One of the things that fascinates me about conspiracy theories is how the idea of mass false consciousness is all cool and wonderful when it’s in a movie or a book, when it encompasses a huge magical, mystical, or hypertechnological organization or force that nobody knows about.
But of course, when you present someone with arguably real cases of false consciousness, the standard reaction is annoyance, backlash, and insistence on the rational, sensible wisdom of the consumer. People will defend freedom of choice even when the choices are more limited, more demonstrably unhealthy that other alternatives, and more costly than choices that were widely available to their grandparents. People will defend the most unhealthy choices in the name of defending freedom of choice, as if freedom of choice in itself is an absolute good, even when when one’s realistic available choices have been increasingly hampered and marginalized out of cognitive (and market) availability.
Choice is something removed from context. In a room full of bottles of slow-acting poison, a man who celebrates his freedom of choice is a madman, but if he’s been convinced everything in the room is good for him, and if those poisons have been laced with enough sugar, he will not know this to be the case.
The Meatrix, which I found a link to on Kat’s site, is clever, intelligent, it pushes the fact that we live in a state of false consciousness about where our food comes from. The red pill is held out before al of us, but the thing is: the horrors of factory farms are not really new, not even to people who hide their head in the sand and claim not to care, claim to find that the beef and pork they gorge themselves on is loaded with antibiotics to be more delicious and nutritious than “organic” meats.
The problem, then, is that while Leo goes right on ahead and takes the red pill, most people in the world just take the blue pill, not from ignorance but because they already do have some sense of what they’ll see if they take the red pill, and they can’t emotionally, intellectually, or otherwise deal with the real consequences. That, or they just don’t care anymore.
In a very frustrating conversation with a friend lately, it was that apathy that struck me the most painfully. Apathy is a horrible, horrible thing when you look it in the face. If it’s as widespread as my friend things, then it’s a sad fate our species will face. What creatures we are, how sometimes magnificent but how horribly lazy and willful and poor in spirit.
And they will blame their gods for these weaknesses, after they have let the very necessities of life crumble away.
UPDATE: Sunday, Dec. 5th, 2004. I would like to just note that none of the above is a personal indictment of the friend mentioned in the post. I’ve told him explicitly about what frustrated me during our conversation. But as a quick-capture of human thinking in general, and North Americans specifically (as they are the people I’m most familiar with), I think this is a kind of indictment, yes. When my friend said, “I don’t CARE! I just don’t CARE!” and “I don’t WANT to change,” when I asked him why he so vigorously defended the choice to ignore facts and dismiss science out of hand, I could see he was far from the only person to feel that way. It explains a lot of what mystifies me and saddens me about my fellow humans.