I noted previously – though not as clearly – that such phrases as ‘the system’ or ‘the man’ are unhelpful. As fun as it is to “Stick it to the man!”, we know that in reality it’s an act of transparent narcissism. This will of course offend those who have made it their life’s work to ‘stick it to the man’, but the very fact there are a multitude of groups (not just individuals) who have spent quite literally every waking hour protesting, acting-up and generally causing a nuisance for the system, shows that their brand/type of activity is nothing for the system, it doesn’t even cause the system to shrug as it blows them away like pesky midges.
There are those who will say that I am being defeatist, more than likely those who have let themselves become swept up in a shriek of the herd, stood there wearing leather jackets and Doc Martins, calling me a sell-out. Let me explain. It is quite evident that protesting does nothing. The only thing it does is make others annoyed at your cause. You’re in their way, they certainly dislike their job, but they dislike being annoyed on the way to it even more – their job isn’t optional, your incessant virtue-signalling is. What does work is not preaching, but teaching. (Unfortunately we lack many good teachers).
Anyway, regarding the label of ‘defeatist’:
“If you have to eat shit, best not to nibble. Bite, chew, swallow, repeat. It goes quicker.”
I am not telling you to eat the system’s shit willingly, only that the quicker you eat its shit now, the less you’ll have to eat later, potentially you’ll get into a situation where you no longer have to eat any shit at all. Enough of these coprophilic metaphors. The point is, unless you truly wish to become a homeless vagabond (absolutely nothing wrong with that, seriously.) you are going to have compromise, and no amount of idealist pamphleteering is going to change the situation at present.
One of the primary traits of the system is that it is a positive feedback loop where almost anything is concerned. In fact, I’d even argue that it is a multiplicity of separate positive-feedback loops. What I mean by this is that if X is working for the system, the system tends (almost always does) to amplify X until it no longer can, the feedback is wherein the system almost amplifies the compounded X – think, cumulative interest. How does this apply to reality, or your everyday life, let’s have a look-
Remember that band you liked as a kid? Let’s say for the sake of this piece the band was called Hellthread Deluxe, or HD for short. HD were sort of folk-metal, singing about high school nostalgia, rebellion against the system by way of destruction and cooking recipes involving peaches. All of a sudden HD got really big, this annoyed you because you based your entire identity around HD and now your interests seem vacant to you, anyway. The system – or parts of the system – notice how popular HD are becoming and unconsciously attach the feedback process to the commodity-entity that is HD. It begins to get infected.
All of a sudden there are HD cookbooks everywhere. All of a sudden there’s folk-metal bands everywhere, but of course, these were 2 of the physical things HD promoted, surely they can’t capture the feeling of HD and sell it? All of a sudden there are TV stars, radio hosts and popular names who are becoming more and more rebellious and destructive; the world flips and that authentic feeling you once got from HD records fades into a miserable, obnoxious static. “They don’t get it though, not like I do!” you say to yourself. You’d be correct in this judgement, but you can’t complain without seeming like a gate-keeper.
A few years pass and HD shirts are so commonplace that you’ve all but erased them from memory. You begin to latch onto obscurer interests in a hope that a certain amount of artistic and creative ambiguity will keep those interests safe from the grasp of the system, but it never works. If the system can, it will.
We’re seeing this most recently with the rebirth of the ‘Simple Living’ movement, which in the late 80’s and 90’s was called ‘Voluntary Simplicity’. It’s a movement I’m fairly fond of, but much like our folky friends HD, it’s going through the system as we speak. But succinctly, Simple Living is…living simply. Not minimalism or asceticism, a medium between the two both emotionally and physically, an understanding that we can have comfort and also avoid many of the pitfalls of consumption. Of course the system sees that Simple Living has the potential to cause disruption to its way of being – economic/profit disruption – and sets to work subsuming Simple Living into its framework. “GET YA SIMPLE LIVING BOOKS! You think you’re living simply now, wait until you purchase our simple living kit, just £399 today!” The system finds some way to tell you and make you believe that you’re not ‘doing’ simple living correctly, or as the other simple live-rs are. It preys on your anxiety in relation to status and popularity, not only does it think you’re missing out on something, but it makes you believe you’re missing out on something it just told you the existence of!
“Have you heard of X?”
“No I have n-”
“OMG! Everyone has X, how come you don’t have X!”
Ted Kaczynski’s The System’s Neatest Trick explains this process more succinctly than I ever could:
For the sake of its own efficiency and security, the System needs to bring about deep and radical social changes to match the changed conditions resulting from technological progress.
