The Great Escape

Aaron Cynic writes at Diatribe Media:

Hello, escapism. My name is Aaron and I’m sure we’ve met.

At some point, you wake up one morning, wipe the blood still oozing from your nose and realize you’re bad at being an adult. Not because you had bad parents or a terrible childhood or have unsupportive friends. Not because you first tasted blood at the age of 7 when a kid nearly twice your age spin-kicked your face into the dirt, or because you spent most of the next decade getting your ass kicked on a regular basis. You’re not bad at being an adult because you weren’t afforded all sorts of opportunities – because you were. You went to college, you had jobs, friends, lovers, even traveled a little.

Nope, you’re bad at being an adult because you’re defective.

Rather, I’m defective. I once wrote:

“…there’s a hole inside all of us. There’s an emptiness we can all feel that’s just out of reach. It’s something we can’t touch or taste, something that sits on the tips of our tongues and on the edge of our lips. Religious people might define it as a lack of spirituality or sickness of the soul. Folks who aren’t can find any number of disorders or emotional and mental states to try to explain it. But the truth is, it’s something a little more.

And we try to fill that hole, that emptiness, with things every day. Some people do it with money and material goods, some do it with booze or pills, others with work, or a quest for power and authority, and some shut down and spend their days in the dark watching hours of television. Whatever it is though, however we choose to try to fill that void it’s never enough. And it will never be enough, so long as we continue to ignore that the very fabric of the world we live in is threadbare.”

That’s some pretty complicated philosophizing for “I just don’t give a fuck about the things most people do, or what they believe people should give a fuck about.”

Humans tend to be drawn to routine and habit. I wake up, make coffee, shower, put on the same pants and shirt I’ve been wearing for three days because I have yet to do laundry, and race to make it out the door to catch the right train. Punch in, sit at my desk. Answer emails and phone calls. Listen to coworkers gossip. Leave for a little while to grab lunch. Sit back down, answer more emails and phone calls. Listen to coworkers gossip. Punch out. Catch the train heading home. Pet the cat. Feed the cat. Sit on the couch. Turn on the television. Scroll through my phone. Wait until I can fall asleep.

Hello, Monday thru Friday.

That’s probably not the normal routine for the subgenus of humans known as average middle class American citizens. There’s variations – a dog instead of a cat, a couple of kids and a partner in the mix. Maybe home ownership or a time-share in some balmy country where the locals look different but are unthreatening because they’re cleaning your sheets and mixing your drinks. Maybe on Tuesday’s you go bowling, or you’ve got a fantasy sports league to keep tabs on.

The ultimate structure however, remains the same.

Therein lies the flaw – I can’t get into that kind of routine and when I do, the gears slowly stop spinning. More than likely I came off the early adulthood assembly line with some serious defect. Instead of installing athleticism, someone installed chain smoking. Instead of fashion sense, a love for bad sci-fi. The slot for accepting hierarchical authoritarian structures remains empty, and the drive to raise progeny behind a white picket fence failed inspection.

Those defects don’t cause complete system failure in a westernized American human, however.

There are patches and fixes for many of these defects. That fantasy sports league I mentioned. Bad science fiction. Good science fiction. Blockbuster movies. Video games. Pornography. A never ending orgy of consumable things. Booze, booze and more booze, along with an endless supply of items you can stuff down your gullet, up your nose and into your veins to keep you going, producing and a productive adult within the confines of a glorious capitalist hegemony at the end of history.

Except, one has to ask oneself, do I really want any of that?

And that’s where apocalyptic fetishism creeps in. Zombies. Plagues. Vampires. Nuclear war. The rise of the machines. The fall of the empire. My parents finding my facebook profile. Any number of fantastic scenarios where the whole thing crumbles and there’s a massive playground where everyone’s equal again.

And perhaps that’s the largest defect – the conscious one. The one I installed in my brain which asks the type of questions I believe we all ask but slightly louder. Why have I been protesting two or more wars for more than ten years? Why is my good friend six figures in debt due to a debilitating medical condition? Why did both my parents lose their jobs? Where’s this magical fountain of jobs politicians point to when whining about welfare? What’s the point of spending more than third of one’s day on menial tasks whose value are measured by a person playing golf halfway across the country?

