Living in Dangerous Times

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What (George) Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What (Aldous) Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egotism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumple-puppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that our fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that our desire will ruin us.

Neil Postman, foreword to Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985).

 

After more than a decade of writing on the subject, an increasing number of people consider me an authority on mind-altering drugs and their potential role in our society. If that much is true – and while this may seem like a divergence from my normal subject matter to some of you – let me state that I consider television, and most recently the development of social media, to be the most powerful mind-control ‘drugs’ that have yet been developed, with their effectiveness at influencing and controlling docile (and often legally sedated) populations unparalleled in human history. In their diverging views of future society, Aldous Huxley (Brave New World) and George Orwell (1984) both got one aspect right, for the pen has truly turned out to be mightier than the sword, and exponentially more so now that the official narrative is delivered by a virtual world of colorful moving images. The full effect of this most modern development upon both human culture and human consciousness is still unknown. Most children watch more television than they sleep (and far more than they are schooled) and are more comfortable on computers than they are on bicycles, while virtually all adults these days are semi-permanently attached to a savvy media-device disguised as a telephone, and increasingly feel lost and ‘dis-connected’ without it. We are the children of the Great Experiment, and we march off increasingly synchronized towards a new kind of future for humanity, the end result still dark and obscure.

Perhaps it is because I grew up in the late 20th Century in a small country that for a long time only had independent newspapers and two television channels that (as children) we were largely not allowed to watch (Go outside and play!), but it seems clear that the use of the world-media as a social-control instrument took a new and more dominant form in the early 21st century, and has increased greatly over the past decade with the innovation of the internet, and now, social media. The use of the media as a form of societal influence and control – something that Nazi Germany pioneered some 80 years ago with the then recent inventions of the radio and the moving-picture reel, a future that both Huxley and Orwell famously anticipated – has now flowered into something quite new and unprecedented in the 21st century thanks to the innovation of social media, a Frankenstein beast that now promises to deliver us at least four years of a brutish, narcissistic, and seemingly ill-educated Trump Presidency that even George Orwell would have had a hard time believing.

How did such a thing happen? How have the people of the most-informed society in history become so ignorant, fearful, and superstitious, and perhaps more importantly,  so easily steered that democracy now appears to have run off it rails? (Around 42% of Americans don’t believe in Evolution for example. Around the same number still believe that Saddam Hussein was involved in the 9/11 attacks despite the fact that the Bush Administration’s claims are now considered groundless, if not fabricated). One can consider the fact that in the 21st century, the current state of American Power and Prestige (at least in it’s own people’s eyes) has largely been dictated by two media blitzes of previously unprecedented proportions. Two full-scale re-structuring of our world-view that, coincidently, through a combination of luck and awareness I mostly managed to avoid.

The first of these was of course, September 11th, 2001, which was really the first day of the 21st Century, since this was the day that the Modern World changed forever. I’m sure most of us remember exactly where we were when we first heard the news reports that morning of 9/11 … I was driving to the local hardware store in New Orleans to buy materials to work on the home that I had purchased just a week before when the radio in my truck broadcast the news of the first plane hitting the first tower. (I also remember that Osama Bin Laden was immediately the main suspect, which I thought was strange, since it was followers of the blind Egyptian Cleric Sheik Omar Abdul-Ramen who had nearly brought them down the first time with a truck bomb.) Then by the time I was at the paint-store, the footage of the 2nd plane hitting the tower was being broadcast, which I mistakenly argued must have been the first. (How could two planes hit the twin towers? was my logic – the Air Force must be ready to shoot anything down within 50 miles after the first plane struck I mistakenly thought. The idea that two planes could hit the two towers that far apart seemed incomprehensible.)

I didn’t own a television and within a couple of hours it was easy to see that this was the beginnings of a 24 hour-a-day media blitz of previously unknown proportions. In response, I kept my own (foreign) head down, offered no opinions, read the few newspapers I trusted, and just worked away on my old wooden house the best I could. I didn’t yet have internet at my new house, and while I had an AOL account and an email address, other than blogs I was unaware of the primitive social media of that era. I do remember some two or three months later seeing a different clip of the 2nd plane hitting the Twin Towers in a bar in New Orleans that had a TV on late-night and instinctively let out a “Wow!”, and everybody looking at me like I had just climbed out of a cave, since no-one could believe that I had not seen the footage before. But what I did observe (in equal amazement) in those weeks after 9/11 was how many (seemingly intelligent and educated) people really seemed to believe that the USA was in imminent danger of being invaded by fundamentalist terrorists, and that it was now engaged in an actual war. Which before too long it was, with Saddam Hussein, who had nothing to do with 9/11 (although Dick Cheney and co. used the media to convince Americans that he was), and in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban, for not giving up Osama Bin Laden. Fifteen years later and nearly 8000 American soldiers have died and a million have come home wounded, along with an estimated 210, 000 civilian fatalities. The US is still in Afghanistan, Iraq is a living-hell, as is its formerly moderate neighbor Syria, and the entire region has massively destabilized which emboldens Iran and Saudi Arabia, and more nebulous entities like ISIS and ISIL.

