October 09, 2023

The Great Charade

In an interview she gave in 1980, the eminent British writer Doris Lessing said the following: "I can't remember any time in my life where I wasn't sitting looking at the grown-up scene and thinking, this must be some great charade they've all agreed to play." On an intuitive level, I had a similar perception about my childhood environment when I was about 8 or 9, and subsequent events have only served to reinforce that perception. It's one reason why I have been attracted to Lessing's novels, some of which reiterate this theme--in particular, Briefing for a Descent into Hell, which I occasionally assigned to my classes when I was teaching at various universities.

"The Great Charade" is a theme that goes by other names, in particular "The Emperor's New Clothes," a story by the Danish writer Hans Christian Andersen (it has been translated into more than 100 languages); or "Orwellian Newspeak"; or "The World Turned Upside Down," the title of a book by the British historian Christopher Hill. A more accurate title might be "Reality Turned Upside Down," for that is what we see in the MSM and their interpretation of daily events. I frequently read the 'news' and say to myself, Has everyone gone completely nuts? Like Jack Kennedy with the Russian missiles in Cuba in 1962, Vladimir Putin saw that he had to safeguard his country's borders against America and NATO, which finally necessitated invading the Ukraine. This obvious fact is recognized by only a tiny handful of astute political analysts (Mearsheimer, Ritter, Pilger, Sachs...); the rest of the world is appalled at Putin as some latter-day Hitler, ignoring what the Russian foreign minister correctly described as a proxy war against Russia, in which the Ukraine is nothing more than fodder. Self-righteous Americans, deluded up to their eyeballs, jump up and down and wave the Ukrainian flag, while American universities actually think it makes perfect sense to cancel courses in Doestoevsky(!!).

A similar charade pervades the coverage of, and reaction to, Hamas' uprising against Israel. Most of the 'analysis' of causes is plainly stupid: it was caused by a failure of Israeli intelligence. Wha?? Much to my amazement, only the NYT seems to have gotten it right: this 'intelligence' thesis is a load of crap, and the real cause goes back to 1948, when the Jews drove 700,000 Palestinians off their land. (I reproduce excerpts from the Times article in the previous post.) Meanwhile, the whole world is outraged at the Hamas uprising, when they too would be retaliating if something similar had happened to them. Excepting Palestinian commentators, the NYT emerges as the sole voice of sanity amidst--once again--a great charade.

One great danger posed by Donald Trump--and I agree that it is a danger--is that of falsifying reality, in Orwellian style; a charade, turning black into white, up into down, and so on. The raw empirical truth is that Trump lost the 2020 election, pure and simple. But if Mr. Trump wins the election of 2024 and ascends to the White House, that complete falsehood will become The New Truth. My question is: How is that different from making Russia the culprit in the Ukraine war, or making Hamas the culprit in their attack on Israel? All of it--Trump, the Ukraine, Israel--is reality turned upside down: a charade, as Doris Lessing said, that grown-ups have all agreed to play. Some grown-ups, is all I can think to say.