Every city looks like Rivendell, connected world-wide by an eco-friendly rail network that you can hop on and off as you please – no need for passports because everybody, in every country, is happy and content; no one is fleeing war, no one is poor or being exploited, crime and terrorism are a distant memory. Religion doesn’t exist. Instead, humanity decided to embrace its capacity for empathy and ingenuity to use technology as a means to live in greater harmony with both nature and each other in eco-friendly societies that abound with trees and wildlife. The air is clean; rivers and seas unpolluted; life is full of joy; for instead of staring blankly into screens caressed like rosary beads in the palm of our hands, getting more anxious and depressed by the minute, we ride hoverboards through beautiful, tree-lined boulevards. It’s a three-day week, for humanity has learned that it’s more important to focus its time on making great art and music than wasting it on the banality of bureaucracy and politics, meaningless work, or the aridity of numbers; the scam of money since made obsolete. Everyone is happy; everyone is free.
Where did it all go wrong?
I actually had a number of names for this part including ‘Death of Protest’ and ‘Death of Activism,’ but seeing as such things are ostensibly about attaining liberty, and seeing as we don’t enjoy much freedom, I settled on the above title.
Not only do we live in a woefully joyless society, it is one where we are not even close to being free.
What does it mean to be free? For me, this is a deceptively simple question that, unfortunately, is rarely treated as such.
If you’re a conservative, it appears to lie in moronically parroting the word ‘freedom’ as a kind of mantra while uncritically binding oneself to a particular economic policy that seeks to accumulate as much fairy dust (otherwise known as ‘money’) as one possibly can and screw everyone else in the process. Oh, and this accumulation is a) never enough and, b) relies on an ever-expanding, superficial culture of materialism that both destroys the planet and perpetuates the very nihilistic brand of misery among the general populace bemoaned by those who are instrumental in creating it. Go figure.
To be fair, conservatives believing in fairy-tales shouldn’t be all that surprising given people from said disposition tend to enthusiastically believe in the grandest ones of all (otherwise known as ‘religion’ which, incidentally, has historically demonstrated violent contempt towards the freedom of women and minority groups in the most barbaric ways). It’s also interesting to note that in the States, where conservatism seems most fervent, there exists the most intense opposition to more sensible gun laws. This inherent need for protection at all times doesn’t represent a strong inclination towards liberty; on the contrary, it reveals both a fearful distrust of freedom and the ‘others’ alongside the necessity to always feel in control. In a nutshell, that’s the conservative idea of liberty and it’s pretty fucking dumb.
What about people on the alternative side, as it were, of the ideological spectrum?
For me, it doesn’t really get any better. Such people tend to be the ones that take to the streets, are often insufferably self-righteous, usually lack a coherent vision of the changes they’d like to see in society and, while there are undoubtedly a great number of well-meaning and articulate people out there fighting for positive change, there is also a significant number of cunts who I would personally not want to see anywhere close to getting into power; for it’s strange how much of this side of the spectrum (ok, let’s call it ‘the left’ to keep things simple) often turns out to be the most anti-free; the most authoritarian.
So what is freedom? How do we achieve it, if such a thing is even possible?
As stated in a previous blog, I currently have it down as follows:
‘True freedom lies in a paradox: to feel unconstrained in spirit while living in harmony with one’s surroundings.’
Furthermore, I deduced that, in order to attain this, I must find a way to ‘no longer be part of it.’
The above is not as straightforward to achieve as you might think.
No man or woman is an island; we all have to share this world and so absolute non-participation is unrealistic. Moreover, what if I decided to just go back and ‘live off the land?’ Disillusioned with the false promises of city life, people have already tried this the world over (as documented in Sebastião Salgado’s ‘Struggle of the Landless’ in Brazil, for example) and it’s often led to violent confrontations with rich land owners who, in many cases, only use a small percentage of the land they own, the rest of which could just as easily be made available for others to make use of.
Think about that for a moment; the made up rules of a particular ideology and its made up medium of exchange called ‘money’ (that in reality only benefits a minority while destroying the planet), wholly forbids us, should we ever ‘freely’ choose to, the basic right to go and live self-sufficiently off the land; in other words, we’re not even ‘free’ to be fundamentally human! I find that so depressing I can hardly find the words.
