The purpose of life is a subject that we are all invested in to a greater or lesser extent. This century, this human conundrum has never been more complex. Issues with the concept of truth cross-fertilise with the notion of purpose. If our purpose is mere survival, then the notion of truth is almost invalidated. Its strength will only be in its ability to extend our lives meaningfully.
In a world where mistakes are not forgiven or forgotten, the pressure to live a perfect life is profound. Judge Kavanaugh, whether or not he committed a humiliating act on Christine Blasey Ford back in the 80s, has been subjected to extreme scrutiny over a historical alleged event. Some will say he dodged the bullet, some that he was innocent, others that the judgement has no value as it resides in an anachronistic moral dimension. That he did something wrong is in little doubt, but it is how we judge it and how we respond. But there is no we, though, as those that will judge will be a select few, possibly unschooled in any sense of any moral dimension. There is certainly outrage at the decision to appoint him to the post of a lifetime senior judge on the American judiciary, in the light of this controversy. A judge whose past has been judged. A question that may never be answered satisfactorily, possibly because it is the wrong question. A better question would be preferable, if we could only come up with one.
Humility is now jostling for virtue status with concepts such as invisibility. Silence as a Manifesto suddenly has a peculiar appeal. You can’t be wrong after all if you say nothing. Or can you? The Americans were famously silent about the plight of the Jews in Germany throughout most of the Second World War until Pearl Harbour. Self-interest is a great motivator.
The media, social and otherwise, are fond of highlighting hypocrisy, either through research or by their own sloppiness. It seems as though inaction and silence may be a preferred position over political posturing. And so we come to the Dark Agenda. We already have the Dark Web, whose appeal would appear to be its immeasurability. Money Laundering moves money around invisibly, or at least in a way that fails to connect its journey to anyone who exists to provide access to its source. The two Russians at the heart of the Novicek story had their supposed misrepresentation and innocence arrogantly paraded on television by the Russian media. The story suddenly took on all the shape of a theatrical farce, with two innocent tourists blamed for a murderous plot that left one person dead. And yet this time the elaborate hoax turned out to be just that. The two men were in fact KGB agents carrying out an act of attempted murder in another country. Why would the Russian media bother to fabricate this cover story? Here then is proof of the value of controlling truth internationally, never more evident as a modern sport than when it spectacularly fails.
And yet the limelight still draws people to it like the proverbial moth to a flame. However, we now live in a world where success has become a more vague concept. Some would say that it has a declining appeal. To become successful is to surrender your identity to the world, something scorned in the digital age. Fame has its price. A Dionysian feeding frenzy is likely to send you to the tabloids and mere oblivion. Who are the agents of this fame cull? It’s more than just the red tops. Something dark lurks behind every screen tap. An algorithmic surveillance filters all our communication. Fear stalks our thoughts. Fiction is developing new anti-heroes hiding in shadows on the dark web. Identity destruction or identity theft? Who we are is perhaps all we have left and it can be traded cheaply in an increasingly unforgiving digital world. Reduced to random combinations of numbers and letters, the Internet has moved its knowledge appeal to become something threatening. Perhaps it always was. Knowledge and connectivity, a feeding democratisation, its early unpoliced years were fertile ground for the cynically aware early techies. Governments and local organisations began to deploy it to save money, but their parsimony was at the cost of employment opportunities for ordinary people. ‘Progress’ seemed anything but its etymological promise.
So where are we headed? Is our only hope that the world might run out of power, out of the very thing that drives the web? The race to make the most of its potential is being won by darker forces than we would like to see beyond us. The Cold War now looks like a playground squabble. Our phones, tablets and computers are never elsewhere. Our thoughts and movements are tapped, our lives documented, our value to ourselves and our country, plundered. Privacy has become a wanton anachronism, and now we know the World Wide Web will be with us forever, we must take steps to limit or redefine its viscosity or we may never recover the fertile sobriety of aloneness.
When the masses first had access to the internet, it was like an exquisite new toy that promised hours, years, maybe lifetimes of accessible information, communication and interactivity. Once the potential for cheap porn peddling became passé, a new potential began to emerge. The potential to control information on a global scale. A potential to create and control the New Truth. At an individual level this could be quite literally dynamite in the wrong hands, but on a global scale the potential would become a way of changing beliefs, changing culture, changing the world – in a way that made the political and social effect of the communist manifesto no threat at all.
There is an emerging Dark Agenda that contains dark beliefs and unthinkable consequences. The populist movement across the world, with right wing governments emerging from the ashes of discredited and maligned coalition and liberal parties and assemblies, is now a transparent reality. Perhaps no one is controlling this agenda – perhaps it is simply part of a Hobbesian eventuality, originally discussed in his ‘Leviathan’ (Thomas Hobbes, 1651). Hobbes posits in this philosophical treatise that all mankind is selfish and the state of nature (the war of all against all) is a mere eventuality without the intervention of strong, undivided government. Is that the Dark Agenda out there finally come to make its final move?
Mercy by Martin Godleman is a novel whose central character deploys his discovery of the internet in 1995 to his own ends. Its potential for character annihilation, homing in on the things we value and love the most, have suddenly made it something to be feared. Something that can permanently harm with chilling speed. You cannot unwrite or forgive your errors when they form part of your curriculum vitae. Find out more.