February 28, 2007

Expert Lies

One of the few benefits of aging is to start to see the world as it really is-- without the rose-colored lenses. Of course, the less 'experienced' readers will interpret this realism as mere cynicism-- it's inevitable. Nonetheless, I am compelled to 'tell it like it is,' for the possible benefit of a few brave souls who can put aside the labels and discern the big picture.

You see, my basic thesis is that in virtually every area of human endeavor, the 'conventional wisdom' is almost always foolishness. Oh sure, it always comes packaged with all kinds of paraphernalia to make it appear as solid and secure as anything-- highly credentialed experts, sincere testimonials, statistical evidence, and plenty of reasonable rationale. And so, most of us believe it. After all, everyone tells us, all those experts can't be wrong. Those famous experts; the ones who become the anonymous 'they', as in 'They say that fat is good for you;' or 'They say that there's no such thing as global warming due to greenhouse gases.' These are the kind of experts who were assuring us, a generation ago, that 'there is no observable link between smoking and cancer.' The experts also assured pregnant women in North America that thalidomide was a safe antidote for morning sickness-- until the badly deformed babies were born. Again experts told us there was no danger of HIV infection from blood transfusions-- until many people were infected... and sued the Red Cross. Other experts told us there was no danger from nuclear power generators-- until the 'Three-Mile Island' melt-down, and the Chernobyl explosion, and other 'incidents' proved otherwise. So-- can the experts be wrong, after all?

I could go on and on, citing case after case where highly-credentialed (and needless to add, highly-paid) specialists charged with the authority and presumably the responsibility, gave society assurances that turned out to be absolutely false. Notice that these falsehoods did not result simply in inconvenience or trifling consequences. Far from it! People died, or their lives were terribly affected. In the case of tobacco smoke, millions are still dying premature deaths, while costing the medical system vast quantities of public funds. We have hardly begun to see the costs entailed by the climatological effects of global warming, altho they're already staggering, in the wake of specific meteorological disasters. So, clearly, the bad advice we get from our self-confident experts is far from inconsequential-- it is killing us and costing us untold fortunes at the global or societal level!

When you look closely at the effect of toxic expert advice on individuals it really starts to hit you how we've been duped, and allowed ourselves to be duped. For example, there are numerous myths of financial wisdom on how to become rich. All kinds of financial gurus are out there pedling their expert tips on how to make a lot of money in the stock market, or the commodities markets, or the real estate market, or what have you. One thing they never tell you is that the only person who really makes money in these schemes is the one who produces the hot-tip newsletter, or the broker who buys and sells the stocks. Whether his advice is good or bad, he makes his subscription fees, or broker fees... you, the investor, are the one taking the risks. For decades, the conventional wisdom has said buy blue-chip shares, or buy well-managed mutual funds, hold them for decades, and you will become rich. Sounds good; nothing to it... except, well, how does anyone know in today's hyperactive world what stock will be 'blue-chip' over several decades? Or in an age of ultra-mobile executives, how long will a fund be well-managed? Is this really how the rich got that way? Not very often!

A number of wealty individuals have been packaging and selling their 'formulas' as seminars (usually high-priced ones) ostensibly to teach others how to also become wealthy. It may be true that some of them, as they claim, may want to share their success with others. Yet it's also true that these seminars become a strong source of revenue for these self-proclaimed gurus. Yes, this can be a 'win-win' situation; but it does demonstrate that there are few, sincerely altruistic entrepreneurs out there. I think the greatest benefit someone can derive from these seminars is simply to open one's mind to new possibilities. As an attendee, you may get very little in direct terms from the seminar. But if it gets you thinking about a bigger world out there, one beyond the simplistic nostrums of the well-paid experts, then you have gained more than money can buy. It doesn't matter in what area the seminar was directed; as long as you wake up enough to 'smell the coffee' and realize that you've got to take charge of your life and not drift along in the stultifying currents of conventional wisdom that are taking you nowhere.

The real 'secret' of gaining wealth is to stop listening to the banks and the captive financial planners, and to notice what the wealthy have done. You'll see that the wealthy have learned to leverage other people's money in order to buy (or control) assets that generate money. They have learned to throw away your parents' earnest advice to never be in debt-- they love debt, because they use it to buy valuable assets and to reduce their taxes, simultaneously. Wealthy people have learned that 'risk' is a relative word-- getting a fixed 3% on an investment is 'risky' to the rich. Getting 30% on a real-estate deal, or in some 'unconventional' but sensible gold-backed venture represents low-risk in the minds of those who are making their fortunes.

As the financial realm illustrates, to be successful you have to be willing to stand conventional wisdom on it's head; to go against the flow; to stop listening to the experts. When you have started to force yourself to look beyond the old panaceas, you soon discover that the experts almost always are dispensing their party line for one main reason-- they have something to gain from it! We now know that the experts who couldn't find a link between smoking and cancer were being paid by the tobacco industry (directly, or via funding of research projects, etc.). The nuclear scientists have jobs to protect, careers to enhance, and often 'bonuses' from the nuclear-related industries. Today, we are learning about medical researchers who produce papers that legitimize certain new pharmaceutical products... while they are receiving monies from the same pharma-companies. Every bit of medical research we read these days must be considered as possibly tainted by the tranfer of funds from affected industries to 'qualified researchers.' What about cell-phone affects on brain health, for example? Independent articles raise concerns that prolonged usage of mobile phones can cause tumors in the brain. The telecom companies vehemently deny any such link. Since cancer/tumors often take years to develop, could this be another 'tobacco' type situation waiting to be discovered... after a generation of mobile-phone users shows unusually high rates of brain tumor? I don't know; but I'm certainly not going to rest assured in the denials of the scientists... whose under-the-table subsidies I have no way of knowing about.

