Defend Truth


We have all become scriptwriters in the social media theatre of life, but someone else is directing the play


James Blignaut is Professor extraordinaire attached to the School of Public Leadership, Stellenbosch University and honorary research associate attached to the South African Environmental Observation Network (SAEON). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of any of the institutions he might be associated with.

The power elite has created the theatre we are in today (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, mainstream media, and so on); they decide what is acceptable and what is censored. They have usurped the right to define the truth. We are but the jesters in another’s play: capitulate or die. Never has it been so important to discern between fact and fiction, the reality and the myth, the truth and the deception.

According to the dictionaries, a theatre is a place of viewing drama-based performances by professional artists. Over millennia it established itself as an intricate part of society, be that under a tree, in an amphitheatre or in an exquisite playhouse. Theatre shaped, informed, provoked and educated those with eyes to see and ears to hear. The theatre has always been Portal 42 through which an audience can get a glimpse of itself: a commentary on life, the universe and everything else.

The theatre complex provided humanity with concepts such as “box office” (referring to the hiring of a box for the sake of a better view) and “in the wings” (referring to the areas on the sides of the stage hidden from the audience’s view), as well as “scenery” and “scenic”. Scenery refers to “a stage depiction of nature” and scenic means “dramatic, theatrical”. Only later were these words used outside of theatre to refer to nature itself.

The theatre is the seat of the theatrical: the seat of the dramatic and the melodramatic expression of stories and various ritualistic activities complete with costume and mask. The drama unfolds in various forms such as tragedy, comedy, satire or parody, to note but a few, from overture to “The End”.

Irrespective of the format, theatre’s theatrical is a process whereby a story, fact or fiction, sacred or secular, is conveyed to an audience by skilful actors adorned in stage-fit garments and disguises masquerading on a stage according to a predefined script. The actors present something or somebody they are not — the stage hypocrite — with the audience able to laugh and lament, but from a distance, while pondering the intent and meaning. It is as if the curtain is more than a piece of colourful cloth, rather a heavy division between realities; a divide allowing spectators but a glimpse — a mirage if you wish — as if through a veil, of another world.

Today, in the post-modern era, the veil has all but subtly, yet powerfully, morphed from being the imposing absolute and exclusive “actors only” divide, into a veneer-thin silicone-covered screen allowing all hands on deck: welcome to the unfolding drama in the theatre of life.

The stage is open: the theatre is redefined. The participants in life’s drama are but divided by space and time oscillating to and fro. All actors are spectators, and all spectators are actors. Some might act today while others observe, then the latter metamorphoses through the veil and becomes a responding actor. In rhythmic fluidity, society is constantly transported through space and time with an ever-changing list of actors whose respective scripts criss-cross one another. Each actor a force of influence on another. There is no overture and no “The End” sign in sight. Everything is drama — surrealistic and all.

We, the people, equipped with costume and mask, are broadcasting the stories of our lives — a series of non-stop rituals. Weddings, funerals, courtroom trials, national festivities, political rallies, religious, sporting and music events (with team dress code, makeup, costume, banner and the like), shopping, eating, the daily schlep of going to work — power-dressed for the occasion while masquerading as the invincible yet so fragile — all and many more scenes in the main character’s play.

Sometimes we are the brave, turned brutal and mad, Macbeth. Herein we are the rulers of our own destiny who act on stirrings, prophecies if you like, of others such as those of news broadcasters and/or celebrities to create a self which we are not. Occasionally we are Romeo or Juliet encapsulated in a love tragedy, and in others, we are Antonio, the once-rich merchant of Venice. Each web-connected electronic device a stage door; each post, be it a tragedy, comedy, satire, parody or any other, a scene in the drama of life.

While this allows many opportunities for prudent reflection, sincerity and truth and the constant alignment of our moral conscience for what is right and righteous, sadly, however, it also allows much opportunity for what is not. And thus, in seemingly complete oblivion to the fact that all is not well, under a façade, an illusion, of reality we proceed to an undefinable end.

The playwright’s script has made way for fake news, conspiracies, lies and deceit — Portal 42 now a doorway to the immoral. What is truth? Where is truth? Whose truth matters, and when does it matter? Does truth matter at all? Who is to judge what is truth and what is not? Each actor the main character and master of his/her own script. The stage-hypocrite elevated from storyteller to story writer of note masked behind pseudonyms and clothed in rhetoric while conceiving a myth.

With few exceptions, politicians and their spin doctors have for centuries excelled in conceiving and masquerading the myth as truth. Likewise, in close union with politicians, businesses and the power elite together with their advertising agencies sought to entice people out of their hard-earned cash. Why would it be different today? Sadly, it is worse. A dangerous, even deadly reality, controlled and manipulated by a few is unfolding.

Not only is it more of the same but the power-elite has created the theatre we are in today (Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, mainstream media, and so on) and they also define its operating rules and protocols; they decide what is acceptable and what is censored. They have usurped the right to define the truth. We are but the jesters in another’s play: capitulate or die. Never has it been so important to discern between fact and fiction, the reality and the myth, the truth and the deception. May we also have the wisdom to discern between the falsehood, that which is paraded in the open, and the reality of that which is masked and concealed.

While theatre complexes globally are shutting their doors in droves as patrons are few and far between, a grotesque drama in the theatre of life is unfolding itself. Each person a scriptwriter. Each person an actor. Welcome to the global theatrical reality show fully equipped with mask and costume.

The theatre is dead; the theatre is alive and well: who are you and I in the theatre of life? To which end are we aspiring? DM


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  • Wendy Dewberry says:

    Excellent article. Social control has always lurked in the wings of culture and ritual, propped up by cognitive dissonance or cognitive laziness,
    perpetuated by the scene apparent and of course the manner in which we are allowed to feather our nests aka the “eco” nomy.

    • Wendy Dewberry says:

      I always believed that tech would liberate society from the secret world of power and control, but seeing how those entities google facebook etc controlled the dialogue over the last year, I now have doubts about that.

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