Pushing Your Buttons

The machine needs you.  Not as an individual, but a nameless, faceless cog that keeps the machine operating efficiently. 

“The machine” is the socioeconomic system we all live in.  It encompasses the politicians fighting for control of you, the social media and traditional media companies that need your eyeballs, the marketers that want to sell you shit you don’t need, the for-profit universities marketing perceived status, the movie studios that create vapid, formulaic blockbusters, and even the well-meaning charities that need your support. 

They count on you, me, and billions of others, counting on their ability to suffocate our individuality, manipulate our behavior, and utilize us to realize their agendas.  The two most powerful weapons in their arsenal to exploit us are fear and outrage. 

It doesn’t matter to Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram if you’re pro-mask or anti-mask, pro-vaccine or anti-vaccine, as long as you’re willing to argue about it on their platform. 

It doesn’t matter to Harvard, Yale, or Stanford University if you learn anything from them, as long as you believe you do, promote their brand, and become an alumni booster. 

It doesn’t matter to CNN, Fox News Channel, or the New York Times if you’re afraid of immigrants, losing your job, or global warming, as long as you have fears they can stoke.

News alert by news alert, commercial after commercial, tweet after tweet, the machine discovers which buttons activate your fear and outrage, then the algorithms keep increasing the frequency until you’re completely pliable and predictable.  That process of making you pliable and predictable involves destroying your individuality and critical thinking ability.  The more original and individual you are, the less use you are to them.  And if you rate high in individuality, originality, and critical thinking – you’re a mortal threat to their survival.  

Fortunately for these institutions, most of their work has been done already.  The education system probably neutered your creativity before you were seven.  The games you had to play to develop your career, create financial security and be accepted by polite society probably programmed you what to think.  Every time you picked up your smartphone to read an alert made you more predictable.

Your brain isn’t dead yet, or you wouldn’t be reading this now.  The question is what you do next…


- RG

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Got a very enthusiastic response to this week’s Friday Filosophy newsletter about the need for individualism today.  In it, I highlighted the failures of our institutions – the failsafe, backups we count on – to protect us during this current pandemic.  It seems not a day goes by that another glaring weakness is exposed.  In light of the response I received, it seems like expanding on the topic here would be helpful. (more…)