TV, Netflix, movie theaters, eating, dieting, drinking, iTunes, Spotify, shopping malls, online shopping, retail shopping, smoothies, ice cream, frozen yogurt, coffee, boba, cosmetics, gasoline, insurance, dishes, silverware, video games…
Everything we experience within our world can be distinguished as either Consumption or Production. Consumption is everything listed above, and obviously millions of other activities, hobbies, past-times, daily necessities, and rituals we conduct or take part in nearly every second of our lives. Production is everything that comes from or is achieved by our own efforts, and results in the creation of something new. The degree to which this ‘something new’ impacts ones self and others can be a substantial factor in determining the value of the production or resulting product.
If you’re anything like us, you’ve seen an explosion in technologies and services which allow people to engage in unfettered Consumption of materials which take months and years to produce, in a matter of minutes. This was not the case decades ago when all audio-visual entertainment was delivered only in real time via the Television or movie screen. There was some delay between when a show was made and when it could be viewed. This grounded us in a reality where the relation between hard work and content production was visible. Now we hold dominion over vast libraries of media content, to be consumed at will, ad infinitum. This transition in how much more easily and readily available the tools of our own passivity are is the difference between a farmer in rural China who farms and smokes his own opium, and a junkie in New York City who finds a suitcase full of heroin. And the result is clear: binge-watching is the new opium of the masses. Ourselves included.
From an article in Science Daily:
“Psychological factors such as loneliness, depression, and self-regulation deficiency have been known as important indicators of binge behavior in general. For example, people engage in addictive behaviors to temporarily forget a reality which involves loneliness and depression. Also, an individual’s lack of self-regulation is likely to influence the level of his or her addictive behavior. Therefore, this study tried to understand binge-watching behavior from this set of known factors.
“Even though some people argue that binge-watching is a harmless addiction, findings from our study suggest that binge-watching should no longer be viewed this way,” Sung said. “Physical fatigue and problems such as obesity and other health problems are related to binge-watching and they are a cause for concern. When binge-watching becomes rampant, viewers may start to neglect their work and their relationships with others. Even though people know they should not, they have difficulty resisting the desire to watch episodes continuously. Our research is a step toward exploring binge-watching as an important media and social phenomenon.”
Despite this step towards exploring the impact of binge-watching, it is, in theory and in practice, no different than “channel-surfing,” the term used to describe an activity that “couch potatoes” did when they were given hundreds of channels and were neither entertained by nor able to engage with any of them for more than a second. And “bibliophilia” precedes both of these “important media and social phenomena,” by centuries. There is nothing new under the sun. These habits all still fall within the see-saw of Production versus Consumption. And if you look back upon your own childhood and and on modern society as a whole, we have all been trained to primarily be Consumers. The only difference among the bookworms of the 1800’s and the binge-watchers of today, to use the metaphor again, is the difference between taking a codeine cough drop and mainlining pure Afghan heroin. Don’t be fooled by any stigma you may hold for drugs or their users: the chemical effect for both instances is the same. And in that technology is used to increase the efficiency, speed, and performance of a process, the mainlining metaphor is quite apt.
Unism asserts that the only way to find true happiness – the happiness that come from sensing and serving ones’ purpose in life – is to Produce. This is supported by the drive that most people experience in their 20’s or 30’s to really “make a difference” in life, which propels hundreds and thousands of people to engage in volunteer, charity, or other humanitarian work, in an effort to relieve themselves of the guilt and passivity that are endemic to the life and role of a pure Consumer. These are noble impulses, surely, yet more importantly, they reveal the conclusion which every adult in a Consumerist society will face after years or decades of working a job that earns them nothing but a paycheck, spending the majority of that paycheck on a living space they do not nor will ever own, and spending the rest on items of no value or artificially inflated value. It is a conclusion wherein we are all left feeling alienated, disconnected, and disenfranchised. Even those thought to be suffering the so-called “midlife crisis” are subconscious victims of this conclusion, despite their often selfish ways of manifesting their solution thereto. It merely took them half their life to realize how unfulfilling and un-gratifying their existence as a Consumer was.
But we don’t have to wait till we are 30 or 40 to take our lives into our own hands.
We can do so now.
We can take daily, achievable steps towards relinquishing our Consumer identities, and adopting a sense of self which is rooted in what we contribute to our surroundings, what we produce.
Despite our conditioning since infancy towards passively soaking up the lights and sounds of the television, we were all made for this time in human history. Anyone who is surviving in this world was built for it. By continuing to live, you are proving your ability to exist within societies such as these, and you are more capable than anyone who existed before you to navigate this dystopia and break free from its passivity and acknowledge the truth which has been hidden from all public discourse: that everything is transformable. We are not doomed to any one set of rules or standards; if we refuse to accept this world and to built another, it is only up to us to actually follow through and realize it.
It all starts now.
We’ll see you in the circle.