We don’t know the limits of life’s horror.
There are so many evils that we will never know. We are not in a world where we could be sent to concentration camps because our opinions do not align with the government’s (though, outside of the west, this can still happen), we are free to express our dissent in protest, online and in press, though some would argue that the scope of this freedom is being slowly eroded by various means, and we have jobs and some level of welfare (again variable) to protect us from the very real and very easy to fall into trap or homelessness.
So, with that, what is our oppressor in this modern world? What is left to fear and to fight in the west?
What do I mean by this?
I mean that we live in a world which is saturated by lies. We are drowning in advertisement, we are suffocating in media, both online and in print, and we are asphyxiated by the increasing avenues of society to perceive us as ‘other’.
Advertisement is everywhere. It tells us constantly ‘you need this, you wouldn’t be as happy without this thing that you can buy.’, but it’s all lies. In fact, having worked adjacently to the marketing team in the company that I work for, I can tell you, they make a living from creative lying. This is disappointing, that the only forms of creativity in which we can find a living easily, should be the ones in which we must instantly discard our integrity. Exaggerated claims about the longevity or performance of products is the first outrage, though it is rife and quite commonplace in this area of work. Then, what about the fact that the marketing department, who have all the money and power, who tell us what we can and cannot do, will wilfully expect us to lie to customers about the claims a product can make, or even to avoid the truth that sometimes there are limitations and that these limitations on a product’s ability should be respected. I find that customers appreciate that honesty more than any unbridled claims about how much a product can do for the value of its cost. And then, as if to take it to the limits of incredulity, they would withhold product faults or issues from us, the front line staff who must fix the problems, for fear that we are untrustworthy. There is no greater hypocrisy, no greater insult to the genuine staff that I work with.
Every cell of the body of marketing companies is without integrity, from the creativity, to the authority, to the obfuscation of truth, which hampers our ability to help customers. There is no integrity in advertising before you even reach the advert at hand.
And then let us look at the products themselves.
What do they look like? Smiling white toothed models holding products tenderly and proudly, like new-born babies. Except where is paternal love? Cold, dead eyes stare back through LED screens at bus stops and on billboards. There is no love here, only spiders, sharks, and vultures behind white porcelain veneers. And what of those things that they would sell to you? A mortgage? With expressive coolness, they say we can lift you up when you need to make that big life decision, yet, do we even know where the term comes from? ‘Mortgage’ means ‘death loan’. It was used to describe a sum of money you would pay until you were dead. Rather grimmer in reality than as posed to us in advertising. And what happens when you cannot pay your mortgage? Ultimately, they will repossess your home. What does ‘repossess’ mean? It meant to ‘start again’ or more viscerally, it could mean an ‘undoing’. A creative term for obliteration and recycling of home, of life as it was. And still, we cannot see how, underneath the language of advertising, there is so much violence and misery. Smiling mortgage providers extend a hand, all the while, they have leashes around the necks of mortals who will wear them until death, and whose homes can be yanked from beneath them when life takes a turn for the worse.
I am reminded perhaps of the buddhist teaching that grasping for material things, like products etc are a fast track to misery and emptiness. And we cannot breathe in our society for the grasping! Everywhere you look, some talon, miserable, wan, clammy, dead, extends and swipes, hoping to land its sharp sinus in your mind-flesh. We are fatigued because we step into waking life under siege from all angles, but not the kind which forces the body to move and take evasion from, but attacks on the mind, bamboozling us in every waking moment of every day. We are indeed living in a nightmare and there are evils waiting for us always. What must our subconscious landscape look like at this point? Deep, scoured craters, trenches, scarred, muddy battlefields, and desolate to boot.
This is the first terror, and it is a terror which plays on the subconscious as soon as we wake, ravaging our inner mind, so sensitive that it is, we do significant damage without even knowing it.
Then what of the media? Is there ever a good word to say about the world? It makes it no less true of course that bad things happen every day, but we know this, we implicitly understand that life can be filled with tragedy and it will touch all of us human beings at various points in our lives.
So what is this constant reminding? Yes, it has its purposes. We must not forget the past, for if we do, we can bring it about again through forgetting, but that is what history is for, which should be taught and passed down by communities and schools and parents and relatives. The media does not play an active part in the dissemination of history, but rather in current events. So we are bombarded with the worst miseries of modern times from across the globe. And it is worse because now there are not just newspapers and radios, there are also computers, smart phones, televisions etc which can send information to us more quickly than at any other time in human history. How can we deal with so much misery, so readily and quickly available. The mind again lays itself out to be flayed and stuffed, like foie gras ducks, we are stuffed until we are sick to death. It is true that our impulses and attention are quick to gravitate towards negativity, in the fact that our base brains are powerful, primal and quick. But it is our humanity which lives in the outer most parts, the prefrontal cortex and higher brain which control our ability to be empathic and good, and to form strong, meaningful relationships with other human beings.
The media highjack of our base impulses is the second terror.
Then what of our avatars in this world, where information flows to quickly and spreads vastly under the right conditions?
Social media, where we put our lives online to show others who we are is dangerous. No version of ourselves which appears through the internet is fair and representative. We want to be successful and revered in the eyes of our peers, so we often lie about how we feel. Curiously though, I have started to see a new phenomena, the rise of the ‘down to earth’ media star. They burp, fart, talk about real shit and their vulnerability with the world. And this too is an insult to our humanity. There is a paradoxical lack of integrity in the very act of putting all of yourself onto the internet. A camera always makes us behave differently because a camera is not a person, it is an inanimate object which captures our likeness. We can only communicate by way of in person exchange. Energy flows between life, not the cold dead barrier of camera lens or social media profile. Something is lost in translation. The soul, perhaps, the integrity perhaps also, but we are so desperate for love that we will take this half-filtered shadow and accept our fate.
And then we say something online that can be taken out of context. And the likes of twitter can be the catalyst to the utter destruction or exaltation of anyone or anything in about an hour. ‘Tweeting’ is a form of mass hysteria which is more revolting than anything I could every imagine. And now we all know that what we say online can be taken by little birds, cut, edited and morphed into something grotesque with the power to abjectly destroy your life, no matter if it is true or not. Once it happens, whether you are later cleared or not, there is no way to reclaim your integrity. People have stopped being interested once the the hysteria has passed. They now only retain the perception which made them excited, which in almost all cases is shy of the truth, or abjectly false. We are living in post-truth. It matters not if something is real, only that it could be real.
Hear say has always existed, but the extent to which this can then become global truth is alarming.
This is the third terror of modern life.
And so we can see how life is plagued by sinister and pale oppressive forces which barrage the psyche at every waking moment. Once, long ago in the medieval period, we believed in demons, spirits and angels, the wrathful vengeance of God and other divine entities. Are we any better now? I could make an argument that we are actually worse.
We know our enemy, we know where it stems from, but still, we let it suck us dry.
Advertisement, news, and social media, the new demons and wrathful Gods of the modern age.
How to tackle this new threat is a whole new article, but I will leave you with this rather commonly quoted passage from Chinese General Sun Tzu:
“Know thy enemy and know yourself; in a hundred battles, you will never be defeated. When you are ignorant of the enemy but know yourself, your chances of winning or losing are equal. If ignorant both of your enemy and of yourself, you are sure to be defeated in every battle.”Sun Tzu
Acceptance, knowing who we are and what the enemy is, will be salves and healing potions in this phase of monsters and mythical terrors.
Follow @heathen.life for the next instalment.