Walter Mosley the prolific, talented and entertaining novelist occasionally produces an essay or two covering various political and humanitarian observations. His most recent essay, Life out of Context explores the inordinate amount of truth lacking in our lives.
A terrible societal mistake of the 70’s and 80’s was to introduce the idea of role-playing into daily life. This provided individuals the option of being (or acting like) diverse identities in different areas of life. A man could be a hard charging, back stabbing, ruthless businessman at work, a loving husband and doting father at home and a rude, ill tempered, cheat on the tennis court. This is a radical example but it does illustrate the confusion of possibilities available to someone willing to improvise reactions to every of life’s ever changing situations. If a person is not rooted within self he operates out of context and life becomes a lie. Personality was not meant to be instantaneously malleable. As a result modern society has become increasingly schizophrenic, wherein bullshit is expected and cynicism becomes the norm. Mosley suggests as a foundation cure we try to tell the truth once a day. Instead of voicing the party line, adhering to corporate expectations, giving in to preconceived notions, mouthing blatant bias or remaining silent while facing a barrage of lies, Tell the Truth.
In ’68 my father faced a dilemma. The corporate hierarchy informed middle management in no uncertain terms that a vote for Nixon was expected in the upcoming election. My father was a dyed in the wool FDR democrat, a northern liberal, a Kennedy Catholic and a Notre Dame graduate. He would sooner rot in hell than vote republican. In 1968 my Dad fathered his ninth child and dearly needed his cushy corporate job. At work he smiled and nodded and quietly voted for Hubert Humphrey. For nearly ten years I accused him of voting for Nixon, not until Carter was safely in office did he own up to his successful ruse. Father remained true to self; kept his job, paid my tuition long enough top save me from Vietnam and did it while fooling the powers that be into thinking he was a good corporate republican. This is what you can do if you remain in context.
The Bush administration is an example of a bunch of people so lost within their own story that they are unable to recognize morality, mortality or the slightest semblance of truth. Governing within the confines of a fictive construct disconnects the reality feed and the immense sadness and suffering of the world does not register or make an impression. Bush can fly to New Orleans a thousand times and never understand what happened there.
Sadly, we as a people have become desensitized to the horrors the world presents on a daily basis. We are encouraged to fear rather than to feel. Living out of context impairs the ability to empathize. Our young soldiers cannot hide from the carnage of war and come home shocked to the core. John Kennedy initiated the Peace Corp and the VISTA program to introduce young people to the realities of the third world and the poverty and suffering in rural and big city America. Today children are required to participate in the joke called ‘community service.’ Our children remain self absorbed, disengaged, famously bored and a little afraid.
Mosley proposes a ‘Clockwork Orange’ scenario of posting horrific images of suffering, war and genocide on public screens. This would most likely prove to be counterproductive as T.V., computer and movie screens are the great desensitizers of modern times. I say send the kids to one of the myriad refugee camps that dot the globe. Send the parents the second year.
Within our society great gaps exist; wealth/poverty, fascism/liberty, fanaticism/spirituality and probably the biggest breach of all is the Grand Canyon dividing comfort and conformity from the reality of giving a shit
Our new President-elect suggests that these gaps may be narrowed. He also never fails to mention that such instances of vicissitude require sacrifice and effort. The continuing narrow plurality (53% to 47%) indicates the distinct possibility for continued divisiveness. Unanimity may be expressed in the context of our time. Success will be a huge reality check and the most substantive stimulus to a culture undergoing transformation.