Raging Against the Reality Machine

It’s 6:30 am – time to get up and get moving. The clock is bleeping; that shrill, annoying beep that feels like nails down a chalkboard. Of course, you’re so far under that it will take several minutes of that to actually bring you out of Cloud Utopia. Doesn’t matter, though. Ultimately, your brain already knows what’s ahead, and the real problem doesn’t lie in the shrill screaming of the alarm, or even in your disenfranchised perception of waking up. No, those are not the problems at all.

The real heart of the matter is your sight. You see the future, even before it greets you every day as Mr. Now. Every day, when the screaming begins at 6:30 am, you jump a little as you’re being dragged through endless layers of blissful sleep. But it isn’t the waking up that scares you: it’s what comes next. All your days are laid out before you and they all look the same; like a pattern for a paper doll: you can vary it a little, but ultimately, it’s still just a pattern.
Isn’t anyone else feeling tired of this? This reality of getting up, getting dressed, brushing the teeth, leaving for work, being caught in traffic, working in slave labor nine to five, only to come home to find that you have to do it all again tomorrow? Where are we driving ourselves? This road all looks the same, no matter what mile marker you pass. We work, we save, we win, we lose, we buy, we sell, we come, we go…all because we must live? Whatever happened to living for the sake of living?

Our capitalist economy turns on the gears and gadgets of working and investing and saving and retiring and such. They are all parts of an inner whole: one large machine that turns only because the cogs within it are functioning together as a well-oiled unit. If only one of these wheels-within-wheels fails, then the entire machine becomes askew, and, depending on the role of the smaller wheel, perhaps even teeters on disaster. As consumers, we are fulfilling a vital role within our world: we are feeding the machines of capitalist imperialism, so the machines can in turn grow into global-governing entities. As consumers, then, we have one sole purpose: to serve as slaves to a system that, while once created by us, now rules over us with such absolute totalitarianism that we cannot escape its clutches even if we wanted to.

Wow…can anybody say The Matrix ? Sounds remarkably like the blockbuster Hollywood flick, really. But this isn’t fiction here: this is the machine of the real, and we’re stuck. We trapped in that rut of buying and selling, coming and going, because we confuse it with living. The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that average annual expenditures per consumer unit were essentially unchanged in 2003, up 0.3 percent, following increases of 2.9 percent in 2002 and 3.9 percent in 2001, according to results from their Consumer Expenditures Survey for each year respectively. Whereas actual expenditures may have reflected little change from 2002 to 2003, there was a 2.3 percent annual average rise in the Consumer Price Index (CPI) over the same period. This information may be a bit dated, but it still reflects the alarming uptrend. And the years before that reflected even greater numbers. Take 1999, for example. According to data provided by Bureau collected statistics, consumerism as whole averaged about $36,995 in expenditures for that year, which was an increase of a little beyond 4 percent from 1998. And the real kicker? The face of spending for major living components (i.e.: food, clothing, transportation, etc) changed dramatically. For 1998, the largest increase in that sector was for entertainment, at 8.3 percent!

We’ve convinced ourselves that we can’t live without the reality of our semi-perfect lives: the dream house, the three cars, the cable television and high-speed internet. So, we mortgage our homes, our souls, our lives, to the capitalist monster of debt, all in the name of living? It seems that ultimately, we’re caught in the belly of a beast too hungry to regurgitate our freedom: and we’ve submitted to the lulling sense of false security that floods over us when we get that new promotion at work, the new car and its pricey payment, or the new plasma television that fills up our living room and our credit card. And it keeps going; we don’t stop there.

It can be likened to your office desktop PC. You don’t even really realize how essential the darn thing is until one day, you’re at your desk working, and there’s some kind of obtuse network error and you can’t access any of your critical files. You were fine not knowing how important it was until you actually realized that you needed it, that you’d become dependent on it. Then, you feel like a crack addict – you’re on virtual shutdown until that machine you basically ignored finds its way to life again. This beastly machine that turns our world functions on the same level: we don’t even realize it’s controlling us, or that we need it. And sadly, it seems we may not realize it until it’s too late and the veil that shrouded our eyes is gone, and we’re left to a life without it.

We’re stuck in this reality machine; strapped in, and the engine’s on full throttle. Any driver will tell you, it’s reckless to face such a dangerous road without a back-up plan. But we’re convinced: security is the sleeping pill that makes us rest better at night. When will we learn that it’s just a placebo? In this conditioned reality that lords over us, security is a tale of fiction to be told to the highest bidder. If the price is right, after all, the wheels will keep turning.

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