Archive - April 2012

1
THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 2.0
2
THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 1.0

THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 2.0

PART II: CONFORMITY DISABLED

The first system you debug must be your own. The process is simple but it is never easy. You must first learn how to detach yourself from the uninterrupted whirlpool of thoughts and feelings coursing through your mind. Thoughts produce feelings, which in turn produce thoughts, and for this loop to be broken you must realize that you are not your thoughts. To accomplish this requires concentrated awareness and unflinching objectivity. You will fail often at first, but persistence leads to habit formation and a habit is really just an automated response. This is a good thing because it frees you to concentrate not on the thoughts themselves, but rather on where they come from. It might bother you to learn that much of what you know is derived from second-hand, spurious sources. It might shock you to realize how few of your thoughts are actually your own. You might be compelled to start questioning everything; this, too, will become habitual. You might be surprised to discover how much of what you thought was true is in reality biased, incomplete, misleading, or utterly false. Allow me to illustrate by correcting some common “facts” that are, in fact, totally wrong:

Humans did not evolve from chimpanzees, Einstein never failed math, and Napoleon wasn’t actually that short. The Maya didn’t disappear, not all dinosaurs went extinct, and “In God We Trust” didn’t show up on U.S. currency until the 1950’s. The word “golf” is not an acronym (it actually means “stick”), no one thought the world was flat until the 19th century, and lightning can definitely strike the same place more than once (just ask Roy Sullivan, who was struck 7 times). Sugar doesn’t cause hyperactivity in children (or adults), cracking your knuckles doesn’t give you arthritis, and men don’t think about sex every seven seconds. As a matter of fact, we’re usually too busy thinking about warfare, sports, or video games to even contemplate activities that can tragically culminate in marriage, children or other major setbacks.

Now let’s substitute these total lies with a brief list of actual, verified facts you’re most likely not even aware of, but probably should be:

The average American child has witnessed 200,000 acts of violence and 40,000 murders on television before leaving elementary school. Unsurprisingly, the United States also has the largest incarceration rate on the globe, holding 25% of all the world’s prisoners yet comprising only 5% of its population. In addition, the US has the 2nd worst infant mortality rate in the developed world, has only been debt free for 1 day in its entire history (January 8th, 1835), and if every concerned citizen were to use 1/3 less ice in their drinks, the country would have a surplus of energy every year.

On a lighter note, did you know that, technically, the Earth has two moons, you have four nostrils and we’re currently living in an Ice Age? Were you also aware that there’s more bacteria on a cell phone than a toilet seat, the cracking sound of a whip is actually a sonic boom, only 3% of all mammal species are monogamous, and that humans aren’t one of them?

So, if most of what you think you know is ultimately derived from a vast and superficial morass of unverified facts and assumptions, why do so many people so readily accept them as the truth? I’ll let Laura Helmuth, senior editor of the Smithsonian Magazine, explain this one:

“Our cognitive failings are legion: we take a few anecdotes and make incorrect generalizations, we misinterpret information to support our preconceptions, and we’re easily distracted or swayed by irrelevant details. And what we think of as memories are merely stories we tell ourselves anew each time we recall an event.” [1]

In other words, people don’t really care if what they know is true because they’re way too busy making faulty arguments, deluding the living shit out of themselves, and/or daydreaming about false memories and vicarious lives. For them, sleepwalking is more convenient than wakefulness. This is clearly not an option for restless spirits and independent minds. The art of questioning everything can be exhausting even once automated, but the reward is always substantial and irrevocably exponential.  The more you learn, the more you want to learn. Every answer leads to a new question, which in turn leads to another answer. One loop has now been replaced by another, far more productive one. The loop goes round and around, a seemingly ceaseless exercise in knowledge acquisition. That is, of course, until a pattern begins to emerge. At this point, you will need to grab a wrench.