George Bush and his cronies managed to use up the entire empathy of the planet in a few short weeks, and along with this “War on Terror”, we got The Patriot Act, fictitious “Weapons-of-Mass Destruction”, wire-tapping, Abu Ghraib, and daily debates about the moral validity of torture, kidnapping, and death-by-drones, to name just a few. And somewhere along with embedding reporters with the troops in the 2nd Gulf War that followed 9/11, and largely accepting without question the Bush Administration’s obvious lies and propaganda, real Journalism in America died.

The second great media-blitz that I believe has shaped modern American consciousness was when Hurricane Katrina glanced off my adopted home-town of New Orleans some five years later, and in the aftermath, the poorly constructed canals designed to take pressure off the levee system failed and the Crescent City – the Town that Care forgot – was subsequently flooded and abandoned in the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

By an extreme stroke of pure luck, I was at Burning Man in the desert in Nevada at the time, which a decade ago was probably the United States only true media black-out zone. (Sadly, no more). Katrina had been off the coast of Florida and not even on Louisiana’s mind when I drove out of New Orleans on my way to help build Black Rock City in 2005, but by the time we drove into the desert the Thursday night before the gates opened, the massive hurricane had found its way into the Gulf of Mexico, and it seemed unlikely that New Orleans would avoid it. My fiancee at that time was very nearly trapped in New Orleans. A native-born New Orleanian, she caught the 2nd-to-last flight out of New Orleans (only Southwest was still flying) on a ticket we had purchased months earlier and arrived at Burning Man on the Sunday night, and then early on Tuesday morning, August 29th, 2005, Katrina hit. Still, later that day, after everyone thought that New Orleans had dodged the bullet and while we were having our annual Fat Tuesday Mardi-Gras party at our Burning Man camp, the levees failed, and the city quickly fell into chaos.

It is interesting now, a little more than a decade later, to see how a handful of newspapers, for perhaps the last time in history, play a major role in my memory of the events. The uninvited memory as I was driving into Burning Man of the front-page of a British tabloid newspaper – Jazz City to be Destroyed! – from another hurricane that had eventually missed New Orleans a couple of years earlier. A late arrival bringing a New York Times to our camp two days after the levees failed, with a photo of the top of a crossroad signpost sticking out of eight feet of water just a few blocks from my fiancee’s house. (Which meant we didn’t need to worry about that anymore.) A horrific article in the SF Chronicle about the alleged abuses in the Convention Center and SuperDome–complete with graphic descriptions of rape and violence that turned out to be entirely fictitious–that spooked me so badly I hid it from my fiancee and seriously questioned exactly what had been going on back in New Orleans (mostly lies, as it turned out). Or the front page photo in the S.F. Chronicle, once again of the cops and military kicking in someone’s front door in New Orleans, that convinced me to return to the city while everybody else was being evacuated out.

I remember virtually nothing about the television coverage because after Burning Man, I quickly returned to New Orleans and ignored the mandatory evacuation, choosing to gut the now rotting basement apartment in my two-storied house instead (my home is in one of the oldest–and highest–neighborhoods in New Orleans and only took about a foot of water). By doing so I once again avoided the vast majority of the constant media-barrage that seemed to paralyze most everybody else, and probably added 10 billion dollars in mould damage. In the weeks that followed when noone else was allowed to come home, the city off-limits to civilians after the largest forced migration of Americans since the Civil War, I got to meet a few of the USA’s elite in-the-field media at the various bars still open in corners of the city (most notably The MapleLeaf when we reopened it), and found out firsthand that virtually all of them shared my disenchantment with the state of modern journalism. Many of them had in fact quit entirely after 9/11 and the Gulf War, and then come out of retirement for Katrina. In many ways in its relentless coverage, Hurricane Katrina became the instrument of civil-revenge for the remnants of ‘left-wing’ mainstream journalism against George Bush and his legacy, the last gasp of ‘peoples journalism’ after the terrible damage to the media’s credibility that the propaganda-coverage of the 2nd Gulf War created. (The fact that many media-savvy people now check Al-Jazeera for our unfiltered news says a lot about the state of American journalism in 2017.) The events of 9/11 and Katrina were thus the two greatest blows to the post-World War 2 myth of American Invulnerability since the war in Vietnam, and ultimately to the belief that the U.S. Government was capable of aiding and protecting its own citizens, or even interested in doing so.

