Look at this picture. The first three wolves of the pack (yellow circle) are the older or sick, and they set the pace for the group. The five strongest follow, and at the end there are other 5 strong wolves (red squares), both protecting the weaker wolves in the belly of the group. At the very end comes the lonesome alpha wolf, controlling from the rear.
This image that recently went viral recalled me of a quote from Lao Tze: “to lead people, walk behind them“.
It also made me think of how our traditional societies used to work similarly: the elders led the way and were respected, the strong members of the community protected the weak, and leaders took responsibility for the whole community, striving to not leave anyone behind.
In the financial capitalist system of today things work quite the opposite: the strongest lead, biting each other to be ahead, while the weak lag behind. The elders and the sick get lost on the way as they cannot keep the pace and tend to die alone and forgotten. The alphas, furthermore, are not real alphas. They become leaders only if they accept to be guardians of the system itself (thus becoming alpha slaves), while if they are not docile enough they will attract trouble.
In our current system our value as human beings is defined by our ability to produce and consume material wealth. In its mad and unsustainable pursuit of perpetual growth (which among things is endangering life on Earth) it has induced people through constant media bombardment to become extremely individualistic, egomaniac, and to desire without end.
If we had communities of people who live together, share resources, and support each other like it was in a not so distant past, it would be a disaster for this system as in order to thrive it needs people to be isolated, frustrated, distrusting and fearing each other, because in this state of spiritual misery they will consume more in a vain effort to fill the void they have inside, and in order to satisfy this endless material need they will work more and produce more. Simply put: our unhappiness is functional to the system.
We think that today we are more free than in the past, but our freedom is only superficial. We look at ancient Egypt and we wonder in awe how few people could enslave the vast majority of people and make them devote their existence through generations to build pyramids. While our material conditions have significantly improved from then, are we really free from mental slavery compared to ancient Egypt slaves?
Think about it. Thanks to our technology we live in an age of unprecedented abundance and opportunities and yet only 1% really prosper while the vast majority is either kept in a chronic state of scarcity or poverty. How could we possibly get convinced that in order to own four walls and a roof, or send our kids to school, we need to get in debt for the rest of our lives? Can’t we see that the whole system is designed to enslave us to the production/consumption cycle? Can’t we see that money is completely arbitrary and literally created out of thin air?
Have you ever thought how our system not only tolerates, but subtly promotes 5 out of 7 of the deadly sins of tradition? Specifically: greed, pride, envy, lust, gluttony. Just turn on the tv, you’ll see all of them in action. On the other hand, it devalues the 2 greatest positive spiritual forces available to us: forgiveness and compassion. It also taught us to dismiss the wisdom of the ancients as irrational superstition so if someone suggested that a great evil is in action he would be ridiculed.
We live in an age in which, for the first time in history, we can emancipate ourselves from the burden of work. Like it or not, this is the century in which machines will replace most of human workforce, it is already happening now and it will get faster and faster: 47% of employments are at “high risk” already in the next 20 years (source: bureau of labor and statistic). In front of these numbers, the typical reaction is “OMG, what are we gonna do? How we are going to survive?”, which I imagine is pretty much the reaction those slaves in ancient Egypt would have had if the Pharaoh one day announced that they were not needed anymore because he found machines that can build pyramids by themselves.
I’ll tell you what we can do: take our life back and dare to be free. Devote our life to our passions, to our community, to raise our kids, or whatever we care about, instead than spending most of our adult life on a dull job we don’t even like. Regardless of whether our activity will produce profit or not.
It is clear that in order for this to happen something must change. Specifically, what needs to happen is the introduction of unconditional basic income: free money for everyone, as birth right, enough to cover our basic needs. Our activity, and our merit, should become a way to get a surplus rather than a way to survive.
Some will tell us that basic income is not possible, that there is not enough money for it, and wherever it will get introduced those people would do anything to make the experiment fail. Don’t listen to them, they are just desperately trying to preserve the status quo. Once again, we live in an age of unprecedented abundance and opportunities, there is enough for everyone to live a life of dignity and moderate prosperity, for no child to die of hunger, and as technology evolves our abundance and opportunities will exponentially increase.
The cultural shift that needs to happen is that we start to demand basic income as our birth right. Sounds silly? Don’t forget that also asking for freedom of speech or equal opportunities for women sounded silly until not long ago.
When unconditional universal basic income will be in place, we would have broken a big fat chain tied around our calves. I am not saying we would be entirely free from mental slavery, or that all problems will disappear, it will still be quite a complex world. But if people are going to finally be in the condition to dispose of their time with freedom and devote it to things they are passionate about or that give meaning to their life, we should witness a flourishing of humanism, compassion, art, and solidarity.
