Prompted by a lot of what I see in social media, it appears that we as a society are blurring the lines between what is real and what is illusion. If we are intentionally entering into this fantasy, such as playing “Second Life” or other virtual games, or attending a “Harry Potter” movie, then fine. We are consciously choosing to spend time in a mystical, magical alternative reality as a relief from the real world, as pure entertainment or even escapism.
But when we start accepting fantasy as reality simply because it is labeled as if real, we are entering a dangerous world of self delusion. This is when escapism gets dangerous, in my view.
As we have all witnessed in our government leaders, there is a common practice of repeating an assertion over and over again so that eventually enough people believe the assertion is a truth. Paraphrasing Nazi Joseph Goebbels, “Tell a lie long enough and it becomes the truth.” Failing to distinguish between fact-based reality and a frequently-expressed ideology is dangerous because we start confusing the two and begin living lies!
Allowing lies (fantasy) to shape how we live and relate to one another is a disservice to the soul, completely out of integrity with our world. It means living in a falsified reality rather than living in the world as it is. We are culpable by subjecting ourselves to influence by a system we know to be false.
Another example from Facebook: Total strangers invite us to be their “Friends” – not “Connections” as LinkedIn called our virtual assemblage of contacts before Facebook came on the scene, but “Friends”! I don’t know about you but I have pretty clear criteria for who my friends will be.
Another newly emerging example from LinkedIn: People I do not know are endorsing me for skills I don’t think I have. In other words, these “endorsements” are more likely given in order to prompt a reciprocal response, making LinkedIn endorsements totally meaningless, not to be relied upon by any thinking person.
I’m reminded of an earlier confusion with what was true shortly after the printing press made it so easy to publish. One of the phenomena that came to the surface was that people started confusing the truth with what had been printed – as in if they saw it in print it was fact. To some degree that may also apply today.
Confusing the truth with an untruth has already impacted our quality of life. Keep in mind that all of us don’t need to be living lies as long as some of us are. This confuses the issues and restricts progress on matters important for the masses. As long as there is any confusion about any of our global crises, corrective measures are hijacked at worst or delayed at a minimum. Matters such as bank regulation, healthcare and campaign reform, environmental protections and gun control are only five crises that have gotten confused enough to prevent meaningful interventions in the U.S. In some of these cases, delays brought on by confusion can be just as deadly as a out-and-out hijacking.
I am reminded of Rebecca Costa’s conclusions, in her book The Watchman’s Rattle, (see my earlier article on this) as she researched failed empires throughout history. Each empire she studied failed after two changes occurred; first, when collaboration and cooperation turned into gridlock (see Washington as a glaring example of gridlock) and, second, when ideology replaced facts. It seems we passed both these phases some time ago. So can collapse be far behind?