Friday 28 December 2007

Illusion and Isolation

Reality, is in a sense, entirely subjective.
If I bang my fist down on this desk, it will hurt. Solid hits solid.
It doesn't change the fact that most of the desk, as with all matter, is composed of empty space.

I witnessed a scam take place a couple of weeks ago, and it was well done. So well done, in fact, that I didn't cotton on until too late.

I had just returned to the bar at my local pub, from under the canopy where we now must go to inhale a few drags of tobacco. One of the other regulars was tucking into a cheese sandwich that the lovely Jo (our sexy redhead barmaid), had just made for him.
At this point an earnest guy I'd never seen before who Jo was serving, asked if he could get a sandwich. Bear in mind the time is 10PM.
Jo replied that the pub wasn't serving food,as such, but she could make him one. He hummed and hawed a bit, her saying it would be no trouble, him declining. I'm just standing there thinking 'If you want a sandwich, have a sandwich, if not, shut up. You're monopolising the person I want to be talking to.'

I missed the point. Suddenly it came.
'You didn't give me my tenner.'
Jo looked puzzled 'I did. You put in your pocket!'

He emptied all his pockets. No tenner in sight. She looked at me. I gave her that look to say 'I wasn't watching him. I don't know where he put it, but I'm sure I saw him folding up a tenner.'

She should have stood her ground, but she didn't. She took a tenner out of the till, and went to find her boyfriend. By which point our weaselly friend had gone.

I'm sure it went up his sleeve. But he had his patter done well. Annoying enough and whining enough, to get all the other customers to look away in exasperation, whilst the barmaid doesn't watch his hands, because she is half turned to go and make a sandwich.

I did feel bad about not having been paying attention, and offered her a tenner to put in the till to make sure she didn't get in to trouble. She declined, but was clearly very upset for the rest of the evening.

It wasn't actually that clever a trick. I know of far better ones, but it proves the point. A trick doesn't have to be that clever to fool people. The point is, perception. Keeping people's eyes away. It is easier to fool someone if you can isolate them.

You can fool some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time, but you can't fool all of the people, all of the time.
You can, however get round that.

A classic scenario is that described admirably by Alexandre Dumas, in the Three Musketeers.

Lord de Winter imprisons the character Milady, intending to dispatch her to the New World. He knows why Milady has come to England, to assassinate the Duke of Buckingham.

Knowing her divide and rule strategy, her power to infect anyone with her poison, he chooses the one gaoler who SHOULD prove immune to her charms.
The morally upright, apparently incorruptible John Felton.

He didn't think. For after five days of constant contact with Milady, Felton lives in a reality invented by Milady. Felton believes that Milady is a Puritan, like him, that the Duke of Buckingham sought to steal her honour, that indeed, Buckingham is a monster who he, John Felton, must destroy.

Because, whilst guarding her, Felton has lost contact with objective reality, he has been isolated from contact with other souls, who would have continuously thrust upon him the reality, they would have shown him, proved to him, that this indeed was an evil woman. The reader, knowing the truth about this woman, is mesmerised at this point, at the cleverness with which this honest soul is lured towards his own ruin.

And so Felton engineers the escape of Milady, and murders Buckingham.
Buckingham dead, the tool Felton goes bravely to his death, blissfully unaware that he dies for a lie.
And Milady? Oh, she kills again before she meets her demise.

As long as you isolate those you CAN fool, from those you can't, you are on to a winner.

And this is how so much of human society works. Isolate us. Keep us in compact units, the 'nuclear family', sitting in our own homes, with fences separating us from neighbours who we rarely speak to, sitting on our sofas watching television every free moment we have. Let this be our main contact with the world, a one way exposition, telling us what public opinion is.

God forbid we should actually talk to eachother and find out what we really think.

The trick this isolation plays, is it has us the real majority, feeling it is just us, just us that feels the way we do. When we see studio discussions on Question Time, we really think that we see a cross section of all points of view.
Representatives of the three main parties, a newspaper editor and a carefully chosen outsider- a cross section of society?

