Confusion is being sown in all corners of the globe. We cannot and must not lose sight of what is, of truth. Rather than stalking the internet, we must calm down, ask ourselves what is real and what is not, and relearn the art of distinguishing what is from what is being broadcast.
How do we know that we are at war: a war of what I want versus what is, of power versus wisdom, of willful blindness versus the real acceptance of what we are with our limits and our responsibilities? How do we know that the time has come for each of us to pick up his own mental cross and start truly paying attention to what is around him (and within the confines of his mind), rather than indulging in the hollow pleasure of being self-righteously shocked by—and engaging with—the loud what I want of the increasingly invasive intelligentsia: the cockamamie deliria spewed by ‘authorities,’ ‘experts,’ mediatic, political, spiritual, scientific? How do we know that we must all now calmly place our feet firmly on the ground, pray, hope, listen, watch, gather together, discuss only those things that we really know, and relearn the art of distinguishing what is from what is being broadcast (which is nothing but the intelligentsia’s what I want) so that we can actually see that nothing yet has inalterably changed, and ensure that it does not do so through our own inadvertent complicity?
Confusion is being sown in all corners of the globe. Central European governments have once again mandated unintelligible new COVID-19 curfews without a concern in the world about the what is of the disease and of their orders’ effects: about COVID-19’s true mortality rate, about what we have learned about the virus and its treatment in these long months of pandemic fearmongering, about the many suicides—the “deaths of despair”—that the lockdowns have caused, about the loneliness and the spikes in drug and pornography addictions, about the livelihoods of those locked down, and about the long-term effects that the agitated rhetoric and isolation have already had on us all, and above all our youth, on our future.
Militant Islamic terrorists are once again afoot in Europe and Africa stabbing people and decapitating them. Journalists and religious leaders have already begun the well-known dance of twisting the what is: of placing the blame of the crimes on the ‘intolerance’ of the West. Even the recent days of Je suis Charlie banners and buttons are, apparently, nothing more than a distant memory. Poland has, it seems, delayed implementing the ruling of its upper courts on an important what is—that the intentional taking of innocent human life is murder—because of rioters, whom it dares not directly defy since the media (and Western Europe) is watching. After 44 days of fighting, Armenia is reeling under a cruel ceasefire agreement with Russia, Azerbaijan, and Turkey that to the first Christian nation feels terribly like a betrayal. Azeris and Turks are already vandalizing sacred Armenian sites.
Our own nation is in a state of shock as this surreal election of ours plays out and the possibility of another lockdown—or worse—is being dangled by a press that seems altogether undeterred by the fact that you cannot meaningfully call a baseball game until the last out has been recorded by the umpire.
At the root of the confusion lies a squall of urgent statements and proclamations that is inundating the West with a loud and coordinated what I want. What makes this squall dangerous is not that it exists or that it includes voices that we had previously trusted. What makes it dangerous is that it is focusing our attention on the squall itself rather than on what is. It is reframing the parameters of our understanding of what is: insinuating that those matters and events upon which the squall focuses are what is truly important. It is replacing our own experiences, our trusted friends and family, our priests as our primary sources of information about the world. It is making information something that we cannot personally confirm or deny. It is manipulating our individual interactions with reality. It is trapping us into its narrative. It is setting us up to be pawns in our own destruction.
The mechanics and immediate results of the game afoot are plain to be seen in the recent Armenian-Turkish war.
While the Azeris and Turks with their drones, soldiers, and jihadi mercenaries were physically attacking the Armenians in that sacred land of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), their politicians and ranks of newscasters, bloggers, and social media soldiers busied themselves with flooding the airwaves and internet with Turkish and Azeri propaganda, brazen rhetoric, falsehoods, and all manner of cacophony. And as the outnumbered (and out-armed) Armenian soldiers valiantly fought on the ground to defend their churches, homes, and families, Armenian civilians worldwide joined in on their people’s war effort. They came together to raise money to help fund the ground war effort. They came together in order directly to participate in the “communications” defense of their people and their homeland.
Droves of diaspora Armenians in far-off California and France, New York and Moscow, linked up with Armenians in Yerevan. They enlisted in frantically assembled cohorts of amateur reporters and intelligence infantry who gallantly fought to hunt down and respond to the mediatic barrage of the enemy. They read what the Armenian press and the Government reported about the progress of the war and countered Turkish and Azeri posts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They engaged with Azeri and Turkish trolls. They coordinated their responses. They contacted soldiers on the front and asked them to send videos with which they could respond to shameless Azeri and Turkish claims. They worked tirelessly and for weeks engaging ever more feverishly with the mediatic attacks on Armenia and Armenians. Such was their need to participate in the defense of their homeland that they continued to report that Armenians on the ground were holding the front until after the “painful” ceasefire agreement was announced.
