“Reality continues to ruin my life.” ― Bill Watterson, The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Who will become the next billionaire in space? What will Kate Middleton say next about Meghan Markle’s parenting style? Are Kim Kardashian and Pete Davidson a couple? Will Kylie Jenner’s 3-year-old daughter Stormi Webster start selling her cosmetic line before entering kindergarten? Will Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears reunite and tour? When will the new Dark Age begin?
We stand at the crossroads of one of the most profound and depressing disruptions in human history, one that is fundamentally reshaping our economy. The gossip that passes for news, the babbling touted by the garbage-head₁ windbags on talk radio, the redundancy that drowns out logical discourse, and the cowardice and spinelessness of what’s left of the news industry signals our flight into collective insanity. This is our current environment, and our prevailing obsession revolves around the trivial and the absurd.
What truly matters in our lives — the Covid-19 virus, the Taliban ruling Afghanistan, the steady deterioration of our dollar, the mounting small business foreclosures, the unemployment rate, the vanishing polar caps, and the appalling reality that once the billions in Covid stimulus money runs out, we will be bereaved and in debt — doesn’t fit into the gleeful, jocular windy talk that we mainline into our heads. The festivity of a failing culture bewitches us. Once reality implodes the airy edifice, we will bawl and bellow like bad-mannered, crusty children to be liberated, rescued and returned to euphoria, complacency, and indifference. There will be no lapse in provocateurs, including tapping-the-bag₂ buffoons like Joseph Robinette Biden Jr., Donald Trump, Justin Pierre James Trudeau, and Boris Johnson, who will accommodate. We will either awaken to face our glaring neoteric confines, to withdraw from aristocratic projects, and discover a new humility, a new simplicity, or we will stagger aimlessly toward misfortune and neofeudalism.
Our world of celebrity worship has uprooted the real from public discourse. And the adoration of celebrity is pervading. The hysteria over on-the-pin₃ political, dogmatic messiahs, or the attachment of millions of viewers to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, is all part of the yearning to see ourselves in those we worship. We seek to be like them. We seek to make them like us. If God and “The Seven Spiritual Laws Of Success” won’t make us a celebrity, then Eckhart Tolle or overconfident psychotherapists or reality television will. We are awaiting the signal to walk onstage, be admired and envied, and become known and celebrated. Nothing else in life counts.
We yearn to stand before the camera, post to Instagram, to be noticed and admired. We build pages on Facebook and Twitter dedicated to bestowing our image, our view to the world. We attempt to influence how others perceive us. We define our value merely by our visibility. We exist in a society where not to be seen, in some sense, is not to exist. We pay take-off-artists₄, aka “Couch Doctors'” to help us emulate celebrities, to build around us the set for the movie of our professed life, and for the picture-perfect home. The truth within the home, the actual family relations, are never addressed. Appearances make everything whole. Fitness gurus, dieticians, plastic surgeons, therapists, life coaches, interior decorators, designers and fashion consultants all, characteristically, guarantee to make us happy, to make us celebrities. And happiness arrives, we are promised, with our appearance, with the attainment of wealth, and with the procurement of power, or at least the appearance of it all.
Glossy magazines like Luxury Lifestyle or the Robb Report coddle to the farcical pretentiousness of the all-lit-up₅ wealthy to be celebrities. They are photoed and captured in expensive designer clothing inside the lavishly decorated sets that are their homes. The pathway to bliss is guaranteed in how masterfully we represent ourselves to the world. Not only do we have to imitate the dictations of this manufactured vision, but we also have to portray a merciless enthusiasm and unforgiving happiness. Decadence and wealth are openly worshiped on Wall Street as well as hedonists on shows such as “Shahs of Sunset,” “Vanderpump Rules,” “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” and “The Real Housewives of (whatever).”
The illusionists who shape our culture and benefit from our skepticism hold up the prosperous “Gilded Lily” cult of Us. Popular expression and personal empowerment, corporatism, religious belief, political membership and a sense of the self-delineation claim that all of us are exceptional, irreplaceable, and unique. By tapping into our internal reservoir of personal will and hidden talents, we all can succeed and deserve to attain fame, happiness, and success by envisioning what we desire. This persistent connotation cuts through our socio-political lines. This dip-and-dab₆ mantra, tune, and hymn have leached into every facet of our lives. Everyone is entitled to the whole kit and caboodle. And because of this egoism, self-centredness, and bottomless self-regard, we have become a society of child-like ingenuous adults who speak, preach, and think in the mindless gibberish of pop culture.