What we see are five people chosen to channel five slight variations on a common consensus. It is not a true debate. We find more interesting debate in our own living rooms, if we turn the TV off and have our friends round.

Public opinion is what the pollsters proclaim, after asking a series of closed questions- Gordon Brown, or David Cameron. Did they ask us how we'd feel about Gandalf for PM?

Keeping people in narrow social circles, with limited contacts is the main way they do it. They sell the lie to enough gullible, unthinking sheep, who go along with the lies because they aren't personally harmed. And the rest of us, keep thinking we are alone, we are outsiders. We are not. You are not.

I have always known that, because I have always kept myself in that section of culture they try to destroy, because it refuses to sit there and be lied to. The section that knows that life is to be found in people, in connection and dialogue with people. The more people you share your thoughts with, the closer to objective reality you get. If you spend your life in continuous interactive communication with as large a circle of people as you possibly can, and you consciously seek to add to that circle every day, they won't fool you.

And nor will anyone. Because you can't fool ALL the people ALL the time.
That's why every connection you have with every human being is important, it is part of your own support network, protecting you, keeping you safe.

The whole point of divide and rule, is to lie to both sides.

Treat every connection you have, as a a treasure. Not just your close friends and family, but the wider circle, your pub friends, your club friends, your blog friends, the numbers in your mobile you've half forgotten about. These connections are all important too. It's more worthwhile to go for a drink with someone you haven't seen for months, than watch Eastenders.
It's more worthwhile to share your thoughts here than tell your partner about your day at work. It's no insight to him/her.

Our own views are narrow and subjective.
Together, with as many eyes as we can get, we see the bigger picture.


Anonymous said...

Two good thoughts woven together. That misdirection is an essential tool in any trickster's belt. And more importantly perhaps, that subjective reality occurs in isolation. When you smack that table that is not evidence of objective reality, only of an event in your subjective consciousness. When two people smack the table, talk about it, agree that it hurts, that is evidence of an objective reality, a product of communication and consent. Which makes it malleable, of course. You can, as you point out, construct the reality of the future through this communication. Provocative writing, original thinking, as usual, woke up my brain, thanks.

Anonymous said...

That's an old scam, to be sure. I've seen it around here in one variation or another. When I was eleven I got rooked into paying for a Coke twice by a bored gas station attendant. I was a kid and didn't know how to handle it. As I left the gas station, I looked at the attendant who was staring back at me and flipped me the one finger salute--two fingers in your country. At $0.89, it was a cheap lesson to learn, that honor is not to be taken for granted no matter the situation. Keep you eyes open and always get a receipt.

The people who do this look for the busy person (other than looking for ignorant kids), somebody who they can count on to have their mind in ten places at once--like your friend Jo. They also prey on the fact that someone like her is kind enough to give others the benefit of the doubt. She could as easily have said, "too bad for you", and he would have had no recourse. But he knew she would be kind enough to not want to steal a tenner--he knew that because he is well familiar with the kind of person who would steal one.

It would be nice to roll back time and say, "fuck your damn pockets, you turd burglar, it's in your sleeve."

But on the large scale, we are all getting ripped off of by more than the price of a soft drink, more than a tenner, every day by those in charge. Many give them the benefit of the doubt, thinking they have our best interests at heart. The only interest they care about is that which is compounded on their bank accounts.

Anonymous said...

I've thought about this idea in a few different contexts, the idea that in isolation, people can be so much more vulnerable.

Actually (a little off topic), the research that I do looks a lot at racism and how people cope with it. The best way to get someone to sit under such oppression is to isolate them from their group, who both serve as support, but also as a bit of a sounding board, to help them recognize the injustice that can be so hard to claim and stand up for on their own.

You can see the first steps of any sort of oppressive regime, even on the most minute level, when they try to tear apart social networks like that.

Anonymous said...

Nothing to add. Great post, Crushed!

Anonymous said...

Paul- It goes pack to the old topic, if a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

The answer is NO.

Sound is a perception, it depends on ears to hear it. souns exists, only because ears exist.
Reality exists, because beings exist who can share their perceptions.
Our world REALLY is what we stand up and choose it to be.

