Toxic Irony

March 14, 2009 | Leave a Comment

Category: Uncategorized

We are passing out of the age of irony and entering a stage of blame.

“Irony” has many connotations.  For me, a suspicion of underlying processes and an expectation of disappointment cover much of what the word implies.  Observing and comparing incongruities helps predict that manipulations are being engaged.  We come to expect hidden motives.  Quality relationship and communication become depreciated by expectation of differences between the hidden and the seen.

We expect the government to lie.  It sort of goes with the territory of information manipulation on a massive scale.  When a government lies, and we know it’s lying, and the government knows that we know that it’s lying, then we’ve crossed a line into toxic irony.  Trust, expectation of reciprocal integrity, becomes denigrated by an environment where transparency is interpreted to be naïve.

The age of irony hit full stride with Ronald Reagan achieving the presidency and declaring that supply side economics was a viable economic model.  Even George Bush, Reagan’s opponent in the primaries, was disgusted and described supply side as voodoo economics.  Americans voted a preference for a storyteller over Carter, the sharer of difficult truths.  Consider that the Iran Hostage Crisis that took down the Carter Administration was predicated on the hidden truth that the embassy takeover was reprisal for the U.S. destroying the Iranian democracy in 1953, replacing the government with a tyrant in order to control oil production and distribution.  This was not exactly shared with the American people.  Americans don’t like to feel responsible for the repercussions of their government’s “real politic” behaviors.

Eisenhower made a decision that cost Carter the presidency and put in a professional teller of stories as our president.  At some point, the layers of repercussion become so deep that the ironic crooked smile leaves our faces.  We watch appalled as the president with the permanent smirk, like the Joker in the recent Batman film, commits bedlam without an ounce of shame.  It’s not even that horrors are wrought without shame, they are committed in a fashion that communicates that shame is not appropriate or necessary for an American president, or an American, to feel.

Irony has run its course.  The deepening layers of that which is hidden have evolved from expectation of disappointment to transparent horror.  The hidden has been revealed as loathsome and terrifying.

The age of irony encouraged us to put up with untruth.  Untruth blossomed into a corporate, anti-science, quasi-fascist presidency run by its propagandist arm.  Suddenly, with the economic reappraisal revealing the rot that began with the Reagan Administration, transparency is in, and irony looks a whole lot like complicity.

It is no mistake that the economic implosion reached society’s consciousness at the same time as the media turned upon the Republican Party.  When the Republican National Convention ended, the candidates were tied, and the Republicans were deeply engaged in lies.  Sarah Palin over the next two weeks was assailed for not telling the truth.  What candidates had been doing without shame since Reagan, making stories up recreating reality, suddenly was not acceptable.  For the two weeks after the RNC that the media lambasted Palin, the economy cooperated with the new unironic view by making transparent that what is perceived is not necessarily the same as what’s beneath.  It crashed.

If it was not true that the fundamentals of our economy were sound, then perhaps other things we’re being told should be examined.

There will be blame before there is trust.  The American people, people that don’t like to feel responsible for their government’s behaviors, prefer blaming to following the trails of cause and effect that suggest the connections between influence and motivation that lead to understanding and then deep and lasting change.  With the lifting of irony, we achieve transparency.  Still, transparency can be abused.  It doesn’t matter what we know if we don’t change our behavior.

Hard times engender trust.  We are forced to nurture and rely upon our connections.  Transparency is revered.  Honesty is elevated as a good thing.  We look for integrity instead of expecting to be disappointed.

The age of irony is over.  It will take some time to learn again to trust.


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