…AWAITING NEXT TRANSMISSION…

THE SPECTACLE & THE WRENCH 1.0

PART I: THE SPECTACLE 

Conformity is the operating system of the social universe. To be orderly and predictable, societies must ensure that the majority of their members abide by a standardized set of rules and roles. They must obey laws, hold jobs, and pay taxes. They must possess certificates of birth, death and marriage. They must have mortgages, vehicles, and bank accounts. They must be convinced that they are consumers and that anything can be bought or sold. They must have children or at least like children. They must express some level of interest in pop culture, professional sports, or half-baked social causes. And they must learn to accept that failure to conform to the norm will justifiably provoke corrective measures like public scorn, mockery or other types of social sanctions.

Obviously, the usual suspects of nonconformity are freethinking individuals and restless spirits. Everyone is born this way, but only a few will get to die this way. Socialization pressures are powerful because without them society, by definition, couldn’t exist. After all, societies are systems; and like all systems, if the parts don’t cooperate, the system will simply disintegrate. It really is that straightforward. For most, the instinct to rebel is stymied by the realization that you just can’t get around in the social world without adopting its culture or obeying its rules.

But the desire to rebel is strong and always lingers somewhere in the back of the mind, looking for an opportunity to lash out and create havoc. It is the source of everything from marital infidelity to flash mobs to Halloween and Fat Tuesday. These things serve as exhaust valves for social and interpersonal tension. But they are meant to be temporary—you can’t have it both ways forever. Those who attempt to do so should be forewarned that trying to make a living out of two-timing or double-dealing will invariably produce unpleasant outcomes. People need to make choices and then stick with them, or risk creating inner turmoil and a prolonged loss of integrity. Each of us is also a system and our parts must co-operate or chaos will reign.

Incredibly, there are a lot of people out there who somehow manage to forestall such inner mayhem with total apathy or stunning feats of ignorance. Others cope with the nuisance of desires like ambition and pride by living vicariously through the asinine adventures of untalented pop stars, reckless athletes, or reality TV heroes. Naturally, this makes total sense because, hey, who actually wants to think or do any real work? Other people are just as content taking happy pills, drinking themselves into oblivion, or attending watered down western-style yoga classes once a year. And when times really get tough, there’s always Disneyworld, pub-crawls, or Jesus.

Like power windows, religion comes standard with most people. And just like power windows, religion reduces the amount of effort needed to get a breath of fresh errors. What makes religion so fucking fascinating is its ability to turn ordinary pieces of burnt toast into divine spectacles. It’s like accenting your cupcakes with sparkles—everything gets more magical. And it’s just so goddamn user-friendly. You always get to feel super righteous—like the Sun sporting Oakleys—and all you have to do in return is remember that Jesus loves you no matter what demented, perverted, or selfish thing you can possibly think of, say, or do. It’s really a win-win when old JC’s got your back. Of course, there are some rules you are meant to follow, but the beauty of religious teachings is that each lesson is like a lego block that can be infinitely rearranged according to personal preference . By far the best part of religion is knowing that you are saved and “they” are not. It’s a special feeling, I’m sure. Now, if you really want to meet people who actually take religion seriously, you’d have to climb the Himalayas, join a sweat lodge, or take a pilgrimage to Mecca. And who has time for that with such an astonishingly wasteful wedding to plan for!

Like religion, most marriages are the result of hasty decision-making, starry-eyed idealism, and piss-poor logic. This is paradoxically why they are at once so valued and ultimately so meaningless. Couples keep getting married for the same reasons people keep buying bad software: because it’s conventional and nearly everyone else is getting it. Well, nearly everyone else also gets cancer at one point in their lives too, but I can assure you it’s definitely not for everyone. And it’s especially not for those prone to bouts of innovation and independent thinking. For them, accepting the contagious logic of equating what’s “right” with what’s ordinary inevitably creates mental conflict and a potentially infinite loop of self-defeating thoughts and actions. For them, debugging may be the only solution.

…AWAITING NEXT TRANSMISSION…

Copyright © 2013 Eidologue Labs. Powered by Strontium 38.