A reflection on Errol Morris’ “The Unknown Known” a documentary about Donald Rumsfeld
When I directed myself to watch this documentary on Donald Rumsfeld’s mind I realized I was in ‘for a ride’ when it comes to being ‘face to face’ – in the cinema, with only some 10 other people in it –watching and hearing, getting to know more about an individual that has developed and affinity to justify wars, torture and overall abuse through his self-rewarding ability to redefine words and cunningly deceitful use of language – this means what he makes a word to mean, is what the word will mean and become, because he says so and so he thinks, therefore he is, and so he makes up his own excuses, reasons and justifications to make his actions and decisions seem right and be able to sleep well at night.
See, the confrontation for me begun when once again seeing and realizing how words can be used as double edge swords and how everything can be twisted according to how we define (read: limit, tergiversate, compromise, abuse and even harm) reality through words, and how such words become part of our reality through someone’s decision to change what it means to instigate war through generating doubt and the justification for such doubt.
When I first realized this situation in relation to words and how they essentially define our relationship toward everything in reality several years ago, it was one of those shocking revelations in my life and I used it as an excuse to further my desire to step-away from ‘the evil man-made system’ and seeing words as human dictatorship. Well, this pattern was again experimented when seeing the absolute obsession and overall madness that Rumsfeld shares with us through this great documentary that Errol Morris managed to get Rumsfeld comply to do over 20 hours of recordings for it. I had too many questions as to how such a political figure had agreed to do this documentary and only through watching this interview I filled-in the gaps; I also realized how cunning Morris is to provide us with this ‘psychopathic’ view of a human mind obsessed with power and war and yet believe that everything is absolutely alright with it. I also suggest watching it:
Is it only Rumsfeld that is a ‘psychopath’?
Throughout the documentary I heard and read Rumsfeld’s memo-creations and how he would have this severe obsession to redefine words to suit his Machiavellian agenda, to make sure things would sound ‘good’ to him, to believe he was following a greater purpose where any form of actual abuse and plain evil simply did not exist to him, because to him he was following the right to defend his nation, to ‘do the right thing’ according to what he has defined ‘right’ and what he has defined ‘good’ to be. And this is where I could identify the massive cognitive dissonance that doesn’t only exist in Rumsfeld, and it’s certainly not only about ‘him’ as an individual only.
This documentary reveals the nature of what I’ve realized throughout these years is who we are and have become as human beings within our minds, a consciousness system that programs itself to define, shape, mold and forge a view of reality that in this case makes him feel ‘good’ about himself, without having any real consideration or I dare say ‘care’ about the effect of his words upon physical reality. When realizing this, I have to apply the golden rule of taking the point back to self and seeing myself also as a human being that also has a mind and that also has abused words and definitions to further my own interests, what I think and want to believe is right and righteous, without considering at all how my words, thoughts and deeds will affect others – and in Rumsfeld’s position as Secretary of Defense during the George W. Bush era, he became the decisive factor and voice that would call for wars that are till this day ongoing in one way or another.
But, once again, is it really only ‘him’? Or is it the entire collective accepted and allowed disposition of such ‘power’ by only a few?A person in such position can only exist if the rest of the people accept and allow it. Therefore I realize that I have actually become part of the collective compliance to this discourse that justifies wars waged in the benefit of a few individuals, where trillions of dollars are spent on death and destruction, sucking dry any sort of solvency for a world-wide economy that is in shambles at the moment. And yes, even if I am ‘against war’ by becoming angry about what a few people can do in their position, I only further the problem by becoming ‘angry’ at them or the United States as a nation, since I have also come to realize how there is a greater-construct to this all where from the beginning of our time, we accepted this massive enslavement to our mind, to ‘the system’ as the reflection of our mind, one system that we are now beginning to wake up and realize how detrimental it is to life in general, and so blaming people like Rumsfeld for depicting the image and likeness of our current ‘human nature’ is rather pointless and without any solution to it.
At times throughout the documentary I wanted to scream and shout how this is absolute nonsense and how we have ‘psychopaths’ in our governmental spheres, but every single time as I was watching I would also bring myself back to see and consider the ‘bigger picture’ where it’s not about ‘him’ only, it’s about what each one of us has been and become as a mind system that cares about nothing else but our own self, our benefits, our desires, what we Think is right, what makes us special and in this case intelligent with the use of words. And that’s the trick, in his mind there is no consideration of the consequences, the actual suffering that people actually go through after he declares wars and ‘acceptable’ ways of torture, that’s because the position he was in became a nice money-secured bubble to evade reality and consequences, and such war crimes are justified as ‘defense’ mechanisms, which I also realized we live by at an individual level, where I can make any sort of excuse and justification to not have to take responsibility for my own thoughts, words and deeds.
