Front Row Seats To The Construction Of Hell

There is no way to truly perceive the nature of the universe or process our existence within it. We are biologically flawed that way. Any entity stuck inside a gravity well under the influence of space and time can only perceive shadows and echoes. There’s no getting out of Plato’s cave. It’s just more caves. Call it a series of tubes if you will.

But there’s a lens of meaning that acts as a safety net; it can keep us from going nuts or killing ourselves. This lens is largely just the default ideology of the society we are born into. The idea of God was/is a huge part of this. It was always there to act as a stand-in for the unknown, to explain the unexplainable. Reinforced through ritual and shared experience, God was as real as the dirt under our feet. But God was always just a tool, no different than spear or spade, programmed to defend and maintain whatever system produced him/her/it. But as technology progressed, it allowed us to kill the old gods in our heads. How can an bearded old man living in the sky who made the earth in 6 days exist in the same realm as a robot that lives in your pocket, predicts the weather, orders you a taxi, and broadcasts unlimited porn? To still believe in God, you have to change what he is and wants. You have to change God’s origin story. You have to give him a gritty reboot, maybe even a punchy sequel. God 2.0: Rise of The Spicy Chicken Sandwiches.

God, like everything else, is now produced under capitalism. What exactly does that mean? Capitalism is a mode of production that relies solely on an algorithm that takes surplus value created by workers and gives it to owners. To have owners, property rights must be enshrined above human rights. A reality must be created where a person can own a tree, a mountain, an hour of another human being’s life, or even thousands of hours. It has to be upheld in the minds of workers and owners alike. Workers need to believe that one day they can be owners, and owners need to believe that if they stop owning, they’ll become workers. There’s no freedom to escape, just the constantly diminishing odds you’ll become rich, which is disguised as a type of freedom. This of course is a rigged game that leads to vast, boundless chasms in wealth and power. God himself becomes a dizzying centrifuge of dispossession. In the vast history of humanity, a mix of conflict and cooperation propelled us forward. Now, the force that reproduces our civilization is simply a cold, worldwide machine of systematic exploitation. This algorithm of exploitation that governs every aspect of our economy and underwrites almost every human relationship has produced widespread alienation across the entire planet. People experience it as part of the natural world and view it as human nature itself. It’s nothing more than a powerful computing operation that a bunch of wealthy ghouls unleashed on the earth a couple hundred years ago to maintain power, but now almost everyone thinks it’s a natural law because it feels as immutable as gravity.

Because we are forced to provide for ourselves through a system of exploitation, the worst parts of our nature are rewarded, and the best parts are punished. This, predictably, has turned us into monsters, and what kinds of gods do monsters create? Not any good ones I promise you that. They can range from the militarized American version of Jesus that conservatives use to punish people for the sin of being poor or non-white, to the embarrassingly inept tech oligarchs that neoliberals believe will solve climate change and send us to Mars. There is no faith in each other, in humanity as a species because we only see ourselves under the black light of capitalism, as blood-soaked monsters shrieking in the dark. This system smashes authentic communities and creates individual consumers because individuals are easier to control and exploit. The only thing we are permitted to do collectively is go insane. And our experience of this hyper-reality feels like a drug distilled from our own powerlessness.

Once capitalism triumphed globally, and the algorithm was fully in charge, reality, like everything else, became just another commodity. We were free to choose our own version of past and present. But these choices were largely made for us, dictated by consumer and cultural preferences. There’s a cable news or Youtube channel for almost anything you want to believe. You can get nutty with it, believe the earth is flat or there’s a dungeon under the TJ Maxx on 8th street that Brad Pitt and the mayor use to sacrifice Capricorns. You can believe whatever you want; there’s never any consequences. The store always has your stuff.

While the collective lens we use to make sense of the world fractures, becomes a kaleidoscope of madness, our individual shape-shifting gods are all on one accord in the material world, building something unspeakably horrific. And as long as we are paralyzed by the spectacle, entangled in a web of the hyper-real, there’s nothing we can do but watch. We have front row seats to the construction of hell, a hell we can’t even fathom the extent of yet.