People are not naturally greedy, we tend to act in a dog eat dog mode because our current system pushes us to do it, putting us in a perpetual state of scarcity, with highly competitive monomaniacs being shown as moral example to follow. Media are also to blame for the degradation of our soul, always tickling our lower instincts, always digging in the dirt and feeding us with gossip and sensation. Their behavior is also a byproduct of profit being our only horizon as their purpose is to sell more.
When we will finally be free from profit as our only horizon, when we will stop worshiping this golden veal, this greedy Pharaoh, this Moloch to whom we sacrifice our lives and the ones of our children, then we will be able to build societies that are more human. Let’s say more like the one of the wolves I was talking about, but waaaay more technological! 🙂
Our time to do this revolution is limited, we are running against the clock of technological evolution. The singularity is near. If we fail to take back our freedom, our dignity, our humanity in the next few decades, the tiny minority who controls the machines will have the means to enslave us for good.
All we need to do is to follow the 6th of the Ten Commandments for the Digital Millennium:
We don’t care what flag you’re waving
We don’t even want to know your name
We don’t care where you’re from or where you’re going
All we know is that you came
You’re making all our decisions
We have just one request of you
That while you’re thinking things over
Here’s something you just better do
Free the people now
Do it do it do it now
John Lennon, Bring on the Lucie (Freeda Peeple)
“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner. Wind themselves around your limbs like spider silk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you they work their magic…”
– Diane Setterfield, The Thirteenth Tale
I’ll tell you a secret: you have been hypnotised your entire life. They made you believe you are what you are not, in a world that is as much an illusion as a castle made of cards. Those cards are called words and you are ultimately the one who shuffles them, creating your reality. Others don’t really exist, nevertheless you should strive to be kind to them as they are part of you: harming them would end up harming yourself.
You truly are what is beyond words, the presence observing the mental chitchat that keeps you awake at night. Life as you think it is fiction, a movie you are creating. You must either transcend that lie or believe in it to the point to make your life a story worth telling. If you do both at the same time, even better. Anything in the middle would end up making you miserable. Doubt is healthy, doubt is evolutionary, but you’d better also embrace illusion as long as it feels righteous. That’s what makes life worth living.
“Always speak honest words and forgive and forget hurtful words. Don’t take words too seriously in general. Cultivate irony and direct it primarily towards yourself.”
– Barabeke, 4th of the 10 commandments for the digital millennium
Very few people today in the western world would say that it’s ok to discriminate people based on gender, beliefs, sexual orientation, age, physical ability, or any other type of diversity. If a culture of acceptance has become dominant over the last couple of decades, most of the merit goes to the politically correct ideology as propagated by media, corporations, and institutions. But have they created a real culture or most people are sticking to political correctness because they are afraid of the consequences they may suffer?
The surge of hate and fear of the diverse that we are witnessing today seems to suggest that the dominance of politically correct in our culture is just superficial, a mask people wear, and fear and prejudice are prospering underneath it more than ever.
What I’d like to put under scrutiny here is not the principle of political correctness. We should all strive to be politically correct, it’s a positive thing, it prevents being unfair and hurting other’s feelings (which should be the point of it). My J’Accuse is directed to the way it has been enforced and to the values and interests that hide behind the mask. I hope I will be able to show you how the big enemy of politically correct is not Donald Trump but its own dark side which I’ll summarise in these four points:
A stupid word out of millions you’ll ever pronounce in your life, maybe taken out of context, is enough to publicly disgrace you, ruin your career, and attract hate campaigns. Apologizing is often not enough, even if you are genuinely sorry. If you have a job, you may be dismissed or forced to resign, and if you are a public figure you will be haunted for the rest of your life by that stupid word, maybe said because your car broke and you were in a bad mood on that day. Can a culture of acceptance and tolerance be imposed through persecuting, humiliating, and disgracing people who said something wrong, without space for forgiveness?
2. DEGENERATED INTO A DIRTY WEAPON FOR POWER STRUGGLES
I think it’s evident how politically correct has increasingly become a weapon that is maliciously used in power struggles, whether it’s for political power or between work colleagues or even within families. Media are extremely skilled in taking words out of context to create sensation, and quite often you get the feeling that they are following an agenda rather than trying to sell more copies. It should be noted how their selling power significantly decreased because of the internet, which makes journalism of today more vulnerable to corruption (or influence from power structures if you prefer to call it this way).