It would not have been possible for us to take power or to use it the way we have, without the radio

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda.

It is also interesting – and perhaps even important – to realize that both of these pivotal events in recent American history were (at least for most of us) pre-social media. (MySpace launched in 2003; YouTube in 2005.) Thus the Official Narrative of these two events were the last major ones to have been created entirely by the major media–newspapers and television–something that is almost hard to imagine now only a decade later. Of the two, the first – 9/11– has become the most challenged narrative since John F. Kennedy’s assassination, and thanks largely to the rapid ascension of social media, the most widely-distributed conspiracy theory in history: 50% of Americans have doubts about the official story according to a poll taken on the 12th anniversary of 9/11. The second narrative – the gross mismanagement of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and the failed engineering that had been forecast for decades – has largely been forgotten, despite the fact that the U.S Supreme Court ruled that the Army Corp of Engineers was liable for the disaster, a first in the United States history.

As I have previously pointed out, both Hurricane Katrina and 9/11 were media events of previously unknown proportions — they affected every aspect of American life, they invaded every home, and were virtually inescapable. It is curious to consider the chaos that they would have unleashed into the social media world had it existed at that time. For it has become increasingly apparent to me over the past year that we have been experiencing the third great media-blitz of the 21st Century, one that has lead to the mystifying election of Donald Trump and this radical new, further swing to the right for the United States and its policies. A constant barrage of fear-based rhetoric and propaganda that far eclipses that of of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina in sheer volume, since this latest onslaught has mostly been transmitted by the new hydra-headed form of social media with its seemingly infinite number of questionable outlets.

The frightening thing we are witnessing at this critical juncture in U.S. history is that since many people no longer trust the mainstream media or the elected government after the events of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina (and a host of other increasingly obvious governmental lies) they now take their news – or their world-view if you like – from this same social media that gives voice to their frustrations, a quagmire of opinion, where facts no longer appear to matter. The official narrative has now been replaced with the competing narrative, and at this point, still early in the 21st century, the individual is constantly bombarded with any number of extreme and dangerous views with no veracity filter attached. On social media, the most important thing seems simply to be heard – a fact that the President-elect and his very savvy media ‘advisor’ Steve Bannon – a modern Joseph Goebbels who has compared himself to Dick Cheney and Darth Vader – most accurately recognized, and have now ridden into power.

This often angry and xenophobic rhetoric is most prevalent and most easily spread on social media, where deliberately generated Fake News – now infiltrating institutions as once renowned as the Washington Post – and equally deliberate disinformation, is proving to be as dangerous as any straight State-fed propaganda, and far more insidious. While a new Cold War is brewing over Russia’s involvement in hacking and fake-news dissemination – and I for one have no doubt that Vladimir Putin, the former head of the KGB let us not forget, would use every opportunity and advantage to influence popular opinion in the West – the deeper and more difficult truth is that Fake News is an inevitable result of the new digital-information economy.

In an opinion piece in the online version of the British newspaper The Guardian ( 8 January, 2017) that mirrors many of my own uneasy thoughts on the subject, Evgeny Morozov, the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom writes;

The big threat facing western societies today is not so much the emergence of illiberal democracy abroad as the persistence of immature democracy at home. This immaturity, exhibited almost daily by the elites, manifests itself in two types of denial: the denial of the economic origins of most of today’s problems; and the denial of the profound corruption of professional expertise    …   The problem is not fake news but the speed and ease of its dissemination, and it exists primarily because today’s digital capitalism makes it extremely profitable – look at Google and Facebook – to produce and circulate false but click-worthy narratives   .…  (and) when think-tanks gladly accept funds from foreign governments; when energy firms fund dubious research on climate change; when even the Queen – what a populist, she – questions the entire economics profession; when the media regularly take marching orders from PR agencies and political spin doctors; when financial regulators and European commissioners leave their jobs to work on Wall Street – could anyone really blame the citizens for being skeptical of “experts”?

