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…