You know that sudden speeding montage of thoughts and images you get when a torrent of information flashes through your mind and your consciousness grasps their thematic connections and creates a glimpse of the bigger picture? It only lasts seconds but it’s revelatory and dramatic and, when it produces a physical resonance, can be said to reveal truth – be it the individual’s recognition of a personal truth or of an external reality. You shiver, feel sick, overwhelmed perhaps, or optimistic, even excited if the epiphanous moment is positive. It’s the kind of high frequency, moment of clarity that sparks creativity, spurs innovation and signposts direction – and of course, it can also incite utter panic. The fact that it’s not an everyday occurrence – besides probably making such events all the more meaningful – is likely a good thing: there is such a thing as ‘too much’ and systems, mechanical or biological, do not really appreciate being overloaded.
But what about the low frequency hum of the mundane? The unnecessary, interminable tension imposed by the government and its agents, who intervene for our own good like stereotypical missionaries: they’re enough to drive the sanest people to distraction. For a party which professes ‘small state’ governance, they’ve made spectacular inroads into nearly all levels our daily lives, with their micro-management and moral prescriptions. They’re like all-enveloping smog, systematically choking the goodwill, the patience and the hope out of an entire nation.
This bass resonance features large in our everyday domestic arrangements too. Life is a journey of relationships, private, public and overwhelmingly political in nature. Government is in your face; so is media hype. But maybe, so are your neighbours, members of your family, your friends, your boss, your ‘clients’… we are all someone intruding in another’s space. As the infrasound increases pitch and pierces the surface, the customary dynamics dance under intensifying friction with random acts of ‘true colours’ and out-of-character behaviour.
People are living precariously under perpetual and pernicious stress. (Sorry for the ‘Ps’) You don’t need me to tell you about the growing surveillant, authoritarian management-style; the stark poverty living side by side with gluttony; religious oppression and paranoia; conflict and invasion; economic malfeasance – the list is almost as endless as it is global – and the cost of such dis-ease, as we all know, is far more than monetary. We are being worn down by failure and blame and uncertainty. People can’t help but project their hopes and fears into the future, but how much can you channel or manage them when you are the puppet of puppets?
I see the low frequency as starting to have the same impact as the high. We are overwhelmed and panicked and most people are either fighting it off, drowning under it or veering between the two. This is a fight or flight lifestyle and it is unsustainable: you can’t operate indefinitely on adrenaline, can you? Not without serious repercussions to your physical, mental and emotional health. That would be like perpetual war…
Mental health is a spectrum. We’re all on it. We travel its width in both directions for the length of our lives and, if we avoid the pain at its extremes, it is surely by some merciful grace? But this does not mean that the rest of us are healthy individuals, communities or nations. Not when we live in a state of constant dis-ease.
For as long as they can, people cope as well as they can, with whatever resources they can muster and with varying degrees of success. It might be instinctive but it’s exhausting and dispiriting to exist rather than to live, so it doesn’t take any genius to understand why some will chose denial rather than face reality or the unknown; that many of those who cannot unsee and unknow, will seek intoxication as respite; and that recklessness will become attractive to some while others will withdraw and become frozen.
And people snap. Everyone has a breaking point – though I must confess: it’s somewhat reassuring in the UK, to know you are at least unlikely to be shot at. But, facetiousness aside – I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to discover where my snapping point is – I can’t help but imagine we will see and hear of many implosions, both in our personal spheres and in the News at large. There’s an ever increasing number of people who live every day at the threshold of a breakdown: people who are grateful if they merely find themselves no worse off at the end of their day than at its start. Every day. With no seeming end.
Lives of such fragility are surely unsustainable: they are certainly an obscene mark on a modern world. I fear that, in a climate of continual manipulation and confusion, gifted by the accelerating machinations of a powerful few, the exponential demise of our well-being is almost certain. But, just as pain and anger can be warning signals that something is wrong, so too is the hum and it is screaming at us to make the madness stop: to pay attention to real meaning and create meaningful solutions.