Manufactured Desire

Toilet light–what every household needs

Manufactured consent + manufactured desire = population control?

I don’t feel controlled, do you? That is the secret of our surveillance society. We don’t feel tracked or manipulated. What Amazon knows about you is based on the information you’ve given them freely by using their services. You could say they are merely offering back in an old-fashioned capitalist way better products, better prices, based on your “desires.” Pandora makes excellent suggestions based on my musical preferences, and I keep listening in spite of the ads. As long as Google makes great products for free, who cares if they’re snooping into my life and selling the data surplus? Galbraith explained long ago that these companies need the predictability of an assured level of demand to maintain profits, which is what the data surplus provides. That the tech companies do this very well makes the whole array of intrusive products inevitable. No turning back.

What possibilities are left for the individual? Debashish Banerji’s Seven Quartets of Becoming offers some clues. It is a dense and difficult presentation of Sri Aurobindo’s own yoga practice based on his personal notes. The notes are written in a code that requires a skeleton key to understand. Struggling through the pages, it begins to dawn on the reader that we are being given a map to switch our mode of being to a center where “choice” and “desire” spring not from our normal nature, but from a deeper source, the inner core of the conscious individual operating from a creative will, not a reactive reflex. It sounds too intense for an average Joe like me. For all of us average Joes, the issue is so much more subtle than the sense of being controlled or not. It’s that our default passivity allows our feelings and desires to be channeled into a groove of comfortable mediocrity. Besides, if truth be told, comfortable mediocrity is a welcome escape from the tyranny of the workplace. Manufactured consent, manufactured desire, the tyranny of the workplace, is there any real way to opt-out?

Banerji makes it seem impossible(from page 60): “technologies of behavioral conditioning and non-local access are bringing worldwide populations increasingly under subjection to personally marketed forms of instant gratification based on stimulation of craving.” Despite what I wrote earlier, how do we know our choices are not thoroughly socially conditioned?

Aurobindo wrote that it takes a revolutionary personal effort or a general evolutionary progression to achieve what human beings are capable of. In other words, if we want to opt-out of the hypnotic consensual hallucination of this banality we call the common-sense reality, we have to make an extraordinary individual effort. Even then, success is not guaranteed. Personal weaknesses, external forces, all gather to pull you back in as you try to crawl out.

Aurobindo practiced deconditioning of desire, moderating his responses so as to bring to them an “equality of inner reaction.” The still point. To find it, to live in it, offers a concretely sensed reality of an infinite being inside and in everything you meet.

It is the soul, our inner core that forever was, forever is, and forever will be. Only we don’t know it’s there. It is our true self. As Jesus said, we must lose ourselves to gain it. The pearl of great price. It will haunt us until we find it.

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