Why Is It So Much Easier To Sell People Bullshit Than It Is To Give Them The Truth?

Cut to the end of the chase: even the smartest people you know have a taste for bullshit – their own. 

We all believe things that – if we actually had to back them up – we’d realize how silly we were for saying such things out loud (never mind actually believing them). We might even realize our problem’s much worse: bullshit has taken over most of our lives.

That ain’t bullshit.

I was watching the football club I follow – Tottenham Hotspur – play horribly again this morning.  With ten minutes to go, they were down 3-0 to a team they should have thumped.  Spurs lost earlier this week 7-2 to Bayern Munich in the Champion’s League.  With ten minutes to go – and defeat a dead certainty (in a week we’d been outscored 10-2 FFS!), I still experienced a moment where I thought “Hey, we’re Spurs, we can still do this!”

No, we couldn’t – and we didn’t.  We couldn’t get the ball past midfield.  We’re in a mental freefall as a team.  That’s the Truth.  It’s bullshit to think Spurs can win anything right now.

But, for a moment, I tried to convince myself that they could.  I tried to bullshit myself and I succeeded.

Bullshit is Hope’s evil twin.  Just as Hope is aspirationally positive, Bullshit is aspirationally negative.  It’s a lie easily thrown together, easily tossed off and easily forgotten – especially when new bullshit is created to replace the old.  It’s the sausage factory from the seventh ring of hell.

And yet, damned if Bullshit Brand Sausage doesn’t sell. 

For a lot of us, the addiction to bullshit starts early – with our “religious education”. That’s a non sequitur.  You can learn about religion, but to be educated IN a religion is to be fed a diet of pure, unadulterated bullshit. Religion, mind you, is entirely different from spirituality.

Spirituality is the ineffable essence of the awe any human feels as they gaze up at the cosmos and tries to see how they fit with it.  With the pure fact of “being”.

Religion is rules & regs.  It’s crowd control.  It’s the perverse corporatization of spirituality: an institution invents a “way” to spirituality – through them, through following their rules.  Followers may flirt with spiritual experience but it’s always within the context of the religion’s rules.  Any spiritual experience outside those rules?  It’s heresy.  You’re allowed the church’s definition of “spiritual” and not your own.

Funny irony?  Jesus himself preached AGAINST having a church.  He taught his followers to speak directly to god.  No need for the Temple, its authorities or priests. 

And no need to tithe any church either.  Just “Do Unto Others”.  It’s that simple.

How many American Christians “do unto others”?  Not many (relatively speaking).  Most are “church-goers”.  They’re not followers of Jesus.  They’re in it for the “exclusivity”, the clubiness. They like the mythology, too.  They like the magic behind it because the magic says they’ll never die.

Magic is sparkly bullshit. It’s no more real just because it glitters a little. 

The Truth is we’re all going to die.  There’s no escaping it. There’s no proof of any afterlife.  None. To insist that one might exist is simply magic forcing itself upon you. 

It’s me thinking Spurs could come back from three-nothing with minutes left when all the evidence said they were already in the locker room, their heads hung low.

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Our Problem Isn’t That Humans Are “Tribal”, It’s That Humans Aren’t “Tribal ” Enough…

The English Premiership Football season started today. My side — I’m a Tottenham Hotspur fan (through marriage) going back 30 years — won! Though they played a dull first half, in the second half, the Spurs looked more Spurs-like. They pressed, they out-hustled, they attacked relentlessly. Our new guy (Ndombele) was great and Harry Kane who almost never scores in August, scored two goals! If you’re not a Spurs supporter like I am, that probably means nothing to you.

I understand. Spurs aren’t your tribe. You might be an Arsenal supporter (in which case piss off!) or you love Chelsea or Man U or Man City. I’ve got a good friend who supports West Bromwich-Albion (relegated last season to the League Championship, a tier below the Premier League). You might not even like footie. You might prefer American Football. Or hockey or baseball.

You might be a Lakers fan or a Dodgers fan — in which case, so am I. It’s not a problem for me (or anyone really) to take off their Spurs kit and put on a baseball cap or football jersey instead. One knows one can support several teams at the same time. One can belong to those tribes, as it were.

A fan base for a sports team — or even a singer — that’s a tribe, too. When you’re at a concert, surrounded by people who adore the performer as much as you do — you feel a sense of community with them. You’re both members of the same tribe.

For humans, being tribal is a survival instinct. We’re social creatures. Our success as individuals depends on our ability to cut it as part of the group. It’s a sad, horrifying fact: how one does in life is connected to how one does in middle school. If you socialized well in middle school, you should do fine in life. If you sucked socializing in middle school, you have a chance now to get your socialization right — with all the success and popularity that come with it. The trick is in which tribes you strive to become part of.