So what exactly are we ‘free’ to be and do?
It would seem, for many, the correct answer lies in getting overtaxed and underpaid working shitty, go nowhere jobs while being ripped off by a greedy rentier class who, in turn, evict you once they realise they can make more money letting your room through Airbnb. You subsequently get moved from pillar to post in shitty accommodation working your shitty job that has an increasingly shitty effect on your health, all the while wasting your shitty life transfixed by the unreality of the spectacle unconsciously consuming yourself into nihility in some shitty little town … and then you die.
Isn’t it ironic how technology has fragmented society? Just about everyone I speak to expresses some kind of unease towards living in a world permeated by modernity’s novelties, endlessly stimulated by an overly-saturated media culture, which seems to have us all addicted to a collective misery presided over by a shadowy super-villain.
If you’re addicted to something then you’re not free. To free yourself from addiction, you must first have to acknowledge you’re an addict before you can even begin to think about ‘solutions’ to the problem. Quite often we jump the gun when it comes to issues of modern-day mass addiction with responses like ‘so how would you change things?’ ‘What’s the alternative?’ And so on. This is a classic addict’s response deflecting from the fact they have an addiction in the first place. Until there is widespread acknowledgment that one even has an addiction, and is therefore not free, then I’m afraid there’s no getting off that carousel.
I think this is the mistake many present-day ‘activists’ make; they are addicts who believe they’re enlightened and yet utterly fail to see the irony of taking to the streets with their Smartphones and blogging their ‘revolutions’ via highly-centralised, ultra-surveilled platforms owned by a handful of Silicon Valley oligarchs.
I recall reading an article where the authorities knew the amount of white people attending a BLM protest in the States (think it was at a demo in LA) and wondered how could that be? Of course it’s simple, if people are giving running commentaries via platforms that are essentially military technology, they’re actually making the authorities’ jobs much easier. Consequently, in my view, technology has provoked both an activist, as much as intellectual, lethargy.
The above has even spawned its own kind of Entertainment Industrial Complex; just look at all those celebrities and corporations getting in on the ‘activist’ gig. Notice how it doesn’t change a fucking thing and yet it has become as much an opportunity for big business as it has a career platform for narcissists.
I first began to notice this phenomenon while travelling a few years ago. I was in Seville on May Day during which there was a gathering of people demonstrating for workers’ rights. What I thought was interesting was there were also an equal amount of tourists filming them on expensive looking cameras and mobile phones. At no point was I given the impression that what they were protesting was in any way significant beyond their own bubble; for most, it was just another tourist attraction; just another selfie opportunity.
Similarly, on the other side of the spectrum, I recall the outrage online over an EDL (the right wing English Defence League) demonstration in my home city of Exeter a few years back. I went along and what I found were little more than a handful of masked, angry white men, who were outnumbered by both police and counter-protesters. I found it all quite farcical, but it no doubt played into the idiotic narrative that fascism is somehow on the rise in a country that’s never had a fascist government (and, indeed, fought two bloody wars against it).
I’m no conservative, but I hasten to add I’m not an activist either. I’m not interested in saving anyone although I am a romantic who sincerely wishes we could show considerably more love for the beautiful world we’re destroying in favour of a horribly restrictive, banal, psychopathic, war-mongering and downright fucking ecocidal system of capitalism. Our shallow attitude towards beauty and the natural world depresses me no end.
Moomins creator, Tove Janssen, brought to life one of the greatest cartoon characters of all time: Snufkin. In a world that seems populated mostly by addicts and those fearful of freedom, the nearest path to liberty I see, right now, is to find a way to no longer be part of it from which I’ve taken inspiration, of all things, from the understated genius of the Moomins.
I believe everyone should be like Snufkin and I like to think there are many out there who feel something similar. I look forward to meeting you (offline, of course), in Moomin Valley; free to roam as we please, free from both the shackles of fear and addiction.
22 October ‘21
© Percival Alexander