Perception is Reality - Not

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Perception is Reality - Not

(From left to right) Enron's Kenneth Lay, George W. Bush and Houston millionaire Don Sanders are pictured at Houston's  Hyatt Regency in 1997.

The expression that seized the modern consciousness – “Perception is reality” – is being toppled – it seems. I read a related and almost equally chilling quote recently about Enron during its heyday – “It’s not such a good company but it’s a great stock.”

“Perception is reality” is a mantra that has seduced susceptible participants to abandon critical faculties and to disconnect from the three-dimensional universe. Those who are selling and those who are buying make a contract with the vapors. Some callous observers accuse Enron stockholders of being stupid or of simply being losers in the great capitalist game of musical chairs. I think they’re victims of a creeping and pervasive hypnosis. Instead of a pocket watch swinging in front of their trusting gaze the overt and subliminal message that perception is reality has snaked its way into every corridor of their reasoning – and ours.

The collapse of Enron has said loud and clear that perception is not reality. A greater force has snapped its fingers and the trance is broken – the sleepwalker looks around and wonders why he is lying horizontally in the air. He crashes to the floor. The only things that have kept him afloat were the need to believe – the denial of facts – the evasion of truth and looking the other way. These were also the favors that the Bush administration gave Enron, which they were more than willing to give since they need the same things to survive. The Bush administration controls the stocks they are selling and we are in a lockdown – short of impeachment we can’t get out of this investment. We need to believe so we are asked to evade the truth, deny the facts and look the other way.

To build a company or a government on a weave of fabrications and hollow claims is to challenge universal laws. Those laws can be kept at bay for just so long. It makes perfect sense for people to make money from what they actually contribute to a vital society. No one should begrudge an honest and fertile profit. But a deceptive and inflated profit based on parlaying a perception is theft. Where is the California energy crisis that Bush and Cheney floated as reality while Enron cashed in? As the price of a mega watt hour in California went from thirty-one dollars to nine hundred dollars Bush did nothing. He claims his hands-off disposition was based on his philosophy of free market. But this free market seems to have had a price of its own paid to a government perceived to be by the people and for the people. The present administration, in reality, is neither.

One year ago there were massive protests at the inauguration of a president whom many did not accept as real. An election based on racism, purged voting lists, confusing ballots and nepotism is like Enron stock. A war on terrorism that kills thousands of civilians and claims to be eliminating evil in the world as it creates more of the same is also like Enron stock. However the war or the election is being sold, the fact it is being sold waves a red flag. If someone is working overtime to create a perception about anything then there is obviously a reality they are trying to hide which they are either scared or ashamed of or which they feel we, like children, are not equipped to handle.

Rove and Rice are very clear about perception being reality. They have whipped the media into shape much the same way Enron executives flew to New York to chide the Wall Street Journal for printing an editorial from a reporter who said Enron was in trouble. Didn’t the Journal know what kind of effect that could have on their stock? If we all just continue to pump up the perception it will be real and we will all benefit. The Wall Street Journal capitulated. They know better than most that perception is reality. Perceive the condition you want and then sell it as something real. Say it often enough and you might believe it yourself. But there is that weird unavoidable finality of universal truth. It’s like oxygen or water seeking its level – it is inevitable. The inevitability is less painful when it hits if we insist on perceiving reality instead of perceiving perception.

Although he is not officially a dictator George believes that things would be “a heck of a lot easier” if he were. A dictator is allowed to force his citizens to accept his perceptions as reality. It appears as though George has moved lock stock and barrel into the structure of his perceptions all based on "sound science" and he is legislating accordingly. And while he does we just have to hold on to our stock - and hope.

We can also dream and imagine and we can use elements of the real world to build things wonderful and true. The elements of the real world are more fantastic and remarkable and life-affirming than anything that thieves try to conjure for the sake of their stock – political or economic. To build an empire with the raw material of perception-management is to invite collapse.

The best we can do is to resist. Take this massive symptom of Enron that has unraveled before the eyes of a perplexed nation and expand its lessons to the global machinations that are trying to absorb our individuality and common sense. Before they can convince us of anything they have to convince us that perception is reality. Perception is not reality. We have to decline the invitations and manipulations of a corrupt and deluded board of directors and put our money and our essential energies into a solid foundation and an expanding legitimate reality.

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis

Bill C. Davis is a playwright.  Archive of his Common Dreams' articles here. His personal website here.

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