Joined up thinking for the Irish Left
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Escaping From The Matrix
Sunday September 15, 2013 22:36 by Luke Eastwood
On why it is so difficult to break away from the established social order
Like many people today I am strongly aware that the way that we live, in modern societies, is more than a little flawed; the problem for me and countless others is how to escape from the ties that bind us to the system, so that we can be free to live another life.
I remember that at the age of 12 I had an argument with my parents, on a long car journey, about what life is about. I mentioned that it seemed a bit strange to spend more than half our lives working in often horrible jobs just for a little house and an average car, I asked surely there has to be more? My parents’ reaction was to chastise me for being so dismissive of all the people who work so hard to achieve these things, although some thirty years later I suspect they now have a different perspective.
Generation after generation is conditioned by parents, peers, school and the media into accepting the status-quo. Often by the time that we can question our position in the world we are already deeply embroiled in the system. However, at the end of the day a car is just a metal box with wheels for travelling, a house is another box in which we spend most of our time sleeping. These are just functional objects, like so many of our other possessions, but these days they seem to have so much emotional value attached to them.
It appears to me that we place great value on acquiring and possessing stuff, but at the same time we are equally happy to jettison much of this stuff for newer or better stuff – most unlike many of our not so recent ancestors. Modern living is all about lifestyle – a concept that is nothing but a tissue of lies designed to make us insecure about ourselves and thereby cause us to carry on consuming in pursuit of the unobtainable goal of contentment.
From the day that we are born we are socialised to be part of a version of reality that we call civilisation. Those that live a naturalistic life are called savage or uncivilised, although they don’t seem to suffer many of the mental aberrations that afflict western minds. This civilised life perhaps has its origins in ancient Sumer, Egypt or maybe earlier still. What we now have in European influenced societies is a direct descendant of the Greco-Roman civilisation that swept from Western Asia to the Atlantic coast and into North Africa. Gradually this way of living has been exported all around the world (mostly by force).
This way of living is not reality, it is simply one version reality out of many possibilities for human existence. Modern perception is inflicted on us to the exclusion of all other modes of thinking so that we are completely trained to experience and accept this worldview by the time we become adults.
The only remnant of a pre-civilised worldview that seems to have been permissible is that of religion, although in general, success within the civilised system relies on merely paying lip-service to such religious ideas as morality, freedom, fairness, integrity, honesty etc. Despite the inevitable corruption that has occurred in ancient religions we are still left the core teachings of the likes of Jesus, Buddha, Mohammad, Moses, Zarathustra etc, if we can be bothered to read them, although it is near impossible to truly follow their teachings within our system of living.
Perhaps as a result of these fundamental values of religion or perhaps because of a growing awareness of the weakness inherent in a system (that essentially cannibalises the planet and weaker human societies) we have now arrived at a point where a huge proportion of people alive today wish to escape from it.
Like most other westerners I have grown up within the Matrix, a version of reality that is focussed on acquisition, greed, exploitation and a self-centred way of living – what many might call self-actualisation. Our desires are used to ensnare us in the system so deeply that we cannot possibly escape and in many cases will have little desire to escape, even despite the inevitable failure to fulfil all of our desires.
At some stage I woke up, like many others, realising that this is not reality – it is just a game that I have been forced to participate in. In reality we can all do whatever we choose. For instance I could go to the Venezuelan embassy and get a travel visa; I could then sell everything I own and get on the next available plane to Caracas and start a new life if I so wanted.
I am extremely unlikely to take the above course of action, but that option is available to me if I so choose. In the system we have limited choices, in reality we have choices limited only by our imagination and what is physically achievable. In civilised society, our way of life is policed largely by ourselves - due to our conditioning. We in effect become our own jailors, like the Indian elephants that are tethered to stakes from infancy but no longer try to run away as adults, even though they have long since remained untethered.
