Monday, February 02, 2009

Pivital Moments

Every now and then each of us has significant moments. On their own they don't do much. They may impact your thinking in a small way for the rest of your life, but it won't be a big change. Big changes occur when these moments happen in rapid succession. If it seems like everything I've written recently has been grand abstract ranting with no clear point it is because I may be at one of these moments, and my mind is still coming to terms with everything.

I'm going to deconstruct this, as I have many times before, because I find the exercise helps me understand what's going on, and gives me the comforting illusion of being in control of the scenario.

It started with the book Brain Rules, which got me thinking about peoples ability to control the way they think. I viewed it then, and still do, as akin to physical exercise. This was followed up by the Nova presentation "The Ghost in Your Genes," where I first learned about the real impact of epigenetics, the heritability of conditioning, and that my earlier thoughts about altering the way your mind works through self regulated conditioning may also allow you to changes the way your genes work. From this point I began thinking about psychological impact and formative influence, which lead me to the horrifying epiphany that 100% of the things you experience are in some way formative. Everything was suddenly being crushed under the unaccustomed burden of meaning, and as I looked at the world around me I inevitably began to think about what it might be doing not only to me, but to our culture as a whole.

That's when I picked up the book Culture Jam, whose aim was to expose something that I was already grasping at. I'm equally fearful and hopeful that some day I'll think of this book at the metaphorical red pill. So many little things that I had found when thinking about why people think the way they think were suddenly explained. Questions that I realized I had been asking for years were being answered. The following excerpt is an example of this.

"...A profound information-age anger that I call 'psycho-rage.' You may not have had a name for this particular emotion until now, but you know if you have it. You're bored, yet anxious. Your moods soar and dive. Barely controllable anger wells up without warning out of nowhere.
Psycho-rage spikes when you realize you're trapped in a carnival of staged events: corporate America's idea of fun. It intensifies with every hour you spend in front of the TV watching the endless parade of dramatized home invasions, boxing bouts, space-shuttle launches, election debates, stock-market analyses, celebrity gossip and genocidal wars- interrupted every few minutes by ads for cars and cosmetics and holidays in Hawaii. It reaches a crescendo as you realize (too late) that ever since you were a baby crawling around that TV set, you've been propagandized and sucked, your neurons pickled in erotica, violence, and marketing hype. You have become less than what you once were. The forces of nurture and genetics that make you a unique human being have met equal and opposing forces trying to reduce you to an obedient consumer. You have joined the North American consumer cult of the insatiables. In Buddhist terminology, you have become a 'hungry ghost,' with an enormous belly and pinhole-sized mouth. And you will never be truly 'full' again.
The strange thing is, you don't really mind. In fact, on some level, you're happy as a clam. You find yourself actually enjoying the ride, savoring the spectacle. Your daily dose of circus sound-and-light dissolves under your tongue. You can't stop watching as the bombs land on Baghdad. Your tears flow freely for Princess Di. You can't get enough news about President Clinton's latest escapades. You press the remote and the show goes on.
Once in a while, in flash of insight, you understand that something is terribly terribly wrong with your life, and that a rude and barren future awaits unless you leap up off the couch right now.
Then the moment passes. Your opening came and you didn't move. You couldn't muster the clarity of mind to figure out what to do, let alone the energy to do it.
And so your rage remains underground.
Rage is a signal like pain or lust. If you learn to trust it and ride shotgun on it, watching it without suppressing it, you gain power and lose cynicism. 'Lying is the major form of human stress,' the American psychologist Brad Blanton once said, and to the extend that failure to acknowledge your rage is really just lying to yourself, then jamming a coin into a monopoly newspaper box or liberating a billboard in the middle of the night can be a rather honest and joyful thing to do.
There's an anger, a rage-driven defiance, that is healthy, ethical and empowering. It contains the conviction that change is possible-both for you and for your antagonist. Learning how to jam our culture with this rage may be one of the few ways left to feel truly among the quick in the Huxleyan mindscape of new millennium capitalism."
-Lasn, Kalle. (2000) Culture Jam, Harper, 141-143


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