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Excerpt from What We Leave Behind

Diversions (p. 199)

From chapter "The Real World"

What should, or would—or do—any of us do, living in this culture that is alienated from and destroying the earth, if (or when) we realize that this world would be better off had we never been born, or having been born, if we were to die?

For now, at least, I see several options that many people take.

The first option, that taken by nearly everyone within this culture, is to do everything we can in increasingly frantic, desperate attempts to keep this realization at the unconscious and not conscious level. Thus jetskis and off-road-vehicles, thus Disneyland, Disneyworld, Magic Mountain, and Six Flags over Everywhere. Thus scuba diving and whitewater rafting. Thus the existence of hundreds upon hundreds of television channels, with movies and movies and movies and Deal or No Dealand Dancing with the Starsand basketball game after basketball game after football game after football game after baseball game after baseball game. More and more. Faster and faster. Thus the internet, with its ever-increasing ways—spectacular ways—to kill time. Thus Doom 1, 2, and 3. Thus Half-Life 1, Half-Life 2, and Half-Lifeepisodes 1and 2. Thus Second Life, MySpace, and YouTube. Thus the tidal wave of pornography, sports, financial news, all with their simulacrum of diversity, all with titillation, all with excitement, all promising to transport us somewhere, somehow. Thus the obsessions with Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt. Anyone but those in front of us. Thus the abuse of marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines. Thus so many other addictions, like the stock market, the economy, politics. Thus the frantic-happy, frantic-smiling faces—all of them just alike—on the evening distraction, I mean spectacle, I mean news. Thus toys and more toys and more toys. Thus the obsession with playtime by adults who work at jobs they hate. Thus diversions to divert us from the diversions that divert us from the diversions that divert us from the myriad realizations we must never have if we are to maintain this way of living and to maintain our role in the ongoing destruction of all that is real. And beneath these myriad realizations are more diversions, and more. There is phony meaningless optimism and phony meaningless hope and there are phony meaningless actions like putting plants on truck factories, all keeping us from staring into the abyss of destructiveness that is right now staring straight at us. And all of these phony meaningless diversions divert us from the understanding that our failure to stare at this abyss will not stop it from swallowing us, as well as everyone and everything else. Beneath these diversions there are phony fears of despair, phony fears of hate, phony fears of rage, phony fears of sorrow, phony fears of love and loves: real loves, fierce loves of self and others that cause us to at all costs— and I mean all costs—defend our beloved. And beneath all these fears? A dreadful fear of responsibility, a fear that if we get to this point, if we survive the annihilation of the self that is so meticulously, so violently, so repetitively, so mercilessly, so relentlessly, so abusively, so obviously forced upon each of us in order to allow us to continue to breathe, to work, to labor, to produce, then we will need to take responsibility for our actions and for the wonderful and beautiful and stunningly extravagant gift of our life that this planet has given to us. Indeed, we will need to act, and to act in such a way that the world is better off because of our actions, because of our life, because we were born. And as with sustainability itself, what was at one point as easy as eating, shitting, living, and dying, is now more and more difficult.

We fear death. And not just the death that all experience, but another that scares us far more than the real death that comes at the end of our phony lives. This other death that we fear even more comes before the real death—sometimes long before—if it comes at all. This is the death of our socially-constructed self. Once that self dies, then who will we be? We cannot face the possibility of actually living, of actually becoming who we really are and who we would be had we not been so violently deformed by this culture. We cannot face the possibility of being alive, of living, so we turn, to return to the beginning of this discussion, to jetskis and off-road-vehicles, to Disneyland, Disneyworld, Magic Mountain, and Six Flags over Everywhere. Most of use would prefer our real, physical selves die, and indeed the world die, rather than face the realization that, given our socialization, the world would be better off without all of us who allow our socially-created selves to continue to breathe, to work, to labor, to pro- duce—and that, of course, is the real point.

That is the most popular option for members of this culture.