Dangerous Simulacra

Throughout this blog and my book,”see my book” I have treated simulacra as a falsity with consequences mainly on the person, the Self.  The danger of repeated false narratives and scripts imposed upon all of us leads to a disaffection, an inauthentic personal life.  That is true and worthy of one’s own effort to counter that component of modern life.

Today, I would examine the dangerous simulacra on a broader more social scale.  The simulacrum a car manufacturer would have us buy into in order to sell us a car is a benign one, compared to the simulacrum that a terrorist believes and would have us join that vision or suffer his or her vendetta.

The terrorists have a world view of offenses given them by a storied narrative.  But as in all simulacra, it is largely a replica and in this case a dangerous one.  Not all simulacra are totally false.  The most dangerous ones have a partial reality, a legitimate starting point that allows the believer to justify its totality.  Most of the dangerous simulacra are composed of philosophical, theoretical objections based on smaller amounts of reality.  They mistake too much rhetoric for reality.

Similarly, the American campus upheaval regarding race and diversity, is also a rhetoric created simulacrum that has a few obscure and only occasional moments of truth that are then raised by the narrative into a wide and consuming reality ignoring the vast strides made in the last 50 years in limiting racism and engendering diversity.  It is a dangerous  simulacrum that motivates the demonstrators and fogs their reality.

In our current age of media and cant, the most modest of complaints can be raised to the level of reality by encompassing them in a grand simulacrum that assumes a life of its own and gives motivation to its believers.  Once in place, they no longer examine or question their own simulacrum which they created and now within which they live.

Democrats do it to Republicans and vice versa.  Governments do it to each other internationally.  And religions do it.  This last dangerous simulacrum is particularly destructive.

Each of the various and many religions of the world are all simulacra.  They have to be.  There is no way that any vision of the presence of God or an after-life can be verified.  It is all belief.  This is a simulacrum without an original.  However the Universe is guided, if at all, or whether there is an after-life is unverifiable.  It is a reality never seen by the living or reported by the dead.  All religions are a construct of a spiritual supposition that is a belief system.  If all religions were tolerant of each other, if each allowed the others to worship as they believe or wish, then these would not be dangerous simulacra.  But as history tells us, tolerance has not been a hallmark of religious dogmas and too often wars and death have been waged in the name of the superiority or correctness of one or the other of some religion somewhere.

People die, people go to war, people kill everyday in the name of some dangerous simulacrum.  A simulacrum, a narrative that is 90% belief and concoction, and very little of a real and vast truth.

Religions in conflict are simulacra in conflict.  Democrats versus Republicans are simulacra in conflict.  Assad versus the rebels are simulacra in conflict.  Communism against capitalism is simulacra in conflict.  A simulacrum is an improvable belief system.  To wage war or to kill over it seems wholly absurd.

To allow each belief system to work its ways, attempt to prove its worth would be exemplary.  Religions, politicians and philosophers have been seeking the perfect belief systems for ages.  All have proven mortal and imperfect in parts.  But let the search continue.  Let Islam prove to me that they can provide the best life for their believers without harming the disbelievers.  Let communism or socialism continue to try and provide the best life for their constituents.  Let capitalism continue its efforts to give its believers a good life.  Stop dividing that effort into warring factions of a Democratic vision versus a Republican one.  Simulacra must be compromised to live.  Simulacra can be guiding principles or delusions, but they must always be seen as less than reality.  Reality exists all around us in some sort of grand mess.  We seek to impose order on that mess by imposing narratives and simulacra.  As a self conscious mechanism, that can be all right.  But as a belief system, that one must defend at all costs, is the source of all discontent in this world.

All simulacra are false.  But we will not rid ourselves of them. We can only hope to see them for what they are, and in that honesty, they may help us clarify our hopes and dreams.  But reality they are not.  Reality is a mess.  Even the search for a Unified Theory of the Universe is proving elusive.

Science is a series of simulacra.  But scientists seek to prove and try those hypotheses by reality tests.  The rest of the world should be so dispassionate in their pursuit of truth.  When we begin to treat our simulacra as hypotheses we will make them less dangerous.  When we engage in dialogue and proofs (or lack of same) we will finally live together in peace, harmony and tolerance.

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2 thoughts on “Dangerous Simulacra

  1. These are great posts! You are dissecting further the simulacra, peeling back its elusive layers. You state that all beliefs are simulacra and, also, that simulacra are based in “partial reality”. This is really helpful and so clear. It explains our collective over-reliance on simulacra, our predilection to believe in a fictional reality that explains or mitigates the “messiness”, the incomprehensibility of being in this world. If your two posts here could be narrowed into the lenses of Steven Spielberg’s camera while shooting that scene in “Saving Private Ryan”on Omaha Beach, we would see that incomprehensible example of the way life(and death) unfolds randomly. It’s a horrible thing to realize…that our existence is based on luck… just as it was for those soldiers climbing out of those LTs in a storm of machine gun fire. The wisdom of the hypothesis, as you lay out, is that it guides us back to reality. Reality, we hope, will forever hone the simulacra. That’s the premise of Buddhism; the Dharma or the Tao is the teaching accessible everywhere, but it requires continual awareness and receptivity. As soon as a teaching becomes canon, there’s attachment(maybe the equivalent of an unhealthy belief). It’s suspect and requires deeper scrutiny. However, the only way to discern the Dharma is with a mind that knows itself. Here we’re back to your book; realizing the existence of the simulacra and that way it works leads to us to know of the simulacra in our own lives.

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  2. Interesting comment Sam. I was wondering how Buddhism fits into this and that perhaps it is a more tolerant belief system. Although I know there is also some historical violence within Buddhism, so perhaps I am wrong.

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