There is growing awareness amongst Americans that our society is in decline. Faced with debt, inflation, unemployment or underemployment, worsening standards of living, as well as moral decay, people increasingly realize that something has gone horribly wrong. How do we respond to this realization? Many of us become inured to worsening living standards but do not act to change the world. Convinced we will never accomplish anything meaningful, we seek temporary escape by resorting to pointless vices that fulfill our desires in the short term and require the least effort.
Our ruling class in this late stage of American Empire appears to have taken inspiration from the Roman Empire in several ways, including how Rome maintained its own power. Despite our leaders’ widespread unpopularity, they keep us hypnotized with “bread and circuses”, i.e. just enough sustenance and the right distractions to keep people fighting each other so as to prevent a general revolt. Just as in Rome, our rulers still provide us with approved entertainment; indeed, today’s Marvel movies are far more effective propaganda than Roman circuses could ever have been. However, with bread quite expensive nowadays due to the west’s economic and proxy war on Russia, to stave off the revolutions our ruling class has instead turned to new numbing substances and activities.
We no longer need limit ourselves to the liquor store or the pharmacy, after a psychiatrist provides us our drugs of choice, a routine society has learned not to question. Now, we can also check out that new cannabis dispensary that recently opened or even go to that ketamine clinic in a nearby strip mall. The expanded variety of legal drugs may be new, but this tactic to sedate the masses is tried and tested. Why, for example, was Prohibition repealed early on during Great Depression, in 1933? Bringing back legal alcohol was another way to keep the working class divided and weakened by permitting widespread drunkenness that hampered efforts to organize.
Would you rather avoid intoxicating substances altogether? Not to worry, there are myriad ways to keep you compliant- I mean relaxed! Why not binge-watch another Netflix series, loaded with bourgeois propaganda, gratuitous violence, and pornography? No attention span? Try social media. You will still worry about your problems, but the algorithms will at least guide you into a gentle trance-like state of scrolling, liking, and sharing without any stopping cues. And if the above options sound too lonely, not a problem! Simply download more dating apps and find that next stranger to hook up with. Just don’t come off as the sort of quixotic, boring prude who expects love in return.
Western corporate propagandists want us to believe that it is perfectly healthy and normal to cope with life’s setbacks by escaping into a virtual reality (VR) orgy while doing hard drugs. But this couldn’t be further from the truth. Just as capitalism has alienated workers from production, hedonism and escapism work in tandem to alienate us from ourselves and the natural world. When we seek refuge from painful emotions to feel better in the short term, this dissociation prevents us from all working together to substantively improve the material conditions that compel so many of us to numb ourselves with mindless media and addictive drugs in the first place.
As healthy coping mechanisms become a thing of the past, conservative ideologues like Jordan Peterson have filled a gap in the market by reviving the forgotten art. As a result, many leftists have mistakenly spurned regular exercise and a healthy diet for being part of some “right-wing” ideology. Rather than offer a coherent antithesis to the individualistic myth that self-help can solve all our problems, the western Left seems to have abandoned personal responsibility altogether. Now more than ever, it is imperative that Communists correct this error by promoting a healthy and disciplined lifestyle.
Not only must we fight back against our destructive vices, but we must replace them with constructive ways to bring us happiness. There are many different constructive ways to enjoy your free time: spending time with friends and family, playing sports, cooking, learning a language, gardening, painting. All of these activities help strengthen the mind, body, and spirit. Can anyone honestly list these as benefits of watching pornography or gaming all night long? Not without first performing some impressive mental gymnastics.
Personal discipline does not entail working constantly and renouncing any sources of pleasure. In fact, we must live a balanced life in order to avoid burnout, as this author learned after I repeatedly burned myself out while neglecting self-care. Recently, I noticed that my tendency to put aside hobbies or personal relationships has impacted my efforts in writing and educating. Since I genuinely loved the work I was doing, I felt no need to pursue other things in my free time. I have since learned the importance of making time to take breaks and do something else, but I still have a long way to go. For the longest time I had trouble coming up with an answer whenever someone asked me, “What do you do for fun?”
I will admit that I am a “boring” person – these days I hardly watch any TV or movies, and I do not remember the last time I played a video game. Not because I think there is something inherently bad about these forms of media, but because my mind is always running and cannot shut out everything else for me to focus on a screen for extended periods of time. In order to completely relax and take my mind off work, I require doing something to exercise both my brain and body. One activity which meets these requirements is lifting weights. Not only does it relieve my stress instantly, but it has also significantly improved multiple aspects of my health and brings me long-term satisfaction, as I can make gains lifting heavier weights over time.
Today it is easier than ever to engage in hedonism ad libitum. Learning how to live a more balanced and meaningful life can difficult, especially at first, worth it is well worth it. By cutting out the many distractions, we can focus our best effort doing what is most important to us, rather than frittering away our days on what won’t nurture us or empower us to help others. Our time and energy are limited and we must put them to good use if we are to reach our full potential as human beings. Think of it this way: today an imperialist practiced a new language, and a fascist pumped iron at the gym. How did you spend today?