Like many other people I know of, I have become increasingly unwilling to comply with the requirements of the system. I am free to refuse to conform to all aspects of the western model of life if I wish, although I generally do not because of the cost to myself of doing so. The two main reasons that I do not simply break away and live a life without all of the social norms imposed on me are 1. The difficulty of uncoupling myself from the system and 2. The conditioning I received to be fearful of leaving the system.
Like most people I still drive a car, although I’ve made attempts to run cars on renewable fuels and cut down on journeys. I still shop in supermarkets although I do my best to support local businesses and local producers. I still buy clothes instead of making them, even though I am aware that most of them are made in Asian sweat-shops. I buy food, some of which is processed, although I do grow some of my own food. I owe a debt on my house and also loans I took out, although I am doing my best to eliminate all debt (which will take years) and I will never borrow money again. I work in a job that I do enjoy, but I would prefer to work in position that is more directly beneficial to the environment and human society.
So, as you can see, I am hardly in a position to be preaching about other peoples’ failure to create an alternative life for themselves. The fact is though that it is hard to leave the system, it’s designed that way to discourage us from thinking for ourselves and more importantly, to discourage us from enacting alternative methods of living.
Brave people such as Mark Boyle, author of The Moneyless Man, show us that living outside of the system is not impossible, but to most he would appear an extremist and even most who are sympathetic would not be able to just jettison their lives and embrace a completely new way of living. For most people, myself included, who wish to live a different life, it is a case of making small and gradual changes over time.
A gradual shift in lifestyle is far less painful and less challenging, however it does not break the fundamental ties to a destructive, wasteful and controlled way of living. In addition to this there is the constant threat of backsliding offered by the security and physical comforts that are there to lure us back or keep us sedated.
In truth there is a war going on, a war of consciousness – between an old and outmoded system and a realisation that a quantum shift in human life is required. The truth is that humanity faces the possibility of extinction, planetary ruin brought about by a malfunctioning system for living. Exponents of the current system who benefit from it or are fearful of change are doing everything they can to eliminate alternative choices. Because our system is so flawed it cannot really co-exist alongside a system that is fair, vibrant or harmonious, as this would expose the lie that our ‘civilisation’ truly is.
So, what is currently happening is a war for the ‘hearts and minds’ of the human race – the desire for change versus desire for the status quo (underpinned by a combination of fear and bribery) . I believe that this war is one that those desiring change must win – I would say that the truth is that we have no realistic options other than change.
As with all manifestations of change, it begins from the inside with the way we think. As we begin to fully understand our predicament our desire to change increases. As we educate ourselves intellectually, spiritually and emotionally this provides the opportunity to make real and lasting changes in how we relate to the world around us and also what we do in the physical world.
In the early years of this century we have seen tremendous upheaval, uncertainty and a growing dissatisfaction with the pillars of our civilisation, which appear to be largely corrupted and dysfunctional. As the system attempts to prevent the rats leaving a sinking ship our freedoms are curtailed, austerity is imposed and through propaganda and restrictions the emerging movements for change are stilted if at all possible.
As history has shown us (the Indian non-violent revolution being a great example), if people work together to overcome oppression then major changes can be achieved. Now is the time to switch off your TV set and your radio, cancel your subscriptions to newspapers and start speaking to real people about what is happening and what you’d like to see happen.
Now is our great opportunity and perhaps our last to overthrow a system of governance that favours the greedy at the expense of all else – human or otherwise. While social media, telecommunications and transport is still widely available to almost everyone it is important to seize the day. Time is running out, not just in terms of environmental destruction but also in terms of our liberty to make decisions for our own future. The only way that the current civilisation can guarantee its future is to become a technological totalitarian society where no alternative is possible. I believe that corporate and government interests are already aware of this and are working as fast as they can to ensnare us in a future where all dissent can be quickly eliminated through constant scrutiny of every aspect of our lives.
For our own sakes and for the sake of future generations I hope that the rising tide for change will become exponential so quickly that it will be unstoppable, the alternative does not bare thinking about.