The Spectacle and the Substance

Photo by John Katrina

The unforgiving torrent of information that bombards us on a daily basis – photos, events, news, marketing, entertainment, memes, spiritual inspiration, motivational quotes, comments, and more – flood us relentlessly through our glowing screens. Many, feeling exhausted or overwhelmed, decide to add their voice to the ocean of data bytes and announce that they are taking a break from it all for a while. But they usually come back for more.

When physical technology surpassed our philosophic technology, we became immersed beings, never taught to navigate such a tumultuous sea of stimulation, and we are wrecking our ships against the rocks of reality as we learn. Weary from the “Sturm und Drang” or storm and stress, we escape, in various ways from the floodwaters – alcohol, painkillers, entertainment, pornography, food, and on and on … and while small and temporary escapes are part of a healthy balance, many have begun existing almost constantly in that “comfortably numb” zone made so famous by rock band Pink Floyd in the 70’s.

The period between approximately 1760 and 1780 is when that storm and stress focus on the extremes of emotion became popular, as a reaction to the fully proceeding thinking in the Age of Enlightenment, in which rationality was considered the bearing and balance point of human excellence. The pendulum swing attempt was in full vigor back toward emotion after a small community decided that sheer reason failed to solve all of humankind’s problems. It was only a matter of time before it would reemerge.

Reason won out until approximately the beginning of the 20th Century when the analytical and continental philosophers took over, trying to decipher between material and immaterial answers for a seemingly immutable and negative human nature. Existentialism and nihilism were claiming life is devoid of meaning alongside analytical philosophy claiming science will lead us down the path to meaning and wisdom. These could very well be considered the underpinnings of the liberal/conservative ideologies that have polarized increasingly across the globe.

Since philosophers failed to “market” their systems to the masses, the people and politicians cherry-picked whatever advanced their personal success. Consumerism was born to fill the void left by vulnerable faith, deficient philosophy, and weak self-discipline. We grew a culture in which identity and personality supersedes thought and strongly constructed logical arguments. The coolest and most entertaining are the new icons of superlative achievement.

“I buy, therefore I am” might be the fair summary of the soulless operating system that resulted from money and celebrity reigning as the supreme measure of success in the United States.

The important takeaway from this background is that, like haute couture fashion, philosophy is at the creative root of new thinking, and the masses of non-philosophers end up adopting (consuming) a watered-down diffusion version of the complete code that become ideologies marketed by political parties. So that thirty-dollar dress from Wal-Mart is as that meme that says, “Just Be You.” The problem with the dress is it’s a commoditized, mass-produced reproduction aimed at appealing to the economically beleaguered mind, craving validation, that attempts to do so fruitlessly with consuming, as the meme that appeals to the desperate mind that looks for and believes emotion is a sufficient substitute for lifelong, painful self-examination. We buy comforting spectacle, not uncomfortable substance.

So, how do we begin extricating ourselves from this vicious cycle of consumerism and begin a virtuous cycle of productive thought? Logically, we know consumerism is bad for us, for the environment and for our souls, but we are addicts, are we not? There is no glamorous or new idea beyond recognition being the first step. And to get to recognition of our condition, we might first recognize the difference between the spectacle and the substance of any and all information that comes our way.

A very easy way to begin distinguishing is to test whether you are feeling strongly about something or reasoning strongly. This is not to say pure reason is better, or vice versa. This is recognizing that consumerism is an emotion driven philosophy, and we need to dial the emotion down and dial up the reason to bring them into balance, better than our forefathers, better than our parents, better than past or present presidents and politicians. Yes, we, the people have it within us to turn the tide, depolarize, and begin building a united citizen body, if we trust each other to work together toward the goal.

We have interconnectivity we never had before. We have data we never had before. We have access and speed of processing we never had before. But like the proverbial kids in a candy store, we aren’t using this abundance positively and in balance. We are binging, getting sick, and then looking everywhere for enemies but in the mirror. The storm and stress are too high and the calm and control too low.

We can build a better, balanced philosophy for the mainstream that is an improvement over the pendulum swings between meaningless absurdity and sheer mathematical explanation of all reality. We need both. We have the work of those that came before us. We are building upon it, and we can together, in an active, living community with an open conversation. This is philosophic technology, this is the OptEvo Philosophic System, and this is The Citizen Body coming to life.

Our comfort configurations, which contain our beliefs and drive our behavior, were not formed with a strong philosophic system, they were installed by the economic forces of consumerism, which became an involuntary modus operandi. And even though we do not have a universally compatible, spiritually sound and power balancing philosophic system in the United States, nor most of the world, we can. If we focus on the things that we are united in, first, we can begin building out from there a better version of our culture, that recognizes and acknowledges past sins, and corrects imbalances of the past. But we should be clear as the finest cut diamond that we will all have to sacrifice and contribute, as this work is ours, as individual self-saviors, not a celebrity politician with the fate of 330,000,000 in his or her hands. And our first step is in learning the difference, finally, between when we are being compelled by spectacle and when we are consciously constructing our actions out of substance.

Published by John Katrina

TCB Member, Father, Co-Founder of The Citizen Body, technical philosopher, and artist.

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