The Matrix

Katherine Otto is a relatively new addition to the blog.  We have had a comments discussion over on about entrope, and it has turned into something deserving its own post.

Trust in the institutions of American life are in the crapper.  My faith in the “system” is at an all time low.  You can go to Ms. Otto’s blog for her take on, for example, the tangled beast that is housing finance.  She and I seem to share an inability to distill it all out to a single subject per post.  Instead, I tend to bounce between interrelated points of wtf that seem related to me but perhaps not to anyone else.  There is a reason I’ve enjoyed going back and forth with her.

Anyway, let’s start with Congress being a cesspool of special interest money.  Wall street characters belong in Dante’s Inferno.  People claiming Christianity sell snake oil to old ladies in order to buy their second Benz.  The weather is going nuts.

I’m scared/horrified/angry too.  And when I try to think through all of the forces aligned against “normal” people…  people with jobs living paycheck to paycheck, hoping the roof doesn’t go or the lump isn’t cancer because we’re just barely holding it together and hoping for just a little more cushion in the bank account…  Hell, the beginning of a cushion would be nice.  And while we’re not even close to the 1%, we aren’t at the bottom of that continuum either.  It only gets scarier as the resources erode.

So what do you do? And what kind of life is there when you are consumed by the sense of helplessness?  I feel that helpless rage too, but that also feels like one more incursion, one more shackle in a system that is stacked against “us.”  A market that is stacked against “us.”  Laws that are written for anyone but “we the people.”  Aren’t we easier to manage when we are afraid and helpless/hopeless?  Who benefits most from the system?  Who benefits the most from a population that survives on a daily diet of anxiety?  Not you and me, that’s for sure.

News is paid for by advertisements.  Advertisements are purchased by companies seeking to sell you shit.  You buy the shit, advertisers pay the news.  Whatever tenor of news sells the most shit is the tenor of news you are going to see.  And guess what?  Scary news sells the most shit.  No one is going to go buy a new distracting gadget to feel better after a National Geographic special on unlikely animal friends.  You buy that distracting item because everything is horrible and you might as well distract yourself while you still can.  Honestly, I think the most revolutionary thing you can do is to refuse the fear that is being used against us.

Again: what do you do?  I think, I hope, you focus on the stuff that isn’t a commodity and can’t be exploited by those systems we most mistrust.  Joy in simple things.  Connecting to other people.  Volunteer with the elderly, or the homeless, or tutoring underprivileged kids.  Find a pet.  Take up a hobby.  Knit baby hats for the ICU.  Garden.  Watch the sunset.  Look for reasons to be grateful.  Do those things that don’t require someone else’s permission to make your little corner of the world a better place.

And refuse.  Refuse the fear and anxiety.  Refuse the value system that puts money above everything else.  Love with baked goods or time spent instead of plastic crap.  Hang out with your family without agenda.  Play board games.  Dance.  Sing in the shower.  And when you see an opportunity to function outside the system, take it.

I’m not saying let’s be all Pollyanna about this.  I’m saying don’t let them have your joy.

The Matrix

One thought on “The Matrix

  1. Very good post, stimulating lots of thought. I like the internet for its interactive qualities, through which individuals can express individuality without filtering it through government, mass media, or other institutions that reduce it to the lowest common denominator. Blogging is most freeing that way, because it forces people to think carefully about what they say in order to communicate effectively. They must take personal responsibility for their views and allow themselves to be vulnerable to criticism, refutation, and rejection.

    And, of course, to learning, which to me is the greatest gift of interactive communication. TV is one-way communication. So are most of our educational systems, such that the teacher or lecturer does the majority of talking. Church, same thing.

    Receptive language and expressive language are processed in different areas of the brain, but we are socialized into doing more listening than verbalizing. This is all changing with the net, to everyone’s benefit, I believe. I hope we can maintain its flexible freedom. It’s a great training ground for expressive language.

    It takes courage–the opposite of fear–to stand alone, especially when views are unpopular, as mine frequently are. I have learned over time, though, that once stated, my views often take wings and come back to me in encouraging ways.


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