A deep sense of the intrinsic lack of value in modern life always lurks somewhere in the hearts of those of us trapped within it.
This is often felt unconsciously, without even being recognised for what it is, but can become more tangible in a variety of guises.
Personally, I can identify the beginnings of that feeling in my reaction, as a child, to the advertisements that sometimes accompanied the TV programmes I enjoyed.
I wouldn’t have used the terms at the time, of course, but I could see that they were vulgar and inauthentic.
Their existence arose purely from material greed – the desire to persuade other people to hand over their money for a product that evidently, left to their own devices, they would not have chosen to purchase.
Different approaches were deployed to this effect, ranging from the basic one of an apparently honest person telling us how good the product was, to glossy image-based efforts associating the product with social or sexual success or more sophisticated humour-based sales pitches.
The first kind was obviously easier to see through, and mock, than the last, but it did not take me long to become aware of the appalling gulf between the surface of whiter-than-white honesty or nudge-nudge complicity and the actual reality of the whole thing being a scam, a lie, with nothing but filthy lucre at its heart.
I had been brought up to be truthful and had been taught by my parents that to misrepresent yourself and your intentions in the pursuit of self-interest, particularly financial self-interest, was a source of shame.
They had been devastated to discover that some friends and I had spent an afternoon knocking on neighbours’ doors and asking to do “odd jobs” on behalf of a youth organisation to which we did not belong.
Even though we had done the “jobs” in question, our dishonesty was a sin and we were made to knock again at the doors in question, this time to apologise and return the coins with which we had been remunerated.
So how could it be, I must have been asking myself somewhere inside, that the adverts on the telly were allowed to do much the same thing?
What did it say about the television channel as a whole that it allowed its airtime to be used to peddle this deceit?
What did it say about our society that we tolerated this, that we considered it acceptable for people to be relentlessly assailed by hypocritical money-motivated lies while they were trying to watch a comedy series, film or football match?
TV can also offer a glimpse of the sheer wrongness of this society through its ‘news’ output. For years and years somebody has accepted the vision of the world it presents as being broadly sound, or at least based on an institutional duty to try to tell the truth to the public.
Then something happens that makes them alarmed, outraged or angry and they go to the city to take part in a massive protest, alongside thousands upon thousands of like-minded people. They are inspired by this demonstration of strength and solidarity.
Now the world knows how we feel! Now they’ll have to listen!
On getting home, they switch on the TV to enjoy the coverage of this momentous event.
Only there is nothing. Or ten desultory seconds. Or some cop or politician saying what bad people these were. This can be a turning point. Why did that happen? Who decided that it should be so? Is everything in ‘the news’ like that? What is ‘the news’ anyway, come to think of it? What is it there for?
More than that, many of us can smell the hypocrisy of television not only through its adverts and its news, but through every single flicker on its sinister screen.
From its carefully-constructed aura of authority that enables it to define our reality, to its fake bonhomie, its gaslighting denial of the true relationship between it and its public (“see you next week!”), its incessant infantilisation, its sickly visual opulence and its non-stop war on our inner silence and self-awareness, its mission is to turn your brain into mulch. But it’s not just through the media that we can see the ugly reality of this society – it is constantly staring us in the face if we care to look.
Traffic jams and supermarket car parks. Surveillance cameras and razor wire. Low-flying aircraft and giant billboards.
The relentless routine of drudgery, school days, work days, fleeting moments of freedom before it all starts up again.
Waiting, waiting. Waiting for the weekend, waiting for the good times, waiting for the end times. Our friends, our conversations, our families. Is there something missing, here? Can’t we go a bit deeper? Why is that I feel everything is just passing me by, that I am not actually living as I want to live?
The novelties, the adrenalin rushes, the manufactured moments of maximum pleasure – why do they change nothing, why do I still feel so dead inside? Is this really me? Is this all there is? Was there nothing else to know?
In 2020 this society showed its true face.
This was not just on the TV, although the TV played its part.
The monster stepped out of its mind-control screens and into our living rooms.
It ripped us apart from our loved ones, smothered and choked us, dragged us screaming from our little everyday freedoms and locked us up, locked us down, in the chilling intention of its dark tyrannical future.
A lot of people realised.
How can it be that so many of us knew, deep down, that there was something not right about this society, even without the help of Bill Gates and Klaus Schwab?
We have, after all, never known anything else. Generations of us have lived this reality.
What point of comparison do we possess, that enables us to make an unfavourable judgement on the contemporary world? When we are born, we do not know what kind of world we will emerge into.
We were not expecting this world.
We were not made for this world.
That’s why we can end up being so unhappy. Why they have to try to shape us, break us, diminish us, so that we fit in with their project.
This society is not natural, but artificial. It has been constructed so as to order human life in a way that suits certain interests, the interests of those who regard us as their cattle, their human
capital from which they can become still fatter and more powerful.
They haven’t finished with us yet, either.
Next stop is to concentrate us into cages that they can’t call camps, for fear of equivalence exposed, but instead term “smart cities”.
Each stage in their “progress” has hauled us a step further away from our natural freedom and a step closer to their final solutions.
But inside, we remain natural – at least those of us who have not volunteered to have their genes manipulated by the powers-that-lie.
Inside, we still have the image of a certain environment into which we expected to be born.
We expected to be loved, held, cherished; to gently come to know the ways of our people and of nature; to be well-nourished physically, emotionally and culturally, so that we might grow up
clear and healthy, ready to blossom into the creative, co-operative, courageous person we were
always meant to be, so that we might pass on this well-being and wisdom to future generations, so that we might have played our humble part in the human unfolding.
This didn’t happen. This didn’t happen at all. It could never have happened in the debased society in which we were raised.
But that expectation is still there within us, somewhere, even if it is buried beneath a thousand toxic layers of hurt, fear, shame, craving, guilt, resentment, bitterness and boredom.
That expectation, a sort of flickering image, a ghost-like notion of a world we have never known, manifests itself in different ways for different folk.
It can be a fantasy, something to which people can escape in dreams or fiction, or an elusive illusion which they try, and fail, to actually grasp by travelling, by moving home, by starting again.
For some of us, it is a paradise lost, a golden age of the past stolen from us and to which we would deeply love to return, if only we could.
For others of us, it is a dreamed-of future, a golden age that could be ours if only we could find the courage to seize it.
For a few of us, it is all of these. It is an archetype of how we are meant to live, of what human life is supposed to be like. When we look inside our hearts and see that flickering image, we are remembering who we are.
This is an excerpt from Paul Cudenac’s 2024 book of essays.Copyright © 2024 Paul Cudenec and W.D. James. The authors formally retain copyright over this work but permit non-commercial reproduction or distribution.