A Perilous Present, Signs of an Ominous Future

A Perilous Present, Signs of an Ominous Future

Jonathan Gillis

29 April 2013

“You get what you pay for.” What a loathsome cliché. What a loathsome culture it derives from. Whatever the professed motives for the alleged perpetrator(s) of the Boston Marathon bombings, a horrific act of terrorism which killed 3 people and maimed and wounded well over two hundred, of the countless more victims of the terrorism committed by the United States on virtually a daily basis, such as drone, attack jet and helicopter strikes on civilians in Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, and so forth–– from commercial media there is nothing remotely approaching the level of consideration given the Boston bombings. While despicable, this is unsurprising. “It’s rare for privileged Westerners to see, graphically, what many others experience daily – for example, in a remote village in Yemen, the same week as the marathon bombings.”[1]

Most of the killed and wounded of the Boston Marathon bombings were U.S. citizens, and incidentally so are/were the alleged perpetrator(s). That doesn’t particularly matter to the psychopaths that carpet the halls of the castles of power. What matters is the narrative, and consumption by the consumers thereof. The contingent militarized-police state locked down an entire city and the surrounding suburbs for two days, all in an effort to pacify two young men with a handgun, while the terrified residents obediently complied with and cheered the service of their overlords’ security class. This totalitarian lockdown might aptly be described as “…a suspension of the law to the benefit of martial law; no freedom of movement, no cell phone network, and if you go to the corner shop to buy a soft drink you may be shot. A whole city in the industrialized North turned into a high-tech concentration camp.”[2]

The irony that there were reportedly bomb squads at the bombing site(s) prior to the bombings and that there was some sort of drill or anticipation of danger beforehand by authorities[3], that purportedly one of the suspects, the older of the two brothers who was shot and killed by police a few days after the bombings, was thoroughly vetted by the FBI and was even on a terrorism watch list[4], that allegedly the Russian government[5] and regime of Saudi Arabia[6] warned the U.S. about the danger he posed, that planning for the Boston marathon, an extremely high-security event[7], included the possibility of a bombing scenario[8], raises a whole slew of questions which will never be asked or investigated within “respected” establishmentarian circles. More importantly and to the point, what of the far more consequential terrorism committed by the U.S., paid for and tolerated, if not outright celebrated, by the privileged classes of the U.S. citizenry? What of the terrorism directly or indirectly resultant from U.S. policies and actions abroad? The mainstream attitude seems to be: Meh. What’s the latest app I can download for my iPhone. What’s on TV? When’s the next episode of my favorite show?

A major explanation for mass apathy is that most people's concerns are prioritized geographically. This also partially explains the significant decline in critical thinking and the serious problems attendant to ignorance; not withstanding the flood of information and ease of accessibility to disseminate with keen specificity, because of leaping advances in technology, if a particular subject is not of direct impact or influence, useful relevance, or interest, it would seem erroneous for us to pursue it. This localism "is not the only reason for widespread influence. The strong adherence to ideology and work within a bureaucratic setting can also greatly narrow one's worldview and cripple one's critical abilities." As children, beginning at the age of 5, we are indoctrinated into the public school system. The bureaucracy of education has "always had two primary purposes and critical thinking is not one of them. The schools are designed to prepare students for the marketplace and to make them loyal citizens." That the corporate-government system, essentially a single party without opposition, rules absolutely over political, economic, social, and cultural life, and that this factual reality is popularly ordinary, is a testament to the hyper-effectiveness of the propaganda system, particularly the moneyed marriage of elite ideology and advanced mass communications technologies. That we live under what might be termed totalitarian fascism, and that we, indeed, venerate the priests and priestesses, the kings and queens, princes and princesses, of mass-media, the face of imperial culture, speaks to the dimensions of and by which we are dominated and unaware. Truly, "if it is the case that most people don't think of anything critically unless it falls into that local arena in which their lives are lived out, all the better. Under such conditions people can be relied upon to stay passive about events outside their local venue until the government decides it is time to rouse them up in some propagandistic manner."[9]

