I had a revelation today about disillusionment. I’d never really thought too critically about what the word means; it’s one of those where I know the appropriate context to use it, but not much else. Thinking about it today, however, I realized how disillusioned I am. That is to say, I don’t buy the illusion of our world anymore.
I grew up through adolescence living a double life of sort. My day-to-day world consisted of an education I received little gratification from, being bullied, and feeling almost wholly disconnected from the world save for my parents and close friends. I’ve never been terribly fond of the real world, preferring others in the form of media and, above all else, my own imagination. This, I believe, is what led to the rise of my life that was my second (but not my Second Life™). I began frequenting message boards and IRC channels online around the age of eleven, and have never really known a time without myself having an online presence ever since. The web had a lot to offer a depressed pre-teen. You weren’t judged by anything other than how you communicated with people. I’ve never been particularly eloquent when speaking, but with online communities I found a voice – not to mention an invaluable support network.
Through these communities, I met people from all over the world when I had hardly even left my own state, save to visit a town just over the border (A mere half an hour drive). I felt my predisposed notions constantly melt away from directly interacting with people from all walks of life. Despite coming from a small, rural, conservative community, I quickly came to accept things that were otherwise taboo for me – homosexuality, different religious philosophies, and the idea that America has some pretty major flaws. And I learned. I learned about world cultures, movies, and music. My horizons were expanded far beyond what my hometown had to offer, and I was hooked. I literally cannot imagine who I would be today without having had all of these different people touch my life, and I am eternally grateful for what they have done for me.
That brings us to today. I keep in touch with many of my online friends from over the years – moreso than most people I went to high school with, even. Message boards have fallen out of vogue, but paved the way for modern social networking. I am an avid redditor and use Facebook more than I care to say. The effects of years of online interaction has turned me into an absolute information sponge. This is why I am disillusioned. I don’t bury my head in the sand when I hear something I don’t like. I accept challenges to my beliefs. There’s a quote I recall on this subject that I can’t source, but it essentially says that a piece of straw blowing in the wind that is rigid will break – but a piece that is flexible will dance in it.
This has led me to realize that everything I know is arbitrary. The Roman Empire was once the pinnacle of civilization for hundreds of years; what will the history books say about America? I think there will be a lot of negatives. Our society is full of transient status items promoting intense consumerism and waste (How many people paid $700 for the original iPhone? How many people still have that iPhone?). The vast majority of our food comes from industrial farms; food subsidies are rewarded to the foods that are the worst for us, and few companies – primarily Monsanto, A.K.A. the fucking devil – control our agricultural market. Lobbyists for corporations control the American government on the left and the right. We spend more money killing people in other countries every year than we do educating our own citizens. For most of my life, my country has been at wars with an enemy that cannot possibly be exterminated: “terror.” Presently, a man named Santorum is being taken seriously by many as a contender for the presidency. We are made to believe that this is the status quo. After all, this is just how things are! Things have always been this way. All the way back from… the 1950s, maybe. Wow, what a long time.
Status quo is an illusion. Authority is an illusion. Structure is an illusion. How would someone from the middle ages feel if they time traveled forward to our day and had our world explained to them? A lot like you would feel if you were sent 600 years forward. There are no constants or absolutes. In the various studies of science, this is well accepted. The prevailing attitude there is to constantly test and try to break our current notions of how things work in order to see if we can possibly understand physical laws better. Why is this not the norm with other fields of studies? Likely this is due to the difficulty in perceiving historical changes at the micro level versus the macro level. People assume there was a direct cut off for various periods of histories, rather than understanding the contiguous evolution of societies. We make a lot of very small changes on the time scale of years and decades, which add up to very big changes on the scale of centuries and millenia. There is a direct analog to our own personal development. Do you recall the direct cut off point that you stopped wetting your pants and were completely able to rely on going to the bathroom? Was there one distinct point in your life where your personal philosophy stopped valuing Matchbox cars and started focusing on the larger world around you? Likely the answers are no, because the overall change happened as a result of many small modifications over time. My philosophy now is largely different from that of what I believed at age 15, but there is not a clear demarcation of when the change occurred. I can, however, name influencing events that moved my thought processes in new direction. That is exactly how history works.
When an idea is presented that challenges the idea of any establishment – even the establishments of your own mind – there exist exactly zero good reasons to not critically evaluate your understanding of said establishments against what you have heard. And when facts are presented that unquestionably prove you wrong, to ignore them is foolish. People change, the order of power will always be shaken up, and after all of this, all that you have is your current understanding of the moment. Don’t get so caught up on preserving the status quo, because the status quo will change regardless of your attempts to defend it. In the world we live in, where global communication happens instantly and revealing information is released despite systematic attempts to squash it, it is unreasonable to remain static and unchanging. If only the world were full of more disillusioned people, we could accomplish so much for the benefit of everyone.