And this is where I am able to also forgive myself for having accepted and allowed myself to react in any way with scorn, anger, frustration and plain disbelief when seeing how nonchalant this character was when speaking about how some things work and some others don’t work when being asked about war crimes, invasions and the supposed arsenal of chemical weapons of mass destruction he claimed Hussein’s regime had in order to wage war against Iraq. This is a man that – as any other political-figure within the current set-up of this system – has developed the skills to talk an entire nation into agreeing to go to war, believing that what he decides and does is somehow the right thing to do, because it Sounds good, it Feels good to him. He also likes to twist words around and say things like “The Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” when being asked about the existence of WMD in Iraq, which can leave people pondering and thus complying to such possibilities just because it sounds like ‘he’s got a point’ – isn’t it? And so one falls for it as well. This documentary is an excellent way to see how propaganda is created and yes, it all begins with redefining words to our surprise.
I forgive myself for having accepted and allowed myself to covertly use anger as a way to blame Rumsfeld for initiating the war on Iraq, without realizing it is actually blame for having accepted and allowed the continuation of this current world system where we only seek how to make the most money, to have the most power and in this realizing that in his position, I would have most likely done the exact same thing as it is about understanding his position, his context, his preprogrammed design as one of the ‘locks’ in the system to perpetuate wars and conflicts, using words to justify and excuse them because that is how I can make even the most atrocious act seem ‘right’ if backed with proper ideas, beliefs and justifications – I have a mind and so did he and everyone else, so it’s about learning how to self-forgive each other’s actions and instead focus on how to correct them and never again allow this to repeat again, I begin with taking responsibility for my own thoughts, words and deeds.
In Rumsfeld’s case, the words written and advised by him to the presidents of the United States throughout the years came to manifest the most atrocious wars and tortures that the US has conducted as part of their foreign policy of ‘defense’ – though, he has not lived a war, he has not seen first hand the horrors that people in Abu Ghraib were forced to experience, he was not the one hung like Sadam, he was not witnessing what a detainee in Guantanamo bay goes through every day, he’s not the marines sent to kill and destroy Iraq, he was only suspecting what would sound right to do as the idea of being the Defense Secretary in the delusional ‘father of the world’ and ‘first power’ nation of the United States – a position we have all collectively accepted and allowed as well.
Can I blame him? or Should we blame him? Blame only leads to dissociating ourselves from the problem, to not see how it is that for another’s lies to become truth there must be everyone else that listens, reads and obeys the lies as facts, as truth and so blindly agreeing to it – and that’s what makes us all co-participants in any decision conducted by Rumsfeld or any other person in decision-making roles that reflect back our own ability to be directed and controlled because we haven’t been able to take such position for and by ourselves yet. Being a ‘psychopath’ implies a general term that can be applied to every single one of us, because the sheer fact of existing in the mind already makes us all criminals, liars, abusers, schizophrenic and self-interested human beings where we have imposed an entire ‘regime’ with words upon reality, causing the problems that we are all facing nowadays due to not considering the consequences of our individual actions. The truth is uncomfortable, shocking, not nice and not pretty however it is necessary to stop seeing others as ‘the ones to blame’ and instead focus on recognizing my responsibility, our responsibility to this as a collective.
Rumsfeld’s obsession to always seeming to do ‘the right thing’ is what I have realized I tend to do when I use all sorts of justifications, excuses, reasons and beliefs as to why I want to continue doing or saying something that we already know is not so, it’s not beneficial for ourselves and everyone else, is self-interest based – but who cares?? If I say it is ‘right’ and it’s ‘good’ then it must be so because I believe so, I say so! A quixotic mind, a righteous mind, a conceited mind, a selfish mind… however who isn’t like that in this world? Who hasn’t ever lived within a constant experience that we are right and everyone else is wrong? when we believe that everything we do is for some kind of greater good without taking others into consideration…
One can only watch the Morris interview above and see how the one thing that Rumsfeld disagreed with the documentary after watching it and pointed it out as ‘a serious problem’ was…. his tie. That also exemplifies how it is that when we have forged our mind through believing our lies, and we become them, we can no longer spot the lie, the deceit within us, we can no longer see right from wrong, there’s no values or principles because all of that has been redefined to suit personal self interest and delusions of power. Again, sounds familiar isn’t it?
