by Ray Jason
I rowed ashore at twilight because I wanted my little gift to be more dramatic. My time in the islands was ending, and this little Indio family had made my weeks anchored off their simple homestead so exquisite, that I wanted to leave them a memento of my visit.
As I stepped out of my dinghy, the littlest child was her normal enthusiastic and inquisitive self. At four years old, the entire world just seemed to her to be one gigantic magical unfolding. Ah, if we adults could only retain that sense of enchantment.
I displayed the odd, pancake-shaped object that I had brought with me, and then started to blow it up like a balloon. Both the parents and the children were mystified. Once it was inflated, I held it in front of them ceremoniously and then with a flourish of my other hand I pressed a button that turned it into a light. The kids clapped and laughed and their mom and dad smiled. After presenting it to them, I explained that it was powered by a miniature solar panel that did not require electricity. They were delighted by this farewell offering which was both magical and practical.
Back onboard AVENTURA an hour later, as I sat on deck beneath the dark, glittering, eternal night-dome, my thoughts turned to the concept of “light giving.” Yes, I had just given that little family a literal gift of light. But I also realized that my mission during these twilight years of my own life is to share as much philosophical light as I can. This quest seems particularly urgent because the dominators of human society, who I like to call The Malignant Overlords, seem to have an enormous portion of their control grid master plan already in place.
When the topic of “social engineering” is raised, it usually harkens up visions of Mao and his Cultural Revolution or Hitler and his Third Reich. But a society can also be profoundly shaped without forcing brain surgeons to work in rice paddies or without holding gigantic torch-lit rallies. I contend that the fate of the many has already been deeply impacted by the designs of the few.
Let’s examine some of the enormous cultural changes that have occurred just during my lifetime. The trend-line with all of these basic elements of our daily lives is that things have gotten bigger and bigger and yet they are controlled by fewer and fewer. And all of these so-called “advances” have been installed through a secretive alliance of corporations and government. The common people were never consulted as these life-altering modifications were instituted. These changes were simply imposed upon us.
My life has paralleled the “rise of the suburbs” and the “birth of television” – although some would describe the latter as the “invasion of the Boob Tube.” Both of these phenomena seemed harmless and wonderful at their inception. However, with a half a century of hindsight, their true consequences have become tragically apparent.
Instead of walking around the corner to the little Italian bakery for some warm, fresh bread, you now got into a car and drove to a supermarket and bought some industrial bread product with a shelf life of months instead of days. Instead of walking or taking the streetcar to work or school you drove there. This removed so much boisterous, unpredictable human interaction, which was often the icing on the cake of Life.
In the home, many hours each evening that had previously been spent on conversation or reading or hobbies, had now been surrendered to the TV. It told us what to eat and drink and smoke and drive. It fooled us into believing that the nuclear, isolated suburban family unit was all happiness and humorous one-liners. It lied to us and subtly but powerfully regimented us. My name for it is “Obey-o-vision.”
Meanwhile, an enormous concrete squid known as the Interstate Highway System was connecting these soulless suburbs. Simultaneous to this was the ascension of the Consumer Society. Humans and citizens were deliberately rebranded as “consumers.” A new era had arrived whereby our lives would be defined not by our friendships and community, but by our STUFF. This was the beginning of the hideous progression that would be summarized a few decades later by the bumper sticker: “He who dies with the most toys, WINS!”
The handmaiden of stuff was SPEED! And the interstate highways were the ultimate symbol of this. Its supporters ballyhooed that a person could now drive from the East Coast to the West Coast without ever having to stop. Who the hell would want to do that? Why travel if not to experience the beauty and uniqueness of what is “along the way.” If that is not emblematic of the hollowness and lunacy of Progress with a Capital P - then I do not know what is.
Contrast the experience of a long automobile trip with a long train trip. In my youth the U.S. rail system was a joyous experience. I still vividly recall the hodgepodge of intriguing strangers, the novelty of the dining car and the way the gentle motion of the train rocked me to sleep. The concrete squid killed this.
It was not an accident. We modern humans, with our normalcy bias, tend to just accept things “as the way they are” without pondering how they got that way. And most people are so dragged down by the ordeal of making ends meet, that they don’t have the time, energy or inclination to do this. So let me explain it as simply as I can.
Who benefited from this gargantuan infrastructure undertaking? Here is a short list:
· Cement and asphalt companies
· Tire manufacturers
· Steel-makers (for the overpasses and the new cars)
· Gasoline companies
· Auto insurance agencies
· The Malignant Overlords
The first seven beneficiaries are self-explanatory but the last one deserves some elaboration.
Most of humanity has absolutely no desire to control the lives of others. But there is a small, pathological subset that relishes that sort of power. These dominators understand that it is far easier to rule people who are isolated from one another. They can be manipulated far more efficiently in small, regimented pods than in large, unpredictable groups.
So, with that in mind, if we look objectively at these enormous structural changes that have occurred in society just during my lifetime, what is the overarching tendency? The thrust has been to relentlessly separate us from each other – to get us out of the parks and into the TV room – to empty the trains and encage us in our cars – to divide and conquer. And this Social Engineering has been so subtle that it is largely invisible.
And it has not been random – it has been deliberate. To support this assessment, here are the opening sentences from the foundational book on how to control society. It was written by Edward Bernays in 1928. The title could not be more perfect. It is Propaganda.
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed our ideas suggested largely by men we have never heard of.”
In my next essay I will elaborate even further on this relentless societal programming and discuss the consequences of our shift from the late Industrial Age into the Technological Age. Needless to say this further evolution has not been beneficial for most of humanity.
By the next evening I had sailed back to town and was savoring the company of my sailor friends at the marina bar. One of the abiding joys of the sea gypsy path is that we are an extremely close-knit subculture. It was a delightful homecoming - punctuated by tale-telling and laughter and warm-hearted teasing.
Back aboard AVENTURA, I switched on my chart table light since I was now plugged into the marina’s electricity. But then I turned it off and fetched one of my little ship’s Luci lights, which is just like the one that I had given to the Indios. I then took my pen and clipboard and light up on deck and leaned back against the mast.
After beginning the notes for this essay, I looked up at Venus – bright in the West – and then scanned the full eternal twinkling dome. I marveled at all of those celestial messengers bringing light to the darkness. Then I remembered all of the philosophers and writers and poets who had brought light into my little life. And I whispered to myself, “Pass it on, Ray!”