3. THREAT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH
I will make a practical example here, in which I would need to break one of politically correct taboos for pedagogical purposes. I choose Islam as it’s a current topic but perhaps prejudice vs women or gays would provide a better example of politically correct hysteria. Let’s assume someone casually says on a social network:
“I’ve read the Quran and I found words like: ‘I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. So strike above the necks, and strike off every fingertip of theirs’ (Sura 8:12-17). It made me fear that Islam might not be entirely a religion of peace”.
One can agree or disagree with that, but reasonable people would consider it a fair point worth debating, with others sharing their views, providing evidence of the contrary, contributing to an informed opinion. If we were in the ’70s, maybe that constructive debate could have happened. Today very few, even among intellectuals, would dare to express a similar opinion in public as they would be afraid of the merciless politically correct machine coming after them (unless they count nothing and have no affiliations like me or if they have shoulders and balls as big as Donald Trump – oops I said “balls”, now I am a sexist I shall burn in hell!).
One of course is still free to express their genuine opinion, but is it real freedom when a word you say, even taken out of context, can get you persecuted? Sure, not by a special totalitarian police or by the holy inquisition, but are the intentions, the lack of forgiveness, the irrationality, the hypocrisy, the methods, and the devastating consequences on people’s life really that far away from former witch hunts used to reduce people to obedience?
“Monk (announcing Torquemada): Torquemada! Do not implore him for compassion! Torquemada! Do not beg him for forgiveness! Torquemada! Do not ask him for mercy! Let’s face it, you can’t Torquemada anything!
Torquemada: Let all those who wish to confess their evil ways and accept the true church convert now, or forever burn in hell! For now begins the Inquisition!”
(scene from Mel Brooks’ History of the World: Part I)
4. POTENTIAL OF BECOMING A TOTALITARIAN NEO-LANGUAGE
Children born today will have most of what they say, write, read, and watch in their life recorded and traceable, from their first cry to their last goodbye. Including all the bullshit they will say in between.
We all say stupid things during the course of our life, a lot of them, that’s part of being human. Anyone who’s honest would admit to have said things that could get them in trouble if recorded and used against them. Imagine that most of what you ever said was actually been stored and hacked, like it may happen for the children of today. Wouldn’t that make you feel under perpetual blackmail threat?
Unless we stop this madness that pushes us to turn the illusion we call words into solid entities that we make as powerful as gods (or demons), prepare for Aldous Huxley’s nightmares to become real.
This new dictatorship, supremely democratic in appearance, won’t care too much about what you say unless you have power and influence. You will be free to write your conspiracy theories on your blog, whatever you say would be lost in the buzz of billion of voices, read by very few. The new censorship won’t need to censor, most content not from mainstream media will simply be condemned to systemic irrelevance and volatility as it’s increasingly happening now. They will track you in automatic anyway based on the keyords you use, and if you start to become very popular, maybe the leader of a radical opposition, then you can start to be scared about all the data recorded about you and available to those who really want to put their hands on it and have the skills to do it. In all that data, they will find something bad or wrong you said in the past, maybe when you were 20. If they want current content to use against you, you may get an insect size spy drone following your butt up to the toilet (this is not sci-fi, such drones already exist). When they find proof of something compromising, they’ll find a way to package the scandal and get it rolling in the mainstream news. And if they don’t find proof, they’ll fabricate it. You won’t need to be as important as Strauss-Kahn or Assange to receive these special attentions, the potential for control on every single human being is exploding exponentially and it will get more and more automated, to the point that nothing apart from our thoughts would be 100% safe from this control.
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM
What makes this dystopian future possible is not technological progress (which by itself is neutral), but any ideology that assigns a value to words that is enormous and literal in a way that could be compared to the value monotheist religions assign to words in their books. If on top of that such an ideology is unforgiving, like politically correct as manifested today is, then it is to be considered as a potential totalitarian neo-language, a vehicle for conformism led by fear. Failure to take power off of words may lead us to a very dark age that would see us enslaved to a totalitarian regime in which people would be afraid of anything they say, suspicious with one another, and ultimately unable to freely express what they really feel or even joke unless they are willing to take a risk.
The root of the problem is to be found in the cultural industry. Not politicians, not the financial power, not corporations: they influence and sometimes control the media, which they may use to build favour around them or damage opponents and competitors, but let’s not forget that they are also under the threat of being smashed by the same hammer. That I believe is the main reason why they are all religiously politically correct: they are scared. It takes a lot of ingenuity to think of a financial institution or an oil company as genuine paladins of kindness and generosity, that’s a mask they have the convenience to wear and a rule they must observe in order to protect their business from the hysterical politically correct machine. They are not the source of the problem, rather the perpetrators and the victims.