There is no such thing as idle dreaming.

Eric- I actually deleted a passage where I outlined the better version, but I'll share it with you now. I deleted it, because I didn't want people to think it was something I lived by, but I used to do it when I was student, with less much less funds and even less ethics.

You approach the bar of a crowded pub. You hold in your hand, unfolded, a crisp twenty. You order four drinks, pointing at each with the twenty in your hand. Their eyes follow the twenty.

When you pay, you hand then a folded tenner.
It works fifty perecent of the time, butb you lose nothing.
One of two things happen, you get change on the basis of a tenner, or you get change on the basis of a twenty.
All you did was encourage them to cock up and not look at the note you actually gave them. You can't lose.

As I say, not done it since I was a student, because I grew up and realised that what goes around comes around. I learned an important lesson over time. Scam people, it is yourself you really scam.
But if the prize is power, then I guess people don't mind scamming themselves.

Princess P- OK, here's how I see that issue. I think you may have bought their myth (I welcome your disagreement on this) 'Their group'. Isn't that the problem? People of their skin colour? Am I in some way better off if I ONLY have access to people with blue eyes and brown curly hair?

That's a genetic heritage too. Race, sex, sexuality, it's all an attempt to put us in boxes, tell us this particular group is where we belong and that the rest of humanity is our foe, not 'our type'

But it doesn't matter, does it? You don't ACTUALLY know what colour I am, what sex I am, any of that. You only know what I THINK. It happens that the pic in my didebar IS of me, but you have to take that on trust.

THAT'S the point. They try to divide us on things that matter nothing.

They won't defeat this social network. Not whilst people like you are here :)

Sean- What can I say, you are a very rewarding and very frustrating commenter rolled into one.

You save me the job of an in depth response, but you add to my guilt in feeling I have left you out.

So I leave you with the response that is your own signature, 'The Pease of the Night'.

Check out this reticent guy, peeps. Omnium.

Anonymous said...

Like Sean, I found this a very interesting post, well planned and developed from the story through to the conclusion. The niggle for me was the assumption that there is this agenda that they have. I frankly don't think they are that organized for they are usually fighting among themselves.

In my union activities I always found the rhetoric used by some laughable, eg "management (substitute they) is out to get(alternate word)us". Mostly individual managers did the wrong thing out of ignorance, not deliberately.

Keeping people in narrow social circles, with limited contacts is the main way they do it. Ignoring the they, but you see that's the way the majority want it. They are basically lazy and uninterested and content to live their lives that way.

Still, good post Crushed.

Anonymous said...

That's OK, if they shot people for the sins of youth, there'd be no adult human beings.

I once sold rolled cigarettes passed off as joints a few times. Of course, I knew who would not know the difference and who would. That was as a young student, and I figured, what are they going to do, call the police? And it was better than really dealing dope. I just wanted to smoke, not sell.

I'm lucky to have not been beaten up for that one.

Anonymous said...

your reply made me smile. Thanks a lot.
Why would I not very often comment?
Well, like you I think it is not only "frustrating" but also pretty boring to receive backslapping one- or few-word-comments; at least on the long row.
On the other hand, why should I write more when not being able to add at least one new aspect, something which has not been mentioned before?
Repeating what I read by just choosing some different words, is / were slightly redundant, not to say silly, would you agree?
Hm, and when not going d'accord with what you wrote, (for me) it's getting the more difficult.
Why? Well, I do have the feeling that my comments then mostly sound either acid or (too) ironic. And I do not wish to sound impolite, offending or whatsoever, when being guest.
If I want to be provocative, sarcastic I am free to be so on my blog.
Finally: Writing a short com(pli)ment, does not necessarily implicate that I do agree 100 per cent. A well composed post, thoughtful and / or thoughtprovoking, is often more appreciated by this "reticent guy" than a post in which he finds exactly what he has been thinking for decades, if you understand what I mean. :)
Conclusion, on the risk to get diagnosed with logorrhoea: I like this blog and it's owner although I do often not entirely agree.
The Peace of the Night! :)

Anonymous said...

