“Slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea” — Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf).
As the weeks march onward into Spring, some strange, cognitive abstraction of emptiness can be felt folding inward on me. At first, I thought it might be something to do with my roundabout routine, but the trench runs deeper.
In countries like mine, for those of us that exist, we exist beneath the neon blaze of an advert. We live, by intention or otherwise, to sharpen the claws of the economic juggernaut to assist the flow of goods. A system which has, undeniably, brought about a marked improvement in ease of life, of healthcare, of ability to travel, of variety, of information, but also of complete and total boundaryless excess.
I could obtain a games console in an hour on Amazon Prime, I could click a few clicks and find myself in a hypnosis maze of fetishes stranger than you could ever imagine, I could order a burger that’s more cheese than burger, I could numb my every urge and want without any conscious thought. The promises of the fat man in red, of the glossy girls in scanty clothes and of the cute, bunny dancing in-front a catchy jingle are chiselled deep into the core of the subconscious. The promises being that goods equate to happiness, that instant gratification is gratifying in the long run, that addiction lies only with those who consume drugs, that digestible content is a substitute for journalism.
In this brave, new world, understanding and arguing expends an active effort on the conscious mind. It means having to have some level of concentration that lasts long enough to not check for a new notific- hold on, someone liked a cat picture I posted.
The smartphone generation has a concentration span less than that of a goldfish. No, seriously. The average human attention span fell from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds in 2015. The reason stems from the same biological spell that made us such a successful species; the craving of information. This is especially true when it relates to the self, because human’s are intrinsically selfish and self-centered. If we can project a more attractive image of ourselves, the chance of reproduction increases. It’s why we spend hours crafting content on social media, polishing the photos we adore and filtering out the ones we don’t. It’s why we exchange time for a virtual thumbs up. It’s why we spend a third of the time we’re awake checking and rechecking our phones *.
After the car crash of a year that was 2016, you might be inclined to say the world is edging towards an Orwellian dystopia, one ruled by an autocratic totalitarian party that endorse repression of speech and of minorities, who control the populous through fear and manipulation. However, by soundness of prediction, it was the teacher, Albert Huxley, who’s vision was closer to the world today than his Etonian pupil, George Orwell.
Huxley’s dystopia was one of abundance of choice and strict limitation to speech platforms. Abundance of choice? Fair. But limitation to speech platforms? Pah! I’ve got a thousand friends on Facebook! True, but did you stop to ask why ninety percent of the posts on your newsfeed adored or abhorred Brexit? It’s because you and I and him and her and she and he and them and it, all live in our own personal bubbles. Tiny bubbles of like-minded beings with the same chance of changing the world as England winning the World Cup in 2020.
Living has become a spectator sport. In absolute blue-stained jealousy, we watch people live lives we dream of living through the lens of a three inch display, scrolling down a feed to find that even if there is a pot of gold at the bottom, we’d never find it, because the scroll is as good as infinite. The modern world’s been designed, not by architects and engineers and philosophers and poets, but by marketers to overload a set of prehistoric impulses woven into our psyche at a time where the objects our addictions were scarce.
The rules we swear by were written by a collective to keep the economy keeping on. And if that means we, the people, eat fast-food, watch porn, play games, then so be it, at least we’ll be alive. It’s an economic miracle, but it doesn’t substitute happiness; it subdues it, and such undermining of the psyche make us easy targets for those trying to sell to us. Because we all feel lonely now and then, no matter how rich or well adjusted we are.
*this number varies from study to study but even the lowest figure is equally terrifying