It’s difficult to maintain the quintessence of presence when the TV runs in the background over a family member’s house. When the standard of entertainment has been set by non-reality TV, one is impressed to compete with corporate America following the same formulary. Shorter and fragmented attention spans and diminished imaginations are merely the appetizer. If one does not at least maintain the superficial appearance of being in pop-social-vogue, one runs the risk of being anti-social or worse, eccentric. Ironic, because generally mass culture is anti-social, and quite honestly, insane––several degrees of extremeness separated from mere eccentricity, which may even be artistic, or daresay, romantically so. Of course, it doesn’t matter at any rate, because most of us are too egocentric and techno-centered to care, or to even know how to care, about an antiquated thing as a genuine human connection or interaction. We are socially conditioned to espouse the belief that competition and individualism, (both in the putative sense, the former supplementing the latter) is good, and the natural way of things. Yet there is a complete absence of mention of the awareness that the moral worth of the individual is largely a product of the individual’s immediate (familial) and extended (societal) environment. The arrogance of ignorance is an ugliness which cannot be easily concealed. Attention can only be diverted from it for so long. It takes a real effort to not notice the pathology of the estranged individual in mass consumer society. The cult of self has emerged, dynamically altering––perhaps damaging would be the operant term––personal perspective and perceptions of relativity. The fast-processed-food, self-help-medicated, object-driven-mass-opinionated, techno-mania, the celebrity-glitz, the immiseration of reality and the commodification of the entire experience, the debauchery of the loveless, the elitism of the romantically loved, the carnage wrought by the rich, the desolation derivative of a culture of predators. All of it, is sickening as it is maddening to the humbled heart and the sensitive spirit.            

One mass spectacle after another, the transition from one audience to another is seamless; the normality of being anonymous in a crowd reveals a triple entendre of sorts. Unknown, unwanted, and unneeded. Though nary we hesitate for a moment and inconvenience our busy selves with unsympathetic worry, rather, we charge forward, consuming and creating goals to reach, so that we might boast of our “progress” or “success.” The importation of meaning becomes somewhat of a freak show, no matter, we are either acts, or audiences in the Circus of nightmarish proportions and implications. Why else would we need to be so constantly distracted by so many spectacles of illusions? Not confident enough to live independently of the material things and cultural contrivances which possess and control us, let alone to live remotely close to the courage of our visceral convictions, we are un-alive. Our aliveness is experienced vicariously through various mediums of mass communion, with our anxious eyes ever darting toward the latest intrigue.

We watch TV, movies, and sporting events so as to turn our brains off. To be regaled to forget the stresses and stressors of our high-pressure, always on the go, lifestyle. Additionally, we never mind that “more than 85 percent of video games contain violence…” and that playing violent video games generally causes “…many negative effects, including aggressive behavior and desensitization to real-life violence…”,[10] especially so in young people.

“By losing regular contact with our underlying non-anxiety driven, non-neurotic, but intrinsically stable, calm, and reflective inner nature, we have ceased to function as, or find fulfillment in, the inherent human being that we are. Indeed, we are becoming increasingly like the programmed devices with which our technological society inundates us, giving the outer impression of vast and dynamic possibilities, but moreover removed from the human heart. Because we lack a true connection with our inner being, we are terrified of being alone or of being at rest; and, paradoxically, through our compulsive obsessions with the frenetic, technology-driven pace of life: we have alienated ourselves from ourselves.” It is doubtful whether we even realize the alienation from ourselves. It seems not to matter, in a perversion of logic; it almost seems preferable to us. “The more we aspire to be in touch with each other via technological devices such as the cell phone, internet, and webcam, the further we stray from the simple human capacity to share space: to talk in person face to face, to be silent, to listen, to breath the same air, to break bread, to live closely together, and to feel the true embodied companionship of those we love, of family, friends, and even strangers.” [11] Indeed, the more we aspire to be “in touch” via technological devices, the more out of touch we are with reality, ourselves, and each other.

