Do You Believe In Magic?
Do you believe in magic? I don’t mean that mushy, ‘love-at-first-sight OMG – it was like magic’, magic. I mean real magic where things disappear and reappear, women get sawed in half but never get harmed – that kind of magic.
Most of us know that what is presented as magic is really nothing more than a trick, an illusion of some sort that is designed to try and convince us that what we just saw was magic. It takes a couple things to pull-off that kind of magic.
First it takes a skilled magician who is accomplished at creating the art of illusion by manipulating what we see. That almost always involves distracting us with one hand while the other hand is subtly doing whatever is necessary to pull off the trick.
Sometimes, when the illusion is really big, it requires a significant amount of stage presence and drama to keep us both riveted on what we think is happening and to keep us from actually seeing what is actually happening. Theatrical suspense and anticipation are a big part of magic.
But there is something else required to create the illusion of magic and it is even more important than the magician’s skill. To be successful, magic requires an audience willing to suspend disbelief. Indeed, magicians count on our willingness to embrace the illusion of magic even more than they rely on their own ability. Nobody goes to watch a magic show hoping the magician will fail.
Here’sa vdeo one of the largest magic illusions ever performed.
This was a spectacular illusion but it wasn’t really magic. The Statue of Liberty didn’t really disappear and we all know it. The audience that watched that illusion live knew it too but they were caught up in the moment, suspended their disbelief and rose to their feet in awe.
That’s how magic works – that’s how magicians work and that is how our political leadership works.
Like magicians, politicians and governments rely on their ability to distract us from the reality of most issues. For centuries, politicians have used sleight of hand to convince people of one thing or another. In the process, recent governments have run up huge deficits and almost crushing debt while getting us to believe that there are no consequences to be paid.
Like stage magicians they deflect and distract, luring us into their illusion and we allow ourselves to be drawn in because we want to believe.
It doesn’t matter how often a political leader is shown to be a very poor magician, the next time he or she takes the stage with a new trick, we don’t just fall for it; we embrace it. We willingly suspend our disbelief and our own knowledge to buy into the illusion being performed in front of us.
They tell us that the wealthy must pay their fair share and so taxes are raised without regard for the impact on middle class jobs they may have. Wee suspend our concept of what is fair by supporting the tax increase even though we know many non-profits and unions pay no taxes at all. In the United States, 47% of all Americans pay no taxes at all but so successful is the illusion that this is not considered unfair nor do our leaders accept that it is the tax act and not one income group or another that is unfair.
They use words like “engage” “working together” “sustainability”, “working ftogether” and “time for change”, “change in which you can believe” and “I promise I won’t raise taxes”. Like the magician’s chatter, none of it is true, it’s all intended to successfully pull off the trick and the only way that can be achieved is if the magician and the politician successfully disengage us from reality.
And disengage us they do because we want to be disengaged. In fact, we crave it like addicts.
When the issue was gun crime, the illusion that was created was a gun registry that produced a ridiculously expensive data base of legal gun owners but which did nothing to address the issues of crime or illegal guns. We loved it because it provided the illusion being safe even though the reality was that we weren’t.
When the issue was health care, they waved their hands in the air and presto – a new health surtax to compensate for the mismanagement and misspending in our health care system. We even applauded when they delisted some health care services because there was no way we were prepared to accept any privatization of our health care system. We were so caught up in the wonder of the illusion it never occurred to many of us that delisting health care services is nothing less than privatizing them.
When our municipal infrastructure started crumbling – ta da – new mega projects were born. The roads remained filled with potholes, overpasses collapsed as they have in Montreal and are threatening to do in Toronto but forget that reality. Instead embrace this new hockey arena or light rail project. We aren’t mortgaging our childrens’ futures; it will stimulate the economy and all of our problems will be solved.
Nothing deters us from the illusion even as another water main breaks, sewage backs up and flood the homes of some residents and bridges collapse.
And then there is the ideology behind it all. There is no better example of the art of the magician than when a politician demonstrates how easily he can get those who subscribe to his or her ideology to embrace almost anything simply by attacking the other ideologies.