Many legitimate scientists are producing genuine research that supplies us with useful information or even warnings about certain products or phenomena. In the realm of climatology, science is almost unanimous that greenhouse gas emissions are exacerbating global warming. The problem in this case seems to be the mass media who have become proxy experts and love to find the few dissenting scientists and publicize their counter-views as if they represent a significant block of informed opinion. What this does of course, is seriously impede efforts to promote 'green' policy-making to mitigate greenhouse gases. It's a major stalling tactic that will have disastrous consequences. But, as always, the question is 'who benefits'? The obvious answer is the automobile and petroleum industries; but there are numerous other polluting industries that just don't want to change regardless of what may come. The petroleum industry, in particular, has enormous wealth and political clout at its disposal, and doesn't hesitate to exercise them to maintain its stanglehold on society. And you'd better believe that the oil industry has a death-grip on our cherished way of life.

It's bad enough that our physical lives are being pushed toward destruction by bad advice from the experts-- but it's worse still to contemplate how the loud voices in the spiritual realm are similarly herding their flocks, lemming-like, to the precipice of eternal destruction. Deliberately misusing scripture, twisting and warping the words of the Bible, the cheesy, self-proclaimed religious experts rake in donated money--tax-free, of course-- in exchange for fantastic tales of events and scenarios to come. One such tale that finds a ready audience in the USA is the fantasy of a 'secret rapture' that is supposed to whisk Christians off the face of the earth just prior to a period of turmoil, called the 'tribulation.' It doesn't take a lot of Bible study to discover that this is nonsense; but meanwhile, the false preachers are making a pile of money selling lectures, videos, and books based on the terrible tribulation and the rapturous rescue. Christians are particularly vulnerable to hucksterism; probably all believers in religion are. If they are born into a faith, they are trained from childhood to believe that only 'their team' has the truth, and their teachers and pastors must be correct. If they are converts, they have already demonstrated a willingness to recognize the validity of their adopted faith. Relgious organizations are text-book illustrations of 'the power of the paradigm,' whereby the dogma is promoted as distinctive of the faith, and providing special insight that 'outsiders' are not privy to. Anyone who questions the dogma is first, assured that their experts can't be wrong-- after all, they have special insight from God-- and then, if that doesn't work, they are threatened with expulsion from the exclusive status of the faith. To avoid this possibility, most believers in a religion simply do not bother to investigate the claims of their institution. It's better to just trust the experts, is the common attitude. A strange result of this blissful ignorance is that believers usually assume that their organization holds commonly accepted, convenient beliefs. They rarely believe that the system could actually hold bizarre beliefs or ones that contradict the true teachings of its founder/s. (For example, Catholics don't believe that their faith is riddled with pagan symbols, feasts, and so on.)

In the regard that their experts do not take kindly to questioning, you can see that science and religion behave remarkably similarly. And accordingly, they both hold their believers captive to specified paradigms that are to be accepted without challenge. This is a very dangerous orthodoxy. It leads to terrible abuses of minorities by the mainstream. I'm not just talking about ostracism; I'm referring to things like the Inquisition of the Dark Ages, and its modern equivalents of purges, professional black-listing, and persecution of all kinds.

The most promising solution would appear to be education. We should train our children to be discerning, questioning, not mere followers. But that's what we think education is doing now! Obviously, it's not. In fact, quite the opposite. The school system simply cannot tolerate students who exhibit independent characteristics of thought-- they are clear trouble-makers. The system is premised on having a 'curriculum' that is an established body of consensus reality... to question it is to challenge the entire Western civilization. And so, we all learn what the 'right answers' are, and how to conform... the rebels among us call it 'using the system.' Sure, we use the system... without realizing that in so doing, it is really using us! Because by the time we've been successfully through the system, we have assimilated unconsciously its essential values. Think about it; it's not pleasant.

In the scheme of things, the experts are themselves indoctrinated cogs in the machine, while also part of the control system used to fabricate the desired reality. Even if they should have a wakeful moment and realize the group illusion, most experts will banish the thought and carry on the brave pretense. To do otherwise is to invite upheavel in one's life. It's a remarkable ability of the human psyche-- the capacity for denial, at the individual and the group level. And so our societal relationship with our experts is a symbiotic one: they tell us the lies we want to hear, and we're happy to believe them, for the most part.

The trouble is that, eventually, all lies unravel, collapse under their incongruity with reality. For a textbook illustration in recent history, we have the collapse of the once-mighty Soviet Union. While various factors contributed, I suggest that probably the main reason for its failure was the distinct disconnection between the official, five-year plans, and the reported results by the apparachiks responsible for achieving them. The economy was built on lies and the outcome was inevitable. Today, the US White House administration is doing the same thing-- creating economic and political policies based on lies. They are paying dearly for it in Iraq, and the drop in the dollar is yet to reach its nadir. But they get away with it mostly because the media have been co-opted as their willing accomplices, providing a panoply of 'talking heads'-- the experts, the professionals, who have been selected for their soothing assurances that, all evidence to the contrary, everything is just fine.

We are living in perilous times when truth is a scarce commodity, sequestered by special interests, and repackaged for general consumption using the precise techniques of mind manipulation honed over the deadly experiments of the 20th century. Every individual must make a quantum leapof consciousness from the present somnambulistic daily routine to an awareness of the game being played out with their unwitting participation. Experts must be held accountable and disclose their benefactors. The lies must be revealed, and the truth proclaimed. None of this is going to happen; we have become hooked on lies. The system can't function on truth (without total revolution, at least). And so this warning will be seen by a mere few readers, and accepted by even fewer. Destiny will run its course, whether we are ready or not. Truth will win out; the lies will eventually destroy themselves... whether you believe it or not.

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