In the modern imperial world, “powerful personalities are not usually measured…by their magnitude of loving-kindness or their propensity to inspire the imagination and the human spirit…but moreover by their capacity to control others, to manipulate the markets and accumulate wealth. In the world of capitalism, the way powerful people relate to things, such as time, or even other people, is not in any way contemplative, reflective or appreciative; it is almost completely manipulative, aimed at molding things to fit in with their goals of how they want the world to be.”[12] And so it is that we on the lower echelons of social caste mimic the powerful brand-personalities unquestioningly worshipped by millions; our capacity to control others, to manipulate situations and circumstances to our immediate or long-term advantage is characteristically ideal––this is partly what is deemed as “taking (individual) responsibility”. 

“Many of us, especially powerful people, actually value our manipulations of machines over our human relationships, and over activities or engagements that do not involve machines, like reading a book, taking a walk, or watching a sunset. The living spirit inside us was not made by a machine, neither was the sun, nor the sky, nor the earth. But the way we live denotes that machines are more significant than any of these things, and such a way of life neglects our opportunities for truly being human.”[13] One cannot help but wonder if we aren’t fast approaching the junction whereby we will forget what it is to be fully human, that is to say, if not there already, if we will not soon be at a state of technological modification where we will not recognize non-machine interactions as anything more than post-modern nostalgia. Human qualities that have evolved since the origins of the species and endured for eons, become obsolete like outdated technology and the technological devices devised thereof. 

“Why, in our modern world, is going valued so utterly and completely over being? Why, indeed, is being so profoundly devalued, held in high suspicion, and looked upon as idleness and laziness? Perhaps because if one is simply being, simply enjoying being alive, being human, being in time and space, being a human being; then one is not contributing to the slavish wheel of commerce, one is not feeding the grand capitalist system with one's time and energy, with one's blood, sweat, and tears, or with one's very life.”[14] We are all prisoners to the Clock, and our frustration at this becomes manifest in a variety of ways. Being on time is expected, just being, implies liberation from corporate institutional life, and thus the highly regimented time it assigns. But then, that would be laziness and irresponsible, if not incompetence. However viewed, it would be an assured way to end up on the rolls of social ostracization. This is irony of a rather twisted sort. The leading behemoth corporations in any given industry––like all corporations, are legally obliged to maximize profits and minimize costs, i.e., it’s cheaper to exploit the worker maximally rather than minimally and to destroy the environment maximally rather than minimally––are paid countless billions by the federal government, which is to say by the governed populace, to conduct the Big Business of the Economy. Essentially, entire industries would be defunded of research and development, if not absolutely bankrupt without these subsidies. Furthermore, not only do these same corporations turn record profits and pay zero dollars in taxes, many actually receive a tax gift amounting to fortunes from the very same federal government that floats them. But when an individual for whatever reason cannot work for instance, and subsists on the meager allowance allotted from the rolls of the social safety net, that individual is deemed as being a lazy, irresponsible, leech. In other words, the victim is victimized further through cultural stigmatization, while the predator(s) is grossly rewarded for predation. What perverted logic, what a cruel joke of perspective, what a complete denial of humanity, and subservience if not outright worship of the corporation and the power(s) thereof.    

“In the modern world, there is an unacknowledged social consensus that we should always be preoccupied with some form of outside stimulation, that we are forever in need of something we don't have—we've become chronic ‘channel-surfers’ of life. That's why we're always going. We can't relax. Most of us can't just sit with ourselves for five seconds.”[15] We are the most stimulated, and stimulant induced, people to ever inherit the earth.

“In a state of being, however, we have the opportunity to notice what we are experiencing without reactively and automatically pursing our attachments, cravings, or desires. In a state of being, we are able to notice what our minds are thinking, and what our bodies are feeling. We are able to notice, or sense internally, the sensations inside our own skin and our perceptions of the world around us, as well as how it feels to simply be in the world. Attunement to your