There are 2 ways in which we go about our daily existence: sober on reality and drunk on fantasy.
How often do we drift between these two mental states throughout the day? One moment we are aware and paying attention to our environment and surroundings, most often at school or job, a split second later we are lost in a fantasy world whether it is simply daydreaming, or the point of this article: watching a YouTube video, playing a video game, or reading a book (no matter if the book is fiction or non-fiction).
Why is that? Why are we in an almost constant need of escapism? Why have we associated happiness with this drug? Yes, I’m calling escapism and entertainment in today’s society a drug, if a far brighter mind than mine hasn’t already done so. And I will go so far as to say that entertainers (authors, comedians, YouTubers, video game developers, sports teams, casinos, etc.) are drug dealers. That’s hyperbole, dear reader. I’m not 100% serious in calling them drug dealers, but if you take the time to think about it, there is a ring of truth to it. Not to mention the definition of the word drug:
A drug is something that causes a physiological change, addiction, habituation, or a marked change in consciousness.
From my perspective, that is exactly what escapism and entertainment are in today’s society: a drug. Not only are many forms of entertainment addicting and habit forming, like gambling and video games, but they also lead to a sedentary lifestyle. Sure, entertainment is not on the same level as an illegal narcotic, but neither is coffee and it is a drug. Some forms of entertainment will often keep people awake when they should be sleeping. Some forms of entertainment can bring financial ruin to peoples’ lives.
If you don’t think escapism and entertainment are drugs, then go ahead and try to quit all forms of them for a day, a week, or *gasp* a whole month! That’s no TV, no books, no movies, no music, no video games, no apps, no YouTube, no concerts, no sporting events, no casinos, no art, none of it! Aside from any aggravation and frustration you might experience from not having anything to do with yourself and being “bored”, you might be surprised at the benefits. You might find yourself. You would probably awaken whatever part of you has been sleeping underneath all of the entertainment you have been soaking up and piling on top if it. You might even find out what it is you want truly to do with your life. Or you simply might find yourself enjoying the quiet without the constant bombardment of stimulation.
But take a look around and see for yourself: entertainment has become an industry. People have become addicted to movies, video games, sports, gambling, books, toys, collectibles, trading cards, and so on. I’m sure you’ve seen the videos of the stampedes at Wal-Mart on Black Friday. I can tell you first hand that I have been playing video games, watching TV, watching sports (not so much anymore) and going to the movies ever since I was a kid. That’s 40 years and counting of being addicted to entertainment and giving my money away to people within an industry that has not empowered nor educated me and has only helped better their lives.
There are various reasons we escape into the various forms of entertainment. The primary reason, and the purpose of this article, is that our lives have become meaningless. If the reality of our daily existence was meaningful, then the fantasy of escapism and entertainment wouldn’t be the industry that it is today. I’m not saying your life on a personal level is meaningless. Believe me, I’m a huge proponent of people making their lives meaningful. You have to make it meaningful in today’s society. Life itself has no inherent meaning beyond our purpose to eat and drink (and find a mate, if one wants). We need a sense of meaning and purpose in order to maintain some form of sanity and happiness in what can be an often insane, illogical, depressing society and existence. That is what I mean when I say “meaningless”. In today’s society, we are no longer engaging in the daily activities that make us human. We are no longer in control of our own lives and destinies. Many of us have to work for others in order to buy the food that others control. We are no longer living, but rather existing and constantly escaping from said existence. Where once we were often busy all throughout the day performing meaningful tasks like hunting, preparing for the hunt, cooking the food we gathered, maintaining our shelter, etc., we now perform tasks that often have no meaning and are not satisfying just to earn an income. And we don’t question it, because if we do, the realization and reality of it all is depressing.
Yes, the work you do, whatever it is, may be meaningful to you. That’s great! I mean that without any sarcasm. You are very lucky because not everyone is able to do what they love for a living. I’m not here to say that everyone should quit doing whatever it is that they love and go live out in the wild. Nor am I saying that we should all truly stop buying entertainment. Although one could perhaps argue we should if we wanted to change the world and how we go about living our lives. I’m not here to argue that everyone must give up entertainment and we must all go live out in the wild! Not only would that be hypocritical of me (“do as I say, not as I do”) since I still engage in escapism myself, but I would also be telling people what to do, and I’m not here to do that. I have no ideology. I have no plans on becoming a leader or dictator. I just want to share my thoughts and conclusions in the event that I can reach one person that thinks the same way and let them know they are not alone in how they think.
