Yes, behold the infrastructure upon which humanity has rested its fat psychological ass since time immemorial. And it is those three things that remain constant, no matter what happens on the planet, what is discovered, what is accomplished, what is addressed, and what is ignored. And it is a FREAKIN’ BLOODY SHAME!
Even Jesus, who I think was actually a crazy person wandering around the Middle East back in the day, and most definitely NOT related to God in any way, because in my opinion God is a made-up concept fueled by – guess what! – denial, rationalization, and self-interest. Anyway, here’s quoting Jesus, that scramble-headed Aramaic-speaking Jew, about “when his disciples asked, ‘When will the rest for the dead take place, and when will the new world come?’, he said to them, ‘What you are looking forward to has come, but you don’t know it.’ ”
Just because the dude thought he was the son of God doesn’t make him entirely deranged, just more-or-less. Lots of people think they’re Jesus, even nowadays, although most often they are found in mental institutions. And, just like a lot of deranged people, Jesus did say some things that made pretty good sense. Like the quotation above, which I interpret to mean that we could already have heaven on earth – if only that damned three-legged stool wasn’t mucking up the works. That’s right – denial, rationalization, and self-interest. The Bollocks Three.
Westerners are the worst for using the Bollocks Three to drive their thinking. Americans are worse than Westerners. And conservative Americans are the worst of all. We’ve spent the last half-century picking low-hanging fruit and congratulating ourselves on how smart we are, and peaceful, and nice and rosy and deserving and shining-city-upon-a-hill etc. Now it’s time to have our arms twisted back and our faces shoved up against the glass to confront the reality of empty-headed patriotism, climate change, peak oil, rotating economic crises, historical revisionism, universal deception, Orwellian speech (“Perpetual war for perpetual peace!”) and he-who-has-the-gold-makes-the-rules..
So let’s talk about the Bollocks Three.
First, the denial. Example: conservative politicians often hearken back to the good old days of the 50’s, when men were men, the economy was booming, and brown people knew their places. Okay, to recreate it, they would have to recreate the conditions of that era – for example, strong unions. Unions that guaranteed protections upon which one worker could bring home a reliable single income that was enough to raise a family on. BEEP! NOT ACCEPTABLE, so let’s just deny that unions had anything to do with those golden days. And what to do about these pesky brown folks, those LGBT people, and uppity women that didn’t exist in the 50’s, or at least had the manners to stay out of sight and not say or do anything unexpected? If only we could go back to the times when all those people were chattel, servants, farm workers, or stashing themselves within the folds of our culture under the threat of death! But OOPS – the founding fathers had the improvidence to write into the Declaration of Independence this awkward precept: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness”.
Dang. So now we have to either deny the fact that members of certain groups we don’t like are actually human, which even most (not all) conservatives know would be transparently ridiculous. Or – enter stage right! – it must be RATIONALIZED that somehow despite being human beings, certain stripes or ilks or whatevers of people simply do not deserve equal rights under the law. Becauuuuse … ummmm ….. God said it was bad! My Bible has a line that could be vaguely interpreted as not approving! They are evil! It’s against the natural order! They are taking all the jobs, especially the ones I would never lower myself to in a million years! They’re gonna gitcha kids! Etc. etc. etc., ad nauseum.
Then, of course, we inevitably roll on to the self-interest part. Once the fine arts of denial and rationalization have been mastered, we can embark up the free-flowing river of more and better for ME! Capitalism has its good points, it cannot be argued. It has lifted many from poverty and into wealth. It has also demoted just as many or more from a decent quality of life to abject poverty. In many ways, capitalism can be considered legalized theft. In addition, it is a self-aggrandizing system in that the more you steal, the more you CAN steal. And the more you can steal, the closer you come to a complete monopoly on – everything.
I used to argue about this with my old conservative foil. He would tell me, straight-faced, that if he set up a hot-dog stand and made a better hot dog for less money, he’d come out ahead in the capitalist system. Yeah, right. What if Wal-Mart decides that your hot-dog concession is too profitable not to take an interest in? So they open their own hot-dog stand on the opposite corner, and since they already have captured a virtually infinite store of resources by cutting in on other businesses, they will engage you in a price war, and either break you or buy you. Easy as pie. They’ve done it already, and will do it again, while simultaneously stealing from taxpayers in the form of tax breaks, then stealing from their own employees AND the taxpayers by paying employees less than a survival wage so taxpayers can foot the bill for the difference with food stamps and emergency-room health care.
I would call this the “capitalist quantum effect.” You know how when you travel into the ultra-teeny world of quantum physics, NOTHING works like it does on the human scale? Well, it operates in the reverse too. Anything that happens at the human scale is deformed, hideously altered, or simply erased altogether at the Humongous Super-Capitalism level. Ordinary capitalist-citizens become ants among the elephants, and if it isn’t obvious by now, the elephants are already deep into denial and rationalization, talking about being “job creators” and how “tax cuts for the wealthy creates jobs”.
What’s to argue with about those claims! Except they aren’t true!
David Quammen wrote a book called “The Song of the Dodo: Island Biogeography in the Age of Extinction.” The last few pages were devoted to the author’s musing on what he would do if he were faced with either killing the very last earthly representative of a particular species of bird, or allowing his own child to starve. No question, he concluded – he’d kill the bird! A human decision at a human scale.
But if you are a corporate captain of industry, there may be lots and lots of children dying, but you feel zero personal connection to it. Not YOUR fault, after all! Deny it! If Exxon wants to send young soldiers to faraway places to bleed out in the dirt, those kids aren’t YOUR kids. Speaking from a rationalizing point of view – those strangers are dying for a good reason, and freedom isn’t free! In point of fact, there’s no risk at all for a huge capitalist business to do horrible things to the citizens of the US, because whatever they do can always be rationalized by saying stuff like “the ends justify the means”, or “people want cheap gas more than they want other people’s children spared useless deaths”. Many citizens will buy this reasoning because they are tangled in their own webs of denial, rationalization, and self-interest. And then, since the business has collected a huge pile of money that Midas would envy, it can buy lots of people who are also prone to denial, rationalization, and self-interest, and stuff them into high government places, like the Supreme Court and Congressional seats. Not to mention, as Elizabeth Warren recently pointed out, big business can basically break every law there is and never fear prosecution because they are apparently “too big to put on trial”.
I’m not saying that the Bollocks Three is strictly an American phenomenon. It is a human phenomenon, or, more accurately, a monkey phenomenon. Look at North Korea. Look at China. Look at Central Africa. Look at the Middle East. Look at anywhere that anybody lives with other people in some semblance of a society. It’s everywhere. But some places have these things called LAWS AND REGULATIONS that are intended to protect citizens from corporate and governmental abuse. And there are a few people who will risk their lives – and often lose the same – by seeing right through the Bollocks Three in nations lacking such protections, and calling attention to wrongs being perpetrated. But lots of people will just go along to get along, and might even perform good deeds that don’t ask too much in the way of personal sacrifice.
In this age of uber-violent drug cartels, there is a Mexican saying: “La plata o el plomo…the silver or the lead”. You either take the bribe, or you’re gonna take the bullet. Not much of a choice. But for Americans, some opportunity to do the reasonable thing still exists. But you have to go there by following the money, and then be prepared to hear the most vehement denials and the most sophisticated rationalizations in defense of the indefensible.
And that’s the place to begin the change.