A FUTURISTIC SOLUTION
As said it is the cultural industry (journalism in particular) that needs fixing, and it’s not going to fix by itself. I have a solution in mind that I believe is viable, even though extremely tricky. I suggest we start to envision an algorithm connected to the blockchain that would enable the press of tomorrow to have the following qualities:
Under these conditions, I believe much more journalists would be enabled to practice the noble art of journalism as they learned to love it at school: information as a service to the community that is honest and independent, less based on gossip and sensations and not any more a subtle agent of marketing or manipulation of the public opinion as it is increasingly becoming today. This system would introduce conditions and enforce ethics that should significantly contrast the dark side of politically correct and its potential as totalitarian neo-language.
Utopia? I don’t think so. Today it would be technically possible to build a system that would allow similar conditions to be in place in automatic. If any bright geek familiar with the blockchain, and also some journalist, want to start to think about how this algorithm could work, please get in touch I’ll give you all the inspiration and support I can. Change won’t be easy but the sole existence of this algorithm, even if just in theoretical form, would be an important step that make change possible.
FINAL APPEAL FOR EVERYONE
I’d like to conclude with a note addressed to people in general in an effort to show how we can stay on the bright side of politically correctness (which again, is supposed to be about being fair and not hurting the feelings of others) without falling for its dark side. After all, if people were not so incline to sensation and gossip, full of prejudices, envious, happy to feast on the disgraces of others and celebrate the fall of anyone powerful, there wouldn’t be need to change how the cultural industry work (it should be noted though how media, by constantly fuelling the lower instincts and bombarding with negativity, empower and exacerbate what is low in us. As to say: if your life is shit, part of the blame goes to the media. If it doesn’t appear so, it’s because we are so constantly immersed in them and we forget how was life without them).
Only a culture that is strongly grounded on forgiveness and compassion can bring more peace and acceptance to the world.
Here is what you can do to help bring on this culture. Someone said something wrong or hurtful? Tell them, help them understand their mistake. They apologise? Forgive them. They don’t apologise? Forget about it, move on, there are other people you can get better vibes from, spend more time with them. Just stop creating solid dark entities in your head built upon words, they are not real, they don’t exist, you created them (even if they come from others), you made them real and having a negative effect on your life. Stop labelling others and most of all don’t accept labels on yourself, just stop creating this word based drama and attaching to its shadows. Cultivate self-irony, that can save your mind from such a madness. Meditate regularly, so you will understand more deeply how words are an illusion.
“Always speak honest words and forgive and forget hurtful words. Don’t take words too seriously in general. Cultivate irony and direct it primarily towards yourself.”
(4th of my 10 commandments for the digital millennium)
If you check the hashtag #suicidal on Instagram you’ll find more than 4 millions posts. Mostly from teenagers that are considering suicide, usually because they feel ugly, rejected, or alone. As I write, 50 suicidal posts have been published in the past 8 minutes. And that’s just one of a collection of very alarming hashtags like #depressed (8 million posts), #suicide (5 million) #killme (1,6 million) #suicidalthoghts (290K). The scenario we see emerging talks about an humanitarian emergency which is causing the death of one person every 40 seconds.
Instagram seems to be conscious about the issue and is doing something to help. If you try to access the hashtag #suicidal (or similar) you will be warned by this message:
“Please be advised: These posts may contain graphic content.
For information and support with suicide or self-harm please tap on learn more”
Which leads to the website of an association of volunteers called Befrienders Worldwide that helps prevent suicides by providing emotional support. Unfortunately, it appears that Instagram redirects to this website only those who search for the hashtag #suicidal (who may be just curious to see who’s desperate), while if you post with the hashtag #suicidal because you are considering to commit suicide you won’t be prompted to check that website (just tested it, perhaps there is something to review in Instagram’s mechanism?).
But the real question is: can we really remain indifferent in front of 4 million suicidal posts, mostly from young folks, hoping that Instagram or those volunteers will be enough to help? It’s all happening now, in real time, under your eyes. While you read this post dozens of people are suicidal and just 3 clicks away from you. Is there really nothing we can do for them? I think there is at least one small but powerful thing we can do: being kind. I don’t see a lot of people being kind to them. On the other side, I saw some idiot encouraging a suicidal guy to kill himself… (immediately reported).
Let’s be clear, they are not people that is easy to deal with and before even thinking about engaging with them you should read this advice from Befrienders Worldwide. And yet, in an Instagram context, it would be relatively easy for anyone to bring some positive vibe without need to get too much involved in other people’s problems.
