The Illusion of Identity & Propaganda

Saturday, September 24th 2011

China could step in to help rescue Europe from its debt crisis after holding top-level talks with Italy's finance minister.

The Italian government confirmed on Tuesday that Giulio Tremonti had met the head of China Investment Corp, the country's sovereign wealth fund, in Rome last week. It is understood that Tremonti asked the Chinese delegation to consider buying Italy's sovereign debt and making strategic investments in Italian companies.

The Italian treasury declined to give details of the meeting, but traders were encouraged that Beijing might use its financial muscle to help the eurozone.

Note how you could easily replace the countries and turn this into a much more personal narrative.

Geoff could step in to help rescue Tim from its debt crisis after holding top-level talks with Tim's accountant.

Tim confirmed on Tuesday he had met Geoff in Rome last week. It is understood that he asked Geoff to consider buying Tim's sovereign debt.

Tim declined to give details of the meeting, but traders were encouraged that Geoff might use its financial muscle to help the eurozone.

The Illusion of Indentity

You could even render it all completely meaningless:

Wyuushsiudyyd could step in to help rescue Hisyodoshod from its debt crisis after holding top-level talks with IYosdyoshod's accountant.

GIIghsidhsjd confirmed on Tuesday he had met IYohosdj in Rome last week. It is understood that he asked OUoishdnas to consider buying IGIHIhsd's sovereign debt.

Qgdjjdiu declined to give details of the meeting, but traders were encouraged that UIshdhbd might use its financial muscle to help the eurozone.

This might seem silly!

And it is.

In a way.

But the way people divide the world up into separate entities - China, Italy, Catholic, Right-wing, Left wing, Marxist, Captialist etc - is important. Obviously!

This way of understanding the world is so full of inadequate, lazy short-hand. Short-cuts.

What gives these short-cuts their reality is that we act on them - "I'm Chinese", "As a capitalist, I say ..." - and so it becomes a collectively held act of imagination.

Because it is so widely acted upon and widely believed it is declared real by most participants.

The strange thing is that the didactic, ideological and imagined is thus dressed up as "practical". An entirely circular set of ideas support this; we talk in these terms because people act in those terms. Suddenly the imagined is seen as savvy, realistic and practical.

In this way, people hide ideology in reality.

It's not by accident that it's easy to replace "China" with Geoff in those paragraphs above.

Oddly, the idea of "China" is not really much different as the idea of "me", "you" or "Geoff".

The only difference is the illusion of your self is something you experience in higher fidelity. It is what you think it is - literally! Whereas "China" is what lots of people think it is. But, then again, people have their own versions of "you" in their heads. So you are what they say you are, too.

These arbitrary classifications allow for all sorts of cant. It is odd how Geoff being self interested is immoral, whereas as acting in the "national interest" is often seen as noble or, at least, reasonable.

And these beliefs feed into each other. People say things about you, says things to you, and this contributes to their view of you and your own view of yourself. People write articles about China and Italy. People talk to "Italians" and form their own ideas about them based on experience.

And so the edifice is built.

If you were to say that all these things are products of the imagination - arguably illusions - you would be said to a dreamy, crazy, idealistic, silly, impractical. No different to believing in gnomes (which I happen to believe in), then people would think you a fool.

This cant and illusion becomes so habitual, so normal, they become fixtures in the world. Apparently immoveable objects. Perception becomes, as they say, reality.

The ideas aren't seen for what they are - ideas. Ideas we give form to.

But there is a danger in this. Some people are aware of the stupidity and arbitrariness of this structure.

Then you end up with the attentive versus the inattentive. People become objects of propaganda, the techniques of the insider. Where reality is manipulated to suit the propagandist.

The question arises: is everybody a propagandist one way or another? :-) After all, everybody has insight about aspects of the world; things they see as illusions are reality to others. And those others become objects of the techniques of the knowing propagandist.

See also:

(Thanks to Sophie for inspiring this one)