Fake Reality — I Blame the Supply Chain
People sift the minds of the American heartland searching for reasons Dad spends all night on Facebook raging at obviously fake news, joins chat rooms on conspiracy theories, and listens to inflammatory talk radio. Why Mom says atrocious things about immigrants in the Walmart parking lot, and still pretends to doubt that Barack Obama was born in the USA. Why both of them have fake vaccine cards they bought on Ebay to go with their “tough stance on law and order”.
But it’s easier than finding the Hillbilly Elegy or the disaffection with globalism supposedly at the root. In fact, I’d say it’s their LOVE of globalism, and globalism’s ethically unsustainable dark side, that prompts the construction of an artificial reality they almost certainly know is largely false.
Try this. You’re at a family reunion. Aunts, uncles, and cousins thrice removed are there. Mention casually that the chocolate treats spread out on the table come from child slavery, or that bag food from Target the dog is eating comes from rendering plants where roadkill and diseased livestock are taken, or that Fido himself came to the pet store from a puppy mill that shoots every third animal for ‘imperfections’ so they can sell only the most desirable members of the litter, or that those ears of corn were sprayed with a product that depletes the fluid in the spine, made by a company who was hurting when we quit having them spray it on friend and foe alike in Viet Nam.
You don’t even have to mention how that ‘hormone-free’ beef is butchered, or what it smells like 20 miles down the highway from where lives its miserable, barren existence on a West Texas feed lot. You probably flew over West Texas, or drove around it, that time you were going to Santa Fe. You’d still remember vomiting, if you didn’t. But hey, just bring up any of that stuff, whether you know what we’re talking about or not. Here’s what to expect…
“I don’t believe that.”
“The government wouldn’t let that happen. I don’t trust the government, but I trust that.”
“You’re one of those…”
“No, I don’t want to look at an article. I don’t trust anything I read that doesn’t come from…”
In other words, the quadfecta: Belief over verifiable reality. Authority over knowledge. Ad hominem arguments. And crucially…Only information that supports existing attitudes. For the root of an alternate reality, we need look no farther than denial in our supply chain. Where it serves us (our convenience), and soothes us (our conscience), we create whatever structures, systems, fictions, and mechanisms of deflection maintain our current preferences.
I contend it is the globalization of the supply chain, separating us by continents from staple commodities, that, even where it is not offshore, has antagonized an already existing willingness to fabricate a convenient world narrative in order to continue enjoying our treats and our cheap burgers and all those good deals on the Walmart stuff lying around the house.
It goes back as long as ethics and supply chain have collided, most notably to the European and American slave trade. In order to be both “Christian” and benefit from the slave trade, we had to create a narrative that provided the necessary loopholes—the essence of the hypocrisy Jesus condemned. Jesus who is not recognizably Christian in any contemporary sense of the word. We had to say that slaves were not human, that they preferred slavery, that it was to their overall benefit, that it was necessary to save their souls while their useless bodies died of disease, abuse, and hard labor, that slavery was the will of the God and therefore evil to oppose, and that finally there was only one way to educate an inferior people, and that was through working them to death. Many of our great grandparents benefitted from families that said those things, and so on the generations before them.
Arguably, many of us still benefit from a form of that narrative, albeit in coded symbols and euphemistic language. The relationship between our current supply chain and the rants about “those people” and “foreigners” is symbiotic. The fact that Barack Obama is both liberal and black, and grandpa isn’t, is not coincidental. We accuse Hilary Clinton of a string of murders and of having a slightly more sophisticated system for email than Trump’s cell phone which was open for listening any time to half the regimes and all of the decent governments of the world, but we don’t say she wasn’t born in Chicago.
It’s not wrong for the supply chain to be global. It’s not wrong to work in a global supply chain. It is, however, a denial of right and wrong to fabricate an obscurantist universe around how goods and services come to us. The predicate of slavery is no stretch, but a continuation of the ages of exploration and empire which gave us the institutions of slavery, the gulag, and modern genocide. Look down at Grandpa’s belt and his shoes. “America First” and sure enough he bought them at the big box store down the street, but they were made anywhere but here from ingredients grown or raised anywhere but here, by people who he would hate to have come to live here. The scheme only works if we throw a USA sticker on everything, invent conspiracies, reject consistency, and box up everyone who doesn’t play along as “them”.
Sooner or later someone at the picnic says, “I’m not a racist, and I don’t hate foreigners, but…” and what follows is the same arguments that would have been used by Columbus or DeSoto: If they were Christians over there… Some people don’t seem to want to rise above their current circumstances… It’s not my fault if they work in those conditions, they could choose to say no and starve… God creates people in different conditions…” As long as we don’t SAY the word “race”… there’s a loophole for all those convictions. And we won’t be inconvenienced by Martin Luther King or the Constitution or that other document our ancestors weren’t inconvenienced by.
Going along is going along with the supply chain sans the troublesome ethics that might arise from our previously accepted framework that doesn’t allow us to just enjoy our barbecue. We need an ideology to make that happen, that stands in for reality we could otherwise verify. We not only don’t want to know what’s in the wiener, we want a myth of wieners, and by golly you’re a flaming radical who’s destroying our country if you don’t join hands and sing kumbaya in its genesis or apocalypse, whichever happens to be upon us.