This is humanity’s grave disease, and so we’re really no different to Rumsfeld no matter how many might read this and say ‘WHAAT? NO WAY!!’ Well, again, the truth is not pretty or beautiful, however it is the first step to then begin seeing ourselves in the mirror of Rumsfeld’s mind where I see I have tacitly accepted and allow all of atrocities when it comes to this world, our money system, our financial system bubble, our religions, our emotions and feelings, our thoughts, our illusions and imaginations in the mind as something meaningful and true, that which makes us ‘who we really are’….
I realize I am certainly no different to any other human being, even those that I deem as the most atrocious people, the ‘psychopaths’ can only lead me back to the marvelous golden rule: Take it all Back to Self – what does this imply? That everything that I say, think or believe about ‘others’ and ‘their mind’ is in fact revealing the truth of what exists within myself. I have no problem realizing this because it is only through realizing this that I’ve been able to then take aaalll reactions experienced throughout the documentary back to understanding that I cannot judge others because myself or anyone else would have probably done the exact same things Rumsfeld has done if we had been in his shoes, his preprogrammed position as part of the ‘gatekeepers’ of the system which in itself is a delusion that can only be ‘kept in place’ by collectively agreeing his position to be real, to be legitimized. Hence the importance of understanding cognitive dissonance and the use of words to keep our self-interest intact, to remain blinded by the meanings that we choose to give to words regardless of its effects in real life when lived out.
Casting-out the spells or Out-casting the spells
What I can learn from this documentary is how to prevent the level of personal delusion we all have the potential to live out in our lives. We all carry a mind filled with thoughts, beliefs, perceptions, feelings and emotions along with the particular definitions we have attached to them, including images and memories as the decisive factors that determine ‘our nature,’ the ‘who we are’ as my personality, my choices, my preferences, my beliefs. So, what I suggest doing after one watches or becomes aware of any atrocity ‘someone else’ has committed in this world, one can begin with being willing to be objective about who we are, what we have become, what we believe words mean and so begin a process of scrutinizing everything we’ve believed ourselves to be up to now as individuals and go measuring it all with the principle of common sense to see whether every thought, belief, idea/ideology, perception and experience is in fact something that is beneficial for oneself and others too. Maybe some might think: but what if you define common sense as something different to what you think it ‘should be’? and this is where we as human beings could redefine common sense as what is best for all, as that which will harm no one when lived out in physical reality. An ideology, a belief always has an interest behind it and that is already separation. An example is how the belief in requiring to ‘defend a nation from potential attacks’ leads to justifying war and war has become a profitable business. And that’s what Rumsfeld became an expert of convincing people to support.
If we take the principles of no harm, no abuse, doing onto others what we would like to be done onto ourselves then our ability to use words in our own common benefit can be conducted. However at the moment, the misuse, misinterpretation and deliberate abuse of words have led us to co-create this world where we’ve all suffered of massive cognitive dissonance when our minds, beliefs, ideas do not match physical reality and so,we further down the problem by adding more ideas, beliefs and perceptions to evade realizing the core and source of the problem which I’ve realized it’s always the consideration of taking responsibility for what I think, I do and say.
An example is how the word ‘democracy’ has become a mockery now, a ‘tag line’ for the United States of America to go and ‘promote freedom and democracy’ in any other country that isn’t following their preferred form of regime… and so what happens is that a word like democracy becomes an excuse for war, something that people then even say ‘they don’t ever want to hear again’ because of how it is being misused and misaligned to what it should really mean as the power of the people for the people. We haven’t lived that word yet at all. And that’s the point of sharing this all.
