Do you see what I see?
Often dreams work a sleight of hand. Something will show up as “this”, but then it transforms into “that”. And the reason it was “this” is because I was relating to it in a certain way, to which it was responding, manifesting itself accordingly. (To be able to initiate and control this process is called lucid dreaming.) Here the dream is demonstrating an often stated catechism about the power of a positive (or negative) outlook in the waking world. One’s outlook or attitude toward a given situation can actually alter the situation and therefore one’s reality. (In quantum physics, they have been stating for some time, that the mere presence of a subject performing an experiment involving sub-atomic particles, alters the results, and this in a strictly controlled setting.)
Just how important is one’s sense of reality in the larger picture? Very.
For example, just last month it seemed like we were very close to confronting North Korea militarily. At the height of this crisis I wrote to a friend: “As I write, there is a battle group heading for, as far as I can tell, a confrontation with North Korea, which could result in war and the death of tens of thousands of South Koreans and North Koreans and Americans, both soldiers and civilians stationed in South Korea. How mad is that? And even if it doesn’t happen, it is so close to happening I cannot avoid thinking about it. It colors my day and bleeds into my life.”
A day later it turned out that this story, that I read on the BBC World News, was a fake news story. The next day (4/19/17), the BBC came out with the following correction, absolving itself of the onus of bad-reporting: “US defense chiefs have been clarifying the whereabouts of warships that President Trump erroneously suggested last week were sailing for North Korea. US Defense Secretary James Mattis said the USS Carl Vinson strike group is now proceeding to the Western Pacific. . . . for training with Australia’s navy. South Korean media were incredulous, with one newspaper headline blaring, “Trump’s Carl Vinson lie”.
In the Trump era, fake news is permissible if it is strategic, and temporarily persuasive. In other words, the administration has so little respect for the average person’s intelligence that they will claim anything if it serves their purpose long enough to be buried by the next story, say, 24 – 36 hours. This tactic of gambling that their tracks will be covered is nothing new. The whole justification for George Bush Jr. declaring war with Iraq was bogus. The so-called intelligence bolstering the claim that Saddam Hussein was concealing chemical weapons of mass destruction in sophisticated mobile units, and was therefore a threat to world peace, was based on obscure satellite photos, supplemented by artists’ close-ups of the alleged weapons and support-technology. The whole campaign to convince the UN Security council to back a US-led invasion . . . fake news.
Trump has a long way to go to out-do Bush for wagging the dog.
So, Trump’s fake news story affected my waking world, my attitude towards the future, my level of anxiety (my sleep and therefore my health), as well as how I was going to teach my class, which happened to be on the subject of war. It affected my mood, what I chose to talk about with my wife and friends, and it affected my dreams! (I dreamed that I was Trump’s intern. I had just completed a project that I believed in, that I thought he might support, but in the dream he simply rejected it without explanation and without looking at me. I woke feeling powerless and discouraged.)
The point is, that if a million people are as troubled as I was during those days when bellicose threats were flying back and forth between two hot-headed nuclear powers, that creates a collective climate of anxiety and despair that influences the zeitgeist. Think of it – fake news foments real emotions, which can wreak havoc with mental health.
(That is what was happening with the American psyche for 20 years during the Cold War!) No wonder we are, increasingly, a nation on medication. No wonder Americans are addicted to opiates. Nobody knows what’s real.