The Armenian “international communications army” felt to Armenians who were thousands of miles from the front (and each other) like a dream come true. It united them in a way in which they had not united since the Genocide of 1915. It gave them a common purpose. And what a purpose it was: the chance directly to fight the very enemy that had slaughtered a million and a half of their grandparents and great-grandparents, and had stolen their properties and land. It gave them the chance to address their own wounds: to right a bleeding old wrong, to show the world that has largely forgotten their first genocide that those who had slaughtered them were bent upon destroying them and cared not a fig about culture, the rules of civil discourse and engagement, that they would violate ceasefire after ceasefire agreement.
The “international communications army” was terribly misled. Lost as they were in the tsunami of Azeri and Turkish posts and tweets, articles and snippets of angry rhetoric, Armenians far from the front did not recognize that they were only receiving—and passing on to each other—fragments of truth about the war being fought on the ground in Artsakh: the what is. Lost as they were in their intense mediatic battle, they allowed the enemy to frame the parameters with which they defined what is. They forgot that what governments and bloggers, social media and journalists write need not be true. They forgot that what is written by enemies during wars is part of the war and is meant to disable their enemies’ enemy: themselves. They forgot that the real war was not being fought in the media, but on the ground: that there were real men being killed and tortured, real bombs being dropped on civilians, real towns being destroyed. They did not realize that they would have better served their people and land by joining the real fight on the ground rather than trolling trolls on the internet.
What happened to the Armenian “international communications army” could happen to anyone. The reality is that once they are sent and published, tweets and posts, articles and newscasts also belong to the realm of what is. They become facts. They exist to be read and seen. They elicit powerful emotional responses: the need to engage with them. They are also dangerous. Like prestidigitators, tweets and posts, articles and newscasts, blaring propaganda can direct the attention of those who react to them to themselves, to the unreal, the non-essential, the false. They can convince people that the real danger lies in the report and not in something that exists independently of it, that the real enemy is the one whom the reporter reports and not the reporter himself who reports it. Speakers and reporters can so thoroughly engage the public that they can make it a willing participant in its own defeat. Is this not what happened to Eve, when the serpent reframed the fruit command?
As it was for Eve, it was what is—and not what was said about it—that determined the outcome of the war. The first Christian nation is now feeling lost and betrayed, wondering what really happened. She is in a dangerous place.
The Armenians teach a painful lesson about the dangers inherent in today’s war.
Our beloved nation is engaged in war much like the Armenians’. We too are being submerged by a cataract of articles, newscasts, declarations whose intent, it seems, is to stir us up in a frenzy and distract us from the real events that are taking place on the ground around us and in ourselves.
There is no need to give a detailed account of how we got into our current agitated state. Distanced as we all are from each other, we all followed the elections that night with the hopes that we could finally put an end to this nonsense that has been plaguing us since March. As we listened to the experts’ projections of the winners, we were all regaled with abrupt unintelligible calls for Arizona and the House and odd refusals to call Texas, North Carolina, and Alaska. In the following days, we all watched the media report inexplicable jumps in the numbers of ballots tallied and saw large margins magically shrink. We all heard the sudden Saturday announcement that the incumbent had lost and that a barrage of European politicians had rushed to congratulate the “presumptive winner” of the American elections. We all see that petitions have been filed to challenge the results, that recounts are underway, that different websites report different outcomes, that some races have still not been called. We are all confused. Our imaginations are going wild.
So starved are we now for certitude, for justice, to contribute to putting an end to this seemingly impossible situation, that like the Armenians we are letting our attention be captured by what is broadcast about the elections and the world. This is precisely what we cannot do. We cannot and must not lose sight of what is. Rather than stalking the internet, we must calm down and ask ourselves (and each other) what is real and what is not, what is essential and what is not, what is reasonable and what is not, who can really do what in our nation. As unbelievable as this might sound, the news media is not in the business of certifying elections. What they report is not what is. They are not reporting the real war, they are participating in it.
May we all come together on that day and remember two things: it ain’t over till the fat lady sings and Domini est terra—the earth is the Lord’s. It was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
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The featured image is courtesy of Pixabay.