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Self-fulfilling Prophecy

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Self-fulfilling prophecy

[Translation of La profecía que se cumple a sí misma by Agustín Ijalba published in the Retales section of  Libro de Notas on 20-Feb-2006.]

We are the bewildered onlookers of a runaway poisonous campaign run methodically by people who know full well what they are doing. The leading experts in the techniques of mass publicity and communication are in no doubt. They are going after the prey and won't give up until they have run it to ground. When Robert K. Merton warned us how prophecies can become self-fulfilling, many of us were still not born, and the rest didn't know anything about electoral politics because at that time this country didn't have elections. Today, however, we can bear out the truth of his phrase by personal experience: any situation or position taken out of its context can be subtly modified at will and transformed into another different situation or position. The new situation appears in the eyes of the spectators to be more real than the original. Misrepresentation converts itself into a source of truth and makes itself more real that reality itself.

Here are various examples. Saying that there is a crisis when it is you yourself who provokes it by constant repetition; and continuing to repeat it until you manage to make the general population believe that there is a crisis; at first the situation appears to be a farce but in the end everyone seems to believe it. Saying that the State is splitting up when it is your politics and your actions and your rhetoric that puts the integrity of the State at risk; the State is normally able to regulate itself except when it is daily ridiculed by those who dare to call themselves saviours of not very well defined nations. Saying that the State has surrendered and given itself up to terrorism when there has been no surrender or giving up; although there has not even been any opportunity to give up to anyone, it doesn't matter because this diatribe of surrender-giving up is repeated daily with condemnation. Do I need to continue? The a-critical ear becomes perplexed and convinced that something has gone wrong and that there must be some truth in what is being alleged. And then there comes a day when the citizen, thoroughly convinced of the state of tension and restlessness that is threatening his country, decides that the blame must be laid at the door of whoever is in government. And so the circle is closed.

We must be alert. Today, to distinguish, is a verb that is hard to conjugate. But it is worth the effort trying to do so, if only for the satisfaction of feeling free.


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