The Long Hand of the Pigeon

Nelson Lowhim, Writer and Veteran

Nelson Lowhim, Writer and Veteran

As a child I used to believe in just wars, trusting my elders and being able to isolate evil people in the world. All part of my miseducation, I suppose. I’ve come a long way and now look back at this time as an odd dream. I think back in anger at all that was fed to me through school and elsewhere. This is not to say that I am simply some malcontent.

What I’m saying is that I see history, with its “set facts” and lies by omission—especially in middle America—can be a myth. Of course, this doesn’t mean everything is make believe, rather we choose the facts upon which to base our dreams. It’s true that many people must simply survive a day and to do this requires forgetting and a selective memory on both a personal and historical level, but when large groups of people start believing lies, we have myths that ultimately hold us back. What I’m saying is that I see that churning of the zeitgeist, like a flutter of a million creatures covering the facts and swimming to that which the moneyed-powers in the land deem the most useful route for themselves.

When one does come to this realization, there lie several options for the afflicted: to accept it and love it and move to the most profitable route (as I said, the myths usually align with the interests of the wealthy and powerful); or, to hate it… but accept it as natural and then adopt a world-weary view of said reality; or you can do as I have done and move to change it.

I’m rambling again, sorry about that. You see, I was recently reading about the Lukasa, a memory device consisting of a plank of wood and beads placed as the history demands it. One bead may represent the site of a story or event, another represents a person of great importance. There’s not much known about these artifacts, not in the West at least (and it’s possible that much is lost to everyone alive now), but they were used by a secret society to help maintain their power, for one of the things memorized was the origin myths for the society. {1}

This makes me wonder how much power can be gained from repeating a myth and, more importantly, how much power can be gained from repeating it in certain ways. [1] Interesting to think of this as a human heuristic. You know, in terms of visions of a myth and how memory works with that. In other words, to paraphrase Goebbels, how many times must a lie be repeated to be believed and which lies work the best?

For there are, at any given time, multiple myths out there in the zeitgeist, and as time melts our memories, there are only certain myths that remain easier to grasp. I’m thinking about this because with Trump I see history in the making (yeah, I know, it’s always being made) and I see many myths behind his rise as well as the siren call of his speech. [2]

But let me stretch this target even further, for there is a theory in the depths of the Internet which states that there is a specific sequence of words (with the right timing) that will allow you to control a group of people. The specific sequence is not relevant to grab people’s attention, instead it requires a certain tone and demeanor.

In many ways this reminds me of a fairy tale from a book I found in the stack of the Seattle’s main library. Written by an imaginative author, the book was found to be completely false as the author had not actually discovered the stories while working as an anthropologist with some tribe in the Magreb as he claimed. Fake tales, like “fake news”, have their victims. The tale goes a little something like this: long ago a boy discovered some fairies who fell in love with him. From then on they whispered what to say in his ear and when he copied them, people simply did as he said. Soon he ruled the world. And he grew bored of people simply listening to him and he wished to be entertained so he had them fight each other to the death. And soon the world burned and turned into a desert.

I’ve discussed the fairy tale with experts, many of whom think the boy a tool of evil fairies and that it is meant to warn all of us against such siren calls. Yet, I sense that the fairies are in love with the boy and only giving him what he wants so that they may earn his love. Who then to blame? That question, as interesting as it is, doesn’t inspire me as much as the fact that the boy was not using a spell but a sequence of words to excite the mob. Now I’m thinking that perhaps we’re speaking of spells as having always been simple shortcuts in the language, words to evoke action.

How else can one explain Trump? [3] A spell has been cast, but can people ever break free?

 

{1} Thomas Q. Reefe. Lukasa: A Luba Memory Device. African Arts, Vol. 10, No. 4 (Jul., 1977), pp. 48-50+88. Published by: UCLA James S. Coleman African Studies Center. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3335144

[1] I don’t think this moves into the territory of if one repeats a lie often enough it becomes true, for the Lukasa way seems a much subtler mechanism

[2] I’ll leave his free association speeches for now. All I’ll say is that he doesn’t talk at the crowd but to and with them. It’s not hard to see what his draw is.

[3] Not that I think there aren’t real reasons that people like him… hint: they aren’t all fascist.

Nelson Lowhim is a veteran and writer. He is the author of many novels, short stories and essays to include CityMuse, The Struggle, and the Labyrinth of Souls. You can find more about him and his work at nelsonlowhim.blogspot.com