And when the apocalypse doesn’t come, when I can’t just kick the lego castle over and start building something else so no one ever has to ask questions like these again, I create my own mini-armageddon’s. I pick a fight with a stranger in a friend’s bar because his politics aren’t like mine. I pick a fight with an entire bar of brodudes because, well, they’re brodudes. I wake up in a car that’s been idling for two hours in front of my house and the only sound I can make out from the stranger peering through my window is 5-0. I roll out of bed, put my feet on the freezing cold floor and try to dodge the cat vomit I forgot to clean up on my way to the bathroom.

The world as it is rolls humans off an assembly line and makes promises that all their equipment will be continually upgraded, so long as they follow the rules and pay no mind to the machines left discarded and unused, broken or otherwise obsolete. In those cases, despite the equipment given, the best those folks can hope to do is kneel at a Randian altar and pray the market will bless them with another life, provided they’ve paid off their student loans.

Read the full post at Diatribe Media.

16 Comments on "The Great Escape"

  1. The postmodern existential condition of the western, middle class wage slave. Whaddyagonnado about it? That’s what I’d like to know.

    • Anarchy Pony | Mar 30, 2013 at 8:22 pm |

      My inner nihilist is saying: Burn it all down. Of course, that’s what it always says.

      • Why destroy what someone else builds? Why not build something yerself? Or better yet, find a group (of maybe 150 or so people) and build together. Its not illegal and as it is right now, as long as you follow the rules, you can do that with little harassment. I foresee small sustainable communities arising throughout the US and world, so when industrial society does collapse, there will be a safety net. No need to destroy industrial society, it will destroy itself. You just better get together w/ like minded folks and build an Ark.
        The possibilities are endless.

        • Anarchy Pony | Mar 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

          I mean no offense, but I already know all that. It was just a joke.

          • I could tell it was just a joke. I wasn’t necessarily replying to you, personally, but rather the argument for insurrection. History is full of groups attempting overthrow of the state. I don’t understand why more people who are sick of the society they are living in, don’t just create a new one, and abandon the current one. Especially, if we have the freedom to do that. People will band together to protest injustice, which is great. But I would like to see more people banding together to create just and merciful communities.

          • Anarchy Pony | Mar 31, 2013 at 5:35 pm |

            Well, the state doesn’t always tolerate that, at least not beyond a certain point.

          • Jin The Ninja | Mar 31, 2013 at 9:35 pm |

            no borders no nations doesn’t go very far in a land predicated on borders and nations- one cannot even question the legitimacy of citizenship- it is bestowed like one of those terrible-faux hippy-hollywood kid names at childhood. stuck with it, and to renounce it, you still have to pay $$$ and get a new ident card for another country claiming you as one of its ‘citizens’/peasants.

        • Anarchy Pony | Mar 31, 2013 at 3:59 pm |

          I mean no offense, but I already know all that. It was just a joke.

  2. I don’t think this is a western thing, or even a modern thing. Sewing someone else’s fields isn’t that different from doing data entry for someone else’s corporation. Sadly, the concept of “adulthood,” in most people’s minds, seems to consist of accepting this and “doing what you gonna do,” even though it kills you inside.

  3. Even if one runs the rat race during the week, they can still challenge themselves on the weekend.

  4. Wow Aaron, sounds pretty tough.

    Now I am not going to try to come off as though I don’t know what you are talking about, because I do. NO ONE hates being a wage slave more than I do. I am also sick and tired of the little miniscule furlough of a weekend that us good drones are rewarded with each week. Ah, two days to devote to my life out of each seven. However today they have added the motivational factor that you are even lucky to have a full time job these days. Meh! Whoever created such a system is at least as big a jank-hole as the bicycle seat sniffers that dragged our Public Education system over here from Germany.

    Also, it is true that once you start the money chase – or more correctly today, the paper chase – it is only a matter of time until, without noticing it at all, the money and possessions and protection of same begins to live your life and you are merely the servant. We wanted these things, but in acquiring them we are not satisfied and want more, or newer, or different. The problem is that we are constantly chasing that glittering object on the next hill. However once we reach the next hill we find that the glittering object is only some foil from the top of a cigarette pack, or a zip tab from a beverage can. But, luckily for us, on the next hill, is another glittering object that must be what we seek. The question remains how long are we gonna chase these disappointing objects before we realize that none are what we seek and start to ignore them for the hollow, pointless trash that they always are?