The purpose of this article is to analyze, critique and question how we go about our lives especially in regards to the amount of escapism and entertainment that we engage in. That’s my whole point here: to step back and see the forest for the trees, share what I see with the world, then quickly go back to burying my head in the sand by playing video games in order to escape the horrors I just witnessed! Well, not video games, actually editing videos for my YouTube channel.
Most people have nothing to do when they are at home. They are not building or maintaining their shelter. They are not farming. They are not crafting or repairing their tools used to hunt and fish. What are they doing at home? Sitting around trying to pass the time because they are bored. That’s because what they are taught at school or the work they do at their job has absolutely no relevance to their home life, in most cases. That in itself is a disconnect. People often live two separate lives: the life at school or at work, and the other life at home.
Think about it: when you are taught history, algebra or almost any other academic class besides language, do you come home and sit around talking about history or performing random algebra problems for fun? No. When you are at work doing any multitude of things, especially those in the service industry or working at the office, do you come home doing the same job? Again, no. That is the disconnect. When we think about our ancestors, everything they did revolved around their entire existence. When they were home, they were maintaining their shelter, preparing and cooking the food they obtained from the hunt, preparing for the next hunt, growing crops perhaps, repairing their tools or making new ones, teaching one another, practicing medicine on one another, communicating with one another, etc. Even children at a certain age learned a lot of life skills needed for daily survival. They didn’t live separate lives like most of us do today. They were living. Sure, our ancestors or certain indigenous people had leisure time. We are not meant to work 24/7 no matter what type of society we live in. But leisure time was just that. It was not an industry.
We escape because the “real world” is, just like the definition of escapism says, banal, not satisfying, and full of things far more horrific than any fictional work. We escape because we realize we are no longer autonomous and no longer have dominion over our own lives. We escape because we are bored and have nothing meaningful to do at home, and sometimes at work. Unless of course you are an artist, but in that case: your livelihood is escaping into your art and creating escapism for others. And plenty of artists still escape in other ways too. We escape because we have become too dependent on others to provide for us, whether it’s being dependent on farmers to provide us with food, or dependent on finding any job we can so that we can make money to buy the food from the farmers, or we are independent artists and business owners dependent on the masses to buy our product (book, cupcake, film, tickets to our concert, watch our videos, etc.).
We escape because we are no longer free, have become powerless, and have lost dominion over our own lives.
Once upon a time, we were dependent on nothing but the earth to provide for us. We had the tools and knowledge to hunt, forage, farm, practice medicine, create and maintain tools and shelter. We were free to live how we wanted without interference from anyone. Sure, there were warring tribes and raids. Life was hard! But that’s life! Life isn’t mean to be easy, nor fair! Perhaps we are meant to live competitive lives like every other animal on this planet. Perhaps we are meant to war with one another. Maybe we are not meant to live as the docile creatures we seem to be turning into. That is a separate discussion to have one day.
This is the harsh reality that myself, and many others, perhaps even you, have come to realize over time, and perhaps with age and gaining more knowledge about the world and society we live in: how truly powerless we are, especially over our own lives. How dependent we have become on “jobs”. How irrational and illogical modern society is to the point where we need to constantly escape from it. And that’s a problem. It’s a problem because we are not taking reality head-on, uniting as one species, and coming together to find a better solution to the way in which we exist in today’s society.
Since there is no such thing as perfection, there is always a better way.
You might argue that becoming a writer, a video game developer, a football player, an actor, etc., empowers people. To that I will say: it does not truly empower people. The author, video game developer, musician, football player, horse jockey are dependent upon people giving them money. And where do people get their money? From jobs. Jobs that are not guaranteed. Jobs that often are unsatisfying and meaningless. Entertainment and escapism do not contribute anything substantial to the world. They do not provide food, shelter, or healthcare. They only continue to perpetuate the cycle of dependency. The majority of people are dependent upon someone else to run a business so that jobs are available. Instead of waking up every day and being self-sufficient and in charge of one’s own life by fishing, foraging or hunting, perhaps with a young child to teach, instead we go off to work for someone else, doing everything we are told even if it is humiliating hoping to keep the job and hoping it will be there the next day. And as a family, we often go our separate ways: our children go one direction (to school) and the adults another (to work) only to reunite at the end of the day with nothing in common to discuss about the events of the day. That is yet another disconnect: how modern society has splintered the family unit.
