The world is losing its magic. The rivers are no longer deities and the Nymphs that Socrates knew were on his walk with Phaedrus are not acknowledged anymore. Today we live in a strictly material world, a boring world, a scientific world where rocks are rocks and nature is man-made. Beautiful vistas are just that – beautiful, worthy of a picture but no longer a fountain of sublime transcendental glimmers. And yet, despite closing ourselves to the immaterial and denying the mystery of existence, the sable shadow still haunts us. So, we keep it at bay with new diversions and dazzling distractions.
Every modern generation has felt the alarming emptiness of life and has sensed that the horizon is bleak. Our banal society has long offered us nothing but the continued march of technological suicide, the extinction of biodiversity and the leveling down of infodiversity. We are wasting away our lives in long hours in front of screens, pushing pixels and accruing overtime. Bleary eyed, in a digital daze, we gulp down what we’re given and try not to think about the existential walls that are closing in as our precious years slip through our fingers, never to return again.
Faced with the shallowness of our existence, a life lived on the surface of reality, we desperately try to re-create the magical feeling that has been lost. But we are so far gone that the only alchemy we know is made of silicon chips and computer code. Still, our mercurial wizards with laptop laboratories combine these two technologies, frantically seeking the incantation for re-enchantment. But their methodologies are materialist and their tools far too modern – all that comes from their labors are expensive rose-colored glasses.
They call it augmented reality, a system for looking through the machine’s eyes, a way of seeing that replaces imagination with computer animation. And while our rocks may still be rocks, with this technology in hand, they promise us that our declining world will be bearable. That the dirt, grime and pollution need not be cleansed for through the screen everything is shiny and clean. And forget, of course, a revolution that razes this world because we can do it on our machines, safe and legally. Why destroy an oppressive reality when we can simply live in a “liberating” fantasy?
Against those who claim that augmented reality is the future of activism, we need only say: Everyone may wear blinders but the world will still stink of decay.
Micah White is a contributing editor at Adbusters and an independent activist. He lives in Berkeley and is writing a book about mental environmentalism. www.micahmwhite.com or micah (at) adbusters.org