Consuming the Internet

by Antonio Dias

We consume the internet.

A movable feast.

Lights kept on by a belief that someday it will “pay.” Or. that it is just too good an attention trap to let it go.

It’s supposed to be easy. It’s supposed to provide visions of “freedom.” Where free means there is no up-front cost to us. Somebody else will pay in the end….

We have been transitioning from its passive consumers to content providers. This trend heavily promoted. Every new social-media app, every site, designed to facilitate our desire to put our lives on-line.

As financial bubbles follow one other, rising to burst leaving a foul smell, farts in a bathtub. The internet has been highly praised. If nothing else, it keeps so much of our activity within a medium so easily hoovered, collected. Stored for future reference. For when the trials can begin in earnest….

Here we are. I’m writing this. You’re reading. We all surf social-media, scan feeds.

We’ve become what civilization wants us to be, an aggregated commodity. A revenue stream. Another crop.

The internet’s backers, the people keeping the power on, the ones paying for all those servers and cables and micro-wave towers; consume us.

Welcome to the conflicted world of our entangled complicity.

This is where we live. It affects us whether we are aware of its dynamics or not.

Awareness, just might bring the possibility of insight….

*

“Sell-out!” And its doppelganger, “Get a job!”

Mirrored accusations limiting our capacity to do anything but repeat past errors, ad infinitum, ad nausea.

Beneath this polarity is a commonality. Both assume consumption, the commodification of others and our selves, as a given.

“Get a job!” holds an insistence that we give-in to our commodification. Pushed to join in a capitulation to the inevitable. At the bottom of this sentiment lies a reserve of self-loathing. Guilt. A sense of failure, “If only we had done something!” We know not what. We suffer a failure to avoid the need for this surrender. Even as we find it harder and harder to see “the job” as anything but a losing proposition.

“Sell out!” Is its flip-side. Anger and self-loathing arising from anxiety. We have, again we fear, not done the right thing. We’ve rebelled, but not thrived. The sell-out shows signs of “success.” We’ve neither been lucky enough to cash-in, or able to find a way past selling-out. We doubt we could ever manage it. Whatever that might entail.

Both views joined in our fears. Dogged by failure. We cannot escape. Fear externalized. Dressed-up as anger at the other. At an embodiment of our projections. In the end, as with all extreme emotional states, it’s about us, not them.

In the world before domestication habit and instinct were aligned. In that world an awareness of vulnerability was not hidden from us. It was clear. Illusions of power and security, or salvation, were possible; but mostly self-correcting. Hubris quickly extinguished by Nemesis.

We went out on this limb…. Unlimited power – first through slavery and other forms of bondage, and then with the “slaves-in-a-barrel” of fossil fuels – offering access to illusions seemingly without limits. So long as this Ponzi-scheme had sufficient “externalities” available to exploit, this illusion could be defended. To and by those addicted to power, having lost their instinctive capacity to see through illusions, lost to the core of power’s capacity to corrupt.

*

“Sell-out!”

“Get a job!”

Refusals to admit our vulnerability. These taunts share in this refusal, our denial of what is.

They are also both right, in a way.

Selling out is a betrayal. Not having meaningful work, mistakenly confused with the role imposed on us by a job, is another betrayal.

Both betray our potential and that of the community we are part of, or might have been part of.

IF the sell-out had not sold out. IF the job-shirker had not shirked. We would all be better off.

What if we accept this? What if we join together in an awareness of shared vulnerability?

Vulnerability is not what it appears to those in thrall to power. It is the root of any viable, vital strength. We conflate admitting vulnerability with defeat and surrender. When the real surrender is to deny our vulnerability and chase after projections, hating some other.

How do we leave this polarity?

Details bound to specifics….

A first step? Drop the defensiveness. Acknowledge our commonality.

You see, we can’t “win” by defeating “the bad guys.”

“Sure, we get it, but what about them?” We insist.

What appears at first glance to be a dose of “realism” is the mechanism through which we get sucked back down the same hole again. And again. And again.

“The universe is one!”

“Save the universe!”

“Fight the nasty-ones!”

Hold it. The universe is one? Then how are these – choose our foe du jour – outside this unity?

Is it that easy? Can someone just abdicate?

The powerful act like they have abdicated. They imagine they can somehow separate their fates from the fate of the world.

If we accept this, we’re only accepting their hubris, taking it on ourselves.

The other great misunderstanding in our rush to save the world is that salvation is on the table.

A two-parter:

The assumption that salvation can be achieved through willed, intentional action.

And, that the world, outside our fevered, ego-centric projections, has any need or interest in being saved.

The whole thing stinks. The Progressive story as deeply rooted in illusion and denial as that of any reactionary. Justification always available. No matter how heinous the crime. Just ask any perpetrator, “They had it coming!”

Justification, just another ready-made duality keeping us trapped in a single polarity of views as we deny the fullness, the wholeness of the world.

Justification, feeding our Ego’s appetite for delusions of grandeur as we mire ourselves in unintended consequences.

*

Looking at our situation without leaning on momentum is exhausting!

Someone in my Qi Gong class remarked the other day, “How can something so relaxing be so demanding?”

We forget how much we rely on inertia and momentum. It’s only when we let ourselves slow down enough to release us from its affects that we can realize what is truly involved. How can we simply be? The key lies in her first remark, “This is relaxing.” Striving raises our stress. We inflict this on our organism. When we eliminate momentum and interact with the moment directly we increase our strength and our capacity to be. This is not enervating or exhausting.

Our addiction to ease is a result of our striving. It exhausts us. When we change our relationship to activity and intention we are invigorated.

*

Here we are, consuming the internet.

Is there a way to do this that can protect us from its momentum?

The internet’s momentum, like the momentum of our civilization as a whole, tends towards ever greater destruction. Towards further alienation and commodification.

If we let our selves be sucked in, we will be carried away.

If we approach each instance while resorting to this medium without momentum, without expectations and trajectories of intention, can we avoid this fate?

At some point this medium will fade away. Not in the fantasies of futurists, our having achieved total separation in some cyber-apotheosis, but as a result of this culture’s grinding, long-term, catabolic collapse. Momentum developed, expectations and agendas that count on this ease, will slam us into a wall.

This tool is temporary. It has enormous capacity for abuse. It is also the only way I can think of right now to transcend distance and the sheer mass of confusion* and reach those few of you who read this….

*I say this fully aware of the irony. The internet replacing the confusion of jostling crowds with a cacophony of its own spewing!

There is no answer here. But as with the rest of our complicity, it is essential to keep these limits in mind as we proceed.