5 min read

El Espectaculo (Show)

Less drama. More discourse.
Trump with a fresh spray-on tan, standing in front of a podium.
Trump rally. Show. Credit: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons

I used to run a bar/restaurant in Guatemala.

There's a fun bit of slang down there. Show.

They use the english word, said sharply, to highlight overly dramatic or silly behavior that's designed to distract from a real issue.  

I woke up thinking about it this morning, because last night I had a bizarre dream that I had travelled to Kyiv as the Russians retreated and was staying in a hostel and riding a bike around on the icy roads . I ran into old friends, including a guy I knew in high school who (in my dream) was now 'working for the US State Department'. What a bunch of nonsense. I'm way too much of a wimp to travel to a war zone. Show.

Then I read the article below, which points out how we endlessly focus our attention on the doings of famous people, and even when the try to align themselves with the oppressed, it ends up being phony. Show.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé crossing a picket line to party shows how shallow celebrity activism really is | Emma Dabiri
The couple’s Oscars afterparty saw celebrities bypass Chateau Marmont workers who have complained of abhorrent conditions, says author Emma Dabiri

Will Smith slapping Chris Rock. It was stupid, but we have way more important things to talk about. Show.

Televised awards? Show.

Western leaders spewing "We stand with Ukraine" claptrap while simultaneously burdening the country with more and more external debt. Show.

The Secret Service spending 30k a month to rent a luxury pile to protect the obviously corrupt son of the US president? Show.

Prince William carried on a throne? Show.

Kim Kardashian saying that women just need to get up and work. Did you do your own make-up lady? GTFO. Show.

Pedophile scam-artist Prince Andrew appearing with his mom the queen last week? Show.

I could go on. And on and on and on.

Every where you look, there's a manifest effort to cram your brain-pan full of espectaculo. The spectacle, designed to dazzle and blind you to the oppression, exploitation, and degradation that is required to elevate one person above others.

Anytime the cameras are pointed at one shining personality, highlighting  celebrity or virtue instead of ideas, it's just a fucking show.  

Nobody 'makes it' on their own. They need permission from the gate-keepers above them to ascend to the next level, and they need the backs of others to climb up  upon.

To maintain the status of even a minor celebrity, it takes dozens of people. Camera operators, make-up artists, publicists, agents, editors, directors, financiers, handlers, house-keepers, nannies, drivers, etc.

But you'd never know that if you didn't look for yourself. Because our entire rotten culture is built on the idea that some folks are inherently better than others. Show.

In the very first sentence of his seminal book Propaganda (1928), Freud's nephew and friend to moguls Edward Bernays writes:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.

Show.

This is pseudo-intellectual nonsense, designed to justify the rule of a few over the many. Educate your people. Teach truth and compassion. Teach them to discern honest discourse from confident puffery, and we could easily build a society that cares for all, not just those in the spotlight.

In 1967, Guy Debord (and those who helped him), released Society of the Spectacle, which pierces the opaque bubble that Bernays helped to create. Debord begins with a quote:

But for the present age, which prefers the sign to the thing signified, the copy to the original, representation to reality, appearance to essence, ...truth is considered profane, and only illusion is sacred. Sacredness is in fact held to be enhanced in proportion as truth decreases and illusion increases, so that the highest degree of illusion comes to be seen as the highest degree of sacredness.'' -Ludwig Feuerbach, The Essence of Christianity

We do not need the spectacle. We do not need Elon Musk or Beyonce or Donald Trump or the Queen of England. We need the nameless millions hard at work. We need the scientists, artists, educators, nurses, janitors, laborers, soldiers and farmers. The rest is distraction.

Debord wrote:

“The more powerful the class, the more it claims not to exist, and its power is employed above all to enforce this claim. It is modest only on this one point, however, because this officially nonexistent bureaucracy simultaneously attributes the crowning achievements of history to its own infallible leadership. Though its existence is everywhere in evidence, the bureaucracy must be invisible as a class. As a result, all social life becomes insane.”

As we get yet another klaxon alarm from the IPCC saying that our last chance to save the planet is RIGHT NOW, we must recognize that it is our own mollification, our own addiction to the spectacle which keeps humanity from saving ourselves from the car crash ahead.

The battle of the sexes is spectacle. The pretend differences between white folks and everybody else are too. Despite their callous crimes, Russians are people. The anger in your heart at this group or that, it's all created to control you. To divide us and conquer, because the truth is now profane.

We are born equal, with different talents and gifts. But the spectacle only values those who own, and those who can sell, sing, dance, and dribble. Because only certain skills can help perpetuate the illusion that some lives are more valuable than others.

If you were to ask my advice, which you did not, I would tell you NOT to contribute your work or energy to the elevation of one over the many. Each of us has a responsibility to see through the spectacle, and as best we can, refuse to participate.

For me, that means that I see anyone who tries to position themselves as special or anointed is an enemy of humanity, because it is the struggle for status that keeps us from solving our pressing problems.

If we want to protect the future of this planetary oasis, we must shake off the gauzy sleep of the spectacle and see it for what it is.

Show.

Liman

P.S. Immediately after writing this, I watched a soccer match, and it doesn't get any more spectacle than that.