Freedom and Reality
From Plato’s Cave to Dostoyevsky’s Grand Inquisitor to the Wachowskis’ Matrix, artists and philosophers have pondered just how much reality—and freedom—humans can bear.
The Spectacle redefines freedom as the right to consume what we're forced to want; the right to appear like everyone else; the right to think the thoughts required for the effective maintenance and expansion of our military-industrial infrastructure.
For many, this kind of freedom is easy, and for an obvious reason: It isn't freedom at all. Genuine freedom requires an unflinching dedication to reality. Reality often causes suffering, but a poignant, human suffering ripe with potential for growth and redemption, unlike the long-term soul-killing deadness inherent in the faux freedom offered by advertising and consumerism.
This is why, as the great Russian writer Dostoyevsky understood, most lay their freedom at the feet of someone or some group that tells them what they want to hear and absolves them of the awesome responsibility of becoming truly human. That may lead to happiness of the “ignorance is bliss” variety, but never to actual freedom, which requires truth. Saying “the truth will set you free,” Jesus went even further by making truth a sufficient condition of freedom, which, in a higher spiritual sense, may be so. But at the very least, it’s required.
Plight of the Prophets
For those seeking freedom and thus willing to face reality, there’s no shortage of prophets detailing our history and documenting our slow-motion corporate coup d’état. But these modern-day prophets have much stacked against them. Their reliance on evidence, logic, and nuance has rendered their critiques ill-suited to the perceptual capacities of an image-centric populace. Their messages are marginalized by the mainstream media. Where they do get a hearing, their warnings are ridiculed by the shrill triumphalism of self-righteous sycophants and drowned out by the inane laugh-track saturating our infantilized culture. Their insistence on facing stark realities is anathema to a population born and bred in a ubiquitous entertainment bubble, desperate to remain asleep.
Despite this massive resistance, world events have forced millions into an uneasy awareness that reality isn’t as it’s often portrayed, and changes in our relationship to truth will be necessary to avoid—or at the very least, survive—the threatening catastrophes.
The first question is whether we want to. The second is whether it’s too late.
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Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Grand Inquisitor, from The Brothers Karamazov
Jesus Christ, John 8:32