Why humankind cannot bear too much reality

In a memorable phrase, the Anglo-American poet T. S. Eliot once suggested that “humankind cannot bear too much reality”. You, dears, being quick to spot the res, will no doubt notice that the poet did not say that we cannot bear reality per se; nor that we can hardly stand to face certain realities – but that as a race (human, I mean) we throw in the towel in less time than it takes for a duck to shake its tail twice when confronted with too much of the bally stuff.

It’s almost as if, in a gruelling tête-à-tête with things as they are, we lower our eyes, mumble incoherently about having another appointment elsewhere, and skedaddle like the proverbial scared rabbit in the jaws of a bloodhound. Cheerio, chums, got to dash…

But enough of this bland blather, eh? The point I was trying to make before I got carried away by the lure of blandings was that, er, what was it now, ah yes, that homo sapiens, as the superior being in the order of creation on this benighted, um blessed, planet, “cannot b. too much r”. What’s that, dear? Yes, of course. Permit me to explain – you are far too kind…

If a more business-minded bloke than our tender-hearted philosopher, the late Eliot Esq., were to essay an explanation, he may have put it something like this. We don’t care to have reality rubbed in our faces. There is no point in facing up squarely to the way things are. So the best bet is to act as if nothing is wrong – and then, hopefully, everything will be all right. Or at least we can pretend that it is until we all kick the bucket. Dear, dear…

Now that we have got that off our chest, thanks to the late great poet Thomas Stearns and the abovementioned b.-minded b. aka t.-h. philosopher, here’s our own humble offering as to the plethora of ways in which we manage to mosey along the merry course of life. (Sans too much reality, it goes without saying.) Note while we cannot claim to have invented any of these methods, we are chuffed to bits that someone had the gumption to. Hear, hear…

LIES. For example, that video which is doing the rounds like nobody’s business. Everyone in authority over here knows that it is a lie, don’t they? Unless, of course, it is the truth (see also category below). In which case, it’s nobody’s business. Pity, then, that the powers that be over there have made it their concern. Haven’t they heard of killing fields in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya? Why isn’t anyone asking what ails those theatres of war – I mean, humanitarian intervention in other countries’ oil fields – I mean, oil wells – I mean, well-being…

HALF-TRUTHS. Known in some circles as “damned lies” (see first category above). In this limbo of genuine duplicity and counterfeit frankness lurk such unanswered questions like: “Who bumped off that pestilential gadfly of a journalist?”; “What in the world happened in the World Cup final?”; and “Why are K, P, and KP treated as if they each belonged to a different old boys’ club when the three of them are a pair, if there ever was one?”

STATE-SPONSORED PROPAGANDA. In the good old days, this used to masquerade under the pseudonym “statistics” (And do you know why they are called the good old days? Because we were not good, we were not old, and we did all the good old things at night! But that is neither here nor there, is it.).

Today, statistics are properly known by their more scientific term: “wishful thinking”. These cover a panoply of realities from military exercises that are humanitarian operations and peacekeeping forces that commit war crimes. In perhaps the last twist of the knife (another memorable phrase for which we are indebted again to the poet T. S. E.), collateral damage – which was the world’s only superpower’s wishful-thinking term for the unfortunate demise of non-combatants – has been reinvented as zero civilian casualties.

Lest you think that little island nations or emerging banana republics are more culpable than military industrial complexes that police the world, think again. If the day comes when Henry Kissinger is hauled up before an international court of justice for war crimes committed in a “just war” (another statistically spun half-truth or damned lie), I will eat my hat. Of course, that’s a lie! Or, more accurately, a half-truth? For as everyone knows, the fact that writers like me eat our hats on a regular basis is merely state-sponsored propaganda.

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