Friday, July 18, 2008

Like that guy from Scanners

I think it was Scanners at least. No, not the head exploding bit (though that's very cool). No, I'm just talking about the bits early on where he can hear everyones thoughts and it's too much for him. Bombarded by thoughts, feelings, fears, insecurities - sensory overload. It's too much for a person to handle.

And that's the world we live in today. We are bombarded with information, news, advertisments, opinions and fears, much of it misinformation. Too many choices. Too many decisions. Our heads are full, like the guy who hears everyones thoughts at once.

Much of it is a diversionary tactic. It suits certain groups of people for this to be the way the world is. Governments love it - a simple diversion and people move on and forget what the problem was to begin with. The trick to hiding the shit they get up to is not to hide information - it's to give too much information, each piece contradicting the last, and end up with nothing but confusion and doubt. It works a treat. Governments love conspiracy theorists. The more the merrier because each new theory muddies the water further. Most of us just try to block it out.

And it works with our consumer society too. Preying and building on self-doubt, companies tell us that we deserve to have everything we want and need. Then they show us just how broken our lives are, how incomplete we are, how utterly inadequate we are without the shit they are selling us. Then nicely bombard us with 'choice'. So many choices every day that we simply don't have time to stop and think about any of them. Then when they get caught doing shit they shouldn't, the consumer accountability card comes out - you make the choice and vaildate them by buying their stuff. People call it 'voting with your wallet'. Can you really make any kind of informed decision when there are thousands to make each and every day? And when, instead of clear information, we're fed propaganda, half-truths and often straight-out lies?

That's bullshit. So we have to try to block it out.

On top of that, we have atrocities going on each and every day. British soldiers forcing 14 year-old Iraqi boys into sex, soldiers beating civilians to death and much more. Much worse. Children walking over landmines in countries we have long forgotten about. Too much for people to think about. If we thought about each daily atrocity as we go about our lives, we would be metally crippled. We have to block it out.


We're bombarded with sound bites about 'weapons of mass destruction', 'freedom', 'threats' and all kinds of other bullshit and many find comfort in latching on to one of these as a justification so that they don't have to think about it any deeper. Because the rest? We have to block it out.

And yet, even with the hideous things going on in the world, the media loves to hype up this local culture of fear. Every young person will stab you. Every guy out with his kids is a pedophile. Everyone is your enemy. We're led to a 'pre-emptive strike' culture. Why the hell wouldn't kids have knives when they are told all the time that all the other kids have knives and are about to stab them? We are coiled springs, feeding on paranoia. But we couldn't go about our lives like that. We have to block it out.

Then, on just a basic day to day life level, we have bills, rent or mortgages, a fragile economy, fears of job losses, just trying to survive. And companies have been very good at making people dependent. Careers become our lives because they have to. And some companies are great - full of perks, great working conditions and so on - but they are traps, locking us into that dependency. So much of our energy goes to just paying those bills and feeding those traps. So of course we have to block out all that other crap. We don't have time or energy for it.

We are too busy.

Luckily we provide for that - we can fill our brains with action films, reality tv, sport (that's just reality tv too), games and so on. We end up like those aliens with big brain-heads. Full of information. Only, it's mostly misinformation and useless crap. It weighs us down. All the while, we try to block it out. Just to get on with our lives. We're just trying to live.

An older person asked me recently where the hell all the young people were protesting about the illegal invasion of Iraq. He said that their generation ended the Vietnam war. Asked what had this generation done? Well, people did protest. I was at one - a really big one. Didn't matter because the government knew all it would take was a little distraction and people would move on. Their lives would get busy. They'd have to worry about the next bill, their careers, what they would buy next, what the next media paranoia frenzy is, what's the next popular troubled area in the world. Simple basic distraction.

To survive we just have to block so much stuff out.

Where this post came from was a post over at Uncle Eddie's Theory Corner on animation acting. I was thinking, how can we know acting when we are withdrawing from the world? Because that's what I see happening. We're getting so much more comfortable in our own heads. On text messaging. Email. Yes, you can contact millions of people online - hard to think of that as anything other than social. But it's not real contact. The world is just too difficult now. We are withdrawing.

But every now and again, someone snaps. Shoots up a school or something. I think we're going to see much more of that sort of thing. I think people are going to feel more and more isolated, separate from society. And I think that, given time, there will be more people ready to snap than actually able to function in society. The solution isn't to get a gun to shoot those crazies first. It's to look at society. We're people. It should be our society. We should be taking it back.


But, right now, we're living in the Age of Distraction. And we're blocking it all out.

5 comments:

Adam H said...

I'd like to add something meaningful & insightful, but you've covered just about everything on the subject it seems...great post. I can't see anything I disagree with.

Sparkypinball said...

This post is beautiful.

As I was reading it, I was visualizing it. I'd love to see this read, and set to images.

achilles3 said...

Perfect. Sad. Serious. Wonderful.
Well said.

Bitter Animator said...

I'd really glad this is striking a chord with some people.

Betül said...

Every word in this writing is positioned very precisely. I can't say nothing more, nor less. Very very beautiful post indeed.