by Joe Courter
Now I do not intend to go all matrix-ie here, I want to stay out of the shadows and the speculative, but address real issues, because these are challenging times, and shining a light is both necessary and can be uncomfortable.
What first caught my attention was a BBC interview I heard early in the morning on Oct. 29 with youth activists at the COP 26 conference. A young woman used the phrase “fantasy present,” referring to the ignoring of science and the illusion that there are actually steps being taken to solve the climate crisis. Or in Greta’s words, “Blah, blah, blah.” Corporations knew they were doing damage, but hid it, and so much time was lost by their creating this illusion. Politicians made pronouncements and promises that were not fulfilled.
We are seeing more and more that our vaunted free and fair elections are being subverted, and the illusion that this is a well-run system is fading as the realities of blatant gerrymandering, closing voting precincts, and purged voter rolls have their effect. Add to that the fact that a losing candidate has created a self-serving myth of a stolen election and almost pulled off a coup. And it has been said, an unpunished coup is a rehearsal. Do we harbor an illusion that this country can’t have a coup? Some of us will go so far as to say the mega-rich have already had their coup, a Wall Street coup set in motion in the ’80s.
The history of this country seems to be exposed as fraught with illusions, and shining a light on it is upsetting a lot of people. Examples: The early propagation of white supremacy, the effects of redlining, the staggering mistreatment of native people. To leave out the impact of these policies is a toxic illusion.
The brilliant slogan Black Lives Matter is a simple acknowledgment that for a long while and in many ways, they haven’t mattered. The strong push back on teaching hard truths is now a new political strategy employed in Virginia, and no doubt will be amped up in our state’s politics very soon. Illusions with mass appeal can be dangerous.
Here in Gainesville, at the University of Florida, illusions abound. I suppose a big illusion many people may have is that a university, a “Top Five” university, is an independent citadel of knowledge, geared toward truth and bettering society. Events of the past week have shown it to be a tool of the ruling Republican establishment with heavy loyalty to its overwhelmingly conservative Board of Trustees and following the mandates (pun intended) of our reactionary governor.
Large corporations and institutions don’t like controversy, and the best way to prevent it is to control information and image management; maintain the illusion that everything is okay. Censorship is nothing new here, they just don’t usually get caught with their pants down like this. And as we get close to press time, serious backpedaling is in progress by the UF administration, nothing like blundering in serial fashion to draw attention to yourself and get national media on the case … blood in the water. (See story on pages 8-9.) My high school motto was “Knowledge is Power.” UF’s seems like “Knowledge Serving the Powerful.”
Speaking of the powerful, here we come, 2022. I hope we can continue out of our Covid shells and start doing things together. Political organizing this year is paramount! We are in our Blue Bubble here in Alachua County, but huge statewide races are opportunities. Knock out Rubio. Knock out DeSantis. More locally, Knock out Cammack.
Overcoming measures of voter suppression should be a motivator. Voter education is so important. Maybe sensible people should start attending school board meetings, and defend science and history. The current rise of the Right is no illusion; this is authoritarian populism being cultivated. Those followers are being led by professional illusionists, using the modern tools of illusion creation via social media to both fear monger and raise false hopes. It is a tangled web they’ve woven with their lies. They need to be faced and challenged, and their false illusions unraveled with truth and actual programs to change people’s lives.