In middle school, of course, success depends on finding the one tribe that will have you. If you’re lucky enough to find, join and be accepted by that tribe, nothing else matters. Regardless of what happens to you, you’ll be fine in the end cos you’ve got your tribe.

Life works the diametric opposite way. Success depends on how MANY tribes you see yourself as part of.

When the Spurs game finished this morning, the Spurs and Aston Villa, their opponents, shook hands. The players all shook hands with the refs. The Spurs tribe on the field and the Aston Villa tribe on the field stopped being opposing tribes and became, instead, a tribe of footballers who all play well enough to be in the English Premiership. The players as a group stopped (for the most part) seeing refs as strange interlopers and saw them as a different breed of soccer professional — a different branch of the same tribe as them.

The fans at Spurs new, beautiful stadium, all cheered loudly for their conquering heroes. Eventually, they’d all finish celebrating, get their stuff together and head off into the streets — still Spurs supporters but also Londoners, too.

Those Spurs supporters never stopped being Londoners, of course. At the same time that I’m a Dodgers and Lakers fan (while remaining a Spurs fan), I’m also an Angeleno. I see other Angelenos as my tribe. I see people in my neighborhood as my tribe. I see Californians as my tribe. Excepting for Trump supporters (they’re racists), I see Americans as my tribe.

The problem with white supremacists (like there’s just “one” problem with them!) is that they see white people as their tribe. That’s it — just white people. Even when they say they’re Americans, you don’t get the feeling that their idea of the “American Tribe” and ours are the same thing. Their idea of “American” is them. If you’re not them, you can’t be in their tribe. You can’t be white (of course) and you can’t be American.

If I didn’t despise them for thinking how they think, I’d feel sorry for them — same reason. They’ve gotten it backwards.

The genius of America is that anyone can be American — provided they’re willing to work their asses off and work well with other people. Likewise, Americans moving to America from all over the world embrace diversity because they come from diversity. Diversity has always been what makes America truly exceptional.

Diversity demands finding kinship with as many different tribes as one can. The more diverse your circle of friends & acquaintances, the more diverse your tribe is. Before long, you begin to see human beings as your tribe.

Imagine that — seeing other people as your tribe just because they’re people. I hope the condition is catching. I really do.

Not A Revelation: Magical Thinking Is Stupid, Stupid, STUPID!

Everyone — myself included — is guilty, guilty, guilty of Magical Thinking. I may not have an imaginary friend like some or follow rules plucked from my imagination or my ass, but I have, when Tottenham Hotspur (my footie team) is down two goals late in a game, still thought it was possible for them not to lose.  They lost.

My magical thinking led to personal disappointment — unpleasant but survivable.

If I used that magical thinking though as the basis for a belief system — Spurs lost so therefore a whole host of other things (beyond football) must follow “logically” demanding certain actions and counter-actions — and if that belief system’s impact spread beyond my own disappointment (because my team lost a game) — out into everyone else’s lives — that would be a problem.  I would have taken something based in unrealistic nonsense-thinking out into reality — with unrealistic expectations for it.

Gosh – should I be shocked when more disappointment follows?

Today’s ludicrous Magical Thinking headlines (among others) — Trump’s military transgender ban takes effect & there are still “thoughtful” people walking around who think AG Bill Barr isn’t desperately trying to cover up a massive, explosively far-reaching scandal that will consume and destroy the entire Republican Party.

The basis for the military transgender ban, of course, is pure, unadulterated bullshit.  I would love to put all the Magical Thinkers who base their contemporary lives on the knowledge base of uneducated desert-dwellers who thought everything revolved around the earth onto an airplane large enough to accommodate them all.  Then, as we rolled toward the runway, I’d like to introduce them to their pilot.  He knows nothing about flying planes.  But he “believes” he can do it — so off they all go…

Magical Thinking comes with being a homo sapien.  Until such a time as it evolves out of our brains, it will be hard-wired into us.  It’s the first thought that burps from the miasma of our uncertainty.  Magic: the explanation for this wonder must be Magic.  It ain’t.

I could go on and on — I recommend watching this lecture that Neil deGrasse Tyson gave a few years ago.  His point: even the greatest minds in the history of science — Isaac Newton among them — surrendered to Magical Thinking when they reached the end of their knowledge base.  A little while later, some other thinker solved the problem — no more need for Magical Thinking.

The answers to all our questions are out there.  We may not get to them all in our lifetime — but they’re out there once we gain the knowledge or the knowledge to make the instruments we need to “see” the knowledge and the answers they provide.

