I’m becoming aware that Australian society is threatened by people meeting and talking about more than trivia. Children are institutionalised at an increasingly younger age, and kept isolated from meaningful dialectical intercourse with peers and adults alike until they are nearly unable to even question this order of things.
The purpose of this is to discourage dissent. Dissent threatens all institutions, and nearly all institutions exist to serve the interests of the elite few who control them.
Even compulsory schooling, nursing homes and urbanisation cannot fully smother the basic human need to engage in meaningful discourse with each other. To discourage the rise of dissent globally, society has devised appropriate tools. The television and the multitude of screen-based technologies that have spawned from it have become the ultimate instruments of ubiquitous delivery of propaganda. They ensure that conversations between all people under 45 are focused on pleasure-seeking topics like sport, video games, sex, alcohol, movies and music, while people over that age have moved to loftier subjects of discourse, namely wealth, health, then death.
The strongest form of common dissent consists of shaking one’s head, mumbling something about bloody politicians, and switching channels to something less anxiety-provoking, like the latest sitcom, whose premise is almost universally that of deriding all forms of human interaction.
Dissent is discouraged in many ways, some overt, most covert. Children especially are discouraged from questioning the status quo. We patiently tolerate their boundless curiosity while they are below school age, but as soon as they set foot in that sacrosanct institution, dissenters are treated as dissidents, heretics, or simply mentally ill. Teachers pretend that their punitive or therapeutic approach is intended to benefit the deviant child, but the truth is that they are only protecting their own position, their institution, and the society within which it has comfortably established its fiefdom.
We are not just discouraged from thinking outside the box, but even from believing that thinking has any sort of causal effect on society.
Children who get bullied at school are referred to psychologists so they can receive coping skills, with the rationale that these skills will be crucial when the child finally emerges, from her 12-year abduction by the schools, into the “real world” where adults will inevitably laugh at her freckles and shun her during lunch breaks.
The only reason the myth of the “big, bad, competitive world out there” has become our reality is that children have been indoctrinated with it, and taught how to act out a scripted role in a play that has no end, no producer, and no spectators. The simple act of expecting the worst of others brings out the worst in us, thus turning us into the abject reality others have been led to expect.
Thus warned against the ill intents of nearly everyone we will meet in the world of adults, we keep all our social interactions at a safe level of superficiality. We refrain from expressing doubts, in case they are reported or scorned. We hide anything that might be perceived as a weakness, be it feelings, fears, hopes or disagreement, that no one may take advantage of us.
Thus, Australian and Western societies in general have managed to establish a self-preserving culture of conformity, not necessarily through obedience, but through passive acceptance of issues that seem unimportant in virtue of their inconspicuous absence from the public discourse.
Turn off all screens for a month; meet someone new each day, discuss philosophy and art and religion; start questioning conventional and institutional wisdom, and you will crash against that society. You will begin to feel the awkward, uncomfortable and intensely frustrating sensation of swimming against the current of a rapid river that is fast carrying us to a destructive end. You may even be accused of being a conspiracy theorist!
But you will also begin to feel liberated, as if you were awakening from a deep sleep. There is a price to pay for taking either of Morpheus’ pills. Which will you pay?