Ripe for the fleecing


Smiling Sphincter (3)The New Age movement was in full flower when I arrived in what was then touted as “a New Age Mecca.” It seemed every other person I met was a seeker — seeking ways to monetize their spiritual journey. I theorized that there was actually only $50 in circulation, and it went from massage therapist to jewelry maker to energy healer and back. I marveled at all the “internationally recognized” healers sporting an alphabet soup of certifications for this and that who put up workshop flyers at health food stores around town. Having only university degrees myself, being out of work, and with time on my hands, just for grins I created and posted a few flyers of my own. See the modest example above. The first, actually, was for a transformational trepanation workshop offered by Dr. Berndt Synapse. The collection eventually found its way into an unpublished, faux New Age business magazine I titled Mantra-preneur from Barnum Was Right! productions.

“Let the record reflect: the American people are a bunch of suckers,” author Ben Fountain begins this morning in the Guardian. He looks at Americans’ propensity to fall for hucksters of the political kind. He offers a few not-so-exemplary specimens, writing:

In the arsenal of the phony, the politics of God is one of the deadliest punches to the sweet spot of the American mind. Citizens capable of the most acute analysis in other areas of their lives – regarding finance, say, or electronics, or the infinitely complex variables of fantasy sports leagues – are reduced to blithering dupes when exposed to the Christian pitch. Something spooky happens to that excellent American mind that brought us moon landings and the silicon chip and the wonderful stuff that saves our kids from polio. No matter if the candidate has had three or four wives or fired thousands of workers or dropped biblical plagues of bombs on rice farmers and sheep herders, merely saying the magic words makes it so. Christian values. Strong for Jesus. In God we trust, and all the rest. Incantations that render large chunks of the electorate as dazed and vulnerable as pre-contact tribesmen from the deepest Amazon hearing a transistor radio for the first time.

Needless to say, like Fox Mulder we still want to believe. Fountain’s piece on American suckers and phonies, like Richard Hofstadter’s on America’s paranoid style, is the kind of people ought to read periodically as a refresher just to make sure they are not slipping. He concludes:

If 2016 is any indication, it seems fair to say that the phony, like the rich, will always be with us in American politics. Hairstyles and clothes may have changed, and the enemy goes by a different name, and technology has pushed the political message system into every crease and capillary of waking life, but the schtick remains the same. The celebrity, the man of God, and the national security bully are still at it, trying to separate us from our brains and our better angels.

It’s Saturday. Here’s another flyer, just for fun:

(Cross-posted from Hullabaloo.)

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