Walking through my desolated local town centre reminded me of venturing around the deserted ruins of an ancient culture. The branded stores that people identified with lay silent much like the places of worship of a defunct religion. In this quiet, it begins to dawn on me that society, or more specifically, shops, hold a mirror up to us. They reinforce our own beliefs by selling us our own image to then buy our allegiance. The places, like Apple, who have become part of our identity gains its power from the feet that march to its beat. The people who like to be seen as Apple people. They want to be individual and not seen as less than the image of android. These false dichotomies that people spent what is now clearly seen as priceless breath arguing seem futile. The value of things, not only monetary but personal values, have shifted as survival takes precedence.
Hopefully, with this lack of reflection from the brands that prop up our delusions, it will allow the true nature of ourselves to be exposed. Placed in the worn shoes of someone who has the dangers of life hanging them every day, maybe will spur us to change. The new car or clothes that we deferred the payments on will now be a burden and not a boasting point. The guts of a failed system are exposed. Living on the pay of a future version of ourselves has been shown to be stupid. Even a squirrel saves for the winter. But on a greater scale, humanity is living on the payday of our children and their children as the current generation shoulder the mistakes of the last hundred years. The mistakes we make will play out in our children’s lives. The bailout of the broken system that ushered millions into debt will be paid back, maybe, when our children are adults.
Like an addict, society has hit its rock bottom.
The lies we tell ourselves have been found out. The toxicity of our consumption lifestyle has been evaporated by clean air. The pursuit of the ideal image has been put on hold as our insecurities can’t be bought away. Like all rock bottoms there are options; to continue or to admit that it is over. Overconsumption is having a devastating effect on not only ourselves but our environment. That our selfish pursuits that are played up as successes are actually isolating us from reality. Much like the addict, our only solution has been to consume more in the hope of pushing away our problems. Without consumption as escapism, we are left to dry out as unhappiness manifests as our daily desires go unfulfilled.
How can happiness exist if we cannot consume? Maybe the fresh air will bring a fresh perspective. My daily dose of exercise around my local park shows families connecting not only to each other but nature. People seem friendlier as the false chaos due to the mistaking of busyness as progress dissipates. Maybe I am idealistic and it will all return back to the way it was before but it would be the waste of a wonderful opportunity to make a change. To say “no more,” and realign ourselves with a common goal, the betterment of life for all. By pursuing our individualistic goals or demanding that our internal wants are met we have lost sight of the bigger picture; we have become the burden of the next generation. We are saying fuck you to the future as our demands today are met. So much for “the best things come to those that wait!” We are led by our desires and our desires are created for us. The freedom we think we have is exposed as nothing more than the freedom to fill our desires. Desires that are unquenchable and thus leaves us never free. Our self esteem is tampered with and brought into question to create an inner void that can be filled by a thing. The need for newness soon returns as our desires are artificially manipulated and we salivate like the Pavlovian dogs we are. The adverts are merely a ringing bell to remind us it is time to consume.
The simplicity of the lockdown leaving many people feeling “bored” but it is not boredom they are experiencing. It is a withdrawal symptom from the overstimulation, they are chaos addicts. I noticed it when I first came back from travelling, that chaos or busyness seems to be used as a form of escapism. Constant stimulation through illusionary importance or entertainment is used to beat back the delusion, the voice, the knawing feeling that reality is losing touch with reality. And that we have to continue to prop it up because our identities are defined by the very delusion itself. The current silence has dropped the mirror. The delusion is exposed. The people in suits who demanded respect are shown to be useless. The people at the base of the pyramid who have grown to be disrespected have been highlighted as the saviours. It is time to grasp reality and hold it close before the machine loses focus on the virus and starts up again on its quest to reinforce the delusion. It will be after this that we will see the damage as mass unemployment stalls the borrowing of money which then stagnates consumption. Who could have imagined that building a system entirely on debt could have gone wrong?
It’s strange that amongst this pandemic there is such peace. The movies always showed such things to be chaotic, maybe that will come, but for now, there is a strange quiet. The usual hum of the motorway is silenced for the first time since I can remember. The birds seem to sing extra loud, maybe they are bolder now they are disturbed less or the silence has given them a stage from which to perform. Either way, it adds to the realisation that behind the human machine that is society, there lays another place, a natural place, that we have not only forgotten about but taken for granted. And like all things, if they are taken for granted they usually disappear and become a point of romanticised reflection.
The other thing that we have taken for granted is our collectivism. The service of the people we take for granted has been shown in a new light. It is time to reaffirm our allegiance to one another and throw of the illusionary competition that the last forty years has sold us to sell us more stuff. The path to the future is not beset, as we can decide what world we would like to leave behind. Maybe that is the common goal the western world has been lacking; to imagine the earth as a gift to our children. Would we like to be remembered as childish and selfish overconsumers or mature responsible people who understand the value of balance? Is it not foolish to believe that there is always going to be more available and that infinite desires can be fed by the resources of a finite planet. Surely, I can’t be the only person who has begun to question the benefits of what we used to call normality?
Photo by Ismael Sanchez from Pexels