Introducing the first post in a new, regular op-ed column, exclusive to the Weaponizer Blog. SLEIGHT OF MIND comes from the desk of one of our frequent fiction contributors K. Patrick Glover, writer of Western comic 'A Wicked Little Town,' the serial 'Bale's Game' and many short stories for the site. His new column looks at social and political issues with an unflinching gaze - we very much look forward to seeing some debate in the comments about the topics he covers.
There’s a magic trick that’s relatively common. We’ve all see a variation of it at one time or another. The magician shows us a deck of cards and asks someone to choose a card. The card is taken and the magician squares up the deck and places it flat on the table. He asks the audience to memorize the card and then asks that it be placed back on top of the deck. He cuts the deck, sometimes in two, sometimes in three, reassembles it, and squares it up again.
On occasion, he may ask a member of the audience to reassemble the deck, to assure that he’s not marking his place somehow. Next, he goes about finding the card. This may be accomplished amidst lots of card flourishes and he may tell a story or use some other patter to drag things out. He’ll deal and turn over cards in patterns, he may make you choose from one pile or another (although he’ll use no force here, you won’t really be choosing).
This is all misdirection. The magician has known where that card was since the beginning of the trick. When he squared the deck, he glanced at the bottom card. When the deck was cut and then reassembled, the bottom card ended up on top of the card the audience selected. At that point he knows that when he turns over the card that was previously the bottom card, the next card turned over will be the selected card.
Everything else, the patter, the flourishes, the dealing and selecting and manipulating, it’s all misdirection, there to distract from the simple move at the very beginning, the glance at the bottom of the deck, the thing he wants to conceal.
Which is all a pretty tidy metaphor for what happens in our lives on a daily basis. The politicians, the media, the lawyers, the money lenders and the corporate kings all spend their time creating an elaborate system of flourishes and misdirections just to keep us from noticing the importance of their furtive glances at the bottom of the deck.
And we play along.
We like to think that we view the world as it really is, that we see past the lies and manipulations of those that have power over us. That we are not fooled. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Not only do we willingly follow their lead, we do so joyously, reveling in each new distraction like simple minded characters in a Michael Bay movie.
Oh, look, an explosion.
What was I talking about?
You don’t believe me, do you? I can tell. I understand, I empathize. You shake your head and you think, not me, yes, maybe many of the other people out there fall for these tricks, but not me.
Exempli gratia: O.J. Simpson, Terry Schiavo, Anthony Weiner’s penis, Janet Jackson’s nipple, Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Mel Gibson, the Octomom, the X Factor, Big Brother, American Idol, even the lottery numbers. Chances are, you know at least a little bit about most of the things on this list. It would be hard to avoid them, the way the media pushes them into your consciousness day after day, moment after moment.
But how much do you know about your local government representatives? Do you know how much they’re paid? How about how they voted on the most recent local issue? Who represents you at a national level? Do you know what legislation got passed last time around? What effect that legislation has on you?
You don’t really need to answer those questions. We both already know the result. I’m just as guilty as you, and really, it’s not our fault. This is how we are created.
We are taught, from an early age, to conform. To act like each other and to think like each other. We are told what is important and what is not. We are taught magical thinking and binary thinking, taught that authority is always right and that there are two (and only two) sides to every argument. The world shall always boil down to us versus them and the less we know about them, the better. We are programmed from birth to be good little cogs in the machine.
It is part and parcel of the whole experience, simple misdirection. Sleight of mind.
Such misdirection is not always to protect those in power. Sometimes it is there to protect us and we willingly contribute to our own ignorance. There are things we don’t want to know. Things we don’t want to face.
Did you know that there are an estimated 25 to 50 active serial killers in the United States, right now? Somewhere in the world, right now, as you read this, the odds say that someone is being brutally tortured by another human being. Somewhere else, someone has decided that enough is enough and they’re raising a gun to their own head. Right now.
Sometimes ignorance is bliss.
So we do what we can to distract ourselves and by turning away from the horrors of the world, we let the powers that be continue to manipulate and maneuver because we have at least our bread and circuses.
There is still the desire to pull back the curtain and see what lies hidden. To see past the flourishes and determine how the trick is done. To know the truth of the thing.
That’s it, really. The big thing. The Truth. It’s what we really want, deep down. It’s what I want. And it’s what this is all about, this column, this stack of words. I shall visit you monthly here and I shall try to bring you some truth. I shall rant and rave, I shall stand tall atop my soapbox and rail against injustices, both current and forgotten.
And I shall try to bring you some truth.
At the least, you and I can talk, perhaps over a pint of lager, in that time honored tradition of those that have been lied to and manipulated. We can commiserate, we can analyze, we can get pissed (in both the American and British senses of the word, transatlantic urination if you will), and we can search for the truth.
See you soon,