The alarm clock just isn’t loud enough to wake us from the dream
The Myth of Human Intelligence
Zen Buddhists often say something which at first may sound counter-intuitive, but is actually most profound: “the mind is a prison”. According to this concept, all of us can become consumed by our thoughts, preoccupied by them to such an extent that we become hijacked, ceasing to pay attention to real events and stimuli from our outside physical environment. The real world becomes another version of the fake reality that exists in our head, as opposed to the one and only reality that it should be: the place where real people live and die, and happy and tragic events occur. Events which, had we been awake, we could have had a personal influence on. Instead, we become bystanders in our own world, Earth. We become observers, treating the real world in the same way that we treat our inner “constructed” world: regarding it as a series of thoughts and images that come and go. Whereas we used to be able to tell the video game apart from the real world, everything is now a video game. This, is the most dangerous form of “intelligence” that I think the Buddhists refer to. Every time we are preoccupied with our professional image, our personal identity, the past or the future, the result is the same: we are entering a world that only exists in our head. This inability to stay in the present and give it the importance that it deserves, is the opposite of Mindfulness. Living in the “mind prison” is increasingly the predominant way in which humans use their brain, the main way in which they exist. The consequences for us and the planet are beyond tragic. Unless we wake up from The Dream, we surely risk sleeping through the movie all the way to the bitter end.
Our own brains have made us dumb.
Ironically, the advanced brainpower of humans means that they are much more susceptible to the “mind prison”. Our brains have the ability to resist the real world, and construct their own reality. We are much more capable than other species to override internal cues from our hormones and instincts, cues that are sometimes good to ignore, but which nevertheless are important. They are the source of much of our emotional intelligence and spiritual compass. Ignoring them completely is yet another way of shutting down our ability to respond to the outside world.
I hate to resort to sci-fi examples, but I think the Cyborg race in Star Trek was a prophetic vision of what is happening to humanity today: despite being more “connected” than ever with each other, they literally couldn’t see in front of them. All “manual controls” had been completely disabled. They lived in their brains, in one shared brain that decided for them. Their vision had atrophied, because they didn’t need it anymore: they had created their own vision of the world they wanted, which existed in their head. In one of the episodes I remember that they had taken over Earth. As they didn’t care about the physical world at all, they ended up completely trashing the planet.
Is Climate Change a fake simulation? Yes, according to much of our brain
Although much has been said about climate change deniers having a cognitive issue, the opposite could be argued: I believe that their brains are super efficient in constructing their own reality. Climate change denial and apathy are side effects of a type of intelligence that is not the type we need right now.
Over the past hundred years political propaganda, marketing and advertising, and more recently the sophisticated and targeted digital media channels that have arisen have all tried to access our “prison brain” in order to monetise it. The result, when it comes to climate change and the ecological collapse, is that what used to be real has become a Hollywood movie that our “prison brain” falsely thinks it can turn off, or simply change the channel to Planet B. The specific way in which we increasingly consume media and news has played a big role in this.
In functional terms, news has merged with entertainment, meaning that our role as a media consumer is confined to bringing out the popcorn, to observing passively, as opposed to critiquing, debating, forming an opinion and even taking action and responsibility in response to the news.
Sure, you may say “well, I’m not like that, I’m smart, educated etc etc” but if you simply observe your behaviour you will notice this. You can be the smartest person in the world and still sink into mental habits, which are more powerful than any “mental will”. The ongoing destruction of the planet is nothing but a reality show that we are watching from a safe distance live on our screens, sitting in our couches, without any conscious sense of the significance of what we are watching, of the fact that structures of the planet that have been around for millions of years like glaciers, ancient Eucalyptus forests in Australia, the entire insect kingdom, are being wiped out forever.
We know very well what we are seeing on the news, we are not stupid. Our brain simply does not register this information as “real” anymore, because it has began to uncouple itself from physical reality.
Are we Powerless? Or are we Asleep?
We became blind a long, long time ago. This was engineered to benefit capitalism and consumption
We often say that we feel powerless to act, which is very true. But I think part of this feeling of powerlessness is that we know very well that we are trapped in our zombie dream: our role as a citizen was long ago reduced to simply observing, with the sole purpose of being exposed to product advertisements in between the news headlines. Our role is not to be an active member of society anymore, because this would not suit the politicians, and it would be an unwelcome distraction from bringing out the credit card to buy stuff advertised while we “read” the news. Being an active citizen is against the economic and political system that has brought this planet to its knees.
Our role as “information consumers” is actually to be consumers, period. To feed the capitalist, CO2-emitting machine that creates the climate change which creates the news in the first place.
Decades of this media “zombification” across the population have made our strange passive relationship to news a permanent fixture of society and a fundamental element of how the world economy works. Our zombification means we are not actually processing the images that are coming in from around the world as actual, real events. They might as well be a movie or other form of entertainment. We are watching the world be destroyed, and our reaction is exactly the same as watching the movie Independence Day or similar. It’s not real and it will all pass when the movie is over.
We need fewer zombies, more alarm clocks as well as more “alarmists”. We don’t need more news coverage
Many climate activists have continued to raise the issue of lack of coverage in the news, but more coverage won’t help by itself. It will lead to more hypernormalisation, more sleep, more conditioning and desensitisation, more complacency.
The more images our brain is fed, whether real or fake, the more they get sucked into the black hole of the “prison brain”, becoming part of the fake hyper-reality. The prison brain gets stronger, not weaker.
So the problem is much bigger, it is existential and social. It requires enacting laws on how news is aired and consumed. It requires re-educating people to debate, critique, to see, to actually see and internalise the news that is playing on their screen where people and animals are dying, in real time. To wake up from The Dream. We are all too sick to do this ourselves, it will require a conscious awareness of the nasty game that the media, governments and corporations have played on us.
Our brain functions are fast becoming “basic” to say the least. Re-establishing consciousness is the first step in leaving the Mind Prison
As with any muscle or organ of the body, the human brain needs regular exercise. Unfortunately scrolling through social media, playing games on the smartphone and reading “opinions” in the news without stopping to form our own opinion does not count as the best type of brain exercise.
Escaping the Mind Prison will take conscious effort to understand the toxic relationship we have with information, our decreasing ability to interact with real humans in live debates, and our separation from the physical and natural world. This conscious effort is difficult when most of us are actualy unconscious