The Moment of Truth — January 24, 1998
What’s Truth – Bruce Lee’s Dream
Thanks you guys. Well, welcome to the Moment of Truth. The one moment in time when – anywhere on the entire electromagnetic spectrum – the truth is being told. There’s so much of the truth to tell, and yet none of it ever gets told. Why is that? Why, when the truth is all around us, does none of it ever get reported over the airwaves or in print?
Well, we’re told, the truth is a mushy mushy thing. There really isn’t one truth, there are many truths. Okay, we reply, but even so, why aren’t any of the many truths, which collectively form a macro-abstract-mosaic that we might call the truth, why aren’t any of the many truths in aggregate, that is, the truth, reported on TV, radio, or in the various news periodicals?
Well, we’re told, it’s not so much that the truth isn’t told, as that the truth takes time to tell, and the American attention span being what it is, there simply isn’t time to tell the truth. In addition, the American habit of historical amnesia contributes to this problem. The truth cannot be told in one discreet moment, separate from contiguous past and present moments. The truth requires a continuity of information. And because Americans live in the moment (because they are so cool) it is impossible to tell the truth.
Well, I say, "Bunk!"
I say, "Baloney!"
I say, "Well, okay, maybe. But it’s like you guys don’t even try."
And there’s a reason why they don’t try. And it’s not because it’s too hard or there’s not enough time or the truth is mushy or Americans have amnesia. It’s simply because, like clean air, healthy food, careful craftsmanship, and caring, loving, kind, brave, thoughtful, generous people who refuse to sell their souls to the highest bidder – like all these things, the truth is simply not cost effective enough, is too complex and rare, too recognizably ruined by the injection of artificial ingredients to be bought, processed, packaged and sold by the capitalist greed machine and come out resembling anything remotely similar to itself. If it can’t be bought, processed, packaged and sold, to paraphrase the New York Times, it ain’t fit to print. It doesn’t count. It isn’t real. It doesn’t exist. It’s as if capitalism has been fitted with a filter on its perceptions that won’t let it even see certain things, all of them constituting the truth. And since all of our media is part of this capitalist mechanism, it’s not surprising that many things we care about or believe or know or love are not represented in what we call the mass culture. They are filtered out. They may remain part of our personal lives, but are left out of the national discourse.
For many people, if something is left out of the national discourse it’s not important – it might even be evil. If they see it on the street but can’t see it on prime time TV, well, then there must be something wrong with it, and they shun that thing. And those people are the luckiest people in the nation. They are entirely validated by the mass culture. There is nothing about their lives that is filtered out of the national discourse. Who are these people? I don’t know. I’ve never met any. I think if I met the Buddha or one of these people on the road, I would have to kill them.
Imagine a person every aspect of whose life was represented by mass culture. This person might be described like this: taller than average; between the ages of eighteen and thirty-four; sexually attracted mainly to affluent, slender people – mainly white women– with no hair on their bodies; either doesn’t smoke or is satisfied to abstain from smoking as long as a stick of gum is available; makes enough to own a new car and afford either a house or a larger than average apartment in New York City; is Christian; has one or two children or wants to; is of average intelligence; values money more than anything; constantly has to learn the same lesson about not being too self-centered over and over again; believes the government is concealing knowledge of extraterrestrials; proclaims one thing but does the opposite; thinks it’s funny when someone gets hurt; is jealous of the good fortune of their friends; is awed to the depths of their soul by anyone who demonstrates the slightest degree of unselfish behavior; worships the ability to sing, act, speak before crowds, play sports, make money, lose weight and keep it off, or be born into a rich family; is suspicious of intellectuals; hates reading; is often unpleasantly surprised by the ways in which other people differ from them, especially foreigners, racial minorities, senior citizens, children, sick people, and less affluent or less attractive people; is well intentioned toward but constantly misunderstood by people who differ from them; is revolted by the odors of the human body; understands why the police sometimes have to act outside the law; thinks it’s wrong to discuss sex openly; thinks talking about politics is a sign of an inability to relate to people; thinks exchanging gunfire is exciting but not necessarily for them; most likely speaks English, possibly Spanish, but never both; needs to know how the stock market is doing.
Who are these people? I hate them. But that’s okay. They don’t exist. They are what is left after you filter out any and all human qualities that can’t be sold. Now, granted, the things that can get through the filter are increasing in number. For example, it’s kind of cool to be a cannibal now, as long as you’re a really smart cannibal. And to be a an overweight, ugly cop who hires prostitutes, that’s okay too. The options for black people have multiplied; in the past ten years mass culture has added to their traditional rolls of athelete, entertainer, nurse, spy, servant, mechanic, slave, teacher, soldier, sharecropper, cop, or vampire. To those twelve roles are now added talk show host, homeless person, welfare queen, film director, doctor, army general, charismatic religious populist, gay man, and science nerd.
Homosexuals have new roles too. In addition to their traditional roles as sex criminals, prisoners, Jewish murderers, British murderers, or lonely old bachelors, they can now be: jealous of their partners, terminally ill, beautiful in drag, just like the rest of us, actually heterosexual once they discover their true nature, very sad teenagers, female, on the run from the law, gutsily outwitting the mob, or cannibals.
Neo-nazis no longer need to be secretly Jewish. Jews no longer have to be gay to be murderers. Poor people no longer have only the three options of being honest, cunning, or mindlessly violent. Now they can also be the members of dysfunctional families in which one of the members is doing something the others don’t approve of but which makes them happy, like being gay, Jewish, or a neo-nazi.
But is this progress? Is capitalist civilization becoming a more open place? Will the day finally come when every quality of humanity that exists in every real human being will see itself reflected in all its fullness and richness in the mirror of the national consciousness? This is a good a question. And it’s not easily answered. Years ago a man had a dream. His dream was to see his people represented in the American consciousness in their full historical and human significance. That man’s name was Bruce Lee. His dream was to create a television show that would show a Chinese person as exceptionally talented, brilliant, capable, and a hero of the old west. Because Chinese people were involved in shaping the nation in those days, but for Bruce Lee it wasn’t enough to show them hammering railroad spikes out of focus over Jason Robards’ shoulder. A hero. A Chinese wild west hero. Educated in China and bringing with him the skills that civilization endowed him with. And guess what? Bruce Lee’s dream came true. Except for one small flaw. The capitalist greed machine turned the main character into a person who was half-Chinese half-American and had him played by a white person.
Okay, maybe that’s a loaded example. Maybe there is an example of the truth coming to light in the mass media. Somewhere. Maybe that’s what we’ll be searching for in the weeks to come. Maybe that’s the question we’ll be examining during The Moment of Truth on this show on Saturdays on WNUR 89.3 Chicago’s sound experiment.
We’ll have to check with the station management. We’ll get back to you. Until then, this has been Jeff Dorchen with a Moment of Truth.