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The following was written in a brochure that was handed to me on the street years ago. Its message was like a smack in the face. I thought I’d type it out and share it with you. It’s a bit of a long read, but it is certain to resonate within your restless souls. Enjoy…
Honestly, when was the last time you spent a whole day just enjoying what you were doing and feeling? Enjoying it solely for its own sake, without thinking about the future or worrying about the long-term consequences? When was the last time you spent a whole month living that way? Do you have a hard time forgetting about your responsibilities, your goals, your productivity, and just being in the present?
How does it feel to never be treated like an adult? To never be free of rules and regulations put upon you “for your own good,” to have to obey and grovel before teachers, bosses, policemen – because they serve masters who have more money and power over your life than you can ever hope to achieve? To have to beg and scheme and lie for an afternoon “off” to do what you want, for once? To answer to automated bells, to be at the mercy of machines and clocks and people with half your brains and personality, to be dressed in matching uniforms like identical bags of potato chips? To be required to recite standard phrases over and over all day – to be programmed like a machine?
Do you think it’s really a coincidence that Coca-Cola is now sold on every corner of the earth? Do you really trust them to have all that power, to make this planet a place you want to live?
Every time I get home to find my mailbox filled with junk mail, every time I try to eat a quiet dinner with one of my lovers and we get interrupted by a phone call from a telemarketing company, I’m reminded that I live in a society that values sales more than privacy. Every time someone has a television on and a barrage of commercials assaults us, I remember how little truth and quiet reflection matter to the merchants out to make a “killing.” Every time I ride my bike, I pass billboards proclaiming the power and sex appeal of various trivial products, and it infuriates me to imagine all the better uses that public space could have been put to. If only there was a way for us to decide what goes up on our own streets, besides writing graffiti.
And when bills come due, I’m reminded again of what counts in the golden age. I have to pay the rent at the beginning of the month, before I’ve stayed in the apartment for one night, but I don’t get paid until at least three weeks after my work week begins – because the people who control the property I live on, and the workplace I have to serve in, have slanted everything in their favour. From the beginning of the work week until the moment I cash my paycheque weeks later, they get an interest-free loan in the form of my labour. And the landlord gets the same loan from me when I pay a month ahead for my lodgings – not to mention the government, which takes taxes out of my paycheque for a whole year in advance! In the meantime, I have to be careful not to turn the heat up higher than I can afford, or eat more food than I can afford, or talk to my faraway friends on the phone longer than I can afford … and when I’m shivering, and my stomach is growling, and I feel lonely, I can’t help but be furious that, though technologies are in place that could easily keep me as warm and well-fed as could be, I have to pay dearly for every crumb – so a few rich men can gather more wealth at my expense. I work 40 hours a week for the system that makes all these amenities possible – do I not deserve to turn the heat up as high as my boss can, just because I get dirtier on the job? Do I not deserve to taste the food at restaurants he frequents, just because I don’t want to fight my way up the corporate ladder?
It’s much worse for some of my friends: they have credit card bills and loans to pay off. Those corporations have control over them for life: no matter what they want to do, next month or ten years from now, they will be at their mercy. That’s a few extra hundred dollars a month most of them have to raise, and that means unless they’re willing to declare bankruptcy they’ll never be free of the compulsion to sell their lives away. It enrages me every time I receive another promotional credit card application in the mail, knowing that these motherfuckers will do anything to suck me in, to trap me in the indentured servitude of debt. And I wince whenever I see my friends buying more stuff, in empty attempts to console themselves: of course they’re desperate for freedom and excitement, living the lives that they do, but they’re not going to find any of those things in a stereo or a new jeep. Spending their money like that just keeps them chained tighter to the system that is stealing their lives from them. Some of them spend the whole year working, their hearts silent within their chests, to save up the money for a few weeks and weekends of hiking, skiing, canoeing – things that were once free for all of us, before the corporations we work for wrapped everything in concrete.
The alienation, distrust and exhaustion we all feel in this society multiply our needs, and we run to commodities (invested with fetishistic power as they are by advertisements) hoping they can save us. But purchasing them only perpetuates our misery. For every time you buy something in this system, you’re buying the whole system: you’re giving your money to the corporations to reinforce their power, and to get that money, you have to give your labour to them too. That’s more labour for them to maintain “business as usual,” and less freedom for you to fight back.
I’ve resolved to get the fuck out any way that I can. I’m going to stop working for them, stop paying for all their products, stop believing in all the myths about having the perfect home and the perfect car and “getting ahead” in the (aptly named) “work force.” I’m going to create a life for myself that I want to live, that I can find joy in, or die trying. But even if I do escape, how can I live the life I yearn for if all the people I care about, all the people around me and the world I live in, remain under the power of this system? It will be just as lonely being free if everyone else is still locked inside the schools and offices and factories, following instructions. If I want to truly get out of here, I have to figure out how to take the others with me. I walk down the street, watching smog pour into the sky from smokestacks, and I ache for a world in which it is up to us whether the stacks ever smoke again.
And where are the pleasure gardens that could have been built with all this labour, or the woods to wander through, the rivers to drink from, the lakes to swim in? Where are the eagles and moose to admire, or the stars in the light-and air-polluted night sky, for that matter? In my daydreams, I travel through beautiful wilderlands, meeting people who have unique customs and ways of life, who never heard of Pepsi, who never spent a day doing anything but what they please. Together we concoct wild schemes of how to wrest the most pleasure out of life, how to squeeze it to the very last drop … and we roll all our desires and fantasies together into one great ball, with which to smash open the gates to paradise itself.
Be sweet, retweet.
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