Working out an escape plan

Dave – the editor

Preamble

In this piece – Breaking free 17.4.22 – I looked at how the bastards who presume to rule over us lock us into their matrix, making it nigh on impossible to break out. I tossed out a few random ideas on how we could start to break out. Only random ideas though, just to spark a discussion to see where we can go in finding ways to escape from their all suffocating, dystopian high tech matrix and start to build the free and equitable world we want. To come up with anything seemingly more coherent in the way of an escape plan would be a) arrogant beyond belief and b) pretty much impossible given the complexity of the matrix that’s sucked us in. Having said this, I’ll carry on producing pieces like this, throwing in a few suggestions each time to see how they run and if they’re implementable in the medium to long term.

While there’s an increasing urgency to break out and go our own way, there’s one major hurdle. That’s convincing people that remaining in a de-humanising high tech matrix with an ever increasing level of surveillance and control over our lives is not a healthy long term option. As was made pretty damn clear in the cartoon I used to illustrate the Breaking free piece, the bastards know how to keep us in their poxy matrix: “The best way to keep the prisoners from escaping is to make sure they never know they’re in prison.” For sure, those of us seeking to break out are a significant and growing minority but…we’re still a minority:( If we’re going to bring about the change we need, we need numbers, otherwise the attempts we make to break free will end up getting frustrated (or worse) by those who presume to rule over us.

How lockdown made us even more reliant on technology

What has made things a lot harder was lockdown and how already existing trends to suck us into more dependency on high tech have been massively accelerated over the last two years. Which is a bit of a paradox, because in the spring and early summer of 2020 when travel restrictions were keeping most people a lot closer to home than normal, we saw a big increase in the number of people walking out in our local countryside which prior to March 2020, was pretty empty. People were certainly getting out and about and starting to appreciate what they had on their own doorstep and that was welcome:) A fair number of people with more time than normal on their hands – and access to a garden or a plot of land that could be guerilla gardened – started to take a healthy interest in growing more of their own food. There were some encouraging signs of a bit of a shift in priorities.

However, the downside was that lockdown with all of it’s attendant restrictions made a lot of us considerably more dependant on technology. From schoolkids and students accessing online ‘lessons’ and ‘lectures’ at home through to many professionals working from home, there was a shift from face to face contact to trying to interact via a screen. Ask any city or town centre cafe, restaurant, bar or pub owner and they’ll tell you that many members of the laptop class are still opting to spend a fair chunk of their week working from home while their takings struggle to recover and they face the grim prospect of closure. In the first half of 2020 with travel restrictions making it hard to visit distant family members, we had to rely on video chats which were a piss poor substitute for face to face contact. From our experience we can tell you that an eighteen month old toddler does not understand the concept of a video chat! On a considerably more serious and tragic note, there were those whose only way of accessing a funeral was by a video link. Even worse than that were those who because of ‘Covid restrictions’ had to say goodbye to their loved ones via a video link. For that, there can be no forgetting or forgiving…

Then there was the acceleration of the move towards eliminating physical cash. A trend that was already happening before March 2020 but in the name of reducing the risk of transmitting Covid, has been rapidly accelerated since then. A trend that’s not going away anytime soon as we found to our cost back in February when we were in Bristol and went to the Llandoger Trow pub. We ordered our drinks, proffered our cash and were very snottily told that they did not accept cash. Suffice to say, we walked straight out and went to a pub down the road that was very happy to accept our cash:) As for the vaccine passports, the situation varies a lot from country to country but at least for the moment here in England, we’ve won a temporary reprieve from the imposition of them. However, eternal vigilance will be required to thoroughly vanquish that threat once and for all. As you can see from all of the above and the many other examples we haven’t mentioned, the two years of the Covid crisis were heavily leveraged to bring about a situation where we’ve all been sucked into being more dependent on technology.

