18.1.19

Distracted from Beingness

To be overstimulated at the neural level is not uncommon today, and nor is feeling overwhelmed. But in many or most people’s experience this must feel like chronic panic, and pain. I do not need to query and compare mental health studies when this hyperstimulation phenomenon is biologically stark enough, and by its nature registers universally (like the effects of atomic dust on the quality of normal air).

The breaking news flashes, and fragments, the shrapnel of news, it hits us in a series of jolts and shocks to the nervous system, also gut punches to our brains, depending upon how much one consciously cares.

For the rest -- who are somewhere else, putting out personal fires, reporting to a bad job, distracted, not exactly caring about the macro, aching from confusion and fear -- stress has been incorporated into everyday life. 78% of Americans live ‘paycheck to paycheck’, including some federal workers, who are living paycheck to nothing, a financial cliff. For one of them, and any of us, ‘overstimulation’ and ‘overwhelmed’ would have worsened already into a state of partial neurological shutdown, loosely speaking. It's a basic state like strain and numbness that leads to shutting off, somewhere in the psyche, and it's not a stretch to imagine that this would impair some neurological activity.

This beleaguered state of the contemporary mind (a space that Adbusters had called the psychological environment long ago, in the 90s) is not breaking news; yet the vulnerable psycho-emotional states of Americans -- especially federal workers at the moment -- are getting discussed by news correspondents nowadays, in some cases as another type of news-spectacle.

It might be good, actually, if psycho-emotional states as their own topic area became so adequately important as to become a permanent feature of journalistic consideration -- but this existential topic is also deployed merely as a form of economic and marketing analysis (like one multinational ad shop that has kept a poll-like rating of countries’ shared angst levels). Our human patterns indeed are analyzed. It sounds facetious to suggest anything else but that our minds already are treated as something to monetize -- that started well before the new media.

Now throw in our government’s shutdown that reduces its workers, our workers really, to ‘indentured servants or slaves’, quoting Don Lemon (on his show, 17 January 2019) when he explained what we are when forced to work without pay, and therefore against our will. (Let’s set aside the question of free will at the moment.)

Throw in a president who thinks international provocations and threats to wall off the southern border are good fodder (and ratings) for his reality show.

Throw into that neurological kettle just about any global news story or current tragedy, such as even the British government and economy circling the rim of implosion.

All of these stories are converted into slivers of our attention-pies, alongside myriad other woes and existential threats, micro traumas piling up on each other in our minds’ cognitive loads, atop an existing neurological condition of chronic overuse (not to mention lack of leisure, rest, or deep sleep). And if you don’t enjoy your job, then you’re really fucked.

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Now then, are you curious to wonder (or, you have already) whether this troublesome world really just recently became this way? You may have wondered whether the instantaneous media simply show how chaotic a world can be, and is, when it is observed (and recorded) as fervently as we have been doing for some time now, let alone broadcasted, re-broadcasted, remixed, recirculated.

Perhaps, more than having exerted such grotesque influences upon our minds, cutting edge sciences and new media have mirrored, reflected, refracted, distorted, but most notably multiplied  opportunities for our care itself to become stimulated. As they say, to have one’s heartstrings plucked -- as well as to have our nervous systems played.

At the same time the ‘ecosystem’ of new media including its global network show us ourselves with such an enlarged scope, granularity, rapidly, and frequency that it produces a certain and distinct self-satire effect -- both of any individual user, as well as the whole spectacular collective show.

To have the perception of this self-satire effect and the spectacular in association with society is a step in the direction of a deeper, more ontological understanding of the human condition.

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