by Phil Rockstroh
I remember my first impression of the Reality Television program American Idol. I cringed at the thought, what if, a young Bob Dylan, Patti Smith, or the members of The Clash had been forced to have their talents appraised by the sort of shallow celebrities, supercilious moderators, and gallery of lowest common denominator-giddy cretins attendant to the hype-driven fare.
Yet now, there is serious talk among abjectly unserious people that the next presidential election might pit a billionaire, Reality Television grifter versus a billionaire, Reality Television grifter. All hail, The President of the United States Of Reality Television.
Oprah Winfrey is and has been since her entrance into the US mass media hologram one of the capitalist elite’s most effective propagandists. By intention, her New Age snake oil-peddling patter never connects capitalist exploitation as the dominant source of individual suffering. Of course not. Oprah is a US American huckster in the model of Norman Vincent Peale.
She retails in the con job that a paucity of positive thinking — in essence, personal failings — is the source of individual angst, alienation, anomie, and suffering in general under the neoliberal order. Yet there is hope, she confides. A positive change in attitude will shift the course of one’s destiny. Thereby, she steers her rapt adherents away from the shedding of internalised, capitalist engendered false consciousness, and, on a cultural basis, the paradigmatic shift required to steer humankind away from ecological catastrophe.
It should go without saying that me-first-er Oprah, the obscenely wealthy virgin queen of the neoliberal order, would become a prominent promulgator of me-too myopia and its bourgeoisie feminist refusal to connect capitalist exploitation of any and all aspects of human life imposed by her fellow members of capitalism’s criminal class. Wealth inequity and wage and debt slavery are forms of predation. Yet notice this dominant and guiding feature of the mindset, a given since the rise of the Weltanschauung in the Western, Christian imagination: Oprah’s breed of Calvinist crusader animus, as a rule, will be incurred when the human genitals can be blamed as a key source of human misery.
Collectively, according to its gospel, we wretches can start the slog back from our exile within the sin-ridden precincts sprawling east of Eden, if only we scour away the denizens of darkness by a devotion to the purifying gospel of positivity. Resultantly, sinners will become doubt-cleansed devotees of a quasi-religious order, a righteous order in which its canticles and catechisms will vanquish all negative thoughts and untoward inclinations. Redemption and rebirth will be bestowed by the cultivation of a right-thinking, true believer aura thereby a variable Pentecost of prosperity will descend upon the keepers of the faith. Never question the degradations of capitalism; instead, keep your eye on the prize of careerist success, a given and deserved destiny for the right thinking but a perpetual rebuke to those possessed by the imps of negativity and the demons of carnality.
Oprah preaches a Gospel Of Redemption. Yet, in ways both explicit and implicit, she urges her followers to attempt to adapt to an economic system that is irredeemable.
She retails Horatio Alger bunkum to a soul sick audience inhabiting a planet taxed to the point of ecological catastrophe. The old verities have ossified. Levels of discontent and despair, mirroring rates of greenhouse emission engendered methane feedback loops, are increasing at exponential rates. Yet Oprah continues shilling reality-veiling palliatives to a populace languishing in depression, drug dependency, and an addiction to manic forms of distraction.
At this point, I request readers bear with me for a moment until I arrive at my point by means of a series of digressive, rhetorical tropes, both anecdotal and collective in form. Recently, on Facebook, I have witnessed, hovering on my newsfeed, a proliferation of recent New York Times pieces addressing seemingly tabloid fodder and 1950s B movie plot lines, bearing headlines such as:
“2 Navy Airmen and an Object That ‘Accelerated Like Nothing I’ve Ever Seen’”
“Glowing auras and ‘black money’: The Pentagon’s mysterious UFO program”
“U.F.O.s: Is This All There Is?”
When I posted a (humorous) take on the subject on my Facebook page, both the number on of and emotional charged nature of responses to the post was striking, even by the less than decorous to outright bughouse standards of social media.
The post read as follows:
We are not alone. And we should be embarrassed. No species with a scintilla of common sense and common decency should be carrying on in this manner in the public (albeit cosmic) sphere.
OK aliens, we’ve had a few bad millennia…I mean, who hasn’t. You went and caught us with our guards down. But we promise we will clean up for company real nice. Never mind that space junk orbiting our front yard and the fact we keep up our planet like a trailer court inhabited by methheads.
We promise we will clean up for company. Is there perhaps a rehab planet that our entire population can be checked into in order to work some shit out? The other living things on our planet would be forever grateful for any help you can offer.
You don’t happen to possess any galactic range super weapons, do you? Because, to paraphrase an insight by the alien genius Flannery O’Connor, we could be a good species if someone was there to fire a super weapon at us, twenty four-seven.”
I cannot speak for other writers but when reportage of events, or even humorous goof-takes on the situation, as was the case with my Facebook post, prove highly provocative, my curiosity is piqued. A hidden door to a room of the collective unconscious has swung open.
It is not my intention in this essay to either advocate for the existence of UFOs or express skepticism. My theme involves the public’s yearning for a paradigmatic shift, a crucial rearrangement of cultural verities.
When I examine my own reactions to UFO phenomenon, I discover I am drawn to and find inspiration in the mystery of it all and its attendant ineffable quality. Carl Jung viewed UFO phenomenon as a collectively manifesting apprehension of an emerging aeon. At present, the New York Times and other keepers of accepted opinion are signalling a sea change in regard to cultural narrative and prevailing mythos.
Given the fact that a radical shift in cultural, economic and political systems of belief must come to pass if the human race is going to survive the catastrophic effects of capitalism-inflicted Anthropocene Epoch. Is it possible UFO narratives auger the arrival of an incipient mythos? Withal, when the numinous comes into play all manner of responses are evoked, from the mindlessly reactionary to the outré, before psychical integration and eventual acceptance occurs.
Then there is the following, insofar as, recent phenomenon that has evoke an upwelling of passion: the consternation, the bandying of ridicule, and the general agitation of Democrats and liberals in regard to the revelations pertaining to The Oval Office-squatting Orange Beast Of A Billion Tweets and his inner circle chronicled in Michael Wolff’s inflammatory, fly-on-the-wall book.
Yet somehow amid the ensuing snark extravaganza evinced by Democratic partisans, a fact remains unnoticed: Only Democrats could manage to be beaten by, and to this day, cannot manage to create a viable resistance against this klavern of inept arrivistes and noxious buffoons, who, according to Wolf’s book, fully expected to lose and were flat out gobsmacked by the election results, and have yet to recover from the reversal of fortune inflicted by their victory.
Moreover, this aspect of Trump’s ascendancy is shunted from the duopolist dynamic and the narrow, acceptable discourse of political and media elites: Trump’s pathetic dye job, fake tan, and combover mirror the US empire. Its decline and deterioration simply cannot be covered up by the desperate application of cosmetic measures. Therefore, let’s term the US — the Combover Empire. We should view Trump as not only an emblem but a catalyst of the decline and ultimate demise of the neoliberal capitalist order. He is its scion, now passed into decrepitude.
Donald Trump and Oprah Winfrey are axiomatic of a perishing paradigm, while UFOs, albeit our projections upon the phenomenon not their actual, unknown nature, mirror a collective yearning for a transformation of the stultifying and destructive nature of political and cultural realities. Contemplate how hard evidence of intelligent life outside of our tiny sphere of existence would shatter dogmatic thought and petrified perceptions. It comes down to this: Collective myopia and mass media facilitated superficiality must give way to a larger sense of vision and a deeper understanding of the human species’ place among the order of earthly life or paradigm’s end will prove to be humankind’s perishing.