Morozov – a contributing editor to The New Republic and a visiting scholar at Stanford – then goes on to say: “Apparently, an economy ruled by online advertising has produced its own theory of truth: truth is whatever produces the most eyeballs.”

The result? Well, I would argue that the average semi-intelligent human mind, when confronted by a digital cosmos of debatable information of previously unimaginable and potentially infinite proportions, simply shuts down. Information Overload (as foreseen by Aldous Huxley). If you try too hard to grasp the ‘Big Picture’ from your own little corner of the world, and start disappearing down the infinite number of rabbit holes available on the World Wide Web, you risk becoming, at the very least, enraged or obsessed, and at the very worst, quite mad. I don’t know anyone who claims to have become enlightened due to the Internet, but I know plenty who seem to have become more radical or more confused. And then along with this Information Overload comes Information Fatigue — when the stream of news is so depressing, why bother even reading it, let alone fact-checking it?

So what do we do? We practice how we have been taught to survive and thrive in the Modern Age. We insulate ourselves by specialization and pour the greatest amount of our concentration and energy into some tolerable facet of our lives, some noble curiosity or distraction. Baseball, aliens, organic gardening, marijuana legalization, Burning Man. (Or Psychedelic philosophy, photography, and paragliding in my own case.) Often we become indignant at some obvious injustice in the world, or enthralled by some ancient art or modern miracle. And, thanks to the click-and-bait culture of social media, people now have an active forum to argue passionately about Trade Tower Seven, the existence of an Illuminati, about 2012, or a Flat Earth, or to deny things as seemingly obvious as Climate Change. Few subjects or opinions are taboo or considered ‘too out-there’ to be expressed. And while we can try and keep an open mind to others, another kind of fatigue sets in with every new “Pizza-Gate”; the fatigue of credibility, even the fatigue of “just-not-wanting-to-know”.

I have also witnessed how, since everybody on social media is supposed to be your ‘friend’ in this new digitally connected world, this loud outpouring of radical positions on just about everything has largely turned our own communities against ourselves! For along with this distrust of the media and government that many people are expressing – once again on social media – and this apparent overwhelming desire ‘for their turn to be heard’, I have witnessed an accompanying meanness of spirit and a complete lack of any empathy or interest in listening to any viewpoint other than their own. As the celebrity food-critic Anthony Bourdain said in his first interview after the recent election:

The threshold of acceptable rhetoric right now, the threshold of hate and animus that’s being shown at this point — this really naked hatred of every flavor, racists, sexists, pure misogyny, class hatred, hatred of the educated — this is something I’ve never seen before. And it’s now acceptable!

The last great war against Fascism – World War Two – was in many ways a War of Production, with the workers of England and the Soviet Union, and then finally of the United States, proving to be the difference against the mighty Nazi war machine. After the war, for a period of about 25 years, largely thanks to their role in the winning of World War Two, the workers and the middle-class in the West were (statistically) the strongest they have ever been in human history. In England, the much-maligned Labor Government took power after the war with clearly socialist policies, while in both England and the United States, trade-unions were powerful political forces until they were largely dismantled in the 1980’s by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher. Thanks to the GI Bill and the increase in production post-WWII, the largest the middle-class ever (by percentage) was in the United States in the mid 1960’s – the era of the greatest internal dissent since the Civil War, and the last time that Universities in the USA were remotely political. The fascist element in the West (let’s not forget that the United States, the home of the Robber Barons and Henry Ford has always had a distinctly fascist streak) steadily realized throughout the course of the 20th century that the way to nullify dissent was to simply eradicate the middle-class, something they have managed to do remarkably successfully since the shifting of the onus of taxation from the Corporations to the work force under Reagan, and the policies of deregulation that Clinton and all other Presidents have continued since.

According to Noam Chomsky, the true role of Government has traditionally been to protect the People from Power, originally from the Crown and then Nobles, and in the 20th century, from the new threat of Corporations. In this respect our governments have failed us miserably by financing politicians who have steadily deregulated the controls on financial institutions over the past 30 years. By increasingly avoiding paying taxes, the top 5% have made themselves exponentially wealthier, while the middle-class has been gutted by the financial instability of the times. According to Wikipedia, in the years after World War II to 1980, the income of the American Middle-Class increased at around the same rate as the wealthy; since 1980, the major increase of income has flowed almost exclusively to the top 1% of Americans. In 2014, in the aftermath of the Housing Crisis, the top 5% in the United States increased their overall wealth an incredible 20%, a virtually-unnoticed increase that surely would have caused a revolution in any other era.

