By Mankh (Walter E. Harris III). Axis of Logic
note: While a recent essay by the author, "Theaters War, Absurd, Educational, and Otherwise," addressed the variety of archetypal theaters in the world, this piece highlights a cast of characters aka actors.
As the theater saying goes, "There are no small actors, only small parts." However, in the mainstream media political theater there are pre-dominantly small actors playing large parts. With their teleprompters, pre-packaged hairdos, (with emphasis) important sounding words, and (pause and look stern like a father figure) scripted facial expressions . . . it's a wonder people discuss the issues of the day as if the marionettes had had the ideas in the first place.
To prove the puppet point, The Daily Show and The Colbert Report frequently show clips from numerous news shows in which the exact same catchphrases are spoken from a variety of mouths. You don't have to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce that these are programmed scripts, or at least talking points, coming from corporate bosses, political honchos, and god knows where else. With a less than three-minute humorous clip called "Talking Points," Jon Stewart explains and shows the phenomenon to a T.1
The Origin of Deregulation?
The ancient Greeks seem to have discovered a dividing line between genuine-fake (actor) and fake-fake (con-artist). "Whereas hypokrisis applied to any sort of public performance (including the art of rhetoric), hypokrites was a technical term for a stage actor and was not considered an appropriate role for a public figure. In Athens in the 4th century BC, for example, the great orator Demosthenes ridiculed his rival Aeschines, who had been a successful actor before taking up politics, as a hypokrites whose skill at impersonating characters on stage made him an untrustworthy politician." For a full explanation of "hypocrisy," see note link below.2
Who is pulling the strings of this 24-7 puppet theater whose players silently beg for a spray of WD-40 to loosen their joints?
It's deeper than the corporate money, the arms manufacturers, the oil-mongers, the Pentagon, Congress, National Security State, etc. As with any story, this one has a subtext: Empire enacted by control-freakers peddling a holier-and-mightier-than-thou department of vice and virtue with enough extras (common folk) to foot the bill and help put on the show. In this theater, off-color language, nudity, controversial artistic expression, ecstatic states (except for alcohol), and outright laughter at the hypocrisy are some of the vices, whereas drone attacks, torture, etc. (authorized by marionette masters) pose as virtues of the casus belli.
The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, a book by Nick Turse, gives a statistically detailed overview of how President Eisenhower's warning about the Military-Industrial Complex has turned out to be far too tame. The systemic "Complex" is in fact quite complex, creeping its way into online gaming, universities, products (from electronics to doughnuts), to services (from golfing to massages for CIA agents hunting terrorists), and on and on. Turse's most recent article, "Our Commando War in 120 Countries: Uncovering the Military's Secret Operations In the Obama Era," gives further examples of the scope of the mission.3
Years ago Monty Python joked about the Spanish Inquisition: "Our chief weapon is surprise... surprise and fear... fear and surprise... Our two weapons are fear and surprise... and ruthless efficiency... Our three weapons are fear, and surprise, and ruthless efficiency... and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope..."4 Their comedic sketch portrays much of the driving force behind any system that seeks to control others — for all its ruthlessness, the Empire Complex is quite efficient, and fear is its biggest psychological weapon.
The REALLY Big Shew
In the world of TV entertainment, Ed Sullivan was famous for saying, "We have a really big shew." To face the so-called real world, it is necessary to not only look beyond the puppets but beyond the puppeteers.
From Hindu and other Asian philosophies comes a phrase to describe the "complex" world based on every man for himself: MahaMaya, the Great Illusion, which is to say that ultimately all the material-world bullshit is not real in the sense of what truly brings us to this lovely planet to coexist together. Yet, part of the deal of being here is to deal with such stuff as if it is real, because it can and does affect us directly or indirectly.
Another Hindu concept, lila, provides one method for dealing with the illusions. Lila essentially means that reality serves as a playground, with Brahman as The One who is really pulling everybody's strings. Thus, the human journey becomes a kind of grand hide-and-seek game we are all playing with ourselves, those around us, and our gods. This life is all just a play, so don't take it too seriously — yet again, sometimes we must deal with the serious.
While the male-dominated authority figures often get the finger pointed at them for wreaking havoc on the planet, there are significant seductive counterparts often playing the roles of femme fatales. As example, TV, magazine, and online commercials inevitably pitch potential sex as the reward of purchase. Considering that many call the planet Mother Earth, isn't it ironic that so many women do the sales-luring for environmentally destructive corporate masters? And, in the world of advertisements, males are typically portrayed as stupidly incompetent or macho.
It is theatrically interesting to note that cosmetics aka makeup is a huge industry (sometimes animal-tested), as is wardrobe (sometimes at the expense of sweatshop labor), while much of humanity hums along on an electrical grid (man-made lighting department), oblivious to the powers of the sun, moon, and stars.
Hypocrisy aaaaand . . . Action!
In the corporate-political theater the actors typically say one thing but their actions belie the script, as these pathologically hypocritical headlines and news bits reveal:
"Imperial Psychosis: We Pour Trillions into Empire While Gutting Programs Americans Depend On"5
"U.S. Military Investigation Shows U.S. Tax Dollars Funneled To Afghan Taliban"6
"U.S. Loses $34 Billion On Iraq, Afghanistan War Service Contracts"6
"The U.S. government claims there is insufficient evidence to suggest dust and debris inhaled after the World Trade Center attacks has caused cancer.”7
Can we get a standing ovation and some petty cash for medical services for the true Patriots?!
Comedians, Activists, and Other Players
How does one deal with the faux (pronounced "foe") theater of our times? Stephen Colbert plays the role of a pompous pundit on his satirical news show, The Colbert Report. Like a double agent, such posturing allows him to seemingly be a part of the political theater while actually poking fun at it. He also manages to pitch popular products while at the same time spoofily trashing them.
Tim DeChristopher's acting role was full of good intentions, but the Empire Complex saw otherwise. Acting for social justice, he pretended to be a legitimate bidder: "Known as "Bidder 70," he was sentenced on July 26, 2011, to two years in a US federal prison and $10,000 fine for a heroic and creative act of non-violent civil disobedience. Tim's sentence is a flagrant case of injustice. This case originated three years ago when Tim bid for oil and gas leases on several parcels of federal land even though he couldn't pay for them. His bids jeopardized the Bush Administration's fire sale of valuable public land in the dying days of its time in power. Tim's was a desperate bid to prevent a greater crime, a bid to save America's wilderness for future generations and to highlight the immorality of burning coal, oil, and gas. Climate change, habitat destruction, air pollution, water pollution are ugly legacies that Tim was hoping to avert."8
Shakespeare's oft-quoted lines from As You Like It deserve repeating:
All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,
His acts being seven ages.
What sort of player are you?
As the "Paper Moon" song lyrics go:
It's a Barnum and Bailey world
Just as phony as it can be
But it wouldn't be make-believe
If you believed in me
If in place of "me" you put your deepest passion or what most irks you to action, you just might discover your role or real work in the world. And if lucky, your play.
Mankh (Walter E. Harris III) is an essayist and resident poet on Axis of Logic. In addition to his work as a writer, he is a small press publisher and Turtle Islander. You can contact him via his literary website.
READ MORE OF MANKH'S POEMS AND ESSAYS ON AXIS OF LOGIC
- Talking Points
- Our Commando War in 120 Countries
- Monty Python - The Spanish Inquisition
- Imperial Psychosis
- Democracy Now! Headlines
- Democracy Now! Headlines
- Tim DeChristopher, A New Hero