A baseballing₇ fanatical culture faithful to celebrities furthers a belief that everyone thinks of themselves as impending celebrities, embodying irreplaceable unrecognized talents. In a fake world, a world of make-believe, the conviction in ourselves is more or less important than reality. Reality, in actual fact, is scorned and rejected as a barrier to success, the framework to negativity. The New Age doctrine and pop culture psychology of Youtube luminaries and evangelistic preachers, alongside the array of best-selling self-help novels penned by motivational speakers, business moguls, therapists, peddle and market this fantasy. Reality is rebuked in these popular belief systems as spinelessness, defeatism, and negativity inhibiting our inner power, essence, and strength. Anyone who questions, those who disbelieve, those who are suspicious, those who can confront reality, those who understand the emptiness and threat of celebrity culture are condemned, judged, and dismissed for their pessimism or intellectualism.
Celebrities whose beginnings come from modest backgrounds are held up as proof that the world can adore anyone. These mother’s-little-helper₈ induced celebrities, like martyrs, are examples that the impossible is always achievable. Our dreams of success, of fame, of belonging and of self-fulfillment are projected onto celebrities. These pipedreams are strengthened by the masses who magnify the culture of deception, who convince us that the shadows are real. However, the juxtaposition of the impossible fantasies inspired by celebrity culture and our “insignificant individual achievements” steers to a highly charged level of anger, frustration, insecurity, and emasculation. It is furthering a self-perpetuating cycle that plunges the unfulfilled, isolated individual to unrivalled depths of desperation and hunger, away from reality and back toward the hollow promises of those who tell us what we want to hear and who seduce us. The graver things become, the more we beg and plead for fantasy. We devour these lies until our trust, faith, money, and assets run dry. And when we descend and plumb the depths of despair, we self-medicate ourselves, as if the contentment we have unsuccessfully failed to find in the unfilled game, is our inadequacy. And, guess what? We are told it is.
The working class, comprising millions of those struggling and dreaming, are locked out of the media’s gated community. Even while provoked and ridiculed by the lives of intemperance, they view on flatscreens in their homes — attainment must prevail. Virtually none of us will ever achieve these lives of power and wealth. Nonetheless, we are instructed that if we wish for it badly enough and have sufficient faith in ourselves, we too can have everything. When we cannot fulfil these unattainable lifestyles as our own, we are left with feelings of worthlessness and inferiority. We have been unsuccessful where others have succeeded. We ingest these incalculable lies daily. We accept these false promises that if we spend more, buy this product, and vote for this politician, we will be respected, envied, influential, protected and loved. The gaudy, instant-zen₉ glitzy lives of celebrities and the outrageous personalities on television, in movies, and in melodramatic talk shows are marketed to us, promising to fill up the emptiness and hollowness in our lives and souls.
I cycled 22,000 kilometres throughout North America to provide “Trauma Awareness“ only to painstakingly visualize the reality we live in. Cycling through previous booming manufacturing, mining, and oil-rich towns where the end of the world was no longer a mental excogitation for countless individuals. Many had lost faith. Anxiety and uncertainty had plunged these working-class communities into overwhelming personal and financial despondency and, not shockingly, into the waiting breasts of demagogues and swindlers of the radical right, who assure a belief in miracles and magic, will offer a utopian, bible-thumping, loving homeland—one in which you will courier gratitude to the pejorative prevailing lords. Unless we rapidly enfranchise these ejected communities and reunite them with our economy, unless we offer hope, the demagogues will buy the land and our homes and rise to take command. Time is running out fast. The humble can only eat pie filled with fantasies for so long. Once they awaken, grasp the reality of betrayal, and pair the grim reality of their future with the illusions they are fed, once they grab hold and realize the jobs lost will never return, they will react. And with wrath and vengeance, they will extinguish out the remains of our anemic mind-numbing democratic state and usher in a new Dark Age. A dark period that is welcomed, embraced, and received as a new beginning.
- Garbage head – addict who will take anything to become intoxicated; one who is not particular about which drug s/he uses
- Tapping the bags – when dealers remove small amounts of heroin from a bag before selling it, thus short weighting the buyer
- On the pine – smoking freebase cocaine
- Take off artists – heroin addicts who rob other addicts to get drugs
- All lit up – under the influence of drugs
- Dip and dab – experiment, especially with heroin
- Baseballing – smoking freebase cocaine
- Mother’s Little Helper – Valium (diazepam)
- Instant zen – LSD