“Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation.” Oscar Wilde
Given the extraordinary era in which we are now living, there are a few key words that can help us better understand and converse about the psychedelic Reality Show live-streaming 24/7 right before our very eyes. Such words can serve as a ‘defense against the dark arts’ of the spell-casters who make it so hard to distinguish the Real from the Reel –– and what is A LIE from what is ALIVE.
The first of these words to consider is demagogue [deh-mah-gog], a term we hoped never to apply to a President of the United States. The word sounds a lot like demi-god and is, in fact, precisely what a demagogue aspires to be.
As defined on Merriam-Webster.com, a demagogue is –– “A leader who makes use of popular prejudices and false claims and promises in order to gain power.” And a demi-god is a human who has been elevated to the status of a god in the eyes of their devoted followers. The connection between the two is there for all to see and hear.
The oratory of a demagogue can be described as intentionally perlocutionary. For it is designed specifically “to persuade, frighten, amuse or cause the listener to act.” (Dictionary.com). And it is by such persuasive and incendiary rhetoric that a demagogue may create and control a mob –– and rise to the status of infallibility in its collective estimation. At that point, anything contrary to the dogma the followers so passionately parrot is considered an ignorant heresy –– when, in fact, all of it is essentially ‘hear-say.’
There is a fascinating word to describe those who adopt and espouse their leaders’ slogans and perspectives with great vehemence but little actual knowledge. Such a person can be described as ultracrepidarian, which is defined as someone who speaks authoritatively about a subject on which they are largely ignorant.
If such people then become –– “a follower or subordinate of a powerful person, typically one who is unscrupulous or carries out orders unquestioningly,” they can be succinctly characterized as myrmidons, according to dictionary.com. (A further Google search reveals that, “myrmex means ‘ant’ in Greek, an image that evokes small and insignificant workers mindlessly fulfilling their duties”).
So, imagine a mob of goose-stepping ultracrepidarian myrmidons marching behind the banner of some delusional demagogue. Or picture them charging up the Hill to do his bidding –– at great personal expense –– in order to accomplish some elusive ideal. That’s what appears to have just occurred here –– in the ‘Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave’ –– as it did over 80 years ago in Nazi Germany under a similar banner and battle cry.
But wait! Who among us really knows ‘where the truth lies’ amidst all the competing scenarios? Some suggest there is something altogether different going on behind the scenes, so that what seems to be happening is really just a staged manipulation of people’s perceptions to incite them to behave in sheepish –– or wolfish –– ways.
Thus, many wonder who the real heroes are and who are the villains in this dangerous political imbroglio (which is an “extremely confused, complicated, or embarrassing situation.”). Did we just witness an armed Insurrection, the Civil War Redux, or the rebirth of the American Revolution? It depends on whom you ask.
Some claim to possess definitive Insider’s Intel about what’s really going on here. We probably all know highly intelligent people who assert totally opposite points-of-view with equal certitude. Have the ‘scales fallen from their eyes?’ Or is ‘the wool being pulled’ down over them now more fully than ever before?
One side sees Trump as a deranged, narcissistic demagogue who aspires to be a despot (“a ruler or other person who holds absolute power, typically one who exercises it in a cruel or oppressive way.” As an example, picture Kim Jong-un, ‘Supreme Leader’ [aka ‘dictator’] of the ironically named ‘Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’).
The other side trumpets Trump as the Great American Hero and Genius who is ‘draining the swamp’ of satanic, cannibalistic reptilian pedophiles that have ruled the Earth for millennia.
Who knows the validity –– or absurdity –– of any of these claims? Whose views will ultimately prevail? So far, the Big Reveal is always just around a corner we never seem to reach.
So, I do what I have always done: I play with words. For as was said In the Beginning … the WORLD is quite literally made from the WORD as English makes so evident. And the divisiveness between us results from the fact that we have been loyally listening to very different words and thus investing our faith in totally disparate realities. But can any of us be certain that our apparently credible news sources are giving us an education and not, in fact, an indoctrination?
The irony, of course, is that all sides really want the same things: Life, Liberty, Harmony, Prosperity, Fairness, Kindness, Wisdom and Peace. Though some may wish these blessings only for themselves, in Truth –– we all rise or fall together. And at present, we are not together enough to collectively withdraw our power from what many believe is a small cadre of puppet masters who seek complete control through their diabolical chicanery (“the use of trickery to achieve a political, financial, or legal purpose.”).
So, though we are largely ill equipped to unravel the ‘tangled web’ of greed and deceit in which our world is now so thoroughly ensnared, we are not without power to make a positive difference in the world. For we have the Power of the Word, which the genesis myths of many cultures have identified as the Divine Catalyst of Creation.
Words are certainly the catalyst for the actions we take in the world since they are the lens through which we view it. Perhaps this is one reason why so many potent words are quietly excised from contemporary dictionaries –– while others have their original meanings altered to distort our perceptions and diminish our sense of higher human possibilities.* After all, it is challenging to conceive and converse about that for which we have no words.
So, one strategy we can adopt against the ongoing manipulation of our perceptions is to build a personal arsenal of powerful vocabulary to enhance our capacity to perceive and to communicate with greater perspicacity ––“The quality of having a ready insight into things; shrewdness.” Then, when history repeats itself –– like an undigested meal –– we may be less susceptible to misinterpreting whatever spectacle is playing out before us on the local, national or global stage.
With a few pointed SWORDS we may more readily cut through the fog of obfuscation and misdirection that ‘spin doctors’ regularly employ to make us oblivious to what ought to be obvious. After all, do we really need the innocent eyes of a child to see when the emperor is totally naked?
P.S.* To learn several powerfully positive but obscure words that may restore your faith in our greater human potential, please see my TED-X video, Epiphanies: Nine Obscure Words That Reveal the Whole Purpose of Life: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HctQ8YuWOdg&t=599s