Without context it’s impossible to intelligently evaluate anything, to truly understand anything. Think about that for even a second, in a world too busy to consider context. Should we make the wall higher? Should we make it illegal to pay women less than men? Shall we allow homosexuals to marry?
Depends where the wall is. Sometimes making a wall higher, say between the ocean and a seaside villa, creates a death trap. If the waves are high and the villa is flooded, high walls will retain enough water to drown everyone. Why are women still paid less than men for the same work? What the fuck is up with that in 2018, seriously? As for the gay newlyweds, if one is dying the other now has full legal rights at the hospital, hospice and thereafter. I’ve yet to see anyone explain how gay marriage destroys American families, outside of Louis Black’s wonderful explanation.
Black gives us the context that shows us exactly how gay marriage destroys normal, heterosexual families. He himself was an eye witness to this, he said, and it was a horrifying and illuminating moment. Two gays (husband and wife, presumably) sneak up on an American family having dinner. The gays are dressed as ninjas and silently enter the dining room where they immediately start fucking each other up the ass. And then: boom! Another American family, completely destroyed.
At least it’s a story, anyway. A good story is the essence of what homo sapiens wants, a story that will tell you what the right thing to do is. Murderous religious fanatics are coming to kill us, therefore we must do the following things to defend ourselves. Make the list. It makes no difference how nonsensical some of the tactics are: take the newly liberated and unemployed en mass to the notorious prison where their former dictator used to torture people and torture them. Explode potential terrorists at a wedding in a “signature strike”, even if no actual terrorist targets are present at the wedding. Hit the funeral for those killed at the wedding as well, just to be sure. Do not wonder why the surviving friends and family of the killed might hate our freedom.
The whole project of trying to become wiser is about gathering context, making connections, seeing a certain cause and effect to actions. A child learns not to burn his hand on hot metal by burning his hand on hot metal, once. The cause and effect are immediate and dramatic there and the context instantly understandable — the hot metal is fucking hot and will burn you. Many of the events unfolding on the news seem random and unrelated, unless you see them as part of ongoing history, parts of the seemingly inexorable march from one epoch to the next.
We homo sapients need a story in order to act. It doesn’t matter how stupid or wise the story is, either. One pervasive story we all know is that a good person gets up early and works hard, earns every moment of leisure. Most of us seem to believe this is true. It shows an industriousness and eagerness to tackle the day. It also shows… what? Is it really morally better to wake up at 6 a.m. every day than to go to bed at 4 a.m.? Alas, this is something I will never know for myself.
I am constantly aware of how we are so often denied context. Often this concealing is done because transparency would bring shame to somebody, like revealing that a man had beaten his wife for twenty years. Maybe the wife had beaten him for twenty years. Anyway, something shameful there, nothing to see! What are we to make of the cup of hot coffee the wife suddenly dashes into her husband’s lap one morning? Weird shit happens! People snap, for no reason! Or, if there is a reason, for those who insist on such quaint things as reasonableness, it is a long, long story subject to many interpretations, many interpretations. Who among us really knows? Who really knows?
We have a society more and more influenced by simple, maddening stories, told without nuance or context, to people who are eager to confirm what they already believe. Hillary Clinton, obviously she had a child sex business out of the nonexistent basement of that Washington, D.C. pizza shop. Now the context: Hillary is a liar and a criminal who needs to be locked up. If you chanted “lock her up!” along with Mike Flynn you will not need coaxing to believe that Hillary kept young sex slaves for high rolling left wing whack jobs to use, Afghan high society wannabes. The fucking hypocrites! So you read the story on your feed, drive up to D.C. with your gun and arrive at the pizza place to liberate these child sex slaves, as any decent person would have done.
Watch the news, you are seeing the first draft of history. What is reported, what is followed up on, what is not reported, what is not followed up on. There are sponsors to please, for virtually all of the mass media, and so certain items, bad for business, must be downplayed or omitted entirely. One thing all seem to agree on, to watch the corporate talking heads: when the president blows shit up, launching deadly warheads on powerful missiles, the man is presidential. That it is a meaningless attack, its only context being that in a moment of anger the president authorized millions of dollars of killing technology to be unleashed… well, God Save the POTUS! No context here… just vigorously stirred patriotism.
One of my beefs with the Grey Skank, journal of record, is how faithfully it always seems to serve the narrative of the status quo. Obama was portrayed, in its pages, as a principled man who made wise use of his secret kill list. Almost never will questions of the morality, legality or efficacy of a president’s secret fucking kill list for extrajudicial execution by drone-fired missile be seriously raised by anyone on the Times editorial board. That’s what letters to the editor are for, I suppose. (Not to mention independent outlets for journalists like Democracy Now! and The Intercept.)
In the parade of things that will eventually drive me mad, the systematic denial of context is one of the biggest, most annoying floats. If you don’t know that Iran had a democratically elected president that the C.I.A. and British intelligence arranged a coup to get rid of in 1953 (in fairness, they were defending their oil companies), you have no context for understanding the long antagonism with a country ruled for decades, against its democratic will, by a ruthless, U.S. supported, secret police-wielding monarch, the last Shah of Iran.  The CIA admitted its key role sixty years later, in a report that came out in 2013, but, you know, for those first sixty years — nothing to see here!
I wonder whatever happened to that copy of the recent American Torture Report produced by Congress that Obama designated for preservation in his presidential library, even though he agreed to keep it secret for a number of year into the future. Obama’s move, problematic though it also was, preserved a vital historical document Republicans were intent on collecting all copies of and destroying forever. A plague on all their fucking houses.
The Koch boys want to keep it simple. It’s a matter of freedom versus totalitarianism. That’s why they are Libertarians. Keep everything absolutely free, maximum liberty for everyone, and make sure tyrants never make the rules, unless, of course, they’re our tyrants. Nothing to see here!