Friday, December 9, 2011

Free Your Mind

The movie, The Matrix, was an entertaining pop-culture romp that was philosophically a bit deeper than most such efforts tend to be. So much so that many who are peak oil aware like to speak of themselves as having taken the “red pill,” consigning them forever after to living in a highly unpleasant “reality” while the vast majority of the population, thanks to the American Hologram of the mainstream media, remain asleep in their pods, helping to energize the evil system that is enslaving them.

Of course, in the real world there is no pill you can just pop that will unplug you from the matrix and flush you into the depths where you can then be rescued by a brave little band of freedom fighters. Freeing your mind of all our society has pumped into it during your formative years is a long and difficult process. Believe me, I wrestled with it for many years myself.

I first became aware of peak oil in 2008, but actually my eventual awakening probably really began back in 2000 when George Bush the Lesser was allowed to blatantly steal the presidential election. Even though I voted third party that year out of my disgust with Bill Clinton, the whole sad sorry spectacle and the fact that Bush’s installment by judicial fiat was passively accepted by the overwhelming majority of the population revealed to me for the first time that something was fundamentally wrong with this country.

My awakening continued through the last decade, increasing in steps as I watched America destroying the very values it supposedly cherished in reaction to 9/11. The launching of the Iraq War and the subsequent reelection of Bush (whatever shenanigans were going on in Ohio, he DID receive a bare popular vote majority nationwide the second time around) confirmed to me that collectively we were on a highway to hell, goose stepping towards Gomorrah if you will. But even after I read The Long Emergency a few years later, it still took time for the scales to completely fall from my eyes. I had a brief flirtation with Obama back in the spring of 2008, and I credit his utter selling out of everything he claimed to stand for as being among the events that finally completed my long and painful education as to what America is really all about.

So how do you know whether you have truly freed your mind and are fully ready to mentally accept what is coming? You probably never will know for sure, of course. The very nature of a quest for knowledge is realizing that it never truly ends. There is always something you don’t know, however much you think do. But I have come up with a handy list below of eight things you do need to completely eliminate from your thinking before you can even begin to claim that your mind is free. Remember, most people cling to at least five or six of these things, and some misguided souls, sadly, to all eight.

Partisan Politics – It is remarkable how often I read assertions on the Internet that either Bush or Obama, or the Republicans or the Democrats are totally to blame for our slowly collapsing economy and the curtailment of our civil liberties that leave the other side completely unscathed. As I demonstrated just last Friday on this blog, the very worst acts of government during the past two decades that led us to this point were fully bipartisan initiatives. When it comes to the government’s real agenda of supporting big business, war and empire on behalf of the Wall Street elite who really runs things there is essentially no difference between the two parties. If you used to be a Republican that means no, Obama is not a socialist/fascist/communist, but a crony capitalist whose agenda is to enrich big business. And if you used to be a Democrat that means no, Obama does not in fact give a flying fuck whether you are unemployed, just lost your house, can’t repay your student loan, can’t afford the health insurance he just forced you to buy, can’t earn any interest on your savings account because of the Fed's Zero Interest Rate policies, or even whether his insane payroll tax cut bankrupts the Social Security you were counting on in retirement, however much he might pretend to care.

Economics - Are you a Keynesian who believes that the answers to all our economic problems is to have the government spend more money despite its already unsustainable debt levels until somehow we magically return not only to full employment, but full GOOD employment? Or on the flip side, maybe you are an adherent of Adam Smith (even if you've never actually slogged your way through An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations) who believes that deregulating everything in sight is the answer, freeing the constraints on business to get the economy rolling again. Hell, perhaps despite all of the evidence that he completely misread human nature you are one of the few who still admire Karl Marx for his desire to strip the wealth from the elites and share it with all mankind. If so, you need to free your mind and recognize that the fundamental flaw with all three is that they utterly fail to take into account the reality that the planet has natural limits and resources are finite. Economics of any kind may make perfect sense in the classroom, but in the real world? Not so much.

Bigotry – Before he went off the deep end and became a humorless supporter of the status quo, stand up comedian Dennis Miller had a great line about bigotry. In essence he said that he could never understand why anyone hated anyone else on the basis of race, religion, nationality, gender, sexual orientation or whatever else…because if you just get to know the person there are so many more VALID reasons to hate them. It is not the black welfare mother, or the illegal Mexican worker, or the Korean shopkeeper or even the gay couple getting married who is the enemy responsible for the rampant greed and avarice that are rapidly destroying our economy. It is instead the rapacious financial elites on Wall Street and their political hand puppets in Washington and the state houses/governors mansions who are your enemy. The elites avoid the fate of King Louis and Marie Antoinette by turning the dimwitted masses against each other, and appealing to bigotry is the oldest divide-and-conquer strategy on the books.

Religious Hatred – Notice I did NOT say religion itself, as hating people for being religious is in and of itself a form of bigotry. Many people need God in their lives just to get through their day in this crazy world. Belief is like a tool in that can be used either for good or evil. The evil comes when you use religion as an excuse to hate people you don’t know. This is particularly true at a time in America when the more fascist elements of society are trying to turn Muslims into the equivalent of what Jews were in Nazi Germany in order to whip up hysteria and the need for greater government curtailment of civil liberties. Face it, if you’re reading this blog you have more in common with that Pakistani taxi driver who gave you a ride to the airport than you do with any so-called Christian hedge fund manager, or Michelle Bachmann for that matter.

