“The world is like a ride at an amusement park. And when you choose to go on it, you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. And the ride goes up and down and round and round. It has thrills and chills and it’s very brightly colored and it’s very loud and it’s fun, for a while. Some people have been on the ride for a long time, and they begin to question: Is this real, or is this just a ride? And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, “Hey – don’t worry, don’t be afraid ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people.
About a week before I am scheduled to fly I start to feel nauseous and nervous. These sensations remain until the flight is over and I’m having a smoke in my hotel room. In the past I attributed this to the fear of dying. But over the years that fear has subsided a bit so then I attributed the panic to my claustrophobia and fear of heights. I’ve concluded that this is part of it, but there is something deeper, something I found in my self: It’s my fear of being totally helpless.
Part of it is obviously the helplessness of a plane crash, sitting there, knowing you’re about to die. In a fiery car crash one at least has a fighting chance. In a plane crash you simply burst into flames. Of course, after a few rum and cokes, and once in flight I usually forget about this possibility, yet I usually remain ill at ease. What really troubles me, I think is the total surrender of my agency. It’s not just putting my life in the hands of a couple of pilots whom if they make one error that could be it. It’s that one can’t “get off of the ride” when you want, and while on it you must submit to whatever conditions are offered to you.
Now, obviously one doesn’t really want to exit the plane at 30,000 feet. I guess it could be called an existential claustrophobia. The moment you realize that you are totally powerless to change your situation. Yet the claustrophobia is very real. Dealing with cramped seats, depending on others for food and drink and periodically not being allowed to stand or use the toilet, on a long flight, can make you really want to jump off.
“Get over yourself Max. That’s life bro.” That’s just the point. That really is “life” isn’t it.
I remember coming back from my honeymoon and being stuck on the tarmac at Dulles International for over two hours. I could see the terminal, very close by, from my window. As I slipped into insanity I wanted to know if we could all just walk to the terminal. I asked the Flight Attendant about this, while desperately sucking on a nicorette and probably looking a little deranged. She, looking a tad “put-off” by the question, snorted, “For your own safety you must remain seated.” I wondered if by “safety” she was referring to their liability insurance or to the clandestine US Marshall sitting somewhere nearby with an itchy trigger finger.
I wanted to scream out to the whole plane, “I will sign any agreement you want, agree never to sue if you just let me the fuck off this plane. I will take my chances outside on my own!” Then it occurred to me, what if I wanted to say that to the social system, “I want off of this ride, I don’t want your protection, and I’ll take my chances outside on my own!” I then had something of a cathartic moment: None of this shit is voluntary.
The Present Future: Airports
A few years ago, while standing in the security line at Reagan National, I realized I had developed very odd mannerisms during this ritual. I was acting in a manner not my own. I was very chatty, smiling at every cop, thanking them for frisking me and being, self-consciously, extra helpful to my wife. I realized what I was doing: I was dancing for them. I was so conditioned to please authority that I was prancing around for them. Then I thought to myself, “I’ve always fucking hated dancing.”
You stretch your legs a bit more and there is the appearance of more choice, but the relationship is the same between the person and the plane and the person and the airport (and not to mention the social system). For the most part you can freely walk about, mind your own business, shop, eat and drink. However this is while under constant surveillance and the threat of a random search if one looks “suspicious”. We are also talking about armed checkpoints, x-rays of our bags, (and bodies?) and a system where anyone can be put on a “No-Fly” list for any reason. You can be detained by armed thugs and taken to a foreign country pretty much for life for any reason. This is where the experience on the plane, a mostly existential one, diverges from the experience of the airport, to a very real world one: the airport is a preview of a police state. And like in real police states the experience for most isn’t that bad, just so long as you dance. As long as one has the funds there are plenty of products offered for your amusement as well. However, as you walk along in any airport, everything offered is identical. Take magazines for example. Nearly every airport has the exact same corporate magazines, primarily owned by the same companies and offering the same narrow ideological point of view. Isn’t this the dream of any dictator: total control of every human body and human mind?
