EL FARO

Last Sunday, 60 Minutes featured a report on finding the remains and voice recorder of the cargo ship, El Faro, that was tragically lost in a hurricane last year. Though the show didn’t play the complete transcript, it was sufficient to gain an insight into the crew’s final hours.

Though this is certainly not the only explanation of these events, the premise of this blog and my book”see my book“, can, I think, shed some light on the actions and events in those final hours.

What particularly stands out in the transcript is the behavior and dialogue of the crew and captain. Both seemed to stand in stark contrast to what was happening in and around the ship. The ship was clearly bearing into a hurricane that was also bearing ever closer to the ship itself. All the while, the crew and particularly, the captain clung to a routine, “a script”, that governed all such voyages. Even as the storm grew in fierceness, and the ship tossed and tipped accordingly, the captain as he was accustomed to do, went to bed. He retired to his cabin and did not reappear for 8 hours, during which time it is assumed he slept. He is quoted as having said, “I slept like a baby.” When he returned to the control deck, the ship was already listing badly from having taken on water through a damaged hold door. Yet his dialogue was reassuring and perhaps even dismissive. “It’s like this in Alaskan waters every day.” The crew asked after his coffee and whether he wanted sweetener. He answers, “Splenda…not the real sugar.” And the mate proceeds to comply. They were all within 50 minutes of perishing.

Without belaboring the dis-associative dialogue that transpires, (you can access this CBS report and others yourself for verification) I would venture an explanation. I think Captain and crew were caught in an habitual and fatal script. Rigidly scripted behavior can be a real advantage in certain venues….military, medical, police, fire, theatre, etc. But there can be times when that rigid adherence to script prevents critical thinking.

In war, in battle, in the operating room, in public crises, on a high wire, the practiced rituals very well might serve frequently, but the participants may at times need to realize they are outside the box and change accordingly.

A new book my Michael Lewis called, The Undoing Project, explores the many aspects of expert decision making. The central theme is how often expert opinion and action is in error. The cause: emotions that too often delude the expert.

In the case of the El Faro, I believe that the practiced script they had so often enacted in both calm and stormy weather had in all cases, till now, worked. But habitual, scripted behavior is always inherently dangerous. It locks up your critical faculties. The more often you enact it and it proves successful, the more reliable it seems and goes unquestioned. Whether in the operating room, in battle, or in crisis one must keep living the events and not the script.

Lewis’ book feature two psychologists, Kahneman and Tversky who by exploring events and people’s efforts to predict or deal with those events found expertise and logic wanting in the outcomes. Habit and expectations cloud critical faculties.

Not to in any way diminish the tragic loss of life on the El Faro, I think the tragedy was in part set up by sailing into a known storm within a script that had always worked before….until it didn’t.

We must always know when we are in a script. Our lives depend upon it. Not knowing makes us blind and unresourceful. Being locked in a script, whether in relationships, a bad marriage, a bad job, a toxic life style is never good when uninspected. A script is often comfortable. Comfort leads to pattern, habit. Even if you like the script you are in. Knowing it, being aware of it, is crucial. That kind of awareness, I think, could have saved the crew of the El Faro. It can save you, too, when storms approach your comfort zone.

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

Advertisements

“FAKE NEWS”

You heard it here first, folks.

A couple of years ago I published my book, AM I IN YOUR PLAY OR ARE YOU IN MINE. Then about a year ago, I started this blog to further explore these same themes. Both of them anticipated this current explosion of “fake news”.

I was planning to draw this blog to a close, but events keep forcing me to write one more blog. In my book”see my book“, I have the following quotes in the intro:

“You are surrounded by authors who would script your life (and mind) to their liking.”

“Who you are, is being scripted by others.”

“Everyone is seeking to make you a character in their play.”

“Without the awareness of this, you will be the character in many, many plays, but never in your own.”

The loss of your own identity and authenticity is the risk in today’s voracious world of writing narratives they (your authors) want you to believe and live in.

“Fake news” is the current euphemism made now famous by Pres. Trump that encapsulates all of the above.  The media would have you believe what they say or show (in order to control the narrative) is the very truth.  Inside the narrative there is no there there.  It is merely a fabrication to control your thoughts and behavior.  You are the marionette and they are the strings and voice.

Putting ideas into a narrative is a much more persuasive form of indoctrinating than merely positing ideas and issues.  A news story that seems based in reality with a protagonist that lives out a piece of theater enacting a parable that reflects a political view is far more persuasive and invasive.

Washington is now the battleground of warring narratives.  It always has been.  But now the vehicles for narration abound.  Not just speeches, posters, interviews…but newspapers, magazines, network tv, cable tv, Facebook, blogs, texting, ads, Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, endless outlets and spaces for fiction and fabrication.  Who can tell the truth of any of it?

You can know it’s phony; you may know it’s false, but it still gets in your head.  The merchants of lies have become so good at it, so pervasive, it is hard, perhaps futile to resist.  Perhaps only the outrageous anger and attacks of POTUS himself can take on and illuminate the onslaught of false narratives…. fake news.  I, for one, am thankful that he is using the bully pulpit to badger and defeat the poobahs who promote false narratives, false scripts that seek to forward their agendas. As Steve Bannon said,  “If you think these people are going to give up easily, think again.”  It will take all the effort and voices of the Trump administration to wrest the ink from fake news. And it will take all your clear vision as well.

But we have to guard that they too don’t answer fake news with other fake news.  Politicians and actors have great affinity. That’s why Hollywood and Washington have always had such an easy alliance. Politicians are actors and seek the stage that is Washington. Hollywood and DC both love drama more than facts. POTUS was an actor on television. Reagan was an actor in Hollywood. They love writing the play, being in the play. They all seek the limelight. When the facts get in the way of a good script…let the facts be damned.

So.. it is we who have to keep our sanity and clarity.  It is we who have to seek the facts. We have to be diligent in our wariness of scripts seeking to persuade us that they are reality. We have to learn to see the difference.

Reading this blog and my book is a start.

 

 

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

 

 

Summation 1

Between the approx. 60+ blog posts here, and the references to my book,”see my book” I think the issues herein have been given a clear and thorough examination. Thus it seems to me it is a time to wrap these topics up and conclude this particular blog. A new theme for the future is in order. But to wind this theme up, I would like to write this one final post on the issues themselves, and then use the next five to ten posts to do a summation of the threads we have examined here.

This last post on the idea of life as theater and all that surrounds are scripts by others, could not be complete without observing this most recent example.

Donald Trump was in San Diego on Friday May 27. His tour of speaking engagements have been haunted by demonstrators and some mayhem. The local San Diego paper, the Union Tribune, wrote this front page headline on that day. “SOME ARRESTS AT RALLIES MAY BE SCRIPTED” Then the article that follows begins, “If arrests are made at today’s Donald Trump rally, watch carefully. What looks like chaos may be choreography. Getting arrested can be a powerful demonstration of commitment….some are the results of advance negotiations. Police and protestors often confer before marches and rallies, discussing everything from the time and location of the protest to….how and when people will be arrested. They come to us and say, “These individuals are going to do this, and we understand when they do this you are going to arrest them”, said San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman. “A lot of times, they designate a person or persons to be arrested.”

Life as Theater, dear readers. Scripted events for television digestion. As we already know, many if not most of these demonstrators are paid. They are “actors” for hire. Street Theater as political advertisements. There are “aggregators” who will hire and perform a demonstration of your desired object complete with posters from either side of the political spectrum.

The regular readers of this blog can see and understand the simulacrum, the reality that isn’t, at work here. We can see the script. We know the reasons why. That is why I think it time to move to some concluding blogs. The lessons are learned. The readers educated. But I couldn’t help but post this one last narrative that so aptly demonstrates what we have been talking of for these now many months in these now many postings. Thank you for reading.

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

OBEY!

My book”see my book” and this blog seeks to aid the search for the authentic self, but I believe 90 percent of the world wants to obey. I believe their one and only single free will choice is what or whom to obey.

Freedom is fraught with anxiety and confusion. Freedom requires an endless chain of considered choices. Freedom is a world without red lights and green lights. It is not easy.

As this anxiety builds, the person makes a selection of choices that dictate behavior and mental processes. Religious choice probably contains the largest and most detailed of dicta. Christian, Jewish, Islam, Buddhist, etc. each having within them further choices finally arrives at a host of rules and dictates that control one’s daily and life-long choices. A strong second world of rules is cultural. National cultures, ethnic cultures, regional cultures all have stated or implied rules of behavior and thought.

Add in a variety of other sources of rules or expectations proceeding from schools, professions, affiliations, government, families, and you have little wiggle room left for independence or free choice. Diet books, health books, advice books and fashion further seek to dictate behaviors and limit choice.

We all champion freedom. We all like to think of ourselves as free, particularly in America. At least, in America, we get to make the first choice. There are whole countries and cultures where even the first choice of free will is unavailable. You are simply told from birth what you will worship and obey and you are surrounded by enforcers.

Run your day through your mind and consider how many choices you make are truly free. Look about you and see how dictated is your environment. Peer pressure alone is a significant influence. Even abstract theories, ideas, influence your choices. How many of your choices or life components are a result of belief in global warming, or protecting the environment, or political correctness….all ideas that are drumbeats in your daily life.

Now consider all of the above and visualize what a narrow slice of life remains available to free choice. “Am I in your play, or are you in mine” becomes pervasive. You are in a vast variety of plays, some of which you chose, none of which is of your own authorship. Even selecting what you want to eat off of a menu is less a matter of what you would like to eat, but more a matter of what you should or shouldn’t eat.

Freedom is hard. A daily litany of choices is stressful. It’s fifty/fifty that you will make the wrong choice. Existential angst is a real burden. What to do? What to do?

I think a healthy exercise is to review one’s daily life, as well as one’s larger life picture, and list and evaluate the various components as to which is a free choice, and which is a choice derived from another source and its influences. I suspect you will be shocked to see how little is a free and personal choice. If it is a larger proportion, you deserve to give yourself props.

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

Bernie’s Illusional Gift to the Young

Bernie Sanders galvanizes the young. This seems amazing to many. I will explore one thread here that may make his appeal clearer.

I share one biographical fact to help persuade on the point I make. I taught for many years and at one point in a major university. I was rather shocked in my first year there to find that many of the faculty and the authors of various textbooks were admitted Marxists. We generally accept that the faculties of most colleges and universities are liberal and left leaning in their politics. But living within that environment, attending department meetings and university inspired colloquiums, it soon became apparent that the left leaning was commonly at the very far left of the spectrum.

These are the cadres that have educated your young.

Now back to Bernie. He inspires the young with his antagonism to the wealthy and powerful, and his promise to breach that citadel and level the playing field making opportunity and wealth equally shared by all. His brand of socialism is not far off from communism. This is the same kind of social promise that was sold to the oppressed innocents in the 1900’s.

Back to the professors. Communism under the theories of Marx and Engels began as a promise to end class distinctions and warfare. It got a bad name under Stalin and the Cold War. After it crumbled, it was resurrected under the name Marxism to purge it of its awful realities in the Soviet Union and other oppressive regimes around the world. This Utopian version was once again taught in the universities as the new dream. Our young, our recent grads were taught Marxism and Socialism as the dream solution the same way that energized the disenfranchised when first proffered by Marx and Lenin. At that time no one conceived of the oppressive version, the version that simply didn’t work and couldn’t deliver the promises in the history that was about to unfold.

Bernie sells this same dreamy version of socialism/communism to the young who by virtue of their education by Marxist professors are ready-made for the moment. They’re too young to have lived through and seen the vicious tyrannical days of Communism…..the purges, the genocides, the millions of dead sacrificed to an idea that didn’t work. They equally don’t seem to notice that the great socialistic experiment in most European countries is no longer working there either.

That doesn’t stop Bernie. The American Great Recession plus all of the above has made our young population a ready embracer of the utopian dream that the older crowd knows doesn’t work. Bernie thrives on this innocence. Bernie thrives on this learned naiveté.

The sins of greed and capitalism were all too revealed in the mortgage crisis of 2008. That is a history the young lived. They deserve some slack for their revolutionary love of the Sanders’ solution. Subtleties do not prevail in presidential campaigns.

Marxist Socialism was sold as a dream in the early 1900’s. It is being sold again as a utopian dream to the young today. We must all work to bring the naiveté of the young up to a more mature currency. We must continue their education beyond their professors. This upcoming election is a chance to do just that.

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

Legacy Scripts

As readers of this blog and my book,”see my book“, you know that narratives and scripts are the lynchpins of both. Watching someone create their own narrative should be instructive. To that end I encourage you, with your critical insights, to watch President Obama write his legacy script during his last year in office.

He has already begun. At this point, he is more interested in cementing his legacy than he is in legislation or international diplomacy. His primary avenue will be the granted “interview”. Although this will seem forthright and unrehearsed, it will be delicately crafted and controlled. What may seem spontaneous and sincere questions, are most certainly pre-written and imposed upon the interviewer. His thoughtful and almost agonized answer is a portrait in fine acting.

His speeches equally will seem spontaneous and unrehearsed in the “off the cuff” portions. But there too it is carefully planned and rehearsed. He only has a few months to control his narrative, and surprising events across the world will intervene this careful narrative.

Most Presidents come into office as egos in pursuit of history. To endure the punishment of running for offices over the decades and then the most severe of all campaigns is to show the deep determination it entails. To that extent, the final year is crucial to securing the ego part in history.

As an aside, I might suggest that our greatest Presidents in history, might well be those that were forced into office by circumstance. I think of Harry Truman. Forced into office in the midst of a world war and its aftermath, he had no wish for it, and no time to ponder his place in history. He found in himself capacities and wisdom he knew not he had. His post presidential life would confirm his ego-less humility. Humility generally does not get you elected to the highest office in the land.

Obama came into the Presidency fully afloat on his persona. He had no experience. He had no resume. A first term senator, a community organizer, an acolyte of Alinsky, he had a narrow vocal range within which to sing.

He could have learned on the job better than he did. Instead, he lingered in his ego. His Armani suit and Air Force One were VERY important to him. With so little history of his own, the trappings were critically important to his narrative. I do believe he never got outside his skin in this job. And still being so, completing and sharpening his exit narrative is more important to Obama than it has been to most Presidents before him. That is why the composition of his final narrative will prove so instructive to us as we watch his exit narrative co-exist with the other eight aspiring narratives that evolve in those who now seek his vacating office.

Postscript: Equally here, we have studied scripts and narratives for their authenticity and their opposite, the dreaded simulacrum. Because he has so lived within himself during his Presidency, I think it likely, that Obama’s exit narrative will be false and inflated and in denial of much of his actual Presidential history and events. To that extent, it will be in-authentic and a delusional simulacrum that he hopes will stand the test of time and history. With Ego, in-authenticity and the simulacrum as the three legs of his stool, I think it will not, in fact, bear the weight of time and history.

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg

Epiphenomenon

This blog has focused on simulacra which are false alternative realities that are difficult to discern as false. There is another alternative reality that may not be false, but simply disconnected.

An epiphenomenon is a separate but included reality that has its own integrity and is not false. We can be engaged in an epiphenomenon and mistake it for a false sim. Such a moment may seem like a dream, a psychic disconnect.

Since this blog is also about the search for authenticity, I believe there is a revealing connection here. If one looks at art historically, it seems to often exist apart from or in the midst of destructive or unsupportive times. Whether the caves of Lascaux, or the Renaissance, or individual histories of artists, the creative moment and the resultant “art” is immune to the prevailing and often negative surroundings of the “artist”. I think the moment of personal creativity is a divorced, but authentic moment within an individual’s life that is a detached and isolated epiphenomenon.

There is no telling from where or when a creative moment may come. It is suddenly just there. Most artists or “creators” in science or mediums of various kinds will tell you that such moments exist out of time and place. It is a magical transformation. One exists outside of one’s everyday. But I would make the case that it is still connected to one’s own integrity and not a false simulacrum. It may be the very refuge from the false simulacra that this blog so reviles. It emerges wholly from within. It may be influenced by unconscious flows or lost memories, but it is integral. It is the fullest flower of personal authenticity, though it seems to exist in dislocated time and place. It would be well described as an epiphenomenon.

This adds a new component to our search for truth, self and authenticity. The very sense of detachment within an epiphenomenon may be the immunity we seek from false scripts imposed by others. This may be our internal refuge from “lifeastheater”. These “creative moments” should not be solely seen as moments of genius by select visionaries. They may reach to those heights. But they also exist for us all as truthful moments of self-inspection and honesty wherein we see ourselves and reveal ourselves with insights heretofore unseen.

The avenues to these moments are unpredictable and often surprising. They can occur in night dreams, day dreams, staring at clouds or seascapes, meditating or eating a Madeline. But they are treasures to be found and nurtured. Beware the dreaded simulacrum, but watch for and embrace the fecund epiphenomenon. It’s the epiphenomena in your life that may be the reservoirs of your authentic Self. Watch for them; live them; collect them; embrace them!

cropped-51a-yewil8l__bo2204203200_pisitb-sticker-v3-bigtopright0-55_sx278_sy278_pikin4bottomright122_aa300_sh20_ou01_1.jpg