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Letters from Downunder

The 3-D effect

Submitted by Lindsay, Melbourne Australia!

History is a combination of reality and lies.
The reality of history becomes a lie.
The unreality of the fable becomes the truth.
                       Jean Cocteau, Journal of the unknown, 1953

(11/12) I understand you have a major election in a few days time, one that has had more money spent on it that any other before. I can only wish you good luck, and tell you a story.

Many years ago I went to work for a physics teacher turned salesman. During our initial talks I asked him how he had made his money, for he was obviously well off, so he was probably a good businessman. "Oh," he said with a grin, "on the horses." Expressing wonder at that, he explained: "No, I wrote a book on how to win at the races. I knew how much serious punters loved systems, so I invented a system that was full of maths and stats, that required a great deal of work to get an answer, had 100 copies printed, took them into my local news agency, who was always ready to make a dollar or two. The first man to buy one was a fairly well-known identity, and, as luck would have it, his first three selections won - on the same day. He wrote it up, and I had to have 1,000 printed. In a couple of years I sold over 10,000, and seeing they cost me about $3 each, and they sold for $25 of which I got $15, I made a killing at the races.

"But did the system work, really?"

"No, I had no idea if it would or not. But that bit of luck at the beginning, well --"

"But why did it keep selling?"

"Because about 10% of the picks were good, purely by chance. My first punter wrote an article for a newspaper column explaining that it was not the fault of the system that caused a pick to not win, but the lack of care and application the punter had used in using the formula."

I had to grin. Nothing wrong with taking advantage of people's stupidity, or their greed, is there?

And that, my friends, is now an endemic scenario. Not on racing systems, to be sure, but in the legacy of Mary Baker Eddy, the 'mind-over-matter' lady who began Christian Science. Banish negative thoughts, become utterly positive, and you cannot fail to win. Your bones will heal, the bad things will stop. It's a mighty industry, from parliament to boardroom, from stock exchange to sitting room. People like my physics man make fortunes from it, because they all tap into the desire to get something for nothing. To be part of the miracle of modern America - and to avoid being ostracized if they donŐt.

As I understand, the founder of Lehman Brothers was heard muttering after the business imploded, "But it couldn't happen. We believed in it so much, it just had to succeed."

Makes you wonder, doesn't it, about the power such ideas can hold, the power to blind, to hide the apocalypse on the horizon. Rational thought is subverted, worst-case is redefined as just a dip, it will get better, just keep believing. For that's the key. Keep believing, train yourself to banish negatives, and if it doesn't come to pass, it is your own fault because you must have had doubts. Because if just one person has a bit of luck - and that's all it can ever be - they are held up by the purveyors as having got it right. If they can, so can you. But, in reality, it's all a con, an illusion.

Do you remember going to see one of the very first types of 3D movies? The ones where you had to wear glasses with one lens green and the other red, and things seemed to leap out at you from the screen, to the shock and fear of the audience? I saw one many years ago, something about Zulus, and I still recall ducking the spear that was thrown straight at me out of the screen.

But then you could take those remarkable things off your face, stand up, emerge into the daylight where the traffic really did rush at you, the hustle, bustle and smells were real - as was the laughter, the noise and he sense of relief at the normality of everyday life. That was a reprieve, but also a letdown, make-believe being so much more entertaining than reality, at least for a little while.

So, what if you didn't have to wear those pesky glasses to get the same effect? And the movie wasn't projected onto a screen, but there were live performers on the stage, just as there is in a play? But the same things happened - the actors hurled things right at you but they never hit you, the flowers were so real you could smell them, the money that had been shown in the film simply floated down from above, and, by golly, it was real. And you could grab it and keep it? Would that be something, or would it!

Well, that is more or less what has happened, with even the pentagon being seduced. 'There is no way we can lose the war in (you name it); we do not lose.

'But is there a backup plan? A what if?'

'Not necessary. We KNOW we will win. We are a can-do nation. We are bigger and stronger. We are supremely confident.' And these people are not fools.

Nor is the government, but if you believe the promises made by the contenders, you too are being suckered. The reality is far from pretty, and in the end it will be who you believe will be most socially responsible that should get your vote. For someone has to become president, but none are prepared to say just how bad things really are, because that would just be too negative.

The rich want to stay that way, and the divide between rich and poor, the downgrading of the middle class, and the growth of impossible debt is of little concern to them. Remember the 3D effect, take off the rose-coloured glasses, and insist on a dose of reality. And, as I said in the beginning, Good Luck.

Lindsay, from down under

Read Past Down Under Columns by Lindsay Coker