“Oh wow they built a giant thermostat that controls the entire planet, wonder which way they’ll turn it? Ok, 10 degrees hotter. Seems like alot.”

“Oh neat, a really fast remote control airplane. Wait, now they’re attaching missiles to it. That can’t be good!”

“Oh look at all these cameras everywhere, and they’re connecting to the police, who now have tanks and automatic weapons and secret units that aren’t accountable to anyone, yikes!”

“There’s a bunch of microplastics…please, anywhere but the water supply. Ah, of course.”

’“Check it out, a mechanical landlord that buys up houses by the thousands and you can’t destroy it because it exists in this dimension where it’s only alive on paper but has more rights than a person. It’s a half-phantom, half-machine house gobbler that also controls the courts and cops.”

“I haven’t seen many bugs lately or heard as many birds. I wonder if it has anything to do with the giant pump sprayer that’s been coating every living thing in weed killer and pesticides for the last 60 years?”

“Oh cool, finally something good! A money printer that prints free money! Oh wait, it only prints money for the rich, what the fuck?”

“I see the Gulf of Mexico has been converted into a massive reservoir of hurricane fuel, which ensures any storm that touches it turns into a cat 4 or 5 almost overnight.”

“They’re draining all the lakes out west, hope there’s a plan to address that besides profit off of the misery that’s set to come.”

Everyday, we are witness to a new installation, and it feels like a dream, and you know what happens when you try to fight in a dream, your arms don’t work. But that’s because the hell isn’t completely operational for us, but for some people it is, and they are discovering their arms work just fine. Nothing burns off the fog of hyper-reality like hunger.

Once the store stops, once there’s no more Doritos, that’s when our arms will work. I know what you’re thinking. “They will never run out of Doritos, there’s just too many!” I understand that. This is what we are up against. Take a look, yall!

This is the closest thing capitalism has to a communion wafer, and it can shape-shift to appeal to any identity or craving. They are presented to the public as little versions of yourself, because you, individually, get to choose which one represents you in the moment. If you attack Doritos, you’re attacking freedom. You’re attacking America. You’re attacking religion. You’re attacking a god. If you even think something like, “What if there was less Doritos but more free clinics?” a little capitalist inside your head will start screaming.

The truth is, all of these chip variations are made from the same slop in the same factories. Most of our products are no different. And workers control those factories, and the slop as well, and the hold capitalism has on us isn’t nearly as strong as it appears.

I’ve seen multiple disasters, and even the most reactionary boomers temporarily unlearn everything Fox News taught them the second their roof is ripped into the sky. After a hurricane, the first thing most working people do is go outside, talk to each other, coordinate any way they can. Having material stakes reroutes ideology almost immediately; we learn to factor in the other as an extension of the self. Your neighbor becomes part of you. They need to be healthy and fed, or they’re going to be your problem. And if you’re the reason they’re healthy and fed, they will most likely help you too. Most people will help you because a hungry you is everyone’s problem. There’s a practicality here, but it breeds a kindness and warmth that didn’t exist before, which gives birth to familiarity and joy. Laughter can be heard above the roaring of generators most nights. And usually it’s only these nights where we can see the stars. Most people down here never see the milky way until their first hurricane eliminates miles and miles of street lights. Sometimes it takes a disaster to see heaven. But once the roads are cleared, power comes back on, and money spends, all it takes is a couple of trips back to the store and then it’s just you again. Everyone starts fading away, beginning with the ones most different from you. Eventually you’re alone. It’s just you and the store. The world restored to you as a dream, that comfortable nightmare where your arms don’t work and all your labor power is wired into the machine.

And that artificial light returns, that black light of exploitation, illuminating everyone and everything. But capitalism can’t keep it energized forever. It’s already starting to flicker. Eventually that flicker will transform into a garish, violent strobe. Will we seize up? Swallow our tongues? Choke to death on the floor of a half-built hell? It’s possible. Disaster can bring out the worst in us too. Or will that strobe give out first, exposing the brilliance of the milky way. What will we look like to each other then, under the light of a billion stars?



Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store