar, equally de-humaising horror. Albeit with a deceptively magnanimous name: Sun City. This is the shanty town of Port-au-Prince, Haiti. The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. The area is ruled by armed gangs, teenagers are routinely killed in gang wars, and if they survive that they have a pretty good chance of dying of Aids. It has no sewage systems, only 2 government schools and a hospital, and it truly is the last place on god’s green earth. It’s like North Korea mixed with a favela.
And speaking of god’s green earth: why is no one talking, at least, with due seriousness, about the environmental crises that threaten us? Destruction of rainforests. Over-fishing. The pollution of the waters and the great barrier reefs of the oceans. The trophy-hunting of African animals by those with more money than sense. Heating poles. Mass extinction. Millions of sharks being killed just so their fins can be used in Chinese Viagra-soup. Same with rhinos and tigers.
The irony is that the impact of man on nature isn’t tv-gold, somehow. And neither is the impact of nature on man. Viewers seem to have a short attention span. Remember the Haiti earthquake of 2010? You think it’s over just because CNN has stopped reporting on it? Or the recent earthquake in Amatriciana, Italy, it only happened a few months ago, and it’s nowhere to be seen. Tell that to the countless people who are still homeless. Same with the Nepal earthquake. Or the previous earthquake in Italy a few years back. Viewers like their tragedies like they like their cakes: fresh. When it’s stale, move on. But it doesn’t work that way. Only in media-land.
And finally, you know the media is deceiving us (for no conspiratorial reason apart from the aforementioned natural selection) when even the causes for optimism are not highlighted. Just to reiterate once more, by media I don’t just mean news and newspapers, I mean the whole thing, Facebook, radio, MTV, everything (why MTV, I have to clarify: it deceives us into believing that the only music around us today is made by perverted little-girls who are any grown paedo’s wet-dream: there is real music out there: just listen to Nick Cave’s generation-defining new album The Skeleton Tree).
Rarely do you see cropping up on your Twitter wall a quote or a video of Steven Pinker, Jane Goodall, Peter Singer, or Matt Ridley. Scientists and philosophers who give cause for hope, that tell us the world not only can get better, but is getting better. And, to finish off this doom-and-gloom article, I’d like to make up for that lack on your feeds by sharing some videos of these beautiful minds, who offer solutions and un-filtered intelligence.
When you finish watching them, do yourself a favour, do your own research. Think for yourself.