Enough! We have to change…

With the ‘Metaverse’ and AI, there’s a push to try and con people that immersive online interaction can be as enriching an experience as real life face to face contact. As seasoned Luddites, we say ‘bollocks to that!’ If we have to explain why to some readers of this post, then to be honest, you’re lost:( The problem is that the last two years have conned a lot of people into thinking that in the absence of real life, face to face contact, AI is a pretty good substitute. Like it or not, there are a fair few people actively buying in to this ultimately de-humanising technology, thinking that somehow, it’s going to enhance their lives. Those who have allowed themselves to get sucked into this dystopian high tech matrix see no problem in the rest of us getting dragged along with them. We have got a fight on our hands. However, there are a number of angles we can take in arguing for a lessening of our dependency on technology as a first step towards freedom…

A society that’s increasing its dependency on high tech will be consuming a lot of resources and energy in the process. Let’s take just one example, the ever ubiquitous smartphone… That sleek looking smartphone in your hand comes with environmental and social costs as indicated in this piece: Smartphones Are Killing The Planet Faster Than Anyone Expected – Mark Wilson | Fast Company | 27.3.18. The irony is that with the various systems of social credit in trial where you get ‘rewards’ for ‘environmentally responsible behaviour’, it’s all tracked and monitored on a smartphone that carries a heavy environmental cost in its manufacture. This is what the the erosion of the ability to undertake joined up thinking in a society of distraction and spectacle is doing to people – blinding them to the real costs and harms of the technology they have to use to monitor their impact on the environment. Seriously, you couldn’t make this up if you tried!

Weaning ourselves off technology

So, the first stage is trying to make people aware of how they’ve become over reliant on high tech and what the social and environmental costs of that are. Yes, I know I’m typing this out on a laptop so how can I even start to criticise others for using high end technology? I’m using a laptop that with enough care and attention, I intend to carry on using for a good many years. I use three digital cameras, two of which are coming up for their tenth anniversary – they do the job I want them to do so why fork out on a new camera? I have a smartphone which I intend to keep going for well over the two year period of the contract I signed. When that phone eventually packs up, I’ll be ‘downgrading’ to a so called ‘dumbphone’ which needs to spend a lot less time plugged in and charging up than an electricity guzzling smartphone does! When it comes to how we at The Stirrer/Grassroots Alternatives carry out our political activity, the intention is to move towards making as much of it analogue as possible using print and good old, real life face to face contact.

Technology in an ideal world would be just a tool to make our lives easier and to free up our time for more face to face contact and/or, being out in nature. We’re not complete Luddites – there’s a place for a certain amount of technology. The problems started when technology moved from being just a handy tool to becoming a ubiquitous and controlling force in our lives. The problem is that it was, and is being done in such a way as to make a lot of people think it’s desirable – sugar coated oppression that on the surface is made to look like liberation. This people, is what we’re up against…

Possible escape routes and ideals to aim for…

The way society is structured makes a clean break from high tech dystopia almost impossible to pull off in one hit. It really is a case of taking baby steps and bringing in small changes that can help wean you off relying on technology. One example of what’s being done at an individual level but is also part of a broader movement is the battle to keep on using physical cash where possible. When you spend physical cash, what you spend it on is a lot harder for the authorities to monitor and control. Unlike card and phone payments which can be tracked and if the powers that be feel it’s necessary, controlled so that you can only spend your ‘money’ on what they deem to be suitable for you. The scenario where your online commenting is deemed to be unacceptable by the authorities so they punish you by restricting or even taking away your ability to spend digital ‘cash’ is no longer the stuff of science fiction – it’s under increasingly serious consideration: Government Mulls Money That Can Only Be Spent on Approved Items – Mind Matters News | February 25, 2022. This is why the battle to keep physical cash is so vital because ultimately, it’s about preserving personal freedom and choice.

Alongside of this, we have to start thinking about, developing and/or adopting parallel economic systems: Theory of Complementary/Community Currencies – LETSLINK UK. The change we want can come about by slowly developing robust parallel systems that fly under the radar. Systems that when they use technology, use a form that’s reliable, secure and under our control. That particularly applies to communications technologies. It’s also about knowing when technology is not applicable to a situation and reverting back to older, analogue ways of getting stuff done. It’s about genuine, grassroots mutual aid and solidarity. That’s anything from community food gardens through to neighbourhood food kitchens and food banks. It’s about creating our own social spaces where we can meet up on our terms and conditions. It’s about rebuilding a sense of community and the trust that keeps that community together. It’s about properly connecting not just with each other but also with nature and learning that we have to live in harmony with it rather than dominate it. For a number of resources that can help you on the journey, they’re listed on the Links page on our sister blog, Grassroots Alternatives.

As stated at the start of this piece, it would be arrogant beyond belief to have a plan already laid out for how we can unplug from the matrix and go our own way towards a more humane, more in tune with nature future. It’s going to be a case of experimentation and learning as we go along. That means learning from the mistakes that will inevitably be made as well as the successes. It means accepting that this will not be an easy journey and at times, it will be tough. When we start to get closer to a humane, connected future that’s at one with nature, it will have been worth the struggle…

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