"It's more worthwhile to go for a drink with someone you haven't seen for months, than watch Eastenders."

I HAVE to disagree with you.

There is more drama and emotion in 20 minutes of Eastenders than there is in real life. It's like being a fly on the wall of many lives as opposed to just one or two.

Very interesting post as usual.

Anonymous said...

and yet everyone I know is a dummy who read The Sun... how bad is that?

Anonymous said...

Even if no one hears it, the tree still makes a sound. Just because no one is there to see it happen doesn't mean that it doesn't happen.

Far too often things are overlooked because people are to pre occupied to pay attention.

Anonymous said...


We're definitely selecting from a menu that is written for us by the chef.

Options that the majority would choose are deliberately removed - the language is changed in a form of subliminal mind control (political correctness.)

I understand that too diffuse a range of choices leads to chaos, but what we want (simple things, ie police on the streets or trains that run on time) are denied us under false premises - for what ends I do not know.

I think they just enjoy pissing us off.

Anonymous said...

> The point is, perception. Keeping people's eyes away. It is easier to fool someone if you can isolate them.

Very well said. Together with your punchline 'Our own views are narrow and subjective. Together, with as many eyes as we can get, we see the bigger picture', I get the message; have more people looking, so that if you're fooled, someone else will see the trick :-)

Anonymous said...

jmb- well, I don't believe in an orgainised conspiracy, no. I believe in a power matrix which works a certain way. It wasn't planned, it evolved.

But those in a position to understand how it works, use it to their advantage.

Eric- Unfortunately, the illegality of that particular market means it has it's own little substratum of scams.
I think though, on the whole, what goes around, comes around. If you scam someone for short term gain, it's a fture friend lost.

Sean- I think it is good to have our conceptions challenged, even if we don't agree with the challenge. Sometimes a well written post which we don't agree with, sets us thinking on why we disagree.

Sometimes, comments sections can be more enlightening than posts themselves.

Alexys- You sum up I think, the success of the soap opera. It is used as both a substitute for Real Life, as well as something that dictates what people's real lives are.
But real life is infinitely more complex, with far less bkacks and whites.

Mutley- The Sun is a rag, but slightly less so than the Mirror. The Sun has Trevor Kavanagh, though admittedly, he does seem a little out of place.
Gary Bushell, on the other hand, is a disgrace in my view.

Oestrebunny- Sound is the travelling of waves through air. Unlike light, which is actually an entity, sound is merely a disruption of the gases composing the air.
To exit, it needs both an atmosphere and sensory organs adapted to register that movement in the air.

But your second point is correct. It is being attentive to our surroundings, and eachother that is essential.
If no one listens to us, it is for us to stop seeing ourselves as real. No one should have to suffer that.

E-K- I think the point is to make us beg. They want us thinking in terms of trade offs. Your streets CAN be safer but;
To do so, we need 90 day detention, stop and search powers, ID cards.

Will you pay the price?

And by destryoing communities and isolating us, they stop us looking out for eachother. They stop us being our OWN security.

Neighbourhood Watch didn't work because no one could be arsed, so it became the street lovechild of Little Hitlers.

Eve- How many times have you heard someone telling a story about you, that everyone remembers EXCEPT you?

Every achievement humanity has made has been down to collective thought. No one man could have come up with Quantum Mechanics FROM scratch. It is a history of hundreds of minds adding their bit over millenia.

'I see further by standing on the shoulders of giants'

The more people communicating with eachother, the stronger we are.

Anonymous said...

> 'I see further by standing on the shoulders of giants'
The more people communicating with eachother, the stronger we are.

Ohhh... Very good quote, CBI! I like it :-)

Anonymous said...

A very good post CbI.

Btw, Eastenders is a distraction, the circus maximus - funny how people can recall all the plot twists and characters but cannot be bothered who they vote for or why. The BBC should not be in such a racket, but I suspect they think it is a neat way to keep everyone under the impression that life is all about shouting, feuds, backstabbing, cheating, lying where the good guys are boring and get rolled on a regular basis.