CHASING SHADOW IN BRITAIN
By Lawna Elayn Tapper
Saturday, August 08, 2009.
Believe it or not, we are socialized to live illusory lives! We’re born, and as we grow, a host of models and devices are displayed before us – lifestyle illusions, career illusions, illusions about spirituality, romance, or those about how ‘great’ we are…we don’t need to name or discuss them all. But the list is endless, and we choose whichever one we want to pursue at any given time. And inextricably linked to these, is the human obsession with money and power.
Deep down, though, we know the truth, but it’s our fearfulness and sloth about facing reality that creates illusions. This was brought home yet again with David Cameron’s response to the current scandal over MP’s expenses. He feigned flabbergast and spoke of his ‘massive shame’ as he concluded, ‘…this has been an enormous blow to people’s trust’. Another illusion! Does he honestly believe the national consensus is that politicians are people of integrity?
Someone needs to remind him that human beings get drawn in and caught up, but we’re not unintelligent, and once our faces are wet, we remember. And, yes, we’re disgusted, but rather than shock, what we feel is a sense of appal at their barefaced gall.
When conscious, most of us know governments are filled with the biggest tricksters of all. Our beloved capitalist system creates many opportunities for people to live lifestyles that they simply cannot afford: bank loans, credit cards, store cards, catalogues. They know people often get to the point when they can no longer pretend they can afford to maintain these ‘extras’, but they also know people find it hard to resist the temptation of them. And let’s face it, these companies are safe either way – once clients default seriously enough, they simply sell the debt on to a collection agency and move on to the next ‘fool’.
I know a woman who has a 6-bedroom house in Northampton. She lives in this leafy cul-de-sac and has two children and no job. Her line is that she has her own cleaning business, and is studying for her degree, but I suspect that’s just another part of her illusion. She drives a flashy car – I don’t even know what it’s called – it doesn’t matter really – it’s a convertible, it looks cool, sporty and carries the BMW insignia. She and her boys always look good – designer labels or just the latest. How many people could this be?
I’m sure a lot of us know someone who knows one – someone who believes they’re low on real skills and is not prepared to be left behind or lose their chance of being respected; someone who wants quick money, engaging in one fraudulent scam or another, doing whatever it takes to get whatever is desired. Because, believe it or not, we respect people just because they ‘look good’, have money or nice things. This woman that I speak of is only 28, but even at 20 she felt she’d waited too long, because she’s too lazy or impatient, or both, to graft her way to her aspirations. But guess what I heard about her the other day – she’s facing a charge for money laundering!
It was Lauryn Hill, in her Unplugged CD, who said, ‘the real you is far more interesting than the fake somebody else.’ Say it louder, Lauryn!
Sadly, one lifetime doesn’t seem enough to end our human fixation with illusions. This woman will end up in court and create more. Under the instruction of her barrister, she’ll try to present as respectably as possible – her attire and her speech. The embellishments about her upbringing and her educational background will be tantamount to a lie.
More than anyone else, her barrister will know the importance of perceptions in the court house, and she’ll be coached in this. You see, the criminal justice system is, more times than not, filled with example after example of illusions. And that’s a nice way of saying it has little to do with honesty and justice. It’s more about how people present, are perceived and the cleverness of ideas and words. And this will always be the case as long as the objective is to get your client off and not for the truth to be told.
This is the Western way, the leading way of the world – the West where the chief concentration of power lies, the greatest infrastructures, the most effective systems of control! And it does a fabulous job of twisting our minds. The media, through its TV programming and rag pages, lets us know whose lifestyle we should emulate, who we should look like and the types of pursuits we should engage in.
I came across a poster in the changing room of a fitness centre: ‘Aromessence Excellence’ – a product, courtesy of Decleor Paris, apparently ‘the trusted leader in aromatherapy’. This ‘natural’ product is dubbed ‘nature’s first global anti-aging serum’ and its slogan reads ‘defy time with nature’s purest’. Why is the nation not being encouraged to embrace the aging process by looking after our bodies properly – being mindful about what we think, eat and do?
Choose to fool yourselves if you like, but get this, there is no illusion in the fact that our bodies mature their way to death!
As technology advances, so do the delusory devices we have to hand. Social networking sites, all the rage, are a prime example. Chat rooms, dating sites and equivalents of Facebook are all presented as ways in which we can get to know people. It sounds reasonable enough. But what about when these are used to create parallel lives? Hiding behind a screen, we can create a completely new personality for ourselves – we can lie about our face, our families, jobs, interests - I could be the doctor I say I am, or I could just be a great actor who’s really a serial killer – how will you know I’m not? After all, I’m only interacting with a machine. Maybe Facebook should be called FaceValue to remind users how little importance to attach to it.
An illusion can only beget an illusion, so it’s time we woke up and became the intelligent beings that we truly are. Whether or not you allow your mind to be twisted by the powers that be is a choice – your choice! You decide if you’ll spend your life being a mere follower, but remember, a follower only follows, just as a thinker is one that thinks, questions and creates change.
And if you are one of those people that love money and power more than people, then let me leave you with the wisdom of this Chinese proverb: ‘With money you can buy a house, but not a home; a clock, but not time; a bed, but not sleep; sex, but not love; a book, but not knowledge; a doctor, but not good health; position, but not respect; blood, but not life!’ May our consciousness be aroused, and may our will to free our minds from illusions be enlivened.
Lawna Elayn Tapper is with Rice’n’Peas Magazine, where this piece first appeared.