Welcome to the Disneyland Police State
When I was about seven, my grandfather gave me a Disneyland coloring book. Every page was a preview of the rides the park had to offer. The one I was most excited about riding was the racecar track. In the picture I saw kids racing each other in kid-size vehicles. When I finally got to go and ride for myself I was crushed: the track was narrower than a driveway and it had a cement slab in the middle restricting my movement choices to nothing more than a little to the left or a little to the right, with a predetermined outcome. I never forgave that wretched mouse. One day I would love to take a sledgehammer to his racetrack.
The metronome clicks to the left to the right to the left to the right with perfect timing. Democrat or Republican, Coke or Pepsi, chicken or fish it’s always the same. Whether in the plane, airport or carport. There can be no other outcomes. Those that seek out other outcomes are shunned and mocked. Those that successfully convince others to join in building another world, well, “we kill those guys”.
Lately I think a lot of people are thinking about getting off of the ride. There is murmuring everywhere and I believe that is what this creeping police state is all about. They seem to be planning a New World order that might not be much to our liking. “The ‘Patriot’ Act”, warrantless wiretaps and the “attempted” “Total Information Awareness Act” have nothing to do with protecting us. The police state being built up around us is a preparation for what could possibly be some of the most cataclysmic changes to ordinary peoples lives all over the planet and our predictable reactions to these events.
There is one aspect about flying that I like, no, love. The view. Life seems so simple once you can see the world for what it really is, a living planet with plants and animals living on and in it. That’s it. In terms of us humans, this concept we call politics is nothing more than trying to figure out what to do with the Earths gifts and how to mutually live together (in theory anyway). From this vantage you can see that with this abundance we could dream up any number of ways to live together. But there is something else you can see from up here: this is the view of the world that a narrow minority of the world ruling elite has always seen. They don’t relate to this or that community, they want the whole damn world, (not to mention outer space). And from this view we can see that they have already claimed nearly every inch and what ever is left they’re coming for it. But they have one, and only one, obstacle left: us.
I believe we are all born of this planet and therefore we should inherit it.
We are living in the Endgame of civilization, the last breath before the final lockdown where resistance finely will be futile. It’s not just Derrick Jensen readers that are aware of this. I’m pretty sure the Pentagon, CIA and NSA are all pretty aware of Peak Oil, global warming and the looming ecological catastrophes. However they all seem pretty calm about it all don’t they? The old money power elites have proven over centuries that they plan long term. And they play to win. Could it be that they picture a not so distant future where there are a lot less of us around? Or who ever are left will no longer be asked for their consent? However hard I try to imagine a different ending I can’t do it. If we stay on the current political, intellectual, economic, spiritual path civilization either ends with a grotesque and long collapse or in a dystopia that I dare anyone to imagine and not shudder.
Nobody is coming to save us. No fictional “V” or “Neo” is going to ever pop up. Derrick Jensen isn’t going to sprout a little cape and fly around fighting evil. Al “Occidental” Gore isn’t trying to save the planet, or us, he’s trying to save the system. If you are looking for the revolutionary, go look in the mirror.
Every generation is born into a culture and society not of their creation. If the culture meets the needs and aspirations of the generation, it’s carried on as a tradition and protected. If it does not meet the needs and aspirations of the people, (and not to mention if it may in fact lead to the die-off of all species on earth), then it is that generation’s responsibility to defend the current and future generations right to create their own world however they may envision it. Also the right to determine this course with zero authorization from those who failed us all so miserably for so long and usually with full knowledge of their crimes.
I believe we find ourselves in exactly this situation today. And so we must break the mental shackles of the dualistic options we are told are the only possible ways to imagine living. The metronome in our minds must be smashed and after that a whole new experience will emerge. We discover that there are an infinite number of ways to see, experience, organize and interact with the world (not to mention have sex. Bonus!) It was always just the belief in false choices offered and believing that “the ride was real”. I am ready to get off this god damned ride, right now and build a whole new world right on top of this rot.
After we’ve built our new world and the time finally comes when our institutions and culture have become corrupt, bloated and top-heavy bureaucracies, just like the ones we inherited, and they will. I hope that we sit back, with the power of our convictions and applaud as our great-grandchildren tear our former institutions down to the ground, brick by sagging brick, screaming for their day and tomorrow’s.