Nationalism – Probably the first time I realized that believing in American nationalism was for suckers was back when I was a teenager during the Cold War era of the 1970s. I’d been raised to believe that the Soviet Union was the enemy, and that their much larger conventional military forces would easily prevail in any war fought without nuclear weapons. If the Soviets were the enemy, then we should be doing everything in our power to defeat them, right? So imagine my surprise when I discovered that America was selling vast amounts of grain to the Soviet Union in order to serve the interests of American agrisbusinesses. Since then, of course, I’ve lost track of the number of instances in which American “security” has taken a backseat to corporate profits. As I reported back on November 10th on this blog, the most recent notorious example was the Congressional hearings held over the rampant problem of defective electronics parts manufactured in China (because they are cheaper) that are compromising the Pentagon’s weapons systems. Yet we’re supposed to maintain a straight face when our so-called “leaders” tell us the China is now the biggest military threat we face in the world.

Materialism – Fairfax County, Virginia, where I now reside is on a per capita income basis one of the wealthiest jurisdictions in the country. If you are a working person who lives here and owns your own place as I do, you are pretty much by definition upper middle class. My wife and I were the exceptions around here because we devoted much of our spare income this past decade paying down our mortgage and now enjoy the financial freedom that comes with not having to make a house payment every month. And yet (horrors!) we don’t own a flat screen television. Partly that’s because our old teevee we bought when we moved in still works just fine, but another factor is that I rarely watch television myself anymore, and my wife who still does doesn’t care. And yet, I have a good friend who has told me straight up that he won’t come over and watch football with me because I don’t own a flat screen. Freeing your mind means giving up on materialism. That doesn’t necessarily mean living like a monk, but rather not wanting shit or buying shit that you can easily do without just because the teevee tells you to. It’s amazing how much less stressful my life became after I figured that out. I know, I know...lots of people think they have to Keep Up With the Joneses. Yeah, well fuck the Joneses. They're probably about to get foreclosed on and declare bankruptcy anyway.

The Hologram – As I mentioned in the previous paragraph, I rarely watch television anymore. I do still turn on some sports programs and also peek in on other shows from time to time just to remind myself just what an absolute cultural wasteland it has all become. Particularly insidious is the television news. It doesn’t matter what channel you choose—Fox News, MSNBC, CNN or one of the major networks—it’s all pure propaganda for the empire. A recent study I saw online suggested that people who did not pay attention to the news at all were better informed than Fox News viewers. I would argue that is most likely true for any of the networks. And don’t think for a minute that you’re much better off just because you watch The Daily Show and/or The Colbert Report for anything other than the entertainment value. Stewart and Colbert proved themselves as stooges of the empire with their insidious Rally to Encourage People to do Nothing in Washington right before the 2010 midterm elections. The clear message was that it’s not “hip” to get angry about things. Instead it’s much better to be above it all and join Jon and Stephen in looking down your nose and making fun of those who actually want to effect change. Need more proof? Newt Gingrich has admitted to being a fan of Colbert. Enough said.

The Future – Americans are supposed to be optimists by nature. Each generation is supposed to have it materially better than the generation before it. That’s the American Dream in all its tattered glory. Well, I’m here to tell you that it is time to give up on all that nonsense. Freeing your mind means recognizing that your children are almost certainly never going to earn more money than you do, nor be able to afford a bigger house, nor drive a nicer car, nor amass a bigger pile of stuff, nor take more exotic vacations, nor have a more comfortable retirement. The time in which the average working class person could afford those things is already over, and the time in which a middle class person could is rapidly drawing to a close. The only way your children (assuming they are still minors) are going to even have a chance to live any sort of productive lives is if you help them free their minds of all the now outmoded ideas of how one can become successful in life. That means no student loans, first and foremost, and quite possibly no college at all if their field of study merely purports to prepare them for a job in what I call the "zombie economy."

This is NOT to say that there is NO future. It is impossible to say for sure exactly how things are going to play out or how quickly. The one thing for certain is that what’s coming is a greatly powered down, simplified and much more localized word. And those who have freed their minds to the point where they have accepted this basic fact will have the best chance to not only survive what is coming, but possibly even thrive.

Bonus: whatever you do, please don't be like Cypher


  1. Bill,

    This post is profound.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you. It's exactly how I feel.

    That line from the Beatles' song "Revolution": "you'd better free your mind instead," is very apt.

    Those who let go of the major baggage now, have the best chance at a happy future.

  2. Wonderful piece, BH. Thanks for writing this.

    Sometimes I suspect the truest words spoken in "The Matrix" were Agent Smith's ruminations on the nature of "virus."

  3. Brilliant work Bill. Well done, I have nothing to add, you just about sum it all up.

  4. Great list Bill,

    Thanks for putting this together. However, if we are really going to free our minds, I suggest a rethinking of the last part of the Bigotry entry.

    Steve B

  5. Your best post yet! Sums it all up.