Transparency and Truthtelling

by Ken Sanes

Transparency is an effort to make the representations of fiction and nonfiction transparent to the view and understanding of readers. What it tries to show is that humanity has been telling itself the same story over and over for all of history, about our desire to undo our fallen state and re-create the unfallen selves, societies and forms of nature we inherently know should exist. All stories are parts of this one larger story. Their function is to make it possible for us to vicariously experience what it would be like to become whole selves, live in a good society and experience nature as something other than an obstacle or the raw material for manipulation.

To make the representations of fiction and nonfiction transparent, and reveal this essential core of ideas, the site interprets the elements of movies, television, news stories, advertising, theme parks, video games, and so on. It looks at the sensory and physical embodiment of these representations; the outward and covert narratives being told; the ethical claims that are made and the forms of action embodied in the representations.

Particular attention is paid to revealing the multiple covert stories told in fiction and nonfiction about birth, families, the mind, society, and myth, to show that all reveal and disguise our desire to evolve to a new stage of development, as individuals and a species. Through this kind of interpretation, we can see that stories use the same images and ideas to simultaneously tell stories about babies being born, children maturing and growing out of families, minds being freed from neurosis, rebels freeing society, and people escaping the clutches of malevolent gods.

In the stories of MASH, for example, we see people yearning for life, trapped in a fallen and demonic society of death. In the movie Groundhog Day, we see a character trapped in a demonic personality. In each case, we are shown humanity's true life-affirming desires in conflict with a fallen, death-like, aspect of human nature, embodied in a personality or society. With the happy ending, the true self and society wins and takes control.

The site examines different genres to show how all tell a different chapter of this one story. It has paid special attention to situation comedies, post-apocalyptic fiction, and depictions of false utopias of simulation and technology, which are disguised portrayals of contemporary culture.

The site pays special attention to the role of truthtelling and truthtellers in society and as depicted in these narratives. For example, the stories about false utopias generally depict truthtellers who challenge the false "worlds" of the societies they live in. These characters engage in a journey of mind, body and perception in which they escape the "virtual reality" of their society and discover the world as it is.

These truthtellers depict our own desire to have the truths of human nature and the human condition revealed, exposing our inherently ethical desires for wholeness; our accurate perceptions of the falsehoods offered by those in power and by culture; and our regressive sexual and aggressive desires. The site shows how fiction and nonfiction depicts truthtellers and deceivers; how it often plays the role of truthteller and deceiver, and how it can be scrutinized by a truthtelling form of criticism that has allied itself with humanity's desire for wholeness and freedom.

In MASH, for example, Hawkeye is a truthteller who uses his apparent craziness to reveal the craziness of the death-affirming society he is trapped in. But the program MASH, itself, tries to be our Hawkeye, exposing the pretensions, hypocrisy and life-negating qualities of militarized society. My essay, in turn, tries to play truthteller, articulating the truths embodied in the program. In each case, it is the role of truthtellers to expose the disguises and illusions that lead us into forgetting, and reveal the ethically-based human nature that lies beyond falsehood. Since this process is ongoing and no one has a privileged position, that essay or this one can be examined using this same approach.

One of the basic ideas behind the site is that journalists, fiction writers, critics and philosophers should aspire to be such truthtellers and challenge the virtual world of culture, which is shaped both by our unconscious fears and desires, and by media, politicians and business, which manipulate our fears and desires for their own ends. The ultimate goal is transparency as the basis for the evolution of the self and culture to a new stage of development.

There is a great deal more, which is elaborated in various sections. The more you examine, the more the parts will fit together into a coherent vision of human life. Although these ideas come out of my own experience and personality, there are a number of writers and schools of thought that have influenced this writing -- psychoanalytic theory, Northrop Frye, Eric Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Abraham Maslow, Paul Ricoeur, Peter Berger, Norman O. Brown, and Habermas' ideas on critical theory as a tool in humanity's quest for freedom. All of the works by these writers and schools of thought are, in fact, about the same thing, despite some differences. All reveal the desire inside us to evolve to a new level of development, which is also a rediscovery of who we are, beyond the illusion of personal and cultural neurosis, and power- and money-saturated society.

I believe this approach offers an alternative to both the vacuous relativism and the oppressive authoritarianism found in the extremes of the political and cultural spectrum. It represents a third way that finds ethics at the core of human personality, as something we enact and discover, in place of seeing a world without ethical grounding or a world in which ethical principles are encoded in a book for us to follow. These ideas also define ethics as being about our desire to be whole and free, instead of seeing ethics merely as a set of rules to be followed. The site views the separation of ethics and desire, in which ethics become a set of prohibitions that limit desire, as a false dichotomy and a symptom of the fact that humanity has forgotten its true nature. Our most fundamental desires are ethical in character and they include the desire for fulfillment and the true enjoyment of life, and the desire to see others similarly fulfilled in their own lives.

The separation of ethics and desire is in fact at the essence of our fallen state. It is re-created in every moment as our potentially whole selves are split asunder into an aspect of self that experiences forbidden desires and an aspect of self that judges, reproaches and prohibits the self for experiencing these desires. By making this false conflict transparent we can see that beyond it is the true and whole self or person.

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  1996-2012 Ken Sanes