The frustration of life under the circumstances imposed by the System leads to rebellious impulses.
Rebellious impulses are co-opted by the System in the service of the social changes it requires; activists “rebel” against the old and outmoded values that are no longer of use to the System and in favor of the new values that the System needs us to accept.
In this way rebellious impulses, which otherwise might have been dangerous to the System, are given an outlet that is not only harmless to the System, but useful to it.
Much of the public resentment resulting from the imposition of social changes is drawn away from the System and its institutions and is directed instead at the radicals who spearhead the social changes.
Back to the beginning of this piece, for those who would call me defeatist in my acceptance of eating the system’s shit, do you see now that no amount of hand-waving and alternative living can meet with the great cybernetic God that is ‘the system’. So for those of you who call others sell-outs, or who belittle others who have utilized the system to promote their work, I say you are blind and just as guilty. And yet there is little to be guilty about. Unless one is gratuitously reliant on the system for their identity and survival, then one cannot be blamed for dipping their toes in the system’s murky water. Utilizing the system is simply a material act, and the point of this series is to cultivate a mindset away from material, towards thought about the acts themselves. What’s outside of the system is your thoughts, and ones own ingenuity can emancipate them emotionally from a lot of unnecessary toil. To paraphrase John Michael Greer, why would I waste my finite energy on worrying about that which I cannot change (the system), when I could be using it on that which I 100% can change…myself!
Exiting the system in an instant is extremely dangerous. And guess what, the system doesn’t care if you do or don’t. It doesn’t think about you, it only notices your productive and consumptive inputs and outputs, so why not use the system to as much of your own advantage as possible? As long as it doesn’t cause another’s life to become miserable, I say drain the system of its energy, it would do – and does – the same to you in a machinic-heartbeat. And so, do not drop-out in any romantic fashion, often ruining your life in the process, but plan, wait and find ways to work within the system until you find a chance of exit. In the meantime, cultivate a mindset which the system loathes, one which this system cannot fathom, a mindset which enchants the world!
The system takes you – often quite literally – as a number. This is something you will have to put up with, but as such, you are also someone the system will have to put up with. I am most definitely not stating any form of activism here, that word is cursed. Nor am I for rebellion, protesting, marches, vandalism or manifesto-making – if you’re doing these after 15 you need to grow up and actually do something, not just act as if you are. So what can you do then? Well, back to being a number. Everything in the system is ordered, numerical or quantifiable. A loaf of bread = X, there’s 3 Y in Z, a car does X amount of miles, this straight road is X miles long etc. The system thrives on that which it can control in some quantifiable way. This is exactly why it hates humans so much, they’re – as children at least – free and spontaneous, and it’s very difficult to control something which is unpredictable. I call this form of spontaneity or freedom, ‘enchantment’. What the system wishes to do is to dis-enchant your world, to make you dis-believe all the quirky things you used to, make you believe it’s way of doing things is in fact the only way. Of course it isn’t.
Practice: You are allowed to do as you please. Even the most subtle act of rebellion can cause ruptures. There are acts which seem as if they wouldn’t change a thing, but in their subtly they teach people that they can in fact…just do that if they want to. What am I talking of here? Well, as a semi-eccentric theorist (Read-by-normies: Nutjob, oddball, weirdo) I’m fairly used to trying our peculiar things – usually body experiments relating to diet and breathing. Ever have someone walk in on you meditating in your undies, it certainly shows them that there are indeed people who do these things, ever had someone question why you drink honey and boiling water at night (I like it), same goes for any kind of strange tea or beverage, food or pastime. Your practice to sincerely admit to someone something you do that you consider peculiar. Enjoy reading Norse Mythology, let ’em know. Enjoy watching those 14 hour train journey videos, explain to your colleagues why. You believe in fairies…for real, let ’em know. The point of this exercise is to instill in yourself the idea that:
1. You’re in control.
2. You can just do stuff, if you want to.
3. To teach others that the world isn’t as stagnant as it seems.
4. To help others break out from the think layer of repressive gunk covering their brains and lives.
There’s always something to be said for holding your corner. Even if no one listening agreed, even if they all thought you were odd, it was worth it. You found that they’re either not the people for you or aren’t confident enough to come out of their shell. You also might have found a quiet supporter who didn’t want to speak up, but felt happier that you did. There is a lot to be said for admitting your supposedly weird outlooks publicly, if not only because it might have made it clear to someone listening that they are not alone, even though, with all their heart, they believed they were.