So quick are we to suspend our disbelief as we rush to support the party of our ideology that we often suspend our values and our ability for reasoned and critical thinking at the same time.
A political candidate, a sitting member of Parliament charges thousands of dollars to tax payer funded institutions and charities for thirty minute speeches but we convince ourselves that there is nothing unethical about it. Presto. Those who embrace his ideology overlook and rationalize the double dipping.
A Liberal government imposes the War Measures Act, puts military troops in the streets of Canada and arrests people without legal representation, without charge and after suspending habeas corpus. That same party subsequently convinces the ideological audience that it was necessary at the time and turns and accuses their opponent of being so dangerous, he has a secret agenda to do exactly what they did before.
Even when the secret agenda turns out to be one more failed magic trick, the suspicion remains and we cling to the magic of our ideology rather than accepting reality.
We embrace the illusion of a tax on carbon despite its failure in Europe. We suspend disbelief to accept the illusion that somehow, charging corporations for emitting carbon will reduce carbon emissions even though we know that those who emit less will simply sell their credits to those who emit more. Emissions, as proven already in Europe won’t decline and in the end all that will have happened is an illusion having done something; an illusion that brought increased corruption and which increased the cost of virtually everything from food to consumer goods.
Magic is a powerful attraction that sometimes even common sense cannot overcome.
Like magic, political leadership doesn’t have to make sense; it only has to appeal to the emotions but it can’t work unless we allow it to happen. It isn’t politicians who suspend our disbelief – it is we who willingly toss away our ability to think and assess objectively in order to embrace the illusion.
Consider this example – the Keystone Pipeline.
Environmentalists and some politicians including the President of the United States are opposing the construction of the pipeline that will carry oil from the oil sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists oppose it because they fear the impact on the environment. Politicians that oppose it do so because they want to be on the right side of an issue. But are they?
The oil from the oil sands is intended to replace oil already being imported from the Middle East and from Venezuela. Think about that for a moment. How is that oil getting here? If you guessed by oil tanker, give yourself a hearty pat on the back.
Which is more dangerous to the environment; an oil spill at sea or on land? Which has the better safety record for fewer spills; transport at sea by oil tanker or by pipeline? Which countries have the better environmental records when it comes to extracting and refining oil; those in the Middle East andVenezuela or Canada and the United States? Which is easier to clean up; a spill on land or at sea?
By any reasonable and objective analysis, transporting oil by pipeline clearly has less risk than transporting it by oil tanker and yet, opposition to the Keystone Pipeline which purports to be about protecting the environment actually perpetuates the higher risk associated with shipping oil by water.
The arguments against the pipeline are an illusion of environmental protection and common sense where those who have accepted those arguments have willingly suspended their disbelief rather than to think the issue through.
So completely do we become lost in the illusion that we blindly undermine our economies by preventing thousands of jobs being created and instead continue to support the jobs we create in other countries the purchase our oil from them.
We feed our enemies in the Middle East who take the money we pay them to build political and military structures that threaten our way of life and we do all of this because the illusion is the important thing.
We tell ourselves that we are saving the earth for our children. The fact that we are bankrupting our nations to the point where our children will be little more than indentured servants to international lenders who financed our illusions simply eludes us.
We believe what we want to believe whether it is based in fact or not and we elect those politicians that will reinforce the illusions to which we cling.
In the end a day will come, as it must and already has in some places like Greece, when the illusion will collapse under the weight of its own lack of substance. On that day, we will realize that it wasn’t merely an illusion – it was self-delusion and no matter how much we might we wish there were, there will be nobody to blame but ourselves. We chose illusion over common sense; self-delusion over reality.
And reality, my friends, is not yet something we are prepared to embrace. We keep getting fooled because it’s magic we want rather than having to deal with the realities that challenge us. But at some point, like it or not and whether or not we want to, we have to ask ourselves a simple question.
Do we really believe in magic anymore?
© 2013 Maggie’s Bear
all rights reserved
The written content of this article is the sole property of Maggie’s Bear but a link to it may be shared by those who think it may be of interest to others
Let’s connect on Twitter: @maggsbear or send a friend request on Facebook to: Maggie’s Bear