This dramatic increase in the wealth of the manufacturing elite in the United States has resulted in a corresponding increase in power: the top 1% own 35% of the wealth in America. Close to 11,000 registered lobbyists (total Washington lobbyists are estimated to be up to 7 times higher) spent 2.36 billion dollars in 2016 on influencing the 100 members of the Senate and 435 members of the House of Representatives. Thats nearly 4.5 million dollars per elected official, down from a peak of 6.5 million dollars in 2010. (Figures from Center of Responsible Politics). Compared to the access of paid lobbyists, trade unions are powerless to confront or counter this kind of centralized wealth. Nor does the media have a credible voice, since there are no more independent news outlets anymore — everything has been bought and homogenized or disbanded. Meanwhile the Supreme Court–the last bastion in American democracy–ruled in 2010  (in the case of Citizens United in a 5-4 vote) that corporations had the same rights as citizens, and for the first time extended these same corporations the full rights to spend money as they wish in candidate elections federal, state and local. An estimated 1.5 billion dollars was spent trying to influence the last election by the Super PACs and other ‘dark money’ that the Supreme Court’s decision now allows – a 43% increase from the previous Presidential election. (SuperPACs directly financing candidates they prefer now appears to be replacing the active lobbying of elected officials. The number of both licensed Washington lobbyists and the annual amount they spend has dropped by one-third since the Citizen’s United decision – over a billion dollars.)

The political landscape we now occupy comes largely from the tyranny of that Supreme Court decision that has allowed for the final fascist takeover of the United States. (David Bossie, president and chairman of the group Citizens United at the time the case was argued, is now perhaps better known as Donald Trump’s deputy campaign manager.) While that may sound like a strong statement to many Americans, Fascism (using Noam Chomsky’s definition) is quite simply: “When business interests control  government.” (For example, if Rex Tillerson – the CEO of Exxon – were made Secretary of State.) These lunatics seriously believe in this idea of “the Invisible Hand,” the idea that the only thing that is stopping the industry of the world running-like a perfect well-oiled machine, is government and regulations, and pesky things like unions and people. They espouse that left alone, industry and the economy would operate on some perfect harmonic wave, and the future of humanity would be secured, guided by “the Invisible Hand.” The subprime mortgage crash which took out most of the middle classes savings was the latest example of how well that theory works. The unfortunate truth about “the Invisible Hand” is that it operates on a singular requirement: increasing profits. And, as Karl Marx pointed out, the flaw in capitalism is that it requires continuous growth and an unlimited market, and unlike “the Invisible Hand,” we all live in a very finite and bounded world. A world that is getting more crowded and more polluted, along with less habitable and less tolerant, every coming year.

Contrasting this is the disturbing smugness of the Silicon Valley Elite and the rudderless Democratic Party that it largely supports. It’s the same all-knowing smugness that has made San Francisco the most unaffordable city in the world, forced its artists across The Bay into death-traps like The GhostShip, and turned Burning Man from a pure underground-anarchist-artistic expression into The New Ibiza. They possess a naive and childish belief that the world can be changed simply by breaking the old-paradigm down. The same tech-elite who have now had to watch in horror as Steve Bannon and the new social media-savvy Alt-Right has skillfully used American Ignorance and a dinosaur-demagogue like Donald Trump (most likely with the help of one of the 20th century’s last great dinosaur, Vladimir Putin) to turn Silicon Valley’s own perceived ‘information-power’ against itself. The looks on the faces of Elon Musk, Larry Paige, Tim Cook, et al when they were summoned to Trump Tower just days after the election said it all. The employees of the 10 largest Fortune 500 tech companies had contributed just $179,400 from 982 campaign donors to the Trump campaign, while Hillary Clinton raised $4.4 million from the employees of the same companies, with more than 20,400 donations (according to a Reuters review of contribution data found.) The Donald was clearly crowing and serving up some serious humble pie.

