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Thu Dec 22, 2011, 10:30 AM

Prism Break: Seeing Beyond the Shadows on the Walls Around Us

Published on Thursday, December 22, 2011 by [font color="blue"]CommonDreams.org[/font]
Prism Break: Seeing Beyond the Shadows on the Walls Around Us

by Randall Amster


Social movements, when broadly construed and successfully applied, serve as something akin to elaborate filters. By holding a mirror up to society, a movement causes us to reconsider basic assumptions and structural processes that often exist invisibly yet pervasively in our collective midst. Social movement activities render such practices visible, and subject them to scrutiny in a manner that can become contagious in its breadth and depth alike. Movements make us question those things that we take for granted, assume are unchangeable, or benefit from without repercussions.

In this sense, a movement acts like a lens that sharpens and clarifies the reality we observe and participate in, making the strange familiar and the familiar strange all at once. When this movement consciousness begins to “go viral” and infuse the larger culture itself -- as we have seen with Occupy -- it has the initial effect of breaking down the facade of “consensus reality” that subsumes a great deal of “normal life” without much investigation or contestation. A viral movement perspective, in short, begins to erode the virtual prism that envelops the larger part of our daily existence.

In this context, we can define a prism as “a medium that distorts, slants, or colors whatever is viewed through it.” We carry this prism around with us throughout the spaces, places, relationships, and business of our lives, over time coming to embrace its distortions -- even the obvious ones -- as realities. Plato wrote about something quite like this millennia ago in his “allegory of the cave,” in which people conditioned to face only in a particular direction fail to recognize that the images they take to be real are merely backlit projections onto the surface of the walls set in place around them.

.....(snip).....

For a long time, we have largely accepted a model in which wealthy, entrenched, powerful, and professional interests control these processes. More broadly, we have failed to exert sufficient popular influence to challenge those interests as they steadily put in place a system that preserves their uncontestable rule seemingly regardless of the particular individuals elected or appointed to manage it. The charade of partisan politics today may not be much different than it was in Plato’s time, blending seamlessly in our modern world with sports, celebrity news, and infotainment to further accentuate its illusory nature. We have been functionally distracted and politically disempowered, with our attention diverted from actual reality to an aesthetic of faux real. ...............(more)

The complete piece is at: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/12/22



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