These people feel so deeply alone, ugly, unwanted, with nobody caring about them. All one would need to do to help is just to be kind and care a bit. I would discourage to like suicidal posts (that would be almost an encouragement), or engage with these posts in general. You should avoid to connect to their negativity as that would risk to reinforce it and you would risk to absorb it. But you can still leave a nice comment on some other pic where they share something more positive, something you connect more to. For example I saw a suicidal girl who previously published a “10 things about me” in which she was rather cheerful, so I left a positive comment that acknowledged her uniqueness. Will it make a difference? One of the 10 things she wrote about herself was: “I love all of my followers and think it’s amazing that you take the time to say kind words to me”. Then yes, the kindness she receives from others seems to be one of the things that keeps her going. Every little helps.
I encourage not to fake kindness: you should care a bit about these people, look at what they post, try to see some sparkle of beauty in them. Maybe they are cute, or smart, or artistic, whatever it is just tell the goodness you saw in them. If they feel worthless, make them feel they can be important, if they feel ugly show them their beauty, if they feel like no one cares, show you care. You don’t need to be a hero, you don’t have to take responsibility for them, you don’t need to overdo it (and you probably shouldn’t unless you are qualified). You are not going to solve their problems and you shouldn’t even try, they are not even looking for your advice, they just need someone who listens and cares and be kind to them. Don’t forget that in the darkest night receiving a nice comment could make the difference between life and death, that’s how much your kindness can be important. See yourself with your eyes what an abyss of sadness our society is sprouting, how much these people feel alone, and how few are saying something kind to them: #suicidal on Instagram.
Everyone can be nice. It just takes a little, less time than posting a selfie or sharing a funny cat. A bit of kindness costs nothing, makes you feel better, and in this case might also contribute to save a life. If there is one practice that truly recurs in all spiritual traditions, that is the practice of kindness.
“Practice kindness all day to everybody and you will realize you’re already in heaven now”.
Since kindness is increasingly rare in our dog-eat-dog individualistic and profit based societies, I decided to create a Facebook group for positive-minded people who also feel this world needs more kindness and are happy to provide a bit of theirs.
I called it Merry Kindsters. Here is the manifesto:
If you like the spirit of this initiative and you think it’s good to dedicate even just 2 minutes of your time to be kind to others, please join us and help spread the word!
Someone asked me to explain how did I come up with these ten commandments for the digital millennium, which were found at the end of the rabbit hole in my Voyage at the Centre of the Universe: a Fractal Odyssey.
Here is my explanation: they came to me one night a couple of months ago, as a sudden inspiration from what Jung would call “spirit of the depths”. It took me ten minutes to write them down on my evernote. Then I asked myself: what am I going to do with this stuff? So I came up with the idea of the fractal journey, a serial story to run on social media to build a bit of curiosity around this revelation, or whatever you want to call it. My point was: if I have to deliver ten new commandments for the digital millennium, let’s be entertaining and let’s be fictional, because this world had far too many people creating sufferance and putting chains on the human soul because of giving too much importance to words and turning symbols into idols. In delivering these words I tried to be respectful of the 4th commandment…
I must admit I felt the responsibility of what I was doing, even if I am well aware that these words may be forgotten. I put all my best knowledge and sensitivity into making sure these ten commandments didn’t leave out anything meaningful and would permit, if followed, liberation and evolution for humankind in this brave new digital age. I spent a considerable amount of time pondering and doing research, to make sure that what came to me through the spirit of the depths was in line with the spirit of the time, and made some minor edits.
While most people may laugh at me or consider me a weirdo, I am happy to have completed what is for me a key artistic mission. My karma feels good about it. Up to you what you want to do with these words. If you want to print them and wipe your butt with them, go for it! After all, they are just words. They don’t mean anything by themselves, their job is to touch something inside of you that is not part of the rational mind. I have to warn you though: if you truly wipe your butt with them you’ll be sorry about it…. Your butt will get all dirty with black ink!
Many of the commandments may sound familiar to you as you probably heard them from others in different forms. Not my fault if key spiritual teachings look all the same. If people followed them more, perhaps there wouldn’t be need of people reminding them once in a while 🙂 Some may be a bit obscure, for example the 9th commandment “build a universe inside a machine”. That will make more sense if you read my credo, which also comes from the spirit of the depths (in that case I could be more rational and connect more easily with the spirit of the time).
If you feel there is wisdom in these words, and that even if they come from a jester they are more positive and helpful than the words of hate that surround us everyday, then please share, and feel free to make fun of me if you want. Cheerio! 🙂