So in order to establish some common sense in what I think, believe and perceive is correct, I require to begin understanding more about my own mind, why we have all blindly accepted every single thought we’ve believed ‘we are’ as ‘true’ and ‘real’ – why we have accepted a world system where we kill life in the name of an equally fairy-tale bubble-thinking creation called ‘money’ and ‘power’ which we’ve made as very real the moment that we denied food to someone if they don’t have a printed paper with a number in it… or how wars are waged in the name of making people believe there are ‘enemies’ wanting to harm others and so through spreading a lie. The greatest atrocities are committed in the world with public consent, because we collectively believe it is right. And also everyone that might consider themselves as ‘knowing better’ than following the political rule of thumb… the sheer fact that each one of us possesses a mind and fails to propose sound solutions to terminate this mass hypnosis and programming we’re running ourselves by already makes us equally enslaved, mostly because we’ve still believed that by knowing ‘the truth’ already makes us ‘free’ – but reality works in a different manner where it is about realizing that freedom and democracy won’t come by waging wars nor by understanding the fallacy those words have become – but instead by implementing, building, creating an actual way in which to implement these changes in each one of us to then create them as our responsibility to this world and reality.
The title of the documentary is one of those riddle-like phrases that Rumsfeld uses to confuse and divert the attention from any form of truth, it becomes a philosophical mind game that blinds then the physicality of the consequences created by such word-abuse. And yes, I’ve seen how we all participate in this one way or another because I get results, because ‘it works’ and because ‘I get away with murder.’ Even the slightest belief, idea and perception is already using the same mind mechanisms that any other ‘mass murderer’ uses, and as such I can only begin humbling myself in relation to what we have collectively accepted and allowed within our minds and how we’ve imposed it onto reality, and how it is through realizing this that we now also have the great and imperative task of taking responsibility for the lies, the cognitive dissonance, the belief systems, the misused words and redirect every one of them to become a true example of what it means to Live a word in the consideration of what is best for all.
Whenever I see myself judging, blaming, creating anger and stress out just by seeing/watching and witnessing what kind of lies and atrocities another being can express and conduct in a nonchalant way, I stop myself from pointing fingers at another and I breathe. I realize that I am only angry at myself, at the realization of who I am and have become as an equal part of humanity, a human being that has perpetuated the lie by existing as a mind wherein I believed that I was always ‘right’ and I could always justify all means to get to my ends, to not entirely care about the consequences of my wishes, desires, wants, needs and beliefs because I also have become an equal part of the game where I have lied to myself and deceived myself in order to maintain this world-system in place as is. Therefore, I realize that I am no different to the person I am judging and blaming or tagging as ‘schizophrenic’ and ‘pathological liar’ because this world-system we’ve built has been built upon lies, concepts, beliefs, ideologies that in no way make a direct reference to how physical reality should work.
This is how I commit myself to remain in stability and consideration, humbleness whenever I take a dive into another human being’s mind and instead of immediately judging them for all the ‘wrong things’ they’ve done, I can focus on considering the ‘greater picture’ of how I have participated in the same patterns and how it is thus now that I see, I understand and realize the truth and reality of what each one of us have done onto ourselves and one another in this world – from the micro to the macro – and the consequences imposed onto every living being in this reality through the dictatorship of our mind. And within this realizing that the only way to stop the reaction is to apply self forgiveness as the one thing left to do in this world where we see how far we’ve gone with our intellectual abuse of reality.
I commit myself to redefine words that I can ensure are able to be lived and be beneficial, supportive and constructive for myself and every other living being as well. This implies that I commit myself to no longer perpetuate the lie I’ve become as the mind, the egos of the mind, the self interest drive to obtain what I want regardless of considering ‘who’ and ‘what’ gets affected by achieving such selfish aim.
After I watched the documentary I wondered why not so many people were in the movie theater, and how we’ve been also brainwashed to believe that politics or seeing these people ‘talk nonsense’ is ‘boring,’ whereas I found it profoundly important to watch a vivid mirror of the deception we’ve all built and imposed around every corner in this world.
I fully recommend this documentary to anyone that can watch it, and this is how I share this reflection about it as a form of take another perspective at it, so that we can stop blaming, pointing fingers or developing further hatred toward certain political figures or people with ‘power,’ where we can first begin understanding what such ‘power’ in fact has been and how we can collectively debunk the lies and through doing that, create a more common sensical, self-responsible, integral and educated democratic society where our ability to redefine words and live them becomes the power to change how we live and interact in our every day living.
It’s time we break free form our mindful self-indulgence and realize that it will take great effort, discipline and consistency in order to give ourselves direction in our mind, to self-correct every lie and deception acquired by default, by virtue of coexisting in this same planet Earth.
Errol Morris on Rumsfeld, the truth and “The Unknown Known”
To learn more about the mind and how to begin self-forgiving our current human nature, investigate: