Andras once told me a Sufi story about a mystic who warned the people the river would soon stop flowing and not to drink the water when it returned or they would go mad, one guy hoarded water in a cave, soon the river stopped then started again, he got lonely and went to check out town. He found everyone drinking the water. When he asked what happened they attacked him, they had gone mad! Injured, he returned to the cave but eventually couldn’t take the loneliness and returned to town, drank the water and joined everyone being in a state of madness.
Something about that story pokes at the balloon of my memory while reading more from This Is Not Propaganda by Peter Pomerantsev, when he explores troll farms and people whose jobs are attacking social media, generating influence or fomenting hostility, public cancelation or violence. The fights over disinformation, especially people who don’t believe that they themselves could be consuming manipulated views, profiting someone/ something else, are very amazing to me. And where have I come upon it before? It’s music business history – Payola 101? In class I like having discussions about the influence of money and the success of songs. There is money promoting certain songs, that’s why you scratch your head when you hear something uninteresting wondering why would anyone give this the time of day? And there it is again. Someone is investing in this. And weirder than that – as the flow continues the uninteresting song achieves popularity through repetition, like all advertised products do. Maybe you don’t like Home Depot or Baskin & Robbins or McDonalds, but they will go through the mind when one needs to find a screwdriver, an ice cream or fries because they incessantly advertise. Lot of students in the songwriting class believe writing a good song means financial rewards and they get sleepy eyed if I talk capitalism. ho hum. The thing that fascinates me is even if you tell yourself you don’t like that product, you would never support them blah blah blah the fact is, if you read their slogan you are saying it to yourself, like if someone is paranoid about an idea, they almost instantly wish to not hear themselves state this thing anymore and does that work? Nope. One frequently replays it to themselves and its significance inflates. The constant “advertising” of the same thoughts, the same soundbites keeps things rocky. It’s as if interior life, struggles with willpower or self improvement or mindfulness are misinformation wars. People desire to act differently than the way they are, then experience failure, then struggle over whether they actually are being truthful with themselves? As if your self was something that could be held to account.
I wonder if it is possible to imagine you are just an idea called you. Then, all the disappointments around trying to control yourself have a different meaning because you know you are simply not. That’s a real solution to the disinformation wars. Probably results in a long times with states of aloneness. Who wouldn’t want company and drink the water….oy.