Powerless in the face of the overwhelming obvious, Facebook has become our church meeting and our trade-union Halls, while Twitter has become the full extent of our social dissent. (The Occupy Movement, in being incapable of coming up with even the most basic of demands – such as a ban or limit of lobbyists and equally-matched federal funding for elections for example – quickly became the ultimate media storm-in-a-teacup). Twitter – arguably the most condensed of the social media forms, since it consists almost entirely of sound-bites – is also apparently how the next President intends to run the Free World, the greatest Reality-TV show in History whose ratings will be off the charts. A media-circus which the entire planet will be sickly addicted to for the next four years in a traditional-and-social media bombardment of unimaginable proportions, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, twelve months a year, and perhaps never to end. Which is where, as William S Burroughs pointed out in a memorable Rolling Stone interview before he died, George Orwell got it so very wrong. For in 1984, Orwell envisaged a population forcibly drugged and sat in front of a screen to be indoctrinated, while in 2017, we all do it voluntarily. We are hooked, and we don’t even know it.

Crazy shit huh? You can’t make this stuff up. One of the things that the social events of the past twelve months has really clarified for me (a perspective in life that has very much come from the philosophical consideration of my personal psychedelic experiences)is the elemental truth in the Buddhist perspective that we occupy two Universes: the inner Universe which we can to some extent learn to control, and the outer Universe which we cannot, which the philosophers of ancient India called the world of Maya, or Illusion. This new, all-pervading element of social media is very much the outer world, and yet if we let it, it will quickly occupy our inner world as well. Its views – and not necessarily your own – can infect you and your personal philosophy, arousing such powerful emotions that it can turn you against your own family and friends. Which is really a very sophisticated form of indoctrination and mind-control if you think about it.

This is part of the reason I have decided to start 2017 with a personal social media embargo, or by going digital cold turkey for awhile, if you like. I’m not going to stop using the Internet or email of course–that would be the early 20th century equivalent of returning to riding a horse–and as a photographer I will continue to post on Instagram so people can see my work, But I am going to take a break from my personal account of Facebook, and from the hubris of all its opposing views, if only for the sake of my own sanity. I am fortunate to be friends with a number of the most productive artists of my generation, and I have noticed that other than Instagram, they are rarely on social media (or have assistants in charge of their social media accounts if they are successful enough) since they are too busy making art. And so, in 2017, I am going to try and follow their lead, while ducking out the best I can on this super-saturated 21st century media blitzkrieg, just like I did after 9/11 and Katrina.

In doing so I hope to focus on what’s really going on in my immediate world and inside myself, and try and ignore the constant temptation in a moment of boredom to be a voyeur of other people’s lives on social media, out there amongst the trolls and the digital phantoms. I’m going to do more yoga, I’m going to spend more time outside, I’m going to read more books, and most importantly, I’m going to try and write a couple more, all from the extra time I will undoubtedly save. I also believe that I will smile more, because I won’t be thinking about some obvious crap I read on Facebook, or been suckered into some pointless argument about global warming. I’m going to make art take the time to observe the beauty around me in the world while I still can, thinking not about George Orwell and his dark mechanical vision, but of Aldous Huxley’s, the Father of Psychedelic Philosophy, and his much quoted statement that “it is a little embarrassing that after 45 years of research and study, the best advice I can give people is to be a little kinder to each other.” For as allies turn on allies, and friends turn on friends in the easily offended social media arena, as the fascists and their sophisticated mind-control increasingly turn ourselves against each other, few truer words have ever been said.

I encourage you all to try some digital cold-turkey too. Break free for a little while from your social media accounts, boycott FaceBook and Twitter for a week, or a month, or a year, and who knows we might actually learn to like it. Shield yourself and your children from its insidious grip as much as you can, for the reality is, it is increasingly difficult to function socially these days without it. Since I have a new book (hopefully two) coming out in 2017, I will be forced back on social media eventually — any kind of commercial success in the 21st century virtually demands it. But when I do, I intend to carefully structure my time on it, allowing myself only limited access each day and ultimately creating a personal platform of my own outside of Facebook (i.e. my own blog, gallery, and newsletter) for those who are interested in my work, while hopefully not becoming re-addicted to social media’s seductive beck-and-call.

Hopefully there is some young unsung genius amongst us developing a more truly community-based structure for social media, one which de-powers sophisticated platforms like Facebook and Google (that are designed to make a few people exorbitantly rich, and are increasingly being used as sophisticated agents of control), while empowering us, the very people that social media claims to represent. Proponents of block-chain technology claim that this latest technological innovation could one day allow for the direct and fair elections of officials in which we could all easily participate, and something like that would be truly revolutionary. For on the eve of a Trump Presidency, when the whole world often seems like it’s falling into the grip of a crazy dark dream, it’s time to take the red pill and wake back up in the real world while we still can.

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