A truth about the current era of man, is that we live in an age of distraction. Another immutable truth, about the human condition, is that we are hardwired to seek pleasure. Where pleasure has been sought and not found, we will settle for avoiding pain or discomfort.
Never has a time existed where we, creatures of the human variety, have been given so many tools necessary for us to curate our own existence. We “follow” that which we enjoy, and we “block” things that bring us discomfort or stoke the flames of cognitive dissonance within our minds. Algorithms work ceaselessly to present to us an unending buffet of things we like, or ideas we find agreeable.
Mixed in, and woven throughout our carefully handpicked, customized, sterilized worldview, is a seemingly infinite parade of top quality, grade A+ entertainment being churned out faster than we can consume it no matter how voracious our efforts. Who can honestly say that they haven’t felt the (admittedly asinine) anxiety of not being finished with the latest show/special/documentary that has gripped the cultured world, before the next piece of content arrives that you “HAVE to check out man!” It’s an unwinnable game of catch up with the prize being momentary escapism.
I work a full time job in America. By that I mean I commute a little over an hour to work every morning, work 9-10 hours (excluding the probably 3 days a week I have to stay late) then commute about 45 minutes home. By the time I get home, get the kids bathed and in bed, try to help pick up the house, etc. The very last thing I want to do is pay ANY attention to the fact that the current form of existing, unfettered, capitalism has spiraled into the worst example of economic inequality in modern American history; Or the fact medical costs have become so inflated that American families travel across oceans to buy Insulin from different countries because they save tens of thousands of dollars by doing so; I DEFINITELY don’t want to think about the fact that corporate money and influence has infiltrated our democracy to the point where citizens openly laugh at the idea of the now completely bunk notion “Of the people, for the people;”Or the slow but steady encroachment of a militarized police force stifling the individual freedoms and liberties we pride ourselves on as a nation; Or the fact that we are destroying the planet faster than we can convince people that its round, not flat; Or the fact that children are gunned down in schools, elderly are gunned down in churches, youth are gunned down at concerts and movie theaters. For the love of all that is good and holy, get all that OUT OF MY MIND, and just let me find out who the goddamned masked singer is.
Spoiler alert, its another B list celebrity battling to stay relevant.
We live in an age of acquiescence. Not because we’re lazy, or apathetic. But mostly because existing, and fighting tooth and nail to try and stay in the middle class requires all of the fortitude we can muster. We’re given JUST enough opportunity to carve some semblance of a “comfortable enough” life, and then we hang on to that for dear life for fear of losing it. The illusion of a “middle class” is just that. An Illusion. I would say that “middle class” is really just a euphemism for “not quite poor”. What I mean by that is if you REALLY, honestly look at the situation you will find that most of us in the middle class are really just three very bad months away from being homeless. However none of us are three good months away from being millionaires. Given that reality most of us find ourselves in, I would hardly say that the middle class is a group of the American population situated in between the impoverished and the wealthy. It would be more aptly described as a group of the American population on the slightly less stressful side of being fucking broke!
Thinking on what I’ve discussed so far, and keeping in mind the human propensity to seek pleasure and avoid pain. Here’s a thought experiment. Imagine an innocent man in maximum security prison for a crime he did not commit. He is locked up in the prison, either in his cell or performing his duties for 23 hours out of the day. He is allowed one hour of “Recreation Time” outside per day. The man has an upcoming appeal that looks promising that he could be proven to be innocent. Therefore he spends his recreation time studying law, going over his case before trial, and working toward his freedom. Then imagine the same man has no appeals. He is there for the rest of his life. Period. What do you think he does during his rec time? Probably plays basketball, lifts weights, plays cards. Anything he can to derive some sort of pleasure or enjoyment out of his existence.
The point I’m making is that the decision to watch a half hour of Stranger Things before we fall asleep instead of writing to congress is nothing more than a symptom of the disease of despair that has swallowed up the American everyman/woman. Its subtle creeping hopelessness follows us through our daily lives. Never shouting, as to interrupt our productivity. But constantly whispering “This is your lot. There’s nothing you can do to change it. Why even try?”
The American Dream of the current generation is buckling under the crippling weight of the American Dream of an elite few at the very top of the socio-economic and political ladder. The land of opportunity is quickly becoming the land of uninspired and complacent automatons resigned to their fate.
What happens to a society when you take away the hope of a better life? In an unprecedented fashion, U.S. life expectancy has declined for the third year in a row. The cause has been linked to dramatic increases of deaths caused by suicides, drug overdose, alcoholism, heart disease and other stress related illnesses.
What are we to do? I’ll close by citing a passage that should be committed to memory by anyone that calls themselves a patriot of the American Republic. It will probably be somewhat familiar to most. But I’m asking you to really read the words and think about what they mean, and especially the context in which they were written.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, —That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.” – The Declaration of Independence, 1776
The founding of this country was built upon the universal truth that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and that no form of government, throughout human history has been able to stand the test of time. What we’ve been gifted is a dynamic system of self governance, constructed to be allowed to change with the sentiments of society. The central power being the majority populous, who elect representatives, who derive their power FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED. The only fault with this system is that it relies on the attention, and watchful eye of the governed. As the life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness of the American population slowly wanes. We fall victim to the disease of despair and hopelessness. The responsibility, and the success or failure of America rests with us. Because you get the government you’re willing to fight for.