America has always been fertile territory for Magical Thinking.  Strange, exotic religions (lots of them offshoots of Christianity) have come and gone here.  One of the first groups of Europeans to settle and (more or less) survive — the Pilgrims — were so deep into their offshoot brand of Christianity that none of the other Christians wanted them nearby.  So the Pilgrims came here.  Think about it: one of the foundational European groups to call North America home came here because their brand of ooga-booga was too ooga-booga-y for other believers of the same basic ooga-booga!

It’s not a coincidence that Mormonism and Scientology were American creations.  Jewish mythology is extensive.  By “mythology”, I mean stories that sit squarely outside the provable.  They may have some shadowy echo in the historical record but the echo has been blown up into something it never was.  As it’s the surviving word of these people and their times, we have no way to put these texts into a larger perspective.  We can use our current knowledge base — including our knowledge of germ theory — to figure a guy like Noah could not (and did not) put every animal on the planet on a boat and did not, subsequently, live to some biologically impossible age well into the hundreds.

Magical Thinking allows a person to believe that his foundational texts appeared out of nowhere — the product of divine intervention.  These tenets he lives by — they’re not his idea, their a deity’s.  Therefore they must be the Truth.  Yeah, but — the guy next to you has a whole other mythology in his head — with conflicting details — all based on the very same texts.  Either one of these two has it wrong or their deities are terrible communicators.

Think about that:  Magical Thinking can imagine a deity capable of creating the vastness of EVERYTHING — but can’t put the basics of how & why into a form two people can agree upon.  That’s a deity so flawed, illogical and goofy that only a homo sapien could dream it up.  And then believe that IT created HIM.

Here’s my problem in something larger than a nutshell… If you tell me going in that you’re a person of faith — and you believe in Magical Thinking and its Magical explanations for how and why we’re all here & how and why we need to live together as peacefully as we can — then I’m going to look at you with a shitload of doubt.  I know for a fact because you’ve told me — given a good enough story, you can be made to believe anything.

If you believe in Magical Thinking, your judgment sucks.  I’m simply going along with what you’re telling me.

Will Our Age Ultimately Be Known As ‘THE BRANDED AGE’?

Americans are not generally known for their knowledge of history (or geography).  We have other strengths.  But, when we DO have history (and remember it), we tend to be ‘colorful’ about it.  There’s a ‘pretty famous’ (if by ‘famous’ we mean Historians call it that) time period in American History called The Gilded Age.

It was America’s first Great Headrush of Success — when the accumulation of extreme wealth became a remote possibility for a few outside the tight circle of White Christian Old Mega Wealth.  Suddenly, even total cads could get the Federal Government to pony up all the money & risk on the transcontinental railroad while THEY reaped all the profit.  Boo-Yah Representative Democracy was Good!

Our own Age is starting to feel (creepily so) like a deranged, stalker wanna-be of the Gilded Age.  Call us THE BRANDED AGE.

Having no more wealth beneath the earth’s crust to pursue (someone else already owns it all), and with technology making most anything we could do with our hands obsolete as a job skill (making ‘things’ is so ‘third world prison labor’, don’tcha think?), that means only the Most Clever Rats will find their way out of the Maze that is Their Future.  And the MOSTEST, CLEVEREST Rats have already groked that BRANDING — making YOU (the ‘idea’ of you actually) a distinct thing in other peoples’ minds — is essential to any sort of success going forward.

Because WHO WE ARE is now instantly accessible by anyone else, we need to make damned sure that what’s being PROJECTED is the picture of ourselves we want projected.  Our everything depends on it being ‘right’ (whatever ‘right’ is for each of us).

Back in the day, this kind of thing was called ‘your values’.  I don’t mean ‘Family Values’ — an ad slogan for smug, sanctimonious Christan hypocrites — I mean VALUES.  Stuff you believed in not because some religious bullshitters rammed it down your throat but because you lived life and applied your life experiences accordingly.  Like most people, you probably wanted to co-exist in relative peace & harmony with your neighbors, live a long, healthy life and get to see your great-grandchildren succeed before passing on.

And because those were your values, you hung with certain people who shared those values.  You formed friendships, started businesses and raised your families among people whose values were pretty much the same as yours.

If you practiced a religion — you formed bonds with people who believed the same way you did.  If you loved a sports team above all others… same thing.

These days they think of it in Branding terms.  I happily ‘brand’ with Tottenham Hotspur for instance.  I’ve followed that English Premier League team for years & years & years (I married into a Spurs family).  On some days, I  still happily co-brand with the LA Dodgers.  It’s an LA thing…

But I am keenly aware of everyone I now associate with.  If I speak up for someone or get their back — I need to know I’m not gonna pay for it by seeing my own integrity dinged.

After all — I have a brand to protect.