Entertainment and escapism keeps the masses asleep. If you constantly find yourself escaping into entertainment all throughout the day, you are not paying attention to the real world. And you are not doing anything to gain control of your life. And the constant escapism allows others in control to continue to shape society. Of course, part of that is the fact that even if we all gave up our escapism and entertainment today, right now, we still wouldn’t have control. Our lives are still dependent on jobs being available. But if every person were to stop buying and consuming entertainment and products, then you would see the true power that people have.
All my life I have drifted in and out of reality and fantasy. I am not sure of the exact percentage, but there isn’t a day, much less an hour, that does not pass without my escaping reality. Whether it’s intentional or not, I was and still am often daydreaming about something. Daydreaming as a kid at church or at school, daydreaming while cooking at the McDonald’s job I once held, while performing data entry at a 9 to 5 desk job I once worked, while in a meeting, while even in the middle of a movie that’s supposed to keep my attention, etc.
The main reason for this is because I was, and still am, not doing what my body and mind were designed (via evolution) to do: toil in the natural world. To hunt, forage, gather, build, fix and tinker all throughout the day, with some leisure time throughout as well. Reality is not keeping my mind occupied enough in a healthy manner, or a manner that is truly satisfying. Also, I am not exerting myself enough physically throughout the day to where I would become naturally tired and sleep through the night without the need of a sleep aid. Of course, barring anything that would be a threat and cause us to wake in the middle of the night. By the way, that is an inherent safety mechanism: your ears never stop listening. They are constantly active even while you’re asleep. That’s a trait developed over the course of evolution. It is what kept our Cromagnon ancestors alive while they slept in caves without locked doors. And that’s why when you hear a particular sound during the night that is either loud or unusual, your ears will tell your mind to wake up.
In the early 1970’s I was born into this modern society that was already setup. I had no say whatsoever in its design. Neither did my parents, or their parents before them. We were powerless. We had and still do not have much say in the decision making processes that happens here in the U.S., and perhaps other countries as well all across the world. All we get the chance to do is vote. As a kid and a teen, even in my twenties, I had no idea how the world really worked. I thought going to school to get an education in order to get a job was just what you did. I didn’t question it. Until I hit my thirties.
Aside from that, everywhere else I looked as I grew up there was a constant bombardment of escapism and entertainment. Everyone was trying to sell me their product, whether on TV, down the road at the movie theater, at the toy store, the toy section of the department store, and at the book stores. Buy my book! Buy my magazine! Buy my toy! Watch my cartoon! Eat my cereal and get a toy! Watch my film! Listen to my music! And so on and so forth.
Once upon a time, entertainment was just a leisurely, past-time thing and hobby that we did in between the important daily activities that occupied our minds: hunting, foraging, maintaining our shelter, crafting tools, cooking, etc. Now, the reliance and importance appears to revolve around entertainment. We don’t even question where our food comes from, or who’s even making it or in charge of it. At least, not to the point where we stop buying our food from supermarkets, otherwise the supermarkets would be out of business. Supermarkets are another glaring reason as to how powerless and dependent we have become.
Today as I write this, there is an irrational amount of fantasy to escape into than ever before: multiple video game systems, computer games, games on the smart phone, smart phone apps, internet games, casinos, all manners of sports, various streaming services that host their own programming, a ton of table top and board games, and of course toys, films, more TV shows than ever before, cartoons and an ever-growing number of books. There is enough escapism in today’s society that you don’t even have to pay attention to what’s going on in the real world. People, myself included, are being kept in a sleep state, so to speak. The more we escape into these fantasy worlds, the less we are involved in reality. And the less we are involved in reality, the more others have the chance to shape our reality with their laws and business practices. I know this sounds like crazy talk or conspiracy theory, but it’s true if you take the time to think about it. We have no say in the laws that are written.
