“We are all looking around as a global society, all coming to the realization that we’ve been duped. Collectively, we know we must stop going down this road…but how, when we’ve come to rely so heavily on the system that the über-opportunists have created? How, when an entire culture is structured around consumption, inefficiency, and waste – and when so many of us rely on the flawed system for our livelihoods – can we suddenly change course?” ~ Alice Santoro
What does it mean to be bamboozled? It means to be conned, defrauded, tricked, or made a fool of. It’s the imposition, direct or indirect, of an outside force that suckers us into believing that such-and-such is the case, when in fact it is another way altogether. It is the wool that has been pulled over our eyes to blind us from the truth. It’s an authority pointing at an illusion and declaring to the ignorant that it is real.
It is a trusted adult informing an innocent child that something is healthy when it is actually unhealthy, and all because a trusted adult informed that trusted adult that something was healthy when it wasn’t, and so on and so forth. Bamboozlement begets bamboozlement, hence the importance of questioning to the nth degree and knowing the secret of open-mindedness.
Here then are three ways we can transform bamboozlement into enlightenment.
1) Learn how to turn the tables on cognitive dissonance
“Sometimes people hold a core belief that is very strong. When they are presented with evidence that works against the core belief, the new evidence cannot be accepted. It would create a feeling that is extremely uncomfortable, called cognitive dissonance. And because it is so important to protect the core belief, they will rationalize, ignore and even deny anything that doesn’t fit with the core belief” ~ Frantz Fanon
Everything changes. Nothing stays the same. Things are always in flux. There is no permanence. But it is extremely difficult for human beings to really let this fact sink in. We are rarely ever aware that our personalities are changing, and in the sense that we are aware, we are afraid. The same thing applies to our worldviews.
We are just as unaware that our worldviews are changing as we are unaware that the world is changing. It’s almost as if we need order and consistency so much that we deny that disorder and inconsistency are just as much a dynamic of the human condition. The denial of this inherent disorder and inconsistency is what creates the condition that Leon Festinger refers to as cognitive dissonance.
Turning the tables on cognitive dissonance is learning the ability to live within the tension between opposites. It’s a scary place, but there is much adventure to be had there. Similar to a mythical hero facing down the dark forces of the underworld, our inner-hero comes to the fore to be the one who battles back the forces of deception and betrayal on the one side, and security and certainty on the other side.
It is between these opposites, not giving into either side, where the hero truly shines. Turning the tables on cognitive dissonance is the ability to stand within the flux and remain flexible, to transform the core belief into a malleable confidence.
It’s the willingness to be uncomfortable with new evidence – to really be present with that discomfort – while also being okay with the fact that we still remain an aspect of the outdated system that has yet to embrace the new evidence.
And as long as our intention is to systematically escape bamboozlement and to help others to escape it, then we should not be too hard on ourselves, or on others. But we should be hard enough.
“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozlement. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozlement has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.” ~ Carl Sagan
Similar to learning to live within the tension between opposites, learning to live between the experience of success and setbacks is extremely important. Learning to experience the joy that comes with embracing inconveniences is a very sacred joy, as it fully immerses us in the here-and-now, forcing us to feel the pain of the experience and to transform it into new knowledge. It’s another way of finding meaning within the meaninglessness.
But we must first admit that we’ve been taken. We must be able to get a grip on the fact that we’ve been fooled. When we appreciate our setbacks in the here-and-now, we set ourselves up for success in the future. We open ourselves up to finding out the truth. The current pitfall could hold the tools necessary to create tomorrow’s victory.
Have no illusions, the current debacle that is our declining, devolving culture, is a setback of monumental proportions. It is a towering monstrosity of failure. It’s the ultimate pitfall. But you know what? That’s okay. It has to be okay. It must be embraced in all its hellish glory, so that we can move on.
It must be appreciated for exactly how unhealthy and unsustainable it is for human beings and for the planet, so that we can pick up the pieces and create something new. There is knowledge in the pain, but we have to allow ourselves to feel it before we can learn from it.
There are piles of gold hidden beneath all that shit, but we have to deal with the shit first in order to retrieve it. Just as we have the ability to learn from our mistakes, personally, we have the ability to learn from our mistakes, culturally.
The bamboozlement is what it is. There’s nothing we can do to change the fact that we’ve been bamboozled. We cannot control the people who are trying to bamboozle us. But we can control how we react to that bamboozlement. We can appreciate it for what it is, and then learn from the charlatan’s catastrophically bad example of how not to behave.
3) Learn how to get power over power
“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” ~ Abraham Lincoln
The secret to getting power over power can be found in a single word: prestige. It all at once encompasses the concepts of respect, distinction, and power. A person can have tons of money, but if they don’t have wisdom then they do not have prestige.
A person can be successful, but if they don’t have self-respect, as well as respect for others, then they do not have prestige. A person can be powerful, but if they don’t have compassion then they do not have prestige. And if a person has wisdom, self-respect, and compassion even without wealth, success, or power, then they still have prestige.
At the end of the day, prestige is the truer power. The problem is: our culture has it completely backwards. A huge aspect of the Great Bamboozlement is the fact that our culture puts power before prestige. It overvalues “the spectacle.”
Like Alexander Lowen wrote, “When wealth occupies a higher position than wisdom, when notoriety is admired more than dignity, when success is more important than self-respect, the culture itself over-values “image” and must be regarded as narcissistic.”
So what are we to do in the face of such rampant narcissism? There’s no simple answer.
Getting power over power is, somehow, discovering personal prestige despite the aggrandizement of false power. To truly get power over power, it is not enough to simply be content with the bamboozlement, we must will ourselves into a disclosure of being by revealing the bamboozlement and the charlatans who set it into motion.
Otherwise we become nothing more than shadow-puppets of an aggrandized pseudo-reality. We must transform the charlatan’s false stage into a platform of prestige. We must transform ourselves from shadow-puppets into sincere thespians.
We must replace the inadequate props and crutches that are holding up the house-of-cards of the bamboozlement with the solid foundation and sustainable fortitude of Truth. As long as our ritual of power is wrapped up in money, then we are merely pseudo-powerful. But if our ritual of power is symbolized through prestige, then we are authentically powerful.
The way we gain prestige in a world that recognizes only money as power, is to get power over money and use it as a tool for progressively sustainable interdependence.
One way to get power over money is through the concept of capital munificence: the expiation and reciprocity of wealth with emphasis on holistic and eco-moral compassion. A tall order, indeed, but nothing short of the health of the world, and the health of each other, hangs in the balance.