Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Life Outside the Matrix: The Inability to Forget

Life outside the matrix.

I wish sometimes I lived vicariously in the hyper-reality of televised “reality” shows like so many of the US population. Sometimes I wish that celebrity culture was my thing and nothing was more pulse-raising than celebrity tweets. No. I don’t wish that because of course those things nauseate me.

But really what I wish is that I could forget and join the crowds in the matrix. I wish I could forget about all of those people whose lives were disrupted severely by Hurricane Katrina. Years later so many of the people who were tenuously connected to the economic system of New Orleans, but firmly connected to the culture, are now rootless, aimless and despondent.

I wish I could forget about the people whose lives were utterly devastated in Haiti. The American media have forgotten about. Why cannot I? The media have forgotten their utter desperation and the spread of diseases like cholera that we thought banished in the early 20th century.

I wish I could forget about the people in Indonesia and Southeast Asia whose lives were torn apart by a tsunami of epic proportions. After dazzling the American public with voyeuristic images of oncoming waves destroying lives, the media moved on also from that disaster. I don’t believe I’ve read of Indonesia being reported on at all outside of Wall Street Journal accounts of the opportunities for investment in trans-national corporations able to expropriate Indonesia’s natural resources.

I wish I could forget the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The media have forgotten. The carcasses of dead baby dolphins or sea turtles occasionally grace mainstream media pages, but primarily as human interest stories devoid of consideration of the broader and ongoing eco-catastrophe and the human suffering associated with that catastrophe.

Long-time suffering and despair sell no papers or glean no internet hits compared to the porno-novelty of the latest, newest disasters.

The long-lasting effects of Fukushima will grace the pages of news media for two days in 20 years as the public is exhorted to remember. Nine months of continuous release of radioactive contamination will cause animal and human suffering in the form of cancerous diseases and malformed offspring.

The film and images of the children of Chernobyl tell us what to expect for our own species. Yet, the children of Chernobyl have been invisible across the decades. They are remembered only so that the media can produce a novel spectacle of horror for a day or two. Then they will move on.

Fukushima will be no different. Indeed, the forgetting is already being coaxed by government and nuclear industry collaboration. The problem is over. The radiation is gone. We will not report on it. It will go away because you will not hear about it. Those temporarily frightened out of the matrix are being coaxed back in. The media accommodate with images of excess (royal weddings) and pure spectacle (the death of Bin Laden).

Years from now children in Japan will be born with organs outside their bodies. Others will be born with extreme bodily distortions. Infants and children alive during the disaster will develop leukemia and thyroid cancer. Their parents will lose years of life. Their plight will not exist. Nor will the scattered spikes of cases of cancer and birth defects within the US.

They will not exist because they will not be reported upon. Epidemiologists may recognize them but they will not arouse public concern. Everyone wants to forget even while disasters are ongoing today.

How long can the matrix hold before the deluded US public recognizes the incredible and deadly turbulence and risk of our age? Can they forget when it is their children who suffer from water contaminated by fracking fluids, or the poisons of spilt oil, or ionizing radiation, or general dispossession?

Life outside the Matrix?

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