And speaking of government, and capitalism, while I don’t want to get too political here, government and capitalism are also fantasies. What is fantasy? Fantasy is merely idea. And government and capitalism are merely ideas on how we should live our lives. They are not universal laws. They are not set in stone. We are not bound by them for eternity. We can change them if we want. We can create a new form of government and economy, or do away with them altogether. Or if we can’t do away with them, we can escape from them by going off the grid. But how many people have the knowledge to that? Not many. But we do have numbers, and that gives us power. And when it comes to government, we should have more power and say in the laws that are created. But I don’t want to get into a whole thing about government and capitalism here. Another time. I simply wanted to make a point that government and capitalism are as much a fantasy as a video game or book.
We no longer have the every day skills and knowledge to be self-sufficient and autonomous that our ancestors once did as they roamed freely on the land. We spend too much of our lives escaping from one fantasy world into another. Play a video game, watch a YouTube video, watch a TV show, play an app on the phone, back to YouTube again, now read a book, maybe make art, listen to music in the background, drink some alcohol and get buzzed, etc., etc.
We have given up our independence, our self-sufficiency, our dominion over our own lives, to those who make the laws and own the food. We have become too dependent on others.
I am not saying that we must give up our fantasy worlds completely. It’s healthy in today’s society to have some escapism. How much? I don’t know. I’m not a psychologist. But it is definitely out of control. Entertainment should not be an industry. Entertainers should not be making millions of dollars when they do not truly empower those who need it most. We have to somehow get back to a point where reality wins out over fantasy. Not just to be aware and awake in reality, but to retake control over our own lives so that we can once again have the autonomy and dominion over our lives like our ancestors once did.
Until then, this is the society we live in, and it’s not going to change unless we want it to change. But I don’t think that will happen for two reasons: a) modern life is too comfortable and convenient, despite having to work jobs many people hate, and b) the wealthy elite few don’t want to change anything because it would be a threat to their power and income.
So as I write this here in the middle of October 2018, I find myself focused more on reality. I haven’t played a video game in about a month, though I feel a slight urge to do so. I just don’t want to fall into that fantasy world when I know I’m not doing anything with my life while playing a video game. I still go to the movies or watch them on TV, but I’m not enjoying them as I once did. I haven’t had alcohol since late 2017. I don’t read, although I never was a big reader. I still am addicted to the drug of sugar. That’s my biggest weakness. I am not depressed as I once was when I was younger. As I write this, I am content, and in a state of analysis, in a search for meaning. I go through this phase every so often.
So here we are, right here, in the present moment in this society. What do we do with this information? Well if you have the knowledge, you could leave society and go off the grid. But that’s not very realistic nor feasible for most of us. So continue to enjoy your entertainment. No, I’m not being sarcastic. Unless you want to stop soaking up entertainment altogether and see what happens. That’s your choice. But for those living in any major city across the world, it’s impossible to return to a more natural lifestyle close to how our ancestors once lived. There’s no land in the heart of the city. It’s been replaced by asphalt and buildings. The only way would be for you to leave the city completely and I doubt you have the kind of knowledge.
We’re handcuffed. Right here, right now. We don’t really have much of a choice in today’s society but to continue to consume escapism and entertainment to keep our minds occupied while at home or while at the various jobs we often hate working just to earn an income. There’s nothing to do when you’re sitting in the room of your house, apartment or flat. So escape, by all means, but perhaps exercise more moderation while doing so.
However, if you are struggling in this life, especially financially, I would advise you to hold on to your money. Stop buying entertainment. It does not truly empower you. You are putting money into the hands of people and an industry that will do just fine without your money. Save your money. Maybe invest it in something that can empower you, even if it is buying the tools necessary to create entertainment yourself, despite everything I’ve said here. Yes, you can empower yourself so that you might find a way to gain more money, but at the end of the day you are still reliant on that vicious cycle of others having money in the first place to buy whatever it is that you are selling. You are not truly empowered to where you can break off from society completely and become self-sufficient. Being empowered in today’s society simply means making money off of other people making money.
I fear we have come too far and that there is no turning back to how we once lived, not merely existed like we often do in today’s society. And so I, perhaps like you and so many others across the world, will continue to drift in and out of reality and fantasy, trying to find that happy balance between the bitter, cold truth of existence, and the happiness-induced euphoria that is escapism.