We are all subject to a strange dull fascination, stuck in the state of dull fascination. Our attention is attached to dull things, transfixed by dull things, enthralled by dull things, glued to dull things. This is pretty much de rigueur. It is what’s required of us – it’s how we’re ‘supposed to be’ and although we may not always be exactly happy to oblige (and might do our share of complaining) oblige we do all the same…
We hypnotize ourselves with dull things, obsess over dull things, and completely preoccupy ourselves with dull things to the exclusion of anything else. The result of this therefore is that we end up thinking that we live in a world which is essentially ‘dull and tedious’. And the second result of this state of affairs is that we don’t actually realize that it’s so very dull and tedious because it’s normal to us, because it’s all we know. We think that everything is supposed to be like this – in the same way that Truman Burbank (the hero of the film The Truman Show) thinks that the stage-managed world he lives is ‘how things should be’…
This is therefore nothing short of a full-on, no-holds-barred conspiracy – a conspiracy of the tedious against everything that’s not tedious, a conspiracy of the routine against the new, a conspiracy of the standardized against the unique, a conspiracy of wretched pestilential pedantic small-mindedness against the ecstasy of freedom, the ecstasy of illimitable consciousness.
There can hardly be any doubt that such a conspiracy is in place – on the one hand poets and mystics testify to the truth that this ecstasy exists, and on the other hand we can readily observe that just about the whole human race is excluded from this oceanic feeling, terminally estranged from the endless depth and astonishing profundity of this uncreated or uncontrived reality. If you did see someone who wasn’t a stranger to this tremendous inner freedom and delight then surely it wouldn’t be hard to see it in them – after all, happiness and joy communicates itself just as surely as misery and pain does! In the end, all we can ever do is communicate our inner state; all we can ever do is communicate to others either our misery or our joy, either our pain or our happiness…
So the question is, if this marvellous inner freedom exists then why would we conspire to keep ourselves ignorant of it? Why would we pretend that reality is so much crappier than it actually is? Why has the truth become so taboo, so unmentionable? Why in the name of all that is perverse would we insist so much on enslaving ourselves? We have worked so hard to build a wall of dull, routine nonsense and toxic banality around ourselves (excluding thereby all sight of anything better) but what possible motivation could there be to contrive such a state of affairs? Just what exactly is going on?
When we’re socialized at home, when we’re ‘educated’ at school, we are trained to accept a hugely diminished version of reality, an extraordinarily narrowed and stilted version of what is true. In fact it’s so extremely diminished, so fantastically narrowed and stilted that it isn’t ‘a version’ of reality at all – it is a fabrication! It’s an analogue of the real, it’s an arbitrary game we have been compelled to learn and play under the false premise that ‘this is what life is all about’. And those who taught us to play this game were similarly taught (or ‘programmed’) themselves, so that no one really knows what’s happening, nor stands much of chance of breaking free from it all. It’s all pretty much a done deal; it’s all pretty much a foregone conclusion. As Terence McKenna says, ‘Culture is not your friend’
But why do things have to be this way? In his book On the Psychology of the Unconscious Carl Jung writes –
Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.
This is most observable in families and relationships – where love is absent in that spider’s web of relationships known as ‘the family’ then everything is about manipulation and guilt. As any psychotherapist will tell you – when a parent does not truly love his or her child then they will deny them their freedom to be themselves, and make them into nothing more than extensions of themselves.
Similarly, if I am in a relationship with you and I don’t love you, then instead of love comes controlling. I don’t know how to love and I make up for this inability of mine by controlling everything about you. I see you not as a person in your own right but my own property, an extension of myself. The expression of my ‘will to power’ is therefore to determine everything about you, and in the process eradicate anything about you that is truly yours. By having power over you I am annihilating you, and creating a shadow in its place – a shadow which is a reflection of myself.
The same principle holds true for the ‘big pattern of relationships’ which is the society, nation, or state – in the absence of love there is nothing but controlling, nothing but the demand for conformity, and the inevitable result of this ‘conformity’ is (as Jung says elsewhere) the extinguishing of the genuine individual. And in place of the genuine individual, what we have left instead is ‘the shadow’ which is no more than the reflection of what the social system thinks we ought to be….
So one way to explain the unhappy state of affairs that we collectively find ourselves in is to say that it is because of the absence of love. As Jung says, we only have ‘the will to power’ (which is the same thing as ‘the need to control’) and in order to have control or power over people it is necessary to trap them, to deny them their freedom. After all, who can control a free person?
If power is to be exercised then the first thing to do is make people unfree, make them lacking in something that only you can provide, so that they will become dependent on you, and this is exactly what the social system does to us. Instead of allowing us to be who we really are, it provides us with a false, ‘socially-conditioned’ identity that can only be maintained by what the system has to offer us – which essentially comes down to status and wealth. On the one hand we can offset the unconscious sense of inner impoverishment that comes about as a result of being ‘narrowly identified with the socially-constructed identity’ by buying stuff, which gives us a temporary feeling of gratification, and on the other hand we can compensate for our inner lack of freedom by being granted status in society – and the ability to exercise power over the less ‘successful’ members of society that comes with it!
Everyone wants to be on top of the dung heap instead of at the bottom of it, and in this way the dynamics which create the system are put in place. After all, if we don’t join in the competitive struggle to succeed within the established system, then we’re inevitably going to end up at the bottom of the pile and who wants that?
The world we are compelled to live in as a result of being snared by the system is however a very restricted and impoverished one. It ‘s a world that is made up – as we have said – entirely of dull things, dull things that we are obliged to fix our attention on if we are to stand any chance at winning at the game. The game itself is frightfully, horrendously dull – the game itself is hollow, pointless, lacking in any genuine content. The game equals ‘the state of dull fascination with two-dimensional external images’ – and this is the state of being we are required to be in, so that the system we have created for ourselves may continue to exist…
We have been provided with a world that is made up of hollow promises and empty threats – a false world that is based on restrictions. This world is all we know, all we’re allowed to know, and so seems that we have no choice but to ‘get on with it’. Engaging with this world (and all the dull things it has to offer) renders us empty inside and unable to love, and in the absence of the ability to love all we can do to make ourselves feel better is try our best to exercise control over things and power over other people. Enforcing conformity in each other is how we get to involuntarily communicate our unhappiness, our inner impoverishment, and so in this way the system gets to perpetuate itself…
By Nick Williams | Staff Writer