Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 8, 2019


Propaganda: the spreading of ideas, information, or rumor for the purpose of helping or injuring an institution, a cause, or a person; ideas, facts, or allegations spread deliberately to further one's cause or to damage an opposing cause.  ~ Merriam-Webster online dictionary

Our modern lives are fueled by information, so much so that we've labeled our time as the "age of digital information." An older friend recently shared that several months ago he had given in to  his children's chiding to trade in his flip-phone (now considered ancient technology) for a "smart" phone of which the "phone" part is the least used. "Now," he says, "I can't imagine not having it with me,  and I feel disconnected if I don't."

The more we learn about the technology in our lives, the more we realize how we literally live in a multilayered maze of manipulation of information that feeds our desires and fears while shaping our perspective of the world. Remember the phrase (I suppose we call it a "meme" now) "you are what you eat." Updated a bit, it becomes "you are what you read, watch, and hear on the various screens in your pockets and on your desks and walls." Swirling about in this sea of information, sometimes surfacing enough to see it, is propaganda.

The original meaning of the word "propaganda" was religious.

The Congregatio de propaganda fide (“Congregation for propagating the faith”) was an organization established in 1622 by Pope Gregory XV as a means of furthering Catholic missionary activity. The word propaganda is from the ablative singular feminine of propogandus, which is the gerundive of the Latin propagare, meaning “to propagate.” The first use of the word propaganda (without the rest of the Latin title) in English was in reference to this Catholic organization. It was not until the beginning of the 19th century that it began to be used as a term denoting ideas or information that are of questionable accuracy as a means of advancing a cause.  ~ Merriam-Webster online dictionary.

Of course the "faith" being propagated was that of the Doctrine of Discovery, a Papal Bull from a previous century that sanctified domination and exploitation by European "explorers."

The only thing that seems to have changed in five hundred years is the means of communication - from Papal Bull to Presidential Tweet.

Our dilemma, and task, is first being aware that we live in this maze and sea of propaganda, and second to discern how our own desires and fears are being fed by the information we consume. Humans have a tendency to gravitate toward things we desire and hide things we fear.

There is a reason most spiritual traditions hold at their core detachment from unbridled desire and release of unfounded fear. These are truly worth propagating.


No comments:

Post a Comment