The system tells us what we like and what we don’t like
Our likes and dislikes aren’t our own any more than our opinions and beliefs are! And not only does the system tell us what to think, it tells us who we are! Everything is absorbed from the social milieu, everything is implanted into us, drummed into us, programmed into us, right from the word GO.
The reason this happens is because the world we live in is ‘a coercive virtual reality’ rather than being the free (and therefore nurturing) environment that we might imagine it to be. The world we live in is ‘coercive’ because it tells us what to think and how to see things and it is a ‘virtual reality’ because it’s artificial, because it’s a construct… This false reality that we inhabit on a daily basis is coercive because it doesn’t contain any freedom in it – not even the tiniest little trace.
We can understand this ‘inbuilt lack of freedom’ by saying that the situation we find ourselves in is ‘closed with regard to any choices we might make’: there are choices, but only those that have been provided for us by the system. So, just to give a crude example, I can vote for political party A or I can vote for political party B but since both of these alternatives are representative of the very same system there’s no genuine freedom in this so-called ‘choice’ at all. This ‘disguised lack of freedom’ constitutes the ‘Salesman Trick’, here explained by therapist Douglas Flemons:
As any good hypnotist, magician, or comedian knows, the offer or availability of freely choosing between alternatives at a given contextual level brings the particularities of choice into the foreground of conscious awareness. This necessarily relegates to the background (i.e. out of awareness and out of the realm of conscious choice) the higher-level context or premise determining the range and meaning of the offered alternatives. The presence of choice (between particularities) at one level masks – and in some sense precludes – choice (between premises) at a more encompassing level.
In the salesman trick I offer you a trivial choice (for example, with regard to your payment options) and because your attention is captured by this trivial freedom you don’t notice that I have actually taken away your freedom in a more profound sense. I’ve sneakily taken away your freedom to opt out of the deal and tell me in no uncertain terms that you don’t want the dodgy product I am selling in any shape or form!
Trivial freedom is therefore ‘the freedom to choose between given alternatives in the existing set-up’, whilst radical freedom is the freedom to ‘opt out of the system entirely’ – the freedom to say that we don’t want to buy into the crappy system in any shape or form…
Once we understand the salesman trick then we can immediately see how society robs us (without of course acknowledging that it’s doing so) of the only freedom that counts: society doesn’t give us the freedom to say NO to what it is offering us! We’re offered various slots or niches to occupy, but we’re not given the radical choice of NOT fitting into any of these slots or niches. We’re offered various defined possibilities of existing within society, but we’re not permitted to remain undefined by the system. ‘Not being defined by society’ is of course the very same thing as ‘being an actual individual’ and so what we’re ultimately being robbed of is the possibility of being our true selves!
As we start off in life it’s as if there is a wide open road stretching ahead of us, leading to some magically unknown destination. We sense that anything is possible – we sense the unlimited potential of our lives. This unlimited potential however gets fatally confused with the various limited possibilities that society has to offer – we confuse the coercive virtual reality that we get inducted into with life itself, and we innocently assume that this artificial environment is going to allow us to grow as human beings, and realize our potential. This however was never on the cards; society is most emphatically not about allowing people to realize their true potential – society is about turning people into reflections of itself…
A trick is played on us: we’re being given to understand that there’s a wide field of possibilities open in front of us, and that we can make meaningful choices with regard to our future. The field isn’t wide open at all, however. There isn’t even a field! We’re in a box and we’re going to stay in that box no matter what ‘choices’ we make. The question isn’t “What are you going to do with your life?” but “How do you want to let society define you?”
When we start off in life the salesman is there with a great big cheesy smile on his face, telling us about all the wonderful options that are available for us. But it doesn’t matter which one we go for because they all come down to the same thing – they all come down to accepting the particular way of life that has been decided for us from the outset. It’s Hobson’s choice. The particular way of life that we are being tricked into accepting is really a very limited one. It isn’t ‘a way of life’ at all in any true sense – it’s too narrow, too artificial to be described as such. Actually, it’s a pointlessly frustrating game that keeps leading us on and on with the promise of something real happening if we stick at it. The ‘great thing’ that’s to happen is always just round the corner, as Alan Watts says:
A genuine way of life isn’t like this; it isn’t a mechanical routine we have to adhere to in order to obtain freedom later on. A genuine way of life has freedom in it – it doesn’t force us to conform to a mechanical pattern on the promise of some reward in the future. It doesn’t get us to turn our back on the present moment in the hope of reaping the benefit later on! A genuine way of life doesn’t require us to hand over our freedom at all – it doesn’t take away our capacity to be, it doesn’t make slaves of us.
The hidden snag with the socially-conditioned life is that we’re living for the sake of the system, rather than the system existing for the sake of us. If the system existed for our sake then it would give us the freedom to fulfill our potential, but this doesn’t happen. What does happen is that we’re only rewarded when we fulfill the system’s requirements for us. This is how a coercive environment works! If we do adapt successfully to the system then this helps the system, but at our cost. The system benefits, not us…
Fulfilling potential doesn’t mean progressing in the way that society wants us to – that’s just ‘fitting in’, that’s just ‘us being who society wants us to be’! True growth doesn’t mean getting better and better at playing someone else’s game, getting better and better at approximating some kind of ‘generic human being’. Genuine growth means outgrowing all such societal definitions; it means seeing through the social masks and casting them aside. Fulfilling our potential means discovering who we really are beneath all the layers of conditioning – not tamely wearing them. The question is, “Am I creating who I want to be (based on the conditioning that’s been put into my head) or am I being who I truly am?”
The artificial virtual reality we live in has no freedom in it and that’s why it’s ‘virtual’ rather than ‘real’ – that’s why it’s a simulation rather than the genuine article. Reality itself doesn’t just have freedom in it – it is freedom! Reality doesn’t compel us to be any particular way – Reality is unprejudiced, impartial, unbiased. As Richard Bach says in Illusions –
Reality is divinely indifferent, Richard. A mother doesn’t care what part her child plays in his games; one day bad-guy, next day good-guy. The Is doesn’t even know about our illusions and games. It only knows Itself, and us in its likeness, perfect and finished.
The coercive virtual reality that we call ‘society’ is essentially a game. A game is where everything is already decided by rules and where the only type of freedom we have is the freedom to ‘play by the rules’. We’re not generally aware of this lack of freedom however because we’re trying as hard as we can to win at the game – ‘freedom’ has therefore been redefined for us as ‘succeeding within the terms of the game’. We think that if we ‘win’ then this equals ‘freedom’ but it doesn’t – it doesn’t because winning only exists in the mind, whilst freedom exists in the here-and-now, in the actual present moment…
We’ve been conditioned to believe that winning is ‘the thing we most want to do’! That isn’t true however – that’s not what we want, that’s what the system wants us to want!
By Nick Williams | TNP