    It’s obvious that you realize that the system is dysfunctional if not out and out broken, but what I wonder – and I am taking your words literally – is why your response is so self destructive? It was said in the movie Network that only 13% of people read books, but I doubt that describes you since you are in fact a writer. But if the description of your reaction to your dissatisfaction is true to form I wonder what you are reading.

    Your post has made me consider myself truly lucky. I was raised Catholic, as was my sister, and the result of siting through 13 years of hypocritical teachings, by hypocritical clerics, was that it launched us on the same search, although at the time we did not know it. For myself, it was the search for the truth. I know, such an elusive object, and though I cannot say I have found it yet I can say confidently that I am much closer than I ever was under a black robed figure’s thumb.

    What I found will most likely not be right for you, as each person his own in the correct time, but it sounds like the Western materialistic solutions have only let you down or even caused you damage. Really, go in and beat up all the black dudes, because they are black dudes? Did I really read that right? Or were you speaking symbolically?

    One day, long ago, I was watching a new Bill Murray movie, named The Razor’s Edge. If I remember right it was from a W. Somerset Maugham short story and it was a remake, but it didn’t matter because it had Bill Murray in it and he was always funny. Well at first I was a little disappointed because it wasn’t the comedic escapism that I was seeking, but it hooked me. From the reviews and response to this first serious movie of Murray’s I guess I was one of the few that was hooked, but in my defense Theresa Russell was still young and hot and during part of it she wasn’t hanging on to the clothes she had on very well; she seemed to be falling out of them, so more escapism.

    But then…

    Bill’s character, Larry was from Lake Forest Illinois, the richest suburb of Chicago (tough don’t refer to it as such if you are talking to a proud resident!). Larry had volunteered as an ambulance driver during WWI and was the only one in his group that came back relatively unscathed, except he didn’t want to be a stock broker anymore. Bill’s character is later in England working in a coal mine and a fellow miner and he begin discussing books. The old miner asks him if he has read the Upanishads. “Oh,” he says “You ‘aven’t read innything if you aven’t read the Upanishads!” That was it, I had to find it. My recovery from Catholicism had led me to read all sorts of religious books and quasi-not so religious books, but I had never heard of the Upanishads.

    Upanishads is one of the most non threatening, non challenging scriptures on the planet, and by most accounts the oldest. It is really just a bunch of stories but they seem to have a couple central themes. That we have all been here before, that we are all one, including the world around us, and that we all have a small spark of God inside us that can be listened to and that should/must be respected in others.

    Just a thought… Stop beatin’ up brodudes, dude. And cheer up a little.

    And remember;

    Thank you Mr. Hicks.


    • Sir Legendhead | Mar 31, 2013 at 3:41 pm |

      Don’t forget to thank Aaron for inspiring you to write this.

      • Ittabena | Apr 1, 2013 at 1:59 am |

        Thank you Aaron. Though truly I think the inspiration belongs to the Dalai Lama. I’ve been watching his appearances a lot in the last two weeks. Aaron just gave me a place where it fit well.

  5. BuzzCoastin | Mar 31, 2013 at 7:00 am |

    Even if you strive diligently on your chosen path day after day,
    if your heart is not in accord with it,
    then even if you think you are on a good path,
    from the point of view of the straight and true,
    this is not a genuine path.
    If you do not pursue a genuine path to its consummation,
    then a little bit of crookedness in the mind
    will later turn into a major warp.
    Reflect on this.
    Shinmen Miyamoto Musashi, from “The Book Of Five Rings”

  6. Charlie Primero | Mar 31, 2013 at 10:42 am |

    Aaron is a slave and doesn’t know it. Notice that never contemplates any form of rebellion which exceeds the acceptable parameters dictated by the media he consumes and the consensus of his fellow slaves. The genius of a system wherein slaves self-regulate to this degree is awe inspiring.

  7. Sir Legendhead | Mar 31, 2013 at 3:32 pm |

    Fuck the haters, this shit is BRILLIANT.

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