|Part of AVENTURA'S library|
“Ray, where’s all your stuff?”
My honest reply is “This IS ALL MY STUFF; and there’s far too much of it!”
“But where’s your entertainment center?”
“Right there,” I answer, as I point to my bookshelves.
This tiny vignette serves to illustrate how addicted we are to stuff in the modern world. And it is also a reminder that many people end up being possessed by their possessions. I discuss this tragic situation in considerable detail at my earlier essay which is entitled “Enslaved by Our Stuff.” I hope you will read it. And to make it easy, here is the direct link to it.
But in this meditation on Simplicity, I want to focus on how our rulers use Materialism as a control mechanism. In my essays, I refer to these manipulators as The Malignant Overlords - although in private conversation I frequently use more colorful and sailor-like terminology to describe them. Certainly they trumpet their message of “BUY… BUY… BUY!!!” to engorge themselves in riches. But I contend that there is a more sinister motive behind their crusade to reduce us to mindless consumers. Their deeper strategy is to enfeeble us into impotent dependency.
It works like this. They cannot retain their dominance over us unless a significant number of citizens work in the jobs that are vital to the smooth functioning of the ever-growing “imperial/police/surveillance/incarceration state.” But motivating people to fill those positions is not easy. After all, who would want to spend their days examining the adult diapers of octogenarians at TSA airport checkpoints? And what child would brag that their dad is working at the new NSA data center in Utah spying on his neighbor’s internet habits? And who, besides a sociopath, could enjoy working as a Monsanto lobbyist knowing full well that their defense of GMO crops is a rerun of the misinformation campaign of the cigarette industry that doomed millions to painful deaths?
The answer to these questions is HARDLY ANYONE. So The Malignant Overlords have to mold a population that is so obsessed by the need to flash more bling than their neighbors, that people are willing to work the most degrading and monstrous jobs. The commercials from the televisions, the messaging from blockbuster movies and the almost inescapable advertizing, commands you to buy more stuff so that others will look up to you -JEALOUSLY. And if you have to become a drone pilot to do so, well that is unfortunate, but it allows you to keep up with the Joneses.
The template of the elites is so transparent that it is almost invisible. Their strategy is to ruthlessly widen their web of dependency. They do this through student loan debt that shackles young people for many years. And they hook nearly half the country on food stamps or some sort of government dole. They viciously eliminate and offshore the good jobs that fostered a Middle Class so strong that it was the envy of the world. Look at the new jobs created each month. Almost none of them involve the manufacturing of something that is of genuine value to anyone. Instead, these pseudo-jobs are in minimum-wage fast food or health care.
This is no accident. By practically eliminating decent-paying and respectable jobs, the M.O.s can force millions of people into working for the military industrial complex or the militarized police complex (to coin a phrase) or Homeland Security or the Prison Industrial Complex. Because your options seem so limited, you feel like you are trapped in meaningless jobs that you despise. But there is a hidden escape hatch in this trap. It is VOLUNTARY SIMPLICITY. As long as you are stuck in the paradigm of “more and more and the newest and biggest and the hot new product,” you will be a victim of this enormous but secret mechanism of control.
The only viable answer left is to ABANDON THE SYSTEM! Reform through electoral politics is not just futile, it is a joke. Armed revolution is suicidal considering the overwhelming reach of the government’s surveillance capabilities and the ruthless advantage in firepower that their military and police forces enjoy.
No, the only tactical advantage that we still have is REFUSAL. We are many – they are few. But the foundation for such a massive boycotting of business as usual is to forsake endless and blind consumption. If one truly realizes that one doesn’t need so much useless crap, then it is possible to refuse a $30 an hour job with the TSA and instead work for $18 an hour as a welder.
Everything that is BIG in the US must be brought to its knees and this can only be done if enough people just DROP OUT. Use local credit unions instead of the too big to jail banking syndicates. Hacksaw the predator “chains” by supporting local food growers and hardware and stationary stores. Every time you can use a bike or public transport instead of your car, do so. Turn off the TV and its bombardment of buy! Buy! BUY!!! Instead go outside and play with your kids and get back in shape so you barely need the health care swindlers. STOP working for the military or the police or the security grid or the mostly victimless-crime prison-profit system.
If this all seems hopelessly impossible, that is mostly because people in the United States have been trapped in this false matrix of “that’s just the way things are” ever since Eisenhower warned us about the military industrial complex in 1960. But if you wander the Wide Waters as I have done, you realize that most countries do not base their economies on perpetual war and casino banking and arms sales and mass surveillance and an insane incarceration industry. Yet these are the support pillars for the U.S. leviathan. But the fact that most of the world does not rely on a system that depends on blood and secrecy, should give us enough confidence to kick those pillars down. And the boots for that mission are the power of simplicity and the power of refusal.
I keep a photo aboard AVENTURA that shows Gandhi walking down the aisle of some venerated hall of government. That image perfectly captures the power of simplicity. He wears a common peasant’s robe and he carries an ordinary walking staff. When he addresses that august body, his words will not just give flight to the dreams and aspirations of the downtrodden and the dispossessed. Instead, they will achieve what had been unthinkable only a decade earlier – they will topple an Empire.